Fragmentary glimpses

As you move around Edinburgh you often come across scenic views being revealed to you. Walk one way along, George Street, turn and there is the Castle framed in the line of the next street. Pass the junction of George Street and Hanover Street and your eye is drawn down the regular line of the New Town streets (so different from the jumbled architecture of the Old Town) and suddenly you realise you are looking at the wide estuary of the River Forth with the Kingdom of Fife clearly visible on a good day. Little views like this open out all over Edinburgh, like little presents that the architects, the landscape and the city itself have conspired to give to residents and visitors as if to remind them to lift their heads from the everyday cares for a moment each day. Even sitting in the window corner of the faculty offices of my old college, glance out over the grounds and there, glinting redly in the sunlight the diamond humpbacks of the Forth Brig like an steel sea monster, a metallic, Victorian cousin to Nessie perhaps.

Travelling on the top deck of a bus through the city you also get these views, but snatched in fragments, glimpses as the bus stops or passes one junction – a sudden view down an adjacent street, quickly gone as the bus moves on. This morning it was wet and a curious mixture of cool autumnal morning with last bursts of summer warmth; the bus smells of wet wool, droplets of rain still visible on the coats of those who have just boarded. Through grey clouds there are bursts of brilliant blue sky as the schizophrenic weather battles it out to decide what the day will be.

Crossing North Bridge from the New to Old Town, spanning the long valley carved out by long-ago glaciers, gently spreading out into a ‘v’ as it heads from the city out to the coast. I raise my head from my book for a few seconds and the city rewards me. The volcanic hulk of Arthur’s Seat rises in the weak morning light and the struggle between cool and warm weather generates scattered low clouds, drifting lazily around the peaks looking like wooly airships, as if someone had inflated giant sheep and set them floating. The effect will not outlast the morning but the low clouds wrapped around the summit makes the peak look far loftier for a brief spell, as if they were the great peaks found further north or the higher mountain it would have been itself, long, long ago before epochs of wind, rain and the great glacier which give our land its character wore them down to a smaller but still impressive fortress of rock, nature’s counterpart to humanity’s Castle on its sister peak. I love living here; the city talks to me when I remember to listen.