Up Dumgoyne

towardsdumgoyne

A gorgeous day! And a good one to climb Dumgoyne – the hill that dominates the landscape behind our new home. There’s been snow on the tops of the Munros for about a week now, and it seems to be rapidly creeping down to lower altitudes – so I wanted to get up there before the weather really turns.

The last Autumn colours seemed especially bright and saturated this morning.

blueandgold

lichenandhawthorn

Don’t worry, Bruce happily isn’t interested in sheep, and walks to heel when we are about them.

bucolic

A particularly incredible oak tree, in a landscape full of beautiful deciduous trees:

oakanddumgoyne

Climbing upwards, you get a great sense of the shape of the land. We live down there:

blanevalley

With Glasgow to the South and East . . .

glasgow

. . . and the snow-capped Highlands North and West.

westhighlandsfromdumgoyne

The water you can see in that photograph is Loch Lomond.

wazznbruce

A tough descent for my wonky leg – but the first of many fine walks, I’m sure, up and down our local hill.

snawheidupdumgoyne

out walking

dumgoyachbenlomond

One of the very great pleasures of living here is that the West Highland Way is on our doorstep. I walk out of our steading, and about a hundred yards up the way is a glorious landscape, at the far edges of which (on a really clear day) Ben Lomond and the Trossachs and the Arrochar Alps are all visible. I walk here every day, and enjoy these walks tremendously. Today I took my camera so you can see it too.

hawthorn

nosetotheground

bruceinthegrass

dumgoyachincolour

sheepbuddies

flare

Lauder morning

We got up early, and drove down to the Borders. It was a beautiful crisp morning.



When we arrived in Lauder, the sun was already turning the frost into a magical, dewy haze.



Today, the Autumn colours seemed even more deeply saturated. I want to knit everything in these tapestry blues and golds.





While Bruce and I were enjoying our morning walk, Tom was making preparations. . .

Today was the first race in this series. A hand-knitted running vest is, of course, obligatory on such occasions . . .

Off he goes!

Ah, Cross Country season . . .

ready for autumn

The leaves are turning.

In the hedgerow, just a few berries remain . . .

. . . and there is a decided nip in the air.

But I am ready for Autumn. I have a new hat . . .

. . .and mittens.

These lovely things were not knitted by me, but by my friend, Sandra Manson. I know Sandra from Jamieson & Smith, and she is a legendary knitter and designer. Sandra has an amazing feel for pattern, and a superlative eye for colour. Over the past year or so, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, and swatching with, the rich and varied palette of Jamieson & Smith Jumper weight, testing out interesting combinations, permutations, and encountering its many intriguing, mercurial or troublesome shades. Sandra has been knitting with Jamieson & Smith jumper weight for many years, and she knows its palette forwards and backwards. I feel we speak the same knitterly language. On my last visit to Shetland, I had the pleasure of seeing several of Sandra’s swatches and finished garments — some of which really blew my mind. I find something almost thrilling in seeing one shade working alongside another in unexpected combination, and Sandra clearly feels the same. I could rattle on about the potential of this shade and that with her for many hours — I suppose, put simply, we are both colour nerds.

I love the swirling raised crown decreases and the pleasing solidity of that mid-green (which is shade 118, for those who are interested). Sandra said that, when she’d finished knitting, the patterns and colours reminded her of Easter eggs and picket fences. I can see exactly what she means.

One of the (very minor) frustrations of designing is that I am often unable to wear my samples (if I want them to stay looking their best). But this Autumn, I shall wear Sandra’s hat and mittens with pride!

Thankyou, Sandra x

Herbsttag

Herbsttag

Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Befiel den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird Es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.
Rainer Maria Rilke (1902)

I am fond of this seasonally-appropriate poem by Rilke, but have never found an English translation that I like completely. Stephen Mitchell’s is perhaps one of the most familiar:

Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.

Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now, will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,
and wander the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.
Trans. Stephen Mitchell (1982)

Though I like the ‘warm transparent days’, and the sense of the imperative in the second stanza, that ‘huge’ in the first line totally ruins the cadence, and the final stanza has some terrible lines in it (I am thinking particularly of “whoever has no house now, will never have one” – with that comma pointing to nothing but the translator’s own syntactical struggle).

Here is a more recent translation by Mary Kinzie:

After the summer’s yield, Lord, it is time

to let your shadow lengthen on the sundials

and in the pastures let the rough winds fly.

As for the final fruits, coax them to roundness.

Direct on them two days of warmer light

to hale them golden toward their term, and harry

the last few drops of sweetness through the wine.

Whoever’s homeless now, will build no shelter;

who lives alone will live indefinitely so,

waking up to read a little, draft long letters,

and, along the city’s avenues,

fitfully wander, when the wild leaves loosen.
Trans. Mary Kinzie (2008)

Probably the only thing I like about this is its stand-out final line. But, even there, the language is too fluid and melodic – there is an irritable melancholy about Rilke’s poem. Perhaps I’m being unfair – my own understanding of German is pretty poor – but I can certainly see how difficult it is for a translator to retain the poise and tone of the original in modern English. Despite its thees and thous, I actually much prefer this version from 1916:

LORD: it is time. The summer was so grand.
Upon sundials now Thy shadow lay,
Set free Thy winds and send them o’er the land.

Command to ripen those last fruits of Thine;
And give them two more southern days of grace       
To reach their perfect fullness, and then chase
The final sweetness into heavy wine.  

Who now is homeless, ne’er will build a home.
Who now is lonely, long alone will stay,
Will watch and read and write long letters gray,       
And in the long lanes to and fro will roam
All restless, as the drifting fall-leaves stray.
Trans. Margarete Münsterberg (1916)

I like the ‘grand’-ness of the summer, and the ‘days of grace’, and yet that hanging ‘gray’ in the tenth line completely ruins it for me.

I still have a certain fondness for Macintyre’s 1956 translation, which was my first encounter with the poem (and which I rediscovered today, among my rescued books):

Lord, it is time. The summer was too long.
Lay now thy shadow over the sundials,
and on the meadows let the winds blow strong.

Bid the last fruit to ripen on the vine;
allow them still two friendly southern days
to bring them to perfection, and to force
the final sweetness in the heavy wine.

Who has no house now will not build him one
Who is alone now will be long alone,
will waken, read, and write long letters
and through the barren pathways up and down
restlessly wander when dead leaves are blown.
Trans. C.F Macintyre (1956)

. . . and yet there’s much that seems wrong here, too. I’m not sure how that ‘groß’ in the first line of the original could suggest that the summer was “too long'” I’m not over-keen on the “friendliness” of the southern days, and though the final stanza is more pleasing to me than either Mitchell’s or Kenzie’s translations, wouldn’t the ‘when’ in the final line be better rendered as ‘while'; and why not just get rid of the “him” in the eighth line? (I rather like the line as “who has no house now will not build one”).

I could show you many more translations (Robert Bly’s is truly appalling), but here’s a final version from Walter Arndt, which seems almost form-perfect.

Lord it is time: Great was the Summer’s feast.
Now lay upon the sun-dials your shadow
And on the meadows have the wind released.

Command the last of fruits to round their shapes;
Grant two more days of south for vines to carry,
To their perfection thrust them on, and harry
The final sweetness into the heavy grapes.

Who has not built his house will not start now
Who now is by himself will long be so,
Be wakeful, read, write lengthy letters, go
In vague disquiet pacing up and down
Denuded lanes, with leaves adrift below.
Trans. Walter Arndt (1989)

I find the second stanza distractingly awful with its ‘thrusting’ perfection, but really rather like the final stanza, which not only makes syntactic sense, but properly captures that self-absorbed unease which sits at the heart of the poem. I also much prefer ‘lanes’ than either ‘boulevards’ or ‘avenues’, though ‘avenue’ does seem a better direct translation of ‘alleen’. I’m not aware of the nuances of ‘avenue’ in German, but the tree-lined approach to a country estate seems far too grand for the poem’s distinctly urban malaise. (But does disquiet really need that ‘vague’?) Anyway. Does anyone have another preferred translation? And what do the German speakers think?

leafy

More graffiti, of a kind. If you are often out walking around the North side of Edinburgh as I am, then you may well have spotted the mysterious leaf-folk who have recently appeared near Belford bridge. One turned up a few weeks ago, and there are now five human figures plus a leafy dog. Their maker is apparently anonymous . . . but, then again, perhaps they have no maker: I rather like the nonchalant way that they seem to have just formed themselves out of the urban Autumn landscape. One often sees lone hats or gloves on this path, looking rather damp and folorn, and it is as if these lost objects have found themselves new leafy-bodies.

Corstorphine Hill


Autumn seems to have arrived while we were away. The plums on Jesus’s tree have been turned into jam, the brambles in the local hedgerows are all but gone, and the rosebay willowherb has blown spectacularly to seed. It seemed the right sort of time to ascend Corstorphine, which has, perhaps, the most woodland character of all of Edinburgh’s hills. Corstorphine is really more of a ridge than a hill proper – a glacial fold to the West of the city. The lower slopes of the ridge house the zoo, and the sprawl of housing created as the city expanded over the last century. The upper slopes are home to the remains of a neolithic settlement, and a stone tower of much more recent construction, dedicated, as so many things about these parts, to Sir Walter Scott.

Scott is an appropriate figure to think of on Corstorphine Hill which, with shady nooks of beech and fir, giant slabs of bare dolerite, and brief, tantalising views, is just the sort of place that the folk of his generation might contrive for a picturesque ramble. And like many picturesque spots, Corstorphine can also seem to invite a certain mis-reading. While the woodland looks relatively wild, it is a managed landscape, and until relatively recently, a working one as well. What you see to the right might seem to be the ivy-covered ruins of ancient structures, but are actually stones rejected from the quarry which used to operate on the hillside.

There is an orienteering course set up around the hill, and you can see one of the controls to the left of this obligatory Bruce obedience photo. The last time I came walking on Corstorphine was several years ago after Tom insisted that I do something to improve my navigation skills. I have no sense of direction — that is to say, I suffer from the mistaken and often unshakeable belief that I am going the right way, without doing what one should when there is any doubt at all, viz, consult the map. Tom has become exasperated with this on more than one occasion — I think the final straw was when, in poor visibility on the top of a munro, I absolutely insisted that we follow some footprints I could see in front of me in the snow. After this, he was (understandably) concerned at the prospect of my getting lost on an independent expedition, and I recall that I, grudgingly, and not with a very good grace, managed to find my way about Corstorphine’s woods with a compass and controls.

Today the challenges of Corstorphine were of a rather different kind. I was very grateful for the walking poles — there are lots of steep inclines, and several places in the woods where one has to pick one’s way over slippery rocks and tree roots.
I doubt I’d have been able to manage such manoeuvres even a couple of weeks ago. I think that the swimming has improved stroke-leg’s strength and control considerably. At some point, I shall video myself walking — I’ve not had the gumption to do this so far, as I feel so damn wonky and ungainly — but, as with the swimming, I imagine it may help if I can actually see any small improvements in my gait.

In the dark of the woods, the turning beech leaves seemed almost luminous. . .

. . . and you emerge from the shade to bright glimpses of the city beyond.


The interesting cone that you can see on the horizon to the right of this photo is North Berwick Law — the first hill I intend to ascend after completing Edinburgh’s seven. Anyway, we all had a fine ramble about Corstorphine on a lovely early-Autumn day, and Bruce, as you can imagine, absolutely loves the woods.

Five down, two to go . . .

Eildons

eildons

I’ve been yearning to get properly outdoors all week. I find that a customary sort of melancholy takes hold of me when the clocks go back, and that my daily routine of rising and returning in the dark starts to seem a bit relentless. So it was very good to take advantage of a lovely golden day, and go walking in the Eildons. As we took the path out of Melrose, we spotted this message on the hillside.

nocrem

Clearly the proposed crematorium is unpopular . . .

eidlon

The Eildons are very pleasing to walk in at this time of year. The hills themselves are shapely and interesting, and there’s a great variety in the landscape: blustery tops, steep scree-lined slopes, heathery moors, and rich, rich woodland. The latter was particularly glorious today. When one is feeling a wee bit grey, it is so good to absorb oneself in Autumn’s crazy colours. I love to see the last leaves go out in a blaze of gold . . .

leaves

. . . . the wine-red haze of berries on bare branches. . .

rowan

. . . outlandish lichen . . .

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. . . seasonal oomska . . .

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. . . and the fabulous prospect view across the border. . .

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. . . all most restorative.

Tom’s legs were also in need of a good stretch: last Monday, he ran the Dublin marathon in 2 hours 58 minutes! Both the legs and their owner are feeling very pleased with themselves.

descendin

Enjoy your Halloween, everyone! There’ll be no guisin‘ here: I am looking forward to an evening of rabbit pie and Winstanley. . .

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