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.
Dates for your diary: from 19th. July to 19th. October, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art will be staging an exhibition of American Impressionism, including works by Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler.
The lovely picture above is Eleanor by Frank Weston Benson, the subject being the artist's daughter.
We popped into Centotre for some mid-morning refreshment yesterday, and I tried the Amalfi lemon, orange, cinnamon and rosemary infusion - delicious! A peep inside the pot revealed a couple of slices of both lemon and orange, two fat cinnamon sticks (you could re-use them) and a generous quantity of rosemary sprigs. Definitely one to try at home, sweetened with honey if you like.
Mary asked the other day whether the J.D. Fergusson exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art was worth the price of a plane ticket north.
I've seen it now and I can say "Yes!", emphatically, "yes!"
This is the third in the Gallery's Scottish Colourist series after Cadell and Peploe over the last two years. It looks as though we are not to get a Hunter show, so take this chance to see Fergusson - it's on until mid-June - and prepare to be impressed.
I say that because I was less familiar with his work than with that of Cadell and Peploe, so perhaps was more susceptible to being bowled over by his range and the sheer energy of his pieces, but bowled over I was. There are around 100 works on show, sculptures as well as paintings, and they include still lifes, landscapes, portraits, nudes, and even pictures from his brief time as a war artist*. With virtually no formal training, Fergusson absorbed Impressionism, Fauvism and even Vorticism to startling effect, and in the course of a long life spent mostly in France or his native Scotland, produced work which " ... is a deep and pure expression of his immense love of life. Endowed with a rare plastic feeling, almost sculptural in its quality. He joined with it an exceptional sense of colour, outspoken, ringing colours, rich and splendid in their very substance."
Click here to see some of the exhibition highlights (though those tiny images do not do justice to the real things), and here to see a short related film, then please come back tomorrow when I'll have a little something to give away.
*When reporting for duty he admitted that he really did not like khaki, and the interviewing colonel said - in all seriousness - "we can't do anything about that, but what about the Navy?" As blue was Fergusson's favourite colour (good man!), a succesful posting ensued.
It can often take a visitor to help you discover your own city - all too often we don't know what is on our own doorstep - and here's a case in point as Rose has been up in Edinburgh for a weekend and has packed a lot into her short trip, taking in some places I've never been to.
Rose has kindly let me post some of the highlights here for future reference for all of us, residents and tourists alike, so here are a few 'Edinburgh signposts':
Lunch at The Balmoral Bar (to which I've been only once, for a smart book launch), and a suitably Scottish dish of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties and Whisky Cream, and again Rose commends the service. For those keen to sample the Scottish national drink, the Balmoral has "a signature whisky bar", Scotch, with over 400 single malts and blends to try - and don't blame me if you come out fou.
Many thanks, Rose, and I hope you'll come again soon!
Yesterday I was at the Scottish Parliament to attend the stitchers' preview of The Great Tapestry of Scotland. As you may know if you've followed fairly recent posts here, I am a member of the group which stitched the 1914-1918 War panel, and while we've spent many months working on our piece, and have seen a few other panels in various stages of completion at preview events, yesterday was the first opportunity we've had to see the Tapestry in its entirety.
It is a stunning thing: 143m long (so 70m longer than the Bayeux Tapestry), the work of 1,000 stitchers from across Scotland, the product of countless hours of painstaking embroidery, and a representation of 12,000 years of a country's history (read the news story here). Yesterday we all stood and looked in awe and admiration at the concept and its execution in finished form, from its striking design by artist Andrew Crummy to interpretative needlework of the highest standard.
There was so much to take in on a comparatively brief viewing, and my pictures were hastily taken and are not in order, but I've put most of them* in an album which you can access by clicking here or on the image over there in the righthand sidebar (and once in you can click on each picture to enlarge it), so that should give an idea of the piece. Of course, it's still effectively a work-in-progress as panels can be added as events in Scotland's present and future dictate. Andy Murray's Wimbledon win was stitched in at the last minute (we were watching him take the title as we completed our panel), and doubtless next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will feature in a dedicated panel in due course.
As to the Tapestry itself, it will go on tour in Scotland and the rest of the UK, then to America and Canada, and then - it is hoped - it will find a permanent home, so do see it if you can; as someone who played a small part in its making, I'd like to say that it was a privilege and a pleasure to be involved.
*Dark Puss, you suggested James Clerk Maxwell be included, and he has been.