November 1st 2014

For some reason once you decide to attempt to write what you hope is an entertaining, witty and informative blog you have literally nothing to say for about three days…. I usually find the inspiration to write when I walk around what is now my wonderful new home, which is the city of Edinburgh, admiring, relaxed and ponderous… I am always with a camera and nearly always with my hound.

So this is my fourth day…

We have lived in Stockbridge, a dog friendly place, with various coffee shops and pubs allowing our fur friends inside, since July 2013.  All this is less than a miles walk from the centre of Edinburgh. I did not come here from Melbourne for the weather or the coffee. The weather, to be honest has been surprisingly not as bad as I had previously feared. It did not snow in July at all… Hallelujah! I may be speaking far too soon though as obviously one winter in Scotland does not make me an old hand. I have not found a decent coffee but I do have very near by the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted! I am now in November watching the skies keenly. The nights are quickly charging in dressed in black armour, encouraging people to scurry home to get their dogs out for walkies before they need reflective collars and coats at 5.30pm and gradually earlier and earlier… The dark nights are the hardest thing I feel to get used to. I grew up in England, so should I be automatically tuned into this through genetic wiring? I think not. It is still quite weird. I do recall going to school in the dark and walking home in what could feel like the same darkness. I remember feeling like maybe we had to save on the electricity especially if I saw barely any daylight during the winter months growing up near Manchester suffocated by their steel, dull, grey skies.

As I am usually being pulled from pillar to post by an exuberant 11 month old Border Collie I am not so relaxed or ponderous at times. Sula has no time for the likes of blogs and such as she is experiencing her world for the first time and is totally present in said world. All she sees, hears and tastes from her lowly perspective is legs, (usually below the knees) car wheels, bikes, buses, kids scooters, other dogs, the parks and grass, free food, (this can involve a combat crawl along the pavement) rivers and swans. She loves the swans in Inverleith Park and deliberately invokes their wrath which is normally accompanied with a hiss in her direction as she lunges toward them. She is utterly fearless and I am convinced she would take any of them on if I let her, so I do not.

The swans reside in a wonderful major public area which is Inverleith Park. These 54 acres of open green space has been utilised since 1891 by dog walkers, rugby/football players, cyclists, joggers, strollers/picnickers, model boat enthusiasts and allotment owners. The pond was even a skating rink at one stage. For the past year we have experienced four distinct seasons and the wonderful biodiversity of the area with the birth of ducklings, cygnet, coots and goslings around the pond and marsh area. Sula has dug cavernous holes almost big enough to be actually placed inside which I have filled, much to her annoyance. We have rescued one duckling by screeching like a fish wife, gesticulating and throwing sticks at the jaws of the resident heron that I have named ‘Jesus’. At times he looks like he is walking on water. He stands confidently on underwater nesting places or on top of the nearest chimney stack as if he is surveying his plot or perhaps his menu. He did however; drop the duckling, much to the unconstrained joy of its mother and myself to be honest.

The hound... Sula

The hound… Sula

There is also without doubt one of the best views of the city skyline from here. On gently sloping grass banks, alongside a beautiful elm treed pathway are perfectly placed benches to drink in this vista. The deciduous trees in Autumn are a profusion of colour; amber, yellow, brown, red and green. The crunch they make as you stand or kick them makes you do it even more. Here one can see Calton Hill with Nelson’s Monument clearly prominent, Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park, Scott’s Monument, which is dedicated to one of Scotland’s greatest literary figures, Sir Walter Scott, St Giles Cathedral, the Pentland Hills and the world renowned Edinburgh Castle to name a few notable landmarks. It is especially vibrant on a sunny day under the leafy trees on a blanket if there are no vacant benches or on a colourful firework extravaganza night which happen often in August during the Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo and the Fringe Festival.

Sula has made her own friends too, most notably Bernie or Bernard on a Sunday. He is a black male Cockapoo, full of his own warm, bubbly character whom she spends many hours tussling with. At the moment they become wet and filthy quickly, rolling and playing through Autumnal leaves that are soggy and disintegrating. His owner and I blether on, usually sat upon a park bench or strolling in the Dean Gardens with a tinny or two or soup as we slide begrudgingly into winter. This is a huge, three tiered, well maintained, keyed garden which runs parallel to the beautiful Water of Leith, culminating in a waterfall at the very picturesque Dean Village. Flowing for 24 miles from its source in the Pentlands, the river then snakes its way to its outflow into the Firth of the Forth at Leith. The village itself historically dates back to 1128 when it evolved into a busy industrial enclave with 11 mills powered by the flowing river. From this side of the water one gets a different view of St Bernard’s Well, with its statue of Hygieia, the Greek goddess of health, built in 1791 and the Dean Bridge. This bridge was built in 1831, by the engineer Thomas Telford; it spans the river, carrying the roadway over four arches 100ft high and 450ft long. Below in the tranquil park one can only hear the cascading waterfall, the birds and squirrels whilst owners can unleash their dogs with confidence as it is fully enclosed. This is especially comforting for those with puppies like me as she hurtles around at a hundred miles an hour, herding whatever she perceives as her flock for that day. Sula will no doubt continue to put in appearances here as we further explore our environment together.


The Dean Bridge from the gardens

I have fallen in love with the place I live in and I hope you do too… Please feel free to leave any comments or ask any questions, myself or Sula will answer…

By A. E. Morton