Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Demise of Western Civilisation

I heard on the radio last week that UNESCO were so concerned about the relentless "development" of Edinburgh that they are sending out inspectors with a view to removing its status as a World Heritage Centre. Yesterday in Edinburgh proved very enlightening for three reasons:

  • 1Me and Clive discovered the trashed shell of the old tram works at Leith;

  • I chatted to a lovely woman - Sharon - who adores her city of birth and who is very active on local environmental issues, in the broadest sense; and

  • I found out the real - and rather obvious reason - that the highly unpopular, though allegedly "environmentally friendly", tram is being built.

  • This final point is probably the easiest to deal with. The tram will run from the Scottish Executive building in Leith to the Airport. Billions of pounds and endless disruption to make it easier for the self-serving idiots of the "Scottish Government" to leave the country by very environmentally unfriendly plane. (This, remember, is the same group of people who cozied up to Donald Trump after Aberdeen local council - wisely - turned down his plans for yet another golf-course on environmental grounds.)

    On the second point, Sharon was telling me about the redevelopment of the Forth Canal which runs past her house, a fine remnant of the industrial heritage of Scotland. What the canal needed was cleaning up. What it did not need was badly-built, monotonous "luxury flats" and useless, overpriced restaurants and cafes which nobody will visit. At one of the development meetings, where the local residents said that they didn't want cafes but wanted workshops for stonemasons and blacksmiths and the like, one of the councillors said "But it will be an upmarket cafe. It will be Starbucks."
    I will let that stand without comment.

    Further to my post earlier in the month about the Tinsley Cooling Towers, it was saddening to see the destruction of the Leith tram works, a beautiful Victorian industrial building just off Leith Walk. Clive and I walked about for the best part of an hour, exploring the labyrinth of passageways under the building as well as the visible bits above the ground. To give you an idea of what has been destroyed, this picture sums it up:

    Leith Tram Works Interior

    This is the reason Edinburgh might well lose it's status with UNESCO. The relentless trashing of the past, replacing it with this sort of plastic nonsense:


    and worse. Such as the replacing of it with Starbucks, George Wimpey "Homes", Gap and the generic corporate blandness of everywhere else in Europe.

    I went to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo last night.

    Edinburgh Military Tattoo, 2008, 2

    I wouldn't pay for a ticket for this - though loads of people would; it has been running every year for 60 years with every show sold out - but as Clive managed to get me a backstage pass and I could watch it from the follow-spot gantry for free, it was well worth going to. Though it is basically an offensive exercise in military bombast with sickening shows of the nastiest sort of "patriotism", there were some excellent displays of precision marching and military bands.

    Sickening Nationalism

    Especially good were the New Zealand Majorettes, who were quite simply the most precise human performers I have ever seen, closely followed by the very striking Norwegians. Both the Norwegians and the Singaporeans were the most musically interesting. Prize for utter boredom goes to the Indian Army for marching up and down and up and down and up and... playing the dullest tunes imaginable! I think they need some lessons from the Bollywood Brass Band!

    Clive tried to make pancakes using the heat of one of the lighting units:

    Edinburgh Military Tattoo, 2008, A Light Pancake

    Sadly, it didn't quite work as the wind was so high that it cooled the pan instantly.

    Went on Mark's "Literary Pub Tour" last night too. I couldn't stay for all of it, but it has grown and improved over the time since I last saw it many years ago and is worth seeing. I was very pleased to be able to talk one of the others on the tour OUT of visiting glasgow, persuading her she would be safer and have a more enjoyable time staying in Edinburgh for an extra two days. After all, in Edinburgh you almost certainly won't be attacked in the street at 7.30pm as I was in glasgow on Friday last, coming out of the office where I work as a volunteer.