Alpha 900 launch: gala dinner Edinburgh

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Here, for some light relief, is an Alpha 700 + 24-105mm Minolta D documentary on the press dinner thrown for journalists from all the countries of the European region when they gathered in Edinburgh for the Alpha 900 launch!

The coaches set off from the Caledonian Hilton Hotel to cover what would normally be a brisk walk down to the Mansfield Traquair Centre, a hospitality suite set in a beautiful Victorian church with Arts & Crafts Biblical frescoes.

The pipe major had come all the way from Falkirk and waited patiently as North Sea gas was liberally returned to the cause of global warming.

He had to leave his warm welcoming position to pipe the slightly sporadic stream of journalists across the pavement.

Passing between the blazing torches, the venue was entered by desecrating an Alpha logo beamed on to the floor. It was rather disappointing not to find a Satanist ritual happening inside, just a crowd of waiters with drinks and canapés including things on a small china spoon which seemed to have been scooped from a sewage works. I gather they were pieces of beef with sort of mousse on them.

Inside, each country had its table, in the interests of discouraging international friendship. Mladen Sever of Dyxum was busy taking photographs too, and I guess Croatia shared a table with others while the UK had two to choose from. Duncan McEwan sat at one of them, and I sat at the other, so we conditioned everyone into thinking that haggis is delicious (which it was, a very moist and mild haggis with good manners). The toastmaster omitted three verses of Burns’s address, the bit which takes a dig at softies who dine on French ragoût. But the whole poem was printed on the menu for the French table to enjoy! And everyone ate up their wee bit sheep’s offal.

The slightly unScottish dessert (a mousse with amaretto accompanied by lavender scented shortbread) was the only course to feature that symbol. Lavender? Indeed – Haddington, just east of Edinburgh, was once as famous as the south of France for the quality of its lavender fields.

For the rest, it all started with some real Scottish salmon, followed by the haggis on neeps and tatties, followed by a very nice steak courtesy of the Duke of Buccleuch. A blended whisky was served before the haggis arrived, but there was no response to the address, so no toast was drunk. And they never said the Selkirk Grace, which was a pity, as it’s both short and relatively secular:

“Some hae meat but canna eat,
Some can eat but want it;
We hae meat and we can eat,
An’ sae the Lord be thankit!”

Then came the floorshow – and they turned out to be an Edinburgh favourite, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers. Following in the tradition started by busker Jimi MacRae this band – three Great Highland pipes, one electric guitar, two drummers – perform high energy traditional and modern pipe tunes and pop-rock covers.

These guys have attitude as well as amplitude, and even if it stays under the kilt, it’s still in your face:

Now I have only one complaint – for any pipers, rock of otherwise, not to play ‘The Flowers of the Forest’ on anniversary of the Battle of Flodden Field (which this was) is a mortal sin! It was a superb show, with just the right ‘entertainment value’ edge that Sony likes to have.

Still, here goes, you can sing along:

“Dule and wae tae the order sent oor lads tae the border
The English, for aince, by guile wan the day!
The floor o’ the Forest, that aye fought the foremost,
The Flowers of the Forest are a’ we’ed away!”

Leaving the event, the multinational gathering departed to hit the night clubs of Edinburgh while I hit the road home, one glass of wine and one ordinary small whisky not deterring in such a long day. Outside, the venue was branded:

For the next installment we’ll bring you some more reports from the conference itself, and the moment the Alpha 900 was unveiled.

– David Kilpatrick

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