Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"My Edinburgh" for The Pulse

Wrote this last month for The Pulse - an Edinburgh magazine (?) - I've never seen it but the staff off The Queens Arms on Fredrick Street read it and they've been very nice to me ever since.

Jo Caulfield - My Edinburgh

Why did you decide to move to Edinburgh?

I moved to London as a teenager and loved it. Now I think of it like John Terry - it’s big, it’s dirty and it’s ugly. Edinburgh has been the plan for a couple of years. I’ve been coming here every August for the last 10 years & I’ve always have a great time, I’ve made a lot of good friends here and it’s easily one of the most picturesque cities in the world. My husband’s from Aberdeen and he wanted to be nearer his family (The Granite City was completely out of the question! No offense.)

Have you got one, stand-out, most memorable-ever Capital event? ((Oh-hoh! This'll be the Fringe question,then))

August 2001. Coming off the train at Waverley Station and seeing a man in full Highland gear, the tartan kilt, the sporran, the bagpipes … I was so excited to see my real first American Tourist.

August 2001. It was my first solo show at the Fringe. I was messing with the audience and had a funny 10 minute bit of banter with a woman in the front row. She turned out to be the Head of BBC Radio Comedy and gave me my own Radio 4 series on the strength of that evening.

What's your favourite old-fashioned boozer or style bar?

I’m not interested in loud piped music or fruit machines. I prefer bars where the emphasis is on the company and the conversation, so I’m a big fan of The Star Bar (Northumberland Place), Lord Bodos (Dublin Street) Jolly Judge (James Court) & the Queens Arms (Frederick St).

My friend Paul is a member of The Whisky Society, it’s a beautiful building on Queen St, all very Gentlemen’s club like, fabulous staircases, huge windows and high ceilings. I like going there as his guest because it’s not remotely snobby. It’s perfectly acceptable to get drunk and ask stupid questions about whisky.

The staff make it a real occasion, they’re happy to spend the evening telling you about all the different whiskies and what area produces what type.

Believe me, very soon you will think you know what you’re talking about and it’s thoroughly enjoyable to talk bollocks about whisky – “Oh yes, I’m getting peat with a hint of caramel”.

What's your favourite Restaurant/Café/Deli/Take-away?

MUMS on Forrest Road. Great comfort food. Sausage and mash, homemade pie and mash, blackend salmon and mash, haggis, neeps and mash. Basically I like mash - if they did mash and mash I’d order it. Last time I was in they were playing great music, The Temptations and lots of Stax/Atlantic stuff. What more could you want?

What's your favourite view in the city?

From the car park at Cameron Toll shopping centre you get a great view of Arthurs Seat. That’s a big difference between Edinburgh and London: you can’t see a mountain when you’re buying your toilet rolls in London. It makes a trip to Sainsbury’s almost pleasurable.

What are you looking forward to most in Edinburgh over Christmas and New Year?

I’ll be spending the first part of the Festive season in Aberdeen (surely an oxymoron?), then coming back to Edinburgh for a run of shows at the Stand Comedy Club. I can’t wait for New Years Eve - I’ve watched it several times on TV but now I’m looking forward to actually being on Princess Street and kissing a Scotsman at the stroke of midnight (or whenever my husband’s back is turned.)

What's your favourite walk in or around the city?

The Water of Leith - even the name of it is like something from Brigadoon. The Water of Leith runs from Leith all the way to Balerno, it’s 13 miles but let’s not get crazy with healthy pursuits. I walk a short bit of it going through Dean Village, where there are beautiful 18th century ivy covered mansions and old 17th century mill cottages, up by botanical gardens and the Gallery of Modern Art where you can get that great Scottish masterpiece – homemade soup and a roll. Scotland is king for homemade soups.

I also enjoy the walk from Harvey Nichols to Topshop, down to John Lewis, then home via Oddbins and Victoria Wine.

What's your favourite (and least favourite) piece of architecture?

Favourite: I’m still excited seeing the castle everyday. I can see it from my kitchen window. If I stand on a chair. And use a mirror. Tied to a very long stick.

Least favorite: There’s an incredibly ugly looking building on The Lawnmarket. I think it’s a bank or hotel? It’s directly opposite Deacon Bodies Tavern bar. I’ve no idea how they got the design accepted - it’s an ugly modernist building sticking its fingers up to the surrounding history.

What's your least favourite area in Edinburgh (or scariest place)?

Forget the ghost walks, forget the haunted houses - the traffic lights at the corner of South Bridge & The Royal Mile is the scariest place in Edinburgh. The pavement is far too narrow and everyone seems to have forgotten how to walk or act in a civilized manner. Italian tourists, Australian backpackers and drunken Scotsmen (You know its true!) all pushing and shoving. Hey! I’ve just realised as a ‘local’ I can complain about the ‘tourists’. Aw, I feel a bit teary.

Do you have a Local hero – alive or dead?

Whoever owns or runs The Edinburgh Bargain Store on Clerk Street is a Saint. If you desperately need to buy some paper for your printer, an egg slicer and a novelty hat; look no further.

What's the most recent thing you have done to your home (eg. Extension, carpeting or renovation) that you're really excited about. What was good about it, who provided it and why has it worked out well?

I had to call a plumber last week. I opened the Edinburgh Yellow pages at 4pm and picked one at random. I told him the problem, he said he’d try to squeeze me in during the day. Having lived in London for so long I was thinking I wouldn’t see him till 7 or 8pm.

4.30pm the doorbell rings - its the plumber. First words out of his mouth? “Sorry I’m late”.

“One Stop Plumbing & Heating” - 24 Forrester Park Avenue, EH12 Tel: 0131-622-0098

What do you think is the most annoying/amusing Edinburgh habit?

Strangers talking to you - I believe its called ‘friendliness’. I’ve obviously been in London too long.

Describe Edinburgh in one short, sharp sentence.

“Edinburgh - it’s not all tourist shit”

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