I am new to this city, although Edinburgh is not entirely new to me. And so, when I moved into my tenement flat, just a few months ago, I was hoping (and my hope was realized) that the flat would have an Edinburgh Press. Adjacent to the fireplace in my sitting room, any door the press might once have had is long gone. Back in Ireland we have presses too. “Put the bed-sheets in the press to air”, might be a common request if the press was near the fireplace, or, “Pass me down the teapot from the press”, if the press was in the kitchen. I’m told the name isn’t used much in England. Nor in all parts of Ireland, I find when I ask around. Though, ask anyone from Scotland’s capital and they’ll be proud to have an Edinburgh Press.
What should I keep in mine? So far I have books, a plant, some little ceramic jars, an old framed tapestry that I found in a charity shop in Newington, a singing bowl, half a bottle of Bushmills, about the same of the lesser-known Dingle Gin, and an unopened liqueur from Dunbar. I have some pheasant feathers gathered from the grounds of Castle Howard in North Yorkshire. I have a few pebbles from the beach at Gullane, a crucifix from Mexico, and a bronze plaque depicting the Brendan Voyage. One of John O’Donohue’s poems is balanced up there, handwritten by my dear friend who presented it to me as I crossed to Irish Sea, to begin again. There is a pile of cards from well-wishers telling me that I can. Just that I can, not what I can. The ‘what’ is for me to discover. I have a fountain pen, and my writing box with paper, an assortment of cards, and an old fashioned well-thumbed Smythson address book. I’ve recently left some seed heads up on the press to dry. Placed there to sleep in the warmth of the morning sun – alliums, poppy heads, nasturtiums – I’ll wake them, come spring.
My Edinburgh Press: may it be a moveable feast of collectibles as I find my way in this city. May it be my very own ‘cabinet of curiosities’, like the one I saw in the Museum of Modern Art in Dean Village last week. My ‘wunderkammern’. No doubt mine will have nothing so collectible or valuable, exotic or curious. Yet, to me, all these little trinkets and items are important, nonetheless. Are some talismanic? Maybe. Are others souvenirs? Certainly. Souvenir: from the latin, ‘subvenire’: to “come to mind,” – sub “up from below”.
So that is what I keep in my Edinburgh Press at home, and I hope my Edinburgh Press on this screen will, in time, hold a similar collection. Though it has just begun, and so far contains only these words, I will add to it, building a collection of memories and observations bubbling up from below, breaking the surface of my mind. I’ll send them out into the world where you can, if you want, share them. Welcome to My Edinburgh Press.