I remember the first time I saw her. Like nobility she was draped in purple. The hem of her garment spotted frills that brought hypnosis to life. Shifting lights of the night shone on her and she reflected these beams with sexy abandon. Alluring without trying to be. She oozed confidence with so much ease that she took my breath away.
I knew she would love me back even if it was the beginning of a wintry night. She held so much promise. Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland in the UK was my new found best friend.
Malea and I had left Belfast for Aberdeen through Edinburgh. The flights from Belfast to Aberdeen were not until the following morning and we could do with a visit to this enigmatic city. We spent a night at a travel hotel just a stone throw away from Edinburgh Airport. Google had so much to say about Edinburgh and we couldn’t wait to have a preview.
Our journey back to Aberdeen was by train later in the afternoon. In the meantime, Travel Lodge hotel welcomed us with a full English breakfast. It was self service. I was blonde at the components of a proper English breakfast. Malea is a nurse from the Philippines and going by her ease of using cutlery and pronouncing the names of the dishes, she was well exposed. Catherine on the other hand, was as exposed as a dead dodo.
I followed her lead in serving the breakfast. I copied everything including putting baked beans next to my toast. Dear Britain, who taught you this outrageous combo? And while you are at it, is there a white pudding to complement the black pudding? Just random Africannesse in me. Black pudding is mutura for cool kids.
Minutes later we hailed a black-bodied taxi to Waverly Train station. The plan was to wander about Edinburgh but within the radius of the train station. Missing the train was not in the to do list. The short detour was short and sweet.
Boasting of a majestic Castle on the hill Edinburgh attracts the mind and the heart. Within the walls of the vast and resplendent castle lies a wee room where Mary Queen of the Scots gave birth to King James VI of Scotland and I of England. So stately is the castle that it is build atop sturdy ancient and medieval rocks. Some call it the rock and the castle. I couldn’t agree more.
The city of Edinburgh sits among seven hills. It is surrounded by antiquated and romantic Victorian and Georgian buildings. Separating it into Old and New towns is the almighty Princes street. A beehive of trade. The epicenter of activity. An ocean of people moving in all directions from all over the world. Malea and I had the pleasure of loitering in a garden park just next to Princes street. The deliberate efforts of going green from the Edinburgh city council have paid off since this park was teeming with all sorts of summer flowers, cooing pigeons and silly seagulls.
Oh the seagulls. They cawed and boldly posed atop street lights and the Scot monument. The monument is coloured in streaks of dried, drying and fresh poop from the naughty birds.
Dressed in a kilt and hugging his bagpipes, a traditional Scot belted out tunes after tunes from them with reckless abandon. I was both mesmerized and amused. This was the first time I saw a man in a skirt! Okay, kilt.
Months later after transferring to this ancient and portentous city, I have enjoyed every bit of it. Waverly has become my Afya Center. My friend and I designated it as such after numerous episodes of getting lost. Afya Centre is a famous building in Nairobi where all people wait to meet to avoid getting lost. Afya Centre is the True North of the city in the sun. So is Waverly for Edinburgh.
Rural Huntly with her unwelcoming aura felt like sipping water from a fire hose while Edinburgh was a gentle breeze on a summer night. I was received with open arms at the new work station. Strikingly dissimilar from the previous work station, this one had people of all colours. I was not the only African and this gave me a sense of comradeship. The staffs had interacted with people from all over the world and I quickly became part of the team.
I didn’t have to remember that I was African. Here I was me. Catherine, a UKRN. For the first time since coming to the UK, I took part in a staffs’ night out. I may have stayed out until half past ten but those few hours meant the world to me. It is in our nature to want to belong. To be accepted. To be in a group.
I gained confidence in my nursing skills just because I felt at home here. I was able to make and execute decisions as a nurse because I was part of the big painting on the canvas.
The weather in Europe has been described as the most outrageous in the world. Perhaps with keen interest in Scotland where it rains in winter and rains in summer. A saying goes that there is nothing as bad weather, just bad clothes. Edinburgh embodies this.
A few months ago Malea visited me. She settled in the city of Aberdeen but couldn’t wait to have a slice of my city. This was in the coming to birth of winter of last year. As we trotted from a Mexican hotel whose tacos were a stroke of genius, splattering rain interrupted the otherwise sunny afternoon.
Five minutes later little hail stones fell on her long silky dark hair. As if that was not enough, some snowflakes fell too and this was while the sun stood still. It all stopped as soon as it had begun. We experienced all seasons in one day. The work of an amusing god.
Twelve-hour shifts breeze away when I recall that I am working and living in Edinburgh. My first impression on that first night several moons ago has but grown in new depths and expanded my vistas. It is as cosmopolitan as London. Only without the haste in London. London reminds me so much of Nairobi. Where is everyone going to in such a hurry? Why the serious faces huh? Who hurt everyone? My city, my Edinburgh is home to good natured fellows. A smile here and a “hiya” there.
The Scottish accent however is another tall tale. We do not cross our t’s in Scotland; we swallow them. We annihilate them from the sentence. We pretend they do not exist. Water is not water until it is wo-a. Butter will not be on the toast unless it is ba-a. I never thought much of the accent until one of my trainers taught us at a class in Belfast. That is when I realized just how heavy the Scottish accent is.
I have been trying to teach the carers I work with the Kenyan accent. It is not working. They have been trying to teach me the Scottish accent. Proud to report that I fail spectacularly. It is even worse when I try to communicate with a resident. A particular one always says to me,”I don’t what you’re saying! ” in total exasperation.
It pays to have a super team at work. I can time and again approach my colleagues to ask them to interpret what in God’s green earth was just said to me. Not once or twice have I laughed to jokes told while I had no clue as to what the speaker said. Smile and laughter are universal languages that save me all the time.
Yesterday my friend and I went for a stroll in the shimmering lights of the summer evening. Mouth and nose fully concealed under a face mask, I waited to board a double-decker bus to my Afya Centre. An elderly man stared at me for some minutes at the bus stop before telling me something to do with face masks and smiling. I could relate. He however went on to talk about something else and the best I could say was “Aye”…..”Aye” and one more “Aye”
He must have thought I am a woman of few words. Probably thought I was wise. Truth is, I still have no clue as to what he told me.
But whatever he said in the name of good ol’ Edinburgh, AYE!