- Written by Peter Burnett Peter Burnett
The physical properties of the city of Edinburgh alone are enough to inspire awe in even the most determinedly impressionable, unobservant, English ape. But are best seen, rather than described. The populace, however, is ripe for ridicule. The population can be split in two roughly equal parts : Ancient and Modern. The former consists of 250,000 surreptitious wall-eyed hybrid Irish pub-dwellers, admirably possessed of a profound, seemingly infinite capacity for quiet reserve and decorous, delicate incuriosity, until drink-fuelled, they burst into extremes of hospitality and disinterested generosity. I can't help but envy their complacent, effortless confidence in drinking every day.
This instinct can of course, be disconcerting and sad to deracinated incomers like me, but, ignoring the undercurrent of absurd chauvinism that all alcohol is bound to promote, it does encourage in me feelings of respect and something almost approaching shame. Shame that my own drinking is too diffuse to admit of explanation. And almost, because this is when they become violent. As for the second group, it consists of approximately 250,000 dangerously volatile Middle Class men and women, whose clenched teeth and high pitched Australian and Yorkshire accents produce a background of nervous depression and an undercurrent of hysteria prone to explode in the shopping malls and garden centres. The female element in this incendiary device soothes itself on Catalogue-opiates and tummy-tucks until, up to its eyes in debt and unwanted crêpe de chine it heads for the streets where it calms itself among its natural heritage, in John Lewis. The men merely appear to drive at me in their supercharged Audis...