Cornbury: the resurrection


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.

The end of summer?


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.

Cornbury: the fabulous finale


The sun was setting on the Cornbury Festival last weekend for the last time because low numbers of people attending in previous years left the organiser seriously financially embarrassed. However, it may not be the end as rumours were circulating that it might reappear in a couple of years in a different venue. We were attending it this year as rugby in New Zealand won over Glastonbury and my friend suggested this as an alternative. The estate is not an ideal festival venue as it has numerous very large trees, one of which obscures the view of the main stage from one side of the audience area and there are no screens. It is however a small festival, other trees provide some shade in hot weather and it is easy to get around everything and move between stages. We arrived about an hour before the campsite opened so could park near it and find a good site for our tents.

After having our very civilised camping dinner of duck à l’orange cooked by my friend with aperitifs and wine followed by dessert we wandered off to the campsite stage to hear the Overtures, a tribute band who took us back to the 1960s for the rest of the evening. On Friday we explored the venue, relaxed in the hammocks before it got too busy (I managed to fall out and acquire some bruises) and sampled some of the music on that day. Here is Kansas Smitty’s House Band: a jazz ensemble.

That evening, my view of the Kaiser Chiefs was blocked by the afore-mentioned tree and also my view of Midge Ure the following day. The festival describes itself as a very English one and certainly over 90% of those attending were white, affluent, southern English. I did spot one saltire, one Welsh and one Swedish flag in the campsite and met some Liverpool FC supporters at one point but most of the voices I heard were southern English. There were ‘posh loos’ that you had to pay to use. There would not be any chanting of ‘Jeremy Corbin’ here. One of our friends thought they spotted Michael Gove but this was not confirmed and David Cameron has attended the festival in previous years. The friends also said that they tried to get into the Cafe Nero stage at one point but were prevented from going in as it was already full (before the arena was open) by people they presumed were VIPs. In addition to music, there was comedy (the best of which was Nish Kumar), activities for children, shopping and of course people-watching. There was an airfield not far away so we saw several small planes fly overhead and it was Bristol balloon festival on the same weekend so a number of hot air balloons also flew over us.

The weather was fabulous and we enjoyed a good variety of music before heading back home, wondering which festival to attend next year as Glastonbury is having a fallow year.

The end of summer in Edinburgh

Fireworks 1 29 August 2016-1
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.
Flagstaff Americana Sunday 28 August 2016-1
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.
Marion  29 August 2016-1
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.
Fireworks 5 29 August 2016-1

Art and academia in Edinburgh

I may have retired from clinical work but still have academic work to clear before I can finally hang my hat up for good. Just as I was planning a fairly leisurely week in Edinburgh, the reviewer’s comments on a book manuscript, papers to be revised and submitted and a Cochrane Review update have all landed on my desk. I came up here for some peace to write as we are having the living room and conservatory floors tiled at home. However, some of my neighbours here were in the process of having their bathroom revamped and another was having some work by a gas engineer. So when it got too much, I have headed out for some culture. The city was gearing up for the Festival and Fringe which kicked off today but my first destination was away from the beaten track of most festival goers – the Edinburgh Photographic Society. They hold an international exhibition every year, down in the New Town. There was no-one else in when I was there so I had the photographs all to myself.
Edinburgh Photo Soc 3 Aug 2016-1
On Wednesday evening there was a private view at the Scottish Arts Club with paintings by Jennifer McRae, pen & ink drawings by Ian Stuart Campbell and jewellery by Natalie Adams. I met a saxophonist who gave me some tips (I hope to take it up soon) and we also swapped tips about packing for the Pacific Northwest as she is heading off to study in Vancouver very soon. Yesterday the club hosted its annual ‘Fringe in a Day’ event. Comedians, actors and musicians all provide short tasters of their shows. I managed about half of it as it goes on until late evening but I did want to get some more work done today so needed a fairly early night. Hopefully next year I can do it all in a slightly more leisurely fashion. Now it’s time to be thankful I am not staggering up Brownlow Hill in Liverpool but can be at the virtual university.

A weekend of cars and music

We were unable to try for Glastonbury tickets this year as it clashed with our US road trip. A friend suggested Carfest North as it was local, we were around and it made an ideal birthday present for her. My car-mad husband could come along and was pleased we did not get camping tickets so he could sleep at home each night. On Saturday we set off early and were parked up by the time it opened. There was lots to look at, events in the arena and cars driving around the track which had been constructed here following the move from Oulton Park. Other small displays were going on around the place.
Car Fest 3 30 July 2016-1
In addition to cars of all kinds we had the JCB Dancing Diggers, a speed boat and paddle-boards on the water (not at the same time) and plenty of non-vehicular action: show-jumping, camel racing and army dog displays. There was plenty for children to do with a fun-fair and various other activities. The music kicked off in the afternoon and again there was a variety from brass band to an NHS Choir, A Who tribute band, the Proclaimers, Kaiser Chiefs, KT Tunstall, the Corrs etc.
Car Fest 24 30 July 2016-1
In between acts we were entertained by dancing poodles and Mr Motivator, all compèred by Chris Evans. On Sunday we had a slightly later start and then got held up on the way by a large horsebox going very slowly. The A534 towards Bolesworth is a two lane road with so many bends that overtaking is impossible. Eventually when we were almost at our destination, he turned off in the opposite direction. On our return that evening we caught up with the same horsebox but this time were were on a dual-carriageway and could get past him. My friend and I would have preferred to camp and not have to come and go but as 2017 will not be a Glastonbury year as we will be in New Zealand in June, we are looking at alternatives and persuading my husband that we can make it comfortable for him. After what was quite an exhausting but very enjoyable weekend, I was glad to be on an early train to Edinburgh where I hope to mix some work I have to do with some culture.