Episode Two – Goodbye, Scotland the Brave!

Hello all!

(You know what I mean by “all”).

Today has been long and difficult. It’s 1:37 in the morning and I’ve been up almost a full 12 hours!! The difficulty was that today was Moving Day – I am no longer a resident of Flat 6, 11 Robertson’s Close, Cowgate, Edinburgh, EH1 1LY. I spent the majority of the day packing up my last things, and boy do I have a lot of things! The more I packed away, the more I stumbled across – it was virtually never-ending. But, finally, at around 8:30pm, all my worldly possessions were packed into my grandmother’s car and we carted them off to her house, only to have to unload them all (after a quick cup of tea, of course). Anyway, I’ve spent a few days writing this thing, and it’s been sitting unposted for a while – having said all that about “today”, I’m actually chilling at Grant’s in Z-Town as we speak – so the comments I make about the “present” etc. might seem a little weird. I’m sure you’ll manage to deal with it.

Last week was Grant’s last in Edinburgh, so we filled it with activities we’d neglected until then – it turns out, there’s a lot of stuff we could have been doing all semester! Saturday was Deep Sea World day – we caught a train out to North Queensferry and took shelter from the scorching sun down in the tunnels of the marine wildlife centre. It had been several years since I’d visited, and apart from the main attractions – the “petting zoo” and the moving walkway through the shark tank – I think pretty much everything had changed. Gone were the wolf fish of my last visit – the ones that had made me scream and cling to the nearest stranger before realising he was not, in fact, my father. Instead, there was a “Finding Nemo” tank, with a clownfish and lookalike Dory, and several varieties of coral. I was underwhelmed by the familiar shark attraction, but the seal sanctuary was either a new addition or a forgotten gem – we spent quite a while watching the two grey seals playing happily in the sun. North Queensferry is a pretty place, as well – we wandered around a little in the almost Mediterranean weather before running for cover, fearing for our skin, and training it back to Waverley and home. I took a short walk to the Meadows with a book or two and spent a couple of hours back in the sun – it was like a music festival that day, it seemed like the whole of Edinburgh had emptied into the green spaces to sit, read, listen to music, barbecue, drink, throw frisbees, juggle… you name it. That’s the thing about Scotland – it’s sunny about four days a year, but for those four days, 98.5% of the population is outside enjoying it.

After a quiet dinner and most of No Country for Old Men (which didn’t seem to be going anywhere, and failed to impress me), we called Saturday a day.

We’d planned to go to The Stand Comedy Club on Sunday, to see the free lunchtime show ‘Whose Lunch Is It Anyway?’ (Sound familiar? It’s based on the televised ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’, an improvised show based on audience participation). However, as Grant was ill and feared for his plane journey home in less than a week, we had to give that a miss and instead scheduled a doctor’s appointment at the Western General Hospital. After eventually navigating the place to find the Out of Hours department, we sat in the waiting room next to the digital “Next hygiene check-up due in ___ minutes” sign on the wall, which read “0.00” the whole time we were there. Well, that’s the NHS for you. Anyway, Grant was reassured that it was just a viral infection and there was nothing to be done, and we headed back to Robbie Close, stopping to hover around for a while in a CD and record sale we stumbled upon on the way. I resolved to start buying more records next year, and finally achieve my dream of having a local record shop where I can befriend the owner and get weekly music recommendations. As for that day, I settled for chilling in my room and listening to the new CDs I’d bought, and waiting for Monday to roll around.

The Monday in question was Scottish Parliament day. We had a booking for a tour at 2:30pm, and grabbed a very hasty lunch at Spoons café before legging it down the Royal Mile to Holyrood. It was a shame we couldn’t take our time at Spoons – it was an odd but friendly place with a lot of character, and the food was good. But we made it to the Parliament just as the tour was setting off, and followed the guide around while she pointed out significant architectural features, filled us in on the origins and the inner workings of the Parliament, and insisted upon beginning every sentence with the word “and”. I’d already seen a fair bit of the building already, but I’d never got a proper tour – and it was really interesting to see where all the weird quirks of the building had come from. I was really intrigued by one of the pieces of art – three huge slabs of stone on the walls, into which were carved the words of a hundred Scottish women. The artist had travelled the length and breadth of the land, asking women to give a sentence about their opinions of the most important female Scot. I would have liked a bit more time to investigate – although, the tour guide was keen to insist that everything you could possibly want to know about the parliament was available online. Sure enough, a quick search brought me to this PDF file, which is worth a download.

Tour over, we wandered back out into the street to be greeted by the smell of Scottish rain. There were no plans for the remainder of the day except dinner at one of my favourite restaurants, Le Monde, which we followed up with a trip to see Dave Bachelor (and the sixteen other musicians in the big band) in our last trip to the Jazz Bar.

Dave Bachelor and his trusty trombone.

Comparatively, Tuesday was much more chilled out. We met my friend Tommy and her boyfriend for coffee, took Grant’s flatmate Bryan out for his 21st birthday lunch at our All-You-Can-Eat-Indian-Buffet of choice, Suruchi, and pottered around the flat some more. Wednesday was to be an early start, as we were heading to St. Andrew’s first thing.

A day was probably the perfect amount of time to spend in the small town of St. Andrew’s. After a hasty lunch, we stopped by the castle and messed around in the courtyard before really checking the place out. We almost overlooked the mines – easily the coolest part of the castle, or any historic building I’ve ever been to, in fact. Once upon a time (I say this because I’m terrible with dates and I have no idea how long ago this was), the castle was laid under siege, and the attackers began digging a tunnel underneath the foundations of the building. The idea was to destroy the supporting structure and cause the whole thing to collapse. But the guys inside the castle (I’m not great with names either :S ) began to dig towards the attackers, guided only by the sound of digging, and fought them off in what I can only imagine must have been a totally epic underground brawl in the dark. Anyway, we checked out the counter-mine which had been dug in haste, using only spades, through the rock face – it was so narrow that even I had to bend almost double to get through – and it eventually opened out into a much taller, more substantial tunnel, which had been excavated more carefully by the assaulting party. It was fascinating, and I had a lot of fun playing around in the caves and tunnels, in my element. Best historical feature ever.

You can see the scale of the mines by the way I'm stooping here.

After a quick look at the beach, we took a stroll down the road to the cathedral and wandered around the grounds in the sun there before climbing the narrow, winding tower (which, much to the dismay of the young American woman behind us in the queue, did not have an elevator). The view from the top was pretty damn impressive, although we had to work for it – those stairs were no joke. We passed some shifty-looking students who were carrying a suspicious quantity of water on our way to the golf course, but I think Grant must have given them his most intimidating look, because we survived the encounter, bone-dry.

The golf-course itself was all decked out, ready to be the host of the British Open 2010. We wandered around the grounds for a bit (I for one had no particular destination in mind) before stopping in the visitor centre to buy a couple of gifts, commandeering a golf cart and taking some photos at Swilcan Bridge before calling it a day. On the way back to the train we couldn’t resist sampling some of the finest local cuisine at the local Fish & Chip shop, which was heaving with preppy kids from the university and whose food stopped somewhere short of mind-blowingly delicious. All in all, though, it was an entirely successful day, and really the last day of activity, as Thursday was to be spent finishing off Grant’s packing and tidying up any loose ends before his flight on Friday morning.

The whole week was a bit of a whirlwind of activity, as has been the week since then, and I’m sure I’ve mixed some of it up. Whatever – it’s bound to happen when you’re too busy doing things to write about them. This week I’ve been frantically trying to get my head around all the preparations that need to be made, but I’ve finally reached a point where everything is in place. My red suitcase is sitting by the door, as are both my carry-on bags – all that needs to be done is for my laptop to be put away and I’ll be ready to roll out of bed at 6:45 tomorrow morning and head off to the airport, next stop Zanesville, Ohio!!! (Well, first stop Amsterdam, next stop Detroit, then Columbus, LAST stop Zanesville but whatever). It’s going to be a long day.

See you all in three weeks!




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