|Image: The Punch Pizza|
I had six hours of sleep before I had to log back into the Company network to complete yesterday’s marathon software installation. It felt like I’d had half an hour. Thankfully, it all went reasonably well, despite me running on autopilot for the first hour or so.
My boss came to see me in the morning and told me I was to leave early – a direct order – which I was only too happy to do. By 9:30am I was already growing lethargic, and a headache was developing, concentration was becoming a problem, and I was finding it hard to stay calm towards the contractor who probably has trouble wiping his own arse without being told what to do. I’ve also to take a day off this week so I’ve made a move for Friday. I intend to rest well and write even better. That’s the plan anyway.
I left the office at 3:30pm and headed home utterly exhausted. I went straight to bed for a couple of hours before the family got home, and felt pretty darned good when I got up again. We all went out to celebrate Gail’s 31st birthday, Pizza Express the venue of her choice. The Leith restaurant was fully booked when we got there so we drove to the one at Holyrood.
I was right ready for a feed by the time the food came; Bruschetta to start followed by a ‘Siciliana’ – a Sicilian-style pizza with a topping of torn Italian artichoke heart, anchovies, prosciutto cotto ham, olives and garlic. Delish!
Back home, I finally got a chance to catch up with over two days of email. Lots of gunk as usual but some interesting stuff, too, including a guest blog invite, details of this year’s PSH Chapbook Exchange, and some feedback on the new issue of the Ranfurly Review.
Underground Voices rejected The English Teacher today – they don’t know what they’ve passed up on. I like the story and I think it’s one of my better written ones, but perhaps the subject matter is not to everyone’s taste. It’s a case of finding the right market, I suppose.
Got a bit of work done on the two short stories I’ve been moulding – still not happy with them though. It may have been because I was so tired, but it may also be my instinct telling me that they don’t feel like stories yet. I’ll let them settle for a short while and return to them.
I prepared the pictures of my research trip on Saturday morning, which you can see below. My mission: to investigate the area where Major Thomas Weir – the man who sold his soul to the Devil – used to live, and apparently, still haunted until not that long ago.
Born in 1599, Thomas Weir rose to high respect within the army before retiring as a Major. When he fell ill in 1670, he made a confession from his sick-bed that was so shocking it was first assumed he was mad. Eventually he was taken into custody by the Lord Provost, and along with his sister, Jean, they revealed a life of witchcraft, sorcery, bestiality, and incest.
Both were found guilty (though not of witchcraft – that was assumed) and sentenced to death. Major Weir was strangled and burned at the Gallowlee, and Jean was hanged.
Afterwards, their house in Anderson Close – a small Close adjacent to the West Bow (lower section of Victoria Street) and the Cowgate – lay empty for half a century. Sir Walter Scott was once a custodian of it, saying that nobody dared go near the place because of the many reported strange sounds and lights on inside it each night.
One couple who bought the house 50 years later only lasted a night, reporting a strange black beast appearing in the room, placing it’s front legs on the end of the bed before leaving. Reported sightings of the Major and Jean’s ghosts revolved around their leaving the house to be collected by a carriage pulled by coal-black horses each night, which would transport them to Hell.
When the Anderson Close area was developed, the number of sightings dropped though the Major, complete with his staff, would occasionally be seen wandering around the Grassmarket area instead.
So there I was, walking towards Anderson Close to investigate. Some books said his house was at No.10, others 24, but my main concern was to see if any trace of the Close still existed. According to the latest maps it was still there, and I think I found it.
The West Bow
The West Bow end of Anderson Close according to the map, between the burnt out Khushis and a Mexican restaurant.
From the Cowgate, the back of Khuskis. I think Anderson Close ran to the left of the building from this view.
The entrance to the lane leading through to the exit at the side of Khushis. According to the map this is Anderson Close (the small dark doorway to the right of where those Italian blokes are standing).
An idea of perspective – Anderson Close on the far-right of the picture, with its proximity to the Grassmarket in full view.
Anderson Close. Note the usual hanging sign is gone, and there are marks above the Close entrance where a sign used to be. On most other Closes in Edinburgh this is where you would find a sign marking the name of the Close – but not this one.
Close up view of the missing signs.
Inside Anderson Close. This is as far as I could get because of all the scaffolding and fences installed since the fire in Khushis. It was narrow, dim, stank of rotting garbage, and I could hardly hear the street at the other end. When a pigeon took flight I almost dropped my stomach on the floor.
The source of the rubbish. On the right is the back-door entrance to a homeless hostel. Evidence of bevvying and drug taking lay at my feet. Nice.
A doorway. All very quiet and dark – was quite glad to get out of it by this point.
What has all this to do with the sequel to Stella? I guess you’ll have to buy the book when it comes out because there is a really obvious link to the two stories.
Great photos. I remember traipsing around there with some festival people we met up with at World’s End one time. Looking forward to seeing how it fits into your story!
I admire to your writing
Just for the sake of accuracy, West Bow no longer exists. The Victorians tore it down and replaced it with Victoria Street (the main, lower part) and Victoria Terrace (the upper part).