Tag Archives: Scotland

Help save our local Children’s Wood!

I have written already about the battle to save our local Children’s Wood in North Kelvin, Maryhill, Glasgow, Scotland, UK. I’m happy to say that the campaign is gaining momentum by the day!

To get an up-to-date picture on what we are trying to achieve locally, do read this brilliant article in Glasgow’s ‘Herald’ newspaper a few days ago by Gerry Braiden, Local Government Correspondent.

As can be seen from the article, comedian Frankie Boyle, who hails from Glasgow, is the latest celebrity to have lent his support.

This is not just a local issue. This issue is one of the major challenges of our time right across the world.

Here are some vivid quotes which reveal a great deal about the perspectives, passion and commitment brought to the campaign by people who really care about the importance of contact with nature to children and parents:

Save Our Children's Wood!

Save Our Children’s Wood! 

“It would clearly be counterproductive to build on commonly used land, in the face of a huge public protest. We have to stop at some point and ask how many shoebox flats does Glasgow need? The way the land is currently used is delivering on a lot of the council’s strategies. Why are they putting money before the life of the community?”

Frankie Boyle, Glaswegian comedian

“Wild spaces are invaluable to children, especially those growing up in
towns. They stimulate the imagination and nurture the spirit. Places
like the Children’s Wood within North Kelvin Meadow are hard to come
by in urban settings and so should be preserved at all costs.”

Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo and Children’s Laureate

‘As one of our member groups, SPPA supports The Children’s Wood Playgroup and its provision of outdoor play. SPPA endorses outdoor play and recognises the value it holds for children. The children are very active and engaged in exploring their local surroundings, learning through a variety of activities and benefiting from being in a natural environment.’

 Ian McLaughlan, SPPA’s Chief Executive

“For decades we have restricted children’s freedom to play outdoors and there’s growing evidence  that this trend is damaging their physical health and emotional well-being. We now have to take positive steps to ensure that children have easy access to wild spaces like the Children’s Wood in the North Kelvin Meadow. It would be a travesty if this special place for children disappeared under concrete.

Dr Carol Craig, CEO of The Centre for Confidence and Well-being

“North Kelvin Meadow is a magical oasis and the Children’s Wood offers a unique space loved by the local community and all who venture there.”

Tam Dean Burn, actor

“The Children’s Wood is a wee gem of natural wild space in the heart of the west-end.  In it, children can connect to nature in a way that isn’t possible in most manicured areas; digging, den building and so on. As a parent of two young children I can appreciate how important it is for young children to connect to nature. Glasgow should be proud to have such a wilderness for the community to flourish in and should do all they can to save it!

Colin McCredie, Actor, Wolly and Tig CBeebies

“We’re keen to help people of all ages reconnect with nature. North Kelvin Meadow is a precious area of greenspace within Glasgow, a green and peaceful place in a crowded city. We’re fully supportive of the campaign to protect it and helping local people see the benefits of spending time surrounded by nature plays a big part in gaining support for its protection.”

Iain Moss, The Woodland Trust

“The availability of a woodland setting immediately accessible to our children and staff, on the doorstep of the school, is a real living experience. This naturally beautiful and exciting environment is alien to many city centre children and which is impossible for schools to replicate in their playground such that has taken decades to evolve naturally – a real wood.”

Gillian Kulwicki, Head Teacher at Belhaven Nursery School

Several short films have now been made celebrating our Children’s Wood. Please watch the latest one HERE, and do circulate it round your networks. We need your support!!

AND: last but not least, sign OUR ONLINE PETITION!

THANK YOU

 

700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Support from Guardian newspaper for Glasgow’s North Kelvin Meadow campaign!

Check out this article from today’s “Guardian” newspaper:

The Guardian supports: Glasgow residents’ final fight to save North Kelvin Meadow from bulldozer http://gu.com/p/3ckyz/tw  via @guardian

  

Hallowe’en Chiller: Overtaking a phantom

Ghosts seem harder to please than we are; it is as though they haunted for haunting’s sake – much as we relive, brood, and smoulder over our pasts….on the whole, it would seem they adapt themselves well, perhaps better than we do, to changing world conditions – they enlarge their domain, shift their hold on our nerves, and, dispossessed of one habitat, set up house in another. The universal battiness of our century looks like providing them with a propitious climate….”

Elizabeth Bowen

Definition of a ghost : “the soul of a dead person which supposedly manifests itself to the living visibly (as a shadowy apparition), audibly etc.”

(p 356, The Oxford English Reference Dictionary, Oxford University Press 1996)

An imaginative child, I found going upstairs to bed scary most nights, having probably heard too many ghost stories as I grew up in the storm-tossed Outer Hebrides – home to many a Celtic tale of the otherworld of the supernatural.

There was the woman wrapped in plaid who jostled my maternal grandfather in the winter dark as he traversed the remote, eerie Uig Glen. There was my maternal great-grandmother’s hearing the wheels of lorries rumbling through her remote village toward a deserted headland – many years before they actually came, bearing the materials to build an RAF station there.

There were the shades of the dead appearing to those few in possession of the Sight – sure harbingers of imminent family death. There were ghostly lights luring sailors to their deaths in stormy seas. There was at least one ghost car. More has been forgotten than I could ever now recall.

Fortunately for me, vivid imagination has always sat in tandem with a strongly empirical streak. So I was a true sceptic –inclined to disbelieve in the absence of proof – until the day I  saw a ghost for myself….

Perthshire, Scotland, Autumn 1977

My twenties had been turbulent. Restless wandering – from one career to another, one city to another, one set of friendships to another, and one dwelling place to another – characterised the whole decade.

Now, I was in a mood to settle. Time to face my dissatisfactions, rather than running away when novelty wore off and disillusion set in. Resolution thus colouring my mood, I left Dundee in September 1977 to do my social work training at Glasgow University. Having been such a hippie in my twenties, all I owned could be fitted into several boxes and stowed in the back of my old blue Morris Traveller.

Laughing to myself, I recalled the occasion when, in my role as unqualified social worker, I had called by my flat in a poor area of Dundee to collect something I had forgotten. Accompanying me was the hard bitten female client I was accompanying on a visit to Dundee’s Family Planning Centre.“For f—s sake!” she remarked, quickly scanning my accommodation whilst I hunted for the forgotten item. “Your standard of living’s even worse than mine!”

Thus in transition, I set off to spend a night or two, en route to my new abode in Glasgow, with my boyfriend at the time who lived in the scenic market town of Perth, half way between Dundee and Glasgow. The Dundee to Perth road was mostly dual carriageway, and a distance of about twenty five miles. I drove happily through the area known as the Carse of Gowrie, which grew the best raspberries in Britain. “Pity I’m in a hurry”, I thought. “A few raspberries for supper would be nice.”

It was a clear evening, around seven pm, growing dusk. There was very little traffic on the road. A few miles outside Perth, my headlights picked out a male cyclist on a racing bike, a little way ahead of me. I pulled into the overtaking lane to pass him – and he vanished.

I arrived at Peter’s flat somewhat shaken by this experience. “I can’t believe I imagined it. What I saw was definitely a cyclist. He was as substantial on that road as you are, standing right now in your kitchen !” Peter was quiet for a few moments. He looked thoughtful, as if trying to decide whether to say something or not.

At last he told me that a young male cyclist had been killed on that stretch of road a year or so previously.

This was something of which I had no knowledge. Why should his ghost appear to me? “Firstly, because you’re so sensitive anyway. Cast your mind back to some other odd happenings which have occurred  since we’ve been together. Secondly, your life is in transition. I think at those times, normal consciousness is more porous, as it were. Impressions from other layers of ‘reality’ find it easier to seep through….”

I remember feeling quite relieved that I wouldn’t be travelling on that stretch of road for the foreseeable future….

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800 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Poetic homage to Autumn: authors known and unknown….

Today is another glorious autumn day in my adopted home city of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. Our default position here is wet, often cold, resolutely cheerful in an ironic, defiant kind of way. Today is different. There is a reflective, drifty mood around. There is hazy warmth in the sun. Park benches in the leaf-strewn park are full of outdoor lunchers – our last chance till the Spring?

And I am feeling melancholic, but in a good way….reflective….poetic. Here are two autumnal poems I hope you will enjoy. The first needs no introduction. The second, whose author I do not know and with whom google was no help, I found pinned to a board inside the David Elder Chapel, an exquisite, still jewel of a hidden place within Glasgow’s Western Infirmary.

Enjoy the poems – and this season!

KNOWN….

One fallen leaf....

One fallen leaf….

http://users.commspeed.net/~fireskye/images/a…

‘Autumn’   by ~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

O Lord, it is time

The summer was so vast

Put your shadows on the sundials

And in the fields let the wind loose.

Order the last fruits to become ripe

Give them two more sunny days

Push them to fulfillment

And force the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

He who has no house now will not build one

He who is alone will be so for a long time to come

Will stay awake, read, write long letters

And restlessly walk in the park among the blown leaves.

(Translated by Charlotte Schmid)

and UNKNOWN….

Autumn, River Kelvin, Glasgow

Autumn, River Kelvin, Glasgow

photo: Anne Whitaker

I am the Season of Autumn

I am pleased to meet you

I  am the season of Autumn.

I am the Harvest of Spring and Summer’s labour.

I am the fruits, the grains, the berries,

The beautiful colours of a glorious planet.

Winding down after a frenzy of activity.

I am the gentle approach to my sister Winter.

When Autumn leaves begin to fall it is time to

Prepare for colder weather and to remind each

Other of those who are most vulnerable.

During the longer night please give of

Your time to those who really need it.

Know that essentially the whole worth

Of a kind deed lies in the love that inspired it.

Eternal happiness is seldom found by those who seek it,

Never by those who seek it for themselves.

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400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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“If you go down to the woods today….

….you’ll sure get a big surprise….” as the old children’s song, ‘Teddy Bears’ Picnic’, goes.

Think globally, act locally urges people to consider the health of the entire planet and to take action in their own communities and cities. Long before governments began enforcing environmental laws, individuals were coming together to protect habitats and the organisms that live within them. These efforts are referred to as grassroots efforts. They occur on a local level and are primarily run by volunteers and helpers…..” ( Wikipedia ) ….and they are surely taking great shape in our local neighbourhood, North Kelvin, Glasgow, Scotland, UK.

May 2012 saw the start of The Children’ Wood – an offshoot of the sterling efforts of the North Kelvin Meadow Campaign, for the last few years the latest in several local initiatives, whose objective over a long period of time now has been to save a patch of local waste ground for community green space use, as opposed to its hosting yet another set of newbuild flats  – in an already built up area –  if Glasgow City Council’s plan for the space goes ahead.

To find out more about the The Children’s Wood click HERE.

Meadow in the City

Meadow in the City

photo: Anne Whitaker

You will see from checking out the above site that there have been a whole series of  imaginative outdoor activities at The Children’s Wood this summer and autumn. These have captured the imagination of  parents and children alike, as well as local residents whose own children by now have grown up and moved elsewhere. More events are planned!

The most recent event, yet again organised by local mum and community activist, Emily Cutts, was terrific fun and really well attended. Sunday 23 September 2012 saw a world music premiere!

The Little House of La – the children’s version of Indie pop group House of La gave its first live performance at The Children’ Wood.Three band members were originally members of the well-known and popular Scottish Indie pop band Aberfeldy. Fortunately, one of their lively and catchy numbers, The Ape Man by The Kinks was captured on video and posted on YouTube.

View it  HERE  –   to see community action, participation – and sheer FUN!!

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NOTE: Blog/Twitter followers, community activists and enthusiasts, please do what you can to pass this post around your networks. Thanks!

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400 words copyright Emily Cutts/Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Telepathy – who needs an advert?!

As readers of recent posts will know, I resumed my astrology consultancy and teaching practice on 1st May 2012 after a long sabbatical. Taking on my first one-to one student, and preparing to start mentoring her at the end of June, has triggered off memories of  interesting highlights from my previous teaching life. Here is a story which I still find intriguing. (to read more in this vein, check out Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness

After sixteen years of building up work experience in the public sector as a higher education teacher, then social worker, I became self-employed in 1985 and spent the next sixteen years running a private counselling and supervision practice, also working as an astrologer and astrology teacher.

During this latter period, it often used to happen that I would think about a client or a student from whom I hadn’t heard for a while, and they would contact me that or the next day. This happened intermittently, several times a year. I arrived at the point where someone would float into my mind, and I’d think “Ah yes, they’ll be contacting me shortly.” They usually did.

The most vivid example of this type occurred just before the start of one of my BeginnersAstrology classes, in the autumn of 1999.

Ecliptic - the Sun's path as viewed from Earth

Ecliptic – the Sun’s path as viewed from Earth

Astrology’s reference point

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac)

On the morning that the class was due to start, I went to photocopy the handouts for that night.There were eight students. However, I was so convinced that someone was going to call at the last minute and ask to join the class, that I did an extra set.

The class was due to start at 4.30 pm. Just after noon, I had a call from a young American woman whose husband was in Scotland doing some studying. She was looking for astrology classes, having seen my details in a magazine. Was I running any?
Yes, the first one starts today at 4.30 pm.”
“I’ll be there!” she replied.

In this way I acquired my ninth student.

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Definition of telepathy: “the supposed communication of thoughts or ideas otherwise than by the known senses.” (p 1482, The Oxford English Reference Dictionary, Oxford University Press 1996)

As Stuart Holroyd observes in concluding his entry on telepathy,   “….research….has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that telepathic communication or interaction is a reality. What kind of reality it is, how it relates to other realities, what it implies in the context of  our understanding of nature and human nature, and what it implies for science, which on the whole continues to reject it as an unaccountable anomaly, remain contentious questions.” (‘The Arkana Dictionary of New Perspectives’ published by Arkana (Penguin Books Ltd) 1989, p 172)

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500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

After the Night Sea Journey….

“One does not discover new land

without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time”

Andre Gide

Going through my 2001-8  “night sea journey”, to use Jung‘s terminology, took seven long years:  a nightmare experience of very slow recovery from total burnout triggered by a year-long family crisis. At several points I very nearly drowned, in darkness without any apparent navigation points. But the steadfast love of those closest held my head just above the cold dark sea, and I called for aid to that level which I have learned to trust. Every time, my call was answered, one way or another.

Every time, the deepest message was  Hold on. Try not to be afraid. Be patient. This is necessary – but it will pass. You will be all right.’

And I am all right, all right and deeply enriched.

Night Sea Journey

Night Sea Journey

http://www.flickr.com/photos/magnusvk/166233536

Perspective on a prolonged ordeal which removed me from the world shifted and changed as the journey went on. I reached the heart of my own darkness, understood it, accepted how my life had been both blighted and enriched by conditions in place from the beginning. Quite quickly after that act of acceptance, I returned to being well again.

I recognise now that a lengthy retreat from the world was requisite for the kind of person I am – it is not necessary for most people to go through a mid-life summing up of such drastic dimensions, thank goodness! Having practised as an astrologer for nearly twenty years by the time of my collapse, I could see from my horoscope, when I was well enough and brave enough to reflect on it again, that periodic bouts of retreat seem to be part of my necessity. One of the great advantages to being an older person is that one has several decades to look back on, in attempting to make sense of one’s own patterns.

Gradually regaining the strength, energy and inclination to lead a “normal” life again, along with a profound sense of gratitude that good health has returned, I am left awestruck at the sheer power, depth and mystery of the human psyche. The sense I already had of being woven into a meaningful cosmos – tiny thread though I am – has been amplified and deepened by many of the experiences I had whilst on my ‘night sea journey’. These experiences certainly challenged my rational, sceptical self. They are all recorded. The added perspective gained by wide reading in spirituality, religion, mysticism, science and cosmology enables me to sum up what I now believe in one sentence:

We live in a meaningful, multi-dimensional cosmos where anything is possible.

The last couple of years of the retreat were spent in a state which I recognised from before, which one might call liminal: not quite having emerged from one life phase, not quite having entered another. This felt uncomfortable and frustrating at one level. But at another, it offered an opportunity to practise the art of trusting to the unfolding process of life, or Spirit’s call, to put it another way; knowing that, in due course, the shape of the next phase would become more clearly defined, the time to take action become evident. As indeed it has.

Having spent four years on the Web runningWriting from the Twelfth House”, then a year as a part-time university student  – something I will continue for the sheer pleasure of learning  –  I have now just completed a two-month process of re-contextualising my former professional life. I’m happy being a writer, a teacher, an astrologer and a counsellor/mentor.  It feels good to be reaching into a lifetime of experience, to offer what modest help I can to fellow pilgrims along the road.

So – I feel full, happy,  grateful, sitting writing this post tonight in my adopted home town of Glasgow in Scotland. After months and months of interminable cold and rain, summer has at last arrived. It is a clear, balmy summer’s eve with just  a hint of a cooling breeze. We live high up, overlooking the Botanic Gardens and the river below. Leaves are rustling faintly; I can just hear the river’s flow. Luminous against the darkening blue sky, the delicate sickle of a Gemini new moon beguiles me.  I will keep on writing, of course….

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750 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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On toads, work – and writing….

The poet Philip Larkin memorably asked : “Why should I let the toad work Squat on my life?”

That toad –WRITING – has squatted on my life more or less since I was born. The golden thread of consistent attachment to writing, or writing’s consistent attachment to ME, has run through the whole of my life. I have always been true to it, in my fashion, during the promiscuous twists and turns of my vocational quest.

Anne and Friend compose the latest blog post....

Anne and Friend compose the latest blog post….

At school, whilst other kids seemed to dread their composition ink exercises, I looked forward to mine. It was an opportunity to channel into focused black and white the swirling imaginative colours which whirled round my young brain, fed by my six library books a week habit. I read anything and everything.

This voracity had its downside. Victorian novelist H Rider Haggard’s myth-steeped descriptions of his characters’ adventures in Africa last century fascinated me. But da Silva, the Dutch explorer whose frozen body was found centuries after his death in a cave high up Mt. Kilimanjaro, transferred himself from King Solomon’s Mines to the wardrobe in my bedroom, on and off, for a couple of years. Getting to sleep was no mean feat with an imagination like mine!

My ‘real’ life – eating, sleeping, going to school – was incidental to my inner life which was full of the really interesting questions:

“Why are we alive, where do we go after death, do we live on several planes of existence at once, what is happening in other galaxies, if there are x million Catholics and even more Buddhists and Hindus, how come they are all Wrong and Damned and a few thousand members of the Free Church of Scotland are Right and Saved?

What would happen if you unwrapped an Egyptian mummy? I wonder if I could make a shrunken head like the Jivaro people? Why did people paint pictures on cave walls thousands of years ago? “

These issues, fed by reading, preoccupied me for years. I must have written about them, and my essays were often commended. However, attempts on leaving school to obtain my childhood exercise books were met with a bureaucratic “No”  .

During my twenties, spent in further education teaching, I  had a ‘Personally Speaking’ column in a well-known provincial Scottish island newspaper, a copy of which I was reliably informed went to the British Embassy in Peking in China every week.

I also wrote for the local paper in a small industrial town in West Lothian, Scotland, where I had my first English lecturing job in the local technical college. ‘How I was left on the shelf – and found true happiness’ was my contribution to the West Lothian Couriers Spring Brides Feature one year. “Couldn’t you have been a bit more romantic ?” was the Editor’s only comment.

Harrowed in my mid twenties by the realisation that time was speeding on apace without my having yet written an autobiography, I then began the first of what were to be many bouts of journal-keeping…….and so the writing went – on, and on, in a dazzling variety of contexts for the next several decades…..

Any writers out there with amusing writing anecdotes? Do leave them in a comment!

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550 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


Praise be! Spring is here….

 I am sure that many readers share my need for connection to the Great Round through immersion in the natural world. Today in Glasgow, Scotland, UK it is a Spring day – and the daffodils are out!

Celebrate it with me!

Fabulous Daffs

Fabulous Daffs

http://www.flickr.com/photos/46097950@N02/4482794780/

I  have a ritual which I’ve repeated for a long time now. From late February each year, I go into the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow  via the Kirklee gate entrance, stroll up the path, and have a close look at the earth border to the left. Green shoots are just appearing. I check them every week, as the stems grow taller and sturdier, and the buds fatter. There is a magic moment when, at last, I see the first daffodil of Spring. Quite often, I punch the air and go “Yes!!”

That moment provides a rush of pleasure which remains with me the whole day.  I call my ritual The Daffodil Run. You think I’m daft? I know it’s an important part of  what keeps me sane.

There are very few clear evening skies in Glasgow. If you’re rushing up Byres Road on the way home on one of those rare nights, especially when you cross the Queen Margaret Drive bridge, look out for a small woman standing still, gazing at the sky. That’ll be me, admiring the wonderful, fragile beauty of a new crescent  moon.

Even in the city, in the increasingly hurried pattern of 21st century life, it is possible to maintain a connection to the cycles of the seasons and the rhythms of nature. It’s increasingly recognised that regular contact of this kind is an important component in establishing and maintaining the kind of inner balance and peace that promotes happiness.

One of the many advantages of living in a small country like Scotland is that access to the great outdoors is not difficult – half an hour out of Glasgow, for example, it is possible to disappear into lovely countryside and forget the existence of the city very quickly. Try it ! It doesn’t matter how stressed you are, how much angst you are carrying. A couple of hours of  tramping across the hills, often in rain and wind, focusing on nothing more complex than  where you put every footstep in order to avoid disappearing up to your waist in a bog, is guaranteed to purge out at least some of it.

Over many years of  walking, I have offered the hills both my joys and my sorrows, and  have found validation for the former and solace for the latter. In homeopathic medicine, broadly speaking, you treat an ailment with a very dilute form of the toxin which caused it. I have found the homeopathic principle works very well with bleakness of the soul or spirit. That condition can be effectively treated by choosing weather and landscape to match your mood, and immersing yourself in it for a few hours. Meeting bleakness with bleakness has a powerfully cleansing effect.

Complementary to this is the powerfully life-affirming effect that natural beauty can have.

Standing on top of a favourite hill on a sunlit day, looking at stunning panoramic views, listening to the joyous song of a skylark, feeling at one with the wind and the landscape, has on numerous occasions made me feel so glad to be alive that I have wept for joy.

These experiences may fade in the face of the rigours of an average life. But if you repeat them often enough, you develop a sense of being part of the great round of nature, where joy and sorrow, youth, maturity, decline, death and rebirth all have their part. You also learn, slowly, the importance to being a happy person of being able to ” grasp the joy as it flies”, celebrate the moment, “seize the day.”

( First published ( as “Happiness and the Healing Power of Nature”)  in “Self & Society”(The Journal of Humanistic Psychology) (UK)Vol 27 No 5, November 1999, then http://www.innerself.com : Innerself Magazine (USA), and most recently – March 09 –  in ‘ The Drumlin’, the Newsletter of Glasgow Botanic Gardens. )

700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

A Festive Kiss – with a twist!

I captured this arresting, quirky Festive image in my home city of Glasgow, Scotland, whilst strolling along by the River 
Kelvin through the tunnel under Queen Margaret Drive bridge. Snapped with my  mobile phone camera which takes great pictures, it  affirmed the famous (at times infamous!) glaswegian sense of humour. Think Billy Connolly….Who else but a Weegie would have taken the time and trouble to suspend a large clump of mistletoe just above the heads of potential passing kissers?

Festive Kiss with a Twist!

Festive Kiss with a Twist!

photo: Anne Whitaker  14.12.2011

It cheered me up immensely in the midst of a difficult week. I offer it out in the hope that in the midst of this highly-charged time, when both the joys and the griefs of life come into sharp focus, it will give someone out there the laugh they need just at this moment.

Happy Christmas to all my readers!

River Kelvin Dec 2010

River Kelvin Dec 2010

200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2011
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page