August is Edinburgh is Festival

A Woman's Place artwork by Julie Galante

I once heard a comedian (it may have been Ed Byrne) talk about how amongst comedians, the month of August is simply known as ‘Edinburgh.’ ‘What are you doing for Edinburgh?’ ‘Oh, I’ll be spending it in Florida.’ Here in Edinburgh, August often just gets called ‘the festival.’ Locals discuss their festival plans, whether or not they involve any actual time at festivals. If you’re in Edinburgh during August, the festivals will be impacting your life whether you attend them or not. They are inescapable.

This year most of my planning for August has involved preparing for a large art exhibition I’ll be putting on. (If you’ll be in town, please come see it!) It has been good to have something to work towards, a way to focus my energy in this post-Scott reality where I am still finding my feet. I’m kind of impressed with myself that I’m doing anything productive at all these days.

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Purrcules was as excited about the arrival of the Book Festival programme as I was!

My favorite of all the August festivals is the Book Festival. I haven’t gotten around to acquiring any tickets yet, but I have scoured the programme and used it as inspiration for my summer reading choices. The big names (Zadie Smith, Paul Auster, Ali Smith, Alexander McCall Smith) will have sold out on the first day. (One of the things I love about Edinburgh is the around-the-block queue which forms in the wee hours on the morning the Book Festival tickets go on sale.)

I’ve spent four Augusts in Edinburgh so far. Scott was receiving chemotherapy during two of them, but even those years we managed to see a couple Fringe shows together. I will miss him most during the nightly fireworks at the end of the Tattoo, which we could see from our kitchen window. Whatever we were doing when the first booms sounded, Scott would insist we run to the window and watch them, every night of the festival.

Expat life: 3 years in Scotland

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One of my many sketches of Edinburgh Castle

I was amazed to realize we’ve now been in Scotland for longer than we lived in Switzerland or Italy. I mean, our first year here was so strange that it almost doesn’t count. And the past two years have had a different quality about them, as well – a combination of “WTF just happened to us?”, “Yay, everything’s fabulous!”, and “What if it comes back?”.  But the longer we live here, the easier it becomes to separate the Edinburgh experience from the leukemia experience. These days we have a lot of acquaintances here who don’t know Scott was ever sick. We’re just two regular old American expats in Edinburgh, two among many. Continue reading

Orkney Islands: hiking Hoy

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On our second morning in the Orkneys, we woke up to snow. It was lovely to look at, but made us wonder about our plan to catch the ferry to Hoy for the day. From what we had read, Hoy was supposed to be very beautiful, but there wouldn’t be much to do there if the weather wasn’t cooperating. While we were at breakfast, the sun came out. Continue reading

Orkney Islands: diving into prehistory

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Sheep exploring the outside of Maes Howe burial mound.

The Orkneys contain a fair number of prehistoric sites to entertain the tourist. Most of these sites boast superlatives such as “the oldest known X”, “the most complete Y”, or “the only Z still in existence”, so it’s hard not to think that one really ought the visit them (even if one is not a fan of pottery shards or overly ruinous ruins). Continue reading

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