Monday, February 12, 2007

Aye, t'wis kinda dreich in Embra, cannae be better

('dreich' is scottish slang for grey and shitty wet weather, so ya know)

....but at least there was no snow as in Holland and Southern UK! Quite miraculous so as one must think, since Edinburgh is very much up north at nearly the same latitude as Scandinavia. Only the mountains had snow on it.

My previous blogpost hinted that guitarist Malcolm Middleton, who played Amsterdam the night before, was going to take the same flight as me and indeed he did as we met each other in the waiting lounge and it rejoiced us both by hoping the delayed plane would still come while the snow was pummeling down from the skies. It's a weird fate of coincidence to spend time travelling with a musician of one of your favorite bands -the recently disbanded group Arab Strap-. I put on the handcuffs, yes, guilty of craving Scottish melancholia blues since 2000. Malcolm, soft spoken and modest, had just done a 2 week solo tour in Germany and was now going home to Glasgow, though he first had to do a live sessionthere for the BBC One radio. Our plane did arrive and from the whitelands we flew into the wetlands. The end of his adventure, the beginning of mine and hasty goodbyes were said after he told me that he should be in Utrecht for a solo show in April.

So, Edinburgh busride into town. For some reason the whole ride really reminded me of the the Dublin route from the airport...I guess it's because the Scottish infrastructure is so much alike the Irish, such the architecture and general road atmosphere. Dejavuland was passing through the eyes, finding its way in quasi recognizable patterns from the brain and it all felt familiar, home style familiar!

Edinburgh centre is splittingly devided in 2 halves by a giant rock with a castle on top of it -Edinburgh castle, which still has an army up there funnily enough-, and the view is amazing. Not many cities can boast having such a landmark decorating the scenery and when you add the other 2 hills running from the centre, (one is a monumental green hill just past the castle rock and the other even a small nature mountain park right next to side of the centre), one feels that the city has achieved a perfect symbiose with a rougher side of nature.

Oops, back to thursday afternoon, Nessa picked me up and we did a small tour of the city for having a supernice veggie lunch at the Forest organic cafeteria, run by volunteers and which much reminded me of Utrecht's squatcafe ACU. Good to know that good places exist in any city that has a good cultural mindset to it. Soon afterwards, a pub was the next stop where I tasted the local blonde Innis & Gunn ale which had a slight whisky flavour to it, wow! This kinda marked the start of a weekend with many ales and whiskies; both alcopop liquids I normally don't drink. There always has to be a one time for everything. Back to Nessa's after a bout of pear cider and Swedish modernised bars. Cabbage and Ribs, the Hibs! Now there's some slang rhyming you'll have to crack to get the nut.

On Friday we took it kinda lazy, walked through the special Dean Village which contained streets and alleys of mews, which are old stables that are now used as pittoresque residences. After that we went to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art where they had modernist paintings of Picasso, Miro, Ernst, Margritte and statues of Paolozzi. Eduardo Paolozzi was actually born in the Leith area where Nessa lives. Though his name comes from his Italian father, he was a born and bred Edinburgh resident and started the British pop art scene. These pics show some work, such as the huge and tall metal Vulcan statue that we saw! A pity we came kinda late into the gallery and were kicked out at closing time.

There were many Welsh up and about on the streets, as Scotland was playing Wales for the European 6 Nations Rugby Cup, The good thing about such rugby games is that it makes the atmosphere on the streets and in the pubs an amazing experience, where good behaviour is always the rule and not the exception....which can't be said about football fans very often. The Welsh were quite uppity in the days before the game and we either catched them in funny moods or singing deeply from their choir chests. Friday night Gavin -Nessa's boyfriend- joined us for a few good ones in a nice auld ale pub (20 taps on offer!), when some elderly Welsh gents started singing canon chants out of the blue, surely gave us goosebumps! I recorded a few of their songs and hope to put something up here later. Just after we left the pub, we saw an elderly Welsh man and his son staggering around drunk with pizza. The man suddenly fell flat on his face causing a huge cut of his eyebrow, blood pouring out, and we gave some support till the ambulance arrived (in less than 5mins, bravo). A few stitches should have sorted it, though I reckon waking up from his hangover the next morning wasn't too rosey, ouch.

Saturday we catched end of the organic farmers market and bought some fresh smoked kipper fish, gorgeous Scottish triple cream brie and even some lamb & mint sausages. It was a pity that Gavin had twitched his back earlier on and had to stay in all day, so me and Nessa wandered about, had some nice carrot-orange soup & goat cheesed panini's after a wet walking session in the creepy Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetary. The cemetary is supposedly haunted at night by the misty ghost of a woman and this is turned into a midnightly tourist attraction. Also there's the grave and momument of Greyfriars Bobby, a *westies dug* (ie Yorkshire dog) who for nearly 16 years stood and lived at his owner's grave and got fed by the locals. Loyalty is a bitter dreg, even for animals eh? We later strolled into the Natural Museum of Scotland. As we came a bit late again, we only saw bits of Scottish historical pieces, such as swords, celtic patterns on stones and some possessions of the royal Bonnie 'Prince' Charlie (hmmm confused with Bonnie 'Prince' Billy ;)), plus also seen some steam engines and other machinery of the industrial period. Oh what one can learn; golf, curling and bowling are all Scottish sports. Such usefull information indeed hah! The museum was really nice and we only saw 1 floor of it, guess I'll just have to go back once and see the other 4 floors.
Later at dinner I made the exception of tasting these nice minty things, yes meat I know, but it was worth it for one you can't get these over here, luckily ;) We went again to the Forest cafe as they had a Balkan music night on there (wow, that makes 2 weekends in row for me) with live bands. The last band was a young band with trumpets in the brass band style of things and altough they sounded messy, it was a good way of messiness which got people dancing and shouting. There was a song done by a Greek singer while she played the guitar in fingerpick style, which was breathtakingly amazing, but I'm just a sucker for this old Rebetika style from Greece, especially presented live. After that more of the brass' n 'booty sounds which kept us swaying. Just there was this one female singer who was pretty annoying as she was one of those self-absorbed attention seekers and many times she pushed Nessa aside when doing something. Really weird, and Nessa thus gifting her a personally twisted Larry David Curbed' momentum hah ;)

Oh yeah, earlier in the afternoon we also visited the special 2nd hand bookshop that has inspired the Irish-but-Edinburghbased actor Dylan Moran to create the excellent UK comedy show Black Books, as the owner of the real life bookshop seems to be just as strange as the one Moran plays in the show. We didn't get to see the owner, but saw many bizarre warning signs put up allover the shop, like *watch out for the floor*. Sense, no(n)sense, who decides? Paul, an fellow Irish friend of Nessa, works part-time in the shop by quirky coincidence and he invited us to his birthday party later that night, swell. So after the gypsy music we walked to the bday party while Nessa talked about slasher murders of young women that happen from time to time in Edinburgh parks and meadows, oy. Edinburgh has this Jekyll and Hyde feature looming over the city, safe and friendly by daytime, dark and twisted by night if you are at the wrong spot at the wrong time. No wonder author Robert Louis Stevenson is one of Embra's celebrated writers, portraying the dual sides of the city. Over to Paul's do, who is a funny character himself to boot as well where in one room bad trance and urban tunes were being played and in the other room some old style blues. One takes no hard thinking to know where we sat down. We were surrounded by film art students and their sport was to outwit each other with personal concepts. I was riling up London boy Gabriel for fun, fed him fuel for his words, since his manifesto was way too intricatie to be conceived by anyone. It can be fun talking about certain art concepts when in the right mood, but not when you're relaxing with some nice beer at 3am and just want to have fun. Someone put Gremlins on since a killer orca movie did not work, pity ah. Fine choice I must say, so that I could be dumbed down and untangled from the discussions while Paul was loading us up with chocolate cake and veggie pizza. Generously sound dude btw! Nessa actually works for the art section of Edinburgh university and she suddenly realised to her own shock that she knew most of the people at the party *by their student file*, about dragging your work into the weekend nights? Mad indeed. It kinda summed up the night.

Sunday was quite easygoing. We went up the 2 other mountains near the city centre of which the vaster and higher Salisbury Crags are really phenomenal for the the Jojo phenomenological way, hah. As ye can see on the wikipedia link; just 5 minutes walking outside the eastern part of the centre you have this natural mountain park as if you are in the countryside.
Mad I tell ya! But it felt great as it was the first day it did not rain, no cold wind and even some sun, yay!

Below the ridged side that we walked on, such a grand view!

After that we had a long drinking session in the New Town area and discovered that the Dark Island black ale was most of my liking, coming from the Orkney islands. Also of all the whiskies I tried, the ones from the islands stood out the best. I must like those western islands for some reason. The night and my stay ended with watching a few episodes of Spaced by Simon Pegg (Shaun of the dead). British comedy shows always do things better it seems.

So it ended and had to get an early flight into Amsterdam, back to hell for having to work a horrible half day. Came home with a bag full of books of Tom Hodgkinson, Anthony Bourdain, Michael Palin and some classic Hunter S. Thompson's that were still missing in my collection, at last. I always enjoy shopping for books on the isles, as the choice and prices are excellent compared to books in English here, unless you want to get the same old overpriced bestseller's shite.

I'll defo enjoy the Tom Hodgkinson one of 'How To Be Free' which expands on his sincerely justified Idler philosophy. Let's see if life and use of time can be improved, it just has to give.

But yeah, having my eyes glimmering of the fact I'll be working 3 days a week for just slightly less money than my slave wage now, is almost reality! Just 3 weeks to go ho-ho! It adds up; a better yet more relaxed job, nicer colleagues, central location, good union and loads of holidays. There's no wrong, only right. I reckon the road to my own perdition will be without bumps, except goosebumps of excitement, Inshallah.

Thanks to Belgian friend (va)Ness I finally got my ears around the 'Gulag Orkestar' album by Beirut and it's steamy steady cut quality with freshly cooped trumpets and songwriter tricks. Gypsy meets indie halfway, bridging the gap between global trendy and western alternativism minus the unneccesary hype stance to it. It builds itself anyway. hur-rah. Share the joy and tears!

Beirut - Bratislava
Beirut - Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)
Beirut - Gulag Orkestar

1 comment:

Nessa said...

Hey Seb, only just got round to reading your report. It was great to see you and hopefully Gavin and I will make it to Utrecht in the next two months.