So Book Week Scotland is over for another year, and it’s been a crazy, inspiring, wonderful time. I think the decision to move back to Edinburgh was the best I’ve ever made. So on that thought, and inspired by famous authors writing their love letters to libraries, I’ve dashed off this letter.
I don’t know, I turn my back for one minute and you become the first UNESCO City of Literature. That’s pretty damn good going. I remember when my literary temple was Kirkliston Library, one of those concrete 60s horrors. It didn’t matter what it looked like- it was stuffed to the gills with fantasy books. Terry Pratchett and Tamora Pierce were duly devoured. That was when this whole damn thing started.
When I moved back to you, the first thing I did was register for a new library card, because reading books is more fun than council tax. Craigmillar Library is now my local haunt, half an hour’s walk through a park with a clear view of Arthur’s Seat. What a shiny, colourful place. It’s a chaotic, noisy jumble. The kids run up and down, enthusing about the latest YA novels, and complain that I shouldn’t be hovering around their books because I’m blatantly old enough to be their mother. The Full Stop cafe is always busy, and the librarians the right side of sarcastic. How my tiny heart swelled the first day I took armfuls of YA books to the counter and watched a proud mum signing her son up for his first card. And you have the third ever statue of a woman to be unveiled in Edinburgh: Helen Crummy, founder of the Craigmillar Festival Society, author and all round inspiring lady.
And what about the Central Library? I frequently got lost in the art books as a teenager and trundled around admiring the ornate ceiling. The music library was brilliant too, and I must confess to borrowing 80s CDs and taping them on my old Woolworths ghettoblaster. And, er, excessive photocopying of Tears for Fears sheet music. Sorry about that.
I’ve even got a card for the National Library of Scotland now. Such an austere building from the outside, but if you step inside there’s tons of exhibitions, a lovely cafe and, recently, the book sculptures left behind by an intrepid artist a few Book Weeks ago. (Sorry about the damage in the Rare Books room, by the way. My characters were in a bit of a sticky situation. I’m sure they’ll pay for the windows and bookshelves to be fixed.)
You stack your buildings one on top of the other in crazy ways. I sometimes wondered what was underneath it all until I started writing my novel. I went into St. Giles a few weeks ago for lunch in their cafe, which used to be the cathedral crypt. I guess you guys didn’t know about what was hiding in one of the tombs a few decades ago. Shame, that.
Oh, and I can’t miss out Craigmillar Castle. It’s somewhat overshadowed by its more famous neighbour on the Mound, but it’s right on my doorstep and so much better. Where else can I wander through a courtyard with creepy twisted trees, saunter into a great hall where the pact to murder Lord Darnley was signed then climb the walls and have views to the Pentlands, across the Forth and towards the Old Town. Look at Arthur’s Seat sleeping in the distance, the spiky gothic rocket that is the Scott Monument and the magnificent churches in the West End. Craigmillar is mostly new housing these days, but those two high-rises must have a great view of the castle. There really was only one place my protagonist was going to live.
I’m not even mentioning the Festivals, Leith Walk with its heady mix of Asian supermarkets, charity shops and record shops for sad vinyl anoraks like me, and the sandy seashore with its faded, end of the pier charm. Och, you’ve got me hooked, Edinburgh. I guess I’ll stick around.