How it looks from the inside of an Edinburgh flat while reading

Photo of Charlotte by Loren, Portland, spring '15

Photo of Charlotte in our backyard by Loren, spring ’15

The owner comes in to take measurements of the sofa bed that’s broken, apologises, says he assumed we’d be out at the museums on a day like this or seeing the town but we’re not; we’ve come all this way from America to play Legos and read. Charlotte is sweet in a way onions are sometimes described which takes more imagination to detect but deep-down it’s there, just less obvious. We watch fire trucks below and other people on the street watching them too, the sound of the waste collectors and at half past one, drowning out the drunks with Bach, lutes and flutes. A window cleaner at the fish and chips take away, trucks with their four-ways rolling in fresh kegs, rolling out empties, tail lights twisting up the road past the traffic lights red, green and white — and though the sun comes up you wouldn’t know it for the grey but it does make for a mood, the owner says, and I remark how the houses are jammed together and jagged, how it’s good for the imagination, more spirals than squares.

How I feel at odds sitting inside the apartment in late November with the rain coming on, but just want to listen to it pelt the glass, gusts shaking the frames, to make tea and dream: how it feels a waste to stay inside but altogether perfect this time of year. I realise it’s a strange time to visit I say to the owner so he knows I’m not an idiot (or knows that I know I am at least, which is a different kind of idiot, a self-actualised one) and there really is a mood that’s hard to put to words but you can tell he’s trying to by how his face changes as he measures the broken bed, thanks me, says goodbye.

And still, for this moment on the carpet with Charlotte and the Lego set it’s hard for me to be 100% here, wherever that is, as I’m distracted by how I’ll write about it, how I can pantomime real life — someone with a camera somewhere it doesn’t belong.

She can mouth the lyrics to some of the songs on Abbey Road now, pairs the words with melody, words like negotiation, investigation (and oh that magic feeling, nowhere to go…).

And all this time together the two of us are blooming in different ways, her mind and mine, as I flip over on my side and say my back hurts, and want her to remember me this way, writing. I go to a bar and take crude notes about the barmaid who’s Australian, looks at me as she’s hand-drying the spoons, wiping the stems, says “mate” like she’s slapping pancake batter on a plate.

Charlotte finished making an ice cream store out of the Legos (I made the bathroom) and hummed a tune to announce the grand opening, with thumb-size figures bouncing through the door and sitting down. Nostalgia can be sweet when it’s done right or sickeningly so when not.

And though the moon goes down and gets swallowed whole by the clouds, carved to the wick, pock marked, it always comes back and fills out, sometimes smiles, shines a light for the poets or lovers to have something to dream on or look at when they’re feeling lost or lonely. It’s what draws us to the window when we can’t sleep and don’t know why, the same reason we take pictures or home videos, to pretend we can go back when we know we can’t, it’s unnatural, it makes us gods for a moment, and though we know it’s untrue, it’s still fun to pretend. Best not to assume it will ever be better.

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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28 Responses to How it looks from the inside of an Edinburgh flat while reading

  1. Lynn Love says:

    Another lovely snapshot, Bill. You saying about the buildings being crammed together – Is it weird, coming over here and seeing the small spaces the Brits live in? I always watch American TV/film and you always seem to have so much room in your houses, between the houses. No cramped, Victorian back-to-back terraces, no two-up-two-downs with a tiny yard out the back.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Thank you Lynn – part of the appeal in moving around like this is to also get a better perspective on our house back home, which is a bit bigger living space of course than the two bedroom apartments we’ve been staying in, but our first house was very small, and I like small. The whole American-style portions and so forth…not something I love about the States, but it is true. Radar dishes, dogs, big plots of land, guns…enough said. It’s fun to live like this, and this flat we’re in now is wedged inside some very dense, twisted old buildings, and it’s fantastic. I would have commented on your blog about the self-publishing vs. traditional route but I don’t have anything to say on that yet, haven’t thought about it…more than wanting to print my own chapbook of poetry some day for kicks, for a gift, and in case there’s an apocalypse and we run out of food or firewood (or toilet paper).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        Ha! You ran from the small living space of the Scots through to the apocalyps there in only a couple of moves – nicely done. Sometimes the idea of tons of space is appealing, though – when the nieghbours are noisy, when you just yearn breathing space. Be interesting to read your book one day – before its ultimate destiny of loo roll or firewood, of course 🙂

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        It is appealing. Where we live (insert the bad image here of walking around naked in our house, but it’s true) there’s a lot of space, outdoor hot tub, a pickle ball court, swing set, gardens, I could go on…(insert lyrics from “Once in a Lifetime” now, Talking Heads). Same as it ever was.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        Sounds idyllic. ‘Letting the days go by, let the water hold me up …’ At least you didn’t apply the lyrics to Pyschokiller to your life – then I’d be word. ‘Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa, fa-fa-fa-fa-fa.’

        Liked by 1 person

      • pinklightsabre says:

        “into the blue again / after the money’s gone”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        I always took the song to be about the ephemeral nature of a money based, idealised existence – accumulating all the things we’re expected to (wife, car, money) then waking up one day and wondering where the years had gone . A midlife crisis in music

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        Bingo, soundtrack to my memoir! Universal themes.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        Ha! Not sure you can really ‘get’ that song until you’re and adult and life isn’t exactly how you thought it would be 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • pinklightsabre says:

        Exactly — and then it’s like hitting a raw nerve, in a good way. If there could be such a thing — sorry, long day. Of driving through beautiful country and seeing historic chapels, so no complaining here.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        Sounds lovely 🙂

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  2. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this! ‘Self-actualised idiot’-love it!

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Thank you Michael — yes, that’s me in the middle right there, the Idiot. There’s a tarot card for that I think, or was, but it got cut out of the printing cycle.

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  3. Knowing this moment is going to become something to write about and still being in the moment…yep. And then, at least for me, working it out in my head the rest of the day. Enjoyed this slice of life.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      There’s a writer Chuck Wendig I like and follow (who wrote the most recent Star Wars book) and describes it as ‘polishing a stone in his mouth’ or something like that, that thinking about writing thing. It’s odd — but I am grateful for it, too. Do let me know if the snow turns out, professor!

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  4. walt walker says:

    This is like looking into one of those 3D view-finder thingies from when we were kids. Vivid colors, a little movement when you turn it, and a whole world contained in a tiny little scene that you can’t stop looking at. You conjure a great scene, and make it deep and profound. But now I’ve got Axl Rose squealing “November Rain” in my head and for that I will not soon forgive you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      That is a marvellous comment and I thank you for it. I’m going to start calling you Chameleon Man, the way you ape voices like you do, mister. I don’t know November Rain and don’t want to. I think they were on their downward side with that, think I’ve blotted it out.

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  5. sweetsound says:

    It’s hard to get out and enjoy the area when it’s pissin’ doon, and you guys have needed some rest. I hope you got to see some cool stuff anyway!

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Thank you Cali. We managed through, you know. It’s a remarkable place, through and through. Got out and saw a good bit and found a couple new, favourite bars: one here in the West Bow of Grassmarket called the Bow Bar, specialising in single malts, go figure. A bit malted out now, ready for Ireland, where it’s triple distilled and tastes like they added water already.

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  6. rossmurray1 says:

    Child as a sweet onion. That’s good.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ksbeth says:

    the pic looks a bit otherworldly. )

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  8. Yes, every parent should make sure his/her kid knows the lyrics to Abbey Road. It’s one thing that can never hurt. “Golden Slumbers” is a great place to start, lullaby-wise, when they’re young.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      That’s the first song my daughter Lily learned to play on guitar – plus, you get the added excitement of people hitting one another with hammers, the Maxwell song, which Charlotte enjoys.

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      • It might be hard to explain lines like, “She’s so good looking but she looks like a man,” but all becomes clear in time…

        I’m still working on “He got walrus gumboot” though.

        Liked by 1 person

      • pinklightsabre says:

        I was around 10-12 when I read the lyrics ‘yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog’s eye’ and it kind of scarred me. Still all these years later I listen to some of these songs and I swear, it brings tears to my eyes. That’s the good stuff — thanks for your email earlier, I appreciate it.

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