Friday, July 4

the great affair is to move

I didn't know this was going to happen, but I spent a good chunk of my week in Edinburgh, sleeping in a hostel bunk and pretending to know my way around the old town.
this is the Waverley railway station from above, surrounded by gardens and trees. yesterday (which is not the day these photos were taken on, actually) I sat there watching rows of benches and acres of grassy spots fill up with teenagers with guitars, young families with strollers, students with coffee, and various other folk not so easy to peg as one sort of person or another. we had some rare bright blue skies and plenty of sun.
usually you don't find such nice parks abutting giant railway stations, do you? this one makes me quite happy anyway, whether it is the only nice railway-adjacent park in the world or not.

my explorations of Edinburgh included countless strolls up and down the Royal Mile, one lengthy morning brunchtime of scones and writing in this charming Belgian cafe, two somewhat adventurous educational visits to bridges and archives, a handful of peeking into museums, one plateful of haggis...
...and two lovely evening hours of a most entertaining, inspiring literary pub tour.

friends Kaitlyn and Justin and I learned a bunch of things about some celebrated Scottish wordsmiths and reveled reverently in the reciting of various snippets of classic prose and poetry. I added a few new items to my endless list of books to read. a rambly synopsis (not comprehensive in the least) of things learned and/or pondered upon:

- Robert Burns once wrote love letters under the pseudonym Sylvander to a lady who insisted on calling herself Clarinda instead of Agnes McLehose. you can read a bit about their passionate letter-writing (and listen to any other Burns poem you fancy--they give me goosebumps, some of them), if you have a minute. I wonder how serious or how playful they were in their correspondence. which of them pined more for the other? were either of them merely playing along, safe behind pen and paper and propriety? some Burns scholar may be able to guess. are there any accomplished Burns scholars in my audience?
{ the talented actors, reciting a perfect mix of poetry and history. there was even singing. }

- they say Sir Walter Scott invented the modern popular image of Scottishness, did you know? it was his event planning on the occasion of King George IV's visit that made kilts so cool. he's also got a humongous, spiky, old monument along Princes Street--the largest of any monument to any writer anywhere, apparently. why haven't I read a thing he's ever written?

- Robert Louis Stevenson died in Samoa after having lived there with his family, telling stories and meddling in politics. his writing Treasure Island makes more sense, knowing how much he loved traveling. I noted a quotation on one of the plaques in the basement section of the writer's museum: "For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilisation, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints." the sentiment there reminds me of my father. I didn't always appreciate dislocating one's self for the sake of nothing at all, but thankfully I've come around. the feather-bed of civilisation is over-rated.

remind me, next time, to blog about pastry crusts and seaweed.


Janeheiress said...

Oh do I love Edinburgh! I remember the poet's museum, and the Sir Walter Scott Monument. Your hostel isn't the one with brightly painted walls, is it? There was a little cafe on the Royal Mile where I got delicious lentil soup and carrot cake.

I need to read more Burns. I all I remember is 'Scots Wha Hae.' I've heard that Scott has dated badly, though. I might try to read Ivanhoe at some point.

amelia chesley said...

it had brightly stenciled accents and floor numbers on the walls... does that count?

I almost picked up Ivanhoe for my little brother... it might be his sort of story. let's make a virtual book club and read it sometime, eh?