Wednesday, 29 October 2008 A very good day, a fine rebound from yesterday's funk, and very much the kind of day one wishes to have
for a last day on the road. Yesterday I felt I was wasting my time, and wondered whether it would be worthwhile to return to
Scotland ever again. Today I feel good about the things I've done, good about going home soon, good about coming back next year.
After breakfast, I walk a few blocks to a post office--I've had a birthday card tucked in my jacket pocket for two or three days now, getting beat up, in need of proper postage. Along the way, I take photos of a couple of New Town streets for the benefit of me dear old mum. She has read all of the Rebus books, and I want to show her what that part of town looks like.
I take the train to Linlithgow to see Linlithgow Palace [Undiscovered Scotland]. This was the residence of the Stewart kings, built on the site of an earlier structure in the mid-15th century by James I, and repaired, renovated, and added onto by James III, IV, V, and VI. (James II was apparently a slacker.) Mary Queen of Scots was born there. After her son, James VI, ascended to the British throne, becoming James VI of Scotland and I of England, he moved his court to London, and Linlithgow fell into disrepair. It stands reasonably complete, however, and is great fun to explore, with lots of hallways and rooms and broad spiral stairs, as well as one good tall tower.
After, I walk up to the eastern end of town to see what's left of the St Magdelene distillery, a victim of the whisky recession of the 1980s, since converted to flats. St Maggie's remains a cult favorite of aficionados of Lowland malts. As with other '80s casualties, bottlings are getting older, rarer, and more expensive.
Back in Edinburgh, I recommence with the Rebus tour. Just below the Royal Mile, I photograph Fleshmarket Close, which figures prominently in the novel Fleshmarket Close (d'oh!). Only the American edition is titled Fleshmarket Alley, presumably because Americans don't know what a close is. This sort of English-to-English translation really annoys me--I was keenly aware of it in the previous Rebus novel, A Question Of Blood. I can live with "trunk" for "boot" and "tire" for "tyre", I guess; but in AQOB, "whisky" is spelled (spelt!) "whiskey" throughout, which is simply wrong. Any whisky (or whiskey) lover can tell you that Scotch whisky should never have an "e" in it. Or ice, either.
Oddly enough, Fleshmarket Alley was the book Emily sent me earlier this year, triggering the Rebus kick. Me dear old mum read it and loved it, so we ordered the entire series, bit by bit, from Barnes & Noble. I started from the beginning, with Knots and Crosses, and got hooked. Crime fiction is not my usual thing, but geography is, and the Edinburgh setting is central. Even more important are the complex relationships between Rebus and the other characters, friend and foe.
I brought two of the Rebus books with me, and finished them both sooner than expected, so bought a British edition of Fleshmarket Close at Waterstone's in Oban two weeks ago. I finished that last night in the Bow. And so, ironically, I've never read the particular volume that Emily sent that started all of this off, and likely never will. I am nevertheless very grateful to her for sending it.
I continue my Rebus tour on St Leonards Street. Rebus' home station was there, and there is a police station there now. But in "Fleshmarket Close", the St Leonards cop shop has been closed, and Rebus transferred. The station I see appears to be a new one, built, presumably, on the site of the demolished old one. Nearby is a pub called the Maltings, handy when the denizens of St Leonards are in need of a post-shift pint.
From St Leonards Street I make my way to Arden Street in Marchmont, where Rebus owns a flat (and where Ian Rankin apparently lived at one time). I walk across the Meadows, as Rebus (and uncounted drunken uni students) would have many a time, toward Old Town. Stumble onto Sandy Bell's [Undiscovered Scotland], home of legendary music sessions. It's a pub I've certainly heard of, but never seen. My Rebus tour has made me aware of the fact that there is a great deal to Edinburgh that I haven't seen, something to consider for the future. It's easy to get stuck in a rut of old favorites, and very difficult when traveling to balance the twin joys of familiarity and adventure.
In any case, my serious touring today ends here with a pint, followed by two more at the Bow, and another at the Ox. Then it's back to the guesthouse, where I get everything packed up in preparation for tomorrow's 5:50am flight. All in order, I go to Smithie's for a final pint, but not before having a doner kebab [Wikipedia] from a nearby shop. Salmon, lamb, fish and chips, haggis, black pudding, kebab, Irn Bru...the only thing missing from the complete Scottish culinary experience is a curry (maybe next year). Oh, and a deep fried Mars Bar (maybe never).