Enchanted in Edinburgh: Day 8 - Leaving Home, Heading Home


My last day in Edinburgh. In fact, as I write, I'm on the train back to London. I have been awake now for 37 hours. Last night, I didn't sleep; not one wink. Not dozing in and out of sleep, getting an hour here and there, but genuinely wide awake all night. I am fortunate to suffer only very rarely from insomnia, and as a result, when it does happen, I am completely ill-equipped to counteract it. I tried, at various points throughout the night, reading, listening to podcasts/radio shows, listening to the rain, drinking water, throwing off the duvet, throwing it back on again, opening the window, closing it, wearing earplugs, not wearing earplugs, eye mask, no eye mask. Then, as the night wore on, and I became more desperate, I tried praying and counting sheep, counting backwards, imagining a sunlit field, etc. I didn't really expect any of those to work, and they didn't. At 4.30am, I sent a cancellation message to a student I had been going to teach at 8.30am online, realising that I would have had only 4 hours sleep at the most, and therefore was likely to be incapable of imparting any useful information to anyone. The later it got, the more anxious I became about how little sleep I would have, and every possible sleeping position was comfortable for only a minute at the most. At 5am, I gave up entirely, and watched TV until it was light enough to justify getting up. Somehow, I managed to finish packing, cleaned and locked up my flat, and dragged myself and my luggage, in the pouring rain, to the bus stop. It wasn't the most promising of mornings.

I dropped off half of my luggage at the extortionate "Excess Baggage at Waverley", as I simply couldn't drag it all up the hill to Edinburgh Old Town. My yellow suitcase has ten books in it. I had already had some toast and water for breakfast, and attempted half an hour of gentle yoga in order to try to maintain some sense of a routine, but I was starting to feel very nauseous. I had almost three hours before I was due at the Edinburgh Central Library for my last research slot, so I parked myself in a very pleasant Caffè Nero on Princes Street, as I trust the Wifi there. I watched Netflix to stay awake; the picture above was taken post Earl Grey, scone and cream; later I returned for a Vegan Meatball melt. I then walked gently up the hill to the Central Library, up through a number of small and picturesque "closes" or residential yards, one of my favourite features of Edinburgh. When filming footage for "Pitch Point" on Saturday, I was excited to explore some of the closes off the Royal Mile, particularly Skinners Close, where James Oswald had lodgings when he was a Dancing Master in Edinburgh. After a bit of a detour, in which Google maps led me underneath the George IV bridge, rather than onto it (a difference of around 400 ft), I arrived still a little early, and queued rather impatiently until my appointed slot time.

This afternoon's slot was the shortest yet, only 2 hours, in which I hoped to view yet more records of the Edinburgh Musical Society. I almost made it, but the combination of not having slept and the sheer amount of material prevented me from consulting everything on my list. However, I managed to photograph and to take brief notes on the Sederunt or Minute Books of the EMS, all of which have survived to the present day. The four leather-bound volumes cover almost the entire period during which the society was formally constituted, 1728-1795, and together provide a lively history of the way the society was run, its membership, expenditure, not to mention the many and ever-changing rules governing ticket sales. It's very interesting to read all about the difficulties the society sometimes had retaining some of the "star" musicians it imported from London and Italy: many of them left Edinburgh for London for several weeks without leave during their contracts (presumably for more lucrative work), and complained about the lack of flexibility in their employment. Other musicians, however, were exceptionally loyal to the society, and were "Masters" for decades. I was searching for correspondence and entries relating to musician and businessman Robert Bremner and his brother James Bremner, and was delighted to find much more than I expected. I didn't, however, have time to read it; I'm looking forward to that over the next few weeks!

All in all, it has been an exceptionally fruitful trip. I have been so lucky to be able to access all the archives and libraries I needed, and to have been exempted from various restrictions r.e. numbers of items, etc; everyone has been so kind. The material I have seen has yielded much more data than I anticipated, which will mean more analysis in the short term, but a richer thesis in the end. I am quite sad to leave Edinburgh. I haven't spent over two weeks in Scotland since I was an undergraduate, yet it still feels like home. I'm from Aberdeen, but Edinburgh feels equally like my city, and an east coast Scottish accent has often moved me to tears during the last year and a half, especially when it was illegal to travel from England to Scotland, and I simply could not go home. Yet my home is also now in London. I am an "inbetweener", a member of the Scots diaspora community outside Scotland. But in fact, in London, I pay much more attention to my "Scottishness" than I ever did when I lived in Scotland: I'm an elder at Crown Court Church of Scotland, where I have a close circle of expat Scots friends. I regularly attend Burns Suppers, and learn Highland dancing, neither of which I did regularly in Scotland. If I had to choose (and if Scotland becomes independent, I may have to), I would probably opt to be Scottish rather than British, though, if I'm honest, I would rather retain dual citizenship if at all possible. I am, at heart, a Scottish lass.

So, farewell to the north. This blog will continue, on a weekly basis, over the next few months, with perhaps a break during August for some genuine holiday. I need it! I hope you all have a lovely summer.

Cheerio the nou,