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…

Sleeping at Altitude

Dear Reader

I apologise for the longish interval since the last post. I say longish, but really, as the long-suffering long-term readers of this blog could tell you, this latest spell of literary inactivity is nothing, a mere blip on the radar, a veritable drop in the ocean of time, when compared to some of my previous hiatuses.

The blame for my non-writing is, as ever, to be laid firmly at the door of someone or something else. On this occasion I will blame more life changes. At the end of the month I moved out of the Finance Director’s house, flushed with success at having not burnt it to the ground. I consider not-burning-the-house-to-the-ground the principle achievement of any successful house-sitting gig, which may seem a conservative goal, but – I think you’ll agree – a worthy one.

The remainder of my time in the FD’s house went reasonably smoothly. Her bathroom scales continued to malfunction, only ever showing two numbers – zero and <a big number>, no matter how many times I went to the gym. But latterly my gym visits were stymied by a fungal infection in my foot (I do apologise if you’re eating your tea), which kept me on my backside for large parts of the day, with foot propped in the air, and doing a lot of hopping around on my other foot when movement was required.

On one memorable morning, I got out of bed, and showered, only to realise I had left something important (in a fungal foot-care sense) at the bottom of the stairs, and was left with no alternative but to hop down the stairs naked. Naturally, while mid-descent I remembered that the bottom of the stairs was 100% visible to anyone standing at the front door, due to the proliferation of unfortunately-placed glass doors. Such as, say, the postman.

Mercifully, the postman was not at that moment in the vicinity, and able to witness my naked stair-hopping. I hopped gratefully back up the stairs.

Having moved out of my big house in the country, I eschewed the opportunity to move in with my mother for the second time in my adult life, and instead moved into another flat in Edinburgh, which, it’s fair to say, is a fraction smaller. My bedroom is of a size which makes me wonder if, come the fast-approaching summer, there will be room for the bed *and* my cricket bag. I strongly suspect not. In other circumstances I might prefer the bag over the bed (am confident the cricket bag could be pressed into action as a bed – it’s approximately the same size), but the bed will not be moved, nailed to the wall as it is. It’s a cabin bed, the slightly-more-grown-up cousin of bunk beds, and it’s very high up. So high up in fact that I woke up feeling slightly ill halfway through Wednesday night, which I attributed to altitude sickness, but may in all honesty have been more to do with a bag of Cadbury’s mini eggs that I had worked my way through earlier in the evening.

The cabin bed, while not a bunk bed per se, brings back fuzzy nostalgic memories of caravanning holidays with my family in the 80s, only without the permanent faint smell of gas and the reassuring drumming of rain on the roof. It was during one of these caravan holidays that the top bunk (which was more of a hammock, and contained my sister at the time) collapsed on top of me one night. Good times.

My new flatmate is a top bloke with many endearing qualities, such as a sizeable Wisden collection. He’s given to much physical exercise, and goes running every Wednesday night, while I sit at home and work my way through the chocolate mini eggs (see above).

Obviously I can’t confirm that Cadbury’s will be the chocolate choice every week, and post-Easter one assumes that other non-egg related chocolate shapes will need to be found.

Maybe it’s time to find a local gym again…

Back in Edinburgh’s chilly embrace

And I’ve missed it. Not so much the chilly embrace (although any embrace these days is a bonus, ha ha) as Edinburgh itself. I walked to work yesterday (my car was back with Edinburgh Audi recovering from 4 weeks in the custody of my colleague Matt), and it was a crisp Edinburgh winter morning. The sky was a dusky pre-sunrise blue, and I loved it. I would miss days like this if I lived somewhere hot like Australia, although by all accounts I haven’t missed very many of them over the last month. And it has been toe-pinchingly cold and damp today, which makes me gaze in wonder at my bottle of Factor 40 suncream. Only a week ago my right leg, having not been sufficiently introduced to the same bottle of Factor 40, was getting sunburned through the non-existent door of a Mini Moke on Magnetic Island.

My apologies in taking so long with this post. I have been meaning to write the final chapter since I arrived in London on Saturday, but it hasn’t happened. People, you have to realise that delectable prose like this takes a bit of crafting and can’t be rushed. And what’s more, I have been jetlagged to the point of falling asleep straight after dinner the last few evenings. Although I confess I’m not sure whether to blame that on jetlag or age.

It is, genuinely, good to be back. I really enjoyed Australia, with its blazing sun and irreverent attitude. I enjoyed a whole new take on Christmas Day, having lunch outside in balmy temperatures, and going to the park afterwards to play cricket. Especially the cricket bit, which also featured on New Year’s Day and other days in between. I loved coming back from a hot day in the city and jumping in my cousin’s pool to cool off. My family over there were more than kind to me, and I very much appreciated their kinship and hospitality. I went to a carol service wearing shorts, and had ice-pops afterwards. I even ate some fruit when I was over there – mango, strawberries, nectarine, watermelon. And others, believe it or not. The food in general was really high quality.

On my last afternoon in Sydney I climbed the harbour bridge, which was a fantastic experience, and the luxury of a beautiful clear day brought home to me just how much of Sydney (never mind Australia) I haven’t yet seen. Maybe one day I’ll go back and see more of the sights, and revisit my old friends the mosquitos, cockroaches, lizards and spiders. And the ants. Everywhere there were ants.

On my last day in Sydney my Powerbook, faithful friend for over 3 years now, died. I feared heat exhaustion, but in fact it was only a minor problem, so minor I was able to fix it myself and not have to phone Jones in a panic.

Just one or two thank yous and personal comments.

The Australia trip was made possible by Mrs Robbo’s suitcase, and the generosity of my employer and my Australian cousins. I am grateful to them all.

DC, I fear that my blog assumed chatroom status some time ago. My posts have long since become a sideline to the main event… I suspect that all this unseemly clamouring for another update is to present you all with a fresh canvas on which to air your comments 😉

Kenny D, I am flattered by your comments on behalf of the ‘Public’, but I regret to say this is my last blog post, unless I weaken and decide to dip my toe back in during my ski trip in three weeks’ time. I have enjoyed blogging immensely, and am very grateful for everyone’s comments.

Must be time for an Empire Biscuit.

Blog characters

Every so often I find myself needing to refer to somebody – a friend, work colleague etc in these pages. The difficulty is I can’t just refer to them in passing, as that would assume prior knowledge of them by you, my loyal readers. And nobody likes reading things which are littered with in-jokes that they don’t get.

It occurs to me now that both of the readers of my blog actually know each other, so perhaps all of this is unnecessary, but I have to consider my roadmap towards world blogging domination and online superstardom. It is surely only a matter of time.

So, anyway, in order to avoid confusion from people who don’t know my friends well, I have to introduce said friends carefully to give a little context so that everyone gets the joke.

However, I have a cunning plan, which as well as addressing this thorny issue might also serve to make the blog slightly interesting as well. The idea is, I will create a page for each of the characters/reprobates that seem to keep cropping up in these pages, which will include a brief description of their character (defects) and a photo. Each time I refer to them you can click on their name to view their character page. You will also be able to access their pages from a list on the right hand side. I would like to say now that I can’t necessarily promise to provide a well-rounded description of their character, it being my own subjective assessment.

Will be happy to receive photographic contributions of these characters when they begin to appear, either from the characters themselves or others… also you are welcome to enhance my descriptions, although they won’t be editable, so you’ll have to send your thoughts to me…

Wiseman, being the most frequently name-checked person on this blog, is first up.. check him out!

Here we go…

So, I thought I’d create a blog to document my adventures down under this winter. You will notice that it is not actually winter yet and I am a little ahead of myself, but might as well be prepared. The title of this blog reflects the fact that I keep finding myself explaining to incredulous friends that yes, I am going to Australia, the land of sunshine, beaches, world famous tourist attractions and the odd barbeque, purely to watch cricket.

However, in my defence, I imagine there will be a few barbeques involved along the way, and, in addition, the cricket will be awesome. That’s if England can avoid being 3-0 down in the series before I even get there…

Ok, on the subject of blogs. I’ve never been a big fan of the concept. Having the temerity to post one’s thoughts and musings online and expecting other people to read them has always struck me as outrageously presumptuous, possibly even delusional. However, I have one or two friends with blogs that I enjoy reading, and what’s more it occurred to me that it would be a good way to record my experiences, and perhaps even post a couple of photos, from my trip to Australia in December/January. I can always read them myself and chuckle at my own dry wit and keen sense of humour, even if no-one else wants to.

So here we go indeed. I imagine I will practise with a few more blog entries before the nights start drawing in properly. Until then…