Where the wild things are

Posted by on May 6th

Editor at Large

If it is true that God made time in order to stop it all happening at once, then he reckoned without Leith Links on the first unseasonably warm day of that hot spell in early March. Here was Leith en fete, the ebb and flow of human traffic.

Under the quietly blazing sun all that was dull suddenly took on aspects of light. The drunk on the wooden bench drinks White Lightning instead of hope, because he’s run out of hope. He has the perpetual look of someone who has come to browse but, never, ever, buy. 

As the sun arcs higher into the blue vault he sleeps his crimson face into an even darker red. I breathe deeply, as if it is possible to fill your lungs with sunshine. Three youths career past throwing fireworks at the sleeping drunk.

He doesn’t stir and he doesn’t catch fire, he just kind of boils.

How that woebegone fenced in bit beside the bowling greens will look (soonish)

Dogs, of course, are everywhere. One stretched freakishly long as if on the rack. Another spins surreally on the playground roundabout. A third can just be seen chasing thwacked golf balls on the far links. Of more immediate concern to yours truly is the Rottweiler attached to the burly psychopath. He is restraining it by the collar, causing it to rear up on its hind legs until it stands six slavering feet tall – all of them directly in front of me.

The chap at the end of the leash peruses me as if I have the answer to all the big questions and says like this, “you are out of control and it’s making my dog feel out of control.” I make no attempt to skew his fractured logic. A young girl cycles between us, rather impressively pedaling furiously while also wearing roller skates. The hound is so impressed by this that he drags his owner off in her direction.

The same three youths, or three different ones, having run out of fireworks, have acquired a ball, which they are bouncing on the head of the sleeping drunk. To their right a young boy plays metronomic keepy-up while speaking on his mobile phone, an impressive enough feat until he starts doing it whilst texting.

Another is practicing step overs while two others desultorily pass the ball back and forth in a forlorn tick-tock of boredom. All over the Links there are kids playing with footballs. None of them are playing football.

Above the dwarf daffodils the trees have lost their chiaroscuro winter calligraphy and are cloaked in nascent green, some still weighted with blossom.

All over the Links there are kids playing with footballs. None of them are playing football

I sit facing this alien sun on a bench dedicated to Jean Orr and John Connor 8-7-33. What happened on that day that survives till this? A stolen first kiss, a promise to remain true, a twin tragedy. Did they carve this legacy into a tree that once stood on this spot?

The bowling greens are full of council dustbins disgorging their contents onto the grass (memories of playing putting here) and the new tennis courts are full of kids playing football tennis, which I feel sure I invented.

The clock above the offices in Great Michael House is five minutes faster than the one on the turret of the Primary School, as if commerce moves faster than education. And who is to say that it doesn’t?

The drunk stirs and opens his eyes but only briefly, having long since realised that if you are afraid of the light you only have to keep your eyes shut.

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