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On the threshold 

In this article

Dr Patricia Erskine, our Director of Cultural and Community Engagement reflects on making a modest entrance.

“Come away on in” is the friendly call that would greet you if you went visiting in my homeplace in South Derry.  It would bring you in from that position of awful uncertainty, hovering on the threshold, wondering… Will I be welcome? Is this a good time? Are they busy?  Is anyone even here? And then Rosie, my friends’ mother would come to the door in her boots and old cardie and assure me that the girls were out and she’d just been feeding her chickens in the back yard and hadn’t heard me.  Why was I knocking anyway?  Just come round the back – nobody uses the front door. After that, I’d be made so welcome, sat down beside the range with a cup of tea and half a freshly baked soda farl topped with a generous dollop of her neighbour’s raspberry jam, the finest around. There was no greater comfort. 

As townie children, we learned when visiting country friends that there was no point knocking at the front door. This was during the Troubles in Northern Ireland when front doors were no longer left unlocked, but it was still relatively safe to have your back door on the latch if you lived outside our small town. It would generally be the door closest to the kitchen, which was where everyone gathered.

We are about to embark on planning of the finer details of the Edinburgh Futures Institute and at the same time this week, I’ve been reflecting on the final report of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission[1][2]

I was struck by one of the report’s calls for action.  That “to end poverty in the city, the pre-condition and the single biggest transformation Edinburgh could achieve would be to make the experience of seeking help less painful and confusing more humane, and more compassionate.” People in all parts of the city should have local, safe and welcoming community spaces.

So I’ve been thinking about how we ensure we will offer a warm welcome. The grand clock tower entrance which opens on to the main square on Lauriston Place will be amazing. The south entrance will be closest for our new event space. Both are beautiful in their way and other entrances will suit people coming from different parts of the city.

It will be interesting to see which of the many entrances will become our favourites when we move in.  We’ve heard such lovely stories from our friends in Nursing Studies and the Pelican Nursing League about their fond memories of navigating the hospital along the quick and quiet routes, seeking snatched moments of calm and respite. 

I think my favourite will be the unassuming entrance closest to Middle Meadow Walk[3].  Imposing enough in its way with a fine stone surround and portico. It isn’t too showy and is modestly tucked in from the main west wall just along from the former A&E entrance. I might pause a moment at the steps, like others before me who might have hesitated and looked along to see an urgent case coming in. Initially I might wince a little at walking through a door marked Surgical Hospital, but I know there’ll be a warm welcome inside once we cross the threshold.

Image from Canmore

Image from EFI Virtual Tour




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