The smell of hops and chips

I have a few friends who first moved to Edinburgh because of a loved one. That’s not what brought me here, but I wrote about the reasons behind choosing Edinburgh in the first place in another post. This one is about what made me want to stay.

It’s a question I get asked often – twice the past week. So here’s why.

After the mad rush to get everything ready and fly back which followed getting my latest visa and 3 days of airports and airplanes and very little sleep, I landed.

I felt a lot of tension, but unlike previous times, with that validation on my passport, I swiftly breezed through immigration, only a couple of easy questions asked. As ever, the immigration officer at Edinburgh Airport was welcoming and polite. I pity people who have no choice but to enter the UK via Heathrow. On the other side of the gates, two of my most loyal friends awaited patiently and the reunion was joyful. They were also going to welcome me in their home for the next wee while.

It was Halloween. We got back to the flat, had some dinner, I took a shower and slipped my semi-improvised Typhoid Mary costume on and headed out to meet the rest of the gang to celebrate our favourite holiday, but also the date we have defined as our friendship anniversary. 9 years before, the first big night out we’d had together as a group was on Halloween. This was when, during a West Side Story-esque dispute against the Acting department, we decided we’d call ourselves the DTA MoFos (short for Drama and Theatre Arts Motherfuckers, obviously). The name stuck and the bond only grew stronger. I don’t know many groups of friends as large as ours that have manage to stick together for so long. Together, we’ve been through bereavement, illness, exile, divorce… but also travels, the most hilarious nights out, a whole degree and a half (in the case of people who took a year out or who were the year below us anyway), multiple theatre projects, lavish weddings and weddings on a shoestring, a lot of silliness… and now we have added partners, a couple of extra-university friends, and we are starting to train the next generation to cause havoc with the third MoFo sprog on its way. Some of us have moved away from Edinburgh for a few years, but eventually gravitated back. A couple of us were still away but always kept in the loop and coming together for important events. It feels quite magical, actually. This group of friends is the greatest part of my wish to stay in Edinburgh. I’m not afraid of being OTT and confidently claim I can’t live without them.

Then, there’s Edinburgh itself. Edinburgh is highly addictive. It’s the safest city I’ve ever been in. It’s small enough and compact enough to allow you to walk everywhere and to get a real sense of community from it, but also large enough to find everything you need and never get bored. It’s the capital city of Scotland. It’s the festival capital of the world. There’s always stuff to do in Edinburgh. And it’s SO PRETTY! Fucking hovering castle right in the city centre, to begin with. Loads of lush green areas to frolic around in the summer. We complain a lot about the cold and the rain, but the truth is Edinburgh is beautiful in any weather. It’s mysterious in the rain and fog, and breathtaking in the sunshine. The topography of the city is incredibly dramatic and confusing to first-timers. And this is one of the things I love the most – although walking tour guides will tell you that the Old Town tenements were the first skyscrapers in the world, there are no skyscrapers of the kind modern cities get now, so you can always see the vast sky above. And what skies! The quality of the light in Edinburgh is fascinating – it yields the most amazing sunrises and sunsets and does bizarre things in between. It goes from deep purples and intense oranges to the darkest greys that contrast wonderfully with the bright green of Princes Street gardens and bring out the hues of Castle Rock and Arthur’s Seat. And the sky feels bigger and closer up here.

I usually tell people that the typical smell of hospitals/formaldehyde that most people hate makes me feel comforted, because of my medical family. Hospitals and surgeries smell like my parents, so I feel at home when I’m in one. Edinburgh smells of hops and chips. And I noticed when I headed out in my corset and fishnets, covered in fake blood and carrying a plastic sword that night, that as soon as the zesty and greasy whiff hit my nostrils, I felt comforted, at home.

edinburghcastle_kit

Dramatic Edinburgh sky – photo by my lovely friend Kit Millar, who kindly authorised me to use it for the blog

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