What I did on my holiday

It’s a good idea to only tell the Internet about your holiday when you get back. Not before, and certainly not during. Especially if, like me, you have previously posted pictures of your house online.

It’s not an easy house to find, that’s true, but if the bad guys have seen it and know I’m not in it, it would be an easy target. They’d be disappointed. I own bugger all of value other than my cameras and the car and I’d have those with me anyway. But they might break one of my chilli plants and I only have 16.

This past week I was visited by old friends from Wales. They drove all the way here, stayed for a week and drove all the way back again. We were out every day and since the spare bedroom (downstairs, we don’t go upstairs because those are the junk rooms and the stairs are scary) is also my office, I had no access to this computer. That’s okay, it enforced a week of socialising and I wouldn’t have done that otherwise.

So, they have now seen Haddo House, Fyvie castle, Pitmedden Gardens, Cruden Bay which houses the castle that inspired Bram Stoker to write ‘Dracula’ (the first drafts had Dracula come ashore in Cruden Bay, which later changed to Whitby), and more.

We visited the Glen Garioch distillery – they weren’t whisky drinkers so I didn’t have to drive and also got all the samples – and they generously donated a bottle of that fine malt to my whisky collection. There’s still some left. This one isn’t in supermarkets so I have to be careful with it.

The online search for that distillery culminated in the phrase ‘There it is, on Distillery Road. Who’d have thought?’

The highlight of the week was Friday, when we took a long drive and visited this –

…and rode a Class 108 DMU (diesel multiple unit) from Keith to Dufftown. It’s like the ones we used to have in the Welsh valleys but they were mostly 110’s I think. Anyway, I don;t want to get uber-geeky…

A Class 108 looks like this, which is totally different from all the other variants of DMU that you think look all the same but aren’t.

So now you know. The trainspotting meme is in your head and you are doomed because I know, and you know, you have to look this up 😀

This railway is privately owned, and not connected to the main line. They are hoping to get it to at least have a platform on the main Keith station so that the tourists going to Dufftown can use their trains to get there.

When you hear the name ‘Dufftown’ you’d think there’s not likely to be much there, right? It’s where the first picture in this ramble was taken. The Glenfiddich distillery is also there and the J&B distillery and the Singleton comes from there and Balvenie castle –

Oh wait, that was the site of the original castle. The Scots had sensible priorities. ‘We need that spring water supply for a distillery. Get that feckin’ castle oot a the way.’ So they built another one, which later fell down and nobody cared because it wasn’t a distillery. It now looks like this –

It’s a fixer-upper. Worth it though because it has plenty of storage space and the Glenfiddich distillery is across the road.

On the line between Keith and Dufftown you pass a distillery that has been abandoned since 1931. It’s all still there and it’s the size of a small town. Distilleries need their own spring water supply. Mains water would cost them a fortune because they use so much and mains water is treated to stop microbes growing – including yeasts – so it’s going to seriously limit fermentation. That particular distillery lost the reliability of its spring and gave up. There is considerable investment in structures there, all of which is probably worthless now. It’s the risk capitalists take to make stuff so that socialists can claim they actually matter.

Dufftown is full of distilleries. It reminds me of old South Wales where everyone worked in the coal mines because the mines were the primary employer. Dufftown is also well into North Scotland, the SNP heartlands. Really, the name might not be inspiring, but it’s well worth a visit.

So let’s see. You have a political party where you want to drum up support for your idea of an independent country. What do you do? Oh I know, let’s hammer alcoholic drinks

Half of the people of Scotland work in whisky (or beer) production in some capacity. Making it, transporting it, growing barley for it, bottling it, malting the barley, making barrels or bottles, and of course selling it. The other half (and a good percentage of the first half) are drinking it. So, an anti-booze stance is possibly the worst idea any Scottish party could ever have. And the SNP managed it.

I’m pleased by that.

I’d also like to note that before the Act of Union, whisky wasn’t taxed at all. If the SNP made that point in their declaration of independence they’d win 90/10 at least but they won’t because they are Puritans. If I was going for power, I’d do it.

But I digress.

In Balvenie castle I found something the new camera can do. It sees into the infrared really quite well. The detectors just show infrared as ‘brightness’ but then if it displayed it as infrared I still couldn’t see it. So okay, there’s this cellar place where you can see bugger all with your eyes even in the middle of the day but the camera has a flash on it so you can get this –

Not a particularly inspiring photo. The walls are original but I suspect the concrete floor is unlikely to be. There is a fascinating display of lumps of rock on planks but otherwise it’s a dull photo.

The thing is, the camera saw all that without the flash. In almost total darkness. The camera, without flash, took this –

The heat coming from the stones translates into infrared and digital cameras see it. There is nothing in this photo that wasn’t in the previous one but I bet you see details you hadn’t noticed before. No special filters, no tricks, just trust the camera. Their photo chips see outside your range of vision and they just bring it up as best they can. Usually as white light.

If you have a digital SLR, check the screen, not the viewfinder. The viewfinder sees what you see. The screen sees something else. You might not need that flash.

I’d like to test this over seasons. It should work less well in winter.

Unfortunately all the fun stuff is closed in winter because tourists are feeble and don’t want to come here in darkness and snow.

But that’s when it all gets interesting.

Okay, holiday is over. Back to work.




20 thoughts on “What I did on my holiday

  1. You know you’re poor when you get back off holiday to find someone has broken in and left you a new stereo and wide screen…

    My brother (who happens to live on the banks some Scottish loch or the other) is a photographer by trade and calling. He gave me the advice to 1. always use a tripod and the timer function and 2.use the low light/night setting with no flash.
    The quality of my photos rocketed (as did the size of my jpegs-ohhh are vicar!) after I followed his advice.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great read. The photos are anything but non-inspiring…I thought both pics of the rocks are awesome. But then again. I like rocks. I like Scotch too….with of with out rocks…depending on the Scotch. 😉

    Lotta interesting things to see in those rocks via the pics.. The mossy/moss or whatever adds a lot of contrast too.

    Thanks for sharing. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Scotland’s economy relies, to a large extent, on booze and oil.

    So, what does the SNP want to do? Price booze out of most people’s reach and ban petrol and diesel cars. It’s only their beloved EU that has halted the SNP’s proposed 50p per unit minimum booze pricing. Better stock up in case ‘Brexit’ ever becomes a reality. It could be Toilet Duck and soda all round. No need for a punch bowl – just stick a ladle in the lavvy.

    We don’t have lunatics running the asylum – they would do a better job. Plus, they are probably bigger dangers to themselves, unlike politicians intent on destroying every last vestige of industry, morality and intelligence.

    P.S. Is the landscape blighted with turbines like it is down here in Galloway?

    Liked by 1 person

      • That’ll last until the thieves currently nicking cables from under street realise that wind turbines have lots and lots of valuable stuff in them, and that there are very, very few police up there in Scotland.

        This is actually true: I was on holiday in the Dumfries area earlier in the summer, touring various castles and megalithic sites (hint: there’s a crank currently haunting Cairnholy; he gets amusingly upset if confronted with science and sarcasm) and the only plod cars we saw was the one police officer on Arran, and one escorting some VIP up near the Scottish Parliament. Apart from that, no police and very few speed cameras, but lots of nannying notices.

        Not a bad system, all in all; you let the nannying fussbuckets put up notices which you then ignore because they’ve blown the policing budget on stupid bloody notices.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Welcome back. Given that September is knocking on the door, I thought I’d spend a few days writing stuff for the next anthology. In between sitting in the garden, enjoying the sunshine and sipping a cool drink 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

          • What the man sayeth be true.

            And I’m sure you’ll be fascinated to learn that the annual Isle of Wight Scooter Bash was an outrageous success.


            And going back to an exchange I had with LR a couple of days back, it’s interesting to see so many of those scooterists taking their safety so very seriously with protective riding gear, gloves and EU approved crash hats.

            Or just a dab of sunscreen!

            Liked by 1 person

            • I remember back in the days of Mods and Rockers, when multiple mirrors / lights / whatever-as-long-as-it-was-shiny were de rigueur on your Lambretta seeing one scooter which had a spectacular array of shiny brass and chrome taps affixed to the front. Maybe the guy was a plumber. I’m not sure what the practical applications were, but it certainly made the scooter stand out in a crowd. Back in those days, I liked big motorbikes better than scooters, so tended to the ‘Rocker’ persuasion. The Rockers were no strangers to ‘pimping’ their rides, either, but in a more restrained and subtle way. I used to go to a café with a mate of mine (I was 15 / 16 and still at school, but he had a bike) called ‘The Old Manor Cafe’ in Camberley, which was a big Rocker hang-out, and some of the bikes there were works of art. On a Saturday night there would be hundreds of bikes parked up. One which sticks in my memory was a Vinnor (or Norvin, take your choice, but it was a Vincent 1000cc engine in a Norton Featherbed frame), which was painted in the traditional Vincent black and gold livery, but the guy had brass plated and polished everything that wasn’t painted, including the cylinder head and the flatwire wrapped cables. It looked like a million dollars. Fantastic machine. Fast, too, for those days.


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