Monday nights find me lapping the Meadows on Edinburgh's south side. I've always had an affection for this spot which provides a life map for me: at the east end is Buccleuch Street and the grocer's shop and home that my grandfather established on his arrival from Ireland; in the middle are the George Square buildings of the University where I laboured in the seventies; then the Simpson Maternity Pavilion, the birthplace of myself, and my son; and finally St Thomas's, where I spent the first 16 years of my teaching career.
Many moons ago, involved in the organising of the annual Meadows Festival, I found myself speaking on local radio, extolling the community feel of the Meadows to no lesser a personage than Muriel Gray. But it was only with the recent commencement of my weekly run that I really appreciated just what a community the Meadows supports - especially as the darkness falls.
Running the night before Guy Fawkes, I became aware of groups of teenagers scattered around. Inspired by Standard grade chemistry, they were experimenting with various fireworks. The rockets looked pretty, until I realised they were trying to mortar passing runners. The poor guy ahead of me ended up performing a kind of Mexican fandango, as squibs and bangers exploded at his feet.
Less seasonal locals include the drinking fraternity. The contemplative sit quietly on benches, drink in hand, contemplating life through the aura around the street lamps; after a hard day at the chalkface, you might almost envy their serenity. The walking wounded pose more of a problem. They are at a stage where they wish goodwill to all men, and the last thing they want to do is obstruct a runner.
Unfortunately, the alcohol has robbed them of their perspectives on distance and direction. So for a hundred yards or more they weave about, trying to ensure they keep out of your way. Inevitably, they collide with you in a mumble of cheerful apologies.
Worst of all are the bitter philosophers and, I have to admit, the effect of the released endomorphs was diminished the week I ran past the wifie on the bench.
Having controlled herself for three of my circuits, my fourth pass was too much to bear.
"Hey you!" she slurred. "You're fit, aren't you!!! . . . I hope you ****** die, you *******!!!!"
Not very South Side.