Big Bertus!

August 9, 2017

I had a big round number birthday recently and my partner, Madeleine, bought me a present of a ‘Magic Moment’ at the zoo with Bertus, their Indian Rhinoceros.
We’re Life Members and the shop has sponsored Tapirs there for the last 10 years, so it was a very suitable, if a bit unexpected, present.

And Monday 7th was the day I chose to claim my present. (Bertus is leaving the zoo soon so time was limited a bit otherwise I wouldn’t have chosen to close the shop for 1/2 a day during the Festival/Fringe.) Anyway, the morning promised a nice day ahead and we set off, with plenty of time for breakfast along the way. Or so we thought! We had chosen to eat at Haymarket so any Festival traffic problems would be behind us, but all the buses we wanted from there were held up by some unknown problem and we ended up dead on time, instead of with some slack to spare.
Anyway, registration went smoothly and at the appointed time we met the Keeper and off I went from my close encounter with a rhino! And my personal photographer (and gift provider) came too!
Bertus is now nine, I think, so still relatively young, but still massive!


And I got to feed him a bucket of cut branches and leaves, etc. and see him really close up. Like, close enough to pet his upper lip/nose which was wonderfully soft despite all it’s wrinkles, and rub and pat his flank, which he seemed to enjoy.

Lots of interesting chat with the Keeper, Erika, and a thorough look behind the scenes, including a little play with his indoor swinging blocks (logs hung from chains he can butt)  and checking out his indoor drinking trough, etc.

A second attempt to feed him the remainder of the bucket of food failed as he had gone outside and was very happy to lie in one one of his wallows and ignore the Keeper’s calls (and mine too). But the first feeding session had been a great success and having a rhino lean into you a little as you rub it’s flank is very special. Looking right into it’s mouth from a foot or two away, or up it’s nostril, or at it’s eye close up, is fascinating, too!
And then it was over, and work beckoned.

But what a half day!



Sunny Days!

August 8, 2017

Summer! Sun! Beaches!

For the first time in ages we had a Sunday to ourselves and decided to have a minor trip to the beach! Not any old beach, but one that you can only access with a bit of a walk, either from Gullane or, as we did, from Aberlady and across the long wooden bridge and through the Aberlady Nature Reserve.

It turned out they had removed the bus stop at the bridge end carpark but the driver let us off anyway (big thanks as the next stop is half a mile at least further on). Next time we’ll know to get off the bus in the village… Anyway, great weather and just right for a stroll along the paths through the Reserve and over the big dunes down to the beach.


The tide was well out so we sat and watched the sea and the sky, had a snack and a drink and then went paddling! Down to the sea and then along the shallows as the tide turned for maybe half a mile, back up the beach and along the slightly more rugged walk out to Gullane and a late lunch. Or maybe it was tea!

And a couple of weeks later, on another fine Sunday, we took the (now not so) new Borders Railway down to it’s terminus at Tweedbank, just beyond Galashiels, but before Melrose. Nice journey through the Borders, although nearer Edinburgh it all seems to be new housing and building sites…
After leaving the station we headed for the Tweed just to the east and made a big loop following it upstream past a small herd of Belted Galloways to Abbotsford, maybe a mile west of Tweedbank. It’s a nice walk once you find the start of it and very quiet despite the proximity of the village and nearby towns. And, on the far bank, we saw what must have been a wild mink! I saw it emerge from some waterside greenery and make it’s way carefully along a section of  bank where the covering soil, etc. had slipped into the river leaving a very steep, exposed slope. We both watched it until it slipped into the water, and away who knows where!


Approaching by the riverside path, we avoided arriving at Abbotsford House itself but it soon came into view from the path through the meadow between it and the riverbank.
A very striking mansion, bought and greatly expanded by Sir Walter Scott and further expanded after his death by the family. So there’s his original grand house which replaced the farmhouse he bought, which is now squeezed between his grand east Wing and the later, equally large, West Wing. Plus formal gardens, terraces, stables etc. Very grand, with great views across the Tweed and to the hills opposite to the north.

A very nice meal at their visitor centre restaurant and then a walk back through the village and on to the station. We hadn’t really paid attention to the time and realised if we hurried we might get a train without having to wait an hour. And we would have missed it, but the conductor held it while we panted up to the platform and along to the carriage door!
And then homewards in the early evening…


Up for the Down Stroke!

May 16, 2017

Way back in late 1978, as far as I can estimate, I didn’t go see George Clinton and his Parliament / Funkadelic show at the Odeon in Clerk Street. I wasn’t a huge fan, but I knew people who were and I expect I’d have gone… but ticket sales in Edinburgh were so poor they cancelled the gig. One friend had bought, I think, 8 front row seats and was not happy. At All.

Anyway, nearly 40 years later, they’ve come back and played Glasgow on Wednesday 10th May. I didn’t know how much of a show to expect – certainly not the Mothership or all the pyramid stuff from the 70s! But there were loads of performers – up to 17 I think, although maybe one was really a roadie! His main task was to hold a mic up against a monitor speaker during a couple of songs!

Apart from him there was Clinton himself, with a shaved head under his black leather hat – no rainbow dreads anymore –  3 electric guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, sax & trumpet. And half a dozen singers/rappers, including 4 women. Together they made a great noise! I’m not a major fan, although I’ve got half a dozen albums under various names,  and haven’t listened to them much recently, but several of the classics were there, together with more modern hip hop and rap elements. One Nation, Up for the Down Stroke, Maggot Brain, Flashlight… And Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk made an appearance!


Thin as a rake with wide-brimmed white hat, overcoat and trousers, all looking  like they’re feathered! Much posing and some minor acrobatics followed!

They played a good long show, around 2 hours 20 minutes of driving funk (with some mellow stuff, too, including a ‘Brides of Funknstein’-like section that allowed a lot of the others to take a short break, but I had to leave before I knew for sure they had finished, although I’m sure they were still on stage thanking the audience as I went down the stairs, but they weren’t going to play any more…

The support act weren’t bad either, although obviously not in the same league. A local duo called Shaka Loves You with a table of laptops & decks together with a set of bongos to add a sinuous afro-latin feel to the beats.

Good night, but when I got back to Edinburgh I discovered that no mater how quiet the roads are at nearly 1 in the morning, cyclists still prefer to ride on the pavement!




Not My First Concert…

May 12, 2017

One March Wednesday a while ago I went to see Procol Harum. They were playing the Usher Hall in Edinburgh and I was pretty impressed although their lighting rig was fairly rudimentary and it wasn’t really a very big sound system. But it was my very first proper rock concert and I enjoyed it a lot.
That was back in 1973 and my ticket was 75p!

Jump to last Saturday, just over 44 years since I first saw them, and we went to see Procol Harum play at the Queen’s Hall. A much smaller venue, with it’s own lights and sound, perfectly suited to the venue. The only constant member has been pianist Gary Brooker, main song writer and lyricist – the other current members have been playing as PH for decades, but mainly joined in the 1980s & 90s. They have a new album out, their first for 14 years, iirc, so most of that was played during the two sets, along with several of the classic songs from the 60s & early 70s.


Grand Hotel, A Salty Dog Conquistador (the live cut had been a minor hit the previous summer when I saw them in 1973) Homburg… and finally, as an encore A Whiter Shade of Pale, which they had chosen not to play 44 years ago. So I finally heard their most popular (by a huge margin) song live!
Great performance, with some rather blues-y and jazzy overtones at times, and a great blast of hard rock from time to time! I think some of the audience were surprised to hear that they were very much a rock band! Excellent stuff and I’m very glad I finally got to see them again on this 50th Anniversary tour.


Setlist 1973
Setlist 2017



Random Film Post

April 21, 2017

So we went to see Ghost in the Shell last week Didn’t have any great problem following it – the overall plot was fairly simple, any confusion was in presentation. Caring very little about film stars, not caring it was Scarlet Johansson was easy!
But the world it was set in was great! Possibly the best big-screen cyberpunk setting I’ve seen so far.

Of the trailers shown, I was surprised to see the Valerian one as I had seen 2018 as when it would open. But apparently that was an error as it’s now scheduled for this summer. I’ll definitely be going to see it but I fear it’ll do comparatively poorly however good it looks…
It’s based on a popular fast-paced bande desinee from the 70s by J. C. Mezieres & P. Christin.


Having quite enjoyed the live action Ghost in the Shell, we went to see the much more enjoyable anime Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale a couple of days ago. Completely bonkers take on near future virtual reality and augmented reality gaming. It was an early screening as it hasn’t officially opened here yet, so we ended up in the front row of a fairly packed cinema -so it was really loud and in your face!
Imagine a Tokyo which you can overlay in real time (or have overlaid for you by a giant gaming company) with not only fake scenery and buildings, etc. but giant realistic-looking Pokemon Go style characters which don’t just sit there but that you can pretend to fight! Epic stuff!
Especially once you introduce a sympathetic evil mastermind with relatable (but morally wrong) goals, subplots about the ‘reality’ of actions taken in a VR background, and more…
The one downside was that there was a lot of dialogue in it and following the numerous subtitles meant that I missed some of the less obvious action and minor visual touches.  Also, two hours was possibly just a little long; maybe some of the action sequences could have been trimmed just a little.


Fringe D to the End!

September 2, 2016

Time to keep this up to date just seems to evaporate this year…

Since the previous post, it’s all come to an abrupt end as the Bank Holiday Weekend finishes; the tents and marquees are dismantled, the temporary bars closed up, and all the venues revert to whatever they do the rest of the year!
But before that happened we saw some more shows!

A fairly physical version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame called Le Bossu on at Bedlam called  (the Great Bells were excellent!). Totally different from Stack, which used the same room and which we saw near the beginning of the Fringe.
Cats and Dogs Give the Best Advice was silly, zany fun at the Royal Society building as the Narrator of a chldren’s TV show underwent a midlife crisis and made her innocent cast perform against character and eventually rebel…
Holmes & Watson: The Farewell Tour on at the Space on the Mile (i.e. the Radisson Hotel) was a fairly manic spoof of the famous detective and his sidekick, each complaining about the production of the play as it went on, and berating missing stagehands, etc! Quirkily fun.

Terry Pratchett‘s Mort at Augustine, where we saw Eric last year – Mort suffered in comparison by needing far too many little scenes to get the ‘best bits’ in for the fans so it never really seemed to get going before it cut back to a completely different set of characters for a scene, then back again, repeatedly. Quite fun despite this though.

We went to see the other two Jules Verne plays on consecutive Sunday afternoons and they were both as good as 20,000 Leagues. Journey to the Centre of the Earth was fun, with more comic touches than I thought were in the book! The raft scenes were particularly neatly envisaged.
And The Lighthouse at the End of the World was somewhat unknown (I saw the not very accurate film adaptation once years ago) but seemed very authentic with maybe more nautical lingo than some of the audience appreciated. It all made sense, though, as the tale of a lighthouse, shipwrecks and pirates played out… Not sure the shop got much of a return from it’s sponsorship of the Company, but the plays were good fun so I’m glad I helped them along a bit!
In among all this, we managed to squeeze in a trip to the Cameo cinema to see The Wave, a Norwegian disaster film about a mountainside collapsing into a fjord and the resulting wave racing towards the little town at the head of the fjord! And apparently the mountain depicted really does have loads of sensors, etc. deployed as it actually is expected to collapse sometime! No great surprises, but well done. With a great sunset outside afterwards!

Not much art this year; my viewing of any of it was restricted to the final Sunday, when we saw some of the Art Festival Trail, at the Burns Monument (and our friend Carmen’s new illustrated signpost nearby) and a sound installation in the old Royal High School in the main debating chamber (fully kitted out years ago for the Scottish Grand Committee to use and widely assumed to be the seat of any new Scottish Parliament until it was decided to build a completely new custom Parliament nearby at Holyrood). The whole complex of buildings has languished almost unused since, and going to hear some Eastern tinged songs commemorating British Empire soldiers from India serving on the Western Front in WW1, with responses from their wives, was both interesting and moving.
After that, it was back home for a bit of a rest and then out again to the 3rd and final big concert at the Playhouse. This time it was Mogwai, playing a live soundtrack for a new anti-nuclear polemic by Mark Cousins. The music was generally fine, if all a bit similar, but the film was really a bit of a mess with all sorts of imagery and clips mashed up with little sense of cohesion. Mogwai may well be worth seeing live, but this wasn’t that gig! And although there was very little music connected with any of the clips Cousins used, they still managed to play on top of it, instead of giving it the space to be heard.

On the Bank Holiday Monday, as a final show, we went to zazU: Raisins to Stay Alive, a fast-moving farcical play on at Teviot about the end of the world – well, not this one, a different world, as it was due to flip over and thus kill all it’s human inhabitants, although the mermaids would be safe! Silly and quite manic, although the ending was a bit sad once the consequences sank in!
And after that, our final street food, finally getting some excellent Malayan Rendang from a stall that had always seemed to busy for us to bother queuing for…

And so it’s all finished for another year, although pretty soon we get to go and see Magma, the French prog band, which Madeleine has wanted to see for years! And probably Walter Trout a bit after that…






Festival C

August 22, 2016

Another week gone by already!
We’re having a fairly quiet Fringe & Festival so far but we have been seeing some stuff!
Some very good stuff!

On Tuesday it was back to the Playhouse again for the 2nd of two nights by Sigur Ros, an Icelandic trio in somewhat the same vein as Godspeed You! but they also sing!
They opened with 3 songs they performed as shadowy figures behind a light screen, reminiscent of the Residents fabled Mole Show performances back in the 80s, but towards the end of the 3rd song, they moved to their main equipment set up in front of the screen, which was used for light projections throughout the performance, and really set to!
As a novice, I had difficulty distinguishing between the songs, but the crowd loved it! And I did too.IMG_6864

Thanks, in Icelandic, I believe. Shown after the end of the gig. No encore, just back on stage for a bow and then off again. Standard for the group I assume, as the audience didn’t seem to be annoyed at all.

And then it was Thursday and a quick exit form the shop for a bravura one man performance of Albatross at Paradise in Agustines, about the background to the famous poem.
You know the one!

Only a few stage props but a great performance, as the ancient mariner  dissected the Rime and ranted about all things pertaining to the poem and it’s genesis.
On Friday I had my own personal mini-Fringe show as the cast of Randy Writes a Novel (i.e. a big purple puppet and it’s handler) came to Transreal Fiction to do a short promo piece for their show at the Underbelly. Great fun, as Randy toured the shop commenting on the books and merchandise, chatting to (and scaring off!) the customers and generally being as OTT as you’d expect! It was being filmed by WOW247(Edinburgh)