Edinburgh in my dreams.

Forth Bridge

The Forth Bridge. source

My mother and I took a trip to Scotland in the spring, and it was really lovely, in all ways (with the possible exception of the snow we encountered on the Isle of Skye on May 1) (and even that was kind of funny).

Ever since, I’ve been torturing myself by following Scottish newspapers and Twitter accounts and gazing at pictures of Edinburgh Castle and/or Elephant House, a cafe which (aside from being the place in which JK Rowling wrote the first book in the Harry Potter series) is the very cafe of which I have always dreamed. Here’s a picture I took on our trip — the Castle is visible through those windows, and I wish I were sitting there right now:

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Now, I have a dear friend who grew up in Edinburgh and went to school there and could probably tell me all the really good reasons a person wouldn’t want to live there — strictly speaking, pretty much any place loses its sheen when it’s the place in which you have to battle traffic and are not on vacation.

And yet.

One of funny things about which I’ve learned a great deal more than I’d have guessed I might want to know in the meantime is the Forth Bridge. It spans the Firth of Forth (the estuary of the River Forth), it is an engineering marvel, and it is apparently held in deep affection by the folks who cross it now and then on their way to and from Edinburgh (crossing, as it does, from Queensferry to North Queensferry. Or, I suppose, from North Queensferry to Queensferry).

Journalist Peter Ross wrote a genuinely lyrical piece about the men who for nearly 50 years maintained the bridge’s paint-job, but now most of them are out of work, because the once constant, year-round painting has been replaced by better, fancy new materials that make their work redundant. Men have died on that bridge, and their family members have returned to keep working on it. The daughter of one man who fell told Ross about her father’s love for the bridge:

He was proud to be part of the painting crew, she said, and considered the bridge as being his own. What makes this especially moving is that it is precisely what you hear from many of the bridge workers; it belongs to those who toil upon it, and though their devotion is sometimes sorely tested, it seems to endure like steel.

Next September marks the 50th anniversary of the Forth Road Bridge (the younger sibling of the bridge pictured above)**, and there are apparently all manner of celebrations planned, and gentle reader, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’ve been fantasizing about how I might get my mother and myself back for it (with another nip up to Skye).

That won’t happen. But in the meantime, I have discovered a local band called Bwani Junction who plays a lovely tune called “Two Bridges” (a reference, I think, to the fact that the original Forth Bridge is now accompanied across the water by the Forth Road Bridge), which has in turn kind of made Bwani Junction the bards of the bridges (despite the fact that, if you read the lyrics, it’s not really about the bridges, and in fact refers to “the rotten veins frames* of these two bridges”, sooo…), which in turn means that they will be a central pillar of the musical events next year.

ALL OF WHICH (…) leads to the following, which is a clip of them singing “Two Bridges” at the Forth Bridge Tower (a thing that looks like no mean feat). I ❤ it, so here it is:

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It’s worth noting that the people of Scotland will also be voting on independence next September — a “yes” vote would undo the Acts of Union from 1707, so yeah. There are all kinds of reasons to wish I could be there next fall.

As John Steinbeck noted in Travels with Charley — some trips never really end.

*UPDATE: No less an authority than Bwani Junction themselves got in touch to tell me the correct lyric. [o_O!]

**UPDATE NUMBER TWO: I’ve corrected a complete error on my part — the 50th celebrations are for the Forth Road Bridge, not the original engineering marvel — a fact one would have gotten right, if one had bothered to pay attention to the fact that the first bridge was built in 1890, and the second in 1964. Apologies and thanks to commenter Jenny Meader for pointing it out. /hangs head

I’ve been everywhere… dude.

Note: Sony Music are douchebags and I can’t find a version of this song that will play on my site. But dude! Click through! Totally worth it.

*****

Ok, I haven’t been everywhere. But I’ve been a lotta places!

I’ve been to: Israel, Egypt, Italy, Turkey, Switzerland, Belgium (24 hours – that counts, right?), England, Ireland, and Holland. Oh! And Canada: Toronto, Nova Scotia (<3!), PE Island….

In America, I’ve been to (city, state, and/or environs): Chicago, New York, Syracuse, Boston, Washington DC, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Minneapolis/St. Paul, all over southern Wisconsin, a few places in northern Indiana, all over southwestern Michigan, Memphis, Springfield (IL), Cincinnati, Orlando (well – Disney), Maine, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten a lot.

There are HUGE swathes of the world still to see, not least all of Africa south of Egypt, Iran, and the American Southwest. But, you know, I’ve been a place or two, seen a thing or three.

It’s cool. I like feeling comfortable on a plane, at ease with pulling out my passport. I don’t like the fact that when my family of four and I flew somewhere in November, we realized with a shock that, once we had factored in travel-to-and-from-the-airport time and (more to the point) security-check-time — we literally could have gotten where we were going almost as quickly by driving. (And the food would have been better and cheaper). So there may soon be more driving in my future.

But that’s fine, too, because all told, I like traveling. I spent a good 20 years doing it mostly on my own, back and forth and back and forth from Israel to America, with occasional stops in Europe or the US (or, that’s right, Canada. What’s wrong with us Americans?), the stopovers often including every mode of conveyance short of donkey cart: bus, train, boat, borrowed car, rental car, riding-with-someone-else-because-they-were-headed-that-way. Probably some walking too. Very rarely, a group would be involved, or a boyfriend, and then I picked up a husband, and eventually we had kids. Now I mostly travel in a pack of four, each dragging a carry-on (mine generally the heaviest, because where else will a lunch for four fit?).

This weekend, I’m traveling again, but here’s what I’m not doing in preparation – I’m not:

  1. Making lists for other people
  2. Packing clothes, toiletries and pharmaceuticals for other people
  3. Buying books, activities, and food for other people
  4. In any way concerning myself with the travel needs of other people

Why? Because I’m going by myself.

I love my kids, God knows I love my kids. I am, in fact, a trifle crazy about my kids — besotted and infatuated with my kids, actually. What’s not to love? They are outstanding human beings: Funny, smart, kind, and very good with the hugging (though the girl, through no fault of my genes, I can assure you of that, does not like to give or get kisses. I ask you!). They are also, it must be said, excellent travel companions, and always have been — and this is not a thing that can be said about all children, it must be said.

And my husband — with whom I am, quite frankly, also besotted and infatuated — always packs for himself. I am not his mother, and he knows to step lightly even when asking advice on what to bring. I am not — I repeat — his mother. And he, too, is a genuinely fabulous travel companion. We have a lot of fun together on the road, me and my wee gang.

HOWEVER.

Having this opportunity to NOT pack for others, NOT worry about what others will eat, NOT think about amusing others, NOT shop for anyone but MYSELF (I got shoes yesterday, y’all! Cute little black pumps that straddle that all important line of “workaday” and “cute and sassy” — whoot!) is kind of glorious, I must say.

Definitely the most surprising piece of becoming a parent was the utter relentlessness of it. You cannot decide (as one might with a spouse/partner) to not eat supper. You cannot decide to blow off the laundry for another week. And if you’re the one with the sudden, painful, gaping head wound? You still have to calm the other, shorter people down. Parenting is, in a word, relentless.

So getting a chance to buy cute shoes, make my own lunch plans, and pack a carry-on with my own reading material (I’m going to teach myself the glories of my brand-new Blackberry!) is a little heady.

I will miss my people, I am that sort, and I’m glad to say that I am also very excited to be going where I’m going — the J Street conference, where I’ll get to hob-nob with hopeless Israel/Palestine geeks like me, people who obsess like me and worry like me and talk in the same shorthand I have in my own head — but before I even get there, I’ll already be happy.

Because I won’t be juggling coffee and someone else’s pizza. And my shoes? Will be fabulous.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.