After the swim.
This gorgeous stretch of sand came halfway through Chris Hill’s small-wheel bike tour of Edinburgh, a privilege beyond my wildest hopes. When you’re world-weary, there’s nothing like hopping on a bicycle–any bike will do, if the brakes are adjusted and the chain oiled–and rolling along, letting the scenery, architecture and sky unfurl before you. I had a day and a half to see the town.
Chris fanned a half dozen “Exploring Edinburgh….car free!” brochures out on the coffee table for me to peruse. Between them and a 1930′s era atlas (with all the countries changed!) I was able to imagine a rich blend of past and present. At the outset we took Holyrood Road, then “Dumbiedykes” (sounds condescendingly homophobic, huh?) …thence to the Engine Shed cafe, where aromatic blasts of comfort food (veggie style) perfumed the street. (Note to reader: maybe I misremember the street order…I remember loving the name “Grange Loan”…
I had no appetite, the astonishing ride left me breathless, besotted. I was falling in love with Edinburgh. We continued by winding through a housing project and diving into a hole–the Innocent Tunnel!— then on a perfectly isolated greenpath for a mile or so, then back into reality, dodging the traffic and using little-known byways lined with blackberry, nettle, and plastic bags. Soon the sea was in front of us, thin white line below a wide blue band of flat water–colors of the saltire. With the lovely un-Scottish name of Portobello. A pair of swans glided regally along shore, gracing this vacant, faded seaside resort. Still the beach beckoned.
“Hey, Chris, is it legal to swim here?”
“What do you mean?”
I guess my question sounded strange, but I explained that in exclusive Marin Co. California, one isn’t permitted to swim in gentle water like lakes and estuaries. Only in the deadly Pacific ocean are you allowed to take yr chances with the sharks….
So, since there were no people and no constables, I ripped my clothes off (Harris tweed jacket w/lace cuffs, corduroy pants, cashmere socks) and pranced into the chilly blue Firth of Forth. Sandy shallow bottom, what a concept! Smooth white sand underfoot almost made the 49-degree water feel tolerable. Lunged in with a silent shriek and breasted toward Kirkcaldy.
It’s my policy to leap into any body of water that will permit me to leave it alive after an enjoyable swim. I was a manatee in my other life: a blubbery, benign sea critter (occasionally chewed up by ships’ propellers) that solaces lonesome sailors. Ten minutes later, I hauled out, a happily chattering goosebumpkin shoving wet salty limbs into dry, sandy clothing.
After this, it was around the sea-wall, into Leith and up the big hill back to Edinburgh central. Said hello to a local shop rat-who’d taken the reins at a bike shop nearby, and then to the portrait gallery in time for closing-hour tea.
Next year, we do the castle.
And the Engine Shed.
And some obscure garden.
Thank you CHdot.