The Colours, They Are A Changing…

It’s been a while since I’ve just put some photos up. Just as well really, I’ve just started a new job and now get to spend my days in an office  and so have done absolutely nothing worth writing about.

Walk around (outside, that is) at the moment and, despite our short reprieve in the weather, the air is full of change. Autumn is here. When the leaves change colour, their trees shed them and the dog chases them…

The berries are on the treesBut the sun is still shiningChanging Autumn ColoursThe leaves are crisp and crunchy (if you step on them, I wouldn’t know about biting them)Changing Autumn ColoursAnd then, when the day is all but over, the sun will settle on the far side of the horizonChanging Autumn ColoursI do love a good sunset.


Highly Polished Tables and Handcuffs: Doors Open Day

As if I didn’t act middle aged enough it was utterly compounded on Saturday by taking part in Edinburgh’s Doors Open Day. The idea of this weekend-long event is to let people see inside come of the city’s – in this case Edinburgh’s – most stunning architectural and cultural buildings, and to see them for free. All of this is organised by the Cockburn Association. No, I’d never really heard of them either, but they do have a great name.

Somewhat predictably our day got off to a slightly delayed start involving my bus (or rather, lack there of), being stupidly late and Mel (my partner in crime for all things middle-aged) having to wait on George Street with two cups of coffee (sorry!).

In case you were thinking that this particular adventure wasn’t geeky/middle-aged enough already you will be pleased to hear that top of our list of places to visit was the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE henceforth, mainly because I’m lazy, but partially because it’s their acronym). We had also intended on visiting the City Chambers, however, due to what can only be described as a large cock-up they were to be open on Sunday not Saturday (as advertised) due to the fact that they were holding a wedding. Bit of a fail guys.

The RSE is something I’ve come across a LOT over the last couple of years, their papers and journals have been a constant part of the degree-headache. On top of that, my dissertation supervisor was a fellow of the Society, so I was keen to see what 22-26 George Street actually looked like.Doors Open Day Edinburgh Royal Society of Edinburgh The lavish reception area is adorned with thick carpets and paintings, including the first president of the RSE, The 3rd Duke of Buccleuch, and the monarch who gave the royal charter, George III.  We were given a short presentation on the history of the society, its buildings, who the people were and are, and what they do presently. After the presentation our tour guide (whose name I have totally forgotten) took us all through a gallery and into the Clerk Maxwell Room (he worked on electromagnetism, laying the foundations of modern communications, and was a major influence on Einstein) to see some of his notes, to be told (for the third time) about his statue in George Street, and to see a holographic projection of said statue.

After going back through the reception area we were lead up the staircase of No. 22 and told who the various paintings were off (Patrick Neill, designer of west Princes Street Gardens; Sir Edward Sharpey-Schafer, physiologist with an interest in asphyxia and drowning; and Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, Chair [Professor] of Natural History, University of St Andrews, to name but a few) and their relation to the RSE.Doors Open Day Edinburgh Royal Society of Edinburgh

Doors Open Day Edinburgh Royal Society of EdinburghThe top of these stairs lead to the Scott Room – named after Sir Walter Scott – which is the Society’s Council Chamber. The Council’s long table is surrounded by beautiful leather-upholstered chairs, each bearing the position within the RSE that its proprietor holds. Again the room is light by a highly-polished brass chandelier and the walls were adorned by portraits of famous members, with Sir Walter’s residing in pride of place above the fireplace.

Our penultimate stop on the tour was the Wellcome Rooms East and West (not a spelling mistake, they were renovated with help from the Wellcome Trust) which serve as the RSE’s function rooms. The East contained several busts (including one of John Napier, of logarithm fame) and a photograph of all the fellows of 1901-02; whilst the West currently holds several, more contemporary, works on loan from the National Galleries. In the West there was also a presentation from a ‘scientific’ company. I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ll just say I would like to see their results, before their interpretations.

Doors Open Day Edinburgh Royal Society of EdinburghThe last official stop of the tour was the Kelvin Room. The first thing we were told upon entering the room was that the red embossed wallpaper dated from the 19th century – and would we kindly not touch it. Apart from this, the room boasted an original period feature from when the building was a tenement – the marble fireplace – not to mention the world’s shiniest board table, a photograph of William Thompson (a.k.a. Lord Kelvin) and part of equipment he used to measure the depth of the Atlantic whilst helping to lay the first transatlantic telegraph cables.

I really enjoyed getting to have a look around the RSE, it was highly informative, but without being patronising, or dull. It also served as a reminder as to just how many people have been part of the society, and their influence on the world. And that’s before you even consider all of the Society’s present day activities and importance.Doors Open Day Edinburgh Royal Society of Edinburgh

The other place I visited was the Edinburgh Sheriff Court. For fairly obvious reasons we weren’t allowed to take photographs in the cells, but I also failed to get any other good pictures of the rest of building. The innards of the building is something I can only really describe as a sort of marble-glad cavern. The multi-floored main atrium is home to the 16 courtrooms.

The tour started in the remand court (Court 3, if you’re interested) with a clerk of court going through what would happen to an individual from arrest through to the decision whether to bail or remand the defendant. From there we were lead through the dock (handcuff-free, I should add) down the narrow, grotty, steep staircase leading to the holding cells, before we were lead by a woman from Reliance (the custodial services people) through the rabbit warren of passages to the main cells. There they have space to hold up to 180 people, in a range of cells ranging from juvenile to solitary.

As there are no photos and not a whole lot else I can tell you about the Sheriff Court, I’ll leave it about there. I really enjoyed both my trip to the RSE and the Sheriff Court – might even be going back (to the RSE, that is, I have no intention of finding myself in the remand court or the cells…) later in the year. I also look forward to seeing other places the next time Doors Open Day comes along.


What Would Your Mother Say?

Whilst having dinner at Illegal Jacks the other night (see the ramble on Food Tourism from yesterday) I slurped my way through a bottle of Brewdog’s Trashy Blonde.

I was introduced to Brewdog a couple of years ago when it was still relatively unheard of (yes, that cool) when a friend had a bottle one night. Regular readers of my rambles will be well aware that I am not an expert, but I really enjoy its distinctive, fresh taste (my other favourite of theirs is 5am Saint).

The other part I love is their ‘brand’. It’s cheeky, it’s irreverent, it’s fun and totally different from the status quo. I know some people (the old, fuddy-duddy) won’t like it, but I think it is refreshing (as refreshing as the beer, the cliché book might say). So much so that I feel I should share what it says in the description on the side of the bottle of Trashy Blonde:

“A titillating, neurotic, peroxide punk of a pale ale. Combining attitude, style, substance and a little bit of low self esteem for good measure; what would your mother say?
You really should just leae it alone…
But you can’t get the compulsive malt body and gorgeous dirty blonde colour out of your head. The seductive lure of the sassy passion fruit hop proves too much to resist. All that is even before we get onto the fact that there are no additives, peservatives, pasteuriasation or strings attached” – Trashy Blonde, You know you shouldn’t.The best part is that they even have a bar in Edinburgh, now there’s a place to visit soon.


Bagels, Brownies, Beehives and Burritos: A Day of Food Tourism In Edinburgh

The beauty of having friends in town is that it is the perfect excuse to pretend that I don’t actually live in Edinburgh and see things with a slightly different perspective. The only thing that I could have possibly worked in better would have been if I had remembered to take my camera with me! This means that, although still mine, the few photos that are in this post were not taken on Saturday.

We were staying near the EICC (Edinburgh International Conference Centre) and so the simplest way to the National Museum – our first stop of the day/where we’d spend the morning – was through the Grassmarket. The Grassmarket is one of my favourite parts of the Old Town, once a cattle market it has been everything from a traders sight to the location of Edinburgh’s gallows (and many stories of grave robbing and body-snatching besides). It has had pubs since the 1700s – but boasts many more these days, the Beehive and The Last Drop being my favourites – and also boasts the location of the first piped water in Edinburgh (the well at the bottom of Victoria Street). For reasons of aesthetics we went up Victoria Street (the buildings are more fun) before heading down to the museum. I think I’ve gone on about the museum at (some might say excruciating) length before, so I’ll gloss over it this time (but you can read it here, if you are so inclined).

It was raining slightly by the time we left the museum, but we decided to brave it and find a cafe for lunch (the first of many food/drink related stops for the afternoon). We wandered up South Bridge/Nicholson St looking for a little cafe and ended up finding ‘Elephants and Bagels’ (37 Marshall Street (Nicholson Square)). We all happen to love bagels – good job really, they don’t serve anything else – and so we loved it. Pastrami, salsa and cheese or mozzarella, pesto and ham to name only two of the many possibilities, served on a choice of over 10 different bagel types. I will be certainly going back the next time I’m in that part of town, even if some of their art work – think hundreds of different peoples’ drawings of elephants – is slightly overpowering.

As we were playing the tourist, we decided that we would spend the (now largely sunny) afternoon wandering from the Castle down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace before walking back up to North Bridge to walk along Princes Street and view the next saga of diversions for tram works.

We avoided the tourists shops like the plague, and so the first place we actually ventured into after leaving the Castle esplanade was half way down the Cannon Gate – The Edinburgh Fudge Kitchen. I love this fudge shop, and I can’t help but go in almost every time I pass. On this particular occasion I came out with ‘chocolate peppermint’, ‘triple dark chocolate’ and ‘Amaretto’. This would usually be where I’d insert a photo of the fudge, but I ate it before I got near a camera. Whoops.

By the time we got down to the bottom of the RM we were all feeling in need of refreshment. We’d all seen Holyrood palace before, so had a quick glance through the gates, scoffed at how ugly the parliament building is and made our way back up the hill in search of tea and coffee. We happened across Cafe Vivo, just opposite Canongate Kirk, to supply us with this caffeine kick and accidentally discovered that they have one of the best chocolate brownies I have ever tasted. Fact. It’s a fairly small place, but their menu seemed very extensive for its size ( although only pizzas, pastas, soups and sandwiches, but in many varieties), but if they are half as good as they smelt, they will be delicious.

When we reached Princes Street there was a bit of indecision in our plans and as some of us decided that braving the crowds to go shopping was not going to happen we split. We meandered through Princes Street Gardens for a while, looking at the copper map, the bandstand and the Ross fountain (with many a photo-opp for my American Friend). Eventually we decided that we would wander back to the flat. As Lothian Road isn’t known for its stunning beauty (and the fact that my friend needed to know how to get to Waverley from the flat) we walked back via the mound. It was whilst wandering down the Grassmarket we decided that we were going to be back way before the others and were discussing what we should do when we got distracted (probably by something shiny) and accidentally found ourselves in the Beehive (a pub, towards the bottom of the GM). It seemed a shame to waste the opportunity, so we sat there with a round of drinks (I had a pint of Edinburgh Gold, if you’re at all interested) discussing how we could spend the time until the others got back. Unsurprisingly, after spending an hour in the pub, we got back about the same time as the others, thus the predicament was solved.

This only left us with the problem of dinner. We opted for Illegal Jacks (on Lothian Road) which offers a range ‘tex-mex’ dishes, and I guess would technically be called ‘fast-food’ – although don’t let the usual trash that comes under that bracket fool you, this is proper food. I opted for the chicken Quesadilla, with a bottle of Brewdog’s ‘Trashy Blonde’ [insert own joke here] which, whilst it won’t win them a Michelin star, was absolutely delicious.

By way of a quick summary – you’re no doubt getting rather bored by now – let me put it like this: I had never been to any of the places we went on Saturday (except for the fudge kitchen), but from it I can now thoroughly recommend:
Elephants and Bagels, for a quick snack-y lunch
The Edinburgh Fudge Kitchen for all things teeth-rotting, delicious and fudge related
Cafe Vivo for mouth-watering brownies and a quick caffeine fix
The Beehive for a lazy drink whilst whilst you decide how waste some time
Illegal Jacks, What’s a quick nibble between friends of an evening?