A Valediction: Of Caledonia

[Amended from Original]

This time last year, I travelled up to Edinburgh four days out of five during Freshers’ Week for the decidedly poor Research Methods Course. This is just to mark my final trip. I am going to attempt once more to say goodbye.

Owing to the generous library borrowing allowance for researchers here, I gladly exploited the maximum quota of 25 for most of the second half of the year. Minus the small handful returned on the 24th, the ‘climacteric’ day of dissertation submission, there remained 21 to return, including the Passions of the Renaissance anthology and the Cambridge History of Early Modern English Literature, which made for quite a burden to carry up the valley.

The library prefers returned books to be left on a single window shelf during open hours, and there was amusement as the pile almost boarded them up single-handedly. There was also a £7.00 fine for my sins, which was declared to the librarian as ‘the last task’ – reminiscent of the final episode of Knightmare – and incidentally the library’s aesthetics are presently reminiscent of a dungeon.

A strange day: there was no sense of belonging in Edinburgh after all. It was quite a shock to see the place awash with students, many new, after the summer of relative tranquility. The library has been the only place of belonging there this year, and it is not a building for inspiration. The main intention was to say farewell to the two tutors who helped me so much this year, but unfortunately, with the arrival of masses, all lecturers fled for their lives.

In contrast to the disturbingly peaceful Bristo Square, hundreds of people swarmed aimlessly around the precinct, but once up the flights of the David Hume Tower, the corridors of the English Department were also eerily deserted. I had been told that I should be able to catch Dr. Loxley from 1 in his office. I headed up for 1:20, but there was nobody there. After waiting twenty minutes, the copy of the dissertation which I had brought for him was propped against his door, and that was the inauspicious farewell to the David Hume Tower, which apparently holds the best views of Edinburgh. I argue for the top of the News Steps.

All would not be lost, with Dr. Fox’s office hours between 2 and 4 that afternoon. Rather unnervingly, the office next door was being stripped of furniture, and the member of staff in question had been relocated. Trying to manoeuvre around this happening, Dr. Fox was not there. Back in the library, I picked up a message from Emma in Geneva. Half-amusingly, I mentioned what I was doing, and signed off saying that I was going to have one last try. 3:30, still no sign. Rather sadly anticlimactic that nobody was around.

So, farewell to Edinburgh, (along the customary mile of George Square, Bristo Square, King George IV Bridge, past The National Library, down the (Good) News Steps and across the bypass into the Station) was not about people, but about a snapshot of experience, a gateway to another future, a mistake meant to happen, and a time memorably forgettable, or forgettably memorable.


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