Monday, 25 June 2012

My Edinburgh Experience

Princes Street from Calton Hill
Yes, it is June and supposedly summer although, as everyone in the UK agrees, wind and rain is not summer weather.  But for my few days in Edinburgh the weather was benign.  A few light showers on one day but otherwise pleasant for walking.  There are hop-on-hop-off tours available for those with mobility problems or with limited time and making their first trip to Scotland's capital. The rest of us wear out our shoe leather.

My first time in Edinburgh was in the late 1960s when I lived there for a short time.  In those days traffic was not a problem.  You could drive from home to the office and park the car for free!  Now traffic in Edinburgh is the same as any large city - far too much of it. 

To ease congestion between Waverley Station and the airport a tram system is being installed. Obviously residents and shopkeepers are unhappy with the road works that this entails, but tourists take it in their stride.  Once the work is complete and the trams glide along Princes Street everyone will be happy.

But, back to 'what I did on my holiday' - to paraphrase the teachers' favourite post-summer holiday essay subject.
The National Monument on Calton Hill.

I didn't go to Edinburgh Castle or Holyroodhouse Palace as I know them well.  This time it was an occasion to visit old haunts and do something I had never before done but always promised myself I would.  I climbed Calton Hill, once (like the hill where the castle is located) a volcano and where the monuments are.  Actually it isn't as bad as it sounds as, after climbing the first few steps off Waterloo Place, I then followed the gently sloping path that winds its way around the hill.

From the north side are fantastic views of the Firth of Forth across to Fife.  In other directions can be seen the castle, Princes Street, Holyroodhouse Palace and Arthur's Seat (another volcanic hill).  On Calton Hill are the Nelson Monument, the National Monument (in honour of the soldiers killed in the Napoleonic wars), Rock House (home of the 19th century photographer David Octavius Hill) and the former City Observatory.

My old haunts included the Royal Botanic Gardens and the street called Grassmarket.  My memories of the latter were of a large open space with pubs and a few shops. Now there are several restaurants and, in the centre, is an area set aside for open air dining, seats for relaxation and plenty of trees.  A definite improvement.

I will write some articles to post on  ( - a case of 'watch that space'!  There are already some articles on the site about Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Yacht Britannia (moored at Leith docks) and the Queen Mum Memorial Garden (plus other garden areas of Edinburgh).

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Door Slammers

Don't you just love them?  Those fellow hotel guests who seem unable to close their door quietly?  Especially annoying when they come in late at night - after you are asleep - and proceed to wake up everyone in the corridor.
Years ago when I lived in Spain one of the other problems was stone floors and ladies in high-heels.  Then, of course, along came the clogs.  As a hotel rep I heard many complaints about noisy floors and doors.  It still surprises me that anyone managed to get any sleep.  Perhaps that was why they fell asleep in the sun and got badly sunburnt!
If, like me, you live in a flat you also know of other noise problems such as loud radios/TVs/music.  
 But the biggest bugbear - as in hotels - is door slamming.  I can understand the click when people go out, but when they come in?  All doors have knobs of one sort or another so it isn't difficult to close the front door quietly rather than push it to behind you.
My most unfavourite noise problem?  People who don't close the bathroom door.  Think about it.
Now a please from all of us who experience door slamming - please, please, DON'T slam that door.  Just 'Shut that Door' quietly - as I'm sure the lovely late Larry Grayson would have expected.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Memories of a Coronation

The Fabulous Coronation Coach
Oh dear, how typical in this country that the weather forecast for the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations is cool and showery.  Exactly the same as on Coronation Day (3rd July 1953).  Then people camped out along the route for several days beforehand - the weather didn't put them off.

In the early 1950s only people who could afford it had television.  When it was announced that the Coronation would be televised sales rocketed.  Our next door neighbours bought one and on Coronation Day the room was filled with people on chairs of all types - a case of bring your own.  We children sat on the floor in front of the grown ups.

The set?  It was a small square screen in a large wooden cabinet.  It wouldn't have been possible to see the picture without the huge square glass bubble over it - the magnifier.

Until now the only moving pictures of the Royal Family that most of us had seen were Newsreels at the cinema.  A few of us had been lucky enough to see King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) when they had either visited our town or driven through en route to another destination.

On Coronation Day we settled down to watch the most momentous post-war occasion in our lives.  The Crowning of our Queen, a beautiful young woman married to a handsome prince.

And it was the first time us children had ever seen the great Coronation Coach - albeit in black and white.  As it drew out of the Buckingham Palace forecourt and we got a glimpse of Her Majesty wearing a gorgeous diadem a shiver ran down my spine.

The cavalcade of carriages carrying royalty, presidents and other high ranking personages from around the world was interspersed with soldiers, sailors and airmen from the Commonwealth (as it was to become known) and, of course, there were mounted soldiers and bands.

Watching the Crowning was breathtaking.  And, of course, The Queen wore a crown for the long, slow return journey to Buckingham Palace.  It wasn't the one that she had been crowned with - the 1661 St. Edward's Crown which weights 2.23 kg. - but the lighter Imperial State Crown.

Apart from the Coronation Coach probably the most memorable one was the open Landau carrying the stately Queen Salote of Tonga and a smaller gentleman.  It didn't matter that it was raining, Queen Salote had a ball waving to the crowds, pointing to various placards held by members of the crowd and laughing.  A very jolly lady.  What an ambassador for her Country.  One that, until that time, very few of us had even heard of!

The Coronation, was well as being the epitome of British Pageantry was also a great learning experience.  Not just for the Service but also it brought the world to London and taught us children that there is a lot more than Europe out there to be visited.

Maybe that was the basis of my desire to travel!

I did once make it to Buckingham Palace for a Balcony Scene.  It was the 50th Anniversary of VE Day (9th May 1995).  I was at the railings by 6.00 a.m. and later saw Their Majesties, Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and HRH the Princess Margaret on the balcony.  And they joined in the sing-song being led by Dame Vera Lynn, Sir Harry Secombe, Sir Cliff Richard and introduced by Bob Holness.  It was a morning that I will cherish all my life.  

HM The Queen during a visit to Croydon, Surrey
I do have an article about the Royal Carriages on