A seat with a view

As today (well, technically yesterday) was the third Saturday of NotFringe2020, I took myself up Arthur’s Seat to sit awhile and stare out over Edinburgh. I would have stood but the wind was scarily strong, so I hunkered down low to stop from being blown away. Why today? Barry Ferns, for some years this was the day of the big Gala performance (well, he and three other comedians he’d manage to persuade to walk up Arthur’s Seat), it seemed fitting to trot on up and read a bit of poetry.

I say trot, more of a trotting start, slowing to an amble, with more and more pauses “to admire the view” as I went higher and higher. Oo, I took a different route to my usual up near the top, quite daring of me in the high winds and blinding sunlight. The views today were great, so pics were in order,  at least one to prove I made it up there! It was difficult to judge which bit of Edinburgh was in the background but I got lucky – zoom in and to the side of my ear is McEwan Hall and the university area, a smidgen further and there’s George Square Gardens, further again the Meadows and Marchmont.

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And, of course, a panoramic shot from the castle far left, taking in the Forth, across the city to Edinburgh’s Disgrace on Calton Hill on the right.

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Toodle pip!

Halfway already?!

Aaand here we are at the halfway point (if you don’t include the preview days) of Not Fringe 2020. The sun is out, Fringers would be getting their second breath about now. Most shows here for the full run will have had one of the last three days off. Most chose the Monday, some Tuesday and a few are off Wednesday; Top Tip, if you’re ever coming to the Fringe for a three day visit, the start of the second week is not the best time to do it!

Yeah, Monday would not have been a good day to be off this year. It was horrible! It was gray all day, not a single ray of sunshine, the mist hung around keeping everything damp between the rain showers. Yeuch! Pity anyone out flyering in it, mind at least the flyered would be more inclined to go inside somewhere, anywhere out of the damp.

Tuesday wasn’t quite so bad, it was clearing and in actual fact it wasn’t cold outside, it just looks cold, all that gray! Well, I say it wasn’t cold, it wasn’t to some, some walk round like it’s a lovely summer’s day while others seem to be dressed for wintertime. Yesterday was another step up in the weather, today is the best it’s gonna be for a while as tomorrow Storm Ellen is due to turn up and send the temperature down again, boo!

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know this has often been a Fringing day for me, today and tomorrow, depending on how many daytime shows were earmarked (oh, and shows are often cheaper Mon-Thurs, always a consideration). Indeed, two years ago I declared it to be my Best Fringe Thursday Ever!! (I would do a pingback but I’ve forgotten how) I think I missed the memory on Facebook as today was the 16th in 2018. No wonder I can’t keep up with which day of the week it is! Fringe memories go by the day of the week not dates in the month. Last night, for example, I shared a photo memory of the last time I saw Barry Ferns atop Arthur’s Seat, which was a Saturday, I ummed about whether I should wait to share it again for this Saturday.

Here it is for those not on Facebook (more Fringe photos can be seen there, check me out Bruce T Moose, sorry, I don’t do instagram).

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Some trees are remarkably talented

Top Tip for fringe shows – film one performance of the run. Best to do it, oo, a third of the way through the Fringe, that way you’re nicely settled in, having fun with it, the mid-Fringe weariness hasn’t hit yet, you’re feelin’ good! Film it, one, for prosperity, and two, so that if there should be some huge catastrophe where live entertainment is banned, you’ll have something to show the fans (to remind them of happier times!).

Those wonderful Sleeping Trees did just that, so last night I enjoyed Sleeping Trees: Sci-Fi? for a second time. Mmm, when did I first see it, me thought, oo, turns out it was four years ago today! It was in Pleasance Two, so a good view and not too hot, one of the better venues. It’s a cracking show, in my diary I gave it five stars, quite right! Thoroughly deserved. At five o’clock in the afternoon it was after sleepy hour, which is just as well as there’s a lot going on and all at break-neck speed.

And it’s all done with brilliant musical accompaniment and punctuation! Sleeping Trees: Western had been great the year before but this score was even more intrinsic to the action. The drummer and keyboard player provide the perfect soundscape for a sci-fi tale of epic proportions, and they look to be really having fun (well, the drummer didn’t seem to mind being almost mauled at one point). The sound and lighting were spot on too, I do remember being impressed the first time, but possibly being more removed from it this time I noticed the overall production more (well, I know what I mean).

It’s standard Hollywood blockbuster fare: prologue, bad guy gets locked up, a child is taken faraway for safety; twenty years later, bad guy gets out, aaand I’m not giving any more of the plot – you may get to see it sometime. I’ll just say you won’t figure out how the hero Charlie Sprogg, a pig shit farmer, is going to save the day!

Sleeping Trees bring all their many talents to bear here, the writing, their physicality and vocal delivery, the attention to every detail. I am so happy to have had the opportunity to see this again. Now, I just need to see Sleeping Trees: Spy as I haven’t seen it yet, oh, and if there happens to be a recording of Sleeping Trees and the Chocolate Factory?!? Just sayin’.

Looking forward to what they’ll bring to town next year.

Toodle pip!

 

 

241 – Nice but no 42!

The thunder storm just couldn’t hold back any longer! The rain hammered down, the thunder and lightening went on for hours. Don’t reckon I’ve ever seen such a thunder storm over Edinburgh before. On an average 241 Tuesday night there would be plenty of folk about, plenty having to stand in queues in the torrential rain waiting for their next show! They hope it’ll be worth it, well, at least it was a cheap ticket – some shows won’t even be worth it at half price! They’ll sit listening to the rapturous applause at the end thinking, Huh? What? with soaked-through footwear, a still soggy jacket, knowing they’re about to go back out and get even soggier, all for something that barely raised a chuckle.

Okay, so I painted a pretty crappy picture there, but such can be the luck of the Fringe. Take, for example, the first two 241 shows Bud and I went to see. Two by Jim Cartwright, hmmm, remember my cautionary tale about April in Paris? Well, this was like the second time I saw that, all vitriol and plain meanness (I do intend to see One again one year, hopefully as it’s meant to be done). Later that same Sunday we went to see Rich Hall and Mike Wilmot – Pretzel Logic, hmmm, this came across as a self-indulgent wheeze, dreamt up late night in a bar and written on the back of a cigarette packet. Sorry but that’s how we both felt walking out of the Assembly Rooms at one in the morning. How could the brilliant Rich Hall do that to us? Oh yes, he was the bee’s knees to us, sure the show had it’s moments, all his, but not many. We decided it must all be Mike Wilmot’s fault for leading our hero astray!

The Monday was way better with five great shows through the day, faith restored! Since that year 241 Monday was usually a day off work to see five acts, until the year Bud was leaving Edinburgh when we made it six – well, we had to shift up Shakespeare For Breakfast from it’s usual slot. Oo, that was the day we saw Thom Tuck perform Scaramouche Jones (epic), there was an Aussie sponge called Bruce (gritty antipodean epic), yay, Sleeping Trees: Western (possibly my favourite of all their shows), Tom Neenan: Andromeda Paradox was fine (but not one of his best), ending appropriately with Max & Ivan: The End.

Some wonder how one can see and actually take in five shows in one day, well, sometimes the show after lunch may not totally recalled (Tip, don’t have a big, heavy lunch or you WILL doze in the next warm dark room you enter!). Looking back at all the 241 shows that I saw between 2002 and 2015 there are only six that I have absolutely no recall of whatsoever (I’m surprised there’s not a flicker for Opening Night of the Living Dead at C Cubed in 2009, hmmm, nope). I’m quite pleased with that, after all, it’s not necessarily all my fault I don’t recall them!

There are seven shows I would love to be able to unsee, nevermind not being worth half price! Two, I mentioned above, another two God, Inc and The Story of Funk I have spoken of before. They are my Top Four worst 241 shows, fifth place goes to Carnival of Souls a multi-media arty thing performed in the Cameo cinema 1. It was so not our thing, Bud would have happily left early but I wanted to stick it out hoping to find something to like about it, I didn’t.

See, I feel good because I could easily spot the few I have not enjoyed, the vast majority have been good to bloody excellent. There’s so much variety I would be hard pressed to shortlist my favourites. It would take a lot of thought and right now the sun is beckoning me out. Indeed, it’s a beautiful day oot there.

Where’s my sunglasses?

Toodle oo.

 

241 anyone?

Wow, it’s muggy out there today! We were promised thundery showers all through today, but now today’s here they’re not gonna happen ’til the early hours tomorrow. It’s so muggy that Arthur’s Seat has vanished in the haze, or someone nicked it….

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Today would be Two For One (hence forth 241) Tuesday if it wasn’t 2020. Yesterday should have been 241 Monday, not that I have bothered about it much since Bud left town. Oh boy, we were happy bunnies when they introduced 241 days; three days of previews (well, evenings), a rest or maybe a trip to Tarquair Fair on the Saturday, then back into the fray!

Ah yes, originally when the 241 days were introduced they were the first Sunday and Monday of the Fringe, that was in 2002. It wasn’t until 2010 that someone realised that there would actually be plenty of bums on seats on the Sunday without inducement, Tuesday on the other hand – so the day was switched. I know these dates because last night I had a scout back over my Fringe bits and pieces, well, it started off with “I should do something about the 241 days”…. a few hours later I realised it was almost time for Buffy, no time left to blog (and last night’s episodes were particularly fine, especially Hush). So many memories, a few winces and a couple of “that means absolutely nothing to me”.

Oo, the heavens have now opened, and there goes a good low rumble of thunder. We may not have a Fringe this year but we still have monsoon showers, er, yay?! There was a brief but dramatic downpour yesterday evening as I strolled round town past many Not Fringe Venues, it started at six just as I approached Teviot Square. This year it’s a bunch of skateboarders getting soaked; there’s quite a community of them gather in the Square most days, quite happy at the Fringelessness of it.

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You know what? I’m feeling rather peckish . I’m going to have some tea …….

To be continued.

A noble failure!

Woohoo! I actually saw a Fringe show tonight! Yay! And it was at a very respectable half past seven in the evening unlike it’s real Fringe time of midnight (in Monkey Barrel One). What was this wondrous happening? I hear you cry. Why, it was The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society and when the name says Alternative it means Alternative (yes, with a capital A), oh, and quite Absurd too.

It may not have been late on, but it was as live as current circumstances allow and it kept it’s usual running time of two and three quarter hours (at least that’s if it doesn’t run over). Our hosts John-Luke Roberts and Thom Tuck were on fine form; well, John-Luke’s lockdown look is a bit Charlie Manson and Thom’s gone weirdly blond, but they’re fine. Or noble failures, I should say.

The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society is as Fringey as it gets, I’m glad I spotted it was on and booked a ticket (now it almost feels like August). So, I had to watch it on my tablet, but I had the sound on through my bluetooth speaker to keep listening as I finished sorting my tea out (lasagne with a side of broccoli). There were thirteen acts to get through so it all fair cracked along.

Stand outs for me were Deborah Frances-White, Joz Norris, Johnny & The Baptists and Colt Cobana. Okay, so Colt was just chatting but that’s fine by me, the man has a most charming voice and manner! I’ve never actually seen Johnny & The Baptists before but I would see them again, much fun. Ah, Joz Norris, an odd individual, but sweetly bonkers, I think he might actually be a selkie. Deborah Frances-White had us play a fun little game of “1932 or C Venue show”; was it a 1932 news story or the plot of a show that appeared in a C Venue? Some of the news stories were so bizarre it was tricky to call, but I reckon I got more right than wrong.

A most entertaining evening, only slightly spoilt by a glimpse of Messrs Cruise and Pitt in Interview With The Vampire, oh, the horror. Luckily Buffy was soon starting over on E4. They’ve now got to when Buffy intertwines with the first series of Angel, I should dig out the dvds, hmmm.

Well, it’s late so I shall leave you. I shall leave you with a note I wrote down while listening to ACMS, Am I my own Santa?

Toodle pip!

Just another Wednesday night…..

I should be tucked up in bed after a great evening of two or three preview shows on the first day of this year’s Fringe. I’m not, there were no preview shows, there is no Fringe 😢😭

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There’s no purple cows wandering around in George Square Gardens. There’s nothing in George Square Gardens, no overpriced beer, fancy food stalls, no venues inflated or wooden.

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The Royal Mile is sooo quiet and while it’s nice not having to factor in another fifteen minutes to get anywhere, I’ll miss the more entertaining flyerers and those bearing candy!

 

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No hoards of folk still up late hanging around Bristo Square, like moths attracted to the bright lights of the Pleasance Dome.

 

 

 

And no Library Bar 😔2016-08-29 23.40.39

How to make a moose smile

Bored now. Following random thoughts around Facebook at two in the morning after Buffy is not a good sign. My long walks have tailed off a tad too. When will life be normal again? Will it ever be normal again?

Its late July, the town should be plastered with show posters, the Pleasance should have it’s bar built by now, George Square Gardens should have a giant purple upsidedown cow being inflated in it, Bristo Square should be all cordoned off as this year’s creation is created, Charlotte Square is empty and locked up. I’m not bored – I’m down!

But then, sometimes in the wee small hours following Facebook trails can throw up wonderful things. Things like John Robertson talking about mental health stuff, the guy is just sooo brilliant. Yes, he’s scary too, and definitely not for everyone, but if you get him you love him (like marmite, or vegemite).

Quick scrolling through, he’s a pandad. What?! Yep, he’s a pandad in an inflatable panda outfit. This guy has not let a little thing like Covid19 slow him down, John Robertson seems to have slipped online with ease. He does a lot of stuff on something called Twitch, sigh, another new-fangled wotsit. Oo, and a mention of his book The Little Town of Marrowville, it’s doing rather well; apparently Amazon UK had run out again!! Of course, I’ve no idea how many that actually means but hey, it’s got to be good news (unless you have yet to get a copy).

It couldn’t happen to a nicer book! I notice there’s an audio version with Mr Robertson himself reading it, wow, that’s pretty tempting! I could quite hear him as I read it, I could actually hear him with the audiobook, hmmm. I was umm-ing and ahh-ing over getting the book last year, I was aware he’d written it and had brought copies to sell after his Fringe shows. I didn’t, but a good friend went along to Teviot to buy one and even got it signed for me. Hurrah! Best Christmas present last year!

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It’s one of those books that’s supposedly meant to be for kids, but there’s plenty like me who will love it. It’s funny, surreal, dark (as hell in places), sharp, and it has that great Aussie dryness and wit through it. I love how descriptive the writing is, painting vivid pictures of the characters and their surroundings; I’m guessing our author may be utilising some dungeon mastering techniques here? I would definitely place it up there with China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun and Clive Barker’s Abarat as books to expand and encourage young minds. All three are deliciously creative and slightly warped.

Oh, you’re wondering why Neil Gaiman wasn’t included there? These three share a certain type of dark surreality that I don’t find in Gaiman, his darkness is different. I would say, a child who loves The Little Town of Marrowville will go on to like the Abarat series but not necessarily Neverwhere (which is one of my favourite books). Un Lun Dun is from the mind that gave us Perdido Street Station, nuff said, it will open a young mind to all sorts of realms.

So, what words of wisdom did Mr Robertson write in the front of my book?

2020-07-29 20.50.17                                                                I think he nailed it. The answer to life, the universe and everything maybe 42, but this is definitely the answer to, how do you make a moose smile? These words read like a big, warm, reassuring hug. Good man, that John Robertson!

Toodle pip!

A Tale of Cards and Coiners

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They seek him here, they seek him there – apparently he’s on the wasteland! If only those Frenchies had had a set of Pepys’ Wild Flower Sevens they’d have known where to look! Oh, how we chortled, gathered around the dining table finally able to do battle once more. I say battle, playing card games with family could be mistaken for warfare at times.

Yes, I’ve been down in the old country as restrictions have been loosened off. They’ve clearly had a rather damp time of it, all the local reservoirs are full to overflowing (in July, wow), luckily it wasn’t too bad for my trip. The warm weather meant I was roped into mowing the meadow that my mother’s lawn had become. I left a few patches of flowers, the selfheal did look very pretty and the bees love it. I was also given the dubious task of pruning the hedge; it’s done, not particularly well, but it’s done. I’ll be sure to time my next visit down for after it’s next trim.

I joined in the long evening walks over the local hilltops, well, I followed on behind, not a clue where we were, just the odd distant memory popping up. Wandering on the tops did occasionally put us in the clouds, like here looking across to the M62…..

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…….but invariably the sun would reappear as we wound our way lower and home again.

 

 

 

I even learnt some local history when one evening a far hillside was pointed out as Coiner’s Country (I’d tried a knowledgeable grunt, but then had to admit to my ignorance). Coiners were folk who clipped bits off gold and silver coins to make more counterfeit coins (that’s the simplified version).

Turns out the Cragg Vale Coiners were notorious as the most organised gang in the 1700’s, so much so their leader was known as “King David” Hartley. He’d learnt his skills while working in Birmingham, then took them back home where the local weavers were in dire straits and welcomed any way to make some money. Enter William Deighton, an excise officer, sent to investigate, exit Deighton murdered in the Dusty Miller pub. Well, he had arrested “King David” in the Old Cock Inn in Halifax, which led the “Duke of York” aka Isaac, David’s brother to put a price on his head. The Crown got serious and despatched one Marquis of Rockingham to deal with the problem however he saw fit.

“King David” lies in Heptonstall graveyard. He was convicted for coining and hanged in York in 1770. There’s a book The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers that tells the tale, fictionalised but faithfully drawn from historical accounts and documents; I’ll definitely have to get me a copy. There’s also The Cragg Vale Coiners Walk by Christopher Goddard, a must-buy before I head down again.

The Dusty Miller (in Mytholmroyd) and The Old Cock are still going to this day, according to a quick check on Facebook. Interestingly, The Old Cock was later frequented by one Branwell Brontë. He also drank in the Union Cross in Halifax, definitely still open as I had a pint in there just last week. Sadly the George (a pub I misspent plenty of time in in my younger days) hasn’t reopened yet, no doubt another haunt of Branwell’s.

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I shall leave you with another card, played by my brother announcing he had Scabious on the Moorland, well, I had to say it – “You can get an ointment for that”.

 

 

Toodle pip!

 

I see shut pubs

Another Friday night and I ain’t got nobody …… so I’m staying in having feasted on lamb shank, cooked in a rustic rosemary and red wine stew, with sweet potato mash and cabbage. Tea does not get better than that! Time to open a bottle of Laughing Llama, yes I totally chose it because of the name. Mmmm mmm, not bad, deep berry flavours, a tinge of pepperiness. It’ll do.

Edinburgh is slowly opening back up, a few more pubs are doing offsales now. I suppose if they’re ready for re-opening next week the beer might as well be started on! So far pubs with outdoor areas (that’s beer gardens and pavement tables, which is not that many in the town) have been able to open after a fashion. In England pubs have already opened indoors after a fashion. The government wants us to go out to shop and eat, spend money but only after a fashion. 

There’s plenty of pubs, shops, cafes and others that won’t be able to open again yet, if ever. Even with one metre distancing some of the best pubs and little shops won’t be financially viable from the numbers they’ll be allowed through the door. Our governments and media love sound bites, yes, businesses are opening again but only after a fashion, they won’t be fully open, open like open used to be. We’ve got a long way to go before open means what it used to mean.

And talking about fashion, why are so many desperate to shop in Primark and Zara? Other large stores may have queues too, but walking along Princes Street, like wow! Why?! I made inquiries to a couple of female friends. Turns out they don’t understand it either, mind both admitted they wouldn’t shop at Primark anyway, but also, both mentioned that during Lockdown they’ve realised how many clothes they own and really, a few months of not acquiring any more was a good thing. See, that I get!

So, I’ll just continue to trot up to the Jolly Judge for offsales ciders; I’ll admire my friends’ clothing to be informed that it’s  been in their wardrobe unworn for years; I’ll arrange a wee picnic with friends at a spot in the Meadows that we won’t have to book a two hour time slot for. Life won’t be back to normal for some while yet, I’m one of the lucky ones, I’ll get by.

I leave you with my favourite Pete Standen picture, another apocalyptical one, the view of Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat is not that far from my own view! I think it quite nicely sums up life just now, it is a life in Edinburgh after a fashion. 

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