Before The Reunion. And Some.

February 11, 2009

Apologies for any indiscreet snaps but hey, if you don’t turn up Gareth (hungover he says) then you’re fair game.

If only I had that photo of John Denholm with that …….

I’ve hunted everywhere. If anyone else has a copy send it along toot-suite.

The Leith. The Reunion. 2009.

February 9, 2009

On Saturday the 7th of February 2009 over 40 people got aboard a boat and went nowhere, except into the past.

Meet the crew.

Down in the Land of Madeba.

October 1, 2007

After the anticipation comes the misery. Courtesy of Air France.

We sit on the tarmac, not literally, for nearly 1 hour and as we’ve only 1 hour between landing at Charles De Gaulle and catching our next flight we’ve already started to face up to the fact that things ain’t gonna work out too well.

And so it comes to pass. Lost in Charlie’s sprawling city with our flight over our heads we have to settle for a 24 hour wait.

A free hotel for the night, hardly salubrious, doesn’t make up for a comfy bed in Jozi.

And so the next day at 7.30 we start all over again.

Sitting on the tarmac for another 1 hour delay.

It must be built into all Air France manuals.

Anyway we touch down at Oliver’s shiny new airport around 10pm and are soon on our way to Westwoods with Babs and Carol.

And all of our luggage. The only thing Air Frog did get right.

The brother is off on Chris’s batchelor away-day that I have luckily missed as it involved sky-diving.

No thank you sir! I’ll take my chances on the ground.

Day 1 in Madeba Land.

The said brother arrives back home looking like he’s been shot out of a cannon having not got his head down until 4.30am.

The weather is, how shall I put it….. DREICH.

So it’s a day indoors slumped in front of the box watching SA thump USA.

Oh, and a few bottles of exceptionally fine wine from The Downie Cellar.

In between sips I took some flower shots to try out Rob’s macro lense.

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The eye of the tiger.

Day 2.

Up with the hadedas to get Ray to her tatooist. She’s getting a huge elephant across her back to remind her of her trip here.

I lied.

She’s actually having her eyebrows touched up, so we’re on the road to Sandton at 8.30.

Back home with a new woman at 10.00.

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What a difference!

Chris turns up for lunch looking quite well for a man who’s spent 48 hours jolling, getting chucked into mud holes, jumping out of the sky and consuming his monthly alcohol allowance in one night.

Ray is still in search of shoes. Apparently Edinburgh hasn’t a pair left so she’s scouring Sandton City for those elusive gold ones. And you think Cinderella had problems.

My first meeting with Jack the Lad, one more extension to the Downie bloodline.

And a real happy little chap he is too. No screaming when he comes face to face with his Uncle Jimbo.

I don’t know what they feed them with over here but this could be my first encounter with a midget Sumo wrestler.

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You wanna fight?

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“First round to me, yeah!”

Day 3.

I’m off to play golf with a teacher. Not a golf pro but a Schoolteacher.

John Foot, Chris’s old Headmaster came to Edinburgh last Summer and played at Craigielaw. If I remember right Ian Wilson and myself gave the SA visitors a bit of a hiding.

Anyway today I’m partnering John at Royal Jo’burg.

The weather has suddenly turned for the better and the skies gradually clear as we go round.

I play like a donut, but with Mr. Foot playing well we win with a bit to spare.

Castles and biltong at the clubhouse. Well, what else in South Africa?

I drive back to pick up Ray and the Bro because we’re invited to Mr. & Mrs. Foot’s for supper tonight.

Great company and foot, sorry food.

On the way home Ian takes us to Melrose Arch for a nightcap.

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Moyo man.

Moyo, the African restaurant we’ve visited before, is buzzing. A cheeky bottle of Chardonnay Pinot Noir, a few snaps, and then it’s bedtime.

Day 4.

Weather at last is scorcherooni. And guess what I’m off to do?

Yep. Play another round of golf. This time it’s at The Johannesburg Country Club.

I’m meeting up with Mr. Bulgin and 2 of his friends, Pat and Gray.

Gray doesn’t show so we make up a 4 ball with Mike, one of the committee members.

We’ve played the first and are standing on the 2nd tee when Gray comes whizzing down the fairway to join us.

It’s a first for me. A 5 ball.

Anyway Mike finishes up 3, 3, 3, 3 to take the money.

The game yesterday is taking its toll and I’m feeling booshed.

Ian, Barbara and Chris join us for a refreshment while we settle up all the side bets and skins.

Back home for a long hot soak in the bath to ease the muscles.

Celtic don’t tempt me to stay up watching telly and I’m snoring by 9.30.

Day 5.

An ultimatum.

“Jim we’re going to Rosebank and we’re not coming back until you’ve got a suit to wear to the wedding!”

The dulcet tones of my delectable wife ring in my ear as we head shopwards.

The wedding in question is my nephew Chris’s. And it seems that half of Edinburgh is making the pilgrimage out here for it.

The Bro is just back from picking up Ian and Winnie, and my Mum, Sis and Rory arrived late last night.

Anyway back at the suit front, we trail from one shop to another with no luck. But when all seems lost we spot a dark brown linen number and….. result!

The missus has to put in a couple of extra hours shopping (standard) so after lunch I drive back to Woodlands.

My Mum is there looking a bit glum as her luggage is still missing. We here later on that it’s finally turned up. Good old Air France again.

Ian’s two friends Simon and Anita turn up for a chat and a drink before we all sit down for a meal.

Come 9.00 we head of to the airport to pick up more guests. There’s Fiona, Maisie, Kirsty, Stu, Ruby, Neil and his girlfriend Annabel.

Back home there’s a great reunion before we all head for our personal pillows around 12.00.

Day 6.

It’s flower day, and the girls are off to the market to choose blooms for the wedding.

Maisie and Ruby are almost tempted to go into the pool before a clap of thunder sends us all indoors.

With the rain hammering down for hours, Stu, me and the two young ones settle down for an afternoon of cartoons, colouring in, stickering and stamping before a 100th re-run of The Wizard of Oz.

The Big Day.

We’re all up early to get togged up for the wedding.

It’s being held at Malina, a country lodge about an hour and a half drive from Jozi.

The bus arrives at around 1.00 and after a stop of at Charlie’s to pick up Mum and the rest, we’re off up the concrete highway to the venue.

The weather is looking a small touch dodgy. Grey skies. A bit threatening.

Arriving at Malina we see the site for the ceremony set out on a beautiful flat area by the river surrounded by trees.

Further up the road a huge open sided marquee is being readied with final touches to the flower vases here and there.

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My girls have been working flat out on these for two days and the result is perfect.

The sound system is being tested out with tunes belting out across the valley.

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Kilts are everywhere. Except for yours truly who doesn’t like the wind up his nether regions.

Winnie, the dog is galloping around with her own ring of flowers round her neck.

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It all comes together and the sun appears for the first time as we troupe down the dusty road to the ceremony.

Boy did those expensive high heels take a pounding, eh ladies?

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Right on cue the bride arrives looking fabbo.

Vows are exchanged, knots are tied, rings are swapped, photos are snapped, cheers ring out and the whole cavalcade then wind their way back up the hill to the marquee.

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C&B. Mr & Mrs D.

The champagne is fizzing all around as people catch up with old fiends and relatives.

Speeches begin with Craig, as his oldest buddy, doing a stand up routine that would’ve earned him a Perrier Award back in Edinburgh.

Then came the big moment of the day, apart from Chris & Brenne getting hitched.

Out of nowhere this storm arrives.

And I do mean storm with a capital S. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

The marquee almost takes off, the steel centre pole collapses and the thunder, lightning and rain rage all around us.

It’s as if we are all marooned on a small patch of grass.

Then zap, the power goes out and we’re left totally in the dark.

“Grabthepolessomeone.” rings out. “No, no the lightning!” cries another voice, knowing that the poles were indeed metal.

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These were taken seconds apart.

After 20 or so minutes the storm eases a little. Torches and candles give a whole new glow to the proceedings.

But, left without power there is no sound system. No music. And the prospect of cold food “Aaargh.”

Improvisation takes over. Someone starts playing a saxophone. The crowd join in his song. Then a really smart guy reverses his jeep into the marquee, the doors are swung open and, voila, a mobile disco.

Party on. It was certainly different.

Our bus arrives around 12.00 and we say goodbye to a really memorable day in Africa.

Day After.

Pimento’s the place. 1.00 the time. A huge family and friends lunch get-together.

Not everybody feeling their Sunday best, but great food and a few swallies revive the place.

South Africa are playing Fiji in the Rugby World Cup so the restaurant is full of cheer in more ways than one at the final whistle. The Boks are through to the semis.

Back home to Westwoods in the hope that Scotland can meet them there but alas we are the nearly nation once again. A game that was there for the winning slips away and the tartan hordes will trudge back home. As usual.

Later I hear a radio announcer say “South Africa will meet Argentina at Stade De France, and New Zealand will meet Australia at Charles De Gaulle Airport.”

Well it made me laugh.

Tomorrow the Scottish Downies are off to Sun City, while the South African Downies head soutth to The Drakensburgs and on to the coast house.

Day 9.

Up. Pack. Then out to hire 2 cars for our trip north.

“Yes Mister Downie, we’ll deliver the cars at 11 0’clock. Yes Mister Downie.”

Hertz representatives are taught the Hertz Code. Tell fibs, big time.

It’s eventually around 1.00 when we take charge of two VW Chicos.

Next it’s Rosebank Mall to shop for food essentials and grab some lunch in Primi.

The two red tin boxes are on the road around 3.10 but soon come to a grinding halt in a monstrous traffic jam on the N1 North. For over an hour we grind along at walking pace.

Things eventually ease up and with the sun giving us a wonderful lighting effect through low-lying clouds we arrive safely at the City called Sun.

Dump the cases and the ravenous seven head for Nandos.

After we’d eaten Maisie has an idea. She’ll shout out a food or drink and if you like it you’ve to put your hand up. After countless fruits and vegetables, meats and fishes someone asks Maisie “What do you not like?”

“I don’t do coke.” Comes the innocent reply.

“What a relief.” Counters her mother. The rest of the table is helpless with laughter.

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Ice-cream and marshmallows for the wee ones and it’s up the dark windy road to the Hippo House with Maisie’s confession still running round my head.

Day 10.

I’m up quite late for Africa. Well it is my birthday.

Stu and The Girls are off for a drive in The Pilansberg, so Mrs D and me head down to The Gary Player Club for brekkie.

It’s cloudy, but the sun peeks through every now and again as I watch a dozen or so golfers all dunking their balls in the lake in front of the ninth green. Must be a little gold mine for the course maintainers.

The Safari team return around 4 o’clock and recount the sightings they’ve had in the park.

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Elephant, yep. Giraffe, yep. Zebra, yep. Hippo and Rhino, yep. Warthogs, yep. But sadly no lions.

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At 7.00 we head for 4th Street Restaurant for the 63rd birthday meal. And excellent it was.

Everybody is pretty booshed by 9.00 and after the candles on the chocolate cake are blown out we call it a day.

Day 11.

The whole gang are up at 5.15 as we’re off for an early morning Game Drive. We meet our jokey guide Gerrard and enter the park by The Bakubung Gate around 6.00.

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It’s still very cold so we’re all wrapped up and snuggled together, our eyes scanning the hills for our first sighting.

At a dam not far from the gate we spot twenty or so baboons sitting shivering in little groups waiting for the sun to warm them up.

Further up the dam two hippos are having an early morning bath bobbing up and down in the water.

It’s gradually getting a little warmer as the sun peeks out, but today the animals must be having a birthday too as they all seem to have slept in.

We spot a few wildebeest, giraffe, rhino and buck, but none very close.

Around 7.30 we stop for coffee and pancakes and on the way back to Bakubung see a zebra that seems to be hesitating in the middle of the road. Gerrard says that this area is famous for leopard and that maybe the zebra is just being extra cautious.

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Come 9.00 we’re all starving and head straight for The Full Breakfast. The sun is starting to do its business and the day looks set for around 26 degrees.

Ray and I opt for a nap while the rest make for The Valley of The Waves.

Unfortunately The Waves knock little Maisie over and she comes out with her legs covered in scratches and grazes from the sandy bottom off the pool.

This brings them home early so it’s decided that we’ll instead head for the relative safety of the Vacation Club pool nearby.

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Ruby’s swimming is coming along nicely, but poor Maisie takes some time to go in. The water is making her grazes sting. Poor thing, all she’s talked about since she landed here is swimming, swimming, swimming,

Everyone is complaining about feeling tired so after a Nandos takeaway it’s time to hit the hay.

Day 12.

Kirsty sticks her head around our bedroom door quite early to say that they’re off into the Pilansberg again. Fi has decided to stay as her hip is playing up again.

Ray and I agree to meet them in the park for breakfast around 11.30.

We leave around 10.30, spotting the huge hippo family up by the dam, then a few k’s on 8 or more giraffes are spotted just at the side of the road. Some have quite dark markings while others are almost bleached white.

Our guide had told us that when the park was stocked some giraffes came from Kruger and others from Namibia. So the lighter animals had come from the dry parched plains further north.

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We catch up with Ruby, Maisie, Kirsty and Stu who are already tucking into pancakes and tea.

The cheeky Vervet monkeys are hunting in packs for any stray food as all the trucks from the various camps around the Pilansberg drop off their hungry safari guests.

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Back on the road, now with the two youngsters in our car our eyes are peeled for the lions and elephants Kirsty & Co had seen earlier.

Some others at the stop-off had mentioned seeing cheetah and leopard too.

We’re pretty unlucky and only see the odd buck, zebra and rhino. Plus the hippos floating languidly in the dam so we head home around 2.00.

Again the weather has been very poor.

Around 5.00 we head down to Africa’s small Vegas where the kids enjoy spending our money on Splat the Rat, Hit the Hippo and those infuriating coin machines where the idea is to push money on a slide to make it fall into a hole.

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I remember it with pennies, now it’s a Rand a time, and you don’t get money but paper tokens.

A thousand tokens buys you big fluffy bunny. Big deal.

Day 13.

Everyone up early for the clean and pack. We’ve to be out of the house by 10.00, so once the cars are loaded it’s time for The Big Breakfast to fuel us for the journey back to Jozi.

The weather has improved and it’s pretty warm as we head across the flat endless plain away from Sun City.

After about 80k we stop to get crisps from the other car for the kids who are always hungry. I manage to grab some photos of the nearby township.

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Nobody is in the least shy and people call out to me to photograph them from here and there. The barber is a pretty cool dude who asks me lots of questions.

Back behind the wheel we’re soon in sight of Joburg, the journey taking just over two hours.

I chuck myself into the Bro’s pool to cool down but can’t tempt anyone else in.

At 7 0’clock we make for Melrose Arch to meet Sarah and Steve. The girls sit outside Moyo and have their faces painted, very simple yet very African.

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Italian is the choice tonight. Pasta and pizza make a change from all the meat we’ve been eating. The young ones are pretty booshed after the long day so it’s home to number 14 and bed.

Day 14.

Today we’ve been invited to Carol and Charlie’s for lunch.

We meet up with Mum, Lyndsey, Rory, Craig and Annie. Sarah and Steve are there too. Plus the star of the day, 3 year old Sam.

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The sun is still shining and Carol does her usual fantastic spread. The best meal of the trip.

Ruby actually braves the pool but Maisie says “Not for me, it’s too cold” then promptly falls in fully clothed.

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Water and Maisie are not the best of friends this holiday.

As the sun sets we head homeword with Sarah and Steve. Our big chance not to see England beat France passes as it’s not on mainstream TV.

Bed around 10.00. Fingers crossed under the pillow for Scotland v Ukraine. I’ll find out the result tomorrow.

Day 15.

Sunday, Sunday. And it is, as Maisie says, that when the sun’s out it’s Sunday. Sort of makes sense to a four year old.

Anyway Fiona is off to see an old work colleague from Scotland who now lives here. After that she’s meeting us at Rosebank Market.

Breakfast and lunch are combined at our second visit to Primi.

Then it’s up to the rooftop market that’s grown enormously since we first came ten or so years ago.

Hear you can buy anything from a battery to bantu mask, an elephant to a egg sandwich. It’s hoatchin’. After an hour or so Ray and I take a mumpy Maisie back to the house while the others go in search of prezzies for back home.

Tomorrow we fly to the coast. Early to bed.

Day 16.

Pack the cars for the drive to the airport. We’re off to the coast, flying down to Durban where we’ll pick up two cars for the drive to Trafalgar.

Disaster nearly strikes as I miss the correct turn-off on the road to the airport and in the process lose the other car.

I eventually pick up the right road and arrive at the drop-off zone. They fuss over two tiny chips on the windscreen which are almost invisible. “How did this happen?”

“Oh, it was probably a rhino or a woodpecker, you do have woodpeckers in Africa don’t you?”

I’m sure to have a battle on my hands as they’re bound to try and rip me off.

Anyway the others soon arrive having come a totally different way, and we make the flight with time to spare.

Short flight to Durban. Pick up cars. Drive to coast house.

Chris, Brenne and the young Wilson’s are entertaining tonight in their house and we all head over for chilli. The house also features a full size snooker table so we can demonstrate how bad we all are at potting.

Tonight we’re sleeping at Dave and Sandra’s house in Southbroom and we make the short trip in the pitch black around 9.00.

Shut-eye well deserved after a long day.

Day 17.

Joyce the maid turns up at 10.00 and is disappointed we’re not staying. The kids are making for Chris and Brenne’s while we are going to stay with Ian and Barbara until Saturday.

theThe alarm man is Ian’s place to fix the entry system after a visitation of local burglars on Sunday night. “Watch out, watch out there’s a thief about.” as the TV commercial said back in Scotlland in the 70’s.

The weather is still overcast, but Barbara, The Wilsons and me brave the cold to play golf at Southbroom. Winnie and I thrash Barbara and Spiro, mostly thanks to Winnie who plays well below her 26 handicap.

Back at the coast house it’s shepherds pie to warm us up.

“Anyone for cards?”

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The laughing card-sharp.

Well you’d never guess the three hucksters I came across as I’m dispatched quickly in the first game of “Sweaty Betty.”

The tired, the weary and the amateur card player all call it a day around 9.30.

Day 18.

The sun peeks through the curtains about 6 o’clock. Is he here to stay or just making a fleeting visit?

He’s still there, albeit a bit hazy, as we eat breakfast on the stoep.

By 11.00 we have a real coast day. Warm and balmy. Bit like my wife.

Marina Beach, just up the road a bit, is where we all head.

Camp is set just off the beach in the shade of a few trees with a great view of the sea and some amazing sand sculptures. A shark, an elephant, a horse and various sunbathing sand humans that have to be hosed down regularly, with the aid of a plastic bag full of holes, to stop them turning into soft sculptures.

Lunch in the Shipwrecked Bar that we were told was truly wrecked in March by a huge storm. The new version is a vast improvement on the one I remember. Food not much better though.

Two Wilsons and two Downies decide to walk back to Trafalgar along the beach and the Bro is our chauffeur at the other end.

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We settle down to watch England make their exit from the European Championship scythed down by two quick Russian goals. Will McClaren be sent to the salt mines after this lack lustre display?

More importantly will Scotland be able to skelp the Eye-ties to secure their place in the finals after being humbled in Georgia?

Tonight we eat at the Trattoria down at the lagoon.

Good news from the Bro. Dick & Nick are almost there with their offer to buy him out of Design Syndicate. A few more days and that burden will be lifted from him after a long drawn out wrangle. I’ll drink to that.

Stop off at Heaven 17 where we have to urge the barman to open up for a nightcap. Weird place. Weird people. It could be a pub in Wallyford or Lenzie if it wasn’t for the accents.

Home for some impromptu jiving on the upper balcony. Ray’s “Old Farts Playlist” gets the thumbs up well into the night

Day 19.

Up late to be greeted by mist and rain stretching out into the Indian Ocean.

Shockerooni. No sun. Again.

The grand-kids get dropped off to give Fi and Kirsty a break. They’re too busy working on a giant jigsaw.

Ray needs to do some shopping. What’s new? So we head along the coast to Margate and Pick ‘n’ Pay.

Maisie and Ruby rush round the store with their mini-trolleys hoovering up everything Ray picks out. “Ganny, can we get this, Ganny can we please get that?” Anything to prove they have the biggest shop. Wonder who they got that from?

On the way back to the coast house we pull into The Crocodile Farm. And just as we arrive the rain starts.

This proves to be a blessing as the hundred or so crocs prefer to be in the water than sit around getting wet. One by one they heave their bodies waterwards and soon there’s hardly one visible.

Visit the snake house to see the green mambas and the blue boomslangs before driving home.

On the way back we’re flagged down by the two Ian’s who are off to the salubrious “Pistols Saloon” a sort wild west on the south coast, all swing doors, shite western music and fake memrobilia. Unfortunately the donkey that wanders around the bar was away on holiday at the sanctuary for a week.

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Pool is mandatory and we three are no Jimmy Whites, more Ronnie O’Duffagain.

Great aromas greet us back home where the complete gang all gather for a fab curry.

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Still raining though. Just thought you’d like to know.

Day 20.

Wave to The Wilsons.

Spiro and Fred set off on the next leg of their round the world tour. Australia beckons. Then countless stops will take them back to home 2 near Miami.

See you mid December guys, and enjoy.

Still raining though.

The Bro and I drive into Ramsgate to get some keys cut. While that’s happening we’re off to meet Tom, Dick & Harry which is actually a pub just down the road.

Peter, mine host, collects beer cans from all over the world – at last count it was in the thousands – and I spot some Tennents from around 1990, the ones featured in a commercial we shot in Japan.

Lunch at the bar watching the relentless hyping of the rugby World Cup Final. If the Boks don’t win the nation will be in mourning after such expectations.

Ray and Barbara have been up to Shelley Beach Mall to do something girls do soooo well.

Lazy afternoon with the sky outside still grey.

Tonight we visit a new Italian restaurant in a nearby banana plantation. Food excellent, especially the bananas.

Back home we watch the Pumas beat the Smelly Cheeses in Paris before slinking off for our last snore of the coast.

Day 21.

We head back to Jozi today and guess what, I look out the window and it’s glorious sunshine. Rats!

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But first we all head for Marina Beach for lunch. Ruby has already been in tasting the surf and poor Moo’s foot is still giving her a hard time. The sun is beating down, probably one of the best days so far. Rats again!

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The two white tin boxes are on the road to Durban around 1.45. Fi drives while I snooze. Drop off tin boxes and head for terminal.

Flight takes off on time and we meet our taxi at Jozi Airport at 7.00.

What we don’t realise until we get back to Ian’s house is that we’ve left Kirsty’s case by the carousel. Countless phonecalls to the airport end in nothing as nobody is answering the phones, not even the police. Well there is a World Cup Final on tonight and the whole of South Africa has gone to the pub.

We’ll try again in the morning and see if anyone turns up, hangover or not.

I settle down to watch a particularly dull game with Bokke winning 15-6.

All we can hear outside is horns and cheers and cars roaring up and down. That’ll no doubt go on until dawn.

For me it’s head down after a long travelling day. G’night.

Day 22.

Good news this morning, Kirsty’s case is safe and well in the airport. She’ll pick it up tonight before she flies home.

We’ve decided to return a couple of days early so we make for the airport to change our tickets. It turns out to be more difficult than we thought. Nowhere open until 11.15. But we eventually get fixed up with a flight to Paris leaving at 7.45, three hours earlier than the rest of our gang.

Ray still has some sh*++ing to do. Yep. She’s back at Rosebank Sunday Market. I suppose it’ll be something to cram the cases with.

Maisie and me opt for the peace and quiet of Westwoods.

Say goodbye to the girls and Stu. Steve drops us at the airport and we join the mad queue to check in.

“Sorry, but you have to pay £30 to take your golf clubs back home and you’re 5 kilos over weight so you’ll have to pay for that too.”

“Merde, and double merde!”

Good old Air France. They fleece you here, they fleece you there, those froggies fleece you anywhere.

Anyway we eventually arrive home safely after 28 hours travel – don’t ask – and 23 days away. Every minute is etched on my brain. Family holidays to South Africa are like that.

Thanks to The SA Downies for their hospitality. Thanks to Sera and Steve for all their running around. Thanks to Carol and Charlie for taking good care of my Mum, Sis and nephew. Thanks to Sandra, Dave, Alison and John. Emily what we do without you?

To Chris, Brenne and Jack the Lad, long and lasting happiness.

It was lekker.

Pilot celebrates impending marriage with a wake.

July 8, 2007

Finnegan’s Wake, to be correct, is the chosen venue for Flight Commander Ben Cluley’s liquid take off.

So come 8 o’clock our merry band are gathered in said Alehouse, and it being friday are surrounded on all sides by countless Hen Nights. (I do believe that these are now designated, because the ladies come from all parts of the country, as Hen Weekends.)

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Anyway the prize for most original attire, not your usual pink cowboy hat and fluffy bunny crap, came in the shape of Emma’s Pot Noodle Weekend.

These girls from The Valleys came as miners. Overalls, hats, lamps, blackened faces and the obligatory Pot Noodle cup to quaff their Bacardi Breezers from. Nice one. And all with “Fuel of Britain, isn’t it” on the back of their sweaty miner’s vests. Lovely.

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At 9.30 we venture out into Hades (Victoria Street) where The Liquid Rooms ar filling up with skimpily dressed girls, most of whom have probably been at the liquid for the past couple of hours.

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Luckily it’s only 20 or so yards down the street to our next port of call, Kushi’s curry emporium.

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Inside the clatter of plates and chatter of punters is almost deafening. It must cater for three or four hundred at a sitting.

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Soon our table is groaning with poppadoms, curry, naan and all the usual accompanying spices. The general consensus seemed to be it was fine fare.

Moves were now afoot to head off to Hen & Stag Central, otherwise known as The Three Sisters.

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John The Chef drives off with the crew that live down the coast while Benny and The Jets troop off Grassmarketwards following the throng who all seem to be going to the same venue..

Les Trois Wummin is awash with strangely dressed groups, and the general atmosphere seems to one of gaiety.

The gaiety coming mainly from 6 guys from Bradford all dressed in matching womens’ dresses.

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The music pounds out, communal singing to anything cheesey is mandatory. The bar staff try to cope with the demand for “mair beer pal” and the hen night costumes are wilting. The place starts to look like a bad fancy dress party.

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After all that effort to look right too.

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We stand there in the middle of the maelstrom wondering why we don’t come here every friday.

No, lets keep it for stag nights. But as Ben is one of the last to be betrothed it might be a few years before we’re back.

Lets wish the man all the best. But one thing, has anyone ever seen him fly a plane????

We know your cabin secret Benjamina.

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History at the Hub.

May 5, 2007

After working with the SNP for the last 11 months it finally arrives.

The 3rd of May. Voting day.

Will Atkinson and myself have produced countless posters, press ads and party political broadcasts for the Salmond and Sturgeon attempt to shake Jock McConnell off his dodgy perch.

And now comes the final test.

After being 5, 6, and even 7 points ahead of Labour recently, all the red tops get their scaremongering vests on and spread doom and disaster all over their front pages.

The Wimps.

So, come the day, we know it’s going to be close.

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Spotted this sign in George Street. A good omen.

At 5.30 the support gang are huddled in The Jolly Judge public house nervously waiting for the result.

Mr Dommet’s phone rings, “It’s 42/42 he mumbles.” But the good news is there are still a few results to come in. “Will it go to penalties?” some wag blurts out.

No, the wifes and girlfriends were at home if you ask.

We glance at each other knowing a defeat at this late stage could mean all our hard work had been in vain.

The phone rings again.

“It’s 47/46. To us.” Handshakes all round. Relief mixed with incredulity.

We march quickly across the High Street to The Hub, the SNP venue for today, win or lose.

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The air is electric. Hugs are everywhere. The big man has yet to arrive but the inner hall is jumping.

News comes through that he’s sneaked in the side door and his arrival is imminent.

A door opens and immediately I’m caught up in the media scrum that huddle round him all the way to the stage. Elbows are the weapon of choice.

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Cameras are everywhere. Flashes come one a milli-second. Alex struggles on through the backslapping and glad-handing. Eventually he’s there. Standing on stage to a massive applause.

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“I’ve heard a rumour” he starts ” I think we’ve won the Election.”

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And you know he was right.

His ten minute speech perfectly sums up the mood of the day and he’s roundly applauded over and over again.

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It’s time. Time for him to move out.

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“Just the one Jack. But one’s enough.”

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And it’s time. Time to give a big thanks to all the boys, and girls, behind the scenes. Ian, Iain, Ian, Sam, George, Rob, Lou, Lee, Katie, Madeleine, Richard, and anyone else connected with this task who couldn’t be there for this one with Nicola. Where were you Peter?

In The Land of The Golden Birdie the one eyed man is King.

April 21, 2007

19th of April and once more The Craigie-Clan are off on one of Mr. J. Thomas’s 2 day tours.

Mr. “Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah” Crummey is once more my chauffeur, and with Mr. J. Douglas and Mr. W. Morrison tucked up in the back of the Merc we’re off north to Carnoustie to join 4 more stalwarts and test this year’s Open venue.

Bacon rolls and coffee in the, eh, salubrious Golf Hotel and at 12.30 we’re out onto the links in bright and breezy conditions.

We’ve been asked to take our private bit of the course with us, in the shape of a 12 inch by 4 inch piece of plastic grass.

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What am I supposed to do with that?

The idea here is to protect the course for all the Sergios and Ernies.
“We dinnae want Tiger’s ba’ stuck in one o’ yer divotts, dae wi?”
you can imagine the Starter bleating.

I manage to lose mine about 3 times.

Anyway the big beast of a course takes its toll on a good few of us but at the end of the day globetrotter Mr. J. Douglas, he of ever present with a Blackberry fame, comes in with a fabulous 35 points.

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Scott makes a spectacle of himself.

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Jake goes in the water at the 9th.

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The magnificent 18th with the Zambezi river on the right.

Into the silver bird and off to posh Broughty Ferry. It’s where people go if they want to avoid Dondonians don’t you know. And they have lovely pehs.

The Fisherman’s Tavern is our hammock for the night. And very nice it is.

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I’m bunking with “the leader in the clubhouse” to see if any of his success rubs off on me.

After a few sharpeners in the low ceilinged bar we’re India bound to try out the recommended curry shop.

Splendid nosh enjoyed by all.

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Ben tries to extricate a loose piece of popadom from his nose.

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Back in the Fisherman’s it’s a few more swallies before bed beckons. Those are The Big Johns.

With no tips coming forward from Mr. Douglas I decided to try and keep him awake all night by using the snoring technique I’ve perfected.

You see, if I keep him awake he’ll be in no fit state to shoot a good score tomorrow and, maybe, just maybe I can make a late charge from the back. In your dreams Downie.

My plan fails but keeps Mr.C. and Mr. M. in the next room from getting off to sleep.

Next morning we’re on the road again, this time to Downfield. We try to lose Mr. Cluley but he does it unaided, eventually catching up with us after a bit of a detour.

Brrrrr. On the first tee at 9.30 it’s bitterly cold but things warm up once we get moving.

J, J, J & W complete their 2nd stapleford round and over lunch the winner transpires to be young Mr. W. Morrison, who has triumphed despite playing 2 rounds with one eye.

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The poor man was struck in his een with the corner of a storm lantern a few days ago and had to have drugs administered every 2 hours.

The crestfallen Mr. Douglas is beaten by just one point but has played magnificently.

Sobbing is heard from one corner of the room as Mr. R. Crummey, AKA Mr. J. Saville, realises he’s not made it 3 in a row. The kids back home will be devastated.

Back on the tee for an afternoon’s Texas Scramble which Team A win outstandingly with countless eagles (2 balls chipped in from some distance) and birdies, leaving my team trailing in their wake.

Consolation drinks all round before Mr. Crummey points the car south and over The Forth Road Bridge.

A big thanks must go to Mr. Thomas for organising another great outing.

PS. Next time Mr. Cluley, bring along some better jokes.

PPS: My photo of Willie and the cup didn’t come out for some reason so the portrait above is a bit of a mish-mash of Mr. C. And Mr. M.
Sorry guys.

Things that go stoß (bumb) in the night.

March 17, 2007

Ruby & Maisie were here at number 17 for “a sleepover”. Well that’s what Maisie calls it.

They were tucked up in bed by 9 o’clock and sound asleep by 10.

I’d just broken off from watching Jonathon Woss on Red Nose’s Big One and had climbed into bed ready to catch up on the day’s Guardian.

It was 11.30.

Suddenly there was this almighty bang in the street outside.

“Somebody’s crashed into the house” I immediately blurted.

“That’s what I thought” replied Ray.

We tiptoed down the two flights of stairs and peered out of a small window.

Sure enough a White Volkswagen had ploughed into the side of the building missing the front door by a foot.

I ventured outside in my dressing gown to find the driver, a boy of about 17, standing in the road holding his wrist and full of apologies for what he’d done.

The poor guy had lost control on Bell’s Brae on the slippy cobbles and veered right into our wall.

The car was a total write-off.

And the boy, luckily, had nothing more than a fright.

As for “the sleepover”, they slept right through it all.

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All that was left of the car in the morning.

“Sturdy things these Volkswagens” I thought to myself.

Well, I never. Have you heard the one about the 12th century caveman?

January 26, 2007

St Bernard’s Well is found on the Leith Walkway between Dean Village and Stockbridge.

Legend has it that the spring was first discovered by St Bernard of Clairvaux, founder of the Cistercian order in the 12th century. While living in a nearby cave and feeling quite unwell he was attracted to the spring by birds and after some days of drinking the water was restored to health.

Traditionally the mineral springs at are believed to have been discovered by three boys from Heriot’s Hospital about 1760.

In 1764 the water was very popular although likened to tasting like the “washings of foul gunbarrels”.

In 1788 Lord Gardenstone was so impressed by the well’s effects that he commissioned the circular “Roman” Temple that still covers the wellhouse.

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The architect was Alexander Naismyth whose design was based on Sybils’s Temple at Tivoli, with ten columns in a circle supporting a lead dome surrounding a marble statue of Hygieia, Goddess of Health.

Steps lead down to a small, locked wooden door in the base of the temple and an inscription in the stonework.

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Through the door lies the pump room which was lavishly refurbished about 1885 so that Victorian’s could ‘take the waters’ in a ‘celestial vault’.

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On top of the pump stands a marble urn decorated with health related Roman scenes. There’s also an elaborate Victorian stove, if anyone fancied a cuppa something hotter.

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The ceiling of the vault is a mosaic blue dome decorated with stars and an ornate frieze.

In the centre, directly above the pump and urn, is a radiant sun, concealed behind it’s rays are holes to allow ventilation.

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The water was claimed to have medicinal properties ranging from being a general tonic to being a cure for arthritis and rheumatics.

The well continued to be popular until it closed about 1940.

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Following the death of the last private owner, William Nelson the publisher, his trustees offered the well to Edinburgh Town Council as a gift.

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St Bernard’s Well is now cared for by the Water of Leith Conservation Trust.

A short History lesson. Pay attention and please sit up straight, you at the back.

January 16, 2007

Dean Village (from dene, meaning ‘deep valley’) was known as the “Water of Leith Village” and had been a successful grain milling hamlet for more than 800 years.

At one time there had been no fewer than eleven working mills there, driven by the strong currents of the Water of Leith.

The ‘Mylnes of Dene‘ were listed in the King David I Charters.

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The massive West Mill across the river from Number 17.

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The date 1805 on the West Mill facade refers to a re-building, for there were mills here much earlier.

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Originally the river provided power in its twenty-three miles for over seventy watermills, a higher work output than any other river in Scotland.

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Taken by Thomas Vernon Begbie in the late 1850’s.

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Taken by Jimbo early 2007.

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Walking up The Dean path you’ll see this sign on the left.

It leads down a flight of stairs to an open area that obviously was the official gathering place for all the people who lived in this hamlet.

17 for Xmas at Number 17.

December 27, 2006

A small fib there. But it makes a good headline.

There were indeed 17 expected for Xmas lunch but unfortunately Mr and Mrs Muir had to call off. So 13 cheery souls ventured down to The Village to join Ray and I in our temporary abode.

A roaring log fire in the small sitting room kept eveyone cosy for the present swapping before Mum and the 2 daughters snuck off to prepare everything in the upstairs kitchen.

Ruby was desperate to try out her roller-blades but the cobbled streets outside put her off.
Looks like it’ll be Porty Prom tomorrow for her.

Turkeys got off scot free this year as we had roast fillet and all the bits – roasted veg, roast tatties, yorkies and gravy. Those who were brave enough went on to trifle and Xmas pudding.

A special thanks should go to Mr & Mrs William Dobbie of Saxe Coburg Place for kindly letting this gathering enjoy Xmas in such wonderful surroundings.

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Lovely girls, but no angels.

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No angel, but a princess.

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“Look Moo, it’s a BIKE!” Ruby tells Moo Santa hasn’t let her down.

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“Go on Moo, give us a smile.”

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Moo shows off her Mr Nosey book.

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Ruby’s just fallen off the top of the tree.

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Daddy’s girl.

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“You are the Dancing Queen, young and keen, much older than you seem.”


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