More good things in Edinburgh

The weather forecast suggested that Edinburgh might be one of the wettest places in the country this weekend. Fortunately, most of the rain held off until overnight on Saturday and early Sunday morning. We had our friends from Inverness down to stay. On Saturday morning,after a local wander, we had coffee at The Canny Man’s, a Morningside institution and free house run by the same family since 1871. The pub’s real name is The Volunteer Arms but no-one at all refers to it as that. When we first lived in Edinburgh 30 years ago, it was a serious drinking place. Now, it also serves good food but is still decorated with the same fantastic array of objects suspended from the ceiling.
In the afternoon the men went to a rugby match while my friend & I took the bus down to the Botanic Garden. It was an unusually still day and the sun continued so the autumn colours were glowing, mostly leaves but some flowers as well.
The garden is also set up for the Botanic Lights celebration which is held on evenings every autumn for a month. I have never been but it might be something for the future. We also managed to find some Christmas presents in the gift shop.
I had also been keen to see an exhibition of botanical paintings from Nepal. They dated from 1802 to 2016 and there were also exhibits of other ways plants were used either as dyes or to create fibre which was then made into lace. I particularly liked this painting of Ficus religiosa or Peepal. The tree is sacred to Buddhists and Hindus and is often planted around temples and at rest stops along trails. It was also used for various medical conditions. There were paintings of many plants and flowers including Rhododendron arboreum, the national flower of Nepal but which also grows in other Asian countries. I have never been there but have seen the tree in the Western Ghats in India and was amazed to see for the first time, a Rhododendron that was not a shrub.
In the evening we had dinner in a local restaurant and then adjourned to the Jazz Bar for their World Premiere Quintet. They arrange for five musicians who have never played together before or rehearsed to perform together. This was scheduled for 9pm after the acoustic tea-time session but by that time only a drummer, double bass player and pianist had arrived. We began to think it might only be a trio. However, the trumpeter and then the saxophonist, both from Glasgow, did appear and we were treated to a great set before heading back to the flat. Today, our friends headed back north on the A9 and we drove home through the Borders on the A701 and the motorways via a series of roadworks, arriving home just as the sun had set.

Autumn weekend in Edinburgh

I was cursing the fact I had not packed my sunglasses on Saturday morning as we were treated to yet another sunny autumn morning. Café society was out on all the pavements in town, weekend school sports and boot camps in the Meadows and I was squinting in the sunlight to see where I was going.
I had hoped we would manage to squeeze in some jazz at the Scottish Arts Club at lunchtime but our shopping trip took longer than expected so I spent the afternoon reading and watching birds. A flock of jackdaws were feeding on the lawn, the cherry tree and the building opposite, joined by a pair of magpies. They did not stay still in one place long enough for photographs. Today, James was attending a course and as I did not sleep well last night, limited myself to one outing to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, a wonderful building on Queen Street.
I had gone to see an exhibition that finishes on 16th January: ‘Facing the World: portraits from Rembrandt to Ai Wei-Wei’. There are five sections in the exhibition and the earliest are of course, oil paintings. I was reminded of a conversation last year with a friend around the topic of being able to appreciate a work of art without knowing anything about the artist. This is true but knowing something can shed more light on why this particular work was produced at this particular time. Or perhaps it is just that I am interested in people, have spent my career working with them and have a particular interest in creativity. On my current reading list is a recently published book entitled ‘Wired to Create’.

This work stuck out for me amongst the oil paintings. It is by Georg Philipp Schmitt in 1823-4 when he was 15 or 16 years old and is in pencil which was then a recently invented tool. I had forgotten that they really have not been around for long.
Portraits can provide an insight via facial expression, clothing and props and also the setting. This is Wilhelm Schnarrenbarger in his studio.
Others depicted themselves with friends or family members, role played or focussed on specific parts of the body such as this untitled circle of hands by Bruce Nauman.
There are 20th century photographs, video and outside the exhibition, the opportunity to contribute your own selfie to a display or for children to draw themselves. I have never painted or drawn a self-portrait and my sister complained recently that I was always behind the lens and not in front of it. Here is a photographic self-portrait from 1984.

Driving to Edinburgh and discovering some history

The weather improved as we headed north and the traffic usually diminishes after north Lancashire. That was not the case today. There were at least half a dozen very large loads heading up the M74 with escort vehicles. We could not identify what they might be components of but they slowed down even more the very heavy traffic. We left the motorway on the A701 and drove through Moffat without stopping. I had driven this road on a February afternoon and thought that I must return just before sunset as there are so many landscape views which would make good photographs in the right light. However today we were still too early for that and at the end of a long week, too tired to hang around waiting for it. Here is a shot from February.
A701 view 6 26 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)
We got stuck behind a campervan and several other cars but were still making a reasonable speed. A few brave souls overtook them without any accidents although it could have very easily been otherwise. There are a number of interesting places to explore, some of which I remember visiting in my first job in these parts. Romannobridge is named after the old bridge which stands in the middle of the hamlet.

A Dr Pennecuik’s history of Peeblesshire gives this account which I found on a website devoted to the history of gypsies in Scotland:
“Upon the 1st of October, 1677, there happened at Romanno, on the very spot where now the dove-cot is built, a remarkable polymachy betwixt two clans of Gipsies, the Pawes and the Shawes, who had come from Haddington fair, and were going to Harestanes, to meet two other clans of these rogues, the Baillies and Browns, with a resolution to fight them. They fell out, at Romanno, among themselves, about dividing the spoil they had got at Haddington, and fought it manfully. Of the Pawes, there were four brethren and a brother’s son; of the Shawes, the father with three sons; and several women on both sides. Old Sandie Fawe, a bold and proper fellow, [It is interesting to notice that the Doctor calls this Gipsy a “bold and proper fellow.” He was, in all probability, a fine specimen of physical manhood—Ed.] with his wife, then with child, were both killed dead upon the place; and his brother George very dangerously wounded. In February, 1678, old Robin Shawe, the Gipsy, and his three sons, were hanged at the Grass-market, for the above-mentioned murder, committed at Romanno; and John Fawe was hanged, the Wednesday following, for another murder. Sir Archibald Primrose was justice general at the time, and Sir George McKenzie king’s advocate.” Contrasting the obstinate ferocity of the Gipsy with the harmless and innocent nature of the dove, Dr. Pennecuik erected on the spot a dove-cot; and, to commemorate the battle, placed upon the lintel of the door the following inscription:
“A. D. 1683. 
The field of Gipsie blood, which here you see, 
A shelter for the harmless dove shall be.”

I think I might search out a copy of the History of Peeblesshire and find out a little more about the area before my next visit.