Sunday, 27 July 2014

Two in a row!

Blippity bloggity blow, I managed two in a row. Blippity bloppity blee, way to go me! Yes, I've actually managed to pull off writing two blogs off in a row! Yay for me! Okay, so it's not exactly a massive achievement but the ocean is made up of tiny water droplets etc, so this one counts, yeh? Good, I'm pleased we agree on this.

Moving on from my earth-shattering achievement (This guy just keeps on getting worse, doesn't he? - Ed), and before I start on my main feature, did anyone else see the guy who was carrying around an entire tablet, which blocked out his view of the Commonwealth gGames?? I mean, I understand if you want to record a memento of your walk but this just takes the biscuit.

Ok, mini-rant over. Last weekend, I spent a rather enjoyable afternoon in Edinburgh on Saturday, despite the somewhat unpleasant weather that was souring the city. After getting the park and ride into the city, Alison and I went for a wander around the National Art Galleries to begin with. Now, the gallery is actually split into two sections, connected by a rather ominous and incredibly long underground tunnel that you have to wander through for an eternity to get between the two.

The first section was the modern art section, and yes, I know that lots of people love this kind of thing, but I still don't get it! One exhibit was a series of what were ceramic boots and another was a large white sheet hanging down from the roof. That's just hanging up your washing. If you like it (and understand it - Ed), fair enough and this section is well worth a look for you. It isn't massive but it does has a fairly wide ranging collection. I also have to admit, there were some really nice minimalist art done on black canvases on the walls and some abstract pencil (?) drawings of nature combined with man that did catch my attention. All in all, the modern art section wasn't bad but just not my scene.

The next section was more up my alley, with more traditional art such as landscapes and portraits decorating the halls (including some rather...unique...looking children). Not only this, but it's housed in a stunning traditional building with ornate windows, massive halls with traditional furniture and beautiful staircases which just added to the scene. The art also contains a large amount of religious imagery as well, though I suspect that this was just due to the time that the majority of the paintings were painted. Altogether, I found this section much better than the modern art section but that's solely down to my own tastes and it certainly is worth checking out: it doesn't exactly take long nor does it cost a thing.

Afterwards, we headed for lunch to get out of the rain and headed to the St James Food court. Word of advice: don't eat in the food court. That's just a tip from me! Afterwards, we walked towards Grass Market via a lovely curving street which had a lot of small restaurants and interesting shops to wander around. It just reminds me that it really is worthwhile wandering around Edinburgh and it's side streets. You never know what you'll find.

Finally, we reached were we were actually looking for: the Jazz Market Festival (or Mardi Gras as it is also known). Thankfully it had actually stopped raining by this point, and what was left was a rather atmospheric fog that fitted the jazz festival surprisingly well. We had a bit of a wander around, enjoying the horde of people having a good time before stopping to enjoy the final tent which had a large crowd and people dancing in the front (Sorry, I don't know enough about jazz to tell you which style). It was a really nice way to spend a short while, just listening to music in the street with people dancing around and it was a fitting end to a great day and a nice overview of why it can be some much fun to explore where you live!

Pick of the Week

Edinburgh Farmer's Market – One thing that I enjoyed doing in Nepal was visiting the farmers market every Saturday and I'm pleased that I discovered this one in Edinburgh. Nestled in the shadow of the castle, various stalls selling meat, vegetables and baking all mingle beside beer stalls and buskers. A nice way to spend a Saturday morning and pick up some of your weekly shop (at a decent price as well!).  You can even get a decent breakfast nearby as well!

Music of the Week

This week, it's the turn of In Flames - Crawl Through Knives.  Enjoy!

See you all next week!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Eating my way around Edinburgh

Oh dear, I seem to have did it again!  My blog record has been really poor recently.  Except this time, I do have a reason and it wasn't just from sheer idleness! Nope, last weekend I spent a rather enjoyable time (read as amazing - Ed) with Michael and Cara who were back from South Africa for a couple of weeks. This resulted in probably the best long weekend that I've had since I came back, with the additional and unusual side effect of me seeing more of Edinburgh and was also filled with good food and plenty of drink. I should say that technically, this began on Wednesday night as I met them for dinner (at Tiger Lily) but as I had to go to work the next day, it doesn't quite count.

The weekend began with me on a train (I seem to spend lots of my life in transit, it appears) heading to Glasgow with a boxful of Thistly Cider, before promptly getting lost on my way to Derek's flat. I would like to argue that I got lost because of the combination of Apple Maps and getting off at a new station...I'm not a complete idiot (cough cough – Ed). After I was rescued by Michael, Derek and Martin, I was eventually escorted back to Derek's flat for an evening of procrastination; Chinese food; Dungeon and Dragons; Cards Against Humanity; and the aforementioned box of cider. There genuinely is nothing better than a group of old friends getting together for an evening to just hang-out and have some fun. Yeh, it's great going out and doing things but I love just being together and hanging out like old times.

Waking up the next morning (Sorry for the snoring Cara) and after a fry-up breakfast to fuel the day, Cara, Michael, Martin and I (down one man at this point) headed into the city centre for some coffee and a wander, where we ended up into the new kitchen shop (sorry, I can't remember the name right now) where I got to try the greatest knife I have ever used. It was glorious. I mean, I own a couple of great knifes and I've used various good knives in the past but this was something else. This went through carrot like butter and shredded tomatoes with a touch. Shame that it cost £185 but even so: I had one hell of an internal struggle not to buy it. Hell, I'm having a struggle right now not to jump on a train to Glasgow and go and buy it.

Moving on swiftly from this glorious, glorious knife, the rest of Friday was a nice and relaxed day after heading to Edinburgh (down two men at this point) with a couple of drinks in the pub with Michael before some haggis, neeps and tatties with Cara, Michael and her parents before a fairly early night as most were recovering from the previous night.

Then came Saturday which was again filled with good food and drink, as well as several short tours of various Edinburgh places as well. We started off in Morning Side which is filled with lots of quirky shops and second hand book shops (aka charity shops – Ed) where we wandered around the various bookshelves as we waited for our lunch booking to be ready.

And what a lunch it was! It was glorious! We had a reservation at a pub called 'The Canny Man' which is the very definition of eccentric. First of all, if they don't like you, you will be asked to leave. You can't pay by credit card, only cash and cheque. And the decorations. Dear god, the decorations. Every inch of the wall is covered with something and when they ran out of wall space, they hung stuff from the roof. Clocks are hung beside swords. Golf clubs hang next to bicycles. I think I saw a canoe somewhere. I wish I could show you pictures but you're not allow to take photographs, so all I will say is, if you're ever in Edinburgh, go visit the pub. It is worth it.

And that's before you get to the food and drink. The beer selection is good (as is the rest of the drinks, I imagine – Ed) but the food is where the pub really shines. Predominantly, it serves Smorgasbord for food but the selection is overwhelming. Now before I tell you how many options you have, remember that this is a pub, not a restaurant (though it would overwhelm most restaurants as well - Ed). Ignoring other menu items, and just counting Smorgasbord options, you can choose from 88 different options. 88! That's an insane amount! Do you realise how difficult that makes deciding what to have for someone indecisive?!? And the best bit? They are delicious! The meat is deliciously cured and they cure a lot of their own meat as well, and make their own ham. As I've said before, visit this pub, even just once. It's a great experience and an even better meal.

Next up, we headed into the city centre to get some shopping done and then to the Scottish Portrait Gallery for the James Byrne exhibit, for some interesting and unusual pieces. I'll be honest and say that I wasn't too keen on them but I generally prefer contemporary and traditional artwork. However, there were various good pieces that looked great, particularly the Billy Connolly and Tilda Swinton pieces, so check it out if you like art. Plus, there is an elaborately decorated guitar that was owned by Gerry Rafferty as well. It's free and doesn't take too long to go around, plus there are some death and life masks of famous people (including the infamous Burke and Hare) so I would recommend checking it out one afternoon if you're free.

Following the gallery was a mixture of shopping, tea and cake (seriously, we got a slice of the biggest chocolate cake I have ever seen, it was intimidating) and a whirlwind tour of different places to eat and drink in Edinburgh before heading back to the house, including the mosque kitchen for a good curry and where the half-price hut should be (bring on the Fringe!).

My gluttonous day of eating hadn't quite finished yet though, as we headed out to a Korean restaurant called 'Ong Gie', where you can barbeque your own meat for dinner. Starting off with some kimchi pancakes (delicious, by the way), we then went for the barbeque menu. Basically, the idea behind this is that they turn on the barbeque then basically give you a plate gloriously heaped with marinated meat to cook. It was quite spectacular, especially when two of you ordered the same thing and they just place down you a mountain of meat between the two of you. In addition, they also gave you a side of rice, and some toppings (garlic, chilli and spring onion) and some delicious red bean paste to have with your meal, although this was a little limited compared to the meat.

Word of advice though: the pork belly was good and well flavoured but I think I would just stick to the regular pork, as the fat just wasn't as good barbequed and just came out a little hard and chewy. All in all though, this made for a delicious way to spend an evening, and was a good fuel before we ended the night with a house party (I got to see a somewhat large and sleepy lizard!) followed by a few drinks at their house and some animated discussion.

Alas Sunday came too quickly, which other than the following Wednesday where I met Michael for a burger and a couple of drinks at The Blue Goose (Edinburgh seems to have a thing for animals and pubs. So far there is the: Tickled Trout; Blue Goose; Red Squirrel; and the Dogs Bollocks – Animal Watch Ed), was the last time I would see both of them. This was spent as Sunday mornings should be with plenty of coffee, some bacon rolls and some jazz playing in the background.  Delightful.

However good the weekend was, it wasn't the star of the show so thank you Michael and Cara for a) coming back and seeing us all again and b) letting us have such an amazing weekend!

Pick of the Week

Pure Gym – Grr, sweat, pant, push! Time to get fit and sweat off that spring weight (It's a thing – Ed) and what better place than Pure Gym? Now then, I won't sugar coat it: this isn't a fancy gym. You don't get fancy saunas or indoor football pitches or anything like that. What you do get is an affordable (£18.99 for me but it does vary) gym with locations all over the country with all the equipment you will need to get fit. In addition, you get a whole load of classes available to you included in the price as well and for any other classes, you just have to pay £1. Great value and simple. Check it out if you're looking for a good gym.

Song of the Week

This week is the turn of 'Weerd Science', who is actually the drummer for Coheed and Cambria as well. Relatively unknown, this guy has a pretty interesting style and a dark past, including a pretty serious drug addiction. This is 'The Man with No Audience'.  Sorry it's just a link today but I couldn't find it on the search bar.

Click here for song

Well that's it for me!  I'll see you all net week!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Running up the hill or walking up at a more acceptable pace.

Good morning everyone (or afternoon or evening to any readers elsewhere in space or time, I don't discriminate). It's that time of the week where I come at you with some inane chatter about something I did this week! YAY!! And this week is sponsored by the letter A (totally not a hint about things to come – Ed) as I spilled an entire pot of dirt over my laptop this weekend and now the A key doesn't work properly...along with several other keys. I've been challenged when writing posts but not really physically before. Oh well, I do enjoy a challenge.

So what am I going to chat about this week? Not much actually, as I have some pictures for you! It's just like when the teachers rolled the tv into the classroom, isn't it? You get to put your head on the desk and go to sleep for a few minutes!  A couple of weekends ago, I went home to see my parents (and Ollie, of course. Please see obligatory picture below. He is available for work – Ollie's Agent) and went a little bit of a stroll with Derek and Colin up Cairns Table, a hill near where I live.

Having lived in cities for so long, I often forget how nice the area I grew up in is and this served as a great reminder for me. Having planned this for a while, Colin, Derek and I packed up our gear...ok they brought shoes and water and I brought enough equipment for a 10 day trek through the Andes, and we set off up the hill! And it was beautiful...the hills of Scotland really are stunning when you get near them or on them....just rolling hills as far as you can see, with tranquility all around. Following what is supposedly called a path (though is little more than slightly stepped down grass) we climbed up the hill to the cairn which then gave a beautiful view of the surrounding area despite it being slightly overcast. Finally, we headed back down the hill through what can only be described as 'sodden marshland' and only got slightly lost...result! Below are the pictures from the walk, so enjoy the scenery or nap on your desks.  Your choice.

Having earned it, the rest of the afternoon was then spent sitting in the garden with a couple of lagers which then resulted in me getting a little bit burnt. forget that the Scottish sun can still burn, so use sun cream!

So, in honour of this walk and to help us remember how great the places we live actually are, I officially (unofficially – Law ed) declare today (29th June) as 'Love where you are day'! The queen gets two birthdays, so why can't I declare a day like this? Exactly! So, on the 29th of June, go out and explore where you live or where you grew up and just remember the good things about it!  Though you do need to wit for an entire year now, so maybe just do it anyway.

Pick of the Week

Avenue Q – Have you ever been sitting on the couch, just sitting thinking that you wish Sesame Street was a little bit more offensive and racy? No? Er me neither...but if you ever have, then Avenue Q is for you! Even if you haven't, Avenue Q is still for you (if you like good comedy). A mix of humans, puppets and singing, this show covers everything: humour, love, emotions and puppet sex? If you get the chance, check it's hugely funny: it had me in stitches from the start. I mean, how can a show with a set of characters called 'The Bad Idea Bears' be bad?

Music of the Week

This week is the turn of A Perfect Circle - Let's Have a War.  It's a little bit more alternative but it's a great track!

Well, that's it from me for this week!  Tune in next week for, well who knows?  See you then!