While living and working in Edinburgh in 2008 I set out to write one million words in 366 days... but only managed 800,737.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

All Tore Up Tonight

Sort-of expat NZer Kapka Kassabova in the Sunday Times (via Bookman Beattie):

Rivulets of urine crisscross the pavements as you slalom between puddles of fresh vomit, discarded takeaway cartons smeared with ketchup, and the occasional survivor swooning in an alcoholic daze in some corner, watering the nearest pot plant... On a Saturday morning, it’s normal to walk past the Calabrian restaurant and find its spotless window smashed. And the boutique next door, and the cafe next door to that. On a Sunday morning, it’s normal to find all the cars parked in my street with their side mirrors smashed. It’s normal to find the glass entrance to my building smashed, to have it fixed, and then smashed again. And so it goes in our pleasant neighbourhood.

That neighbourhood? Pricey Broughton in central Edinburgh's East End.

When I lived on Queensferry Street in the West End, my experience was almost identical. It's no fun to find the entrance to your building covered in chip-shop & alcopop vomit on a Saturday morning. And to find it still there when you get back in the afternoon. Or, in the still of night (you really notice it once the buses stop) to be woken by the same swear word over and over, louder and louder, until you think the guy's head must explode, but then he remembers another swear word and starts again.

In her piece, Kapka Kassabova goes on to claim she feels safer in Bulgaria than in Britain. I haven't been to Bulgaria, so I can't really comment, but I don't think it's really an issue of safety. I've never felt unsafe in Edinburgh. Just as you need to be doing something pretty wrong to end up being gunned down by a mutri, you normally have to make a succession of mistakes to end up on the wrong end of a drunken Brit's weekend lash-out.

The results of alcohol are annoying, and unsavoury, but I'd stop short of scary.

When I moved further out of the city (admittedly, Polwarth is still not that far) it bought home how localised the loutish behaviour is, and how precious a little piece and quiet. The unsightly remains of a night on the turps have, however, been replaced by footpaths covered in dog poo [photo omitted]. Nowhere's perfect, eh?

Reading Kapka's moan (however well argued, it's hard to deny that's what it is), what I now want to know is why she choses a) to live in the UK and b) in Edinburgh? This isn't the sort of snide rhetorical question many of the commenters to her piece employed (Why don't you go back to Bulgaria, then? etc), but genuine interest. I wouldn't be surprised if part of the reason why Edinburgh appeals to a multi-lingual, multi-national, multi-talented person is closely related to why Scots are so tolerant of drunken misbehaviour. After all, the unfettered celebrations of Hogmanay would be impossible somewhere less permissive, and that's exactly why it works, if only for one night of the year.

Sometimes the things we hate are holding the things we love together.

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