We've moved to Edinburgh for two months and we're living in a 4th floor walk-up in the port area called Leith. It's a 10 minute walk from the Forth of Firth, and a 10 minute bus ride to Princess Street -- the heart of the city.
We're loving living in the city again. Our neighborhood is "being gentrified" as they say in LA. This means that the artists and musicians have moved in, and most of the addicts are in treatment, (or at least keeping a low profile), but all the neighborhood Grannies are still here. It's Perfect! As long as we don't go to the park after dark.
We have two butchers (wonder if they are pals?), a fish monger, and a produce guy, all on our one little street. The tailor across the road has a candy bowl for kiddies, and wouldn't let Ella out until she had not one candy, but a handful. The Book Exchange shop down the way is run by a very stern woman with a receding hairline and an immediate distaste for my choice in books. The pubs on every corner have retired longshoremen smoking outside the door (and they won't let you in the door unless you're 25.)
It feels very New York 1940. The brick buildings are old. The stone ones are older. The church across the way has a tall pointed steeple with a clock that's lit up at night. It all looks like every single twilight shot in Mary Poppins, until you look down at the ground and see broken bottles and tiny little baggies.
We live in a building that's pretty famous around here. It's a converted brewery, which used to make a classic Scottish alcoholic concoction called Crabbie's Green Ginger Wine.
John Crabbie created his Old Scottish Green Ginger Wine in the ancient port of Leith in 1801. Over 200 years later it is still one of Scotland's favourite ginger wines, with an array of the finest fresh ingredients from around the world, including ginger, lemon and orange zest, wild cowslips from Eastern Europe, fragrant Oriental cinnamon and cloves. Crabbies Green Ginger Wine is the perfect partner for a tall drink on a warm summer's day, and warming on a cold winter's evening.
My favorite part about this quote is that Scotland has a favorite Ginger Wine. How very Scottish!! We, of course, now have Crabbies in the fridge, and are committed to experimentation. Last night Bob found a recipe for mixing it 50/50 with whisky. The first few sips were delightful. After that I somehow fell down...
So, our building was built for Crabbie's in 1801, and has the plumbing to prove it. It's an interesting thing - UK housing philosophy. "Comfortable" by US standards is not standard in housing unless the house is pretty newly built. Case in point: We have a fixed amount of hot water available every morning, we're told. If we use it all, then there's only cold water until the next day. I don't know quite how this is managed. A water heater with a timer and a churlish nature? At any rate - by afternoon the hot water is gone, even if two of us skip showers. Last night I washed dishes by boiling water in the kettle and pouring it into the sink over and over until I had enough water to wash. Rinsing was done in cold.
Yesterday it was -3 Celsius. Our heaters would not come on. No matter how many buttons I twirled, or knobs I pushed, the two heaters that we allow ourselves to use in the public areas of the flat (bedrooms should always be cold enough to hang a side of beef) simply refused to let off any heat. Miserly bastards! This morning, on the other hand, I woke up to an agreeably humming wall heater, serenely giving off a very subtle waft of warmth. I simply have no idea.
The dryer, on the other hand, gives all the warmth (and humidity) anyone could want. It's a roll-around, and we've rolled it out of the closet, and into the hallway. Let's talk about a common household dryer - shall we? The luxury of drying jeans and underwear for even just the last 10 minutes, so that they feel like cloth, and not cardboard, when you pull them on, is not to be overestimated. Having air-dried everything we own in the bathroom above the tub, over the balcony railing, on a line two stories up along the alley, across kitchen chairs and tables, in the rain, in the fog, and in sub-zero weather, I'm feeling entitled to the little luxury of undies that aren't crackly and brittle, and socks that don't stand up on their own. There! I've said it.
When we turn on our dryer, the hot, wet air that your dryer vents out into your backyard is vented into our hallway. It certainly does warm the flat up! The windows are DRIPPING!! Mist swirls near the ceiling. We're creating our own weather patterns! I think I'll plan ahead next time, and lie naked on a towel right in the middle of the hallway. I'll pretend that I'm in a sauna room at the Korean Spa on Olympic in LA. I'll think to myself, "I've never smelled their new Clean Cotton incense before." I'll let my pores open and my muscles melt. Then the timer will buzz, the dryer will stop thumping, and I'll go back to folding clothes and mopping up the puddles underneath the window-sills before I finish the last of the dishes in icy cold water.
Which is all just to say that we're in a new place again, and we're discovering all of it's quirks and charms.
The first night we slept here Owen said, "Hey - the lights of the city are our nightlight!" Of course by the second night he was estimating the angle that a sniper would need to shoot through the window.