It’s the end of another Edinburgh Festival, and last night we went down to Princes Street to watch the fireworks – and very spectacular they were too. Apart from the general whizz-bang-kapop-pop-pop experience, they always have some unusual effects, such as the fireworks “waterfall” which cascades in a golden stream down the castle mound; and the fireworks are choreographed to go off in time to a 45-minute concert of popular classical music in the gardens (which was, in the words of some New Englanders standing behind us, “ossum”).
It was a still night, mild with hardly any wind, so when the rockets exploded into clusters of smaller flares, like a sunburst, their smoke trails hung high in the air for several seconds – and just for a moment it was like looking at a negative photograph of a snow-covered bush in midwinter, until they slowly faded, leaving just a drifting haze of smoke. I thought that was pretty ossum too.
The other bonus of the Festival is all the culture that clogs up the city for a month like a overgrown garden. Alas, being unemployed, I’ve had to ration myself to just a couple of concerts this year: the Mahler I mentioned last week, and a rare performance of Richard Strauss’s fairy-tale opera, Die Frau Ohne Schatten, conducted by the Valery Gergiev and performed by the Mariinsky Theatre orchestra. The plot of the opera is, quite frankly, barking, but the music is wonderful and the sets and costumes were stunning, and – for once – the effects were magical. I’m still on something of a high three days later. (See this YouTube clip to get an idea.)
We’re approaching the gansey end-game now, with about a third of the second sleeve completed. I’ve kept careful records of the first sleeve, so I can make sure that everything is exactly the same. (This works fine until, cough, you get your columns mixed up and spend half an hour panicking, counting and re-counting, only to realise that you’re looking in the wrong column… oh well.) It’s always great to reach this point – with only one arm it looks a bit like an amputee – now it starts to look like a gansey.
This week’s bread is a departure for me – Dan Leader’s Green Olive Sticks (or to give them their Italian name, Pane di oliva verde). It’s a standard dough made with a traditional “biga” starter, with 2 cups of chopped, pitted green olives mixed in. You shape them into little mini baguettes (baguettinis?) of about 70g each, so they’re sort of a cross between baguettes and breadsticks. (These were made for Margaret – I can’t bear the taste or smell of olives, and kneading their slimy, oily little husks into the dough was something of a trial – like trying to replace the intestine of a dead goat after it’d been removed by mistake during the autopsy – but even I have to concede they look good.)
Finally, we had the pleasure of meeting Kathryn Logan of the Moray Firth Partnership last week. (By the way, Kathryn mentioned that Frangipani – who are also going to be at the Gansey Project’s “Ganseyfest” in Inverness on 1-2 October – now supply a pretty good range of 2.25mm needles, too, which is always good to know.) She brought down a couple of the Gansey Project’s original ganseys for us to look at, and they simply blew us away – such fine knitting, and so soft – really makes you regret the fact that you just can’t get that wool any more. As for the ganseys themselves, well, what can I say? They were – forgive me – ossum.