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Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes by Robert Louis Stevenson – an enchanting, personal memoir exploring the city’s culture and heritage.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

“Stevenson’s writing strikes the twenty-first century ear as still being fresh and intensely readable … we are in the company of an agreeable and relaxed guide giving us an anecdotal run-down on Edinburgh over a cup of coffee or lunch.”

Alexander McCall Smith

Novelist, poet and travel writer, Robert Louis Stevenson first published Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes in 1878, (revised 1889). This attractive new edition has been published by Manderley Press, a new indie publisher founded by Rebeka Russell, focusing on forgotten or out-of-print books which feature a memorable house, place or landmark.  The books will be small hardbacks, quarter-bound in cloth and printed on high quality paper. Cover artwork will be available to buy as prints.

Rebeka Russell, founder of the Manderley Press

I have always loved books, art, travel and old houses, so when lockdown happened, I decided the time was perfect to set up Manderley Press. Armchair travel and literary escapism had never seemed so important!” Rebeka Russell

Most appropriately, the name ‘Manderley’ is taken from the classic romantic novel, ‘Rebecca.’ “I could swear that the house was not an empty shell but lived and breathed as it had lived before.”  Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca.

The first book selected for the Manderley Collection is ‘Edinburgh’ featuring decorative artwork by Iain McIntosh (as shown here on the front cover), with a marvellous Introduction by Alexander McCall Smith, who is renowned for his popular and most amusing novels set in the city (44 Scotland Street, Isabel Dalhousie).

McCall Smith begins with succinct biographical background explaining that having studied engineering (to join his family clan of lighthouse designers) and then law, RLS wisely followed his literary vocation as an excellent storyteller.

 ‘Stevenson found Edinburgh such a rich source of inspiration for his writing. This is a walk through parts of the city that have survived to this day as they were during his lifetime.

Vintage drawing of Heriot Row, the family home in the New Town

If we were to stroll down Heriot Row with him today, there would be no surprises for him when we reached No. 17, although he might not have expected a plaque.’

RLS moved here with his family in 1857 when he was seven. From the nursery window, he loved to watch the lamplighter, the Leerie, switch on the gas lamps every evening.

17 Heriot Row, with a stone plaque beside the door and brass sign on lamp-post

McCall Smith describes how much the city inspired him from his childhood, frequently ill in his bedroom, looking out over Queen Street Gardens. As young man he explored the streets, taverns, monuments, rivers and hills, fascinated by ancient history, legendary myths and cultural heritage.

“It is at times a prose poem. It is a stream of conscious memoir about living in a town so gorgeously romantic it could be an opera set; it is a love song to a city.”

Robert Louis Stevenson, painted by John Singer Sargent (1887)

This personal Memoir is divided into ten chapters, taking the reader on a journey to Stevenson’s favourite haunts as well as describing seasonal weather and festivities. RLS appreciates how the magic of Edinburgh gets under your skin – “ the place establishes an interest in people’s hearts; go where they will they find no city of the same distinction.’

Edinburgh – his home city was a life long, literary inspiration

What a clashing of architecture! Greek temples, Venetian palaces and gothic spires are huddled one over the another..  the Castle and the summit of Arthur’s Seat look down with a becoming dignity.

This is a city set up on a hill, he explains, dominated by the Castle with its open view to sea and land.  

Tourists love to stroll down the Royal Mile from the Castle to the Palace of Holryroodhouse as did Stevenson to see St. Giles Cathedral, Parliament Close and the High Court spotting “ an advocate in wig and gown and a tide of lawyers.” (just as you will see today).

He is especially shocked by the social inequality between the overcrowded tenements, families living in a ‘huge human beehive’ in the Medieval Old Town, in contrast to the wealthy citizens in their grand houses on Heriot Row and Moray Place et al. around the Georgian-Victorian New Town.

‘The human Beehive’ – the high skyscraper tenements in the Old Town

Chapter Four is Legends, illustrated with a drawing of a man in a blindfold and bow tie with a hangman’s noose in the background – Deacon Brodie, a respected city councillor and cabinet maker by day but a thief by night – whose secret double life sparked the novel, ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’.

Edinburgh may be haunted by ghostly tales of grave diggers and murder but this is a “city of churches .. a clamour of bells upon the Sabbath morning in one swelling, brutal babblement of noise”.  Babblement! – Stevenson’s rich language is inventive and colourfully poetic. 

RLS was inspired by the stone carved tombs of the moody, gothic Greyfriars Kirkyard. More than a century later, J. K. Rowling followed in his footsteps to borrow a few names on the gravestones – Potter, Riddell, Scrimgeour, McGonagall, – now resurrected as her famous fictional characters.

Greyfriars Kirkyard – a gothic moody place of ghosts and gravestones

The symmetrical grand design of the New Town features spacious crescents, round circuses, and private gardens. This sounds like the writer is standing on the corner of Heriot Row and the steep hill of Dundas Street with a view of Fife: “It is surprising to see a perspective of a mile or more of falling street and beyond that woods, villas, a blue arm of sea and the hills upon the further side.” 

The view across to Fife from the corner of Heriot Row and Dundas Street

RLS takes a walk to the Dean Bridge over the Water of Leith where “carriages go spinning by and ladies with card cases pass to and fro about the duties of society” (elegant 19th century ladies who lunch!).

He recalls outdoor adventures as a schoolboy with a love of nature: “many an escalade of garden walls, a ramble among lilacs  .. when the Spring comes round, the hawthorn begins to flower and the meadows smell of young grass”.

Calton Hill has hardly changed since Stevenson’s day with the Athens of the North  ‘Parthenon’, Lord Nelson’s monument and Observatory. “Of all places for a view, Calton Hill is the best, since you can see the Castle, Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Palace, Princes Street, Leith, the Firth. It is the place to stroll on one of those days of sunshine.”

Calton Hill with views over the city and across the Firth of Forth to Fife

In the chapter, Winter and New Year, RLS embraces the Scotch dialect to describe the cold wind – “snell, blae and scowthering, words which carry a shiver with them.” But there’s nothing cosier than an old pub, “the warm atmosphere of tavern parlours and the revelery of lawyers’ clerks.”

He finds a painterly beauty in the winter chill. “We enjoy superb sunsets, the profile of the city stamped in indigo upon a sky of luminous green.”

The New Year festive season in Edinburgh is listed in the book, ‘1,000 Places to See before you Die,’ attracting thousands of global visitors to join in the Hogmanay Street Party with music and fireworks.   

For RLS too, it was “the great national festival, a time of deep carousel, musicians, whisky and shortbread, singing Auld Lang Syne”. 

Hogmanay in Edinburgh: fireworks from Edinburgh Castle at midnight

He remembers student days at Edinburgh University enjoying “heroic snowballing – skating and sliding on Duddingston Loch – reminiscent of the iconic painting of Reverend Robert Walker by Henry Raeburn (c.1795).

Reverend Robert Walker by Sir Henry Raeburn

While he is fond of the city streets and sociable lifestyle, he would often escape to the rural tranquility of the Pentlands, Fairmilehead for a walk beside rivers and rolling hills, “a bouquet of old trees, a white farmhouse,  the bleating of flocks… a field of wild heathery peaks”.

The Pentland hills, to the south side of Edinburgh

After many journeys far and wide, Robert Louis Stevenson left his family home in 1887 for the last time, sailed to New York, toured America and from San Francisco he and his wife Fanny chartered a schooner to cruise the South Seas. In 1890 they settled on the island of Upolo where he adopted the Samoan name, Tusitala, the Teller of Tales.

Stevenson would never forget his emotional attachment to the city of his birth, as he wrote in this memoir of Picturesque Notes.

“ There is no Edinburgh emigrant, far or near, from China to Peru, but he or she carries some lively pictures of the mind, some sunset behind the Castle cliffs, some snow scene, some maze of city lamps, indelible in the memory.” 

https://www.manderleypress.com/home

https://www.manderleypress.com/shop/p/edinburgh

Note: I would like to suggest that a decorative ribbon bookmark would enhance the design and the leisurely experience of reading these classic books by Manderley Press. 

The addition of photographs and imagery in this feature are to offer background information and colourful illustration only.

Wishing you a cool, crisp, sparkling Festive season with Codorníu Cava and Vida Wines

Codorniu is probably one of the UK’s most recognisable Cava labels and no wonder. As the pioneer winemakers behind the first ever bottle of Cava, this is the oldest Spanish winery celebrating over 450 years of cultural heritage with the famous C Logo as the iconic image.

In 1551 Jaume Codorníu founded his family wine making business producing still wines; the marriage between the heiress Anna Codorníu and winegrower Miquel Raventós in 1659 brought two wine dynasties together but Anna’s surname was retained as the brand name.

The Codornuiu family vineyards, near Barcelona

Two centuries later, Josep Raventós Fatjó came back to Spain from a fact-finding research trip around France and, copying the production method of French Champagne, created his own brand of sparkling wine.  He ordered a cave (or cava in Catalan) to be built, a labyrinth of underground cellars to store wines for fermentation at a constant, cool temperature. 

In 1872, he produced his first bottle of Cava using the same traditional method as Champagne, using a blend of native grape varieties of Penedès: Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada.

The underground cellars to store the wine for fermentation and ageing

Manuel Raventós was an early drinks entrepreneur, keen to develop Cava as a successful business. In 1895 he made plans to build a new building at the winery with the Art Nouveau artist, Josep Puig i Cadafalch in charge of design and construction.  

The Codorniu Art Nouveau House of Cava

When it opened in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia near Barcelona in 1915, Cavas Codorníu became a Catalan Modernist artistic symbol of the company’s enterprising spirit and vision of the future.

Vintage advertising for Codorniu Cava in the late 19th century

Marketing Champagne Codorniu was most inspired with 1898 artistic posters by Ramon Casas.  Codorníu was also first advertised on Spanish Television in 1959 – once again a pioneering commerical promotion ahead of the game. 

In 1976 the Codorníu House of Cava was named a National Historic Artistic Monument by King Juan Carlos.

The first and very fashionable Catalan Cava launched in 1872

Since its earliest days, Raventós Codorníu winery has been synonymous with innovation and quality, using premium grapes from the family vineyard estate. The traditional method involves two fermentations of the grape juice, first in barrels before transferred into bottles where yeast and sugar are added, then sealed with a temporary closure. The wine has a secondary fermentation to convert into alcohol and a natural by-product, CO2, dissolves into tiny bubbles to create naturally sparkling wine.  The bottles are turned neck down and gradually rotated funnelling the yeast sediment (the lees) into the neck. When this is cooled, the pressure of the wine pushes out the sediment, a little sugar and wine called a dosage is added and the bottle finally sealed with a cork.

The sophistated, elegant lifestyle of Cordorniu Cava

So time to pop a couple of corks! 

Codorníu Vintage Brut 2019. 

Grape varieties:  Macabeo, Xarel·lo and Parellada. Alcohol content: 11.5%.

There is a specific harvest time for each variety of grape, Macabeo at the end of August, followed by Xarel.lo and finally Parellada, early October. The grapes are destemmed and crushed with the wines blended and bottled. A second fermentation followed by a period of ageing in the underground cellars at a constant temperature for at least 9 months. This is the traditional method.

Characteristics.  A pale straw yellow colour, an aroma of citrus fruit, almond blossom with notes of brioche and dried fruits and nuts.  A fine mousse on the palate with balanced freshness. Serve well chilled.

Ice cold Codorniu Vintage Cava

The Taste Test

Nose: lemon zest, softly floral.

Taste: the first sip is sensational, the “fizz” is so delicate and fresh tasting, crisp apple and dry like a water biscuit. The overall impression is its smooth elegance, far removed from a sweet Prosecco or honeyed Chardonnay Cava. 

If this were a blind tasting with a few coupes of French champagne, it would surely fool the judges. 

The quality is due to the fact this is a vintage cava made with grapes from a single harvest. Perfect to sip as an apéritif or with tapas and fish dishes- smoked salmon, calamari.  

(Interestingly, Sainsbury Taste the Difference vintage Cava is supplied by Codorniu so they have selected the best!).

Codorniu Rosado

Codorníu Rosado Cava

Grape varieties: Monastrell, Garnacha and Trepat. Alcoholic content, 11.5%

This sparkling wine is also made in the traditional method, the same way as Champagne which gives the wine depth of flavour, elegance and long-lasting, fine bubbles.

Characteristics: A dry, pure and bright Rosé fizz with the aroma of strawberry. Serve chilled (6-8°c)

The Taste Test

Nose:  pale cherry pink in colour with the fragrance of summer berries and blossom

Taste: light and fruity with zingy notes of raspberry, strawberry and juicy plum. Fresh and vibrant, rather than sweet, well balanced and with a crisp finish, like a dry, blush Rosé from Provence with bubbles. This is the flagship Rosado Cava in the UK.

A delicious, pure, pink fizz to sip as an aperitif – perhaps add a raspberry to the flute too. This is a celebratory toast as a charismatic change from classic Cava. In summer, (or any time), serve with a dessert of mixed berries and cream.

Pink fizz with raspberries for extra fruitiness

Proudly Catalonian, Codorníu Cava has been contemporary since 1872, constantly keeping up with trends and tastes to maintain its global reputation, producing an innovative range of sparkling wines, Anna Codorniu, Brut Codorníu, Non-Vintage Brut, Vintage Brut, Codorníu Ars Collecta Blanc de Noirs. 

Codorniu Anna – the modern taste of Cava

Named after their 17th century ancestor, Anna is the most modern expression in the range, the first to use chardonnay grapes: youthful, fresh with a unique personality, this is the brand’s emblematic Cava reflecting its fine heritage.  The perfect aperitif and an ideal partner for shellfish, sushi, sashimi and carpaccio.

Today, Raventós Codorníu has more than 3,000 hectares of vineyards, one of the largest vineyard owners in Europe; Codorníu is the best selling Cava brand in Spain and exported to 50 countries, 54 gold medals and their range of sparkling wines are served at over 50 Michelin star restaurants worldwide.

Codorníu promote a contemporary Mediterranean lifestyle – sunshine, beaches, joy, freedom; casual, spontaneous, sometimes sophisticated; celebrations and special moments in life – to share the Cava experience worldwide.

The, contemporary, Codorniu Catalonian lifestyle

Codorníu Discovery and Iconic tours in the Cava Capital

 Casa Codorníu is located 30 minutes from Barcelona in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. Learn all about the history of the family dynasty on a tour of the House of Cava, the majestic Art Nouveau building designed by the architect, Josep Puig i Cadafalch; Taste three iconic prestigious Cavas and a small aperitif.

The vintage artwork at the historic Codorniu winery

Read more about Codorníu Cava here:

http://www.raventoscodorniu.com/en

Just time to add a personal recommendation for VIDA, an exciting new wine and spirit company in the UK, highly regarded for personal customer service. 

VIDA UK is the third branch of the company, following on from Sofia & Vienna, as part of a growing family tree. The idea behind Vida Wines began about 5 years ago when a vineyard was acquired in Northwest Bulgaria, close to the medieval fortress of Baba Vida, which inspired the name.

Baba Vida Castle, Bulgaria

The region has a long winemaking history thanks to a unique microclimate.  As wine makers and importers, VIDA Wines offer the finest Central and Eastern European wines carefully curated from 15 countries to showcase the classics, new producers and exclusive wines.

Vida Viognier

Country of origin: Bulgaria, Danubian Plain

Grape Variety:  Vigonier. Vintage:  2020. ABV: 12.5%

Characteristics:  Delicate nose with great elegance and aromatic nuances of white flora, apricots, herbs, toast. Dense with fresh acidity and a slight minerality which contributes to its great quality. Long, persistent, fruity finish.

The Taste Test:

Aroma:  a delicate fruitiness, the scent of an orchard.  

Taste:  As I would often select Sauvignon Blanc (NZ), Chenin Blanc (South Africa), and Pinot Grigio (Italy), this has a fresh, dry, crisp clarity which is distinctively different. The lingering, soft apricot – peach flavour adds to the dryness with a hint of lime and spicy lemongrass. Deliciously delicate.  The viognier grape creates an aromatic fuller-bodied style of white wine and pairs well with white meats, fish, shellfish, scallops and dishes with earthy herbs, e.g. basil in a classic Italian Caprese.

On Trust Pilot, Vida Wines has received 5 stars from 92% of their customers.

Reviews from happy drinkers: Winter 2021

Excellent service, great selection of wines and superb advice, cannot fault them and will certainly be buying more Vida wines.

Great service and the wine was beyond expectations.

Vida may be a new company in the UK but they have a refreshingly old fashioned attitude to customer service and I fully recommend them.

These are a few suggestions from VIDA which will add an inspiring range of hand picked European wines for your Christmas or New Year party. 

 Under £10 wines:

•          VIDA EXCLUSIVE : VIDA Viognier 2020 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £9.99.

•          VIDA Direct from Vineyard : Averesti Selectie Cabernet Sauvignon NV Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £7.99.

Under £15 wines:

•          VIDA Direct from Vineyard: Kristančič Chardonnay 2019 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £14.69.

•          Angerhof- Tschida Beerenauslese 2017: Angerhof-Tschida Beerenauslese 2017 Vida Wines and Spirits UK ,£13.89.

Under £25 wines

•          VIDA direct from Vineyard: Kristančič Pavo Cristatus Classic Cuvee 2014 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £21.29.

•          Karl Fritsch Riesling Mordthal 2019 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £21.79.

Browse the full collection of wines and spirits here:

https://vidawines.co.uk/

Eat, Drink and be merry this Festive seaon. Cheers!

‘From Spring to Spirit’ 1881 Distillery at Peebles Hydro: natural, hand-crafted, refreshing Gins

Peebles Hydro Hotel

The 1881 Distillery, located in the grounds of Peebles Hydro Hotel in the Scottish Borders, is named after the year when the Hydropathic Spa first opened here, offering Therapeutic treatments using water from its own Shieldgreen Spring.

Peebles Hydropathic Spa before 1905

The Victorian Spa tragically burned down in 1905 but was rebuilt, and with an ethos for health and wellbeing, became a popular tennis destination.  In the 1920s, Peebles Hydro had more tennis courts than Wimbledon and hosted tournaments and the Scottish Championships.  

Peebles Hydro Resort the home of Tennis championships in the 1920s

It was this tennis heritage when G & T was served on the lawn in the summer sunshine, which inspired the idea a few years ago to create a Gin distillery at the Resort.  Built above the former swimming pool, the 1881 Distillery opened in October 2019. 

Gin makers, Lauren Appleyard and Dean McDonald with “Felicity” the copper Still

Charlie Leckie, Brand Manager, is a sixth generation member at the family hotel: “We’re proud of the heritage of Peebles Hydro which is embodied by the 1881 Gin, a blend of carefully chosen Scottish botanicals and distilled in the heart of the Borders.”

Stephen Leckie (CEO,Crieff Hydro hotels) with his son Charlie

With the tagline, ‘Spring to Spirit,’ water is sourced from the local Shieldgreen spring which had traditionally been used for the Hydropathic Spa treatments. ‘Felicity’, the copper Still makes five distinctive gins – London Dry, Pavilion Pink, Honours, Rafters and Tiffin, each with their own logo and bottle illustration paying homage to the heritage of Peebles Hydro.  Tonic 81 is also made at the Distillery, Premium, Light, Pink Grapefruit and Elderflower, the perfect mixer for each gin.

Floral, fruiity and spicy botanicals for the diverse range of gins

Hydro London Dry Gin (40% ABV)

The botanicals include juniper, bay, hawthorn berries, cardamom, cassia, birch bark, fir needles, grapefruit peel, grains of paradise, milk thistle – many grown in the Peebles Hydro gardens – then blended with the pure Spring water.

Distillery notes:

Nose: Fresh, piney juniper and fir, with grapefruit citrus and aromatic cardamom.

Palate: Hawthorn, birch and fir back up an initial wave of juniper, giving way to warming cassia and bay.

Finish: A long, smooth, citric finish with bay leaf and subtle earthiness from our local botanicals.

Serve: a large measure with a wedge of pink grapefruit and a splash of premium tonic water.

RTD 1881 Hydro Gin and Tonic in a can

The Hydro G&T is available RTD in a can, perfect from summer picnics to Christmas parties. 

The Taste Test:  If popping a cork of Champagne should sound like a maiden’s sigh, my ice-chilled can of G&T opens with a loud fizz, which I poured into a large glass over ice and slice. A subtle flavour at first with floral and earthy juniper notes but then an underlying aromatic ginger spice kicks in, which is sharp and refreshing.

1881 Pavilion Peebles Pink Gin (40% ABV)

The 1881 Pavilion Pink Gin is a classic gin with the addition of wild Scottish red berries and a hint of floral hibiscus, named in honour of the hotel’s historical tennis pavilion.

Distillery notes:

Nose: Silky red fruits, juniper, spice and citrus

Palate: Fresh raspberry complemented by strawberry, hibiscus and gentle spice from cardamom and grains of paradise

Finish: Creamy fruit fading to citrus, pine, red Berries

Serve: A few fresh raspberries, a sprig of mint, tonic and ice.

The 1881 Pavilion G&T is also available ready to drink in a can.

The Taste test: Floral, fruity and fragrantly perfumed with a honeyed sweetness. An ice cold summertime drink or served with dessert: raspberries / strawberries & cream, Eton Mess, Strawberry Pavlova, or Scones and jam for a decadent Afternoon tea.

The tragic fire of 1905 at Peebles Hydropathic Spa

Rafters Subtly Smoked Gin (40% abv)

In the Summer of 1905, a spark in the roof space caused a devastating fire at Peebles Hydro. But within a few years the hotel was thankfully restored with grand Edwardian architecture and art deco style. To commemorate the Phoenix rising from the ashes is Rafters Subtly Smoked Gin, with its stunning image depicting the hotel billowing with smoke.

Distiller’s notes:

Nose: Subtle but distinct sweet oak smoke, followed by our signature profile of juniper, cardamom and grapefruit.

Palate: Warming smoke and spice intermingle to create a savoury gin suitable for sipping or mixing. The palate develops into juniper freshness backed by citrus.

Finish: A lengthy finish of warm citrus and wisps of smoke draw you back for another sip.

Serve: Sip neat, over ice, or in a G&T with a wedge of lime and a slice of chilli pepper.

The Taste test of pure, neat gin: The aroma of oak smoke followed by earthy juniper and citrus sweetness. Then the first taste – distinctive bonfire wood smoke and a blend of spices to create a savoury gin with a lingering juniper freshness. Warming cardamom, fruity citrus and delectable smokiness.  

Wow! This has the X factor, utterly divine and one of the most delicious, dynamic, dramatic gins I have experienced.

The verdict from the Masters of Malt

Distilled using a variety of gin botanicals including piney juniper and tart pink grapefruit. An undertone of smoke supports vibrant grapefruit citrus, a touch of cinnamon and a strong juniper finish. Best served over ice with a classic tonic to enjoy the complex, smoky spirit with a garnish of lime and ginger.  Subtle hints of smoke on the palate make this a distinctive spirit which stands up particularly well in cocktails, including a Negroni.

1881 Rafters Negroni

50ml Rafters gin, 25ml sweet Rosso vermouth, 25ml Campari.  Orange garnish.

1881 Rafters Gin for a distinctively different Negroni

The simplest of cocktails to make at home without the need of a shaker – just pour all these ingredients into a chunky Rocks glass with a large ice cube. Stir gently and add a wedge of orange.  The bittersweet aroma of the Campari blends perfectly with the Rafters gin to make a delicious and very special smoky Negroni.  The Count would certainly approve!.

1881 Dry Gin Martini

50 ml Rafters gin, 15 ml dry vermouth.

1881 Rafters Gin Martini has an elegant, sophisticated flavour

Add to a cocktail shaker with lots of ice and stir or shake gently. Pour into a cocktail glass or champagne saucer with a garnish of olive.  The smokiness enhances the typical bone-dry punch of a Martini with such an elegant, smooth taste. 

As we are heading into dark, chilly nights of winter, why not ring the changes of a Whisky hot toddy and add Rafter’s gin instead ?

Hot Gin Toddy

300ml water, 1 ginger teabag, 2 cinnamon sticks, 4 cardamom pods, 4 whole cloves, 1 tablespoon clear honey, freshly squeezed orange juice, 100ml 1881 Rafters gin (serves 2)

Hot Gin Toddy – the perfect winter warmer

Add the water, ginger teabag, cinnamon, cardamom pods and cloves to a saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes; stir in the honey and citrus juice and gently heat for few more minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the gin. Strain off the spices, if preferred, or keep the cinammon stick to stir and pour into two large mugs, with an orange or lemon garnish.  A winter warmer after a bracing walk in the snow.  

1881 Distillery news:

Gift box sets of four gins (5cl and 20cl)

This festive season, the 1881 Distillery offers gift boxes of four gins in two sizes, 5cl and 20cl. – Hydro London Dry, Pavilion Pink, Rafters and Honours Navy-strength Gin.

Silver award for 1881 Tiffin Gin, Scottish Gin Awards 2021

1881 Distillery won Silver award for Flavoured Gin of the Year at the recent Scottish Gin Awards 2021. Tiffin Gin incorporates light aromatic, warming spices to achieve its distinctive taste, with notes of cumin, cardamom, and kaffir lime.

Visit the 1881 Distillery and Gin School

The 1881 Distillery gin school

The 1881 Distillery at Peebles Hydro has the largest residential Gin school with a classroom of 26 mini-stills, offering a range of day and overnight Experiences to learn about distilling gin and craft your own spirit, Tours and tastings.  

For more information on Peebles Hydro, 1881 distillery, on line shop and the Gin School:

1881 Distillery,

Peebles Hydro, Innerleithen Road, Peebles, EH45 8LX

info@1881distillery.com

www.1881distillery.com

www.peebleshydro.co.uk

Peebles Hydro Spa Resort, Scottish Borders

Experience a fun, cultural, foodie, city break in Manchester this Festive season

Having visiting Manchester a few years ago, I planned another trip recently to find out what’s on, where to go and what to see during the festive season.  Instead of a seasonal sleigh, I had a smooth, comfortable journey on a brand new Nova Tranpennine Express electric train from Edinburgh. There are five carriages, with 264 seats in standard class, 22 in first class, complimentary wifi and a power socket at every seat. Trolley service for refreshments and snacks, and storage for 4 bicycles. The Nova 2 trains run between Edinburgh and Manchester Airport so the ideal route if planning to jet off somewhere exotic.

The sleek new Nova 2 Transpennine Express train from Edinburgh to Manchester Airport

As I headed south to Manchester, meanwhile my sister, June, was speeding north from London Euston on an Aviva train: the itinerary for our Christmas shopping and cultural city break began with perfect synchronicity, the two trains arriving on time, just four minutes apart at 1.23pm and 1.27pm respectively.

Take the train from around the country to Manchester Piccadilly

Manchester’s Christmas Markets have been attracting thousands of visitors to the city centre every year since 1998 to add a sparkle to the winter chill.  Staying at the Mercure hotel was a great central location on Portland Street, Piccadilly Gardens, which has been transformed into the ‘Winter Gardens’. This is a pop up village of Christmas market stalls and log cabin bars such as Apres Ski & Off Piste where you can warm up with an Alpine Ale, mulled wine, prosecco, cider, Nordic Glogg, Hot toddy and a Bailey’s coffee.

The Alpine ski-themed Winter Gardens, Piccadilly Square

The markets are also located across St Ann’s Square, Exchange Square, New Cathedral Street, King Street, Market Street and Cathedral Gardens which will entice the skaters to the ice rink. A central stage with a series of live music events will entertain the crowds.  Sip Gluhwein and sample apple strudel around the traditional German stalls, and, of course, Bratwurst – perhaps best to share the half a metre sausage!   

The half metre Bratwurst German sausage

Dine around the world from  Little Spain – paella, chorizo rolls, patatas bravas and hot sangria to Mexico Joes Ltd – Chicken flatbread, falafel, and halloumi fries. Eat Greek – halloumi fries, pitta bread, Elsie Mays for warm brownies and milkshakes. French, Sicilian and Dutch dishes too.  An American feast at Triple B -Pastrami Burger and a huge Turkey Reuben bagel.

The best of British at Porkys of Yarm serving Hot roast pork rolls, Hydes beers, local cider, English wines  and Clowbecks for Cumberland sausage, bubble & squeak, tatties, mulled wine and lager.  Porky Pig  Yorkshire puddings wraps. Battered pigs in blankets. For vegetarians and vegans, Panc is a plant-based stall offers meat free sausages, burgers, fried chick’n and more.

And of course, the Markets are the place to buy innovative gifts galore – from chocolates and cheese, to toys and games, arts and crafts, soaps, clothing, socks, hats, gloves, leather bags and wallets, jewellery.

The Markets are open until Wednesday December 22, 10am to 9pm daily with some stalls continuing around the Winter and Cathedral Gardens into the New Year.

A night at the theatre to see the musical, Waitress at the Opera House, originally The New Theatre, which opened on Boxing Day, 1912, then renamed the Opera House in 1920. It was a cinema in WW2, then a bingo hall before launched as a theatre again in 1984, renowned for touring musicals such as Barnum and Phantom of the Opera.  Waitress is a comedy drama set in an American diner and after the ten day run in Manchester, it’s now on tour around the country so do catch this heart-warming, feminist, feel good show if you can.  

The pantomime at the Opera House this year is Aladdin, starring Alexandra Burke, with flying carpets, a genie, an evil sorcerer, magical effects, song and dance.  

Warmly recommended for a pre-post theatre lunch or supper is Bill’s Spinningfields which is perfectly located a two minute walk away from the Opera House.

‘Our passion for great food, cooked with care in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Whether with friends, family or an intimate dinner for two, from breakfast to bedtime and everything in between.’ 

Bill’s started 20 years ago, when Bill Collison opened his Greengrocer’s shop in Lewes, East Sussex and soon added a café, a concept for seasonal local food which has gradually grown into a collection of restaurants across the UK.  

The modern, stylish menu changes seasonally – quality, gastropub, homely food with generous portions and is very vegetarian-vegan friendly.  I selected crispy calamari, perfect finger food, dipping the rings into the creamy aioli.  Then a veggie burger, Halloumi, avocado and roasted peppers, with sweet potato fries.  My sister nibbled a few olives to start and then enjoyed a real, juicy meat burger, cooked to her liking, with rosemary fries (we declined the bun to reduce the calories). With our meal we sipped one of the house wines, the South African, Journey’s End Chardonnay – deliciously crisp and dry.

This Christmas season, with the witty Wizard of Oz theme, There’s No Place Like Bill’s, you will be tempted by the enticing seasonal food and cocktail menu such as Pigs-in-blankets,  Christmas Truffle Cheese Fondue Burger,  Boxing Day curry, Truffalo sprouts and for dessert,  sugar-sprinkled Snow Nuts or Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, a red berry cheesecake with chocolate tree, stars and baubles.

Time for party cocktails: Gin-gle Bells (Whitley Neill Raspberry Gin, Chambord, fresh pineapple), Passion Fruit Spritz and the Strawberry Margarita.

After the theatre, it was back to the Mercure hotel for a nightcap at the Level 3 Lounge Bar overlooking the bright lights of the Christmas market.  The ‘seasonal’ cocktail list includes a Summer Mojito (not quite right for a chilly winter night!), and, disappointing that there was no Campari in stock for the Negroni. I chose a classic Gin Martini (but no olive garnish available), while June sipped a Nojito, a minty, fruity tipple without the rum.

Gin Martini and Nojito at Level 3 Bar, Mercure Hotel with city views

Art lovers should visit the Contemporary 6 Gallery, 37 Princess Street, owned by Alex Reuben who selects a series of inspiring shows of paintings, modern prints, (Picasso, Kandinsky, Matisse), ceramics and sculpture. Throughout November is the eclectic artwork of Jim Moir (as seen on Sky TV, Celebrity Portrait and Landscape Artist), ranging from a flight of birds to quirky portraits.

For a marvellous day out for all ages, take a trip to the Trafford Centre, five miles from the city centre, and easy to get there by metrolink tram. This is very much like This is very much like an American shopping mall with designer and high street stores, not least a large branch of Selfridges, as well as a cinema, bowling alley, Game arena and Legoland.  After browsing the shops or seeing a movie, time for refreshments, but signage needs improved as where to eat and drink is difficult to find. The Orient is designed around the replica of a pool deck on a classic ocean liner featuring numerous bars and bistros from All Bar One to Zizzi. A huge marble staircase modelled on the Titanic leads to the Great Hall and features the largest chandelier in the world.

The marble Titanic staircase at the Great Hall,Trafford Centre

Drink, eat and stay at the Kimpton Clocktower which was named recently in the Sunday Times as one of the best 100 hotels in the UK. Founded in San Francisco in 1981, the cool, quirky Kimpton brand focuses on art, wellness, modern cuisine and playful style while reflecting the heritage of each destination. 

The landmark clocktower above the Kimpton Hotel, Manchester

The majestic Victorian red brick and terracotta building was initially the The Refuge Assurance Company (1890), which opened as the hotel on 1st October 2020. In the lobby, a bronze horse sculpted by Sophie Dickens illustrates the turning circle for the former Hansom cabs and carriages; original features include ceramic tiles, stained glass and wooden staircases juxtaposed with contemporary furnishings.

The lobby at the Kimpton with horse sculpture

Bold colourfully designed bedrooms and suites are draped in velvet with bespoke decor and artwork by Scottish company Timorous Beasties, while vinyl records of Manchester’s famous bands from the Stone Roses to Oasis can be played on a turntable. Guests can take use of the in room yoga mat, the complimentary tuck box and many bathrooms boast a classic roll top bathtub.

Signature suite at the Kimpton Clocktower, designed by Timorous Beasties

Relax over a drink or Afternoon tea in The Winter Garden, an interior glasshouse blossoming with plants and trees and wine and dine at The Refuge by Volta. The Refuge Bar and Dining Room is a vast but elegant space of interconnecting salons where on a Friday night the lounge area was buzzing with happy drinkers and around the corner, the fabulous Restaurant with well designed, comfy banquette seating and half moon booths.  

Refuge by Volta – stylish, soul food for sharing

An innovative menu of Soul Food for sharing is neatly divided into Meat, Seafood, On the Side and Vegetables, inspired around the global travels by the DJ -Restaurateurs, Justin Crawford and Luke Cowdrey.   

First of all it’s time for finely crafted cocktails – the Drinks list is most enticing with a celebration of gin and modern twists on the classics. Like a revamped French 75, is ‘Glamour of Manchester’:– Malfy rose gin, lemon, hibiscus syrup, Champagne.  There’s an innovative selection of spirits especially speciality gins for the perfect serve such as Aviation, Gin Mare, Malfy Rosa, Monkey 47 and Ramsbury Single Estate Gin.

The pure, smooth taste of Ramsbury Single Estate Gin (Wiltshire) for the perfect Martini

My Gin Martini was a masterclass of the art which hit the spot with lip smacking delight. Across the table, June selected The Queen’s Peach – Spiced rum, peach, lime, mint with a splash of prosecco – for a refreshing taste of the Caribbean.   

Masterly curated Cocktails at Refuge by Volta

Advised to select four to five dishes for two, we chose the ras-el-hanout scented chicken, salt cod croquettes with tartare aioli, tenderstem broccoli, chargrilled cauliflower and chickpea daal, for an eclectic Middle Eastern, Asia and Spanish culinary journey.  The vegetables were perfectly cooked almost al dente and the creamy daal in coconut milk was mixed with apricots and dates. For dessert, a sticky toffee pudding was the perfect finale to a superlative meal. Hospitality by Jake and James was exemplary.  

As well as sipping a delicious Sartori Pinot Grigio, the wine list tours the world to France, Spain, South Africa, Australia and Lebanon.  With DJs in charge of the ambience, you can expect a lively vibe with a soothing, sassy mix of jazz, swing, funk, soul and house.

Superlative, modern cuisine at the Refuge by Volta: soul food for sharing

Experience the magic of Manchester this Christmas at the Kimpton Clocktower. Treat yourself to a stay in one of the gorgeously styled rooms or suites and enjoy a three course Christmas Day lunch with a glass of fizz and festive snacks in The Refuge, breakfast each day is included and chill out for a leisurely 3pm checkout on departure.  

Enjoy a fine feast of Brunch at Refuge by Volta

Hope this all whets your appetite to plan a magical, cultural and shopping trip to Manchester soon.

Links to help you research your visit.

https://www.visitmanchester.com/

https://bills-website.co.uk/restaurants/manchester

https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/aladdin/opera-house-manchester/

https://www.contemporarysix.co.uk/about-us/

https://traffordcentre.co.uk/

www.kimptonclocktowerhotel.com

Waitress: a feel-good, feminist, rom-com musical as sweet as American blueberry pie @ Opera House, Manchester (and on tour).

This popular and very successful stage musical is based on the 2007 movie, Waitress which was selected for Sundance Festival, became a box office hit, making nearly $22 million on a $1.5 million-dollar budget. 

Written and directed by Adrienne Shelly, it tells the classic American tale of Jenna, a small- town girl who works in a diner but has big dreams for the future.

When producers Barry and Fran Weissler saw Waitress, they knew it would make a great Broadway show: “I saw the movie and thought, ‘This is heart-wrenching, touching and funny.  An all-female creative team behind the book, music and director led to four Tony nominations including Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Actress.  It then played in London for a year until forced to close in March 2020 for lockdown.

Becky (Sandra Marvin), Jenna (Lucie Jones), Dawn (Evelyn Hoskins)

Bouncing back again, the UK tour stars Lucie Jones, Sandra Marvin and Evelyn Hoskins who reprise their West End roles. The realistic stage set depicts the colourful Joe’s Diner with counter, stools, tables, booths, blackboard menu, and outside, a panoramic rural scene of telegraph poles against a blue sky.

The show kicks off in a colourful, rousing manner with a medley of songs, as we are introduced to the terrific trio of waitresses, Cal, the diner manager and old Joe, the owner, who loves to try the speciality dish of the day. Jenna is a talented baker devising her own Couch Potato and Polka Dot Peach Pies. She plans to enter a local Pie contest with the chance to win $25,000 which would solve her financial worries and escape her domineering husband Earl.

Earl (Tamlyn Hendrson) and Jenna (Lucie Jones)

Jenna, Becky and Dawn are close workmates and loyal friends, offering advice on life, love, romance and marriage, woman to woman. With her vivacious, sunny pesonality, Becky cheers the girls up, boosting their confidence. Petite, with a high pitched girly voice, the cookie, cute Dawn is rather naive but keen to find a man on a dating site. She just needs to find someone who likes History’s Mysteries on TV.

Jenna the star baker of Joe’s Diner

The song lyrics drive the storyline along such as the upbeat, What Baking Can Do in which Jenna remembers how she made cakes with her mother, who encouraged her to do well in pursuit of happiness.

So with flour on my hands
I’ll show them all how
Goddamn happy I am
Sugar, butter, flour ..

Jenna cracks eggs into a bowl, sifts flour and rolls out pastry dough while she acts and sings, all at the same time with neat, multi-tasking talent.  

Another passionate song, A Soft Place to Land, sung in perfect harmony by the three girls, relates how they are all determined to change their lives for the better.

Dawn (Evie Hoskins), Becky (Sandra Marvin), and Jenna (Lucie Jones)

The arrival of a new doctor in town quickly sparks an immediate romantic interest although unfortunately he is married. And so is she.  Think ‘Brief Encounter’. She seduces him with delicious cakes and as the intimate scenes with Dr. Pomatter (Matt Jay-Willis) are often in slow motion in a shimmering light – is this really happening or a fantasy of her imagination.? 

Jenna (Lucie Jones) and Dr. Pomatter (Matt Jay-Willis)

The topical narrative centres around Jenna who smiles happily, serving cakes in Joe’s diner, hiding the dark secret of Earl’s bossy, bullying behaviour at home.  She is vulnerable, lost and afraid but has a strong-minded spirit illustrated in a beautiful ballad, She Used to be Mine: Lucie Jones is a true opera diva, showing off her soaring vocal range and deep emotion, enhanced with an echo effect.

If I’m honest I know I would give it all back
For a chance to start over
And rewrite an ending or two
For the girl that I knew.

Lucie Jones is a true diva star as Jenna in Waitress

Sassy, smart and soulful, Waitress is a feel good, feminist, musical comedy with strong, dramatic punch.  Fine characterisation, sharp dialogue, charming songs, witty lyrics and moments of LOL hilarity, it all flows along to the lively score performed on stage by the six piece band.  Slick choreography too for the ensemble numbers with high flying pies galore. 

Imagine The Great British Bake Off as a musical: expect a sweet and savoury dish, a chunk of cheesy romance and a sprinkling of hot spice, the recipe for a perfectly baked show as delicious as American blueberry pie. No wonder there was a standing ovation at the Opera House, Manchester.

Show times:

Opera House, Manchester 8 – 20 November, 2021

https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/waitress/opera-house-manchester/

For a pre-theatre supper, Bill’s Spinningfields is warmly recommended. Just a two minute walk from the Opera House

Waitress on tour:  https://www.waitressthemusical.co.uk/

The cookie, cute Dawn (Evelyn Hoskins) and her admirer Ogie (George Crawford)

‘Evocative Skies’ magical vistas from beach scenes to city panoramas – an exhibition by Jamie Primrose @ Dundas Street Gallery

Since 2003, Jamie Primrose has presented artwork at over forty solo exhibitions, specialising in city, land and seascapes from Scotland to the South of France. This new showcase focuses on the dramatic beauty of skyscapes along the East Lothian coastline and across Edinburgh.

East Lothian seascapes by Jamie Primrose at the Dundas Street Gallery

The ‘Evocative Skies‘ exhibition is well laid out following a geographical route from the sandy beaches of North Berwick to Tyninghame and Yellowcraig, around the gallery to the rolling hills, high spires and streets of the Capital.

A selection of panoramic sunsets across Edinburgh, by Jamie Primrose

The introduction to ‘Evocative Skies,” describes the artistic theme:

The transient nature of light onto water and land to create luminosity and atmosphere, the dream-like quality of glorious streams of light reflecting onto the sea and iridescent sands; these sweeping cloudscapes depict the ever-changing play of light above sparkling, tranquil shores’.

The glowing, glimmering luminosity of fading sun is clearly illustrated in Late Afternoon looking towards Cove, in which the viewer feels they are standing on the sand to observe the immensity of the clear blue sky. This impressionistic scene is captured in striated layers where the sea meets the sand, and a line of white cloud hovering over the distant hills.

Late Afternoon looking towards Cove, Jamie Primrose

The iconic pudding shape of the bird sanctuary takes centre stage in Looking towards Bass Rock from North Berwick Beach, given a perfect perspective between the lapping waves on the beach and mauve-tinted clouds; a realistic sense of a brisk breeze whipping up over the sea and sky too.

Looking towards Bass Rock from North Berwick Beach, Jamie Primrose

Another majestic view of the craggy island in Clouds passing over North Berwick depicting a more blustery day. Again, the sky takes prominence, spanning over two thirds of the painting, with just a slither of sea on the edge of the sandy beach. 

Clouds passing over North Berwick, Jamie Primrose

The Stevenson lighthouse on the island of Fidra is the focal point of Reflections on Yellowcraig Beach. Robert Louis Stevenson (who spent holidays in North Berwick), is said to have been inspired by the rocky shape of Fidra for his map of ‘Treasure Island’.

Treasure Island – perhaps inspired by the island of Fidra

This is such an evocative and tranquil study of Yellowcraig beach after the tide has ebbed away leaving glistening wet sand with slender shards of sunlight below the billowing cloud.

Reflections on Yellowcraig Beach, Jamie Primrose

The fading light at dusk is captured with such a delicate, pale palette in Tyninghame Reflections – the thick brush strokes sweep a soft dusty pink across the sky reflected with an impressionistic flourish on the waves and shoreline. Such an atmospheric, contemplative composition.

Tyninghame Reflections, Jamie Primrose

This is almost reminiscent of the artist’s previous abstract landscapes such as Tierra de La Luz (Costa Rica, 2003).  The translucent sheen of blue, indigo and tangerine, with Rothko-esque expressionism, depict the horizon over the sea at sunset with stunning simplicity.

Tierra de La Luz, Costa Rica, Jamie Primrose

Perhaps, Jamie Primrose might be inspired to experiment again with his earlier, masterly artisic style to express these seascapes in similar abstract mode and manner, through blocks of pure colour, shape and light.

There’s an almost photographic perspective snapped in Shimmering light over Edinburgh from Longniddry, looking across the Firth of Forth.  There’s a painterly pattern here: the foreground stretch of rocky beach is echoed in the long, low lying dark cloud, and also in the distance, the rolling mound of hills in a shadowy silhouette. 

Shimmering Light over Edinburgh from Longniddry, Jamie Primrose

A seasonal, gold tinted cityscape is portrayed in Autumnal drama over the city from Blackford Hill, one of Primrose’s ambitious, signature, panoramic views with such architectural detail of the city skyline. The afterglow of sunset is sinking towards the west, turning the sky a shimmering salmon pink across the flow and flurry of clouds.

Autumnal drama over the city from Blackford Hill, Jamie Primrose

Around the gallery is a diverse range of other iconic skyscape views of Edinburgh, depicted from dawn to dusk – Duddingston Loch, from Calton Hill, the Castle and around the Old Town.  

Limited Edition Prints

As well as over fifty original oil paintings on show, there’s also a selection of exclusive, limited edition prints: East Lothian beaches, Arthur’s Seat, city sunset skylines, colourful Old Town scenes, and more. 

 ‘Evocative Skies’ paintings by Jamie Primrose

Magical vistas in East Lothian & Edinburgh

The Dundas Street Gallery, 6a Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

Friday 5th – Saturday 13th November 2021

Open daily, 11am – 6pm. Saturday 13th November, 11am – 5pm (last day)

View the ‘Evocative Skies’ collection of original oil paintings online:

https://www.jamieprimrose.com/latest/index.html

Limited Edition Prints:

East Lothian seascapes: http://shop.jamieprimrose.com/shop/3/12/index.htm

Vibrant sunsets: http://shop.jamieprimrose.com/shop/2/26/index.htm

Converge – a masterly, moody, creative collaboration by four Scottish landscape artists at the Dundas Street Gallery.  

Gill Knight, Fee Dickson Reid, Sarah Anderson, Kirstin Heggie (clockwise from top left)

Converge: ‘to come together and unite in a common interest.’

Sarah Anderson, Kirstin Heggie, Gill Knight and Fee Dickson Reid share a passion for capturing of Scotland’s natural beauty from the Lowlands to the Outer Hebrides in their own distinctive, dramatic mode, mood and manner.

Sarah Anderson grew up in Galloway surrounded by countryside and coastline: My inspiration is derived from the Scottish landscape to reflect the dramatic effects of weather … and envelop the viewer in the prevailing atmosphere.

Paintings based on a recent summer holiday to Isle of Harris are expressed with a vividly, exuberant colour palette in majestic panoramic scenes.   

With the dark, thundery clouds, Approaching Rain, Scarista is mesmerising with its expanse of inky blueness, a glimmer of sun shining on the beach where the sand meets the lapping waves and the sea touches the sky.

Approaching Rain, Scarista, Sarah Anderson

This is akin to a Rothko-esque abstract in its bold geometric blocks of colour: the slither of turquoise water is renowned on this west coast and on summer days the white sand beaches evoke a tropical island. 

Likewise, Scotland meets the Caribbean in The Colours of Harris in a more representative scene of the striated layers of sand, sea with flecks of surf, distant hills and flurry of clouds. The stylised structure of the composition is stunning with an expressive use of shape, light and movement.

Colours of Harris, Sarah Anderson

“Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner the elements at the painter’s command to express his feelings.” – Henri Matisse

With an element of Van Gogh’s impressionistic ‘Pine Trees against an Evening Sky,’ the delicate patterning and halo of gold in Glentress Forest Light draws the viewer into the scene as the eye follows the winding path through the winter trees bathed in dappled sunlight.

Glentress Forest Light, Sarah Anderson

Kirstin Heggie also specialises in semi-abstract landscapes, ‘building up many layers of texture and colour, adding and subtracting paint using brushes, twigs and offcuts of wood. It is often a messy process!’ 

This method of collage painting is most effective in Tonnan Mara, (from the Gaelic: surging waves of the sea), a most atmospheric composition with thick, criss-crossing crusts of paint reflecting the elemental force of the treacherous waves and pitch black sky.

Tonnan Mara, Kirstin Heggie

A calmer seascape in Pure Morning captured with delicate minimalism in soft shades of white, azur and grey streaks, with an almost invisible divide between sea and sky. Pure indeed in the subtle, smooth blend of blue-green tones and texture.

Pure Morning, Kirstin Heggie

Against a rust-red crimson valley, a copse of three Skinny Trees stand out in the barren, sun-scorched landscape – almost desert like with a feeling of strong heat.  There’s a hidden narrative here on place and time which creates a most enigmatic and melancholic image, like a painterly poem.

Skinny Trees, Kirstin Heggie

Working in oils, acrylic and mixed media, Gill Knight describes her abstract and semi-abstract work as “dark, moody, atmospheric and emotional.”

Capturing the season with an impressionistic flourish, Autumn Tide features a wild swirl of threatening rain cloud brightened with a flash of sun on the water.  With the focus on the sky, the smudged brushstrokes and cool colour palette of grey and blue, depict the luminous effect of shifting weather.

Autumn Tide, Gill Knight

The same masterly technique is shown in Autumn Sky, the amazing contrast of light and shade with glistening shards of red and yellow – perhaps rocks and seaweed – on the shore.

October Sky, Gill Knight

To thole the winter’s sleety dribble, An cranreuch cauld!’

Robert Burns

This line from ‘To a Mouse’ comes to mind when viewing Rain at Newhaven, such a drenching downpour in a dark night with hopefully no lost sailors out at sea due to the lighthouse guiding boats back to harbour.

Rain at Newhaven, Gill Knight

The storm has passed over in Solace to depict a languid moment of peace and solitude – no wonder standing on a beach looking out into an almost natural ‘emptiness’, is so good for the soul.

Solace, Gill Knight

Fee Dickson Reid first studied architecture before concentrating as an artist from 2009. Based in East Lothian, the subjects here range from boat yards and harbours to craggy rocks and beach scenes.

‘Sea, sky, sand is what I am drawn to paint big atmospheric pieces filled with light and often a sense of peace.  The sea is a huge part of my life and my work. I live by it, I swim in it no matter what the season, and I paint it. It’s very much my muse’. 

Fee Dickson Reid

Dramatic views from around North Berwick are prominent such as Lamb from West Bay – a simple line drawing yet with such detail, the curved sweep of the shoreline stretches out to the rocky islet on the horizon.

Lamb from West Bay, Fee Dickson Reid

Here too is the bird sanctuary of the Bass Rock, its iconic pudding shape looming out of the night sky, so finely delineated as monochrome sketch.  Her artistic technique is based on a blend of charcoal, ink, gesso, water and white pencil on Fabriano paper to create tone and texture. 

Big Black Bass, Fee Dickson Reid

Colour is also vanquished in Black and White Beach to produce such an evocative mood through lapping waves and flurry of clouds with such a sense of movement. 

Black and White Beach, Fee Dickson Reid

As we enjoy the golden days of Autumn, the ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,’ here’s a sunny splatter of seasonal colour in A Garden of Birch, in fruity shades of tangerine, orange, lime green and plum around this rural scene.

A Garden of Birch, Fee Dickson Reid

This creative collaboration is a masterly showcase of how the Scottish land and seashore can be conveyed with such a variety of expression from natural representation to the abstract purity of colour and light.

Converge

Dundas Street Gallery

6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

27 October to 1st November

Open daily 10am – 6pm.  Monday 1st 10am – 4pm.

Hebrides Edge: five artists from North Uist inspired by the flowing tide and time of island life @Dundas Street Gallery

‘Place and time are intertwined in North Uist in ways that are utterly unique. On the edge of time, on the edge of a continent, on the edge of the ocean. Painters and sculptors harvest the elements creatively, a reflection of the forces of geology, of tide and storm, season and moment.’  

Ewan Allinson, Sculptor

Hebrides Edge: Sculpture and paintings at the Dundas Street Gallery

The environment of the sea very much dictates the life and work of Fergus Granville who produces fine Scottish smoked salmon and shellfish at the Hebridean Smokehouse – “the best in the world,” says Prue Leith.  

Earl Granville is also a sculptor, beachcombing to find driftwood, barbed wire, shells, skulls, bones and man-made materials washed ashore to create finely-crafted birds, busts, figures, flowers and fruit as if salvaged from the seabed.

Underwater Still Life, Fergus Granville

Here are porcelain mosaic heads, nests of pebble eggs and, as shown above, Underwater Still Life which features two tall glass bottles completely enveloped in a crustacean crust. 

The Venice Biennale 2017 exhibition ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’ by Damian Hirst – a showcase of relics from a sunken ship in the Indian Ocean: giant barnacle-crusted bronze figures, rusty swords, brine-damaged gold coins and necklaces.

Sculptured figure by Damien Hirst, (Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable)

Fergus Granville should invent his own Hebridean shipwreck narrative – perhaps a 16th century Spanish Armada galleon – and sculpt his own collection of ‘ancient’, archaeological treasures.

Marnie Keltie is also influenced by the shoreline near where she lives. “It’s my attempt to express the sense of exposure experienced on the Atlantic shore and mesmerising sound of the surf.”  The natural marks and patterns she observes in rock pools and sand are wiped away in an instant by the next wave and her aim is to capture these lost traces in abstract paintings.  

Shingle II, Marnie Keltie

Shingle II is a simple yet powerful composition depicting the smooth, round and oval shapes of hard stones and pebbles in contrast to the fluid translucency of water with a magical sense of movement and rhythm. Her artwork embraces the natural beach environment quite literally as she makes pigments and inks from seaweed, rocks and charcoal made from driftwood. 

Wave power is also at the heart of the delicate, decorative paintings by Sheenagh Patience.   She searches the beaches on Berneray for tiny broken fragments of old china plates, cups and bowls washed up by the relentless flow of the tide.

Tectonic Plate 1, Sheenagh Patience

Like an actual ceramic collage, Tectonic Plate I is a stunning painting of a large platter ‘jigsaw’.  The various scraps of flowers and stripes are so realistic to show the fragile structure of pottery.  Again, an aspect of lost personal treasures, as Sheenagh describes, “Their human function as a much loved vessel or container are now a memory”.

Fiona Pearson has lived on her croft in Uist for forty years at the end of a five mile single track road, overlooking a sea loch and surrounding moors. “An empty landscape, but the space is full of movement.

In the captivating abstract landscape, Autumn Light, the wide expanse of grey sky and swirling clouds is a flurry of thick brushstrokes with a crisscross pattern to illustrate the flight path of birds.  

Autumn Light, Fiona Pearson

This flat open space is surrounded by the warm auburn and gold shades of Autumn foliage, leading the eye to the horizon over the dark, stormy moorland where it reaches the edge of the sea.  Her art reflects the mood of this poem.

If not the intensified sky, hurled through with birds

and deep with winds of homecoming.’

 ​Rainer Maria Rilke

Catherine Yeatman is like the David Attenborough of the artworld, studying the seasonal migration and island habitat of seabirds up close and personal.

“I can often be found balanced on a rock somewhere with my sketch book. This past summer I have kayaked across the Minch and visited the great whirling bird worlds of St Kilda and the Shaints and pondered on the nature of passage.”

Extract from Living Wall, Catherine Yeatman

Like an animated cartoon, the mesmerising large scale work, Living Wall illustrates the population of guillemots lined up in rows across the rockface on the edge of a cliff. Each tiny bird resembles the quirky character of a penguin with their sharp beaks and black and white suits.

These five Hebridean artists share the same artistic passion, creatively inspired by the sand,  sea, sky and the flotsam and jetsam which drift ashore in the waves, complementing each other with an harmonious, soulful vision.

Hebrides Edgecontemporary art from North Uist

Dundas Street Gallery, 6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

26th September to 9th October, 2021.

Open daily 11am-6pm

More info at: https://uistarts.org/edge-hebrides/

Scottish Ballet is back on the road with ‘Starstruck’, a vivacious new version of Gene Kelly’s classic Pas de Dieux (1960).

After eighteen months of dark theatres with no live performances, the dancers at Scottish Ballet are polishing their pointe and tap shoes to set off on the road again around Scotland.

What could be more exhilarating than presenting the UK premiere of Pas de Dieux to pay tribute to the pioneering choreography by the American musical legend, Gene Kelly in collaboration with Kelly’s widow, Patricia Ward Kelly.

Gene Kelly’s modern dance work, Pas de Dieux was first performed by Paris Opera Ballet in 1960.  For this revival, Scottish Ballet’s Artistic Director Christopher Hampson and designer, Lez Brotherston have now jazzed up the original ballet as Starstruck, set to a score of Gershwin’s Concerto in F with additional extracts from Chopin. 

So how was the star of many iconic Hollywood musicals invited to create his own new work for the Paris Opera Ballet.? 

During the 1940s and 1950s, Gene Kelly was an all round performer whose athletic style and classical ballet technique transformed the film musical through his innovative choreography and direction. He blended solo dances, ensembles and inventive camera angles to tell a story in purely visual terms.

The 1951 film An American in Paris starring Gene Kelly was inspired by George Gershwin’s 1928 jazz symphony of the same name, and through its radical blend of ballet and jazz music, it won the Academy Award for best picture.  After this great success and the discovery of Leslie Caron, he was keen to collaborate with another French dancer and cast Claude Bessy, a ‘danseuse etoile’ at Paris Opera Ballet for the Hollywood movie, Invitation to the Dance and other films.

When Kelly offered to create a ballet especially for Bessy, he became the first American choreographer to work at the Palais Garnier – so that he himself was an American in Paris.!

Gene Kelly – an American in Paris at the Palais Garnier

Pas de Dieux (a clever wordplay on Pas de Deux), is a lively blend of classical ballet steps and musical comedy jazz routines, with a score by George Gershwin. It tells the story of Aphrodite and Eros, who descend to earth and on the beach where they have landed, the ardent goddess and mischievous god seduce a lifeguard and his fiancée. Just when the beautiful Aphrodite is dancing with her suitor, Zeus arrives to win back his wife and the reconciled immortals return to Olympus, leaving the humans to their earthly loves.

The ballet is set to the three movements of Gershwin’s Concerto in F and Kelly’s snappy choreography is full of fantasy and humour.

Claude Bessy and dancers at the Paris Opera Ballet with Gene Kelly

Kelly commented at the time that it was hard to get the classically trained dancers to go off pointe to loosen up their steps and movement to the jazz beat. Dancing the lead role of Aphrodite was Claude Bessy and the premiere in 1960 was highly acclaimed by the critics as ‘a breath of fresh air. Until tonight, the Paris Opera was ten years behind the times in ballet. Now we are ten years ahead.’ 

Scene from Pas de Dieux, Paris Opera Ballet (photo credit Roger Pic)

For this inspirational production in Paris, Kelly was given the prestigious accolade to be elected as a Chevalier (Knight) of the Legion of Honour.

Kelly is renowned for his lead role in Singin’ in the Rain, (1952) regarded by some as the best dance film ever made. During the filming of the magical scene when Gene Kelly dances and sings the title song while spinning an umbrella and splashing through puddles, Kelly was suffering from a 103 °F fever. A common myth is that he managed to perform the entire number in one take, thanks to cameras placed in various locations, but it’s more likely that this took a day or so to complete.

Gene Kelly splashes his way down the street in ‘Singin’ in the Rain’

In a refreshing and vivacious new version of Pas de Dieux by Scottish Ballet, Starstruck is set amidst the glamorous culture and couture of Paris in 1960, in Gene Kelly’s world where jazz meets ballet, the Gods masquerade as mortals and the stars are in alignment.  The premiere takes place on 23rd September, 2021 at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow and then goes on tour to Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

During 2020 with theatres closed, Scottish Ballet kept on working behind the scenes and created a Christmas treat on film, The Secret Theatre for audiences to view at home and two works, Dive and Odyssey for International Dance Day.

With a neat connection to Gene Kelly’s Hollywood career, a film version of Starstruck will combine live performance and cinematic techniques for another immersive, theatrical experience on screen. Directed by Oscar Sansom in partnership with Forest of Black, Starstruck will be released in partnership with Marquee TV on Friday 26 November, 2021. (Advance tickets on sale next month).

Public support is vital to help the company return to touring and audiences can help bring ballet back to the theatres by donating to the Fit for the Gods Appeal. Designer Lez Brotherston has created 100 stunning new costumes to reimagine the original Parisian designs for Kelly’s choreography. 

 ‘We are overjoyed to be returning to stage this autumn, to finally perform to live audiences across Scotland. Gene Kelly’s pioneering choreography influenced a generation of dance-makers, and we honour his creative legacy with this dazzling new production’.

Christopher Hampson, CEO/Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet

Time to raise a glass in celebration!

A unique cask of Royal Lochnagar whisky, laid down in 1994, has now been bottled ready for auction as part of Diageo’s prestigious Casks of Distinction range. The Scottish artist Norman Edgar was commissioned to paint the cask end portraying Principal dancer Nicci Theis in the iconic role of Princess Aurora, the Sleeping Beauty.

‘The Sleeping Beauty’ will be launched with 470 bottles to be sold at a Whisky Auctioneer auction on 9-13 September 2021, with all monies raised contributing to the Scottish Ballet Endowment Fund.

‘The Sleeping Beauty’ is a single-cask Highland malt at 56.3% vol. The top notes are of dried fruits and spices, evolving into Christmas cake, plum pudding and mince pies on a bosky (bramble) base.

The Sleeping Beauty whisky for Scottish Ballet

Scottish Ballet presents Starstruck across Scotland from 23 September–16 October, 2021: Theatre Royal, Glasgow (23-25 September), Eden Court, Inverness (30 September-2 October), His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen (7-9 October) and Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (14-16 October).

Full information on tour dates and booking tickets:

https://www.scottishballet.co.uk/event/starstruck

Fit for the Gods Costume Appeal:

https://www.scottishballet.co.uk/support/individual-support/fit-for-the-gods-costume-appeal

The Sleeping Beauty Whisky auction:

https://www.scottishballet.co.uk/the-sleeping-beauty-whisky

‘To the Water’ – the cool, cultural heritage of swimming from pool to beach, captured on camera by Soo Burnell

‘To the Water’, an exhibition of photographs at Saorsa Gallery

With childhood memories of fun times being taken to the Victorian swimming pools in Edinburgh, Soo Burnell is now fascinated by the ‘high ceilings, glass roofs, symmetry, old signage, tiling – all reflected in the still water. There is also a lot of nostalgia surrounding them.’

In July 2018, ‘Poolside’ at Saorsa Gallery was a most evocative showcase of Burnell’s photographs of favourite local pools viewed as palaces of architectural heritage, stylised with vintage glamour.

This was the springboard to venture further afield to a diverse range of indoor and outdoor swimming pools around Scotland, UK and Paris, where she observed each iconic place with a film-maker’s eye and imaginative artistic vision.

Deep End, Soo Burnell

The British artist, David Hockney was dazzled by the sunshine and laid back Californian lifestyle when he first visited Los Angeles in the early sixties, especially the fact that everyone had a swimming pool. Between 1964 and 1971 he made numerous paintings of pools, attempting the challenge to represent the constantly changing surface of water.

A Bigger Splash (1967), David Hockney

Hockney’s series of ‘splash’ paintings are empty of human presence yet imply the presence of a diver. “A Bigger Splash” (1967) took three weeks to complete using various sizes of brushes to perfect the spray of water.

‘When you photograph a splash, you’re freezing a moment and it becomes something else. I realise that a splash could never be seen this way in real life, it happens too quickly. I was amused by this, so I painted it in a very, very slow way.’

David Hockney

Swimming in the Sun, Soo Burnell

Illustrating her own passion for a splash in a pool, Soo Burnell has just published a large format, beautifully illustrated book “To the Water,” launched to coincide with an exhibition at Saorsa Gallery (17 – 24 July, 2021). This is another stunning collection of photographs of leisurely life by the pool and on the beach. 

Here are a few of the much loved Victorian pools around Edinburgh – Glenogle in Stockbridge, Leith Victoria and Drumsheugh Baths.  The architectural design is extraordinary with cathedral-high ceilings and dome of girders like a railway station, the sunlight streaming in from tall windows and roof top cupula.

Leith Victoria pool, Soo Burnell

The setting is calm and quiet, witnessed after the shrieking children and racing swimmers have gone home. These are empty pools to reflect the tranquility of the light-filled spaces but look more closely. Relaxing, standing at the side, or preparing to dive are a few solitary figures adding perspective and touch of theatricality.  

The wide panoramic view of each pool focusses on the decorative design with the neat rows of changing rooms all around and centre stage, the shimmering, fluid luminosity of the azur tile-tinted water.

Girl on the Rings, Drumsheugh baths, Soo Burnell

The Drumsheugh Baths is a private swimming club in Edinburgh, founded in 1884 and hardly changed since then with the acrobatic rings and trapeze, large stone hot pool and Victorian showers. But they did add a Bar.!

Here too is a quirky aerial shot of a girl sitting on the step at the Western Baths, Glasgow. Come on in, the water’s lovely.!

Alone at Western Baths, Soo Burnell

When the Tarlair outdoor swimming pool opened in 1932, it was said Macduff would become a French Riviera-style resort on the north east coast of Banffshire. The bright white modern block architecture is in stark contrast to the craggy, black rocky cliff above and with its natural tidal pool too and Pavilion this was a popular visitor attraction.

No the South of France! – Tarlair Swimming Pool, Macduff 1936

Families, sunbathers and swimmers flocked to the open air Lidos around British seaside towns in the days before package holidays.  After years of dilapidation and few outdoor swimmers, Tarlair closed in 1996, preserved as an A listed historic site.

Girl at Tarlair, Soo Burnell

Dramatising these poolsides with a small cast of characters, Soo Burnell uses the lens of her camera like a photojournalist with each image telling a hidden narrative – ghostly figures and happy memories from over a century of watersport and sunbathing.

This is particularly well illustrated at the legendary palace of a pool, Piscine Molitar in Paris. Built in 1929, the Art Deco Lido regularly hosted fashion shows, galas, theatrical performances, and used as a dazzling backdrop for film shoots.

Piscine Molitar, Paris (1929)

The Piscine Molitor is described most reverently in Life of Pi by Yann Martel, a fantasy adventure novel centred around “the pool the gods would have delighted to swim in.”

The protagonist is Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, an Indian Tamil boy from Pondicherry.

‘One day, Mamaji said to my father, that of all the pools in the world, the most beautiful was a public pool in Paris. That the water there was so clear, you could make your morning coffee with it. That a single swim there changed his life. I never understood why my father took this so much to heart, but he did, and I was named ‘Piscine Molitor Patel’.”

From ‘Life of Pi’, Yann Martel (2001)

In languid, elegant pose at the Parisian piscine, these two slender models in pale blue swimsuits and white bathing caps perfect the 1930s vintage look akin to a Chanel fashion shoot.  

Pool Girls, Piscine Molitor, Paris, Soo Burnell

With great perspective, we can study the geometric structure and decorative design of the balcony, porthole windows, lines of pool tiles and shadows of the loungers.  The Lido was inspired by the grand ocean liners of the era.

I do want to be beside the seaside. The golden sandy beach at Tyninghame on the East Lothian coastline is the perfect filmic location to observe stylish swimmers on the seashore. Here are intimate soloists and chorus lines ‘snapped’ with choreographic precision in a colour palette of blue, white and gold.

Day Dreaming at the Beach, Soo Burnell

These atmospheric seascapes are beautifully composed to emphasise the shapely curve of lapping waves on the sand and the fine line between sea and sky on the horizon. Above all, you can sense the fresh salt-sea breeze in the air.  

After Swimming, Tyninghame, Soo Burnell

No wonder that the joyful fresh air freedom of wild swimming became so popular when city pools closed during lockdown for people to experience an envigorating dip in the sea. 

To accompany this exhibition is a lavishly illustrated Coffee Table book, “To the Water” by Soo Burnell which gives the full pictorial story of these and other heritage swimming pools.   

To the Water, by Soo Burnell – a pictorial journey around swimming pools and beaches

Edinburgh is basking in glorious summer sun this week so why not take a day trip to Soarsa Gallery to see this refreshingly cool collection of photographs which recreate our timeless love of relaxing beside the water.

Just look for the beach chair and towel outside and a red neon Deep End sign in the window.

Saorsa Gallery, 8 Deanhaugh St, Stockbridge Edinburgh, EH4 1LY

‘To the Water’, 17 – 24 July, 2021. 12 noon to 5pm daily.

For more information on Soo Burnell, ‘To the Water’ view and purchase images and the book:

https://soo-burnell.com

On the Diving Board, Commonwealth Pool, Edinburgh, Soo Burnell