Edinburgh

This week I have travelled a lot. I spend an inordinate amount of time on public transport at the best of times but this week was a record breaker. I have been in Edinburgh three times, in the Borders and across Glasgow. And I have worked a full week.

I hate Edinburgh in August. I appreciate culture and all that but I also find being in crowds and being jostled and approached by leaflet-toting galoots difficult. Edinburgh is my second favourite city in the world, I was born there and I went to primary school in the capital too, but I just get irritated very rapidly when the circus is unfolding. So I avoid it as much as possible.

Where I make an exception is for the Book Festival, which is usually that bit quieter and has the added benefit of being filled with books and the authors who wrote them. I was there last night for Quintin Jardine, the crime writer, and spent a few quid in the bookshop beforehand. Jardine writes the Bob Skinner series, mostly set in Edinburgh though Skinner lives in Gullane in East Lothian. I discovered them a few years ago when I was still in Dunbar and I issued a fair few across the library desk so I picked one up. As you do, I went through the whole series in about a month and every so often I do it again. People can get very snobbish about books and about crime fiction particularly. I couldn’t care less: they are easy reading, well written and set in places I like.

The event last night was particularly well-timed given the resignation earlier in the day of Sir Stephen House as Chief Constable of Police Scotland. Skinner was until the last book a Chief Constable and a fierce critic of the unified police force, as is Quintin Jardine, so that added a little frisson to proceedings. That his officers speak of the outgoing Chief Constable as a megalomaniac says it all, really. Jardine is a good talker and his events always have the air of being unplanned but intimate. He is possibly the only writer at Edinburgh who talks about passing through Prestonpans on his way to the event (by bus) or about golf clubs in East Lothian. I like Bob Skinner as a character because he is powerful but vulnerable at the same time and he has developed over time. The new Skinner is a highlight of my year but I always have to be careful not to read it too quickly as it will be a whole year until the next one. Going to see Quintin Jardine at the Book Festival is just a wee top up but always worth it.

Getting to Edinburgh last night and on Wednesday involved taking the slow train from Dumbarton where I work part of the week. That train is an express as far as Queen Street then it stops absolutely everywhere, taking ages to get out of Glasgow before it even gets near the capital. My backside was square by the time I hit Waverley both nights but I got a bit of reading and writing done and besides I got the faster train home, thankfully.

Wednesday night was much less cultural. I went to Easter Road to watch Hibs play Stranraer in a League Cup game. Hibs won but it was dire stuff. I don’t get to Easter Road that often because of work so still it was worth it, especially when you factor in the steak pie I stuffed down my puss when I got to the ground.

Soon Edinburgh will be back to normal. I don’t have a problem filling a day in the city and I have a list of those places I love that I want to get back to as soon as I can. The John Muir Grove at the Botanics, the Hermitage of Braid, the Meadows, the National Museum and Leith, to name but a few. My flying visits to Edinburgh have been good this week but nothing beats a few hours wandering and seeing where I end up, wherever that may be.

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