An affair which started with the Edinburgh Festival
Author Philip Caveney has written a special guest blog for us about why he fell in love with the Edinburgh Festival, the city itself and why it has given him so much inspiration.
It began with a trip to the Edinburgh Festival
It’s time to make a confession. For some years now, I have been conducting a passionate affair. Not with a person other than my wife, you understand, but with a city and that city is Edinburgh.
It all began back in 2010. My then girlfriend, Susan, asked me if I’d ever been up to the Edinburgh Festival. I told her no, I had never visited it and frankly the idea of watching battalions of soldiers marching around a castle and endlessly bashing drums was not my idea of fun. At this time my usual holiday routine involved risking sunstroke, while sitting beside a swimming pool in Spain, reading a trashy paperback and wishing there was something to actually do. Susan shook her head.
“You don’t know what you’ve been missing,” she said. “You are going to love Edinburgh.”
She was right, of course – she’s nothing if not a good judge of character. From the moment we stepped off the train at Waverley station and pushed our way through the bustling throngs of people streaming along Princess Street, I realised this place was for me. I loved the excitement, the creativity, the sheer exuberance of the city. Within moments of arrival, I had spotted a double-decker bus with an advert on the side of it. Nothing odd about that, you might think, but this wasn’t any old advertisement. It told me that a musical based around the works of Ray Bradbury (my all time favourite writer) was to be performed at this year’s Fringe. Excitement didn’t come into it. I wanted tickets and I wanted them now!
There followed a week of total immersion in the very best theatre, literature, stand-up comedy and of course, that musical based on the works of Ray Bradbury. I was, to put it simply, in hog heaven. But, I soon learned, that Edinburgh isn’t just about the festival. It has so much to offer all year round. There really isn’t another city quite like it. It has a castle. It has a beach. It has a Writer’s Museum. It has a flipping extinct volcano. (Come on, it doesn’t get much better than that!) And it has arguably the friendliest people on the face of the planet. I mean, what’s not to like?
Soon the festival had become our yearly pilgrimage – and we brought my daughter, Grace, too. Then, we decided we’d come up for Hogmanay and see how that was. We joined 80,000 drunken revellers on the streets, dancing to live music and watching the most incredible firework display ever and… well that was amazing too.
Visits became ever more frequent. Any time we could snatch here was worth the investment. We learned to book an apartment with Dickins, because varied though the accommodation was, we were never disappointed by what we got. We visited Mary King’s Close on the Royal Mile and I was so blown away by the spooky atmosphere, I decided to set a book there. The result was Crow Boy, the first of the Tom Afflick trilogy.
The following year, in the National Museum of Scotland, Susan pointed out the tiny coffins that were found up on Arthur’s Seat in 1836 and I knew I had to base the sequel around them. The book was called Seventeen Coffins. (Ah, how well I remember when I came up with an idea for promoting its release.
“We’ll get somebody to hide three copies of it up on the summit,” I suggested. “We’ll leave a note with each book to tell the finders to contact us!”
“Great,” said my editor, Clare. “So… when can you take them up there?”
At dawn the following day, Susan and I rose, headed down to Holyrood and started to climb, but you know what? Though it was arduous, that view over the city at first light was absolutely spellbinding. (By the way, as I write this only two of the books have been found. The third is still up there somewhere and if you discover it… it’s all yours!)
Any day now, the final book in the series, One For Sorrow, will be released. In this one, Tom meets Robert Louis Stevenson and… ahem… helps him to publish Treasure Island! As you do.
With an Edinburgh publisher, we were spending more and more time in our adopted city and it soon became evident that we needed to have a place of our own here. After much searching, we found exactly what we were looking for, right up in the beating heart of the city, a minute’s walk from the Lyceum Theatre.
When Susan and I decided it was high time we got hitched, there was only one place it could possibly happen. We were married in Lothian Chambers, in the middle of the 2014 festival and picked two complete strangers from the crowd on the Royal Mile to act as our witnesses. (Luckily they weren’t dressed as Darth Vader and The Incredible Hulk, but it was a near run thing!)
And so time moves on. Despite being a married man now, my love affair continues and Susan doesn’t bat so much as an eyelash. And why would she? Between you and me, I reckon she’s every bit as smitten as I am.
You simply must come to Edinburgh
So, dear reader, do come to Edinburgh and do enjoy all the wonderful things it has to offer; the superb bars and restaurants, the incredible history, the warm and cheerful disposition of the Scottish people themselves.
On a good day, take that climb up Arthur’s Seat and ask yourself how can this glorious, green wilderness possibly be slap bang in the middle of a city? Stroll along the Waters of Leith up out to the sea, or grab a stool at The Stand, the UK’s finest comedy club and laugh yourselves silly… head out onto the wide green acres of the Meadows for a game of tennis, or descend that dark and murky staircase into the spooky depths of Mary King’s Close, to find yourself transported back to the 17th Century but whatever you choose to do, please be warned. This city has a habit of casting a spell over the unwary traveller and you’ll soon discover that one visit is simply never quite enough.
Want to fall in love with Edinburgh as well?
Dickins has many lovely apartments all over the city and you’ll fall in love with them and Edinburgh, just like Philip.
Charming, ground floor, pied-a-terre with double bedroom. Located within easy walking distance of the Lyceum/Traverse theatres and the Usher hall to name but a few. A stroll in the other direction will bring guests to the historic Grassmarket and just up the hill from there, are all the pleasures of the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle.