yon Empress of the North
There's always the odd surprise waiting round the next corner. Yesterday I was walking along Princes Street, in that Novemberish way (i.e. at a 30 degree angle against the howling wind) when all of a sudden there was an almighty explosion, just off to my left in the Gardens. I nearly flung myself to the ground for cover, but thankfully I remembered I had a cream coat on and decided to take the hit standing.
Once my breathing and heart rate had returned to normal and I realised I wasn't dead, I quickly figured out that the noise was a fireworks display, which was part of the Christmas Light-Switching-On Ceremony. Now I'm used to the big ol fireworks they like to put on to give the tourists a good sending-off at the end of the Festival, and at Hogmanay, but I wasn't expecting this one on my way home from work and I nearly wet my pants. Thankfully I wasn't the only one to get a wee start, and when 200 people stopped in their tracks to see what was going on over there, there were numerous shunting incidents to distract people from my yelp of shock.
And as if major deflagrations aren't enough, there are other things that will scare the bejeesus out of you during a typical day in Auld Reekie. Despite living here for 26 years, I still sometimes get a fright at 1 o'clock when the dirty great gun goes off (although like most Edinburgh residents I try not to show it in front of the tourists - we like them to think we're immune to it). All the ghost stories that keep the Royal Mile in business are fine in August when it stays light till 9pm and the place is crowded with Japanese tourists and their cameras, but in November when it's dark and you have to pass Greyfriars Kirkyard or take a short cut through Fleshmarket Close? Not funny. Then there's the man who paints himself white and stands in front of Jenners pretending he's a marble statue (SO freaky). And if you have the misfortune to wander into the midst of the opening of the Next sale? Well, you can incur serious injury (or death) if you don't stay on your toes.