Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Like Ice in Glasses

The night tinkles like ice in glasses, 
Leaves are glued to the pavement with frost...

This New Year's Eve, I hope that your night sparkles.  Good night, and happy 2015.

Scootlund in Augist!

Blogger buddy and frequent Vain Minutia comment-leaver Mitch lives in Spain with his husband Jerry.  I mention him here, because I have stolen the title of this post from one of the recent entries in his blog, Mitchell is Moving.  Click the title to visit his blog, which is funny, sweet, beautiful, intelligent and uplifting!  If you go there, you will find many gorgeous photos of their enviable environment among other things, and you might even have a song to hear.  Click here to see the post about Scootlund in Augist, and the rain in Spain--Och!  I don't even remember how I found Mitch, but I'm surely glad I did!

Scotland in August means one thing--Fringe Festival!

Fringe 2014 by the numbers:  2,183,591 tickets issued to
49,497 performances of 3,193 shows/events held at 299
venues across Scotland's capital city.  (From EFF
official website). 
Many months before my trip, I was looking online for things to do while in Edinburgh, since I knew way less about that city than London.  On all of the top 10 or top 25 "things to do" lists, I kept coming across Fringe Festival in August.  I wondered if it was a big deal,* and if it was related to Fringe Festival in Indianapolis and other cities.  I've got a friend and a brother who both have been involved in Indy Fringe, so I sometimes get there to see a few shows.  I looked up Edinburgh, and DUH!  Not only is it related to the one in Indy, but it's the mother of all Fringe Festivals.  The first one was held there in 1947, and it has built up to what it is today with people coming from all over the world to strut their stuff in the areas of theater, dance, music, spoken word, comedy, visual arts and all manner of street performance.  If it can gather a crowd, you will probably see it at the festival.  It's an opportunity for people to create their art, perform it and experience an audience loving it or hating it.

After I learned all of this, I was so happy that I'd serendipitously planned my trip for my birthday in August, not even knowing I'd have this experience.  Also, how I got a really great hotel room right in the heart of the city with no noticeable cost difference...well, it's a mystery.

As these things go, once I'd heard about it, I noticed it everywhere.  One of my favorite singers/musicians, Amanda Palmer (wife of my favorite author, Neil Gaiman) mentioned a past Fringe in one of her live concerts that I was listening to, and went on to sing a song she'd written about a man she'd fallen in love with there.  A documentary on PBS that I was watching mentioned the festival.  I had my old friend Jennifer, along with her mother Karen and son Milos, over for a Sunday brunch in May, and when I said that my trip was in August, her eyes widened and she said, "You'll be there for Fringe!?"  She'd lived in Edinburgh for a semester in undergrad and in Aberdeen for the entirety of her Masters program.  Other mentions of it were sprinkled here and there over the months.

So anyway, my world that had been completely devoid of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (as they order the words) had suddenly sprouted one.  Enough blathering.  Here are some pictures.

Breakfast every day at the hotel before off to the races.

Sitting room outside breakfast.  How in the hell did I get
a room here? 

Piper piping.

Street performer along the Royal Mile,
where most of the action goes down.

This guy was hilarious!  He's Swedish, a genuinely talented juggler,
balancer, etcetera-er, but mostly he was great at working
up the crowd.  He tricked people into participating in "deadly"
or simply awkward ways, like these good-humored gents.
He joked toward the end of his performance as he asked for
tips, "Please don't fill my bag with tiny silver coins.  If I
don't make enough money, I'll have to go back to Sweden
to my old job.  My old job was selling drugs to children."

Posters and flyers everywhere.  I saw the play
shown in the center--Renfield, about the
character of the same name in Bram Stoker's
Dracula.  I also saw Antigone on this day.

Near the end of the Royal Mile is a walled area
of the city, which was thought in antiquity to be the
end of the world.  So, while there, you may as
well have a pint at World's End.

The Ferris wheel (slightly less impressive than the London Eye
but cute, nonetheless) was out for Fringe this year.

From farther away.

Posters, posters.  The purple inflatable venue that you see back there
was in the shape of a cow, udders up. 

Along the Royal mile, the nightclub "Sin."
I'd heard of the phenomenon of old churches
closed due to lack of interest being turned into
clubs and bars in European cities, and indeed
bigger cities here in the U.S.  I saw a handful
of examples of that in the U.K.

Outings was a fantastic reader's theater style play, made up of scores (maybe
even a couple hundred?) of "coming out" stories combined and
condensed.  It was moving and funny and beautiful and sad and clever.

Another piper piping.

Waiting for a show to start, I was near the
university and appreciated this sign--
"and none."  Being included is always nice!

These guys and gals were terrific.  They did some dance and drumming as
a street performance, but it was really an advert for their in venue show later
in the day.  By the way, even the street performers were vetted--they had to
compete for and win spots throughout the Royal Mile and other areas
in the city.

I didn't get any shots that really show the throngs of people who attend,
but here's one that comes closest.  The last three days that I was there,
most of the festival was over (it really does take up most of the month).
There was a marked difference.  Fringe Edinburgh has such electricity
that you could think you were in London, but without it, the city is
much more laid back and lightly populated.

Not festival related, but some nice graffiti art WAY up on an upper floor of a
building.  Someone went to some effort, so props for that.

The photo is of the gent himself, of course, but the actor who
played Quentin Crisp in this one man show was really great. It
was in a tiny intimate venue, and was really special and memorable.

Alright, so maybe this guy wasn't vetted.  He was amusing and
collecting for charity, though, and he was pretty cute.

So much to see.  Especially in the area of comedy, there were some
notable people doing their thing.  Earlier in the month, B. J. Novak
was there with someone else doing who knows what.

Rum and Coke whilst waiting for Quentin.

Potted Sherlock--from the team that created the more suitably named Potted
Potter.  Here's their stage. 

Yep, they did it!  Much lighter fare than the other shows I saw, and
it was super cute.  Lots of kids having a ball in the audience.

Heading home.


*It is.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sweet Rides

These photos are of the Gold State Coach (built in 1762) and the Diamond Jubilee State Coach (meant to be finished for Elizabeth II's 80th birthday, but not completed until March of this year).  The Gold State Coach has been used in every English coronation ceremony since George IV's in 1820.

Looking at these kinds of objects inevitably gets me thinking about things like wealth, poverty and the accident of birth.  I think about my comfortable place between the two extremes, and the accident of my own birth.  Why somebody gets a life that's a sweet ride, and somebody else gets a nightmare, and I'm one of the (lucky) ones in between...I don't know.  (And of course, even the extreme of luxury can turn nightmarish in a second).

I don't know the answers to the questions of poverty and inequality, but when I visited Buckingham Palace, I saw these things.  They were very pretty, and I took pictures to show you, because I like you a lot...and here they are.  They are a couple of sweet rides, I'm telling you.

Original paintings, incredibly well-preserved.

The details here are poppies, thistles, shamrocks and palm trees--England,
Scotland, Northern Ireland, and India.  Symbols of strength, a painful history...
symbols of The Empire.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

More London Stuff and Things

Took a tour at the Tower of London and
a Beefeater tweeted our group...

...and pointed markedly.  He was terrific.  :)

This guy again...
...and again...

...with angelic host...

...between thingies.

Your trip to London is incomplete unless you've gotten
photo bombed by at least 5 or so of these red guys. 

The Bridge, but not the one that's falling down, falling down.

...falling down, falling down...Chinatown!

Beautiful couple and a photo bomber!
And creepy strangers taking their photo!!!
Creepy stranger typing a caption under
their photo!!!

The National Gallery gift shop would like
to make you aware that The NG houses
Van Gogh's "Sunflowers."  Very, fully aware.

Up on an open double-decker.  Weeeeeeee!

Whatever.  You start taking pictures of everything.

This guy was piping down the bridge from Parliament toward the London Eye.
A YouTuber I watch occasionally, Karen Kavett, was in London a few
weeks after I was, and she posted footage of THIS guy piping in THIS spot
from THIS perspective.  It was rather surreal and fun to see someone
else experience another moment just like this one.  

Something was always going on at Trafalgar Square.  People hang out there
to eat lunch, chat and people watch.  This day, these guys ran/biked onto
the scene in their tightie-pinkies to raise money for Carers Trust,
and to cause general meyhem. 

Unplanned hilarity!  Pretty cute.  :)

They did some calisthenics while their MC plead for donations over a bull horn.
The law showed up, and the gentleman with the bull horn lamented, "Law
enforcement has arrived, and I'm afraid we're going to have to love you and
leave you!"  I do have video of the calisthenics.  I'll save it for a rainy day to post.

Richard the Lionheart again, a better shot I think than the one I posted previously.
He might've been wearing tight pink underwear, but I couldn't tell.  I just
noticed the floating head at the bottom left.  Oh, well.  Hi, lady!

Lots of statues up on pedestals and pillars all over the city.  I thought
these were especially life-like.  :)

Benny always peeking through.  Watching...waiting...

Loads of humanity at Trafalgar Square.

Not a great panoramic view of buildings, but this shows how busy the place is.
As with any of these, click to 'embiggen'.  :)

I never once heard any Brit refer to the Underground as "the tube."  Interesting!

My home station every, every day.