The Spontaneous City

Edinburgh Expeditions

One thing that I love about Edinburgh, and indeed my friends, is the spontaneity that exists like a heartbeat. The city is magical, alive with its own way throwing things at you, opportunities wonderful to behold, that must be grabbed and enjoyed.

I was returning home from an event in Leith and got off at the wrong bus stop–not a problem, as it was only slightly more out of my way. If I hadn’t departed the bus at the National Museum of Scotland, I wouldn’t have stumbled upon a group of my friends having an outdoor dinner (complete with table and chairs) being serenaded by two-thirds of the Balkan folk group Bobok.

Never being one to turn down the opportunity to hang out with friends (and listen to awesome live music), I pulled up a chair, sat down, and enjoyed a glass of wine. We laughed, danced, chatted as the sun continued to fall.

Being Edinburgh, the darkening sky brought some rain, and the musicians were anxious to keep their instruments dry. We scurried beneath the Potterrow underpass, bringing our table and chairs with us. The concert continued, with the Balkan music reverberating in the under-road pass. People passed us by, admiring our full dinner set up, and the musicians playing.

Needless to say, everyone who walked by wished they were with us.

The Improbability of University Life

Edinburgh Expeditions

Sometimes, I feel as though my life ought to be a movie. There are moments that are so improbable, so scripted, that if I didn’t partake or witness them myself, I would scarcely believe that they had happened.

One of those days happened Monday. My swing dance group was tapped to perform in a flashmob (we do this a lot) to advertise for an upcoming jazz club night. It was only supposed to be a few minutes, to get some photographs for our society and for the club night. My friends and I grinned and danced, wearing t shirts and cardigans despite the cold. We had the soft sounds of an iPod to dance to, only enough to catch the rhythm and make up the rest from there.

My friend and I started dancing, rock-step-triple-stepping, lindy-turn, rock-step-triple-step-step-step-triple-step. We laughed at the ridiculousness of dancing to the music we could hear (sort of), but the rest of the world could not.

We were ready to stop after a few minutes. Our silly group attracted a few bystanders.

The sound of a solo saxophone cut through the chilly night.

Our little group looked up, surprised. What was this sound? Were we to continue?

“Great!” said one. “Music!”

All we could do was continue dancing. We couldn’t resist live music, even if it were just one saxophonist.

I switched dance partners. As I spun, I noticed someone wheeling a double bass case. I thought nothing of it as I continued to dance, focusing on not twisting my ankle on the concrete. The thump-thump of the bass strings joined the saxophone.

An entire jazz band sprouted from the pavement. A trumpeter materialized, another saxophonist joined the throng. Finishing off this spontaneous band was a percussionist on cymbals.

Through it all, as we twirled around the main university square, more and more people stopped to watch, intrigued by the musicians and the dancers, two crazy groups out on a cold, early March night.

If it were to be filmed or presented in a novel, it would be considered a contrivance, a plot device, something to initiate the ‘meet cute’ between the hero and heroine, or the climax of the (undeniably cheesy happy) story. No one would believe something like that could really happen.