Random Scottish bits

We just wandered today – with no theme or plan in mind. The overcast sky threatened rain, but none fell and the temperature stayed close enough to 50 to keep us mostly comfortable.

We hit two of the ‘must see’s’ in the guide book though, the graveyard at Greyfriers Kirk, and then Dunbar’s Close Garden. Both are described with words like, green, lush, beautiful. And I’m sure those descriptions are accurate, in the summer. But in the winter… well, cold and muddy would be the words I’d use to describe the graveyard, at least. The garden was still very nice, even if the trees were bare and lifeless.

Despite the mud, the graveyard was fascinating: old and creepy, just the way a graveyard ought to feel. With stones dating from the 14 and 15 hundreds all the way to today. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many carvings of skulls and crossbones outside of a pirate ship in my life. It was a photographers dreamland20141222_131804.

I have to mention two interesting bits of J.K. Rowling lore I’ve run into here in Edinburgh. (I read the books and enjoyed the movies, but as I was not a teenager at any point during the Harry Potter ‘thing’ I would never call myself a passionate fan, but these are interesting nonetheless.)

First of all, just down the street from our hotel is a little café called The Elephant House. Apparently J.K. Rowling wrote the first few books in of the series in that café. The place has a line almost out the door every time we’ve walked past it. Now, I understand on some level, it gives me a little thrill every time I see a sign that reads ‘Boswell and Johnson ate here’ or ‘Sir Arthur Conan Doyle walked this way’ but even for those literary giants I wouldn’t stand in line for two hours to get a glimpse of the chairs they sat in. Maybe they’ve bronzed the crumbs that fell off a biscuit that touched her lips. OMG! Let’s Go!

The second weird bit was in the graveyard. Now the whole place was muddy, but not too bad over all, until we came upon one section. I saw some people (late teens, early twenties people – that should have tipped me off) having their picture taken in front of a certain gravestone and the way leading to it was ankle deep in mud. When Will and I squelched our way close enough to read the marker we saw, ‘Thomas Riddell, Esq.’ I turned to Will in confusion, and he said, “She must have gotten a lot of the names in the books from this graveyard,” as it is located so close to the Elephant House. Right, Rowling again. Of course.

We walked the whole of the Royal Mile today (a Scots mile is apparently a bit longer than a regular mile.) The whole length is mostly just shops selling tourist crap, with the odd pub, museum or ghost tour tucked in here or there for variety. At the very bottom is Holyrood Palace – where the royal family stays when they’re in town. From near the entrance to Holyrood house, you can see the path up to Arthur’s Seat. We have plans to hike all the way up there on Christmas Day. Oh boy. I hope my legs can take it.

I don’t have an opinion on the idea of Scottish independence. I can understand both sides of the argument, and they seem equally valid to me. Having said that, I am aware that I come from a country that tore itself away from England, once upon a time, by “hiding behind trees and shooting at the English till they got tired and left,” as Will puts it to every person we talk to here. But there is a huge difference between our situation and theirs. It is called The Atlantic Ocean. I think from Edinburgh to London, it’s like a three hour train ride.

The Scottish take a huge amount of pride in being Scottish, it’s everywhere you look. Even our cab driver the first day said something about being a Scottish veteran, and resenting the fact that his discharge papers say he’s British.

Most Americans still take more pride in their European heritage than in being American. Would we act differently if we were still tied to England, and needed to emphasize our differences?