Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sunday, Monday

On Sunday, after what felt like the first sleep in I've had in years, Ed and I met on the Royal Mile and ventured to The Castle. Despite having already been in Edinburgh for two weeks, Ed had very kindly waited for me to arrive to visit the Castle, quite admirable considering he admitted he had a fascination with castles when he was younger and this was his first real castle.

They might have gone to all sorts of lengths to keep invading forces out, but nothing can stop people scratching their names into wooden doors

The Castle is not cheap -15 pounds - and if it wasn't for the excellent views and lovely weather, I think I probably would have felt rather ripped off.

Maybe it was because I'd already been to Cardiff Castle, but while we spent about two hours walking around, I wasn't particularly blown away by anything. A lot of the buildings were built as military barracks and one now houses the National War Musuem.

St Margaret's Chapel is the oldest building in Edinburgh but it seemed to be in the midst of a strange redecorating process. It turns out the stained glass windows, the nicest part of the tiny chapel, are actually from the 1920s.

We went down some stairs into dark, damp, dripping cellars where a strange soundtrack played intermittent noises that supposedly recalled 'The Black Dinner', in which the Governor of the Castle in 1440 invited some arch enemies around for dinner, presented them with a bull's head on a plate (which is apparently a signal of imminent death), and then had their heads chopped off.

The Honours of Scotland (basically the Crown jewels) were very sparkly, but no photos allowed there. Ed and I both agreed that it's hard to really appreciate the age of things - the crown we saw is 300 years older than the Treaty of Waitangi. But it still just looks like a very nice crown in a glass case.

After Versailles, most palaces don't really seem very palatial. We saw the tiny room in which Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to James VI and some larger rooms that have recently been restored.

The walls of the Great Hall were covered in swords and what looked like pistol clocks. The Hall had little 'nooks' by each window, similar to another building in the Castle we'd been in. It seems the Scottish liked to sit by the window and have secret conversations.

The National War Memorial is big and sombre, some of the flags inside are so old they are threadbare. We had to lighten the mood on our way out with photos with the animals out the front.

After the Castle we went for a wander around some of the streets, saw Greyfriar's Bobby who sat near his master's grave in Greyfriar's churchyard every day until his own death.

For dinner we were lured into The Pink Olive by the promise of Sunday roast, only to sit down and find that the menu outside was the lunch menu and the roast of the day was no longer on the dinner menu. Apparently roasts are a Sunday lunch thing in the UK. So instead I had a salad with pickled eggs. I've never had pickled eggs before and I'm not sure whether they were pink because they were pickled or because we were at The Pink Olive.

That evening we went to Daniel Sloss' The Joker in the Spiegeltent. Alex, Ed and I saw Cabaret in a Spiegeltent in Auckland in December last year which was very similar. They are portable 'tents' with solid walls and booths around the edge inside as well as space for regular seating in front of the stage. Daniel Sloss is a bit of an up-and-coming comedy star in the UK, while in London I had seen him on a show called 9 Out of 10 Cats which is the British equivalent of TV3's 7 Days. He's only 20 and he milks his youth a bit, but he was very good. His show was really well structured, he had some clever jokes, and he seemed to be having a good time. A vast improvement on the two shows we'd seen the night before.

After the show we went to the Forest, which describes itself as 'a volunteer-run, collectively-owned, free arts and events space masquerading as a vegetarian café'. While sitting drinking cider and listening to a guy who Ed had seen working there the day before play Clash songs, complaining that it's actually quite hard to make friends with people, a guy we know from Wellington walked in and was then joined by some of his friends, so it was nice to talk to some new people.

On Monday afternoon I went to the highly recommended Anton's Uncles by Theatre Movement Bazaar at Bedlam Theatre, an old church that has been turned into a year-round theatre. Anton's Uncles has won the first of this year's three Fringe Review Outstanding Theatre Awards and I can see why. Based on Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and using only the male characters, it is strongly movement based. It's almost like dance mixed with theatre and illustrates how simple movements executed with perfect, synchronised timing can be really effective. It was really nice to see some theatre after having seen three comedy shows of varying quality, although I have to admit I started to get a bit drowsy half way through...I loved it most when they started singing which also, thankfully, shook me out of my sleepiness for the rest of the show. The trailer for the show gives some idea of what it's like, although it makes it seem like it's entirely dance when actually there's a lot of dialogue. The music was really cool though.

Afterwards I met Ed (I managed to find my own way to the pub he was at with only one wrong turn, for some reason I'm finding parts of the Old Town really hard to navigate) and we went and got tickets for an Australian comedian I had seen a wee bit of at a female comedy gala in Wellington two years ago and really liked. She reminds me of someone we know so I managed to convince Ed to come along by saying, 'I'm going to see Hannah Gadsby, aka Charlotte Bradley, do you want to come?' I think he was glad he did because we both really enjoyed her set. She started by making a cup of tea for herself and one person from the audience, because you can't drink tea alone. She is very deadpan but so likeable and, among many other things, talked about growing up in a small town in Tasmania where her best friends were two 70 year olds - because they fed her biscuits and she didn't have to talk much, moving to Canberra where she realised her social skills left much to be desired as a result of hanging out with two 70 year olds for most of her young life, being afflicted with sleep paralysis, and confusing her local butcher because of the way she dresses (he kept calling her sir, so she started trying to act more femininely when she went in there which only resulted in him thinking she was a very camp gay man).

After Hannah Gadsby's Mrs Chuckles we returned to the Forest because they have giant meals for much more reasonable prices than other places in town. Money in Edinburgh just seems to disappear. Food seems more expensive and the shows are definitely not as cheap as I imagined. In the Wellington Fringe shows are between $14 and $18. Here, the cheapest shows are 9 pounds (which is about NZ$18), although we have been lucky with some two-for-one deals.

We then walked down into the New Town for a look around, but after a hot chocolate and a sit, decided to call it a day. Seeing as we were in my part of town, it only took me a few minutes to walk home, accompanied by a very pink sky.

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