Friday, 19 December 2008

The Counting House, Edinburgh

I was in Edinburgh on holiday so I went for a dance. There is a milonga every Tuesday at the Counting House, which is above the Blind Poet pub in West Nicolson Street, but has its own entrance.

The Class: I don't think there is one, or if there is, it's somewhere else. When I came in, however, I was rather early and the end of a two-or-three-person lesson seemed to be still in progress. It blended into starting the milonga.

Layout and Atmosphere: This is very handsome room in a very handsome building, a lovely place for dancing. There are many, many fine Neoclassical rooms in Edinburgh, and this is one. The room is quite large, with more than enough red chairs around the walls, a few glossy dark wood tables matching the floor, high red curtains, and a spectacular glass dome lit from above which you can see with the 'satellite' option on Google Maps. Giant mirrors fill the top half of the wall at the far end, with more red curtains; go through a door on the right and there's another little room where the water is. The floor is dark wood, smooth and even, I found it a bit on the slippery side. The sound was fine everywhere in the room, as far as I noticed. It is cold, though, in the middle of winter. The room was unheated, as far as I could tell, and it was Scotland and nearly Christmas. Several people sitting down kept their coats on for at least the first hour. Wear wool. I was glad of my cardigan and enough dances to keep me going. I was told that it can be stuffy in summer, but it's a big room. The men all wore jeans and t-shirts, as is fairly typical for weekday milongas and I think is what's expected here. The women, as usual, were better - and if you were dressing for the room rather than the men, it would be just the place for whatever you've just knitted from a vintage Forties pattern.

Hospitality: Good. There's water in jugs, and real glasses, in the little room off to the right of the door past where the loos are. You could also go in there for a rest away from the dancefloor, if you really wanted to, as there are seats; but they're not set out as though intended to be sat on. To get yourself any other drink, walk half way down the stairs and go through the door marked No Smoking; you find yourself practically sitting at the bar in the Blind Poet. If it's a busy night you might have trouble opening the door. It wasn't too busy and I was promptly served a G&T in a tall glass for £3. The loos are quite spacious and you could get changed in there if you really needed to. There were a fair few bits of paper on the floor but otherwise they were clean, dry, supplied and working. [Edit: I forgot to mention that there is a rail to hang your things on in the little corridor off to the right as you go in; you could also change your shoes in there. I didn't know it was there when I came in, so I just did what many do anyway and hung my things on a chair, changing my shoes there.]

What I thought of the DJing: very traditional stuff, just one or two more adventurous tracks - I didn't find it especially memorable but it was all straightfoward to dance to. Two sets of milonga. I think one or two of vals. No cortinas, and the tandas mostly blended.

Getting in: £3 in the basket at the door.

Getting there and getting home: I walked for five minutes, from my hotel. Edinburgh is small, but hilly. You could walk to most places in an hour if you got stuck. It's just off South Bridge, where there are lots of buses. It would only take 10 minutes to walk to Princes' street where there are more. The Blind Poet pub is visible as soon as you turn into West Nicolson Street from the main road. The Counting House, above, has its own entrance, with a large sign you can see when you get closer. The milonga ends at 23:00, although it's true that at that time, when I left, they started playing salsa music and I don't know how long that went on.

The website: There isn't one for this specific milonga, that I can find, but it was listed at and at the university tango society's website. There's also a Yahoo Group which you could subscribe to for announcements, although looking at the last few messages I wouldn't assume that everything gets announced.

How it went: It was rather thin, especially at first, because most of the university students have now gone home. It would be busier in term-time. The university has its own tango society that runs its own classes. A young gentleman I took to be what the jivers call a taxi-dancer was detailed to give me a start, which is a very hospitable and well-organised practice; or maybe he saw a well-dressed, appropriately-shod, smiling stranger and spontaneously decided to give her a try. This is also possible. I also danced with Toby, who organises it and dances very nicely, very musically, and with several other gentlemen. And I had entertaining conversations while sitting down; they included a qualified medical opinion (Edinburgh of course is famous for its surgeons) on the popularity of plastic surgery among the women of Buenos Aires. All in all I had a very good evening; I was treated with great friendliness, I had good dances, and one of my favourite things about dancing tango is that when you have been doing it for a while you can just go to a strange city and have a really nice evening out, without seeing a single person you know.


Claudita said...

Hey, I'm so pleased you enjoyed your night in Edinburgh. It was quite quiet - I was only there for short while due to BF's questionable mood. The room does definitely have temperature issues. Think I might have spotted you...

msHedgehog said...

Hi Claudita, you probably would have, I don't think we can have got to chat though can we? It got a bit busier later on. My ideal outfit for that milonga - in winter at least - would probably include high waisted trousers and something from Vintage Purls, or even A Stitch in Time. With a light top underneath for when the place warms up, as it did much later.

Elizabeth Brinton said...

I really enjoy these reviews and the fantasy that I might actually get to some of these places one of these days.

msHedgehog said...

Elizabeth: It's nice to think that they can be fun in more ways than just the literal!

Claudita said...

Hi Ms Hedgehog,
no we didn't get to chat...maybe next time??? Love the Vintage purls - if I had your knitting skills I would get started on the first one...I do wonder - whatever happened to women's waists....

koolricky said...

A cold Counting House... Something to behold, it doesn't happen very often!