The Beagle has landed, or, this old dog is now safe and sound and back in London sorting out 'clean from dirty' suitcase laundry and brewing a pot of filtered coffee for the first time in over two weeks.
I should have photos and videos downloaded and be back to a normal routine within 24 - 48 hours. Then watch out.
I woke up early and was enjoying a drizzly walk-about by nine AM, while back in Canada my family slept peacefully. My host provided a map of city streets and encouraged me to walk along the River Kelvin pathway. Good call, I say.
The river path led me along a lovely, treed route, passed a tall gray heron fishing under a bent bough, under three significant bridges, and by the front door of a craft beer pub under an arch of Kelvin Bridge. After my search was over for coffee, books and lunch, I returned to the pub.
Here I sit with a pint of lager while Glasgowigians pass by the door. Lovely lovely, I say.
The weather in Inveraray, Scotland was quite damp today so my iPad, the only camera I can use in the UK that connects to my blog w photos, stayed in its protective case.
However, I feel I saw enough of what is left of HMS a Quebec - the No. 1 Combined Operations Training Grounds (about two miles south of the small town) - to get a sense of what my father experienced while stationed here during rigorous WW2 exercises upon barges and landing crafts. I met knowledgable people and learned more about my dad's Navy days, and I now feel I must come back in the future to learn even more.
Soon I will be home w more stories and several hundreds of photos. Get comfortable.
Today I leave Edinburgh and head to Inveraray with Geoff and Margaret Slee. I anticipate the trip will be one for the record books.
I had originally planned to go to Inveraray for three days earlier in the trip but due to circumstances within my control - to a degree, the whole shmozle requires a thorough explanation later - the trip was cancelled and I went to London, England instead. Inveraray was off the radar.
Now it is back on, and I could not be happier or more indebted to two kind people.
Someday I will write a book about this trip. For now, stay tuned for a wee bit news from Inveraray.
I have been ignoring my blog while in Scotland because the download process for even one photo a day is a tiring, frustrating experience.
Imagine a piper at the corner of North Bridge and The Royal Mile, Edinburgh. Pretend you hear the piper play Amazing Grace.
Today I walked to the top of Calton Hill where stands a monument dedicated to Admiral Horatio Nelson, one of my father's childhood idols and one reason why he chose to volunteer for duty with the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve during World War 2. To find more information about another organization he voluntarily joined in WW2 - Combined Operations - and see some of the Comb. Ops' training grounds I travelling in Scotland for two weeks.
Be prepared upon my return in a few days to view over 2,000 photos and several short stories, guaranteed to be riveting, over a period of one month or more.
Thirty or more birdhouses crowd the shelves and benches inside the workshop. Each needs a bit of trim before it is completely finished.
[You're leaving me? I'm always the last to know"]
But they're all going to have to wait until I get back from a historic trip to Scotland.
(Why do I say 'historic' trip? I'll be visiting little-known training grounds for a little-known WW2 Allied military organization. I have plans to meet a couple of historic people. I'm sure I'll uncover a few historic photographs and hear a few unrecorded, memorable stories. And I'll be wearing historic pants!)
["Maybe my Scottish relatives will be found in Inveraray Castle!"]
My second stop in Scotland will be at Inveraray, from Oct. 18 - 20, just before an equally important stopover in Oban, about 60 km. farther north and east. Inveraray's population today is at about 600 rugged citizens, but between 1941 - 45 was also home to hundreds of thousands of Allied Armed Forces personnel from around the world, many from Canada (including my father, 1942 and '43), who as volunteer members of an organization called Combined Operations practised maneuvers aboard military barges and on countless beaches, some just a few miles south of Inveraray on Military Road.
["I'll go by bus and take 100 photos along the way"]
About that time my father wrote the following in his Navy memoirs:
Thence to H.M.S. Quebec barracks in Ayrshire, Scotland on Loch Long. We were all in good shape and this was to be one of the more memorable camps, with our first actual work and introduction to landing barges. We trained on ALCs (assault landing crafts) which carried approximately 37 soldiers and a crew of four, i.e., Coxswain, two seamen and stoker. Some carried an officer.
Boy, but was it dark up there amongst the heather and the hills...
We did much running up on beaches so soldiers could disembark and re-embark, always watching the tide if it was flowing in or going out. You could be easily left high and dry, or broach too, if you weren’t constantly alert. We took long trips at night in close single formation, like ducks closed up close, because all you could see was the florescent waters churned up by propellors of an ALC or LCM (landing craft mechanized) ahead.
["The Ettrick is gone (sunk, WW2) but more photos and memories remain"]
We clambered up scrambling nets and Jacob’s ladders and became very proficient because we learned to just use our hands. We did this training on a liner called the Ettrick, which we will hear more about later on. Her free board was high, i.e., the distance between the water line and hand rails, and we got so it took about three seconds to drop 25 - 30 feet on scrambling nets.
["I bet a fiver I can find this spot at the corner of Inveraray and Bar St.!"]
Of course, much about the town has changed since the 1940s but I hope to find a few more photographs from the war years and meet a few people with stories that jive with my father's own. And surely I'll find a cozy pub on Bar Street.
Should be a very good time.
PS Training was in preparation for raids, such as the one upon Dieppe, and later invasions, e.g., North Africa, November 1942. Also, signage for Bar St. can be seen in above photo, far right, on edge of building
I locked the workshop door yesterday at 2:30 and tightened the laces on my old running shoes. One more walk, I thought. Get one more in before Scotland. Off I went with a sense of determination.
I did my turn-around on the ever-lovely Blackfriar's Bridge a few minutes after three o'clock and pointed my nose toward Old South and home. My mind was active, thinking abooot my upcoming trip to Scotland. I'll walk a lot in Irvine, Inveraray and Oban, I said to myself. Hit a couple of hills on the way home. Do ya good.
["Thank goodness the public bathroom was open at The Forks"]
["Scotland's weather, according to forecasts, will not be as lovely"]
The whole hour-long walk did me good. I now look forward to uphills and downhills wherever I may go.
PS I'll be back for more good walk-abouts in Old Londontown in about two-and-a-half weeks. See ya then.
I'll cross an important item off my bucket list while in Inveraray next weekend. I'll tramp around some hills behind the former site of HMS Quebec (big Navy base where many Canadians trained with other members of Combined Operations during WW2), and when I find a patch of purple heather I'll have a quiet sit down and read a piece from one of his stories:
Now, at H.M.S. Quebec there were a lot of adventures, therefore many memories. One I will always remember is about getting up in the morning to see the sun shining through the mist onto the purple heather. I made an excursion one day and actually rolled in it - to my delight - even though it was damp.
Even if the back of my pants get pretty wet I'll thank my dad for his stories, Navy memoirs and a job well done. Then I'll have a good roll.
Regular readers will know I will soon be on vacation - five or more time zones east of the shop - and at some point tramping through purple heather in the hills behind Inveraray, Scotland.
But, before I lock the workshop doors for two weeks I've been busy trying to clear the decks, so I won't have tonnes to do for a birdhouse sale in early November. I want to be ready already but there are still a few things to do, i.e., apply second coats of red paint and add trim to several items.
["I can add trim to some blue-roofed BHs and clear the deck... a bit"]
["I'll see these in about three weeks, and that's OK. They're almost done"]
No way will I have it all done before takeoff, but my mind will rest easier if I at least sweep the floor today and give the place one last 'look around'.
I fly out of Toronto Tuesday PM and arrive in Glasgow the next morning. Within the hour, wearing sturdy shorts - and a light, reliable jacket with a camera in each pocket - I will be on a train heading 40 miles SW to Irvine and the Harbour Lights Hotel for a long, refreshing pint of bitters. I'll talk to the barman about the time my father sat in the same room in 1942, under a blanket, shivering from the cold.
["A story of a cold night in Irvine's waters, 1942, is in Father's navy memoirs"]
He'll remember the story because we talked about it only two years ago via email. It was then I told him about my father's Navy memoirs and the time a barge ran aground on a sandbar just off Irvine's coast, three young men jumped overboard to rock the boat loose but only two got back aboard before the barge raced away to an important training exercise to be held under the watchful eyes of PM Churchill, Commander (of Combined Operations) L. Mountbatten, and King George. Surely the barman will remember our unique correspondence.
I told him the Skinner family helped my dad warm up after he arrived at the pub immediately following his rescue, soaked to the skin. The barman told me two years ago that he bought the place from the same family, that some of them still live in Irvine.
["The public house changed its name. Because of the incident? I'll find out"]
My father's story (Exercise Schuyt 1: Marooned on a Submerged Sand Bar) has survived some 70 years or more, as have some of its main characters. So, the stage is set for my first full day in Scotland and there'll I'll be with cameras in my pockets and notebook and pen in hand. Methinks I'll have a right proper adventure, eh.
My last post concerning 'my morning walk' mentions a trip to the east coast of Canada in June of this year. I got back from Halifax and started into the walking routine again. And I'm still walking, this time in preparation for another trip - this time farther east, all the way to Scotland.
During yesterday's walk around Old South I spotted a small but very pretty porch. I took pictures from three angles because I wanted to see what I was working with, i.e., the amount of space available for a custom mailbox, now on order for Christmas.
So, off I go to Scotland, and upon my return I will continue my walks and busy times in the workshop. Orders aren't piled to the roof but I think I'll be busy 'til Christmas Eve.
Morning walks will be easy in the winter time because I wear hiking boots in the shop to keep my feet warm. I'll just shovel a path through the snow to my back gate... and away we go!
I have been taking a refreshing break from the workshop lately at about three PM in order to do go for a walk. Not to blow the dust off but to get ready for 'walk abouts' when I travel to Scotland next week.
Yesterday I spotted a nice-sized birdhouse in a front garden on Edward Street. Thumbs up. One of mine in a very cool location.
At Baseline and Wortley I made another interesting discovery. Fresh pita bread growing out of a tree. Who knew!?
Squirrels jump out of trees to get to my feeder but they have to get past a pretty solid sentry first. While working nearby, inside my backyard workshop, I sometimes hear the fight between a bushy-tailed rodent and Mr. Rooster. So far, I think the wins and losses are dead even.
During yesterday's fun and fitness walk I noticed two messages displayed in front of neighbours' houses: Eat More Fish (turkeys will be pleased); Eat More Kale.
My first thought: I will, I will. I'll put the two together, and 'sea' what I come up with. My second: I know something else we should be eating on a regular basis.
["Did this guy knock the rooster off the feeder?"]
I think we should be eating more seeds and grain, especially those in the birdseed mix I use, because the squirrels really love it, and so do the birds if there is a bit left over after the greedy, bushy-tailed rodents finish Hoovering the feeder.
I'll read the list of ingredients to see what makes the mix so special, then add it to my diet.
PS - Did you think I was going to suggest squirrel meat? I read it sells well in the UK.
This is the time of year that some people start thinking about setting up a bird feeder in their front or backyard, and I think about dusting off a few western cedar boards in order to make 3 or 4 to have on hand.
["Folks can use a tree limb (e.g., debris from Thames Park) as a pole"]
I know squirrels can be a nuisance around feeders but, in balance, watching birds stop for a bite outweighs the nuisance factor. Plus, chasing squirrels down the street with an old corn broom provides some bird enthusiasts with plenty of exercise.