Friday, October 31, 2014

An Edinburgh Poem


I seem to have a deadline for Thursday night for the next typescript. I seem to have to be 170 miles further north early on Friday morning. With a short story (unwritten as yet ) and in fancy dress (no idea!). So I can't wax as lyrical as I usually do.
Next week you are getting a blurb on what it means to be Glaswegian and why we have over 60 words for drunk.
But this week I thought I would treat you to a lovely poem by my good friend Betty MacKellar. She's the award winning poet who writes mostly in Scots but this poem is in English. And it's about some wee rubbishy place on the east coast where they wear fur coats but can't afford knickers.
Or so I am told.

 Seriously tho, a lovely poem about a lovely city. If you like that sort of thing. 


The city of my childhood wore a face
for afternoon tea,
she was a Jenner’s kind of lady.
A trace of her is left in me –
“Hold your back straight,’ she’d say,
“Speak nicely.
Put on your gloves”...
Eight years she tutored me.

I was beguiled by her refinements
for her face was all sunshine and smiles
in Princes Street Gardens
and the tram
to the Zoo in far Corstorphine
or Portobello Sands.

Sometimes I happened on her shadow places
saw the dark side of her face
the queue of thin men snaking round the corner of our street
waiting for soup
and tramps in the Meadows
shell-shock bleary in their eyes.
Did I hear the word “meths”
on that old man’s breath?
My mother rushed me past
too fast to be sure.
No trainspotting allowed in the thirties.

Sciennes was my school; it had a swimming pool.
I can still hear “Rule Britannia” playing
as we marched en masse
like little soldiers of the Empire
into class.
All quite up-market for the non-fee paying
but I recall my mother saying
that the colours were same as Queen Street College – navy and red.
I could almost have been swanking to the private one instead.

The War saw me away
evacuee in a pixie hood,
then after a lifetime

My hat was yellow
with flowers
smarter than the Queen’s
I had forgotten how beautiful the Crags and Arthur’s Seat had been.
The sun still shone
for cucumber sandwiches and French cakes
on the Palace lawn.
The face for afternoon tea smiles on…

And my grandchildren went to George Watson’s. 

Betty MacKellar

Caro Ramsay  31 10 2014


  1. I love it, love it, love it! You two, too. Thank you.

  2. Lovely poem! Thanks, Caro and Betty! (And that Jeff, quite the rhymer, his ear's not deaf, even for an old-timer...)

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