I remember it like it was yesterday

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The Independent Online
BACK a few days from the Edinburgh Festival, and the nostalgia is beginning to build up already, like pearls in an oyster. Or maybe more like plaque on the teeth. Well, whether it is good or harmful, one thing I do know is that it builds up very quickly. The accepted theory is that nostalgia creeps up on you noiselessly over the years, but that's clearly wrong; I can easily feel nostalgic for things that happened last week. If I try hard enough, I can get dewy-eyed about this morning's breakfast.

Which reminds me that I often saw advertised in Edinburgh last week something called 'Full Scottish Breakfast', which turns out to be the same as the English full breakfast except fuller - along with everything else it also lists black puddings and potato scones. No wonder Scottish cuisine is one of the killer diets of the world.

I never did try the full Scottish breakfast, and I feel nostalgic for my failure. Nor did I go into my local pub at the top of the steps above Easter Road that looks like a black and white castle, and which this year opened every day at 6am for liquid breakfast. I asked the newsagent across the road (with the odd sign SHOE REPAIRS in the window) why any pub should want to open at 6am. Was there some local market that worked through the night?

'No,' he said. 'Nothing like that. I suppose it's all the folk coming out of the pubs in the Easter Road that close at 6am, not wishing to curtail their evening just yet.'

I even feel nostalgic for the bike I hired from Sandy Gilchrist's Bike Shop, just down the road, to scoot round Edinburgh on (invaluable in the late, unsober hours). We go through the same ritual every year: 'I

want to hire a bike for the

festival.'

'I think we're right out of bikes. No, hold on, there might be one left.'

And they always bring out the same left-over bike, a trusty touring bike so shaken by Edinburgh's viciously cobbled streets that it rattles even before you get on it.

I also get nostalgic for Valvona and Crolla, the wonderful Italian grocers, who recently stopped selling wine-making kits to their Italian customers when they found it was damaging their wine sales, and for the Cafe Royal, the elegant fish restaurant with the stained glass

windows . . .

It's next door to the Cafe Royal pub, and if you have a table, one of the delights of sitting there is watching the drinkers come through the swing doors by mistake and seeing their 'Right- let's-have-a-pint-of-heavy]' expressions change to 'Jesus-I- don't-know-what-this-place-is-

but-it's-never-a-pub' looks.

Ticking off these nostalgic items, I see that very few of them have anything to do with the festival, only with Edinburgh. I do have my memories of the fringe, such as of the gently amazing Trestle Theatre, the explosively amazing Chinese State Circus, an addictive close harmony group called Draylon Underground, a late night rhythm and blues group called the Honking Hep Cats, who are the only musicians I have ever met claiming descent from Tiny Grimes and his Rocking

Highlanders. . . .

Enough. The fact is that nostalgia for the Edinburgh Festival can build up even before you have left the place. Dr Tony, from the glamorous Struck Off and Die duo, told me of the incredible evening he had spent the night before at the Acoustic Music Centre in Chambers Street.

A bloke they were drinking with had taken a penny whistle from his pocket and blown the most amazing stuff, right there in the bar. It turned out that he was one of the players from the Boys of the Lough, one of the folk groups. Dr Tony told me this episode often before I left. Nostalgia was clearly biting deep already.

'Great place, the AMC,' said Dr Tony. 'I'm amazed that nobody I know goes there. Well, I'm going back there. I'm going to see Hamish Moore.'

My turn to wince and be nostalgic. Hamish Moore is a great piper from Dunkeld who also plays jazz and has struck up an inspirational partnership with the Scots saxophone player Dick Lea.

I saw them last year, twice. I haven't recovered yet. They're on again on 3 and 4 September, and how I wish I was there to see them.

You see how bad it can be? I'm nostalgic for something that hasn't even happened yet. Pathetic, really.

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