Last Thursday I was Edinburgh to meet up with some old friends for lunch.
I was up early, another wonderful warm and sunny day. Took Bertie and Bindi for a walk before it got hot, let the hens out to spend the day biffling in the garden, I watered the plants in the greenhouse and gave the tomatoes a stern talking to – not doing at all well – I think this very warm weather has just been too much for them, they are sulking. The cucumbers are showing off though, I’ve never seen them so prolific.
Took a morning train from Penrith. Quick and easy, just an hour and a half, perfect length of time to watch the countryside slip past and enjoy not being able to do anything, no peeling, no chopping, no weeding, no watering.
I came out of the western exit from Edinburgh’s Waverley Station. I always take this exit as the cityscape that greets one is extraordinary. The Castle towers high above, sheltering the fairytale turrets of Ramsay Garden, the forbidding façade of the National Assembly, the Victorian grandeur of the Bank of Scotland and the tall, tall tenements of the Royal Mile which stretches all the way from the Castle down to the Palace of Holyrood.
I can’t imagine leaving a station in many other cities where the architecture stuns you so. I get a bit emotional every single time. So did Sir Walter Scott when he wrote in his epic poem ‘Marmion’:
‘Whose ridgy back heaves to the sky,
Piled deep and massy, close and high,
Mine own romantic town.’
I’d come to meet three dear friends from student days here. Alec, clever medical academic and his charming and musical wife Teresa, living now in Connecticut with grown up children so I don’t see them very often. Aileen, designer and currently student glassblower, who fortunately I often see with her husband Rob. I don’t think they have changed at all over the years. Teresa and Aileen still with their lovely smiles and infectious laughs. Alec always seems slightly amused by we three women. I never know what he’s really thinking. But he is a psychiatrist. Rob couldn’t join us, he was golfing. He’s always golfing, he’s rather good at it.
Lunch at the Scottish Restaurant overlooking Princes Street Gardens and the splendid Balmoral Hotel, was great fun, goodness knows how many topics of conversation were covered. It was over too soon as I had to catch my train back to Penrith. A quick walk through the Gardens to Waverley and I was homeward bound.
Richard met me at the station. He had been busy cutting the grass and sorting out things to be burned on the bonfire when everything is not so tinder-dry.
I spent a very happy couple of hours in the late afternoon sunshine, picking courgettes, beans and the first of the tiny tomatoes, lifting red onions and selecting garlic from the recently harvested crop (a bumper harvest this year). I was getting ready to make Piccalilli, cauliflowers from the garden not yet ready so they will come from the greengrocer but most of the other ingredients are. How lovely to have the vegetables from the garden into the jars within a day. I brine the vegetables overnight, that keeps them fresh and crunchy, thus requiring only the briefest cooking time the next day when married with the vinegar and spices.
In one day, a capital city of World Heritage status, the company of dear friends and the simple pleasures of home and garden in the English Lake District, as it happens, also of World Heritage status.
A day of contrasts indeed.