30 Aug 2009

Goodbye, Fringe! I have failed you once again.

Once again the Edinburgh Fringe is drawing to a close, and once again I have missed it. Other than a couple of forays onto the Royal Mile to watch street performers plying their trade for spare change, I haven’t seen a thing. I try not to feel guilty, even about not having visited the book festival even once. Somehow, others who work in festival areas during August still manage to go out and see a few shows. I find it nearly impossible to muster the enthusiasm for a night out after 12 hours of work and another day looming the next morning.
The buzz that was in the air at the beginning of the month has lost some of its euphoria. The frayed ends of a multitude of creative spirits flap in the breeze and rub against each other with a languid friction. Everyone is tired from long days of seeking attention and long nights of gigs and partying. The pillars for posters bulge at the middle like snakes that have eaten whole goats, and even the tourists seem a little worn by the constant barrage of leaflets being thrust upon them by eager performers.
The Fringe is a young person’s game. It is an abundant number of fresh-faced actors, writers and musicians, all trying to edge their way into the spotlight, hoping they will be the next names to be plucked from obscurity and plopped upon the great stage of celebrity. They feed off each other’s artistic juices, tortured and restless and wired and filled to the brim with what they can just sense is the most awesome potential.

Remember when you were young and everything you wrote or performed held a flicker of genius? Remember that open feeling, the raw way that you took on the world and drove yourself back into it again, in all the brazen seriousness of your endeavours? Even your ear wax was an epiphany from the gods.

That’s what the Fringe is. It worships art for art’s sake, the “just do it and see what happens” experimentation of youth. Most of them won’t “make it” and will eventually take 9-5 jobs or continue living on the cusps of success, scraping by in small productions and side-line earners, waiting for that big break. But no matter what, I am certain that few will look back on their time as Fringe performers with regret. When the years have slid past and middle age is staring up at them like a nasty carpet stain, they will think of themselves as they were, so wild and perfect in their intentions. And they will smile.

23 Aug 2009

The storybook wonders of Kelvingrove

I had lived in Scotland for just a year when the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum opened its doors again after having been closed for several years for refurbishment. First opened in 1901, there was no doubt that it had been in desperate need of some tender loving care.
For three years the public had only been able to walk past the enormous red sandstone structure and wonder what was taking place inside. Hundreds of exhibits, from a huge Spitfire in the central court to intricate collections of fossils, were being planned and catalogued, while much-loved pieces of art were being restored to their former glory.
The build-up to the moment when the doors were again swung open included behind-the-scenes television programs in which obsessed curators were followed and interviewed, and talented lighting men climbed tall ladders and scaffolding to cast just the right shadows over ancient treasures.

The opening was also televised, and I remember the moment like it was something miraculous. It remains in my mind a testimony to human endeavour, to what can be accomplished when you combine talent, effort, care, and time. That night the cameras captured the looks on people’s faces as they stepped inside and took everything in, like it was the finest gift they could have imagined.

One of the best things about Britain: all national art galleries and museums are FREE. When you walk into Kelvingrove, this small fact is something that can stop you in your tracks. “Free. I could spend all day in here, gazing at some of the finest things in the world, and I don’t have to pay. All this grandeur, just for me…" 

A barrage of magical children’s books could be set inside this building’s deep belly of organized clutter. From the proud Victorian detail of the entrance to the hall of the hanging heads, it is like setting an egg beater loose in the imagination. If ever I would be allowed to spend a night in an empty museum, this would be the one I would choose.
Gorgeous pieces of sculpture are on show, including George Lawson’s Motherless. But many people will be drawn by the opportunity to see Salvador Dali’s original Christ of St John of the Cross. Last time I visited, it was hanging at the end of a long hall, ensuring the visitor had to approach it from a distance, the details coming slowly into view.

Leaving Kelvingrove, the way to the nearby park includes even more Victorian sculptures, including the one below of a weaver smiling tenderly to a child as she works.
Kelvingrove is Scotland’s most visited free attraction. Yet I often meet people who are visiting Scotland, who say they don’t have time to go to Glasgow. They head to Edinburgh’s gothic skyline and mark “Scotland” off their list of places to see.
Trust me - if you are travelling to Scotland, take a heavy pencil and carve time in your schedule to visit Kelvingrove. It is a gift that has been lovingly given to anyone who wants it.

21 Aug 2009

I am such a numpty


I messed up my draw somewhat and included a name from a comment on a different post. Not paying attention to my email updates. Oh well - Falconhead if you're reading, you're still more than welcome to a CD since it was my error. You'll have to email me though because your link doesn't work.

I've gone ahead and picked another name from the hat as well. Three cheers for Smitten by Britain, who will get a 2009 Tattoo CD in the post.

My apologies. I promise future giveaways will go more smoothly, once the festival is over and I'm back to my regular sleep patterns.

20 Aug 2009

CD winners!!

Good morning bagpipe lovers,

Thanks ever so much for taking part in my giving of treats of excellent goodness, also known on this occasion as Edinburgh Tattoo CDs.

Three winners we have!
1. Cathy over at Whippoorwill Wood promises to listen to it until she drives her kids crazy.

2. Perhaps Lynda at Swoopin' Along shall be inspired to sculpt a piper!

3. Falconhead can relive the time she spent on Skye. (please email me - your link doesn't work!)

Along with all your comments here I have received some wonderful emails from people who related their connections to and love of Scotland. Thanks again for sharing your stories; I find them inspiring as I look for new ideas for this blog.

I haven't decided what next month's giveaway will be, but it will be sure to be something delightful. Enjoy your CDs, you three!
ps - nice try "JD."

14 Aug 2009

The sound of August: A musical giveaway

It's late, it's raining, but as long as we have music in our hearts, everything will be okay. Now, have you recovered from that appalling introduction? Not yet? Well, give it a minute.

I shall get to the point already. Another month, another bout of what I like to call "the giving of treats."

This month we turn our attention to the sense of sound, and what sound do people associate with Scotland more than that of the bagpipe? Or, in this case, the overwhelming resonance of a collection of pipe bands marching over an ancient drawbridge and onto a wide castle esplanade.

The Edinburgh Tattoo has released its latest CD and I have THREE copies to send out into the world.

As usual, the giveaway is straight-forward. The most important thing is that whatever it is I am offering has to make your belly or mind lurch rather joyfully. It has to be something that would give you genuine pleasure and enjoyment, or perhaps you know someone who would really love it.

To comment on this post is to enter your name in the draw - it is as easy as that. I write every one's name on a bit of paper, then I or JP draw the name the day after the deadline. The only ones not eligible are the person who won last month's draw (hope you're enjoying the cookbook, Pyzhan!), and my poor, prize-less Scotsman. If you don't have a blog to link back to, you can still enter by emailing me at scotland4thesenses@googlemail.com and including "Bagpipes!" in the subject line. I shall contact the winners by blog or email to get addresses.

Bits about this CD: The opening songs by the massed pipes and drums are lively and dramatic, and include new music written for the occasion by the director of the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming. The finale includes Amazing Grace, and there is a Robert Burns theme to honour Scotland's Year of Homecoming. The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (recent winners of a Classic Brit award for their album Spirit of the Glen: Journey) also feature, playing the always popular Highland Cathedral. Also, if you're a drum lover, some of the best snare drums in the world are here, in the form of the Top Secret Swiss Drum Corps. All of this, not to mention the Central Swiss Army Band, the Royal Corps of musicians from Tonga and the bands of the Royal Air Force...

So, are you tempted? Fancy a bit of live, traditional Scottish music, right in your ear? Then leave me a comment. Three of you will be marching around your living rooms in no time. Remember, I do airmail!

Deadline to get your name in the hat: let's say Wednesday 19 August.

Hooray for treats!

*******************This giveaway has now finished. Congratulations to Cathy, Lynda and Falconhead****************************

9 Aug 2009

Edinburgh Festivals' Cavalcade 2009

Some Edinburgh residents avoid the city centre when the annual festival season begins in August. I love the city in August. Because my work is festival based, I rarely get to attend any shows, but I always make a point of watching the Sunday cavalcade and taking a few walks along The Royal Mile to soak up the atmosphere.

Holyrood Park was stuffed with onlookers today and at times it seemed like the battle of the photographers, as professionals and amateurs alike shuffled for space in order to achieve the perfect shot.

Here are a handful of the more than 100 photos I took this afternoon. I hope they are enough to get you into the spirit of the three weeks of mayhem that lies ahead. My favourite photo is the one I have dubbed “Dr. Evil.”

Lobster Man:Dr. Evil:Massed Pipes & Drums (Edinburgh Tattoo):The most beautiful girl in the world:Highland Dancers from Australia (Edinburgh Tattoo):Random Monkey Man:Swinging Singer:Top Secret Drum Corp (Edinburgh Tattoo):Musicians, She Huo cultural troupe (Edinburgh Tattoo):All Smiles:If you were able to attend the Edinburgh Festivals, what kind of acts would you like to see? Would you show up early to hit the Jazz and Blues Festival? Make a bee-line toward the Book Festival tents in the hope of meeting your favourite author? Head to the Castle Esplanade for the Tattoo? Would you choose to see an opera at the International Festival? The Fringe (more on this next week) has everything from comedy to theatre, dance and music. If you had three free weeks to spend in Scotland’s capital during August, what would you want to experience above all?

7 Aug 2009

The Edinburgh Tattoo 2009

Personal highlights include the RAF flypast, the Tongan dance with canoe paddles, creepy images of skeletons cast against the castle walls, the fine gentlemen of the Canadian choir, Swiss drum sticks on fire, and the cheesy romance of Robert Burns. The show goes on until 29 August.

4 Aug 2009

Spit here.

You heard me. Twirl your tongue around inside your mouth and gather as much saliva as you can muster.

Then take a moment to remember the old 15th century Tolbooth, which once stood here on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. A jail and courthouse, many poor and wretched creatures met terrible deaths inside its walls, or were publicly hanged outside.

Before the Tolbooth was demolished in 1817, people would often spit on the door of the building as they passed. An old by-law states that it is illegal to spit anywhere in Edinburgh other than on the Heart of Midlothian.

So go ahead and spit. Spit on injustice, past and present.

Just be careful where you’re walking if you are passing this spot at the end of a long day. Eewwww…

1 Aug 2009

Lucid Dream Real Estate: Linlithgow Hideaway

This photo was taken in early spring, before the leaves had begun to pop. I lived in Linlithgow when I first moved to Scotland, and pined for this house every time I walked the path around the Loch.
Sometimes the sheep can be seen strolling the lawns, but most of the year it is a silent expanse, the house nestled away and close to a wide horseshoe of trees. I don't know how many times I have imagined life in this kind of house, with its broad rooms and fireplaces, and the tall windows through which to gaze at the world.

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