Old Town Edinburgh

I’ve heard Edinburgh described as ‘an achingly beautiful city’ and wondered what such an ache might feel like. But that was before I came to live here. Now, I ache too – owing, paradoxically, to the kind of being surprised by joy that brings tears to a person’s eyes, peals of laughter, stunned silence, and animated, deep, and fascinated conversations.

Every single yard one walks, and corner one turns, and flight of steps taken, up or down, there’s so much history, and story, and art and science, and engineering and architecture and craftsmanship, one comes, properly and fittingly, to feel both small and gratefully enlarged at one and the same time.

Edinburgh is, literally, extra-ordinary, and something about its very air imbues confidence. Yes, confidence – all around the city, and in persons; something I’ll think upon, over and over, as I revisit this growing collection of photographs, which, in every case, and in an instant, bring back precisely what it felt like to be there, then, awed, as I pressed the shutter button …

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Pedestal table

Photo by Joanne Kay on Pexels.com

Odd, and really rather lovely that, here in Edinburgh, I’ve had three separate conversations about Cornwall today – one of which began, ‘didn’t you write a piece about Apple Blossom and Bay Rum?’ I did. The couple are still in my mind’s eye, beloved characters then, as now. So here, as a brief deviation from Edinburgh, let’s head to Cornwall and …

‘Pedestal Table’

A warm sunlit bay-window overlooks the ocean. Between two chintz covered wing armchairs a mahogany pedestal table, sweet smelling, polished daily, is an elegant exhibition stand for a large blue and white striped milk jug, a wedding present filled with bright flowers, daffodils preferred in season, for sixty-seven Springs.

Apple Blossom scent, Bay Rum cologne, Toffee pipe tobacco, baking smells wafting from the Aga in the mornings, casseroles and dumplings in the afternoons. He slept, smiling, thankfully home again, in his beloved chair. She read, quietly, overwhelmed with relief, in hers. Thank God for that lovely young surgeon.

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The kind of day I love

… the kind of day I love

From morning to this late evening I’ve revelled in the kind of day I love best – corresponding with, speaking with, or reading, or holding the work and gift of friends who are able to express themselves exquisitely. Home here, some days, whilst it’s still a bit chilly outside, is a lovely place to snuggle down on the sofa, surrounded by books and letters, phone near to hand – and just ‘hear’ and converse with the life and lives I’m fortunate enough to have a share in.

Today’s family and friends all know who they are, some very near, some very far from here, and I thank them for being who they are, and for the myriad ways in which – expressing themselves through writing, or painting, or sculpture, handiwork, hospitality, culinary skills, or deep, honest, fluid conversation about their passions, their present, their remembrance, their enthusiasms, their histories, doubts, joys, hurts and sorrows, their likes and loves, great giftedness, and so much else besides – they touch my life deeply, and ‘raise me up’ daily.

Oh, how we need each other – and it’s good to celebrate one another, every day …

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Edinburgh windows

Next to sunlight-inviting blocks of stone, framed glass is ubiquitous among the architectural features of beautiful Edinburgh. I love it! Windows, like people, are full of stories of past, present and future. And they don’t even have to try to reflect, they just do – everything around them. So here’s a gallery to celebrate windows – our own, (eyes are the windows of our own souls) and Edinburgh’s – in them, out of them; reflections in them, or of them; their size and shape and style and era … which will be added to over time. Most will be allowed to speak for themselves – a bit of additional information provided for a few …

Edinburgh’s giraffes and their reflections. The two giraffes, nicknamed Martha and Gilbert, were made from scrap metal including parts from cars and motorbikes. The inscription surrounding the sculpture is from a poem by Roy Campbell, written in 1946, and reads “Giraffes! a People Who live between earth and skies Each in his own religious steeple Keeping a lighthouse with his eyes.” – from edinburgh.org
Reflections within reflections
Wet paving renders our world upside down
I think this one’s worth a click to enlarge – and a second click to enlarge further if you’ve a big screen. Study the detail closely and stay with each discovery for a while. There’s a story in every square centimetre of this photograph – of a gift of a find in St Stephen’s Street, Stockbridge
What goes on behind the windows, and in front of them? Alexander McCall Smith is here to tell you
Reflections …

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Edinburgh Towards Evening

Canongate Kirk & Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh
Topping and Company Booksellers, Blenheim Place
Topping and Company Booksellers, Blenheim Place
Leopold Place, Edinburgh
Edinburgh’s giraffes: nicknamed Martha and Gilbert, were made from scrap metal including parts from cars and motorbikes
The inscription surrounding the sculpture is from a poem by Roy Campbell, written in 1946, and reads

Giraffes! a People
Who live between earth and skies
Each in his own religious steeple
Keeping a lighthouse with his eyes


from edinburgh.org
Martha and Gilbert
Calton Hill
Evening settles on Edinburgh
The Royal Mile Gallery
Flodden Wall – the World’s End
Part of what remains of the Flodden Wall – bottom of St Mary’s Street / Pleasance, Edinburgh

From an extinct volcano, to the panoramic view of the city and her coastline from Salisbury Crags; to a bookshop that took care not to ‘strip’ the original house that is now its home, and instead built bookshelves around what had long been intended; to extraordinary skies, and sculpture with a back-story; to one of the world’s finest universities; to a modern parliament building whose walls are engraved with poetry; to some of the most elegant residential architecture you’ll see anywhere in the world – that is also home to the echoes of housemaids and butlers, lairds and ladies, surgeons, architects, engineers and plumbers – who loved and sometimes hated this beautifully laid city; gateway to the world for some, too small a world, indeed once the World’s End, for others. Today, Edinburgh has something for everyone, and everyone has something for Edinburgh – for this is a city long engaged in writing the fascinating stories of innumerable people’s lives, now including my own …

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Sunday afternoon amble

Dynamic Earth Exhibition, (link) – Holyrood, Edinburgh
The Ruins of Holyrood Chapel next to The Palace of Holyroodhouse (link)
The Ruins of Holyrood Chapel
Croft-An-Righ Cottage, Holyrood
New Calton Burial Ground (link) & Holyroodhouse
‘Tombs with a View – !’
The Stevenson Family Tomb – here of the parents of Robert Louis Stevenson
The Tomb of John Drysdale, Builder in Edinburgh (of considerable note), 1829
New Calton Burial Ground Watchtower (see below)
‘resurrectionists’
Edinburgh’s last gas lamp – in its original position, 1839
Spring-looking sky and birdsong

I wake up pretty much every morning in Edinburgh wondering just how many more surprises a day in this city will bring. I’ve long ago lost count – every day is full of them – but in a strange way.

Edinburgh makes you feel you’ve always known her, whether you’re standing outside the modern parliament buildings or reading the weathered inscription on a grave dating back to the 1600s. It’s as though you keep bumping into people you know, or knew, anyway, at some point in your life – Robert Louis Stevenson, for example, this warm and sunny Sunday afternoon. And a great Edinburgh builder by the name of John Drysdale, who died in 1829. And you’re trying to remember the name of the lamplighter who carried his ladder each evening to clamber up Edinburgh’s last gas lamp, still in its original position. You knew him – could almost smell his sweet (toffee?) pipe tobacco in your nostrils, and you’ve a vague idea that he had an affectionate name for this lighthouse, I mean … ah, that was it! – he called this lamp ‘Lighthouse’ – but said the name was someone else’s lovely idea, a tribute, perhaps, in an island pool of light for some come to pray, and others come to stay (the Stevenson engineers having keen interest in lighthouses). Where does the memory originate? How do I recall the children (of a family of 10 who lived in the Watchtower) calling this illuminator ‘Uncle Lamp’ ? – while their Papa seemed only interested in folks called ‘Resurrectionist.’

One thing always leads to another here, and another, and another. I’ve made so many photographs during the course of this afternoon’s walk ‘n’ talk with my equally enthusiastic (and extremely knowledgable) companion, that I’ve decided to spread them over the coming days here on windinmywheels. As I keep discovering here, one can only take in so much at once – even though, as I’ve said, everything seems not only staggeringly, eye-wateringly beautiful but also, somehow and wondrously, familiar …

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An Edinburgh Festival of Winter

My heart and mind and soul and body are already racing out to meet Spring with enthusiasm and joy. But I’ve been reviewing my ‘postcards’ of Winter and want to bring them together in one place, before I move, perhaps too quickly, onwards. There’s a quite extraordinary beauty to be remembered in this little and local Edinburgh Festival of Winter.

click on postcards to enlarge

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In the wee small hours

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Such a lot of reflection and celebration of the gift of life happens in the wee small hours.

Here, images of the things that matter most to me pass before my eyes – nature, including the still, rooted knowing of plant-life; and the sources, shapes, sounds and touch of warmth, colour, scent, light, shadow, love, nourishment, restoration and rest.

In the wee small hours Edinburgh is largely quiet, and thankfully, and reflectively, so am I …

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