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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241 – Nice but no 42!

The thunder storm just couldn’t hold back any longer! The rain hammered down, the thunder and lightening went on for hours. Don’t reckon I’ve ever seen such a thunder storm over Edinburgh before. On an average 241 Tuesday night there would be plenty of folk about, plenty having to stand in queues in the torrential rain waiting for their next show! They hope it’ll be worth it, well, at least it was a cheap ticket – some shows won’t even be worth it at half price! They’ll sit listening to the rapturous applause at the end thinking, Huh? What? with soaked-through footwear, a still soggy jacket, knowing they’re about to go back out and get even soggier, all for something that barely raised a chuckle.

Okay, so I painted a pretty crappy picture there, but such can be the luck of the Fringe. Take, for example, the first two 241 shows Bud and I went to see. Two by Jim Cartwright, hmmm, remember my cautionary tale about April in Paris? Well, this was like the second time I saw that, all vitriol and plain meanness (I do intend to see One again one year, hopefully as it’s meant to be done). Later that same Sunday we went to see Rich Hall and Mike Wilmot – Pretzel Logic, hmmm, this came across as a self-indulgent wheeze, dreamt up late night in a bar and written on the back of a cigarette packet. Sorry but that’s how we both felt walking out of the Assembly Rooms at one in the morning. How could the brilliant Rich Hall do that to us? Oh yes, he was the bee’s knees to us, sure the show had it’s moments, all his, but not many. We decided it must all be Mike Wilmot’s fault for leading our hero astray!

The Monday was way better with five great shows through the day, faith restored! Since that year 241 Monday was usually a day off work to see five acts, until the year Bud was leaving Edinburgh when we made it six – well, we had to shift up Shakespeare For Breakfast from it’s usual slot. Oo, that was the day we saw Thom Tuck perform Scaramouche Jones (epic), there was an Aussie sponge called Bruce (gritty antipodean epic), yay, Sleeping Trees: Western (possibly my favourite of all their shows), Tom Neenan: Andromeda Paradox was fine (but not one of his best), ending appropriately with Max & Ivan: The End.

Some wonder how one can see and actually take in five shows in one day, well, sometimes the show after lunch may not totally recalled (Tip, don’t have a big, heavy lunch or you WILL doze in the next warm dark room you enter!). Looking back at all the 241 shows that I saw between 2002 and 2015 there are only six that I have absolutely no recall of whatsoever (I’m surprised there’s not a flicker for Opening Night of the Living Dead at C Cubed in 2009, hmmm, nope). I’m quite pleased with that, after all, it’s not necessarily all my fault I don’t recall them!

There are seven shows I would love to be able to unsee, nevermind not being worth half price! Two, I mentioned above, another two God, Inc and The Story of Funk I have spoken of before. They are my Top Four worst 241 shows, fifth place goes to Carnival of Souls a multi-media arty thing performed in the Cameo cinema 1. It was so not our thing, Bud would have happily left early but I wanted to stick it out hoping to find something to like about it, I didn’t.

See, I feel good because I could easily spot the few I have not enjoyed, the vast majority have been good to bloody excellent. There’s so much variety I would be hard pressed to shortlist my favourites. It would take a lot of thought and right now the sun is beckoning me out. Indeed, it’s a beautiful day oot there.

Where’s my sunglasses?

Toodle oo.

 

241 anyone?

Wow, it’s muggy out there today! We were promised thundery showers all through today, but now today’s here they’re not gonna happen ’til the early hours tomorrow. It’s so muggy that Arthur’s Seat has vanished in the haze, or someone nicked it….

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Today would be Two For One (hence forth 241) Tuesday if it wasn’t 2020. Yesterday should have been 241 Monday, not that I have bothered about it much since Bud left town. Oh boy, we were happy bunnies when they introduced 241 days; three days of previews (well, evenings), a rest or maybe a trip to Tarquair Fair on the Saturday, then back into the fray!

Ah yes, originally when the 241 days were introduced they were the first Sunday and Monday of the Fringe, that was in 2002. It wasn’t until 2010 that someone realised that there would actually be plenty of bums on seats on the Sunday without inducement, Tuesday on the other hand – so the day was switched. I know these dates because last night I had a scout back over my Fringe bits and pieces, well, it started off with “I should do something about the 241 days”…. a few hours later I realised it was almost time for Buffy, no time left to blog (and last night’s episodes were particularly fine, especially Hush). So many memories, a few winces and a couple of “that means absolutely nothing to me”.

Oo, the heavens have now opened, and there goes a good low rumble of thunder. We may not have a Fringe this year but we still have monsoon showers, er, yay?! There was a brief but dramatic downpour yesterday evening as I strolled round town past many Not Fringe Venues, it started at six just as I approached Teviot Square. This year it’s a bunch of skateboarders getting soaked; there’s quite a community of them gather in the Square most days, quite happy at the Fringelessness of it.

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You know what? I’m feeling rather peckish . I’m going to have some tea …….

To be continued.

A noble failure!

Woohoo! I actually saw a Fringe show tonight! Yay! And it was at a very respectable half past seven in the evening unlike it’s real Fringe time of midnight (in Monkey Barrel One). What was this wondrous happening? I hear you cry. Why, it was The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society and when the name says Alternative it means Alternative (yes, with a capital A), oh, and quite Absurd too.

It may not have been late on, but it was as live as current circumstances allow and it kept it’s usual running time of two and three quarter hours (at least that’s if it doesn’t run over). Our hosts John-Luke Roberts and Thom Tuck were on fine form; well, John-Luke’s lockdown look is a bit Charlie Manson and Thom’s gone weirdly blond, but they’re fine. Or noble failures, I should say.

The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society is as Fringey as it gets, I’m glad I spotted it was on and booked a ticket (now it almost feels like August). So, I had to watch it on my tablet, but I had the sound on through my bluetooth speaker to keep listening as I finished sorting my tea out (lasagne with a side of broccoli). There were thirteen acts to get through so it all fair cracked along.

Stand outs for me were Deborah Frances-White, Joz Norris, Johnny & The Baptists and Colt Cobana. Okay, so Colt was just chatting but that’s fine by me, the man has a most charming voice and manner! I’ve never actually seen Johnny & The Baptists before but I would see them again, much fun. Ah, Joz Norris, an odd individual, but sweetly bonkers, I think he might actually be a selkie. Deborah Frances-White had us play a fun little game of “1932 or C Venue show”; was it a 1932 news story or the plot of a show that appeared in a C Venue? Some of the news stories were so bizarre it was tricky to call, but I reckon I got more right than wrong.

A most entertaining evening, only slightly spoilt by a glimpse of Messrs Cruise and Pitt in Interview With The Vampire, oh, the horror. Luckily Buffy was soon starting over on E4. They’ve now got to when Buffy intertwines with the first series of Angel, I should dig out the dvds, hmmm.

Well, it’s late so I shall leave you. I shall leave you with a note I wrote down while listening to ACMS, Am I my own Santa?

Toodle pip!

Just another Wednesday night…..

I should be tucked up in bed after a great evening of two or three preview shows on the first day of this year’s Fringe. I’m not, there were no preview shows, there is no Fringe 😢😭

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There’s no purple cows wandering around in George Square Gardens. There’s nothing in George Square Gardens, no overpriced beer, fancy food stalls, no venues inflated or wooden.

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The Royal Mile is sooo quiet and while it’s nice not having to factor in another fifteen minutes to get anywhere, I’ll miss the more entertaining flyerers and those bearing candy!

 

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No hoards of folk still up late hanging around Bristo Square, like moths attracted to the bright lights of the Pleasance Dome.

 

 

 

And no Library Bar 😔2016-08-29 23.40.39

How to make a moose smile

Bored now. Following random thoughts around Facebook at two in the morning after Buffy is not a good sign. My long walks have tailed off a tad too. When will life be normal again? Will it ever be normal again?

Its late July, the town should be plastered with show posters, the Pleasance should have it’s bar built by now, George Square Gardens should have a giant purple upsidedown cow being inflated in it, Bristo Square should be all cordoned off as this year’s creation is created, Charlotte Square is empty and locked up. I’m not bored – I’m down!

But then, sometimes in the wee small hours following Facebook trails can throw up wonderful things. Things like John Robertson talking about mental health stuff, the guy is just sooo brilliant. Yes, he’s scary too, and definitely not for everyone, but if you get him you love him (like marmite, or vegemite).

Quick scrolling through, he’s a pandad. What?! Yep, he’s a pandad in an inflatable panda outfit. This guy has not let a little thing like Covid19 slow him down, John Robertson seems to have slipped online with ease. He does a lot of stuff on something called Twitch, sigh, another new-fangled wotsit. Oo, and a mention of his book The Little Town of Marrowville, it’s doing rather well; apparently Amazon UK had run out again!! Of course, I’ve no idea how many that actually means but hey, it’s got to be good news (unless you have yet to get a copy).

It couldn’t happen to a nicer book! I notice there’s an audio version with Mr Robertson himself reading it, wow, that’s pretty tempting! I could quite hear him as I read it, I could actually hear him with the audiobook, hmmm. I was umm-ing and ahh-ing over getting the book last year, I was aware he’d written it and had brought copies to sell after his Fringe shows. I didn’t, but a good friend went along to Teviot to buy one and even got it signed for me. Hurrah! Best Christmas present last year!

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It’s one of those books that’s supposedly meant to be for kids, but there’s plenty like me who will love it. It’s funny, surreal, dark (as hell in places), sharp, and it has that great Aussie dryness and wit through it. I love how descriptive the writing is, painting vivid pictures of the characters and their surroundings; I’m guessing our author may be utilising some dungeon mastering techniques here? I would definitely place it up there with China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun and Clive Barker’s Abarat as books to expand and encourage young minds. All three are deliciously creative and slightly warped.

Oh, you’re wondering why Neil Gaiman wasn’t included there? These three share a certain type of dark surreality that I don’t find in Gaiman, his darkness is different. I would say, a child who loves The Little Town of Marrowville will go on to like the Abarat series but not necessarily Neverwhere (which is one of my favourite books). Un Lun Dun is from the mind that gave us Perdido Street Station, nuff said, it will open a young mind to all sorts of realms.

So, what words of wisdom did Mr Robertson write in the front of my book?

2020-07-29 20.50.17                                                                I think he nailed it. The answer to life, the universe and everything maybe 42, but this is definitely the answer to, how do you make a moose smile? These words read like a big, warm, reassuring hug. Good man, that John Robertson!

Toodle pip!

A Tale of Cards and Coiners

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They seek him here, they seek him there – apparently he’s on the wasteland! If only those Frenchies had had a set of Pepys’ Wild Flower Sevens they’d have known where to look! Oh, how we chortled, gathered around the dining table finally able to do battle once more. I say battle, playing card games with family could be mistaken for warfare at times.

Yes, I’ve been down in the old country as restrictions have been loosened off. They’ve clearly had a rather damp time of it, all the local reservoirs are full to overflowing (in July, wow), luckily it wasn’t too bad for my trip. The warm weather meant I was roped into mowing the meadow that my mother’s lawn had become. I left a few patches of flowers, the selfheal did look very pretty and the bees love it. I was also given the dubious task of pruning the hedge; it’s done, not particularly well, but it’s done. I’ll be sure to time my next visit down for after it’s next trim.

I joined in the long evening walks over the local hilltops, well, I followed on behind, not a clue where we were, just the odd distant memory popping up. Wandering on the tops did occasionally put us in the clouds, like here looking across to the M62…..

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…….but invariably the sun would reappear as we wound our way lower and home again.

 

 

 

I even learnt some local history when one evening a far hillside was pointed out as Coiner’s Country (I’d tried a knowledgeable grunt, but then had to admit to my ignorance). Coiners were folk who clipped bits off gold and silver coins to make more counterfeit coins (that’s the simplified version).

Turns out the Cragg Vale Coiners were notorious as the most organised gang in the 1700’s, so much so their leader was known as “King David” Hartley. He’d learnt his skills while working in Birmingham, then took them back home where the local weavers were in dire straits and welcomed any way to make some money. Enter William Deighton, an excise officer, sent to investigate, exit Deighton murdered in the Dusty Miller pub. Well, he had arrested “King David” in the Old Cock Inn in Halifax, which led the “Duke of York” aka Isaac, David’s brother to put a price on his head. The Crown got serious and despatched one Marquis of Rockingham to deal with the problem however he saw fit.

“King David” lies in Heptonstall graveyard. He was convicted for coining and hanged in York in 1770. There’s a book The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers that tells the tale, fictionalised but faithfully drawn from historical accounts and documents; I’ll definitely have to get me a copy. There’s also The Cragg Vale Coiners Walk by Christopher Goddard, a must-buy before I head down again.

The Dusty Miller (in Mytholmroyd) and The Old Cock are still going to this day, according to a quick check on Facebook. Interestingly, The Old Cock was later frequented by one Branwell Brontë. He also drank in the Union Cross in Halifax, definitely still open as I had a pint in there just last week. Sadly the George (a pub I misspent plenty of time in in my younger days) hasn’t reopened yet, no doubt another haunt of Branwell’s.

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I shall leave you with another card, played by my brother announcing he had Scabious on the Moorland, well, I had to say it – “You can get an ointment for that”.

 

 

Toodle pip!

 

I see shut pubs

Another Friday night and I ain’t got nobody …… so I’m staying in having feasted on lamb shank, cooked in a rustic rosemary and red wine stew, with sweet potato mash and cabbage. Tea does not get better than that! Time to open a bottle of Laughing Llama, yes I totally chose it because of the name. Mmmm mmm, not bad, deep berry flavours, a tinge of pepperiness. It’ll do.

Edinburgh is slowly opening back up, a few more pubs are doing offsales now. I suppose if they’re ready for re-opening next week the beer might as well be started on! So far pubs with outdoor areas (that’s beer gardens and pavement tables, which is not that many in the town) have been able to open after a fashion. In England pubs have already opened indoors after a fashion. The government wants us to go out to shop and eat, spend money but only after a fashion. 

There’s plenty of pubs, shops, cafes and others that won’t be able to open again yet, if ever. Even with one metre distancing some of the best pubs and little shops won’t be financially viable from the numbers they’ll be allowed through the door. Our governments and media love sound bites, yes, businesses are opening again but only after a fashion, they won’t be fully open, open like open used to be. We’ve got a long way to go before open means what it used to mean.

And talking about fashion, why are so many desperate to shop in Primark and Zara? Other large stores may have queues too, but walking along Princes Street, like wow! Why?! I made inquiries to a couple of female friends. Turns out they don’t understand it either, mind both admitted they wouldn’t shop at Primark anyway, but also, both mentioned that during Lockdown they’ve realised how many clothes they own and really, a few months of not acquiring any more was a good thing. See, that I get!

So, I’ll just continue to trot up to the Jolly Judge for offsales ciders; I’ll admire my friends’ clothing to be informed that it’s  been in their wardrobe unworn for years; I’ll arrange a wee picnic with friends at a spot in the Meadows that we won’t have to book a two hour time slot for. Life won’t be back to normal for some while yet, I’m one of the lucky ones, I’ll get by.

I leave you with my favourite Pete Standen picture, another apocalyptical one, the view of Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat is not that far from my own view! I think it quite nicely sums up life just now, it is a life in Edinburgh after a fashion. 

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Late night ramblings…..

Late Sunday night at Chez Bruce, I should have gone to bed by now, it’s not like there’s anything good on the telly tonight. I had hoped that the second series of Misfits would run on straight after the first, it didn’t, bah. I have it on dvd, seven late Sunday night viewings happened in one very long Sunday night finishing off on the following evening. It’s difficult not to gorge when it’s just there, see this is why I’m fine not bothering with new-fangled telly on demand stuff.

So I’ve spent the last couple of Sunday evenings re-watching the first series of Lucifer, I wanted something fun and frothy, Lucifer fit the bill. Tom Ellis is just brilliant in it, the rest of the cast aren’t too shabby either. Besides being devilishly charming he can carry a tune too (umm, he’d make a great Frankenfurter), well he is Welsh; turns out it’s not him tickling the ivories though, shame.

Our Tom made a brief appearance in Merlin which has been re-running on Pick every week day evening (yay, it is showing right through to the end). Not brief enough for me, he was rather miscast in it, and may I say, he doesn’t suit long hair! Nah, he really wasn’t right for the part, mind I didn’t reckon anything to the character, it was just an unconvincing cog to move things into place. Yeah, poor Cenred got a bum deal from the writers.

Apart from crappy Cenred, I’ve enjoyed watching Merlin each evening. It’s not like I’ve been able to go anywhere these last months, apart my evening strolls of course. It’s been funny how at eight in the evening Anthony Head is Uther Pendragon, old, arrogant, despising all things magic, then at the back of eleven he’s Giles, younger, quietly charming, with a library of magic to hand.  Oh, and Head has played Frankenfurter, boy, would I have loved to have seen that!

Yes, indeed, Hurrah, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is being shown again every week night late on, and there was no break after season one, so hopefully it’ll be bedtime viewing for some time yet. Maybe we’ll have some semblance of normal life by that time – there are another five seasons after this, so that’s over a hundred more episodes to go!

There’s a lent box set of Breaking Bad sitting on my shelf waiting to be watched. I’ve never seen any of it but from all reports (and people shrieking “What? You haven’t seen it!! What’s wrong with you?!”) it’s very good and highly addictive. How do people cope with so much telly to watch? How??

I’m going to go lie down now.

Toodle pip!

 

The Long Dusk

Errol Flynn sure did have some wicked ways! Yes, I’m still reading My Wicked, Wicked Ways, it’s tiny print – plus I only read it on sunny days out in the Park. Boy, was it sunny yesterday! I took myself up Whinny Hill to find a quiet grassy spot hidden in the gorse, annoyingly my usual “go to” spots had already been got to by others! I wandered higher and higher to find a suitable spot – so I’m particular, bite me. The sun was so sunny and the book was so fascinating, it was going on for seven o’clock before I headed home for tea.

Tea over I headed out again, well, it was still very warm, I reckoned it would be a good night for bats. As it would be quite a while before any bats came out there was plenty of time to head to St Margaret’s Loch the long way round – right round the Park! For the back of ten o’clock there were still quite a number of folk out taking the evening air watching the dusk deepening (dusk takes it’s time in Scotland in the middle of summer).

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There was still some birdsong, oh, and a peacock sounding off over at Prestonfield House, a posh affair just south of Holyrood Park. The jackdaws were all away for the night, a few swallows zoomed about but most noticeable was the sound of the grasshoppers (grasshoppers/crickets? I looked it up, pretty sure it’s grasshoppers here). That sound! It evokes other places, other times, dreams! It rose up from the large sweeps of long grass around that area; I will definitely go on more evening walks up around Dunsapie Loch. And then, bats, oh my!

One, I hadn’t even thought there’d be bats around Dunsapie Loch (where would they roost?) and two, it was much lighter than when they usually come out down at St Margaret’s Loch. They were flitting around by the trees in the carpark area, had the swallows just knocked off up there? – I have a thing that the bats aren’t allowed out until every swallow has parked up for the night. You’ll always see the odd one or two cheeky swallows taking their time with a few last flybys. It was definitely much lighter, I was able to walk at the edge of the Loch and see the bats skim way across the water (by now, at quarter to eleven). I would have walked to the other end of the lochside but ahead I saw the swans were all asleep on the path, apart from one that was obviously on duty. Nope, I backtracked enough to find another way back on to the road, I’m not stupid!

Only a couple of bats flitted by as I walked down the road towards a more wooded area. In the gloom under the low hanging trees I saw an animal ahead of me, it slunk along looking for trouble, umm, black and white. Aww, it was a cat, a cat that glared at me for calling it Puss, a number of times to no avail. Didn’t I realise that tonight she was a badass Nightprowler?!

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Wow, even at that time there were walkers and cyclists going past me up into the Park. One cyclist had no lights AND he was on the path under low dense trees! I could hear something odd ahead and luckily decided to move off the path as I could see the road better. Finally down at St Margaret’s Loch it was very gloomy, but no bats!? I stood and waited in my first spot (I’ll wait around a long time to see a bat), nothing, walked to the second spot (I have my five best spots to  bat watch around the Loch), zilch. Third spot, come on, guys, it’s definitely past bat o’clock by now. Fourth spot, and oo, one, then nothing. I was sure it would be Bat Central there but instead, just Norman-No-Mates.

I headed home somewhat perplexed. I do hope the bats are okay, I would hate to have anything happen to them. Yeah, course they are, what do I know about bats? Not a lot, they’re just great to watch, like vampires. Yay, Buffy was on telly when I got in. Marvellous!

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Is it just me?

I’ve never seen June go so fast before! Is she speeding up or is Corona slowing time down so June just looks to be sprinting away? It’s Friday evening again, last Sunday I was brimming with ideas and good intentions for this week – I’ve got a lot of cramming to do before Sunday bedtime. Umm, can I blame my lack of impetus (aka bone idleness) on the current situation or am I actually this crap but just never noticed before?

Of course, any other year the full Fringe programme would have come out in the last week or so, I should be poring over it page by page, marking up potentials, big squiggles in the top outer corner of any page of note. Any other year I’d be looking forward to the Film Festival imminently starting, if it hadn’t already. Oo, he says after a quick dive into his files, ten years ago today I saw two films in Filmhouse One, The People vs George Lucas (primarily Bud’s choice as a big Star Wars fan), then just time for a quick pee before going back in for Monsters. 

Yeah, having a big Star Wars fan for a friend, I was well aware that many fans were feeling rather disillusioned by Mr Lucas (that was more than a few nights in the pub I can tell you!) Luckily for me, it was a smart, entertaining documentary (so it was a tad one-sided but these were passionate long time fans), enjoyable and thought-provoking (more pub chat!) even for the ambivalent.

Quick aside, Buffy has just come on the telly – it’s the first appearance of Spike and Drusilla!! Oh yay! And on that note….

Monsters but this time of the sci-fi genre. The film is obviously low budget but just how low was not appreciated until the Q&A afterwards, one of the best Q&As I’ve ever been at. Gareth Edwards, the director, writer, cinematographer, production designer and visual effects guy, came across really well with plenty great stories about the making of it; it was filmed in just three weeks in some pretty scary places, often without permission, using any locals hanging around who were willing to be extras. Edwards then spent months in his bedroom on his computer creating all the visual effects using just Adobe software. It all paid off – in 2011 Gareth Edwards was announced as the director of the new Godzilla film.

I saw ten films at the EIFF in 2010, Boy by Taika Waititi being my favourite followed by Monsters, then in third place Evil – in the Time of Heroes a Greek zombie horror film (yup, really!). One of my ticket stubs bears a film title that I have no recollection of whatsoever, nope, nothing.

And back to 2020, where the EIFF and Curzon Home Cinema have come up with #EdFilmFestAtHome, an online festival of cinema. It will run from 24th June until 5th July, there’ll be a new film each day (which then shows for between two and twelve days). I have had a quick look at this year’s selection but nothing stands out on first glance. Mind you, in a full year I may not find many films I wish to see, so I wasn’t really expecting my types to make the cut in such a slimmed down affair. I’m glad that something has been worked out, there’s even going to be live online Q&A after at least one of the films! Modern technology, eh!

Night all!