Jacob’s Ladder

I’m still a wee bit of an American Stroke Bloke. In kind of the same way Martha Stewart is Scottish by sex.

She said it! Not me! To Craigie!

And yes, it’s still weird when the cheese triangles in Subway are “cheddar” and not “American”. And I still say and think “toMAYto”. But on the other hand, I was doing a crossword the other day, and got the following clue….

[Sign up for apoplectic.me alerts here. That’s where the revolutionary thinking is.]

You might put one on a boo-boo. (7)
B.A.N.D. . . .

B.A.N.D.A.G.E.!  Or… Elastoplast!  Is it Elastoplast?!

This is all by way of an introduction to an introduction beginning, “In school last week . . . .” My American bits want to say “school”. But my resurgent Scottish bits think that makes it sound like I’ve been held back in class for thirty-two years. Well, sorry,  Scotland. I know it’s been a bad month, but the ‘Merkins are going to win out for the moment….

In school last week, we were reacting to Margaret Atwood’s short story Hair Jewellery. It’s about a woman whose head is crammed with allusions to Romantic literature.

No! Poe, Tennyson, that sort of thing!

The title Hair Jewellery refers to a poem by blog favourite John Donne. The Relic talks of a “bracelet of bright hair about the bone”, like the memento mori Atwood’s protagonist finds in a travelling exhibition in a library. The story might be read as a warning not to moon over “febrile young men who sprawl on the carpets . . . .”

Well, I may be a fan of The Smiths, but I’m no Frederick Usher (said he, alluding in a literary way to Romanticism). Oh, no. Relentless positivity is the refrain of this stroke survivor. Nevertheless, the story must have left some mark, because the day after we discussed it in class, like Lord Ronald in Gertrude the Governesswhich is worth reading in its short and hilarious entirety — I flung myself from my room, flung myself upon my horse and rode madly off in all directions. Mostly towards Calton Hill.

The painting of Calton Hill at… school?

Calton Hill has become a favourite of the blog since Longsufferinggirlfriendoftheblogbeth and I moved to Edinburgh. We did a walking tour of the area in July 2013,  and attended the Rally For Independence there in September 2013. This time, I went up the hill to Hoover up fragments for one of the projects Nerd Bait has bubbling under. Suffice to say,  a bit of Romanticism would fit the bill very nicely.

Calton Hill is just jumping with poetic imagery. One of the routes to the Calton Hill park from The Old Town leads up a narrow, stone, tree-lined set of stairs.

Not the Tim Robbins kind

Then of course, there’s The Folly that is the National Monument, conceived as “Scotland’s Valhalla” but never finished. But the focus of my trip was the Nelson Monument. Which isn’t so much a Folly, as a Batshit Crazy.

The monument to Nelson in London is a column. Very Victorian. Very thrusting. Very Imperial. Though, rather brilliantly, it’s not the oldest Nelson’s Column in the world. That honour goes to the memorial to the victor of the decisive battle of the Napoleonic Wars that stands in Froncophone Montreal. Quoth Wiki:

Neither the French Revolution nor Napoleon had been popular among the French in Montreal, and contrary to later belief, the public funds raised for the monument were collected from British and French Montrealers alike.

Typical ex-pats, I guess. Pro-royalty, dishes of the old country, and all that. I watched most of a series of Eastenders during my first year in Philly. Even though, as Charlie Brooker points out, EastEnders isn’t set in London, or even Britain, or even the world – it’s situated in an absurd alternate universe overseen by a malicious, tinkering God with an hilarious sense of timing.

Oh. You mean John Knox’s Edinburgh?

The foundation stone for the Nelson Monument in Edinburgh was laid even before the one for the column in Montreal. Nothing so phallic in Edinburgh, though. Oh no. What we have — I shit you not — is a towering upturned telescope. It peers deep into Edinburgh’s heart, and decides that the best message to broadcast by naval signal flags on Horatio’s birthday each year is not You’ll have had your tea, then but


Which is fair enough, when you look at Edinburgh in the distribution of #indyref votes. And the tower itself is just brilliant. Its 143 stairs lead anticlockwise up a whitewashed spiral that, just a few steps up in the frame of a recessed window, relays the message, Almost there. How brilliantly Edinburgh! Up towards the top, another message in neat black paint exhorted your blogger to Keep going on!

And I did. All the way to the thin door in time-travelling blue that, if two strangers push and pull together, can be opened out onto a spectacular view over the National Monument and the Kingdom of Fife.

143 steps?! Sheer Folly!
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