Brae with a view

Had to head out to my mortgage lender after work on Friday. As the branch which clears those for the Bank of Scotland is miles from work and home out in bloody Liberton it was something of a hike. Despite living in Edinburgh since 1991 that southern suburban area is pretty much terra incognita to me. So I caught a bus out there to what I thought was about the right spot and got off. Then find out I’m off way too early and had to walk about half a mile right up Liberton Brae (a brae, for non Scots, is like a hill) in blazing sunshine. I arrived a trifle sweaty, but nevertheless the mortgage advisor was very helpful and upbeat – hopefully they will get thing sorted out and my mortgage deal will be better than before, helping me sort out my piss-poor finances.

Walking back towards town around 5pm the sun was still beating down, the heat coming up through the soles of my boots from the burning sidewalk. However it was all made worth it by the fantastic view I had from the top deck of the bus I caught. As Liberton Brae is a few miles from the city centre and up on a hill with only two story houses instead of the city’s four or more story tenements the view was panoramic and clear. I could see the Castle in the distance and the mighty bulk of Arthur’s Seat. This fantastic extinct volcano sits right in town, next to the palace of Holyrood House (Mary Queen of Scots old home) and where the parliament will be when finished.It’s not every city that has something like that a few minutes from the centre.

The clear sky and sun over Liberton were counterbalanced by the vision of a seas mist rolling back in to town (as it had in the morning). The hot air hitting the cooler waters of the North Sea and rolling up the wide estuary of the Forth in the form of a haar. Above the city ahead of me the sky was still blue but the mist rolled in at lower level, wrapping the great rock in swathes of cotton wool. The contrast was fantastic, all spread out below me. As I got back into town I could actually see sheets of the mist drifting past, like small clouds, still glowing from the sunlight hidden above, moving past me and around the Monument.

Unbelievably gorgeous and it reminded me of the reprinted travel book I just finished, the Silent Traveller in Edinburgh. Apparently this Chinese exile was a best-selling travel writer in the 40s and 50s. The book was utterly delightful, illustrated throughout with his drawings all done in the oriental style. Odd but fascinating to see (to me) everyday scenes in this different style. Yee was a painter and poet as well as a lecturer on art and this shows in his writing – he sees the world very differently. He reminded me very much of Robert Louis Stevenson. RLS too demonstrated the difference between the way a travel writer describes something and the way a travel writer who is a poet and artist describes something. Chinese poetry and Confucianisms added to this lovely little gem of a book.

He described the mist rolling into this beautiful city and how magnificent it made it look (well, what you can see of it in the mist!). So much of the book was familiar – Americans walking down the Royal Mile and trying to research their Scottish roots (although mostly in uniform as it was 1943) – while some things he describes are gone, such as the tramcars. Must get a review written up soon and email it off to History Scotland for publication.