Another chance to explore my beloved Edinburgh?!?!? GIFT!
Find your way in a city
Closes are the bloody tool of the Devil! thought Just as he ran up yet another flight of narrow har-slicked stone steps. Edinburgh clings to ancient volcanic rock, appearing always just one tremble away from losing purchase and sliding down to the waiting gardens lounging in an ancient lake-bed.
“You’ll never get lost in Edinburgh,” Connor had bragged. “Just think of the auld girl as a fish.”
“A fish?” Just had cocked an eyebrow at this. “Is that anyway to describe a lady?”
Connor’s mouth quirked as he fought to keep control of the conversation. “Not the city herself, mind, but the shape of her. The castle is her head, the palace is her tail and the Royal Mile with her closes and wynds form the spine and ribs. If you always know which way to her head, it is impossible to get lost in Edinburgh.”
Just remembered this conversation bitterly as he turned out of yet another fog-cloaked entrance onto a Royal Mile denuded of Lukenbooths. During the day, when the portable vendors plied their wares it was possible to gain some idea of direction based on the types of goods on offer. Carving knives were sold close to the Fleshmarket for example, flour and spices between the Sugarhouse and Bakehouse Closes. Now, as dense pockets of mist rolled through the tightly packed stone buildings it was impossible to recognize landmarks.
Just figured it was his own damn fault. In his amazement at the bustle and activity of the Royal Mile, he had forgotten the name of the Close which contained the oyster cellar where he was to meet Connor. Since he could not read the painted brass signs that named each alley, he had noted the Lukenbooths that set at the entrance for landmarks. Unfortunately, those temporary structures disappeared at dark-fall as if they had never been there. The somber stone faces of the buildings contained few identifying marks, and what signs there were, seemed to loom out of the fog suddenly, as incomprehensible and unreliable as ghosts.
The Close he wanted would be on the North side of the Mile he knew, so there was nothing for it. Since he could not ask for directions to a place he did not know the name of, he would have to brave the cut-purses and shades that haunted the cobbled street, climb the half-mile or so to the castle, and begin to methodically check each and every Close until he came upon the right one.
As Just trudged up the steadily rising street leading to the great castle on the crag that dominated Edinburgh, he ruefully recalled the trip across the ocean from the United States of New Scotland. On the ship, he proudly refused to learn to read. “There will be time for all the book-learnin’ I need once we are in Edinburgh. For now, I want to enjoy breathing as a free man.”
As he walked, the city revealed facets of herself to him: a corbie–staired gable here, a painted glass window there. It was as if there were great riches just below the surface, covered by cosmetics of granite and smoke. Just vowed that he would come to know this city as fully as his benefactor did, even if that meant learning to read and climbing innumerable steps through hundreds of Closes to do it.