From Seven lovely days in the same city to hopefully seven days in three cities

I can’t express how much fun I had this last week in Edinburgh.  My time there was just filled with activity, from music, to film, to museums, to hiking and, alas, even some warmer clothes shopping.

Saturday and Sunday were busy days as usual for this visit.  Saturday, was spent visiting the Palace of Holyroodhouse   The castle itself itself both inside and outside are beautiful.  However, I’m not sure its totally worth the price of admission.  You cannot take any photographs inside the castle and the gardens, while quite lovely, are not very interesting.  The most interesting part of the castle grounds is Holyrood Abby.

The palace is the royal family’s official residence in Scotland, but is more famous as the 16th-century home of Mary, Queen of Scots. The palace was developed from a guest house, that is attached to Holyrood Abbey.  The palace was extended by King James IV in 1501. The oldest surviving part of the building, the northwestern tower, was built in 1529 as a royal apartment for James V and his wife, Mary of Guise. Mary, Queen of Scots spent six turbulent years here, during which time she debated with John Knox, married both her first and second husbands, and witnessed the murder of her secretary David Rizzio.  There is a sign in the room showing the exact place where he was stabbed 57 times and bled to death of his wounds.  I’m telling you this because there was a man standing next to me who delighted in pointing this out to me and actually stooped down to get a better look at the blood stains in the wood.  When he got up he wacked his head on a picture behind him and almost knocked it off its hook.  My comment to him was “you break it you buy it”.

The other rooms in the castle are interesting and Royal Dining room is quite lovely and is loaded with lots of bone china and silver.  The rest of the rooms were standard castle fare.  There is one room with lots of pictures of H. M. Queen Elizabeth at various stages of her life from infant up to today which I found fascinating.  I admire here a lot.  She really does take the position of Queen seriously and the fact that she continues to be very active after more than 60 years on the throne is pretty amazing I think.

After leaving the castle I wandered out to the gardens and my first stop was Holyrood Abby.  King David I founded the abbey in 1128. It was named after a fragment of the True Cross (rood is an old Scots word for cross), said to have been brought to Scotland by his mother, St Margaret. Most of the surviving ruins date from the 12th and 13th centuries, although a doorway in the far southeastern corner has survived from the original Norman church.  If you’d like more information on Holyrood Abby click on the following link.  I’ll post pictures of the palace and the gardens hopefully once I arrive in Durham. England.

There was one other exhibit at the palace that turned out to be quite interesting and is entitled “Poetry For The Palace, Poet Laureate’s from Dryden to Duffy”.

The office of Poet Laureate is a special honor awarded by the Sovereign to a poet whose work is of national significance. 

This exhibition focuses on the work of the current Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, at the half-way point in her laureateship.

The exhibit spends a little time on the role of the Poet Laureate, and the close relationship between poet and monarch over the last three and a half centuries. The exhibit also has volumes of original manuscripts, annotated collections of poetry and images of poets, including John Dryden, William Wordsworth, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, John Betjeman, Cecil Day-Lewis and Ted Hughes. 

Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry is also represented by the work of the textual artist Stephen Raw, who has created several pieces for the exhibition.  I have to admit I found her poetry to be somewhat inaccessible.  However Mr. Raw’s interruption of verses from here poetry are quite nice.

What I really found most interesting were the biographies of past Poet Laureate’s and being able to not only read some of their  poetry but also hear it.  My two favorite poets were John Betjeman, who as it turns out was quite a steam train fan and wrote many poems about the joys of riding trains as opposed to air travel.  I also really like some of the poetry of Cecil Day-Lewis.  I listened to some of his poetry read by his son Sir Daniel Day-Lewis.

Saturday night was my last music concert of my week in Edinburgh and it was special.  It was a performance of “Delusion of the Fury” by American composer Harry Partch. What makes Partch’s music so interesting is that he uses instruments that he designed and built himself.  Even if you’re not interested in classical music, of which this isn’t, or any music other than pop, you still might want to learn more about this remarkable man.  Here is a link to learn more about him.  The group of musicians who performed this work are known as Ensemble musikFabrik.  I found the piece to be funny, moving.. But most of all I was enthralled.  Here are some other links you might find interesting including one on building the instruments for this piece, (In German with English subtitles), one on staging the piece, (In German with English subtitles) and one on Harry Partch.  (In English with German subtitles).  I highly recommend all three videos.  All three videos are in HD so watch them in full screen.

I should also mention that Friday evening’s concert of the Mahler 6th Symphony was thrilling.  The Rotterdam Philharmonic was totally up to the task of this large symphony and the orchestra received four curtain calls.  Pretty impressive.  I’ll post pictures of the stage prior to the Mahler, and a couple of pictures of the stage before the Partch and after the Partch piece as well.

Yetterday, was a sunny, and a little warmer than it has been.  I was out early and walked into the city center and made my way to the Greyfriars Kirk.

This is one of Edinburgh’s most famous churches, and was built on the site of a Franciscan friary and opened for worship on Christmas Day 1620. In 1638 the National Covenant was signed here, rejecting Charles I’s attempts to impose episcopacy and a new English prayer book on the Scots, and affirming the independence of the Scottish Church. Many who signed were later executed at the Grassmarket and, in 1679, 1200 Covenanters were held prisoner in terrible conditions in the southwestern corner of the kirkyard.  Here is a nice video that talks about Greyfirars Kirk and it’s history.  There is also some nice video of Edinburgh and you get to hear the lovely Scottish people speak.

Surrounding the church, and enclosed in by high walls, is Greyfriars Kirkyard.  It is a very peaceful place with many old and elaborate monuments. Some are so old that the inscriptions in the stone have worn and are almost unreadable.  According to the sign at the entrance, many famous Edinburgh names are buried here, including the poet Allan Ramsay (1686–1758), architect William Adam (1689–1748) and William Smellie (1740–95), the editor of the first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica .

Now while I was on my walk looking at various monuments, and headstones I came across one monument with the name Tom Riddle inscribed on it.  I thought to myself, Oh, that would be Voldemort, maybe I should find a stick, use it as a wand and take a selfie.  Then I thought no that is silly.  So I moved on looking at other monuments and about 5 minutes later a tour came through and the tour guide, who had a booming voice said “Now we are going to visit the grave of Tom Riddle.  Those of you who have seen the Harry Potter films or read the books by J. K. Rowling know him by the name of Voldemort.”  It turns out that J. K. Rowling visited Edinburgh, and visited Greyfriars Kirkyard and saw this monument and Tom Riddle became the inspiration for Voldemort.  Now I had to have a picture of me killing Voldemort so once the group left I asked a couple of people if they would take a picture which I present to you here.

Having disposed of Voldemort, I spent more time looking, photographing and reading what was readable on monuments and headstones.  Pictures can be found in a new album by clicking on Big Lou’s Pic’s.

Now on the way into  Greyfriars Kirkyard there was a grave and headstone for someone named Greyfriars Bobby.  Who could that be?  Well there is a true story to that grave and just outside of Greyfriars Kirkyard there is a monument to Greyfriars Bobby.  Here is the story.  Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye terrier who, from 1858 to 1872, maintained a vigil over the grave of his friend, an Edinburgh police officer.  After the officer died Bobby kept coming back to lay at the grave of his friend.  No matter how many times officials at Greyfriars removed Bobby from Greyfriears Kirkyard,  Bobby kept coming back.  Some weeks after all of this began and it became clear Bobby was not going away of his own free will, officials decided to adopt Bobby where for the next 14 years kept a vigil over the grave of his friend.  Now if that’s not unconditional love I don’t know what is.  Of course I’ll post pictures.

The rest of the day was spent at the Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.  Both museums are worth your time when visiting Edinburgh.

After about three hours of what was really a quick tour of both museums, I needed to get back to my guest house to get ready for the fireworks.  Earlier, on my way into the city center I stopped into Scotland's answer to the dollar store concept the Pound Stretcher and found myself a fleece throw that would be perfect for sitting on the lawn to listen to the music and watch the fireworks.  

On my way to Princess Gardens, the venue for us common folk, it began to cloud up and get windy.  I knew after spending a week here that the weather changes rapidly but I hoped that the rain would hold off till at least after the fireworks or better yet till I got back to my room.

Princess Gardens is a beautiful spot but I don’t think its the best place to put a lot of people to watch a fireworks display mainly because there are so many trees that a most of Edinburgh Castle where the firework were being set off, is obstructed.  I found, what I thought would be, the best place to watch the fireworks so I set my blanket down which was about 250 feet from a rather low resolution video screen and a large array of speakers at about 8:15 and waited till 9:00 PM for the concert and fireworks to begin.  At 9:00 PM sharp the announcer came on and introduced the first piece which was “Ride Of The Valkyries” by Richard Wagner.  When the music began I thought my ears were going to explode, the music was so loud and shrill it almost drowned out the sound of the fireworks, plus the ambient light from the video screen and the concession stands made me think I made a mistake coming to this venue to see the fireworks. I had to get away from those speakers.  I quickly gathered up my things and saw what looked like a nice spot where no one was behind the speakers and the video screen with a pretty good view of the sky above and the rest of the show was magic.  Coordinated fireworks to the music of Beethoven’s "Egmont Overture", Mendelssohn’s “War March of the Priests from Athalie”, Debussy’s "March Ecossaise" and Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”.  I shot a video of the last four minutes of the fireworks.  The video doesn’t do the fireworks display but it sure will give you and idea what it was like for me. The rain held off till about the last minute of the fireworks and then came down for about two or three minutes and then stopped long enough for me to take the 40 minute walk back to my guest house.

So now I am on the train for a short 90 minute ride out of Edingurgh, Scotland to the final country on this trip England, and the city of Durham. © Louis M. Skypala 2014