Back in the day, Edinburgh was ours. Last night—our first night out in the city for many years—we saw how far Edinburgh had slipped out of our grasp.
We made our way up through the bars of Broughton Street—this one, too busy; that one, not busy enough—picking out a few familiar faces along the way. We worked our way up to the one we could depend on, opposite the club that used to be called Honeycomb and up from where Wilkie House was, before it burned to the ground.
I have such a strong attachment to this bar that my heart crumpled at the scene it had changed into: hens, stags, chavs (of course I’m a snob and precious for saying so). Louise and I sat sulking in the corner. What happened? This wasn’t what we wanted. I couldn’t pretend not to understand that what I had wanted was to resurrect a ghost. Was it just the bar, or had everything changed?
Across the street to the club that used to be Honeycomb, now called Cabaret Voltaire, Louise and I moaned to the bouncers—at least they were the same. “The people that used to go there have all gone to another place now, down on Candlewick Row,” they told us, agreeing in distaste about the new scene. We lingered for a moment, thinking whether or not to head down to the new place, still chasing ghosts, when the DJ spotted us outside: another familiar face, the pieces of ‘our’ Edinburgh were slowly starting to take form.
We descended into the basement to a sweaty, strobe-lit, banging club. It wasn’t our club—though half of the DJs were the same, just under a new name—but when Underworld’s Cowgirl came on, for five minutes I was back there: late nineties, young and filled with lust for the city.
The moment passed and we were back where we were. Saying our brief goodbyes—for how long? Another ten years?—we left. If I hadn’t have left Edinburgh back then, I wouldn’t have felt the disappointment so sharply. But really, how could I have stayed? I realized that though I was wishing places to stay the same, I always kept moving so that I wouldn’t.