March 18, 2014

window watching.

We live in a student building in South Bridge. It's an old building, though not nearly so ancient as most in Old Town. We're on the third floor which means that there are several flights of steep curving staircases which must be climbed before collapsing into an exhausted heap on the floor of our flat.

"I'd always punish myself after a night of partying by doing my laundry the next day," said the student we're subletting from. "Nothing like climbing up those stairs loaded down with laundry when you've got a hangover."

And that's not the most awkward thing she's said. Interesting duck.

We're wedged between some other flats and a Blackwells book shop. Beneath us, far below on the ground floor, sits an Italian restaurant at which we've never eaten. There's a small door at the bottom of the stairs leading into the restaurant's cellar -- the bus boys sit on empty kegs during their breaks, rapidly texting on mobile phones, cigarettes hanging out of their mouths, filling the stairwell with stale smoke. We cough obnoxiously and they don't seem to notice.

The flat is small. We can't stick our elbows out in the WC without hitting a wall -- and there's a toilet, sink and shower in there. It gets stuffy when it's too warm (which fortunately isn't often in Edinburgh) and if you use the hot plate and the toaster and the microwave at the same time, a fuse blows.

It is not, perhaps, a dream home. But we love it -- oh, we love it! It is across from a grand old university building. It is one hop over from Lidl, the best grocery store in the history of grocery stores. It is a 2 minutes' walk from the National Museum, from the High Street, from Edinburgh Castle, from a handful of parks. The bus pulls up in front of our door -- almost like a limo! A really full limo packed with Scottish people!!

And if we'd rather not go out -- the view from our window is perfectly fascinating. I'll hang out the window like a regular Juliet watching the Scottish world go by for ages.

Billy Shakes got it right -- all the world's a stage, particularly during tourist season on South Bridge. We can point out people who are obviously North American -- the men in polos and bright white Nike shoes, the women in jean shorts and t-shirts decorated with American flags. Double decker touring buses drive down our street -- the kind with the open top -- and we wave enthusiastically at the baseball-capped heads, catch someone's attention, then howl like six-year-olds when that person points us out to their fellow tourists, only to have us duck out of sight when everyone looks our way. Really mature, I know. 

In the Old College building across the street there is a large library which doubles as a venue for weddings and other celebratory dinners. We can see into the kitchen -- the apron-clad chef moving things around on a stovetop, a tuxedoed server placing bottles of wine on a cart. Against the outside wall of the Old College is a convenient alcove for buskers -- a young guy pounds away on his acoustic guitar as the girl beside him belts out a rousing rendition of Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues. She does a fantastic job but there's not many people about so we end up being the only audience clapping and cheering from our third floor window when she finishes up -- they both give us majestic bows before packing up and heading further downtown. 

Unfortunately the convenient alcove is convenient not only for buskers -- but also for the inebriated weekenders who can't seem to find a proper toilet. Edinburgh, with all its charm, is still a city filled with late-night rabble rousers who straggle up and down our stretch on Friday and Saturday nights, wandering out onto the road in front of city buses (yes, we saw this happen... thankfully the good bus driver had his wits about him and was able to stop in time) and urinating on century-old walls. Fortunately we don't have to witness this too often as we're usually sleeping by this time, but the effects of a night's partying is usually still present the next morning -- disgusting little rivulets of urine sleepily drifting down South Bridge's sloped sidewalks. We watch and cringe in horror the next morning as unknowing tourists and mums with prams and businesswomen in heels march STRAIGHT THROUGH IT.

Some interesting fights break out on South Bridge too, the most fascinating being an altercation between a woman and her ex-boyfriend -- the woman at the time was on a date with her new boyfriend. Now, when Scottish people argue heatedly it's pretty much impossible to know what they're saying if you yourself do not possess a Scottish accent, so for the majority of their "conversation" we weren't completely aware of what was going on. The poor woman finally blew off her ex and crossed the street to rejoin her current date (who was trying to pretend to not exist, I think), but the ex was hollering after her: "I'M GON' TA MARRY YOOOOOO!" We were just about falling out the window from laughing so hard.

Didn't realize our monthly rent would include such quality entertainment! Thanks South Bridge. 

{This post written in July 2013}

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