Highlander and the Christmas Market

– Stop procrastinating and go write a blog! scolded my friend Nicola.

We had been discussing the recent bombshell that a remake of Highlander is slated for 2019. This has, apparently, been on the cards for around 10 years, but now it seems is coming to fruition. I am simultaneously excited and dismayed by the news. Highlander is one of my top five films of all time. The potential for ruining the memory of a classic movie is huge.

Nicola seems unperturbed. She’s never seen Highlander. I am shocked and horrified by this. Granted, she’s more into her daytime visits to the cinema to watch high-brow subtitled Japanese releases, at which she is usually the youngest viewer by a margin of several decades.

Discussing Highlander didn’t seem like procrastination to me, but might have for her, since she should really have been tending to the sick and the infirm, however I gave up on trying to convince her of the merits of a film which cast the Frenchman Christopher Lambert as a Scot, and the Scot Sean Connery as a Spaniard, and resolved to write an overdue blog post. 

But first I headed up town, on the 44, and made my customary December visit to Edinburgh’s Christmas Market. Shrugging off an auditory Bublé assault, I marched onwards, defiantly passing the purveyors of glühwein and hot chocolate, resolutely past the waffles and crêpes, ignoring even the aromatherapy bath salts and anti-ageing face cream.

The organisers of the Christmas Market now have signs up, arrows here and there and warnings to KEEP TO THE LEFT. These are being blithely ignored by all. 

I find a stall selling pottery-related items, and score another thing off the Christmas list.

Back out of the Market, Santa Baby firmly embedded in my head, and onto a 23. Up the Mound, southwards along George IV Bridge, and eventually to Bruntsfield. 

The December sun, despite its best efforts, is unable to reach the heights required to bathe both sides of the road in its watery light. I get off the bus in shadow and cross over to the sunny side of the street.

Pick up some coffee beans and a quick double espresso at Artisan Roast, and on to Kenny’s for a haircut. Kenny’s been cutting my hair for 20 years now, I reckon. I used to live in a nearby neighbourhood, and have continued to frequent his establishment ever since, despite now living on the other side of town.

Freshly shorn, I jump on an 11 heading for town. One of the joys of getting an all-day bus ticket is that you can, provided you’re not in a desperate hurry, jump on an unfamiliar bus number, and if it doesn’t go quite where you expect, you can jump off and try again.

I get off at Tollcross and try a 47, which lands me in Newington, so I nip round the corner to Meadows Pottery, and cross something else off the Christmas list. It’s fair to say that I’ve drained the Pottery-Related Items Fund of my 2018 budget today.

Back onto the 49, which I’m confident I’ve never been on before in my life. It takes me along streets, though, that I absolutely have been on in my life. Past Record Shak, and Vogue Video – a film rental shop – both of which have been there possibly since the dawn of time itself, but certainly since I was a Newington-based student in the 90s. I was actually a card-carrying member of Vogue Video, and am mildly astonished that it is still a going concern in this digital age.

Then past South Side Community Centre, which I have only ever visited because it was a polling station for the Scottish Regional Elections in 1994. I went along to vote with my flatmate Tom, and he absolutely insisted, since we were intending to vote for different parties, that we toss a coin and vote for the same candidate. Otherwise it was a wasted vote, he maintained. 

I seem to remember I lost the toss, and our block vote of two didn’t help our candidate all that much against the relentless red Labour tide that year. In those days, the idea that Edinburgh as a whole might not back Labour at every available opportunity would have been a fantasy.

Off the 49 onto the now re-opened Leith Street, and briefly back into the heart of the town, breaking rank with lines of hesitant kerb-bound tourists, timing street-crossing by traffic and traffic lights with confidence born of local knowledge. 

On Princes Street I look up to see an oncoming 4, with a 44 hard on its heels, both a suitable ticket home, and me caught neatly at the point where they diverge, equidistant from both stops. I missed both, but catch a 26 shortly after.

Brunswick Street, Abbeyhill, Meadowbank Stadium, home.

A slice of choc chip panettone, a reckless late-afternoon coffee, and I go to work on this year’s Christmas playlist.

Now about that blog post…

Batman and cricket

Wiseman has been looking at my monthly website stats, and has pointed out that his page is the most popular of the character pages. I would reply that this is because I haven’t put anyone interesting on there yet, but it seems a little harsh.

Had an extensive cinematographic experience this week. That is, I watched two DVDs – following up Batman Begins on Monday night with Blue (as in Trois Couleurs: Bleu) on Tuesday. I was expecting to enjoy the latter more, ambitiously fancying myself as one of the cognoscenti in these matters, and occasionally in the past having found arthouse cinema (what little I’ve seen of it) extremely enjoyable/moving/disturbing (Talk to Her, for example).

What actually happened was I found Batman Begins brilliant, and Blue just weird. I began to wonder if the experience was analogous to how a cup of coffee with my usual one sugar tastes somehow less sweet when drunk after munching my way through several pieces of chocolate cake.

Anyway, I have shelved my aspirations to join the cognoscenti for the moment, and can’t wait for the sequel to Batman Begins. There’s something very appealing about films which feature men with limitless money getting to build Bat Caves and cavort around a city in costume beating up baddies. With gadgets. I suspect this may be a bloke thing.

As I write, the England team are aboard a plane bound for Sydney, as the Ashes tour finally gets underway. I am beginning to fret about England’s chances in the series. It strikes me that their bowling unit, which was so devastating in the last series, is creaking at the seams. Steve Harmison, who can destroy the best batsmen in the world when it suits him, has been spraying his deliveries around like water from an unsecured hosepipe with the tap on full. Flintoff, who is as good as any bowler in the world (and better than most) on his day, hasn’t bowled an extended spell since the early summer. He got to bowl a few overs in India during England’s final game in the Champion’s Trophy, but that hardly counts for much, and unless he gets some serious overs in during England’s warmup games, he’s going to go into the First Test pretty rusty. Matthew Hoggard is not expected to prosper as much as he does under home conditions (truer pitches and a different make of cricket ball which will not swing as much). However, it’s worth remembering that some of his best performances in an England shirt have been overseas – in New Zealand, South Africa and India. And as Hoggy himself said only today – “At the end of the day, it’s just a red thing that you wang down the field and hope to land in the right areas.” Brilliant.

My own feeling is that Sajid Mahmood, until now a bit hot and cold, especially as regards accuracy, could be a revelation on fast bouncy Australian pitches. And Monty Panesar will, I think, be very effective. So all is not lost. Not yet, anyway. Plenty of time for more hand-wringing before 23 November, mind…