Spare some change

This morning saw me breakfasting with the Guardian at Urban Angel just off Broughton Street. The note above the tips jar read “Fear change? Leave it here…”

The seasons are a-changin’. Summer is drifting away, and in its place autumn, a long-neglected friend, is edging ever closer, extending its misty tendrils in an alluring embrace. At least for me. Others, I know, dread the arrival of the darker evenings and the cold mornings, but there’s nowt queerer than folk.

Summer in Edinburgh has been a severe disappointment, or “not too bad”, depending on whom you speak to. Some spells of very warm weather were appreciated between the all-too-frequent deluges. It was a good summer for cricket, with rain and sodden pitches effecting fewer call-offs than last season. My church team won all their matches. Holy Cross 2nd XI, who carry me in their middle order of a Saturday, struggled throughout the season, clumsily wresting East League Division 5 survival from the grasp of our relegation rivals in the final game at Falkland. Falkland, it is worth noting at this point, is quite simply a magnificent place to play cricket. The ground, surrounded by trees, plummets down at one end to a large wooded area at the base of Falkland Hill, which rises majestically upwards, keeping an eye on the cricketing proceedings from above, like a more pastoral version of Table Mountain, perhaps, at the Newlands cricket ground in Cape Town. The downhill descent to long off/long on is so pronounced that should fielders of normal stature be posted there, they are periodically asked to raise their hands in the air to identify their position for the benefit of the batsman.

Naturally, not being good enough play in the same league as Falkand 1st or 2nd XI, we were playing on another pitch entirely, with a dodgy artificial strip laid in the middle of an upturned bowl of a field which seemingly hadn’t been cut for weeks. Nonetheless, the view from the middle was quite possibly even better than from the main square, with the same imposing hill, and the added aesthetic bonus of a large stately home in the woods, poking several of its turrets out between the trees. A butler, say, standing looking out of a turret window, would have a decent view of the cricket, although watching Division 5 cricket may not be at the top of the domestic staff’s list of things to do on a Saturday afternoon in the summer.

However, should they have taken this option this particular Saturday, they would have witnessed an astonishing Holy Cross recovery from the somewhat precarious position of 15/5, chasing 139 to win. My part in this fightback involved grinding out an unbeaten 52, at a pace more commonly associated with coastal erosion, as I eschewed any attempt to breach the short boundaries in favour of nurdled ones and the occasional two. Taking so long to achieve victory had its problems, most notably in the form of the midges, who arrived approximately 30 overs into our innings. Taking a particular liking to the Stately Home End, they hovered in a cloud around the batsman’s head, making it even more difficult than usual to concentrate on watching the ball out of the bowler’s hand. And there they remained, face-bitingly defiant of our feeble wafted attempts to shoo them away, until my more attack-minded teammate edged one over the slip cordon to win the game.

So, the 2nd XI campaign ended on a relative high, despite the entire team picking up the award for the Most Disappointing Season (previously considered an individual award) at our glittering awards night, and personally-speaking, some hope remains that this previously-rarely-seen dogged batting attitude will be evident for more of the season next time, which would make a welcome change.

Changes have been afoot at work too, with Dave, our patient and gentle-hearted receptionist/admin assistant moving on to pastures new as a Church of Scotland minister. He retires from our office a happy man, having finally succeeded just this week in his multi-year quest to extract a smile from the girl-from-the-flower-shop as she walked past his window. To my knowledge, the Studio One girls remain obstinately resistant to his charms. He has one more week to melt their cold hearts. Being on holiday for the next week myself, yesterday was my last day working with him, and we headed to the movies last night to mark the occasion. Dorian Gray, after a spot of online research, was rejected in favour of District 9. We bumped into two of Dave’s young female friends in the ticket queue, and I was momentarily concerned that Dave would want to accompany them to their chick flick, but mercifully he kept the faith. District 9 is a great movie, with a lot more to say than might be apparent from reading a brief plot synopsis. Afterwards we hooked up with Dave’s friends for a drink. They being members of that ultimately elusive club, the Younger Generation, there was the occasional blank stare from their side of the table when musical tastes crept into the conversation, and some furious concentration from our side, trying to pick out their words with hearing resources slightly depleted by the ageing process. I may need to prescribe some of my own medicine soon.

The contrast in musical tastes between generations was further highlighted this morning, as I wandered round Tesco making some last-minute purchases before my trip to London today. As an insistent beeping sound emanated from a machine in the bakery, I viewed, with some bewilderment, a young boy nodding his head and dancing along. I had a vision of DC, shaking his head gravely and muttering softly.

Being a Times man, he would have been disappointed at my choice of dinner date last night as well, although I find The Guardian very well-behaved company for dinner as well as breakfast, and I took yesterday’s edition out for a pizza last night before the cinema. As I do from time to time in that particular establishment, I bumped into JB, Holy Cross’ marquee batsman and frequent winner of the Most Entertaining Run-maker award. JB is a good enough player to have played on the main square at Falkland. He is also a non-Guardian man, to my knowledge, but I pounced on an entertaining article on bowling machines by Harry Pearson, which I think distracted him. We shared some news on work and unclehood, before he collected his pizza and left me to mine.

And with that, I shall conclude my first blog post since I last visited London in May. At several times over the last few months I have considered writing a note to you all, bewailing my manifold sins of omission (at least in terms of writing, I wasn’t about to lumber you with more intimate confessions), explaining that it wasn’t you, it was me, and then sadly pressing the Terminate Blog button, wherever that may be. However, for reasons not entirely clear (to me, and quite probably you) I have decided to continue, and attempt to champion the art of proper writing (or my muddled attempts at it) in the face of the apparently relentless rise of Twitter. Twitter, to my mind, has its place, that place being for snappy amusing observations, but is still an inferior cousin of the blog.

Moreover, I may even post it from the train, as the National Express wi-fi provision is considerably more robust than the last time I attempted to use it. Wi-fi. Just one of the reasons why the train is better than the plane…

Oh sweet Autumn

..with your dark surprise, and your short days all smudged with gold..

It’s September. It’s turned a little colder, I even had the heating on the other night, and the nights are fair drawin’ in. Autumn must be at least on its way, if not here already. And that’s bound to be good news 🙂

Possibly the only bad thing about Autumn, in fact, is that it marks the end of the cricket season, although that sometimes comes as a relief after a run of bad scores and being dropped to the 3rd XI for the last couple of games, to “strengthen their batting”. Not this year, however. I managed to post all of my bad scores in the 2nds this year. Apart from one duck earlier in the season. Anyway. While the cricket season here draws to a close, in Australia it is just starting, and eyes are beginning to turn towards the Ashes series which starts in November. At least, mine are. 23 November is when it all kicks off, in Brisbane. Mark R has already hinted at being willing to host all-night Ashes-watching parties (Mrs R, are you reading this?)… 18 December is when I fly out Oz-wards, although I won’t have to wait that long to get my passport out, as I discovered today I’m going to a German hearing aid conference in October. Not sure exactly where yet.

The times they are a-changing, at least in the Broughton area. Tesco, which is so close to my flat that I could probably hit the deli counter with a well-directed organic potato (given the prior removal of the roof), has been undergoing a radical facelift. Not least has been the arrival of Costa, that purveyor of over-priced coffee. Which in itself doesn’t affect me too much, as I’ve stopped drinking coffee, but it’s somehow sad to see the demise of the Tesco café. And it might lure the slightly pretentious coffee-drinkers (like myself, before I gave it up) away from Sandro’s top joint Caffelatte at the top of Logie Green Road – also a Costa outlet. Which would be a bad thing, as he makes fine pizzas, and I badly don’t want him to go out of business. Altruistic to the end, me.

More change on the parking front as well. I am about to become a resident of N1 Zone, which means that our beloved Council now get to take £80 a year off me for the privilege of parking on a street that I’ve been parking on for free for 3 years. It all starts on Monday, and I received my parking permit through the post yesterday. Unfortunately the Council (May They Live Forever) sent me a permit for Zone S1, which entitles me to park in various streets in the Grange/Marchmont area. Which is rather flattering, but singularly unhelpful. Hopefully they will get the right one out to me soon, although as I am away (and will have the car with me) all next week, it’s not a disaster.

My sister Alison arrived up from London last weekend, and has been staying with the folks since then. This has worked well for all of us, shall we say, as the levels of care and attention in the parental home have shot skywards, and I have managed to get more sleep 🙂 My parents will insist on holding wild parties until the early hours, and still expect the porridge to be on the table at 7.30am. There’s just no stopping them.

Next week marks the start of Forum, a UCCF conference in Oswestry, Shropshire. I am going to be involved on the sound engineering side of things all week, and am looking forward to it very much, perhaps partly because it will be my first full week off work since August last year. Perhaps also because a week away from my flat will be good, as it appears that my rodent visitor, having finally attacked the pile of tasty poison like Anne Brown tearing into a stash of chocolate biscuits, is now decomposing slowly underneath my floorboards. At least, that’s what it smells like. The last time such an odour pervaded my kitchen I thought the carcass must be under the floorboards, having undertaken an extensive search of the kitchen and its environs. 10 days later I discovered the body right in front of my washing machine. I am convinced to this day that someone planted it there to make it look like I didn’t use my washing machine much.

Anyhow, Forum should be fun. Nathan and Lou Fellingham (of Phatfish fame) will be playing at the late night slot on Monday night, so it will be great to meet them. Slightly nervous about doing sound for them… Actually I’ve met Lou, kind of, at Alyn and AJ’s wedding in Toronto in January last year. I daresay she’ll be bursting to find out what I’ve been up to in the intervening period. Perhaps I should give her the address of this blog.

Speaking of celebrities, I scored a famous win over Slid in the first game of my ongoing series of Celebrity Spotting. Celebrity Spotting is a subject worthy of its own blog entry, but I haven’t had the time to do it justice yet. Suffice to say that eyeballing Sean Connery on Lothian Road was enough to wrap up Game One, and Game Two is now in progress. No score yet. Other contestants, should they be interested in joining, and subject to ratification by the Committee, are welcome to throw their hat into the ring.

Having given it some consideration, I think the deli counter might be just out of range (I don’t have a very good throwing arm) but I am confident I could take out one of the checkout operators. Not for a date, obviously….