April 30, 2006

Education, Education, Education

This is the main entrance of my school so I thought I'd spend today giving you a flavour of the Scottish education system. Children start primary school at the age of 5 (sometimes 4) and spend 7 years in primary education (P1 to P7). The first four years of secondary school (S1 to S4) are compulsory. Pupils can leave once they're 16 but can stay on to S5 and S6 if they wish. There is no graduation certificate or ceremony. Pupils sit national exams in S4 (Standard Grades), S5 and S6 (Highers and Advanced Highers). The results they achieve in S5 and S6 will determine what universities and courses they get into. The most able pupils will already have achieved what they need to get in to University by the end of S5, so S6 can be a year for deeper study into potential university courses, a chance to do new subjects or become more involved in the school and the community. For those with a conditional offer from University, this system allows a second chance to get what they need by re-sitting exams they missed out on first time around. The system is not perfect, but it's the best one we've got!

April 29, 2006

My daily view

This is the view from the front of the school, and the view I get from most of the classrooms I teach in. In the foreground you have the new PE block and the adjacent special school and beyond we have a fabulous view over the Pentland Hills. The three bigger hills are called Allermuir, Braidlaw and Caerketton...I know this because these are the names of the three houses we have in the school. For those unfamiliar with a house system, think Harry Potter and Gryffindor, Slytherin etc. What's your view like from work?

April 28, 2006


This is the sign, made by the students, which welcomes you to Firrhill High School...my current place of employment. As I'm taking this opportunity to showcase some of my pupils' work, I thought I'd show you a little around the school. Tomorrow, you'll get the view from the front classrooms!

I've just finished a podcasting project with my S2 French class (aged 13). They scripted, recorded, produced and edited this audio guide to Edinburgh in French. Click here to have a listen. They'd be delighted to receive your comments.

À tous mes chers amis francophones: je viens de finir un projet de podcasting avec ma classe de 2ème année (âgé de 13 ans). Ils ont écrit, enregistré, présenté et édité eux-même tout ce que vous entendrez dans ce guide-audio de la ville d'Édimbourg en français. Cliquez ici pour écouter. Laissez un message...ils seront ravis de lire vos commentaires!

April 27, 2006


A grand old Edinburgh institution and part of Edinburgh's thriving arts scene. The Playhouse theatre is Edinburgh's biggest theatre and this is where the major musicals and big shows come. At the moment it's 'Mamma Mia' - I saw it the last time it was here, and my mum thoroughly enjoyed it the other night. It's a pretty old place with very cramped legroom and very steep stairs in the balcony, but full of charm nonetheless.

April 26, 2006

More Trinkets

Fotoaddict wanted to see more, so here are some more of the things that the Christmas Shop on Victoria Street sells. Anyone fancy some Scottish flags for their Christmas tree? Some tartan? A Union Jack...no, didn't think so! Tourist heaven! And certainly something a little different from what is sold be most touristy shops.

April 25, 2006

As promised

I said I would go back into the Christmas Shop and find out what they actually sell and how they make their money throughout the year. Not surprisingly, January and February are pretty quiet which allows them to do their stock-taking. After that, the tourist season starts up in earnest and who could resist taking Santa in a kilt playing the bagpipes back to Japan, Australia, the USA or wherever! I'll show you some more of what they sell later, but I was actually in the mood to buy some of it. OK, Jingle Bells in April is just wrong, but it's a shop well worth a visit at any time of the year!

April 24, 2006

Double Parking!

Sticking to my Monday transport theme, I'm going to show you the view from our window and something which really bugs me. These two cars have completely blocked the street by their selfish actions. Indeed, last night, the fire brigade was called to an incident further down the street and the fire engine couldn't get up the street because of the cars double parked. I've written to my councillor, but he's from the Labour Party so I don't expect a resolution any time soon. How is the parking problem where you are?

April 23, 2006

George Square Gardens

It's been a lovely day...just the kind of weather you hope for on your birthday...only a year to go until I'm 30! And a perfect day to stroll around and try and walk off the excess beer and wine that was consumed last night! Here some people are enjoying the sunshine in George Square - this is the heart of the main part of Edinburgh University and a very popular place to bring your books and study in the sunshine. I didn't see anyone studying today, but maybe it's a bit too early for the students...after all exams are only about three weeks away!

April 22, 2006


I saw this blackboard outside a little independent art gallery on Victoria Street and I liked the sentiment. I thought I would share it with you. Have a nice weekend!

April 21, 2006

Edinburgh Postcard

Happy Lunaversary to the Edinburgh Daily Photo blog. Born on 21st March 2006, it's been going for one month now...yay! To celebrate, I thought I'd give you a very typical picture postcard image of the centre of Edinburgh. This is looking down from Calton Hill to the west along Princes Street. You'll recognise the Castle and the Scott Monument from previous pictures and the rather grand looking building with the clock tower is the Balmoral Hotel, one of Edinburgh's finest.

April 20, 2006

Nelson's Monument

Staying on top of Calton Hill, this is the Nelson Monument. For those interested in maritime history, the white ball at the top was one of the first landbased time-keeping devices for ships. At 1 o'clock, the ball falls from the top of the white pole to the bottom. However, the North Sea fog often being what it is, this turned out to be rather unreliable so as well as the falling ball, a gun was fired at 1 o'clock every day except Sunday from Edinburgh Castle. Both still happen today. It can be quite fun walking along Princes Street at 1pm when suddenly you hear 'Boom!' - locals look at their watches and tourists jump!

April 19, 2006

Edinburgh's Disgrace

This is the National Monument which sits atop Calton Hill and is more commonly known as Edinburgh's disgrace. It was planned and started as a national monument in the 19th century to the dead from the Napoleonic wars. Work started in 1824 and finished in 1929 when the money ran out - thus earning it its nickname of Edinburgh's Disgrace or Scotland's Shame. Some architectural historians say that it was designed to look partially incomplete. Anyway, its towering presence over the city and its Greek style has also led Edinburgh to be referred to as the Athens of the North.

April 18, 2006


I had friends up from London over the Easter weekend and they enjoyed the fine weather (well, some of the time) that Edinburgh had to offer. Here we find ourselves at a lovely little loch by the roadside around Arthur's Seat. Hard to believe that even here, you're right in the middle of Scotland's capital city. One thing I like about Edinburgh, there is plenty of green and it's easy to escape the city without even going anywhere!

April 17, 2006

Talk Radio Taxi

It's Monday so it must be time for another taxi photo. Here's one advertising a new talk radio Station for the Edinburgh and Lothian area. I haven't listened to it myself yet, preferring the dulcet tones of Real Radio on my short drive to and from work, but you have to give credit to the taxi driver in the picture for allowing himself to be the butt of the advertiser's little joke. Mind you, since they began to put microphones in the cabs, our taxi drivers have become a lot quieter, usually switching the mike off once you've told them where to go.

April 16, 2006

Castle Entrance

It's been well over a week since I last put up a shot of the castle, and as I have guests visiting, and am about to go to the castle (again!), I thought I'd bring you a closer look at the entry. There are stone guards on either side of the doorway to scare you off and above the doorway is a plaque with the Royal flag of Scotland (the red lion rampant on the yellow background) and the Scottish motto 'nemo me impune lacessit' - no-one provokes me with impunity, or in simple English, no-one pisses me off and gets away with it!

April 15, 2006

Christmas Shop

As it's Easter weekend, I thought I'd show you something bizarrely unseasonal. This shop intrigues me as to how they manage to keep going for the whole year. I mean, you would expect that they make pretty much all their sales in one or two months of the year, but yet, they're always there, brightening up Victoria Street. These two painter and decorators were obvioualy taken with it enough to stop and look, but not to go inside.

April 14, 2006

Barony Bar

As I mentioned going for a pint at the end of the last post, I thought I would take you inside one of Edinburgh's fine drinking and social establishments. This is the Barony Bar, a nice bar with a real mix of a clientèle and always with a great selection of real and guest ales on tap. It also does pretty good food too. It looks quiet, but I took this on Monday night when I was out with my friend Ffion at around 11 so it was time for people to get home to bed. Not for me, as I'm still on holiday until Tuesday! You'll also notice the lack of smoky fug in the photo.

April 13, 2006

Sherlock Holmes

This statue of Sherlock Holmes is to be found by the Picardy Place roundabout close to the birthplace of its author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Although Holmes solved crime all over London, Conan Doyle was in fact born in Edinburgh in 1859. He published his first Holmes story in 1887 and over the next 40 years, he wrote 56 short stories and 4 novels to do with Holmes and his sidekick Dr Watson. Just across the street from the statue is a pub called 'The Conan Doyle' - not a bad spot for a pint to rest your weary legs after a day's sightseeing.

April 12, 2006

Smoking Enforcers

It's now a little over two weeks since the smoking ban came in, and for the first time the other day, I passed a pair of smoking enforcers in the street...at least I think that's what they are. It says 'environmental warden' on the back of their jacket and that's who is policing the ban. Mind you, not that it has needed much policing. People are complying with the law and I've only heard of 4 warnings being given to bar owners so far. The ban has also not had the effect that the pub owners' association had feared. Some bars are reportng a 25% increase in takings since the ban according to yesterday's Scotsman newspaper. For bars serving food, the food takings are up significantly and most bars report a 5-10% increase in trade. Also, anecdotal reports say that smokers seem to be drinking faster, so they can go and have a cigarette outside and order a fresh drink when they come back in! Apparently though, the bouncers are now complaining of passive smoking!

April 11, 2006

The Shore, Leith

Leith, formerly a town in its own right and maintaining its own distinctive character, is Edinburgh's port area. It has seen massive redevelopment since the beginning of the 1990s which has seen it transformed from a rundown area with massive social problems (anyone read/seen Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh - set in Leith), to a trendy area with great restaurants, pubs and cafés which is popular both to live in and socialise in. The Queen has even allowed her former yacht Britannia to be parked in Leith and the civil servants of the Scottish Executive have been moved down here. This is also one of the few parts of Edinburgh where you can get a good view of water as part of the city. We are bounded to the north by the Firth of Forth and we have a small sort of river called the Water of Leith running through the city, but water is not really a feature of Edinburgh itself.

April 10, 2006

Irn Bru Taxi

It's Monday so it must be time for another one of Edinburgh's colourful taxis. This one sports the distinctive orange and blue colours of Scotland's other national drink...Irn Bru. It's something I don't drink too often when I'm here, but when I lived overseas, any visitor coming over from Scotland had to bring copious amounts of this sweet, orange-coloured drink with them. Towards the end of my time in Japan, I began to be able to find Irn Bru in some western shops and even managed to get it in deepest darkest Siberia during a trip on the Trans-Mongolian railway! Apparently, the Russians love it so much, Irn Bru built a factory there!

April 09, 2006

Old and New

Princes Street is Edinburgh's main shopping street. It is bounded to the south by Princes Street Gardens and has marvellous views to the castle. Its character, however, was basically destroyed by 1960s town planners. It went from being a street full of Georgian and Victorian buildings, to a street which ended up littered with ugly, boxy buildings, but which were suitable for retail. This picture shows the attempt, or lack of it, to integrate a new building (this one for H&M) right beside a very traditional one. Does it work? What do you think?

April 08, 2006

Royal High

Edinburgh has some fine school buildings, more of which I will share with you later, and this gorgeous building at the bottom of Calton Hill used to house The Royal High School. The Royal High used to be an independent school, but upon joining the state sector in the 1960s, it upped sticks and moved out to the suburbs. It remains, however, the school with the longest history in Edinburgh with a foundation date of 1128 (not this buidling though). This building was renovated inside and was fitted out with a parliamentary debating chamber, ready to house the Scottish Parliament after the 1979 referendum. Well, though a majority of Scots who voted at the time voted in favour, the referendum was lost due to a stipulation that a certain percentage of registered voters had to vote in favour. By the time the second referendum came around in 1997, this building had fallen out of favour with the ruling Labour party, seeing it as a nationalist symbol. They preferred to spend more vast sums of money on the new building with the lovely thinking pods! So, this building still lies under-used although there is talk of turning it into a photography museum - I'm sure all you daily photo bloggers will be pleased to hear that.

April 07, 2006

Scott Monument

This monument, dedicated to one of Scotland's greatest authors, Sir Walter Scott can be found (well, it can hardly be missed) on Princes Street - Edinburgh's main shopping street and bus racecourse! Sir Walter Scott was probably THE great Scottish writer of the 19th century. He wrote novels such as 'Waverley', 'The Fair Maid of Perth', 'Rob Roy', 'The Heart of Midlothian' and 'Ivanhoe' as well as translating works by Goethe into English. He was also pretty much responsible for creating the image of Scotland as we are seen today - the tartan shortbread tin image, as I like to call it. He was much loved in Georgian and Victorian Britain, and fought hard and successfully for Scotland to retain its distinctive nationhood, education and legal system despite union with England. Thanks to Scott, the idea of referring to Scotland as North Britain never took hold.

April 06, 2006

The New Town

Today we have a picture of one of the planned streets of Edinburgh's New Town. As I mentioned yesterday, it wasn't until after Union with England in the 18th century that Edinburgh began to expand and take its present day shape. A competition to design the New Town was held and was won by a young architect called James Craig. His vision of main streets criss-crossed by narrow streets and small lanes, with lots of green space, shaped Edinburgh's cityscape. The wealthy moved from the cramped, unsanitary conditions in the Old Town down to this new part of the city and today it continues to be a well-off neighbourhood, largely residential, with strict planning restrictions to limit the number of bars, restaurants and the types of shops that can open there. This street, Drummond Place, like many in the New Town also has private gardens for the residents (and only the residents!) to enjoy!

April 05, 2006

Old Town Buildings

We're looking over towards some of the striking buildings of the Old Town. You can see the way they rise up, and in fact, beacuse of the hills the centre of Edinburgh was built on, some of these buildings will be 11-12 storeys high. Not bad for 500 or so year old buildings! These buildings hide a lot of secrets and stories! This is where everyone lived in the past as Edinburgh confined itelf to the hill and inside the walls for protection from the invading English armies. As a result, people lived on top of each other and sanitation didn't really exist. During the plague, an entire street called Mary King's Close, to be found directly under what is now the City Chambers, was bricked up at both ends leaving everyone inside to die. You can visit it now and hear the chilling stories (for a small fee of course!). Once peace descended on the city, after Union with England, the city began to spread out into what we now know as Edinburgh. Previously it really was just 'Dun Eideann' (its Gaelic name) - the fort on the rock.

April 04, 2006

Spring has Sprung

The days are longer, the sun is visible, the daffodils, bluebells and snowdrops have poked their heads up again for another year...it must be Spring! It seems to have taken much longer this year for spring to properly arrive, but I'm glad the weather has been good for the start of the holidays (touch wood). I had a little lesson yesterday in 'always have your camera with you' as a new taxi I hadn't seen before with a Harley Davidson motif was sitting at a set of traffic lights. I shall hunt it down and continue the ever popular 'Taxis of Edinburgh' photos.

April 03, 2006

VK Taxi

Here's another one of Edinburgh's bright and colourful taxis - specially dedicated to Nicola in Germany. This is a fairly new one, advertising a drink called Vodka Kick - vodka mixed with something, which I can only hope the driver is not drinking to quench his thirst. I went for a walk around the city yesterday to build up my photo bank and saw this taxi on the other side of the street as I was walking towards a taxi rank. I waited and my luck was in as it went right round the roundabout and pulled up just a few metres away. Hope you all had a nice weekend - it's so nice to be at home on a Monday!

April 02, 2006

Twilight Castle

Here's a close-up of the castle from the Esplanade at a little after 8pm last night - the sun had begun to go down, but there were still quite a few tourists around there to get these great floodlit shots of the entrance. Edinburgh will be a very empty city today as the two teams, Hearts and Hibs are playing each other in the Scottish Cup Semi-Final...in Glasgow! Yes, the SFA are very logical. There is a 67,000 seater rugby stadium sitting empty today in Edinburgh and yet, they make 52,000 people travel along one narrow strip of motorway to get to Glasgow...oh, and there is engineering work being done on the train line too! The winner will play Gretna in the final...a real modern football fairytale...Gretna, a town of 2,500, famous for weddings, joined the Scottish league just 4 years ago, and now in the Scottish Cup Final and on the brink of bringing European football to this village down on the English border. Fantastic!

April 01, 2006

View from Arthur's Seat

Slapped wrists for me, I've missed my first day! It was end of term for us teachers here yesterday so I was out from about 1pm till rather late. When teachers get together and there's alcohol involved, time just seems to pass by in a drunken haze! It was the first time I'd been out for a proper night out since the smoking ban came in - it was fantastic!! Thank you Scottish Executive!! Anyway, I thought I'd post a picture early today as it's the weekend and to make up for yesterday. We've had a few street close-ups, but here's another majestic view of the city looking from Arthur's Seat. Happy April Fools' Day!