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Edinburgh's Plot to Torment Me

Less than a week before I moved away, I became aware of what seemed like a concerted effort to torment me, to remind me how great a city Edinburgh was and to make me feel crappy for ever wanting to leave. I was walking late one Saturday evening to see one last midnight screening at my favorite movie theater, and I passed the Scottish rugby team, out for a night out on the piss. They were celebrating their loss to France earlier that day.

That may sound odd, but the Scottish really do celebrate, even their losses. I've never seen a country tha takes shitty things happening to them as well as Scotland. It's probably due to lots of practice; the Scots have been fucked over by pretty much every country they've interacted with at one point or another. They've dealt with these attacks so well, even indirectly thanking their enemies by inventing the sweet sweet heavenly gift of Scotch whisky and exporting it everywhere.

The Scottish rugby team was decked out in full kilted dress outfits, being lead by a man with bagpipes. Spontaneously, as I was passing them, they broke into song, singing loudly (but not well) the Scottish national anthem. They were joined in quickly by the bagpiper, and by the end of the first line, everyone on the city street had started to sing along with them. And since this city street was Lothian Rd., the main club and bar strip in Edinburgh, on a Saturday night, there were a lot of people singing. Everyone was smiling, even the occasional guy pissing in a doorway. I walked amongst them, feeling happy to be in Scotland, and wishing I didn't have to go.

The next day the weather as perfect: blue skies, only a light breeze, and no rain at all, and so that afternoon I took the opportunity to climb Arthur's Seat, the extinct volcano that dominates the east side of Edinburgh. The only sight that can even come close to challenging Arthur's Seat's dominance of Edinburgh's skyline is Edinburgh Castle, but the view from atop Edinburgh Castle can't even come close to the view from atop the Seat.

Arthur's Seat shoots up over three hundred meters; there is a difficult but direct way to climb in, and a lazy but indirect way to reach the summit. My impatience led me up the direct way. About halfway up the slippery slope, I discovered I have my dad's healthy respect for heights. Not so much a "fear" as a "fill your trousers paralytic distaste" for long drops. Which is invigorating in and of itself.

The sudden gusts of wind as I approached the top kept me aware of the danger I was facing, but I also discovered along with the fear of heights the reason people do this type of stuff. That fear feels good! The awareness that you could die at any moment if you screw up makes everything much sharper and more enjoyable. The cold gusts felt exhilarating! Once I realized this, I was no longer in danger of needing to buy a new pair of underwear.

And with or without the danger-borne clarity, the view from Arthur's Seat is stunning. The sun was setting as I approached the summit, and Edinburgh, usually a symphony of grey, was a infused with oranges, pinks, and reds. The setting sun ruined all attempts to take a picture of it, but what heart-stoppingly beautiful sight can be photographed properly, anyway?

I desperately didn't want to leave this city.


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This page last updated on 10 June, 2002. Someone put shit in my pants!
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