Hogmanay and All Edinburgh, 1 January 2008

Watching ducks skating across a frozen pond, discovering a fourteenth-century castle just down the road, becoming very familiar with the bus route to the computer repair centre—these are a few of the abiding memories of our first month in Edinburgh. Oh, and a winter Christmas and Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) Scottish style, as well. Yes, here is another missal for you.

It hasn’t snowed yet but there has been plenty of frost and just a touch of sleet. On one of the coldest days, we wandered through the botanic gardens and marvelled at the icy landscape and laughed at the ducks slipping and sliding on the pond, ever hopeful of a feed. Christmas Day was one such frosty, sunny day and, along with many others, we clambered up Arthur’s Seat, being careful not to slip on the ice, to admire the view. Chris has learnt to tie her scarf properly and we resort to long johns now and then.

A frosty afternoon in the botanic gardens
Duck plodding on frozen pond

We walk each day because we have to (we left our car in Canberra) and because we like it. This way we have found, within a 3 km radius, Craigmillar Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots spent some time, Holyrood Park, which surrounds Arthur’s Seat, and the site of the Innocent Railway, a train pulled by horses in the nineteenth century. We are still discovering new birds on our walks and by simply by gazing out our back windows. In fact, they are constantly interupting the free flow of writing this letter, aided and abetted by a squirrel. See our website for Chris’s list of birds and animal shots.

Craigmillar Castle, our neighbour across the way
Christine surveys Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat

The buses serve us well. So well, in fact, that, once the card arrives in the mail, Geoff will be able to travel for free the length and breadth of Scotland on any bus. Our thanks goes to his grandmother (for being a British citizen), to his parents (for having him more than sixty years ago) and to the generosity of the Scottish authorities in deciding he therefore fills both residency and age requirements. Our most familiar bus route so far is the one to Gorebridge to get Chris’s computer repaired. Yes, its hard disk finally died but thanks to a lot of backing up when it first got sick in Chiang Mai, all was not lost. It is only now that it is fully restored, thanks to Geoff’s expertise, and ready to tackle to task of churning out a book.

Edinburgh hospitality is warm and strong. Just before Christmas, a colleague at New College arranged a Sunday lunch for us to meet friends old and new from the church and university community here. A neighbour over the road invited us for Christmas dinner, where we were entertained by her border terrier ripping open Christmas parcels on cue. Just after Christmas we had a wonderful day of soup and twilight walks on the beach of Gullane on the Firth of Forth with new friends met through Louise Scott. The congregations of St John’s Scottish Episcopal Church and the local Priestfield Church of Scotland have made us very welcome.

Takeaway porridge on the afternoon of Hogmanay. In the background are the eight spires of New College where Chris's desk overlooks the illuminated Christmas tree

Yesterday was Hogmanay when Scots really celebrate. We went into the city in the afternoon to catch the excitement of the street party preparations, ate haggis for dinner and black bun for supper and then slipped and slid up the lower slopes of Arthur’s Seat to watch the fireworks light up the seven hills of Edinburgh at midnight.

Yes, we are having a wonderful time, the trip of a lifetime.

Our neighbourhood as seen from the grounds of Craigmillar Castle. "Our" house is in the suburb of grey roofs to the left of Arthur's Seat

So, happy New Year one and all! May your dreams come true.

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