Postcard from Edinburgh
July 13, 2018
My parents met, married and lived in Edinburgh until moving to London in 1946. Although I’ve never lived there, I’ve always felt a connection with the city. If you ignore the shopfronts, the yellow lines and the traffic, look up and you’ll see how little has changed in much of the city since my parents’ heyday in the 1930s.
The weather was unusually sunny on a recent visit, and it would have been easy to reach the conclusion that the Scottish capital enjoys a Mediterranean climate. On Midsummer Night the skies were still light until after 10pm.
edinburgh, the athens of the north – or its venice?
Historically, Edinburgh was known as “the Athens of the North”, but on this occasion I was struck by some similarities to Venice.
A “Close” in the Old Town reminded me of a Venetian “Sottoportego”.
Crossing the Forth Railway Bridge on a train towards Dunfermline, I was surprised to see this cruise ship moored at South Queensferry. It looks more in scale with the Firth of Forth than it would on the Giudecca Canal. Apparently they land 3,000 passengers a day here.
Some of Edinburgh’s restaurants take pride in using the best local ingredients and suppliers, an echo of the best Venetian menus.
Nightmare on Cockburn Street.
Walking through the Old Town, I started looking for somewhere to have lunch.
Enjoying an espresso after my outdoor lunch at Ecco Vino, (see separate post here http://wp.me/p7AW4i-nr) a couple left the next table and a huge seagull immediately swooped down and made off with a piece of baguette. Then another settled and started picking at the remains of a melanzane parmigiana. The blue sky started to fill with fearless flapping; it looked as if someone was filming a remake of Hitchcock’s classic, “The Birds”, on Cockburn Street.
“The Modern Portrait”
at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, I was particularly struck by three images:
Annie Lennox describes this photograph of herself as “gender free, and racially ambiguous. I could be a statue, a ghostly apparition, or an Indian sadhu. The false eyelashes represent the artifice of performance”.
Artist Ken Currie quoted Sir David Lane, one of the distinguished surgeons in his large scale portrait Three Oncologists, talking about the nature of cancer: “People saw cancer as a kind of darkness, and our job is to go in there and retrieve people from it.” That was Currie’s key, allowing him to unlock the subject and create this disturbing image, which hangs on a blood-red wall.
Looking at the painting of actor Alan Cumming, I was startled by someone speaking to me.
Gallery Attendant: (unprompted) “He likes to have his picture taken in front of it when he comes in; he comes in a lot….”
Me: “Is it OK to take a photo?”
Gallery Attendant: “Oh, he takes pictures of himself all the time, so it’s perfectly fine”.
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JD
Later that night, there he was again, this time in Thistle Street in the window of 21st Century Kilts, kiltmaker to the stars.
valvona & crolla
No visit to Edinburgh is complete without a visit to the institution that is Valvona & Crolla, whether for a “full Italian” breakfast, lunch, or to buy a picnic for the train home. I bought slices of a pungent Tuscan salame Spagato, pecorino cheese, olives and some green red Camone tomatoes from Sicily – crunchy, juicy, thick-skinned little flavour bombs.
Valvona & Crolla,19 Elm Row, Edinburgh EH7 4AA