Tuesday, December 16, 2003

I just checked the sunrise/sunset times for Edinburgh, and tomorrow they get a whopping 6 hours and 58 minutes of daylight (8.42am-3.40pm), by midwinter it will be 5 minutes less than that. It's cloudy too, so it won't really feel like daylight until at least 9.30, and by 2.30 the sun will be so low in the sky it will already feel well into twilight. I remember days where it felt as though the sun had never risen, going to school in the dark, coming home in the dark.

My mental image of November in Edinburgh is walking down the Cowgate (a street in the Old Town) in the dark at 4 in the afternoon, hunched against the rain blowing around me and trying not to slip on the wet flagstones, or step on one that will tilt and cause a puddle underneath it to jet cold water up my ankles. Christmas shopping is always in the dark, the light provided by the advent calendar style panels lining Princes Street, the huge city Christmas tree, the shopfronts full of cashmere sweaters and sparkling things of various descriptions.

I don't know why, but I still miss my home town at this time of year, even though when asked what I remember most is being cold and wet, longing for a sunny day without the necessity for a thermal undershirt under my school uniform. In the winter, warmth came from the atmosphere of the city: the pre-Christmas bustle, the preparations for the huge street party on New Year's Eve, the ubiquitous bagpipers on the street corner, only with the addition of a Santa hat and a few variations of carols in their repertoire to keep them up to date with the season. The cold air felt good on my face with the rest of me bundled up, I walked fast to keep warm, winter forced a spring into my step.

Now I come to think of it, it's the walking I miss, winter or summer. It's easier to feel energetic when every day contains at least 20-30 minutes of brisk walking to get where you're going, especially when that walk isn't following 30-45 minutes sitting in traffic in your car. Sometimes I think fondly of lazing around the garden on a warm summer's day, but most often when I think of Edinburgh it's walking: up hill and down alley, from Old Town to New, beside vendors stalls and street performers in festival time, weaving in and out of laden shoppers in December. This time last year that's exactly what I was doing. Walking around Edinburgh, frequently arbitrarily. I even planned my schedule so that I would zig-zag across the centre of town horrendously inefficiently, just so I could walk across Waverly Bridge and North Bridge, go up Cockburn Street then down The Mound, circling around by a long route for the hell of it because all I had to do was wander about town all day and buy souvenirs for my friends.

I probably won't be there again until close to this time next year, I think that will be a record length of absence for me, though the prospect of it doesn't scare me the way it did a couple of years ago. I miss the city and the people there, I get to see my parents here, but I don't get to see my friends or the cats. The difference is that now I'm much more established here, San Diego feels a lot more like home, my home feels a lot more like home because I have Matt sharing it with me, and cats of our own to hog the bed and sprinkle cat litter on the bathroom rug. I have a job I enjoy, a couple of hole in the wall places where I love to go eat, I have favorite places to go...I'm starting to feel I have a place in the general scheme of things.

It's still a pity I can't walk between most place, it takes more work to be active here.

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