Sources of joy

Keeping a small personal record of experiences, people, places and things that bring me joy is one of the chief reasons for the existence of this blog. In 2021 the magical city of Edinburgh has been a source of almost unquantifiable delight. It’s a place where it is – quite simply (and yet, of course, profoundly) great to be alive …

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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I’ve wandered in The Meadows pretty much every day since I came to live in Edinburgh – and am always struck by the number of fellow solo walkers who appear to be both happy and deep in contemplation. This is a city that provides loads of food for thought and recollection. Strolling up Middle Meadows Walk towards the Medical School reminds me every day that my being here in good health today is just one result of the work and discoveries of many, many great women and men who have wandered and pondered here before me …

Ars longa. Vita brevis

Art is long. Life is short

Among generally accepted meanings:

Learning one’s craft takes so long that a lifetime may not be adequate

Works of art may outlive their creators

Signatories of the American Declaration of Independence! A small world, even then?


click photos once or twice to enlarge

When it looks like this from inside it’s time to get one’s skates on and get outside! It’s still decidedly nippy here, but there are sights and sounds that chase the chill …

Here is Queen’s Drive in Holyrood Park – 2 or 3 minutes walk from home in St Leonard’s Crag Tower in the trees on the left; Calton Hill with its fabulous views of the Firth of Forth straight on (the ‘new’ Scottish Parliament buildings just around the corner in this photo); Salisbury Crags and the famous Arthur’s Seat – an extinct volcano that erupted 340 million years ago – on the right

Edinburgh Geological Society’s website is a must. It says of Salisbury Crags: ‘The Crags are a single sheet of tough dolerite rock, which is about 325 million years old. This dolerite formed long after the eruption of the Arthur’s Seat volcano, by the process of magma intrusion deep underground – this was not a volcano.’

Heading down towards Duddingston Loch – this area has been a haven for good social distancing during the Covid-19 related lockdown of 2020 / 2021 as there are acres of space in which to exercise and thrive in sea-blown fresh air

Duddingston Loch – the ice rink of the famous Duddingston Curling Society (see below)

A tiny village with jaw-dropping recorded history – JMW Turner admired the Minister’s paintings when he visited, and Sir Walter Scott was a Church Elder here

‘In this house on 19th September 1745 Prince Charles Edward Stuart held his Council of War before the battle of Prestonpans’

I wonder how often conversation at the dining table here might have included ‘when Bonnie Prince Charlie …’ ?

‘Under the (Arthur’s) Seat beside the (Loch) Water makes a Home for A’ Jock Tamson’s Bairns’ – The Reverend John Thomson, Minister here between 1805-1840 referred to his parishioners as ‘ma bairns’ – hence the Scottish expression ‘we’re Jock Tamson’s bairns’

A village centre record of Bronze Age Settlements circa 800 BC

Jacobite Headquarters, 1745

Beautiful old Edinburgh signage

Duddingston Kirk

A reflective space

‘Fire made the seat beside the water’ – Arthur’s Seat, the volcano that erupted 340 million years ago!

‘Time like an ever flowing stream’ …

Kirkyard snowdrops

Similar to memorials found in Greyfriars Kirkyard – open and graphic acknowledgement of human mortality

Insignia Cornutorum – I haven’t found a record of what this means – and can proffer only a guess that a rough translation may suggest something along the lines of ‘cornucopia’ or ‘horn of plenty.’ I’d be glad to have any feedback from informed sources

Duddingston Loch from the Kirkyard

‘Here are deposited the mortal remains of The Rev. Macintosh Mackay. LLD (Doctor of Laws) – Minister successively of Laggan and Dunoon, at Melbourne and Sydney and at Target in Harris and Moderator in 1840 of the Free Church of Scotland. Born at Dilardbec, Edrachillis, Sutherlandshire, he died at Portobello 17th May 1873 in the 80th year of his age and the 48th of his Ministry. A man distinguished for extensive erudition; a humble Christian, an able Pastor, profound in his views of Devine Truth, rich in Christian experience, abundant and unwearied in labours, the first Gaelic Scholar of the day, he completed in 1828 the Highland Society’s Gaelic Dictionary. His life of self denial and devotion to his countrymen rendered his influence paramount among Highlanders and embalmed his memory in their hearts’

James Browne LLD Advocate, Author of “History of the Highlands” who died in April 1841 aged 48 – and his wife, parents, sons – one of whom drowned at age 16 in the Forth, sister (?), and daughter – the widow of James Grant, author of “Romance of War”

‘Sacred to the Memory of John Gerard of Rochsoles in the County of Lanark …

… Lieutenant-Colonel in the Service of The Honourable East India Company. Late Adjutant-General to the Bengal Army during all Lord Lake’s Campaigns: whose valour and ability drew forth the praise of Government and his Country at the Storming of Seringapatam in 1799. The Battles of Delhi, Agra and Laswaree in 1808 and the Siege of Bhurtpore in 1804, and who subsequently lived respected and honoured in his native Country of Scotland, and died at Edinburgh on the 17th April 1824 aged 59 years. This monument is erected by his eldest surviving son Archibald Gerard, February 1840′

Heathers about the entrance …

and the direction of sea and sky …

evening sunlight draws the colour in stone …

… and at the Kirkyard gate – the ‘jougs’ – a punishment collar (which probably encouraged some pretty good behaviour)

… a lantern unto Royal pathways …

… and a loch now designated as a bird sanctuary, one of the most tranquil imaginable …

… where some of the (huge) swans appear to enjoy noisy water skiing …

… and the buds of Spring conjure thoughts of future picnics and time to reflect ever more deeply on the enormity of the history of this place: did JMW Turner sketch a quick likeness of this scene, do you think?

… and onwards and upwards along Queen’s Drive heading back to the Crags and supper …

Edinburgh life. In the Spring of 2021

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