As I mentioned in my last piece, I spent a couple of days in Auld Reekie on my way back to the far north.
When I arrived there, at something past two on a Tuesday afternoon, carrying a pack weighing seven stone four and rather tired, the lure of the sunny Princes Street gardens was great. I spent some hours simply watching and listening to the tourists, trying to work out their stories, work out who was resident in the city and who was visiting.
I moved out of the sun to lie in the shade, my huge pack a welcome backrest. I have no idea how many times this image of writer-tramp was captured by camera, but it was a lot. One of the standard Edinburgh shots is taken whilst the tourist is standing on Waverley Bridge, waiting for a tour bus or passing over to either New Town or Old. I dread to think how many people would fly home to their respective nations, upload their holiday snaps and curse at the hobo ruining their image. Perhaps I am even destined to be airbrushed, photoshopped out. Oddly, I like this idea.
The following day I had to myself; both my hosts were at work and, apart from a delightful lunch (yam moo yang with jasmine rice, from ting thai CARAVAN on Teviot Place — served with a superbly generous helping of excellent company) I was by myself.
I like to be alone, I know me and I am comfortable on my lonesome. I have spent months alone and never really felt lonely — read more here.
When it is just me I find my senses work better, I pick up data I otherwise may miss — a scent here, a conversation snippet there. I always carry a notebook and it is full of these observations, small sketches of characters-who-may-one-day-be, places to cannibalise or eat whole, combinations of smell and sound. All are invaluable to the writer — my memory is not what it should be, but with these small notes I can remember the entire scene, bring it back and taste the air for tiny detail I may have thought forgotten.
I wandered Old Town, camera firmly stowed in my bag — a very large part of me wanted to take photographs, but I had decided I would wait for this until after all the summer tourists leave, maybe in November, maybe next year. Instead I tried to record what my senses, rather than the camera, picked up. I filled several pages of notebook with these scribbles, some I am sure will find their way into my work (Edinburgh is crucial, especially later on).
I’ll share one particular conversation I noted, one which I could not quite believe I was hearing.
Setting: Daith Comes In, Level 4, Scotland Galleries, National Museum of Scotland. (Marvellous place).
Cast list: Myself, finally having found the Arthur’s Seat Coffins; two fifty-something American women, wearing more jewellery than was perhaps necessary, with silk scarves around their necks and expensive handbags. Announced first by the clip-clop of their footwear, their voices then came into earshot before they themselves arrived in view:
First American Woman (1AW): Yeah, because they go to the special school they get picked up from their driveway and driven there and back, every day.
Second American Woman (2AW): And who pays for that?
1AW: The State, Medicare I expect.
2AW: No! That’s disgusting. They have no shame.
1AW: Yeah. But the worst thing is — they weren’t even born in the States!
1AW: No! She adopted them from a Mexican orphanage.
2AW: That’s shocking — it shouldn’t be allowed.
At this point I grabbed the pair of them by their silk scarfs and tossed them off the nearest balcony, to land shattered and broken several floors below, somewhere between the Romans and the Bronze Age.*
Exits, having done the world a favour. Daith comes in, daith falls down.
*This last point may have only happened in my head.**
**In reality I did what anyone from these islands would have done — yes, I TUTTED, loudly. It was hard not to say something though. Very hard.
I don’t really need to comment any further on this, do I?