It appears I have not written anything in several months. This is mostly because there has been little to write about during the lockdown, and also because I have been too busy watching all 121 episodes of Lost. As usual I do however have a lot of pictures, which in fact is the main reason I am even posting anything. Hopefully I can come up with enough rambling filler to pretend this is an actual blog post.
Four months ago I saw this message chalked outside the Tolbooth Tavern on the Royal Mile:
The sad face might appear to imply some dissatisfaction with the lockdown, however I am able to report with some authority that there has been far more complaining in Scotland when Boris started reopening things than when he shut them down. The nearly unanimous opinion in Scotland is that because Boris is a Very Bad Man a far wiser council with regards to reopening will be to copy exactly what England does, but only after waiting an additional two weeks after each step.
Are we in the midst of a global health pandemic or a political campaign? One can be forgiven for being unsure. But lest anyone think I am being judgmental of my gracious foreign hosts, I will point out the same confusion clearly exists in my own country.
As I am neither British nor Scottish I have tried to allow myself the luxury of not caring what they do, but I admit sometimes I can’t help having Gloomy Opinions on these and other matters.
Nevertheless, just this week we have seen in Edinburgh for the very first time some evidence of a partial resumption of human activity, after 100 days of desolation.
Recent guidance from the Scottish government permits “outdoor beer gardens” and cafes with outdoor seating to re-open, but maybe someone was confused about what country we’re in. This is not Germany, nor is it France. I have not seen any beer gardens or cafés with outdoor seating, so the short of it is, most restaurants are still closed (Edit: I have found some outdoor seating cafés since, mostly on Grassmarket).
However McDonald’s and KFC have reopened for takeout. And such takeout! The food is taken out to the public garden across the street in enormous quantity where the trash is carefully spread out everywhere across the lawns in a manner to create maximum unseemliness. (I can only assume that someone in Scotland has started a nasty rumor that Boris prefers to put his trash in a bin.)
Restaurants aside, other shops have begun to open especially all along Princes Street. In the event the rain stops for more than five minutes the sidewalks become crowded once more with people carrying dangerous diseases, and I have noticed an increase in traffic as well. For the first time in four months I set foot in a store that sells something other than “crisps” and pre-packaged sandwiches, when I visited the Levi’s on Princes Street. What a surreal and wonderful experience to do something halfway normal again. I bought a pair of jeans and I was quite pleased to discover that Levi’s uses the American sizing system in their international locations, thus saving me the impossible maths of converting my corporeal dimensions into centimetres or light-years or whatever they use over here.
I made a disparaging remark about the rain just then, but in truth I have been quite pleased with the weather so far. It is not quite a summer of perpetual winter as was my wish, but it has been close. With a few brief exceptions of scorching heat (note: I consider anything over 65° to be “scorching heat”), summer so far has been basically like fall would be in Oregon. That is to say, très agreable. On July 1st it was so cold here I actually walked several miles in my insulated wool overcoat. Such a thing would be unthinkable in July in the Midwest where I am from. To wear much more than a thong there in summer is to be thought suicidal. Actually, I sort of think to live in the Midwest at all at any time of the year is to have a death wish, but somehow some of us have managed it, for a time.
Life in confinement has been difficult for everyone. For sure the sidewalk bagpipe players have been out of work for months. But I have also thought of the supplicants (I am not sure what the British call them, but they call the homeless “rough sleepers” so whatever it is I am sure it is not the American term I am thinking of). To begin with these people no longer have a steady stream of happy tourists walking by to offer them money, but that is not the end of their troubles. The other day I spoke at some length to a friendly Croatian. I would have been happy to give him some money, but I realized in dismay that I had no cash on me, and in fact haven’t carried any for months since it has essentially been done away with. As he was not set up to accept Apple Pay I am afraid we ended the conversation with me having gotten a lot more from him in terms of interesting stories, than he did from me in terms of donations.
The city of Edinburgh has offered free rooms at the Old Waverley hotel to rough sleepers during the confinement, an arrangement I believe is shortly to come to an end. To my knowledge there are no plans to set these people up with pocket credit card machines, but neither do I see any interest in promoting the use of cash for commerce; it is outright prohibited in many shops.
So life goes and some questions have no easy answers. For example, why are 14 year old girls walking around with open bottles of vodka? Why are British duvets square when my bed is so obviously rectangle? And whence in the name of all that is holy did this British obsession come to stuff every bread product with Goji berries and blackcurrants? Why just the other day, believing myself the master of detecting their comestible corruption schemes, I came across a benign looking loaf of whole grain bread, sprinkled on top with sunflower seeds. Surely this will be wholesome, I thought to myself, but what did I find when I got home? Rien d’autre que des morceaux de fruits inconnus à l’intérieur là.
Binge watching TV shows aside I have not been wasting my time completely. I have kept myself occupied clearing pigeon feathers from the couch in the morning and gluing my shoes back together in the evenings. Online French classes at the Institut Français d’Ecosse have been a life saver in terms of keeping my sanity and giving me something enjoyable and constructive to do. It is a real shame we haven’t been able to meet in person as the building is only a minute from my apartment, and they even have (had) an actual real French bistro on the ground floor. All the same I am grateful even for the online classes.
We shall see if my language skills fare any better on my return to France next month, but I have a suspicion I may have only acquired enough extra rope to better hang myself with.