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Posts Tagged ‘Edinburgh’

Yet another story that I wrote many years ago.

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2007-06-15

This place is really cold.

I’ve been living in Edinburgh for about two months now and still find it difficult to adjust to this bleak weather.

Last Saturday we had a rare day of sunshine. “It’s a full twenty-two degrees celsius in some places” the media proclaimed amidst warnings that we should all be sure to exercise caution and not overexpose ourselves to what they made sound like an exploding sun.

It so completely transformed the place that I was even briefly seen outside in just a t-shirt before scurrying back inside for another layer of clothing. Later, walking along the canal, I drew perplexed stares from the bare-chested men and sparingly clad women obviously reveling in the warmth beneath fragrant layers of top factor sunscreen. A very confusing state of affairs for me as I shivered on about my daily routine and I hoped that this was at least a sign that it would soon be warm enough even for me to unzip my fleece and even perhaps leave it behind eventually.

That was the hottest day that summer.

A rude reminder that I was living on the same latitude with Moscow and that people from the tropics like me were simply not built to endure these parts of the hemisphere followed. The routine skirmishes from our bunker to work, kindergarten and the shops for supplies through veritable blizzards and the terrifyingly named haar (fog) soon returned.

In all fairness, Edinburgh is a beautiful city and I became even more aware of this after visiting Birmingham and London a few weeks prior. There is a lot of beautifully preserved old architecture all over the place, if you’re into that sort of thing, and lots of canals, ponds, parks and of course the almighty Firth of Forth to walk through and see.

Of particular interest to me are the endless shows, festivals, galleries, etc. I’m so overwhelmed by the sheer extent of possibility, that at the moment, I mostly sit at home and watch the marvel that is digital TV. Perhaps one of these days I’ll stop being intimidated by that 100 page weekly entertainment magazine, and actually do something interesting. I’m thinking of visiting Rosslyn chapel, of the Da Vinci Code fame. But even the thought of that has me cracking up.  If, by any chance, I was to get lost in the haar along the way, no one would ever think to look for me on the route to a five hundred year old church, would they?

But culture is a fluid thing. Perhaps by repeatedly donning my tweed jacket and frequenting poetry recitals in incredibly old buildings across the city I might purge myself of the cultural limits imposed by my Murang’a origins and transform into a contextually socially educated and cultured person.

I have not gone so far, but must admit that I quite enjoy sipping the odd single malted distillate while staring ponderously into the distance. Posh eh?

While such behaviour would probably earn me a beating in Nairobi, I feel that it is culturally acceptable here, and I often find myself sitting at the counter of my new local, the Caledonian Sample Room, with my head tilted at a philosophical angle thinking about the enigmatic life of Robert the Bruce and the triumph that is Rabbie Burns. As you might be able to tell, I’ve been bombarded with information about the founding of this amazing culture.

That said, most of the Scots I’ve met are friendly, unassuming, salt of the earth sort of people who don’t flaunt history and culture in your face in the way many other Europeans would. The main problem is that I’ve not quite managed to cross the language barrier. No, they do not speak Gaelic nowadays, but very heavily accented English which is especially difficult to decipher after they’ve quaffed down a few pints of beer from the remarkably broad range on offer across the city.

I was once offered a “brain” sauce to go with my chips. At the time, I remember thinking that, not only do they make haggis, a sausage thingy from sheep’s stomach and innards, but they also make a sauce from its brain? What a people! They are not as far removed from my beloved Murang’a as I thought. I must get the recipe! Only later, much to my wife’s delight, did I discover that they had meant “brown” (HP) sauce.

“I dinnae ken that” is another phrase that I quickly came to learn which very often followed in the wake of anything that I said meaning “I don’t understand” and “braw” meaning “great” whenever I managed to get my meaning across.

I guess it will take some adjusting. My first steps will be to boldly go to the National Museum in town this weekend to begin the process of acclimatising by visiting the glass tomb of Dolly, that most famous of cloned sheep.

I will try to be enthralled by the expected tales of Jacobites and decapitated queens while trying to understand why they all just didn’t escape south to what surely would have been a less harsh life.

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