Saturday, 20 July 2013

Edinburgh with Brenda and Morag, part 1

A constant problem with posts that feature friends is how to name them in the text.

Somebody like myself is no problem. What, a retired blogger of independent means, who doesn't work now, and will never work again, who has no partner, nobody at all in her life who might be embarrassed by her identity being public? I'm one of those who can be openly referred to by my full current name, and indeed shown so-named in a photo. I understand that happens to me regularly on Facebook, when Facebook-using friends have snapped me doing something celebratory and publish the result, although not being on FB myself, I never see the result. They could however say whatever they wished, and it wouldn't matter, including snippets from my past life, if they know any.

You don't have to wade through FB though, to find those snippets. If you genuinely want to know who I used to be, and trace my personal history from birth till now, then it's all there somewhere in the blog. However, there's a catch! You have to crunch your way through a canon of almost 700,000 words. Maybe a million words by 2015. And those biographical facts are scattered about and untagged. 

You can see my cunning plan: the biographical details are all hidden among a welter of other stuff. Anyone inclined to play detective will have to be very creative with the Search Box!

I'm not throwing out a challenge, I'm simply saying that normal people, with normal lives full of stuff to get on with, just won't have the time to piece the entire story together. Government agencies monitor me automatically, of course - but then they do that to us all, whatever the denials, and I doubt whether they ever bother with an in-depth analysis of what they gather in, unless words like 'terrorist' turn up. Whoops.

If there are any especially determined and dogged sleuths about, they will eventually ferret out the salient facts of my life and former career. But since most of my life has been - of course - one of pure innocence and exemplary virtue, completely free of crime, scandal, notable achievement and notorious acquaintance, the effort will be unstimulating and unrewarding.

Indeed, I'd say the modern-day Lucy Melford, the freshly-painted racy version with the covers off and the inhibitions cast aside, is the version to take most interest in. Trust me. Forget the past. The 2013 model is the one to watch, and put your money on. 

Back to the problem of naming other persons who need to be discreetly cloaked or masked in some way. The two friends I shared a day with in Edinburgh were such persons, or at least one of them certainly was, the other less so. I most certainly wanted to mention them in this post. But not name them. And simply using initials wouldn't be adequate. So I've settled on pseudonyms. My two friends have become Brenda of the Seven Secrets, and Morag of the Magic Mountains. Good Scottish names! And to join in, and not be different, I am going to call myself Princess Iona, Fairest Lady of the Sunset Seas. Perfectly ordinary names, all told. We'd pass in any crowd with names like those.


The day in Scotland's capital city started cloudy and spitting with rain, but it bucked up. I first drove over to North Berwick station, parked Fiona there for nothing (for nothing!), left her to her own devices, and boarded the electric train. Like most things I've seen in Scotland, it was modern, clean, tidy and fast. I paid £10.50 for an 'anytime' return that would leave the choice of return-time wide open. In next to no time we were off. I'd already got chatting to a couple in wet-weather gear and backpacks who explained that they were naturalists, and that seashore life was their speciality: molluscs and so forth. I learned much about the ways of cockles and winkles. But they weren't at all familiar with land-based creatures. As we passed through the eastern suburbs of Edinburgh, they saw a fox by the railway line and got very excited. The male half exclaimed that he'd never seen an urban fox. I didn't like to say that in Sussex urban foxes could be seen at any time in Brighton, and they prowled my village after dark; and that deer and hawks and alpacas were a regular sight from busy commuter trains.

We parted at Edinburgh Waverley, where Brenda and Morag were waiting for me. Our first port of call was the café at the City Arts Centre, where Brenda and Morag were amazed that I resisted having something sweet to go with my coffee:


I said I really had no sweet tooth - I preferred savoury stuff. It's true. In a contest between a chocolate éclair, a Mars bar, and a sausage roll, the sausage roll would always win.

It was to be a day full of galleries, very much to my taste, with breaks for refreshment and one necessary trip to Marks & Spencer, so that Morag of the Magic Mountains could spend a voucher before it expired. At this point, I will reveal my royal costume for the day, as shot in the City Arts Centre café loo:


As we were already there, we looked first at what the Arts Centre had on offer. We went up to the admission desk. My younger companions paid full price. I asked for an over-sixty age concession (I love doing this!). The girl at the desk said fine, but could I produce evidence of my age? Will a passport do, I demurely enquired. Yes, if you've got it with you. Indeed I had. She wasn't expecting that, the cheeky strumpet. 'Thank you, Princess Iona, Fairest Lady of the Sunset Seas,' she said, and I got my £2 off. Nice.

There were two exhibitions going on at the Arts Centre. No photos were allowed in the exhibition rooms, so this is from their brochure:


The main exhibition was Coming Into Fashion - A Century of Photography at Condé Nast. This featured some of the very clever and stylish photography that appeared in Vogue and Glamour magazines during the twentieth century. Very clever indeed, as you can see above. the other exhibition was also costume-related: Dressed To Kill - Fashion, Costume and Dress in Scottish Art. Here's an example from the brochure:


Next, one or two shots from the permitted area within the Art Centre building. Basically the stairwell.


This stairwell is haunted by members of the demi-monde, who ply a precarious trade posing saucily for art buffs with easy-to-hide cameras up their sleeves. Here is one of those poor, half-starved creatures:


Then it was time for lunch. We decided on Henderson's, the famous veggie restaurant. On the way we passed the immense Scott Monument of 1844 designed by Kemp, with a huge statue of Sir Walter Scott by Steell seated within it. It's enormous. look at the size of it in relation to the double-decker bus in the middle of these three photos:


Of course, it's not what it seems. It's really a missile. What you see is a rocket carrying an armed nuclear warhead. One can imagine it taking off early one morning:


Glasgow or London bound? Who knows. Only the First Minister who presses the red button.

At  Henderson's we each had something different. Despite having no sweet tooth, I did indulge myself with a strawberry-and-cream dessert to go with my Spanish-style main course of spicy bits with rice. Olé! Henderson's has this big painting downstairs, showing a scene set in Princes Street Gardens that has a summer-of-love 1960s or 1970s feel to it:


Sated, we next parted company for half an hour. Brenda of the Seven Secrets and Morag of the Magic Mountains went to M&S. I declared that I would shoot Princes Street and the nearby public areas. I saw sights like this:


And one or two you won't see in Sussex villages:


Then it was time to meet up again, first with Brenda of the Seven Secrets:


Soon after, Morag of the Magic Mountains emerged from M&S with her trophies, and we walked across to the Scottish National Gallery. What happened there, and the late-afternoon feast that followed, will be related in tomorrow's post!

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