After spending the weekend with Lucy and Forest in Kent – lovely, lovely Kent – and returning to regroup at Candice’s, I flew up to Edinburgh on Tuesday. Boy are my feet sore!!!
It is now Thursday afternoon and I think apart from eating and sleeping this is the longest I have sat down. I am surprised how much I remember of Edinburgh and where places are. It is such an easy city to walk around that it is tempting to overdo it and end up with SORE FEET – as mine are (throb, throb they say). Still, the rest of me is happy so I don’t care that they are complaining.
Now, what have I been up to. Well, lets see, on the Tuesday I walked from my hotel, just off the Royal mile, up to the University taking in the Museum and Greyfriars Bobby (the pub, not the little statue in the graveyard). I had a drink in the pub Rob and me used when we lived here – the Meadows – which is totally changed (thank goodness) and now serves a variety of wine – unheard of in the 60’s. Then it was through the Meadows and back along George Bridge. I ate at an up-market vegetarian restaurant that evening – but the menu was better than the food (Elisabeth, the dosa was not what we would have enjoyed).
The following day I took myself off into the wilds of West Lothian to revisit my roots. The village I came from was attached to the mining in the area. Now there is no mining and the village has been expanded by Glasgow over-spill. There are new houses being built but every single shop has closed, The Church hall is boarded up, the library gone, I did not see one person on the street and the school – which was the first school I attended – was impenetrable. A nearby, larger town seemed very poor, with grey people, lots of second hand shops, scruffy buildings and surroundings. So, it was a bit of a relief to return to the prosperity of Edinburgh again. I did take a taxi out to my senior school and that, at least, is thriving.
I got off the return train at Haymarket in Edinburgh and made my way past Atholl Crescent, where I had trained as a teacher in domestic science all those years ago. They have long gone now but the crescent remains as imposing as ever. I wanted to visit Charlotte Square and see a house there that they keep in 1790’s style. Most interesting, no toilets, no running water, no gas, but sumptuous furnishings and hard, hard work for the servants. On my way back to the hotel I took in the National Art Gallery – lovely Florentine and Renaissance paintings, but not the Whistler I was expecting to see. I asked a taxi driver to recommend a good Indian restaurant and ate there in the evening.
Today has been a bit of a this and that day and not at all what I had planned. I had decided to visit Valvona and Crolla my most favourite deli in the WHOLE world, and that was fab. It still smells just as good, but has expanded to include wine, a gift shop and a cafe – guess where I had my capucinno? Then I wanted to walk the Waters of Leith to dean village, where my mother was born, and thought if I took a bus down Leith Walk then I could begin there. I was not wrong – just about 3 miles out of my way! Still, I began walking and it felt really unsafe – I had asked a young man and a woman with a baby if it was safe to walk the path and they had said yes, but I wasn’t sure – especially when the path stopped and I had to walk through industrial areas and the path began again but looked derelict and full of discarded junk. Eventually I came to a bridge and a pub. The barmaid said it was definitely not safe to do this part of the walk so, I had a tonic to revive me and set off – for the nearest bus stop! I got talking to a retired Welsh fireman at the bus stop who said the only bus went to the docks. OK, said I, I’ll go there. The docks have been vastly improved and are now the home to all the ‘yuppies’ in the town. However, I think we got our wires crossed and he recommended I get off miles away and walk! So I got another bus that was going to the centre of the town. Aren’t I lucky it stopped at the second vegetarian restaurant that I had been intending to go to – so that was lunch sorted! Now I have found this Internet Cafe and I am as happy as Lucky/Larry.
Personally, I think I have done as much of Edinburgh as I want to. It is a very beautiful city if you look up, but at the ground level it is either very touristy or a bit scruffy. When I was here 20 odd years ago I was impressed by the sense of emerging self identity. There was the new parliament, new art scene and everything felt very vibrant, exciting and progressive. This time it all feels a bit tired. One taxi driver was telling me a story about transport plans which, if true, points to a waste of money but also a lack of political will to see plans through and a bureaucratic mess which makes it difficult to achieve anything. There also seems to be a jaded feel about the ability of politics to be effective in changing social ills. Such a shame, especially after the high hopes and very real initial changes that were put in place by the early parliament.
Ah, well, back to London tomorrow to spend the weekend with Ed and Jan – in the peace of their garden. Talk soon. Love to all of you out there. Ann