I am sitting in Edinburgh’s The Dome having a swanky lunch at a swanky place and wondering if it’s mindful to think life doesn’t get much better than this at this precise moment or is it just plain old show-off complacency? I suspect the latter and so somewhat chastened I turn my attention to the marvel that is this building. Forget the magnificent palms and grandeur of the dining area and bar and follow the pillars upwards to their lofty heights, on and soaring, up into the spectacle that is the enormous glass-domed ceiling. Cool clear light, the kind you only get this far north at this time of the year, illuminates a beautiful bowl and spotlights the elaborate decorations and ornament so reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel. M had wanted to come here for cocktails and dress to the nines. I reminded her that we had nothing to wear save the fleeces and warm clothing brought for a hike round the city’s sights; the Dome hadn’t been on my list, but I did appreciate our coming. True to my plebian roots I strike a conversation with the waitress and wonder about the amazement of this place. She tells me she no longer notices it, and then, that the building was originally a bank; it only became a restaurant some 16 years ago. And with a flash it comes to me: Gringotts. I am in Gringotts Bank from Rowling’s Harry Potter novels.
Every day another medieval afterlife. Here it was Pottermania and St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle and King David’s tournament ground. Last night it was Game of Thrones, back for another season on Sky Atlantic. Yesterday it was an email from the travel writer Jim Perrin to postpone our planned trip to Lud’s Church in The Roaches until the autumn when we will track the footsteps of Sir Gawain and his creator the Pearl-poet. A couple of weeks ago I heard from poet Matthew Francis currently hard at work on his version of four books of the Mabinogi. And today news that Patience Agbabi’s ‘Chaucerian’ Telling Tales has just been shortlisted for this year’s Ted Hughes Prize.
Celebrations indeed and proof that a medieval past is alive and well even if you never noticed it was there.
Here’s a call to arms: if there’s a medievalism you’d like to write about, review, celebrate, comment on, guest blog about, then contact me Gail Ashton via these pages (see About/Home).