Ten Thousand Torches

December 30, 2007

My coat will smell of smoke for a month. Last night we took the in-laws and the kidlums on the annual Torchlight Procession, part of Edinburgh’s long festive excess. This town is good at circuses. Thousands upon thousands of Edinburgh citizens and Hogmanay visitors holding up two-foot burning torches and marching through the town, up to Calton Hill, burning stuff, and ooohhhing at the fireworks. Several mystified Americans asked me “what is it in aid of ?”, and “why are those people dressed as vikings ?”, and “how come they are burning a twelve foot model of a stag ?” ???? Well hell I don’t know. We just do this stuff.

The Old Observatory is on Calton Hill, and being Regius Professor of Astronomy I tend to explain pompously to anybody in earshot that in 1789 that would have been my house. Luckily my partner Debbie is normally on hand to point out that in 1789 a lower class oik like me would never have been a University Professor. Walking down off the hill, as the torches go out and the smoke temporarily parts, I can see Orion, Betelgeuse glaring orange across a distance I can write down but not really grasp.

Back home to bacon butties for eight and Christmas Special Type Telly. Perfect.