Wednesday, 7 July 2010


I once attempted a creative writing class but couldn't quite get over the intimidating atmosphere where much more experienced writers (some were writing novels, for goddness sake!) read aloud their work to a room full of virtual strangers. I know the old saying strangers are just friends you haven't met yet, but in spite of this utopian ideal, I couldn't shake off the feeling, that with its mixture of expectations, sensitivity to criticism and fear, that this writing class might descend into a from of group therapy. Perhaps it was just my shyness but with a heavy heart and £70 lighter, I stopped attending.

With creative writing on my mind I give you two snapshots of Edinburgh. The first is by Dora Petherbridge and the second is by me. We did these exercises in 'free writing' so-to-speak, following some excellent writing advice found at Backwards in High Heels. If only those genuinely thoughtful words had been around when I'd pitched up at my writing course ...

'The layout of the city is folly – buildings perch on steep banks and tumble into deep gullies, play hide and seek under bridges and split themselves with narrow staircases. In the old town the stones crowd each other, nestling and nesting, while in the new, they stretch out in shamelessly graceful and decadent curves, lavishly channelling light into the streets between. There’s always space for green in Edinburgh, and a generous allowance for wilderness too – the Crags barely tamed by a path convicts cut out, and a glut of yellow gorse taking on the heights of Arthur’s Seat to be ravished by the wind. Tourists and walkers make it up to the precarious top of the Seat and stretch their eyes over astute landmarks to the flat of the Forth with its tiny stationary tankers beyond.' (Dora Petherbridge)

'Pink Sky' by Dora Petherbridge

Why Edinburgh?

'For the hustle of Princes Street and its mythological tram line. For the special type of beggar who is one part street theatre and two parts hustler. For a city of contrasts, propped up by natural volcanic rock, open to the elements and embracing with a festival for the fringe. For lush greenery against a backdrop of granite and the seemingly gated community of the New Town. For the disconcertingly quiet streets, hidden alleys and piss strewn passageways of the Old Town and its lurking history. For the deadening pulse under the cobbles where the secrets of the vaults creep round corners and cast shadows. For the twinkly fairy lights of the Christmas trees. For John Knox’s house, Mary King’s close and the pin point precision of the Camera Obscurer. For the over-wrought audacity of the Witchery all red and gold gilt cornicing and boastful guest book. For the simple privilege of walking through streets weighted with literature. Because I share the city with Miss Jean Brodie. Because anything goes: the unicyclists, the exhibitionists, the tramps, the wee hard men and the gentry. But mostly for the elements. For the way the clouds chase each other in October. For how the wind howls sending unpredictable gusts that blow up immodest skirts and permanently tussle hair. For the setting sun with its pink sky and the light peppering of snow in December.'

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