Friday, December 26, 2008


43 Scotland Street
I head out to the foot of Leith Walk to catch the bus into the centre of town. Full service has not resumed yet, but there are far more buses on the road than yesterday. I pop into a Woolworth’s store that will be closing in 3 days and pick up some mega bargains, keeping in mind my limited luggage space. Later in the day, Jess and I go to a much larger Woolworths near her flat for more dirt cheap prices. When you read the price tag and take off 50% you’re sure you’ve got a deal – then they reduce it by 50% again (example a facecloth originally priced at £1, we thought was going for 25p and they charged 13p. It’s sad to think that these staples of High Streets across Britain will be closing for good. The Daily Telegraph is running this story on how 125 Woolworth stores may be saved.
This morning I’m on a mission to explore the part of Edinburgh that forms the setting for Alexander McCall Smith’s Scotland Street series of novels. I catch the bus to Princes Street and head north on St Andrews which turns into Dublin Street. The descent into the New Town is steeper than I had imagined. I soon find myself on Drummond Place which is nearly rectangular in shape except that the shorter, eastern side is curved, not straight. I picture Angus Lordie taking his dog Cyril for a walk. The gardens in the centre of Drummond Place are locked and a notice mentions the Drummond Civic Association. Their website states, “Keys are available to all those who overlook the gardens on payment of a subscription.” Apparently there’s a long waiting list of people from neighbouring streets who also wish to have keys.
Next on to Scotland Street, I was dubious that there is really a number 44 – how could you title a book after a private property? I discover that the while the odd numbers go up to 43, the even ones stop at 36. I half expect to see a six-year-old boy with round glasses and crushed strawberry dungarees being led up the road by his mother - perhaps towards Valvona & Crolla on a foray for some Panforte di Siena. Scotland Street ends at Royal Crescent which runs into Fettis Row. I cross the street and see the sign for King George V Memorial Park which was the former site of the Scotland Street railway station. I go down the steps into the park and find where the tunnel has been bricked up. There are two steel doors behind the basketball net but I’m not brave enough to explore any further.
I continue on, keeping an eye out for a custard coloured Mercedes. I find the Cumberland Bar, which today being Boxing Day is closed. I can envision Pat and Matthew there, chatting over drinks. Dundas Street is dotted with antique shops and galleries. I try to picture where Matthew’s Something Special Gallery and Big Lou’s Morning After Café would be. There are several possibilities for the former.
On Heriot Row, I stop to photograph the former home of another of Edinburgh’s literary giants. Robert Louis Stevenson lived at number 17 from 1857 to 1880.
At Moray Place, a grand Georgian Circle that reminds me of Bath, Somerset, I wonder what the residents think about McCall Smith’s depiction of their world. Today there were no naturists in sight. I head back east and, after a bit of searching, find the Café St Honore, which is also closed today.
At the corner of George and Hanover Streets I meet Jess for lunch at All Bar One. They’ve got a burger special going and she chooses the chick pea version that comes with fries and pineapple chutney, two pounds off the regular price £5.95. I opt for the halloumi (a Cypriot goat cheese with a high melting point) and vegetable skewers accompanied by spiced rice, a delicious and filling meal, £8.32.
We do some Boxing Day browsing along George and Princes Streets which are teeming with shoppers and visit the second Woolworths. By 4 o’clock I’m starting to fade so buy a pasta salad and rhubarb yogurt at Tesco Express, total £2.01 to take back to my room for dinner. Why don't they sell gooseberry or rhubarb flavours of yogurt in Canada?
I take the number 11 bus and have only a 15 minute walk to the hotel. The manager/owner tells me that the water above my old room had stopped dripping last night and that they were still puzzled at what caused the leak.

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