Well today marks the last day in the most impressive and beautiful city in the United Kingdom. There is certainly a bittersweet feeling in my heart as I got up at my usual hour to begin work at 5am or so. I take especial care to breath in the perfection of each moment, in this beautiful house, filling my mind with gratitude for being blessed with such a wonderful kind family over here in Scotland which I never knew I had until this trip. It is equally hard to say goodbye to such an inspirational city as it is to say good-bye to these people who’ve welcomed me with open arms and embraced me with open hearts.
My morning goes by productive and well, the upcoming proposal to a German game development studio the next day keeps my mind occupied for most of the morning, as it has for the majority of the week. Around noon, after the entire house has woken up and I’ve showered I tell Maw and Paw that I am off to buy supplies for the sushi dinner I intend on surprising them with that night, but alas I don’t know where to buy the supplies so I had to ruin the surprise in order to find out. Conveniently enough no more than 100 yards down the street is a row of Asian stores so my hunt should be quick and painless, which is how most perilous adventures start out isn’t it?
I put on my jacket and head out around 13:00 for what I suspect will be a short and uneventful trip, and boy and I thankful it wasn’t. I walk the 100 meters or so down the road and fail to see any Asian signs hanging in any windows or on any awnings. You see back home when someone says ‘Asian shop’ it means a shop that it is decked out with Asian goods and caters to an Asian demographic.. This means that there are more Chinese/Japanese signs than there are English ones, lots of bright colors, etc etc. In Scotland the Asian shops are catering to a Scottish demographic, so these shops looks pretty much like any other shops out there and until you walk into them you aren’t going to have a clue that they are any different than any other store on the street. ugh! So I walk down the road and notice nothing. Ah, Maw must have meant a little further than a 100 yards, probably meant just in town a little bit, which is where I head off to. I cross the meadows(which is this beautiful beautiful park, ironic I find as the Meadows was one of the most dangerous places in the last city I was in: Nottingham) and get to one of the main roads that marks the boundary of the old Edinburgh city. Before crossing the street to head into town however I look to my left and see the gorgeous gothic spires of the Old Barclay church in the distance.
‘Ah hell’ I think ‘this is my last day here and that is the coolest church I’ve seen, as if I’m not going to go check it out before I leave’. So I hang a left on the main road instead of going straight into the city and trek the kilometer or so to this oh so dark church. On the way there was a pretty cool little chip and putt golf course. This is Scotland of course so I was told it isn’t out of the ordinary for there to be a random golf course right in the middle of a neighborhood that is free for anyone to just walk onto and have some fun. This isn’t an official fenced off golf course like back home with a club house, pro shop and all that, this is exactly like a park is except with sand traps and putting greens. One minute you’re walking in a playground the next you’re on a golf course. So cool, and it was uber old too with insane history making it even more cool
After 10 – 20 minutes of walking I make it to this impressive church and spend a couple minutes outside just admiring the architectures and the dark gothic nature of it.. But just admiring the church from afar wouldn’t do me any good and I asked myself why the heck wasn’t I going inside to explore it? I had no good answer so I got up and followed some signs around the side of the building to the street level entrance and tried to get in. Alas the side doors were all locked, which led me further around the side to the church company entrance which was this nice big glass door, unfortunately locked as well. Undeterred I still had one last option as that was the huge main doors up the big steps out front and so I marched back ground and gave the massive door handles a tug. They wouldn’t budge I turned them, pushed them and pulled them but these ancient doors were having none of it. I resigned to my fate that I was meant to simply admire this building from the outside and went to resume my post leaning against a pole and drinking in the majesty of the church for a while longer. As I was walking down the steps I noticed a man coming up the street, a very well kept man in his 60’s who really didn’t stand out from the rest of the Edinburgh but for some reason I noticed him immediately, and noticed that he noticed me. Although I imagine that had something to do with me yanking on the doors to this 200 year old church.
As I crossed the street to get a good vantage point, my internal hoodie and my jacket hoodie bundled tight around me to keep the persistent Scottish rain off of my head, I noticed that this man crossed the road to go to the church and then turned to come towards me. He wasn’t really making eye contact with me, just walking in my general direction so I didn’t think too much of it until he stopped in front of me and asked if I liked the church. I replied that it is fairly difficult not to be in awe of something so majestic and impressive. He then informed me that he was the manager of the church and offered to give me a personal tour of the inside. Laughing at my wonderful good fortune I told him that I would be over-joyed to see the inside of this marvelous church and so he led me around the side and unlocked one of the old wooden doors leading inside.
The church on the inside was just as impressive as it was on the outside, if not more. My new friend, Dennis, told me that the church was built on uneven ground so there is absolutely no symmetry to the architecture at all as the entire structure had to be constructed around the uneven topography of the land. Every corner and every side was completely unique. The interior structure was mainly composed of the inside of the large spire that drew me to this building in the first place. A spire, Dennis told me, that was the tallest spire in all of Edinburgh from ground to tip. It was a wondrously voluminous structure with large stained glass windows at the front and a gorgeous mural covering most of the tall ceilings. After a brief tour throughout the smaller areas of the church, the congregation hall and coffee/tea rooms we arrived back at the main room where I marveled at the largest organ I think I had ever been in the presence of in my life. Easily 2 stories tall it stretched a good 30 feet up where I was standing into the rafters of the church spire. The church, Dennis explained, was originally Presbyterian and it is their way to abstain from any unnecessary pomp or aesthetics and so when the church was first built in the early / mid 1800’s it had no organ but by the end of the century they had decided to put one in. To do so however required a massive structural modification to the building so that this monstrous church could fit this monster of an organ in its belly. Dennis showed me where they had removed the original stone more than a century ago to make a titanic alcove to house the instrument. It was at this moment that Dennis said a few words that I had been fantasizing he would say the moment I walked into the church, words that nearly made me cry and laugh with glee at my incredible gratitude for the situation that was about to unfold. He looked at me and said ‘I’ve been working on a piece for this Sunday’s congregation, would you like to hear me play it?’ Here I was in this unbelievable church in the most impressive city in all of Western Europe, all by myself with this incredible man and I was just offered a private audience to the most impressive musical instrument I had ever seen in my life. My ability to contain my glee burst like the housing bubble and it was all I could do to smile like a child and just nod yes. I asked Dennis if it is alright for me to go to the upper levels of the sitting area, as the Barclay church is the only church in Edinburgh with more than one level of seating. The top level was reserved for an boys school from way back in the day, however it was all open today and I was not about to pass up the opportunity to hear this beast bellow at eye level.
What made this piece even more emotional to listen to is that Dennis had informed me just prior that his wife of 45 years had passed away less than 2 weeks ago. He was dealing with it by keeping himself busy and I could hear it in his music as he laid his fingers on keyboard and brought life to the god-like instrument. A instrument I realized that the people of old must have thought was there to attract the attention of God himself, and so the bigger the organ the most attention they would get.
As I sat down I cursed my luck for having forgotten the memory chip for the camera in my laptop at home as I would have killed to be able to record this experience. At that moment I realized however that my mp3 player had a microphone on it and the ability to record some fairly impressive audio for a device of its size, so without further ado I give you Denis on the Barclay church organ:
Dennis on the Barclay Church Organ: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download (6)
As you can hear it was a powerful performance to say the least. Every time his fingers hit on those deep notes the massive pipes would just boom, sounding like a giant was blowing through the massive tubes with all of his might. Truly remarkable. After the performance we said our good-bye’s and I went off to resume my hunt for sushi supplies, realizing of course that the entire purpose of my day today had already been fulfilled and that anything else that happened would be trivial next to what I had just experienced. A good thing too as I would spend the next 4 hours searching in vain for these Asian stores for my sushi supplies. Supplies I might add that I doubt Edinburgh has at all as they only have 1 or 2 sushi restaurants in a city of 400,000(compared to the 20 or 30 of them in my home town of less than 150,000). I guess Japanese cuisine just hadn’t caught on here yet, a bleeding shame considering how damn good the stuff is So i walked and explored Edinburgh all on my own, wandering the streets like a vagabond in search of an unknown treasure which would never come. I explored centuries old private boys schools that were literally out of a Harry Potter movie. I saw literally because I also passed by the coffee shop where Harry Potter was written and after spending the short amount of time I did in this city it was very easy to see why it was written here. In fact it was very easy to see why so many artists, writers and poets flock to this city as it is completely impossible not to be inspired every where you look.
By the time the sun had set and 17:00 rolled around I realized that I wasn’t going to find my sushi supplies and that I had better find something lest I arrive back home empty handed to a family that was expecting me to make them dinner. So I asked a parking officer for directions to the nearest grocery store and began the trek to the local tesco, which was a mess I might add. I arrived there, it would seem, at exactly the same as the rest of Scotland and the lineups for the tills took up 75% of the floorspace. It was obvious that it would take me another hour to just buy my groceries so I made a b-line for the door and tried another grocery store just down the road. A good thing too as it had no lines and was 1/2 the price of tesco. I wandered the isles for a little bit before deciding on Fajitas for dinner and began rounding up supplies. This being Scotland and my dinner being Mexican meant that I wasn’t about to find all of my supplies in one spot so I got what I could and headed back home to a different grocery store along the way where I picked up the guacamole, sour cream and a bit of chicken for this poor family of meat eaters who had embraced a vegan diet in my honor for the week.
Feeling massively relieved that I wouldn’t have to face a hungry family empty handed I proudly marched home to began the preparation of the feast after my 4 hour adventure through this amazing city. I arrived home to a understandably worried mother who had expected my little outing to take no more than 10 minutes. I briefed them on my little adventure and showed them the few pictures I was able to take with the limited on board memory on the phone as proof We settled in for some tea and a lovely little visit before Paul got home and then the cooking began.
I was a little nervous at first as I this was a fairly impressive family and here I was going to force them to sit down and eat these very messy Fajitas with their hands, sauce running everywhere on this gorgeous ancient 16 person dining room table in this beautiful dining room fit for royalty. Although my nervousness turned into amusement as the reality of the situation set in and of course knowing them as I did I knew they wouldn’t care. So with the help of Mrs. Canavan I prepared a wonderful thank you / farewell dinner and we ate. As with all dinners with the Canavans it was full of laughter, love and happiness. The only thing that was wrong with it, as with my entire stay in Scotland, is that it was over too quickly and soon enough we were clearing the plates and doing the dishes. Paul and I headed upstairs shortly there after to spend the rest of the evening playing Trine, in all it’s majesty before we decided to get some sleep as my bus left at 4:30 or so to take me off to Germany.
And just as suddenly as I arrived my time to depart at come. My bags were packed, everything was set and I hit the hay for a few hours of sleep before this wonderful family would wake me up and take me off for our teary goodbye