I had misread the timetable – not for the only time on my trip to Edinburgh – and made the boarding gate at Gatwick with seconds to spare after sacrificing two valuable tubes of skin lotion because they were over 100 ml. I was obliged to shed my shoes and submit to a hand search after pinging the scanner and suffering my large-ish ‘handbag’ go through the scanner twice. How they missed the 200 ml bottle I’d inadvertently left inside my cabin case, I’ll never know. Oh yes, and I was politely reminded to stuff my handbag into my cabin case. I listened to her, smiled and nodded sweetly, then in true African fashion ignored the directive as I hurried on. I had no pockets in my trousers. Where did she think I would put my passport and boarding pass while trundling my luggage – and why should I stop and re-open the case, only to repeat the performance five minutes later in the ‘plane when I was late anyway?
Things got better after that.
Cousin John was waiting to meet me in Edinburgh and whisk me off in a taxi to his bachelor pad, where I dumped my case and then followed him up the road to catch the bus into the city. He knew to the second when to leave home.
‘That’s our bus,’ he said as it whizzed past us through the chicane. My steps quickened.
‘Don’t worry, it stops at the shop for five minutes.’
He was right. We got there in perfect time to board, find my exact fare (my English bus pass doesn’t work in Scotland), and climb to the top deck for me to view the city sights.
The pavements were hard, and the pins and needles crept along my left leg as we “did” the city after a quick bite to eat at Jenners. We arrived at the castle entrance in time to witness the solemn occasion of the changing of the guard.
With deadpan face the soldier marched his beat, heavy boots crashing on the cobbles. How could he keep from reacting to the people gawping at him from such close quarters? Not a twinkle brushed his eyes. The new guard appeared to take their stance and effect the change.
An interminable interlude ensued as in turn they were given the eye, and in due course the old guard withdrew in smart formation through the castle gates, ungainly boots clanking up the slope, not without a surreptitious slip or two.
Half way down the Royal Mile we turned right to look briefly into the abandoned quadrangle of a silent college and take refuge in the museum. Then we made our way back down the hill to enjoy gazing at the old masters in the National Gallery.
Well exercised, I slept well that night, and enjoyed a leisurely day in Colinton attending church and strolling along the river before returning to watch Andy Murray win at Queens, and getting ready for our Crooked Cat dinner celebrations in The Living Room.
Laurence and Steph are much nicer than their facebook pictures, and we exchanged delighted greetings with familiar faces. It was as if Ailsa and I had know each other for years, and fun to meet Mark and diminutive Pam. Time flew, and I hadn’t a chance to chat with everyone before photos were taken and we dispersed into the night clutching our T-shirts.
The bus ride to Galashiels the following day went like a flash through peaceful hills and valleys, and for the first time this year I stripped off my sweaters. My host was waiting to whip me off to Melrose – the original site of seven a side rugby tournament – for a quick lunch then a visit to the local U3A club to listen to his son-in-law lecture on obstretics in Zambia. Interesting talk, and gory slides. Brian and I both admitted we would have passed each other in the street without recognition, but as it was twenty years ago that we’d briefly met, it is hardly surprising.
That’s enough for now: next instalment, next week.