For those of a certain vintage, tradition becomes increasingly important – if only as a bulwark against the ever-increasing rate of change. I also find that I start to develop a growing number of traditions of my own – and the last couple of days has scored quite highly in the I-Spy Book of Fish Traditions (a book with a rather limited potential market I’ll admit – but that’s the joy of e-publishing, or so I’m told).
On Thursday I made my annual August pilgrimage to Edinburgh and, as is my wont, spent most of the journey stuffing my face with the nourishing largesse provide by East Coast to its first class passengers. Unusually, my journey was routed via Kings Cross – as this offered the cheapest Advance fare at the time of booking (I may be first class, but I am still cheap and do manage to consume most of my fare in free food and drink, further boosting its value for money credentials) – so I was able to check out the newly revamped station. This is a significant improvement on the old rather tatty concourse, and has even gained a platform – though those travelling with an owl will be disappointed to learn that it is numbered 0 (zero) rather than 9.75. As part of the revamp, there has been a major boost to increase standards of customer care, evidenced by the announcements advising us to take care as we wandered around the terminal because of the “inclement weather”; this on one of this year’s all-too-rare warm, dry and sunny mornings. If only other sections of our rail network aspired to – and better still delivered – such high standards.
Auld Reekie was bathed in glorious sunshine and in my first 24 hours in the city I managed to cover pretty much all of the traditional activities I have accreted over the last few years.
- Seriously good classical music: Tick. The Arcangelo consort and Iestyn Davies doing the honours at Greyfriars Kirk (no relation to James T, so far as I know).
- Quirky comedy: double Tick. Both Matthew Crosby and Stuart Goldsmith were huge fun. I’m always puzzled where Mr G is not better known: I caught him as part of a triple bill of folk trying out their Edinburgh acts in Cambridge a few years ago (3 for £5) and discovered he was brilliant. Yet another example of why it is important to try things you don;t yet know you like. Push that envelope! Lick that stamp!
- Serious cake: Tick. The Falko konditorei in Bruntsfield does provide some serious cake (or more accurately torte) action for the true connoisseur – and the hike across the Meadows from the Pleasance does significantly ameliorate any feelings of guilt that might otherwise be involved.
- Bonsai: Tick. On my first ever visit to the Fringe, I needed to find a decent eatery near the Pleasance – and the miracle of the interweb brought me to Bonsai. This could be the best bit of browsing I’ve ever done as it is now my regular haunt whenever I’m in Edinburgh. Japanese food is genuinely fast and sustaining, and so I can grab a quick “course” between gigs. I have been known to visit five times in a single day – so often have I been, that the staff recognise me even though I’m only a customer for a single week each year.
The second 24 hours was pretty good too. I can add Michael Legge and Lloyd Langford to my comedy recommendations – though I’d see the former sooner rather than later, as I’m not sure his heart will hold out much longer. My plan to try and do a little bit less is working nicely – though doesn’t seem to be generating much in the way of earlier nights yet. Yesterday, it meant that I escaped from the rather limited (for which read, non-existent) cask ale offerings at the Fringe venues to visit the Regency splendour of the Cafe Royal. Not a cafe, but a very fine pub which provided your truly with a brace of pints of Deuchars IPA at a significantly lower price than the nitro-kegged horrors on offer at the Assembly Rooms (though still at a price level that shocks those who fondly remember Joey Holt’s at 99p/pint in the Bluebell in Moston). My visit also scored me another minor celebrity spotting to add to my list: the long-haired TV archeologist Neil Oliver.
Yesterday also yielded another traditional (and for the reader, tedious) trope with news reaching me of the official opinion on my latest OU essay. It once again yielded 95 of your English marks (somehow I can never quite make it to 96): given the amount of blowing this particular trumpet is receiving at my hands, my embrasure must be coming along nicely.
Today I shall be breaking new ground, with my first visit to the theatre in Scotland – but first, back to tradition: the full Scottish breakfast. So for the next hour or so, black pudding, bacon and sausages will be deemed to be vegetables (mostly).