Archive for the ‘buildings’ Category

Now and again, I find myself on a delivery round for one cause or another.   I am just back from such a round with literally bloody knuckles from difficult letterboxes. 

letterboxNow I know, living in the Perthshire countryside, that letterboxes can be a reliable source of drafts, and I understand why people fit brushes or sprung flaps to the inside.    Sometimes both.    But some letter boxes this morning had an unnecessarily strong spring-loaded front flap, then lavatory brush strength bristles with a final strong spring loaded flap after that.     It is impossible to get stuff through without bending it, and posting material in is a two handed operation:   fingers lift the top flap, in through the brushes and push the back flap open – the other hand then posts in the letter.      But some letter boxes are designed well – they keep out the drafts, yet allow for easy posting.     These have flaps, but not too strongly springy, and if they have bristles, they are soft.    There ought to be a design standard which is acceptable to the Royal Mail.

doorAnd who thinks it is OK to put a letter box at ground level?     It really isn’t.    And if it is a Fort Knox type of letter box, it is nigh impossible.

And this morning is the first time that a dog had a go at me.   I stood still and adopted a non threatening position, yet the dog still came at me.   My thick jacket was good protection.    Dogs usually like me.  This one didn’t.

The very worst deliveries though are strong letter boxes with a fierce dog on the inside.    The knack is to stuff the post in just enough to do the job, but before the dog gets your fingers.

Why not take the test yourself – take a letter, stand outside your front door, and try to post it in.    See?   Stop laughing – it is not funny!       Posties have my sympathy.

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Carol Hogel is an American who has been living in Scotland for the past 25 years.    She has been a major sponsor of the arts in Scotland and the UK – to the tune of £20 million through the Dunard Fund which she set up.

She has contributed to the RSNO, most UK opera companies, the National Galleries of Scotland, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and lots more.    It is a big list, and adds up to a lot of money.

For Scotland, through her generosity, she has allowed us to be genuinely ambitious with artistic projects, like the building of the Playfair project at the National Gallery, like bringing Peter Stein’s Parsifal to Edinburgh, and so much more.      She helped rescue the Edinburgh International Festival from a financial black hole.   In short, she has made a major contribution to the UK arts, particularly in Scotland.

But now, faced with what she sees as a tax for bringing her wealth to the UK – the Brown/Darling  non dom tax of £30,000 pa, she has announced that she is moving to California, where philanthropists giving to the arts are appreciated.

Shamingly, it was not the tax itself which tipped the balance, but a chippy article written by Robert McNeil in The Scotsman which concluded by saying “The rich are leaving, and good ruddy riddance to them”.   Hogel wrote a letter back accusing McNeil of “taking ethnic cleansing to a whole new level” and calling him “destructive, spiteful and philistine”.    

A civilised country is measured in part by its artistic and cultural status and aspirations.     A vibrant arts sector contributes to the high quality of life we enjoy in Scotland.    It encourages others to visit, and it provides many jobs.

So, this is to say thank you so much to Carol Hogel for her generous contributions.      I am so sad it had to end like this.     NcNeil and The Scotsman should be hanging their heads in shame.

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Anyone who has been to the Royal Museum in Edinburgh in Chambers Street – that’s the old museum, will remember the spectacular building.    If you were taken there as a wee child, you will remember the two floor-level fish tanks immediately in front of you as you enter the building.    You will probably remember the stuffed animals and the push-button working models of various bits of engineering, but the fish you pass on your way in, and on your way out.   You may have even added a penny or two to their pools.

Everyone looks at them.    I actually spent time watching people there last week, and it was amazing how many stopped to look at the fish.   Parents being guided by young children, older children crowding to point at the bigger more active fish, and people simply sitting down and passing the time of day – the fish provide much amusement and a focus to the ground floor.

The museum is closing in the spring for a massive refurbishment, and sadly, the fish are not to be part of the the new look museum when it reopens.

Which is a shame, I think.   

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Terrible Buildings

You would think, wouldn’t you, that a brand new Country Club and leisure facility might offer the chance to produce an interesting building.

Well, don’t go to the Deer Park Country Club at Livingston expecting to be inspired.    It looks like an agricultural shed, the bar has no windows at all, the public space is too tight, the staircase narrow and awkward, and the loos extremely cramped for space.    The meeting room I was in had only a few small windows.   The bar was so deep inside the building it had no mobile phone signal.    All the air was recycled, the ceilings were too low ….. the whole place was deeply depressing in a sort of missed opportunity way.

It is not surprising that their website doesn’t show one picture of their building, or interior of their restaurant or bar.    I’d be ashamed of it too.

Why does it have to be like this?

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