Monthly Archives: August 2010

Friends and Faking It

I feel better for it. I’ve been so busy with the Edinburgh International Book Festival, that I haven’t had a single day relaxing with NCIS. It’s now only three weeks until season eight begins, and so far this summer, the lunching with an old episode of NCIS has fallen by the wayside something shocking.

Just had a Stilton toasted sandwich while enjoying Faking It, with Ziva and McGee searching for puke. Goes well with any food, I find…

Meanwhile, Daughter has done her relaxing for the past weeks in the company of Friends. Now, that is a series I didn’t watch. I have probably seen a full episode of it at some point. Maybe. But I have caught lots of bits of Friends to the extent I feel I know them. I know exactly (well, almost) who the characters are, but would struggle to name any of the actors, except for that Aniston woman.

So, Friends in one room, and NCIS in another.

But as Daughter pointed out; we will soon be home and can return to our old, and possibly bad, ways. One indication we haven’t indulged enough, is that the other day she asked ‘how did NCIS: Los Angeles season 1 end ?’ And I couldn’t remember.

At the mosque

The quaker sent us.

That was four years ago when Son and I were looking round Edinburgh, and were in need – although not desperately – of lunch. The quaker turned up. I’m sure he has a name, but for me he always goes under that label. He recommended the mosque round the corner from the university building we met in. Cheap and good.

We went. And it was. You eat at long tables (or take away) in the back yard of the local mosque, where there is a good selection of both veggie and meat ‘curries’, which you eat off paper plates with a plastic spoon.

I’d not been back since, because I’m rarely there, but Son has. And before the fringe event with Lara on Friday night, we popped across the road and found it was open until eight, so went in for some pre-fringe dinner. They even had falafels for Daughter, who is not keen on vegetables.

And it’s quick. Always good when you haven’t got all day.

Lara’s fringe

It was the second dead hamster event of the day. And when we (only Son, actually) thought we might be lost (inside a pub? Honestly…) we found ourselves facing Lara A King herself, who sent us to get drinks and said she’d call us.

Lara A King

To be perfectly honest, I’d rather Lara had sung more and talked less. When you’ve got a voice like an angel’s, singing is better than telling jokes, even when the jokes are good. But that’s just me. She did ask if there were any reviewers in the audience. As if they’d say.

Lara A King

And how could she know that Daughter is one who waves to drivers on pedestrian crossings? Or that Son has a Homebase background? Scary.

Lara sang three songs, and talked at length about the self service checkouts at Sainsbury’s. Again, how did she know I can’t manage them? And was she really standing behind me when I had problems paying for my meal?

I’m pleased I finally got to see Lara on her own, and I hope it wasn’t the last time. Her song It Ain’t Mississippi from Fascinating Aïda’s silver jubilee tour is a favourite of mine. I couldn’t say ‘the badger sent me’, which is something I aspire to, but was able to tell Lara we were there because Dillie (Keane) sent us.

I don’t mind too much now that my hair was almost blown off by the fan behind me. That’s fan as in the round thing that whirls the air round and round. And Offspring seem to have been able to tolerate my choice of fringe. As in event. Not hair.

(Photos by Helen Giles)

Which tea?

So, whose tea is the best? Well, not best as in best in the world, or even in town, but whose tea is better than the other’s? Is it Pumpkin at the railway station or is it the fancy hotel in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square?

It’s not a hard question to get right, I’d say. It’s obviously Pumpkin. I’m not saying their tea is outstandingly good, but it’s serviceable and fast and only as overpriced as most other outlets of a similar persuasion.

We tried the hotel for tea the other day, having had a reasonable similar experience last year at the book festival. Hotel prices, but pleasant surroundings, and polite if otherwise wanting service. This time round we reckon we could have gone in and sat in the hotel lounge for hours (handy if you want to).

As it was, we had our tea (and I mean just the pot, not a whole meal) within half an hour, and after only two or three pointed requests for service. I could almost have walked to the nearest railway station and got my tea and walked back in the same time.

And then there are the scones at Pumpkin. Stirling Pumpkin. Still good. Yesterday’s was so fresh it nearly fell to pieces.

The hotel didn’t seem to do them any longer. Nor had they hung onto the comfortable, if old-fashioned, armchairs. The new seating arrangement was totally up-to-date, and quite uncomfortable.

Progress is a beautiful thing.

Mackerel with pineapple, anyone?

Cottage cheese with pineapple and mackerel is slightly better than it sounds. And that’s cottage cheese with pineapple, and mackerel on the side. Not a new and odd cottage cheese flavour. There were also boiled eggs to go with it.

But it’s not our ‘dinners-at-home-while-away’ that I wanted to cover here. The other day Son took me to lunch at Henderson’s at St John’s. Years ago I took him and Daughter to the original Henderson’s, and while nice, it was nowhere as special as I felt it was back in the dark ages, circa 1980. Still remember their macaroni cheese. Mackerel free.

This time we were in Charlotte Square for the book festival and needed food fast and near. St John’s just below the castle seemed ideal, and somewhere that Son and Dodo knew. The setting, under the church, is attractive. The sunshine outside for al fresco eating was also nice.

But what kind of restaurant takes quite as long as that to serve people lining up to buy the food? I was going to say lining up with trays, when I remembered that there were barely any trays to be had. Knives and forks were extremely scarce. And the service. Dodo got her salad. Son got his tian, small though the portion was. But then they skipped me and went on to the next in line. Too fat to be served?

One young man offered to help me, but when I asked for lasagne he simply took off and decided to man the cash till instead.

Eventually got my lunch and it was OK, if somewhat cold after that amount of queueing. And Son went hungry all afternoon.

Another actor photo

‘Looks like it’s just you and me’, I said to David Rintoul on Tuesday morning. I’d come in to Charlotte Square early, just to catch David’s event where he was going to read from Doctor Finlay’s Casebook. But the intention was to let my photographer look after the image-catching behind the yurt.

David Rintoul

However, a misunderstanding left me wielding my wee camera again, so soon after the Simon Callow incident. As I saw David being escorted round, I followed. We found to our shared surprise that we seemed to be alone. So I said what I said, and he took it well.

Meanwhile the press officer on the case had unearthed one real photographer, and it fell to him to tell David to stand on the 2p piece on the floor. The press officer apologised for there being just the one photographer. Invisibility hits faster than you expect.

David was politeness itself and made a point of asking me if I’d had the pictures I needed. Well, I’m afraid I lied. Can we do it again, please? I’m sorry about the appalling quality. I’ll sack me immediately.

Famous faces?

CultureWitch’s alter ego, the Bookwitch, is busy doing the Edinburgh International Book Festival. You don’t just see authors there, however, but the odd actor also passes through. Even some completely normal actors…

So you photograph them. You might as well, when you’re near the great and the famous.

Yesterday I was -ismed when doing so. Haven’t yet decided which -ism. But as I was trying to take a photo of Simon Callow, who I can barely tell apart from that Cowell chap on television, I was -ismed. It’s bad enough standing behind all those ‘real’ photographers with their overlong whatsits, brandishing my tiny pocket camera. I don’t need to be told that I can’t video the famous man.

But I was. Can only assume that being a witch, fat, old, blogger, amateur, or something else equally offputting which I haven’t yet thought of, was behind the not altogether friendly warning. Because those men with the long lenses wouldn’t be told not to video anyone. Anyway, why would they? And if so, why would I?

Joked a little on facebook yesterday that I don’t even know who Simon Callow is. I do. Once I’ve worked out he is not the Cowell fellow (I have to do it every time), I know. He was in the Four Weddings thing. And he was Pliny in The Roman Mysteries. That’s the sum total of my Callow knowledge.

Simon Callow

If there is ever a guest at the EIBF who’d make my heart flutter so much that I’d know I wouldn’t be able not to sneak a little video with my little camera, I’ll tell them, and then they can lock me away for the ten minutes.

I mean, I can’t even put the video from church on YouTube. What could a technically challenged witch do with a clandestine Callow?

Fascinating Aïda on the fringe

Baah… We walked like sheep into the Assembly Rooms in George Street, for Fascinating Aïda on Saturday night. It wasn’t the very very long queue on the right, as they said at the information desk. Just the very long queue a little farther to the right.

Dillie Keane and Liza Pulman

Humbugs. I’d been offered one by someone in the Book Festival press yurt earlier in the day, but not being familiar with humbugs felt it safest to decline.
This fringe event was shorter than Fascinating Aïda’s normal shows, but still well worth seeing. It was one of the reasons I hared off to Edinburgh a little sooner than I’d originally planned.

They thanked me by singing about their tights, which gladdened my heart and all that, as I really like Tights. Seeing as I’m almost as old as they are, I have always liked it.

And a little later they sewed on their sequins again, because times are hard. Very hard. (I should never have let Offspring no.1 have lunch with that George Osborne.)

Dillie Keane actually played a (new) song with the help of sheet music, ably turned for her by Adèle Anderson. Though it looked like she turned it back and forth, but what do I know about music turning?

Adele Anderson

No acrobatics on the piano stool, due to an earlier injury, but Dillie looked as chirpy as always. With no interval we just got the one set of clothes, but all three looked stunning as usual. (How does Liza Pulman skip and hop on those heels?)
They finished with their new song about Rya… Oops. Doesn’t do to mention the 50p airline. Just in case. They’ve had loads of YouTube hits for that one.

We all wished they could have sung for longer, but keane as they were, they dashed downstairs to flog DVDs. That means they virtually forced everyone to buy. No, they didn’t. I’d say the DVDs flew off the information counter by themselves. But not with Rya…., obviously.

I didn’t buy. I was there for the glamour photos we missed out on in April. Dillie had promised me they’d pose for me. And they did, once most of the audience had been got rid of. Liza very kindly admired my tan. (She’s a kind person, and I expect there wasn’t a whole lot else she could come up with to mention.)

Fascinating Aida

And I hereby promise that if I can, I will go and see Lara King in her fringe event.
You too?


It used to be that every summer we’d find the early Saturday evening repeat for children on Swedish television was Saltkråkan, written by Astrid Lindgren. What happened was that with 13 episodes and regular English school holidays, we’d hit the same episodes every year. Two at the beginning and then a few more at the end of summer.

Now they appear to have switched to re-runs of Pip-Larssons instead. That’s based on another childhood series of books, about the Larsson family who have seven children and no money. Just a Dad who invents stuff and a Mum who used to be a Shakespeare actress. I read these books when I had never heard of Mr Shakespeare and needed assistance in deciphering his long and complicated name.


Mum named all the girls after some of the bard’s best know leading ladies, and Dad got to name the boys, which they are very grateful for. School would be pretty unbearable if you’re called Othello Larsson.

Anyway, they take to the roads when they lose their home and inherit two enormous horses. The Dad builds horse drawn caravans for them to live in, and they hope to sell his clever saucepans en route to the Mum’s sister.

Pip-Larssons is another part of the Jakob Eklund-fest that I’ve experienced this summer. As I said, the man’s in everything, and he is Dad Larsson of the saucepans.

I was so keen for Offspring to experience Edit Unnerstad’s books through the television series that I bought all the videos all those years ago. That was harder than it sounds, and we had to order some of them specially. From the toyshop.

There seem to be only six children in the above photo. Mum’s bump will turn into little Ophelia at some point. As a child I quite fancied being called Desdemona. After the Larsson one, not Shakespeare.

He can jive

Jerry Williams, Allsång på Skansen

I almost choked on whatever I was having when I saw that Jerry Williams was going to appear in Allsång på Skansen. It’s not what you expect a cool – albeit somewhat old – rocker to be doing.

But luckily Jerry just did a couple of his normal songs. None of this going round the audience and putting his arm around them and singing with all and sundry. Thank god! Arne Weise was in the audience too, and it’s unimaginable to have the two of them singing together.

Bad enough that Jerry had ditched the denim jacket for a jolly yellow affair. He’s not growing up, is he?

And I apologise for having moved on from photographing the newspaper, to doing the television instead. It won’t become a habit. It was just that yellow jacket. It got to me.