Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Edinburgh 28.6.09 (2): Roman Forts and Secret Gardens

After the church, Ian took us to a pub alone the Firth of Forth, overlooking Fife on the opposite shore. It was a wet, misty day and we could see only the outline of Fife, green and rolling, on the other side.

The pub, Starbank, is an old family-run place where we had each a different local beer on tap, a bowl delicious cauliflower soup with cream and flecks of chopped parsley, and an egg and onion sandwich. We shared a bag of crisps in one of those incomprehensible British flavors, roast beef and sharp mustard.

Conversations punctuated by cheers, as the patrons watched Wimbledon on t.v. and cheered when the Scot scored a point. As we sat, the owner brought around a plate of meat pies fresh from the oven and gave us one as a treat. I enjoyed watching the gray river through many-paned windows, some of them with those raised circles surrounding a spy-hole that one sees in windows overlooking water.

Then a driving tour through the little medieval fishing village of Cramond on the river Amond, and to what remains of the Roman fort near Cramond. There Ian took us to a church hall to see a piece of sculpture by the same artist who just made a memorial for the South Leith graveyard, for all those buried there in unmarked graves.

Margaret had shown this to us. It’s on a wall in what the church calls its secret garden, a little space walled off from the graveyard proper, with flowering shrubs, tombstones, and the memorial on a wall.

The memorial is two pieces of sculpture, a gray plaque of granite with sparkling bits, depicting water and fishes, an inscription commemorating the dead buried in unmarked graves. Beneath is a beautiful red sandstone piece showing us a tree with roots exposed. As we looked at the sculpture at Cramond (a fish shaped from a light granite with a beautiful rose streak running through it), Ian told us the fish and water motif in the South Leith memorial echoes an ancient Assyrian carving.

Margaret told us the need for this memorial became apparent as work began recently to run a tramline beside the graveyard. The work began to uncover bones, and the congregation were reminded that a part of the old graveyard once extended beyond its present boundaries in the direction of the tramline.

Then back to Ian and Donna’s house for a rest, followed by a dinner in anticipation of the Sunday event. Guests included Avril, the session clerk and a Leither; Fiona, a nurse and aromatherapist who grew up in Essex but has Fifeshire roots on her mother’s side; Dawn, a Yorkshire woman who’s a librarian; and Louise, the assistant pastor, with her husband Derrick, a religion teacher from Ayrshire.

A wonderful meal prepared by Donna and their daughter Gillian. Appetizers of haggis, bruschetta, sun-dried tomatoes or peppers in puff pastry, a wonderful smoked salmon on tiny pancakes with sour cream. A co-worker of Donna’s had caught and cured the salmon with sugar and smoke. These appetizers with champagne.

Then boeuf bourgignon, mixed vegetables (sugar snap peas and baby corn), and salad. Desserts a marvelous key lime pie in our honor (an American dish), and a pavlova with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and the obligatory (and always mysterious) kiwi.

At dinner Donna asked us to share something of our story (others had done so), and I made a spectacle of myself by mentioning Simpson’s death (the 26th would have been his 58th birthday), and then bursting into tears. Avril and Louise looked very sympathetic, which made me feel slightly less horrible about making a proper fool of myself and discomfiting an entire table full of strange folks.

We seldom have any idea of the deep rivers of feeling that run beneath the surface—the brittle surface—of what we call our selves.

No comments: