Arms full of groceries, I plodded along Lochrain Place, place referring to a small (usually residential) side-road. I was a block from home, and a two blocks from Home street, where stood the Scotmid cooperative, origin of my groceries, full of “Wild Rocket” (pronounced roCKET or arugula), “Corgette” (Zucchini to me) and “Gammon Steaks” (ham?). A man on a bicycle stopped and asked me how to find Union Canal. I replied that the construction site forced one to go first on to Fountainbridge, before turning just before the Tesco Express. He thanked me and commented:
“Look at me, a local, having to ask a foreigner for directions.”
I smiled and thought little of the encounter except that the man was quite right to be out and about on such a beautiful day. I dropped of my groceries and picked up my flatmate Christofferson; inspired, the two of us set off for a walk. We walked down West Port to Grassmarket, where the sunny Saturday afternoon had attracted tourists and residents alike. The Edinburgh Castle loomed overhead, and we climbed its hill on the aptly named Castlewynd stairs, a scenic and quick route to the Royal Mile and Princes Street. Canvassers lined the streets, proselytizing independence, and distributing leaflets. We skipped the Royal Mile and headed towards the National Gallery, where a large group was gathered listening to a rock band play for independence. We sat for a few minutes, and I picked through the papers I had been given, and having decided to keep them as souvenirs, determined I should collect as many as possible. But where on earth could I get a “no” leaflet? I had seen precious few all week. Christofferson suggested we climb the Scott Monument, from which we could survey the city center. I agreed, eager to climb the monument for the first time.
Before the monument, next to the street, a heavy-set middle aged man dressed in tweed sat on a stool, holding a large sign which read: “Please Don’t Leave Us,” On the other side of a black metal fence, the kind which lines many of the parks of Edinburgh, a group of young persons questioned him sharply on economic figures and defense policies. We were close enough to hear his response:
“I don’t know the figures, I am not a politician; I just drove up from London. All I know is that we are stronger together.”
He looked worn-out– whether from the drive or accurate and persistent questioning of the young I never discovered– but not frustrated, just pleading, like a babysitter in the face of insurmountable children.
We walked on, and climbed the monument, which awarded a terrific view of the surrounding area, but did not reveal any obvious group of nay-sayers. To our delight, we spotted a massive “Yes” on the hillside of Arthur’s Seat. There was some commotion behind us, and we turned to see a young couple, looking as if they had just backpacked the highlands. They quickly rolled out a large banner, and threw it over the edge of the monument, their faces radiant with joy. It was a huge Scottish flag with a large “YES” across the middle. They hugged, and looked out over the city, beaming, like the pope gazing over the Vatican. A loud, stern voice could be heard over the intercom:
“Take that down, NOW.”
I thought it was loud, but the couple was in ignorant bliss due to their success. Christofferson and I walked down the monument sat on a bench overlooking the Princes Street gardens. We ate a small lunch of cheese and bread, and, our hunger satisfied, relaxed in the sun, just as one should on a Saturday afternoon. The Castle loomed over the landscape, seemingly unchanged. The street names on the other hand, seem to change every other block.
photographs courtesy of the wonderful Christofferson
these events took place September 16, two days before the Scottish Independence Referendum