A few years ago, I lived in Edinburgh. When I arrived, fresh off the bus from the airport, suitcase in tow, one of the very first sights to greet me was the looming Scott Monument, shadowing a noisy bag-piper. It’s probably the best monument in the world.
While Edinburgh is full of monuments, as I soon learned–Adam Smith on a pedestal, David Hume in a toga (O-week, first year?), an assortment of dudes-on-poles–none are quite so imposing as that commemorating Sir Walter Scott.
While dudes-on-poles and Mr Smith lose their dignity to pigeon shit and traffic cones, Scott is ensconced in a veritable fortress of thought, in the Denkmal castle so big that you can actually pay money to climb the built-in staircase to the top.
Not bad for a writer, eh? I developed a fixation with this Gothic structure, the very feat of engineering one envisions as a child making witches castles at the beach, drizzling wet sand into craggy spires. This is the sort of legacy to which one should aspire.
My dad is a builder, and the red house is a sprawling country bungalow flanked by cane fields in Far North Queensland. When he set out on his own and started his own business, and came up with the name Shadow Constructions, my eyes glazed over with the recollection of the Scott Monument. No other construction ever shadowed so mightily. ‘Dad,’ I implored–‘this silhouette: your identity.’