The dramatic effect of being in Edinburgh but having no blog
Tomorrow’s blog will be easy.
That’s what I foolishly thought yesterday.
I am meeting comedian Charlie Chuck during the day, going to South Queensferry and the Forth Bridges with my eternally-un-named friend and having a meal tonight with comedienne Janey Godley and PR boss Stuart McKenzie from Kiev, who was Scots comedian Jimmy Logan’s stepson. There will be a blog in there somewhere.
But Charlie Chuck was in Yorkshire, buying a new Mercedes for his drive up to the Edinburgh Fringe next month. Nothing much happened in South Queensferry apart from photos. And the meal at Assam’s, though indeed as wonderful as promised and with interesting people, was not really bloggable, though I did try to encourage Stuart’s father Bruce McKenzie to buy an Apple Mac and become a blogger.
“If you want to blog,” I suggested, “it sometimes helps to be opinionated,”
“I can do opinionated,” Bruce replied with an alarming amount of enthusiasm.
After the meal last night in Edinburgh, I was still blogless. I texted Janey Godley (by then in a train back to Glasgow):
“No blog. Any quotes or quirks gratefully accepted.”
“Quotes? What quotes?” she texted back. “Remind me, baldy brain.”
I had no answer; she had no opinionated quotes (which is a rare thing).
So, in the drive back to our temporary flat in Morningside, I switched on my iPhone and let my eternally-un-named friend tell me things.
“Tell me things for my blog,” I told her.
“There are some nice second hand shops in Edinburgh…” she started.
“You said there are three different Edinburghs,” I said, trying to veer her away from second hand shops.
“Well,” she said, “this is only my second visit. But there are some very elegant areas with wide streets and smart stone and elegant details on corners. Then there were the low bungalowey type homes on the way to the Firth of Forth; that was a bit strange; they’re like some kind of Hobbit huts, though I don’t actually know what a Hobbit hut is. Nice wide streets and wide pavements. But there was also that area which was a bit grim and tatty.”
“Well,” I said, “I love Edinburgh. Very elegant. But Trainspotting was also set here. Lots of heroin. Edinburgh is little old ladies and heroin.”
“There’s a post box over there,” my eternally-un-named friend said. “Maybe we should get a post card and post it.”
“To whom?” I said.
“Oh, exactly,” she said. “There are yellow lines there. That’s why there’s nothing parked on that corner.”
“And then there’s a graveyard on the other side,” I said. “Say something interesting about the graveyard. Is it a nice graveyard?”
“Oh God,” she said. “I can’t think of anything. There’s nothing to write in this, John. Well, you do wonder what’s going to happen to that Saab car dealer building there that’s closed because, as you said, it must be very valuable ground.”
“Well, this is Morningside,” I said. “You told me you like Morningside.”
She regained her enthusiasm: “Oh yes,” she said. “Yes, I do like Morningside. I think there are some very nice second hand shops here, very, very reasonably priced in comparison to second hand shops in England where some of them will charge you something like £7 or £10 for an item, which is just ridiculous. You bought that Elgin Marble head this morning, which could have been made from Coade stone.”
“Coade stone?” I asked. “What’s a coade stone?”
“It’s the stone someone I think called Eleanor Coade made statues out of,” she explained. “And there’s a statue of a lion on some bridge in London that’s a bit like the ones on Trafalgar Square.”
“Aren’t they,” I said, “made from the melted-down guns of French ships captured at the Battle of Trafalgar?”
“Anyway,” my eternally-un-named friend continued, “this lion is at the end of a bridge in London and this Eleanor Coade woman made these statues that are in the foyer of the Royal Naval…”
“…College in Greenwich?” I suggested.
“The churchy bit,” my eternally-un-named friend said. “What’s that churchy bit called? Chapel. Opposite The Painted Hall. There are some statues there and they’re made from very hard stone. I don’t think it’s actually stone. It’s maybe some kind of resin. But they have apparently lost the recipe.
“A lot of statues erode over time, like the gnomes at the bottom of your garden, and lose bits like their noses and – well, they lose bits – Coade stone doesn’t erode. But, as I say, they’ve lost the recipe. Very elegant, fine statues: the sort you should have at the bottom of your garden instead of gnomes. How can they lose the recipe?
The (not) Elgin Marble from the charity shop
“But you have bought some Greek or Roman statue head that’s fallen onto the ground like Ozymandias – and you mentioned him in a blog recently – and we’ve no idea what it’s made of but it’s very like these buildings here in Edinburgh and it could be the Elgin Marbles that you’re going to return to Greece because they have run out of money.”
“Oh,” I said, “I thought you told me definitively it was a copy of an Elgin Marble.”
“Is that why you bought it?” she asked.
“No, but I thought you recognised it from somewhere,” I replied. “Possibly the Parthenon.”
“No,” she said, “I don’t actually know what the Elgin Marbles look like. Sorry. Did I forget to mention that? I lived in Lossiemouth, which is near Elgin. But I don’t know where the Elgin Marbles are.”
“The British Museum,” I said.
“They said, if they hadn’t taken them,” she said, “they would have ended up being destroyed by…”
“…the Turks blowing the Parthenon up,” I said.
“But, then,” she said, “that’s an excuse you can always have when you go and nick someone else’s stuff, isn’t it?”
“The Turks will blow it up?” I asked.
“Just looking after it for you.” she continued. “You’re not capable of looking after it.”
“Or blame the Turks,” I suggested.
“Are we ever going to get out of this car?” she asked.
“It seems increasingly unlikely,” I said.