a journal of...

A journal among friends...
art, words, home, people and places

Monday, March 9, 2020

Devotion


I'd forgotten about this encounter when I wrote about having to leave Spain with a damaged knee last November, but yesterday, cleaning out my travel purse after a mercifully short trip, I found the tiny black notebook I jot things in on the spot to remember for a journal or blog later.

Here is what I found jotted:

Lisbon Airport (TAP)

A woman on the Lisbon to London flight (she is of Indian origin) comes on board with a big (BIG) red suitcase, a travel bag, and a large cardboard box in a plastic bag that does not quite cover it.  The plane is crowded, and as it is I have barely managed the cross-runway bus, the stairs, the escalator, the long waiting lines, and the wobbly stair up into the plane...I am shocked that she is able to push on with such baggage...that she has been allowed to.

This is my second flight of the morning, and the second repetition of process (my leg about to fall off) as above.  I swear I will never fly TAP again!  Some few of us have been put in a B line (we don't know why) and one man, a Brit, complains to the passport attendant that all the other lines have preference even when people are late...we seem to be invisible here, even though I, for one, have had to pay full price for this change of plans.  He gets no real answer, but the second time he asks, the attendant suddenly looks over and pulls me and my aching, wobbly legs aside and lets me go ahead.  By then, we have been in the line a good 45 minutes.  I'm grateful for the help, such as it is, for lots of people are struggling, not only the woman with the red bags and carton; a woman with a baby, luggage and a toddler isn't noticed (I try to point her out) until nearly at the top of the long stair to the plane.

A woman sends my small suitcase into the hold of the plane...there is at that point no more room for luggage above.  I find my seat, clumping around bemused passengers in the aisle.  As I settle, here comes the woman with the red case and box.  She is standing unable to find a place to put either, when the stewardess pushes past to tell her to give the red case and box to the steward to send to the hold.  The box cannot go into the hold, however, the woman insists, because it has Our Lady of Lourdes in it, and she cannot, absolutely, have it broken by rough hands. She looks at the stewardess and steward and says decidedly, "I will keep it at my feet...it will be safe there."

Though it seems the irony of the moment (I almost laugh, but wisely stop myself), everyone else looks serious, and all watch as the steward/ess glance back and forth at one another, wondering whether to keep to the rules and take it off board or to bend to its religious hold and let it on.  In the silence, this suddenly seems the one moment which focuses the whole absurd day of travel.  In the end, the cardboard box with Our Lady of Lourdes goes to the back of the plane, in a steward's compartment where it will, they promise, be safe, and so, the woman next to me, who has said a prayer holding her husband's hand, says will we.

We are late by three hours now.  I think of the long flight from London to home tomorrow, and in between to tea and sleep and tea again, and hope she is right.


Sunday, February 9, 2020

In Glasgow, it's all about the art and the food...and family

"Take a taxi from Glasgow Central to our house," Ada advises, firmly as usual.  I could easily have taken a bus, but decide to take her advice, sure that there is some insurmountable traveler's problem as yet invisible to me.


It turns out she is only being solicitous of my comfort, bless her (as we say hereabouts)reminding me of Dorothy, who had insisted on guiding me in buying my ticket from Dunblane, and two women, one seemingly older than I, who insist on "helping" me up onto the train with my bag.  How feeble do I seem?  I wonder, as I try to explain graciously that really I'm just fine, thanks.  I'd like to add, but don't, being polite and in truth appreciative of care, that I have been doing this train and plane and street and stair business for two weeks now, not to mention the months of travel since May.  But it's the Scottish temper to be concerned.


And then there I am in Ada and Clive's house in Cambuslang again, Ada fussing over a sherry for me, then tea with a jelly pancake, and the right chair for me to sit in and whether it's warm enough in the lounge; all I want to do is stretch my legs out and look out to the back garden, whose view, even in the throes of fall, is as charming as ever.  It is good to be here.  We begin to chat, and, as it turns out, we do not stop talking the whole 5 days, except to sleep at night.  First catching up with family affairs, foremost Clive's being in hospital for the past week, grandchildren a close second, then on to the state of the world (a sorry state, both here and across the Atlantic).

Supper (if you can believe it, after all I ate that day, beginning with the fine breakfast at Munro House) is a marvelous goat cheese and beetroot salad with cucumber and tomato, so welcome.  Thinking ahead, Ada promises for tomorrow a fish pie of her mother's recipe, after the fishmonger comes down the street in his van with his catch from the North Sea.


In the morning, I sit back down in the lounge, opening the curtains for that view of the garden again.  So many impressions of the last days flood in; I can't put them all down.  Unlike Edinburgh, which was mostly action, reaction, and sensory effects, Dunblane and now this Glasgow morning are images of a different sort--the sun, for example, this minute, opening the colors of the red flowers and nearby redbush and tinging the pittosporum and boxwoods with gold overlay.  I think, too, of our walk yesterday, Dorothy's and mine, the soft grays and dark greens in the trees, the spiky lark, especially.  Finding me in this spot, Ada gives me a tour of the paintings on her walls--all from friends, acquaintances and daughter Catriona, so significant because of those connections.

For something Scottish to read while I am here, Ada has lent me a book of poetry...Norman MacCaig's The Many Days, very Scots in form and sentiment, like a man talking in a pub, musing with whomever is near, or perhaps to no one at all.  I've been trying to catch as much of the national writing as I can, while I am here, because especially its modern fiction is something I enjoy. In Edinburgh, I had a bit of a conversation about current young women authors with the attendant at Armchair Books, and came away with one she recommended...travel overseas, for better or worse, prevents one from loading up on an armful, when one insists on a small suitcase, the lighter the better (I haven't achieved my ideal yet, but I'm trying).  Just now, surrounded with its origins and inspirations,  I can hear the storytellers by ear, as well.  I find I am edging more into the speech of the region...a cadence more than an accent...as I converse with people.  It's a lovely, butter speech, uppity and downward as it goes.  Ada says to me, "You seem to understand our Glasgow patter pretty well."  Well, it's all that reading, too, the various Scottish "patters" coming through the page.


After a walk through a nature preserve with a wide view of the city, we stop in to a local tea place for soup and a scone, then go on to visit Clive, who is in better form than I expected, considering his frustration that no one can yet manage to manage his heart valve problem (and he an MD himself).  He is obviously glad for company.  I am sorry to leave him, but understand Ada's concern about late afternoon traffic, and the mess of parking in the new, larger hospital...clearly much less efficient and careful than the old, of whom Ada speaks fondly, pointing it out as we ride.


At home, tea and a wait for the fishmonger, whose absence has already precipitated several phone calls among neighbors awaiting supper ingredients.  He has been, apparently, so busy that the smoked haddock, salmon, and perch for Ada's pie are late coming.  Still talking, we set to work putting the pie together, and it is delicious (the picture above doesn't do it justice; I'm sorry), so I beg for the recipe, already thinking that I would probably leave out the potato and flour to lighten the sauce, though I wouldn't let Ada know that...she is a recipe person, so there is no changing things about in her kitchen.  You will want the recipe, too, whether you keep to it or not, so here it is.



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Kind Catriona has taken off two days of work at the University to show Denise and me around, and we have a marvelous time following her about...now Glasgow's art begins in earnest.



She and I begin at the Kelvingrove Galleries, built as a museum but palace-like in style and girth.  It holds some treasures for me...the Scottish colorists, for one, several of which I wanted for my own, especially Leslie Hunter's still life.  It includes a history of Scottish life and settlement, too.

Some impressionists, a minor Monet and the wonderful Fergussen were a treat to gaze at and talk over.  The sculpture, especially (there I am again, as fascinated by them as at the Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh) beautiful and cleverly juxtaposed to inspire a smile or revelation...a formal portrait of a Scottish soldier (see above) tangent to a self-portrait by a fellow student of Catriona, head hung, shoulders rounded forward, but an attitude of pushing his strong thoughts (we an only guess what they were) forward toward us in angular white, black and cadmium yellow. (I don't have a picture, I'm sorry to say.) Or a lovely clear white marble of a woman resting quietly, contemplating, next to a bronze of awkward post, the skinny kind--I can't remember the artist it reminded me of.

We are talking about sketches, and I open my phone to show Catriona a recent one of Alexandra Bloch's, when I notice that Denise is proclaiming herself only 40 minutes away by train.  We scuttle out toward the station, leaving much of the museum unexplored...that will have to wait for another visit another year.



So the visit goes...an afternoon going round the city to get our bearings (as much as we could...Glasgow is a complicated layout when all its annexes and suburbs are included), then bringing Denise back to the house.  Catriona leaves to pick up her husband Peter to join us for dinner; meanwhile I, insisting that Ada need not be the hostess every minute...and it does take serious insistence, I assure you...make a lamb curry while Denise and Ada perch in the kitchen near me, commenting and cajoling and pointing to where things are.  Although Clive's departure from hospital has once again been delayed, we are cheered by the family dinner and lively conversation.


The next day, rainy, we fall into Ada's itinerary, the Pollock House, its beautiful aspects, its kitchens and luncheon and lawns...and stories, on each floor a different story a different teller.


  (Do you know what this is, below on the left?  Our midday meal is peppered with questions about it, until someone tells us.)



It is our last day.  There is hope that today will bring our missing person back home.  With Catriona, we traverse the west end, including a walk through the university, the rain darkening its already dark facades, amplifying its richness of architecture.




It is, in fact a lovely way to see Glasgow, in raincoats and sturdy shoes, though admittedly rain isn't often the wish of tourists.



Finally, my long-awaited moment arrives, to visit what is left of the Charles Rennie and Mary Mackintosh house, now part of a gallery belonging to the University.  I had been crushed to hear of the absurd fire which destroyed the Glasgow School of Art a few years ago; much of the Mackintoshes' superb work was kept there.  Fortunately, I'd visited with Will and Jake years ago, but those famously Art Deco images have stayed permanently in mind, and I'd hoped for another chance at adoration. Now, the Mackintosh house and its three floors of elegantly designed family rooms, part of the University gallery, would have to do. 

This isn't my photograph, either...it's from the Glasgow University site...no pictures are allowed in the rooms themselves.

And do, they do, though not quite the scale of the art, lost now, at the School of Art...oh, that dining room, gone!  Here there are writing desks to cry over; side tables to envy; a bedroom so white it would be ghostly to sleep in, and guest quarters so boldly striped I can't imagine restfulness being a component of the design. It is difficult pulling me out of these marvelous rooms.


Back at Grenville Drive, we find Clive at home, exhausted but still determinedly social, and have a sherry with him, while he talks about a men's choral group we should find in Wales, our next venture into my uncle's family's visits, and listens to what we've been about.


Breakfast with Ada is our last treat...tea and coffee, oatcakes and good Scottish such...and we quietly leave our regards and thanks to Clive, who is sleeping at last peacefully after a not-so night.

Will we find the music Clive recommended for our Welsh trip?  Stay tuned...





Wednesday, February 5, 2020

A day in Stirling, another in Dunblane: seeing the light



The train from Edinburgh to Stirling is easy and calm, although an accident on the line...a death, it turns out...has us a few minutes late, and saddened by the incident.

It's not a far walk to Munro House, Princes Street, run by Richard, who even before the appointed time leads us up into our cozy, cheerful garret...reminding me of the one Mary Ellen and I stayed in for our short stay in Paris last August.  It's small, but has everything we need for our only night there.  Richard has comfort built in to his place...he has, we can tell, a caregiver's heart.

We hurry out to catch lunch, then do Stirling...a tour of the castle, a walk through the village, a fine dinner at Brea...before Denise makes her drive to Oban and the coast, and I to Dorothy and Will's in Dunblane the next morning.


The castle is a castle, but has a lovely view in all directions of the town and landscape below.  





There were renovations going on, but inside, several charming discoveries...a chapel I remembered well from my last visit nearly twenty years ago...so beautifully plain and open with a light ray-panelled ceiling, light ochred walls with old repainted scrolls along the top edge and a wide, deep balcony above, from which I took a photo of the front window and the ceiling worked down to meet it.


In a room tucked away, two singers, a lute player and a soprano, both fine musicians, sing ancient Scottish songs, and I, because I can't help myself, join in on one sotto voce (or so I think...until the soprano sends me a look)...the Innocents song, which I've always loved, though I wasn't familiar with the words she was putting to it, in Tudor English.

Out in the corridor, which was once, according to the guard stationed there, a classroom for an armory before being put back in castle mode, I could trace the places where the classroom walls once stood.  (Now that I write that, I wonder that it fascinated me so, but it did.)

While Denise went on to find her rental car, I walked back to the Munro and spent the late afternoon in the parlour reading a few of Richard's books about Stirling's history (one of wars, wars, conquers and brutalities and Stirling not the better for any of it)...comfortable in front of the window in the lounge, as the light left the sky.

In the morning, we had a chance to talk with our host while he served breakfast...there were two others in residence, clearly people he's had as guests before, for they teased one another.  Over coffee and tea, we heard about Richard's life, his opening of the mind which led him to this house and to the guest house world, so much happier and freer than his old states of mind and work.  It is an opening many of us have found ourselves facing, though our paths through it differ.

I will let him speak for himself here, in the bit he wrote for his website:  Having initially gained a Law Degree, Richard has worked (paid and unpaid) in the Health & Social Care sectors for nearly 30 years which enabled him to live/work in Dublin, California, London and Northampton (his home town) before he saw the light and decided to come to Scotland, the home of his ancestors.

And then we are on our separate ways, the train north to Dunblane and Dorothy, my path.


Again, an easy train ride and Dorothy to meet me at the station.  I have become spoiled by trains here and wonder for the umpteenth time why such travel isn't available for me at home. (I do know why, of course, but still it irks me.)

Dorothy walks me through the village where first we stop for mid-morning scones and coffee in a cafe, more and more found in places like this, run by young men and women with an eye for good ingredients and perfect coffees and teas, really good sandwiches and even better soups.  Then through an old graveyard where her family lies, and finally up the hill to her house, new since I last visited, a beautiful, smaller but iconic place once belonging to the large house above, a sort of cobbler's cottage, if I am remembering correctly.  Whatever one calls it formally, it's simply charming.




As indeed our day together turns out to be, so good, under the narrative of Scottish skies, for catching up with a friend, sharing news and philosophies around the kitchen table, laughing at old stories, the sort of visit we don't ordinarily get to do an Atlantic away.  There was a chance for a phone call to Will, who was traveling then.  And a walk up through a sort of wild park trace built by an American who had not forgotten his roots.








After a good lunch of cullen skink and a tiny 'flapjack", which after the earlier breakfast and scones was more than I could manage, it was time to return to the station for the next leg of my journey...to Glasgow and Ada's family.  That chapter must be its own.




Monday, February 3, 2020

Abroad among people ii: Scotland

In between chapters of  Irving's Tales of the Alhambra...not a long book, but nice to read each short piece and leave a few days to let it dry, so to speak, as it is that 19th century romantic style thick enough to need a bit of air), I have been re-reading Alain de Botton's The Art of Travel, a copy of which was first found, as I have already noted, on the shelf in the apartment in Lady Lawson street, Edinburgh.  I have my own copy now, and like the Tales, it is best opened every few days, though for different reasons...deBotton's style, compacted and highly referential, needs some air, too.


Anyway, it put me in mind of a lady we met for lunch on our second or third day in Scotland's capitol city, in a pub on the busiest corner of the High Street, Deacon Brodies Tavern, chocked (though not yet choked, though I could see it easily might be) with tourists and a few recognized locals, and organized by bar maids with strong voices, kind intentions, and efficient hands.  We found a small table one over from the corner window, and in less time than it took to choose and order from up at the elaborate bar, out came marvelous smoked haddock fish cakes, curried, and a salad of seeds, fruit and lettuce I really liked.  In deference to my friend Denise, who had made it her serious business to try local ales and to compare Guinesses wherever we took pub meals, I tried the house Guiness there, though gave it to her to finish--I am not, nor really ever have been, fond of beer, though certainly it did not spoil my palate for the meal.  I'd probably go back to Edinburgh just for that lunch again...and a few others.



At some point, we moved over to the window seats, when they were vacated, to make room for a woman from Maryland, who was visiting her daughter and son-in-law on business there...the couple each hop from office to office internationally, though affiliated with different concerns.  We chatted awhile about travels and home; her husband, she said, doesn't like traveling, so she goes it alone or tags along on her children's ventures, wandering while they worked.  She seemed to like the mix of her own company during the day, and the children to talk over her discoveries in the evening.  I could see why.

Her husband's dislike of being away from home, however, brought to mind what I had been reading the night before in an early de Botton chapter, where so much is said of people's yearning to travel elsewhere, so that they might escape the ordinary realities of their lives.  When they get wherever they think is ideal, however, they are often disappointed, for what they find, taking themselves with them wherever they go, is simply more ordinary reality.

That is, if (I must nudge de Botton a little here), that's the way you choose to see it, a cowl over your senses.  Anyway, there she was, and there we were, and after our separate repasts, off we went to our different wanderings...Denise to her tour of underground Edinburgh and I to St. Giles, which I spent hours in, just reading the walls...but I think I've already told you about that.



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Here is what I most admired about Edinburgh, and what, in consequence, I came to find strange in juxtaposition to it.  Saturday morning found us heading for the Parliament and the Palace, two more opposite constructions of the Scottish people I cannot imagine.


It was market day in the Grassmarket, so while we waited for the bus up to the High Street, we visited a few of the interesting booths there, including one with several kinds of tapenade and curry paste we tasted and liked.  The fellow who had made them was someone I would have liked to spend a few more minutes talking to, for he had all sorts of ideas about combinations of hummus, tapenade, mediterranean and mushroom and garlic and herb, but the bus was coming, so off we went.  We had a ride all around the town til it lighted at Parliament at the bottom of the Royal Mile, so named for its span between the castle above and the Queen's Scottish residence house below.  I'd seen the Parliament building before, but only from the outside; this time we were due for a tour.  


Fortunately, we stepped off a block or so before we had to, and crossing the street, I spotted a chalk sign on the pavement...the way to the Scottish Poetry Library and headed toward it, with barely an apology to poor Denise.  I'd been thinking about that place for days, remembering when Will first introduced it to Jake and me and I fell in love with it.


A lovely quiet light-filled place of reference and borrowing, it holds Scottish works of poets, essayists, critics and historians one can read there in comfortable chairs, or work at tables.


And bring the children to its children's corner...all the right scale and coziness for young ones.  Fortunately, since I wasn't a citizen and couldn't borrow, there was a small but well-stocked bookstore where I bought two books of Scottish poetry, though I had to leave behind Eavan Boland's memoir...I made a note to acquire it when back in Chapel Hill.  Just being in so easy and word-rich a space was heady almost--I could have spent half a day in it, reading and writing.  Alas. Our day was written for.



But then it was lunch hour, so we stepped across the street to Clarinda's, a tea room I'd made note of on our roundabout tour of the city the day before.  Touristy, yes, its walls decorated with crockery and teapots of every sort and a sweets table so loaded with Scottish pastries of legendary size, one could hardly countenance the real lunch to come.  But that was good, too...the soups, lentil and tomato, mushroom, carrot, which I had, and the tea strong and just right to battle the wind outside.


The Parliament, down the hill a bit, grows slowly as you, walking toward it, try to take in its size, shape, symbols and sensibilities.  For me it was the inspiration of the journey, equal to the Scottish Poetry Library in its light, accessible space, so astutely designed with every consideration to reflect an accessible government.




That quality shone from every detail, including the cut-outs on the walls of the legislative chamber, forms which, the guard explained to us, are the citizens of Scotland, looking over their shoulders at those who legislate for them. That its sole purpose is the regard of the Scottish people.  That word regard bears a huge responsibility, actually...not only the consideration of its citizenry but the requirement to look after it and the reminder, engraved on the walls of its chamber, who it is they legislate for, not to or at.  Even on a day when there are no onlookers in the visitors gallery, always open, there they are.  Politicians everywhere are what they are, no getting around it, but to be reminded in their very chambers of their real charges...it seems to me that that's what "for the people and by the people" means.





Outside in the lobby, there were standing wooden posters with videos of real citizens, life-size, moving and talking as if they stood in body among us, explaining their views and takes on the way political life impacts their daily lives:  reasoning voting rights for 16 year olds and proper land use and the experience of growing up in care...even the Scottish form of signing for the deaf.



There were words on walls everywhere...words one couldn't neglect, words from every age, it seemed like, admonishments and instructions, reminders and recollections.  Wry Scottish humor was not excluded.

We left after our tour and crossed the street from the Parliament to Holyrood Palace, so quick and sudden a shift from the open to the closed, the light to the dark, apparent to appearance, shared to restricted.


Except for the haunting Abbey, and the dining room, a lovely light-filled chamber, hospitable to les invitees--in form, my ideal of a dining room--the quite beautiful stone palace in its setting against the green crags and Arthur's seat held little attraction for me, and I admit that though I spent a long time in the dining room, I raced through the rest, not bothering with Mary's bedroom so ill-fated.  At a display of herbal inventions in the salon, a kind guard showed me a short cut to the outside, where I stayed in the reflective mood of the old ruin more peaceably.


This is not my photograph...none are allowed inside the palace;
only the ruins and edifice outside are permitted to photograph.


The Parliament, built on tradition but open to what is and what is to come...I wonder that no one sees how differently the Queen's residence represents her (arguably reluctant) subjects.  Coming out of the palace, the sun now just at the tips of the crags, hitting the gold turrets, I admired at least the outline of the place for its beauty against that sky, but looked back at the Parliament for the real clue to the Scottish people.



Oh, gosh.  There is so much more to write about Scotland and its people...Stirling, Dunblane, Glasgow.  Then Cardiff, Wales.  I don't know when I will get that done.

Meanwhile, here are our photos from the Royal Botanical Garden, also in Edinburgh.










It's a lovely place, too.  I'd love to tell you about the Portrait Gallery, which, after a wandery walk, we  finally found a bus for (the first and only snippy driver in our visit to the country; though we are standing smack under the sign for the bus stop, he almost skims past us, then snaps at us, "You have to have your hand out to stop me!" humphing righteously as we find our seats) then walked to after the RBG, but my head is a blur, after all this, so I'm back to copying my journal:

Inside, I surprise myself by admiring the sculpted heads and murals most.  I am usually a painting and artifact admirer.  But the portraits--as in the Queen's palace yesterday--such elaboration of attitude and manor/manner.  Still, there are many bright spots.  Scottish inventors are plentiful and women join the ranks as masters from three centuries ago in mathematics, writing and literature, heads of state and national boards--an interesting history unfolds beneath the beaked noses and ruffed collars.  There is also an exhibit called Look Forward, from two contemporary artists collaborating in portraiture:  Audrey Grant, who works in charcoal on a portrait of a photographer, Norman McBeath, which she erases and begins over each day, taking years to finish a sketch, though in fact there have been hundreds of sketches before it (each erased)



Each characterizes itself by the day, the sitter's aspect, the time, the artists' energies...and that is her point in doing so.  Not a single portrait of one at one moment, but one that builds its history one at a time, through what might be called invisible overlays, and brings forth something she hopes will emerge as she absorbs the history her hands have accumulated.  When her sitter and subject, McBeath, begins to photograph each sketch before its erasure to record each version, he is going back to linear time to frame his work, so there is both unconventional and conventional recording going on.
  
Norman McBeat's portrait of Audrey's hands

But he does something more...much more fascinating to me is the competing perspective on what constitutes the capture of time in art, the perspectives to show us versions of  time which, like the Parliament and the Holyrood, allow us to stare into permanence and impermanence at once and do not dismiss either as being of lesser worth.  I see how change can eat into time, hollowing it in spots, enlivening it in others.  So many ways of looking at these works swirl in my head at the time...I catch a thread, trying to follow it, when another wings through and I am trying to bring it down to seed level, bringing each down to seed level as fast as I can.

I know this work is going to follow me home, and here I am, overlaying my first thoughts with these faraway latest ones.

It's Sunday, the last day of our stay in Edinburgh, and by then I feel like a table leg myself, dry and cracked, so I offer to splurge on a taxi ride to dinner, which we had planned to have in a pub down Advocate Close, at the Devil's Advocate (perfectly named for the moment and my head).  When we are left off back on the High Street, we find the close descends straight down in sets of stairs that eventually lead to Prince Street below.  The DA, a dark, cozy, half-buried place, is only halfway (like the grand old Duke of York), and though it's gloaming, it's also too early, we are told by the barman, for dinner...we haven't minded the fact that the fall-back time change has occurred.  But he assures  they do have a salmon board, among others, to offer with a drink.  We settle into a booth and order wine (me) and ale (D)...hers so dark and chocolatey it could be near-cocoa.  Given such libation, we wind down, the board comes, laden with three kinds of salmon, a chive-cream spread, pickled beets, cornichon, country bread, oatcakes, piccallilli with white fish, and something else...what was it?...of course, sliced apples.  



Our snack becomes supper after all.  I wonder, as I'm exclaiming over the butter salmon and beets and whatever else I can pile on an oatcake, why I don't make such fare at home, even given the fact that salmon of this calibre isn't likely to be got anywhere in my neighborhood.  We linger even after the plates and board are cleared, the staff being indulgent in this regard, so that the walk home, even up those stairs holding on to the sills of the now-lit apartments that line the close, and down the Victoria hill and up again from the Grassmarket seems easy, even welcome in our mellow state.