Here’s the thing about Scotland.
As Kj and I walked around both St Andrews and Edinburgh, a frequent exchange was as follows:
Me: “Oooh, a castle! What is it?!”
Kj: “That’s a [chapel/church/bank/hotel/house/grocery store/pub].”
Me: “But…. HOW DOES EVERYTHING LOOK LIKE A CASTLE?!?!”
Then, finally, toward the very end of our stay in Edinburgh, Kj (possibly out of mild exasperation) hauled us to the top of a rise, and said: “Ok, stand here… now look through the trees… over to your left…. do you see it? THAT’S a castle.” To which I responded: “…OHHHHHHH. Ok. I see now. Big, isn’t it…”
Scotland, man. They’ve got castles just lying about the place.
We started our day with a visit to Yankee Candle Scotland, wherein I rediscovered my deep and abiding love for the lawnmower candle (I’m sure it has a more poetic name, but whatever, it smells wonderful) and then went to the Sir Walter Scott monument. It’s a really impressive monument, especially given that it’s to an author, as opposed to, say, a king or whatever. It was built by some unknown semi-amateur architect and fellow freemason of Scott’s (though much his junior), and includes a small museum as well as four balcony levels that you can climb up to, depending on your level of comfort with progressively tinier spiral staircases and dizzying heights. Obviously we went to the very top. One critic said that it looked like someone had plucked the spire off a Gothic cathedral and plunked it down in a park, which is a bit cruel but I must admit, quite accurate. We also saw a fire from the top, or at least a copious amount of smoke from one, so I had fun for a minute pretending to myself that I was a fire lookout in the olden days.
Then we had a bite to eat and went to our first show of the day: Menage a Trois, presented by National Theatre of Scotland at a venue called Paterson’s Land. It was a lovely, lovely piece of dance/ theatre by a dancer choreographer who dances with crutches and who used text (spoken and written) within a dance piece with absolute success. She collaborated with a video artist and that worked quite well. The piece was about a lonely girl on crutches imagining them as her lover, but feeling that she can’t be touched or loved etc, and eventually coming to terms with herself. That’s a fairly trite synopsis, and the show deserves much better… it was really good. The movement was excellent, the story was poignant, and the piece on the whole was, though very accessible, extremely well done.
Afterward I did a tiny bit of souvenir shopping, and then we went to high tea at a charming antique shop/teahouse called ‘Anteaques’ but it was so absolutely adorable that the name didn’t make me want to die. I had an excellent smoky tea that I recently discovered thanks to Brendan’s sweet Indian/Australian aunt Pam, and a scone with violet jelly and clotted cream, and a chocolate-covered earl grey biscuit, and a couple truffles. We drank our tea from an antique tea set amid Victorian furnishings and lamps and fur coats, and it was exquisite.
Then we went exploring a bit, and visited Grayfriars’ Kirk and Kirkyard. It’s an old abbey with the monks’ herb garden still intact (or recreated, I suppose) and a gorgeous cemetery, and a very moving grave for a famous dog that wouldn’t abandon his master’s grave and was buried nearby.
The next show on the books was our most mainstream attempt, from a theatre company called Wet Picnic. The show was a comedic theatre piece about death called ‘Death & Gardening’ though there were no references to gardening as far as we could tell. I think both our feelings on the show can be summed up by Kj’s initial comment, after a bemused silence between us that lasted for about a block after we left the theatre: “Well” she said, “there had to be one.”
Yep. It wasn’t terrible but it felt unfinished, and it came from a company that seems enthusiastic but young and perhaps slightly lacking direction.
Next we headed out to another pub for dinner: The Last Drop on a recommendation from my friend Rich. It was quite good, and I tried my third Islay whisky (the first was amazing, the second was a sweeter variety that I disliked, and this third was very good but not quite as good as the first). I also had my first Yorkshire Pudding (I think — the UK understanding of ‘pudding’ is deeply confusing). It was sort of a beef stew with a flaky pastry lid. It was pretty good but not something I’d eagerly search out again.
Then we went back to our favorite venue, Summerhall, for a third show in the autopsy room. This one was from a quartet of female dancers from all different countries, who had met at the Lecoque institute and began working together. They did a positively brilliant post-feminist (not a term I feel wholly comfortable with, but I think it fits) piece of surreal dance theater. We LOVED it. I’ll be very interested to see what they do next. It was fresh and invigorating and creative and technically excellent and… just great.
After that we had a little time to kill but not enough to venture far, so we sat on a corner of a model viking ship in the courtyard and played a few rounds of Evil Pineapple (a game we created together at The Garrison and that I’d brought with me). It was wonderful.
Finally we went to our last fringe show, also at Summerhall but in a different space — an upstairs room with an old wooden floor. The piece was by a Belgian company called Abattoir Fermé and it was the one I’d been most excited to see. As we walked in, we noticed that the first two rows were taped off and marked ‘reserved.’ Kj mentioned it and I answered, only semi-jokingly, that it probably wasn’t for audience members, but was the blood-spatter zone. I was close.
The performance was my favorite of the Fringe – 90-ish minutes of bizarre Belgian surrealist non-speaking theatre, lots of nudity, a bathtub full of water that, by the end of the piece had been variously colored and liberally sloshed out onto the stage (the fact of the ankle-deep onstage puddle we had to navigate on the way out still makes me shudder for the integrity of the building), and generally lots of weird shit. It reminded me a bit of Jan Fabre and a bit of Hey Girl! at OtB, and I would LOVE to see more work by the company. I got the impression that they’re quite established. IT WAS SO GOOD. Yaaaay Fringe!!!
At the end, we made our way back to the flat, I did my first and only load of actual laundry (as opposed to handwashing clothing in sinks with whatever soap/shampoo was handy) and we got ready for an early start the next day.