The end of the Fringe as we know it?

Thirteen days ago The Times had a front page headline Two weeks to save the Fringe from oblivion, erm, so is this really it for the Fringe?! The chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, Shona McCarthy has been asking the Scottish government to lower the two metre rule to one metre in venues to ensure at least some shows will be viable. She said acts that would usually come to Edinburgh in August are already arranging stuff in England because, well, they can. Quite why the two week deadline I can’t figure out, yes time is seriously running out for anything to happen in August, but why by 12th June? Or is that paper emphasising the clock ticking timebomb more than the chief exec?

Is there really a danger that two years without a full-on Fringe will mean the demise of the Edinburgh Fringe? The article states that “an alliance of ten venues recently warned that the Fringe was in danger of sinking without trace”. Oh boy, I know I’ve pondered such a thing, but I’m a top level catastrophist! I keep checking the BBC online news for updates but all I’ve read recently is that the Scottish government intend to extend their temporary emergency powers (that really doesn’t sound promising!). These temporary emergency powers were meant to expire in September but they want them extending until March next year, with an option to extend further until September 2022 if they deem it necessary. Wow. Cautious or controlling? Opposition parties have expressed concern that the government is trying to rush the bill through before the summer recess which means there won’t be time to properly scrutinise the details and fully debate it – call me cynical but I smell something fishy!

I haven’t seen anything that even hints the Sturgeon will agree to cut the two metres down to one. There have been a number of large trial events in England that have had good results, as in only few positive cases found linked to the events. Yes, there are new variants, some that spread quickly but they don’t seem to be as harmful (which come to think of it, way back last year some scientist said that as viruses mutate to survive they become less virulent as part of that survival process). There’s enough evidence to show that one metre distancing is good enough if the rules are followed. Many countries have gone down to one metre and seem to be doing okay, many businesses here are unmanageable and unviable at two metres. If businesses here have to abide by stricter guidelines, then the government could at least give enough assistance to alleviate some of the hardship caused by them.

I’ll leave you with a quote I saw this week from Scotland’s chief medical office, one Dr Gregor Smith, talking to a committee he said, “…. and if you are at one metre your risk is much greater than if you are at two metres ….” No shit, Sherlock! Who’d’ve thunk it! Of course there’s a higher risk, higher, but higher than what? What is the risk now and each day as more people get vaccinated? And much greater? I wonder the percentage that adds the “much”. In times gone by, folk carried snuffboxes about their person, these days we need saltboxes for a ready pinch to hand!

Toodle pip!

Three films and a lot of haar

What a cracking weekend it’s been! I don’t think the weather gods realised it was a bank holiday weekend, way too sunny! Well, sunny once the sun burnt off the haar each day. Sunday morning I enjoyed a ramble up into a haar swathed park, no sign of Arthur’s Seat at the top, total white, er, grey out. It was almost noon before the Seat was visible and the sky blue, even then, looking down at Portobello the haar was still clinging to the coastline.

Joys! The cinemas are open again. Just as well I had a ganders last Wednesday evening, Judas and the Black Messiah was showing just one more day, phew, ticket booked. Two more films caught my attention, Raya and the Last Dragon and Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, tickets booked, god, I love having an Unlimited pass. So, just like the old normal I had to trot quite smartly to get to the cinema on time on Thursday afternoon! Even with the social distancing of empty rows and seats, as I often go when films have been on a while it looked almost normal to me – apart from all the masks.

Judas and the Black Messiah is a stunning film, so glad I caught it. Daniel Kaluuya was brilliant, now I see why he received so many nominations and won many awards for his portrayal of Fred Hampton. Lakeith Stanfield as Bill O’Neal had me constantly wondering how he’d play the situations O’Neal found himself in; the use of the real Bill O’Neal in interview and other historical from the time really brought up how real this all actual was. I found it a rivetting and chilling film, so much to take in and digest.

Saturday morning I was back in for Raya and the Last Dragon, a very different movie! I actually knew very little about it but hey, it’s Disney and there’s a dragon. There’s also a strange creature called Tuk Tuk, a giant armadilloey type thing, useful as a mode of transport for our heroine Raya and also her cute animal sidekick (a Disney staple); and in a quick googling sess, I discovered he’s voiced by the excellent Alan Tudyk! That guy has done so much stuff, looks like he’s Disney’s new version of Pixar’s John Ratzenberger, just more animal noises! The dragon’s voice wasn’t what I expected but my initial surprise was soon forgotten as I sat back and enjoyed the visuals and some fairly quick, funny dialogue. There were a few gripes but overall it was a fine film; the whole “trust” thing running through it may really confuse some kids, parents may find themselves in some tricky discussions afterwards.

Saturday night and back again for Demon Slayer: Mugen Train and this time I knew nothing, except that it’s anime and according to a couple of reviews it wouldn’t be too tricky to pick up without seeing the previous tv series. They were right, I just went with it, the best way with Japanese films in general! Another visual treat, very different for a newcomer to watch. I’d gone to a subtitled showing as dubbed versions are generally not as good in my opinion. Would I go see more anime films? Yeah, probably.

By the time I was walking home from the cinema the pubs were shut obviously not long shut as there were plenty of folk about, many steaming drunk! The Grassmarket was seeming more like it’s old self, only, it seemed to me there were more streams of piss running from doorway corners, like even more men than would be usual had forgotten the art of taking a piss before leaving the pub (well, it has been a while). I was surprised then when The Three Sisters was still open, and with a queue waiting to get in! Brewdog next door was closed and all locked up for the night.

Oo, I just noticed the time, and there was me planning to have an early night! I’ll tell you the latest on the Fringe next time. I shall leave you with a couple of pics of the Meadows on Sunday morning. Toodle pip!

At ten on Sunday morning there weren’t many about except sporty types.
The Meadows with the rooftops of Marchmont peeping through the trees.

They’re back, well, 2 out of 3, anyways

How nice to see the lights back on inside The Waverley as I strolled past yesterday evening! Mind, whilst it was good to see the pubs on the Royal Mile open again, it looked kinda sad, the few occupied tables in each one. A few more establishments have followed on The Scotsman’s Lounge example and built large wooden structures for their outdoor clientele, these looked quite busy, well, it was quite a pleasant evening. Yes, even though it was a Monday night, folk were out to celebrate the latest easing of restrictions, ironic that most were drinking outside rather than inside. The pubs with little or no space for outdoor drinkers must have been rather pissed off!

The Grassmarket was feeling it bit more like it’s old self, a few gaggles of shrieking females, drunken friends hugging each other goodbye, a lass sat crying while her mates tried to console her. Yeah, almost like the old days, well, nights, almost, the pubs had to close by half past ten.

I did check that half ten was correct on the BBC newsite on my mobile – just in from there, the Edinburgh Tattoo has been cancelled again. Despite spending a lot of time and effort to make it work this year, the organisers have said the financial risks are too great and could have put the entire future of the Tattoo in jeopardy. Sad but not really surprising news.

Other news, it’s Eurovision on Saturday, yay! The first semi-final is on telly tonight, the second on Thursday, guess I’ll have a good ganders at those, then probably be very disappointed about songs that don’t make it through to the Final. I have to share these pics with you, taken on Saturday, this high street shop seems to be embracing a retro Eurovision style (the young shop assistant couldn’t figure what was so amusing about these dresses and why I was taking photos of them, bless).

A market, a mystery and a mess

Saturday evening in Auld Reekie, the aroma of hogget curry is still wafting through from the kitchen, I’ve poured myself another glass of Dance Commander from Ascension (that’s sour cherry cider from the Jolly Judge), outside it’s a clear, breezy night. Yes, I’m back up from darkest Yorkshire, toddled back on Thursday, I was hoping Moratti on St Mary Street would have opened again, but sadly not, so I went and got a fish supper in stead, no pizza if it’s not from Moratti! Mind, even when (or if!) they open again, will Alex the pizza guy be back? He’d be a hard act to follow, the best pizzas and great chat.

Being a regular at the Farmers Market on Castle Terrace on Saturday mornings means plenty of chat; over the last year sometimes it was the only time in a week I would have a face to face, well, mask to mask, conversation with anyone. Annanwater are sheep farmers from near Moffat, theirs is the hogget I’m having for tea (hogget is older than lamb but younger than mutton); Brewsters, once “the egg lady”, are now a smallholding with sheep, pigs, beef and honey, all very tasty! Oh joys, this week Ridley’s Game had wild hill goat back in season, I have a haunch bone-in now in my freezer.

Since the Farmers Market became a stallholders cooperative last August there’s been a slow but steady increase in stalls and variety; looking for a hot chilli sauce, delicious cheesecakes, fancy mushrooms, local beers, an occasional cider? And up from Dumfries, Co Co Co. sell the most divine chocolates, okay so they’re not cheap but by’eck they’re bloody good! All handmade and their own recipes, there’s a variety of chocolate slabs or packs of six chocolates, oh, yeah, hot chocolate stirrers too (a large square of flavoured chocolate with a wooden spoon set in it, stir in a mug of hot milk). I really like the passion fruit chocolates but they’ve recently been pipped by the Eton Mess, exquisite! Apparently they’re going to try to come with a strawberry cheesecake chocolate, oh my heartses, can’t wait for that one!

Edinburgh is already noticeably busier, mind any amount of people would make it seem busier. This morning I couldn’t quite credit the amount of people around the Old Town. I wondered at four ladies all holding magnifying glasses – was this a hen party making a withering statement about male genitalia? Then it struck me that there seem to be rather a lot of deerstalkers being worn (after I walked past the twentieth person wearing one), bowler and homburg hats too, and then women with black moustaches?! Hang on, deerstalkers and magnifying glasses, homburgs and black moustaches? That’s Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot! By george, I’d finally got it, it was teams trying to follow a puzzle trail of some sort. That explained all the little gangs charging around/looking blankly around, and all the odd garbs, like the middle aged blokes in t-shirts with CIA emblazoned on the front, the four wandering round in cheap-looking biohazard suits, the Mystery Machine side cutout parked as the Scooby gang drank lattes. I assume the two kids I thought were dressed up as Blues Brothers were actually Men In Black (their parents had made no effort at all) and the dudes in cowboy hats, agents of Statesman? It was like an Edinburgh Saturday pre-Covid, awash with hen and stag dos, all very entertaining to watch.

I shall leave you with a little puzzle of my own. The picture below, can you identify what it is? My mother says she’s been making it for years – never have I seen this dish before, ever. She’d asked if I wanted one, like I knew what one was, sorry but those ingredients don’t go together in my recipe book and I’m pretty sure I’d remember such an anomaly of gastronomy if I’d heard of it previously.

Toodle pip!

So great I watched it twice, huzzah!

Apart from that fingernails bit, eewww. The Great has been such a romp, perfect Sunday evening viewing, everything about it is so sumptuous. I may have to gorge on it later once the series has finished, a banquet with ten courses, yum! I’ll need some popcorn and raspberry ripple ice cream for that (no, not in the same bowl).

It was this time last year I was back in from seeing Logan’s Close at the Caves for the release of Lost In You. It’s been a lonnng year since then. Some are getting excited at the news that the end of Covid restrictions may be in sight, but I don’t reckon it’s as straightforward or as timetably as folk want to believe – look at what happened to the Christmas Grace. Yes, the vaccines are being rolled out but I reckon there will still be some social restrictions in place, more than the general populace will be happy with. Call me a pessimist but hey, at least I’ll be mightily impressed if I get to be in a packed room to see the Close before the end of the year, I’m just not holding my breath.

Who knows what form any Fringe that takes place will be?! And, of course there’s the new bother of post Brexit paperwork and costs for acts coming over from Europe. Creatives have gotten creative online, will the cost of a month in Edinburgh seem worth it any more? Especially if there’s no physical Fringe for a second year. Will the new generation of creatives look on the Edinburgh Fringe as too cumbersome, expensive and old hat? Has it had it’s day? Will it rise again like a phoenix or be like one of those tawdry, tired old seaside towns that you know would have been magnificent back in the day but, sadly, not any more?

Oo, that got maudlin. Here’s to better times, however they may present themselves. Here’s to one day being able to stumble upon a great band playing live in a pub. Here’s to hugging a long-not-seen mate.

God, I so miss hugging ūüėĒ

I should have had a coffee first!

Yesterday would have been a grand last Sunday for the Fringe, a sunny day right through, not hot but not too cool either. It was the day to try out Gilded Balloon’s Fringe Search Party, so armed with a fully charged phone I headed up to Teviot Square. I really should have had that coffee before I went out. The first clue took me what seemed like ages to figure out what I had to do, and that was even after the hint! (after a few attempts the game takes pity on you and gives a hint). Then I was off and strolling!

It was fun to do though I did find some of the clues a tad obtuse, maybe it’s just how my brain works (give me a killer sudoku any time) and maybe that’s when a team of four heads¬†are better than one. The brains that devised Search Party made the most of an emptier Edinburgh, some bits would have been way trickier with too many bodies obstructing the view.

So did I find Isla Fallot? Indeed I did, I laughed out loud when I realised where she was. If I’d had that coffee and thunk about it some, I maybe could have figured it out, gone straight there and taken a selfie with her. But that would be cheating, Brucie, I hear you cry, don’t worry, I like my glories unsullied, mind it would have been pretty sharp to have figured out her hiding place. No, the pleasure is in the hunt, just as well as my time was almost twice that of the leaders! Did I take a selfie with her? Well, no, because I was told to, bit like being told to have another drink at Christmas do’s, I felt a bit irked.

Edinburgh actually felt reasonably touristed yesterday. Plenty of folk milling about, still nowhere near normal levels though. I wonder how many were up because they’d booked to come when there was still a Fringe being planned; a very different stay than intended! How many were coming back and bringing a Fringe virgin with them? Nevermind the Search Party, the NotFringe2020 Walking Tour could have been a thing!! Oh my,¬†that’s¬†what I can do with those sad photos I’ve taken. Let’s see, where first?

20200825_215501Ah yes, Charlotte Square at the west end of George Street, this would usually be full of books, tents, authors, books and the best portaloos in town. It’s all locked up, can’t even get in for¬† sit down.

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Next to Adam House on Chamber Street. It was simply the Adam House Theatre before becoming C venues flagship for many years, but last year saw it under the Gilded Balloon banner. I did ask a number of different folk about their take on what happened. Some very interesting, enlightening listening!

 

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What’s missing from this picture?

A BlundaBus and a Spiegelyurt, oh and picket fences, and some really chill vibes. The string of lights you can see are in the Potterrow Underpass, very useful when rushing up from the Cowgate to the university area.

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I would forgive anyone for not recognising this park with its Narnia-style lamp as being George Square Gardens, I know, look the grass is real! Sadly it never fully recovers any more from the bashing it takes from the Jazz, Food and Fringe festivals every year.

 

20200830_231543George Square 2020, one lonely Tuk Truk and a coffee kiosk.

And how are things looking at No.33? Well, the weeds need sorting out!20200830_233523

And let’s finish this little tour by heading down the Pleasance and left up the Cowgate. Oo, the council have finally resurfaced the road, it’s now silky smooth, unlike the pavements. In August the Cowgate is usually heaving with people traversing up and down and across it; you can’t have truly done the Fringe if you’ve never put a foot on the Cowgate!¬† One of the loveliest spots on it is the Rowantree Bar and Niddry Street South…20200825_135050

So ends my little walking tour, things ain’t what they used to be!

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But I did hear about one venue that despite the lack of a physical Fringe put up a banner outside as usual. Oh yes, ClubFest 2020 may have gone virtual but the Scottish Arts Club put a real banner up at Rutland Square. Good for them!

 

 

 

Toodle pip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s oh so quiet now

One of my favourite spots in a proper August is sitting with a drink on the balcony in the Library Bar at Teviot, catching up on my fringe diary. That is, during the day or midweek, but when it’s too busy I head over to the other bar (the refectory bar?) on to the balcony there, by the windows in an attempt to get some air. Last year I found myself heading to the other bar rather more as the Library Bar seemed to become an “in” place to go.

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This year there’s neither, instead they have come up with The Garden at Teviot, which seems to be doing rather well whenever I’ve been passing. Of course, it’s all online, booking in, ordering food and drink by app, all so neat and organised. There’s no one milling around, yeah, I know a lot of locals are be delighted by the lack of hoards but not me, or the rhino.

I do so hope the world gets better soon, what is life without fun, spontaneity, creatives creating? Oh, and hugs, we all need hugs¬† ‚̧

A couple more pics for you, my dears

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a soggy day with no one about, except, see, there on the left, up on the wall. He’s so lonely, he’s been crying…..

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A ramble about some old boozers

Alas, some of Edinburgh smaller drinking houses may not survive the pandemic, so says the local press, and anyone with experience of how “cosy” they can be. These little gems are all nooks and crannies, no social distancing possible, and when they’re busy, no personal space either! It would be a real shame to lose them as some are very old (we’re talking Auld old) and are part of the architectural and historic fabric of the city.

The Halfway House up Fleshmarket Close behind Waverley Station is a very sad victim to new regulations. I’ve sipped many a fine cider and real ale there over the years, right back to my college days. It’s one thing if a pub goes to the wall through lack of clientele (though still a shame), but quite another when the business would be fine but for insurmountable circumstances.

Two legendary folk bars of Edinburgh, The Royal Oak and Sandy Bell’s are both still shut; it would be a major loss for the Edinburgh folk scene if either failed to re-open. Rebus’s haunt the Oxford Bar hasn’t been able to open it’s doors again yet and The Auld Hoose (home to the largest bowl of nachos ever!!) remains shut for very obvious reasons to anyone who’s tried to get to the toilets there on a busy evening!

Two great real ale pubs that have reopened are the Dagda Bar (the small square blue-fronted one up Buccleuch Street, you know it but never remember the name!) and the Bow Bar, not as small as the Dagda, a nice tidy size and very much an Edinburgh institution. Still doing off-sales as well, the Jolly Judge has re-opened as much as they can, having the outside tables in the close helps. Indeed, pubs are really making the most of any outside space (pavement) they can claim.

The three bars up just off Teviot Square, the Doctor’s, Boteco Do Brasil and Paradise Palms have all re-opened, usually completely packed out at this time of year, they’ll be missing the Fringe. Oo, and another old folk establishment, Captains Bar just along on South College Street is open; turns out they’ve been carrying on musically online during the shutdown, good for them!

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I shall leave you with an oddity that’s appeared climbing the wall above an old drinking establishment in town. Can anyone identify the pub from this little teaser? Happy to report it’s open again.

If there’s a favourite Edinburgh watering hole that you’re hoping has survived, I’ll be happy to investigate!

Toodle pip!

 

 

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.

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!