Saturday, 2 July 2011

Moving Out/Moving In

After quitting my job last month and so becoming unemployed, a couple of days ago I left my flat and so am now also homeless. In fact, it's not quite as bad as that: I'm now living in Glasgow. Hmm, so maybe it is.

I've been living in Edinburgh for the past 18 months, in a lovely albeit sometimes messy flat just off the Royal Mile. I must admit, I loved Edinburgh. Fair enough, speak to any Glaswegian and there's a near certainty that they will fly off into a rant about how awful Edinburgh is and how unfriendly the local population is, and any mention of the beauty of the city is met with much the same response as a "Lord of the Rings" orc would give upon being requested to admire the silky soft qualities of an elf's long blonde hair. But set aside any perceived unfriendliness (and I never experienced any), and Edinburgh is a truly world-class beautiful city. Compact enough to walk around, and all revolving around its majestic centre, overlooked by the castle, in 18 months I never grew tired of walking around in a state of awe. It's a jaw-droppingly beautiful city that rewards close attention. Take away the many postcard-pretty views and there are still many immaculate touches, from subtly crafted architecture to hidden slices of history down every lane.



History is what makes Edinburgh: history piled upon centuries of history, all piled upon slopes and hills and rocks. The result is a naturally evolved city, with buildings ranging from medieval times to the present day. And it was all on my doorstep, every day. Walking around was a joy.

But the flat I lived in was rented, and although at a very reasonable £700/month, I figured that by not living there for July and August I could save myself £1400, which is probably a month or more of travelling time. And so as of two days ago, on the 30th June, I'm now living in Glasgow with my girlfriend, and doing my best to annoy her with my home improvement tips. I've already rearranged the kitchen cupboards.

Moving out turned out to be somewhat of an arduous experience, as it happened. In the last ten years, I've lived in something close to a new flat every year, and so have become really quite good and moving my possessions in and out. My penchant for top-floor flats doesn't exactly make this fun, but I am pretty efficient. And I expected my move-out of Edinburgh to follow likewise. Unfortunately, I didn't count on Mike.

I've known Mike for about ten years ago now, pretty much since we lived together within the ruins of an 800-year-old castle. He's always been full of big ideas and big plans, and provided you can keep him from spinning into overdrive as he delivers a lengthy monologue on these ideas and plans, he can be highly entertaining company. Now a film-maker, he stayed with me in the Edinburgh flat for the first six months I was there, while he edited and finished his first documentary, which was shown on BBC2 earlier this year, and was, I can say with happy honesty, really good. He's off to the Faroe Islands next week, to make his second documentary, on whale-hunting. So he is an emerging talent in a highly competitive field, and a professional director rather than an aspiring amateur.

Unfortunately, he brings with him an air of chaos.

I should have known better, the week earlier, when he offered his van in assistance of my move. For his Faroese documentary, he very recently bought a van for the easy transportation of people and equipment. I hadn't seen the van and needed the space of a transit van to move all my stuff. "No problem," said Mike, "It's the same size as a transit van, it'll get your stuff in no problem." Expressing concern, I asked if it would be big enough for a couple of ladders I wanted to move. Mike took a look at the ladders, and later measured his van. They would fit fine.

So my heart sunk when Mike rolled up, late on Tuesday at 10.30pm, in a camper van.

There was no way all my stuff would get in, but nonetheless we tried. And we got quite a lot in, when Mike took a step back and looked at his little camper van, now noticeably rear-heavy with the front wheels threatening to get airborn. He expressed some concern. Upon taking it for a drive and hearing - like all paranoid new owners of a vehicle - mysterious noises, he declared it too dangerous to drive the 240-mile round-trip planned for the next day.

The upshot of it all was that, instead of loading everything on a quiet Tuesday night without parking restrictions, I had to hire a van first thing on Wednesday morning, and spend a ghastly few hours trying to find a parking space amidst horrendous morning traffic and absolute dearth of parking spaces. That we left at noon, only four hours behind schedule, and that I only got one parking ticket is testament to the powers of desperation (and my negotiations with Edinburgh traffic wardens).

Once we'd set off however, things went very smoothly. I'm storing all my possessions in my brother's attic, in Fortrose, near Inverness, and we arrived there in plenty of time before he started work that evening. Straight back to Edinburgh, in time for my girlfriend to come by in her dinky little car and manage to somehow cram all my essentials (whisky and lots of books) for the next two months in. And that was it. Goodbye Edinburgh, hello Glasgow.

And I'm settling in quite happily so far. I'm obviously quite familiar with Glasgow and although it is more sprawling and less focussed that Edinburgh, it is an architecturally delightful city. It's not a instant-appeal tourist mecca, but it's a terrific city with spirit and atmosphere.

And yes, Glaswegians, the people are friendlier than the Edinburgh locals. When they're not glassing you.

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