Lizzie left early to go on a 5 K color fun run so I had the house to myself – well.almost. Daisy came and made herself quite comfortable on my lap while I had my morning cuppa. Still tired but excited for the morning’s adventure to try and find where my great, great grandfather Robert Dean lived in the six years when he moved from Patricroft near Manchester to live in Scotland, before returning to Barton-upon-Irwell and dying there soon after. Several of his 6 children were born in Portobello.He himself was one of 10 children.


His address on the 1861 Scottish census is 30/2 Tower Street which implies the second floor, therefore probably a tenement block. I had been in contact with the Leith historical society and someone had told me that in the 1960’s Portobello underwent some street name changes and Tower Street is now Figgate Street. I’d selected Lizzie’s place hoping I could walk there. (As I write this Faure’s Pavane has just come on the radio, part of the London Proms. I recently performed this with Sarah and the Cabrillo Symphonic winds.) It IMG_8139IMG_8149

took me 35 minutes. It was grey outside again. That’s the color I most associate with Edinburgh: steely grey sky, sea, and grey foreboding stone houses. Yet the human life in the city is colorful, distinctly cosmopolitan and vibrant. Getting lost in an underpass at the first roundabout on my walk got me a bit dispirited and I contemplated taking a bus instead but I really wanted to walk there. After asking for directions from obvious locals and getting three completely different responses I finally figured it out. I’ve learnt that it’s only by walking places can i sense the spirit and flavour of a place.


The ‘Welcome to Portobello’ sign, ‘Edinburgh’s Seaside’ was adjacent to the railway bridge after which the main street retains its original cobbles. It’s this railway that brought Robert to Portobello where he held the position of Railway Goods Superintendent, presumably a significant promotion from his previous job as station master at Patricroft. As I stood on his street now I wondered whether he went to Portobello for health reasons too. He died, aged 39, from tuberculosis. It was thought at that time that sea air was beneficial for that condition, and Anne Brontë died at Scarborough, on the coast where she had gone for the help the bracing sea air could give her poorly lungs.  I knew that Portobello is on the coast but I didn’t realize that Tower Street actually connects Portobello High Street to the sea front.  The tower which gives the street its name is still there, newly refurbished but all the older buildings on the street have long gone. It’s now the site of an amusement arcade. But parallel to it are little alleyways, walls and doorways, all that remains of older dwellings. A couple of older tenement blocks are also close by, but most buildings which had date stones post date 1861.


Tenement blocks in Portobello

I caught a bus back to 41 Corbiewynd feeling proud of myself for getting off at the correct stop. There’s a big difference in people’s attitude here. I told the bus driver where I wanted to go. “One pound 60.”I gave him 2 one pound coins. “No change given on this bus.” I deposited the two pound coins in the box and then he pointed at something. I’d no idea what he was pointing at – and then i glimpsed a ticket peeking out from a machine. I gave it a tug and behold – it was mine! No-one here thanks the driver when they get off. In Hebden Bridge everyone said Thanks, and the driver would reply, ‘See ya’ luv.’ It’s little things like that that make me warm to a community.



Lizzie was driving to the center of Edinburgh to take Daisy for a walk so she dropped me off at the station. I was 2 hours early for my train but I’d planned on having some lunch there. But the station was in chaos. There’s been a fatality on the line south of the city where a person had been hit by a train and so all the trains south were either cancelled or severely delayed. The reservation system had been abandoned and everyone was allowed to board any south-bound train they could get on. After dragging my luggage up and down the lifts to several different platforms because of all the last minute platform changes I eventually found a train to Kings Cross stopping at York. Everyone else in the coach were students from China who all promptly fell asleep after consuming vast amounts of snacks. This train, too, had to run very slowly and only reached York in time for me to catch t my intended train to harrogate where I arrived at


Victorian decorations at York railway station

7:50 and Judith was waiting to drive me back to her village of Birstwith, 8 miles from town.