Mar. 6th, 2017 10:25 pm
keresaspa: (Default)
[personal profile] keresaspa
*Insert weak joke about visiting Edinburgh lots before waffling for ages about most recent visit*

I know I moan a lot about flying on here but I trust you'll indulge me this time as it was the biggest pile of crap I've endured for some time. A four bloody hour delay for a flight that takes 40 minutes and all they gave us to show for it was a lousy fiver food voucher that wouldn't even cover a meal at airport prices. The justification - logistical reasons. What the hell does that even mean?! Suffice to say I've contacted the execrable flybe for a refund although I suspect my chances of getting it are a bit like Laurel and Hardy - slim and fat. Seriously though, fuck flying. In future I might just take to the high seas when I'm going to Scotland. Heck, my surname means "son of the mariner" so even nominative determinism is against my flying.

As a consequence the day was nearly over by the time I reached my hotel (the Cairn, of course) where I was greeted by the sight of a massive mechanical digger tearing up the street, something that remained a feature for the week. Having any lie-ins wasn't on the cards anyway admittedly but having the choice would have been nice. Lousy minor setbacks. The massive delays meant I was able to access my room immediately and I returned to good old 314, one previously mentioned wherein there was a wonderful wall hanging and rather psychedelic wallpaper. My usual saunter down Leith Walk was replaced with something of a mad dash, although I was able to accomplish more or less everything I wanted to and I even found time for a dekko in Fopp off Princes Street and the hipster place over on Cockburn Street. All a bit rushed but I was glad to have finally ended the airport ordeal and I always love drinking in that distinct Edinburgh smell (a mixture of baking bread and pork, it permeates the entirety of central Edinburgh and I've smelt it nowhere else).

This break was intended to be a football fest and Tuesday evening's frolics lay 18 miles north in Cowdenbeath, a place I had hitherto presumed to be a colloquialism for an abattoir (cow, then beef. Get it? I'll get me coat). Getting the train there proved to be a faffy rumpus and, word to the wise, never buy your tickets from the automatic machines in Waverley station as they toss about three quid onto the price. Having finally secured a more reasonably priced ticket from a human I set off for a fairly short train ride to the Beath, a fairly run of the mill small town that had largely shut up shop by the time I arrived (about 7 o'clock). With Google Maps directions in hand I set off to find Central Park but ended up in a darkened cul-de-sac from which the floodlights were visible but no entrance. Google Maps really are consistent, aren't they? I returned to the train station to try to gather my thoughts and then noticed be-scarfed roughs walking under a bridge facing me. Yup, Cowdenbeath's Central Park ground is, contrary to Google Maps' round-the-world rubbish, pretty much facing the station. Knobheads!

The ground was a big expanse of freezing nothingness, with huge sweeping terraces crumbling down one side and two side-by-side half-stands down the other end. The very definition of ramshackle, and more set up for its usual evening activity of stock-car racing than football, I took my place on the terrace and immediately felt an affinity with the place as there are few things that stir me quite like decaying football grounds. The match itself was a blinding affair between two really bad teams, although their opponents Edinburgh City were marginally better and deserved their 2-1 win, more or less. The flow was spoilt to an extent by a very fussy referee although City managed to figure him out quickly enough and were guilty of more than a little gamesmanship. Cowden supporters largely blamed things on their gaffer Liam Fox although oddly the emotion seemed to be more one of paternal disappointment in a clumsy child rather than the vitriol failing football mangers usually have to endure. An announcement at the start warned the visiting several that foul language would not be tolerated but it fell on deaf ears as the talk was every bit as blue as the Blue Brazil themselves (let's face it, nowhere does football club nicknames quite like Scotland). My personal favourite - whenever Cowden hit a bad pass or similar (which they did frequently) somebody would bellow out "fucking murder!" at the top of his lungs. I believe I'll be adding that to my own lexis. The defeat notwithstanding, Cowdenbeath was an excellent end to a pill of a day and as I sat on the platform after the match devouring a disappointing fish supper with my bare hands I contemplated the possibility of supporting Cowdenbeath from now on. Heck, I change my Scottish club more than my socks but the Blue Brazil won a piece of my heart that night.

With more football on the cards for Wednesday night, but this time of a more local variety, I decided to opt for the bus day ticket and explore a bit. After a diversion to the chemist (that fish supper was more than just foul-tasting, apparently) I hopped the bus out to Musselburgh, the small town on the eastern outskirts that I didn't get to visit last time. There's not an awful lot happening but I rather like the little place for some reason and always feel incomplete if I don't get to it so it was jolly good to be back. That and I also nabbed a decent sized collection of football programmes for a fiver in one of the charity shops. A bus down to Portobello followed for a scoot around the shops including a stop in to the Sally Ann's hokey where a woman had bought a table and was trying to sort out the logistics of getting it to her nearby flat. Of course Big Mouth here stuck his oar in and started boasting about his exploits in weightlifting, effectively press-ganging himself into carrying it. Keep your mouth shut in future, tosspot. Bloody thing was a ton-weight and the nearby flat was upstairs. I was able to manage it but the trembling arms lasted for a few hours and I'm still having twinges but a Damsel in Distress always brings out my inner White Knight.

Having finished I strutted/hobbled off and caught the bus to Corstorphine, another usual haunt that I missed last time out, although as soon as I arrived a bus for the Gyle Centre arrived and I got on that instead, as they're rather scarce. The Gyle Centre appeared in the "things to do in Edinburgh" guide that was in my hotel room but I fail to see why as it's a really ordinary edge-of-town shopping centre that seems to be frequented in the most by octogenarians. That and I'd been before, which I plum forgot. It was better than nothing but it's appearance in the guidebook is a mystery and I returned to Corstorphine forthwith and did the rounds. With a quick stop and drop at the hotel sandwiched in between, I made my way to Ocean Terminal for a scoot around HMV, wherein I discovered that apparently teenage girls consider Spooky Tooth to be "gay", which seems an odd conclusion to draw. Kids, eh? Whilst there I also noticed a cybergoth mooching about. Good Lord, I thought that rum lot had skulked off years ago. Last of the tribe, perhaps or have the plastic-headed sillies really made a comeback?

After downing another fish supper (rather better than yesterday's effort) I got the bus out to Tynecastle, where I had a ticket to Hearts' match with Ross County. I walked to the ground last time and perhaps should have done the same this time out as I got confused and ended up having a bit of a fuss to find my turnstile, resulting in my just about making my seat for kick-off. I say seat for, although the area I was in had seats, nobody in my section took theirs and we remained standing throughout. There are parts of England you could get arrested for that. The match itself was a bit of a duffer really. Hearts have regressed somewhat recently into a very cautious team and their constant habit of passing the ball back to the defence was a source of no little frustration for the home support. Ordinarily Ross County would have been easy pickings but in the end Hearts' caution, combined with a defensive howler, allowed them to win 1-0. Ian Cathro, a man with no playing experience and in his first post as boss, was a bold experiment when he was appointed as the club's head coach but, judging by this performance and the reaction of those around me to him, it's an experiment that might be better off ended as it was turgid fare to say the least. I made my way home, making sure to leave my day ticket visible at the bus stop as should be the way of all Marxists.

Fitting in Glasgow is always part of the time tetris but Thursday seemed the sensible option so I hopped the train and took off. I've largely got Glasgow down to fine art these days as I don't like spending much time there so I was in and out in around four hours, with everything done. Up to that point I had enjoyed good weather but the rain arrived and I was left hunting for a new pair of shoes as the ones I was wearing had a split in them (I had another pair at the menders for the trip but they were delayed so I was forced to fall back on an old set). Discount department store and low-end tat provider TJ Hughes had a veritable cornucopia of men's footwear available at rock-bottom prices but nearly all of it went no further than 11 and so I was left unshod. All those years I was a size 14 and the biggest I could find were 12s yet as soon as I had foot shrinkage that's the moment retailers decided to drop their standard top size by one. Luck of the Irish, my hole. I eventually got a pair in dirty old Shoe Zone and, although they looked fine, I suspect they'll be done within a couple of weeks. That and they pinch like hell. With the drunks and junkies overwhelming things as ever I took off and was back in Auld Reekie for about four, giving me time to visit Coda music for a jook at the folk stuff and hit the National Library of Scotland for some swotting. Hardcore. With no football to be had I was able to saunter down to the Meadowbank retail park for the evening (love that shitehole for some reason) before a kebab ended things.

I normally like one walking day and Friday was to be it, up to a point. I've moaned about the prices in Stockbridge too often so suffice to say everything I've previously written about it still stands. I keep going back though, so it must be doing something right. Back up I strolled, albeit with my feet rather suffering from the new shoes, making my way across North Bridge to head to Newington. I was rather surprised to see Ripping Records had bitten the dust, given that it dated back to the 70s, although when I thought about it I personally had only ever bought one thing in it, it always had a pretty dire selection of cheapo compilation CDs and the only thing any locals seemed to use it for was buying gig tickets. Still, shame. Having done Newington I realised that my feet weren't really cutting the mustard and, considering I had evening commitments across town, I snapped and got a second day ticket.

I had often passed through Dalkeith on the way to other places but had never visited so I decided to fix that and headed off to the nearby town. It killed an hour or less but there wasn't much happening and I don't think it will be joining Musselburgh as a must visit location. I returned to Newington to secure a Sylvester Weaver album that I had rejected but which had preyed upon my mind before heading out to Gorgie to visit a shop that had closed down and then boarding and alighting several buses at the slightest provocation just because I could and having a day ticket makes one fell like a bus god. Well, it does to me anyway. After a stopover at the hotel I wandered up to Hanover Street to board a bus into the unknown for another football match. Edusport Academy v Edinburgh University in the East of Scotland Under-20 League was hardly a big draw even for me but it was an opportunity to tick off Ainslie Park, usually the home of ambitious Lowland League side Spartans, so I couldn't pass it up. It was free in fortunately and I got a pie for nothing, which was just as well as the match was a stinker between two really bad teams, neither of whom could finish for toffee. It was 0-0 after ninety minutes but I suspect they could have played for ninety hours and not muster a goal between them. To cap things off I managed to get the wrong bus back although was able to sort things out thanks to the almighty day ticket. A haggis supper was my evening repast although it was rather horrible actually and I usually enjoy a haggis, despite being under orders to avoid offal.

The rain fell steadily on Saturday morning but a few places remained unvisited so, umbrella in hand (yeah, I've started doing that now since I bought my first one in Paris), I tramped out to Tollcross for a go around. It's not exactly the best part of town to be honest and had I missed it I would have survived but I figured I might as well. I set off for Grassmarket but got lost trying to find it (something I always do there for some reason) before swinging back to the library for a while. I wasted some time going down Leith Walk again to see if Cash Converters had any half-decent camera cases, which they didn't, before sticking my head into the hotel for a minute before heading down to see Edinburgh City play Berwick Rangers. Just as well I did for a quick glance at the telly told me the match was cancelled. Fucking murder! Having earlier considered a trip back to Cowdenbeath instead I could have kicked myself for rejecting that idea and indeed with rumours abound that City are vacating their ground at the end of this season a visit there was a major part of why I picked that specific week for my trip. Sickener. Realising time had more or less beaten me I did the only thing I could - ran up to Hanover Street with the sweat streaming off me and caught the bus out to Ainslie Park again. The thought of going to the same rather soulless ground two days running hardly filled me with any joy but a Saturday afternoon match is non-negotiable and it was the only game I could get to so it had to be. In the end my concerns were rather misplaced as it was a fine game between Spartans and Vale of Leithen, ending up 2-2 with a fine second from Vale, a grand team goal from Spartans to level things late on and some horrendous time wasting by the visitors, a fact that rather got me involved in things as a partisan for the Spartans. Good stuff in the end and just as well that I did as the other plan that briefly flashed through my mind - a bus to Rosewell to watch Whitehill Welfare - would have resulted in my arriving at an empty ground as they were rained off too.

I was up early on Sunday and quitted the hotel at ten in the morning. The day was mostly spent mooching around, be it a last look at the glories of Meadowbank, an abortive attempt to scale Calton Hill or a first scoot around Greyfriars graveyard and the National Museum of Scotland, where an exhibition about the history of Scotland rather reminded what a parcel of rogues there truly is in that nation and rekindled my old anger at the independence referendum result. Heck, despite being the staunchest republican you've ever met, the tomb of Mary, Queen of Scots even managed to move me a little, the poor cow. I returned to the hotel to collect my case, battled my way through the building site that used to be the St James Centre and got the airport bus. Inevitably the flight home was delayed again but just under an hour is flybe's definition of on time, a fact that confirmed the sail next time idea from earlier as a good one.

The prospect of returning to a place where the nodding dog Fenians had given Sinn Fein a record number of seats filled me with little joy (seriously, complete disasters like John O'Dowd and Carál Ní Chuilín were re-elected by these lumpen) but in the main Edinburgh had delivered as ever, despite more than a few snafus along the way. Getting there has gone beyond hassle to become truly hateful, thanks entirely to the disaster that is flybe (the only airline to fly from Belfast City to Edinburgh incidentally), but my love for the city itself remains undying.
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