Thursday, April 17, 2008
Edinburgh, stem cell research and very spicy cold pakora
Only in Edinburgh: being woken at 2.00 am by the sound of someone playing tuned bongo drums outside the window. Well, it was Marchmont I suppose.
The stem cell research event went well, I think. But it was only afterwards, in the marbled and oaken grandeur of the Scotsman Hotel, that the real science fiction stuff emerged from three of the five professors involved. My eyes were popping. So was my brain. I feel a million-selling medico-cyber thriller coming on.
Unexpectedly, excellent (though cold and unexpectedly spicy) food was provided at the event, which was in the fairly awesome Surgeon's Hall. Edinburgh at night is so ridiculously beautiful it ought, by rights, to be some kind of tourist attraction. Quaint, too. Medieval. I bet there was all sorts of history happened there...
Anyway. Sitting in the foyer bar at The Scotsman was an odd experience, because this used to be the main entrance to said newspaper, and it was here I waited, nervously, to be called up to Magnus Linklater's office, where I was to be interviewed for the job of Highland Reporter. Magnus was smoking a cigar and feeling benevolent, I think, after judging a school newspaper competition, because he gave me the job.
I paid many visits to that venerable building (they'd given up printing the paper there, but all the editorial and advertising departments for The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Evening News were still at North Bridge). Apart from the gentleman's club atmosphere of the editor's office, the availability of the Jinglin' Geordie and Halfway House bars and that jaw-dropping public entrance, by the early 90s it was, internally, a grimy tip. But it was positioned at, and to be the heart and soul of Edinburgh, and indeed of the country. The smell of printer's ink never really disappeared when the presses went. There was a romance and a sense of tradition to working there.
Now it's a posh hotel, the paper's HQ is housed in a glass prefab next to Dynamic Earth, and I am a light entertainer, not a newspaperman. And, of course, a chairman of panel discussions on stem cell sourcing.