GUEST POST… Reia- dear friend and running partner wanted to share her account of her recent running-themed weekend in Edinburgh. She also is an avid hipstamatic photographer. I will post my account tomorrow!
Meeting up with my gorgeous running partner extraordinaire in far flung places (yes to my Tasmanian heritage running in Paris and Edinburgh is very far away) has become my crutch towards keeping a little a piece of sanity in my life. Ever since dearest Buffy moved away from Grenoble that is. When Buffy was living in Grenoble we managed to go running early mornings, with views towards the soaring French Alps. These runs and chats with the Buffster helped like nothing else to feed the soul, and our daily intellectual ponderings (really working out how to deal with our everyday working commitments) made the simple things that much clearer and easier to achieve.
After crushing last year’s Paris half-marathon, Buffy and I signed up (just after Christmas and in time for new year’s resolutions) for the Edinburgh ‘rock n’ roll’ half-marathon. And what a ride! You can say there was lots of rocks to run up, and the rolling down the other side was very joyful. That morning we woke up with a buzz, and tummy churnings but the sun was shining so we were ready… After a little bit of breakfast the storm clouds came out, and thank heavens we didn’t notice the wind that was to come! Getting to the course was a nice little warm-up (a stroll of 1.5 miles perhaps). And then that’s when the full implication of the meteorological outlook hit us like a brick. The quasi-horizontal rain, the gale force winds, and the icy needle pin-prick raindrops (this didn’t seem to deter the notorious pre-race male pee-ers though who had to walk up Arthurs Seat to enjoy the city view in all it’s glory, and have a pee).
We were in Edinburgh, about to dash through this volcanic, history- steeped megalith, with some of what I imagine are typical weather conditions. The rest of the semi is a blur, except for the wonderful support of Ben, who would pop up from time to time, and some cheers from the watchers (including a guest appearance from Sarah and ???), ooh and did I forget our white rabbit, who made us run that bit faster – the superb man in a kilt (yes you can look good running in a kilt). Running down that last mile (which was partly royal) seemed to arrive way too quickly. We did it!
The rest of my time in Edinburgh was just that – a euphoric mind and physical rest. And how blissful it was! Buffy and Ben are really the hosts with the mosts. Wonderful meal prepared and cooked after wonderful meal, lots of walking around, lots of chats, lots of good coffees, lots of chats, a little bit of rain… A perfect home away from home. Thank you so much Ben and Buffy for this wonderful idyll. And do you think I can come again next year? But maybe stay for 6 months – I’m sure we can do 10 semis in that time.
GUEST POST… Chloe, friend and former colleague, who recently visited our fair city and us, wanted to give you the account of her weekend. Chloe is a great writer.
You might not think that one’s enduring memory of Edinburgh would be its seagulls but every morning my own wee birdie woke me at 5.30am to remind me that this part of Scotland is in fact a near kin to my part of Wales – rolling hills, an arm of water stretching out into the body of the sea accompanied by cloud dancing, scattered showers and sunbursts.
(A picture of the three of us! Note Chloe’s knock-off purple Doc Marteen’s- perfect for the rainy Edinburgh weather)
Once over the initial hurdle of getting to Geneva (no bus provided by the SNCF on the Pontcharra-Chambéry leg – a big thanks to Nadia for saving the day – M&S pressie on its way) my favourite airline whisked me off to Buffy and Ben’s lovely town house where Ben gallantly offered to drag my luggage over the cobbles in case they loosened some of my fillings.
Easy Sunday morning saw us heading off to visit the sights which seem to involve a lot of hills and cemeteries. We overlooked the Forth of Firth and underlooked Arthur’s Seat (he got everywhere but there again the similarity to the Welsh Cader Idris is spooky). We stopped off in the funky Canongate Kirk whose pews are painted sky blue and the carpet a fuschia pink. Maybe a bit of Royal Colour Blocking has rubbed off on this house of worship since the other royal wedding but it certainly made a change from the granite and slate versions of my religious instruction.
(Who knew that Lionel Richie owned a police box in Edinburgh, well spotted Chloe)
We wended (I think this might be a Scottish word) in an out of the Royal Mile and despite near hypoglycemia for the more senior member of the party managed to make it to Charlotte Square in time to a) feed me a cheese scone and an orange juice b) get second in the queue for the Tony Ross Book signing. In fact I was there first but this small girl who looked like she belonged more in a Roald Dahl story in a sort of I’ve-got-tickets-to-all-the-signings-for-the-whole-week-because-my-mummy-has-organised-it sort of way managed to barge in front of me despite my (only just) mock ‘oi you I was there first cry’(which gratifyingly made her jump momentarily) and proceeded to get the delightful T.R. to sign about 790 books. I will not stoop to being a groupie.
(Chloe charming Tony Ross)
Back to base for this amazing barbecue and salsa dish with homemade bread – it is all true about the culinary prowess of Eyre Place. A few episodes of ‘30 Rock’ with unusually astute insight into leadership fake authenticity (more on this with Gavin E.) and off to bed.
Monday was quartier libre for me as my hosts went out to work and I treated myself to a splurge on Princes Street. Good shopping weather with just the right amount of rain. My mock Doc Marten’s were the ideal footwear despite many a sceptic wondering whether the fact that the soles did not bend as I walked might cause some discomfort. Pff! Minor huge panic in the sock section at M&S when I realised I COULD NOT FIND MY WALLET and had to go back to Waterstones (no apostrophe any more apparently) in the hope that my holiday fun was not about to end and be replaced by international calls to the Sécu, LCL, CAF and François Hollande. Phew – there is a God and he reads books because that is exactly where I had left it. My second fright in two days propelled me into a carpe diem sort of approach to shopping. Hence I am now the chuffed owner of a new coat, dressing gown, boxer shorts (am I allowed to say that on this blog?), perfume and the rest.
“Quick nip back” to base camp (which in fact involves topography not that dissimilar to the 7 hills of Rome) for a snack before heading back to the Book Fair to listen to and stare glassy eyed (concentrate, Chloë) at the gorgeous Gavin Esler discuss his new book ‘Lessons from the Top’. His accessible, knowledgeable and humorous approach to his subject matter was delightful and I am now the proud owner of a slightly botched signing session copy of said book. The only slight fly in the ointment was that he did mention he had quite enjoyed interviewing Angelina Jolie so I thoughtfully warned him about her kind – half woman, half plastic. You can only give advice and hope people learn along the way. I will not stoop to being a groupie. I really won’t. Well I might if pushed.
Back to reality and a delicious risotto, salmon, goat’s cheese and beet dish for supper although I soon realised that the ch**se word is now a source of potential friction in the Gorrilla/Pawson love nest. I can say no more but I hope I am not asked to testify in court some day.
Tuesday, sun and a following wind saw Buffy and I cycling down to Leith to catch the midday screening of BRAVE. It was lucky we had no pressing appointments as we sat through 30 minutes of unsuitable trailers, in your face adverts with lots of noise and bright colours (call me old fashioned), a Pixar short and finally the film during which I spent the whole time waiting for Merida to give the English the thrashing of their lives (must have misunderstood the trailers). Anyway a great film with and amazing hairdresser on the set and so glad I saw that instead of ‘Rebelle’!
Cycled back via Mimi’s Bakehouse where sugar levels were replenished with a slice of coffee and walnut cake that could have doubled up as a door stopper. A quick loop to visit Ben and Buffy’s old residence in Leith (next to Barclays funeral Services – no connection to the ch**se word of course), a lightening shop at Tesco then home for more deliciousness in the form of lamb lasagna (two helpings for me – doesn’t anyone eat in this household?).
And so to bed knowing that tomorrow (today) I’ll hear that bonny seagull for the last time in a wee while but taking with me such positive vibes from a kind city and its more than generous hosts that I’m set up for the rentrée (yawn) and then some.
Haste ye back Buffy and Ben
GUEST POST! Ben wanted to share Festival Week fun with you!
The professor (Phd and everything) who runs the creative writing class I went to over the fall and through the winter and he also runs the script writing class I donate my reading talents to is a playwright.
This summer sees the production of his play ‘Wojtek the Bear’, the play is an onion of a show, many layers, may produce tears, but tastes great when cooked.
I offered my services training up the plays director, the company secretary and the playwright himself in the dark arts of Facebook in return for a choice networking introduction.
I also got comp tickets to the limited run of the ‘directors cut’ version of the play at the Netherbow theatre during June. The theatre is below the Scottish Storytelling centre, which is itself attached to the John Knox house, and next to one of the oldest toll gates leading into old Edinburgh. An auspicious location that the bear was more than equal to.
The play takes us on a journey around war torn Europe in the company of a bear and his human-mother and eventually ending at the Edinburgh Zoo. I made myself familiar with the basics of the story, helped by Clare who used to do PR at the Edinburgh Zoo. Eating lit cigarettes, drinking beer, Polish soldiers jumping into the enclosure to wrestle with the Bear. All these things we got to experience form the point of view of the bear, just one of the remarkable achievements of this play.
Due to the success of its first run, it is showing at the Hill Street Theater during the festival. I was able to secure a couple of tickets for us. Buffy was not a huge fan of the shortened version. I can only imagine what she would have thought of the full-length work. We both agreed the acting was impressive and the man, playing the bear (thankfully, not in a furry suit), actually seemed bear-like.
We also saw the experience of Polish immigrants in Scotland after the war, a hint of the religious tensions and the eery humanity of the feet, feet with toes.
You’ve got to love a post with a rhyme in the title.
This is a guest post. Buffy is on the road, OFFLINE, incommunicado, :X. She asked me to distract you from the void that appears when she doesn’t post.
Ceramics, pottery, clay it all comes down to this malleable and finite stuff that comes out of the ground and once were done with it and you cook it, really cook it, it’s basically stone and can last for ages.
There’s something permanent about it that contrasts really well with it in it’s plastic state and it’s hella fun to get your hands dirty.
Back in the day, I did this at school, making ashtrays, always ashtrays, what do kids make now at school? Iphone caddies?
At school we had a teacher, Abdo Nagi, a Yemeni guy whose dad made wooden locks for a living (a dying craft right there) and got taken in by some British diplomats and ended up becoming a potter with a studio in the garden of his adopted British family and teaching us. He smiled a lot and brought a big lump of porcelain in for us. Nice guy. He taught me sgraffito which I loved.
You can see some of his work here.
Flash forward to the present day, I took a ceramics course, but joined a bit late and my Lisa Bonnet-esque teacher would not let me have a go at the wheel in just the 5 sessions I had. So I dug out my knowledge of slab building. Score, slip, join, smooth repeat. The last session was a bit like watching a movie on the last day of school, but not as scary as watching the animatronic version of Lord of the Rings.
We tried Raku, which is fun and fast, which is unlike most ceramics, where the process is: wait a day for it to dry, glaze it, let that dry, wait for it to be fired next Tuesday, wait a day for the kiln to cool down, not for the impatient.
Raku is done in a dustbin with a canister of gas. When your pot is red hot and glowing from within you throw it into another bin full of sawdust… magic happens when the sawdust catches on fire. It cools down in 10 min and you place your work in a bucket of water.
The smoke and flames do weird-crazy-cool stuff to the glazes. Herewith, the pictures.