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Election Fever

People always call it that, no matter where in the world it takes place. It’s fitting really, if you think about it. Cold sweats, the shakes, headaches, a prickly feeling of general unease… I think it’s fair to say that these symptoms are indicative of a General Election in the UK. In fact, the frustration that you experience when you’re unable to properly express how ill you feel is remarkably similar to how it feels to debate someone politically, especially when you just know that you’re right.

The argument that I hear floating around all the time (not just in elections, but predominantly so) is the age-old mantra of the defeatist ‘better the devil you know…’ This statement should never be used in politics (or anywhere really). Elections should be about hope and change, not sticking to what we know out of fear of what else might happen. Surely it is better to leap into an unknown with a potential for reward than to simply fit the same old yoke around your neck? Why else would there be an election process if not for the possibility of change for the better?

I’ve already cast my ballot today, so I urge you to go and do the same. There are several more hours in which to do it, so I don’t want to hear any ‘but I didn’t have time’ excuses. I’m not going to tell you who I voted for, nor am I going to tell you who deserves your ballot. Only you can judge who the right candidate is for and your views, but remember that the election isn’t just about what’s right for you. It’s about the country. It’s about everyone in it who’s circumstances may be wildly different to your own. So don’t just vote for your interests. Vote for theirs too. And remember, ‘better the devil you know…’ is never a valid argument.

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Quandary

I’m on the cusp of a decision that can either be interpreted as a funny kind of success or abject failure. The decision concerns my seemingly long-lost manuscript. I had originally intended to have my first attempt at a first draft of a proper novel completed by my birthday (that was almost two months ago) but this particular deadline (which you may have heard me mention before) has slipped through my fingers. Now, the question has switched to what to do next.

My recent focus has been on completing screenplays, rather than returning to my neglected prose. I have kind of focused myself on being a screenwriter and not an author, which I believe agrees with me. I’ve set up an account on the International Screenwriters’ Association website to showcase my scripts and hopefully garner some interest (with the closing of IdeasTap, this seemed to be a prudent thing to do). I think I’m better at producing scripts than I am completing chapters anyway (I’m talking about productivity and not quality, before you think I’m being conceited), so perhaps it makes sense to continue on this path.

I suppose the point that I am dancing around is whether or not I should abandon my book plan and instead adapt the story of my book into a feature-length screenplay. I have the story planned out in its entirety and I could use that to build scenes visually. Would that be a better use of the ground work I’ve already put in developing this idea? I think it might be. I’ve always wanted to publish a novel, but I think I’d rather see my name on the big screen at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (if I had to choose between them, that is, because I’d accept both). I suppose there isn’t anything  stopping me from writing the book and then adapting a screenplay (or vice versa) but I don’t know whether I can focus on one project quite that heavily.

Now I know that pretty much no one knows the story of my book apart from me and thus no one can really give me a well reasoned case for either book or screenplay. However, if anyone has an opinion that they want to share, I’m open to it.

I genuinely don’t know which way to go but, one way or the other, I will complete the story.

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Moonstruck

I’ve always been a fan of space. Whether I was stargazing at night in the backyard (I never had an awesome telescope, but I always wished for one) or curled up watching televison shows like Star Trek or Babylon 5, I have forever believed that the human race’s future lies out there in the big black. It just makes sense, right? Our species managed to crawl out of the primordial ooze and then, after a healthy dose of time (billions of years, unless you’re a creationist), came to have dominion over the whole planet. The human race developed so many diverse languages, arts and sciences and I am convinced that a species that has evolved like ours is not destined to die out on the planet of its origin.

Anyway, I’m getting carried away with myself. Let’s talk about the Moon. Tomorrow, areas of the planet will be treated to a full solar eclipse as the Moon passes directly between us and the Sun. This is a pretty awesome, and somewhat rare, occurrence. In preparation for this, I watched Stargazing Live on the BBC last night (if you didn’t see it, I highly recommend catching it on iPlayer). As it was a show about the eclipse and the Moon in general, they had a special guest; Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the Moon.

I’ve got a bit of a hero-worshipy man-crush going on for Buzz Aldrin (yes, I know that he is 85 years old), although I know that I probably wouldn’t agree with some of his politics and positions (he is a staunch Republican and has an interesting stance on global warming). However, all of that aside, this is a man who stood on the surface of the moon (and he once punched a moon landing conspiracy theorist in the face). There aren’t very many of those. I especially like how much he has owned the experience. Whereas Neil Armstrong (the first man on the Moon) was a very private person who didn’t talk much about the Moon landing, Buzz has never shied away from telling his stories. He does tell a good story too (seriously, watch that show).

So they were talking about space exploration (from the Moon to Mars and beyond) and it got me thinking about our planet and the people on it. If only the people of the world stopped hating each other, we could be exploring the stars. This is the same reason that things about space upset me a little bit. I can’t see a possibility of people putting aside their hatred and conflicting beliefs long enough for us to truly achieve something great. In Star Trek, it took aliens visiting the Earth before we all realised that we are not that different from each other and that we should work together for the common good of mankind. I have this feeling that if were to be visited by benevolent aliens, we would only pause our destructive ways for long enough to obliterate the aliens before returning our attentions to ourselves.

Something I learned from Stargazing Live last night was that Apollo 17 brought back pieces of the Moon which were then mounted on plaques and given as gifts by President Nixon (he was a nasty piece of work, but this gesture was nice) to the leaders of 135 countries around the world. Part of the letter that accompanied the Moon rock reads:

If people of many nations can act together to achieve the dreams of humanity in space, then surely we can act together to accomplish humanity’s dream of peace here on earth. It was in this spirit that the United States of America went to the moon, and it is in this spirit that we look forward to sharing what we have done and what we have learned with all mankind.

Forty years on from that and we are no closer to a worldwide peace that will allow us to explore the stars together. I find that incredibly saddening. It is hard for me to consider the vastness and majesty of space without thinking about how many people in the world would rather kill each other than simply live side by side. How can anyone look up into the night sky and not think that exploring OUT THERE is the greatest thing the human race could do together? The International Space Station (I think people often forget that we have a damn SPACE STATION orbiting the Earth with people on board right this very second) regularly sends back images of our world, with us all just tiny, invisible specks upon it. How is that not more sobering to everyone?

Had I the chance, I would show everyone on the planet that program from last night. I’d let them hear Buzz Aldrin talk about seeing the Earth from space and setting foot on a different celestial body and I’d ask them how they feel afterwards. The saddest thing is that I imagine many wouldn’t be moved in the slightest. I guess that I’ll just have to carry on being moved for them, at least until everyone comes to their senses.

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Identity and Beardedness

The other night, as I stood clutching a pink Wilkinson’s disposable razor, I was assailed by a strong wave of emotions. I stared into the mirror above my sink and didn’t recognise the man looking back at me. The man in the mirror was clean shaven, complete with marks and cuts given to him by a razor dulled on hard stubble. Who could he be? I glanced at the twin-bladed devil in my own right hand and, in that moment, I realised my terrible mistake. The beard that I had lovingly cultivated and maintained for well over a year was no more than whiskers in my sink.

The beard was dead. Long live the beard.

I know that this sounds a little overly dramatic for something that people around the world do everyday, but there is more to it. I had kind of wrapped my identity up in my beard. I believed, and had been vocal about it, that anyone who could grow a beard should do so. I once shared with a group of men (in varying states and levels of shavedness) the opinion that the beard is the ‘bonsai tree of the face’, requiring dedication and commitment to get right. I still hold this opinion, even in my current clean-shaven state.

I feel that I need to elaborate on why the shave occured in the first place, as I’m making such a big deal out of it. I saw a picture of myself the other day and felt that my beard was making me look old. Not just aged, but haggard too. The beard was full and lucious, but wide and straggly too. I realised that I needed to trim it down. Rein it in. Usually I have my beard done professionally (entirely because I don’t trust myself with clippers) but on this occassion I figured that I could handle it. I was wrong. A little bit more from each side turned into ‘oh well, I guess I’ll have a goatee’. Levelling that out turned into ‘oh no, it all has to go’. Should have stuck with my lack of personal trust. If I had, I would still be whiskered.

When the sink was rinsed and the final hairs were washed down the drain, I realised the seriousness of my error. I had grown so attached to the beard (quite literally, but that should be obvious) that shaving it off left me feeling genuinely emotionally stunned. I just stared into that mirror not knowing what the hell I had done. The beard was me and I was it and, with nothing but a flick of the clippers, that was suddenly over.

But it is not the end. The beard will return. Sure it will take some time, but then all good things do. My beard was a good thing and I have no one to blame for its loss but myself.

It will return. Until then, I just need to get used to my face and learn once again what my (weak) chin looks like.

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Momentum

I’ve written paragraphs and paragraphs before about that little movie that I made (here and here) but today I’m going to write a little bit more.

Shooting on the Rim was a labour of love, both in the sense that we poured our hearts and souls into it and also because it’s about porn (fictionalised and never on camera, but still). Now we’re at a stage where the film is done and we’re sitting on a guaranteed blockbuster property (this is a subjective opinion of the movie, I admit) and are a little unsure of how to proceed. This has been our problem, but now we are making actual, genuine progress.

Today we submitted Shooting on the Rim to FOURTEEN different film festivals using the website FilmFreeway. The law of averages states that someone has to take the film. That might not seem overly optimistic, and I know the movie is good enough to be selected, but I just hope it finds the right judge who falls for it the way that we have. The way that it should go (in my head, anyway) is that one festival selects it and then the next festival sees that it has been selected and selects it too. This goes on and on and becomes a never-ending downhill snowball of raw success which finishes with us collecting a Palme d’Or at Cannes. Or that SHOULD be how it goes, anyway.

We’ve also made a connection with a gentleman named Andrew Patrick who works for UK Trade & Investment. From him we are getting some mentoring and industry advice, some of which we have already put into practice. It’s nice getting some information from someone who’s been in the business and can tell us when a plan is not worth pursuing, before we stumble blindly into some kind of failure.

It’s an exciting time for our movie. Momentum is with us for the first time in a long time and we will ride it all the way to success (or glorious, catastrophic failure).

Ask Me Tomorrow Productions Website

Shooting on the Rim on FilmFreeway

A new blog belonging to Paul Thorp (co-writer and producer of SotR)

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25+5 (A Retrospective)

Five years ago, the decade was changing and I wrote a somewhat melancholic blog about the arrival of my 25th birthday. Now here we are and I’m turning 30 in a couple of weeks and I thought it might be good to critique this old blog and see how much I have (or haven’t) changed. I know that this might seem a little self-indulgent going over my own stuff like this, but it’s my birthday so just go with it, okay?

Let us begin.

The decade’s nearly over. That means that it’ll be 2010 before you know it. If I had to pick the one thing that matters the most to me in 2010 it would be my birthday. Not just because it’s my birthday, but because it’s the big number twenty-five. It’s the last big milestone birthday before you hit thirty. Sixteen, eighteen and twenty-one are all long gone and that means that it’s time to take stock of my life.

I like that it starts with this sense of impending doom (The decade is ending! What will we do?!) and a little element of narcissism (What matters most is my special day!). I still hold that those are the milestone birthdays and I believe that they are the ones that people really care about. Shame I won’t get another for a decade.

Ten years ago, I was still new at an English high school. I split my time between trying to fit in and trying to stand out. Six years ago, I was dropping out of Manchester Metropolitan University. Back then I was sure that this was the right idea. Well, the jury’s still out on that one. Two and a half years ago, I was moving out of my parents’ home. This time for good, I promised. One year ago, I was sporting a particularly nice ginger beard.

Okay, so not everything listed above is particularly important.

These things were and are all true. I used to think a lot about where I had come from and I would beat myself up over choices that I had made. Coming to an English school was a serious shift in gears for me and I’m genuinely surprised that I made it through without losing my mind. I always considered dropping out of University to be one of my biggest failings, but actually my life could have been totally different had I stayed in and gotten my degree. I probably wouldn’t be as happy as I am now, although 25-year-old-me wouldn’t necessarily believe that. Moving out and staying out of the parent’s home was important for everyone involved. I know that they would agree. And although I may make light of it in the paragraph above, it was a nice beard and was the origin story for the one I wear today, so that’s something.

So I’m rapidly approaching twenty-five and I don’t know if I have much to show for it. I haven’t done particularly well with the factors that usually define success: career, wealth and family. I work for a good company, earning a decent wage. Maybe there isn’t as much in the way of progression as I would hope for, but at least I’ve been comfortably employed throughout the recession. In terms of wealth I’m probably in about as much debt as the next guy, just with less to show for it. And my love life… Well that’s something that’s best left unspoken about (not because it’s terrible and seedy, but because it’s relatively non-existent).

Wow. There are a lot of deep-seated neuroses in the lines above (this is where the melancholia I mentioned at the start kicks in). I seemed to carry around a lot of crippling self-doubt a few years back. Luckily, just like Taylor Swift, I’ve learned to shake it off. Am I still aware of not having ticked certain boxes, of course I am, but I just don’t worry about them so much (I go into this a bit in one of my earlier blogs). At least the last part has improved. I’m engaged to the love of my life and she, for some inexplicable reason, has been putting up with me for three years now.

I think all in all it’s not the getting older bit that bugs me; it’s the worry that I may not be achieving what I wish I was. Funnily enough not only do I not worry about ageing, I actually want to live to be one hundred and sixteen years old. If I do, I’ll have officially lived in three centuries. How about that for an awesome achievement?

The progression of modern medical science means that 116 might actually be an achievable age. Maybe. Or at least I keep telling myself that. Anyway, I’ll go into my theory on mortality and the concept of the body as a self-repairing machine at another time.

So what are the goals to achieve before this (rather minor) milestone age? I should know them, but I’ve pretty much given up on birthday resolutions. I usually just rely on booze to be a comforting mistress at birthday time instead of planning my year ahead. Of course I do have life goals, but they’re mostly scheduled for around that next big milestone; the big three-oh. I’ll start worrying about them in four years time.

Oh brilliant. Thanks past-me. Leaving a big old heap of ‘things to do’ for me to worry about. It’s not bad enough that I’ll be missing my more recent deadlines (read more about that here), but now I’m going to miss past ones too. Ugh. I don’t even know why I said that thing about booze being a comfort. I’ve never really been much of a drinker. When I do drink, I get emotional… and usually messy (bit of a lightweight). Best avoided, really.

I think that what I’m trying to say (and at the same time, convince myself of) is that although birthdays cause you to pause and examine yourself (not physically), they shouldn’t be how you judge yourself or anyone else. I’ve met massively accomplished twenty-somethings (they make me jealous) and I’ve met middle-aged folks with nothing but their name (they make me worry). From now on, when you think about your age, don’t think about the number. Think about what you’ve done, who you’ve known, how you’ve changed. If the thoughts and memories that you conjure up make you smile then the number is no longer important. That’s how I’m going to work from now on. Happier birthdays.

Check that out! Finishing as a plucky optimist. Who’d have thought that it would end up that way after the first few lines? What reading this has taught me is that my opinions on things like age, success and so on have pretty much remained the same over the last few years (except for the odd moments of panic and cold sweat). Since I wrote that blog I’ve made a feature length movie with some of my best friends (check out the trailer or read about the premiere maybe?) and I’ve met and made plans to wife my dream girl. I think that’s pretty good for a neurotic thirty year old.

Now I just need to tick the rest of the boxes and buy a house and have a baby and make it as a writer and…

Forty is a good age for deadlines, right?

Je-suis-Charlie

#JeSuisCharlie

I want to talk about the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris.

I’ve agonised over it, talking myself out of it and back into it a few times now. I’ve seen so much written over the last few days (some calm and measured, others furious and vitriolic) and I’ve decided that (despite my better judgement) I want to add my voice to that ever-growing cacophony. I know that I’ll probably draw criticism for over-simplifying things, but I just felt the need to say something.

Charlie Hebdo is a French weekly satirical newspaper and I have to admit that before the events this week, I had never even heard of it. I expect this is the same for most people outside of France. A quick check on Wikipedia sheds some light on the paper and its history. It describes Charlie Hebdo as left-wing, with a history of satirical attacks in all directions. By its very nature, the paper will have offended a lot of people (this should go without saying as satire is always attacking the beliefs or opinions of someone) but for it to have been attacked twice (firebombed in 2011 and the shooting this week) is really quite shocking. Viz and Private Eye have been known to offend regularly in the UK, but neither of them have ever been attacked like this.

The most surprising thing to me in the aftermath of all of this, however, is the position of what appears to be a growing number of people on the internet. That position seems to be “Charlie Hebdo is a racist newspaper so let’s not start calling them heroes…” In the wake of something terrible, victims are regularly referred to as ‘heroes’. Not necessarily because they died heroically, but mostly just because they died. Playing down the grief because perhaps they weren’t all lovely people is ridiculous. The paper was offensive, that much is accepted as true by all parties. But the issue isn’t whether or not they even WERE racists. They were murdered in their offices. The police officers in the street were killed trying to protect their community. Mercilessly gunned down by people claiming to have been insulted by cartoons and harsh words. You don’t get to kill people because you don’t like what someone has said, not even if they’ve REALLY hurt your feelings. Likewise, the things that those people wrote/drew/did should not lessen the grief felt by those left behind. To say that “we shouldn’t start excusing what they said just because of a shooting” is just stupid. People are united in sadness for the victims and condemnation for the attackers. If you have a problem with the content of the paper, you could at least wait until the bodies are cold. Otherwise you are just grandstanding, using the victims as your stage.

And now, after all of this has happened, people are proclaiming ‘Je suis Charlie’. The common thread between those using this statement is that freedom of speech and freedom of expression should be fundamental rights for all of us. The response I have seen to this is “I hope everyone isn’t Charlie, because if they are, then they are all racists too.” I really don’t believe that this is what ‘Je suis Charlie’ means. People aren’t saying that they embody and are represented by everything Charlie Hebdo ever published. Nor are they saying that what was published should be free from criticism. What they are saying is that we accept everyone’s right to an opinion, no matter how much it may differ from our own or how much it may upset somebody else. Charlie Hebdo’s opinion may not be one that you share, you may not even like it, but you should allow them to have that opinion. That is their freedom. Everyone is offended by something and it is your right to be offended. Things that you believe or say may offend me, but that is YOUR right to believe and to say them. You see where I’m going with this?

Should Charlie Hebdo be free from all criticism in their quest to offend all cultures and religions with their use of heavily barbed satire? Of course not, but the victims of January 7th sure as hell didn’t deserve to die for it.

#JeSuisCharlie

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Deadlines

I’ve never really been very good with deadlines. Either I haven’t set them or I’ve missed them entirely. I set myself a deadline of the 4th of February to have a first draft of my book and I think it is fair to say that, as it stands, I’m going to miss it by some way. Now this would usually upset me, but I’m missing the deadline not because I have been idle, but because I have been busy with other important (although different) things. These things of importance are scripts of varying lengths and styles. I think I’ve always found it easier to write scripts than prose because of my fondness for dialogue and how much easier I find it to format dialogue in a screenplay. It’s a silly reason, but it’s the only one I can think of.

The first things that have taken time away from my book are a number of short scripts that I’ve written throughout the last few months. They are different lengths, covering different topics. Some could be developed further (and maybe should be) and some are just simple ideas turned into dialogue. My goal is to submit them to festivals and to use them as samples of my writing ability. After asking for some advice (thanks to Debbie Moon for that) I have also decided to share them with some filmmaker contacts in the hope that they may wish to produce them. A script can be much better appreciated if you add some talented actors, camera work and direction (for example I’m sure that the script for Gone Girl was amazing, but Rosamund Pike absolutely nailed it in that film, thus elevating the work done by Gillian Flynn). My scripts are available to view on my IdeasTap portfolio if any of you reading are filmmakers in need of a script or if you’re just curious and eager to give feedback (always welcome) to a wannabe writer like myself.

I’ve also written a spec sitcom pilot which I’m hoping to develop into a pitchable (is that a word?) product for a network. I have no idea how to do this, so there in lies the challenge. I’m working on it though. Soon I’ll have synopses that make sense for the series and at least one episode (hopefully more) to show them (whoever ‘them’ is). I have this romanticised view of old Hollywood where you could just slip a script in front of a random producer and then suddenly you’re in the movie business. I don’t think that it works quite the same way anymore (a crying shame if you ask me).

An even more recent and exciting opportunity (I make out that everything is exciting and yet I feel that I have sorely underused the exclamation point) has taken the shape of redeveloping the webseries that I co-wrote and produced with my friends a few years ago. The show was called Ramblers (more rambling conversation and less countryside walks) and was about a group of friends being geeks and dealing with life. It was originally a sitcom idea that we squeezed and mashed into a webseries shape and put online (you can watch the whole thing here in fact). We’re rebuilding the story from scratch, updating the characters and just generally making it better. We’re even changing the title, so it will be it’s own entity. This time we’re going to keep it as a television sitcom and not produce it ourselves. It takes away the limitations if you don’t agonise over how you’re going to film it with no budget.

So there you have it. Missing my self-imposed deadline, but instead exchanging it for several more things to work on and worry about. I’m going to come back to the book, but for now I’m redoubling my efforts to get into television work. I think that’s a worthy trade off.

And as it is January, I have a New Year’s Resolution: be sure to make all future deadlines.

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A Dose of Christmas Cheer

(I feel like you need to be warned that there is a mushy message at the end of this post. Please try not to be alarmed when you come across it.)

Nine days until Christmas. It’s getting pretty close to the big day and I’ve just started building a delightful little Christmas buzz. The highlight for me so far? The other night I bought my first Christmas tree. It’s a modest little five-foot thing made of green plastic, but it’s the first tree I’ve ever bought and I got to decorate it with Lou whilst listening to A Christmas Sing With Bing (this album is played every Christmas by my dad and by his dad before that, so it’s a pretty big deal for me).

This has helped me to acquire a little holiday cheer, albeit a little late in the proceedings. A lack of festive feeling never used to be a problem. I think a lot of that is down to where I used to work. For several years, I worked for Starbucks Coffee Company (across many stores in many places). There, Christmas started immediately after Thanksgiving. I mean it. It was usually a day or so afterwards that the store’s decor would change completely and then Christmas had arrived. The red cups came out, the decorations went up and the holiday-themed music of all styles started. A solid month of festive bombardment has a way of either making you embrace the holidays or it forces you to check into some kind of institution that is stocked with rubber walls and medication. Being someone who is always eager to avoid situations that would put me in the news for all the wrong reasons, I learned to love the season and accept that Christmas now lasted for a whole month of every year.

I felt that way every year up until a few years ago when I left Starbucks and went to a different retail establishment. This place doesn’t have the same Christmas cheer that Starbucks did. There are little to no decorations (no tinsel or freely roaming Santa hats). Very little Christmas music is played (not even Mariah Carey gets a look in and she gets everywhere this time of year). No longer do I work with food and drink and so there are no festive beverages to warm me on a cold morning. No aroma of freshly brewed coffee with hints of gingerbread and nutmeg. Just the cold, hard scent of cleaned and polished commercialism. My current work environment just does not give off the same festive wintery zing. This isn’t entirely a bad thing. Now I rarely ever get to the edge of Christmas-induced psychosis, just one broken biscuit away from a string of scarily emotive headlines (there is such a thing as bad press).

This year, I’m working to build the cheer in different ways. Buying the tree was just one of them. Walking home in the crisp air with a tree under my arm and a bag of baubles, tinsel and lights in my hand, I felt like an extra out of It’s a Wonderful Life. This weekend I’m attending a legendary Christmas party that I’ve only ever heard stories about. That should help too as I have been promised good food, wine and Christmas songs at the piano (yep, classier than I deserve). The other night I watched a double bill of Scrooged and Elf (I highly recommended these films) and found myself thoroughly cheered up by the time the credits rolled.

Although I will be working all through the Christmas period and Lou will be away with her family for most of it, I intend to bring back some of the feelings of Christmases long gone (I’ve been mainlining gingerbread flavoured coffee, so that’s a start). Hopefully as I work to rekindle the sensation in myself I can spread it to others as a sort of Christmas wildfire (but, you know, without the risk of property damage or the destruction of wildlife).

Happy Holidays everyone. I hope whatever it is that you are celebrating brings you happiness and togetherness as we continue on into 2015.

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North of the Border

Oh, Edinburgh. You are something special. I’ve spent this whole week thinking about how I could live there. This is no small consideration. There are only four places in the entire world that I’ve felt that way about: New York City (expensive and a little scary with guns and the like), Oxford (also expensive, less guns though I think), Manchester (already live there, so there’s that) and now Edinburgh.

If you’re wondering what makes Edinburgh so special, then I have to assume that you’ve never been there. It is something about the way that the city feels. It has the sense of a city of great age and importance but with a very young spirit. The buildings all over are centuries old but nothing feels rundown or shabby (I’ve got issues with London for this very reason; the sense of decay). You can look out through a window in one direction and see a castle (I’ll get on to the castle properly in a minute) and the other direction there will be rolling green hills and steep climbs (I’ll cover that in a minute too). It’s a beautiful place with something for everyone (that’s a tired old cliché, but I really believe it).

Let’s talk about the castle for a second. It’s incredible. I mean it. I could throw out adjectives like awe-inspiring, breathtaking, majestic, extraordinary and downright epic and they would all be true and would barely scratch the surface of what I could say about it. It’s a glorious fusion of engineering wizardry and raw incredibleness. Actually, though, the word ‘castle’ doesn’t really do the place justice either. It is far more of a fortress, really. It has layers of walls, numerous interior gates with lanes running between them all and the whole place is sitting proudly on a massive dormant volcano. It’s imposing and it is totally meant to be just that. But there is something beautiful buried within the seriousness of it all (many people have lived and died there over the centuries, let us not forget). One assembly of cannons is arranged in a crescent shape and is called (rather fittingly) the Half Moon Battery. From below it looks to be an amazing turret-like structure, desperately clinging to the rock. When you are standing up there, you realize that it houses several large guns that were designed with only the the most terrible of purposes in mind. Weapons of death and destruction housed in such a way as to take away the fear and replace it with beauty. You stop thinking of it as just a fortification and you start viewing it in the same way one would view a stately home; grand and beautiful, whilst remaining deeply intimidating. Such is the power of Edinburgh Castle.

The man-made side of the city is striking, but the natural side is just as spectacular. Right on the edge of the city, there there is an area of incredible beauty called Holyrood Park (more about it can be found here). Arthur’s Seat and The Salisbury Crags are the main points of interest within it. I set out to climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat thinking that it would be a standard hill climb, probably with steps, a bannister and maybe a sherpa to carry your things for you (maybe). This was incorrect. My error was compounded when I realized that one had a choice in which way to begin the ascent and I chose poorly. This meant starting off by climbing what felt like nearly vertical steps up the Crags, only to then discover that Arthur’s Seat was further up than I had expected (this is an understatement). Many rocky steps and lots of puffing and panting later, I reached the top. Only then did it hit me why so many people were up there with me; the view was absolutely amazing. That, coupled with the definite sense of achievement for making it to the top (I thought I was going to die halfway up, as I am so out of shape), gave me a positive spring in my step the whole way back down the (far more forgiving) downhill slope to street level. All of this right on the edge of town. No journeying to the middle of nowhere. Just a simple walk to the town limits. Wonderfully energizing and a perfect way to recharge and unwind (although my poor legs might disagree with me there).

Any discussion of the place would be incomplete without mentioning the people. I’ve met (and had the pleasure of working with) some genuinely awesome people this week. A lot of it seems to come from the people having a deep affection for their city (whether they are from Edinburgh or not) and the urge to share it with others. This may be due to the practice they’ve had because of the sheer quantity of tourists in town, but I don’t know that for sure. Either way, I haven’t met an Edinburger I didn’t like (and yes, they are called Edinburgers).

I suppose all that’s left to say is that I think everyone should visit Edinburgh. The only worry there is that if everyone feels like I do about the city, they all may never leave. But I think that’s what makes Edinburgh great. The place is fiercely Scottish (the sheer number of tourist shops and kilted bagpipists that I saw can attest to that) but it welcomes all who would wish to add something to it. The city adopts the best parts of those people, growing and evolving. People have been adding to it for centuries. I see no sign of that changing and I hope that it never does.

Thank you for this last week, Edinburgh. I will return (and next time I will definitely wear appropriate footwear when I decide to challenge the rocks and ridges).