The latest Festival installation on the Royal Mile is reviewed here by David Black.
A week or so ago what's left of the citizenry of the Old Town awoke to discover that we had become a gated theme park, courtesy of the Home Office which had set up a number of military style check points to deter motorised terrorists who might take it upon themselves to cause havoc in the Royal Mile. Two points occurred. First, why didn't they think about this ten years ago, after terrorists had attempted, and failed, to attack Glasgow airport with a mobile car bomb? Second, hadn't they already installed granite bollards to protect pedestrians? Indeed, some of the bollards had to be removed to make way for concrete chicanes which will, logic suggests, make the emergency evacuation of the area less than efficient.
This was, of course, all a pretence by politicians (though not our local ones, to be fair. It seems they weren't consulted) to persuade us that they actually care about our safety, though we might be more convinced if they hadn't dragged us into one or two illegal wars in the first place, let's face it. It doesn't seem to have occurred to them that this high profile ring-of-steel might suggest to some of the evildoers that Edinburgh is now a potential target worthy of their attention, with or without cars.
A few days after the national press coverage a lady with various spray cans appeared. The 'Bridge of Spies' style checkpoints, which looked as though sinister men in long leather coats would soon be demanding our papers, was transformed into a colourful 'rainbow pride' artwork. Could this be a case of recruiting the Telletubbies to scare off the terrorists? Let's hope it works.
A new essay by Nik Williams of Scottish PEN on the role of surveillance in our digitised society is featured in the latest volume of The Evergreen.
Grassmarket residents decide to sit outside to watch the box. It's no less noisy.
A few days ago a busker started playing at 2.00 pm outside our flat in the Grassmarket. The wailing of his vocal cords, which emitted more of a glissando of whines than any recognisable notes and his slow-strummed guitar, both amplified to an excruciating volume, echoed through our rooms so neither of us could think, work or listen to any entertainment of our own, let alone enjoy peace and quiet.
I went down to ask him to stop. He refused, saying the rules of the Council allowed to play as loud and as long as he liked. I said I’d have to call the police. He just shrugged, muttering something about me being free to do whatever I wanted (except, obviously, listen to him). I rang 101 and was told the police would attend.
A grueling hour later, no police had come. I rang 101, to be told they were on their way. Another ghastly hour, I rang again, only to be told that the police who were attending had been called away, but others were coming. Thirty minutes later, I went down to answer an enquiry at the main door, and happened to see two police standing nearby looking at the busker. I asked them if they’d come to stop him. They said they had a complaint, but had no powers to stop him, and anyway he wasn’t making too much noise, was he? I explained that sound rose, and in the flat above his din echoed through every room.
They then said they’d have to take my details since a woman had complained about this busker, not me. They asked me how long I’d lived here. I said 25 years. They replied that I must be used to this then. But I explained that amplification had made this nuisance unbearable now. They then asked me if I was born in Scotland. Isn’t this racist? Eventually they went over and asked him to stop, and then came back, smiling, to tell me he’d agreed to go. They thought they’d done a good job. They didn’t see the smirk on the busker’s face as he looked at me, scooping up his very considerable takings after playing unstopped for two and a half hours!
Everyone has a right to peace and quiet in their home and place of work. Edinburgh is currently failing to provide this for its inner city residents and workers.
Grassmarket, Edinburgh, is currently the focus of a litter picking project, Neat Streets.
CEC, Grassmarket BID, Keep Scotland Beautiful and a London Base Social Enterprise called Hub Bub have come together to encourage the people who live and work here to tidy the place up for the visitors.... As a long term resident I feel a bit miffed at the idea of locals being asked to look after the place for anybody but themselves and all the more so because in Grassmarket the people who create the most mess and litter are the businesses and the visitors! If proof were ever needed, read on.