Freedom From The Mundane - A Writer's Blog

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Getting Around Edinburgh

By lunchtime I had covered a huge chunk of Edinburgh. While taking Laura to dance lessons, we were offered a lift by one of her friend's Mums, which meant I had her dropped off and was on the bus up heading up Leith Walk just as the clock touched ten am.

I got off in Princes Street, and walked towards the National Art Galleries. The route to the High Street via the steps was closed off for rigging to be erected safely, and several large OB vans belonging to the BBC were parked on the gallery grounds. Then I remembered; Rolf Harris is doing a live show tonight for BBC Scotland, where he and 100 other artists are going to try and replicate the Mona Lisa on a vast canvas. I'll try and tune in.

I walked up The Mound and cut up the steep section to join the High Street at the base of the Castle Ramparts. The air was cool but not enough for me; it really is a steep and exhausting hill to climb at speed. Why did I not start at the bottom? Because I wanted to walk down the Royal Mile from the very top to gather more, and probably the final material, for my festival chapbook.

Scanning down the street towards the Forth, I could see the bustle and excitement was largely missing. The crowds of the previous week were gone and there was a distinct lack of leafleters.

I started to walk and came across a group of actors dressed in medieval costume, all sitting by the side of the road. In front of them a girl in similar attire was dancing with a dragon mask on a pole to the beat and tune of an Irish drum and violin. It sounded like some kind of Pagan ritual by its down beat, but the words were of freedom in the UK. Interesting, but a total loss because I could find nobody handing out leaflets to the crowd to explain what it was, so I moved on.

A Youth Theatre group performed an acoustic performance of a song from their musical, The Fifteen Streets, in front of a busy coffee shop, the smell from it delicious as I walked past. Fresh coffee and morning crumpets wafted temptingly under my nostrils, trying to pull me in but I resisted, for now.

I kept going and realised I was already over the Bridge and heading towards the lower ends of the High Street. I remembered a shop that a friend said I should pop into and say 'hi' if I was ever in the area. I wasn't sure where about the shop was, so I kept going, trusting my instinct that if I had already passed it, I would surely have noticed it before.

Eventually I came to The Wyrd Shop near the end of The Mile. The bolted red door, letters protruding from the mailbox and wire mesh over the window meant only one thing; it was closed. I checked my watch; it was quarter to eleven and no sign of anyone about. I peered into the darkness of the shop and checked out the wands, books and models of witches hanging from the roof. I'll have to come back another time.

I headed back up towards the Bridges and down towards Princes Street. For the past three months my watch has been stuck at 1.34pm thanks to a failed battery, so I stopped in at a jewellers and handed it in to get a new one fitted. Apparently this is an overnight job that costs ten pounds. A tenner! What a rip off!

With my watch gone I felt naked, so I fought against the wind channelling down Rose Street to get to Fopp in order to give me back my feel good factor. I scanned the records but noticed there were some new books in. I could feel the vouchers burning a hole in my pocket and so after much deliberation, I picked up a copy of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath for three pounds.

I also picked up a copy of a hardback book called, Zines. Published by Booth-Clibborn Editions, it is a collection of small press and independent publications from around the globe. It is one of those kind of books you could stare at for hours while sitting on the loo but even just scanning through it in the shop, all the graphics, images and text, I knew I would find its content useful and provoking. At seven pounds, I consider it money well spent also.

I started the long walk back to get Laura. I wanted to stop in the pet shop on the way there so there was no point getting a bus. In the shop I was looking through all the different kinds of fish food; I needed to get Smashie a refill of his usual food, but also something different to vary his menu, so I picked a tub of Daphnia as well as his flakes. As I stood selecting the food, I noticed a model of a black cat at my feet that I hadn't noticed when I first entered. I looked at it sitting there in a perfect pose and wondered when they started selling stuffed animals in a pet shop. An ear flickered and then it looked up at me, through me, then turned away.

I paid and left and started off down Leith Walk. A few weeks ago I noticed a new record shop appear about a third of the way up from Leith, so when I came to it I went in for a browse. It has a small interior with light wooden flooring giving it a modern but empty feel. There is still very much a feeling of it being a new shop trying to get onto its feet but the owner was friendly enough with light jazz playing over the speakers. On closer inspection, this shop isn't your average Joe trying to complete with Borders or Fopp. This is actually a music and bookshop bordering on the specialist. The shelves and drawers contain some of the most amazing books and vinyl records I have seen in such an obscure surrounding. They have early Specials 7"'s and some cracking R&B and Soul LP's. There is also some hard to get books; original works by Arthur Millar, Yeats, Burns and Banks. This is a shop I will have to do some serious business with in the future.

Next door is the aquarium shop and I couldn't resist a quick look around. They have a vast array of fish in stock as well as tanks and accessories of all sizes. I'll be back here soon to get Smashie kitted out with a larger and proper home; probably get him some new friends too.

One more stop off in Gregg's the bakers and then I picked up Laura and headed home. We had lunch then Gail headed out to go shopping with Laura and her Mum. Ian came round to finish the electrics in the office. Then the fun started.

While tapping words of wisdom into my work laptop - this blog entry to be precise - I logged onto the Internet on my PC in the kitchen and got it ready to post yesterday's entry. Suddenly, with no forewarning of the impending danger, all the power in the house suddenly vanished. The TV went blank, the laptop flickered onto its battery power source and the video lights started to flash.

'Oh horror,' I thought, and prayed the kitchen wasn't on the same circuit that Ian had just turned off. I walked through to the kitchen and sure enough, the screen of my PC was blank.

Anyone who knows anything about PC's knows you just don't turn off your machine; it can cause huge problems and basically fuck it up. I'd been running anti-virus and other utilities to try and get rid of some of the sporadic problems I've been having this last couple of weeks, but as I write this, I have no idea what is going to happened when I turn it back on. All it needed, was a quick word of warning.

As it happened, the PC needed a quick run of it's repair facility and it seems to be back to normal - just. In the evening I read some chapters of some of the books I have on the go, and did a lot of work of the War Generations story.
Colin 4:53 pm


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