Haggis crisps!

Yes, now you can get Haggis flavoured crisps! I saw these in the supermarket and had to pick up a bag of them, not actually tried them yet. I didn’t even know Mackies were making crisps, they are better known for the extremely yummy Scottish ice cream. I hope they used free range haggis, battery farmed haggis are kept in such dreadful conditions. Hmmm, you know, if I can’t be bothered cooking come Burns Night in January I could have an alternative Burns Supper of Haggis crisps and a bottle of beer.
haggis and pepper crisps

Happy Saint Andrew’s Day

Its November 30th, Saint Andrew’s Day here in Scotland; Edinburgh Castle and several other monuments have been specially illuminated with blue lights to recall the Saltire for the occasion. The mist descended theatrically when I was shooting this adding a nice, spectral haze to it all.
Edinburgh Castle for St Andews Day

Memorial stolen

Auchengeigh miner's memorial 1
Only a few days ago I was out with my dad and took some photographs of the new statue that was part of an upgraded memorial to the miners who lost their lives in the old Auchengeigh pit. The site commemorates two disasters, from the 30s and the 50s, the latter being especially bad with a large loss of life, men lost in the cold and dark deep beneath the earth. A bloody horrible, dirty, hard, dangerous job at the best of times. The statue of the miner with his head bowed was unveiled only in September to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1959 disaster. And then the other day it was stolen. Yes, stolen. Some utter lowlife scumball bastards stole a memorial to the dead, presumably for the value of the metal.

There are still people today who remember lost loved one who were victims of that disaster, but that won’t matter to these evil bastards. They must have been planning it, they would have needed heavy equipment to remove it. It was there when folks left the nearby Miner’s Welfare the night before and was gone when a local drove past early next morning. I hope they catch the bastards and get the statue back, but more than likely they have some git as unscrupulous and evil as them who is prepared to melt it down for the scrap value.

Auchengeigh miner's memorial 8
It had been raining just before I took this picture and I thought the effect in the close-up was quite good, like a cross between the sweat of hard labour and tears. Its hard not to look at the miner, head bowed and not think of my own papa whose body was broken from work in the mines.
Auchengeigh miner's memorial 10

Auchengeigh miner's memorial 7

fire juggling

Now that the clocks have gone back to GMT its fully dark by the time I leave work. Coming home one evening when it was unusually mild (and dry!) I decided on a whim to take a different route and walk up the Royal Mile, digging my camera out of my bag thinking I may get a couple of street night shots; in a slice of pure lucky chance I happened on a fire juggler on the cobbled pedestrianised section of street outside the Fringe office. Obviously I’ve seen and taken plenty of pics of jugglers chucking around all sorts of things from knives to firesticks around this spot during the Festival, but not usually this late in the year and at night; certainly made the use of fire look far more dramatic being dark!
fire on the streets




Of course as I was walking home from work I didn’t have the tripod with me, so I had to make do; to be honest I think half the many night shots I have on my Flickr are improvised, spur of the moment affairs rather than done when I’ve gone out deliberately with the tripod to do some night work. One of the advantages of digital is you are willing to take chances improving a shot since you’re not wasting money and film if it doesn’t work. And in this case since he was moving around and the fiery ropes he was holding were also swirling around I doubt a tripod would have made much difference here, he and they would still be streaked and blurred, but even so its worth taking the shot for the subject even if the pic isn’t as sharp as I’d normally try for; as Lee Harvey Oswald once said, sometimes you just have to take the shot. And its fun when the city offers up a little surprise like this; if I had gone home my normal route I’d never have seen this, it was just a sudden whim to go this way.
fire on the streets 2

Nocturnal cycling piano player

A couple of evenings ago I was drinking in the city’s Grassmarket, an area I rarely drink in these days – its mostly tourists and first year students who go there – but I was meeting some friends who have been working abroad and arranged to meet several folks there. The whole square has been done up recently to make it more open; if you don’t know the city its a square behind and below the imposing bulk of Edinburgh Castle in the Old Town, one side lined with pubs and inns, some of which are very old (going back to the 1500s), some of which, when they were actual coaching inns, played host to Robert Burns on visits to Edinburgh. And as we sat outside on a warm evening we heard music. Not unusual in a public square, especially during the Edinburgh Festival. And we all turn to see where it is coming from and we see a man in evening dress and top hat cycling his piano through the Grassmarket as he plays. When I told other people of this the next day I got the ‘oh, Joe’s off on one of his magical fantasy land tales again’ looks, but I have documentary evidence:


nocturnal singing cycling piano 2


I must apologise for the low quality of the pics, but shooting freehand (not that a tripod would have helped if I had it since he was moving most of the time) in a dark square at night is never going to give crisp, clear pics and the flash wasn’t much use in that situation either. But I had to try and grab some pics because even in Festival time Edinburgh you just don’t see a man cycling a piano through the city streets at night all that often. It was all wonderfully eccentric and delightful and magical and I loved it. Little bizarre delights like this that the city sometimes just throws up to you are part of what makes life fun. And here’s a very short video clip – its brief and even darker than the still pics, very murky night-time streets (and far away from the street lamps) but it was the best I could do on the spot to give you a tiny taste of this piano moving through the streets as he played:




The Ukulele Lady

Amanda Palmer warming up in the basement of Forbidden Planet in Edinburgh this afternoon before a signing (and singing!) session for her and Neil Gaiman’s book “Who Killed Amanda Palmer”. Amanda has a music gig later this week as part of the Edinburgh Fringe (and is doing smaller gigs during the week as well), Neil is in town shortly for the Edinburgh International Book Festival, we’re helping her sell the book while she’s here and today was a nice chance for the fans to come and meet her – really good turnout, city centre buzzing with Festival goers plus a big line of fans waiting to meet Amanda adding to it all. This was Amanda getting into her zone before meeting the fans by performing a song for us all; I’ve videoed her performance (with her permission) and will add it here once I have time to sort it and upload it to YouTube.
ukulele lady 2

"Check yer baws!"

In a window festooned with men’s health advice, specifically about checking the old undercarriage regularly to detect early onset of testicular cancer, on Cockburn Street I see this cartoon image – yes, it is indeed a giant, hairy bollock encouraging men to check themselves by declaring “check yer baws!” (a literal take on the old phrase ‘talking bollocks’). Cracked me up, much to the bemusement of some passing Spanish tourists who not knowing Scots didn’t understand what I was laughing my arse off about; once I stopped giggling I had to take a quick snap. Apologies for the reflection, no way to really avoid them; for film fact fans the street side reflected in the window is the side where Sophia Myles’ character lives in the film version of Hallam Foe:


check yer baws!

wee old couple

Walking with dad down by Holyrood near the Parliament I saw this elderly couple standing by one of the walls of the Palace of Holyrood and was trying to get a pic of them from my side of the road, but every time I tried a stream of cars would go past, or other people would walk through my frame. Finally, just as they started slowly walking again I got a shot; I just liked the image, their age, their character and how sweet it was that as they walked along so slowly, both stooped with age they were still holding hands.


still life with wee old couple and wall

Home, home on the range…

Among all the acres of tartan on display down by Holyrood today for The Gathering (even by Edinburgh standards there were a lot of kilts and plaid) a single, old cowpoke, taking the weight off his feet for a few moments, sitting outside the Parliament building and looking over to the Palace of Holyrood and the Queen’s Gallery. The contrast between his cowboy hat and shirt and the Saltire and Union flags and the old buildings across from him appealed to me and I had to get a shot:


home home on the range

Captain Picard on the Mile

Walking down the Royal Mile one bright morning to work, passing the City Chambers I saw the distinctive visage of Patrick Stewart’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard looking out onto the ancient thoroughfare; not what you expect in the heart of a historic world heritage site. No idea why there was a lifesize standee of Picard gazing out of the City Chambers, perhaps it was the office of a fan, perhaps it was because Patrick Stewart was coming to town with Ian McKellen to perform waiting for Godot (I’d love to have gone to it but the tickets are just too damned pricey, sadly, a common problem with a lot of theatre these days, I hardly go any more). Whatever the reason seeing it on a crisp, spring morning on the Royal Mile made me smile and the juxtaposition of the captain of the Starship Enterprise, a historic street and a streetsweeper’s wheely bin amused me and I had to pause and take a pic.

Captain Picard on the Royal Mile