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.
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.
On Wednesday I was wondering whether we would make it to Edinburgh at all. High winds (Storm Frank this time) and even more rain had exacerbated the already flooded areas of Northern England and Scotland and reports were coming of more areas being flooded and landslides. Someone had posted a photograph of the M74 looking more like a river on Facebook. My 4×4’s maximum wading depth of 50cm might be exceeded in some of the floods we have seen. Thursday morning in Cheshire was sunny, still and with a blue sky. The radio DJ obviously thought that a blue sky in Manchester was worth commenting on. As we drove north, dense low cloud and rain were with us until we got to Edinburgh and despite numerous signs saying ‘snow forecast’ there was none to be seen on the hills. We got there with enough time to get ourselves organised and down to the New Town where we were to spend Hogmanay with some friends. After our meal we walked a bit closer to the city centre and watched the midnight fireworks. Today has been a much more leisurely day. Despite all the snow warnings we have still not seen a flake. I am working on an painting which might become an elegy to winter.
Waking up early on the 31st December with a migraine put paid to my plans to get some work done before we hit the road. We headed off at lunchtime with the first part of the journey unusually quiet and joining a long line of traffic as we approached Edinburgh. The snow had melted from most places and over Shap we had low cloud and rain. In the Clyde Valley a huge parliament of rooks were feeding at dusk in the soft ground in a field. We passed the Biggar bonfire which always stays intact until it is lit on the evening of the 31st. The Congleton bonfire for the 5th November had to have a 24 hour security guard posted in the run up to stop anyone lighting it beforehand or making off with the pallets for their own fire. Sunset is now discernibly later so we arrived and unpacked before it got dark. I was keen to experiment with firework photography so it was up Blackford Hill to try. The wind was very strong so I sheltered in the lee of the trig point until it was time to start. Even with support and image stabilisers, it was too windy for very long exposures but I managed a few reasonable shots. The last time we were up here at Hogmanay it was snowy and we slithered back down the hill. This time the descent was much easier. The challenge for another year will be getting some closer shots.