Spartans and Sporrins

I’ve encountered a flattering from at least four different people in isolated circumstances of late, all who tell me with seriousness that I am a dead ringer for the main protagonist in the film ‘300’. I can’t deny that both my ego and beard have been confidently stroked after back to back character comparisons to ripped, beefcake Spartan King Leonidas.

In my makeshift wooden throne, I sit and contemplate…

A half moon illuminates prominently above piercing the otherwise deep blackness.
In the moon’s wane, Majestic, dormant volcano ‘Arthurs Seat’ is perched high in the distance as late night UK-box taxis shoot up the hill along a row of amber shade streetlamps. It’s a balmy night in Edinburgh. From my second story window I vouyeur a lone boozer exiting the ‘Maltings’ Pub down below replete in strapping red kilt and sporrin. The balminess of the evening mitigates what may have led to some otherwise perilous inversion goin’ on down south. Empty and quiet, the Maltings’ lights switch off. Thankfully this is not the case for their Wi-Fi network and I continue to usurp their bandwidth. The drunken Scot is not alone in telling me I’m in Scotland. It is the whiff of feudal nobility, the echoes of three hundred years ago; the amazing landscape and resplendent architecture. It is the four different establishments with the name ‘Cockburn’ as I passed in on the bus.

Reuniting with my old Canuck travelling mate Pam and Irish gem Orlagh I was strayed off the bus into the nearest pub for a compulsory christening. Pints flew, craic cracked and like all good nights, dissipated into thin air. In moonlight we stumbled along cobblestone lanes and wynds carrying a bellies full of Tennents, inhaling and spying glints of this city’s ghostly past – visions of dark stormy nights, horses and Scottish knights, royalty and peasants and the social underpinnings of olde. Near Royal Mile, the city splits into two tiers where the South Bridge sits cosily above the shady Cowgate strand. Robert Louis Stevenson once penned: “to look over the South Bridge and see the Cowgate below full of crying hawkers, is to view one rank of society from another in the twinkling of an eye”. You can’t walk late and night along Cowgate bridge without being imbued by the lower class spectres of the past

It is what feels like a moderate eternity since the adventures on the other side of the world in the chaos and raw beauty of South East Asia.

After Cambodia I spent the most amazing weeks of my life on the tropical paradise of Ko Samet.. I fell in love. The deepest of its kind. Warm sun befall our existence on that little island A new chapter was written, this amazing, surreal fairytale - each day more wonderful and out of this world than the one before. Yellow moons bore down as waves lapped our tiny island bungalow, where the whitest of sands bleached your feet and time fell back in line for the presence of endless magic.

For the third time I returned to Bangkok and it began to feel like my South East Asian headquarters. Kho Sahn road burned again with the flurry of tourists, the repetitious treading of touts and the searing summer sun that bore thick steam from high on above. I escaped the intensity of the southern capital and leapt aboard a plane, sinking deeply into the laid back vibe of Thailand’s spiritual mecca Chiang Mai. I would spend balmy afternoons with guitar in hand atop the ‘Spicy Thai Hostel’ sundeck – a plush tudor house and former residence of the American ambassador. The Doi Sep temple shone golden on the mountain top high over the entire city. Even more impressive than its sister hostel, ‘Spicy Laos’, these digs provided the perfect culmination point for my SE Asian sojourn - a place to relax, get blessed by a monk or two and soak up the last of the ridiculously affordable lifestyle, amazing food and unquestionable beauty.

With days dwindling I traced known ground and marvelled at how comfortable I’d come to feel all of a sudden in this manic part of the world. I flew to Kuala Lumpur for one final sup of Curry and noodle, followed by a few relatively painless if not forgettable hours in Singapore. In no more than another ten my black and white brothel creepers would be carving up the backstreets of inner city London.

The initial shock of the fiscal transition from Thai Baht to English pound was brief thanks to some fine hospitality from my friends Loan and Raefe, who put me up in style inside their plush Parson Greene digs. I revisited London, caught up with a bunch of folks and subsequently saw more of the city in four days than I did when I spent three weeks there two years ago. This was largely due to late night double decker transitions between far nooks of the big city, including a hairy late night encounter with the shadiness of northern crime pit Finsbury Park.

In Dublin I encountered a brilliant weekend of pure unadulateratred debauchery, kicking it old school for a mammoth reunion weekend with thirty long termers from days back at the Greenhouse. Early daybreaks elapsed trundling beneath pale blue hues along the south strands of the river Liffey. I crashed in style with good friends Michael and Craig at their apartment in Hanover Quay, opposite U2’s recording studio. There was no sign of Bono, but I’m told he’s little man and probably evaded my less than perfect eyesight. Lou Reed and Tim Robbins played down on a stage by the water one night.

And now Edinburgh. For how long, I don’t know. What’s next I can’t be sure. The only certainty is the sun that has begun to come up. It’s keen to get into the action early in this part of the world. The windy street is silent and eerie, that amber trail shining its’ last, the Maltings dead, awaiting a fresh influx of souls. From my ivory apartment I ponder and watch the morning come to life. I oversee, I contemplate and fall weary. I relive and revisit thoughts and memories, distant and recent, old and new. I recall wise words and quotes, realisations, revelations and observations. My Kingdom is alive and well. And with my last blink and final moment on this wooden throne I recognise that Mel Brooks was bang on.
It’s good to be the King.

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