Years ago, this city was completely familiar to me.
Nearly twenty years ago, young(ish) and stupid(ish) with emotion, I visited a lot, staying in a top floor flat just off Lothian Rd, from which you could watch the fireworks spilling over the castle roof on Hogmanay, while lying on the sofa. There were wooden shutters on the windows, and I’d bet that now it’s lived in by an insufferable yuppie or two.
We ate at Mama’s on Grassmarket, drank creamy pints of 80/- at the Malt Shovel and Bannermans, browsed endlessly in Fopp and wandered up to Tollcross to buy ingredients in Lupe Pintos to make homemade burritos. Idyllic. Naive. Fleeting.
A year later, I moved up here, rather rashly, leaving behind a decent job in Leeds because I wanted to be closer to that someone, who turned out to be an utter swine.
Suddenly, I wasn’t allowed to stay in the flat handily in the centre of town, so found a place in a dubious flatshare out in Muirhouse, in a terrible block that has long since been demolished. There was blood on the walls of the stair, and the agitated barking of big dogs behind closed doors was a constant soundtrack.
I got a job as a waitress in a cafe in town which paid – I’m not exaggerating here – £2 an hour, before tax, which left me worse off than being unemployed. It came as some sort of relief when they had to let me go because of budget cuts. I signed on (at Torphichen Street) and spent the days looking for work, doing whatever came my way (I once dressed as a penguin at Edinburgh Zoo) and mooching around town, forlornly waiting for The Swine to fit me into his schedule. I took advantage of the UB40 discount to watch films in the afternoon in the plush velvet seats of the Cameo and Filmhouse, and walked the cobbled streets until my soles wore thin.
Soon after, I moved to Aberdeen, and Edinburgh became a place of transition – somewhere I didn’t feel comfortable anymore, wasn’t welcome. It belonged to those who stayed behind, and I’d given up. Given in. Moved on.
And now I’m back, for less than 24 hours, for work.
I’ve been back a few times in the last twenty years, but always somehow very fleetingly, or staying in unfamiliar parts of the city. This time, I’m near Tolcross, in an unexpectedly decent hotel (it’s one of those without many stars but with a lot of class and – mercifully – no stag parties), just metres down the road from where I used to come and stay, live, belong, bimble.
I’m tempted to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow, just to have an old-time’s-sake saunter down amnesia lane.
But some things are best left in the past. And besides, I have a full day ahead.
Looking forward, not back.
2 thoughts on “In Edinburgh”
I gave in to the temptation to take that saunter down amnesia lane when once in a city I had long left behind. Some doors are best left closed. Enjoy your full day.
a beautiful piece of writing 🙂
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