Edinburgh ramblings…

9 04 2013

I’m in Edinburgh again, hurrah!

On my last two visits here (both one-night stopovers for work) I headed straight for The Oxford Bar, so I’ve kind of got my bearings in the Rose Street area; this time I wanted to use my free afternoon to pay a visit to Looking Glass Books in Quartermile too, a rather cool looking bookshop-come-cafe I came across on Twitter. My trusty phone told me it was about half an hour’s walk from the hotel, so I plotted myself a route and off I went.

Now then. When I’m let loose on my own there are couple of problems that sometimes crop up.

Firstly, I tend to get a bit, er, directionally challenged. Maybe ‘a bit’ is a slight understatement. Often I’ll got into a shop and when I come out I have absolutely no idea which direction I’d been walking in, so I’ll frequently head off jauntily, only to have to turn round and go back the other way. Whilst trying to make it look as if I meant to do that all along. An interesting shop window to look into always comes in rather handy in these situations.

Secondly, if I’m looking at a map that I can’t turn round (I mean the sort on phones that turn as you turn them – static paper ones are easy!) I get a bit confused if I should be turning left or right, unless the map is orientated in the direction I’m going. And I get a bit embarrassed waving my phone around in a figure of eight when it tells me too, so tend not to bother with the direction-pointy-thing. Again, interesting shop windows come in handy…

Consequently I headed off boldly down High Street, then had to pause to look at some interesting kilts before going back the other way. Further on I stopped to admire Parliament Square before doubling back on myself again.

And then… I found somewhere I knew!

A few years back, I came to Edinburgh with my other half and some friends to see Leonard Cohen perform at the castle. We stayed for a couple of nights, and rented a flat rather than stay in a hotel – all the better for some gentle post-concert partying! The flat was in a tall, skinny, modern, woody building on Old Fishmarket Close just off High Street, and I remembered it being on a very steep hill – but luckily today I was at the top end, and needed to be at the bottom, so off I scooted downwards. I’m pleased to report the tall, skinny, modern, woody building is still there.

Needless to say there were a couple more directionally challenging moments before I found Quartermile, but find it I did…

Looking Glass Books has definitely been added to my Best Boltholes to Visit in Edinburgh When I Have a Work Stopover Here list. Smiley welcoming staff, drinks and nibbles, and books galore. Old favourites and obscure, unheard of titles, displayed beautifully and many with delightful hand-written mini-reviews wrapped around their covers – I love that!

I settled down with a coffee, bought to my table by a smiley welcoming lass, and read through the first draft of a manuscript for one of my children’s books I’d plonked onto my iPad yesterday (the first of The Shed stories). It’s gone through a lot of changes since that first draft, but on reading the latest version last week I decided to go back to the beginning again to see how it had looked before all that tweaking. I found a few things that I’d changed or taken out in later drafts that I actually rather liked, realised a tiny bit I’d removed would give a much more logical ‘lead’ into a bit I’d added later, made a few notes, cringed on more than one occasion, and thoroughly enjoyed the coffee.

As I was reading, I was reminded of a recent tweet from Mr Ian Rankin about the bit of novel-writing he likes least – trying alternatives for all the he said’s and she said’s. I got the impression that he tends to use the ‘s‘ word in first drafts, then tweaks them in later drafts – and I was rather impressed with that. I tend to get bogged down looking for alternatives for the ‘s‘ word, and after reading his tweet I have resolved not to stress over it in first drafts ever again in order to keep the flow of ideas going. Cheers for that Mr R!

The dregs of my lovely latte coincided with the end of the manuscript, so I then went for a wander through the books shelves. I didn’t buy anything (which I felt rather guilty about) but I added quite a few titles and authors to my ‘to read‘ list, so next time I’m there I’ll definitely be making a purchase or two. Hopefully by then they’ll have their new book bags printed too!

Looking Glass Books has such a lovely, cosy, ready-writey atmosphere, quite a surprise considering its modern surroundings; I’d highly recommend it for any ready-writey folk visiting Edinburgh. The children’s section is excellent – a really interesting blend of classics, modern favourites and unusual unexplored titles. Well, for me anyway!

Oh yes – and they also serve cake… 🙂

On leaving, I plotted a little route to the Oxford Bar, which took me round the back of the castle, and past an interesting antiquey-curioey-booky shop called Cabaret on the corner of Lady Lawson Street and West Port. The tiny first floor is filled to bursting with curios, jewellery, bits and bobs and lovely glassware, and down The Stairs they have a good collection of old books. The Stairs deserve initial capitals as they’re extremely steep, very narrow, very wooden, and rather spiral. I have tiny feet and they only just fitted on the treads! A very interesting little place which I’m sure I’ll be popping into again on future visits.

A pause by St John’s church on the corner of Lothian Road and Princes Street to marvel at a lovely monument in the churchyard in the form of a huge Celtic cross (me and my Celtic crosses!) and to get growled at by a rather worse-for-wear old fella. I think in his mind he sounded perfectly coherent, but somewhere between his mind and his mouth things had got a bit confused. He was also having a bit of a gravity issue, canting at about 75 degrees. I christened him The St John’s Growler. Might have to use that somewhere…

Then suddenly I was at the top of Rose Street (Me Street!), and a bit further down there was Young Street, and the lovely Oxford Bar. Which is where I am now, writing this, sitting in the back room by the log fire. It’s a rare find these days – a Proper Pub, with none of your fancy pub-come-restaurant pretensions. Just a wee bar, and a wee back room with a few tables and a fire, well kept ale, friendly locals (and not-so-locals) and cheery bar staff – even the notorious Harry, though I’ve only had the pleasure of him being behind the bar on my first visit back in February. You remember, that time I ended up meeting that writer bloke… watzisname… Ian something? I was so overwhelmed I named a dragon after him

And now it’s later, and I’m taking advantage of the hotel’s free wifi to post this before turning in. Despite having to get up at 4am this morning, I’ve had a rather lovely day!

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