There is a building in Edinburgh where a basilisk prowls the halls, where spectres lurk and doctoral students shirk. Sorry, this Friday Flashback is not about the worlds largest reclining buddha or a mighty pyramid but something more precious and ephemeral; The Club. A place, a time and a group of people. The place was Edinburgh University, the time 2007-2012 and the people were The Club and shall remain nameless to preserve their anonymity and protect them against potential prosecution or worse, academic disgrace.
Our club was room 6.12 and perilously close to the lair of the basilisk. The basilisk was fearsome and could smell dead rats in the kitchen at 50 feet and yet trixy, luring the best of us into her chambers with no more than a beckoning finger or worse – chocolate. Most club members were retained in 6.12 but there were other members scattered along the hall of the 6th floor. The sixth floor… a level of genius, some say madness, of struggle against ones inner demons, where titans clashed, sherry sloshed, battles waged and writing was done. Or at least thought about. No, agonized over. Horribly and tortuously. One club member would write a sentence and then take all day to meticulously pick it apart word for word. Another examined prayer and song expressed through the roaring of lions and the trumpeting of elephants. Yet another would pick through people’s garbage and statistically, objectively, record it. And me? I wrote about a mole, from the moles perspective naturally. The only thing I picked at was a bag of bacon crispies.
We shared many things in the club; our hopes, dark secrets, theories of about society, sugar donuts, and Baileys on a Friday afternoon. We zealously debated topics from religion to recycling, banking to self harm, civil society to sex, museums to adoption, and space… No, not the final frontier, but THE space, the space between the hands.
You see our concern was of a haunting. Not the physical haunting of a place, but a haunting of the imagination. Under the influence of another club member, I purchased a book, a book about a ghost, a book I shall not name because the book itself is complete and utter nonsense, and despite this, or perhaps because of it, the ideas triggered by the book took form. At first it was confusion over the nonsensical nature of it, which lapsed into jovial recitation of its most preposterous sentences which grew, twisting and writhing like pipe smoke, into references to which only club members were privy. We made sense out of nonsense. Fashioned form from smoke and mirrors, manifesting a ‘thing’ from the ether. A secret language imbued with meaning, and ‘the thing’ into a bond, as real as rope.
Ok, Ok it wasn’t all sober intellectual conversation, there was also conversation over spirits. Gin to be exact. Bombay Sapphire to be utterly precise. Well usually, although we could be persuaded to imbibe a little Hendrix on occasion. We patronised various haunts
with Blind Poets and Under the Stairs and on occasion, sitting on a street corner outside No 56, and even an Old Bell.
Sadly, the writing is finished. The lions no longer roar, the rubbish has been collected and the Mole is dead. A breath in another universe blew on a
fuzzy dandelion and like the seeds we have scattered to the far corners of the globe, some of us further than others. The Club as a time and a place has diminished, a mere spectre haunting the halls of memory. But ‘the thing’ remains, as real as rope.
And the basilisk? Rest assured, the basilisk still prowls the halls as trixy and treacherous as ever. And long may it continue…