I moved to London from Edinburgh almost a year ago now. Last month I made it back up there for only the second time this year, and I thought I'd write briefly about some of the public things that made it a great visit.
I've always enjoyed Dr. Sketchy's, a burlesque life-drawing class based on the idea that art is even more fun with great costumes and gin. The Edinburgh branch is run by friends of mine, and I also knew one of this month's models, so I guess I should declare that I may not be completely impartial about it, but my experience has been that it's always very entertaining. I spent most of this one making sculptures out of FIMOair Light.
Tea and Photos at The Institute
The Institute is a photography gallery and teahouse in Marchmont, just round the corner from my old house. It's a friendly place, with a good range of teas and interesting art on display. The present show is a collection of nude portraits by the proprietor Gavin Evans, in which each subject is seen interacting in some way with the photographer's left hand, which the model is asked to place in the frame as they see fit. The results are usually beautiful, sometimes hilarious and occasionally moving. The series as a whole is both striking and genuinely intriguing, which I could also say about the tea I had. Mencha is a Japanese tea whose name appropriately sounds like a portmanteau of 'sencha' (standard long-leaf Japanese green tea) and 'matcha' (the strange and bitter powdered tea used in Japanese tea ceremonies), and it turns out to taste something like that too. It's a distinctly odd tea, and I'm still not quite sure whether I like it.
Music at the Royal Oak
The Royal Oak is a folk pub in Edinburgh which, as far as I can tell, is one big long session. Or two big long sessions when the downstairs room is open. I've generally found it friendly and welcoming, although it is usually impossible to get a seat. I came along this time with my ukulele and my fiddler/jeweller friend Becka Gauld, and we sat down and played music and sang until it was late.
This is an open mic night focused on the spoken word. Good, attentive atmosphere, very nice compering by Harry Giles, and some great readings. Pleased to see that the Forest is settling into its new home after being turfed out of its old one - which is now sitting empty - following the implosion of the charity that owned it. I didn't sign up in advance, so when I looked at their extremely packed signing-up sheet I didn't expect to get the chance to perform, but I put my name down all the same, and in the end there were so many no-shows and short slots that they called me on after all. I recited 'Get in your car. Do not look back. Monsters are chasing. They're going to attack.' and then, sticking with the horror theme, 'Dear Sir'. Almost everyone did poetry, the only exception being my friend Joanne Harrison who gave an excellent reading of a short story she'd written about trying to set someone's house on fire. Other highlights for me included ranter Jim Monaghan, itinerant El Gruer and 'Aunty' Emily Dodd, a science communicator and poet I've been wanting to see for a long time.
City of Words at Edinburgh University Library
An exhibition celebrating 250 years of Edinburgh's Literature department, and the literary life of the city around it. Nicely put together, although as with most exhibitions about writing it suffered a bit from the 'here are some more books' phenomenon. My favourite thing was a huge poster of Edinburgh looking gorgeous, with quotes from many different writers about what an amazing place it is.
Autumn on The Meadows
There can't be many places and times more beautiful than a bright Autumn afternoon on The Meadows, with the warm light of the low sun slanting through the cold, shedding trees. I also got to walk across it on a day when the haar had rolled in from the North Sea, and the far side of the park disappeared behind the dense fog. These times are eerie, muffled and dreamlike, even with crowds of people shuffling through the white.