Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Most Livable City

Don't be fooled by Ross, the white-haired and portly docent attending the main room in the National Gallery of Modern Art off Belford Road. He is no pensioner eking out his days in a bed-sit. He owns the farm near Edinburgh International Airport, the farm in Athens, Ontario (to which they will soon move for good), the computer company and the confectionery shop in Old Town, which his wife runs 7 days a week. They are still Official Bakers to the Queen, when she hangs the tiara nearby.

Ross loves Canada and Canadians. His loathing for Americans is the equal.

When I told him the story of the Indian women who were killed and injured last year near Abbotsford (because the scum who employs them provides no drinking water, no toilets and no seat belts in the van that overturned - not to mention apple boxes for comfort, and the government has long since cut the overbearing cost of paying inspectors who might ask these A-holes to transport their workers with some safety and dignity), when I told him all that, he countered with this:

In 1964, he picked up some workers for his farm with his tractor and cart. Driving less than 15 mph, they overturned. No one was hurt. Even so, he gave everyone a weeks wages (about 7 pound at the time) and a bag of potatoes (112 lbs.)

Approaching the gallery from below, one can't help but feel like Charles Ryder suddenly seeing Brideshead again after many years and in very different circumstances. These images from great movies are so powerful and they stay so persistently in our imaginations.

But then again so do the paintings and drawings of Max Ernst, Miro, Calder, Magritte, Picasso, Dali and Utrillo, all represented here.

Yesterday, the City Arts Centre, hiding neatly on Market Street under the North Street Bridge, did what so many city galleries do - showed us both ordinary and very great artists who will never be known outside their local environs.

Alexander Naysmith's 1824, "The Port of Leith," is superb, as is a stunning rich oil of 3 girls enchanted by a butterfly, by a man named Hornel. The painting is called "Seashore Roses," and it's one of those pieces that will cheer any foul mood night or day.

Edinburgh is a livable city. In spite of the rises and falls, walking is easy and pleasurable. The buses are more than plentiful. People are so warm and friendly. Everyone I've spoken with positively loves living here. And that includes Scots and those transplanted from Yugoslavia, London, Madrid and Beijing.
Last night, I watched 71-year old Tommy Steele and a huge cast of singers and dancers and puppets bring to life "Dr. Dolittle" on the stage of the Edinburgh Festival Theatre. The audience was filled with children, enthusiastic and laughing enormously at the old gags, but all curiously well-behaved. All great silly fun.
Before the show, I returned to Shaws Restaurant and had easily the best salad and the very best lamb chops ever...EVER!

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