This week I head north to Northumberland and Edinburgh. Everything feels the same in my hometown. The faces of the girls make me laugh and we hold hands over the table and gossip. We walk on the beach under a yellow harvest mood and scudding clouds.
It feels good to be in Scotland again, the air smelling of hops as I get off the train. A strong wind funnels the bagpiper’s music down Princes Street where flags whip and curl into themselves, and as I cross St Andrews Square empty seed pods skitter across the road. At the far end of George Street I can see the treetops and the green domed building of West Register House. Charlotte Square is ordered, quiet, elegant. The last time I was here, it was summer, the streets full of festival and a lot of things were different then.
On the corner of Hanover Street, I pass Wellington where Ruth and I had sat out in the sun that tipsy afternoon; her: all freckles and the ring we girls gave her when she turned twenty-one. Today I go down the crooked steps and sit inside looking up at the running clouds and sky symbols. There is a statue on a rooftop that points her finger towards the Old Town.
On my way back to the station, I pass a book sale outside the church with stacks of paperbacks and old maps in cardboard boxes. The volunteers are chatty, laughing, with fleeces wrapped tight around against the wind. Even from here, I can see down to Leith and the water in the Firth, white-tipped and rushing. Workers on their lunch breaks from George Street banks and businesses browse slowly with coffee cups in paper bags and the tired look of having to relinquish the spring wind to return to offices and computer screens.
Back in London, across the road are having a party. There are blue lights stringing from the rooftop down to the railings at street level. Through my open window I can hear voices discussing the decorations as the family hang paper banners and lanterns. On Saturday there are photographers, and little boys in suits, saris, the bride and a big white car.
On the weekend I meet my friends and we are on Columbia Road, Angel, Brick Lane. I love these street names. We eat from the market and our laughter makes those at the next table turn to look.