Last year’s Cornbury Festival was ‘The Fabulous Finale’ and supposedly the last. It had been making a loss over the previous few years but there were so many messages of support and demands that it continued that the decision was made to hold it again this year. As Glastonbury is having a fallow year in 2018 we decided to go with a couple of friends. We were at the gate before it opened so got a good camping pitch not too far from the car park. The tents were soon up and after a meal, we set off to explore. The Campfire Sessions on Thursday evening allows six bands to compete for a place on one of the main stages next year. We watched the last two (this is Pacific).
Some of the stewards had interesting head-gear.
We also watched a great sunset and listened to the music coming from the Ceilidh Liberation Front. They are from London and I am not sure how Celtic they actually are, but many people enjoyed their attempts to get everyone in a dark, crowded tent, dancing. On Friday the Riverside Stage had 15 talented newcomers from Richer Unsigned, a non-profit organisation founded in 2014 by Julian Richer from Richer Sounds. There were a few problems with the amps and one performer was told not to touch the mike or they would be electrocuted. The MC introduced Little Triggers, a band from Liverpool saying that as they had all been drinking beer and were wearing black trousers, they had to be a rock band.
After Tamar and The Two Tone all Skas, it was time to eat and return to the main stage in the evening for Stereo MCs and UB40.
On Saturday we started at the Riverside Stage and treated ourselves to some Nyetimber English Sparkling wine on the top floor of a converted bus after Pixie Lott.
We had a good view of the main stage where Amy Macdonald was performing and also the back of the Hairy Bikers first restaurant where they were leaving food out for staff meals.
The festival attendees are 99% white and fairly middle class. There is a good selection of activities for children and quieter camping areas so many families do attend. The performers are more diverse.
Balloons started to drift across the sky from a balloon meet somewhere nearby.
We enjoyed Mavis Staples at the Songbird Stage
and returned to the main stage for Alanis Morrisette.
Sunday’s music began with the Mighty John Street Ska Orchestra and we divided up to see Catherine McGrath, a UK country music singer or Mari Wilson and the New Wilsations.
In the afternoon we had to take the tents down and get the car packed ready to depart that evening as our friends had to be back at work on Monday. We had never seen Deacon Blue live before.
Ricky Ross, one of the vocalists noted that Donald Trump was visiting Scotland on the day they were performing in England. He said that Trump was not visiting anyone (he refused to meet First Minister Nicola Sturgeon) but went just to play golf. Ricky told Trump to ‘Fuck off’. Before their final song (Destiny), Ricky told us that the band were meeting former First Lady Michelle Obama next week and he dedicated the song to her and her husband. We enjoyed Caro Emerald before driving home as the sun was going down.
Or just over 22 hours to be precise. Our train pulled into Piccadilly Station with enough time to settle into our hotel in Dale Street before sunset. The sun disappeared quickly behind the buildings and lights came on accompanied by the sound of distant fireworks.
This part of the city reminds me a little of the garment district in midtown Manhattan which we visited last year. There are even a couple of wholesale fashion houses in some of the side streets. One more recent addition is Chapter One at 19 Lever Street; an independent bookshop which opened in 2016. Their website notes that in 2013, over 1,000 bookshops in the UK closed down and from 2013 to 2015 not a single new UK bookshop opened. It is also a cafe, welcomes people who want to sit and work and has interesting decor. There are not a lot of books on display but they also sell online and host a weekly creative writing group.
The main reason for visiting Manchester was to see some live music recommended by friends we had made at Cornbury Festival in the summer. Rusty Shackle are a Welsh indie rock group who were performing at Gulliver’s pub on Oldham Street which regularly hosts live music. En route we had an early evening meal at Turtle Bay, a Caribbean restaurant near the venue.
We arrived at the pub before the venue door opened so had a beer downstairs in the bar. It had some interesting light fittings.
The venue upstairs appeared to have been made by combining three rooms with ceiling roses, chandeliers and painted a deep red colour. It chimed with Rusty Shackle who have standard lamps on stage and one by the mixing deck. The support act was a group from Colne called Folkestra who describe themselves as ‘a punk-driven rock-fuelled folk machine’. My musical preference was for Rusty Shackle who came on at 9.30pm. In addition to the usual guitars and drums, the bass guitarist also played a trumpet and one of the other guitarists did some percussion as well. Here they are setting up.
The next morning we headed wandered around the city centre doing a little Christmas shopping. The Christmas market stalls were under construction but it is likely to be after Christmas before we have another day in the city.
The last weekend of August (the hottest August Bank Holiday since records began) saw us back in Edinburgh to catch some of the last music and the Fireworks concert at the end of the Festival. Flagstaff Americana are a mainly Scottish group with an Australian playing bass guitar and a lead singer from Northern Ireland. They play a selection of country and rock music which is right up James’s street and also do regular gigs at the bar & bistro, Biblos. We saw them in the Fringe last year at Henry’s Cellar Bar in Morrison Street and this was their venue on Sunday evening. Here they are getting ready to perform.
On Monday evening, after walking down to town with only one flyer being thrust in our faces, we joined the long queue to enter Princess Street Gardens where there is a seated are at the Ross Bandstand and standing/picnicking tickets for the gardens. I had treated us to seats so we enjoyed the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and guests while watching the fireworks a little closer than I saw them last year from the top of Calton Hill.
The Scottish schools began their autumn term in mid August and the rest of the UK returns to school this week. Monday is Labor Day in the USA and another sign that autumn is on the way. However, although we have plenty of mellow fruitfulness: I am busy making apple juice, damson and sloe gin, passata with tomatoes and soup with cucumbers, we have only so far had a fleeting glimpse of mist before the sun burnt it off yesterday morning. Summer is not over yet and some are saying an Indian Summer is forecast. Traditional recipes state that sloes should not be picked until after the first frost but if we did that now, they would all be eaten by birds as our first frost is still weeks away and they are ripe.
A friend commented recently that we used to pick blackberries in October and now they are ripe in August. I now have figs ripening outside which I could not have done several years ago. We will be extending our summer a little more during a week in southwest France very soon and I am also busy planning more journeys.
This gull had found a quiet spot to enjoy the sun we have had for the last few days but many more people were sunbathing in the Meadows, St Andrews Square or Portobello Beach. School and university are out for summer and the tourist season is in full swing. We were here mainly to get some work done on the flat but managed to escape for dinner with some friends on Sunday evening and for a trip to the Jazz Club on Monday evening. The Jazz and Blues Festival runs from 14-23 July before the main Festival and Fringe start. The Jazz Club’s resident Big Band were participating on this occasion. An early evening meal at Biblos which is almost next door meant we were first in the queue when the doors opened. Seating is fairly restricted at the venue and I did not feel like standing for a couple of hours that evening. Biblos has live music sessions in the B Bar throughout the year in Fridays and Saturdays. Here is the Big Band getting ready to perform in the Jazz Bar.
One of the festival staff asked whether I had seen them before and I had to explain that until this summer I had a choir rehearsal on Monday evenings and until last summer had to be in Liverpool early on Tuesday morning so Monday evenings in Edinburgh were not possible. He said the band had played every Monday evening for the last 10 years. The Jazz bar also runs jam sessions in the later part of the evening during the festival. Musicians can just turn up with their instrument and tell the door staff they want to play. Admission is free. They often have music going on until 5am. We enjoyed the selection of music from the Big Band but left well before morning. I made a note to get on with learning to play the alto saxophone. Wednesday was still very warm although overcast and we had a fairly uneventful drive home.
We saw the New Year in quietly at home as James had worked a 12 hour day and then driven up here on Thursday and we had been out celebrating his birthday with friends on the 30th. The 31st had dawned with high winds which were blowing down all the barriers being erected in the city centre for the Hogmanay celebrations that evening. It then rained for a few hours in the afternoon. I had been contemplating doing some firework photography from Blackford Hill as the weather did improve a little. However, I could see myself slipping in the mud with all my equipment in the dark and thought better of it. New Year’s Day began quietly as some of my neighbours are away and one is a taxi driver who had been working last night. After coffee with friends who popped in to deliver a Christmas present, we needed some exercise and headed up Blackford Hill. The dog-walkers, kite-flyers and some runners were all out and a few others who like me were hoping so see a good sunset. The darkest clouds were moving away to the southwest but the sun remained mostly hidden as it set.
As we walked downhill towards the Observatory, I spotted this guy who was playing Auld Lang Syne on the top of one of the hillocks.
Like Jim Perrin whose book I was reading on the train last night, I always enjoy finding new things or revisiting old favourites in familiar places. My first port of call this morning was the Assembly Rooms in George Street, the first Advent Door to be opened. I joined the 11am guided tour with a small crowd and heard about the various adaptations and renovations of the current building since it was opened in 1787, the most recent being completed in 2012. It replaced buildings in the old town which were described by Youngson in his book The Making of Classical Edinburgh as providing opportunities for ‘dancing. This – as a later age would have thought of it – unpresbyterian diversion was carried on in the form of public assemblies in the Old Assembly Room in the West Bow as early perhaps as 1710’. Here is an illustration of that building:
That Assembly and its predecessor did not only provide entertainment for the upper classes but also raised funds for the support of the poor. After the last renovation, the building is now a venue for conferences, exhibitions and weddings. They are keen to advertise their green credentials but no mention of supporting the poor. It does have a fabulous ballroom:
Here is one of the Coade Sybils in the Crush:
and a chandelier in the later drawing room made from pressed rather than cut glass:
The music room was lit in red for World Aids Day
I ended the day at the Queen’s Hall enjoying the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s concert:
Scene with Cranes
Strathclyde Concerto No 2
An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise – this last piece with the obligatory dram for the conductor, cheers from the orchestra and a finale with a piper.
Most of my train journeys to Edinburgh are in the early morning with good views of the Cumbrian hills and the Southern Uplands. Not so on this occasion, I was on the last train in the evening. In the week or so leading up to my trip yesterday evening there had been innumerable reports of problems on the rail network so I was not hopeful. As it turned out, my train was only three minutes late and I was soon installed in my seat with a coffee in front of me. The staff member in the carriage explained that due to staff sickness there would be no at-seat service in first class after Preston and plied us with enough food and wine to take us all the way to our destination. The wine came in a plastic bottle which I will hang on to as they are useful means of carrying alcohol into festivals where glass is forbidden for obvious reasons. I settled into the rest of my journey with Jim Perrin’s ‘Travels with a Flea and other Eccentric Journeys’, a collection of his essays on trips to various parts of the world and around his home in Wales. We arrived in Edinburgh on time and although my usual short cut to the bus stop was blocked by the ice rink and Christmas market, I did get a quick shot with my phone of the castle lit up in blue for St Andrews Day just before the bus pulled in.
I came up a little earlier than James and my father who will drive up on Friday afternoon as I wanted to fit in some last-minute Christmas shopping. I then discovered several things that will distract me from shopping. Firstly, Edinburgh is doing something a little different for the festive season this year. Each day from the 1st December to the 24th they are opening a building or part of a building which is not usually accessible to the public. The event, which is free, is entitled 24 Doors of Advent. Each day from 1-24th December, a different building or part of one not usually open to the public, will open its doors for a day.
I plan to visit the venues for the 1st and 2nd and possibly the 3rd, depending upon the preferences of the others. I also discovered that the Scottish Chamber Orchestra are performing Peter Maxwell Davies’s ‘Orkney Wedding’ on Thursday evening so that is my treat for this evening.
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.
Black Friday (aka Carmaggeddon according to the media), saw us driving to Edinburgh on the busiest weekend of the year. The radio was giving out traffic warnings for most of the major roads in England. Scotland does not have a long weekend at the end of August but the rest of the country all seemed to be on the move. We had tailbacks and crawled all the way until we had passed the M55 intersection and were just south of Lancaster. Then we had a quieter road and we lost a few more vehicles at the Lake District turn-offs. We could now see the familiar profiles of the Cumbrian hills. Our main reason for choosing to travel this weekend was that some Australian friends were in Scotland during the Edinburgh Festival and we had arranged to meet up with them. On Saturday we had a few things to do in town. I went into one store to buy some glue for a craft project. The proprietor was in the midst of a long telephone conversation half in English, half in Hindi, about local landlords. He carried on while I and several others made our purchases and was still on the phone when we left the shop. That evening we met our friends for dinner at the Tower Restaurant which is situated at the top of the Museum of Scotland with good views over the city and got as far as thinking about our Big Lap of Australia in a couple of years time. Sunday morning was spent planning next year’s trips to Iceland and New Zealand before we headed out of town to visit Little Sparta, Ian Hamilton Finlay’s garden near Dunsyre in the Pentland uplands that I love. I had been intending to visit for quite some time but it is only open in summer and not on every day so had not coincided with our travels on a number of occasions. This first visit was a bit of a scoping exercise for me to see whether to return with my camera and obtain a photography permit (which only allows personal and private use of photographs). There is so much to process as there are more than 260 art works in the garden and several recurring themes. I think repeat visits will be necessary to do it justice. James gave me the book a while ago so now is time to digest that and plan a trip next summer as we are not going to be back here in September. Afterwards, we visited friends in Carnwath before enjoying Americana Sunday at Henry’s Cellar Bar. The band, Flagstaff, also play in Edinburgh at other venues including Byblos so we might catch them again at some point.
James was due back at work on Tuesday so left very early this morning and had an easy run home. I was going into town to catch the last day of an exhibition. Just down the road from the flat, a group of a dozen Goths (is there a collective noun for a group of Goths?) were sitting on the pavement waiting for a lift. I carried on past all the stallholders who were packing up and was soon in Howe Street at the Ski Club to see Paperworks 3. This exhibition contains works in various media, natural and abstract forms by three artists: Marion Barron, Trevor Davies and Ruth Thomas. I enjoyed it very much and it provided another prod for me to get back to painting and printing. Here are some of Ruth’s books inspired by finds on nearby beaches both natural and some of our pollution.
This evening I trekked up Calton Hill to try and get some firework photographs. I was up there reasonably early and set up in daylight but it got very crowded with quite a lot of jostling so I gave up before the end. I must try and get to the concert next year and get some closer shots.
I had the repair kit out last night to super-glue the sole of James’s trainers. On our last US road trip we had to buy new walking boots as he left his in the car during a heatwave and the rubber soles disintegrated a few days before we were due to hike in the Grand Canyon. Nothing so drastic today as it was a scheduled non-driving day in Denver. Our only previous trip to the city does not really count as it was only a slightly longer stop on the California Zephyr’s route called a ‘smoke stop’ which allows enough time to stand on the platform for a few minutes. There was no need today for an early rise and we wandered slowly downtown. It was already getting hot. The pedestrianised part of 16th Avenue has three painted pianos in the middle all being played by someone and there were several other buskers. I had to explore the Tattered Cover Book Store which also has a café and could have come away with a pile of books but restricted myself to one. I have read most of William Least Heat Moon’s books (many bought in the USA) and did not have his latest published last year, so that was my purchase today. On a previous trip to the Pacific North West I had bought so many books that my case was overweight and I had to repack into hand luggage and James’s bags at Vancouver airport.
James had seen an antique map in the bookshop and sure enough there is an antique map seller not far away. We had a good conversation with the proprietor, inevitably about politics and Brexit which was more interesting now that we have left the Trump heartlands. We came away having bought one small map of the Gulf Stream dating from 1840. Near to the station, I thought I could hear some gospel music and realised that a small choir were singing. However, they were on their last number by the time we got over there. On the way back from the map shop we had just missed the European Queer Chorus who were leaving the stage but enjoyed this trio: The Homonics (who hail from Dublin). I discovered that the biggest LGBT Choirs festival in the world, GALA Festival is currently happening in Denver with approximately 6000 singers here. I chatted to some of the Queer European Chorus members who were from the UK, Germany and Sweden. We certainly do not have this next to Crewe Station at home.
Over the railway is Riverside Park and we sat for a while in the shade as by then it was 95 degrees. It was then time to visit the Colorado Contemporary Art Museum which does not open until noon. We got in for free as one of the galleries was being re-hung. The artists represented were Guido Ignatti from Argentina who works in several media, his works inviting a new look at everyday objects and Molly Bounds, a local painter. We had lunch in their rooftop café. On the way back to our hotel for a siesta, we passed a cosmetic dentistry clinic where the patients/customers have their treatment right in the front window in full view of all the passers-by which would not be my choice. We also discovered that the local traffic wardens get round on Segways. There are a many street installations and examples of street art in Denver but we only saw a few during our one day here. Throughout the day we kept getting glimpses of the golden dome of the Capitol glowing in the sun and the trainers held out for more than seven miles on our ‘lazy’ day.