Monday, 30 April 2012

FUCK ART, LET'S BOUNCE: Reflections on playtime in Glasgow

Intrepid Edinburgh adventurers!  Fun-loving folk of all ages!  Consider this a call to arms - I have encountered a singularly cool spectacle, not of our fair city, that may have eclipsed our every effort at innovative play.  In Glasgow.

I speak, of course, of BOUNCY STONEHENGE.

It first came to light in this article, alerting the wider world to the presence of a particularly unusual iteration of the classic inflatable castle.  Now, if you actually read the piece, like I just did (previously I only looked at the photos), you can witness a plethora of disgruntled comments.  Most of them are centered around the alleged ineffectiveness of Glasgow council, the disgrace of having an iconic English monument commanding attention (and taxpayer money) in Scotland, the ultimate futility of art, and a host of other politically charged statements.  I guess Guardian readers are a bit touchy about these sorts of things.

All I can say is, haters gonna hate.  I came, I saw, I BOUNCED.  It was awesome.

We approached with caution.  This was a strange spectacle indeed, and it drew a crowd.

Now, I didn't make a special trip to Glasgow in order to take part in the serendipitous stonehenging.  In fact, I had already planned to be in Scotland's other city for alternate reasons, but I had the great fortune to be tipped off by a very astute friend, who knew this puffed-up piece of history was right up my alley.  Once she mentioned it existed, there was no question about it: I had to go see for myself.

We arranged to meet up and take a wander down to Glasgow Green, the site of the temporary prehistoric playground.  Before even catching sight of it, though, I was struck with indignation and envy.  Why, do you ask?  Please refer to the photograph below (figure 2).


The Glasgow Green has a freaking pirate ship.

Look, we've been around our share of Edinburgh playparks.  Heck, we even made a blog about it.
In all our rambles across the city (see our map for full details), not once have we seen anything even remotely approaching the excellence that is this nautical specimen.  It simply isn't fair.  After gibbering a bit about the indignity of it all, I managed to pull myself together and continue on towards our main goal.

Readers, I have never been to the real Stonehenge.  I have never gazed upon the legendary standing stones, nor have I basked in the shadows of its mysterious, astrological aspect.  But I tell you this: I truly felt the magnitude of an ancient power that day.  And I jumped aaaaalllllll over it.

A closer inflatable view
Jumping, as it turns out, is rather tiring.  All around us, there were pint-sized hooligans boinging, flipping, and ricocheting off the springy surfaces with seemingly limitless energy.  Most of their adult handlers, in contrast, were flopped in a heap, gasping for breath.  I'll admit that there were moments we felt rather wheezy ourselves, but we gamely bounced onwards for the full 15 minute session.  I found that flailing my arms like a windmill was a particularly effective way to derive maximum enjoyment from the experience.

When it was over, we schlumped off the surface and staggered away to let the next crowd have its turn.  Overall, I was quite impressed with Glasgow and, although I am loyal to Edinburgh, I suspect that future visits might be in order... especially to that fantastic pirate ship.  I think I might conquer it by force. 

Friday, 13 April 2012

Wine and Seek II: Calton Hill

For our second wine and seek I assembled a group of 6 people on top of Calton Hill.


Calton Hill is full of people including dog walkers, joggers and tourists snapping photos. This means that you can feel somewhat inhibited hiding. For instance in the first round I went to investigate a possible hiding space behind a bush, and the guy sat on the park bench reading a book nearby turned around and looked at me oddly, so I felt obliged to keep walking. Furthermore Calton Hill has a somewhat unsavoury reputation, at night at least, and one of the participants remarked afterwards that two of his hiding places were rather too close to used condom wrappers for his liking. I didn't notice any myself luckily. We also found a mysterious tent pitched in an obscured part of the hill, prompting worried speculation.
Best Hiding Places 

Lilliputian hiding
Lilliputian is snapped (to the left) up some rocks near the Nelson Monument. I found a good hiding place for the first round. It had excellent views over to the Forth, and the beautiful architecture of the St James Shopping Centre, and after not being discovered during the first round I emerged victorious. Hurrah! I was however spotted promptly in the third round as my hiding place was completely exposed from one angle.

However the prize for the best hiding must go to our friend G, who instead of hiding conventially changed his clothes completely, and followed our seeker around looking suspicious without getting caught for a long time...

Wine and Seek is a lie.

We just played hide and seek. No one drank wine, although I think some people might have brought some in their backpacks. Lilliputian's excuse is "I was already too hungover".  I didn't want to.

Edinburgh's Disgrace and the Nelson Monument


So far we have played hide and seek on Calton Hill and Easter Craiglockhart Hill. Calton Hill is smaller, meaning that it has less possibilties for different rounds, but it was easier to find people than in Craiglockhart where it had the potential to take hours. The search for the perfect hide and seek spot goes on. Does anyone have any suggestions for our next hide and seek venue?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

There's Treasure Everywhere! Commemorating 25 years of brilliance with an urban wild-goose-chase of questionable quality!

There's Treasure Everywhere: Part 2: Hunting for Treasure

Discovering a clue
It was with anticipation I arrived at Lilliputian's flat on Easter Sunday to celebrate her birthday by going on a treasure hunt. Where would we end up?  I knew Lilliputian was planning a barbecue at the end with a borrowed Tesco Value gazebo for shelter. There were a limited number of places I could think of that seemed suitable for purpose (and some of the possible spaces I could imagine Lilliputian would think of might be...err...not places that encourage the public to turn up and pitch a gazebo). The answer in retrospect given Lilliputian's relaxed response to my "how are you going to manage to carry everything including a gazebo to some random field by yourself" type questions was obvious.

The clues were all lovingly typed out on a typewriter and dipped in tea (or whatever method Lilliputian used to make her clues look "olden" - tea is what I would have used), and hidden by Lilliputian in various ingenious locations.

The first clue mentioned a "battle of wits" so we set off on our intrepid adventure in the direction of Bruntsfield Links, where there is a giant chessboard. There amongst a pot with tulips was a beautiful red rose which on close inspection was made out of tissue paper and had a bag of chocolate eggs and toffee instead of roots.

St Kenigern's Church, by the Union Canal
Godforsaken Place
 The was a bit of dithering as we headed "downhill, downhill - a street promising views of the estuary" (Viewforth), We spent sometime debating whether Boroughmuir High School might be "a wasteland of destruction" and if Bruntsfield Evangelical Church was "godforsaken".

However it turns out the godforsaken place was St Kentigern's Church. (I only learnt its name from googling it as I was writing this post.)

We then headed along the Union Canal in search of some entrapped trees in Harrison Park.

The horse in Stable Lane
 By the time we reached "somewhere you keep a horse" - Stable Lane, spirits were flagging a little as we walked up and down the lane several times not  spotting the next clue. I cheated and phoned Lilliputian who informed us we weren't looking hard enough, and to look for a yellow table.

I have discovered the final clue in my purse while writing this so can quote it verbatim. It was found in a flag placed in a field and reads as follows:
 "Admire the view and RIDE ON... this library ain't big enough for the both of us.
(tumbleweed rolls by)
Judging by the smell of this Lilliputian did in fact made her clues look old with coffee, not tea.

In case, some of you many thousands of mostly imaginary readers, want to solve this clue themselves I have hidden the rest of this post. Although it may be difficult for anyone not familiar with Edinburgh, and who hasn't discovered this spot before.

Please click on the link below to find out where our last clue took us.

Monday, 9 April 2012

There's Treasure Everywhere! Commemorating 25 years of brilliance with an urban wild-goose-chase of questionable quality

There's Treasure Everywhere, Part 1: Organising the damn thing.

One of the best things about turning 25 is that, by this time, you've amassed a reasonable cadre of affable people willing to go along with your eccentric plans.  These lucky individuals are commonly referred to as 'friends.'  Now, ordinarily, I wouldn't necessarily recommend that people do as I do - there are often risks which range from the mundane (getting lost, wandering aimlessly) to the unpleasant (minor injuries, insufferable weather conditions, disagreements with law enforcement).  However, I am delighted when people join in of their own free will.  In honour of my 25th birthday (a brilliant excuse for an experimental adventure) I organised a treasure hunt around the Merchiston/Morningside area with the aim of introducing people to interesting or little-known corners of the city.

Not being a particularly organised person - and having very little experience of treasure hunts - it was a bit difficult to get this idea off the ground, but eventually it coalesced into some sort of order.  First, I identified a number of good spots to hide clues, all within a reasonable distance from my flat.  Then came the difficult part: writing them.  Quite fortuitously, I decided that I ought to do a walkthrough of my itinerary before writing anything (I later realised it would have been impossible not to).  Armed with my notebook, I spend a great deal of time stopping, scribbling, prodding and scrutinising my surroundings in order to assess their suitability.  When I finished, I had a list of 10 locations and copious notes on how to cryptically direct my participants from clue to clue.
"Downhill, downhill, on a street that promises vistas of our estuary… right before you reach a wasteland of destruction, turn right to find a god-forsaken edifice, and knock on the door…"

Rather stupidly, several of my clues involved props, which I then had to make - an expenditure of energy that could have been avoided if I were a cleverer person.  For example, two clues were hidden underneath fake flowers camouflaged in real flowerbeds.  I have no idea what possessed me to do it this way.  The clues themselves were written on my trusty typewriter, and I even went as far as to dye the paper with coffee and crumple it to give it the appearance of age. 

The final step involved actually laying out the clues, which I did in reverse order - presumably because of my habitual inclination to do things the wrong way round.  A friend recently pointed out this tendency when he witnessed me adding milk to his tea and subsequently checking to see if the milk was off.  (It wasn't.)

This canal-side clue involved an Otis Redding reference.
Laying the clues was a bit tricky because there were a number of passers-by loitering around my route.  In particular, I was tripped up by the Union Canal, where I found myself being watched intently by a creepy middle-aged man who was lurking in the bushes on the opposite bank.  In an attempt to avoid interacting with this specimen, I sat and pretended to be absorbed in writing.  Here is the result of my efforts:

scribble scribble scribble
go away old man!
I'll pretend I'm writing poetry
la de da de da
go away old man
stop watching me!!

He soon shuffled off.  I considered that my poem actually constituted some sort of creep-banishing voodoo spell.  Have resolved to look into this further.

When I'd successfully laid out all clues - some of which involved minor easter egg hunt diversions - I returned to my flat where the brave participants had assembled.  After a self-deprecating preamble during which I explained the gist of the operation, and my doubts as to the quality thereof, the hunters were given their first clue and summarily booted out to fend for themselves.   
(For an account of their experience, stay tuned for Part 2 of this series.)