Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’

Edinburgh against Fascism: 2013

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

I seldom photograph protests outside London, and I hadn’t gone to Scotland to take photographs, but we had been invited to spend a week there during the Edinburgh festival. We’d never been to the festival before, and had timed our two previous stays in the city deliberately to avoid it, but decided to go and see what it was like. We did actually enjoy the week, but haven’t felt it was an experience we need to repeat.

On Saturday 17th August we rushed out after breakfast to attend a play about a male clergyman and a female quantum physicist, time travel and religion; clever and quite funny but it was too early in the morning for me. However it was conveniently close to where Unite Against Fascism and others were gathering to oppose a march by the fascist Scottish Defence League, and while Linda went to listen to a classical concert I made the short walk to cover the protest – my first in Scotland.

Like many such events in London it was slow to start. The assembly time was a couple of hours before the SDL were expected to march and the Scottish police were determined to keep the two groups as far apart as they could. But it gave me more than enough time to take pictures of the marchers and their banners and placards.

At the time all of my work on protests was made using Nikon DSLRs, but I’d left them at home when I came away for a week’s holiday, and all of these pictures were made using the relatively light and compact Fuji X-E1 and a single lens, the Fuji 18-55mm zoom. It was the first time I’d used the Fuji camera for a protest, and I did it a little less responsive than the Nikon, with slower auto-focus and sometimes a perceptible lag between shutter press and picture-taking.

The electronic viewfinder couldn’t match the Nikon’s optical one either for clarity, and sometimes was noticeably slow to react when I moved the camera or zoomed the lens. And having just an equivalent focal length of 27-83mm I found limiting, missing both the extreme wide-angle and longer telephoto I usually worked with. But despite this I was reasonably pleased with the pictures from the day.

Eventually the march moved off and was escorted by police who kept them well away from the SDL as they marched to a large pen on Horse Wynd at the back of the Scottish Parliament. Approaching a thousand people had come to oppose the racist march.

There was still no sign of the SDL, but I avoided the pen and walked back up Canongate to meet them coming down. Through a tight police cordon around the group of around a hundred I saw quite a few faces familiar from EDL protests in London – and some of them obviously recognised me and made threatening gestures.

Once police had led them into a separate pen far enough away from the anti-fascists to prevent the two groups throwing missiles at each other but within shouting distance, it got a little easier to photograph some of the EDL. Although there were police lines stopping either fascists or anti-fascists from getting closer to each other a few anti-fascists found their way though the entrance area to Hollyroodhouse and were then arrested as they approached the EDL.

I left as the two groups were still shouting at each other to go to the Postgrad show at the College of Art before it closed, then on to a comedy show and finally to a meal with the dozen of us who were sharing a large flat at a convenient Thai restuarant. We were up early the next morning to catch a train back to London.

SDL and UAF in Edinburgh

Iona – the Abbey

Friday, August 14th, 2020

Every time I peel an onion, something I do several times most weeks, it reminds me of our stay at Iona. As paying guests of the Iona Community at the Abbey we took our part in the daily chores which kept the place running, and each morning after breakfast I went with the other ‘Otters’ – the work group to which I had been assigned to the kitchen to prepare vegetables. My part in this job seemed always to be one of two or three of us peeling onions – and you need a lot of onions to cook vegetarian meals for around 50 or 60 people.

There are a lot of dodges that people advise to avoid tears when peeling onions, and I think I tried them all. They may help if you are only peeling one or two, but none help if you have a mountain of them to get through. You cry, and crying only makes it worse. Still, I think I preferred it to cleaning the lavatories and washrooms that my partner was assigned to.

The Abbey is essentially a twentieth-century reconstruction carried out by teams of volunteers from the Iona Community after the site with its ruins was gifted to the Church of Scotland by the 8th Duke of Argyll in 1899, with more modern living accommodation built alongside it in a matching external style.

The Duke is still present – in marble, lying beside his wife.

As well as the abbey, alongside it is a small church, the oldest building on Iona (c 1150) with an ancient graveyard where 48 Kings of Scotland were buried. They were joined more recently by Labour leader John Smith; a boulder marks his grave with the message “An Honest Man’s The Noblest Work of God”.

There are ruins of another chapel in the grounds, as well as those of a former Bishop’s House, and splendid views across the sound to Mull, enough to drag me out of bed for a short walk before breakfast (and onions.) And of course there were a number of short religious services, optional but an important part of the experience, though with too much unaccompanied singing for my taste.

More pictures in and around the Abbey from our visit 12 years ago on My London Diary.



12 Years Ago – our journey to Iona

Monday, August 10th, 2020

Twelve years ago today (I’m writing this the day before posting) we – myself, my wife and our elder son – were on our way to Iona. We’d enjoyed 5 nights in Glasgow at a Rennie Mackintosh hotel – more pictures here – and seen the sunset over the Clyde but had got up early to leave the hotel to catch a bus to Oban in the rain which continued to drive against the windows throughout the 3 hour journey.

Near Inverary – this was the clearer view from the bus on our way home

It was still raining as we queued to buy tickets for the two ferry journeys. We were fortunate to reach the bus when the ferry landed at Craignure in time to get a seat, while some unlikely people were left standing in the rain, waiting for 5 hours for our bus to return for a second journey.

We could see Mull from the ferry on our journey home. Outward we only saw rain
The ferry we had arrived on from Oban at Craignure. seen from the bus windo

The rain eased off a little for what is quite a spectacular journey across Mull to Fionnphort, around 35 miles on what is rather jokingly called the A849, mostly single track with passing places. It was around an hour and a half before we arrived at the landing slip there for the ferry across the strait to Baile Mòr on the island of Iona.

The jetty at Fionnphort and Mull. The ferry has just started across the strait.

From the slip we could see the island clearly, though there was still a little light rain, and watch the ferry making its way across the 0.85 miles of water, and very clearly see the Abbey where we were to spend a week.

The ferry docks at Fionnphort.

Technically our stay at the Abbey was not a holiday but a retreat and we were there with around thirty friends sharing in the life of the Abbey, including sharing the chores as well as taking part in its religious life including shared meals. But this left plenty of time to enjoy and explore the island, 3 miles long and at its widest point only 1.5 miles wide and virtually car free. I’ll perhaps write more about that later this week.

The Bishop’s House and the Abbey – where we were to stay – from the ferry

A week later we were on our way home, and the weather was much better, and I was able to make a few more photographs, a couple of which I’ve used here.

The ferry approaches the slip at Baile Mòr on Iona

Today, sat at home and still only venturing out for exercise and the very occasional shopping for essentials it’s good to re-live a little from 12 years ago. We’ve had to cancel our holiday this year which would have been in Wales – and hope to make it there in 2021.

More on My London Diary.