Edinburgh has been my home forever, but a seaside town would be tempting - Gaby Soutar

I’ve wandered down to the sea every morning this week.

I was expecting to spot scores of wild swimmers streaking across the bay, but maybe that whole trend has been over-hyped to gullible city dwellers.

My ankle boots and thick socks have remained firmly attached. I only let the fizzing tide touch the tips of my heavy soles. I’m not going in – no chance.

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I’ve spotted plenty of salty tousled dogs, and lugworm casts that resemble Walnut Whips.

North BerwickNorth Berwick
North Berwick

I’ve also discovered that oystercatchers look pretty daft when they run. They’re too beak-heavy. It’s like jogging with a police cone strapped to your face.

Don’t tell the burglars, but we’re not at home. We've been turfed out of our Edinburgh flat, while the wonky Sixties electrics and the potentially asbestos-riddled fuse box is removed and destroyed. Most likely they are stripping it out with hazmat suits on, as if they’re dealing with ET.

Three light switches had been broken for over a year, and I still turned them on every time I walked into a room. It was getting too dark to pat my way round the kitchen, trying to feel the outline of the quarter scone from earlier.

Rather than descending on our horrified families, like the Beverly Hillbillies, we’ve escaped the drilling and dust and rented a tiny flat in North Berwick.

For years, I’ve wondered what it would be like to live here, or anywhere by the sea.

This is my opportunity, sort of. It’s just a shame that you can’t see the water from our window.

Our direct view is of the busiest road in town, as my husband keeps emphasising, since I’m the one that chose and booked the place. The rumbling coaches, with names like Bay Tours and Sea-line, all stop directly outside and wait patiently for their passengers.

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The beach may not be in our line of vision, but I still love being near enough to smell the vague tinge of ozone on top of those idling engine fumes. That’s not unusual, most people get romantic about the sea.

I only have one friend who finds it flat, depressing and monotonous. I can understand that’s a possibility, for those who prefer the leafier and greener landscapes.

Maybe after a while you’d get sick of its impassive depth, like a shark’s eye. If you stare at the ocean too long, you do get a shiver at the base of your spine, and realise that it made the sand by turning rock to powder.

Moving here is tempting, though I’ve lived in Edinburgh for almost my whole life. It’s like a marriage. The city and I have had our problems, and at some points they seemed unfixable.

There’s always the existential fact that the Scottish capital has meant so much to me, yet my love is unrequited. I haven’t made any sort of impression, apart from some light graffiti circa 1985.

When I was a teenager, I really detested it for a while. I was sick of getting the bus along Princes Street and the same sights. After college, almost all of my friends left, and I stuck.

Someone once said that you spend half your life running away from home and the remainder trying to come back. I wanted to leave, but was too scared, and now I accept that. I suppose I’m where I should be, at this stage of life.

However, so far, the concept of living and working in an East Lothian town – away from, but also near the place I grew up – is exciting. I like to imagine that it’s a possibility.

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If we moved here, some things would stay the same. I’d still have to get up at stupid o’clock, and listen to my other half muttering under his breath and typing violently. I would have to continue with the strict protocol not to do anything silly in the background during Zoom meetings, though the temptation increases as Halloween approaches.

Of course, I have to sit at my computer, and write this.

However, along with the familiar monotony, there’s been new stuff added to our routine.

This includes visiting Bostock bakery first thing daily, without fail, at the opening time of 9:30am. Sometimes we’re even first in the queue.

We’ve walked along the High Street carrying brown paper bags full of savoury brioche, with an egg baked INSIDE it, porridge bread, raspberry confit doughnuts and cinnamon buns. Lunch has consisted entirely of premium baked goods.

There’s been no time to accumulate and dispatch leftovers, like at home. However, as we’re NOT on holiday, we haven’t fallen off the eating wagon entirely and have steered clear of evening cheese, crisps or wine.

This stay has made me realise how heavily ingrained my habits have been, after the past few years of my flat doubling as an office and living space.

At least now, instead of my local park, I have temporarily enjoyed the West Bay instead. I haunt it in the early morning, after lunch and at dusk – my prime time, when it’s atmospheric, a little creepy and easy to stumble over black mounds of bladderwrack.

One evening, we watched three sets of geese in their arrow formations, heading off for winter and honking all the way like 20s motorcars. We gave them a wave. Remember to phone home, guys.

New horizons. They know all about those.



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