Edinburgh Festival 2008

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
Well, I didn't need my sun glasses, but it didn't rain all the time! I travelled up on Wednesday 13 August, crossing from the new St Pancras to King's X via platform 9 3/4. GNER is now National Express. The Cally bar at Haymarket had been demolished for the new tram works, so met Sam in Thomsons Bar for the first pint of 80/- (now called 80, presumably to appeal to young folk!). Next day I was checking Facebook when I received a communication from Marek Kohn, who was speaking at the Book Festival at 2pm. I dragged myself away from the olympics on TV and got my first of many £2.50 day savers (my bus pass isn't valid north of the border). In his audience I spotted Dick Witts, so we had a natter and collared Tony Benn in the signing tent to demonstrate his combination bag and seat (as seen on Richard and Judy). Before had popped into National Trust place and had a letterpress book plate printed! Then walked along to Chester Street to see Harry Potter illustrator Cliff Wright and friends (Mark Harrison and Tim Gill plus girls in flowing dresses) at their art exhibition. On Tim's recommendation, bought some cut-price folk albums at Fopp in Rose Street.

Friday hoped to catch the Art Bus - but it'd been discontinued! So did the smaller galleries, including Richard Wilson's deconstructed hot dog van at the Grey Gallery, then to the Stand to see Simon Munnery's AGM, which continued over the road in the pub, as usual. On Saturday we started at the art school to see the op art E-cyclorama, then to Talbot Rice for Andrew Grassie's hyper-real self-referential egg tempera paintings. They were wee! We were offered magnifying glasses to examine them! On Royal Mile were amused by Gamarjobat and saw Billy Cowie's dance installation at Grassmarket, which was also surprisingly wee! Tonight's show was in a swimming pool - Liz Bentley-on-Sea - not very good, despite the venue and uke action.

Sunday saw the traditional outing - to Musselburgh by bus, to see Mad, art at Eskmills and have tea at Luca's. Later met Peter and Lisa in Bennet's Bar for a couple of pints. On Monday saw Cholmondeleys feat. Nigel Burch at the Assembly then to Cafe Royal for a lovely dark pint, and thence to the Teviot for How to play the uke in less than an hour, a hot squashed show with nice but quiet ukes, Lisa standing in for Foz? Then a quick hike to the Festival Theatre for the Waverley Care comedy gala and loads and loads of very funny people. We were right up in the gods!

Tuesday was wet and Sam was back at work so I did the big museums on the 13 bus. I was round the Tracey Emin show in a flash (tho I bought a pencil!) but the Foto exhibition at the Dean was much better than I'd expected, with much collage and graphic design as well as photos from their golden age. Back to the Pleasance to be a late entrant to Isy Suttie (Dobby in Peep Show)! Back to book festival for Billy Cowie's talk - bought his book, which I'm looking forward to now I've finished A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian, and we had a pint in the Spiegeltent as the rain hammered the roof.

Wednesday got a bus to the top of the Royal Mile and watched a conjurer briefly, before walking down to the Fruitmarket to do the dark rooms properly (I'd wimped out on Friday!) - the installations by Canadians Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller were very impressive - the record player one downstairs and the killing machine upstairs particularly, the use of sound, light and robotics very theatrical. Waiting for Jo Neary's show to start at the Assembly I went to the Standing Order for a sub-two quid pint, to be joined at my table by Nigel Burch. I recognised him without the Foz makeup and we had a chat about banjuleles. Joanne Neary was excellent, can't think why I hadn't seen her in Brighton. Then it was off to Leith for a farewell meal at The Ship on the Shore with Sam and Charley. I had hake (and a taste of razor clam and scallop - but why do chefs always spoil these dishes for veggies by adding superfluous chorizo and black pudding?). Thursday was back to Haymarket for the train home.

Spa Valley Railway

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
I didn't have too many expectations for the Spa Valley Railway, at Tunbridge Wells. It's quite short, with mainly smallish locos, but I was in for a delightful day out. It was on the 29 bus all the way, but I'd just missed a train so after a quick look round, popped into Sainsbury's next door, to buy a shirt and pie for supper. As I returned, LMS 0-6-0T Class 3F Jinty no. 47493 (must try to find out why they are called jinties!) was pulling the train into the station. I took some snaps of it, but was disappointed when it returned to the shed. We were to be pulled by a diesel BR Bo-Bo Class 33 no. 33063 'RJ Mitchell'!! As we set off, however it became clear there was a steam loco on the back, Peckett 0-6-0ST works loco no. 1636 'Fonmon' (see a video here). The day was marked as a gala celebrating ten years since High Rocks station opened. I went to the end of the line at Groomsbridge then alighted at High Rocks on the way back. The Mayor and Mayoress of Royal Tunbridge Wells were being snapped next to the loco and a motley band was playing in the gardens of the inn, so I found the entrance to the mysterious High Rocks and had a quick look. It was one of those Victorian playgrounds, populated by strange looking sandstone rocks, some with ancient graffiti carved into them. I didn't fancy the aerial walkways so returned to the pub. No real ale on offer so I wandered back to the platform, to catch a wedding party arriving on the next train, powered this time by the jinty! So it was back to Groomsbridge then to TW, where I had a cuppa and a train biscuit whilst waiting for my 5.15 bus home.


Folkestone Triennial

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
I've been meaning to take more days out now I'm semi-retired, so when Peter mentioned that he, Lisa, Judy and Chris were going to Folkestone to view the Triennial, it spurred me into action. They were going by motor car, but I was determined to use my bus pass, but as it'd take all day to get there, I went to Hastings by train. This also should have meant less time to wait for the bus (it would have been 50 minutes at Rye) - but, as the PDF timetable I downloaded was wildly wrong (it was for 2004!) I was out by 20 minutes! The 100 bus mysteriously changes to the 711 at Lydd and it was an enjoyable journey taking in Winchelsea, Dymchurch (children's paradise) and Romney Marsh. After Hythe I was in virgin territory and soon I was at Folkestone bus station. First piece of art I encountered was a Tracey Emin sculpture of a child's hat (I think) attached to a bench in a shopping street (8b on the map) - I was too shy to snap the two smoking ladies sitting there oblivious to being in proximity to Public Art! The others were down at the harbour so I sped down the Road of Remembrance (I hadn't realised Folkestone was so hilly!) for a pint of Spitfire at The Princes Royal. As we left the pub we spotted the Orient Express leaving the harbour (unfortunately with a diesel either end). There was also lots of art to spot too (it's much better having them all around town than all in one building!). After spotting another Tracey up some steps, I left the others heading east to chase the Mobile Gull Appreciation Unit and I returned into town. It was hot and humid and there were hills to climb! Stopped in at the Triennial Visitor Centre for a proper map, thence another Tracey (and some false alarms - Folkestone is littered with discarded soggy baby garments!), to the Library to catch the last 5 minutes of Tacita Dean's fishing boat crossing from Boulogne to Folkestone (probably the best bit), a quick pop into Lidl to see if they had any of those hard Italian biscuits with chocolate chips (they hadn't) and back to the bus station, hungry, hot and bothered. On the way back, between Lydd and Camber, it started throwing it down, just as it had on our last Clarion bike ride in those parts. But this time I was inside a nice warm bus! Next week, Bognor?