Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Insurance policies nowadays on renewal have to display prominently the current premium as well as the premium required to renew the policy.

I got a renewal letter recently that showed those two figures side by side. Old premium £37 odd, new premium £84 odd.

I rang, declared my dissatisfaction with a 220% increase and suggested a rethink.  After a bit of haggling I got a new offer of £44.67.

That's miles better but it's still a 20% increase for no good reason.

Monday, April 30, 2018

There have been three very different saxophone gigs in the last few weeks.

YolanDa Brown chose to visit Kirkcaldy as one of only two Scottish dates on what she declared was a world tour celebrating her ten years as a professional player .  I fear she may not come back since the Adam Smith auditorium wasn't more than about a third full. .

She's a very chatty, lively and engaging performer and  and those who were there were enthusiastic and enjoyed her mix of jazz, funk and what she calls posh reggae.  She even managed to get us all up to ..... well dance would be too grand a description.  Let's say sway more or less rhythmically.

Here's an audience doing a bit better than we did.


Back in Edinburgh Sir James MacMillan's new saxophone concerto was paired with Glazunov's and played by the SCO with Amy Dickson as soloist.  MacMillan's concerto has three movements each inspired by a Scottish musical form.  The first by marches, strathspeys and reels, the second by Gaelic psalm singing and the third by jigs.

I certainly enjoyed it but can't share it with you since I was too law-abiding for surrepticious recording and it hasn't made it onto Youtube yet.  However there are three short Youtube videos of MacMillan and Dickson discussing the piece.  There is a tiny snatch of music in the second of those so here it is.

Youtube has lots of versions of Glasunov's concerto. Here's one in which the orchestra is the SCO. It's from the World Saxophone Congress in St Andrews three years ago.

 The third event was the last in the jazz series at St James church by Leith Links, or the hall thereof since the church itself appears to be boarded up. Tommy Smith and Brian Molley appeared in previous months. This time it was the wonderful tenor player Konrad Wiszniewski and New Focus, the group he runs with the equally wonderful pianist Euan Stevenson.  In fact it was the jazz quartet subset of the group which in its entirety includes a string quarte. Here they are at Whighams one Sunday evening.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

During the six months or so that I spent in Cairo I suffered only one nasty stomach upset.  It was  caused by something I ate in the Nile Hilton.

A rather more serious upset featured in the excellent The Nile Hilton Incident.  A cabaret singer gets her throat slit in the hotel and the policeman called on to handle the case finds himself working rather against the tide of police and political corruption that he usually swims in and profits from.  He's cynical and careworn but somehow his revulsion at this particular crime with its sexual and political nastiness gets under his skin and despite the sticks and carrots deployed to persuade him to leave well alone he pursues the truth.  The plot wanders a bit towards the end but the film is a satisfying and absorbing thriller whose Cairene setting on the eve of the 2011 revolution I particularly relished. 

I likewise relished the setting of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in 1930s Edinburgh.  Not that I was there then, but the flavour of the times persists in the imagination if not in fact.  In the cinema it's fun spotting the locations, hearing the accents, admiring the performances and at least in my case remembering with pleasurable nostalgia the Kitwe production of the play. 

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

I made the very rational decision just before the Beast from the East struck not to keep a car any longer. It's very handy to have one sitting at the bottom of the stair for when the travel bug bites but for the most part, given where I live and how I spend my time, it's money down the drain.

The first test of this brave new public transport only world came over the Easter weekend when I was due to take my sax to a country house in the Trossachs.  Research showed that it would be possible to get very close by train and bus but a lot of hanging about between stages would be involved so I decided to take a taxi from Stirling station.  Not cheap but just the job.

Coming back the weather was frightful.  Before Leith Street closed for the St James redevelopment I could nip over the road on leaving the station and get on a bus that would drop me at my door.  Now it's either walk home or go up to George Street for a bus.  I didn't fancy either prospect in the driving wintry rain.

I first thought to catch a tram at Haymarket.  Current roadworks there mean no bus passes the station going my way but the tram does.  Then I had what I thought was a brainwave.  Why not get the tram from Edinburgh Park since unlike Haymarket train and tram are on the same level.  Genius.

Not genius as it turned out since I had to cross the train lines which meant going up, along and down.  It didn't help that while I did so a tram arrived, stood for a bit then headed for town leaving me to the inadequate shelter of the tramstop for seven minutes.  My good humour was restored somewhat when at York Place I got onto a bus within seconds of leaving the tram.

But I will get off at Haymarket next time - no double entendre intended.

As it happens there was a consultation event at the library yesterday about the potential extension of the tram line to Newhaven.  It can't happen soon enough for me.  I felt it might be a bit cheeky to suggest they move the proposed Macdonald Road stop from the town side of the junction to my side but I did offer the thought that with all the construction going on at Granton they should take the line on to there from Newhaven.

Of course there will be inconvenence on Leith Walk again when work gets under way. (I can't believe that they will decide not to do it.)  The proposed construction plan means that for eighteen months I'll have to walk from an Easter road bus stop when coming home from town since buses will run on Leith Walk only towards town.  Not a major inconvenience.  Indeed probably a healthy one.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Here I am enjoying a draught of apr├Ęs-ski on the final afternoon of my holiday.  I'm not generally a beer drinker but I found the Austrian hooch most palatable, more so than their wine - the bog standard haus wein anyway.

The weather was nothing like the warm sunny Spring of Kronplatz last year.  The mountain tops were visible on only one day, being shrouded in mist and cloud otherwise, but only one day was truly horrible.  I gave my thighs a rest that day and took the train down to Innsbruck.

I've been in and out of the airport several times but never before into the city.  There is some lovely baroque architecture to admire in the old town and it probably looks even more lovely when the sun shines on it. 

They were getting themselves geared up for Easter.  Giant eggs were on display in various parts of the city centre.  Here's one:-
There was a definite end of the season feel about Seefeld which I suppose must be why it was so quiet despite being only 20kms from Innsbruck.  The snow was in excellent condition too especially on my last day following a heavy fall overnight.  But not many were there to enjoy it as you can see from this picture taken on a day when the sun shone a bit.

 Back home I've seen a couple of films, the rather odd-ball The Square which takes the mickey out of modern art and the wonderful Cabaret which gives us Liza Minelli's so vulnerable and so determined Sally Bowles against the the background of the rise of the Nazi party.  I saw a production of the stage  musical not long ago but the film transcends it in every way.  Joel Gray as the Kit Kat club MC is an impossible act to follow.

I had the pleasure of reading Benedick at the readthrough of the Grads upcoming Fringe show Much Ado about Nothing.  I was in the show the last time the Grads did it as a lowly henchman of the villain.  Obviously I shan't be playing Benedick this time round unless David adds a geriatric touch to his slimmed down re-genderd version but it was fun to read the part.

Something else I read the other day amused me.  On the side of a box containing an electric toaster was the boast that the gadget had a "climate sensing toasting cycle".  So whatever happens with global warming we can rest assured that our breakfast will be safe.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

There was an article in the Evening News yesterday about the new concert hall to be built on the site of the office block behind Dundas House in St. Andrew Sqare.

It was complete with a natty artist's impression of the circular auditorium ringed with stacked balconies.  My objective when it opens will be to locate the seat nearest to where my office was when I worked for RBS.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The pesky pigeons survived snowmageddon and continued their attempts to set up home on my balcony.  They managed to lay one egg which I swiftly removed and we then entered into a war.  As soon as they found a little corner in which to nestle I deployed an obstacle.

They were very persistent.  The balcony is now criss-crossed by silver tape that is claimed to frighten them but doesn't really, although it impedes their movement.  It's also strewn with upturned flowerpots and other obstacles that leave no sheltered spot a bird can rest in.  The right way up flowerpot that received the egg now boasts wooden slats poking up out of the soil and just itching for a pigeon to try lowering its bum onto them.

I'm praying they've got the message because I've exhausted my gamut of defensive measures.

Encouraged by Claire's rave review and the wish to try what sounded like Aldous Huxley's "feelies" I went to see Black Panther.  It wasn't a bad film as far as Boys Own Paper adventures go and the visual effects were impressive.  The pitch and yaw seats, blasts of air and sprinklings of water were fun.  I missed a smell effect but am assured that's because my sense of smell wasn't up to the job.  I don't think Huxley would have been entirely satisfied but it was enough for me.  For once anyway.  I fear that the experience would quickly get boring so don't expect to try it very often.  Plus it's hideously expensive.

I enjoyed a wonderful SCO concert and was impressed as was this reviewer by just how much the musicians were enjoying themselves, It bodes well for Francois Leveux's return visits.  I've put them in my diary.

The second Jazz at St James concert was equally rewarding.  Brian Molley and his quartet played a very generous two hour-long sets, mostly his own compositions in a contemporary jazz style with a tinge of the other gained from the quartet's travels in India and elsewhere.  Here they are in Bangalore last year.