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April 21, 2013

Arthur's Seat rocks

Having overnighted in Duddingston, we were delighted to find Saturday's weather still good, and decided to climb Arthur's Seat first thing. From Duddingston Loch, there's a steepish but fairly direct approach to the upper road near Dunsapie Loch, then a lovely gentle grassy approach to the final rocky summit area. At just 250.5 m (822 feet) this extinct volcano dates from the Carboniferous era (about 350 million years ago) and it offers a huge payoff for a very modest effort.

It's amazing to be part of such a rural scene and yet only 2 miles from Waverley Station. It's also humbling to be treading in James Hutton (1726-97) territory: the famous Hutton's Section is a feature in nearby Salisbury Crags. He concluded that its volcanic rocks must have been molten when they penetrated the sedimentary rock, thus placing them in a different geological era. It was this sense of "deep time" that later gave Darwin a long enough scale over which to imagine that natural selection could take place. It's tempting to wonder if Hutton would have realised all this had he not been a son of Edinburgh and regular visitor to Salisbury Crags.

We were thrilled to see a kestrel hovering over the rough grasses of the approach, to glimpse skylarks and to hear lots of other small birds. You also get good views over the hill forts of Crow Hill and Arthur's Seat. But the climax was reaching the craggy rocks of the summit area with its wonderful views in all directions: below are some views north-west over Waverley towards the Forth bridges, west over the Meadows and south towards the Pentlands:

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And finally, I can't resist the inevitable summit photo of two happy people:

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August 9, 2014

Festival Fringe Friday

Yesterday was my first Fringe experience as an Edinburgh resident, as opposed to a visitor, and I liked it a lot. Dear friends Malcolm and Aileen Johnson had driven through from Dunblane, bringing their handsome black labrador Laochan. We offered lunch, some Fringe tickets and the opportunity for Laochan to teach Toby some manners. He asserted himself with a strategic lick (excuse motion blur):

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Keir did a superb salad lunch, the weather co-operated and the dogs were getting on fine. So Malcolm and I headed off to see "My Obsession" the intriguing short play that Suki Webster wrote about a comedian in midlife career crisis and a stalker/fan who breaks into his hotel room in the middle of the night. Apparently her first two choices for the lead role of comedian turned her down. It was only in a casual conversation over breakfast with husband Paul Mertonthat he volunteered - for his first role as a lead actor.

I'd seen Paul Merton and his impro chums at the Fringe last year and was very impressed: they really do rely on the three-word prompts from the audience. I know this, because mine was first out of the bucket. His comic timing is impeccable, and in the intimate context of the Pleasance Upstairs the impact was considerable. Suki's script had lots of great one-liners, and it's easy to love a play that lasts only 30 minutes. The only problem was that she hadn't found a way to end it.

Slightly later was my next Fringe show - Fascinating Aida's "Charm Offensive" at the Underbelly. A short taxi ride with three other friends took us to this scintillating trio (Dillie, Adele and Liza) who sang and played to a packed house. It's impossible to overpraise their professionalism, creativity and humour: they write, play and sing all their own material. If you haven't visited their website, or better yet heard them live, a treat lies in store. Some of the famous old favourites were included (Cheap Flights, Dogging). Of the new material, the outstanding item was "Prisoner of Gender" - a brave, moving and funny autobiography of gender change.

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