Thursday, 10 June 2010

Under the ivy

Ye wid think, wid ye no, that Edinburgh's New Toun wid be a grand place tae bide. Aw thae sweepin crescents, wide open boulevards, an elegant spacious apartments. As soon as it wis bigged it became the residence o choice fer aw the high-an-michty o Embra toun. Fae the sainted David Hume doonwards, the cream o Embra came flockin ower that big new North Brig tae stake their claim tae a wee bit o the Enlightened City. Enough they had had o smelly closes an draughty entrys, they wanted tae fu their lungs wi guid fresh air, an be thought o as civilised, as polite, as rational.

That aw sounds fair enough, ah hear ye say. How could ye argue, how could ye no want tae follae them? How could ye resist the lure o thae clean modern lines an that pleasant architecture?

Easy. Ah wid raither get a slater stuck up ma nose than bide there, but tae explain why ah'm gaunnae hae tae take ye a wee dauner doon the hill, doon guid auld Leith Walk.

Here. Take a haud o ma haun. The roads are awfy busy roon here these days, an ye've got tae watch ye dinnae fa doon yin o thae holes they keep diggin. They're busier than they were three or fower hunner year ago, when this street wis ca'ed Leith Loan. Back then there were nae tenements or shops, jist a rough road atween fields, wi mibbe a wee sma'holdin' here an there, an auld man in a boat, an a couple o kye lowin at us as we pass by. This wis the straightest road fae Embra tae Leith. No the main road, that wid be the Easter Road, but the road folk wid tak if they were oan fit, which ah aye wis. Nae cars, nae buses, nae tramcars, jist folk traipsin up an doon fae city tae port...

But, hing oan, whit's that ower there? ye say. Whit's that dark, ominous object swingin fae thon stand oan that wee hill? ye say.

Where? Oh that? Weel that wee hill wid be ca'ed the Gallow Lee, jist up a bit fae the Shrubhill, an aye, that shape hingin there's an auld corpse. Ye see, oor lords an maisters, in their wisdom, thocht it wid be a rare laugh tae hing miscreants in the maist obvious an public spots they could find. Doon oan the Shore, up at the Mercat Cross, doon in the Grassmarket, or right by the Loan. They wid use the Loan fer hingin when they were worrit aboot 'crowd control', when they were feart o riotin in the High Street. Many o the Covenanters ended their days up oan the Gallow Lea, includin auld Major Weir, an then they jist left them there tae dangle in the wind, swingin there as a warnin tae us aw tae behave oorsels. Swingin there fer the craws an ither birds tae feed oan...

Efter a time, yince the craws had had their fill, they wid cut the bodies doon, burn whit wis left, an bury the ashes on the sandy hill.

Here. Ah can see ah've upset ye, ye're lookin a bitty green at the gills. Let's nip intae the Half-way Hoose fer a wee cup o tea. Thae days may seem gruesome tae us lookin back, but at the time it was par fer the course, aw pairt o life's rich tapestry as ye might say, an complainin wid only get ye locked up in the Tolbooth. Or worse.

Are ye awright? Yer tea hot enough? Wid ye like a wee piece oan cheese tae go wi that? Fine then, ah'll get oan...

Noo. When Big Geordie Drummond had his great idea, tae extend the city oot tae the north, an create a 'New Town', he had tae cast aroon fer buildin materials. Maist o the stane wis dug oot fae thon enormous quarry doon at Craigleith, where noo stauns a huge shoppin centre. Beautiful clear sandstane by the ton wis hewn oot by big brawny navvies, an cairted up tae Barefoot's Park, where they were layin oot the Princes' Street. But lo! Whit were they gaunnae use tae stick aw thae stanes th'gether?

Well. Did they no go an find a sandy hill, dig oot aw the sand, an mix it up wi lime tae make mortar? Are ye still wi me? That's right, they dug up the Gallow Lee, alang wi aw thae ashes, mixed it up fer cement, an bigged the New Toun!

Aw through oor World Heritage Treasure run the remains o martyrs, miscreants, an common criminals, hung an then hung oot tae dry, pecked tae bits by craws an daws, burnt tae cinders, then mashed up wi sand an slaked oan the very stanes that tae this day hae folk open-moothed in awe at the 'grandeur' at the 'magnificence' at the 'beauty' o Edinburgh's New Town.

Gie me ma wee tenement doon at the Shin o the Walk. Ah'll no be daein wi bits o the deid pepperin ma wa's. Ah like tae be able tae sleep at night. Noo awa hame wi ye. Ye'll hae had yer tea...


  1. Yir haen a laugh?

    Al no look it the new toon in the same wie again.

    (Your blogs geen ma a wee kick up the arse tae type is a talk, but am no offy sure how you spell half it :D)

  2. Guid pynt Darren. There isnae sic a thing as "received pronunciation" in Scots, jist as the Inglish hae their dialects, sae dae we.Jist go fur hoo ye speik n' dae it "funetikally":¬)

    Ah'd say "hauf it".

  3. Mr Darren, ah widnae lie tae ye. Aw is as ah said it is, nae jestin'.

    As Mr Librarian says, ye've jist got tae write it as ye say it, an' ye cannae go wrang. Ah'm still tryin' tae improve mine, but it's a labour o' love.

  4. Sophia, are you going to introduce a translated version for those with fewer linguistic abilities? Ah cannae menshun ye oan ma Take Yer Pick cawse ma English readers wud be hudding their hawns up wi' horror at no bein 'equipped' tae understawn.

  5. Right diggin yer barry spraff, Sophia. Might huffty retell this tale to a few bug eyed backpackers.

  6. Once again you've transported me to a different time and place. I love the "Take a haud of my haun" and thanks for the tea!

    PS: Sorry I can't write in proper English.

  7. Mrs Subrosa, ah hear whit ye're sayin', but ah dinnae think ah'm aboot tae change ma ways, an' here's why. The Internet's a big noisy crowded place, wi' lots o' competin' voices. We aw need tae find oor USPs, an' writin' ma ain blog in ma ain style is mine. Ah'm daein' this, as ah've said afore, fer ma ain amusement, an' if ah bring amusement tae others, well aw the better.

    Ah'm aye profoundly gratefu' when folk gie me a wee boost by linkin', shoutin', or otherwise drawin attention tae ma work, but if you cannae bring yersel' tae dae likewise fer fear that yer English correspondents widnae manage tae stretch their braincells that wee bit further than usual, well then that's your loss an' their loss. It certainly isnae ma loss. That may sound ungracious, but ah wid raither please a few folk a lot, than please a lot o' folk a wee bit.

    Ah'll refer ye tae ma very first post, when ah put it in plain English.

    This is Sophia Pangloss's blog, like it or lump it.

  8. Aye naldo, ah'm a wee radge so ah am. Tell yer back-packers, please, but here's a wee hint - dinnae call them swivel-eyed, they might turn on ye!

  9. Brownlie, ye can take ma haun ony time ye want, an' ah'll transport ye wherever ye want tae go, jist sae long as ye can get me hame in time fer ma bed. Ye ken ah need ma beauty sleep!

  10. Ah telt ma colleagues yer wee tale yestreen, an much enjoyed their horror:¬)
    But it goat me thinking; A' they sojers that were blown tae collops in France an Belgium nearly a hunnert year ago had tae go somewhere...Think oan that the next time we slug a Belgian beer or sip a cheeky wee Bordeaux...

  11. Bordeaux is a muckle distans frae Ypres but, Champers is bang on

  12. Sophia,

    Yes, I think I'd enjoy another stroll down memory lane! Do you have a sitooterie?

    PS: If you need your beauty sleep that must be an very old photograph! All mine are in black and white.

  13. Aye Mr Conan, it's a grand thing the circle o' life. We aw come fae dust, an we return tae dust. Ah wis born in a supernova masel', an' ah'll likely go oot wi' a bang when ma time comes. Sayin' that, ah dinnae fancy findin' ony other bugger's ashes in ma drink either, even if they were a handsome young sojer.

    Exceptin' yersel' Mr Bugger. You can park yersel' in ma cup anytime. Jist dinnae tell Mr Brownlie. Ah'm feart he might get touched by the green-eened monster.

    An' by the way Mr Brownlie, no that ah'm tryin' tae poor cauld tea oan yer ardour, but where the hell dae ye think ah'm gaunnae put a sitootirie when ah bide up a stair oan Leith Walk? Ah'll jist hae tae come an' sitootin yours.

  14. Sophia,

    I hate having cauld tea poured over my ardour. I get confused and think I've had a "wee" accident. I don't do stairs anymore due to a very restrictive ASBO.

    Here was me thinking that you lived in one of those pent-house flats in Maritime Bond or Rennie's Isle with an infinity pool and sun-house/sitoorie on the balcony.

    The only green monster I can remember is big John Hughes playing for the Hibs.

  15. Jings Mr Brownlie, ah couldnae bide in yin o' thae 'apartment' blocks, ma auld grannie wid birl in her grave at the very thocht. Naw, it's sandstane tenement fer me, till the day ah die. It's hard climbin' aw thae stairs wi' bags fu' o' messages, but at least its no coal.

    It's funny, ah could near enough chuck a brick at Easter Road, if ma airms were a bit mair muscular that is, but ah couldnae name ye even yin o' their laddies. They come, they gang, efter a wee they aw get tae a green blur.

    btw that must be some ASBO ye've got there, ye must be unco prood o' it. Ye'll hae tae tell me aw aboot it someday.

  16. Please be careful when you're throwing your brick. I visit Easter Road every other week during the football season and the only thing protecting my head is an ALDI shopping bag.

  17. Ah'm tryin' tae get ma heid roond your heid, covered in an Aldi bag. Mibbe it's a fitba' thing.

    Dae Jambos wear Lidl bags oan their heids?

  18. It's an old joke. Jambos don't need anything on their heads - they've got nothing to protect.