Thursday, July 31, 2014

A peek at our Commonwealth Games experience

Our week has been dominated by the Commonwealth Games. We spent much of last Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday attending sporting events, while other days we've watched bits and pieces on television.

Last week, I provided some background on the Games. Here are a few snippets of our week:

Huge crowds set a world record for attendance at a rugby sevens competition. The popularity of rugby sevens at multiple Commonwealth Games has prompted the Olympics to include rugby sevens for the first time in 2016.
I was happy to get a chance to see Ibrox Stadium, home of the Rangers F.C., one of Glasgow's two famous rival football clubs.
Scotland played New Zealand in one of its group matches. Scotland has never beaten New Zealand in rugby sevens at any level, including this past Saturday.
Since a rugby sevens match is only 15 minutes long, we had twelve matches just in our four hour session. Here, Australia took on Sri Lanka.
On Sunday, we headed out to watch the men's and women's marathons. One of Kate's friends and colleagues, Hayley, was representing Scotland in the women's marathon. Hayley, age 42, now holds the record as the oldest Scot to perform in track and field at a Commonwealth Games. She's a remarkable athlete who has a full-time job as a professor, a toddler son, and trains only when her schedule allows it. A series of injuries, bad luck, and other life events prevented her from competing in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics for the U.K.

Clyde is everywhere in Glasgow.
The lead group of men ran by about half an hour before the women did. An Aussie man took gold over a Kenyan.
We met friends at Pollock Park to watch Hayley. The marathoners run the route twice, so you get to see four passes of the men and women.
A fan of Hayley.
Running by the sign.
On Wednesday we went to a morning session of "athletics" (i.e., track and field). Attending a track and field session is a chance to see a potpourri of events. We saw heats of sprints, middle distance running, hurdles, high jump, long jump, and discus.

Athletics are held in Hampden Park, which is Scotland's national football stadium. When it opened in 1903 it could seat more than 100,000 people, making it the largest capacity in the world. For a Scotland vs. England football match in 1937, it held more than 149,000.
 A preliminary heat of hurdles.
I didn't realize folks still jumped without doing the Fosbury flop.
A preliminary heat of the 200 meters.
We've had a great week enjoying the Games. It's likely the biggest sporting event we'll ever experience, unless we somehow happen to live in a city where a future Olympics or World Cup are held; I doubt we'd ever travel a long distance to attend. So it's a once in a lifetime opportunity for us, which we're grateful to have experienced.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Favorite photos of places we visited our first year

And now

                 .................... [drumroll] ....................

                                                                             here are my favorite photographs I've taken of places we have visited during our first year in the U.K. I'm pretty proud of several of these; they're not bad for a newbie photography enthusiast using old equipment. {Ed.'s note: If he does say so himself.}

They're not a compilation of my favorite places. For sure, some of these places are among my favorites, but definitely not all of them. I just think the photos turned out well.

Last week I posted photographs which nearly made it into this top tier, but I didn't think were quite up to snuff. And then I started to doubt a few of my choices. What about that picture of the Old Man of Storr? Or of Versailles? Or several others?

In some ways, I feel like the photos I select for this blog are as revealing as anything I write about. It feels personal, even in these shots of places or locations. Or maybe it's just a reluctance to expose my flaws as a beginner photog; my eye is drawn to all the flaws or missed opportunities in the photos.

But enough navel-gazing.

You can click on the photographs to see larger versions of them, and scroll through. However, you can't read the captions in that display mode.

Here are my favorites, in no particular order. I hope you enjoy them, too.

Dryburgh Abbey ruins; Dryburgh, Scotland
The romantic ruins of Dryburgh Abbey rest serenely amongst the trees. (Dryburgh, Scotland)
View from Isle of Arran across to Goatfell and Isle of Bute
The amazing colors made us pull off the road on the Isle of Bute, looking toward Goatfell and the other mountains on the Isle of Arran. (Isle of Bute, Scotland)
Culzean Castle; Ayrshire, Scotland
In full disclosure, I airbrushed out a picnicking couple on the grass. Who did they think they were, ruining my photo?!? (Culzean Castle, Ayshire, Scotland)
Necropolis in Glasgow, Scotland
John Knox rises above the hilltop Necropolis in Glasgow. (Glasgow, Scotland)
Glen Coe, Scotland
Kate took this photo in Glen Coe. Your eyes are drawn inexorably down to the house at the base of the hill. (Glen Coe, Scotland)
Eiffel Tower; Paris, France
A hackneyed classic shot of the Eiffel Tower. It's a crisp and pretty photo that I couldn't resist. (Paris, France)
Eilean Donan; Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland
Eilean Donan castle is one of the most photographed sites in Scotland. But perhaps not often like this. (Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland)
Machrie Moor stone circle; Isle of Arran, Scotland
When you see prehistoric monuments by yourself, in the right weather, it can be haunting. (Machrie Moor stone circle, Isle of Arran, Scotland)
View of Notre Dame cathedral from the Seine; Paris, France
{Ed.'s note: Wait . . . didn't he have this same photo of Notre Dame cathedral in his "nearly" favorites, but in black and white?} Yep. But I like this version even better. (Paris, France)
Quiraing; Trotternish Peninsula, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Hiking along the Quiraing on Skye is a bucket-list item for hikers. 'Twas awesome. (Trotternish Peninsula, Isle of Skye, Scotland)
Skyline of Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland; Edinburgh Castle; St. Giles' Cathedral
The skyline of the upper half of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, castle at left and the tall spire of St. Giles' Cathedral at right. (Edinburgh, Scotland)

Vicar's Close; Wells, England
This shot of the Vicars' Close feels like it could be a still from a period movie. (Wells, England)

Want to see more? Here are the favorites from our first year in Scotland:

(Nearly) favorite photos of places we visited our first year

Favorite family photos of our first year in Scotland

(Nearly) favorite family photos of our first year in Scotland

Friday, July 25, 2014

Queen Elizabeth II: photobomber

I just can't resist posting this photo. It's from yesterday, the first day of competition at the Commonwealth Games.

Imagine:  You make your national team. You get to represent your nation at the Commonwealth Games. You take a selfie.

And in your selfie is a photobomb.

By the QUEEN. She's smiling.

She knows she's photobombing your photo.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Turning one!

This blog has turned one year old!

{Ed.'s note: Huh. We didn't think you'd make it.}

I churned out 98 posts this past year. That's a pace of roughly one post every four days.

Going forward, my first goal is to increase posting by about 10% this year. Hopefully, I can accomplish that goal by meeting my second goal, which is to produce a few more current observation posts. I have a tendency to want to procrastinate ruminate about events and places we've visited before I write about them. An occasional quick hitter will add some spice. I think.

Time will tell.

Are you enjoying Coloring Without Borders? I've evolved from being deeply ambivalent about blogging to genuinely enjoying the process. I'd even miss it if I couldn't do it. (And with the computer and internet problems I've had over the past few months, I came kinda close to giving up in despair. #firstworldproblems)

Many thanks to those of you who spend time here, whether regularly or only occasionally. There's no point in blogging without readers. I'll do my best to keep you entertained, informed, and amused as we go forward.

It's a beautiful, gorgeous, amazing day here in Scotland; indeed, it's been gorgeous for weeks. Today's high temperature is flirting with 80 °F. Just now, a BBC sports announcer declared: "You'd never expect to hear this on live television, but I was in Brazil a few weeks ago for the World Cup, and it's just as hot here in Glasgow as it was then."

In fact, it's too beautiful to spend the day blogging! Or even inside! Catch y'all later.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

2014 Commonwealth Games primer

The biggest sporting event in Scotland's history -- the XX Commonwealth Games -- starts tomorrow in Glasgow. Organizers expect to sell roughly 1 million tickets to 261 sessions of competition. This massive sporting event, held over 11 days of competition, is second only to the 2012 London Olympics in size and scope of sporting event ever held in the United Kingdom.

The 2014 Commonwealth Games logo.
So, what are the Commonwealth Games?

To answer that, you have to understand the Commonwealth of Nations. Originally known as the "British Commonwealth," and then simply "the Commonwealth," it is now a collection of 53 member states across the world which mostly -- but not all -- are former colonies of the United Kingdom. The member nations share cultural and historical ties with the U.K., and generally share English as a common language. In theory, the member states all support and promote geopolitical goals such as democracy and the rule of law.

The flag of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Besides the U.K. itself, some of the other "major" countries in the Commonwealth of Nations include Australia, Canada, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, and South Africa. But there are many small countries, as well, such as Barbados, Fiji, Kiribati, Lesotho, and Papua New Guinea. Moreover, there are British territories and other participating nations, such as the British Virgin Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, and Samoa, as well as the member nations of the U.K.: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

This map courtesy of
In total, 71 nations and territories will participate in the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Almost one third of the world's population resides in a Commonwealth nation, spanning all continents and approximately one fourth of the world's landmass. Half of the Commonwealth's population of 2.3 billion is under the age of 25, and a quarter of its population is under 5 years of age.

Queen Elizabeth II sits as the Head of the Commonwealth, though each member state is freely associated and can elect to leave. The nations are all equal members. Queen Elizabeth, however, is the constitutional monarch of 16 member nations, including Australia, Belize, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, five other Commonwealth nations have their own monarchs: Brunei, Lesotho, Malaysia, Swaziland, and Tonga.

The Commonwealth Games were first held in 1930 with 400 athletes, though a precursor "Inter-Empire Championship" was held in 1911. The games run every four years, except for 1942 and 1946, due to World War II. Only Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales have participated in every Commonwealth Games. Although England was the top medal winner in six games, and Canada the top medal winner in one, Australia has dominated as the top medal winner in 12 games, including the last six in a row and nine of the last eleven. The 2010 games had 6,700 participants, and 2014 expects a higher number.

All Commonwealth Games include 10 "core" sports, with another seven selected by the host country. The "core" sports are: athletics (i.e., track and field), badminton, boxing, field hockey (called simply "hockey"), lawn bowling, netball, rugby sevens, squash, swimming, and weightlifting. As you can see, this list certainly gives the games its own distinct British character. Cycling, diving, gymnastics, shooting, and wrestling have been included in nearly all of the games. For 2014, Scotland has dropped archery and tennis, while adding triathlon and judo.

Why not soccer (i.e., football)? Well, team sports were added for the first time in 1998, so there's not a long tradition of including football. Much more importantly, the World Cup is held just a month before each Commonwealth Games, and the inclusion of national football teams for the latter event is not feasible.

How do the Commonwealth Games differ from the Olympic Games? Not by much, other than the number of countries participating and the scale of the event. They both feature opening and closing ceremonies -- Rod Stewart and Susan Boyle will be featured in this year's opening ceremonies -- as well as a mascot. However, for the Commonwealth Games, disabled participants are full members of their national teams and their medals are included in the medal count.

A mascot competition for ages 6-15 received 4,000 submissions. This is the winner, by a 12-year old girl from Cumbernauld.
The 2014 mascot, "Clyde," named for Glasgow's primary river. Clyde is a thistle, the national flower of Scotland.
Just like the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games includes a baton relay. Called the Queen's Baton Relay, it has covered more than 118,000 miles around the world. As you might expect, the baton relay has been all over Scotland recently. This past Saturday morning, we took a short drive up the road to Bearsden, just north of Glasgow, to watch the baton go by and to let Jackson play at a small fair celebrating the games:

The baton was scheduled to go by at 8:15 am.
We got there a bit early for coffee and a croissant.
The baton strolled by.
Cuisine from various Commonwealth countries was available.
Flags from the various nations were on display.
Jackson made a "hat." Rather, dictated to Kate what to make.
The wee ones had mini games to play, with assistance.
Then the baton went by again. First, the security detail, this member with Clyde . . .
. . . and then the baton.
When I say the baton has been everywhere, I mean it. Highlands, islands, lochs, rivers, canals, villages, cities. We found out on Monday the baton passed by just one street over from our house. Oops. We missed it.

The Commonwealth Games are not quite in the same league as the Olympics, of course, nor of the World Cup. But the Commonwealth Games are the next biggest sporting event in the world. Scotland is intent on showing it has the stature to host such major events. At the same time, I'm sure the pro-independence movement is hoping for a patriotic bump in the polls ahead of September's independence referendum.

We're excited to be attending three events over the next eleven days: rugby sevens; the marathon (in which one of Kate's friends/coworkers is running for Scotland); and track and field. I'll update you on our experience. And huzzah for Team Scotland!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

(Nearly) favorite photos of places we visited our first year

A few weeks ago, I offered up my favorite family photos of our first year here in Scotland. See here and here. Now, for your perusal, are some of my nearly favorite photos of places we have visited in our first year.

These aren't necessarily my favorite places, per se, though some of them are. Rather, these are some of my favorite photos which I took of places. Some of the photos might be appropriate for a travel brochure. Others capture a mood or an ambiance. A few pictures offer something silly or incongruous that caught my eye.

Note that if you click on a photo you can see a larger version of it, as well as scroll through the others. It's a nicer way to see the pictures, but you can't read the captions.

In the next week or so, I'll post my very favorite photos. But I thought these ones were pretty good, too:

Glamis Castle, Scotland.
Looking across Barcelona's old harbor toward Montjuïc. (Barcelona, Spain)
The ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral. (St. Andrews, Scotland)
Stirling Castle, Scotland.
An unavoidably classic shot of Stonehenge, England.
At this point of your tour of the Louvre, even the decorations on the walls are weary. (Paris, France)
Kate's photo of Castle Stalker, of both Highlander and Monty Python and the Holy Grail fame. (Loch Laich, Scotland)
Fishing village of Crail, on the east coast of Scotland. (East Neuk coastline, Scotland)
Anstruther, another fishing village along the East Neuk coast. (Anstruther, Scotland)
Climbing the ruins of Dryburgh Abbey. (Dryburgh, Scotland)
A reflecting pool displays the ceiling of Salisbury Cathedral. (Salisbury, England)
I loved the juxtaposition of the modern street art with the old church. (Le Marais, Paris, France)
The enormous ruins of Fountains Abbey recede into the distance. (Ripon, England)
View across Loch Lomond while hiking on the West Highland Way. (Loch Lomond, Scotland)
Wells Cathedral, from the gardens of the Bishop's Palace. (Wells, England)
Kate's photo in the depths of Rievaulx Abbey. (Helmsley, England)
Courtyard at Versailles Palace. Billions millions thousands of tourists were milling about, but somehow I got a clear shot without them. (Versailles, France)
Only Salvador Dalí could get away with this as art. (Figueres, Spain)
The glorious ceiling of Sagrada Família. (Barcelona, Spain)
Early morning over the Firth of Clyde. The hills of the Isle of Arran rise in the background. (Wemyss Bay, Scotland)
This photo of Notre Dame cathedral was taken from a moving cruise boat on the Seine. (Paris, France)
The back of St. Conan's Kirk. I like how the colored stone complements the changing colors of the leaves in early fall. (Loch Awe, Scotland)
Kelvingrove Museum, with a Malaysia vs. Scotland lawn bowling match on its grounds. (Glasgow, Scotland)
The ruins of Jedburgh Abbey stretch toward the sky. (Jedburgh, Scotland)
The fountain on Rothesay's esplanade. (Isle of Bute, Scotland)
Sunlight bathes the 160-foot-tall Old Man of Storr. In the notch between the cliff face and the Old Man and stands a hiker. (Isle of Skye, Scotland)

Want to see more? Here are the favorites from our first year in Scotland:

Favorite photos of places we visited our first year

Favorite family photos of our first year in Scotland

(Nearly) favorite family photos of our first year in Scotland