“Of course you can stay, come on over.” The exodus had begun. Edinburgh was on shutdown as offices emptied out early in an attempt to get their workers home before 3pm when all public transport would grind to a halt. E. and S. had missed the last train out to East Lothian. A plan was hatched as to how to make the most of being trapped in the frozen city. We would head out, just before dark, by the time the wind had dropped, and find an open restaurant for dinner. The snow was powdery and soft underfoot and even though it was dusk, with ominous black clouds overhead, the light bounced off the fresh fall giving a blue-grey brightness to the evening. We pedestrians owned the city. Three others had joined us: G., B. and C. The atmosphere in the restaurant was relaxed, what else was there to do in this weather but eat and drink? Over Scottish cheeses and an Argentinian Malbec, conversation turned to trips to South America, steaks and tango, and then to weekend workshops dancing the ‘Lindy Hop.’ They didn’t look like a couple who would dance the Lindy Hop, the incongruity of it pleased me.
On the way up home, up Broughton Street, we joined a snowball fight, bolstering the armouries of a local trader who was pelting her neighbouring business in good humour from across the empty street. The top of Leith Walk, usually thick with cars at any time of the day, had just a few intrepid taxi drivers, occasionally snailing through the roundabout. But tonight the roads were nearly all ours. “It feels like Christmas Eve, without the pressure of having to cook a big dinner tomorrow,” S. said on our way home. I new what she meant: that feeling of excitement, and anticipation, and holiday – strangers were chatting to each other. We stopped in London Gardens and took group photos standing upon the Paolozzi sculptures. The snow was falling heavily again as E., in a deliberate gymnastic flip, gave us his best impression of a snow fox. Having rolled in the snow he didn’t seem any more or less covered than the rest of us, who were just walking in it. Almost home, and keen to get indoors, we helped two young women in a Renault Clio who couldn’t gain traction at the brow of a hill when the lights turned green. Wheels spinning, the lights went back to red, they were stuck. We ran back up the hill towards them and, in the spirit of Dunkirk, gave them a twelve-handed push up the hill and round the corner. Beep beep! They waved, shouted their thanks and got going. I willed them to make it home. It was a memorable night, but I was glad to reach my tenement stairwell, the promise of removing damp mittens, hats and scarves and settling down to cups of tea – or maybe something stronger – was appealing. “Lets shake the worst of the snow off our coats and boots out here on the stair so we’re not bringing snow into the flat,” I suggested. I opened the heavy door of the flat, put the key on the dresser inside and stepped back out to shake my coat. Clunk. The sound of the door, and the sound of my heart. In the one year that I have been here, it has been foremost in my mind not to lock myself out, and I implement it with prefect aplomb on the night of the first ever red alert weather warning in Edinburgh. I will be forever grateful to S. and G. for seeing the funny side and pealing into genuine laughter. B. and C. offered us sofas or comfy chairs for the night, but I knew this was just putting off the pain until the morning, best face it now. For the next hour and a half, between 10pm and close to midnight, E. and I set off through Edinburgh on a mission to reach the keeper of my spare keys. I shaped three gymnastic flips en route (none of which were deliberate), we pushed one van up the low gradient of Queen’s Drive under Salisbury Crags, saw one fox – luminous orange against the snow – and cheerily greeted any fellow crazy late night walkers we met. “I love this,” I told E. “I didn’t lock us out on purpose, but if I knew how magical this was going to be, I might have.”