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.
I have to confess, we have not walked the 24 miles of the Water of Leith from the source in the Pentland Hills, nor the 12 plus miles of the Water of Leith Walkway from Balerno to Leith. We did not have time to complete the full length of the Walkway so chose to walk to Leith from the point nearest to us.
As soon as we had returned from Ireland, friends were asking why I was not in Edinburgh enjoying the Fringe. We did come up in the middle of the month as we had some work which needed to be carried out on the flat and had selected a few samples of comedy, music and photography from the Fringe to enjoy as well. Some sensible residents stay away completely as getting around is more difficult and takes longer if you have to pass through the main tourist areas; fending off the flyers constantly shoved in your face. After enjoying Dan Willis, a UK comedian living in Australia presenting a ‘Whinging Pom’s Guide’ to the country, Ed Byrne, the Edinburgh Photographic Society’s Annual Exhibition and a great night with Lorna Reid at the Jazz Club, we were ready for a change of scene. We have walked a few sections of the Walkway in the past but fancied a bigger chunk today. It is a two mile walk to our nearest section and includes a bit of the Union Canal.
The Visitors’ Centre is at Slateford just next to where the river flows under the aqueduct carrying the Union canal. We had a coffee before hitting the trail just under the aqueduct where a sign told us it was seven miles to Leith.
There are currently a few diversions due to path closures. There has been a landslip and one section has been closed for six months while this is investigated and decisions made about action. Other sections are closed due to works on the Flood Prevention Scheme. Back on the path we enjoyed the greenery including trees and wildflowers but also spotted large clusters of an introduced problem plant: Himalayan Balsam. It is an annual but produces 800 seeds per year which are propelled huge distances and can be carried by water. It out-competes native flora and is very difficult to eradicate.
Other places have street art.
We passed the Balgreen Community Garden with raised beds made from sleepers like my own and an invertebrate hotel.
There are numerous places along the way where you can join or leave the Walkway and it connects with some of the cycle routes. Occasionally the path leaves the riverside for a short stretch for example, in the Dean Village.
It passes St Bernard’s Well, built on the site of an spring and which is open on Sundays in August. Here is an interior shot I took a couple of years ago:
Before we reached Leith we came across a family of swans having a grooming session. The swan’s partner was watching nearby.
After a succession of signs all saying Leith was 1¾ miles, we eventually reached The Shore. There is a Turkish Cafe and a pub, Salvation ready to restore you and for fine dining, Restaurant Martin Wishart is a little further along. After some refreshments it was time to catch the bus home. With all the diversions we had in fact clocked up 12 miles.
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 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.
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.
The traffic announcements on the radio were lengthy yesterday afternoon as we drove north. All around there were major problems including flooding, a motorway closed in Birmingham, accidents, a sinkhole in the Mancunian Way and the eternal roadworks near Lancaster. We made slow progress but were eventually over the border. Nearer to Edinburgh there were more cars heading into the city than leaving it on Friday evening. The only times in the year that this happens are August and Hogmanay. When we woke this morning, the rain was gone and the sun was out. I had a couple of things to do in town and tickets for a recital of Chopin piano music at St Andrew’s and St George’s Church in George Street. During a coffee at Cafe Andaluz (which always switches my brain to Spanish) James announced that he thought he might have lost his wallet. As I had paid for what we had bought on the way down and remembered that he had been deciding whether to take a jacket when we left, I was pretty sure it was in the flat. He could not be pacified and decided he had to go back there to check, saying that he would not enjoy the music until he reassured himself. He took a taxi back to the flat while I finished my coffee and then wandered along to the venue. The church dates from the 18th century but has been restored relatively recently.
I had a front row seat and James arrived back before the recital started, the wallet having been found in the flat. Panic over. We were treated to a fabulous programme of Chopin piano music by William Alexander. Here he is, appreciating the applause at the end.
After that it was time to head back to the flat and start the clean up in the flat as it had been re-wired last week. We popped into the book fair at the Roxburghe. Very little was within my budget – I picked up a copy of the New Naturalists Library on ladybirds, one I don’t have. It was £750 so it was not added.
Days 2 to 4 of our time at the Fringe passed by in a whirl of street performers and comedy acts. A change from my usual focus on the visual arts and music (although there was plenty of street music). We did visit the West End Craft Fair looking for gifts and inspiration for our own craft ventures.
On Saturday morning we picked up some goodies for Sunday Brunch at the farmers’ market. They were gobbled down on Sunday before we headed to Biggar for the Vintage Rally (lots of cars my relatives had driven) and then a 60th birthday party in Symington. We could not stay until the end but had to head south and back to the grindstone for a while.
Up very early today and on the train north. Off to Edinburgh again to sample the Fringe/Festival and anything else that appeals with a friend. After dumping our bags at the flat we had lunch at the Canny Man’s which has an amazing variety of open sandwiches. Fiona was scouring the charity shops for shoes and I found a fab pair of white jeans. After a siesta and early dinner we headed into town to sample some comedy. En route we heard some buskers and then wandered down Candlemakers’ Row to the Cowgate.
We arrived at the Cowshed to hear a great band and to appreciate the graffiti-decorated cow
Two comedy shows later, we were flagging and decided to give the late show a miss so ended the day relaxing back at the flat with a glass of wine.