Y’know, 2020 wasn’t all bad….

Saw yet another strand of tinsel as I downward dogged this morning, that’ll be the twelfth since my last blog post! It lay there glinting mockingly at me, bold as brass it was, well not any more. Oh, and we didn’t get the promised snow, so I closed the curtain again and went back to bed. There has been more snow outside of Edinburgh but nothing in the city, just freezing temperatures.

Listening to the news, it’s sounding like we’ll be lucky if we can do anything at Easter nevermind Mothering Sunday here in the UK. That’ll be another of my annual trips to the old country cancelled, I’ll have forgotten the way down soon! Yeah, 2021 isn’t looking that much better than 2020 so far. How depressing! So, to brighten the mood I decided to look back through 2020 and find my highlights, surely there were some?!

First off, Esther – our wee beastie o’the loch. I reckon she’ll be a highlight for a few Edinburgh folks grateful for the distraction. It’s been so good to watch this beautiful wild creature so close by. Hopefully she’ll be okay after all the recent weather, Dunsapie Loch has been frozen over a fair bit this last month. From otters to rabbits….

Way back last January I went to Jojo Rabbit three times at the cinema. Those were days, open cinemas, me with my unlimited card going to see two films in one evening, Nando’s chicken wings in between (will Cineworld reopen at all now?). Jojo Rabbit is such an outstanding film and a proper cinema film too. God, I miss going to the cinema, that sense of occasion (as a young moose a trip to the cinema was an event, that feeling has never quite left). The whole cast of Jojo were brilliant and Taika Waititi cemented his place as my favourite director and all-round amazing film person.

Thinking about it, I guess all that time spent in Holyrood Park, walking around, lying in sunny nooks reading, that was pretty special. We did have long spells of great weather in 2020, I did most of my reading outdoors. Highlights bookwise, finally reading Errol Flynn’s autobiography (an amazing glimpse at another time and place) and John Robertson’s The Little Town of Marrowville, I expected it to be good and darkly humorous but wow, it exceeded all my expectations! Yes it’s a kid’s book, but it’s a damn fine one.

Not Eurovision 2020 was a day of Eurovision treats for the fans on radio and tv. In the evening Graham Norton guided us through the main Not Eurovision Show, which just felt like one big love-in around the world (as Australia is now in it, yes I make that around the world). I thoroughly enjoyed a day of reminiscing, music, dancing, oh, and prosecco with pear juice.

2020, a shorter but sweetest year yet for Strictly Come Dancing. Bill Bailey with Oti was a worthy winner, confounding the initial assumptions of so many viewers with his capacity to learn and ability to dance. Their routine to Rapper’s Delight will go down in Strictly history. I learnt you could video chat on WhatsApp in November – yeah, Strictly brings out that need to share!

Fringey goodness was found online. April and May saw the magnificent Will Seaward online re-telling his Spooky Ghost Stories sometimes with live accompaniment courtesy of Jam With Humans. Yes, it was back in the early lockdown days, things went a bit wonky, not always online just somewhere in the vicinity, but no matter, it was great to see the maestro weaving his wondrous tales again.

The nearing of the NonFringe saw me checking to see what the Sleeping Trees were up to, if anything. Oh bugger! I’d missed getting to see MAFIA? by about ten days! Joys, I did get see SCI-FI? again. So is there a recording of WESTERN? somewhere? I’d love to see that again. Pretty please?! I could read MAFIA? by purchasing a copy the recently published Sleeping Trees at The Movies – Blueprints for Devised Comedy, but it just wouldn’t be the same as seeing it. But the best was yet to come – a Christmas Living Room Adventure! Oh yay, The Legend of Moby Dick Whittington was the highlight of my Christmas, yes, even above my Christmas Lunch Roll! That first sighting of the great white whale will stay with me forever.

Anything else, Brucie? Well, there was the small matter of Logan’s Close at the Caves for the release of their latest opus Lost In You at the end of February, like, a truly epic night! Best I’ve seen them yet; there was a gig planned for the end of this month but it has, of course, been cancelled. Lead guitarist and singer Carl Marah took to singing Bob Dylan to his washing machine in April, strange behaviour but captivatingly beautiful.

My top highlight of 2020? The Close’s Lockdown Cover of Fantastic Man by William Onyeabor. Having since put the original on one of my Spotify playlists, I love what the lads did with it even more; they’ve taken the best parts, condensed and Closified it into a summer classic of their own. Their video is rather fine too, and usually if I leave YouTube running afterwards it goes to a film of roller dancers skating to the original with some seriously cool moves (yes, I’ve watched both plenty of times after I’ve done online exercises – hey, its good cool down music).

So, wow, 2020 wasn’t all bad, and I did two seasons of Preacher and three of Lucifer, plus my uke playing is slowly coming on. Dear reader, I hope you too can look back and recognise your own highlights of 2020, to paraphrase Aidan Goatley, What made you happy in 2020?

Toodle pip!

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: Mafia 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!