First blog post

So Hi anyone looking at this. Never done anything like this before but have been musing on doing a fringe blog for, oo, the last four years. So finally I’m taking the plunge! The first fringe show I saw was way back in 1985, The Bald Prima Donna at Buster Browns on Thursday 22nd August for £2. That Prima Donna keeps coming back every year, still bald as a coot. So if you fancy a stroll along the byways and alley ways of my Fringe experiences, feel free to drop in.

Like I said, I’m new to this so there’s gonna be plenty mistakes (though at least my typing seems ok for a moose) as I’m not really up with this modern technology stuff. So wish me luck and do check in again!

Bruce

 

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Sum pluses + minuses

Three weeks into 2022 already; three weeks of tighter restrictions again in Scotland, thankfully they’re ending on Monday. Its been back to table service and strictly no mingling in bars. Hence I’ve only been out for a drink once since New Years Day, that was a midweek drink in Whistlebinkies as Willie Dug was on and I really needed a break from the moose cave. On entering I was leapt on by a member of staff who proceeded to escort me to a table, oh boy was it quiet in there! Just as well, the staff didn’t seem to be in a rush take orders and serve drinks. In some ways I quite like good table service, but I prefer to have an option on it.

I even gave a miss to seeing the Scat Rats in Stramash, well, they were on the ten o’clock set on a Saturday night; an ordinary Saturday night has a queue outside the door by ten, so with restricted numbers allowed in, hmmm, I stayed home (with a very precious new toy, more later). At least the restrictions will be lifted in time for Carl Marah‘s latest thang, The Buccaneers, playing Stramash in the late night slot next Thursday. They were meant to play a few weeks ago in Whistlebinkies but a case of covid got in the way, fingers crossed all will be well this time. Their bio on Facebook reads “Blues/Rock/Soul 4-piece based in Edinburgh …” who promise to be “an exquisite late night sandwich”, oh my! I’ll let you know just how tasty they were next week (touch wood).

At the start of February Scotland will have a new regulation on smoke and heat detectors come into force. It was meant to start in 2020 but, well, the nation was kinda busy with other things. All homes will be required to have interlinked fire alarms, that’s a heat alarm in the kitchen, a smoke alarm in the most used room and a smoke alarm in every hallway or landing (also a carbon monoxide detector in any room with a carbon-fuelled appliance). While it will be the law to have interlinked fire alarms in Scotland, it won’t be a criminal offence not to have them, so no penalties, however, if you have a fire and no interlinked alarm system in place, good luck with any insurance claim. Of course, there’s plenty of opinions about this on social media from the downright bolshy to the paranoid – like Scotland’s gonna light up like an octogenarian’s birthday cake on the 1st February!

Way more important to many Scots – can Scotland beat England on the 5th February? Yes, this year’s battle for the Calcutta Cup takes place at Murrayfield on the opening weekend of the Six Nations Championship. Auld Reekie will be packed out that weekend, fun will be had.

More later, toodle pip, mes amis

So 2021, any highlights?!

Oh 2021, we started the year thinking we might get past Covid and all the restrictions, ha, here we are a year later! After all the lockdowns of 2020, more of the same just made 2021 drag. This time round it just got boring, lethargy set in, no point trying to look forward to anything as it would most likely be cancelled, at best postponed indefinitely. So, were there any highlights? Hmmm.

Highlight numero uno, the snow in January and February, all from the east, so lovely powdery stuff, snowmen everywhere, sledges, snowboards, even skiing in Holyrood Park! Yes, decent snow in Edinburgh, again! Okay, so slippy as hell, but beautifully scary is better than greyly dull.

Highlight number two, finally being able to head down to see family in May. It felt so different to other journeys home, and so nice to see faces right in front of me and not on a screen. And hugs!

Numéro trois, cinemas re-opening, yay. I like seeing movies on the big screen. Oh what? Pubs were re-opening too? Sorry, not a highlight for me – too many constraints, the new normal; being able to go back to the cinema was way better to me. Tied for my top cinematic highlight of 2021 are Free Guy and Last Night In Soho both brilliant in very different ways.

Nummer vier, enjoying the beautiful summer weather at Portobello beach. After spending so much time in solitude in Holyrood Park, it was great to be among people on the beach, and so many nationalities, it felt quite cosmopolitan. Oh, I love the wildness and nooks and crannies of the Park but sometimes I do need company, to hear voices and laughter, a sunny day at the beach ticks those boxes.

Numero viisi, it had to be there, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2021. Okay, so it started real slow and I was dubious how good it would be, how many actual live In Person shows there would be, but as it progressed more acts came up (as the line from Field of Dreams says “If you build it, they will come”). Every few days more shows would be announced, more venues opened up, more seats became available at previously sold out shows because of the restrictions being eased; it was exciting and unpredictable, regular checks for updates were vital (I have no idea how the Online version went, I was done with screen-watching). The lack of the Half Price Hut meant I had to adjust my sights to fit my budget, Pay What You Can and Free Fringe shows featured a lot for me.

The Monkey Barrel Comedy Club was a highlight hosting weird and wonderful comedy; including John-Luke Roberts, Rob Kemp and two thirds of the Privates, all of my Fringe highlights! Oh, except one, the only show I saw at the Pleasance Courtyard, Tim Fitzhigham: Here Now. Tim’s always entertaining but he really was on top form for this one show in the Cabaret Bar, almost manic with glee at sharing his stories with a live audience.

August saw highlight numer pięć – live music back again! A band had started playing almost every day on Waverley Bridge, like, why not? It was good weather in general, the road was closed to traffic, plenty of room for people to pass by while others hung around and watched (generally safely distancing). All this fringing and good music got me itching for more, Stramash was open again with bands playing, I had to go along; and who was playing my first time back? The band from Waverley Bridge (aka The Kennedy’s Project), oh joys! They were such fun.

The autumn months of 2021 were as good as any time I can ever remember for seeing great live music: the Voodoo Rooms (especially The Courettes ❤); Stramash, of course; I became reacquainted with Whistlebinkies (I’m not sure why I didn’t go there for years!?); and, a particular highlight for 2021, Fur at Sneaky Pete’s! Yay! I’ve discovered the likes of Jed Potts and Willie Dug these last few months, it’s like a new vista laid before me; there’s been old friends in new guises, The Scat Rats, aka Scott Rough and Carl Marah from Logan’s Close, playing covers with a few of their own songs thrown in (bloody marvellous as per usual).

Sadly, what promised to be the highlight of the year, Logan’s Close Presents … A Christmas Pudding had to be postponed because of the latest covid variant. Mind, even without that shindig Logan’s Close take the top highlight of 2021 spot with the wonderful Logan’s Close on LimbicTV (Live from Aluhpasonics) back on the 27th March 2021; still available to watch on YouTube and I think there’s still a way to donate if you feel inclined to show your appreciation. I could wax lyrical about how great it was, or I could attempt a pingback to the post I wrote at the time So Close so fine, let’s see, by George, I think I did it! Hopefully if you click on the highlighted post title it should open up in a new tab [EDIT If it doesn’t open, try twice more, it may need coaxing], I hope (or you could scroll right to the bottom of this page and do a search for it).

If you do read about why this live music session takes the prize for 2021, you’ll notice my pleas for the audio recordings, well…….. I’ll tell you later.

Toodle pip, and may your god smile upon you in 2022 💛

How to start a year well…..

Happy New Year, dudes! Hope you all had a good one! Made any new year resolutions? Broken them yet? Did I make it up Arthur’s Seat? You bet I did! Just. I was in much danger of being blown over to Fife, it was a rather hair-raising experience. At least we had none of the rain that was previously forecast, the skies were clear and blue, a few clouds to whizz across the sky might have indicated how windy the Seat would be. Apparently the wind was around 20mph with gusts up to 40mph, scary stuff up high!

looking up realising there’s a way to go yet!

Atop Arthur’s Seat are a triangulation pillar and a toposcope (one of those compassy thingies that point out all the high surrounding landmarks), roughly fifteen feet apart; after making it to the summit many take a photo at one or the other. This year I very dubiously clambered on the toposcope, it’s one thing to head up a windy hill staying low to the ground, another to sit on a high point in high winds inviting the next gust to whisk you away! So here’s me, clinging on for dear life….

If you look closely you can see Edinburgh Castle in the distance behind.

You can imagine after my exertions I decided a little treat was in order. What better treat than an evening in Stramash watching the Willie Dug Band with Carl Marah on guitar?! With current restrictions in place, that’s a pretty good treat to keep spirits up; oh yeah, shots with every round helped too! Well, it was New Year’s Day and I had been well-behaved the night before. I rarely do shots any more, waking on Monday morning I remembered why. Hey ho, fun was had! I’ll leave you with a trio of pics of Mr Marah, well, a trio of the same pic after I tinkered about with it (I would have put up a pic of Willie Dug but it really didn’t come out well, I blame the camera).

The clock is ticking…

….2021 is nearly over, just enough time for one more little drama – a fire came up from the bowels of the earth in Holyrood Road, just outside what was the Apple shop many, many years ago (back when Apple was a sweet little thing). Okay, maybe not from the bowels of the earth, just a few feet down, dramatic enough to close the road for five hours or so, anyway.

Meanwhile in Chez Bruce I was polishing off the rest of last night’s Chinese takeaway for brunch. My, it was good after a hard day travelling back up in rather dreich weather, don’t reckon I’ve ever have a duff dish from Silver Bowl on Leith Walk in, oo, thirty or so years. They do their own deliveries rather than allowing the delivery companies to pick up from them, I like that.

The evening’s entertainment? Well, after playing Hedwig and the Angry Inch up and down the country (on looking properly it’s the Stage Musical Cast CD not the film soundtrack – I have both) what else could I watch?! There was time to unpack, warm up the old cave and sort some drinks before the delivery guy buzzed up. OMG! It really is as good as I thought it was. But, woah, it’s now twenty years old! What? Yes, it came out in 2001 when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, winning the Dramatic Directing Award and the Dramatic Audience Award. Also, a quick check on Rotten Tomatoes shows 92% and 93% scores – so it’s not just me!

John Cameron Sinclair is incredible as Hedwig, a point really underlined when I watched the dvd extra Whether You Like It Or Not: The Story of Hedwig (you can find it on YouTube). This documentary tells how John Cameron Sinclair (director, writer, Hedwig) and Stephen Trask (music, Skszp) met and went on to develop the idea of Hedwig as a character in a stage musical and then the movie; it was some process, these guys were on a mission, definitely worth a watch especially if you’ve seen Hedwig, the movie or a stage production.

I saw the stage musical at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2004 at Greenside Church on Royal Terrace. It was so, so good and just to carry on the party a little longer the band would do a few more numbers at the end for everyone to get and dance to, the likes of Suffragette City and The Jean Genie. Utterly awesome! There have been other productions of it on the Fringe since but I”ve not seen them, not sure they could measure up to the one I saw. Mind, I would have loved a chance to have seen Neil Patrick Harris or Michael C Hall when they played Hedwig, oh my!

Hedwig and the Angry Inch – funny, uplifting, wickedly delicious, heartbreaking, a revelation. A great film for the end of a year ❤

Not your run of the mill Christmas cake

Well, that’s another Christmas over, almost time to head back up north in time for the New Year. First thing after breakfast I’ll get going, or at least, that’s the plan. Back home to my Christmas cake, oh yay! And how was my cousin’s cake? Well, interesting, different, erm, one of a kind. You know how some folk “feed” the cake with brandy? He thought he had, turned out when he grabbed the same bottle to make some brandy butter on Christmas Day morning, he realised it was whisky as he poured it over the butter and sugar mixture! Not wanting to waste the whisky he continued on, possibly the first whisky butter to accompany Christmas pudding. Indeed, it worked rather well.

The cake itself? The fumes that escaped as the first slice was cut and removed were quite intoxicating!! A brave few tried it – not bad! The nuts were annoying but big enough pieces that I could pick them out. Once the initial aroma had dissipated, the cake was still quite whiskified but the flavour of the almond paste went really well with it. The decoration of the cake, well, no penguins for one thing. The pictures made me think of a horror film with things emerging from snow. See what I mean?

Whilst Christmas was fine indoors, the weather outside was horrible, except for Boxing Day morning when we awoke to a layer of the white stuff. Not from the east though, so it was wet and quickly turned slushy, bah. It did look good first thing with the mist still swirling round the trees…..

Time I got some shuteye.

G’night, folks!

‘Twas the night before Christmas…

And all through the hoose, not a creature was stirring, not even a moose, everything was ready for the morn and all presents wrapped….

Yes, I’m down in deepest, dankest Yorkshire for the festivities. I’m on veg duties tomorrow – a thousand sprouts to be prepared and cooked! Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, we wouldn’t have room for the carrots and tatties for mashing (roasted parsnips and tatties has been assigned elsewhere). There’s a cake courtesy of a cousin, it looks okay but it won’t be a patch on mine waiting for me back in Edinburgh (for one thing, mine doesn’t have any nuts in it – I’m not allergic just not keen).

I had been starting to wonder if things would go bonkers in the run-up to Christmas again, thankfully not so much as last year. I made it down on possibly the greyest day of the year, at least I had a great soundtrack for it: Logan’s Close for exiting the Lothians, on to 70s Black Sabbath (Fluff is just an amazing piece), followed by Christmas tunes from the last seventy years, and as I still wasn’t quite back in happy valley, a dash of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I may have sung along on the odd occasion.

Have a very Merry Christmas wherever you are in this big wide world. Now I must go to sleep or Santa won’t come! I’ll leave you with a couple of pics of Old Hummus bedecked with tinsel!

Wot?! No Christmas Pudding?

Bah! This covid thing sucks! Had the plumber cancel first thing this morning after he received a positive test result, and now the sad but inevitable news on Facebook that Logan’s Close won’t be dishing out any pudding on the 23rd 😭 yes, I’m that upset I’ve had to use an emoji. Damn you, covid!

The new variant in town, Omicron, has seen Westminster and the Scottish Parliament bring in tighter measures just in time to deflate Christmas again. First Christmas parties were “advised” against, then things got serious. In England masking is required again and adults will now have to show proof of double-vaccination or a negative test result to get in certain venues. As Scotland still had similar the Sturgeon had to go further to be different; isolation rules have been extended, advice on socialising is now to limit to three households (up until Christmas), hospitality is once again facing tougher restrictions.

Oh, I do get that something needed to be done, I just have no faith that our politicians are making the right decisions for the right reasons, does any one of them look further than how it will affect their own immediate career (nevermind in the longer term), rather than the effect on the country ten, twenty years hence? One comment I read today that resonated with me, those making the decisions and policies have been in jobs, getting paid, through these last two years, I’ll just leave that one there.

Things were pretty ominous last week when the government advised against office parties, almost immediately hospitality saw cancellations soaring. On Monday I noticed Stramash hadn’t put a list of bands for the week on Facebook as they usually do; awaiting the latest update from down the road? Tuesday evening their opening hours now showed closed until Thursday (UPDATE Wednesday early evening, Facebook shows open with two bands on tonight). So many businesses have been relying on this festive season succeeding, so many livelihoods still desperately treading water. Sad.

Promise the next post will be more upbeat! I’ll leave you with the photo of Messrs Marah and Rough on Logan’s Close Facebook page today. I think this a brilliant picture, says it all, whoever took it, well done, you nailed it.

I’ve never been to Barra

….. so Barra came to me, well, Storm Barra popped round. Luckily Edinburgh rarely gets the brunt of any bad weather, some poor sods had only just had their power reconnected after Storm Arwen to lose it again! (who chooses the names for storms?!) Arwen caused a right kerfuffle around the UK, she came the last weekend in November and set quite a high benchmark for the rest of the storms this winter! Storm Barra was never going to be as badass but he gave it go.

As I said, Edinburgh never gets hit as hard as other places, bad weather here is really just crappy weather, but, of course, folk will moan like it’s the absolute worst! Arwen brought Edinburgh cold high winds, some rain, and left a smattering of snow; I would have enjoyed a toddle around Holyrood Park but was booked to leave Edinburgh first thing on the Sunday morning, shame. At least there was snow where I was headed, and it was the easterly, powdery stuff, yay, and not so much as they had around Tan Hill in North Yorkshire, so getting about was fine.

The Tan Hill Inn, previously famous as the highest pub in Britain (1,732ft or 528m above sea level) is now famous for having a three day lock-in thanks to Storm Arwen. She brought 3ft of snow, but the high winds caused snowdrifts up to 9ft deep and downed a power line blocking the road, the pub was completely cut off – with over sixty folk inside, including an Oasis tribute band who’d been playing on the Friday night. The story made the news around the world, yesterday the pub’s Facebook page had an estimated audience size of 48M-56M, like wow! The tribute band Noasis (soon nicknamed Snoasis by the press) kept their fans updated on Facebook, finally announcing “Noasis have left the building”, hey, the story even got a mention in RollingStone.

This highest pub in Britain thing got me wondering about where the highest pub in Scotland is, the Highlands, surely? And how much higher could a pub in Yorkshire be than a pub up in the Highlands? It turns out, the highest pub in Scotland is nowhere near the Highlands, it’s actually way down in the south west in a village called Wanlockhead, goes by the name Wanlockhead Inn (no The for this Inn) and it falls 201ft short of the overall British title. Oh, and it’s not the second highest pub in Britain neither, that goes to The Cat & Fiddle in Cheshire at 1689ft above sea level. Have many folk visited all three as a thing, I wonder? Some years ago I may well have made it a challenge to myself, for now I’ll content myself with battling the wind blowing down the Cowgate!

I left Edinburgh after Arwen had swept through town and returned in time for Barra turning up. My trip away was also bookended by Carl Marah playing at Stramash, first with the Willie Dug Band ( I was going to see Willie Dug anyway, Carl was an unexpected bonus!) and then with his fellow Scat Rat, Scott Rough. After a full-on week it was so good to have a pint and listen to my favourite duo, the lads were on great form. I recall their rendition of Norwegian Wood was particularly fine, oh and they finished the first set with Del Shannon’s Runaway, don’t reckon I’ve heard them do that one before.

If I had to be stuck in a pub in the middle of nowhere for three days with a band, Logan’s Close would be my first choice, yes, above all other current bands (if we’re going full fantasy line-up, I’d need more time to think about it). As long as there was enough food in for full scottish fry-ups, oh yay, breakfast serenades!

I leave you with an attempt to replicate the plight of the Tan Hill Inn….

Moose heads and table lamps, musthaves!

I did it! It took a while and a few wrong turns but I did it! Indeed, Great Uncle Hubert looks great on my wall, a fine head!

He’s so going to be tinseled and baubled up for Christmas. How could I not?! Yeah, it’s nearly crimble time again. The Edinburgh Christmas Market is up and running; a lot smaller than previous, which is no bad thing. I had a quick scoobies at it yesterday and can report that it’s nothing to write home about (yes, the irony is not lost on me). I hope no one makes a special trip to Edinburgh for it, there’s surely much better Christmas markets to visit. I used to treat myself to a drink and a snack on one wander each year just to get into the Christmas spirit but, like (call me Scrooge if you want) not at those prices, especially for Rekorderlig Swedish spring water with added apple flavours!

There is an ice rink in town this year, I think it’s at the west end of George Street, and there seems to be some fairground rides at the west end of West Princes Street Gardens. Haven’t been for a tootles at either, I shall report back when I do. I can report that Frites on Lothian Road do rather good chips! Yes, they probably prefer to call them french fries but I reckon they’re large enough to count as chips, good mayo too. I was heading for the cinema and realised I needed to eat but also needed to keep moving; I’ve passed it a million times but never stopped before, I couldn’t wait until I had popcorn, a good choice!

The film I was seeing? Venom: Let There Be Carnage for a second time, actually I reckon that I enjoyed it more on second viewing. I’ve also been back to see Last Night In Soho again, such a brilliant, brilliant fillm ❤

Talking about brilliant things, Fur finally made it back to Sneaky Pete’s, yay. This was a rescheduled date from March this year – oh, how confident folks were in summer ’20 of Covid being controlled by early ’21. Now at the back end of ’21, we can see bands again by masking up to enter venues and buy drinks at the bar ….. then removing them to bop and jostle about in a packed out box! I did notice the air-conditioning seemed to be rather better than pre-Covid, no bad thing, it still got very warm but not like before.

Fur last played Sneaky’s in September 2019, I actually just went because Logan’s Close were supporting, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by this band from Brighton. Reader, I was so blown away I bought the EP! The sound, the songs, the vocals, wow. You’re probably expecting me to give some description of them next, erm, sorry, fully formed sentences ain’t happening. Retro, jangly, disturbing, disquieting eeriness, wistful, euphoric; there’s a few words that come to my mind about Fur.

This time round they have a new album out, When You Walk Away, so natch, I had to buy one. White vinyl, no less! And all the lyrics on the inside sleeve, nice. I rarely buy records these days but it does feel so good to have these two spicing up my collection. Plenty in Sneaky’s were obviously already well acquainted with the new stuff, as Murray (vocals and guitar) was blown away by how many were singing along. Me, I just bobbed about, soaking it all up, a blissed out moose; I love Murray’s voice, and the new stuff is more of the same, no bad thing! And you’ve got to love a band who take table lamps and a rug on tour to add ambience to the stage, oh yeah.

The evening was too good to just head home after the gig, you know how it is! A few drinks later and the night ended in Whistlebinkies, a late night bar with live music just off the Royal Mile, and what do you know, Fur were there drinking with the Scat Rats (The Close weren’t support this time). Just had to get a couple of shots for the files…….

And on Logan’s Close, they’re having a big Christmas bash at the Voodoo Rooms with three support acts, including Julen Santamaria from Awkward Family Portraits. Now that’s how to get into the Christmas spirit!