May Belfort by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec

This afternoon we drove to Edinburgh thinking that it wouldn’t be too busy as it’s a Sunday and we might find it easier to get parked. Insert a hollow laugh here as we couldn’t have been more wrong, it was MOBBED. It turned out that the Christmas Fair in Princes Street gardens (just below the castle) had just opened yesterday and some other streets were closed to traffic. I even saw an actual ballerina dancing on a stage in the distance – to The Sugar Plum Fairy of course.

I of course forgot my camera, but you can see images of the Christmas Market here.

May Belfort; Henri de Toulouse Lautrec

Anyway, the main reason we decided to go to Edinburgh wasn’t for shopping – it was to visit the Toulouse Lautrec poster exhibition which is on in The National Galleries. It’s called Pin-Ups and the Art of Celebrity. Sadly it’s one that you have to pay to see, the galleries and museums in Scotland are free to the public but they usually have some special exhibitions on that you have to pay for if you want to see them. Luckily we get free entry as we’re Friends of the Galleries. We enjoyed the exhibition but don’t really think it was worth the £11.50 they were charging to see it.

Are you old enough to remember the 1970s when Toulouse Lautrec posters and merchandise seemed to be everywhere? as well as Mucha posters of course. Well we still have some of the merchandise from those days but the two Lautrec prints we have in our bedroom are of Jane Avril and May Belfort and they originally belonged to Jack’s grandparents, probably dating from the 1920s.

As it happens, elsewhere in this blog I mentioned that we stood at a shoe shop window in Bruges – singing How Much is That Doggie on the Window? Well there was a dog sitting amongst the shoe displays! You know what it’s like – being on holiday somehow encourages a bit of daftness.

So where is all this meandering leading to I hear you ask? Well – today I discovered that May Belfort was the original singer of Daddy wouldn’t buy me a bow-wow – which is a variation on the theme, and sure enough she did go on stage holding a little cat, which according to the song she was very fond of. I doubt if it was a real cat though as they’re not well known for behaving themselves and staying where they should. Now every time I look at that print I’ll hear her singing.

On the way out of the National Gallery we had to make our way up the steps at the Christmas Market to get on to Princes Street – nightmare!


You might know that I’ve been intending to visit the Royal Yacht Brittania for some time now but things just keep getting in the way. As yesterday was the last day of the Christmas/New Year school holidays here we thought we would go for that overdue visit. Then on the way to Edinburgh the radio news report said that Britannia was being taken to a dry dock to be repainted that morning but she was taking on water and listing badly! So, that was that, luckily the fire brigades managed to deal with the water which was leaking into it and she should be open to visitors next month, when we’ll try again.

We were halfway to Edinburgh so decided to park at the Botanic Gardens and walk into town via Stockbridge. The National Gallery was having its annual Turner in January watercolour exhibition. The paintings were donated to Scotland by a collector who stipulated that they must only be on show during the month of January to stop them from being damaged by strong light. He needn’t have worried because there’s no sunlight at all where they are being hung, in fact it’s very dimly lit but if you’re in Edinburgh you should make time to have a look at them. They’re beautifully delicate looking, I think watercolour painting is far more difficult than painting with oils but for some reason people tend not to be so impressed by them.

The National Gallery of Scotland

This chap was just beginning to play his bagpipes so there was that usual caterwauling until he won the fight and managed to squeeze a recognisable tune out of them. The Walter Scott monument is in the background and the big wheel which was there over the Christmas/Hogmanay period is half-way through being dismantled. I once saw a Japanese man playing his pipes in Princes Street, in full highland regalia. I think he must have been fulfilling a lifetime’s ambition – well either that or he was trying to collect his fare back to Japan!

A bagpiper

Anyway, after that we had a swift look around Marks and Spencer, there was nothing worth buying as the sale things are now only in size 8 or 20 and thankfully I am neither. To George Street and Waterstones where I didn’t find any books I wanted to buy. I know, I’m not supposed to be buying any. Then back on down to Stockbridge again on our way to the car.

You know I can’t resist those bookshops but it was extremely slim pickings this time, just as well really as I have so many to read. Spookily though I did find a copy of The House with the Green Shutters which Peggy has just downloaded from Project Gutenberg. So I bought it, it’s just a paperback but it’s a nice big one with very clear print, published by James Thin of Edinburgh in 1986 but in perfect condition. It may well jump my reading queue.

I also bought a McCalls Needlework book, it’s sort of nostalgic really and I didn’t realise that it was published in 1963 until I looked at it at home. It’s nearly 50 years old but looks like new and it cost me all of 50 pence! The only other book I couldn’t say no to is a very old copy of Brand by Ibsen. I thought it was a play, I like his plays but it’s actually a poem, so I’m not sure about that. It’s an Everyman’s Library edition from 1917 though and has never been read by the looks of it. It still may not be! It was another 50p buy in a charity shop. So that was a very cheap but tiring day out in Edinburgh, not at all what we expected to be doing that day but we both need to whittle a few pounds off after the festivities so the long walk will have done us some good – I hope!