Hello, once again!
Today myself and a fellow Melbourne student decided to check out a couple of Edinburgh’s more select museums: the Writer’s Museum, located in the Lady Grey Close, and the Bank of Scotland’s Museum on the Mound. Both are small and probably quite little-known, but he and I agreed that they both sounded worth a try.
The Writer’s Museum is in a four-storey 17th-century ‘mansion’ (that’s what they called it, it was rather small to my conception of mansion but it was very fancy) tucked away in a square off the Royal Mile, and dedicates a floor each to Walter Scotts, Robbie Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson, with an enjoyable selection of each of their personal effects and some life-size dioramas which would play little dialogues from their lives. I particularly enjoyed Scott’s very long pipe with a creepy face carved on the end, which I liked to imagine him using to intimidate people; a diorama of one of the printers’ that worked on Burns’ poetry collections with the genuine printing press (hidden up on a high floor but worth getting to); and how supremely creepy-salacious Stevenson looks in every one of his photographs. Another highlight was the preserved ‘trip-steps’ that we had heard about on the free tour a few days before, specially built at different heights to waylay unfamiliar intruders (I tried climbing them with my eyes shut and almost died, especially when the doorway at the top was a good foot too short, so they were effective in that sense though I assume burglars would get used to them pretty rapidly so it’s not what I would call a perpetually impregnable citywide strategy). No photos were allowed inside so the following, however enjoyable, are from other sources than my own trip.
Following a foray into the bookshop, where the two of us spent an immoderate amount of time deciding what to buy as souvenirs (I got a £2 guidebook, which was pretty reasonable), we went up the road to the Bank of Scotland Museum, which reputedly contained a million-pound note, which of course we were keen to peruse. In contrast to the quaint and cosy establishment we just visited, this was clean and modern, with uniform display cases and a large number of different displays showing the history of banking worldwide and in Scotland, the process by which one makes money, all interspersed with little diversions like a station where you could use rubber parts to race to turn the old Bank of Scotland building into the new one (the pieces were extremely bouncy and wont to hide themselves behind velvet ropes when you drop them so that they are out of reach and cause you to have an awful time when you had to get someone official to retrieve them for you…or, ah, so I was told… :-P) and a little safe that you could open when you got some questions right and used the provided numbers as the combination (we basically tried all the combinations to get at those sweet, sweet chocolate coins inside the glass safe that taunted us). When the million-pound note finally rolled around, it turned out to be just a copy of the real one (though it was fancy, one of those vintage handwritten ones), but seemingly as a consolation it stood above a cabinet holding 50,000 20-pound notes, another of which stood in the gift shop (when we saw that it was just starting to get ridiculous – do they just have 100,000 20-pound notes lying around? Do they hand out a few hundred as door prizes at bank functions? Does the CEO have a car covered in money? Of course they were all cancelled but that almost makes it worse). We brightened up considerably finding that there was a penny press in which you didn’t have to insert a pound along with your penny like every other one, and would print a little Bank of Scotland logo. Marvellous.
On the way out it was 12:57pm and we tried to hear the 1 o’clock gun from Edinburgh Castle but missed it; as a consolation prize I had a photo with a bloke dressed up like William Wallace to raise money for cancer (as his sign said, ‘the real Bravehearts are kids with leukaemia) and then we went into a shop that turned out to be enormous with the usual selection of postcards, jumpers and Nessie plush toys (going a bit deeper) clan memorabilia, tartan and tweed (going a bit deeper) swords, helmets and flails (in the inner sanctum) a full-on working tartan mill. It was quite the experience. I forget the name of course but it’s on the road just down from Edinburgh Castle and it’s certainly worth a look. Particular highlight: finding the a book of clan history on not just the MacKay clan (who are in most places) but also the smaller Tait clan which I also am (possibly quite distantly but traceably) related to. Hurrah!
In other news: I am going to Durham tomorrow and Lindisfarne later in the month; I have discovered Primark and bought some (not blue) suede shoes from there for £3; and I have bought my first full-size guitar, which I had planned to sell again before I leave but am already attached to after only a day. Such is life. I love my guitar.