28,000 feet

A beautiful day to travel and such a short flight to a favourite city.  I love Edinburgh.  I lived there a long time ago and grew to feel part of its vibrant culture.  In the mid seventies I worked for Theatre Workshop, a well-established community theatre company and used to unicycle to work down the hill from the Meadows down the hill into Stockbridge.  At the end of the day I caught the bus back up the hill carrying the unicycle. It turned a few heads in those days when unicycles were only seen in circuses.

I was following in well-established footsteps.  A few years previously Reg Bolton of Suitcase Circus had worked at Theatre Workshop before emigrating to Australia.  He was the first community worker in the UK in the seventies to discover the great benefit of using circus workshop as a tool of personal and social education.  He wrote a famous book about it called Circus in a Suitcase, still in print. He discovered that learning circus is a particularly useful tool for encouraging young disadvantaged and later, a little strangely, called disaffected young people.  Aren’t all young people disaffected?  I know I was. Reg worked in Pilton and West Lothian.  And his reputation was still fresh when I joined the Theatre Workshop team.  My job was based in East Lothian, a very different social milieu to the estates west of Edinburgh where Reg had worked.  Haddington became my local town and East Saltoun the nearest village.  Quiet, rural, sleepy but with pockets of particular deprivation. It was a happy two years animating events, running workshops and living and gardening in beautiful detached farmhouse a mile from the village.

It was there where, walking along the road taking our two small girls to Saltoun Primary School, I found a cassette tape, sitting on top of a neighbour’s rubbish bin, out for the morning collection.  It was peculiar thing to discover.  Not in but on the bin.  It proclaimed it was music from The Sting.  A film I knew of but hadn’t seen.  It seemed like a bit of a gift so I happily accepted it.  The music has become the heartbeat of my classic show and is a little like the soundtrack to the film of my life, featuring, beautifully adapted by Marvin Hamlisch, the popular ragtime tunes of Scott Joplin. 

Over the next few years I grew to love Scotland, moving from East Lothian to Ayrshire where I trained to teach primary and then to Mallaig, teaching at the primary school, looking across the little harbour over the sea to Skye from my classroom window.

So it was a real pleasure to return and wander the streets of the capital, wonder at the mushrooming of its coffee shops and enjoying a few hours listening to the accent and remembering some of the wonderful moments of my younger days in that city.

I was able to take in the MC Escher exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art which was superb.  Escher’s extraordinary tessellated patterns and surrealistic woodcuts are even better off the printed page. 

The wedding was romantic and special, a humanist ceremony which included the Scottish tradition of tying two embroidered bands around the entwined arms of the couple (from hence the phrase ‘tying the knot’).  Even a vastly-delayed return flight back down to Birmingham and thence back to the Hollowell Steam Rally didn’t dampen my spirits.  A lovely day all round.

All the best from a road near you,

Mr Alexander

Mr Alexander