Here's the view from Edinburgh Castle today, the Scott Monument on the left, the clock tower of the Balmoral hotel on the right, Calton Hill behind it, and beyond, the Firth of Forth and the sea. Glorious weather!
We were up at the castle on the Battery to watch the 21 gun salute in honour of HRH Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh's birthday, as it was commanded by Son-of-Cornflower (that's him with the red sash and the sword).
Every step of the procedure was carried out with typical precision, and special guests and tourists alike enjoyed the spectacle which included a military band and inspection of the firing party in addition to the salute itself.
Will's sisters were not there to hear him addressed as 'Sir', but there will no doubt be some gentle ribbing when they see him later, and though it's not obvious from the pictures, that sword was subject to hours of polishing.
Here in Edinburgh the other day I heard Joanna Trollope at the National Gallery of Scotland talk on a novelist's view of portraiture. "Our faces are our shop window to the world," she says, and a portrait is "the ultimate tribute, the final monument ... having a majesty a photograph can seldom achieve." As a judge of the BP Portrait Award last year she has studied and appraised more 'likenesses' than most of us, and as a contributor to the Imagined Lives exhibition at the NPG in 2011/12 she created fictional biographical material for the unknown sitters of 16th- and 17th-century portraits.
As a novelist, she has always looked at faces very intently - people are her stock-in-trade - and she works with a strong (mental) visual image of her characters, although she has never created a character based on a portrait, as Tracy Chevalier has so successfully done. In her lecture she looked at four famous portraits*, discussed the faces their sitters are presenting to the world, the eloquence of their expression as captured by the artist, and the messages - implicit or overt - they convey.
I went to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival this morning. It's the first wool extravaganza I've ever attended so I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I was as prepared as I could be with a list of shops I especially wanted to visit and yarn requirements for specific projects in mind.
Here's my haul:
Whistlebare Yeavering Bell 4ply (Fine Kid Mohair/Wensleydale), All's Shipshape.
I've written about Helen's shoes before as I've been a customer of hers for many years, though my taste runs to the more understated end of the range, but above you'll see some of her striking designs worn by violinist Alice Rickards and cellist Sonia Cromarty as they play a piece from Transplanted, "a celebration of the rich diversity of Scotland's plant life and its music". The sonata is Primrose by Scottish baroque composer James Oswald.
Autumn (or Profile of Lydia Cassatt), Mary Cassatt, 1880.
There are still a couple of weeks left to see the American Impressionism exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (which I mentioned here) - above is one of the highlights, and look at the fabulous autumnal colours of Lydia Cassatt's shawl.
Yesterday I went to one of the events connected to the exhibition: American Impressionists in the Garden, an illustrated talk by garden historian Caroline Holmes which covered plants, garden design, social history, symbolism in paintings, and more; fascinating in itself and a great exercise in looking.
Today I paid a visit to Be Inspired Fibres, a yarn shop on the south side of the city which is definitely worth a look, online or in person if you're in the area, but allow plenty of time to browse as the shop sells lots of lovely and unusual things.
I came away with a skein of Malabrigo Sock in the colour Aguas (it's less grey and much more of a sea green than the pictures suggest), but I've earmarked some other yarns including ITO Sensai, silk and mohair, and Lotus Miya, mink, merino and silk, for another day - the stock really does inspire.
It used to be the case that sentries stood guard at the gateway to Edinburgh Castle every day between May and October, with the hourly 'changing of the guard' an event of great interest to tourists. These days, as far as I understand it, guard is mounted only on special occasions such as today, the birthday of H.R.H. The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. It so happens that today's guard has been formed by Son-of-Cornflower's OTC unit, so I went up to the Castle this morning to watch them parade and take up post.
Led by the pipes and drums (see video above which may take a minute or so to load), the guard marched down to the Esplanade where they were inspected, then the first sentries took up position and the rest of the company marched back into the Castle over the drawbridge. Once the crowd of spectators had been released from behind their cordons, there was a rush of people taking pictures and being photographed beside the sentries. I'm glad to say our man managed to retain his composure.
Sarah Simblet was commissioned to produce 200 drawings for the book, and the selection on display shows something of their range, accuracy and great beauty. "Nearly 50 species have been meticulously depicted, from mature trees [see the Cedar of Lebanon above] to small seedlings, with detailed studies of botanical parts. Associated animals, insects and woodland flowers of the surrounding ecosystem have also been included, as well as insights into the forestry process and the future of our forests."
Watch the short film to see Sarah Simblet at the RBGE discussing her work, while below is an extract from her notes on the drawings which explain her working methods:
"Live plants were always held in my left hand while I drew them with my right, so that I could directly translate my experience of their texture, weight, and balance, closely analyse their structure, watch their movement and perceive their scent. Drawn lines were made in response to all sensory experience, and touch is as important as sight.
Tree and landscape drawings were begun on site in pencil, usually in freezing temperatures, which slow muscle control in the hand, so lines are only gestural and pushed from the shoulder to establish a composition. Ink was applied later in the warmth of the studio, where the pencil drawing was gradually erased. ...
Every drawing was created with dilute Japanese ink on especially thick drawing cartridge paper, so that the surface could take the pressure of reworking and remain flat. Each one was built up in numerous layers. All lines, including the appearance of brushwork, were achieved with a single, steel-dip pen using both sides of the nib..."
I've been an admirer of John Lill's playing since as a student I bought his recordings of the Beethoven piano sonatas on cassette. I've seen him play live once or twice, though not for some years, but he's currently on his 70th. birthday tour and was performing here in Edinburgh at the Usher Hall* last night, so I couldn't miss the chance to go and see him again.
He was playing Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 with the RSNO, and his enormous power - very focused, very direct, intense, and supremely eloquent - was quite electrifying.
Glasgow people, I think there are still tickets left for the Royal Concert Hall and the same programme tonight (Saturday), so snap them up if you can. Anyone else who's interested, you might like to hear John Lill's Desert Island Discs recorded a few years ago.
*The painting of the Hall is by Stanley Cursiter.
Edited to add: I haven't found a review of Friday's concert, but here is one of Saturday's, and, as you'll see, its writer shares my enthusiasm.