Retro Robots

The annual Christmas market and winter wonderland fair are running now in Edinburgh around the Mound and Princes Street Gardens, and of course I took a few photographs on the way home from work one evening. It’s not the easiest to shoot – a tripod is useless in the busy market so it means hand-held after dark photography and I don’t normally use the flash either, so a fair chunk simply don’t come out, but sometimes you get lucky, and this series I shot of a traditional toy stall with hand-carved wooden toys, the old tin-type toys, clockwork wind-ups and these gloriously retro, 1950s style robots. I was really pleased considering I was shooting hand held, no flash and at night that these came out so clearly

retro robots 01

In fact they got picked up by one of my favourite sites, BoingBoing, who ran a couple of them on their blog, which was rather nice

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wonderful toys

I do love the traditional toy stall, doesn’t matter how old you get there is something still magical about them that makes you feel like a five year old craving Christmas. And on a cold, dark, December night in winter how nice is to see this splash of colour, life and magic?

The Night Before Christmas

Yes, I know I have posted this one some previous Christmas Eve posts, but the hell with it, it’s been a seasonal favourite of mine since I was a very small boy. I adored Tom’n'Jerry (and Bugs, Daffy and the rest) as a kid – the humour, the precise timing to music, the richness of that 30s and 40s animation, so much better than most modern kid’s animation (outside the feature films) and best of all I watched them all with my wonderful dad, which makes those memories all the warmer. The two of us still love watching them now, some things you never grow out of. In fact I went to my second home at the Filmhouse just a coupe of weeks ago to see an afternoon of classic cartoons, so wonderful to see them in a cinema where they were meant to be seen. Lots of young kids in the audience and oh how they laughed, probably never seen a cartoon so beautifully done on Nickelodeon or any other kid’s channel today. And it made me smile to think that 70 to 80 years on Fred Quimby, Chuck Jones and company were still making kids – and adult big kids like me – laugh out loud in delight. I think that would have made them very happy and it’s a lovely way to be remembered to future generations, isn’t it. But today us Christmas Eve and that means this particular Tom’n'Jerry cartoon:

Christmas streets of Edinburgh

Yep, Christmas beckons, the horrid and unwanted, useless tram works mean Princes Street is still closed to traffic, but at least in the meantime they are using the now vacant street space for something fun, like this open air cafe-bar stalls and the pair of old Routemaster buses now being used as booze buses. Hot drinks, food, booze, but at this time of year on a frigid December night I think the sign declaring “warm inside” is even more attractive!

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christmas booze bus 01

Edinburgh sparkles

As part of the seasonal Edinburgh Sparkles campaign the annual German Christmas Market is on the Mound, the craft and food stalls and fair in Princes Street Gardens, including the open air ice-rink:

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The market brings a lovely sense of light and warmth into the long, chill winter nights, the smell of cooking food, the crowds and the aroma of hot, spiced drinks being consumed, a lovely little oasis of life in the black winter months:

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And it’s a good place to chat to the market traders and craftes while looking for something a bit different for a present:

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There’s much yummines to be had!

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And you can get some nice Christmas decorations too:

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I’ve bought some of these painted glass candle globes as present before, couple for myself too:

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And no matter what age you are there is always something magical about the toy stall, isn’t there?

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Edinburgh Christmas market and fair 07

Christmas market at night

The traditional Winter Wonderland in Princes Street Gardens is up and running, the small fair and the German Market on the Mound. I felt very sorry for them during the heavy snow, all set up but with hardly anyone going round them due to the weather. Even the other night when I took some of these it was much quieter than it usually is, despite there being no snow for a few days. Bitterly cold, sure, but it always is in December when this is here and it doesn’t stop people, but a week to Christmas and even on late night opening there were people around but nowhere near as busy as I normally see it at this time of year. Still pretty to walk around though, the light and warmth and the smell of hot, spiced drinks and food against the cold, dark, winter night.

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Edinburgh, Christmas 2010 04

Edinburgh, Christmas 2010 012

Just as I pressed the shutter the lady leaned forward with something from the stall and kids all smiled at just the right time. Sometimes you get lucky in street photograpy (and also lucky it came out considering it was night and it was all freehand and no use of flash)

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Chocolates and sweeties!

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Hot, spiced drinks warm the bones in the cold night

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Toys!

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Sausages!

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Looking across Princes Street Gardens, the ice rink down below in the valley, the National Gallery of Scotland behind it and above it all Edinburgh Castle.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…

… and all through the night not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse… I’ve loved Tom’n'Jerry since I was a very small boy and have wonderfully warm memories of sitting there watching them with my dad. Truth be told even as an adult if a T&J came on when I was home dad and I would sit down to watch it, hee-hawing with laughter as we did so, my mum shaking her head and wondering when either of us would grow up. With crisp snow lying all around us this Christmas Eve it seems like a perfect evening to sit by a roaring fire and watch the classic Night Before Christmas film from the Oscar winning T&J:

Oh to be five years old again and watching this on Christmas Eve at home with dad while mum was making baking and cooking magic in the kitchen and all seemed right with the world and there was no problem in the world so big that your mum and dad couldn’t sort it out and you felt wrapped up in that warmth and love. Looking back now I think that childhood was the most wonderful present I’ve ever received and at the time, of course, I didn’t even know it. Little wonder as the world seems darker and colder that I warm myself by those memories of times that never come again.

Gift ideas

‘Tis the season when every second bloody advert is from celebs from A to Z list hawking their wares: perfumes, endless comedy DVDs and books which are instantly sold at half price in the chain bookstores and supermarkets. I’m so utterly disgusted by the crass, obvious commercialism of all of this that I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon and endorse my own scent, Eau de Joe. Why buy a perfume that allegedly makes you smell like some Hollywood slapper when you could have Eau de Joe, with its peaty, single malt mixed with hints of 80% coco chocolate, must books and cat fur aroma.

And for that other perfect gift for Christmas why not select my new special Joe Stands Up comedy DVD. Its an hour long of me standing up in different poses, from bolt upright to nonchalantly leaning against the fireplace in my smoking jacket as I tap out my pipe. Order now and get the bonus extra disc Joe Also Sits Down. Truly something for everyone.

Okay, I’ll admit, these are shoddy, inferior goods designed simply to be bought by folks desperate for gift ideas for relatives whose tastes they don’t really know that well, just like every other shameless celebrity endorsed bag of crap, but at least I’m honest about it. And my comedy DVD would still be funnier than bloody Peter Kaye or Gavin and bloody Stacey. Hmm, maybe I should think on a range of action figures for next year…

Pictures on the Beeb

Rather than end my last post of 2008 before I go out with such a downer as the previous one (I wanted to write something more positive but it just ain’t there inside me right now), here’s one very little piece of nicer news – the BBC News site has used another of my photographs (that’s three now, I think) in their weekly In Pictures feature in the Scottish section, it’s the eighth one in on the slideshow, taken during the German market just before Christmas on the Mound. In fact its the very one I posted on here just a few days ago (I’d repost it here but Blogger, as is often the case, is refusing to upload images again like it does several times a week, grrr, but you can see it full size on my Flickr).

Update, got it to bloody load the pic at last, click to go to the bigger version on Flickr:

Edinburgh - German Christmas market 1

Christmas

Its been a pretty mixed Christmas for me and dad this year, as you can imagine. The normal opening of the presents on Christmas morning was pretty subdued without mum being there. Even little things like signing Christmas cards had been especially hard for my dad; I knew that before he said, as soon as I opened my card from him the other week there I felt a terrible pang because I knew right away how much it would have hurt him to be signing those cards from him and not from him and mum. Life is full of once absolutely normal activities and rituals like signing cards that are now tipped with barbs which dig in and remind us sharply of our loss and its worse for my dear dad. We took up Christmas wreaths to the cemetery for mum and also to her brother, the Comrade, which was terribly hard.

I know some folks say don’t put yourselves through the wringer like that, but its impossible not to go. We did our best though and dad made a huge effort in the kitchen, with my cousin and her hubby over for dinner as they usually are. Obviously not on a par with the cooking and baking mum created (which was outstanding) but we did our best and had a good meal and a decent afternoon and evening drinking and chatting away. Very mixed day, as I say, it wasn’t all sadness, we had good moments, but everyday there’s something which gets us and at this time of year its far more pronounced.

Christmas

I don’t think I have ever looked forward to a Christmas less than I do this year, it drives further home the stark fact that mum isn’t there with us. Its not hard to see why so many people suffer depression at this time of year.