Here's my latest column for the Caledonian Mercury – reflections on a week spent with the contradictions of Edinburgh in Festival. All comments welcomed.
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"YOU know, we really have to blame the politicians for all this”, said the ancient, modulated voice from the front row. “Clinton wanted us to give mortgages to the blacks, and we did so. Bush wanted us to give mortgages to the Hispanics, and we did that too. Yes, I'm a banker. But why blame me?”
You couldn't script it. But as I came to the conclusion of my week both working for, and wandering around, the Edinburgh International Book Festival – and the city in general – it struck me that Edinburgh is a place which has a very distinct script indeed, running away beneath the milling bourgeoisie and shilling performers of the season.
The voice at the beginning was piping up at the end of a session with the journalist John Lanchester, explaining his funny, furious account of the financial crisis, Whoops! But with every elegant and well-informed question from the audience – “Shouldn't we blame profit-driven ratings agencies like Moody's?”, “What about a kite mark for banks who submit to a liquidity-based levy?” - you slowly realised where you were.
This is a city filled with hordes of financial “innovators” (and maybe a few traditionalists), who naturally knew how to “speak Money”, as Lanchester put it.
Listen to the Weegie, some of you might be muttering: where was he during the last ten years of Goodwinolatry, exponential house prices, Harvey Nichols? Mostly either 51.3 miles west or in London, as it happens: Edinburgh is experientially stranger to me than both Camden or Hillhead. It usually drags me over, or upwards, because its concentrations of capital – political, financial and cultural – are too strong to resist.