*and smells of piss. Especially the Old Town. Get off the train and walk up the stairs towards the Old Town and then climb Fleshmarket Close up to Cockburn Street. PISS. Piss, everywhere.
This is a realisation I came to yesterday on the bus 300 from Bread Street to Edinburgh Airport. The revelation came when we passed the Royal Bank of Scotland building in X.**** It is, I realised, an exaggeration of all the flaws of Scottish buildings – at least the Scottish buildings located in the Edinburgh area – namely: the grotesque ‘castle’ or ‘tower’-like forms; the piss-coloured sandstone (each piece of stone a different shade, which might in theory make them look interesting but in fact it makes them look grotty); roofs straight out of my nightmares, and just way too much paved-over surfaces.
**** I actually need help identifying this building. All I know is it’s sandstone, has tower-like feature next to the entrance, is somewhere along the route of the Skylink 300 bus, and I find it ugly. And it might or might not have been an RBS building.
May I add that in the city buildings typically stand way too close to the pavement, which ok, you may have a shortage of space in the city which is very, very old and has been built chaotically over the centuries, but how about for once you take down a building to make more space in the city, as opposed to filling it with yet another uber-disgusting privatised space which will actually even decrease the amount of space available further, e.g. by clogging the area with cars, either parked or cutting through the city as if trains or bikes or buses or trams or feet hadn’t ever existed.
The council buildings in Edinburgh really look like they were taken out of 1984. Like the Victory Flats where Winston Smith lives. Check Moat House, EH14 1NS, or Lochview Court, EH8 8AP.**
** I lived in the latter for a year. Oh, and if you want to see a cool-looking council estate, check out Byker Wall in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE6 2DF. I stayed in that as well.
I took 1984 with me to have something to read on the plane, and rereading it for the nth time was almost as numbing as walking around Edinburgh. It’s sandstone everywhere. Grey, yellow, beige, the colour of underwear someone pissed and left on the floor in the corner of their room until it… well, started to look like Edinburgh that was transfigured into a pair of pants using a spell.
With the recent addition of the Ribbon Hotel in the new St James Quarter, the piss comes in a set with a golden shit. I’m sorry that at this point my metaphors have become disgusting, but… imagine living in this place. Those metaphors would be your everyday reality then!
Having just mentioned transfiguration, think about Harry Potter. Maybe Victoria Street was the inspiration for Diagon Alley and the Edinburgh Castle that for Hogwarts, but I am not surprised that Edinburgh does not appear in the Harry Potter books. I don’t know what Edinburgh was like in the 1990s, but now for sure I can tell that Edinburgh doesn’t smell like pumpkin pasties. It smells like piss and brewery fumes. Nothing magical about it.***
*** I will write about the magical layer of Edinburgh, or maybe you could think of it as skin on hot milk, another time.