Feb 042013

I finally decided to rejoin Pure Gym, the gym I signed up with about 3 years ago when it was just opening.

When I first signed up, I made an effort to go to the gym regularly – probably 3 or 4 times a week. I would do some cardio, mostly on the elliptical trainer, and then do a circuit of the weight resistance machines. Since I wasn’t really changing my duet at the time, I wasn’t losing any weight and I didn’t feel I was getting any fitter. When I moved house, I couldn’t get to the gym for a couple of weeks. That broke the habit and I didn’t go back.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that in the last 6 months I have lost a heap of weight by dieting. That’s let me do more exercise and I’m noticing that my fitness is improving steadily. I had read about El Diabolo’s 666 Bodyweight Course online and decided to give it a try.

One of the progressions requires a pull-up bar which I don’t have at home, and its too cold at this time of year to use an outdoor one, so I decided to join the gun again.

Pure Gym has changed quite as lot since I was last there. There are a few new machines, but the biggest change is the number of free classes which they are running now. On my first day back, I signed up for the ‘Pure Bodyweight’ class which I thought might be similar to El Diabolo’s. There were supposed to be another 7 people booked on, but none of them turned up so I got a free one-on- one session with Stuart MacEwan, one of the personal trainers.

The class was excellent. I found it very hard work and, if I had been doing it on my own, would have probably stopped half way through. Stuart pushed me just enough to get through it. The class consisted of a mix of cardio exercises and some bodyweight exercises – sit ups, pushups, squats etc. We had a bit of a chat afterwards and he gave me some good tips. He is also putting together a duet plan for me to improve my nutrition. At some point, I’ll ask him to put together a tailored exercise plan and maybe have a few personal training sessions.

Today, I can feel all the muscles was exercising, but I definitely feel better for having done it and am looking forward to booking another class soon! There are lots to chose from – I think I’ll try the Pure Spin, Pure Kettle Bells and Pure Core classes over the next couple of weeks.

If you fancy trying Pure Gym, you can find out more and sign up using my referral code D92C2C at www.puregym.com – let me know what you think and which classes you find most interesting.

Nov 172011

Union Canal HDR Wallpaper

Union Canal HDR Wallpaper

Last night, I visited the Union Canal at Lochrin Basin in Edinburgh. I took a series of photographs and combined them to make this HDR image.
I have posted it in various sizes which you can use as a desktop wallpaper if you want to.

Widescreen: 1920×12001920×1800 |1680×10501440×9001280×800

Fullscreen (4:3): 1600×12001400×10501280×9601024×768

Oct 292011
Dec 052009

Edinburgh Winter Festival

Originally uploaded by Lesault

Yesterday, @rich_dyson invited me to join him taking some long exposure photos of the Edinburgh Winter Festival in Princes Street Gardens. We met near the ‘Giant Wheel’ and set up the cameras in the middle of Princes Street looking towards the wheel, carousel and helter skelter. I knew I wanted a long exposure to blur the wheel and people, and to get some nice light streaks from taxis and buses passing in front of us. With my 18mm lens at the smallest aperature, the exposure was about 15″, so I put put on an ND8 to increase the length of exposure. I am happy with about 3 of the 20 or so photos I took, the best is probably this one. (20″ f/13 iso100 18mm)

After that we took a wander through the ‘Scottish Market’. I had taken a photo earlier of ‘Amelia‘ (1/60 f/1.4 iso800 50mm) who was doing Tarot readings in her Gypsy Caravan (are you still allowed to say ‘Gypsy’? I can never remember)… although I did see another woman giving readings there earlier – I wonder if there really is only one Amelia. I did a bit of photoshopping to add detail back into the sitter’s white hat and reduced the exposure of the background which was a bit bright before.

We set up on the Plaza between the Art Galleries at the bottom of the mound where I took the photo you see on this page (10″ F/9 iso100 92mm). It is actually a merge of 2 photos, the wheel, shed and clock tower are from one, the sky, trees and helter skelter are from another – I think it was worth editing to get the nice sky.

I had never tried a long exposure with my long lens, so I also took a close-up of the clocktower on the Balmoral Hotel (5″ f/9 iso100 149mm) from the same position.  Unfortunately, the nice moonlit clouds were beginning to disappear.

Aug 062009
The cast of Chomp! take over the Royal Mile

The cast of Chomp! take over the Royal Mile

This evening I was doing the City of the Dead Underground City tour at 9pm, but I was on the Royal mile from about 6.30 to see the street performers and generally hang out. At about 7pm, the cast of “Chomp! The new Zombie Musical” took over the High Street.

Usually at festival time you get hundreds of posh schoolkid luvvies who are in productions and make a fool of themselves on The Mile trying to get people interested in seeing their shows. Chomp! seems a little different – these actors are really getting into the part – a gang of zombies came sprinting up the Royal Mile, chasing each other and terrorising members of the public. Luckily the army arrived and a huge fight broke out between them and the zombies.

There was some extremely realistic looking punches being delivered between a zombie in a bowler hat and tails (who I assume is the leader) and one of the soldiers. Then suddenly two of the Zombies broke into song… “Shooting Out The Brains of the Dead” – A jolly ditty about DIY zombie lobotomy – brilliant!

The show is on in C-1, Venue 34. 5:15pm 7-8 August. I’m working both nights so I can’t make it – you should go though!

Update, If you missed the show live, Andy Evans has made a video of one of the early performances available:

Chomp! The new Zombie Musical – Act 1

Chomp! The new Zombie Musical – Act 2

Jul 302009

Although Edinburgh is a small city, there are a huge number of things to do. If you’re only here for a few days, here are my top ten things you have to do!

Edinburgh Castle from the Vennel

Edinburgh Castle from the Vennel

1. Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh is internationally famous for its Castle built on a crag of volcanic dolomite rock at the top of the Royal Mile and overlooking the whole city.  Go before 1pm and get a good view of the ‘One O’Clock Gun’ which fires every day except Sunday. See the Scottish Crown Jewels, the beautiful chapel, the huge Mons Meg cannon and much more. If you are here during the festival (August) you may be able to catch the Edinburgh Military Tattoo on the Esplanade.

2. Ghost Tour

Edinburgh has about 6 tour companies who do history and ghost walks of the city – but they vary in quality. My advice would be to avoid the free tours – they don’t go anywhere you can’t go on your own and will waste a few hours of your day! If you do decide to take a free tour, check your guides credentials early – see if they really know about the city or are just going to feed you a script! The other tours are all good – Auld Reekie, Mercat Tours, City of the Dead, Mary Kings Close, The Witchery Tours – you won’t be disappointed with any of them! City of the Dead is, of course, the scariest by far! Disclaimer: I user to work for City of the Dead (tell them Lesault sent you!), these views are mine and not necessarily those of City of the Dead!

Arthur's Seat

Arthur's Seat

3. Arthur’s Seat

A beautiful Highland Landscape only a few minutes walk from the centre if Edinburgh. A climb to the top isn’t too hard (if I can make it, anyone can!) Arthur’s Seat is another extinct volcano, it’s in the beautiful Holyrood park and gives an amazing view of the city. If you don’t fancy climbing all the way to the top, you can get similar views from the Salisbury Crags which are a good bit lower and a much easier walk. Also worth seeing is the ruined St Anthony’s Chapel perched above St Margaret’s Loch. Take a sandwich with you and enjoy the view of the city and the Firth of Forth to the north.

4. National Museum of Scotland

If you’re after a bit more culture, you can’t beat the museum. The Story of Scotland’s land, people and culture. The adjoining Royal Museum is slowly being reopened bit by bit after its renovation and promises to be an amazing attraction in 2011 when it fully reopens. See Dolly the sheep (although, once you’ve seen one clone you’ve seen them all!), Viking and Pictish artifacts and more modern exhibits like Jackie Stewart’s Formula 1 Car.

Palm house - Photo by Lawmurray

Palm house - Photo by Lawmurray

5. Royal Botanic Garden

If you like plants and the outdoors, you could easily spend a full day here looking at all the exotic plants. It’s free to get into, but it’s worth paying the small supplement to get into the Victorian Palm House and the other glasshouses which join onto it. There’s a petrified tree nearby which is really interesting and I especially liked the Chinese Hillside, although there are many themed areas to visit.

6. Camera Obscura

A fantastic exhibition of Illusions and Holograms just outside Edinburgh Castle.  One of the largest exhibitions of holograms in Europe – there is plenty to see on the way up the stairs to the Camera Obscura which sits on top of the building and is a landmark in its own right. The Camera Obscura was the height of Victorian technology and has been entertaining visitors for over 150 years. A mirror and system of lenses project a moving image of edinburgh onto a round table in the centre of the room. You get a humorous and knowledgable guided tour of edinburgh without moving from your seat. Fabulous views of the castle, city and Forth.

7. Roslynn Chapel

About 40 minutes by bus (Lothian #15) from Edinburgh. The Rosslyn Chapel has been made very famous recently by the Da Vinci Code book and film so it tends to be much busier now than it was a few years ago, but it is definately worth the trip. See how many ‘Green Man’ carvings you can count, and find the carvings of maize which prove America was visited by the Scots before Columbus!

8. Bus Tour

One of the best ways of seeing a lot of the city and to get from place to place is with a bus tour. The buses leave from Waverly Bridge near the train station. My advice it to choose one of the tours with a live guide rather than one with a prerecorded tour and headphones. The live guides know their stuff, are witty and can answer any questions you have. Check out which attractions each bus takes you to and choose the best one for you – you can get on and off the bus as often as you like in a 24 hour period and can go round the route as many times as you want. I still try to do one of these tours every year or so and always learn something new.

9. Edinburgh Zoo

A short bus journey out of the City Centre will take you to Edinburgh Zoo. Over 1000 animals, the Zoo specialises in rare and endangered species. The Budongo Trail lets you get really close to Chimpanzees, there is a penguin parade which is worth seeing. My tip is to see teh feeding of the Steller Sea Eagles – these are huge birds of prey and extremely impressive when in flight. The rhinos are huge too – see if you can catch them fighting!

10. Surgeon’s Hall Museum

Open weekdays 12pm-4pm (with longer hours during the festival), this is the weirdest museum I have visited. It presents the history of surgery with emphasis on Edinburgh’s contribution. There is also an exhibition of sports medicine, a Sherlock Holmes exhibition, and a history of dentistry. But, my favourite part is the pathology museum – all sorts of diseased body parts in jars! Brilliant! Plan for about 2 hours to see all the exhibits.

11. Walk around the Old Town

Ok, I said top-ten, but you’ll do this one anyway getting from place to place. Edinburgh’s Old Town is amazing – it’s the reason I like Edinburgh so much. The main street, the Royal Mile, runs from the castle at the top, to the palace at the bottom. Many narrow ‘closes’ branch off from the main street and are worth exploring. Check out the views you get between the buildings, often you get a stunning view of Arthur’s Seat, or the New Town. I especially like how the Old Town is on so many levels with so many bridges.. go and explore!

Jul 062009
Erosion and damage to sculpture, Greyfriars'

Erosion and damage to sculpture, Greyfriars'

I’m sometimes ashamed to walk through Edinburgh’s graveyards because of the state of disrepair into which they have fallen over the past few years.

When I first moved to Edinburgh in 2000, I used to enjoy spending a quiet Sunday afternoon in one of the city centre graveyards, they were a quiet, peaceful, clean and private oasis to sit in and enjoy the sun away from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city. I liked them so much I even got a job as a tour guide on the City of the Dead Haunted Graveyard tours. Over the past five years or so, though, many of the cemeteries have been vandalised beyond recognition. On one evening last year, £10,000 of damage was done to Greyfriars’ and the Canongate cemeteries by a gang knocking over and smashing many ancient and irreplaceable graves.  Over a year later, the broken headstones are still scattered around.

Many fragile sandstone graves have been desecrated with graffiti sprayed and scratched into them. But it’s not just vandals destroying our heritage. Today I saw a  tour guide from another tour company happily standing on one of the cast iron mort-safes in Greyfriars’ Kirkyard, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it was bending and creaking under her weight. Unless people start respecting the graveyards, we will end up with nothing left worth saving.

The wet Scottish weather has also unfortunately taken its toll on the sandstone graves many of which have swollen and shattered due to frost over winter, and much of the intricate carving is now lost forever.

The Martyrs’ Monument was recently restored and looks fantastic, this was money well spent by Edinburgh Council and I think it’s time some the rest of the monuments are preserved before they are lost forever.

The gates to Greyfriars’ Kirkyard used to be locked at night, but now they are open 24 hours and frequented by lots of strange people. A recent tour was disrupted by two old, homeless men who had built themselves a large bonfire and one of them set his clothes alight. ‘Neds’ often shout abuse at tourists and I’ve had to call the police on a number of occasions to move on large groups of drunks lurking at the back of the grave yard and hurling expletives at tour groups.

Edinburgh Council have quietly condoned this ‘alternative’ use of the graveyards by helpfully providing a ‘sharps bin’ inside one of the mausoleum in the Canongate cemetary, is this really an acceptable alternative to doing something about Edinburgh’s drug problem? It hasn’t ended the necessity for visitors to tentatively tip-toe through the syringes littering the grass. Graves once sacred to the memory of Edinburgh’s citizens are now ugly ‘shooting galleries’. Isn’t it time we started taking some pride in the beautiful funereal architecture we have in Edinburgh before it, too, is destroyed?

Similar views at edinburghnapiernews.com