If you are a tourist in Edinburgh, the first thing to do when walking into the Elephant House is to go to the back and peer out the window. Perhaps it is the distant view of the castle between the buildings. Perhaps it is the depth of the street below, so out of synch with the street at the front - high and low. Whatever the reason, that is the rule. Or so I observed yesterday afternoon as I sat with my Ossian essays, fancy ink pen, and notebooks so full of quotations that they have ceased to be useful. I finished my latte and glass of water rather quickly in comparison with the three hours that I occupied the small table, and as it passed six o'clock, I couldn't help feeling remarkably in the way. Plenty of tourists were hoping for seats and unable to find them, and there I was without a bit of food or drink on the table. I took heart - the poet in the corner was still seated there with his laptops and Truman Capote, and he had been sitting there long before I arrived. Thoughts like this were frustrating distractions from David Hall Radcliffe's more pertinent ideas on Macpherson's influence in the eighteenth-century development of British pastoral poetry and the concept of culture. 'There was little precedent for cultural relativism in ancient or early modern literature, which tended to regard the domain of manners and custom as largely fortuitous and not amenable to rational understanding.' Yes, but what about the bloke at the table across from me who looks like a cross between Christian Bale and Phil Johnston, only petite and with a high-pitched voice? And what of the woman at that other table who does not look like Amy Dibello, but somehow reminds me that I ought to write to her? And what about the server flitting between the tables, who has said nothing but who is clearly not having the best of days?

I have done little but study for the last week and a half since returning from Prague, and even before that there was little but books in my world. And yet, one can see how easy it is to surround one's person with the relevant material for hours on end, and still find that all there is to show for the time is a new blog entry, a revised sketch of the tattoo I've been putting off for years, and a fresh cup of tea.

1 comment:

  1. I want to go to the Elephant House with you!!!


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