A Pilgrimage – Shipping Forecast Project 1

Fraserburgh Rocks

I don’t remember much about Edinburgh. I did a couple of Fringe Shows at the Edinburgh festival in the 1980’s – before the agoraphobia kicked in, obviously – that were deliberately obscure and impenetrable, just to see what we could get away with. Quite a lot as it happened, so much so, we could be seen for about four seconds on The South Bank Show. One of the shows saw me in army fatigues and a tutu with a very fetching string of pearls attempting to play the violin while a friend in bondage gear made noises on a saxophone that sounded like he was strangling a goose. A third sang twinkle twinkle little star. After several minutes of appalling noise and gumby-esque shouting, we all ran around flipping pancakes.

            Funny how many people ‘totally got it’, ‘knew what we meant’ and told us their interpretations on what was essentially an attempt doing something as stupid as we could think of. 

            A couple of years later, we went back with a show that involved everyone’s heads being painted white and poking through a single sheet/smock/tent and recited some cut ups we made using William Gibson, Shakespeare, William Burroughs and The Sport as source material. Two would recite in unison, the third would shout and gurn. The gurning swapped between participants during the performance. Can’t imagine why, but that didn’t go down as well as the pancakes did.

            The next visit was to see a friend perform, again at the festival, but this was song and piano and much more civilised. We went for a lovely steak dinner afterwards and then went on our way.

            My view of Edinburgh is, therefore, slightly skewed. 

            As it turns out, this leg of my trip around the coast and shipping areas only starts at Edinburgh, it being the nearest city to the journey I have planned along the east coast of Scotland. So again, my view of Edinburgh will be brief and skewed, viewed through the lens of fatigue after a seven-hour train journey. 

            I never really thought that Edinburgh would be the kind of place I would just ‘pass through’. It warrants a much deeper investigation and hopefully one day it will get that. For now, though, it’s an overnight stay followed by hiring a car and travelling at least to Inverness. If I can get further in the short time I have available, I will, but Inverness in the goal for this trip.

          A previously mentioned, I have an odd relationship with the travelling.  I love being in different places but find the physical process of travelling stressful and weird. I think the discomfort comes from not being anywhere definite. You are neither at your point of origin nor your destination; you’re in limbo. Between states. Schrödinger’s pedestrian. I prefer a little more certainty and need to feel solid ground beneath my feet. Trains are the least objectionable transport, perhaps because their size and mass give them a feeling of solidity, even if the ground is shaky. 

            One of the stops on the way was a town called Fraserburgh. I had deliberately chosen this town as a point of pilgrimage. One of my favourite bands hails from the town.  I wanted to see the town that produced the people who created such euphoric, beatific music. As I wandered around the town, I couldn’t really correlate the feelings the town gave me with the music they produced. As pleasant as the town was, there was little to suggest the sweeping grandeur of the music. The fishing ships, the malodorous processing plant and the black and white brick buildings said nothing about the angelic sounds the band produced.

            Even the coastline with its cormorant heavy rocks, its angry seas and cloud broken horizon failed to suggest the feelings of apotheosis that swept over you when listening to the music. 

            I visited the lighthouse museum and climbed the many steps to the top, staring from the lamp room at the town below; the roiling seascape. As every pilgrim who convinces themselves of the divine meaning of every event on their journey, I was determined to find the key to their music. 

            I could see how the waves slamming against the outcrops could suggest the sweeps and washes of sound. I could see that the glittering of the days catch could inspire bright, sharp sounds. I could imagine that the sea on a still cold day could inspire the stately and often glacial tones and atmospheres and high in the tower, I felt that I had become closer to their music. It had spoken to me on another more intimate level. I understood.

Listening to their music in the car on the journey onwards, I relaxed, believing that maybe I really had found some inkling of the roots of their music. Maybe I really did understand the town a little and understood the music more. Maybe I could envisage the band singing their chiming hymnal works on the wilds of the cliffs’ jags.

            Back at the hotel, I turned the PC on and looked for an album on Amazon Prime music. I wanted to feel overwhelmed by their seraphic sounds. I found an album I hadn’t heard for a couple of years and put it on to play. As I read the biography, my mood slipped. The smugness at knowing evaporated. 

            I had confused the name of the singer with the town we had visited. Liz Frazer/Fraserburgh.

            The band were from Grangemouth.

            200 miles south west.

            On the Forth, not the sea at all.

            And with the best will in the world… its appeal is… limited.

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