A windy day even before the sprouts!

Hello, my fine friends! I hope you had a lovely Christmas, or few days, depending how you roll. So did I rise at 9? Was Arthur’s Seat busy? Not quite and not at all, but I did make it!

See, there I am!

Right at the very top was a group of Japanese and Aussie students who wanted a photo taking, so I offered my services in return for a photo of myself. It was extremely windy up there, I was almost blown off the trig point! Luckily for me a lady was stood next to it and I managed to brace my leg against her arm when a gust tried to tug me off (she was very understanding, phew!). This was the best photo out the few snapped. At the time I just trusted that there’d be something useable taken, said my thank yous and headed down to calmer levels. As it’s not the most exciting pic I’ve funked it up on my Facebook, a collage of alien vistas, well, its nearly Dr Who time again.

Speaking of Dr Who, I felt like the Face of Boe on Christmas Day! Some clever clogs rigged up a large screen in a corner of the lounge at mater’s, so that they could include me in the family party by Skype – to the extent of making me join in Charades and quizzes where they’d hold up the question cards to the screen for me to take a proper turn in a team! I did serenade them with a few Christmas tunes on my ukulele while they ate. I’d already eaten a rather good Christmas lunch with a slice of my wonderful cake to follow. Bet my cake was better than theirs!

I shall love you and leave you with Me & My Christmas Lunch …

Have yourselves your own kinda Christmas!!

The old grandmother clock has just chimed twelve – Happy Christmas to one and all! I’ll have to head to bed soon, if I want to get up Arthur’s Seat first thing. Yes, first thing, no really, first thing, about 9am-ish. I’ve never been up there on Christmas Day, wonder how busy it might be?

Earlier this evening I watched the magnificent The Legend of Moby Dick Whittington, this year’s annual Christmas living room adventure by the Sleeping Trees. What a treat! And it’s not just me saying that, it’s getting great reviews – including in the New York Times! My sides almost split on first sighting the whale, ’twas a wondrous sight indeed! Pinnochio makes a cameo appearance, well, it is a mashup.

You’re encouraged to join in (well, kids are, small or big) speaking whale, making your own boat out of whats around you – I did, but it was immediately commandeered by an owl and a pussycat who installed their own captain, some dozey sheep! Moby Dick Whittington is still available to watch in a number of countries up until the 31st December for a very reasonable price and you can watch it again and again and again before the 31st ends (on the same device). If you’ve had a crappy year and need some warm, daft silliness, look no further!

I’ll leave you with a couple of pics I dug up from a Christmas Past, when my good friend Humphrey visited. Things got a little silly ……..

I was the King of the Castle!!
after six or seven eggnogs

So it’s Crimble ร  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 Blรคtter! 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!

2020 still has a few surprises…….

Fourteen days into December and we’re still allowed the five days around Christmas to see family. In just over a weeks time I’ll be heading to deepest, darkest Yorkshire with presents and Christmas cheer (and maybe some cider from the Jolly Judge!). Sorry, but I’m still can’t shake the feeling that the Sturgeon will do something stupid. Of course she won’t at this late stage …… or would she?!

Hands up if you’ve heard of thundersnow, I hadn’t at the start of this month but in the early hours of the 4th it got up close and personal with the residents of Edinburgh. Some folk phoned the police thinking they’d heard explosions, it even managed to set off some car alarms! Roused from my slumber, I couldn’t figure out if it was extremely long thunder or a very heavy truck crawling slowly up the road – Facebook provided the answer in the morning. Apparently it’s a phenomenon that happens when thunder and lightning mix with a heavy snowstorm, pretty rare in the UK but hey, it’s 2020, this would be the year for thundersnow to put in an appearance!

The following night was rather mental too, no thundersnow but hailstones like I’ve never heard before. You know the sound of heavy rain on outside of a little tent that you’re lying in, praying you’ll make it til morning? That’s how bad the weather sounded inside my little tenement flat. It started around 1am, I wasn’t long tucked up after more episodes than I’d intended of Lucifer series 3 (well, he is very more-ish); I ended up getting back up to watch it awhile from my lounge window. It can be quite mesmerising watching a hailstorm.

On the Sunday at dusk I tottled off to Portobello beach again, Now I don’t know if there was a connection with the previous recent weather but there’d been a tremendous amount of debris and driftwood brought up onto the beach (including an odd tree stump lying here and there). The locals had been busy and right along the length of the beach were various forms created from the driftwood, and, of course, a number of small fires surrounded by friends chatting away into the darkening night.

this structure was much closer to the shoreline than most so I couldn’t resist taking a pic in the gathering gloom

Strictly Come Dancing is nearing it’s end now and I’m pleased to say Bill Bailey is still in as a contender in the Final this weekend! He won’t win, that should be Hrvy or Maisie (should, they are the best dancers but as the Final is purely on the public vote it comes down to popularity rather than a flawless performance) but it’s great that he’s made it this far. He deserves it after bringing metal to Strictly! Oh yes, on Saturday night his second dance was a tango to Enter Sandman by Metallica!! (It was a pretty good rendition by the house band) And a nice bit of trivia, the song (Won’t You Come Home) Bill Bailey that Bill and Oti did a Charleston to was where Bill took his name from after a teacher kept singing it at school – his real name is Mark.

I really must mention our very own furry Esther Williams, she’s really wow-ing the fans now. Our neighbourhood otter was taking a breather on the rocks at the edge of Dunsapie Loch just feet away from folk all stunned to see her so close (ok, yes, I was fairly amazed myself when I saw how chilled she was at the close proximity to people). Even when she went back in, she swam along the bank, diving down every couple of minutes, stunning! I must admit I thought otters had little stubby noses but this pic shows otherwise. Honestly, it is the otter and not a strange looking dog!

Just a smattering….

Wow! This morning Edinburgh awoke to a smattering of snow! Most of it was gone by midday (as is usual here) but it was still about on the hillsides and well-insulated rooftops. The paths around Holyrood Park were a tad on the slippy side, so folk were having to choose between sliding on the path or in the surrounding mud. It all made for some rather cautious walking!

Mind, the longer effort was worth it for the view of Dunsapie Loch, still as a millpond, with a perfect reflection of Crow Hill and Arthur’s Seat in it…….

I was a bit disappointed the otter wasn’t around but just when I’d reached the other end of the Loch, I looked and saw that she had appeared. Yes, I trooped back round to see her! I couldn’t help myself, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to watch an otter blithely swimming and diving about in the wild. She’s gorgeous and she knows it.

Speaking of gorgeous, Logan’s Close have announced on Facebook that they’re intending to record their debut album next year. Oh yay! A whole album of rich musical gorgeousness, can’t wait!! In the meantime, they’ve come up with a line of sexy, stylish T-shirts and bags for the fans (about time!); personally, I think they should do badges too – yes, I do need badges, preferably not stinking, mind ๐Ÿ˜Š

Toodle pip!

December in the Time of Covid

Ah, the first of December, the day it’s acceptable to put up something Christmassy and not before!! The fireplace, hearth and mantel, has been cleared and cleaned, my peace lily is holidaying in the kitchen and this year’s advent calendar now has pride of place. This afternoon I trotted along to St John’s Church at the corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road to check out this year’s Cards For Good Causes.

It’s a marvellous institution, been going for years, from October to December pop-up shops pop up all over the UK in places like churches, libraries, community centres, town halls and the like, mainly run by volunteers, selling Christmas cards for over twenty five charities. That is, twenty five national charities and then any local charities, like hospices. Cards For Good Causes is a not-for-profit organisation so all the proceeds after the overheads goes to the charities (and yes, the money goes to the specific charity for each pack of cards), last year it was 70p in every ยฃ1, which is way better than the charity cut from the so-called charity cards from some high street retailers!

St John’s Church

Of course, you can buy the cards at the charity shops themselves but I enjoy perusing all that’s on offer from the various charities then I make my choices – something sweet and cute, something more sombre. At the end next to the till they have Chrustmas paraphernalia, wrapping paper, tags, decorations, gifts for sale (the profits from these help to meet some of the running costs of the pop-up shops). Okay, so I would usually have already been along before now to have a peek at what was on offer, but, well, with all the social distancing measures I feel disinclined to go earlier, I wondered what changes they would have had to make, actually not a lot (besides the obvious hand sanitiser and screen at the till). There’s been a doorbell installed to buzz for entry, then one heads down the centre aisle to go one way up the side aisle where the cards are displayed back up to the till and exit side door. One obvious problem with this is some folk (erm, like me) would usually wander down the row seeing what there was before walking back up and picking out their choices; luckily for me, there was no one else there for a wee while so I was able to go back and forth a bit.

Of course, this being 2020, I’m still not definite where I’ll actually be for Christmas. The Powers That Be are currently saying the nation will have a five day window for family Christmases, but this is only the first of the month, with all their constant rule-changing I’m not convinced they’ll still be saying the same thing in twenty days time!!

I shall leave you with a lovely picture from a late afternoon stroll along Portobello Prom just last week. I say late afternoon, it was round about half past five and the moon was well up, I was quite surprised how many people were about on the beach and the Prom, but then, we’re not to meet indoors, so…..

Strictly 2020 for the fans

Yay, even in this Covid-ridden year Strictly Come Dancing is back on our telly screens, albeit with fewer contestants and all very distanced. I’m certainly not missing the audience whooping and clapping at every little thing, maybe if something is extraordinarily amazing that’s fine, but otherwise I wish they’d just contain themselves until the end of each dance. There’s been a very limited audience in the studio but with the second lockdown even that was prohibited. The last few shows have had the competing couples sat at the little cabaret-style tables to replace the missing audience, I like it.

This year Strictly started with twelve couples rather than fifteen, sadly one couple has had to drop out as one of the pair had a positive corona virus test (there’s lots of careful bubbling and testing going on). There’s only three judges instead of four because Bruno is staying in America to do Dancing With The Stars again (previous years he was flying back and forth every week!) Last weekend another judge, Motsi, was away as she is currently self-isolating after a necessary visit to Germany; on the bright side of that, Anton Du Beke has been a marvellous stand-in for her. In fact I reckon he should stay on after Motsi’s return, so getting back to a full quota of judges. To be honest, I’ve never cared for him much but as a judge he’s really shone; being knocked out in the very first dance-off (I knew he’d be first out, that Jacqui Smith was just bad) turned out just fine!

Every year I seem to know fewer of the contestants, many moan on social media about “z listers” on the show, meaning they haven’t heard of them, but in actual fact I would say that’s a good thing as it indicates how diverse the celebrities are and there’s someone for everyone. I don’t watch morning tv, chat shows (Graham Norton is my one exception), the news or any of the soaps and I have little interest in sports; that right there precludes me from recognising over half the contestants. You-tubers, vloggers, Radio 1 dj’s, they just aren’t on my radar – damn it, yes, that’s a younger generation’s game (I’m not old, really, I’m not). This year I only know two contestants well – Bill Bailey (as previously mentioned) and Caroline Quentin, both of whom I’ve loved for years; I did recognise Clara Amfo (Radio 1) but couldn’t place her, until a repeat of Richard Osman’s House of Games on Dave, ahha, yeah, she’s fun, I like her.

So, Bill Bailey, that’s the Older Gent and Comic categories both ticked off; both in one package together and the masses just think “oh, the funny turn, he’ll be hamming it up to get laughs and hopefully votes, ’cause God knows, he’ll be rubbish!” Fair enough, that has happened in previous years, but this is Bill Bailey we’re talking about. Oo, my ears pricked up on hearing he was taking part, his benign, bewildered smile and laidback manner would belie the fact that he is intelligent, meticulous and competitive. Of course, his musical skills would not necessarily translate into dancing ability, as Strictly fans will be aware from previous series. Fear not, his learning skills are as quick as his wits; his inquisitive nature has seen him research each dance style to gain a better understanding of it, he’s nothing if not thorough!

Okay, so I wrote the above four days, it was very late so I took a break. Honestly, I did mean to finish it the next morning, best laid plans. Yay, Bill is still in but Caroline left this evening, it was the dreaded cha cha cha that did for her. Most celebrities find it difficult and it’s almost like a death knell for anyone over forty. Luckily Bill got it out of the way in the very first week when no one goes out, mind, he’s got the jive this week, it’ll need every bit of stamina he’s got! But Bill has something besides his musicality that will have been a great asset – a strong core. Bill loves paddleboarding, does it whenever wherever he can, and while it’s low impact it is a good workout for a body, upper, core and legs. Strong leg muscles will have made his dance training much less of a shock to his system than it usually is to middle-aged celebrities.

His posture even in week two for the quickstep was really good, he was so light on his feet and precise too! Week three, movie week, saw Bill and Oti coming second on the leader board with their paso doble to the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It was a tad magnificent. A good tune can really help win the public vote too, and Bill and Oti had another doozy up their sleeves for week four – only Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang! This was for their Couple’s Choice Street Dance, another second place. Gotta mention the seriously dapper pinstriped suits too, they looked as sharp as they danced!

This weekend Strictly would normally have been in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, a weekend every couple wants to reach and the ante is ratcheted up a notch. Of course, this being 2020, the Blackpool feeling was woven in Elstree and everyone was feeling it! So at least Caroline and Johannes made it to Blackpool Weekend, yay, for them. Bill and Oti wowed again with an American Smooth to I’ve Got You Under My Skin, but with the competition hotting up they came fifth equal on the leader board.

It’s a tough year to call the finalists, but, ah, no, it would the kiss of death, wouldn’t it? As long as it’s great dancing and stunning outfits I’m one happy moose.

Night all ๐Ÿ’›

Let’s talk about Bill

Last post I mentioned Bill Bailey and the place he holds in my Happy box, which got me remembering all the other great stuff I’ve seen him do. Really, he’s popped up more times than I would have guessed off the cuff. So here’s a potted history of me and Mr Bailey……..

Apparently he first came up to the Fringe in 1994 as part of a two man show, going solo the following year, then, third time lucky he was nominated for a Perrier 1996 (not so lucky that he won but hey). This was around the time I began to really embrace the Fringe, I didn’t see him perform but I was aware of him. Oh yeah, by 1999 Bud and I were fans, we were yelping with delight when he turned up in the tv comedy sitcom Spaced as the owner of a comic book store!

2000 saw Bill on the telly again as Manny Bianco in the totally and utterly brilliant Black Books. Not for everyone, mind, but my fancy was well tickled by it. Bill, Tamsin Greig and Dylan Moran were great together, usually stuck bickering in Bernard Black’s (Moran) bookshop (in three series very little took place outside of the shop and it’s living space behind). Mind you, I don’t think Dylan Moran was stretching himself much – from what I’ve heard from friends (have I ever mentioned our Fringe game, Meringue, and its origin?).

In 2002 Bill became one of the team captains of my favourite tv panel show at the time Never Mind the Buzzcocks battling against Phil Jupitus’ team, presided over by quiz master Mark Lamarr. Oh, that was great entertainment, if at times a tad cruel to some of the guest panellists. Lamarr actually became less caustic with his humour as time went on, his teddy boy solid as a board quiff soften too. Then Lamarr left and after a series with guest presenters youngster Simon Amstell took over the chair; it was like the humour of early NMTB again but meaner, Amstell obviously wanted to make his mark but his needling and determination to get a rise out of his victims just got annoying at times. In 2008 after a second series with the new chair and with eleven series under his belt, Bill took his leave of the show; I’ve read that Bill revised his attitudes to comedy around this time, “cruel” comedy was shown the door.

Meanwhile, when not filming series of NMTB, Bill was back at the Fringe. In 2003 he brought us not only his new show Part Troll but he also acted in Guy Masterson’s all-star cast production of 12 Angry Men. Bud and I saw and thoroughly enjoyed both (mind, that “all-star” thing seemed to mean stand-up comedians). To our delight two years later he trod the boards again in The Odd Couple with Alan Davies as the other half (another Guy Masterson production). That was, of course, the first time we saw Bill’s band, not listed in the Fringe programme just on the Gilded Balloon’s own.

Those are my stand out BB moments, since then he’s acted on the big and small screen (oo yeah, the Dr Who Christmas Special in 2011); there’s the guesting on panel shows and he’s presented various programmes on topics from baboons to orchestras; tours around the world, books, radio shows, and a load other stuff!! A man of many talents, indeed. Just last month he published a new book Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to Happiness, that’s so on my Christmas list! Oh, and last month he also joined this year’s Strictly Come Dancing!! Oh yay, another excuse to talk about Strictly. I suspect my UK readers knew that was coming ๐Ÿ˜Š.

Toodle oo, chaps.

Happy?!

In 2019 the loveliest man to grace a Fringe stage was back again with his new show Aidan Goatley: Happy Britain Part I, naturally I went along. Happy Britain? He told how he came up with an idea of going to the centre of every county in the UK and asking the first person he met, “What makes you happy?” Part I? Well, you know, life, best laid plans, et al, there was to be a Part II this year, and a book too! God only knows when that’s gonna happen now!! Mind you, his wife is a vicar so she could make enquiries!

The show was as good as expected – that being an engaging, charming, thoroughly entertaining hour that went by way too quickly for my liking. I could have happily sat another hour in that state of warm, fuzzy cheeriness (oh and the room did have good air conditioning – a bonus). The pic is from Mr Goatley’s bit in the Fringe programme. I think his attire may be a reference to Arthur Dent in HHGTTG, I seem to vaguely remember something, but I could have dreamt it.

Some time later I found myself musing on Aidan’s question, indeed, what made me happy, really happy? Where was my happy place? Could I answer that without resorting to flippancy? You see, though I always do my best to present myself as a jovial and happy-go-lucky chap, I am no stranger to melancholy; I knew I’d been slowly sinking into the doldrums for some time, my spark wasn’t very sparky anymore, more like an ember. Oh sure, Edinburgh in August (when there’s a Fringe on!) but what about the rest of it? I mulled over it for some time, if I could figure out the true honest answer could I use it as a compass to lead myself out of the doldrums on to firmer ground?

Actually, it’s the reason why I like the Fringe so much, it’s that blissed out fuzziness of witnessing a great feelgood show (usually accompanied by a goofy smile). It’s sitting listening to Aidan’s stories, it’s watching an hour of surreal sketches about three sperm, it’s the fun of watching a troup of actors allowing themselves to be dictated to by a roulette wheel of absurd scenarios.

And it’s being at a Logan’s Close gig, any time of the year. Oh yeah, there’s my Happy. No wonder this year’s been hard – I haven’t seen them since January! And on bands, one of my most memorable happy times was at the Fringe in 2005, late night in the Debating Hall at Teviot watching Bill Bailey’s band Beergut 100. The sheer exuberance of the band and the crowd was intoxicating, and when Kevin Eldon sang a seriously punked up The sun’ll come out tomorrow oh my heartses! The room was a big sweaty blob of happy!

As a young moose I used to daydream, as so many do, about being a great performer, acting or singing, both, I’d be amazing!! Once we get past the time of when our dreams were meant to somehow be happening (with no effort from ourselves), it’s woulda, coulda, shoulda. Then, one night, I don’t remember when, who or where, but I do remember having an epiphany, I was Audience – being a great audience is important, without an audience what is a show? I shouldn’t be looking up wishing I was the one on the stage, that’s not me; I’m the one giving my undivided attention, watching, listening, absorbing the atmosphere; I’m the one whooping and cheering and clapping, showing my appreciation to the performers.

Oo, that got a bit profound there! Thinking on it, I know it changed my perspective and my being. Would recognising my Happy bring on another change? Then 2020 came along and the whole world has been spun off kilter. Will Aidan ever get to do his Part Deux? Will hugging ever come back? There’s a great deal of Happy in hugging.

Bonne nuit, mes amis ๐Ÿ’›

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.