Monday, May 12, 2008

Edinburgh, 30.7.01: Headless Celts and Lemon Meringue Roulade

Dinner last night wonderful. We went to the Maitlandfield Brasserie just down the road from our b and b in Haddington. It’s a glass-roofed room outside a hotel of the same name.

There was a 3-course special for ₤ 9.50: leg of lamb with new potatoes and vegetables, preceded by vegetable soup and followed by a wonderful lemon meringue roulade. The latter was very light, almost like a mousse in texture, topped by whipped cream and served with a fruit sauce made of small cherries and some other fruit (red currants?) in a raspberry syrup. This was on one side. On the other, a rich lemon sauce. A ground cherry with its husk and a slice of orange were garnishes.

Another very clear and pretty day to see Edinburgh. I’m in an elegant drawing room of the b and b, which looks through ceiling-to-floor windows into a garden of green lawn surrounded by flowers and shrubs. The shrubs are waving in the breeze.

Lindsay monument, South Leith church: “In affectionate remembrance of Captain James Lindsay, ship owner, a native of Leith, who died 26th March 1839, and of Helen Allen, his wife, a native of Alloa, who died 10th April 1849, aged 63, both interred in this churchyard. Erected by their son William Lindsay, Esq., F.R.S.C., Hermitage Hill, Leith, 1875. Also the said William Lindsay, Ex Provost of Leith, who died 20th February 1884, aged 64. So He bringeth them unto the Haven, where they would be. Psalm CVII, 30.”

Before coming here, we went to St. Mary’s church in Haddington and saw the Lauderdale aisle. Very moving. It’s a small chapel, locked off from the church itself by an iron gate and glass doors, with elaborate monuments to the Lauderdales. One shows the family line back into the 13th century, as well as I recall, indicating which of those in the line of descent is buried in the church.

On the wall adjoining the church, a bright statue of the Virgin Mary and Christ Child, with the three kings—hence the name of the chapel: Three Kings. Before this, several rows of electric candles.

I lit one of those and prayed, very moved to be in the chapel. I felt somehow a great sense of peace and belonging, as if at home.

On to the South Leith church. The odd thing is that I directed us there without having any idea where it was.

Kate, our b and b owner, told us how to get to Leith, but didn’t know where the church was. She directed us to the Haddington library, but their local history expert turned out to be out till 2, so we took a chance that we could find the church on our own and drove in right to it.

It’s back from Constitution St. in Leith, with an old graveyard outside. When we walked in, loud soft rock music being played by the beadle, a nice man who called John A., a local historian, for us.

A. talked and talked and talked, and tried to bully us into spending more time there (almost 2 P.M. when we left!), telling us it takes 5 hours to see the old church thoroughly. He did tell me what he knew of David Lindsay, and shared bits of historical arcana.

The most interesting was that the Celts removed the heads of enemies, trepanned them, and buried them around springs…which became holy wells. The origin of holy wells in the British Isles….

We met one of the pastors, a nice woman who invited us to have coffee, and an assortment of church workers. The pastor invited us to the 1 P.M. prayer service, led by a (female) elder. It was very wordy—we read together all of Hosea 2, accompanied by readings from an Israeli poet.

Interesting to see a parish dating to 1443, now in a decayed industrial area of the city, still vital. The pastor talked of the church’s need to move from the condemnatory attitude of Knox to an accepting, inclusive, welcoming posture. And Mr. A. talked of the Victorian church’s presumption in assuming the church can be exclusively middle class.

Somehow, I felt less “connection” here than in the Lauderdale aisle. Perhaps I used up all my connective energies in the St. Mary church? Or was I simply overwhelmed by Mr. A.?

A few desultory hours afterward in Edinburgh on the Royal Mile. The tawdry tourist shops were repulsive, and the crowds of polyglot tourists tiresome. We did find a nice little shop in a lawyer’s close, where we bought a glass hedgehog for M. Russell. Also had leek and potato soup and shared prawn mayonnaise sandwich at a pub off the Mile.

Then home to Haddington, shopping at an Alda supermarket on the way, where we got several scotches to bring home, and some goodies for dinner: a burgundy, a bit of ham and chicken pie, a wonderful Highland cheddar, some oatcakes, raw vegetables and a dressing, and chocolate. All of which we’ve eaten, and now watching t.v. as it rains softly outside.

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