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Signs of Scotland


Often when someone puts together a collection of signs, the emphasis is on the humorous or the glamorous—at least that's what I've usually done.

A pleasant pun, a Scottish emphasis, and a Thai-Indian restaurant upstairs

But where there are some in that category in this collection from Edinburgh and Glasgow, there are also a number that highlight local goods and culture, or in some cases which show the change that marks our times. Why should we, as visitors from changing places, expect to see only what is stereotypical about someone else's home?


And so, some of my favorites.

William Brodie was deacon of the cabinetmaker's guild and Edinburgh's top locksmith. But he was also a gambler, and to support his habit he turned to housebreaking at night, a task made easier by his having previously installed the locks and kept copies of the keys. After twenty years of successful theft, he was betrayed by an associate  in 1788 and hanged. Note the keys in his hand.

Also dating to the 18th century is this building, which, its sign tells you, became a coffee shop in 1998. Not sure what the excavated means! The coffee shop, called Black Medicine, is just down the block from the Surgeons' Hall museum. And it has another distinction; the small black plaque with the yellow letters lets you know that above the store, J.K. Rowling wrote the first chapters of the Harry Potter series.

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John Kay's book shop caught my eye partly because of the golden hand that advertises second-hand books, but also because of their sign seeking new help. And judging from the sign, they need some!


Along the Royal Mile, a main shopping street, there are reminders of other Edinburgh events; the Fringe Shop is not a tassel-vender but a shop full of souvenirs of the huge annual Fringe Festival. Just down from it, the House of Cashmere. And not far away, a high-class purveyor with a trade not found outside Scotland: a gentleman's kilt-maker.


At a lower status level: If you can't have a bespoke Hector Russell kilt, you can still wear the traditional gear for night for a fee. Sort of like a tuxedo rental, but without the trousers.


But leaving traditional culture aside for a moment, there are plenty of spots for current pop culture, including this shop, heavily but not entirely invested in Harry Potter's world. And if wizard potions aren't your thing, there's more cleverly-named coffee to be had.


Speaking as someone who wanted subtitles for the Scots accents in the Shetland mystery series on TV, I was not surprised to see this sign. 


Colorful storefronts are everywhere, but they're not a completely modern invention, as this 18th century piece shows.


But still, not as colorful as some of these food places. The hog roast is in Edinburgh; the next two are in Glasgow, on a street near the university known for a wide range of food.


But sometimes the signs that projected exuberant hopes don't turn out that well in the end, and stand as reminders that times and places change. This picture framer and art gallery made it just through a hundred years before closing . Below it, some contemporary art on buildings at the University of Strathclyde, which prides itself on courses in applied arts and sciences, and received a royal charter in 1964 as the U.K.'s first technological university.


The scene was recognized as our One-Clue Mystery site by George G, PortMoresby, GarryRF, Mike Bolin and Roderick Simpson. Congrats to all!


Perhaps the name it gives itself in this sign is a bit of a snap at its older rival across town, the University of Glasgow.


Speaking of useful: Here's a man who's found a trade that certainly didn't exist two hundred years ago. Nor, obviously, did the SkullShaver, which promises you can lose your hair in 90 seconds. As if.P1020016P1020057

And I'll leave you with a store that's a bit boastful, but it's got a beautiful facade!P1020032


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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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