Monday, September 03, 2007

Edinburgh

While we were in Scotland over the summer, we took the children on the train up to Edinburgh and spent the day sightseeing. The Francoscotlets were underwhelmed but P. and I had a great time, although it did feel a bit strange being a mere tourist in a city I once knew intimately.

The city also kept popping up in things I was reading* and watching.
First in a biography of Bruce Chatwin by Nicholas Shakespeare. Chatwin spent a couple of years in a flat on the Canongate in a "nasty building with a good address". It seems that he hated "the gaunt northern capital" for its strait-laced society, its weather and it's sexual climate. No doubt the antipathy was mutual.

Then I saw a BBC4 documentary called "Ian Rankin's Hidden Edinburgh" during which I discovered that although you can't actually see the South Bridge because building were built backing onto both sides, it is still actually there and you can even visit the vaults underneath. Whole families used to live in this warren of underground rooms (which more or less brings us back to my last post). In fact, Edinburgh is such a many layered, many faceted city that it almost seems to have been built with novels about hidden depths in mind.

Kate Atkinson's "One Good Turn" also turned out to be set in Edinburgh. One of the less sympathetic characters — a festival performer — declares that it's a great city "fantastic to look at and all that, but it has no libido". A discussion ensues about which cities do have a libido - Rio de Janiero, Marseille... But the main character Martin concludes that "it was true that Edinburgh didn't have a libido, but would you want to live in a city that did?"

Well, would you?

* I've changed the LibraryThing widget in the sidebar and now it shows the books I've added recently, so you can see what I'm reading now rather than what I might — or might not — have been reading last year or when I was 18.

6 comments:

deborah said...

Never thought about anthropomorphizing(?) a place before ...

However would be quite happy to live in a city all abuzz with sexual desire. Good for the morale!
Maybe he is right for Marseille but the word sleazy comes to mind for me.

I visited Edinburgh once and was bowled over! Loved every minute ...

spentrails said...

How do you do that on the Library Thing?

Edinburgh is in my blood. Those books sound great. Alexander McCall Smith's Scotland Street series made my eyes sparkle with recognition too. Ian Rankin's Rebus series is a different side, reminds me more of student days.

As for libido, not sure Edinburgh needs it as we famously wear our fur coats with nae knickers.

SusieJ said...

Gorgeous. I like the sidebar widget. Have you read Mr. Pip? You would love it...

Lesley said...

Deborah: What about Bx? Would you say it had libido?

Spentrails: The fur coats and nae knickers is only found in ceertain parts of Edinburgh, I'm sure you'll agree. (For the LibraryThing widget, all I did was change the setting to "most recent additions")

Susiej: Am googling Mr Pip in another tab as I type this.

Teuchter said...

We had a weekend in Edinburgh earlier in the year and did the tourist thing - Royal Mile, Scottish Parliament, Calton Hill and lunch at Valvona and Crolla etc, etc.

I was a student there back in nineteen-mumblety and, as you say, it was a tad strange going back to a place one used to know so well.

My daughter is currently in the process of moving from The Weeg across to The Burg so we should have plenty opportunities for future revisits.

deborah said...

Bordeaux never was very high up on the libido scale in my opinion!

'En plus', not sure if all this cleaning up is really going to improve that side of things. I keep wandering about and admiring the beautiful stone everywhere and noticing carvings I never noticed before; rather stolid and sober as well as attractive.

Have a secret yearning to find a run-down, old quarter with grubby bars and tatooed sailors ...