My mother once told me I had an innate reluctance to move. She’s right. I am happiest when frozen to the spot, staring at some unfortunate stranger and trying not to blink.
You’d think this would make me a reluctant traveller but the opposite is true. I adore sitting on trains and buses, pretending to read my book while listening to Bríd and Deirdre discuss Máire’s nose job. Air travel is okay too. I like to watch the hostesses trying to extinguish grins as they catch each other’s eye before performing those bizarre safety demonstrations.
My sedentary travelling lifestyle has lately brought me to Edinburgh, where I’m writing from LSB’s bed, with a cup of tea and a packet of Tesco’s finest shortbread beside me.
The trip is being treated as a surveying mission. “I hope the city charms you,” LSB said before we left. After all, he does live here and there’s a chance he’ll even find gainful employment in the city after he finishes his Masters.
But my mission has had an alarming effect. In just five days, I have been transformed from a lethargic voyeur to an improbably eager hill-walker.
The city, built on seven hills, has left me with little choice. Getting to the nearest coffee shop is itself a minor exercise in mountaineering.
LSB’s plan for Hogmanay, which he revealed late on New Year’s Eve, when there was no getting out of it without sullying all of 2013 with a domestic argument, involved climbing Calton Hill, a relatively modest heap in the context of Edinburgh’s lumpy terrain.
Any disgruntlement I might have felt was dispelled when he provided me with a hot water bottle for the journey up. Just before 11 we reached a stone tower where hundreds of people were gathered. The man next to us had set up a tripod and the group of girls behind were drinking gin. The view over the city was magnificent.
I don’t know whether it was the spectacular display of fireworks over the castle or the electric atmosphere up the hill that changed me. Either way, I spent the early hours of 2013 trying to convince LSB to climb up Arthur’s Seat, the peak of Edinburgh’s hills, on New Year’s Day.
He was reluctant at first. “It’s not recommended this time of year,” he said. ” It’ll be muddy and slippy.”
I told him to get new shoes.
I set my alarm for 9 o’ clock the following morning. When I do this I can usually expect to leave bed by 11.
But when the piercing, relentless beep first sounded, I was more than ready for it. I hopped out of bed in a way that I have only ever done when suspecting an emergency or oversleeping on a work day.
I left LSB asleep, clutching the hot water bottle and conducted my ablutions full of steely, brave resolve.
When I came back, LSB was still asleep, looking angelic.
I woke him up with sensitivity, crying “Time to go hillwalking!” into his ear.
He opened one eye heavily and murmured something that sounded like dismay. I ripped the covers from him and tried to ignore the whimpers, which tore at my heartstrings and reminded me of myself every other morning of the year.
As he was showering I prepared a hearty breakfast of oatcakes with hummus. I arranged them into the shape of a flower, which I hoped would remind LSB of the great natural beauty to behold up Arthur’s Seat.
LSB reminded me that we’d gone to bed at 3.30 am the previous night but I insisted that on this day the focus should be on the future, not the past.
The day was bright and crisp. I felt like Heidi, frolicking in the hills with my goat. The view was breath-taking, as was the ascent.
We were on the way down a damp grassy slope, marvelling at the tremendous start we had made to the New Year, when LSB began to slide away. At first I thought he was trying to perform some stunt to impress me. But as he wobbled, stretching out his arms, crying “help!” I began to suspect his performance was involuntary.
I clutched him heroically but to no avail. Soon I too was sliding down the hill. I made a desperate attempt to grab hold of a tuft of grass but it was all in vain. Before I had a chance to contemplate my last words or decide how best to distribute my possessions, we had landed, entangled in a muddy heap.
When LSB had caught his breath, he said “Katzi, what were you thinking?”
“What?” I asked still in shock.
“You pushed me!”
“What?” I cried indignantly.
“When you grabbed hold of me,” he said. “You pushed me down the hill!”
“I did not!” I retorted in disbelief. “I was trying to save you!”
“Ch,” he said, regarding his mud-encased canvas shoes and jeans.
We reconciled shortly after over a hot chocolate and orange cake in a charming café called Clarinda.
But this morning, when my alarm sounded, I hit the snooze button. I told myself it was a precautionary measure. After all, our early start the day before could have resulted in our untimely deaths.
A little while later, I woke to find LSB looming over me, triumphantly.
“Time to get up, Katzi!” he said, beaming. “We wouldn’t want to miss the best part of the day!” From the corner of the blind, daylight flicked at me, menacingly.
Seriously Kate, storytelling is in your blood and you have a great voice. Have you ever thought about writing a book?
Aw, thank you so much Fiachra. That means so much to me. I think about writing a book all the time but spend none at all actually doing it. It’s beyond me how you’ve managed to write two novels. I have infinite admiration! You should do a post on how you managed that. I could do with some tips on inspiration, discipline and all those other writerly tricks! 🙂
Happy New Year Kate!
Ha, I was enthralled from beginning to end! I loved the dialogue lined with humour and it was really entertaining. Have you put down writing a book(or maybe consolidating your blog pieces like short stories) as your new 2013 resolution?
And I absolutely adored the fact that you seem to have fallen in love with hill climbing. Two in a row! Looking forward to the next installment!
Happy New Year to you too, Clariice! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! You’ve set an excellent example to me with your half marathons this year! 🙂 Edinburgh is such a magical place. I love walking up and down the many hills in the medieval quarter and pretending I’m in a story book.
Haha, I would love to write a book but I’m not sure I have it in me at the moment. It’s something I think about all the time though! How about you? Would you think of a poetry anthology? What are your plans for 2013?
Did you mean an example last year?;) I will hopefully continue to inspire you as much as you inspire me. You’ve just pushed Edinburgh up the priority of my to-visit list with your entry. I will investigate the possibility perhaps in the middle of the year.
I am heading up to Norway for a half marathon in Feb and I am very excited about that! Maybe one half marathon every month – the hilly sort – I am starting to be addicted by them!
I dont see a poetry anthology at this moment as I feel that I am quite new at this but it will be something I will look into when I start to have a sizeable collection. I am doing some data analysis online courses on coursera.com which I hope to keep some discipline on myself. The courses are free and organised by some of the well-known universities as well. Do take a look if there might be anything that might interest you.
How about yourself? Any plans or new year resolutions for 2013?
Magnificent piece. Enjoyed every word. Remember to include a copy of this posting when applying for the position of P.A. to Alexander McCall Smith.
Thank you, Papsi! Very chuffed you enjoyed it. Edinburgh has great literary potential. 🙂
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I’ve a memory or two of my own on Arthur’s seat. I had a youthful romance many years ago which divided its time between Pollock halls of residence and places like this, and the tea shops of Edinburgh. Nice city.
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