Sum pluses + minuses

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

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

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

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

More later, toodle pip, mes amis

How to start a year well…..

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

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

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

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

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

Wot?! No Christmas Pudding?

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

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

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

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

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

You take your eye off the ball for mere moments…..

Hello, dear reader, did you miss me? I do have a tendency to disappear into other things after the Fringe is done. This year I somehow managed to totally miss that Logan’s Close were playing at the Dunbar Music Festival, headlining no less, at the Battery on the Saturday night. And with a new bassist! Okay, so there was a different drummer too, but they’ve had various drummers in ever since Mick left (drummers round here seem to be real tarts, they don’t commit to one band). I’ve seen clips on Facebook and reckon this bassist is a good fit, and he can sing harmonies too, bonus! Check out the Dunbar Music Festival’s Facebook page to see for yourself, there’s plenty of clips of all the bands through the weekend.

Oo, I’ve just spotted one Willie Dug & The Cosmic Gents were playing on the Saturday afternoon. They’re rather good, I caught them at the Voodoo Rooms last Wednesday; I heard there was a free gig with three bands to celebrate the return of live music, yay. Annoyingly I wasn’t aware that Carl Marah was the first support act – until I wandered in during his final song, dammit. I also didn’t hear that he was the guest with the Handsome House Band at Stramash the previous Sunday until after it happened! Three misses in less than a week – no, I was not a happy bunny or moose.

I’m not the only back in the room, the students are all back in droves. This last week has seen masses of wide-eyed, big suitcased young’uns trying to find the right Students Residence (there are an awful lot these days and not all are well signposted, as the fast food delivery guys will testify). The older returning students have been making up for a lost year by hitting all the night spots hard, the local media have been going on about the long queues. Oh, give them a break, cut them some slack, please. Yes, Covid is still here but we’re gonna have to get on with life some time, as far as I’ve seen they’re all carrying masks ready for donning as necessary and have phones out ready to check into places (yeah, this is still what Beyond Level Zero means in Scotland).

Mind, the locals may have yet another reason to moan about the students – shortages of beer and certain food items made even shorter. The beer isn’t flowing as it should (last week the Voodoo Rooms were without any Joker or Caesar Augustus and Stramash has had a few beers missing) and the hoards of students will drink plenty, I would imagine. A couple of days ago, the Tesco’s up on the Southside was devoid of olive oil, much of their own brand herbs and spice range, the pasta, rice and tinned tomatoes were severely depleted as was the cheaper soft loo roll; that’s definitely students doing a first stock-up.

Sadly, the start of a new academic year has meant that Roy the Barista has left Edinburgh to study in London – no more lattes and cheery banter on the Royal Mile for me! His latte was so fine I didn’t need to add sugar to improve it, a first for me. Some years ago the best coffee was to be had from Ruby in an old police box, this summer it was Roy from an old phone box, where will the next best coffee be served from? An old pillar box?!

G’night! Sweet dreams!

A Fringe beyond zero

Alas, I didn’t get to see The Flop: A Band of Idiots last night and it was their last night, unless, like many things in this fluctuating Fringe, they decide to do more shows (pretty please?!) Nah, it’s unlikely, at least I have the third Private to see today, Christian Brighty: Playboy. Its like a minibusload of absurdists came up for a week and now they’re all packed ready to head back south just as soon as Christian has taken his bow and said his thank yous. Him and his stuff will be bundled into the bus and with ringmaster, Dan Lees at the wheel, they’ll be gone. Imagine if the outside of the minibus reflected the minds of those inside?!

I had been intending to head to Stramash after the show, wow, drinking and dancing in a no doubt busy room, a blast from the past. How would Stramash be now? Well, it was weird going to the bar, rather than six deep around it, there were two queues stretching across the room. To folk entering it wasn’t immediately obvious so they’d head straight to the open space at the bar, then they’d kinda look round at us, it would click that we were stood in a line, “Er, is this a queue for the bar?”,”Yup!” and they’d head the other way to find the back of it. God, it was interminably slow. Now Stramash has an upstairs balcony area that I’ve rarely been in, I was pretty certain there was a bar up there but not 100% certain, striking up a conversation with a chap alongside me in the other queue I ascertained yes, there was a bar upstairs but the queue was even worse up there, that’s why he was queuing where he was. Considering how quickly my drink (a pint of Holyrood Pale Ale, very nice) was bought and paid for, I don’t understand why it took around twenty minutes to get it! It looks like Stramash has gone cashless, everyone was paying by contactless or their phones, so no fumbling around for cash and change.

It was busy but the doormen were making sure everyone was using the CheckIn Scotland app on entry. I guess its become another habit for some, click in and mask up. I did notice a few folk keeping their masks on awhile once inside, like they couldn’t really believe it was okay to remove them. It is a bit confusing, different places have different rules, many folk I think keep masks on until they’re pretty its ok to remove them. Some Fringe venues are fine with unmasking during performances, well, if there’s a bar many will have brought a drink in. Some venues do make an announcement asking that folk stay masked (half then have to put their masks back on), yes, it’s confusing.

Assembly Roxy has attendants at the door to enquire the size of your bubble and then lead people to appropriate seating. Similar was done at Monkey Barrel Comedy Club; they also have a temperature scanner there (only one I’ve seen so far) and they administer a squish of hand sanitiser to everyone who enters. Many venues certainly started the Fringe with seating spread out in groups of twos and fours, I wonder if some have made the spaces between smaller now to accommodate more seats; certainly some venues now have the usual rows of seats. Some folk do look uncomfortable when strangers sit right next to them, but as the In Person shows are selling out a fair bit, it happens, are they thinking “would it look insulting if I put my mask back on?”?

So, back at Stramash, pint in hand I found a good spot to watch the band come on for the second spot, a band called The Kennedy’s Project. I almost spilled my drink – it was the band from Waverley Bridge! It was great to see them indoors in a proper venue and, my, they were good, really good. As usual both the rhythm and lead guitarists shared out the vocal duties, as their voices suit very different songs it works well across the songs they cover. The crowd (and me too) loved them, plenty were on their feet dancing. Highlights for me were Hound Dog, Bring it on Home To Me and, as awesome as the last time, Minnie the Moocher. My, that guitarist was hot, growling out the words, hotter than Idris Elba even!

💛

If you just stumbled accidently upon this blog post and have enjoyed it, I always post a link on Facebook, I’m Bruce T Moose. New friends and followers always welcome (and no, the T isn’t for The).

Is this the way to Arthur’s Seat?

I was asked yesterday afternoon as I was about to unlock my tenement front door. Why yes, madam, and I hope the looming clouds don’t shed their load until after you’ve enjoyed the wonderful panoramic views and are back down. Judging from when the rain started she may have made it halfway back, and with no brolly or rain jacket -soggy! Before that I’d passed a family standing on the street debating whether the hotel they’d found was the right one, I almost turned back to enquire the name of the establishment they were looking for but then I remembered that I never remember the names of the hotels in the area, so I silently wished them luck and continued on. I should try and learn which is which as there’ll soon be plenty of confused travellers wandering around.

I’d been out to put some of my Fringe Fund in my bank account as so much stuff will be card or online payments this year. There was also a package from Amazon to be picked up from a locker in Waverley Mall, trickier than I thought! I followed the directions to where it should be but couldn’t see any lockers, perhaps I was approaching it wrong? Back to the entrance, followed the directions again, nope. It didn’t help that the instructions said that the lockers were next to an I Love Scotland shop that clearly isn’t there anymore! Doh. Finally I did the unmanly thing and asked a security guard, oo, I was so close to them the whole time! A sign or two would help, they are tucked away somewhat, I feel certain that I’m not the only one unable to see them.

Back outside the mall on Waverley Bridge another fine guitar band were rocking and playing the blues. See, Waverley Bridge has been closed as a thoroughfare for a while now, so bands have taken to playing at the Princes Street end (probably one of the very few pluses about the council’s Spaces for People).

《big pause whilst I catch up with a friend over lunch, a wander and a coffee》

After my friend toddled off home I decided to have one more treat and went to Ciao Roma for an ice cream, a single scoop of passionfruit cheesecake in a cone, yay. As its been a gloriously sunny day I headed to Waverley Bridge to see who was playing. It was the lead and rhythm guitarists from one of the bands that plays there quite a bit. They were rather good so I stayed longer than intended. Vocal duties were shared between them, two very different voices, really can’t call which I preferred. Mind, the final number, a sublime bluesy version of Minnie the Moocher sung by the lead guitarist, oh yeah, he really delivered it with style. So, basically, if you’re passing by the east end of Princes Street in an afternoon, be prepared to get waylaid a while by some great sounds!

Aaanyways, back to yesterday. The band waylaid me, had to leg it up Cockburn Street and down the Royal Mile to grab a coffee from my new favourite barista, Roy – he closes at 3pm. Lovely chap, makes a damn fine coffee! He’s in one of the old red telephone boxes outside the chemist, just up from John Knox House. He opens up really early doors, 7am I believe (I haven’t risen that early for some while). Coffee procured I headed off and checked the latest menu boards outside a couple of local cafes, indeed early glances had not deceived, they were now doing eggs benedict. Annoyingly, closer inspection revealed that they’re using ham rather than bacon, no no no. Ham will not do for this moose, as won’t a base of anything other than a muffin (that’s a no to wanky “toasted artisan bread” Rocksalt). Which reminds me I should revisit Em’s Kitchen, they’ve had a refit so I should check that their eggs benedict hasn’t suffered from the changes.

Ah, changes, the Sturgeon’s been at it again. Scotland’s going “beyond level zero” on Monday 9th August; er, zero mean zilch, nada, a big fat nothing, still having face masks as a legal requirement in the same indoor settings (also “likely to be mandated in law for some time to come” from the lips of the Sturgeon herself) and having to provide contact details in all the same hospitality spaces as now, isn’t nothing nevermind past nothing! Not that I have a problem with keeping some safety measures in place, but calling it level zero and beyond?!? It’s not, its more like level 0.5.

Mind, even the deputy first minister is unclear about what will be allowed next week, he said on morning television today that “vertical drinking” would not be allowed (you maybe wondering, like me, wtf is “vertical drinking”?) that’s apparently standing drinking at the bar in a pub, Mr Swinney agreed that people would have be masked while ordering a drink at the bar and would not be allowed to stand and drink it there ………. hours later a government official confirmed this was not the case, drinking at the bar will be allowed. There’s also still confusion on mask wearing in nightclubs when they re-open (in five days time) apparently the government are still working on this one! The Sturgeon claims to be very cautious about bringing in Covid passports, hmmm, saying that could be to gain public sympathy for having to make such a difficult decision before it’s announced (cynical, moi?).

What will the changes on the 9th mean for the Edinburgh Fringe, and I guess the International and Film Festivals too? If social distancing has gone can they sell tickets for all the spaces left empty so far? Will venues with two or four people bubble policies drop them? Or at least, will capacity numbers be increased? Interested parties, Fringers and Fringees, want to know!

Ah well, that time again. Bon nuit!

Heeeere’s August!

July did seem awfully short but at least it was toasty. Now as the first of the new month ebbs away, I’m wondering how the Fringe got so close without me organising any tickets?! Maybe its the complete lack of large posters everywhere? No programmes lying around the place to be marked up, cut up, saved for best? The town is busying up now but it feels more like a June rather than nearly Fringe time.

I have been looking at the In Person shows on the Fringe website and some ideas jotted down. Interestingly I noticed this evening that Barry Ferns isn’t down as doing the whole Fringe run now, but from the 20th until the end. Did he have second thoughts about his knees handling a full run? I really wouldn’t blame him. And John-Luke Roberts in the programme with another show than the one at the Monkey Barrel, he’s bringing back his Terrible Wonderful Adaptations for two nights at the Assembly Roxy. He’s more like an MC, ringmaster of the bizarre and absurd, in TWA so I’ll pass as I’m seeing him elsewhere, and it is £12 a ticket. That money may be spent instead seeing Watson: The Final Solution, also on at the Assembly Roxy.

I have to be very wise with my money this year, what with no three days of cheap previews, no Assembly locals’ ticket offer, no Half Price Hut (ok, I am just assuming there won’t be an equivalent this year). My Fringe fund has never seemed so finite before! Do enough staring at screens these days, so I’m determined to see mainly live shows, there may be a few tantalising nuggets online, but as I’ve always said, “If the rest of the world wants to turn on my doorstep to entertain me – who am I to say no?!” Ergo, the shows on my doorstep get first dibs over flat screen offerings.

So far theSpace venues have a number of shows that interest me and as most shows are just doing short runs this year I’d best get on and book some tickets. Oh, and there’s booking fees to add in, £1.25 per ticket, up to £5 per transaction; I need to book enough at a time to make it worth it.

Ho hum. Maybe I should buff up my ukulele playing and try busking for some extra pennies – most likely thrown to make me stop! I must bid you all good night, it’s rather late now.

Good night, dear hearts 💛

Old, posh, rather batty – no, not me!

Another cracking day here in Edinburgh, I’ve been lazying in the Park just sunning myself and reading. It’s a rather good book, Lady in Waiting, the autobiography of one Anne Glenconner. You may well not be familiar with the name, I wasn’t, and then my friend who was lending the book to me said, “You remember her, she was on the Graham Norton Show. Old, posh, rather batty, very funny. Princess Margaret’s chum, husband bought Mustique?!” Ah yes, her. Definitely wanted to know more – well I’m finding out an awful lot!! What a life she’s led, what a character, surrounded by characters. Okay so maybe some of it maybe embellished, who cares, it’s a great read. If you remember her from the show and like me went Oo and then forgot about her, get the paperback!

Today was so gorgeous here that the shallow pools by the parliament building had a number of small kids splashing about in them and obviously not an impromptu splash for many as they had swimwear on. Not sure if the architect of the Scottish Parliament had paddling pools in mind when he designed the foreground landscape!?

In other news, the Edinburgh Fringe programme is starting to fill out nicely, with more shows being added to the website today (that’s http://www.edfringe.com). There’s another twenty real physical venues added, one Online added, three more outdoor meeting places and, yay, the West End Fair will be back in physical form! Always a good place to look for unusual Christmas presents, and maybe a treat for oneself. Be warned though, some only take stalls for a week rather than the full three weeks, if I want to ponder on a purchase I’ll always check how long they’ll be around.

Sone rather disappointing news about MultiStory, the new festival hub being set up at the NCP carpark on Castle Terrace (a multi-storey carpark going down on to King Stables Road, geddit?). Apparently no single tickets are being sold! I hadn’t picked up on this until I saw a comment on Facebook raising the issue. The reply from the Gilded Balloon said, “Unfortunately, due to government restrictions tickets are only available in groups of 2 or 4. If availability allows, we’ll release some single tickets closer to the show dates. If any single tickets are released, we’ll announce it on social media.” Erm, I think they mean if a show isn’t selling, shows no signs of selling many tickets, they’ll make a quick, late on,splash announcement to entice more in, anyone’ll do.

Of course, it also means three friends can’t go together, either one drops out or they pay for four tickets, or they don’t bother and instead buy one ticket for another show that’s online and with the leftover money get a few drinks in. I’m not sure why the current government restrictions won’t allow single tickets to be sold though, especially since they may be sold later?! Maybe just easier for their booking system, perhaps? To be honest, as yet I’m not too bothered, the few shows they’ve so far announced don’t appeal to me, but I feel for the lady who raised the point on Facebook. Solo travellers unite – at least with one or three other people!

I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures from a clamber in the Park few days ago and one from the other evening when I went out to Cramond. Toodle pip!

Cramond causeway – the Toblerone-inspired design ensured that only the fittest should make it across to the island, the passage of time and tides had made the task even more of a challenge.

Fringey things are afoot….

Hi there! Bruce here, coming to you from deepest dankest Yorkshire, yes, even in summer the damp is never far away. I may be away from Auld Reekie but I’m keeping tabs on what’s happening, like Fringe tickets now being on sale! One thing I managed to miss is that social distancing will be down to one metre as of the 19th July (how did I miss that?!) On the Edinburgh Fringe website it says that the Scottish Government has advised that even the one metre could be lifted on 9th August; two thoughts on this, i) I’m not going to hold my breath, and ii) its a bit bloody late to appease anyone. Did the decision for allowing the drop to one metre come too late for Underbelly? Whatever, apparently Underbelly will not be going ahead with plans for a Circus Hub venue in the Meadows.

Underbelly will be back in George Square as well as having an outdoor stage in Bristo Square. Assembly Festival will also be back in George Square Gardens with one spiegeltent and an outdoor stage. The Pleasance will be creating an outdoor stage in the Courtyard, let’s face it so many of their spaces are cramped, they couldn’t happen this year! Summerhall will also make use of their courtyard as a venue space – where will folk do their boozing and schmoozing?! Gilded Balloon will as ever be in Teviot (I guess the Wee Room won’t be used this year). Heaven knows how the smaller venues will manage, or if they’ll bother even trying.

The Edinburgh Farmer’s Market may benefit from having a new venue right next to it; the top floor of the NCP car park on Castle Terrace is to be an open air festival hub run by the Gilded Balloon, Traverse Theatre, DanceBase and Zoo Venues. At least I hope the Farmer’s Market will still be able to be in its usual spot over August, okay, yes, I am slightly troubled about this development.

Tickets for over 170 shows (but less than 180 shows, I’m guessing) are now available from the Fringe website. These can be In-person or online shows, the online shows may be scheduled or on-demand, or a show may be a mixture of the aforementioned. At quick glance it seems that if a show is both in-person and scheduled online it’s listed twice, this could take some time!!

One show that I spotted is back is that bloke atop Arthur’s Seat! Oh yay, Barry Ferns is going to back on Arthur’s Seat at one in the afternoon from 7th to 28th August, oh, with Wednesdays off and as long as his knees hold out. What with the Ferns’ return and all these outdoor stages, better pray to all the gods for a dry month!

There’ll be tears before bedtime

Tears of joy or frustration? As yet we don’t know, kick off isn’t until eight o’clock. Tonight Scotland play England in UEFA Euro 2020, may the best team win! (He says diplomatically) Yes, I know it’s football, a game I do not normally have any interest in, but hey, I may as well watch it – if just to know how mute I should be if I go out later. Mind, if Scotland win it will be crazy about the town afterwards, when I say crazy obviously not as crazy as it would be without Covid still dampening everything down.

Already this afternoon there were some tanked up guys around (tanked up=drunk), they’d better be careful not to be comatosed by eight! Many folk are noticing how much their alcohol tolerance has reduced since last March. A number of pubs have announced on Facebook that they’re booked up tonight, I suspect many pubs in the UK will have their best night in over a year! Mind, it’ll be a tricky night to keep to current regulations, that’s pubs get to have one metre distancing with no singing, shouting, mingling – yeah, there’ll be none of that, unless Scotland win. People must sit quietly at their own distanced tables, anything more exuberant and its classed as an event like theatre and the two metre rule comes into effect. Oh boy, good luck policing that tonight!

Oo, it’s nearly time, my chicken wings will be ready to take out of the oven. What? Who am I supporting tonight? Okay, so Six Nations Rugby I quietly support England, but tonight I’d like to see Scotland win. Mainly I hope it’s an exciting game. Is that rain I see in Wembley? It’s blue skies and light fluffy clouds up here.

Here we go! Come on, the lads!