This bright and sunny day is exactly the right sort for some photos of my immediate neighbourhood here in Holyrood – which I think, with its close juxtaposition of very old and modern, is wonderfully photogenic …
I have a favourite bench in Abbey Strand just in front of the Palace of Holyroodhouse. I often sit here, where poems begin to take form, and raise a metaphorical glass to another writer, to whom this bench is dedicated:
Johnnie J Kerr, Poet, Songwriter, Entertainer, Citizen and Lover of Edinburgh
This afternoon a lovely companion on the Abbey Strand bench told me of how she had recently completed a bit of writing herself. Now 98 years old, Mrs Hilda M had once hosted HRH the Duke of Edinburgh on a visit to the little community where she lives not far away, and about how she thinks she must have loved Edinburgh quite a lot really as she has spent her whole life here. And sunlight created a sparkle upon and around her head.
I’m one among many ‘regulars’ at New Calton Burial Ground (link) – the steep central footpath of which is frequently my route on foot to St Andrew’s House bus stop, Edinburgh Station and to shopping, Princes Street Gardens and the many other delights of Edinburgh City Centre. And today I want to observe that this cemetery is a place full of life!
The oft-seen tombstone inscription Memento Mori – a call to remember the inevitability of death – succinctly encourages wonderers and wanderers to live life fully and well in the meantime. Locus iste – ‘this place,’ this well-lived life, hic domus Dei est et porta caeli – is surely ‘the home of God and the gate of heaven.’
Here lie the mortal remains of architects, authors, builders, clerics, craftsmen and engineers, medics, masons, statesmen, surgeons, tanners, ‘writers to the signet’ (later evolving into what we know as lawyers), parents, children, ‘high and low;’ and many of the tombs look like little roofless houses with lockable iron gates, originally overseen by watchmen of the tower – to curb the enthusiasms of grave robbers intent on supplying the nearby medical school, ‘without whom’ …
And all who come here are treated to a view of fabulously ever-changing sky, the Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse, one of the city’s first gas lamps, the modern Scottish Parliament buildings, and the remains of an extinct volcano that last erupted around 350 million years ago – which is to say, they encounter a living history lesson of huge proportions, supporting the growth of well-kempt lawns and flowers, together with literally thousands of opportunities to delve into history and research, all the while contemplating bustling modern life in Edinburgh today – on the way to buy groceries.
James Spence, Writer to the Signet, 1818
Memento Mori and a representation of human skull and bones in (unusual) naive art: ‘The Burrying Place of Jas. Strachan, Tanner’
The tomb of Alexander Henderson, Merchant – with a now open gate
The Palace of Holyroodhouse (left), Arthur’s Seat, the Scottish Parliament Buildings, and Salisbury Crags (right)
And then ‘home by another way’ for me today. Walking past the Scottish Poetry Library there’s another invitation to pause, in pavement chalk:
Living in tomorrow or perhaps yesterday Or perhaps not in time, but not today Here there were only three days in the week And twenty minutes were a full hour
What is so full of life about this city, ancient and modern, is her perpetual invitation to remember, to dig deeper, to know a bit about the root and origins of many things, to stand on the shoulders of giants, to prick up one’s ears to the sound of distant bagpipes on the wind, and to thrive.
A sunny start to the day in Holyrood – perfect for a picnic day with a friend to encompass a boat tour of the three magnificent bridges of the Firth of Forth, and newly hatched gull chicks on Inchcolm Island. Just magnificent and lovely …
Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee Weekend holidaymakers have been basking (and paddling) in sunshine here in Holyrood – a ‘crown jewel’ of an Edinburgh day! This evening I’m watching tv coverage of the Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace – whilst also watching evening sunshine and seagulls on Holyrood’s Salisbury Crags from my window …