Thursday, February 8, 2007

Tuesday in Edinburgh

The first day in the Capital of Scotland

Part one -- Dundee to Waverly Station




We get up early enough in Dundee and start preparations for the day. It is a cold and clear morning -- a few scuffs of gray clouds and bright sunshine. We are getting on the train to Edinburgh today, and I am excited. I have read a lot about the city, and our brief stop last week gave me the impression of great beauty. Rowan gets the kids settled and situated. It is the usual madhouse getting out the door. We finally set out, me dragging my case behind me and Rowan hauling hers over her shoulder. We walk through the neighborhood to the bus station. We settle in and the bus sets off. It feels familiar by now.

On the way into town there are small greenhouses, scattered higgledy-piggledy, crowded on a plot of land. The light green roofs contrast nicely with the dark earth. At first I thought that they were garden sheds, but then I saw the
silver beads of condensation on the inside of the windows. I think that gardening is very British. Rowan says that the land is owned by The Council, and people are allowed to use them.

I think it is a cool idea.
I would like my own greenhouse, I think.

Even though I cannot garden at all.


Rowan writes:

I think that the concept of the allotment became popular during WW2, when the population of the UK was encouraged to become as self-sufficient in fruit and veg as possible, and to "dig for victory."

These Stirling Park allotments perch on the side of the Law Hill, and meander in a haphazard fashion down the north east side. The Dundee council* offer these at a nominal rent to citizens who don't have the garden ground to grow vegetables and flowers. There are waiting lists for allotments - with or without sheds. Makeshift greenhouses are erected, and the proud gardeners spend many a pleasant hour out in the open, sipping flasks of tea and burrowing in the rich soil on the side of the Law. I find it touching to see the folks at work, meeting together, or working in silence - mostly retired.


Men meet here to share a quiet beer sometimes, lean on their spades and laugh about old times in the heavy industries now long gone. I have stood at bus stops, and watched carefully tended dahlias in livid hues carefully cut for the Camperdown Park flower show in September. Allotments are taken very seriously –much toiling and tilling abounds.


My Grandad and Uncle had allotments on this site. It was a bit of a hike for them, but they would come back, ruddy-cheeked and smelling of fresh earth, laced with strings of onions and paper bags full of carrots newly hauled from string-lined drills. I like the sense of community the allotments engender. The spirit of generosity, the civic acknowledgment that people may live amongst concrete and brick, but digging their own patch of green brings a special sense of peace. As Voltaire said, "Il faut cultiver notre jardin."

*remind me to talk about The Council at some point


Bob says:

One of the differences between the US and Scotland is that there are kilt-for-hire places rather than tuxedo stores. I like the idea of formal dress being a kilt. You can see the reflection of the bus in this shot. Note that there are small kilts for boys. Very cute.

Dundee is a nice town. Rowan says that it is more industrial than other cities, and I can see her point. However, it is nicer than most of the towns that I would see at home. There is no litter and I don’t remember seeing graffiti – if there was any, it was not in the spectacular amounts that we have at home. The sidewalks are clean, even in the less-nice parts of town. I don’t remember seeing any litter.

We got off the bus and headed over to the train station. There used to be a bridge that you went over to get from town to the station. We do cross a bridge, but not the right one. We end up on the wrong side of the street near a hotel and have to backtrack. I can tell that Rowan is a little annoyed and I do not make matters any easier for her by saying things like, “Oh, suuure, there used to be a bridge to the train station” and teasing her a bit. However, there was a sign posted somewhere that said that her recollections were correct – but the bridge no longer exists. I did finally tell her, so I am not completely heartless. I took some pictures from our high vantage point.

You can sort of see the ship, Discovery, which is a local landmark.


According to the website,

The "Discovery" is, without doubt, the most famous ship to be associated with Dundee. She was launched on 21st March 1901, one of the last three-masted wooden ships in Britain and the first built for scientific research in almost 300 years.

Here is a picture of the Tay Hotel.

It is a grand old building. If you look, there is a charity shop that is down and to the right. We went in there and looked around. The young fellow that was manning the desk barely glanced at us. Rowan has found some nice furniture there in the past.


Finally we get to the train station and get our tickets. It is about twenty pounds round-trip and takes an hour. It seems that the locals say pound instead of pounds sometimes. Someone correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that if you are talking pounds and pence, like something is two pounds and fifty pence, you say "Two pound fifty". But I don't think that they said that our tickets are "twenty pound" ...

We have to figure out which platform our train is on. We are very fortunate that the train comes quickly and we hustle on, carting our bags with us. I buy a semi-lowbrow newspaper at the kiosk in the station – I think it is the Daily Mirror. It is less celebrity-intensive and more odd-newsy than similar papers in the US. My favorite section is the one called, “Only in America!” We do not come off looking so good, I must say.



The train is pretty empty and Rowan and I put our bags in the luggage section and settle down. There is a group of twenty-somethings up the car a bit, three guys and one girl. They are pretty loud and raucous. Rowan and I look at each other for a moment. I take in the beer bottles on the table. Despite the fact that it is not even eleven in the morning, they have clearly been drinking for a bit. I figured out from the conversation that they were taking a break from their job, which was working on the oil-rigs in the North Sea (I think). They drank pretty steadily all the way to Edinburgh. Rowan was not amused by their antics.

Again, we cross the Firth of Tay on the Tay Bridge. This is the Dundee side …

And this is the opposite shore.

The countryside is beautiful – rust and green, with gently rolling hills.

Lots of farms.




I wonder what they grow here.

It is a peaceful view from the train window.

Apparently, people rent these during the summer for vacation homes.


It is a nice view of the water ...


On the left ...


And to the right ...

The overhead announcements tell us the stops as we go. “Leuchars … Cupar … Markinch …”

We pass Kirkcaldy, which I remember from our last trip.

You pronounce it “Keercoddy”. The last stops are Inverkeithing and then Haymarket, and then Waverley Station in Edinburgh. Just so you know, you pronounce it “Ednburrah” – NOT Edin-burg.

We get off in the station.

Next ...

Stravaigin aboot Edinburrah

14 comments:

Rowan said...

Ooh, the farmland pics are lovely. I want that white house peeping out from behind the hill...

Was cringeing a bit at the "only in America" section in the newspaper. Hee hee!

Rowan said...

Was just ponderin...maybe there is no litter coz we don't use napkins! There is method in our slovenliness....: )

Wrymouth said...

One rather thinks that the lack of litter is not so much due to a lack of napkins as to a generous portion of "pride," which seems lacking in many this side of the pond.

Dr. Bob said...

I think pride may have something to do with it. I saw no signs of slovenliness -- napkins or no ...

(hi sweetie!)

Rowan said...

Have always thought of us as pretty litter-loutish. Sunday mornings can sometmes be a bit littery, but there are guys in very cute little trucks with brushes underneath that go around vacuuming ia all up. Oh, and we get on the spot fines if we drop anything...

rowan said...

Hey...you can see the wee litter truck on the Street Cleansing logo, but they haven't used it in the big picture. I want one. The big brushes and flashing light and slow speed would do me just fine. Could use it to ingest all indoor debris, then head in the direction of the supermarket, much hooting and cursing behind me. Yeah!

bamaborntxbred said...

Where have I been that I haven't seen this post yet???

I'll have to read it tomorrow dear friends...and then I'll comment too!

:)

Rowan said...

Good morning sistah! I have dibs on the white cottage. Just sayin...

Rowan said...

Such a lovely white cottage, peeping over the trees in that peaceful strath...but I think, on reflection, that I would probably just about scrape together enough for a downpayment on one of the green trailers in the later photo, perched on the edge of the cliff. Sigh. Nice view, tho.

I once had a little house in the far, far north, right on the edge of the sea...(Sits back in armchair, pulls crocheted shawl around shoulders and assumes gimlet stare of storyteller.) When the Autumn tides came, It juddered so much I'd wake up in the morning and expect to be conversing in Norwegian with cheerful fair-haired people wearing bright woolens.

It did stay anchored in the Bay, my wee hoosie, but only just. Over the years the rose garden which had once stretched out in front had dwindled to four feet of shoring and a hopeful bag of concrete. How did I get a mortgage on that place? That I do not understand, but it rawked. For reals.

That farmhouse now...wonder if I could pay it up in instalments, by picking tatties and neeps from the surrounding fields for the next twenty-five years?

Dr. Bob said...

Aww, Shoshana ... I know you miss your house by the sea. Heck! I miss your house by the sea.

Yeah, that farmhouse looked pretty serene. The countryside is just lovely.

Bama!! Hi!

Dr. Bob said...

(well done on the driving and the hotlinking, btw)

We also have street sweepers -- but it is more than a losing battle, alas...

rowan said...

Hey Dr Bob! Thanks fur understandin aboot me missin ma hoosie.

Found an aerial piccy of it. The new owners have put a fancy parking area in..well, a lot fancier than the original clumps of grass and concrete! The house is right down by the shore, the cottage with wee red roofed bit at the back(the kitchen.) The tide is out on that pic. It comes up to the level of the house, which is six feet above the sea...

I'm glad you like the countryside in Tayside and Fife. It is much more gently rural than the Highlands, but lovely. Think the pics are great, to have been taken through a moving train window. I'd have ended up taking blurry views of the back of the chair in front, or my thumb.

Dr. Bob said...

Is your house the one with the red roof?

rowan said...

Dr Bob, my house was the row of three buildings sitting alone right down on the shoreline. One building has a red roof - that was the kitchen extension, the cottage in the middle had a grey tiled roof and the white-roofed bulding at the end was a boathouse, originally, I think, though (surprise surprise) when I lived there is was a mega junk room! There is a sandy-coloured parking area with a green fence around it.

Waaaaah - I want it back -desperately damp and shoogly though it was.

It is going to fall into the sea, though...