11 September 2016 | 5 mins
personal & charlie

One year ago today, I collected the keys from the solicitors for our first flat. I’d already lived in Edinburgh for over a year at that point, but I didn’t really feel like a permanent resident of this great city while I was renting.


After moving into our current place, we had a fair bit of decorating and furnishing to do, so date nights went out of the window for a couple of months. In fact, I think I went about six weeks without going into the city centre, we were so absorbed with sorting out the flat. Even before this though, my appetite for exploring had waned to almost nothing. Anytime I went out for a meal or drinks, I tended to go to the same four or five places that I knew, rather than searching for and trying out new places. At one point, we visited the Flaming Grill at Fountain Park three nights out in a row; after the third visit, we decided something needed to change (not that I have anything against McCowan’s, it’s still a decent place to watch the match.)

So, once the flat was close to habitable, Sasha and I made a pact. We agreed that every month we would each pick a new place that we hadn’t been before (together, at least), and have a date night there. For a bit of fun, we also agreed to not tell the other where we were actually going until we got there, coining the term Mystery Date Night. This helped in two ways; firstly, we were trying new places, which at the very least helps us recommend places in Edinburgh (people always ask when they come visit), and secondly it meant we were going out at least once every couple of weeks or so, which we’d neglected due to working on the flat.

For our first date night, way back on November 2nd last year, I took Sasha to my favourite Indian restaurant in Edinburgh; Khushi’s, on Antigua Street. Since then we’ve tried out nearly 20 new places in Edinburgh (and three outside of Edinburgh), expanding our recommendation list, as well as unearthing some hidden gems in the city. Some of the places we’ve tried have been in the city, some have been within walking distance of our new flat.


Even with our newfound touring of the city, we still weren’t fully ‘connected’. We were still outsiders, foreigners, invaders; until April of this year, when Charlie joined the family. All of a sudden, we were talking to pretty much everyone in our neighbourhood. People love puppies, and it opened up conversations easily with new people. Charlie is six months old now, and we know all of the couple dozen people who walk their dogs at Saughton Park across the road from our flat. Or at least, we know the names of the dogs. Humans, not so much.

To celebrate our one-year flat-iversary, we took Charlie to one of my favourite spots in the city; the peak of Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park. We caught the bus to Lothian Road, then walked through the ever-busy Meadows and Newington to Holyrood Park. We headed up the steeper western ascent, pausing halfway to watch the Riding of the Marches procession heading along Queen’s Drive towards the Royal Mile. Charlie proved his sure-footedness, leaping around the steep rocks and inclines with ease, stopping only to check that we hadn’t fallen too far behind. As always, people stopped to make a fuss of him the whole way up (he loves the attention, so no complaining from him), including when we finally reached the extraordinarily busy peak. The winds were strong at the top as usual, so we didn’t linger too long, instead heading down the easy eastern slope into Duddingston.

One of my favourite things about Edinburgh is the abundance of dog-friendly establishments. The Sheep Heid Inn, Edinburgh’s oldest pub, in Duddingston is one of them, and we called in for Sunday lunch. Charlie curled up and went to sleep under the table while we ate, as he usually does after a long walk. He’s happy and content to sleep anywhere, as long as we’re there with him.

Yesterday, I took Charlie to Cramond beach. We met a woman there with three Border Collies, and got talking (in between throwing tennis balls into the sea for the dogs of course). The subject of where I’m from came up, my accent not quite passing as native just yet. After I told her where I’m from, she asked me “so how long have you been an Edinburgher?”. I haven’t been asked that before, and I haven’t really thought about it either. When does the transition occur, what’s the criteria? Maybe I am a local now.

Update December 2016: Our Mystery Date Nights are now chronicled in my Angular 2 project, MysteryDateNights.co.uk! There is a blog post about the project too.

Charlie is on Instagram as charlie.border.collie, if you would like to see more pictures of him.

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