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!

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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