It feels particularly appropriate to be writing about my hometown on Hogmanay. Edinburgh is – for the world at large – the city most associated with this Scottish celebration of New Year.
I was born in Edinburgh, though I’ve never really lived there. It’s a town I experience in soft focus; an idealised place of ancient history and learning. I want to belong, but I don’t really. I can feel distain for the endless shops selling novelty kilts and postcards of the castle to tour bus crowds, but I have a visitor’s excitement at every street corner and close, every church and gallery.
It’s a city of instantly recognisable architecture; the castle set high on the remains of a volcano and Scott Monument – the neo-gothic monument to Sir Walter Scott.
I love the way the city is bisected by the railway line and Princes Street; the crisp, orderly New Town to the north, the medieval old town of haphazard buildings and narrow closes to the south. It takes only minutes to walk from carefully planned and laid-out squares lined with neo-Classical and Georgian buildings, fenced parks and statues of the worthy – to the jumble of centuries’ worth of urban life that is the Old Town.
When I’m there, I imagine a giant game of hide and seek where I could tuck myself away down some cobbled yard and not be found for days – if ever.
If I were ever to set a story in Edinburgh (and I’d be in wonderful company – from Robert Louis Stevenson to Muriel Spark, Kate Atkinson and Irvine Welsh), it would be in the old town. Not because I don’t love the rationality and intellectualism of the New, but because rationality and intellect are my everyday life and if I’m going to commit to fiction it has to allow me to explore the aold structures and narrow doorways of my subconscious.
On Hogmanay I wish you all good fortune and fulfilment for 2014.
Slàinte mhòr agus a h-uile beannachd duibh.
Here are some other posts I enjoyed: