Sadly, D and I were caught out yesterday by the infrequency of buses out to Cramond, where the tidal island can be reached by a causeway I last crossed when I was 3, on my father’s back (as he knows well).
Instead we went through The Meadows, along the former floor of the drained Burgh loch (pronounced, as the burgh in Edinburgh is, ‘Burra’) that once covered 63 acres in what is now the centre of the city. It’s still large enough to breathe in, and though full of people never felt truly crowded. It was drained fully in the 1700s and transformed into a place of leisure for private citizens, later into the public park, free tennis courts, links golf course, haphazard footie pitch and scenic picnic spot it is today. And the fighting ground for my old school, and at night, mugger’s paradise, but we won’t talk about that.
It seemed like summer, with the drift of smoke from mingling fires – from those little disposable tin-tray barbecues people buy here, one use only, because there are usually not enough days like this to warrant the investment in something that will last.
Various paths through the park have acquired names over time. This one made D chuckle – but I told him it’s named that way because there is a jawbone at the end of it. He looked at me skeptically. The jawbone of a whale! I insisted. Really?
And there it was:
The jawbone of a whale, erected as part of the 1886 International Exhibition of Industry, Science and Art (as wiki tells me), and moved to the walk after that was over. D still was not convinced. It looked awfully like wood to him. Thank goodness the internet was there later to back me up.
We walked into Marchmont, a lovely part of the city, all bay windows and sandstone, where there are many student homes. Then on into Brunstfield, a more wealthy part of town, where the houses start to expand and have ‘danger: guard dog’ signs, or the offices of chartered surveyors, or gates that come security locked against the curious (or thieving, I suppose). Excepting a few. And in particular, this house:
It called to us. We went in through the open gate. Weeds growing through the path. Plastic rubbish strewn around. No one lives here – the rooms are empty excepting an orange bucket of what looked like old plaster, a crusty metal trowel for laying it on. Through a front window, peering, through the open door beyond, I see another window, see through the heart of the house to the back garden. High grass and bushes. A sense of waiting. Or emptiness that feels like something long immanent and never realised. As if the repairers won’t be back, and only time, not people, can now touch the house.
We continued on our way after a while – and after spotting that someone had tipped a bag of potatoes onto the lawn at some point, and that these were now wrinkled, trying to grow through the soil. Later we came back along a side route, heading vaguely for home but had to take another look:
The day had turned cloudy, a little colder. Rain that is falling today gathering above us then. But it wasn’t a sinister mood we felt, but curious – of the stories behind this house, marooned on a rich street facing the Bruntsfield links (a former golf course, somewhat an extension of The Meadows), the Castle beyond on its dead volcanic plug. Emptiness, suspension, decay.
The possibility of stories to come.