The end of summer?


The last weekend of August (the hottest August Bank Holiday since records began) saw us back in Edinburgh to catch some of the last music and the Fireworks concert at the end of the Festival. Flagstaff Americana are a mainly Scottish group with an Australian playing bass guitar and a lead singer from Northern Ireland. They play a selection of country and rock music which is right up James’s street and also do regular gigs at the bar & bistro, Biblos. We saw them in the Fringe last year at Henry’s Cellar Bar in Morrison Street and this was their venue on Sunday evening. Here they are getting ready to perform.

On Monday evening, after walking down to town with only one flyer being thrust in our faces, we joined the long queue to enter Princess Street Gardens where there is a seated are at the Ross Bandstand and standing/picnicking tickets for the gardens. I had treated us to seats so we enjoyed the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and guests while watching the fireworks a little closer than I saw them last year from the top of Calton Hill.



The Scottish schools began their autumn term in mid August and the rest of the UK returns to school this week. Monday is Labor Day in the USA and another sign that autumn is on the way. However, although we have plenty of mellow fruitfulness: I am busy making apple juice, damson and sloe gin, passata with tomatoes and soup with cucumbers, we have only so far had a fleeting glimpse of mist before the sun burnt it off yesterday morning. Summer is not over yet and some are saying an Indian Summer is forecast. Traditional recipes state that sloes should not be picked until after the first frost but if we did that now, they would all be eaten by birds as our first frost is still weeks away and they are ripe.

A friend commented recently that we used to pick blackberries in October and now they are ripe in August. I now have figs ripening outside which I could not have done several years ago. We will be extending our summer a little more during a week in southwest France very soon and I am also busy planning more journeys.

Walking the Water of Leith

I have to confess, we have not walked the 24 miles of the Water of Leith from the source in the Pentland Hills, nor the 12 plus miles of the Water of Leith Walkway from Balerno to Leith. We did not have time to complete the full length of the Walkway so chose to walk to Leith from the point nearest to us.

As soon as we had returned from Ireland, friends were asking why I was not in Edinburgh enjoying the Fringe. We did come up in the middle of the month as we had some work which needed to be carried out on the flat and had selected a few samples of comedy, music and photography from the Fringe to enjoy as well. Some sensible residents stay away completely as getting around is more difficult and takes longer if you have to pass through the main tourist areas; fending off the flyers constantly shoved in your face. After enjoying Dan Willis, a UK comedian living in Australia presenting a ‘Whinging Pom’s Guide’ to the country, Ed Byrne, the Edinburgh Photographic Society’s Annual Exhibition and a great night with Lorna Reid at the Jazz Club, we were ready for a change of scene. We have walked a few sections of the Walkway in the past but fancied a bigger chunk today. It is a two mile walk to our nearest section and includes a bit of the Union Canal.

The Visitors’ Centre is at Slateford just next to where the river flows under the aqueduct carrying the Union canal. We had a coffee before hitting the trail just under the aqueduct where a sign told us it was seven miles to Leith.

There are currently a few diversions due to path closures. There has been a landslip and one section has been closed for six months while this is investigated and decisions made about action. Other sections are closed due to works on the Flood Prevention Scheme. Back on the path we enjoyed the greenery including trees and wildflowers but also spotted large clusters of an introduced problem plant: Himalayan Balsam. It is an annual but produces 800 seeds per year which are propelled huge distances and can be carried by water. It out-competes native flora and is very difficult to eradicate.

Other places have street art.

We passed the Balgreen Community Garden with raised beds made from sleepers like my own and an invertebrate hotel.

There are numerous places along the way where you can join or leave the Walkway and it connects with some of the cycle routes. Occasionally the path leaves the riverside for a short stretch for example, in the Dean Village.

It passes St Bernard’s Well, built on the site of an spring and which is open on Sundays in August. Here is an interior shot I took a couple of years ago:

Before we reached Leith we came across a family of swans having a grooming session. The swan’s partner was watching nearby.

After a succession of signs all saying Leith was 1¾ miles, we eventually reached The Shore. There is a Turkish Cafe and a pub, Salvation ready to restore you and for fine dining, Restaurant Martin Wishart is a little further along. After some refreshments it was time to catch the bus home. With all the diversions we had in fact clocked up 12 miles.

Cornbury: the fabulous finale


The sun was setting on the Cornbury Festival last weekend for the last time because low numbers of people attending in previous years left the organiser seriously financially embarrassed. However, it may not be the end as rumours were circulating that it might reappear in a couple of years in a different venue. We were attending it this year as rugby in New Zealand won over Glastonbury and my friend suggested this as an alternative. The estate is not an ideal festival venue as it has numerous very large trees, one of which obscures the view of the main stage from one side of the audience area and there are no screens. It is however a small festival, other trees provide some shade in hot weather and it is easy to get around everything and move between stages. We arrived about an hour before the campsite opened so could park near it and find a good site for our tents.

After having our very civilised camping dinner of duck à l’orange cooked by my friend with aperitifs and wine followed by dessert we wandered off to the campsite stage to hear the Overtures, a tribute band who took us back to the 1960s for the rest of the evening. On Friday we explored the venue, relaxed in the hammocks before it got too busy (I managed to fall out and acquire some bruises) and sampled some of the music on that day. Here is Kansas Smitty’s House Band: a jazz ensemble.

That evening, my view of the Kaiser Chiefs was blocked by the afore-mentioned tree and also my view of Midge Ure the following day. The festival describes itself as a very English one and certainly over 90% of those attending were white, affluent, southern English. I did spot one saltire, one Welsh and one Swedish flag in the campsite and met some Liverpool FC supporters at one point but most of the voices I heard were southern English. There were ‘posh loos’ that you had to pay to use. There would not be any chanting of ‘Jeremy Corbin’ here. One of our friends thought they spotted Michael Gove but this was not confirmed and David Cameron has attended the festival in previous years. The friends also said that they tried to get into the Cafe Nero stage at one point but were prevented from going in as it was already full (before the arena was open) by people they presumed were VIPs. In addition to music, there was comedy (the best of which was Nish Kumar), activities for children, shopping and of course people-watching. There was an airfield not far away so we saw several small planes fly overhead and it was Bristol balloon festival on the same weekend so a number of hot air balloons also flew over us.

The weather was fabulous and we enjoyed a good variety of music before heading back home, wondering which festival to attend next year as Glastonbury is having a fallow year.

A short journey to the village fete

The wonderful weather continues into September and for this year at least the village fete could rely on sunshine for the day.
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We have not always managed to attend as we have sometimes been away for work or pleasure but today, took a short walk (just under two miles) there and back. There were lots of different stalls but I resisted the temptation to buy as I am trying to declutter and do not need any more hippy attire just now as I will not be able to get to Glastonbury until 2019.
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The scouts had a climbing tower which some brave souls were attempting to get up.
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Being a farming community which used to be known as the garden of the potteries, it was no surprise to see vintage tractors on display but also a competition to see how many plates you could shatter.
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There were several competitions including some for dogs which we could not enter as our dog died last December. Music while we were there was provided by a local wind band but later, back at home while I was picking fruit for the evening meal, I could hear other artists’ music drifting across the fields.
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We saw some of the local wildlife and a local haulier appeared to have been taken over by the Minions.
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All too soon we had to return home to get various jobs done around the house and for James to get some rest before his night shift.

The end of summer in Edinburgh

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Black Friday (aka Carmaggeddon according to the media), saw us driving to Edinburgh on the busiest weekend of the year. The radio was giving out traffic warnings for most of the major roads in England. Scotland does not have a long weekend at the end of August but the rest of the country all seemed to be on the move. We had tailbacks and crawled all the way until we had passed the M55 intersection and were just south of Lancaster. Then we had a quieter road and we lost a few more vehicles at the Lake District turn-offs. We could now see the familiar profiles of the Cumbrian hills. Our main reason for choosing to travel this weekend was that some Australian friends were in Scotland during the Edinburgh Festival and we had arranged to meet up with them. On Saturday we had a few things to do in town. I went into one store to buy some glue for a craft project. The proprietor was in the midst of a long telephone conversation half in English, half in Hindi, about local landlords. He carried on while I and several others made our purchases and was still on the phone when we left the shop. That evening we met our friends for dinner at the Tower Restaurant which is situated at the top of the Museum of Scotland with good views over the city and got as far as thinking about our Big Lap of Australia in a couple of years time. Sunday morning was spent planning next year’s trips to Iceland and New Zealand before we headed out of town to visit Little Sparta, Ian Hamilton Finlay’s garden near Dunsyre in the Pentland uplands that I love. I had been intending to visit for quite some time but it is only open in summer and not on every day so had not coincided with our travels on a number of occasions. This first visit was a bit of a scoping exercise for me to see whether to return with my camera and obtain a photography permit (which only allows personal and private use of photographs). There is so much to process as there are more than 260 art works in the garden and several recurring themes. I think repeat visits will be necessary to do it justice. James gave me the book a while ago so now is time to digest that and plan a trip next summer as we are not going to be back here in September. Afterwards, we visited friends in Carnwath before enjoying Americana Sunday at Henry’s Cellar Bar. The band, Flagstaff, also play in Edinburgh at other venues including Byblos so we might catch them again at some point.
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James was due back at work on Tuesday so left very early this morning and had an easy run home. I was going into town to catch the last day of an exhibition. Just down the road from the flat, a group of a dozen Goths (is there a collective noun for a group of Goths?) were sitting on the pavement waiting for a lift. I carried on past all the stallholders who were packing up and was soon in Howe Street at the Ski Club to see Paperworks 3. This exhibition contains works in various media, natural and abstract forms by three artists: Marion Barron, Trevor Davies and Ruth Thomas. I enjoyed it very much and it provided another prod for me to get back to painting and printing. Here are some of Ruth’s books inspired by finds on nearby beaches both natural and some of our pollution.
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This evening I trekked up Calton Hill to try and get some firework photographs. I was up there reasonably early and set up in daylight but it got very crowded with quite a lot of jostling so I gave up before the end. I must try and get to the concert next year and get some closer shots.
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A weekend of cars and music

We were unable to try for Glastonbury tickets this year as it clashed with our US road trip. A friend suggested Carfest North as it was local, we were around and it made an ideal birthday present for her. My car-mad husband could come along and was pleased we did not get camping tickets so he could sleep at home each night. On Saturday we set off early and were parked up by the time it opened. There was lots to look at, events in the arena and cars driving around the track which had been constructed here following the move from Oulton Park. Other small displays were going on around the place.
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In addition to cars of all kinds we had the JCB Dancing Diggers, a speed boat and paddle-boards on the water (not at the same time) and plenty of non-vehicular action: show-jumping, camel racing and army dog displays. There was plenty for children to do with a fun-fair and various other activities. The music kicked off in the afternoon and again there was a variety from brass band to an NHS Choir, A Who tribute band, the Proclaimers, Kaiser Chiefs, KT Tunstall, the Corrs etc.
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In between acts we were entertained by dancing poodles and Mr Motivator, all compèred by Chris Evans. On Sunday we had a slightly later start and then got held up on the way by a large horsebox going very slowly. The A534 towards Bolesworth is a two lane road with so many bends that overtaking is impossible. Eventually when we were almost at our destination, he turned off in the opposite direction. On our return that evening we caught up with the same horsebox but this time were were on a dual-carriageway and could get past him. My friend and I would have preferred to camp and not have to come and go but as 2017 will not be a Glastonbury year as we will be in New Zealand in June, we are looking at alternatives and persuading my husband that we can make it comfortable for him. After what was quite an exhausting but very enjoyable weekend, I was glad to be on an early train to Edinburgh where I hope to mix some work I have to do with some culture.

A journey to the past

Despite living in the village for almost 22 years, I had not been to the annual vintage rally before. I come from a long line of mechanical engineers who have worked on trains, boats, planes, cars and buses and have vague memories of family visits to traction engine rallies with my grandfather when I was very small but we have often been away when the rally takes place. We have even had traction engine breakdowns outside the house before. Here is one from 2009:
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This year, we were spending the weekend at home, had a friend who loves all things vintage visiting and with good weather forecast, decided to venture out. It is around a mile away so we wandered over late morning. There were static engines of various sorts and cars, trucks, at least one bus, with a tractor-pulling competition and dancing diggers scheduled over the weekend. A local brass band serenaded us while we ate lunch. There were also motorbikes and a Hurricane fly past late afternoon. With all those engines, pollution increased for a few days.
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Yesterday we walked along to our local pub for dinner and passed some small vehicles heading back to the site after their evening meal.
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This evening everyone is heading home with the rumble of engines all around.