Monday, June 18, 2012

Memories of Scotland

Image: SSPIA

Scotland is an important country for me, and one I like to be associated with more than England, which is why I usually tell people I'm from Edinburgh. That's technically true, as it's where I lived for three years before setting off travelling, but only something I say to people who are sufficiently foreign that they won't pick me up on the tell-tale lack of accent.

In my day-to-day life, living in Scotland was no different than living in another attractive old British city, and it's not like my view of this place is completely rose-tinted - despite the deprived areas I've visited in foreign countries, Edinburgh remains the only place I've been violently beaten up and had my head kicked in.

But I don't hold that against the place, like I would car park diarrhoea in Paris (that's a specific reference to a previous post, not just a bizarre analogy), and I had plenty of great experiences here that could only happen in Scotland.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival


I really missed the Fringe last year, which was a pilgrimage I tried to make every year from 2004 onward before moving there semi-permanently in 2007. When August comes around this year, I'll have to try to distract myself with volcanoes again so I don't get homesick.

When I go back to the UK, it'll probably be in time to catch the Fringe - let's pencil in Fringe 2013 as a possibility. Whether I'll stay is another matter, but there's plenty I never got round to seeing in Scotland. Like pretty much all of it. I could stay for a little while.

Scottish Society of Paranormal Investigation and Analysis

I'm a real bridge burner, and moving to Edinburgh was a chance to start again after university and make some new friends who I could later unfairly alienate when their time came. Meeting friends through shared music taste had been successful at Lancaster but didn't really appeal any more, and checking out community websites I found this bizarre group that seemed like a lot of fun, as I'd recently become a bit obsessed with debunking the paranormal and ludicrous conspiracy theories.

Luckily, that sort of light-hearted scepticism seemed to be the general attitude of the non-catchily-named SSPIA, which was comprised of great people with only a couple of lunatics along the way. I made lifelong friends (I hope) and had the perfect excuse to spend time hanging around in old castles, vaults and graveyards and seeing a more macabre side of Scotland.

We didn't see any ghosts, by the way. Because they don't exist, clearly. The most paranormal thing about this paranormal investigation group was the disproportionate percentage of lesbians - cue X-Files music.

Alternative Edinburgh Writers' Group

Creative writing has always been my greatest passion, which I somehow got away with passing off as a quarter of my degree, and after university finished I started to feel withdrawal for those weekly get-togethers where friendly people would offer unhelpfully positive feedback on someone's rubbish poem. How does that count as a degree, seriously? There must have been some kind of massive administrative error.

There seemed to be a few writing groups knocking about in Edinburgh, but I couldn't find one I was really happy with, so with my admin experience from the paranormal group I decided to set up my own. It was quite a success for a few months, until I got fatigued with the burden of being the de facto leader because people seemed lost without one, and as I gradually stopped bothering it dissolved into a drinking group.

I made some friends - mostly male and non-lesbian this time, for the sake of balance. But Edinburgh is one of those transitory places where people always come and go, and most of the good people ended up moving away. And then I jumped ship too.

Working for the man

Image: WIkipedia

Actually, my bosses were mostly women, and boy did they vary in quality - from horrific, slimy bitch to extremely ace. I relocated to Edinburgh immediately after university to start paying my way in the world, and with a degree in English Literature with Creative Writing demonstrating my practical, real-world skills, you can imagine how eager employers were to snap me up.

After a couple of months on the dole, I progressed up the familiar career ladder from marshmallow packer via call centre pest to mindless temp, eventually landing the copywriting job that would earn me my freedom.

Because, although I was happy in Scotland, like any true Scot I desperately need my FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.

They definitely won't let me back in after that.


  1. Bus prices are significantly higher than they were on that City Centre beaut. I also love that bizarre mix of toys up there. Still, you should probably come back and take some better pictures of Scotland.

    1. I was waiting for someone to comment on that! (I thought it'd be Jemma). That price might even pre-date my Edinburgh years, I'm not sure.

      The magnetic fishing game was based on the principle that ghosts affect magnets (obviously), and that a child ghost (the scariest kind) would want to play with it. And we set up a Magna Doodle underneath it so the ghost could leave a message.

      A lot of people were doing this rubbish, but we were the best!

      Also, it's pretty obvious which end of the boss spectrum you are! It happens to be in chronological order too.

  2. Hey Dave, if you visit Scotland please come to rural Cheshire before you leave Britain to visit your mum who misses you ah!! :-)

  3. Haha I *was* about to comment on the bus prices but Lynsey got in there before me. One pound bloody forty for a one way journey now! Ridiculous!

    I can't believe you got your head kicked in here, bloody ruffians. Then again James was saying that despite visiting rough countries Glasgow is the only place where he's had to bribe someone.

    1. It was when walking down Easter Road at night after making a crossroads life decision not to spend the night with a friend, so even my extremely sceptical mind couldn't help viewing it as some kind of message.

      It was three young guys, I think - I just saw a bottle smash on the wall in front of me, then I was on the ground getting battered. Luckily, a taxi pulled up after however long and they ran off, and I convinced the driver I was fine and would walk home like I planned. It was only when I got home, looked in the mirror and saw how bloody my face was that I realised what I must have looked like at the time.

      But they didn't get my wallet, there were no broken teeth and no scars I'm aware of, so in the end it was just another life experience.

      As luck would have it, me and some friends were handing out flyers for Mary King's Ghost Fest events the next day, so I like to think my natural living dead make-up might have boosted sales.

  4. Walking down Easter Road AND turning down sexytime?! My word, I didn't realise you were silly! Did nobody ever tell you never to wander round Leith after sundown? I used to live on Easter Road and I wouldn't leave the house once it got dark, even if I *really* wanted a chippy.