Category Archives: Scotland

239. A goddess amidst the gorse — South Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

gorse in flower may morning banchory devenick aberdeenshire scotland by roadsofstoneThe hotel may be still asleep, but by six o’clock a Scottish May morning is already in full swing.

Outside the sky is clear and blue, the lawns still dew-swept and the rhododendron in full flower.

At the end of the driveway, I turn right, and set course hard along the kerb. Any Aberdonian knows that the lethally fast South Deeside road is no place to play in traffic, but for now it’s quiet and a gentle mile is all I need.

rhododendron at ardoe house aberdeen scotland by roadsofstoneA few minutes go by as I ponder the wonders of travel and the rewards of rising early. A long day in meeting rooms will pass more swiftly with an hour of energy spent before the taxi calls to find me.

On the other side of the road, the trees are opening up a longer view, and I step gingerly across the highway to take in the morning glory of the River Dee and the open farmland stretching far beyond.

The river is tranquil here, in the later reaches of its 87-mile journey from the Cairngorm Mountains to reach the sea at Footdee beside Aberdeen harbour.

river dee gorse view from south deeside road aberdeenshire scotland by roadsofstoneThe Celts worshipped the Dee as a goddess, and today she is blessed with diverse riches. Upstream from here lie some of the most scenic salmon fishing grounds in Britain, whilst downstream the waters flow into the busiest oil port in Europe.

This peaceful view alone has more than repaid my early alarm call, but the fast cars won’t be long in coming, and so I hit the road again and gratefully turn right, uphill and full on into the face of rural Aberdeenshire.
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224. Leviathans of the deep – oil rigs in the Cromarty Firth, Scotland

winter dusk on the bridge inverness scotland by roadsofstoneAs evening falls beneath the deepest black of a December northern sky, a thin veil of dark blue hangs streaked with vivid orange just above the pine trees.

The homeward rush hour in Inverness is a muted, half-hearted affair, and in minutes we’re sailing past the bright lights of the bridge towards the darkness of the Black Isle.

Half an hour ahead, the lights of Cromarty barely touch the depths of nightfall. The white houses of the Royal Burgh are hiding low against the shoreline.

There’s a menace to the silence now, faintly interrupted as it is by the bleak moanful sounds of grinding metal and hammering. Across the water, just half a mile offshore, the leviathans of the deep are waiting.

winter dusk snowy mountains oil rig cromarty firth scotland by roadsofstoneHere in the Cromarty Firth, oil rigs from around the world are waiting for the calmer seas of spring, wintering inshore through maintenance and upgrade programmes to equip them for ever deeper, more challenging drilling as our quest for oil expands.
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206. The price of oil: 2 – a tragedy in the North Sea

bond-superpuma-helicopter-north-sea-c-ap-thesunco-ukI was going to write another article about the oil price today, but I’ll postpone that for now. Sixteen people died in a North Sea helicopter crash on Wednesday.

Their Super Puma helicopter had flown 150 miles from the BP Miller Platform towards Aberdeen, but came down just 13 miles from the coast at Peterhead.

Eight bodies were recovered from the scene. Another eight may never be found.
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191. Two years of Roads of Stone

roads of stoneThe second anniversary of this site passed midway through a busy August. An office move and a new computer have diverted me since, but the milestone seems worth marking all the same.

There hasn’t been much time to write. This isn’t a site for daily updates – the past twelve months at Roads of Stone have seen just 28 posts.

Still, that adds up to around 20,000 words, squeezed into odd moments here and there, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I’ve been busy.

Those words have extended to travel writing on Kenya (seven posts), Scotland, Texas, Bermuda and France.

Conversations have extended to cover geology, music, golf, UK and US politics, the history of horseracing and Shakespearean theatre, petroleum economics, global warming, the urban development of London and French cooking.
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186. Firth of stone and fire – North Berwick, Scotland

streets-of-north-berwick-scotland-by-paradasos-flickrThe afternoon has flown me here, all across a summer sky of grey. The evening beckons now, and outside the window the narrow streets are empty, the shops all shut up for the night.

Scotland. June. Long hours of daylight reaching out ahead.

I stretch my legs along the main street, past red sandstone houses, cafés, bistros and grey tile roofs. It’s a dull old Monday, and the North Berwick weekend bustle, if there ever is one, is hidden far from sight.

The town runs out on me with just the links ahead, and so I try the steps down to the beach. The tide is low and the shore is softly rippled, quiet. No traffic noise. No planes. Just grey sky, grey water, and the lonesome cawing of a gull.
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175. The price of oil: peak petroleum production and energy economics in a thirsty world

NOTE: May 2009 — For further updates on the oil price, see also:
The price of oil: 3 — energy economics and the financial crisis;
The price of oil: 4 – a rising road ahead.

north-sea-oil-rig-and-helicopter-offshorepictures.jpgIt was a chilly evening in early February when the Managing Director called us all together. He paused a moment, glanced at the expectant faces all around him, and then he started.

Business is tough, he said, and we’re doing what we can. But finally, we’ve reached that moment when we’ve got to let some of you go.

A hundred of us stood there then, looking at each other, at the floor, and at the winter’s dusk outside.

There was silence. Some more explanation was required, and some more honesty was needed. And, to his credit, Mitch provided it. As ‘this company is going down the toilet’ talks go, it was pretty fairly done.

We’d had problems with one of our installations in the North Sea, he told us. We all knew that already. In the big money business of finding oil and gas and getting them to the beach, failing on either of those priorities was never good.

roustabouts-on-the-drill-floor.jpgAn asset team would miss its targets, and there’d be no bonuses or payrises for anyone ahead. Such is business, in any organisation. But this time, it was worse.

It’s the oil price, he said. February, 1999. Continue reading

157. When Irish eyes are smiling – Harrington wins the British Open

padraig-harrington-british-open-champion-carnoustie-2007-rma-padraigharrington_com.jpgIt’s been a long wait, and so long overdue. In the eight years since Paul Lawrie’s victory, we’d almost forgotten that a European golfer could win a major championship.

Sixty years after the last Irishman won the British Open, yesterday evening Padraig Harrington became the first player from the Republic to lift the famous Claret Jug.

It was an immensely exciting championship, with the result facing as many twists as the Barrie Burn which winds its way across Carnoustie’s closing holes.

sergio-garcia-british-open-carnoustie-2007.jpgIn the week that Severiano Ballesteros retired from competitive golf, it would have been marvellous for another ‘young Spaniard’ to follow in his footsteps as an Open winner.

Sergio García’s day will surely come. A day when the cellophane bridge above the hole will be far kinder to his ball than yesterday.

But it just wasn’t to be. As Sergio found out, it’s desperately hard to lead a major, wire to wire, and bring it home.
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