My 2019 Festival Diary Vol 2

Following Vol 1 of this year’s festival diary, I can hardly believe that all the fun and frolics are so quickly over for another year. A few days on from the final day last Monday, life is returning to ‘normal’ (if there ever is such a thing!).  So as the sun sets on the summer, it’s nice to reflect back on some mid-end August highlights.

We had mixed weather this year – sometimes ridiculously hot; sometimes torrential rain. But overall it was extremely pleasant to be in and around the city….

…even at nighttime:

 

Continue reading “My 2019 Festival Diary Vol 2”

My 2019 Festival Diary Vol 1

Edinburgh styles itself ‘the festival city’. We have all kinds of festivals, about all kinds of subjects, all year round. But it is in the summer where the party really gets started.  Over the course of a few weeks, we have the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Edinburgh Art Festival and the Edinburgh International Book Festival.  It is an incredible period of vibrant creativity, excellence and fun.

My Mum and I kicked things off this year with art-immersion over a couple of days.  We saw the City Art Centre’s stunning exhibition of Victoria Crowe’s work.  I wrote about my love of this artist here and here. It was wonderful to see some familiar paintings again, and plenty of new-to-me ones too.  Here is a screen-shot montage of some of the photos I took as we went around.  I love this collage display of colour and texture, which is the epitome of Crowe’s style:

 

Continue reading “My 2019 Festival Diary Vol 1”

Autumn Reflections on Summer High Jinks: Part Two

In my last post, I wrote about the fun and frolics of this year’s summer, with a promise of further reflections about my souvenir stack of books.

Yum!

As I mentioned previously, I try not to bring physical books into our apartment these days. We have just about enough space for the books currently in our library, and not too much more. I mostly try to read e-books for convenience these days. But it is hard to resist such delicious treats sometimes.

All of the books in the stack are for reading. Some are also for looking at. They all, just by chance, have marvellously tactile qualities, enhancing the physical experience of reading all the more.

I bought Felix CulpaDrawing Water and Dull Margaret after attending author events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Jeremy Gavron’s novel is about the search for a troubled boy recently released from prison. The text has been woven like a rich tapestry with lines from 100 other books. As a result, it reads like a beautiful prose poem, full of wonder and depth. Gavron gave a fascinating and very personal talk about how he came to publish such a work, including several readings. I urged him to create an audio version when he signed my copy – fingers crossed.

Tania Kovats hosted a thought-provoking event in which she talked to Maria Popova (of BrainPickings fame) about the pioneering environmentalist, Rachel Carson and her seminal work The Sea Around Us. The discussion ranged widely, touching on issues such as climate change, women being taken seriously (or not), and the power of art and poetry to illuminate complex issues. In Drawing Water, Kovats has curated a wonderful collection of art and writings from all kinds of people who are searching for something via the medium of water: map-makers, whalers, engineers etc. It is the most gorgeous collection and one which I will be dipping in to forever.

Before attending the event with actor Jim Broadbent and illustrator Dix, I was not sure about their book Dull Margaret, with its rather brutal graphic depiction of the title character’s bleak existence. Having heard them talk about generously about the development process, with Jim Broadbent at his lyrical best, expanding eloquently about his love for the beleaguered Margaret, I just had to buy a copy. I am only slowly becoming more acquainted with graphic novels and it is a fascinating journey.

 

Further visual feasts were in store, with Roger Billcliffe’s talk about ‘The Art of the Four’, namely Charles Rennie Mackintosh, his wife Margaret MacDonald, her sister Frances MacDonald and James Herbert McNair. His recent book about the work of these four friends and their relationship with the rest of the art world is a sumptuous read as well as being utterly absorbing visually. I love Margaret’s work in particular and it was such a pleasure to hear more about these important artists.

And more visual stimulation arrived via Fiona Watson and Piers Dixon, who spoke entertainingly about their work on the relationship between Scottish history and the landscape around us. I am fascinated by the geology of Scotland, as well as being totally in love with this gorgeous part of the world. I am looking forward to spending many hours pouring over the amazing pictures and brilliant insights in their book.

 

Kate Davies’ book Handywoman is a must-read for anyone interested in the life- and health-enhancing features of creativity. It is no secret that I am passionate about the importance of creativity in our lives, whatever form it may take. I therefore also love the ethos behind the Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Playbook, which celebrate the ordinary and everyday through stranded knitting. I know both these books will provide much inspiration.

 

I picked up these two books in the Book Festival shop while kidding myself that I was just having a browse and did not intend to buy anything.  Matthew Herbert’s novel takes place over the course of just an hour. I think its reading experience may be similar to Jeremy Gavron’s novel in that it is a non-traditional, poetic treatment of words as experiences and emotions. Ziyad Marar’s book takes a look at that endlessly fascinating topic of how we judge, and are judged. Once I had picked it up, I could not put it down again because the cover feels so gorgeous. But more seriously, it chimes directly with the themes I am currently exploring with my sister on our Bald as Brass Blog.

 

As for these Victoria Crowe books, well that deserves a whole post to itself – the third and final part of this mini-series, coming soon….

 

In the meantime, let me close this post with the book on the top of my pile – Dear Heart, by Jenny Davis. This is one of those books which feels like a sacred and rare jewel in the hand. It was recommended by my dear friend Gallivanta, who wrote:

‘In 1988 Jenny Davis stumbled upon dozens of letters her aunt, Wynne, had written to her young soldier husband Mickey during World War II. Many of the letters remained unopened, still bearing the mark of their tragedy, a war office stamp, “No Trace”. This book is the story of an exceptional love as told by those letters written over a four year period from 1941 – first daily, then weekly. Wynne received only two replies and yet she poured out her hopes and reassurances and titbits of news from the home front. In 1945, at the end of the war, Wynne received both the unopened letters, and the news that Mickey had died in 1943 in Malaya, in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.’

I just had to get my own copy and how glad I am that I did. I am of course looking forward to delving into the story. It also acts as a mark of friendship across the miles. How I love this online community of ours! 🙂

 

Autumn Reflections on Summer High Jinks: Part One

We’ve had a marvellous summer. Yes, coping with the very hot weather was a bit of a challenge. But that in no way diminished our enjoyment of all the riches and treasures on offer in Edinburgh during the main festival month of August. There’s no better place to be.

The Festival Wheel, Scott Monument and Balmoral Hotel from Princes Street Gardens

 

Now that we are settling into the season of mellow fruitfulness (my favourite time of year), I have had a chance to reflect on some recent highlights.

Spending time with family and friends is always one of the best aspects of our summers. This year we kicked things off with a visit from my sister and her ‘kids’ – fast growing of course. In fact, we were engaged in belated 18th birthday celebrations with Mitchel. And who can resist a bit of girly madness….

Me, Mitchel and Steve at our favourite Indian Restaurant for an 18th birthday meal
Me, Rachel and Lucy in our traditional family headwear!

 

We also enjoyed catching up with London-based friends who are now hardened Fringe regulars, seeing plenty of shows and sharing some great meals together.

From the thousands of Fringe shows on offer, we always try to take in a wide range of offerings. My favourites this year included Giles Brandreth, whose meander through memories about meetings with bygone stars of stage and screen was touching, charming and very funny. And I adored the performance by Norwegian poet Fredrik Høyer, whose show ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ was a beautiful, funny story about life, marathon, ultra-runners and the rom-com film The Holiday. All whilst running for his life on a treadmill! It was the epitome of the spirit of the festival.

Interspersed with Fringe shows were regular trips to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where I saw talks about art, the environment, the power of of the novel to heal and so much more. Added to this were the wonderful art exhibitions in town this year. What an incredible mix of inspiration, learning and entertainment. And what lovely memories to store in the archives.

I have some physical mementos too, in the form of this glorious pile of books. I try hard these day to avoid adding physical books to my already-too-large library. But in relation to these volumes, resistance was futile. I’ll talk more about why in part two of this mini-series. 🙂

Yum!