The Reawakening of Auld Reekie

by Professor Joe Goldblatt

The Balmoral Hotel Clock Tower

Once upon a time, a wee girl in Auld Reekie, looked up at an old man, and asked “Where have all the people gone?”

She thought that the old man might know the answer of why she was now staying at home most days with her parents and she did not see many other people.

The old man was a Professor. A Professor is someone who is paid to think and to teach others. His young friend hoped the old professor would know the answer to her question.

The old man and his young friend lived in a very old place named Edinburgh that was once called Auld Reekie. The name Auld Reekie means old and stinky. Hundreds of years ago Edinburgh was a very smelly and unwell city.

The old man kneeled down so that he could look the young girl in the eye and gently explained that as her parents had previously told her, a very bad flu had come to Auld Reekie and this meant that many people, just like today, had to stay home and others could not come and visit them just now.

The wee lassie frowned and asked the old man why this had happened to Auld Reekie. The old man said “We do not know.”

Then the old man asked her “How are you feeling?” She said “Well, I get to spend a lot of time with mummy and daddy and sometimes we get to play in our back garden.”

The old man smiled and nodded his head up and down in agreement and told his young friend that “Sometimes when bad things happen, something very good may come.”

He then invited the young girl to take a walk with him into the center of Auld Reekie so that together they could think about and discuss what was happening in their city.

As they walked along, the wee lassie smiled and said “Professor, the birds are chirping so loudly?” She then pointed up above and exclaimed “Look! The skies are so blue and the clouds are so big and white and fluffy.” Finally she said with a long long and deep sigh “Professor, there is sunshine everywhere and almost every day!”

Hand in hand, they continued walking through the Princes Street gardens admiring the thousands of beautiful red, yellow, pink, blue, orange, purple and green flowers and soon they reached a small sloping part where a large floral clock was displayed in the ground.

Floral Clock.Photo: Martin P. McAdam

As they strolled up to the clock, the old man gently squeezed his young friend’s wee hand and explained that “During this time of the bad flu, many people like you and I greatly appreciate and love even more than before, the really important things in life such as family, friends and the healthy environment that we are beginning to experience right now.

The young girl looked at the giant colourful clock in the ground, gasped in amazement, turned to the old man and asked “What do the letters “N H S” mean?”

The old man proudly explained that the giant clock, made of living flowers and plants, was in honour of Scotland’s National Health Service. He further explained that Scotland’s great and good NHS had helped many people stay healthy when the flu came to Auld Reekie.

His young friend smiled happily and then the old man looked up high into the bright blue sky and noticed that the stately Balmoral Hotel clock was tick, tick, ticking again after several months of having been stopped when it was broken. The old man squinted his eyes, looked up at the clock and said, “That great clock is just like Auld Reekie.”

His young friend did not understand what he meant and then the old man pointed directly to the huge clock in the sky and said, “Look, the Balmoral Hotel clock is working again. It is moving forward! This is a wonderful sign that life is once again going forward in our great city and country.”

The young girl quickly looked up at the Professor, jumped up and down and shouted loudly with great excitement…

“Sometimes when bad things happen, something very good may come!”

And indeed, the old man and his young friend realised that something good is often happening all around us. Because of the flu there are less cars and airplanes to pollute our city and more people are walking and cycling which is good exercise.

The old man, his young friend and all of the people in Auld Reekie also now appreciated even more than ever before, that when we have our family, friends and a healthy environment, we may one day move forward, just like the giant Balmoral Hotel clock, and once again, all live together, happily ever after.

Here is the audio version of this story…

(This story was written for my young friends to help them better understand the “flu” of 2020 and appreciate the lessons we may all learn.)

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