Edinburgh, je t’aimerai toujours

Wiseman attempts to focus on his glass of wine. Varifocals, y’see

Thursday, 27 December, 3.45pm. I emerged (I would like to say blinking into the sunlight, but, seriously) into the cold, damp twilight of Edinburgh’s Waverley Bridge. It was 2012, but it could have been 1992. I was a student, returning from spending Christmas with my family, and gazing across the train tracks to the National Gallery and Edinburgh Castle, I was struck afresh how much I love this town.

The next morning I got up early, and after a visit to work to say hello to the post-Christmas skeleton staff (although no-one looks like a skeleton post-Christmas), I checked off a few favourite haunts – haircut at Kenny’s, coffee at Artisan Roast, brunch at Indigo Yard. Last night saw the continuation of another personal Christmas tradition – the festive Subbuteo match. Note to American readers: Subbuteo is a table-top football game (football, yes football) whose heyday was probably in the 80s, but is kept alive by a few anoraks/”enthusiasts” who may well enjoy a spot of Fifa 13 action on their Xbox or whatever now and then but still retain a fond affection for flicking small plastic figures around a large green mat chasing an oversized ball.

Approximately 30 minutes before leaving for the “stadium”, I realised I had failed to include “Subbuteo stuff” on the Spreadsheet of Destiny I created when leaving the country, and thus had (and still have) no idea where/in whose basement/attic I packed it away. Accordingly, I was unable to bring my usual team (Northern Ireland) to the game, and my contribution to the atmosphere of this festive fixture (three sections of terracing, complete with approx 23 plastic fans in various stages of apparent undress, depending on how much of them I had painted) was also missing.

Surprisingly, the atmosphere seemed largely similar to previous years, and I got round the lack of a team by borrowing Argentina from my opponent. He went with Brazil, and they got hockeyed 11-7. We used to play games 20 minutes each way, until we realised we had to play a few games to justify the hassle of getting it all out and set up, and so since 2010 or so we’ve just played the full 90 minutes + Fergie-time. Brings on a sore-ish back, mind, bending over a table for that long.

Tonight was a long-awaited reconciliation with Wiseman, at PizzaExpress. We went to the Holyrood venue, possibly the coldest restaurant in the British Isles. I wore one more layer than I typically wear when skiing, and all was well. He warmed himself with several large glasses of red wine. We shared our respective news. He has acquired varifocals since we last met, which provided more ammunition for age-related jokes, not that the ammunition cupboard was exactly bare. I found it amusing to bob up and down in my seat, although whether the resulting blurring effect for Mark was varifocal or grape-related remains unclear.

Tomorrow I get to worship at St Mungo’s again for the first time in several months, and I’m greatly looking forward to it.

Thanks to all of you who have posted ‘welcome back’ type messages on Facebook and the like. And seriously, if anyone is reading this and they think they might have a battered box of Subbuteo stuff in their attic or basement, please do get in touch. There may be a reward.

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