Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Surgeons' Hall, Radio Scotland studio and Scottish Parliament

UPDATE: 1/1/2012

Andrew Connell from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh sent me a charming book with a cd of 7 poems which had been commissioned for the quincentenary of the College.  I had made a remark praising Pandora's Light Box at the time of my visit to Surgeons Hall.  One of their poems 'The Eye in the Hand' by Andrew Greig was particularly interesting, so I've gone back to Andrew Connell  suggesting they get a stethescope or listening device for visitors to appreciate around the opthalmic section of the museum. 

Many thanks to Andrew Connell ( )

** end of update

The Edinburgh Festival is over and I’m catching up on some visits made during the festival.  These will be brought together in terms of city walks, river walks and even a canal walk, together with some bus trips, train trips and the odd car trip.  Yesterday (30th August) I was scheduled to do an interview at Radio Scotland studios in The Tun in Edinburgh, and having got to the bridges in good time, I decided to check out what was going on in Surgeon’s Hall, in Edinburgh.  This is a magnificent building and during my childhood it stood out against some rather sleazy buildings, shops and a flea pit known as the La Scala  cinema officially, but was always referred to as The Scabby Lala.  Edinburgh’s cinemas had a tradition of having chummie seats in the rear! 

Prof Whitestick outside Surgeons' Hall
4 August 2012

Surgeons' Hall is an imposing building and walking through the grounds one can enter the museum which is actually in Hill Square.  It’s a bit of a trek upstairs but you also get an idea of an Edinburgh tenement with the ‘stair’.  In Glasgow, this would be known as a ‘close’.  The museum has several exhibitions and I was interested in the ophthalmology section.  The entrance fee was £3.00 (concession) and a carer goes free.  One could touch some exhibits, for example stereoscopic viewers.  Other exhibits related to surgery in Edinburgh, historically and today.  There are some exhibition notes that have to be read to you as there is no audio tour yet.  Some interesting 18th century eye surgeons were recorded.  A John Taylor was noted for quackery and some aspects of eye surgery still sound quite gruesome.  There is a video of a cataract operation and you can listen to the surgeon discussing this in great detail.  The inside of the pathology museum is behind the famous portico which I passed by on many occasions going backwards and forwards to school, or changing buses at Surgeon’s Hall.  This room by Playfair is still used for examinations and perhaps the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh could copy the Artlink Pandora’s Light Box project and engage a poet to write a sound guide for the benefit of visitors, especially the visually impaired! 
Marion and Evelyn were very helpful and this museum is certainly worth a visit as both are prepared to read out the captions on the exhibits, if required.  A very interesting museum and an interesting building. 

The next stop was Radio Scotland’s studios in The Tun, which is convenient for the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.  Having heard about ‘green’ rooms, it was interesting to be in one and have a coffee and chat with other guests on Radio Scotland’s Culture Cafe.  I met the production staff based in Edinburgh and put on the headphones and was worried about being given a nonverbal cue.  However, as Claire English, the presenter, was in fact in Glasgow, there was no need to worry.  It was good to be able to promote Artlink’s activities in Edinburgh and the project with the Talbot Rice Gallery.  I did manage to avoid plugging my own blog, though Claire did refer to it.   A big thanks to Elizabeth Anne Duffy for looking after me and the CD arrived this morning!  You can hear the interview on: . (only available till 5th September)

The next stop was the Scottish Parliament and after going through security, the reception centre has a tactile floor plan of the complex and I was encouraged to go on the tour (which is free, by the way).  Having been to Arniston House and hearing of the keystones of Parliament House (the Scottish Parliament met here until the Treaty of Union in 1707) it was good of the reception staff to brief Gordon, the guide, on my interest in finding out where they were.  I could make out the keystones with my peripheral vision, but not the detail on them. (see my review of Arniston House in the blog)  The acoustics in the complex change from space to space and the design is intriguing.  There is great use of  glass, wood and granite and my cane could pick out the different floor textures as we moved from Aberdeenshire granite to Caithness granite.  There’s quite a lot of symbology in the building which might be mixed but if you remember the Scottish flag is the Saltire or St Andrew’s Cross, you will find them all over the place.  In looking outside, one can make out Salisbury Craigs and the Dynamic Earth ‘structure’ which appears like a tent with spikes.  The parliament was in recess and we were able to go into the chamber through the garden lobby and find the presiding officer checking out the new sound system in the chamber itself. 

One of the features of the Scottish Parliament are window seats which some of the journalists have referred to as ‘think pods’.  I’m afraid my imagination got the better of me as I thought about the ‘chummie’ seats, a noble tradition of Edinburgh cinema going.  I didn’t ask Gordon, the guide, about this.

Outside the parliament complex is a bus stop for the number 36 bus which will take you round the byways of Edinburgh all the way to the Ocean Terminal.  I was a bit of a pest in asking for ‘what’s the name of this street’ as I found some of the buildings familiar on bus routes going backwards and forwards to school a long time ago.  We jumped buses in Great Junction Street in Leith, got back to Princes Street and my cane hit the tram lines of the Edinburgh tram project which seems to have hit the buffers.