Tag Archives: edinburgh

Edinburgh’s traffic

I have heard recently that Edinburgh is the seventh most congested city in Europe. This, as anyone who has attempted to drive through Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, Bristol (none of which are in the top six) and several other UK cities will testify, this is complete, unadulterated, arrant nonsense. And what about Madrid? Rome? Paris? They don’t even figure in the top six. If you want traffic jams, try these cities, don’t pick on Edinburgh. Is it possible that these statistics were compiled at some time in the last two years, when Edinburgh’s centre was jammed solid with cars as a result of snarl-ups caused by the tram works?

Ah…! So let’s get it right. Edinburgh is NOT the seventh worst city in Europe for traffic jams. It was for a while, and there was a reason. It is not now. At a guess, it is way down the league table, I’m guessing around number twenty (on a par with Aberdeen and Amsterdam).

Believe me, after having lived in Reading (20 years ago) and having had to commute into London twice a week, Edinburgh is a mere pussy-cat in the cat-house of traffic jams.

A SatNav firm provided these statistics. SatNavs are the things that do this.

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Salesmanship

If you just happen to be able to read Welsh, and if you want to buy a copy of the Highway Code, and if you are in Edinburgh, then Halfords has just the thing for you. Don’t all rush…

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Lowering them, not walking them

My arms ache. I have been painting my hall, the woodwork with a brush and the walls with a roller. Years ago I plastered a wall and I couldn’t believe how anyone with arm muscles any smaller than Popeye’s could do such work professionally. Today I saw these guys, and felt humbled. These are full-length scaffold planks being lowered down the face of a building in Edinburgh’s George Street this lunchtime by sons of Popeye. The speed at which they lowered them was awesome.

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Birth of Britain

I have just watched a Channel 4 Documentary, ‘Birth of Britain’, presented by Tony Robinson of ‘Time Team’ and ‘Blackadder’ fame. To me he makes a passable and often entertaining presenter of archaeological programmes because he surrounds himself with professionals who put him right when he strays from good science. But archaeology is a far cry from geology, as this programme shows. He was aided at the start by a couple of geologists, a quiet one from Edinburgh who stood with him on Salisbury Crags (while he referred to the whole rock mass as Arthur’s Seat) and a very loud one indeed from Cardiff who walked him up a ‘mountain’ in Wales (it wasn’t Snowdon, so which mountain was this?) and shouted geology at him. Robinson was just about passable when he was narrating, presumably from a script, but when extemporising on hillsides he was often at a loss to find the appropriate terminology to describe geological processes. As a result we had the occasional baffling remark such as ‘…imagine that (volcano) richocheting across the Welsh countryside…’.

You have to be very, very good to explain something you don’t really understand. Ideally you shouldn’t even attempt it. ‘Birth’ has the odd random professional helper (including two Roman Centurion re-enactors on Hadrian’s Wall… why are they always Centurions?) but none of them helped to hold the programme – or the geology – together. Birth of Britain is the dumbing-down of science at its worse. You would think, after watching this, that the whole of Britain consists of volcanic rock (some of the graphics are good, though).

Perhaps ‘Birth of Britain’ will get better. For me, the bit I have seen already is dead in the water, and as a programme that attempts to explain the geology of Britain it should sink without trace. Presumably Robinson wouldn’t (I hope) dream of attempting to present a programme on astronomy, physics or chemistry, so why choose geology? It is a complex subject that requires a geologically qualified presenter. If you want to see it done properly, watch ‘Men of Rock’, presented by Iain Stewart. This is how it should be done.

‘Men of Rock’ clips (and some of the programmes – for the next few days at least) are here.

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Costly Bridge Work?


The next time you cross Edinburgh’s Waverley Bridge you might want to do it on tiptoe. If any of my motorbikes were as rusty as this they would fail their MOT. How has it been allowed to get this bad? It looks to me as if some of the steel at road-deck level has been eaten right through. Surely I’m not the only person who’s noticed it?

Click on the picture for a bigger (scarier) image.

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New Ski Slope?


This is Edinburgh’s new ski slope, a couple of miles away from the old one at Hillend.

It’s a shame the lorry is in the way because otherwise it would have looked more believable – though it looks more like a Himalayan peak than one of our rolling Pentland Hills. It is at Pentland Plants, built from the snow they shifted to clear their car park yesterday.

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Land of the Rising Sun (or not)


That really is the sun up there, not the moon. It’s 1030 in the morning, in Edinburgh, looking south. I wondered what people were looking at* and why tourists (Oh yes, we get tourists, especially this time of year!) were taking pictures.

(*I had considered using that old joke and saying ‘then it dawned on me’, but realised that if I did you might never read my blog again)

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Sunset Strip


In Iceland this would be a volcanic eruption. In Australia it would be a forest fire. And in Scotland? Just a simple sunset.

Click the image to make it slightly bigger.
Image undoctored. What you see is what we got.

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The Armed Man

Yesterday evening I went to see (hear?) a performance of composer Karl Jenkins’ ‘The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace’, performed by the Edinburgh University Music Society. It is a particular favourite of mine. I have a CD of the National Youth Choir’s recording from 2001, though I have never heard it live.

The Armed Man has been described as a dark piece. Black, more like. In my mind the only thing that comes near it in terms of darkness is Rachmaninof’s ‘Isle of the Dead’, not something you want to listen to when you are feeling depressed. Jenkins’ piece is very different in that there is hope. It is a Millennium composition, a vain hope that after thousand years of hellish war there can be a thousand years of peace.

We wish.

Enough… back to the performance before I get shunted off to pseud’s corner in Private Eye.

Am I allowed to say brilliant? To be honest, I went along to St.Cuthbert’s in the city (our city, not London) with the expectation that the performance wouldn’t match that of my CD (well, you do, don’t you, especially when it’s the National Youth Orchestra). I was VERY wrong. The EUMS choir (and small orchestra – I’m sure there is a name for a small orchestra, but I’m no musician so I don’t know) was stunningly good. The conductor, Neil Metcalf, was a dream. If anyone ever tells you it’s the choir or the orchestra that makes a performance then ignore them. Stop being their friend.

How anyone can do that stuff in a suit and a collar and tie* completely escapes me. The Armed Man has amazingly abrupt terminations, stops and starts, like following too close to a learner-driver. There was nothing learner-driver about Metcalf. I’m not sure that I have ever heard a choir (and I have heard a lot of choirs) cut and start as if the power had gone off and then on again. If any member of the audience got bored with the piece (never!) then they only needed to watch Neil. Again, Brilliant – choir, conductor and orchestra!

It was touch-and-go whether or not we should go. We had other things to do, or other things we could have done. You understand me. You know what I mean.
But I love The Armed Man, it plummets me to earth like nothing else does. It was my birthday treat… no, you don’t want to know… or, rather, I don’t want you to.

Postcript:
(Can you have a postscript in a blog post?)
I remember from somewhere that The Armed Man of this piece is not a guy with a gun but an Arm’d Man. So, for Arm’d Man, read man wearing armour.

*I have just been told that he wasn’t wearing a tie.

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Edinburgh Trams


Or not…

The tram project looks horribly dead to me, especially the tram on show in Princes Street which stands silent and unlit, unheated and unattended. If a tram could die, this is what it would look like.

Over the years I have been involved with some large construction projects, two or three of which would dwarf the Edinburgh Tram Project. What always puzzles me is that it seems to come as a surprise to everyone involved (except the contractor, presumably) that major projects often end up costing several times the initial estimate – ten times in the case of the Scottish Parliament building*. The MD of a UK national construction company once told me that all contractors bid well under what they believe the project will cost because ‘if the true cost was admitted beforehand, large engineering jobs would never get off the ground’. He said that all companies did that and bidding was a case of the least costly (technically sound but still unrealistically low priced) bid getting the work. He also told me that one construction company in particular (still around and NOT one of those involved with the tram project), employed more people in their claims department than in their engineering department, their job being to explore for loopholes in the contract so they could actually pull a contract round into profitability.

Cynical? Me? I’m only repeating what I was told by a leading contractor, far more experienced than myself. Since then, the whole method of bidding for contracts has changed of course, so that these kinds of problems can be avoided. And if you believe that…

*which I personally believe to be stunningly beautiful, especially when seen from the nearby Salisbury Crags (Holyrood House – the Queen’s residence – is on the right in this picture)

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