Saturday, 30 August 2014

Flatcap Day out in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle - Wikimedia Creative Commons

          A couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed a Flatcap day out in
          I should explain - I'm a member of the other SAS, the Scattered Authors Society, which has a chat-board called 'Balaclava.'
          The lovely Penny Dolan (who wrote 'A Boy Named
M.O.U.S.E' which I recommend highly) started an off-shoot group, called 'Flatcap' - partly because it keeps up the head-gear theme and partly, I suppose, because Flatcap is about work.
          Its purpose is to spur on the writers who form its small membership. They have to say what it is they intend to work on, and then report on progress. It's  highly effective for most of its members, though for me, not so much. (My fault entirely, not the group's.)
          It concentrates a writer's mind wonderfully when they know they will have to report to a group of other writers, who might have written many more thousands of words than they have. Karen Bush, especially, has been powering through the pages.

          Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I was in Edinburgh - arguably the best capital city in the UK, though it may soon be leaving us - and I was at a loose end. So I emailed a couple of Flatcappers, who I knew lived near (or near-ish) Old Reekie - Linda Strachan and Joan Lennon.

          They both put aside their own work to travel into Edinburgh and meet up with me.
          First I met Linda at Waverley Station, and we walked to the Dovecot Cafe, where Joan was already waiting. We ordered coffee and we talked, for about two hours non-stop - oh, about the fantasy Linda is working on, and the prospects for Joan's novel of the Stone-Age, Silver Skin (which I am looking forward to), and my consultancy training with the Royal Literary Fund, and Joan's poetry (which is great and we keep urging her to produce an ebook) - and agents and publishers and blogging and - 

          Nobody could wish for better, wittier, livelier companions than Joan and Linda.
         Then we went to the National Museum of Scotland because Joan wanted to show me their stone-age exhibits (we are both keen on the Stone Age) and also those of Lewis chessmen who live there. Which included a berserker! - I bought myself a couple of replicas: one of those berserkers, and a King. I was torn between the King and Queen, but eventually settled on the King because of his beautifully combed tresses.
          And all the time we were talking...
King, King, let down your hair
        Linda showed us some display cases designed by an artist. I'm ashamed not to remember more, but the cases were works of art in themselves - like strange robots, with pieces displayed in boxes in their chests or arms.

          Then it was lunch-time, and Linda guided us to the library cafe - because, it being the middle of the Festival, we were unlikely to get a seat anywhere else. (We passed cafe after cafe, packed to the doors.) Once in the library, we talked and talked.
          The party broke up at about four. We all had to catch trains from Waverley - and as we rose to go, there was a flash of lightening, a clap of thunder worthy of 'Macbeth', and storm-clouds burst over the city.
          Linda and Joan had been wise enough to bring umbrellas. I hadn't - but Linda, kind as ever, shared hers with me - and also led us by wynd, close and dreel down to the station. I know Edinburgh a little, but I couldn't have found that route.
          At Waverley, Joan and I said goodbye to Linda (who got home safely, you'll be glad to know), and started scanning the trains for Fife listed on the Departures Board. Thus it was we discovered that the lightening had wiped out all the signals for Fife, and all trains for the Kingdom were cancelled. Aaargh! Joan had to get home, and I was expected back at the digs by my partner.
          Joan collared a Scots Rail 'Customer Information' Officer, and exerted her considerable charm. In moments, though surrounded by scores of anxious passengers, he wanted to talk to no one but her.
          For about fifteen minutes, all was confusion while the rain crashed on the roof above us. The signals might be restored - they might not. We might be taken to our destinations by bus - but there was no news of the buses yet. We might consider catching a train to Perth, and then finding our way south into Fife - but we wouldn't be getting to Perth until 7pm, and how did we know there would be trains into signal-less Fife? Trains. I hate 'em.
          And then, suddenly, the signals were restored, and our train - although late - was leaving from platform 18. Joan and I joined the stampede to it - and by some stroke of fortune, managed to find seats together.
          So, on this Scottish trip, I crossed the Forth both by the road bridge and the rail bridge, which I count a plus. Always a thrill to see the magnificent Forth bridges, and to recite, 

'Oh, beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.'

In banana pose
          Even plusser, I had Joan Lennon by my side, who pointed out seals on the rocks 'in their banana pose.' A trip across the bridge was a trip incomplete and wasted unless a seal was spotted, according to Joan. I have to agree.
          I got off before Joan, and trudged back to the digs through the pouring rain - my partner had taken the car to Glasgow. I watched rain fountaining up through the lace-holes of my shoes at every step - something I haven't seen since walking home from primary school through the downpour that seemed a permanent feature of my childhood. (Other people remember eternal summers: but I remember grey, cold days with water rattling down the gutters, splatting on my head and spurting out of my lace-holes.)
          But the day out in Edinburgh was a great success. Thank you Linda and Joan, for giving me your company, many laughs and much kindness.

Photograph of the seal - GeographBot, Wiki Commons
Photographs of Lewis Chessmen, National Museum of Scotland, Wiki Commons.


madwippitt said...

What a fun day out it sounded - and filled with the requisite amount of drama and adventure too it seems :-) And Waverley station? How perfect - how very Sir Walter-Scottish!

Joan Lennon said...

A fun day indeed! Eduardo Paolozzi's the guy who did the fab exhibition cases - and next time you come we can go see more of his sculptures in the Modern Art Gallery - it has an excellent cafe!

Sue Bursztynski said...

Sounds like you had a ball, even with the dramatic storm. I bet when you got back to the digs, you had a hot shower followed by something nice and hot to drink... Well, I would have.

Penny Dolan said...

Sounds such a wonderful day. Was it the grumpy mood of all us who weren't able to get to your fine Edinburgh gathering that swarmed together and sent the sudden storm?

Liked the water-spout bootlaces!

Susan Price said...

Are you claiming responsibility for the storm, Penny? - I wish all of Flatcap could have been there - what a knees-up!
Sue B - yes the storm sort of added to the fun. The digs supplied a rather nice towelling dressing-gown, so I stripped of soaked clothes, had a hot shower, and settled down with kindle, notepad, pen and hot chocolate. Great end to a great day!