It's a lonely thing, travelling to a city by yourself. A city that isn't home. A city you adore that doesn't adore you back. I suppose a city can be forgiven for that, being a city and all. Then a spot of blue sky opens up just as you look out the window of the café, the sun shines through and you feel like maybe it's possible that it does adore you back after all. It starts to rain when you're walking back to the AirBnB feeling lost and alone and it feels like the city understands how you feel. Maybe you need the rain just now. The uneven cobble stones are beautiful because they are uneven, broken, put back together. Like people. And you think that maybe loneliness can be a peaceful thing. Maybe it can even be shared.
This weekend, I attended a book festival in Edinburgh. It was my treat to myself, a weekend to listen, discuss, think, read and write. Coffee, food, wine and books. Bliss. It was a small festival hosted by my favourite book shop, Golden Hare Books, and it was truly a wonderful experience.
Yes, I opened this post expressing loneliness, but I think loneliness is what made it all the more wonderful. Reading and writing, after all, are lonely experiences, but they can also be shared in the most beautiful way. I've listened to conversations on cooking, propaganda, feminism, the queer experience, discussions on writing and publishing and poetry read by the poet who wrote it. It's been useful, educational, eye opening and inspiring. It's been small, intimate and personal. And numbers aren't why we do this are they? Words are why we write, read and publish. And that's the powerful shared experience of the weekend, a love and adoration of words. A shared experience in reading, writing, interpreting and publishing words.
Golden Hare Books is a favourite of mine in Edinburgh. Another favourite is Smith & Gertrude, whose wine list I've now thoroughly explored. There's something about sitting in a room surrounded by people, a glass of wine and a notebook in hand with plenty of time to kill that brings me solace. The sound of fifteen individual conversations merged together in a backdrop of noise is, to me, the perfect soundtrack for writing.
As a reader, I walk away from this weekend with a reading list that'll last me years. It better not last me more than one year, however, as I hope to come back next October for another literary harvest, and even more books to discover. As a writer, I walk away from this weekend with new motivation, inspiration and shiny new tools to play with. It's easy to feel disheartened when you see tables stacked with piles of extraordinary writing. What am I doing, trying to add to it? Who am I to claim my place among them? But I can't help but feel a sense of belonging. I can't help but feel a sense of purpose as I return home to Aberdeen with a notebook full of scribbles.
I opened this post with loneliness because that's what I felt on the first day of the weekend. On my last day I realised that loneliness can be a beautiful tool used to find a sense of belonging amongst people who share my love of words, printed, scribbled or drawn as they may be. I suppose that's one of the reasons I started writing to begin with, in order to find a space for belonging in a shared human experience. That's what books give us and that's why we can never stop writing and creating. For the sake of peaceful, shared loneliness, we can never stop reading.