Category Archives: Travel

The unexpected Bull

We needed something to accompany our dinners last week, Daughter and I, sitting in our holiday house, all alone, with nowhere to go. So we rewatched a lot of episodes of Bull, to get us into the right mood for when Bull returns in ten days’ time.

At least we hope he returns, and that the heart attack was merely a nasty warning for him to take things easier.

Picking episodes at random, going between season one and season two, there was no big plan. I’ve only watched them once, so some were more forgotten than others, feeling almost new.

And then there was Light My Fire, from December 2016. It looked unexpectedly new to me. The longer I watched, the ‘newer’ it felt. I concluded that I must have missed that episode first time round.

Bull - Light My Fire

Hmm, I hadn’t expected that.

I blame it on it having been nearly Christmas. I might have been busy with other things. 😊

(Photo © CBS)

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Happy 10th, Culture!

How to mark the occasion of ten years of CultureWitch? Especially now that there is less action here than formerly.

The sun was shining and it was warm – for September – so we decided to drive to Göstas at Steninge for some tea and cake and a sea view.

And there was action! There is nothing quite like a bit of car park rage on a nice day. First space was taken by car coming in the way out. Second space was about to be taken by the next car coming in the way out, except I planted myself in the way. I even informed the driver he was wrong.

Silly me.

He behaved so aggressively that I said; ‘You’re going to drive into me, anyway, aren’t you?’ My survival instincts kicked in and I moved. I was quite surprised when he drove off and parked illegally at the other end of the small car park instead, not running me down.

After which we all gathered for sustenance in Göstas…

Had intended to show you one of those tiresome photos of pretty cakes, but we had wolfed them down by the time I remembered. So here are two used cake plates,

Empty plates

a  flag, and

Flag

the beach.

Steninge

Herr Ped*rsen, check the road signs next time! That round one with a horizontal bar through it means No Entry. Which means no entry. Let’s hope we are both here in another ten years.

Runrig farewell concert

When I read in the local paper last autumn that Runrig were going to play their farewell concert in Stirling, I thought nothing of it. Because I’d never heard of them.

It’s not as if stuff mentioned in the Stirling Observer tends to be world news, exactly. I simply saw that some unknown group were going to play here. Within days the concert sold out, which was surprising, but then maybe not. I could see that a few hundred or even a thousand people might be interested. Music is nice, after all.

Runrig, last concert

And now it seems that with a second concert added, we are doubling the town’s population for the weekend. 45 000 people are invading, some of them from Australia.

Once this fact had sunk in, I asked the Resident IT Consultant, who is not known for being cool, if he had heard of Runrig. Before all this broke lose, I mean. He had. Daughter had. And Son. So that just left me. It was suggested that living so long in England might be the reason, as the English aren’t fond of culture from north of the border.

I spent last night trying to ascertain who I should compare Runrig to, just to get a reliable measure of how famous they are. Not so much who else plays that kind of music, but simply the level of fame. I’m not sure we managed an answer to that, except a lot more famous than I’d thought.

Then asked what kind of music they play… So Daughter treated us to an impromptu Spotify concert on her phone.

Not bad, I suppose.

And we might not be one of the 45 000, but it appears we will be able to hear the concert if we open the windows. More, if we go for a short walk, but that would probably mean in the company of the rest of Stirling; the ones who don’t have tickets.

An English afternoon tea

I appreciated the way we were able to sit for a few hours talking, even if the chairs were on the uncomfortable side. But if you charge the going rate for a hotel afternoon tea outside London – around £30 since you ask – you need to do more than call it afternoon tea. The taste and quality of what you offer should be at least passable, and the way you serve it, and when, is worth considering.

Or was the fact that we weren’t turfed out after a couple of hours a sign that not too many people were clamouring for our table? I mean, they knew what we didn’t.

Tea corner at the Randolph

I don’t know whether to feel embarrassed admitting to having gone twice, in two days. The first tea was sufficiently acceptable, and I enjoyed chatting to my friends in an unhurried way, which is why I booked a table for my next meeting, the following day.

And yes, I did get – partly – what I was looking for and again, I loved seeing people and talking for hours. But that was down to me having nice friends to meet up with, more than the tea or the service.

Day one the non-English head waiter was polite and pleasant, if not good at getting a tea order together. I forget the number of times we had to ask for milk. Meanwhile the tea stewed and got blacker and blacker, and the sandwiches dried. That’s what I thought, anyway. Until…

Day two the same non-English head waiter needed to have his sleeve pulled after a search to find him, when the placing of an order for tea got quite urgent. There is only so long you want to wait. Tried the Earl Grey in the hopes of less black tea, but that didn’t work. I.e. the tea was as strong as the previous day, and lukewarm. Later on when we asked for more hot water we were rather alarmed to discover the waiter wanted to simply pour it into the teapot.

The sandwiches were dry. It’s the only description for them. And the fillings had been sparingly applied. For £30 they could afford a bit more egg, say. And clingfilm to cover sandwiches so obviously made well in advance.

Would I go back to the Randolph in Oxford?

Maybe. The hotel is well placed for meetings. The room is pleasant enough. In fact, if you consider the cost of the tea more as a fee for a corner of the room we sat in, then yes, it’s OK. Just about. And I have no problem with non-English waiting staff, as long as they know how to serve an English afternoon tea in a vaguely English way. With milk.

(It can’t have been the wheelchair, can it? The second day? The first day they even wanted to hang our coats for us, while the second day we had all that time alone, putting the wheels away, and waiting for service. Surely not?)

Advent Roger

I have a crazy friend. Crazy is generally the best. But even so, I didn’t expect this.

This year for Advent, my friend is giving away gifts to her Facebook friends. You know, if money was no object, kind of thing. So after a safe start of a holiday in Florida and a £2,000,000 house in Devon, this morning it was my turn.

I had had my doubts. I am a notoriously difficult person, and I was mainly settling down to see what inappropriate gift ‘her money’ would provide. I take it all back! This is what I woke up to:

‘If I had money, I would offer so much of it to Roger Whittaker that he would agree to come and sing one last time, especially for you. As one of his signature songs is The Last Farewell, I would hire a tall ship and crew from Topsail to bring Roger over from the nearest port in France, where he now lives, to Leith. You and Roger would have a fine meal on board in the harbour, and Roger would sing The Last Farewell to you, before sailing away into the sunset.’

Roger Whittaker and CultureWitch

What a lucky witch I am, to have a friend like that!

She’s right. It is what I’d want. Well, maybe I’d whisper into Roger’s ear that he could pick a different song, if he felt up to it, but my goodness, what a spectacular gift!

(And for anyone who wants to help my friend get rich, do buy her books. I thoroughly recommend her Belgian trilogy for a good scare. It’s so scary I have recently learned that her husband couldn’t quite finish the last one… Here is a list of all Helen Grant’s books. They are very good. And very scary.)

Afternoon tea

I’ve been craving some ‘posh’ afternoon tea for a while. Contrary to what people might believe about me, I don’t tend to do the touristy and extravagant stuff when on home ground, so not only do I not do afternoon teas, but I don’t know where to go.

When Pippi came to Edinburgh this week, she needed a tea companion, and she’d heard of Colonnades at the Signet Library, and wanted to try it. And while pretty expensive, it was about the lowest price of all the places I found online.

Colonnades at the Signet Library

The library is just off the Royal Mile, next to St Giles Cathedral, and they have two-hour sittings throughout the afternoon, so you can treat it as lunch if you start early enough. And you need the two hours. I reckon they couldn’t serve all that food faster if they tried.

Colonnades at the Signet Library

Soup in a coffee cup to begin with. Then silver cake stands with around six savoury things plus a couple of sandwiches. A second stand for the cake, meaning six sweet things and two scones with jam and clotted cream. As your arteries begin to clot I recommend a discreet doggy bag if you feel you can’t manage it all. All this can be washed down with tea, or coffee, and the optional champagne, which I’ve never understood how it goes with afternoon tea.

Once you’ve reached the end, you are rescued by a cleansing sorbet.

And I recommend a trip down the many stairs to see the toilets.

A boxed holiday

The big question is whether we run out of holiday before we run out of Elementaries.

I’d expected to watch more films, but somehow we start watching so late in the evenings that we have opted for shorter episodes of shows instead. Better that than falling asleep halfway. And I’d only brought Elementary. The wi-fi isn’t up to Netflix, so that’s not an option.

Hence Elementary almost every night. Which is amusing, as normally the Resident IT Consultant chooses to watch almost anything but Elementary.

We’re only on season three, but without a season four, I started counting the remaining number of episodes. We might make it. Because it appears he will watch just about anything as long as it’s not Bull.