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.

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!

Happy Blog Day to me!!

Today it’s four years since my first blog post, yay! Who’d’ve thunk it! This will be my 218th post, so that’s one and a tinsy bit a week. Outside it’s a gloriously sunny day, I fully intend to enjoy some sun today, yesterday afternoon was spent wrapping Christmas presents which takes time to do properly (I pride myself on my gift-wrapping skills, friends are always saying how immaculate my presents look). Mind, this lot may not look their best once transported down to deepest Yorkshire, where I shall be heading in the near future. At Christmastime I usually leave the wrapping of presents until I’m wherever I’m spending it but hey, what’s been usual about this year?! I was so engrossed with planning, well, just thinking about all the things I need to do, what to take, who’ll water my plants that time slid by. Half nine at night was when I went wandering…..

I decided to head to Portobello Beach, brrrr, it was rather chilly. The wind was blowing down from the north so any daytime warmth was gone, not that a bit of cold will send the locals packing, oh no. I counted thirty, yes, thirty beach fires (it is a long beach and the tide was heading out). There were thirty beach fires, two groups had windbreaks, a smart idea, and there were two little groups with no beach fires or windbreaks, they must have been bloody freezing sitting on the sand! Don’t judge me that I counted them, I like a bit of precision, “a lot” wouldn’t have cut it for me. I would’ve taken a photo but it would’ve been red blobs surrounded by darkness.

Oo, that reminds me, a few evenings ago I went out to check how the bats are doing up at Dunsapie Loch. They’re doing very well! It had been a warmish day with little wind, so I reckoned there’d be plenty food on the wing for them. Indeed, and as the bats up there come out relatively early I could really enjoy watching them. The difference in watching the bats at Dunsapie rather than St Margaret’s Loch is like an action movie with long shots where you can see the action played out, as opposed to one with so many cuts between cameras you don’t have a scoobies what’s going on. Anyhoo, that’s not actually what I was reminded of, walking back down the Queens Drive I saw a dark figure approaching me in the gloom, at a low level was a green glowing thing moving at the same speed. Of course, I knew it was one of those dog collars but really I could not make out any dog at all! Ah, finally when we passed by each other – a black labrador, it was darker than it’s surrounding, which made me think of the aliens in Attack The Block, I picked up my pace.

It’s now over a week since Edinburgh Fringe announced that registration for shows would open in May. Since then the local press have said that Underbelly have decided their big purple cow will be summering in London this year at their new Wonderground. Underbelly are planning their own festival that will, and I quote “champion the spirit and quality of the Edinburgh Fringe”; indeed, they’re going to program a “Best of the Edinburgh Festival” season of performances. I can see the idea and why they’re marketing it this way, but also, it’s not Edinburgh, won’t be, ever. Oh, how the Facebook commentators went berserk! Underbelly are not well-liked by the stampy-feet local rag readers any time, it was all “Good riddance!”,”Cheerio”,”Don’t come back”. Erm, guys, Underbelly are still hoping to have some kind of Fringe presence in Edinburgh, it all depends on what the Sturgeon decides and how long that decision takes. See, England has given one metre as the social distancing necessary for venues, in Scotland it’s still two metres which is obviously not viable. If the fishwoman won’t change her mind or takes until midsummer to change it, well.

The Free Edinburgh Fringe Festival are looking at ways to put something on this year, the size of the venues they use are really, really not viable for two metre distancing, one metre would be tough in some of the rooms, we’re talking snug places! At least they’re probably well placed to be online as they’ve had plenty of experience this last year. I saw something about maybe putting the online shows on the big screen at the Pear Tree, I assume that’s the one in the beer garden, in which case there does also happen to be a big screen in the beer garden at the Three Sisters.

Ho hum. Who knows what the next month will throw up? Enough of this doom and gloom, I’m going to take me out into the sunshine. Oh, and I need to get milk on my way home.

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!!

What day is it?!

It’s been a while, I know, sorry, I’ve been distracted, befuddled, just downright apathetic. Another annual trip to the old country has gone by the wayside, Mothering Sunday. I spoke to mater in the morning over the phone, then went and snoozed some more; I wasn’t expecting to be called again, certainly not a WhatsApp video call, hadn’t even done my ablutions! In fact I didn’t step a single hoof outside that day, no excuse, shameful.

I really should do better. Ideas for blog posts have come, been scribbled down, looked at a day or two later and tossed out. I crawl to bed late, determining to do better on the morrow, then do the same thing twenty four hours later. How are you doing, dear reader? Have you managed to keep your pecker up? Does life in your area seem like an extended Twilight Zone episode? Have you embraced the new, the Zoom, taken it all in your stride? Have you kept your focus, or gone rather fuzzy like me? Have you had a hug today?

Ho hum. The sky is blue outside, the forecast promises a clear sunset, I shall away to the park and leave you with pictures taken the last time I ventured there (meant to be shared with you last week).

See, this is just not right! Snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils in the same photo?! Inconceivable!
Wishing I’d headed up the way, tougher but probably less muddy than Hunter’s Bog!
I always find myself stopping to admire these trees. Every time! Can’t help it.

So I may have taken a photo or two in the snow……

Can’t believe a week ago I was frolicking in the snow (and drawing hearts for photos not shared on Valentine’s Day, doh!)

Messing about in Dunbar Close Garden, a quiet nook, before heading off to the Park

Not a smidge of snow left in town now, just the Pentlands south of the town and the hills over the Forth in Fife have a smattering left. It’s a whole ten degrees warmer than this time last week! Last Saturday Dunsapie Loch was so solidly frozen that someone had gone out on it and taken the red sledge previously frozen there. Oh yeah, and there were clear markings that someone had been ice skating on St Margaret’s Loch, not sure I would have been so brave but I wish I’d seen it!

Right into the dark of Saturday evening students were still hanging out, a few still sledging on whatever remnants were even slightly viable. A number had obviously made beer runs and were heading back up to the Crags for some après-sledge! Whilst it had been a glorious sunset on the Friday evening (well worth taking in with a beer), the following evening wasn’t as clear, but I suppose Saturday night is still Saturday night and students will be students.

Ever hopeful even with only a slither of sledge left! Okay, so this bit of the Park is called Powderhouse Corner aka Students Meet. Friday evening sunset from Powderhouse Corner.

By Sunday afternoon the temperature was up above freezing and the snow starting to vanish away. Now that was a very clear evening, I was delighted to have Orion and his belt before me in the sky as I wound my way up round the Park on the Queen’s Drive. Can’t remember the last time I saw him, and I spotted the Big Dipper – they’re the only two constellations I know (oh, and the Southern Cross when I was down under). Dunsapie Loch was two thirds clear with the wind really choppying it up, the more sheltered end nearest the carpark was still very iced over. It was a beautiful evening walk, plenty of other folk had the same idea, and a few twinkling lights way up towards Arthur’s Seat denoted the hardiest of night strollers (one time it would be great to do).

Of course, there had to be one on watch, keeping an eye on everyone…….

Toodle pip!

Hello Darcy! (aka Beast from the East II)

As I’ve mentioned before, Edinburgh doesn’t get much snow, usually just for a morning then it’s gone. Just two months into this year and we’re already into a second bout of sledging! Okay, we doesn’t include me, unfortunately, my left hip is still a bit jippy so I’m watching everyone else going down any slope they can find, on anything they can find, yes, just about anything. The shops that are allowed to be open (Scotland is still majorly locked down) are all sold out of cheap tray sledges (so I was informed by a student holding a half-inched road diversion sign), they’re having to get creative! Best yesterday was a girl on a large two handled frying pan!

This was sunset on Monday in the Park, there’d been the odd swirl of snow but nothing major, tiny bits were still lying around from Christoph over a week before. Darcy was on her way – snow from the East, so that’s lots of lovely, dry, powdery snow. Yay! By Tuesday morning Edinburgh had a sparkly white covering, time to hit the Park again.

I noticed this little fellow in the trees near the Parliament.

Something a tad bigger must have made these meandering tracks on a frozen St Margaret’s Loch.

Heading up the road it was good to see that the Park Service had actually been round and cleared the snow from it (indeed, they cleared it again this morning). Mind you, walking on this snow has been fine so far, but tonight the temperature is to drop to around -6°C (about 21°F), it may be a bit hairier tomorrow! All the slopes that have been compacted down today will be super fast tomorrow, there may be a few tears and bruises before bedtime. I reckon quite a few will be sore and battered from today, but as I overheard one student say “This is the best Wednesday ever!” I think any bruises will be worn with pride as battle scars.

One chap had a large boiling pan with a cushion in it, yeah, that wasn’t a success. A friend of his had a large bin liner, now that was a success, it was surprising robust for such thin plastic. Certainly more robust than the washing basket that was already breaking apart after several goes and then completely lost its bottom, which was retrieved from halfway back up the hill. Another in the same group was using the two thirds remains of a tray sledge, he actually did reasonably well with it. Of course, there’s always various cardboard pieces and oven trays, one Aldi bag did ok, there was an Ikea bag but I didn’t see it tried out.

The pilfered road diversion sign went very fast, it did look to have been bent and shaped somewhat. An old hand shovel seemed a daring and somehow old-fashioned cobbled sledge. Today’s best was a camping ground sheet, yes, really. His mate helped wrap it around him then he hurtled off the side of St Leonard’s Crag (scarily steep). Wow! It looked scary, dangerous but somehow oddly safe, and very exhilarating!! Even when it completely spun round the chap was fine, cocooned inside. Genius.

Of course, there were plenty of sledges too. Some of the cheaper ones left shattered in park bins by the end of the day. There were also skiers and snowboarders around and about, they almost seemed quite dull compared with the antics of some of the sledgers. As I said, every reasonable and some rather unreasonable slopes have been playing host to young and not so young these last two days, a tonic for all who have ventured out! The snow could stay until Sunday morning as we’ll only get up to 2°C before then, after that the wind changes direction, brings rain and higher temperatures, and it’s back to normal winter weather for these parts. Bah!

I’ll leave you with two more pictures from Holyrood Park today. It’s possibly the most photographed sledge in the Park over the last two days…….

I so wish I could have been there and seen it when it happened!

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!

A Happy New Year To You

….. And all your kin! We’ve made it to 2021, woohoo, and I made it to the top of Arthur’s Seat and back down again without any serious mishaps. Never have I known it so treacherous before, a friend on Facebook joked that she’d like a helicopter to take her back down – if ever there was gonna be a serious accident requiring an airlift, then today was definitely in the running.

The snowfall from a few days ago wasn’t much but freezing temperatures and lots of feet compacting it down, then drizzly weather and more freezing! The pavements around Holyrood Park are like ice rinks, the road through looks deceptively fine in comparison, but as I and plenty of others know, its just out to give us a false sense of security, then, BAM!! All the well-trodden paths up the hillsides are now ice or compacted snow. The best way to get up to the top was definitely off piste……

So I went into the Park a much longer way round (but less icy), I totally avoided the scene of my fall, by walking through rough tussocky grass that I had to check didn’t conceal any deep holes. I avoided all the main routes upwards, instead heading up Nether Hill and veering to the right just before the final rocky climb up to the Seat, that was a scary part, it wasnt so much up as, up a bit, left, left, down a bit, left, up, up, right, no left, up, you get the picture! The last wee bit and the top were actually the easiest, least slippy bits. God, I was knackered, as is rather obvious here……

I spent a while just sitting near the top, sipping ginger liqueur from my hip flask and munching on a large slice of Yorkshire parkin (a bit like gingerbread but way better), enjoying the spectacle of all the jackdaws and crows having a fine time soaring above. Alas, I had to head down at some point. At least in our mutual terror folk were chatting to strangers as we’d pause, pondering where to put our feet next. Yes, there were definitely more smiles and encouraging “Happy New Year”s than usual. Staying off the main routes as much as I could, I realised how much more I know about the Park now thanks to all my summertime wanderings. I really am a lucky moose to have such amazing parkland close by, sometimes I forget.

I leave you with a pic of me having a wee rest in a pine tree on the way back down. Yes, in a pine tree! I can just let my legs hang and relax a while that way.

Toodle pip! And Happy New Year!