Monday, 2 february 1998

I arrived in edinburgh about 9.10pm, and daniel and alison, his fiancee, were there to meet me. They took me first back to dan's place, where we had tea and hung out and chatted; alison told me about her adventures in Poland, where she's been teaching english for a while. They were very nice to me. They then took me to a friend of theirs place, called rachel, and we all sat around and hung out until about 2am.

Tuesday, 3 february

alison woke me around 8.45am, and I showered (which wasn't easy with this shower) and we headed up to daniel's place. There we ate breakfast, the three of us, and then all sat in his room and read and relaxed. He went out and alison played wonderful music for me (one band I love called Capercaillie) and I read the Times.

Daniel returned and eventually I headed out, walking. I walked up to the centre of town, looked at the buildings and views, and went to this camera obscura place where you can see the whole skyline from a darkened room. That was interesting but the views from the terrace were far better, with free high-powered binoculars there as well. Gorgeous, this city — its buildings, its surroundings of green and brown hills and blue water, its people. I love just listening.

Next I wandered over to Princes Street, where I walked 'til I found a little kitchen, where I ate cheap food and wrote a card to the newly engaged couple, for their engagement party this evening. then I went over to the park across the way, then to the National Gallery of Scotland, which was quite a lovely museum, far better than I would have expected. I wandered around in there for a while, and then watched the clouds change colour from the sunset, and then walked back to daniel's place.

The party was strange. Basically, there was no-one there that I knew aside from daniel and alison and a few folk I met last night, and everyone was very nice but I was yearning for an excuse to go off somewhere else by myself for a while. There were bright spots though; a few really neat people with whom I got to talk for a few minutes here and there. and then at the end, when there were only 5 of us left, there was one guy andy who is a Scot and a poet; he recited a couple of Scots poems to us and it was just lovely.

We left there around 2am, and alison gave me a brief walking tour on the way back to rachel's place. She is quite the tour guide really, giving me all sorts of historical and cultural background. The people here — even the English expat ones — are very proud of this city and are quite knowledgeable about it as a result. Tonight I get my own room in the flat; somebody is out or something. Amazing how blessed I am.

Wednesday, 4 february

I woke around 10.15am and got 'round, then had breakfast with alison and rachel, then headed over to daniel's with alison. Soon after we arrived there — me with all my stuff — I took off, for the hill nearby daniel's place. So I climbed and climbed, at some points where I didn't think I'd be able to manage the passes, and took breaks on the way up because it was a bit of a workout, and had other times where I thought the wind might blow me off the hill or at least knock me off my feet. But I didn't fall, and I put my hood up for my ears and also so that my hat would stay on, and I managed to get to the top of one of three peaks, where I found a place relatively sheltered from the wind and lay down there, just listening to the wind in the heather and feeling the spongy earth under me and resting and thinking. Part of what I was thinking was that I noticed that I felt truly happy, at that point when the joy and peace that's always there lurking under the surface comes to the fore and I just feel myself with a tiny smile and a good gift.

The views were spectacular: the old city to one side, the newer city to another, more hills and green places around, and the sea (well, the Firth of Forth) out in front of where I sat. In front of that was more green, and a little pond... and a rainbow! Because at one point it did start to drizzle a bit. I sat up then, and wrote. when I got cold I headed over to another of the peaks, and then walked down the other side of the hill, toward the water, over grass and mud and hay-coloured-for-winter heather. Then to the pond, and along a road, and along another road, and a stop for a meal. I wrote more there, and then kept going west 'til I hit Leith Walk, where I turned north and headed for the water and the docks.

So I walked for ages and got to the docks, and looked at the big boats and the old industrial stuff, and then turned back 'round toward the city. I stopped at a little creek and wrote some more 'til it got a bit too dim outside and it was time to head back to daniel's for tea anyway. so I got on the #7 bus to South Bridge for 65p, and then walked the rest of the way back to dan's. we had tea, and then headed over to _another_ alison's flat, where I am staying tonight. Dan and alison (fiancee alison) left me there and I had a sort of bigger Tea with them — what i'd normally call dinner, dave called Tea, though it was already past 7pm. this was with alison, sarah and heather (all scots and flatmates), dave (northen irish, alison's boyfriend), and another friend of theirs whose name I don't remember. The food was great and there was lots and the people are even more laid-back and easy to relate to than everyone else.

After that I chatted with heather a while, and she and I got on quite well, and then I spent most of the rest of the evening writing. I was really thankful for an evening where I could be sociable but also could have quite a bit of time on my own, just to write and ponder.

Thursday, 5 february

I woke about 8.30am, got 'round, and went with heather to the uni library, where she snuck me in and then logged me on so that I could do email on their computers there. which I did, for over two hours.

Then I headed out and walked some more, to Princes Street Gardens where I ate my take-away smoked cheese sandwich, and then up to Calton Hill. The place is a strange one — there is a failed attempt at a Parthenon-like structure and an observatory without a telescope, because they ran out of money for both projects. Failure hill. I thought it was quite amusing when the wind blew, from my notebook to the ground, two ticket stubs from Greece that showed photos of monuments there, right there on Failure Hill. I prayed and walked around up there. I then went down the hill, and through St. James Centre (a mall), then to Queens Street, where I popped briefly into the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and then walked for a while 'til I hit Queensferry Street and Dean Bridge.

I wandered around, looking down at the waters of Leith but unable to reach them because it seemed all blocked off by private gardens. After poking around a good bit, I managed to find Miller's Row, which was a way in, to actually get next to the water. So I went next to the water, and sat, and then walked along the river to the next big bridge. It was beautiful. I remember wondering if there is any good thing at all which this place doesn't have. I came back up, and then walked around from the west back to alison/heather/sarah's place.

Heather and I made dinner together — we just sort of threw things together which we thought might work, and it turned out to be quite luscious. Then off again, to another party — this one for andy's 23rd birthday. I was sort of crashing again but andy seemed genuinely pleased to have me there. so I spent another strange evening with people I hardly know, and having a few good conversations but mostly I was just tired, from all that walking I suppose. Around midnight I decided to go, and heather wanted to leave as well so we gradually extracted ourselves and got home around 12.40am.

Friday, 6 february

again I woke at 8.30am so that I could go with heather to the library in the morning. So she got me in, and I logged on with her user ID and password again, and then did email for about 1.5 hours; probably my last chance to check from e'burgh. Then back home where I ate breakfast and slept. For three hours, roughly. I must have needed it; I was quite 'knackered.'

Around 2pm I woke, and walked west, looking for a canal that someone had mentioned. I did walk a bit, but couldn't find it, and just really didn't have the energy to go on. So I came back home again (right before it started pouring, which is supposedly normal e'burgh weather though it's been gorgeous all week), and then spent a good 1.5 hours praying and reading my Bible. A good long time to devote that I have needed for a while. I had the flat to myself and was alone with God for a while, and I felt quite at peace in this near-strange place.

Heather had a few people over for dinner, so I helped them make it and then sat with 7 more complete strangers whom heather said I'd love to meet. They were fun; I didn't talk much, just listened which has been my favourite thing lately. 'twas an interesting evening and the food was good and I just love how I've stumbled across this whole big chunk of normal e'burgh life. Now an american accent sounds quite foreign to me. I have to actually concentrate on keeping mine, and not slipping into a Scots or Yorkshire accent, partly because the fact that I'm american is somewhat exotic to these people and partly because I think I'd sound quite foolish if I started to sound anything like them.

Saturday, 7 february

I wrote in alison's room for a while, then walked back over to rachel's place, where I'm staying tonight, then went over to daniel's. he took me walking, up to Salisbury Crags, the one part of Holyrood Park that I didn't check out before. That's where he proposed to alison! We saw all the views, and he told me a lot about it because he goes up there frequently. We walked up the Royal Mile and then over to a little take-away spot that he knows which makes very good, cheap haggis. Sheep's brain and heart and liver etc. wrapped in a sheep's stomach — a very Scots thing that nobody else would normally think to eat. I had it with chips and it was luscious. I never thought a 2-pound item could be that good. Now I know why Burns wrote poetry to it — 'Address to Haggis.'

After writing and such for a while longer, I walked up to the old town, visited a pub and then went for a good alone walk, down to the rails and then over to Waverley shopping centre, where I sat on a park bench and looked at the castle and other magnificent buildings, lit up in the night.

I sat there for a while and then went into a Burger King and had a chocolate shake (a warm drink was the original plan, but I opted for the fat) and then took the bus home. when I arrived, I found that no-one else was home and that my stuff had been moved to another room; one of the guys is gone for tonight so I get his room! That means that so far, every single night but one I have had a room all to myself. Even if I do have to share a room tomorrow night, that will mean only two out of seven nights I did not have my own room. I think that is amazing: it baffles me, how much I've been blessed here.

Sunday, 8 february

I got 'round and wrote while listening to Iona on rach's tape player. I headed out walking; I was originally going to some loch, but I found out that it was closed (it's a nature reserve) so I changed direction and headed down toward Dalkieth, and Craigmillar Castle. My way took me along a little braid (stream) for a bit, then through what seemed to be the projects, where there were lots of little children but no adults in sight, and then on the road through some farmland. And then the castle.

It didn't open 'til 2pm and I arrived around 1.30, so I sat on the gate and wrote for that time 'til it opened. I explored every chamber in that castle. It dates back to the 15th century and very much fascinated me — all the little rooms and all their different views (the jail rooms didn't have such good views though) and the wind whipping through the castle ruins and the oldness of it all. Today was really a very nice day, though it was cloudy, so apart from the wind I was warm and I looked out over the green farmland and the hills and the city far away and the Firth of Forth just out there and it was so perfect and wild all at once, it felt almost like a dream. The time I spent at Craigmillar was possibly one of the best times I've had here, just to look out and think and pray.

Then I walked through the Inch park and up Dalkieth Road, back to home, where I changed and wrote and headed for daniel's, to go with him to church at 5pm. That was a groovy place. Most of the folk I met over the past few days were there.

after it all, daniel and I went to his flat, and had tea and talked for a bit, and then went out to get tandoori take-away. The food was magnificent, and plentiful. We talked about books and movies. I got back to rachel's place around 12.30am, and then sat and tried to make friends with her very frightened cat (constantly tormented by a German Shepherd in her former home); I had mild success. And tonight I am sleeping in my own room again... wow.

Monday, 9 february

I woke when Nioll got back in to claim his room, and had tea and Wheatebix, and then basically sat in rachel's room for four hours, devoting and writing. I took two breaks to run some errands. As it drizzled outside, I typed or wrote or read my Bible or just prayed... invaluable time, lovely time.

at 4pm I got on a bus and went to Waverley Station, where I bought a 4pound70 ticket to Stirling. I got on the train and spent nearly the whole time staring out the window or into space, or nearly falling asleep. 'twas only 45 minutes or so. I arrived in Stirling, and there to meet me was tony black and sharon stone (not the actress, but another lady who's visiting) to pick me up. they took me to a small town in the Trussochs (the very beginning of the highlands, which daniel suggested I visit while I was near Stirling — I had no idea that I'd be staying here!), where tony lives. We had tea and then I met a bunch of folk who are from the area, who came to visit and pray; I crashed their party (been doing a lot of that lately!). When they all left I worked on some possible interview questions for this thing I want to write about reconciliation in Eire.

Tuesday, 10 february

around 9.30am I woke, and got 'round, and had breakfast and talked with annette (tony's wife) for a while. Then she let me take her bike out for a ride around their town.

So I pedaled down the main street, and then took off, over to a rushing river that runs alongside the town. It was beautiful. As I looked into the river and the trees next to it, and as I saw the mountains surrounding me (one even had snow on its peak), and as I watched the sheep grazing in the green fields, all I could think was 'This is Scotland! I love Scotland!' over and over. I wrote a bit and then cycled on, and somehow I wound up in someone's farm. I leaned the bike up against an old plough and stood and wrote — next to the river again — until the rain that was spurting down became too much for me to continue writing. Then I headed home, by the main highway leading into the main road, rather than by the bike trail.

I got back in time for a late lunch, which was fabulous, and then read some of a book of tony's about Celtic tradition in Christianity. Around 3pm, we left for glasgow, with a stop in stirling along the way. Glasgow seems to be quite hurting in a lot of ways, as if someone stepped on it and it's trying to remember how to stand back up after being flattened. The people in church looked like they were standing up okay... not on their own strength though . We had a groovy meeting. We got home around 1am and I headed right up to my attic room — their oldest son's room — for bed.

Wednesday, 11 february

I had meant to wake at 8.30am, but I set my alarm wrong and therefore did not wake 'til 9.30. I missed getting to talk with a friend of annette's; I had wanted to do coffee with her but I missed an hour. oh well. I did talk with tony for about 40 minutes about the Ireland reconciliation network that he started a while back. that was pretty groovy. Then we had to run out, so that i could have time to get my 12.32pm train. On the first train, I stared out the window at the pouring rain, and had some of my last looks at scotland. Then to e'burgh, where I changed trains for london.

That leg of the journey was difficult, quite challenging. First there was a conscience test when they didn't mark my pass the way they should; it seemed as though I'd get a free day's worth of riding out of it. but I passed the test — barely. And then there was a point where it looked to my untrained eye like my notebook had really crashed. I had given up hope of fixing it anytime soon when I heard a beep a few seats over — another traveler with a notebook. I asked him for help and he turned out to really know what he was doing, and he fixed the thing right up. yaay! I was terribly thankful for that, and then wrote on the notebook a bit.

I arrived in london, King's Cross station, around 6.30pm, about 10 minutes ahead of schedule (despite all the rain up in scotland). Allen and I had dinner and talked a bit, then took the tube to the West End, where I'm staying with jenn.

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