I visited Scotland a couple of weeks ago. It was an early start from Berlin and as the plane juddered high above the Forth Estuary on approach to the Scottish capital, I hadn’t had a wink of sleep; the constant offering up of tea, luxury coffee, Panini’s, gambling and snacks (Snaarks),had seen to that. To my left through dark, puffball clouds I could see The Crags and Arthur’s Seat cradling the cities east side and to my right, the two bridges straddling the Firth of Forth which lies between Edinburgh and the Kingdom of Fife.
When I accompanied my Brother in Law to Costco cash and carry at Loanhead a few days later, snacks were still the focus of attention, only this time they were enormous. Everything about Costco is enormous, from a car park full of family 4 wheel drives to the walls of goods inside. I did what I always do when in large supermarkets; grab hold of a trolley and attempt to give myself purpose. The trolley however, was massive; more like an open top caravan; I was dwarfed; my arms could barely reach across the width of the push bar. This Alice in Wonderland status was highlighted when seeing everyone one else in the store in perfect proportion to their trolley. Pondering replacing the barrow-baskets with the tiny trolleys that most supermarkets now have for kids to push around, I wondered if everyone would shrink down to the new scale? – A policy Nutrition Scotland would do well to consider.
Drinking Scottish beer for the first time in over a year, did nothing for my equilibrium; waking up one particular morning with a hangover from hell and a longing nostalgia for the chemical free Bier of Germany. The Jordan Valley Food Store on Nicholson Street provided a welcome anchor point though; along with a selection of whole foods, they are still producing a Scottish/ Middle Eastern Snaark supreme; it is a scotch pie casing with either a nutty rice or chick-pea and onion filling. These have been a favourite of mine for years and still retail for under a pound.
My two public toilet encounters occurred on trips to Fife. The first was at the Waverly Railway station, where I joined a long line of tourists struggling to find exactly 30p in silver to put in the turn-style. I always feel cheated when having to pay for a pee and I’m often transformed into a monies-worth lunatic, producing the behaviour that eat all you can for a fiver buffets can effect on some people. So having had a pee I then hang around, over washing and over drying my hands, then unnecessarily considering, squeezing something out while I’m there. Well, I’ve paid for it!
This concept is readily understood from Baker’s ‘human cantilever’ model with his assistant Kaichi Watanabe representing the live load. The pull in his supporters arms indicates the tension in the ties and the push in the lower struts the compression in the tubes.
From Waverly I boarded a Dundee train and within ten minutes was at the Forth Rail Bridge. I remember the exhilaration I experienced as a child when crossing this red steel monster for the first time on my family’s move up north, to a fresh beginning in Glenrothes Newtown. I was a little anxious of the crossing then, having seen a photo of the bridge some weeks before; due to its undulating shape I had expected more of a big dipper ride than a level train track journey across. All the windows were rolled down that day and children wished and threw lucky coins out into the river below.
The über safe cantilever construction that makes the shape and scale of the bridge unique only really happened because of the Tay Bridge disaster in 1879. So, from its completion in 1890 this once regarded eighth wonder of the world has successfully combated 120 years of constant rail crossings, harsh east coast weather and two world wars. It’s a little sad to consider then that the large sickly yellow patches of restoration work that currently cover the Bridge, may be in part due to an attack of Compulsive Competitive Tendering; the Bridge has always had a somewhat Hans Christian Anderson story attached to it concerning its maintenance; painters would work from one side of the bridge with a special red paint and as soon as they had reached the other side, it was time to start all over again. The story is almost as famous as the Bridge itself; a Zen like, life-long occupation. In the 1990’s when I lived in South Queensferry, the village under the south side of the bridge. It was possible to see a new, more efficient technique of maintenance being practiced. This involved contractors, abseiling from the Bridge, spot painting and restoring the worst bits. Looking at the bridge today I wonder how successful and cost effective the plan was, as the current extensive stripping and repainting of the hulk, (which is hoped to last for the next 20 years) has already reportedly cost 180million.
Having passed above the Hawes Pier, ( the starting point for Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, Kidnapped), I take a last look over at the troubled Forth Road Suspension Bridge, then we speed off into Fife……….