Tuesday 20th August. A lie-in this morning after a post gig ‘session’ drinking wine and listening to Ian’s wonderful anecdotes. Over 40 years in the biz and many stories to tell... got to bed about 3am only to be woken by noise from the construction site at 8am... today is a ‘quiet’ day, though every day is coloured by some event or other... today Terl is going for a kilt fitting! Worried that he doesn’t have the correct socks and footwear, and debating whether he should wear it at tonight’s gig, he’s beginning to regret expressing a desire for one... which, he claims, was only made in jest... meanwhile our good mate Jack Henderson turns up to hang out and swap yarns. Jack is a great songwriter and musician, check him out ... pre-gig we sit around talking, laughing... Simon cooks (again) a fab vegetarian meal (he brought a recipe book with him)... until Terl appears, kilted up and looking like the ‘Highland Rogue’, Rob Roy:
Robert Roy MacGregor, usually known simply as Rob Roy or Red MacGregor, was a famous Scottish folk hero and outlaw of the early 18th century. A legend in his own lifetime (sound familiar?), George I issued a pardon for his crimes just as he was about to be transported to the colonies. The publication of ‘Rob Roy’ by Sir Walter Scott in 1817, further added to his fame, while Hector Berlioz was inspired by Scott’s book to compose an overture. William Wordsworth wrote a poem called ‘Rob Roy's Grave’ during a visit to Scotland in 1803, and MacGregor’s story has been told many times in film, including the 1922 silent film ‘Rob Roy’, a 1953 Disney film (which reminds me of an old Scottish joke: What’s the difference between Rod Stewart and Walt Disney? Rod sings and Walt Disney!) ‘Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue’ and 1995’s ‘Rob Roy’ starring Liam Neeson....
The illusion was shattered somewhat later in the day when, after posting the picture on facebook, we discovered he was wearing the kilt back to front!
Wednesday 21st August. A slow day. Simon and I walk up the Royal Mile to the Castle in a drizzly rain, dodging tourists and festival flyers, Elizabeth and Terl appear on Richard Bacon’s BBC Radio 5 Live show and, on the way home, discover a barber shop called... HOTHEAD! Early evening Simon, Ian and I taxi over to the New Town Theatre to watch Johnnie Walker’s interview with Steve Harley... whose ‘Come Up And See Me, Make Me Smile’ is in my top ten favourite pop singles ever (the other nine to be revealed in due course). Ian and Simon chat with Steve after the show, then the three of us go out for dinner before the last of our late night gigs... looking forward to an earlier start... and an earlier bedtime!.. Though some (who shall remain nameless) are eagerly anticipating an extra hour’s drinking time.
Thursday 22nd August. Up early(ish) for a walk up to Arthur’s Seat only to draw back the curtains on a world of Scotch mist. Everything shrouded in a thick fog. An eventful morning however... the fire alarm went off, we all staggered out into the courtyard, the fire engine arrived... some numpty in the apartment below burnt the toast:
Numpty (Scottish usage):
a) Someone who (sometimes unwittingly) by speech or action demonstrates a lack of knowledge or misconception of a particular subject or situation to the amusement of others.
b) A good humoured admonition, a term of endearment
c) A reckless, absent minded or unwise person
- "No. That wisnae wit she meant, ya big numpty!"
- "That numpty's driving wi noo lights on!"
Late afternoon and there’s a photo shoot at the New Town Theatre for a front page spread in tomorrow’s ‘Scotsman’, a walk home dishing out flyers with Terl, who approaches one man with: “Have you heard of Elizabeth McGovern?” When the puzzled gent responds with a shake of the head, Terl asks “Well, do you know who I am?” Much laughter, then it’s time for a swift beer (a rather nice pint of porter), an Indian takeaway, and the first of our earl(ier) gigs... best crowd so far... they seem more awake (ha ha)... as do the band!
Friday 23rd August. Another early start as we are performing at, and Elizabeth co-hosting, the Scotsman Fringe Awards. Taxis at 8.30am to the Assembly Rooms on ‘The Mound’, the artificial hill which connects Edinburgh's New Sand Old Town. It was formed between 1781 and 1830 by dumping cartloads of earth excavated from the foundations of the New Town into the drained Nor Loch and commands expansive views over Princes Street and the New Town... 9am soundcheck, then we’re hanging around until 11.30 for the usual ‘acoustic set’... then it’s taxis back, a bite of lunch and, for some at least, a walk up to Arthur’s Seat. From our apartment on St John’s Hill we’ve been watching a constant stream of visitors trekking up the pathway all week and today Ron (who went up a couple of days ago and leads the way), Simon, Belle (Nick’s daughter) and myself set off for the summit:
Arthur's Seat is the main peak of the group of hills which form most of Holyrood Park and was described by Robert Louis Stevenson as:
"a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design".
The hill rises to a height of 822 ft and provides stunning panoramic views of the city. As Simon pointed out, “you can see Homebase from here!” Many claim that the name is derived from the myriad legends pertaining to King Arthur, while others propose that the name is a corruption of Àrd-na-Said, the ‘Height of Arrows’, which over the years became Arthur's Seat via ‘Archer's Seat’. Like the castle rock it was formed by an extinct volcano system of Carboniferous age which, eroded by a glacier moving from west to east, exposed rocky crags to the west and left a tail of material swept to the east. The slopes of the hill facing Holyrood are where young girls in Edinburgh traditionally bathe their faces in the dew on May Day to make themselves more beautiful.
On a more macabre note, in 1836 five boys hunting for rabbits found 17 miniature coffins containing small wooden figures in a cave on the crags of Arthur's Seat. Some believe the coffins were made for witchcraft, while others suggest they are connected with the murders committed by Burke and Hare in 1828. Though the coffins are now displayed in Edinburgh's Royal Museum, the truth remains a mystery....