Last summer HunterGatherer mentioned in mournful tones that he'd never been to the Edinburgh Tattoo and had always yearned to see it, so for his birthday this year I bought him a ticket (and one for myself, boldly assuming that he'd appreciate having company on the night!).
Knowing that HG loves fireworks, I'd opted for the later performance of the Tattoo, so 9.30pm last Saturday night saw us queuing patiently (some of us more patiently than others...) on the Royal Mile, waiting to have our rucksacks searched en route to the Castle. As I'd not been to the Tattoo since I was 22 years old (to my horror, I realise that's now three decades ago!), I have to confess that I was quite looking forward to the experience myself, and we were both buzzing as we took our seats quite close to the facade of the castle.
It's safe to say that we were not in the least disappointed with any aspect of the evening's entertainment that followed – with the possible exception of the thoughtless people who insisted on departing before the end to avoid the crowds, thereby obscuring other people's view of proceedings as they pushed their way smugly to the end of the rows of seats. It was their loss, as it transpired, as they missed the poignant lone piper playing from the turret of the castle and the joint rendition of Auld Lang Syne by the cast and audience that formed a suitably rousing conclusion to the night.
Anyway, apart from the behaviour of the selfish few, the whole evening was amazing, with a wide variety of impressive acts including entertaining songs and music from the US Army Europe Band, breathtakingly deft footwork from both the Lochiel Marching Drill Team and the Tattoo Highland Dancers, slick drills from military teams including the Royal Jordanian Armed Forces Band and Drill Team, and daring antics by the Imps Motorcycle Display team.
Without a shadow of doubt (no pun intended), the whole performance was enhanced by the spectacular light effects projected on to the historic stone walls of Edinburgh Castle. These ranged from snow on Everest (accompanied by 'real' snow falling simultaneously on to the audience in the stands ) to colourful national flags, and from Star Wars battleships to the profile of Her Majesty the Queen.
All in all, it was a truly memorable experience, and the familiar skirl of the pipes rang in our ears long after we had filed in an orderly fashion out of the Castle Esplanade and made our way back down the Royal Mile to find our car. To give you an idea of the variety on offer, there's a quick photomontage below. The Edinburgh Tattoo is definitely an experience worth having several times in one's life – in fact, we're already planning on going again in five years' time.
PS: As it's almost impossible for Yours Truly not to find a way of engineering food into any of these posts, may I just tell you that The burgers we dined on at Grand Cru before the show were very good, too! Moreover, walking up the Royal Mile to get to the tattoo reminded us of our magical meal three summers ago at The Witchery to mark my 50th birthday! Where has the time gone?
On Saturday morning, I was on a midge-killing mission, having witnessed the distress of FatHorse and the chocolate sheep the previous evening at the hands (or mouths) of the massed midge swarms that were filling every last cm of the night-time air here at the Sparrowholding.
Judging by the number of the wee blighters that were flying around, there must have been heaps of hatchings – possibly due to the one uncharacteristically hot day (also known as ‘summer’ in these parts) earlier in the week. Whatever the reason, the biting beasties were making life extremely uncomfortable for our girls, and I was determined to find something to thwart them.
The slight problem, in the pony’s case, is that she has a huge aversion to the smell of one of the ingredients that seems to be used in almost every insect repellent known to man: the unmistakably lemon scent of citronella. At some point in her past, she’s obviously been sprayed with citronella and it’s given her a fright, because if I even venture to the side of the fence bearing a rag that has the faintest whiff of the substance, our normally placid Highland gentlewoman is transformed into a rearing, runaway wreck.
This being the case, I was desperately seeking a substance that smelt different and worked my way painstakingly along the shelf, sniffing surreptitiously at the nozzle or lid of each bottle or jar – indeed, if I’ve been caught on CCTV, I’ll probably be on my way to an institution for deranged stockwomen as you are reading this.
Eventually, I found a couple of flying-insect repellents that didn’t seem to exude too much lemoniness, and marched purposefully towards the till. However, as I was stomping in my wellies (the one-day summer having giving way to relentless rain) past the sheep and cattle aisle, my eye was caught by an array of showing-related lotions and potions of all colours and persuasions.
I stopped and stared in awe. Lined up for what seemed to be miles along each shelf were a panoply of pampering products with names that promised tantalising transformation.
If I were a Cheviot sheep, I could make my fleece radiant with powders of virtually any shade under the (now non-existent) sun.
Or if my hair was “unmanageable” – which it often is, according to Farmpa – there was a spray that could fix that, too.
The cornucopia of sheep spa and bovine beauty products was simply breath-taking. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, the Scottish agricultural show season is currently in full swing, and indeed it’s only a couple of weeks until the wonderful Kinross Show takes place just along the road at the RSPB’s Vane Farm nature reserve. If you live in or around Kinross-shire, hope to see you there. And you can bet my hair is going to be looking gooooood…
PS: Just to whet your appetite for show day, read this blog post about my visit to Kinross Show last year – complete with photographs of ferrets!
The Royal Highland Show near Edinburgh is one of the highlights of many country folk’s calendar. And little wonder given that it offers a cornucopia – no cereal puns intended – of interesting rural sights, sounds and (inevitably!) smells.
Being chained to the computer coalface virtually seven days a week, I’m always very excited by the prospect of spending an entire day away from the wretched screen, so last Thursday had been beckoning alluringly for weeks. Then suddenly the big day arrived and, as ever, it certainly didn’t disappoint...
We wove our way up and down the “lines” (the name given by exhibitors to the temporary housing for 5000+ animals during the four days of the show), meandering in and out of a succession of sheds and tents that housed everything from tiny sculptures fashioned from beeswax to stalls selling copious quantities German sausage to enormous cuddly sheep from Switzerland. There truly was something for everyone!
To give you a flavour of some of the other fabulous exhibits at the Show, here are a few more of the photos we snapped…
And last but not least...
If you love the countryside and are fascinated by all aspects of the rural way of life, the Highland Show is likely to be a highlight of your summer. I, for one, am already counting the weeks till my next big day out in 2017! And if you missed the Highland Show this year, there's still a chance to indulge your rural passions at the Game Fair at Scone Palace this coming weekend.