So this thing is going to take longer than I thought. The Best of Edinburgh A-C was 473 words. The entry for D-G grew to 765 words. H-J has been on my mind all day and is, so far, over 900 words. Sorry! It seems that I’ve created a monster, but I do love that town…
Haar. I love me a good Edinburgh haar, when you can’t see to the end of your nose and you get chilled so far through that you can feel your bones shivering. I was born on an island, so I’m well used to coastal fog, but it’s only in Edinburgh that I’ve ever seen it really roll in, swirling around like it’s being pumped out of a smoke machine.
Henri’s. This is a great wee French deli at the bottom of Morningside Road (and now in Stockbridge too, I think). DorkyDad loved it because it was the only place he could find his beloved bavette steaks. I loved it for the stinky cheeses and duck confit. And DorkySon loved it for the chocolatey things that were always right at his eye level in the glass cabinets. On sunny days you could even sit outside and have a coffee after doing your shopping. Magic.
Holyrood. I may be the only person in the country to admit this, but I love the Scottish Parliament. I think it’s beautiful, inside and out. I like the garden lobby, the debating chamber, and even the funny little think pods in the MSP offices. I’ve been in it as a campaigner, an events organiser, a volunteer, and a gallery spectator. I’ve had Parliamentary motions submitted congratulating me for my modest achievements. Hell, at one point I even dreamed of being in there as an MSP. That’s obviously well out of the question now – I have no party, and I don’t live in Scotland anymore – but I am a bit chuffed that I have left a wee bit of myself at Holyrood. My old friend Kezia Dugdale, now a Labour MSP, had three of my photos of Edinburgh printed onto canvas and they’re hanging up in her office. If I say it myself, they look pretty darned good.
Hogmanay. Things you should know about the street party. It will be colder than you can possibly imagine. There will be Aussies and Kiwis everywhere. Lots of strangers will try and kiss you. Properly kiss you, with tongues. Gross. You will probably end up drinking supermarket own-brand whisky out of a plastic bottle, just to keep warm. You will probably miss the strike of midnight because it’s so noisy you can’t hear anything. You will probably miss most of the fireworks because you’re stuck in the middle of a group of tall people with enormous novelty hats on. You won’t be able to call or text any of your friends to say Happy New Year because the phone networks will be jammed. If you wake up the next morning and can’t remember anything that happened, that’s probably for the best. Everyone should do it once. No-one should do it more than once.
Hops. If you start typing ‘What does Edinburgh…’ into Google, the first suggestion that comes up is ‘What does Edinburgh smell of?’ Many a puzzled tourist has obviously gone home after their holiday, and gone straight onto their computer to find out what it was bothering their nose. The answer is hops; that yummy, warm yeasty smell from all the breweries which, on a day when the breeze is blowing in the right direction, hangs heavy over the city. It’s a brilliant marketing ploy. You know when you walk past a baker’s shop, and the smell of freshly baked bread is so overwhelming that you just can’t help yourself popping in for something? For me it’s the same with hops; on the days when I can smell it in the Edinburgh air, I can never resist heading into the nearest pub for a pint. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
Ice. Everyone knows how beautiful Edinburgh houses are. Even the cheapest student flat in the cruddiest tenement stair has huge rooms, high ceilings, and beautiful cornicing. Ach. It is the huge rooms that are the problem… because huge rooms require huge windows… and Edinburgh’s huge windows are almost all single glazed and a bit draughty around the edges. So if you live in an Edinburgh house you are always, always completely bloody freezing. Even in July you’re freezing. In January, you at are least distracted from being freezing because you’re so busy admiring the beautiful ice patterns that have formed on the inside of your windows.
Jazz Bar. I love the Jazz Bar on Chambers Street. It was the first venue in Edinburgh that DorkyDad ever read his poetry. When they were running a fundraising campaign to buy a new grand piano a few years back, we invested in one of the keys – the B Flat. We have had many late nights there, with good friends, listening to great music. It seemed fitting that when the wonderful Edinburgh poetry community organised a send-off for DorkyDad last month, it was the Jazz Bar that hosted, thanks to the generosity of the owner Bill Kyle.
John. Everyone who lives on the southside of Edinburgh knows the Big Issue seller who stands on Middle Meadow Walk. His old school news seller cries can be heard echoing across to Marchmont from early every morning. “Don’t be shy! Give it a try! Buy the Big Issue!’ He is a lovely man, who has a kind word and some blether for everyone who stops to buy one. But I can’t help wondering if DorkySon is the only toddler in Edinburgh who refers to him at The Shouting Man…?
Jonathan Avery. Shortly after we moved in together, DorkyDad and I were having a stroll around Morningside one Sunday afternoon, when we walked into Jonathan Avery’s Homestore. We turned and looked at each other. ‘Uh-oh,’ said DorkyDad. ‘This is going to be en expensive habit.’ It was one of those shops that you could imagine walking into after a lottery win, airily waving your hand around, and saying ‘I’ll have one of everything.’ Beautiful kitchenware, handmade furniture, gifts, toys, cards… Unfortunately we are still waiting for that lottery win, but Jonathan Avery is still going strong. His beautiful wife Jo runs regular craft lessons in a workshop at the back of the store, and they have recently started stocking plants from their wee farm out in West Lothian. If you haven’t found them tucked away on Church Hill Place, you should pop in, and take care of your entire Christmas Gift List in one fell swoop.