Resting on the Nethers

The first Saturday in June, no Meadows Fair again so I headed to the Park and clambered up Raven’s Rock on to the Nether Hill. That is a knackering climb up on a warm day (okay, so warm for Edinburgh so far this year), a lie down was definitely in order. There’s worse places to stretch on and enjoy the sunshine! The occasional breeze was nicely warm, even though overhead there did seem to be a number of dark clouds massing (the rain gods possibly thought, first weekend in June? – we should at least threaten rain).

The Nether Hill is a good place to be still; it’s neighbour Arthur’s Seat is more popular and everyone knows it’s name, but it’s all about getting up there, a quick pic for evidence and back down, busy busy. On Nether Hill I could lay back and watch swallows swooping around and about, the odd crow would enjoy a glide on the thermals. Just a smattering of chatter could be heard wafting over from the Seat and the usual background hum of traffic in the town, but plenty birdsong distracted from them. Oh, and there was a piper playing somewhere in the distance for a while. That’s how pipers should be heard – at a distance!

As I lay there it occurred to me to share with you just what I could see at that moment, so, a head turn to the right and it’s Arthur’s Seat, and above me some rather worrying clouds (glad to say they all just moved along without shedding their loads).

Sitting up I could see the Castle and the Palace. One of those, wow, and I live here moments. If I’d stood up and turned left I could have made out the top of another castle, I didn’t, I stayed sitting marvelling at the views. The two observatories on Calton Hill and Blackford Hill, the three bridges spanning the Forth, well, just bits of them, Cramond Island with the causeway just visible. For all that humans can make things hard and drain the joy out of life, seeing my adopted town spread out before me always gives me a sense of wonder and hope. All the lives that have been lived here, are being lived here, weaving into the rich, colourful tapestry that is Edinburgh. I may feel on the fringe of it all at times, but there’s no place I’d rather live.

Aaand, back in the room. I eventually shifted my butt and toodled over the hill down to Dunsapie Loch, where much to my surprise, a heron was busy fishing on the road side of the loch (they usually stay on the far side, well away from people). I’ll leave you with the view over to Fife as I headed down and the heron doing his best to ignore me.

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.

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!

I heard the news, oh boy!

I wasn’t surprised when a cousin phoned me on Tuesday afternoon, “Bet you’re feeling happy now!”,”Oh? Why’s that, then?” I replied obtusely. “The Fringe, it’s on!”,”No. The International Festival is kinda on”, “That’s not the Fringe?” And so it went on, I deflated his bubble of eagerness slowly and with a smug sense of superiority (dumb of me, I know, but I don’t reckon he had an inkling of it). I’d read about it on the BBC website after checking the weather forecast and knew that at least one person I know would confuse the two or just see the headline and assume!

An official statement from the Fringe Society was issued the following day. Yes, there’ll be a Fringe of sorts in 2021, it’ll run from 6th to 30th August; shows and venues can register to participate from early May right up to the end of the Fringe; tickets will go on sale early summer (vague as it’s hard to tell how quickly things will get moving just now?). As the path out of Covid restrictions is like a staircase at Hogwarts, the Fringe Society can not know for certain at this point what forms the Fringe will take but they are trying to prepare for most scenarios (good luck with that!). Following the public health guidance will be tricky to navigate and will make many of the usual venues unfeasible and/or unviable.

Well, one way round it is to do what creatives have been doing this last year – go online. This year the Fringe Society are introducing the Fringe Player, available for use by all registered Fringe shows, will it be all singing and dancing, with bells on? Let’s hope so. No doubt there’ll be some glitches and the odd oversight to contend with, fingers crossed not too many. The Fringe Player will have the bonus of making the shows on it available to a world-wide audience rather than just the folk who had made it to Edinburgh. Performers who haven’t already been online this year will get a chance of going global! Fringe-goers who are feeling a tad anxious of going back out and mingling in crowds will be able watch shows online at home without the expense of travel, hotels and expensive drinks! Mind, this is all assuming that the Fringe-goer is au fait with the online world and has adequate access to it.

Of course, my cousin wasn’t the only one to miscontrue the news on Tuesday; the whooping, emojis and tagging of friends on Facebook on Tuesday, well, pardon me, but I don’t think they’re all fans of the International Festival. There was the usual vitriol online which always happens here when the word Festival is mentioned; again, I don’t reckon they spotted the word International and just assumed Fringe. When the Fringe news did break the following day, the local rag focused on how much local businesses looked forwarded to and needed the Fringe, rather ignoring all the part that online content was being encouraged. Well! The very idea of a busy, bustling Edinburgh incensed the locals! September Lockdown!! Covid Soup!! Why, oh why, can’t they leave it one more year?! And at the other end of the scale – gleeful emojis and promises to meet up to see a show and get hammered. Everyone and their aunty has been adding their tuppenceworth on Facebook. And my opinion?

I think plenty of acts will use the new Fringe Player and won’t bother with in-person shows. Yes, they are dying to get out there and perform in front of people, but all the uncertainties and risk of cancellation will weigh heavy, nevermind the expense! And there is the time constraint on companies organising everything in time for August. Hearts may be willing but heads and wallets may have to decide no. Will people come to Edinburgh in droves? I reckon anyone booking hotel rooms for an August stay in Edinburgh expecting a “Fringe Experience” will be a tad disappointed! Duh! Would I be crediting people with too much sense if I thought they’d save the trip for another year? Oh, by all means, come to Edinburgh, see the sights (we have plenty) just be aware you may need to access shows online.

I have typed this up on Sunday 18th April, things may look different in a few days. The above thoughts will no doubt be revised as things become clearer. We have the tapestry canvas and lots of threads but are unsure what the actual design is yet.

Toodle pip!

Escapee egg terrorises walker!

Winter came back this week with below zero temperatures every morning and tonight Edinburgh has a forecast of snow! There have been a few fierce flurries so far. Come on, snowflakes! I intend to be up early and am expecting the Park to look pretty enough for a picture or two. I’ve been trying hard to get up and out at a reasonable time this last week. It’s definitely the case that morning walkers are friendlier, I found that the earlier the hour the more eye contact and friendly greetings. Climbing high in the recent clear mornings has afforded me some amazing views…..

View from the Lang Rig looking across to the remains of the Camstane Quarries. In the distance to the left are the Forth Bridge and the new Queensferry Crossing can just be spotted.
Looking across from Whinny Hill to the Lang Rig and Arthur’s Seat. There’s only six walkers at this time in the morning!

There were plenty of remains from Easter Sunday shenanigans scattered around the slopes; broken pieces of egg shell, plain, painted, and this one, so beautiful decorated, there was a true artist at work here. Nothing of any the boiled innards though, the Park inhabitants had done a thorough job of clearing every edible morsel.

Then as I headed down Whinny Hill I spotted an egg that had survived the annual rolling event and is now living feral on the hillside….

The jackdaws are all busy sprucing up their accommodations, going back and forth from the crevices in the wall below the Queens Drive as the road starts down towards Powderhouse Corner. As soon as one peeks over the wall there’s usually a flurry of jacks taking off but I think they’re getting used to me now. I always bid them good day and tarry a while to enjoy their noisy banter and aerobatic skills. I think some folk wonder what on earth I’m looking at as they pass by, don’t reckon the jackdaws even register with them.

I’ll leave you with a view that quite surprised me, I’m referring to the thing between the two cranes, this was the first time I’ve actually noticed it . A new addition to the Edinburgh skyline, a part of the new St Andrew’s Quarter (previous St Andrew’s Shopping Centre).The locals have given it a variety of names. I’ll let you just ponder on that!!

a postcard from Edinburgh

Happy Easter from an eerily quiet Auld Reekie. It would usually be packed this weekend, the Grassmarket would be buzzing, the pubs full to overflowing, but, hey, the sun is shining and I have a packet of seriously delicious passion fruit truffle eggs.

For you, a few views…..

St Giles Cathedral and Walter Francis Douglas Scott (who?) the 5th Duke of Buccleuch and 7th Duke of Queensbury, apparently.
Victoria Street, looking up from the Grassmarket.
Victoria Street with Victoria Terrace above, it’s oh so quiet!
And back to the other end of St Giles and the Mercat Cross.

Of course, one place was hooching…. the Meadows. Everyone under thirty and their cousin turned up on Saturday afternoon. It’s just a shame they didn’t remember to leave only footprints when they left.

When the fun of wintry walks wears off….

January is marching on a pace, I myself, less so. It’s cold out there and has been quite miserable (Storm Christoph was not a pleasant chap even though we, in Edinburgh, only caught a glancing blow from him) with plenty of rain, sleet and snow, and now slushy slippiness underfoot. It’s one thing to slip on ice, another to slip on slush – a slip in slush leaves one very soggy! It adds insult to injury!

I’ve only been round Holyrood Park once this week and then it drizzled most of the way round, yuk. Crow Hill and Arthur’s Seat had low misty clouds swirling round them, but despite the cold and damp and rapidly darkening dusk there were people up near the summit!! Why?! My mind went back to Barry Ferns, he who climbed to the top to perform his free Fringe show every day for a number of Fringes, even in the worst of weathers just in case a reviewer turned up on the one day he gave it a miss. Yeah, he had a point.

Rather than battling the wintry elements I’ve been staying warm indoors listening to favourite Radio 4 bits. It started with Desert Island Discs, a friend had previously mentioned their enjoyment from delving through the back catalogue that’s now available, a few weeks later I found myself having a dig around (yes, that’s how long the idea took to percolate through my brain). There’s a lot to go through, though some of the older ones only have five or ten minutes extracts available, and I was so delighted to spot Vincent Price in the list – it was just a four minute clip!

One wallowy afternoon I listened to Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle, I’d missed it on Boxing Day, so glad I caught it. Well, Mr Gaiman does write a good tale and this one was dramatised with Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones) and Penelope Wilton (tons of stuff) playing the leads. Marvellous it was! Staying on the Neil Gaiman theme Anansi Boys was next up; this six part series was first on late night R4 over Christmas in 2017, I only caught about have of it at the time but huzzah, Anansi Boys was repeated this Christmas, thereby making it also available to binge at a more reasonable hour online. Yay!

Anansi Boys is a great read but this radio dramatisation over 197 minutes is definitely one time I’d recommend the audio version over the book! It’s a feast for the ears, don’t have it on whilst doing chores, it’s one for wallowing on the sofa or soaking in a long hot bath. This is the fifth time Dirk Maggs has dramatised a Neil Gaiman book for Radio 4, he knows what he’s doing and he has the cast to do it justice. Just the Anansi boys themselves are a pleasure to listen to, Anansi is played by Lenny Henry (which is quite fitting as it was a conversation with him that gave Gaiman the idea, also Henry helped him with the Caribbean dialect and syntax in the book), Spider is played by Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Misfits) and Fat Charlie is Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm in Game of Thrones). Jacob Anderson sings a song he composed himself for the show, and he plays it on a ukulele, yay, my man!

Oh cripes, I did not realise how late it is, very. I did pause to watch the new Russell T Davies series It’s A Sin (great first episode) and then later The Graham Norton Show. I shall leave you with another snowman I suspect of malevolent intent…..

He’s just waiting for back up to arrive, then they’ll storm the castle!

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!

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!

They’re baaaaack!

Yes, indeed, the uni students arrived in droves today. Well, in cars, with anxious parents trying to figure out where to go. I noticed at the halls, where once a very handy Homebase stood, a big sign saying “10 minute drop-off time”, i.e. throw your precious darling and their possessions oot the car and go! Mind, some will probably have been glad for a reason to get rid of smothering parents quickly.

My afternoon walk took me past the halls on Holyrood Road, up the Pleasance and left along Holyrood Park Road, so plenty of fresh new students around. After that my wanderings took me along the Innocent Railway, Bingham (I only know that from a sign), out to near the new Royal Infirmary, returning past Craigmillar Castle, through the woods and back up Old Dalkeith Road. A very pleasant couple of hours, it’s been a warm and balmy day (and another couple are forecast, yay).

It will be interesting to see how the students behave with all the Covid restrictions. Will they adhere, or be like students? I do have some sympathy for them, especially the first years; this should one of the most exciting and wild times of their lives. God, yeah, poor bastards, not much of a Freshers Week to look forward to! They should be mixing and mingling, making lots of new friends – this is the worst year ever to start uni. I shall strive to be tolerant when they clutter up road crossings and dawdle in hordes across pavements. At least the council has widened a lot of pavements, maybe it will prove to be useful after all.

Oh, and I’ve noticed that The Auld Hoose has put a teaser up on Facebook, looks like they’ll be re-opening very soon, they know their main demographic! There’ll be quite a number of pubs that’ll be well down on how much they would usually take from students in the few weeks of autumn term. There’ll also be quite a few locals who will enjoy the lack of student pub crawls. Again, I do feel sorry for the first years!

Anyhoos, it’s very late. My bed isn’t just calling to me any more, it’s tutting, most aggrieved at it’s emptiness. I shall leave you with two pics taken on my walk today.

The other castle in Edinburgh, Craigmillar Castle – a castle for your inner child!
Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park from Craigmillar way. That’s Salisbury Crags to the left of the photo.