Ezy Reading:
Of One Sunny July Day In Edinburgh
Evan Kanarakis

Exiting the glass-roof enclosure of Waverley Station and headed up the long pedestrian ramp that leads out into the open city, one cannot help pausing when greeted by the spectacular, dramatic skyline that welcomes every new arrival into Edinburgh. Even to folks that haven’t been here before, many of the landmarks are instantly familiar from postcards, film and countless repeats on television of yet another Edinburgh Military Tattoo. In person, though, the intense cluster of so many breathtaking sights flooding one’s every field of view is almost overwhelming: Arthur’s Seat looms ominously at the city’s edge, a highland peak of emerald green. Edinburgh Castle -a fortress set within volcanic rock- dominates the landscape. Opposite reside the Georgian buildings of the New Town and, moving down to the bottom of the Royal Mile, the expansive Holyrood Palace. Whether walking past the retail giants that line Princes Street or exploring the offerings on other well-traveled streets like Cockburn or Victoria, there’s little surprise to find yet another gaggle of tourists snapping away frenetically at one eye-catching sight after another. This is, put simply, a great city.

But this time, of course, I’m not really in Edinburgh to play tourist. Rather, I’m here to serve as best man for an old friend who is due to be married in two short days. It helps that I’ve been to the city before and already exhausted a few obligatory Edinburgh guide books in the process, but I still find it a little hard not to want to just wander off and lose myself once again in the sights and sounds of the city.

All the same, there’s work to be done. With my bags quickly dropped off I soon find myself thrust into a packed schedule of errands and appointments that make me feel like a regular, busy local resident. This is to be a small civil wedding, and one that (thanks to the slow-turning wheels of the British Home Office) is also being organized rather swiftly given official go-ahead on the entire event came through only three days ago. As such, on my first day in town the groom-to-be and I rush wedding paperwork into office chambers on the Royal Mile, we make arrangements for an order of boutonnières from a florist in the New Town, pick up the wedding cake from Jenners (which, I’m told, is ‘the Harrod’s of the north’), and, despite the fact I’m a Greek-born Australian citizen who was raised in rural New South Wales, I find myself being fitted for a traditional Highland wedding outfit, replete with everything from kilt, to sporran, to a dagger Skean Dhu. I thought we were busy, but the list of ‘to-dos’ for the bride-to-be that day was even longer.

After all that exertion and successful completion of so many tasks at hand, the happy couple seem a great deal more at ease by evening that their wedding and reception will go off without a hitch and with all key elements firmly set in place (indeed the groom was even prompted to muse that “if you can organize a wedding this well in four days, who needs six ruddy months to do it?”) We soon settle into some dinner followed by a few well-earned pints at the Cask and Barrel on Broughton Street.

It’s a spacious, inviting neighborhood pub, and their long list of ales will keep us busy into the wee hours, particularly after a group of high school teachers out toasting the arrival of their summer vacation invite us to become wholly immersed in their own celebrations. The Deuchars IPA on tap isn’t exactly what I’m used to and seems to sit in my gut like a lead weight but after two or three pints it goes down easily enough, and before too long I’m listening to Tom, a geography teacher, earnestly beg me (in a thick Scottish brogue) not to take the amazing summer weather I’d experienced that day for granted:

I’m a telling ye, Evan. We donna’ get weather like tha’ every day ‘ere in Scotland. Today was a national fookin’ day of significance, it was tha’ fookin’ spectacular! All too rare up here mate, all too rare!

Some old faces from home -freshly arrived in Edinburgh off airplanes and trains for the impending nuptials- come filtering into the pub. I haven’t seen some of these people for years and we get quickly down to the task of catching up, reminiscing, and introducing them all to our new Scottish drinking partners. I look at my old friend and his fiancée seated opposite, both of them beaming in anticipation of the events to come, and clearly so very much in love. Seeing him here, in such a happy setting, my mind easily lends itself to thinking back and contemplating so many of the experiences we’ve shared up to this point, going back to when we first met at the age of five. What a journey. With a sip of my beer I excitedly look forward to their wedding, now less than 48 hours away.

But the wedding can wait. For now, my only preoccupation is the laughter and warmth in this room. I’ve felt this contentedness before in many places; in countless pubs and around kitchen tables and in living rooms and bedrooms all over the world and we may, indeed, just as well be anywhere else and experiencing this same shared spirit. And yet there’s something special about the fact we’re all here in Edinburgh. I glance outside. Though after ten in the evening the sky is still aflame with the vivid pinks and reds of sunset, bordered in the foreground by the dark shadows of church spires, gables and old chimneys that remind me of how far I am from home. A Scottish accent asks me if I’d like another pint and, nodding wholeheartedly, I rejoin the conversation, immersing myself in that warmth and contentedness, marveling at this great, great city.

Ezy Reading is out every month. Send your comments to feedback@thecud.com.au