Trainspotting. Surely you’ve caught the film? Read the book, that incidentally makes the film look like a Disney franchise? There’s a drug-withdrawal hallucinated baby crawling on the ceiling, underage post-nightclubbing sex, and acid trips into the toilet bowl searching for inadvertently ejected suppositories. Yes? No? Well, either way, it’s a story revolving around a group of heroin junkies. And it’s set in Edinburgh, Scotland – where at 11.30pm on the Friday before Christmas 2012 I’d just set foot outside the airport from Dublin. The cabbie whisking me into the city complained about the apparent difficulty faced by people wanting to relocate from there to Australia. Though he seemed like a good bloke, and I tipped him generously, it seemed as if there was something about the guy and his history which might have precluded for him the ease with which others could perhaps achieve such a goal. Actually, looking back I think he took me the long way. Bastard. After checking into the hostel on Leith Walk – which cut the bay-side part of town and led from the train station and line which separated the medieval portion of the city from its more modern but still hundreds of years old Georgian section – I hit a couple of pubs before closing. One was close by, and featured a musician playing pop music. Within, people of all shapes, sizes, ages and genders were having the time of their lives. There weren’t really many attractive young ladies, though. After gulping three Guinnesses I went to bed by 3am but struggled to sleep on account of an overdose of airline sugar and caffeine still working out of my system.
Saturday in Edinburgh consisted quite simply of a fabulous wander. With my Lonely Planet guide truly left alone at the hostel and the maps app unconsulted in my phone, I stepped into the street and followed the trail of architectural beauty. Bouncing from and to and around corner after corner I constantly changed direction while taking photos of concrete structures all the more imposing than Dublin and even London’s. Always keeping Edinburgh Castle to my left for reference, I completed an irregular circle of the city and returned to the hostel less breathless than feeling as though the city had taken my breath away. I found the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One during the walk. As I was still somewhat mourning Emma’s rejection and Facebook cut, a sign atop the gallery’s columns reading, in large blue neon “EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT” was heartening. Though there was also another, freestanding sign in the grounds which, in smaller orange neon read: “THERE WILL BE NO MIRACLES HERE.” Which was less heartening. I didn’t enter the gallery, and instead spent some time admiring a modern artistically-styled pool bordered by sculpted, lawn-covered curved mounds. Behind the gallery, a leaf covered path descended toward and then crossed the Water of Leith – which some few kilometres away emptied without widening greatly at the docks not far from Leith Walk/Constitution Street. I can’t recall their purpose, but shortly after crossing it two plaques lay beside the water where it tumbled over a gently declining waterfall. The first read: “If I should ever leave you whom I love, to go along the silent way. Grieve not, nor speak to me with tears. But laugh and talk of me as if I were beside you there.” And the second simply read: “Grief is not forever but love is.” Which heartened me, anew.
Though freezing, I felt so comforted by the idea of being in a city located in a clime verging on inhospitable in which nonetheless human beings had decided to over a few thousand years build one of the world’s diamond cities. It seems so obvious now, but 5000 years ago it might have been hard to imagine anything but sheep pastures and scattered farmhouses under the shadow of Arthur’s Seat. I met up with Sarah that night. A true Scottish beauty. A couple of years ago, she’d lived with a good friend of mine in a Brisbane “Queenslander” sharehouse replete with cartoon babe, hitmen, vampire and myriad other graffiti on its walls – a hangover from its time as an irreverent tourism company’s sales and marketing office. I barely knew this girl from a proverbial bar of soap, having only partied with her a couple of times at said sharehouse and in Fortitude Valley. We enjoyed each others’ company at many bars until the wee hours, in an atmosphere made relaxed by the fact that she, while ravishing, was almost certainly not interested in me. Plus she lived with her parents. In fact I was invited to her home for Christmas dinner. She said her family had a tendency most festive seasons to take in strays. I looked forward to it. And surmised at the time that it would be a grand way to spend Christmas evening, assuming I didn’t drink too much. Of course I should have foreseen that while spending time with a group of Scots, alcohol consumption would not be of concern. They would in fact turn out to enjoy the wine and whiskey as much as me, and it seems obvious, on reflection, Australians can out-drink the world’s best.