Signs are usually brusque, devoid of humour or humanity –  rather like a sergeant-major’s barked commands to a nervous squad of raw recruits – LIFT….DINING ROOM ….TOILETS …BAR….SWIMMING POOL……SHOP…..SLOW DOWN….. TURN LEFT….. LEVEL CROSSING … EDIT…ADD MEDIA….. PUBLISH…. VIEW POST…… CLICK HERE….. STOP..
It comes as a pleasant surprise therefore to find signs that by their form and style amuse and surprise and entertain:




sign v


A very ironic johnknoxy sign seen in Edinburgh outside the Modern Art Gallery. It reminded me of the  archetypal Scottish joke ……On Judgment Day. as  the souls of the damned were whirling through the abyss down into the all-consuming  flames of hell, they cried out, ” O Lord, we didnae ken, we didnae ken!” and in response this mighty voice from above boomed out, “Weel,  ye ken noo!”

sign ok

but on the other hand……a cheerful and jaunty reassurance above the entrance to the Modern Art Gallery – I think both signs are the work of Martin Creed whose good-natured philosophy is very binary or dualistic or whatever.

sign bm



A polite apocolyptical global warning sign in a student kitchen……


Byres Road sign

A very Scottish sign seen in Glasgow’s Byres Road. Scots are addicted to pies. And bridies. There is word that a left-handed bridie is being developed in Forfar with the thumb-hole in the pastry casing placed correctly for a left-handed grasp.

sign rr  A wonderfully creatively welcoming door in an Amsterdam hotel which believed in giving the place personality, soul, a sense of humour, human warmthsign nnThe Conscious Hotel, the same surrealistic hotel whose doors  give you such a warm, poetic  introduction to  Amsterdam. ” Your breakfast is 100% organic and there are plenty of healthy choices but we won’t force you to survive on nuts and berries. At Conscious hotels, you make the choices that are right for you. Except for wearing socks with sandals. Then we might say something..”
Or as Saussure famously said: “In language there are only differences. Even more important: a difference generally implies positive terms between which the difference is set up; but in language there are only differences without positive terms. Whether we take the signified or the signifier, language has neither ideas nor sounds that existed before the linguistic system, but only conceptual and phonic differences that have issued from the system. “

Music Makers

According to William Congreve, music hath powers to soothe the savage breast . The white piano below is soothing savage breasts in the Scottish Arts & Antiques Centre.
Last  Sunday afternoon.
Nocturne Op 9 No. 2.
According to Chopin’s lover,  Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin (aka George Sand ),  “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved “.
They went to Mallorca together but alas alas didn’t find the one happiness in life there.
Or anywhere.
Jane Stirling, daughter of the  Laird of Kippendavie, was the other important woman in Chopin’s life.
She supported him emotionally and financially in his last years.
He dedicated a couple of  his Nocturnes to her.

DSCN1960 mnWhat’s a sitar player doing in Sauchiehall Street?
Glaswegians stop to stare; some even stop to listen to this usually 17-stringed instrument although its name comes from the Persian sehtar meaning three-stringed.
After its popularity in the 50s because of the playing and teaching of Ravi Shankar, the sitar was taken up by George Harrison then incorporated in the Beatles range of instruments ( ” Norwegian Wood”, “Within You Without You”, “Tomorrow never knows” ).anna 7  A woman playing the bagpipes! Whatever next?
She was playing a pibroch at the Waverley Station corner in Princes Street, a spot favoured by bagpipers although at Festival time, they can be found (and heard ) in any available doorway.Embra eoilLike this one.
Reminding  passers-by of Scotia’s past glories.
Unlike the lady piper, this piper has gone for the full Highland military regalia – the horsehair sporran, the white hose tops, the buckled belt, the glengarry….
In the First World War, there were 2,500 pipers whose task was to be first over the top, leading their regiment towards the enemy trenches.
1,000 were killed.
The bravest of the brave.

em bAgain at Festival time in Edinburgh you can find street performers like these two – the one-man band and his unadored but adoring assistant.
The servile clown and the narcissitic  performer are a common duo (in life as on the stage): Beckett’s Pozzo & Lucky come to mind;  and Fellini’s Zampano & Gelsomino.
In   La  Strada,  Zampano ( the circus strong man played by Anthony Quinn) is supported by Gelsomino (the circus clown, played by Fellini’s wife, Giuletta Masino). Symbiotic relationships.
Coulrophobia (fear of clowns) is commonly found in children  (Krusty in The Simpsons, isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs).
The white-faced clown originates from the performances of Joseph Grimaldi.
And as for the comic-relief red nose….? Who knows.festttA young blue-shirted quintet in Edinburgh’s High Street find a site with good acoustics outside St. Giles Cathedral to play their mixture of  classical and modern.
They were very good.em 8A musical trio in a Lanzarote bar play quiet Canary music I was hearing for the first time.laz cbv” O when the saints…”
A Portuguese band in Dundee who played lively music  from the 60s and 70s.
They  moved from town to town – Glasgow  to day, Edinburgh tomorrow.
They were good musicians and their music brought a vivid touch of the Mediterranean to  Scotland’s grey city streets and squares.
Note Desperate Dan in the background.



 The man that hath no music in himself,
nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
the motions of his spirit are dull as night
and his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music

The Edinburgh Festival: August 10, 2013



The Edinburgh Festival is something else….it’s great to take part  as a performer or writer or whatever but great fun even as a humble spectator –  hundreds of shows to choose from………the Festival is everywhere , the good, the bad and the hard-to-classify….out on the streets, in bars, cellars, churches…everywhere..

I first went to a Fringe Festival play in 2007. It was called ‘The Smile Off Your Face’ , by a Belgian Company with the unlikely name of Ontroerend Goed. I happened to be passing  down Chamber Street where  it was showing and I went in on the off chance I might come across something unusual.

I got my ticket and was told to wait in the bar   –   sort of unusual all right, a bit mysterious – no barman, just me … where was the audience? What –
A  door opened, a woman smiled and beckoned and  led me from the bar/waiting room down stairs to a wheel chair. I was seated in the wheelchair then quietly told I was going to be blindfolded and have my wrists loosely tied to the arms of my wheelchair was that okay? ( Normally NO NO NO but in this context it was okay. Sort of..(once started, no going back).

Then I was being pushed off, through a bead curtain, stopped, someone was whispering in my ear, then I was moved on, interviewed by someone else, soft music,  someone was stroking my hair, and asking me if I wanted to stroke hers (I assumed it was ‘hers’)  which I did and I did. And so on.
“Can I ask you a question?”  another  voice whispered and I must have nodded or said ‘Yes’  because the voice went on  ” Are you happy? Not right at this moment but in general. Take your time to think about it. Are you happy? ” and I  found myself giving a detailed account of my version of how happy/unhappy I was to a stranger I couldn’t even see and getting  back  wise and empathetic comments in exchange……
“When did you last cry?” the voice asked and as I was trying to remember, the blindfold was removed and I was staring up into an actor’s face and watching tears well up in his eyes and roll down his cheeks.
Then the blindfold was replaced and I was pushed elsewhere to meet other voices out of the darkness and asked other questions and finally one voice began telling me a story about a young man travelling through a strange land where everyone seemed to know him and expected his help, asked for his advice, apologised for taking up his time…
When my blindfold was removed again, I found the sweet voice I had been listening to belonged to a woman dressed as the Pope but with a long white beard like Santa Claus. “Do you mind if I take your photograph?”  she  asked and  of course I said ‘Yes’ then the blindfold was replaced. And  the journey continued.

Smell this. What does it remind you of? What do you think it is? Taste that. Is it sweet or sour? What does this feel like? Rough? Soft? Can you feel it move under your hand?

Finally I was untied and unblindfolded in front of a wall that was lined with photographs of ‘the audience’, mine included, sort of proof that the whole experience was real, had actually taken place, hadn’t been some crazy dream, then I was ushered to the exit and released into the real Embra afternoon air with of course someone playing the bagpipes in the distance.
What was that all about? Had it really been only 20 minutes? Did I really say all that? Did…..?  What….? Why……. How……. Where…..?







This is how cave paintings began


If you can’t join them, photograph them. Everyone has a camera these days


Edinburgh becomes cosmopolitan at Festival time, friendly, makes people smile.
This is Margo from Marvao and an astronaut with
cheap trainers posing for Sven, her Swedish boyfriend.


The woman whose white wedding dress you can just see had posed against the railings
with her handsome husband and his best man, – I was too late to get their photograph – got
instead this aftermath. This terrace is a busy Festival eating place above Victoria Road
with its quaint shops (it even has a brush shop!) which takes you down to the Grassmarket.
The day I went to the Festival was also the day chosen for a protest march 
organized by
Canadian comedian Shawn Hitchins to demonstrate against “gingerism,” or
against people with red hair. More than a hundred redheads  marched from the Balmoral
Hotel on
 Princes Street, across North Bridge to the city’s Royal Mile. The redhead below,
was simply a member of the University of Southampton’s Theatre group who
were putting on their play ‘Hanging Bruce Howard’  (admission:£5).

Pretty woman 
Good whisky shop.


Great place, Edinburgh.

Festival in the Rain


Edinburgh in the rain at  Festival time is okay. You just jump on (or into) a taxi or whatever and get yourself transported to a show – any show – there are thousands of them – in theatres, churches, streets,  telephone kiosks, castles, bus shelters, people’s dining rooms, bedrooms…..and if it’s still raining when you come out you go for a meal or a drink, you meet someone interesting, you don’t even mention the weather and before you can say Inakunyamvua, you’ve made a friend, or a lover, or a useful contact who lives in the south of France and would willingly swap houses/wives/life-styles with you for a couple of weeks next summer

Then, if it’s still raining when you come out, you can go to another show. And so on….. show – bar-show – bar – show – bar……There’s always something happening – rain or shine – outside or inside –  day or night… Edinburgh  at  Festival Time.

picasso 2