To Old Times To New times

Happy New YEAR! Hogmanay is my favourite night of the year. At times so fantastic, at times so reminiscent, at other times it has passed by me completely. But whether I have peaked too early and am currently hugging my toilet floor having been shoved in a taxi (it might be someone else’s toilet floor…yes that happened badly one year) or I am watching the fireworks over the castle having popped out from the Black Tie event onto the rooftop (this is the plan so hopefully I am) – Slange Var!!!

Here is to the New Year. Yes yes in case you pick me up on it…I went for the easy spelling of cheers.

To Old Times

My favourite verse of Auld Lang Syne (old long since…for the old times) is the second one.

"And surely ye'll be your pint-stoup
And surely I'll be mine
And we'll talk' a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne."

It basically means that we will both buy a pint (or another tipple of whatever is your thing) and we will talk together as friends who haven’t forgotten and who reminisce.

I get a little soppy about the fact that we Scottish people love the New Year and there is no better place to be than Edinburgh at Hogmany. So another favourite reminiscing tune that I will also make sure I listen to is Caledonia. Favourite bit about that song? Most of it…so probably the chorus.

"Oh Let me tell you that I love you
that I think about you all the time
Caledonia you're calling me
now I'm going home
and if I should become a stranger
no it would make me more than sad
Caledonia's been everything I've ever had"

Anyway. Time to reflect on the year. Its been a good one. Here’s to the next.

Hopefully the next will be brought in having a glass of something good and watching the fireworks. This took effort. The dress I wanted to wear just didn’t cut it so I had a last minute dash yesterday to buy a new one. I bought two. I bought no heels though; which is pretty good going for me.

To New Times

So….When I get over the hangover that is undoubtedly coming my way I have to pack. Usually the 1st means more parties. First footing is still a thing in Scotland although I don’t think we do it enough nowadays. Stovies throughout the early hours of the morning and probably more alcohol.

Then after a lot of snoozing it is usually time to go have steak pie somewhere (my mum usually forces me to attend theirs). It’s a tradition on the 1st. This year I have to pack first, with a hangover (undoubtedly), she said I had to be their by 5pm (doubt it!).

I am off skiing on the 2nd. French Alps, French wine, French snow, can’t frecking wait.

So here’s to the New Year. I will be pointing down a mountain in two days time on things that make me slide down it. Slightly mental I know. Hopefully I won’t be on my backside too much although that is probably too much to ask. As long as I have my wine legs on it should be ok.

Here’s to your New Year. Hope its a good one. Slange!

I Never Fall Over in High Heels

I never fall over in high heels. Stiletto type heels. Any other kind of heeled boot or shoe though is a different matter entirely. Actually to add to that. Bare feet and balancing (yoga) usually leads to me falling over. But with a good 4 -7 inch pair of heels – never!

Wearing heels

I have always preferred a stiletto or thin enough type of heel to any other. So even when buying a pair of boots I go for a nicely shaped heel (only I know what I mean by that), even if it is squared, rather than an awful big clunky thing. Clunky heels look perfectly fine on a lot of people but I am short (ish) and my feet, size UK 4 to 4.5, do not adapt well to clunkiness.

I have loads. Shoes with heels. Not in an Imelda Marcos type way. But still enough that there are some I hardly ever wear. From ridiculously expensive, to pretty expensive, to dirt cheap. My favourite ones are my range of Sam Edelman pointed with a stiletto heel. So comfy! The heel is only 3.75inches. Not an affiliate at all, just a buyer of them when one of my favourite shoe shops in Edinburgh get them in stock.

Other shoes will sometimes do

I don’t always wear heels though. Most of the time I do, but as my job involves walking at times I generally wear a kitten (ish) heel to work. No point in ruining my good ones. Otherwise I love a good loafer (very hard to find just the right ones) and I spend a lot of time in my trainers. So it isn’t like I am always in teeteringly high heels. I guess I am saying I like them but am not always in them.

In Edinburgh due to the millions [exaggeration] of hills and the fact that I walk to most places, it is often more comfortable to wear an ankle or knee length boot. So I have plenty of them too.

Getting around in heels

There are lots of roads with cobbles in Edinburgh. However I have had years of practice with crossing these roads and have it down to a fine art. If you are unlucky they will trip you up no matter what shoes you are wearing. I know it is odd – but I find that I don’t fall when wearing heels. Maybe it is because I concentrate more on my walking. It might also be because I don’t walk as fast as seemingly everyone else in Edinburgh (refer to previous post on this). Either way, or a combination of both, when out in heels I can get around. That is until the balls of my feet start to hurt. Taxi’s are a great way of coping with sore feet.

Lunch, Wine and Falling over

Last Saturday I went out to lunch. As it involved a walk up a hill I settled on an ankle boot (nice heel) with jeans rather than a pair of great heels. This all went well and even after a few glasses of wine I made it home in one piece to prepare for a few drinks at my flat with friends that evening.

My preparations were going well (ankle boots still on) and I decided on a few cut roses from the garden. Out I tottered, over a few innocuous looking slabs, and promptly crashed to the ground on my hands and knees. Since there are at least 8 sets of flat windows looking over the garden I slithered back to the doorway to inspect myself. Thankfully no hole in jeans but ouch it bloody hurt! So in case this looked really odd, should someone be looking out the window at that exact moment, I got up and, with a confident stride, got to that bloody rose bush and cut 4 beautifully red roses and some greenery for my vase.

Back in my flat and the state of me became apparent. My hands were bleeding and my knees were scraped quite badly. Imagine a five year old, all scraped and looking like their world is ending. Yep I looked exactly the same.

Dusted off, scrapes washed and sat back down with a recovery glass (yes another) of wine I only had one bloody thought. “I should have worn my stilettos!!”

Photo by Apostolos Vamvouras on Unsplash

My 5 favourite things about Stockbridge in Edinburgh

Stockbridge in Edinburgh feels like a village within the city. Edinburgh has a lot of areas like this precisely because at one point in time they were just that. Back when the High Street and the Castle overlooked the loch (now Princess Street Gardens) and before the New Town area was built the outlying areas were villages and suburbs. Travel a little farther down the hill from the New Town and areas such as the Dean Village, Stockbridge, Cannonmills and even Leith (Leith was only added into Edinburgh in the 1920s) all have their own feel. Still very much part of Edinburgh – but with a little bit of history of their own. Stockbridge is the go-to place, in my opinion, to relax. Here is why:

1. It has History

The old name was stock brig in Scots. Walk down via St Stephens street and you will find the prettiest little corner and street with some fabulous local shops and boutiques.

St Vincent’s Church on the corner of St Vincent and St Stephen’s street

Just off St Stephen’s street a bit further down into the heart of Stockbridge is the old market place. No longer there but the arch away (my favourite in Edinburgh with the exception of those in the Castle) still bears the name.

Stockbridge was always quite bohemian. Initially a retreat for the fancy folk to take respite and drink the water from St Bernard’s well (just a short walk along the river) it eventually became the haunt of artists, doctors and all-sorts. If you drink in the Tic (Antiquity bar) you still feel this influence and wonderful mix of people. It was also the place where the shop of Madam Doubtfire was located (the name which inspired the book title and film). She was friends with Dora Noyce who apparently ran the best brothel in the city. This was back in the fifties to the seventies. There aren’t any brothels any more, thankfully, but it adds to the history and character of the place.

2. The River of Leith

The Water of Leith runs through Stockbridge (makes sense that there is a river under the bridge). Lots of people walk the full length. I prefer to just frequent the bits near to me so that I am never that far from a great coffee shop. The pathways make you feel like you are in the countryside and it is such a pretty place to sit and watch the world (or Edinburgh walker/joggers/cyclists) go by.

Water of Leith beside the Colonies

Go west along the river and there is a great place to sit beside’s St Bernard’s well (you get the afternoon sun). Go east and my favourite houses, the Colonies, are nestled beside the river.

Stockbridge Colonies (I had friends who lived here once and put on the most amazing our youth :-))

3. Inverlieth Park – the view

If you can’t manage to get a free seat outside the Reaburn (pub/boutique hotel with a beer garden) or my favourite coffee shop Whiskers) then the best place to go in good weather is Inverleith park on the hill overlooking the pond.

The new rugby stand is being built. Just to the left out of view is the cricket ground and there are views up to the castle

I sat out with a coffee on Monday. Just reading my book and trying to get a sun tan on my arms and feet. The views of Edinburgh are spectacular here. Right up to the castle which means that it is the best place to catch the fireworks at the end of the Edinburgh festival and also at new year. You do have to bring your own bottle, but the bonus in Edinburgh (unlike Glasgow) is that we are allowed to consume alcohol in parks. So everyone on Hogmanay has a bottle to head out from the local pubs near to midnight to catch the show. For all these reasons Inverleith park is a favourite place of mine. I even used to do British Military Fitness there, and a bit of running (possibly not my favourite thing about the place 😊).

4. The shops

Stockbridge has loads (this is not an underestimate) of charity shops. I’m not the biggest fan of rummaging through things but I always think I should try more often as you can get some really good buys. My favourite shops are the jewellery shops. Sheila Fleet (a jeweller from Orkney) has a shop on St Stephen’s street and there is a great wee jeweller called Annie Smith on Raeburn place. If you can find it nestled down a little alleyway on Raeburn place Gallery Mirage has lots of choice from all over the world. The great thing about these jewellers are their independence and choice. I have something from each of them.

If jewellery isn’t your thing then there are lovely little clothes shops, an old oil lantern shop (I’ve never been in but the window on St Stephen’s street looks like something out of a Dicken’s novel), art dealers and lots of shops with bits and bobs.

5. Great places to eat and drink

Far too many to mention them all but eating and drinking in Stockbridge offers something for everyone. Bells Diner has been here for, well forever. My mum and dad used to take us there for dinner when we were little. Nocks Kitchen is one of the nicest Thai restaurants in Edinburgh. Tom Kitchin (who has a michelin star for another restaurant in Edinburgh) and Dominic Jack have the relaxed Gastro style place called the Scran and Scallie. There is another place called Rollo just across the road which is a firm favourite of my friends and myself (there is also on now on Broughton street). There are loads more places, I just haven’t tried them all.

Pub wise the Raeburn is great for the beer garden, the Antiquity for their cheesy fries and the Bailey for traditional surrounds and to watch the rugby. If one place is too busy to get a seat in, you just head to the next. Stockbridge has a relaxed atmosphere and the pubs are no different. If you are just after a coffee and some food then try Whiskers. On Raeburn place I always check out whether they have any seats free outside if it is sunny. If so I park myself here to watch the world go by. If not I head along with a coffee to go to Inverlieth Park.

Basically Stockbridge is my go-to place to relax and meander. I probably have more favourite things about it. No doubt I will probably blog more about this gorgeous wee part of Edinburgh in my future blogs.

Kylie Minogue: Edinburgh Castle

Last night I went to see Kylie. Yep….Kylie Minogue. At Edinburgh Castle! It was amazing. She was brilliant. Edinburgh is great. It’s starting to feel like Festival time in Edinburgh. All of these things are what makes our city special.

Fifteen years ago I would never have written the words “I went to a Kylie concert”. I have now though and it was bloody awesome. Fifteen (or so) years ago my taste on music was much less eclectic (and personally I thought it was much cooler). However, in an attempt at not kidding anyone I should now admit that I did watch ‘Neighbours’ (Aussy soap). Right from the start. That was more than fifteen years ago – I know this because I was still in primary school (so probably around 30 years agghhh!).

Even though I watched neighbours I definitely wasn’t into ‘pop’. Getting older means, however, that the kind of labelling you need to do in your teens and twenties becomes less important. So when the tickets came up last year of course I wanted to go. Kylie is literally a pop princess and sometimes it’s only after the fact that you start to appreciate what someone has done in their career. She is also teeny and, whilst Australian of course, Kylie is still something of a national treasure to the UK.

The night, the venue

At this time of year when the days are long and sunset is still around 10.50pm Edinburgh is gearing up for the festival. If we get the weather (and we did), the evenings are balmy and the atmosphere around the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle and the Mound is fantastic.

Heading to the top of the Royal Mile

Kylie was on at 9pm after an opener from Nina Nesbitt (local singer). Her set list included all the greats like: ‘I Should Be So Lucky’, ‘Never Too Late’, ‘Hand On Your Heart’, ‘Confide In Me’, ‘Especially For You’, ‘All The Lovers’ and ‘Spinning Around’.

The Castle itself looked amazing. The fire torches were lit above the cannons peeking through the cannon holes. The stadium set up is put up every year for the Tattoo during the Edinburgh Festival; for concerts the stage is set just in front of the castle gates at the top of the Esplanade. There is something special about concerts at Edinburgh Castle that you don’t get at the big sporting grounds. It is the Castle though so of course this is the case!

The sun shone until twilight at around 10pm and even then it wasn’t dark but the lights of the stage and lighting shone accross the crowd. A sold out show (she put on another one tonight because it sold out so quickly) meant that the atmosphere was absolutely buzzing with people who just wanted to have a lot of fun.

The artist

I think that is what Kylie probably represents to me. A fun performer who has stood the test of time to become an artist that you don’t want to miss. I have been to see lots of great bands and musicians. From Prince (a lot of times including his last tour) to the Pogues. We might all disagree on who is good or not but I am glad I added Kylie to the list. I, this surprised me, knew all the words to all the songs bar one. This is particularly odd given I have re-checked my old CDs, Apple music and even my playlists on Prime Music. I don’t have any Kylie on there. I think I will add some. This was a concert where I danced like I was in my living room (I even did dance actions to ‘Hand on My Heart’). I wasn’t embarrased. No one in there was. We all loved Kylie and she was great. The tiny wee 51 year old looks amazing. Please the gods of ageing can I acheive even a fraction of that by the time I get to my fifties.

The walk home

Edinburgh Castle, Cannons and The Cannonball

My sister didn’t want to do the lunch booking (she usually does). So since I have had a week off work, and this was planned in with my sis and mum, I took on the job of picking the place. I very nearly chose Noks Kitchen which is a firm favourite and a short walk along the road to Stockbridge. But….living in Edinburgh (and growing up here) is a gift. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world (my next favourite is Rome), so I decided on a recommendation in the heart of the city and right next to the castle.

The Cannonball

I had never been before but took an article at its word for this being a great place for food. They were right. The setting is magnificent. Right next door to the esplanade of the Castle this building started off as a Duke’s who was ‘Keeper of the Castle’. From then to now it was an old Edinburgh tenement, to burnt out shell to School House to building used for a variety of things before the Contini’s took it on and made a great restaurant and Bar.

The nicely priced lunch set menu was probably underpriced. I started off with haggis balls and then a steak sandwich. Missing out on the desert was a mistake. My sister’s chocolate mousse looked like something from Masterchef. From her ooh’s and ahhhh’s it clearly was delicious. All in all this was a win. When you live in Edinburgh you rarely get that close to the castle as we tend to favour certain areas and restaurants. Edinburgh is a collection of villages which were joined together by the New Town and once in a while we should all go back to the heart of the city (avoiding the many tourists) to bask in its beauty. The Cannonball gives you this. It is right next to the castle and the restaurant has lovely views over the castle. It is that sort of place where you touch the walls in the knowledge that there is history and we should connect to it. It was also really good food and Ill definitely be back.

So…over a glass of good Malbec the suggestion was made to visit the Castle. Why would we not. I had heels on (boots thankfully so comfy enough) and we were a bottle down but…It was right there! Too tempting.

The Cannons

Its not the cheapest but it is bloody beautiful. Walk through, pay, and the first thing you come to are the cannons lining the walls. The One o Clock gun is a bit new age (they old things obviously only throw out real cannonballs rather than just the noice) but there are plenty of the old yins. Never stop at these though. Mons Meg is up the way and this cannon is something to behold with a history even England would be jealous of.

Mons Meg: built in 1449

The Castle

Edinburgh castle is stunning and I am always in awe of it. The view from Princess Street is good enough but a walk around it reminds me of the romantic nature of us Scottish folk. The surprising thing is how little it can feel even in its statuesque position on the hill overlooking the gardens (when built it was a loch and the New Town didn’t exist). The great hall is magnificent, the Stone of Destiny touches most hearts and the tiny chapel is simple yet ornate.

The Great Hall

My tips. Try the whisky. Don’t wear heels. Head down to Deacon Brodie’s for a pint afterwards. But also just bask in it. Kings, Queens, intrigue, deception and many a story have come from that castle. We are lucky to have it. We will always have it. In some ways I feel I should visit more but it is always there, overlooking Edinburgh. I go enough for an ‘Edinburgher’. I’ll definitely be eating next to it more.