Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Two minutes, all four riders

Does this give a clue to where I was on Sunday past?

It all started earlier this year, when I was reminiscing with friends about happy days supporting Glasgow Tigers at the White City Stadium in the 1960s.

I discovered that the speedway team was still in existence, and I resolved to make a trip down memory lane to see if the sport had changed from 50 years ago. The track now is at Ashfield, and I found my way to Hawthorn Street on Sunday. I must admit not to having big expectations. As it turned out, it was a splendid day!

Meet Roary, the current Glasgow Tigers mascot.

It is the end of the season, and Sunday's match was the Premier League playoff quarter final second leg. The Tigers had lost the away first leg against Plymouth Devils, and needed to overcome a small two point difference with a win on Sunday, to progress in the competition.

I had forgotten just how fast the riders gate and tussle on the first bend! Standing hair on the back of the neck, after fifty years! The bikes do 0-60 mph in three seconds. Heat 2, sponsored by Ambulance Scotland!

Wheelies seemed to be appropriate when a 5-1 score was recorded.

I was just tickled that Dr Who has a role as the team manager! Fascinating to see what was going on in the pits area.

The visitors had a mascot too, here looking somewhat dejected as the match slipped away from his side.

I had just said to myself that it had been a crash free meeting. But, with the win already in the bag, Tigers' Kauko Nieminen took a nasty looking tumble, high side off his bike, and was immediately surrounded by the first aid team. Remarkably, he was soon on his feet, apparently none the worse for the experience. They make them tough.

The tapes go up.

It didn't take me long to find out who the stars of the 2015 team are. I did appreciate the maximum scored by Richard Lawson, and the paid maximum by captain Aaron Summers.

Back in 1965, I was in the Charlie Monk fan club! Read about his career here.

I was just delighted to be at Ashfield to see the Tigers win, and progress to the semifinals of the Premier League. You can read the match report on the Tigers' website here and here.

Good luck to the team against Somerset later this week.

What a nostalgia trip Sunday was. Many things the same - the great family sport, the noise, the excitement, the smells, the PA - I could almost hear Don Cumming!  

Fifty years ago this programme was bought at an outing to the White City. Perhaps some things have changed in the intervening years, and I don't mean the price of the programme.

Photos © Skip Cottage 

Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Friendly Railway

Five years ago, I visited Alston for the first time, see here. I've been back a number of times since, for example when I first got my wee Mazda (see here). Having recently said goodbye to that car (five years and 72,000 miles later), it seemed appropriate to try out my new wheels (a little Kia Rio) on North Pennine Roads.

The destination was the narrow gauge South Tynedale Railway. What a surprise to find Sir Tom, visiting from Threlkeld Quarry Railway.

Built by Bagnall of Stafford in 1926, find out more about Sir Tom here.

The other locomotive in steam was 0-6-2 saddle tank 'Barber', built by Thomas Green and Company Ltd of Leeds in 1908. Its interesting history can be found here.

Here we are at the end of the line at Lintley Halt. The rake of coaches was top and tailed by the two steam locos.

Looking back down the line towards Alston. The route follows part of the Alston branch of the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway which ran from Haltwhistle to Alston, closed in 1976.

So, Carriage No 7 wasn't just any transport!

And a pleasant ride it was too!

Barber worked at Harrogate Gas Works, hence the association with this wagon.

My experiences at Alston certainly back up the South Tynedale Railway's assertion of being 'the friendly railway'. Geat fun!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Sunday, September 27, 2015

September Steam

Skip garden has had limited success this year. No one to blame but myself. However, one thing that has made me smile this September was the old vegetable patch which I planted up early with spray dahlias and helichrysums, raised from seed, to give some late season colour.

Mission accomplished!

Another success this year has been this clematis, just left to ramble. Best it has ever been.

And the weeds have done well!

Talking of weeds, Buddleja davidii came originally from China. It likes dry stony areas, and seems to be very happy in poor ground around railways. But it is classed as an invasive species (see here), and can do considerable damage when the seeds germinate in old mortar on walls and embankments, as here at Carlisle's Citadel Station.
My contemplation on the tenacity of weed seeds came to an end with the arrival of this beautiful locomotive, No 45699 Galatea, at the head of 'The Waverley' steam charter on September 6. This Railway Touring Company charter was ex-York behind a diesel, with Galatea taking over at Hellifield for the drive to Carlisle, and return, over the Settle line.

Concerned looks, but safely parked at platform 3.

Built in 1936. I was interested to read, here, that in 1953, the locomotive ended on its side after an accident!

We're off to park the carriages!

I was back at Carlisle on September 19 to see the arrival of the Vintage Trains 'The Coastal Explorer' railtour.

GWR Castle Class 4-6-0 No 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe is another beautiful locomotive.

The locomotive had brought its rake of coaches from Carnforth, and was due to return via the Cumbrian Coast line. But it was very apparent on arrival that something was up, the Earl surrounded by lots of concerned support crew in hi-vis vests.

A hot axle box was the concern, and this led to the locomotive being failed at Carlisle, the coast return trip being diesel hauled. But not before 5043 huffed and puffed its way around to park the carriages.

Parking accomplished, the locomotive disappeared, and to everyone's disappointment, did not appear for the return leg of the tour. The passengers had to wait awhile for a replacement locomotive to arrive.

You can find YouTube videos here and here, showing the Earl in action over Shap and at Carlisle.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

In the Box

I guess this is one way to see Edinburgh!

Well, that's now September 1, and the city begins to return to normality after the various festivals. My 'let's have a day out and see a couple of Fringe shows' turned into rather more than that - some seven days were spent on outings to the big city last month. I had great fun, and quite different from the rather sedate existence I usually have in my retirement here at Skip.

Wandering the streets with my camera was interesting. I might well have gone to this show being promoted on the Royal Mile, but it clashed with a slot in my day that was already taken!

And that's the problem, of course. There's just so much going on.
The variety of shows on offer is huge. It's all very well to be selective, but if one only goes to things that one likes, then there's no opportunity for different experiences. For most of my days, I picked one show that I was pretty sure I would enjoy. Then I would look for something a bit different, and then another, picked pretty much at random. Three shows a day was just about right for me, with often a gallery or exhibition added as well.

I've mentioned the flyers already (see here), and this 'notice board' for leaflets had become more of a modern artwork by the time I found it with my camera!

Of course, everyone likes a free show.

Be-dom (Drums + Interactive + Fun) were very persuasive in their free fifteen minutes of so, but for me, nothing beats the drums of Japan. And the four taiko performances I saw were all first class (here).

Now, I'm not really in the business of doing reviews. On Skip Cottage, as you know, I usually just blog about things that I like. But, after paying to attend some 22 performances, how would I rate my Edinburgh days?

Well, some experiences were not very good. One such was being unable to attend an exhibition (Photography: A Victorian Sensation) put on by the National Museums of Scotland, cancelled because of 'industrial action', see here. What a great advert for Scotland. (Calm down, Bob, watch that blood pressure!)

I saw a couple of musical theatre productions that were pretty poor - I'll not say which ones they were as those involved did try hard.

In the International Festival, I saw the Zurich Ballet at the Playhouse. Very good, glad I went. I've been a big dance fan over the years, but it takes something a bit special for me to rave about it these days, and the production didn't quite get my top marks. Enthusiastic audience though on the final night.

Took the car up for that, otherwise the First TransPennine Express did the hard work - the only downside is that the last train for Lockerbie leaves Waverley at 20.15. Still, at my age, early nights are probably a good thing.

I enjoyed a couple of a cappella performances.

In the 'really enjoyed' category were Siro-A, a Japanese group 'exploding the barriers between dance, technology and music'. ZIK'R was flamenco with a big twist, just fabulous. 'Itara' by Danza del Caribe, Cuba's top modern dance company, was quite different, and a great finish to my various perambulations around the town.

In the category of 'unexpectedly brilliant', I would have to put Gandini Juggling's '4x4 Ephemeral Architectures' as my surprise of the month. Four ballet dancers, four jugglers and a string quintet. My initial thoughts when I bought my ticket was that this would be just a bit of fun, but I found myself in a full theatre. I should have read the reviews! You can get a taster here. Wonderful, wonderful.

So good, this show even pushed Dolly into third place on my list. 'Towards Dolly: A Century of Animal Genetics in Edinburgh' was a free exhibition in the University Library. Not for everyone, I admit.

So what's in first place on my list?

The Assembly Box was an 'interesting' venue. Simple, intimate. I've already explained why I went to see 'One Day When We Were Young', see here, and how much I enjoyed the experience. Nothing topped this show in the days that followed.

I thought it would be fun to go and see the final performance yesterday. And indeed it was. They do say some things are even better second time around!

So 'One Day When We Were Young' gets the Skip Cottage award for providing old Bob with a life-enhancing experience. Top of the list.

Well done to those involved. L-R Louisa Proske (Director), Jamie Sims (Technical Director), Stacy Lynn Gould (Assistant Director), Valorie Curry (Best Actress in a Leading Role), Sam Underwood (Best Actor in a Leading Role). Lovely people. Talented all, for sure. I wish them well in their future careers.

(PS If you liked Valorie and Sam in 'One Day When We Were Young', check them out in a short film by Jamie Sims, who's in the photo above, called 'Bus Stop', here.)  

Haven't had a caption competition for some time. How about:
"Spot the actors."
"Are you happy 'One Day' has come to the end of its run?"
Other captions are available.

I have a feeling that September is going to be somewhat mundane after all my Fringe adventures.

Still, I see the curling season is already underway!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

One Day When We Were Young

I was not intending to blog any more about my various 'adventures' at the Edinburgh festivals. But, with Skip garden now an embarrassment from lack of attention because of the summer we've had, my steam cravings satisfied for now, and more walks awaiting a dry day or so, perhaps another Edinburgh story might be in order.

It began as I was heading to see one of my taiko performances. As Fringe regulars will know, when heading anywhere around the centre of the city, one 'collects' leaflets promoting a variety of shows. One accumulates a pile of flyers, unfortunately most destined for the bin at the end of the day.

I noticed a young couple dancing in the street up by the George Square venues. A flyer duly appeared as I made to take a photo or two.

The leaflet described 'One Day When We Were Young', a play by Nick Payne: "The story of two people as their paths cross throughout the years, changing both their lives irrevocably. In this heartbreaking time-shifting journey of would-be romance, we track the meetings of Violet and Leonard in three parts, from the hope of youth at the height of WW2, to the loneliness and hindsight of old age."

Now, call me a hopeless romantic, but that sounded like something I would go and see. For one thing, I wondered how the two young actors would meet the challenge of the 'old age' bit!

I couldn't go that day, but I kept hold of the performance details.

More visits to Edinburgh, and I went to a number of performances of various things that my life is none the better for. However, I did see Dolly the sheep, suitably stuffed, in an small exhibition in the University Library, and aside from the drums, that had been on the top of the list of enjoyable experiences.

The flyer for 'One Day When We Were Young' was still in my bag, albeit a bit battered. That's it above! It kept reminding me that, if I went up to Edinburgh again, I should go and see this play. So, yesterday, I found myself with a ticket, and was first in the queue at the Box, one of the Assembly George Square, venues.

I then saw a theatre performance that dug a knife through my own life's emotional memories, and left me with a lump in my throat. You know you've had an 'experience' when you have to go on a bit of a walk afterwards to get yourself together. It's what theatre should be, I do believe. I haven't been as affected by a play since 'I Saw the Swede' (about Raul Wallenberg) many years ago.

Nick Payne has written a good script for 'One Day When We Were Young', but it is the two actors which made the play special. Valorie Curry and Sam Underwood are extremely talented, and totally committed to their parts. Enthusiastic and passionate. They were good. No, they were brilliant!

Watching the play from the perspective of an 'older person' - and having just celebrated another birthday, I'm feeling every year that has passed - there were too many reminders of my own life woven into the narrative. I smiled at the mention of the first Wimpy Bar, the Bournville chocolate, and the short clip of Cliff Richard singing 'The Young Ones' - you see, Cliff and the Shadows was the first live 'gig' I ever attended. I was all of fourteen. I remember when my mum got her first washing machine too.

I'd better not say more about the play, or I'll have to give a 'spoiler alert'. Needless to say, Valorie and Sam met the challenge of playing Violet and Leonard in their later years just brilliantly. Clever stuff - I was so impressed.

And there's a twist ... and I don't mean the sparklers.

Great theatre. Well staged. Wonderful actors. Ten out of ten!

Read about the Fundamental Theater Project here.

If you can get a ticket, in the few days this show has left to run, do go. Like me, your life will be enriched for the experience. Assembly George Square, 13.45, until August 31.

And just in case any younger friends are reading this and don't get the Cliff Richard reference, here's a reminder. Innocent times!

Thought for today, 'Life is not a rehearsal'.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Friday, August 21, 2015

Fringe Days

I recall the years when I would spend a week or more in Edinburgh at various performances around the Festival and Fringe. These days I like to think I'm a bit more selective in what I spend my money on. And, of course, Skip Cottage is not as close to the big city as, sometimes, I would like.

This year, I've treated myself to a few days of 'culture'. Some of that has been searching out various taiko performances, see here. But I've also had a taste of theatre, recitals, dance, and musical theatre too, mostly picked at random. Some performances have been good, others ... well, let's just say that there are times when you come out and say to yourself, "That's an hour of my life I'll never get back." But that's the Fringe, of course.

In contrast, ALL my Japanese drum experiences this year have been exceptional. It's probably my scientific genes that have encouraged me to compare and contrast. I have enjoyed four different groups. All good, in different ways.

First of all, there was Terindaiko Seed's 'Advancement', at C, Venue 34, on Chambers Street, until Tuesday 25th, at 14.00. Full of enthusiasm and excitement.

Samurai Drum IKKI are at the space©Symposium Hall, Hill Square, Venue 43, at 17.10, but only until this Sunday (the 23rd). Technical brilliance. I went to see them twice, as I couldn't really believe what I'd seen and heard first time around!

Japan Marvellous Drummers are at the Assembly George Square Theatre, Venue 8, at 13.00 every day until the end of the month. A well travelled and accomplished company. Great drumming, and much more. There's humour, and if you would like to hear 'Scotland the Brave' played on a Japanese flute, this performance will make you smile.

The fourth group I saw was Japanese Drum Hibiki with 'Messages from Japan / Super-cussion'. Just four performers, with something really different. They are also at the space©Symposium Hall, Hill Square, Venue 43, at 18.20, until the 29th. If you have 50 minutes or so to spare next week, then this performance would be my recommendation. Hibiki are first timers at the Fringe and haven't, as yet, been getting big audiences. But they are great. The emphasis is on the traditional. They perform a new work, a Requiem for the 2011 disaster in Eastern Japan.

So, how much does it cost to bring the big drum - the Odaiko - all the way to Edinburgh? Sometimes this is played with a drumstick that looks more like a baseball bat, by the most muscular member of a taiko group. But in this modern world of equality, Edinburgh can now see a small Japanese lass pounding the 'big drum'. Impressive! You have to see it.

Fifty minutes you won't regret. Hai. Saiko desu!

PS Added later. Yes, I did go and see Hibiki again. Somewhat to my embarrassment, I discovered that they had found the review above, but I was recognised and warmly received, both before, and after, the show.

Here is everyone involved, relaxing after another great performance. What lovely people!

Pic © Skip Cottage

Saturday, August 15, 2015

In search of drums

I've been a fan of taiko, Japanese drumming, since I first encountered it in Karuizawa in 1997 at the World Junior Curling Championships. Since then I've seen many performances, with the great Tao my favourite, see here.

I thought it might be fun to seek out the drums of Japan at this year's Fringe, and see if the magic was still alive.

First stop was Venue 34, in the basement theatre of Adam House in Chambers Street, where the University of Edinburgh has a number of examination halls.

I thought it quite kind of one of the venue staff to warn me that the performance was going to be pretty loud. And of course these days, it's nice (?) to be sold a concession ticket without even being asked one's age!

The sign above is probably the understatement of the month!

I had come to see a performance by Tenrindaiko Seed, a young company, average age just 17, from Kasugai City, on their first visit to Edinburgh. You can read about them here.

The performance was called 'Advancement'. Good? Absolutely - five stars from me. How might I describe it. Accomplished, entertaining, energetic, fun, physical, .... taiko at its most powerful. These are the best young drummers in Japan. LOUD. And if you don't like sweat, then don't sit in the front row! At full blast, this is powerful stuff. I loved it.

Standing ovation. The performers came into the aisles at the end to thank the audience for coming along. Nice touch.

And this time, I DID buy the tee shirt!

Now, other Japanese drum performances are available. I did wonder if it was hazardous to health to take in two taiko shows in one day! But I had seen the next group before, and I knew how good they would be. 

So it was to the rather posh Venue 43, the Space©Symposium Hall, a converted church in Hill Square. Samurai Drum IKKI have been in Edinburgh before. Formed in 2002 by Ikki Hino, the group comprises just four performers, the master himself and three female acolytes. But what quality!

The programme included 'Makoto', a solo by Ikki Hino on three Shime Taiko drums. Unbelievable. How does he DO that?

The website is here. You can find YouTube clips of Samurai Drum IKKI here, and here. But watching and listening to taiko on a laptop or computer hardly compares to hearing and experiencing the drums live. 

Which performance did I enjoy more? Impossible to decide. Both excellent in different ways. I would go back and see both again. But there is more taiko to seek out this month in Edinburgh. And I look forward to that.

Photos © Skip Cottage except that of Tenrindaiko Seed on stage, which is from the group's website.