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!

Y’know, 2020 wasn’t all bad….

Saw yet another strand of tinsel as I downward dogged this morning, that’ll be the twelfth since my last blog post! It lay there glinting mockingly at me, bold as brass it was, well not any more. Oh, and we didn’t get the promised snow, so I closed the curtain again and went back to bed. There has been more snow outside of Edinburgh but nothing in the city, just freezing temperatures.

Listening to the news, it’s sounding like we’ll be lucky if we can do anything at Easter nevermind Mothering Sunday here in the UK. That’ll be another of my annual trips to the old country cancelled, I’ll have forgotten the way down soon! Yeah, 2021 isn’t looking that much better than 2020 so far. How depressing! So, to brighten the mood I decided to look back through 2020 and find my highlights, surely there were some?!

First off, Esther – our wee beastie o’the loch. I reckon she’ll be a highlight for a few Edinburgh folks grateful for the distraction. It’s been so good to watch this beautiful wild creature so close by. Hopefully she’ll be okay after all the recent weather, Dunsapie Loch has been frozen over a fair bit this last month. From otters to rabbits….

Way back last January I went to Jojo Rabbit three times at the cinema. Those were days, open cinemas, me with my unlimited card going to see two films in one evening, Nando’s chicken wings in between (will Cineworld reopen at all now?). Jojo Rabbit is such an outstanding film and a proper cinema film too. God, I miss going to the cinema, that sense of occasion (as a young moose a trip to the cinema was an event, that feeling has never quite left). The whole cast of Jojo were brilliant and Taika Waititi cemented his place as my favourite director and all-round amazing film person.

Thinking about it, I guess all that time spent in Holyrood Park, walking around, lying in sunny nooks reading, that was pretty special. We did have long spells of great weather in 2020, I did most of my reading outdoors. Highlights bookwise, finally reading Errol Flynn’s autobiography (an amazing glimpse at another time and place) and John Robertson’s The Little Town of Marrowville, I expected it to be good and darkly humorous but wow, it exceeded all my expectations! Yes it’s a kid’s book, but it’s a damn fine one.

Not Eurovision 2020 was a day of Eurovision treats for the fans on radio and tv. In the evening Graham Norton guided us through the main Not Eurovision Show, which just felt like one big love-in around the world (as Australia is now in it, yes I make that around the world). I thoroughly enjoyed a day of reminiscing, music, dancing, oh, and prosecco with pear juice.

2020, a shorter but sweetest year yet for Strictly Come Dancing. Bill Bailey with Oti was a worthy winner, confounding the initial assumptions of so many viewers with his capacity to learn and ability to dance. Their routine to Rapper’s Delight will go down in Strictly history. I learnt you could video chat on WhatsApp in November – yeah, Strictly brings out that need to share!

Fringey goodness was found online. April and May saw the magnificent Will Seaward online re-telling his Spooky Ghost Stories sometimes with live accompaniment courtesy of Jam With Humans. Yes, it was back in the early lockdown days, things went a bit wonky, not always online just somewhere in the vicinity, but no matter, it was great to see the maestro weaving his wondrous tales again.

The nearing of the NonFringe saw me checking to see what the Sleeping Trees were up to, if anything. Oh bugger! I’d missed getting to see MAFIA? by about ten days! Joys, I did get see SCI-FI? again. So is there a recording of WESTERN? somewhere? I’d love to see that again. Pretty please?! I could read MAFIA? by purchasing a copy the recently published Sleeping Trees at The Movies – Blueprints for Devised Comedy, but it just wouldn’t be the same as seeing it. But the best was yet to come – a Christmas Living Room Adventure! Oh yay, The Legend of Moby Dick Whittington was the highlight of my Christmas, yes, even above my Christmas Lunch Roll! That first sighting of the great white whale will stay with me forever.

Anything else, Brucie? Well, there was the small matter of Logan’s Close at the Caves for the release of their latest opus Lost In You at the end of February, like, a truly epic night! Best I’ve seen them yet; there was a gig planned for the end of this month but it has, of course, been cancelled. Lead guitarist and singer Carl Marah took to singing Bob Dylan to his washing machine in April, strange behaviour but captivatingly beautiful.

My top highlight of 2020? The Close’s Lockdown Cover of Fantastic Man by William Onyeabor. Having since put the original on one of my Spotify playlists, I love what the lads did with it even more; they’ve taken the best parts, condensed and Closified it into a summer classic of their own. Their video is rather fine too, and usually if I leave YouTube running afterwards it goes to a film of roller dancers skating to the original with some seriously cool moves (yes, I’ve watched both plenty of times after I’ve done online exercises – hey, its good cool down music).

So, wow, 2020 wasn’t all bad, and I did two seasons of Preacher and three of Lucifer, plus my uke playing is slowly coming on. Dear reader, I hope you too can look back and recognise your own highlights of 2020, to paraphrase Aidan Goatley, What made you happy in 2020?

Toodle pip!

It’s all over – bar the tinsel

That’s everything put away for another year, just got a carpet of tinsel to hoover up. I say everything but I can’t help looking around for something I’ve managed to overlook. One year it wasn’t until the end of February that I noticed my glass mistletoe decoration was still hanging in the hallway! I say I noticed it but it was a friend who was wondering what it was, I remember it, “What’s that?”,”What?”,”That hanging up there” oh bugger!

It’s quite astonishing how tinsel manages to get everywhere; I guess it uses any passing static energy to get around, I’ve found bits in the bathroom and the kitchen. There’s never been so many bits before, does tinsel shed more with old age? Some of the tinsel in my Christmas box will be over thirty years old! Maybe the tinsel feels obliged to leave traces of Christmas to be found months later seeing as there aren’t any pine needles to hide out in the carpet. I used to get real trees but one year, just after Christmas, Sainsbury’s were selling fake trees that had been £12.99 for about £6; I reckoned it was worth buying one for the following year, if it turned out to be rubbish I’d donate it to a charity shop and buy another one. It was fine and dandy!

My Christmas mugs and pint glass are washed and put back in the back of the kitchen cupboard. I had the last two slices of my cake this afternoon, oo, I’ve still to clean up and thank the penguins for their sterling work again this year. I did buy myself a Christmas pudding to have – unusual for me as I don’t generally bother but I tried some last year for the first time in many and, you know, it was rather good! It’s still not eaten, but the use by date is March 2022, so I’m saving it ’til the start of December, letting it mature.

The town is eerily quiet with just a few decorations brightening up the Royal Mile……

See what I mean? Oh yeah, they really jolly the place up! Just help to make it all look starker and emptier, I reckon.

And snowmen, sometimes I wonder about them – jolly and answer to the name Frosty or something more malevolent watching us………

The one with the mask is trying to blend in, the one below is checking out everyone going past, bottom left is calling down either a god or the mothership and the other, well, there’s one in every family!?

I really should head for my bed now. It’s meant to snow tonight, it was meant to be snowing by now, its not. I really do intend to be up early to walk on the virgin snow.

G’night, sweet dreams!

A windy day even before the sprouts!

Hello, my fine friends! I hope you had a lovely Christmas, or few days, depending how you roll. So did I rise at 9? Was Arthur’s Seat busy? Not quite and not at all, but I did make it!

See, there I am!

Right at the very top was a group of Japanese and Aussie students who wanted a photo taking, so I offered my services in return for a photo of myself. It was extremely windy up there, I was almost blown off the trig point! Luckily for me a lady was stood next to it and I managed to brace my leg against her arm when a gust tried to tug me off (she was very understanding, phew!). This was the best photo out the few snapped. At the time I just trusted that there’d be something useable taken, said my thank yous and headed down to calmer levels. As it’s not the most exciting pic I’ve funked it up on my Facebook, a collage of alien vistas, well, its nearly Dr Who time again.

Speaking of Dr Who, I felt like the Face of Boe on Christmas Day! Some clever clogs rigged up a large screen in a corner of the lounge at mater’s, so that they could include me in the family party by Skype – to the extent of making me join in Charades and quizzes where they’d hold up the question cards to the screen for me to take a proper turn in a team! I did serenade them with a few Christmas tunes on my ukulele while they ate. I’d already eaten a rather good Christmas lunch with a slice of my wonderful cake to follow. Bet my cake was better than theirs!

I shall love you and leave you with Me & My Christmas Lunch …

Have yourselves your own kinda Christmas!!

The old grandmother clock has just chimed twelve – Happy Christmas to one and all! I’ll have to head to bed soon, if I want to get up Arthur’s Seat first thing. Yes, first thing, no really, first thing, about 9am-ish. I’ve never been up there on Christmas Day, wonder how busy it might be?

Earlier this evening I watched the magnificent The Legend of Moby Dick Whittington, this year’s annual Christmas living room adventure by the Sleeping Trees. What a treat! And it’s not just me saying that, it’s getting great reviews – including in the New York Times! My sides almost split on first sighting the whale, ’twas a wondrous sight indeed! Pinnochio makes a cameo appearance, well, it is a mashup.

You’re encouraged to join in (well, kids are, small or big) speaking whale, making your own boat out of whats around you – I did, but it was immediately commandeered by an owl and a pussycat who installed their own captain, some dozey sheep! Moby Dick Whittington is still available to watch in a number of countries up until the 31st December for a very reasonable price and you can watch it again and again and again before the 31st ends (on the same device). If you’ve had a crappy year and need some warm, daft silliness, look no further!

I’ll leave you with a couple of pics I dug up from a Christmas Past, when my good friend Humphrey visited. Things got a little silly ……..

I was the King of the Castle!!
after six or seven eggnogs

So it’s Crimble à Chez Bruce

Wow, Saturday night was a real doozy! Possibly the best Strictly Come Dancing final I’ve ever seen and the worst news announcements possible with just days to go til Christmas. Sunday was a day of head scratching, bad tempers and/or sad resignation for many. I, myself, was on the phone back and forth with half my Yorkshire clan for plenty of the day. Obviously they all feel it won’t be a proper Christmas without yours truly to brighten up the room! We’re all crossing everything we can to hope that things will have calmed down enough by March to have a combined Belated Christmas Day/Mothering Sunday.

I’m fine with it all, hey i)I knew this would happen from the moment the five days grace was announced, and ii) being angry or upset would only negatively affect me and not make a blind bit of difference to the fact I have to stay put in Edinburgh (folks, I’m not usually this mature about things, who is this?!) So I’m just quietly continuing on, just slowly weaving together ideas, shopping lists, weather forecasts and TV schedules for my own cosy Crimble. Sadly the zoo isn’t open on Christmas Day this year otherwise I would have organised a trip for the late morning; so Arthur’s Seat it is, then, oh and hopefully Esther too.

My daily walks should put me in good stead for reaching the top of the hill with ease. Recently with the night falling so early I find myself in darkness even as I approach the Park but I have fairly good night vision – until I’m blinded by the extremely bright headlights some folk wear! Others are like ninjas, suddenly appearing three steps away, okay so maybe if I wasn’t listening to music on my earphones I would at least hear them draw near. I don’t mind night walking in winter, it can be quite pleasant. It is nice to see the decorations in tenement flats as I head back into town and the occasional Christmas tree in a square or garden. In fact…..

Spotted in the garden at St Peters at Newington
West Parliament Square by St Giles

Ah, Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, wie treu sind deine Blätter! Damn, that is such an earworm, and I’ve just put it back in my head, bugger!

But, Brucie, what’s happening with the cake? I hear you cry. It’s done! Iced in my inimitable style (a snowy wonderland) and the penguins have once again agreed to stand around on it for a few days – they like to pretend it’s an iceberg! So laydeees and gentlemen, I give you, cook and cake……

Poor Eric was worried what may be lurking in the moat of china below

Oh, and those wonderful silly boys The Sleeping Trees have come up with their own Christmas song The Ballad of the Reindeer – do check it out. It made me laugh, anyway.

Toodle pip!

24 hours later………

See! My misgivings were right – the Christmas grace has been rescinded! I got a phone call from a sibling, rudely interrupted the start of Strictly it did, I got the gist and promised to call back later, like after Strictly. So, the new Scottish restrictions say there’ll only be a relaxation of the rules on Christmas Day, which means there isn’t time enough to see any family if they’re not close by, nevermind in other parts of the UK, and travel to those parts is now banned over Christmas anyway. Boxing Day will see all mainland Scotland on the highest level restrictions for at least three weeks. Happy New Year!

Can’t say I’m surprised, the rhetoric was all heading this way. That’s me off veg peeling duties then! Luckily this morning I bought a Christmas lunch sausage roll at the Farmers Market. I say sausage roll, this is a gourmet, ridiculously large, sausage roll containing the various constituents of a Christmas lunch; a friend on Facebook had tried one and liked it so I thought I would get one too – must pop it in the freezer til Friday morning.

Anyhoo, Strictly the Final was rather bloody good. Three of my Week Two finals predictions were there, oh yay, I’m good! Okay, HRVY and Maisie were gonna be there, but who else seriously predicted Bill for the Final? I don’t care for Jamie Laing, neither do a lot of other folk on the basis he made the Dance-off four times, a definite lack of Fan Base there, no way was he lifting the glitterball tonight.

To be honest I think Maisie should have won, her dancing was stunningly good, she completely embraced the performances – her show dance and her favourite dance with Gorka were so sublime, like watching an old Hollywood musical, astounding!! HRVY, whilst he is amazing too and sooo watchable, his show dance didn’t do it for me somehow. That apart, his Jive was great again and that American Smooth to One Singular Sensation, wow!!!

But the night belonged to Bill and Oti. Their first dance, the Judges’ Choice was their Quickstep to If I Could Talk To The Animals from Week Two, so light and precise, hmmm, definitely a contender. Next their show dance to Queen’s The Show Must Go On, like OMG, jaw-droppingly brilliant, Oti is an amazing choreographer, she created so much drama and intensity, oofph. Watching it again online, many comments say that this is when Bill won Strictly, maybe, but repeating their interpretation of Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang was what drove their win home. Oh yes, Bill Bailey and Oti Mabuse won the Glitterball tonight! He may not have been the most technically perfect dancer, but, by Harry, his passion, commitment and amazing stamina (he is the oldest contestant to have won, the previous oldest was a mere 42 year old, Bill is 55) along with that light, fleetness of foot – a worthy winner. Huzzah!

On that note I shall bid you goodnight and leave you with a pic of my cake now covered with the almond paste. The darker blob is where I spilt some apricot jam – it’s what I use to stick the paste to the cake. I’lll leave it a day for the almond paste to dry before putting the icing on. Just as well I made it, huh?!

Twas the Friday before Christmas….

It’s very late on, it’s quiet outside except for the occasional car sploshing past in the rain. Usually on this particular Friday night it would still be noisy and boisterous out in the streets. Ah yes, Mad Friday, the final Friday night before Christmas, many will be out straight after the working day ends, every pub is packed out. People are partying like it’s 1999, again! The streets are busy with roving pub crawlers heading to their next drink – Mad Friday is not an evening for moderation (the amount of alcohol consumed on this one day in the UK must be quite staggering!) But this is 2020, Mad Friday has been lobotomised, not even the junkies are out yelling at each other tonight.

Departure Day for Christmas is getting closer and blurier. Oh, we’re still being told that we can have the five days grace to see family for Christmas, but, make that BUT, they don’t think we should be making use of this liberty. One problem, trying to guilt-trip never works on the people it’s intended for, people who don’t give two hoots won’t give two hoots! Instead, the law-abiding worriers will worry more, case in point, my dear old Ma.

Will I get down to deepest Yorkshire? I hope so, I do intend to go still – ask me again on Monday and I may answer differently. With all this uncertainty around I decided I should make me a Christmas cake! Cake baked Thursday, almond paste (probably marzipan to you) made this evening. No, I would never consider shop-bought marzipan, homemade almond paste is way way better!

My efforts so far ………

December in the Time of Covid

Ah, the first of December, the day it’s acceptable to put up something Christmassy and not before!! The fireplace, hearth and mantel, has been cleared and cleaned, my peace lily is holidaying in the kitchen and this year’s advent calendar now has pride of place. This afternoon I trotted along to St John’s Church at the corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road to check out this year’s Cards For Good Causes.

It’s a marvellous institution, been going for years, from October to December pop-up shops pop up all over the UK in places like churches, libraries, community centres, town halls and the like, mainly run by volunteers, selling Christmas cards for over twenty five charities. That is, twenty five national charities and then any local charities, like hospices. Cards For Good Causes is a not-for-profit organisation so all the proceeds after the overheads goes to the charities (and yes, the money goes to the specific charity for each pack of cards), last year it was 70p in every £1, which is way better than the charity cut from the so-called charity cards from some high street retailers!

St John’s Church

Of course, you can buy the cards at the charity shops themselves but I enjoy perusing all that’s on offer from the various charities then I make my choices – something sweet and cute, something more sombre. At the end next to the till they have Chrustmas paraphernalia, wrapping paper, tags, decorations, gifts for sale (the profits from these help to meet some of the running costs of the pop-up shops). Okay, so I would usually have already been along before now to have a peek at what was on offer, but, well, with all the social distancing measures I feel disinclined to go earlier, I wondered what changes they would have had to make, actually not a lot (besides the obvious hand sanitiser and screen at the till). There’s been a doorbell installed to buzz for entry, then one heads down the centre aisle to go one way up the side aisle where the cards are displayed back up to the till and exit side door. One obvious problem with this is some folk (erm, like me) would usually wander down the row seeing what there was before walking back up and picking out their choices; luckily for me, there was no one else there for a wee while so I was able to go back and forth a bit.

Of course, this being 2020, I’m still not definite where I’ll actually be for Christmas. The Powers That Be are currently saying the nation will have a five day window for family Christmases, but this is only the first of the month, with all their constant rule-changing I’m not convinced they’ll still be saying the same thing in twenty days time!!

I shall leave you with a lovely picture from a late afternoon stroll along Portobello Prom just last week. I say late afternoon, it was round about half past five and the moon was well up, I was quite surprised how many people were about on the beach and the Prom, but then, we’re not to meet indoors, so…..