Festival days ii


Seagulls soar over the City of Edinburgh whilst on terra firma my soul soars.

My time living in Edinburgh to date has been marked by encounters – with art and architecture; with culinary delights – haggis, chateaubriand, tarte aux poires, and affogato; with a delightfully modest though renowned dancing teacher; with the very air filled with history, with literature, with lovely people, one of whom introduced me to the wonders of the animator Ray Harryhausen; with sparkling intelligence, pride and passion; with sand and sea, sunshine, blue skies and sullen grey, with heights and haar, ice and wind and snow; with cartography, Cramond, Colinton, the Firth of Forth, the bridges, the Highlands, ambling in Bruntsfield Links, the Grassmarket, Morningside, the Meadows, Newington, the Royal Mile, and Tollcross, astonishing hospitality beside a glorious loch in Perthshire, and the library at Innerpeffray; with Alexander McCall Smith and 44 Scotland Street; with Sir Walter Scott and Abbotsford and Waverley; with Toppings Booksellers; with one of the world’s finest universities and the restored McEwan Hall; with The Meadows and Quartermile, the Waters of Leith and the old lamp shop close to Ginger and Pickles and Golden Hare Books in Stockbridge; with some of history’s most eminent architects, lawyers, medics, neuroscientists, novelists, poets, sculptors, and divines; with Nicola Benedetti’s numinous presence in the city (ah, Spiegel im Spiegel – YouTube); with Amarone, The Beach House, Blonde, Café Andaluz, Chez Jules, Civerino’s, Côte Brasserie, La Barantine, Mamma Roma, Thomas J Wall’s Coffee, and The Witchery; with an astonishing exhibition of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s Our Lives in Watercolour at the Palace of Holyroodhouse; with many a glorious sunrise and sunset down at Portobello; with one of the loveliest little apartments – in the tower of the former James Clark School beneath Arthur’s Seat – that anyone could wish for; with breathtaking and startling surprises almost everywhere I go.

When my lovely neighbour welcomed me here she spoke with an infectious enthusiasm about a city that was magical and mystical, and about how if we could get past the standing almost knee deep in snow, windblown tears streaming down our faces, the coming of Spring and the warm coconut scent of gorse on Salisbury Crags would make for the arrival of a season like none other. And of the city’s being quirky – in just exactly the right ways. And then serendipity led me to Dundee trained illustrator Alice Newman’s perfect expressions of that quirkiness and – yes – of Edinburgh’s being a celebration of life … of encounters for which, for the rest of my days, I shall be profoundly thankful.

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