Beware the Ides of May!

I say this because the weather this last week or so has been darn lovely which, in my experience means the sunshine ration for Edinburgh will have run out by August! Brollies and rain macs will be must-haves at this year’s Fringe, I predict.

This coming Monday is Victoria Day, a little known public holiday in parts of Scotland; it’s celebrated on the last Monday before or on 24th May, which was Queen Victoria’s birthday (I just looked that up, I’ve only known it as usually the third Monday in May). I used to get it as a public holiday from work and in the further past we had the previous Friday off too, before they cut down on our public holidays – yes, I am a working moose, the bills don’t pay themselves, unfortunately!

It was a weekend to be off as most people are working and the kiddies are in school; Bud and I had some great camping trips with glorious weather. The Lake District being just down the road was a favoured destination. Beautiful scenery, good campsites and plenty of great pubs! Oh to be waking up in Great Langdale with the sun already shining and lambs gambolling about the place (those same lambs you could have quite happily barbecued at 4 in the morning when they did their own version of the dawn chorus!); then, later rounding off another perfect day with a drink or three at the Old Dungeon Ghyll’s Hikers Bar, a no-frills pub with good grub and well-kept ales (I could be wrong but I think they have been in the Good Beer Guide nearly, if not every year). And only a drunken stagger away from the campsite!

Over in the east County Durham and North Yorkshire, another favourite area for Bud and I to visit or use as a good stopover when heading south. Let’s face it that whole swathe across the north of England is bloody marvellous, scenery, great pubs and grub and lovely locals. One particularly sunny May we went to Beamish, if you’ve never been, go!! I’d wanted to visit for years but just never got round to it, one day I’ll have to go back and see what I missed last time – it’s awfully big, a full day and you still won’t have seen it all!

Heading south there’s Bishop Auckland, Barnard Castle, Richmond, Leyburn, to name a few old market towns worth a stop and wander around. Leyburn sits on the A684 which runs across to Kendal with plenty to enjoy in between. Leyburn is also a hop and a skip away from Middleham, which is very close to the Forbidden Corner, so good we went twice (a few years apart). The Forbidden Corner started out as a private folly, but then like Topsy, it growed and growed, now there’s grottos, towers, tunnels, chambers, a maze and beautiful gardens. But, and it’s a big butt, it will be full of children. If you have children this is the bestest place you could take them, but do microchip them first so they can be located when you lose sight of the little dears, and you will! This is why a May visit, on a weekday preferably, book for a visit straight after breakfast ahead of the coachloads of school trips, is great.

Ah, the sun is beckoning me to go oot and play. It teases Edinburgh with the prospect of a fine Meadows Fair in a couple of weeks but more on that little extravaganza later.

Toodle pip!

‘Allo Vera!

How I love the smell of gorse flowers in the evening! After a warm sunny day the heady perfume from all the gorse around Holyrood Park is quite intoxicating; it lingers into the twilight with the occasional whiff on the breeze. If you’re wondering what this heavenly scent is like just think suntan lotion with aloe vera. God, I love it, in fact one year I decided to attempt to bottle it!

I had pondered on the idea for a few years, so with a few old books on wine-making and Google to assist, I set out to capture this nectar of the gorse in alcoholic form. Did it work? Umm, if I ever tried again I would hold back with the raisins, whilst I get that they help with the sweetness it was too sherry-y for me which I put down to the raisins. Mind I still have a couple or three bottles of it! They do say try some of your endeavours young but lay some back to mature. There’s also a bottle of greengage wine from a few years ago, up there in the winerack, gathering dust, occasionally winking at me.

Anyway, yes, the last two evenings I strolled down to Holyrood Park to enjoy the scented evening air and a spot of bat-watching. My favourite place for this is St Margaret’s Loch, or the Bottom Pond as I just called it for years (halfway up the park is the Top Pond aka Dunsapie Loch). There may be other good places to see bats in the Park, probably near Duddingston Loch, but they might be creepier to walk home from in the dark! At dusk there are still plenty of folk in the area, some winding their way down from Arthur’s Seat or the Crags, others heading up (I do hope they have torches); St Anthony’s Chapel above St Margaret’s Loch always attracts a few.

A blackbird was blasting out his evensong as I approached the Loch yesterday. There was plenty of other snippets of birdsong which seemed to turn into disgruntled squarks and squabbles as everyone settled in for the evening. A few ducks flew off and the swans all settled down, no longer bothering to follow anyone walking by the lochside. And then the bats came out to play!

With such clear skies both evenings the bats were very visible at the start. I was making my way along the path on the hill side of the Loch when I saw a few bats skittering above the gorse bushes towards the end of the water. Oh my, there were loads, don’t think I’ve ever seen so many there before, a bumper year for bats? Once I see one bat that’s me for a long while, just standing, enchanted by them. A few folk walk past, some look decidedly in front trying to avoid eye contact with the weirdo standing staring into the gloom, whilst others notice the bats and often stop awhile too.

Just round through the trees to the end of the Loch and there’s another great spot to see them swooping all around you. The longer you stay still the closer the bats will come – you’re attracting insects and so too the bats! Two evenings ago a couple of American tourists stood awhile with me, the lady was worried by the old myth of bats flying into hair, but I explained the insect deal and assured her the bats wouldn’t land in her hair – unless she moved really suddenly at the wrong moment!

After a long while I headed back up the road side of the Loch; there are some great spots along this stretch, just where the trees clear by the water’s edge for seeing more bats. Then sadly, much as bat-watching is fun, the chill and darkness became apparent and time for home. Up on the hillsides in the Park random torchlights shine and snippets of music and chat waft down. Heading back into town the Cursed Earth (sorry,  Dynamic Earth to you guys, I called it that when it was being built and it stuck) looks like some giant malevolent bug.

I love that I live in a beautiful city but have this abundance of wildness on my doorstep 💛

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On the fringe of 2018

2018-01-02 22.21.19.jpg20180101_125146.jpg2018-01-01 22.50.59.jpgSo here we are in a new year, another Fringe to look forward to. Who will return? Who will come up for the first time? Will Barry Ferns return to do a This Arthur’s Seat Belongs to Lionel Ritchie show? Speaking of Arthur’s Seat, besides popping up to the top in August, it is a popular tradition on New Year’s Day to climb to the summit to celebrate the New Year – often with a tot of whisky or slug of champagne, after all it is thirsty work getting up there!

Once the breath has been caught, noses blown, a toast imbibed and the view thoroughly admired, it’s time for the photographic evidence that you were there. “Excuse me, but would you mind taking a photo of us?” is the question of the day in so many different accents from around the world, for a damp hilltop it’s very cosmopolitan! I take it many hoteliers or Trip Advisor must mention it as the number one thing to do on the 1st – at least it’s free!

We even had reasonable weather for most of the day this year, though it was very muddy underfoot, almost as slip slidy as ice. While going up gets quite arduous near the top, coming back down over slippery rocks and mud is a rather scarier for those of us with a touch of vertigo. A sturdy stick does help steady the nerves, or another tot of whisky!

So hopefully you’ll get to see a photo of yours truly at the top, another looking up at the hordes from lower down and the third looking over Edinburgh with a clear view of the Castle. Do let me know if they haven’t appeared. Cheers, m’dears!

 

 

Never babysit an anxious hound.

Really, don’t! Even in the night I’d be disturbed by my door opening as he checked I was still there. So no fringe shows, just walking and more walking. We did take a brief trip down to Portobello beach for a run on the sand followed by coffee at Miro’s on the Esplanade, ok, so we had cake too. Damn fine coffee, friendly table service, scrumptious sticky toffee cake, just a shame pooch wasn’t one for chilling and watching the world go by. Thankfully he went home this morning, yay.

So from paranoid pooches to good bears – I much prefer a Goodbear! Goodbear are a comedy duo, Henry Perryment and Joe Barnes who are now finely tuned to tweaking funny bones. This is the third year I’ve seen them at the Fringe and they just get better and better. This year the Apres Vie Hotel is the setting for their strange, often rather creepy, creations in sketches which twist in the most unexpected ways. It’s the twists that they do so well and they’re so charming too. I predict great things for both of them.

Also back was Aidan Goatley doing an updated version of his 2013 show Ten Films With My Dad, which was a free show at the Voodoo Rooms, next he moved to the room downstairs at Ciao Roma. TOP TIP – buy some of their icecream if you’re going to a show at Ciao Roma because i) it’s bloody roasting down there, and ii) it’s sooo good, I would recommend a scope of the sea buckthorn with a scope of the mango, heaven in a tub!

Last year Aidan moved on to the paying Fringe, which was ironic as I bought a ticket at the Half Price Hut for £4 – I always give a fiver at free fringe shows! He is an hour of joy and amusement at life’s foibles, there is an occasional slight rant, like last year’s about “street food” on which I am in total agreement with him. This year’s rant was about Avatar and again I find myself supporting his stance, quite obviously a man of intellect and taste. Highlight was his telling of going to Chicago with his Dad, with his synopsis of Escape to Victory a close second. He’s finished his Fringe run for this year, worth remembering his name for next year.

Let’s make this a trio of rib ticklers and mention Sleeping Trees, who have moved to Pleasance Dome this year, once again at the Movies: Mafia, Western and Sci-fi. The live score is superb and adds so much to the show. The physical and verbal comedy of these chaps is outstanding with some surrealism thrown in for good measure. They’re also doing Sleeping Trees and the Chocolate Factory again at the Pleasance Courtyard on Friday and Saturday evenings, it’s not in the Fringe Programme so almost feels like a cosy secret for the fans. Which reminds me I really should get a ticket!

 

Uke Hooting!

I did intend to write another post tonight but then I decided instead to go to the Kilderkin for the Uke Hoot. Now I’m home, it’s late, so just a quickie! Uke Hoot is a bunch of people who meet in a pub to play all sorts of tunes on ukuleles, it really is a hoot. I first came across this phenomenon a couple of years ago by happy accident.

Anyone can turn up uke in hand, you don’t have to be a great player, just enthusiastic, though be warned – they do tend to play everything at 100 miles an hour! No worries about the music, there is a large bag with all the song books and most songs had the little chord diagrams somewhere on the page.

Usually it’s on at the Kilderkin, down near the bottom of the Royal Mile, at 7.30 on a Wednesday, but as the Kilderkin will be using the side room as part of PBH’s Free Fringe, for the month of August Uke Hoot moves to the Blue Blazer, another fine real ale pub on the corner of Bread Street and Spittal Street (well worth a visit).

Witnessing the Uke Hoot would be almost like a free show itself, or if you’re in town and happen to have a ukulele about your person, do go along!

 

 

 

 

Who are you?

Day four suggests I identity my audience. Moose lovers! Edinburgh fringe-goers past, present and future, be you a fringer or fringee (though I’m not sure which are the performers and which the audience). If you like quirky, dark, slightly surreal, humorous, then I’m your moose. If you want gritty, social commentary, worthiness, sorry, but the Fringe is my escape from all that. I have been known to dip my toe in occasionally, like Henry Naylor’s last three works, all three were riveting and discomforting and I’m glad I went off piste for them.

As the time draws nearer I shall offer advice on how to sift your way through the programme and find those nuggets of gold. And maybe I might figure out how to show you some of my old fringe pics! Ho hum.

 

Please do not read this rubbish

Back in 1997 I went to an Edinburgh Fringe show called Marvin Hanglider -The Power of Negative Advertising. The blurb in the programme warned people not to see the show, not to waste their money on a ticket, it was rubbish. Needless to say he did pretty well, thanks to the contrariness of Fringe-goers.

I furnish you with this fact just to practice my blogging, indeed, you’ll hopefully get to see a photo of yours truly if I can follow the instructions right. A wee pic of me in a favourite spot, Dr Neil’s Garden by the side of Duddingston Loch. A peaceful bolthole about a half hour walk from the Pleasance Courtyard.

Ok, so no picture yet, apparently I have no media, but there is a photo there, honest, I just saved it like forty minutes ago when I started this post. Ho hum. It will be a pleasure for another time!