Wee Walk + Big View = Refreshed Brain

It’s been a week of ups and downs in Let’s Talk Scotland Towers (aka Tiny Flat on Shit Street). Ups: I have just had a week off on holiday from work. Yay! This has involved a lot of eating and drinking (well, far be it from me to be unoriginal); catching up with friends (which included hearing just about the most disgusting – but hilarious – sex story I have ever heard – and, no I shan’t be repeating it here: if you ever meet me in a bar, get me whammed on single malt and I may share, with the names of those involved changed to protect the innocent); helping a friend celebrate becoming a MBE (no, really!); and a few visits to the gym (to – laughably – try and redress some of afore-mentioned gluttony).

OK – quick digression to tell you about my gym. Aye, fine, this bit isn’t necessarily about “Scotland” per se but it’s my blog and I’ll spraff if I want to (to the tune of the Lesley Gore 1963 classic. Look it up if you are either a) a Youth and / or b) do not have a mother who used to sing it to you in an embarrassing fashion). The gym I frequent is called Fitness Soul and it is housed in a converted warehouse in deepest, darkest Leith. Well, I’m calling it a gym, but it’s more of a fitness studio where a number of incredibly fit, sporty and jolly instructors take fitness dance classes or encourage you to lift and perform other feats with silly things called “kettlebells” (by the way – don’t be fooled: kettlebells neither make nice tinkly noises like bells nor produce hot water for a nice cup of tea). There are no posh changing rooms. There is no fancy reception desk with a heavily made-up person welcoming you with a fake smile. There are no treadmills. In fact there is no machinery at all there that is designed to either kill you (I’m talking to YOU cross trainer) or make you look distinctly inferior to the Adonis next to you who is “Feeling The Burn”. In fact, when you first enter the place you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a bit shabby. And I suppose it is. But looks are deceiving and this is hands down the most welcoming, encouraging, friendly, upbeat, gym I’ve ever been to. Admittedly, that’s not many as I am relatively new to not being a Lazy Fat Bastard. But when I’ve visited any gyms in the past I have just had the impression that they were Not For The Likes Of Me. Fitness Soul, however, seems to focus more on supporting its clientele rather than “cramming them in”: you get the impression that the instructors genuinely give a shit about you and want to see you improve – and they make an effort to get to know you a wee bit. Don’t get me wrong – despite being a friendly place, the instructors do not allow you to slack. This is especially the case with the two owners: one eyeballs you with a (friendly) death stare if you make the fatal error of not smiling or singing along like a maniac during Zumba (despite the fact that you feel like your legs are going to fall off and you are also concentrating on trying to move in the right direction and not crash into the person next to you); the other refuses to believe you when you say that your body will not go that low when you squat – “no really, my knees are going to explode” – and makes you do far too many burpies. All in all, though, it feels good to support a small, local gym business rather than giving my hard-earned cash to a big corporate gym, just for the sake of having shiny changing rooms with expensive liquid soap and an over-priced cafe selling miracle smoothies that taste of canal.

AAAAAANYWAY back to my week of ups and downs.

Down: Tiny Flat on Shit Street has a leak in the roof. FFS. And, since it rained in biblical proportions on Tuesday and ALL THE ROOFS in ALL THE FLATS in Edinburgh obviously must have started leaking at the same time, the earliest a roofer can come and make that sooking noise through their teeth and say something like “oooh this’ll be a big job” etc is this Thursday. Feckin ten days?! Luckily, there has been no heavy rain since, so no more leaks (other than those from my tear ducts at the thought costly roof repairs).

So, today, with the thought of going back to work on Monday and the worry of my roof possibly being about to cave in, I needed a bit of fresh air to clear my head and, let’s face it, to avoid hitting the gin before lunchtime. I decided on a walk up Calton Hill, which is the smallest of the “Seven Hills” of Edinburgh. This is a wee cracker: it’s actually just a very short, not stupidly steep trek and you are rewarded with kick ass views of the city, the surrounding higher hills and the Forth:

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Isn’t that a great view? In that photo, which is looking kind of north-east, you can see the home of Hibernian Football Club – the Easter Road stadium. They are neighbours of mine but I have only been to two games in the entire time I’ve lived in the area. The first was mentioned in a previous blog post about some of my memorable chippy experiences. The second was on a very cold, rainy evening when I was dragged kicking and screaming along to encouraged to attend a match between Hibs and Dunfermline (the Pars) by one of my best friends who is a lifelong Hibs fan: the game was SO awful (cannae mind how much Hibs lost by – I think it may have been 3-0 to the Pars) that fans were chucking their scarves on the pitch by the end. Aye, I’m glad I never got the footie bug.

Also in the photo above, you can see North Berwick Law – that wee pointy hill on the horizon. It’s in North Berwick (hence the name) in East Lothian and it’s a good walk too – another easy peasy hill with great views.

You also get great views across the Firth of Forth to Fife (try saying that fast after a few gins) – and you can just make out the Forth Bridges (including the soon to open Queensferry Crossing) in the distance:

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Then, if you go to the other side of the hill, looking south, you see Arthur’s Seat – another of Edinburgh’s “Seven Hills”:

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Arthur’s Seat is a great Edinburgh hill for a walk, but much more of an effort than Calton Hill (don’t underestimate it and go up in sandals, like many twunt tourists do). An easier option is just to walk along the Salisbury Crags (which is the lower ridge which goes up a gentle incline). Do that if you want similar views without the exertion.

Back to Calton Hill. On the hill itself there are a few things worth a look. There’s the National Monument of Scotland (to give it its proper name – it’s the one that look like the Parthenon) which is pretty impressive – you can see it from loads of parts of the city and I always think it looks really cool. Today, it was dead busy and I couldn’t get a clear photo – so apologies to the folk who appear in this one without their permission 🙂

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There’s also the Nelson Monument – another big hitter in the classic Edinburgh skyline:

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I mentioned the One O’Clock Gun in a previous blog post – this is the big cannon that goes off every week day from Edinburgh Castle at exactly 1pm (always fun to watch the tourists on Princes Street lose their shit if they are unaware 🙂 ). Now, at the top of the Nelson Monument there’s a wee ball thing that drops at exactly the same time as the One O’clock gun goes off. This was used by sailors coming in to Leith to check the time, apparently. And I think there was some underground cable or something that linked the ball to somewhere?! Look, I don’t claim to be an historian (although I could easily walk backwards in the wind sporting a jaunty scarf, a la Neil Oliver, I’m sure) and I dunno all the ins and outs here – I just know a ball drops (Matron) at 1pm – so best check out the facts from those in the know.

There are some other fabby views of the city from the south side of Calton Hill:

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That’s the kind of classic “shortbread tin” image, isn’t it? But it’s still pretty brilliant, I reckon. The monument in the foreground is dedicated to Dugald Stewart, who was a big cheese in the fields of Philosophy and Maths, and who was born and educated in Edinburgh.

I find myself on top of Calton Hill quite often. It always lifts my mood, as it reminds me that, despite the ups and downs of living in Edinburgh (in Tiny Flat on Shit Street), this place is only a few minutes away. Which is pretty special.

Oh – and it’s just a wee short walk from there to the Regent Bar, which is a top place. Great stovies and nice staff. And beer. In fact, what time is it now? Aha – that’s handy! It’s beer o’clock!

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