Alexander in Edinburgh

Hokay. I haven’t actually been that good in updating my blog in the past few months, for reasons that I’ve explained in previous posts. I won’t even apologize. But now that I’m no longer actually in New York (and the title of the blog should be “aedicase”), perhaps a new post is in order.

The last few weeks of my stay in New York were as hectic as the first few were relaxed. In mid-August, I embarked on a totally crazy trip that took me to Dublin for ESSLLI, Edinburgh for apartment-hunting, Columbus, Ohio and Austin, Texas to work with people at the universities there, and back to New York. Within the space of eight days, I visited five cities in three countries (four if Texas counts as a separate country), which I think is a new record even for me. I made the jetlag work for me to help me catch flights at 7am in the morning, and among many other things ended up seeing a rodeo in Johnson City, Texas (pop. 1200), birthplace of Lyndon B. Johnson. The rodeo was like a big village festival, complete with hamburgers and lemonade and cotton candy and lots of cowboy hats, and consisted of a series of different competitions involving staying on a bucking horse or bull, lassoing and tying up cattle, and riding. There are also versions for children, such as sitting six-year-old kids on sheep to figure out who can hold on the longest. (The longest in this case was about three meters.) I had a great time, except for nagging doubts regarding the treatment of animals; but according to some research based on the Wikipedia site, the jury is still out on that issue, with both rodeo friends and rodeo critics citing really stupid arguments (of the form “Look at this cow’s cute eyes! Could these eyes lie?”).

Back in New York, I whizzed through a bunch of things that still needed doing and packed up my stuff. The highlight of my last two weeks was perhaps to watch Absinthe, a burlesque show in an original Spiegelzelt (mirror tent) from the 1920s which they put up at the South Street Seaport (remember? the same place where I performed on the singing Christmas tree last winter). This was perhaps one of the niftiest shows I’ve ever seen, with amazing acrobats and a pretty weird announcer. There was a rollerblade show which ended in the guy and the girl being connected only by leather straps around their necks, and the guy rotating the couple around their shared vertical axis while the girl, whose feet were lifted off the ground by that rotation, spinning really rapidly around her own body axis (see the picture). But my personal favorite was the stripper, who I now discovered is called Julie Atlas Muz. Both of her acts were just so classy and funny. She started the first by carrying a huge air balloon and doing an Atlas impersonation; but then she popped her head into the balloon, and ended up climbing into it with her whole body, without letting any air out (you can see the general principle here, although the Absinthe version was different and better). In the second act, she made her hand look like it was an alien fake hand, which fought and then undressed her. Her whole performance was so witty that it was almost irrelevant that she was almost naked (although I didn’t mind that at all). Fantastic! Compared to this, the otherwise very solid Blue Man Group show we ushered for and then got to see for free a couple of days later was nothing to write home about.

Anyway. With luggage that was too heavy I took off towards Edinburgh, where my flat is still as pretty as I remembered it. Here’s a picture of my living room:

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As you can barely see, the bottom of my kitchen is all mirrors, which can be lit from above. You can also guess at the mother of pearl lamp above my couch table, which the previous owner (before my current landlady), who also designed the look of the entire flat, made himself. It’s kind of weird and overly 70s-ish for my taste, but I suspect it will actually grow on me.

But the really cool part about the flat is the view. If you turn by 180 degrees of where I’m standing to take the picture above, you will see this:
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Now that’s a far cry from my view in New York. If you go close to the window and look to the left and right, you will see this:

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(the Pentland Hills)

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(yes, Edinburgh Castle, with a bunch of cranes from the University of Edinburgh School of Informatics construction site in the foreground)

So although the flat itself is pretty small, the fantastic view makes it feel much more spacious than it actually is. If you climb on the roof (which is admittedly harder than it was in NYC), you also have a view of Arthur’s Seat. And the building shares a garden with Sciennes Hill House, which was the location of a dinner party at which Robert Burns and Walter Scott met for the only time ever. If that isn’t cool, I don’t know what is.

The one huge drawback of my flat is the shower. For the past few days, all I have managed to get out of it was a trickle of cold water. As you know, I’m a huge fan of extended hot showers. In a pinch, I will tolerate a cold shower for a day or two, if it’ll at least get me clean. But the waterflow was so slow that not even that was possible. After some initial confusion, my landlady figured out today how to make the water flow properly. But they are still going to have an electric heater installed into the waterpipe, so there’s a chance that at some point next week I’ll be able to shower properly.

The other problem is that the windows are a bit drafty, and even now it’s getting a bit cold in the nights and mornings. I shudder (hah) to think what it’ll be like in the winter.

Now. It’s really strange to move into a furnished flat. I’ve never done this, and it’s been taking me a while to shake the feeling that I’m really just a guest in somebody else’s apartment. It’s really nice that I don’t have to bother with buying furniture and kitchen equipment and such, but furnishing an apartment is a really important step towards making it your own, and I’m almost sad that I don’t get to do it. Another step that would help me make the flat my own is if I finally had a real Internet connection at home. Right now, I’m making do with my shiny new T-Mobile Vario II phone with a generous Internet usage allowance, which is a fantastic new little toy and allows me to access the Net via Bluetooth and a 3G data connection, but the connection is limited (Skype doesn’t work well, some of what I assume are Julie Atlas Muz’ more open-hearted webpages are blocked as adult content) and keeps breaking down every couple of minutes; not fun. But because there’s no phone line in the flat, it will take British Telecom a week to install the phone line, and then another week to activate the DSL connection. Bah! At least they gave me a pretty office with Internet access at the University.

That’s it for now. This is the third evening in a row that I’ve been spending by myself. I really need to figure out what you can do with your time in Edinburgh, reactivate my old friends and acquaintances, and make new ones. It’s a nuisance to have to completely exchange my social circle every year or so, especially given that I have no real way of communicating with people abroad from home. If someone happens to know cool people here that I don’t know, please do send them my way, I’d have time to burn right now.


1 Response to “Alexander in Edinburgh”

  1. 1 betula 6 September 2007 at 14:22

    Drafty windows and trickly showers seem to be the most common curse of British rented accomodation. Still, having lived through wintery months with the draft problem in particular (I’ve got lots of tips on that one), you have my commiseration.

    Not a lot of commiseration, mind, because your view is very pretty, after all. :)

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