Servings of Genius

Friday we improvised together a series of small plates, culturally speaking. And they were all in the same part of Edinburgh, sort of.

We began by walking through a new Friday market on Platform 2 at Waverly Station, which is called the Friday Waverly Market @ Platform 2, oddly enough. It’s part of LocalMotive Market. Next, at the City Art Centre, we looked through an exhibition culled from the permanent collection. In an apparent effort to eliminate the job of curator, the show is called “You Choose,” and consists of favorite paintings chosen by popular vote. Here’s one with lots of mystery: “The House on the Canal,” by Josephine Haswell Miller.

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We also had carrot cake there. Just outside the City Art Centre, one gains elevation by walking up the Scotsman Steps, an enclosed staircase on the side of the old newspaper building.

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The stairs, once dilapidated, have been revitalized by Martin Creed’s installation, officially titled Work No. 1059, opened in 2011. Creed installed 104 marble stairs, the steps made of different pieces of marble collected from different countries. The effect of these different colors and patterns is entrancing.

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Having gained altitude, we were now situated to make our second trip to Union of Genius, a celebrated soup place. E got the “40 Shades of Green,” a vegetable soup; R got butternut. This is what came to the table.

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Maybe that strikes you as a nice picture. Or maybe you’re thinking, “Gee, that veggie soup looks good, but the other one doesn’t really look like butternut.” That’s because it was chicken frickin’ noodle. An exchange was rapidly and cheerfully made.

On to the Central Library, where Ireland’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Daniel Mulhall, gave a lecture on “Yeats and the 20th Century,” in honor of the 150th centenary of the birth of W.B. Yeats.

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Nice setting for a talk. And lots of good Yeats quotes, delivered by a strong speaker from memory. The talk also ranged over last week’s visit to Ireland by Prince Charles and next year’s centenary of the Easter Rising.

After the lecture, we strolled a block to the National Museum of Scotland. This repository of history and unusual stuff is hosting a temporary exhibit called “Fully Fashioned: The Pringle of Scotland Story,” which chronicles the famed clothing manufacturer. Victorian underwear and sweaters (or “jumpers”) were on display, as well as thank-you notes and memorabilia from Queen Elizabeth and Grace Kelly. This was the day R learned what a “twinset” is.

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R was fascinated and alarmed by the giant squid, one of his childhood fears (thanks a lot, Jules Verne). The museum has many large animals on display.

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Then, a second lecture. It was “Spy Week” in Edinburgh, and Scottish novelist James Robertson gave a talk at a building called the Informatics Forum (which somehow sounds appropriate for Spy Week). The title, “The Blanket of the Dark: Truth and Lies in Real and Imagined Scotland,” looked at the shadow world in literature and politics, with examples drawn from Robert Louis Stevenson, John Buchan, with nods in the direction of Ian Fleming and R’s adolescent hero Alistair MacLean. The title comes from Lady Macbeth’s observation that darkness allows willful ignorance of uncomfortable truths.

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A truly thought-provoking talk. Now we have to read some James Robertson. You can’t much see him in this picture, but you’ll agree it’s a good view of the room, right?

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