Monday, September 30, 2019

MENU's UK Adventure 3. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

One of the main reasons we came to Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular, besides family connections, was to treat John to the famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo, held every August (2nd to 24th August 2019), during the Edinburgh festival. John was a Piper in his school band
and we both love the sound of a pipe band. This delivers them en masse. Lynne has been twice in the past and it is one of those very special memorable events. You book tickets on line and we managed to get a night in the last week. The walk up to the castle from our AirBnB apartment was a fairly easy 20 minute stroll uphill, through this beautiful ancient city that has managed to preserve so much. This is where you become part of the gathering crowd all going the same way
It was the first night that it didn't rain (if it does, the show goes on; the Scots are used to rain), but we came very warmly dressed, which was very necessary later as there was a cutting wind from the North. Lynne brought a polar fleece cap and a plaid scarf just to be sure, and we both had plastic ponchos just in case the rain returned. Gazing around at the stands, the international crowds and the castle before we took our fairly lofty seats. It begins at 9 pm and in August it is still light at this time
A view of the castle ramparts where later, at the end of concert, the lone piper plays
On the right is the covered supporting orchestra 'pit' and on the left, a stand where the choirs sit
The stadium is not permanent; they put it up every year and, during the tattoo, it seats just over 217 000 people who come from all over the world.  It has sold out in advance for the last decade. 30% of the audience are from Scotland and 35% from the rest of the United Kingdom. The remaining 35% of the audience consists of 70 000 visitors from overseas. Brigadier (Retired) David Allfrey MBE  has been the Producer since 2011
A wonderful view of the City and the surrounding hills. Note, no high rise buildings in this historic view
The gathering clouds were a bit worrisome, but they did not come close to us
and scanning the flags of many nations, there was our South African flag
This year the title of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo was "Kaleidoscope 2019 Is A Celebration Of Glorious Symmetries, An Experience For The Senses". Here giving the salute after the Anthem is Admiral (apologies, but the programme didn't give his name)
Then we heard the skirl of the pipes and on came the famous band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland in Edinburgh Castle
with the band of the Scots Guards
The conductor
The fanfare by the trumpeters of the Scots Guards
and the cannon roared a welcome
Introducing the Kaleidoscope of Colour were Scots lassies with light sabres
that interacted with the lights around the base of the seats to produce a rainbow
And then the massed pipe bands entered: The Royal Regiment of Scotland, the Scots Guards and the Irish Guards and the other contributing pipe bands. It was a wall of harmonious music that began and then filled the whole arena; an overwhelmingly emotional sensation if you have Scottish ancestry. Pure grandeur, tradition and absolutely magic. It sets your feet tapping and your heart dancing. See our YouTube videos here or at the end of this story
and on and on they come to fill the whole arena
Not just a hundred pipers, about 150, with brass and drums
Watch these two YouTube videos of the 2019 Edinburgh Military Tattoo
A note from a former piper; listen to the drums. A pipe band is never complete without them
Each pipe tune has a corresponding drum tune and it is the partnership between pipes and drums which makes it all work
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HUX_KUwdog &
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IU8sziA_wtw
The rest of the programme then began and we show photos of only a selection of the performers
From Nigeria, soldiers, dancers and singers
with the Nigerian military band
The German Army band with their very special drummer
and dancers wearing lederhosen and dirndls
From the Caribbean, a voodoo dancer on stilts swirled and twisted with graphics projected onto the ground
Limbo under a fire pole
The Caribbean nations' Steel band made joyous noise and even played some Bob Marley
Accompanied by butterfly dancers
From France, the French military Garde Republicaine Band played a selection of very popular music including one tune by Michel Legrand which had the audiences humming along, and some modern pop
and then Jacques Offenbach's CanCan from Orpheus in the Underworld
with dancers performing with gusto and managing to fill the huge area with sound and colour
Next, some graceful Scottish dancers accompanied by the pipers of the Scots Guards, the Royal Scots and the Irish Guards
Musicians from the bands of the Royal Regiment of Scotland and the Scots Guards
accompanied a choir of school children singing famous Scottish songs and we could sing along
A traditional band of  Chinese from North America called the  Tian Guo  Marching Band,
wearing traditional clothing with their dancers. In English, they are known as the Divine Land marching band
Whirling in formation
New Zealand  dancers in blue plaid
Scottish traditional fiddlers being joined on stage by more bands
Those girls from New Zealand
were accompanied by the New Zealand Military band who played Pack Up Your Troubles and You'll Never Walk Alone
Some of the band members even danced a bit of a jig while playing
and they did the Haka for us, to the great amusement of the crowd and to loud cheers
The massed bands returned and filled the arena, cross marching back and forth
And then the singing of the National Anthem and the emotional finish with Auld Lang Syne
Looks like chaos and is not, counter-marching, so neat and tidy and so overwhelming in sound and joy
They even played "This is the Greatest Show" amongst other tunes. British and Scottish Pomp and Circumstance at its best
The fireworks began
and became more spectacular
and went on and on delighting the audience
while the massed bands stood to attention below
After which, we had the lone piper, but he was really difficult to focus on with all the smoke and noise and light
And, finally, the bands marched back to barracks
and the very orderly crowd left the arena. No rubbish was left anywhere that we saw
Two video clips of the massed bands and dancers 
which John took with his camera can be seen at
and

MENU's UK Adventure 2. Days and nights in Edinburgh

A day in beautiful Edinburgh with soft weather (rain) on and off all day
It started to rain, quite hard, while we were shopping in Prince's Street, so we bought ponchos,
expecting to need them at the Tattoo that evening but, as soon as we opened one the rain stopped, never to return
- it’s called Sod’s Law
The Walter Scott monument with David Livingstone guarding it. Maybe he should give it a wash
Sir Walter Scott wearing an unaccustomed hat
The Ross Fountain below Edinburgh Castle
Lynne, whose family is part of the Ross clan, was keen to see this, as it has recently been restored
A rain washed Peace rose in the gardens
Another view of Edinburgh Castle
The graveyards at the end of the park
Reminds one slightly of Harry Potter and Hogwarts
This is the road we took to walk up to the castle and into town
If you are an Ian Rankin fan, one of the murders Rebus investigated took place near here in the NCP car park...
No climbing that sheer rock face in a hurry
Festival time, so there were many buskers
and all sorts of strange acts in the streets as part of the Fringe. You have to avoid getting tied up with them 
If you want to buy tickets to any of the Festival shows, this is where you come
During the one month festival, Edinburgh turns into a major tourist city
Lots of interesting buildings, lots of turrets
and great looking pubs
Down the bottom of this hill (and Edinburgh is built on several) is the office of the Tattoo
where you change your prepaid online voucher for real tickets. It is very near the railway station
"It's that way and NO WAY am I climbing back up these stairs...." (Before FitBit)
Greyfriars Kirk
Lynne's Great Grandfather was a minister in both Glasgow and Edinburgh
Lovely stained glass, some from the preRaphaelite movement
The tombs and catacombs
Scottish thistles are everywhere
And fat bees gathering pollen and nectar
Greyfriars Bobby, a West Highland terrier who accompanied his master's body to its grave in Greyfriars Churchyard in 1858
He guarded the grave until he died in 1872. Read the full, touching story here
There is a similar story about the Faithful Hound at Mulderbosch in Stellenbosch
His statue is in a nearby street and people think it’s good luck to touch his nose
A child touches Bobby's statue's nose for good luck
Queen Victoria Street, reputed to be the street on which J.K. Rowling based Digon Alley. There is a Harry Potter magic shop here
It twists and turns and has a few interesting shops
We were taken with The Whisky Shop which sells a huge range of whiskies, not only Scotch, and we even saw some bottles of Bain's from Wellington. They sell small bottles, decanted from these casks. Don't ask the price, good single malts are less expensive at home. A 30 year old Macallan in the shop was £3950 per bottle, but that is an extreme example. It costs less at the distillery, but that is part of a later story
Sadly, we were not offered a taste of anything
The Little Magician shop; a mecca for Harry Potter devotees
You could buy a wand, had you quite a lot of money
We were recommended this pub in the Grass Market, The Last Drop, and assumed that the name meant that you don't leave anything in your glass
and enjoyed a pint of this for John and a half of Tennent's Lager for Lynne
and then saw the real, macabre, meaning of the name
It was the site of the Gallows, where heretics, thieves and murderers spent their last moments
and had their last meal before they experienced The Last Drop
It is one of the pubs in the Grass Market, an elongated, historic square below the Castle
That evening we met up with  Fiona and Clare, two of Lynne’s old friends from London days, at Zizzi's, an Italian restaurant, and lots of catching up was done over a bottle of Sicilian white wine
with large Mozzarella, artichoke, prosciutto, rocket, pesto and olive pizzas
Lynne could not resist the crayfish risotto
Crayfish are a fresh water pest in the UK and rather small, but have good flavour
It was made with orzo, a pasta shaped like rice
It was a rather ordinary Sicilian chardonnay at £20, a bit flat
We had to finish up by 8.30 as they close at 9. North of the border, people seem to retire quite early
Lots of good chat
And as we walked home we could hear that night's Tattoo ending
And see the fireworks from outside our AirBnB
We were very sad to leave the next morning; we should have stayed longer in this beautiful city
And we won’t need an excuse to return