Friday, August 31, 2007

Good game.

Falkland Palace is just a tiny bit disappointing: a lot of the interest can be seen from the street outside, and the interiors were mostly 19th Century reproductions.

More interesting is the world's oldest tennis court, which is in the grounds. That's royal or real tennis, of course, not lawn tennis (another 19th century innovation). I like that the idea of a serve is to get the ball onto the roof of the gallery, and that you get points for knocking the ball through the holes in the end wall. And the word "serve" originates because one's servant would start play off to save one from bending over in one's fine clothes.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Impassable for motors

They have a lot of cool old signposts in East Lothian. Nice to see such enthusiastic use of vulgar fractions. If a man walks from the sign to Woodhead, how many miles is he from Gifford? Express your answer as (a) an improper fraction (b) a decimal.

This one was grubbier, but more informative. I liked the obsessively accurate direction "Edinburgh 20 7/8". No doubt as a counter-blast to those hot-headed fools who claimed it to be 21 miles.

Monday, August 27, 2007


I manged to get to some of the main art exhibitions for the festival today.

I'll write some more about some of the big shows later, but some of the wee ones are cool too. Maybe it's just because you start without any expectations, but the small groups of work in single rooms are often excellent.

Among its blockbusters, the NGS have got together some prints by William Blake, and very fine they are too. In passing, I wonder if anybody has done a critique of, say, Songs of Innocence that considers both the word and the image? Those literary types shouldn't think they've annexed the topic.

The portrait gallery has a lovely selection of pastel portraits next to the cafe. What else can I say - they are exquisite and beautiful things.

The Queen has also done us proud and put on Amazing Rare Things at the gallery in Holyrood. (I suppose it's not a small show, but hey, I'm on a roll.) This is of natural history illustrations, whether part of Leonardo da Vinci's studies in red chalk, or a rich cardinal's cabinet of curiosities. The lack of an aesthetic party line or agenda about 'Art' is very refreshing. I noticed both here and in previous extracts from the royal collection, that HMQ has a lot to thank some of her predecessors for. George III in particular seems to have had an excellent eye (or been very well advised). I doubt the current members are enhancing the collection much.

Nature ramble

I originally set out yesterday to do something boyish and mildly obsessive involving Munros, but plans went sideways, and I ended up on a pretty ramble round some hills near Pitlochry. Some middle-aged men were twatting around with landrovers in the woods, but I left them to their tentative off-roading. It was, after all a day for wildlife. Spot of the day was a red squirrel which ran across the path, then watched me critically from high on a tree trunk. Dragon flies and butterflies were all around in the woods, and up on the moorland, I spotted a lizard trying to get warm enough to move.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


I've just had lunch in a local cafe. While there, two people did something very un-Scottish. Person 1 was at a table at the end of the room. Person 2 came in from the street. Person 1 walked into the middle of the room with arms outstretched. They met in front of where I was sitting and did all that "mwah-mwah" stuff. The other diners rustled their Sunday papers and tried not to notice.

They'll not be local then.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Art in the rain

It's a wet Saturday in August and I'm trying to get round some of the exhibitions that are on for the Festival. This is only partly successful, as everybody else is trying to do the same. In the Portrait Gallery Ricky Demarco is working the crowd at an exhibition covering his work with Edinburgh Festivals past.

In the city Art Centre I admire Joyce Cairns' painting Shoes from Majdanek, which shows a huge pile of shoes discarded by the victims of a concentration camp. Some other visitors take a shine to it, thinking it's rather fun "That's a lovely idea, lots of shoes. Lovely colours!" Should I tell them? But what do you say? No, it's not fun, it's a searingly painful reminder of the Holocaust?

Eventually I get wet feet and go home to watch DVDs.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fine stuff

I can usually be relied on to be behind the curve when it comes to technology. It's no surprise then, that I've only recently got interested in Flickr and Youtube. Yes, I know, so 2006. Youtube endeared itself to me the other night when I discovered some clips from the Innes Book of Records. I've not seen this stuff since it was first broadcast in all its surreal oddness, captivating me and bewildering my mum ("But what does he do?" was the main comment I remember).

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

No patience

When I was wee, my mum always made me wait when boarding buses and trains. "Let the people off first!" she admonished. And I always do. Recently, I've encountered a lot of people who are not so considerate. At both the Glasgow and Edinburgh ends of today's journey, there was a wall of jostling people displaying no patience at all.

This must be a sign of approaching middle age.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Most people start with the letters

I've just bought a Tusitala Stevenson. It had been sitting in the window of the second hand bookshop down the road for a couple of weeks. I've been curious about some of RLS's more obscure works for some time, so it seemed a good omen. I find myself briefly in another world. "Most people start with the letters" says the book shop man rather cryptically. I must look blank, because he explains that the volumes of letters are the most awkward to find, therefore if you care about getting a uniform edition, it's best to acquire them first, then look for matching versions of the more commonly found volumes. Of course. I don't like to mention that I am no bibliophile and only want to read them.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

It has started

I'm hopelessly confused about when the various varieties of Edinburgh Festival officially start, but that's an academic point. When you cross the High Street and see it blocked by the great horde of luvvies and their followers, you know that it has all kicked off. High Street is now off-limits for a month, unless you want to be endlessly detained by jugglers, mime artists, rickshaws, leafleters (is that a word?), and people advertising their one-person show about Mao Tse-Tung.