City Life

fireworks.jpg I think it was Terry Mayes who once said to me that mature people, like mature civilisations, congregate in cities. It was when we were in Belgium that we started to realise that we’d had enough of rural living and really needed to be in, or near, a city. In most respects this had to do with proximity to services, choice and options, going to concerts and the theatre, and popping into town for a shopathon interspersed with restorative sojourns in the odd café or bar. It also meant being close to and deriving energy from the buzz of a conglomeration and concentration of humanity. When we lived in Lewiston we were only 15 miles from Inverness but somehow that seemed a very long way from anything really civilised, while the batiment, nestling on the edge of the village, an hour’s drive or train from Brussels, even in the midst of the total silence and darkness of the long winter nights, seemed so much more closely connected with life and living.

So one of the things we were looking forward to here was a spot of culture. And it being Edinburgh in August there was rather a lot going on. We went to the King’s Theatre for a Sunday afternoon performance (I like a matinée, it’s an age thing) of a production of Haruki Murakami’s Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. There’s always a risk in going to see a dramatisation of another genre, particularly when it’s a best-loved novel that made such an impression when we read it, and particularly when that novel is more than 500 pages long and the dramatisation has cut the narrative to about 2 hours. It was fascinating, highly entertaining, and intensely moving. I’m no theatre critic but am vaguely aware from the few sorties to the theatre that we have enjoyed over the last few years that modern productions tend to include more than a few actors and a bit of scenery. This was theatre with dance, puppetry, live music, photography and film. The Guardian film critic was not impressed – I think maybe she sees too much theatre and was jaded. Kirsty Wark and the Newsnight Review team – who also see a lot of theatre – just loved it. So did we.

We also went to the Tattoo, a particular cultural event of the Scottish summer of course. It seemed like unfinished business for both of us (my dim memories of a very cold and boring evening in the early 1970s, Dee’s of a difficult family outing characterised by outrage at her refusing to stand for the national anthem). A deciding factor in our attendance this year was the appearance of the Dutch army mounted band – mounted on bicycles that is. It was an entertaining evening, albeit a bit cold, but it didn’t rain and the music was loud and proud. Apparently ‘tattoo’ is a word of Dutch/Flemish origin, deriving from the closing call in the pubs of the Low Countries (doe den tap toe) ie turn off the taps, the soldiers are leaving. How strange and fascinating languages are.

DSCF1022.JPG Last Friday after the latest chemo session we went for a quick walk through the Botanics and stumbled upon Jungle City, an exhibition of statues of endangered species. Dee took lots of pictures. Miniature replicas are available at considerable expense but in a good cause at Harvey Nicks (where culture meets commerce).

One of the most pleasing things about these sorties into the world of culture has been how quickly we get back home again. Ten minutes from car park to front door, and you can even factor in a cup of tea and a supermarket visit on the way. Very civilised.

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Other advantages of city life are manifesting themselves as we go along. FedEx picked up a parcel for Canada about two hours after Dee placed the order online. Public services are generally more evident and more efficient (Edinburgh’s trams débâcle notwithstanding). Alison brought Mum and Rebecca through for lunch and we walked to the pub. Aileen and Catherine came for lunch en route from Redditch and Glasgow to Aberdeen. Mum and Helen are coming through in the bus next week. Life amongst other people pleases us greatly. Plus with a few minutes’ walk from the house we can be ensconced in the depths of the Covenanters’ Woods or strolling through Colinton Dell beside the Water of Leith (still to spot the first kingfisher though) or meandering up the slopes of the Pentlands. City in the country, countryside within the town. Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possibles.

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