A hard act to follow

The National Theatre Live had a new screening last Wednesday, nice timing to whet the appetite for some theatrics at the Fringe, only eight days away now! Apparently it was the highest grossing event cinema release in the UK, not surprising as the star (and only person in it) is Jodie Comer of Killing Eve fame; Prima Facie is her West End debut and boy, she is bloody tremondous in it! A hundred minutes of monologue and she kept us hanging on every word – a high bar for any one to reach in the next month.

Jodie Comer plays Tessa a brilliant young barrister who specialises in defending men accused of sexual assault, the start of the play sees her swagger and treat the job like a sport to be won, winning points (there’s something of a reminder of Villanelle); then, after being raped by a male work colleague, she comes the realisation that someone else will be trying to score all those same points if she presses charges.

The set is two large, grand wooden tables and leather chairs which Comer moves around herself during her monologue, she also has slight changes of clothing to gracefully and unobtrusively manage whilst speaking. She takes books and ledgers down from the walls to later replace them again, files light up signifying the number of cases of sexual assault, but our eyes stay on Comer and her brilliant performance. An amazing piece of theatre but it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of the truth of how courts work and how little truth can mean in a court of law.

Now I did say at the end of my last blog post that that would be it on local live music for a bit, but last Friday night was a tad special at Stramash. I mentioned that the Willie Dug Band had been moved from the 7pm slot to the 10pm slot; it was Willie Dug‘s other band the Miracle Glass Company who were playing on Friday, and boy they were good. I got into them thanks to a playlist by Logan’s Close on Spotify that I listened to a lot during the first Lockdown (I was being cheap and listening for free). The MGC are back playing together again and have two gigs next week, if it wasn’t the start of the Fringe I would have tried to get a ticket. Oh well, there’ll be more opportunities.

Last night saw the end of the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival and I saw the ever delightful Nicole Smit and her Travelling Tent Show. Unfortunately it was a drizzly evening so I stayed under one of the big umbrellas until the queue had gone and I could dash straight into the Piccolo Tent. It’s rather nice in there, red velvet drapes on the walls and well-padded tiered seating (There used to be another old spiegeltent, the Bosco, which just had wooden benches, rather numbing on the bottom!) Locals the Tenement Jazz Band were backing our chanteuse; there was also the bonus of Kat Brooks singing a few numbers and shimmying around in white fringed dress (oh my!). Blind Boy Paxton popped in for one song, it was quite a show all in all.

The Assembly George Square Garden stays open this week, hoping the footfall won’t fall too much between the Festivals. The other bar area in Teviot Square is up and running too, it opens a few weeks early so that all the graduates have somewhere to celebrate straight after walking out of the McEwan Hall (literally next to it!). This shows the power of advertising – I really can’t say whose beer garden it is! I walk past it a lot, every year, but to me it’s just “the bar bit in Teviot Square”, I assume one of the big names has it?! The Pleasance Courtyard are busy getting ready, the big 33 sign still wasn’t up yesterday.

The town is getting busy now, not long to go. Must dash, just noticed on Facebook that The Scat Rats are playing Stramash tonight, something of a departure for them, on a Monday!

Toodle pip!

《Didn’t click hard enough last night – it’s been hanging half published, oops!》

Cake devoured, coffee drunk, time to blog…

Yum, just tried a wodge of cake I made last night, an I Didn’t Intend To Make This But I Have Leftover Mixture cake. I could have just scoffed the mixture but it was very late and didn’t want the sugar rush to keep me awake, so I put it in a small cake tin and bunged the spare pear slices and halved blackberries (from the cake I was actually making) on top. Yes, I have a larger cake with a layer of pear slices halfway down in the mixture, a few pieces on the top and blackberries pushed down into the mixture. I should be good and freeze it in slices for later, I should. Why have I been baking? A special occasion coming up? No, I’ve just noticed that cakes and pastries have been seeming more delectable and appealing recently, if I know I have something at home I’m way less tempted to give in to desire.

And on tasty, delicious things, The Scat Rats were awesome again last Friday evening. Just a few in again but the lads never give less no matter the numbers; two best buds chattin’, singin’, playin’ guitar, they just happen to be doing it on a stage. I had to smile when Scott passed his guitar to Carl to fix as he’d just broken a string (amused but not surprised that Carl is handier at that stuff). While Carl got on with a re-string Scott took took Carl’s guitar for a soulful solo rendition of Tonight The Streets Are Ours, Carl did sing a few backing bits from the corner of his mouth that wasn’t gripping his pick (why he didn’t just take the pick out of his mouth I don’t know, but it made it more entertaining).

More folk did wander in over time but it remained fairly quiet, the usual way these last few weeks. Yup, this lovely summer weather is really doing for the 7pm slot at Stramash, Willie Dug was not a happy pooch the other week, I did wonder if he’d pull out of it this Friday – haha, he’s gone and got the band moved into the 10pm slot (did I get it wrong? nope, the website still shows the original timeslot, the new time is on Facebook). Oo, it’s the old favourites TBC at seven at the mo, hey Stram, how about The Scat Rats again? I’ve stuck snippets of Folsom Prison Blues and The Last Time on Instagram for your delight and delectation.

Later that same evening I was in the Spiegeltent in George Square Garden to see Tom McGuire & The Brassholes; first night of this year’s Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival, that tent was buzzing. I’ve not seen them before, very lively and bouncey, as were the crowd too. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve been to anything in the Spiegeltent before that’s all standing except for the outer booths and a few rows at the back, nope.

Saturday saw the Grassmarket was very lively with the Mardi Gras, three stages and a floor space for bands too. Annoyingly, the times given for some band appearances turned out to be completely out, never mind rough guide lines, but I caught Awkward Family Portraits second set and got me their new album afterwards (they are so good, I love ’em). There were plenty of different styles on offer for folk to watch while basking in the sunshine; I didn’t go along but I’ll bet George Square Garden was busy.

The temperature rose through the weekend, Sunday evening was as hot as a normal summer’s day when I went to see Thor: Love and Thunder, so glad of the air-conditioning in there. Personally speaking, I really enjoyed it but I can see why a lot of Marvel fans won’t, too light, too silly, played for laughs; yes, Taika Waititi could have reined it in a bit. But how did he persuade Russell Crowe to do such a ludicrous accent?! Was it meant to be so funny? The guy is famous for being huffy about his acting, was this a deliberate joke back to the Robin Hood accent debacle? For me there was a lot to live in this film, Stormbreaker v Mjolnir, Jane Foster becoming Thor, Tessa Thompson being divine as ever. I’ll probably go see it again, actually, no probably there, I will see it in the cinema again.

It wasn’t just a random choice to see the new Thor movie on Sunday evening, I needed to fill the evening until going on midnight. You’ve guessed it, another late night shift for The Buccaneers in Stramash; no keyboards, which made for a much heavier, rockier sound (haven’t as yet but there will be a couple of clips on Instagram later). Earlier this week Facebook said The Buccaneers would be playing the Jazz Club at 1.30 last night, that is too late for me! The local Gig Guide shows the Buccs playing Whistlebinkies midnight on the 29th, maybe I’ll check that one with Mr Marah.

Next blog post will be Fringe related, no music – unless I hear something epic that I just have to share! It’s looming closer and closer but somehow my head still thinks it’s like a month away or so. Oh, I have plenty tickets now for the run-up week, and my calender drawn up with definites written in. Gotta go, time for a spot of late lunch.

Toodle pip!

a joy for the ears, out on Spotify now

I do like a bit of Willie to start the weekend

First Saturday in February and the Six Nations tournament is under way, as I type this Ireland are currently beating Wales 22-0 in Dublin. Later this afternoon it’s the battle for the Calcutta Cup, Scotland v England, here in Edinburgh at Murrayfield. I don’t envy anyone going to the game, it’s a horrible day out there! I popped out to the Farmer’s Market this morning and grabbed a paper on my way back, I’m not setting hoof outside again today.

Everywhere in town will be busy tonight, extra so than usual with a Six Nations home game on. Mind, many will peak earlier than they envisaged they would due to lack of grub to help absorb all the alcohol – I’ve seen it so many times! I was out getting my live music fix for the weekend yesterday evening, Willie Dug and the Cosmic Gents were playing the early slot at Stramash. A shorn Willie Dug! Like nae hair – is February really the month to do that?! No Carl Marah on guitar tonight, he was up in Morningside playing a solo acoustic set (and not as Whistlebinkies’ website had shown earlier in the week playing the midnight set there with The Buccaneers, yes, another error by Binkies). No mind, the band were good.

Stramash was fairly quiet at the back of seven when I rolled up, I say quiet, quiet as in the the number of bodies in, some of the bodies were quite loud and boisterous, their weekend was well under way. There were more in by the time the band opened the second set with Come Together, always a cracking tune; followed straight on with Roadhouse Blues, harmonica to the fore, he’s rather good that harmonica player. Back on to Willie’s own stuff Don’t Mess With The Walrus is a great tale about the Walrus Cafe on Easter Road (sadly now a victim of the Covid lockdowns it seems). Only Love Can Save My Soul is always sung, sometimes a cappela, with handclaps, with tambourine, tonight was with drums then a few guitar notes before bass and harmonica finally joined in, rather bloody good tonight!

I always feel for the band in the early evening slot, folk are just starting to loosen up and jig about as the end of the second set comes closer. More folk will have drifted as well, the place is warming up ….. and the band finishes, ah, but it was good last night! I finished my pint of Stewart’s Holyrood Pale Ale and headed home. I could have written something up then, but I decided I needed more music instead. You know how it is.

Well, the rugby is done for today, Ireland beat Wales 29-7, Scotland beat England 20-17 (okay, so I paused writing this a number of times to give my full attention to the excitement on the telly), there will be much celebrating around the town tonight. And many sore heads tomorrow!

Time I ate something, I think. Toodle pip!

Sum pluses + minuses

Three weeks into 2022 already; three weeks of tighter restrictions again in Scotland, thankfully they’re ending on Monday. Its been back to table service and strictly no mingling in bars. Hence I’ve only been out for a drink once since New Years Day, that was a midweek drink in Whistlebinkies as Willie Dug was on and I really needed a break from the moose cave. On entering I was leapt on by a member of staff who proceeded to escort me to a table, oh boy was it quiet in there! Just as well, the staff didn’t seem to be in a rush take orders and serve drinks. In some ways I quite like good table service, but I prefer to have an option on it.

I even gave a miss to seeing the Scat Rats in Stramash, well, they were on the ten o’clock set on a Saturday night; an ordinary Saturday night has a queue outside the door by ten, so with restricted numbers allowed in, hmmm, I stayed home (with a very precious new toy, more later). At least the restrictions will be lifted in time for Carl Marah‘s latest thang, The Buccaneers, playing Stramash in the late night slot next Thursday. They were meant to play a few weeks ago in Whistlebinkies but a case of covid got in the way, fingers crossed all will be well this time. Their bio on Facebook reads “Blues/Rock/Soul 4-piece based in Edinburgh …” who promise to be “an exquisite late night sandwich”, oh my! I’ll let you know just how tasty they were next week (touch wood).

At the start of February Scotland will have a new regulation on smoke and heat detectors come into force. It was meant to start in 2020 but, well, the nation was kinda busy with other things. All homes will be required to have interlinked fire alarms, that’s a heat alarm in the kitchen, a smoke alarm in the most used room and a smoke alarm in every hallway or landing (also a carbon monoxide detector in any room with a carbon-fuelled appliance). While it will be the law to have interlinked fire alarms in Scotland, it won’t be a criminal offence not to have them, so no penalties, however, if you have a fire and no interlinked alarm system in place, good luck with any insurance claim. Of course, there’s plenty of opinions about this on social media from the downright bolshy to the paranoid – like Scotland’s gonna light up like an octogenarian’s birthday cake on the 1st February!

Way more important to many Scots – can Scotland beat England on the 5th February? Yes, this year’s battle for the Calcutta Cup takes place at Murrayfield on the opening weekend of the Six Nations Championship. Auld Reekie will be packed out that weekend, fun will be had.

More later, toodle pip, mes amis

So 2021, any highlights?!

Oh 2021, we started the year thinking we might get past Covid and all the restrictions, ha, here we are a year later! After all the lockdowns of 2020, more of the same just made 2021 drag. This time round it just got boring, lethargy set in, no point trying to look forward to anything as it would most likely be cancelled, at best postponed indefinitely. So, were there any highlights? Hmmm.

Highlight numero uno, the snow in January and February, all from the east, so lovely powdery stuff, snowmen everywhere, sledges, snowboards, even skiing in Holyrood Park! Yes, decent snow in Edinburgh, again! Okay, so slippy as hell, but beautifully scary is better than greyly dull.

Highlight number two, finally being able to head down to see family in May. It felt so different to other journeys home, and so nice to see faces right in front of me and not on a screen. And hugs!

Numéro trois, cinemas re-opening, yay. I like seeing movies on the big screen. Oh what? Pubs were re-opening too? Sorry, not a highlight for me – too many constraints, the new normal; being able to go back to the cinema was way better to me. Tied for my top cinematic highlight of 2021 are Free Guy and Last Night In Soho both brilliant in very different ways.

Nummer vier, enjoying the beautiful summer weather at Portobello beach. After spending so much time in solitude in Holyrood Park, it was great to be among people on the beach, and so many nationalities, it felt quite cosmopolitan. Oh, I love the wildness and nooks and crannies of the Park but sometimes I do need company, to hear voices and laughter, a sunny day at the beach ticks those boxes.

Numero viisi, it had to be there, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2021. Okay, so it started real slow and I was dubious how good it would be, how many actual live In Person shows there would be, but as it progressed more acts came up (as the line from Field of Dreams says “If you build it, they will come”). Every few days more shows would be announced, more venues opened up, more seats became available at previously sold out shows because of the restrictions being eased; it was exciting and unpredictable, regular checks for updates were vital (I have no idea how the Online version went, I was done with screen-watching). The lack of the Half Price Hut meant I had to adjust my sights to fit my budget, Pay What You Can and Free Fringe shows featured a lot for me.

The Monkey Barrel Comedy Club was a highlight hosting weird and wonderful comedy; including John-Luke Roberts, Rob Kemp and two thirds of the Privates, all of my Fringe highlights! Oh, except one, the only show I saw at the Pleasance Courtyard, Tim Fitzhigham: Here Now. Tim’s always entertaining but he really was on top form for this one show in the Cabaret Bar, almost manic with glee at sharing his stories with a live audience.

August saw highlight numer pięć – live music back again! A band had started playing almost every day on Waverley Bridge, like, why not? It was good weather in general, the road was closed to traffic, plenty of room for people to pass by while others hung around and watched (generally safely distancing). All this fringing and good music got me itching for more, Stramash was open again with bands playing, I had to go along; and who was playing my first time back? The band from Waverley Bridge (aka The Kennedy’s Project), oh joys! They were such fun.

The autumn months of 2021 were as good as any time I can ever remember for seeing great live music: the Voodoo Rooms (especially The Courettes ❤); Stramash, of course; I became reacquainted with Whistlebinkies (I’m not sure why I didn’t go there for years!?); and, a particular highlight for 2021, Fur at Sneaky Pete’s! Yay! I’ve discovered the likes of Jed Potts and Willie Dug these last few months, it’s like a new vista laid before me; there’s been old friends in new guises, The Scat Rats, aka Scott Rough and Carl Marah from Logan’s Close, playing covers with a few of their own songs thrown in (bloody marvellous as per usual).

Sadly, what promised to be the highlight of the year, Logan’s Close Presents … A Christmas Pudding had to be postponed because of the latest covid variant. Mind, even without that shindig Logan’s Close take the top highlight of 2021 spot with the wonderful Logan’s Close on LimbicTV (Live from Aluhpasonics) back on the 27th March 2021; still available to watch on YouTube and I think there’s still a way to donate if you feel inclined to show your appreciation. I could wax lyrical about how great it was, or I could attempt a pingback to the post I wrote at the time So Close so fine, let’s see, by George, I think I did it! Hopefully if you click on the highlighted post title it should open up in a new tab [EDIT If it doesn’t open, try twice more, it may need coaxing], I hope (or you could scroll right to the bottom of this page and do a search for it).

If you do read about why this live music session takes the prize for 2021, you’ll notice my pleas for the audio recordings, well…….. I’ll tell you later.

Toodle pip, and may your god smile upon you in 2022 💛

That turned out pretty damn fine!

Last night wasn’t a good Friday night, it was a great Friday night! Oh yeah, I finally got round to seeing Free Guy and I think I may have to go see it again on the big screen before it disappears, I ❤ Ryan Reynolds. There’s a lot that I love about this movie – RR, Jodie Comer, Channing Tatum, Taika Waititi, great choices of music for some of the big scenes (especially the scene using Mama Cass’s Make Your Own Kind of Music), it is sooo visually stunning, a wickedly funny, witty script and, for me, great ideas and layers all delivered with a weirdly gentle innocence and charm.

I didn’t actually know much at all about Free Guy but it’s got Ryan Reynolds in it so that’s enough for me. I had heard stuff but had forgotten the details, like that Jodie Comer is in it. When Molotov Girl first appeared she made me think of Danni Minogue, then when I saw Millie, oh yay, it’s Villanelle, ah, yes, when you need someone who can do accents! The opening sequence with all the “sunglasses guy” stuff was such fun, and Channing Tatum too! Something of the premise came back to me, Free City is an online open-world video game and Guy is a background character who somehow breaks from his programming, game world and real world interactions ensue …. As I’m not a gamer at all I floundered a little, er, NPC? A non-player character? Ah, a background character within the game, yeah, I don’t play these games at all.

So, Guy, a mild-mannered bank teller, living a regular life, doing the same things every day, happens to spot the girl of his dreams – not part of his daily routine, it triggers something and he starts being more than he should be, he does the unexpected, he takes a pair of sunglasses off a bank robber, wow, the sunglasses let him see things he didn’t know were there (bit of an unwitting Matrix blue pill moment there). What Guy doesn’t understand is that the glasses are showing him what a game player sees, with them on the NPC becomes a game player and he moves away more from his programming, which causes Millie and everyone in the real world to think he’s a player/hacker. Guy finds Molotov Girl but she tells him he must level up to above 100 if he wants to speak to her again and shows him how to click the side of the sunglasses to see his level. He doesn’t really understand it but he really wants to see her again, how to level up? Take guns and money, she tells him, but he’s a good guy, and so begins the ascent of Blue Shirt Guy.

No more plot for you, just that Guy helps Molotov Girl in his world to help Millie in the real world fight the bad guy Antwan, played deliciously by Taika Waititi. Guy’s fight to be free to do whatever he wanted made me think of Wreck-It Ralph (another great film imo). There’s plenty in this film that sparks thoughts about other films, oo, a fresh one, remember Chris Hemsworth’s dancing in Ghostbusters and Bad Times At The El Royale? Channing’s moves in this made me think of how good he was in the tap-dancing sequence in Hail, Caesar! We need a film with the two of them in a dance-off – Mr Waititi, if you’re not busy?!

Yes, I need to see it again, there’s also Respect to see this week before it finishes, possibly Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings too. Thursday sees the new Bond film oot, that looked pretty good on the trailer. Oh yeah, I saw a trailer for Venom: Let There Be Carnage too, really looking forward to that!

You may be thinking that was my Friday night done, oh no, I hoofed it quickly down to Stramash to catch Willie Dug and his band (not the Cosmic Gents as seen at the Voodoo Rooms a couple of weeks ago). This was Willie on guitar and vocals with a drummer and a guy on harmonica, nothing more needed to make sweet sounds! Willie Dug is one magnificent hound, oozing style and charisma, shades of a young Malcolm McDowell, especially when he stripped off his shirt and put on a faux leopard fur jacket that was lying on a barrel just in front of the stage.

The Stramash crowd were really up for dancing, the band delivered and then some. For me the best of the bunch were Come Together (I notice it’s become a popular one to cover since the lockdowns), Roadhouse Blues and the final, one more song, Not Fade Away, ah, a song with many fine memories for me. The minimalness of the band recalled Bluefinger for me, Not Fade Away was a fitting number to head out into the night air on. To paraphrase from Free Guy.….

I may not be real, but for a couple of hours there I felt pretty alive