Yesterday marked thirteen years since my bus pulled into Edinburgh's St Andrew's Square Station, and I was met by my host, a bearded fellow in a loud houndstooth tweed jacket. When Benedict Ambrose asked if I needed anything, I indicated that I would like a meat pie and beer, and so he led me from the station to Rose Street, where we just avoided a street fight, and into a pub.
Last night we went back to this pub, but it was so quiet, the upstairs room where we had our first meal together was shut. Thus, we sat downstairs and admired the traditional wooden bar in the middle of the room and ordered meat pies and beer. At the quiet bar the transsexual barkeep commiserated with a transsexual patron, which was a change from my first visit--although who knows? I was so tired and the downstairs of the pub was so crowded when I arrived that September evening so long ago, the entire cast of La Cage aux Folles could have been there and I wouldn't have noticed.
One thing I had noticed, that morning in London, was that the signs forbidding smoking and other anti-social behaviour in the bus station were bilingual. The second language, full of the letter Z, was a complete mystery to me. And on the bus, a family that seemed to take photos the full length of the journey, kept up a very long foreign language full of shushes and buzzing noises. Thus, I was introduced to Polish even before I met modern Edinburgh.
I do not remember what I thought of my pie thirteen years ago, but I was not terribly impressed with my pie last night. I do not think this pub falls under the category of Gastropub, and Benedict Ambrose (as was his nom-de-blog, in case you've ever wondered) and I usually eat much better when we go out. However, that is where we first ate, and so the pub is special to us. And there was even a nostalgic whiff of street violence in the air as a Scottish couple in the pub directed their banter at an English couple who did not know that Scotland still has an indoor mask mandate.
Naturally what I wanted to do next was get in a taxicab and go back to the Historical House, reliving the dark drive through the gates, past the rhododendrons (Rebecca! Manderley!), and the first sight of the amazing villa that I did not know would become my home for almost a decade. But the past thirteen years have not been uniformly kind, so back to the Historical House we did not go.
I asked Benedict Ambrose what (besides cancer) had defined our marriage, and he said "Ravelston," meaning the part of Edinburgh in which we have gone to Mass together since Michaelmas, 2008. And I must admit that although the cancer changed our lives--and us--it didn't define our marriage as much as it confirmed and strengthened it. The real defining factor is the Edinburgh Traditional Latin Mass community--and thus, of course, the faith that that community shares.
Update: That's me, 13 years ago. I don't publish photos of B.A. for reasons that should be obvious in this 21st century valley of tears.