Sunday, April 02, 2006


Pardon my puns, I know that they are often terrible. The heading of this post refers to my evening out in Leith yesterday, where friends and myself had a few drinks and, yes, ended up quite inebriated but not to the point of stupefication. It was a fun evening, though it was something of a farewell for someone who is leaving Edinburgh tomorrow for a rather different part of the world.

Once a separate city, the Port of Leith lies down a long sloping street (Leith Walk) from the City of Edinburgh proper. It is a sort of Brooklyn/Manhattan split, right down to Leith's long, empty deserted cobbled streets which reminded me vividly of big, bad Brooklyn: that intoxicating mix of mystery, menace and possibility. Last night on Salamander Street I could not help but think of late nights in Brooklyn: deserted warehouses, long stretches of city blocks shut up and empty, and in the distance, just occasionally, a car flashes past, "the mystery of a speeding car..." Whenever I have walked similar streets in Brooklyn, I relish the loneliness of it all.

There was no room for loneliness last evening. We were a rambunctious bunch last evening, starting out at a gig by the Screemin' Armadillos at the Franklin Academicals Cricket Club. They are a sort of simultaneous Country and Western tribute and piss-take band, and they all had fake facial hair! And a confederate flag!

After that we strolled in the cold down Salamander Place then on to Salamander Street and to a bar called The Pond which looked like it had been transplanted from, yes, Brooklyn. The bar had booze, elderly dogs, big tables and we chatted and swilled. Our friend Alistair, whom I met only a few weeks ago, is moving tomorrow to work in Dubai -- good luck Alistair, and as I always say, don't do anything I wouldn't do!

My terrible pun and the combination of the letters e and i in Leith brings back a memory. One day hundreds of years ago I was editing a page for an Irish newspaper in New York and on the page in question I put a long review of a book about Sinn Fein, the Irish political party which celebrated its hundredth anniversary in 2005. The writer and reviewer had made reference to the party's many manifestations under its wily leadership in its hundred-year history and so for a headline I chose this: Sinn Feints.

Yes, my puns are terrible, but I thought this one was rather good. My boss, Menacing Man, we'll call him, walked up to my desk with a copy of the page as it was ready for press and the following exchange took place.

MM: What do you mean here, like, are you trying to suggest that Sinn Fein is fainting, as in they're going to fall over?

Me: No, it's 'feint,' as in the skillful defensive move in fencing...

MM: [unconvinced and still suspicious] Oh... right... aye... [long pause]. Well, anyway, you've spelt 'faint' wrong.

Annd i alsso bangged my head of the dessk repeetedly...

Leith is beset by the same debate about gentification-versus-locals as Brooklyn. If you want to grasp a little bit more of what it is like, this Leith local wrote an elegant tribute that became a famous film.

(Photo credit: Ewan McIntosh)