On Tuesday, I was invited to an event run by The Open University’s Reading Communities team in association with The Scottish Book Trust’s Book Week Scotland and the Being Human festival of the Humanities. It was called Edinburgh: A City of Readers. As well as my story Valhalla, I was asked to read an extract from an 1830 letter written by the actress, writer, and abolitionist campaigner Fanny Kemble in which she talks of breakfasting with Walter Scott and a small party of other Scottish luminaries of the time.

Apparently, she found it

strange that so varied and noble an intellect should be expressed in the features of a shrewd, kindly, but not otherwise striking countenance.

Walt gets all Teenage Fanclub
Ain’t that enough?!

[For more Walter Scott/Teenage Fanclub mash-ups, head over to the Apoplexy newsletter]

Preface: Calton Hill

But before all that, I turned up early to enjoy participating in a reading group, where we got to discuss passages of reflections of Edinburgh readers past. I got to thinking about how, walking through the city, it reveals itself to us like a book. Long-suffering readers may recognize that the dramatic climax of my personal book of Edinburgh would always be set atop Calton Hill, by Edinburgh’s Folly, the National Monument.

Nah, mate, Valhalla's left onto Princes Street and straight on to Asgard
Check out Scottish PEN’s crowdfunder, and the great work they do

Chapter 1: Maybury

The story always starts with #stroke, though. On Friday, I attended the Stroke Association – Scotland’s Life After Stroke Awards out west in Maybury. Apparently, the Maybury area of Edinburgh is named after Shropshire-born civil engineer, Henry Maybury (1864-1943).

Hey! He died of asthma and a cerebral haemorrhage! A man after my own heart!!

Nuff said.

Chapter 2: George Square

Not that one.

Late that day, Mrs Stroke Bloke and I went to George Square Gardens on the University of Edinburgh campus to check out Tony Oursler’s The Influence Machine. It’s a multimedia installation that you can walk through. The University’s public Talbot Rice Gallery describes it thus:

[p]icking up on ideas from historical phantasmagoria and son-et-lumiere animations of historic sites, videos of talking heads are projected on to smoke, trees and buildings, their fractured monologues combining to make a dissonant confessional chorus of the mass media age.

See blogs passim...
“The dissonant mass media age is the least of your worries, pal!”

Unfortunately, the installation only ran through Saturday, but the Talbot Rice is always presenting thought-provoking stuff.

Chapter 3: The (West) End

Fast forward to yesterday, and Mrs Stroke Bloke and I joined a table of friends at the Caledonian Hotel for the American Women’s Club of Central Scotland’s Thanksgiving Dinner. I reflect that I’ve catalogued a serious of shitty events in during 2016, while hopefully retaining a sense of humour.

On the other hand, the food was good. And Mrs Stroke Bloke and I got married on US Tax Day in what feels like the grimmest year in a generation. So our anniversary will be easy to remember. And looking through this last week, I see there are a lot of cool things and people in the world that are worth fighting for. So, thank goodness for that.

Thanks for reading!




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1 thought on “Thanksgiving

  1. I had a long post which made no sense. So I deleted it and instead offer these three thoughts which were buried amongst the muck

    1: creativity makes you busy, whether it is seeing a million things in mburgh or spending 2 days obsessing over flute articulations

    2: everyone should try and listen to this record end to end 3 times in their life:

    3: I think we should decide to reject the 2016 is crap meme. I mean it was crap but it is also in the past. The meme seems more woe than action. And 2016 was a mixed bag. For instance this year we detected gravitational waves. That’s completely amazing.

    Also 2016 is crap is a less useful statement than 2017 could be ________

    What shall we put in the blank?

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