Words With Bryan

Bryan Potter lives in Australia. So in this latest of the Words With… series, we definitely go global! Bryan started out in the Scottish Borders, then moved to the Lothians, before heading slightly further afield. Here, Bryan talks about his mutual fondness for both his adopted homes.

What’s your connection to the Lothians?

I moved to Edinburgh in 1989 from the Scottish Borders to study at Napier Polytechnic. I stayed for the next 20 years, in the south and west side mostly, with year or so in Leith and a couple of years in Haddington mixed in.

What are your fondest memories of Edinburgh?

My family used to visit an aunt and uncle of mine who lived in Dalry in the 1970s. And the thing that I remember most, in fact the only thing I remember is the smell of the breweries, a smell so intense it seemed possible to catch in one’s hand. Driving slowly through the Meadows in the fog, with the smells of hops all around remains my spookiest memory. I love Greyfriars’ cemetery, too. I’m a fan of cemeteries in general but walking into Greyfriars away from the hubbub of George IV Bridge and into an oasis of peace is a particularly relaxing diversion for me.

For me, the best thing about living in the Lothians was the trams…! No, I’m joking. It was the social side of it all: the cinemas (Cameo and Filmhouse); the theatres, the pubs and restaurants. There’s something for every taste and even after 20 years, I still find places new to me that I wish I’d been aware of before. Having the World’s best cultural festivals visit every year is pretty cool too.

So, are you a ‘gloomy-fog-over-the-castle’ or a ‘summer-on-Princes Street-gardens’ type?

Definitely the former. Like Woody Allen’s Manhattan, Edinburgh is a city that, for me, exists in black and white. It’s a city built to defend itself from the elements, from the icy winds whipping off the Forth, the 6-month long winter and those days when the drizzle doesn’t end. Those occasional summery days are all the enjoyable as a result but also have the good sense to not hang around too long.

But now you’re firmly settled in Australia. Would you tell us a bit more about that? Do you miss anything about Scotland?

My partner is from Australia and my Edinburgh job in publishing was made redundant in 2011. There wasn’t much publishing work around at that time and this combined with the birth of our first child made emigrating to be near my partner’s family a fairly easy decision.

If there is one thing I really miss, though, it’s Christmas in Scotland. Christmas in Australia just doesn’t work for me. You know the classic scene of many a post-Christmas lunch with the entire family slumped into armchairs, groaning under the weight of a giant feed. The scene is similar in Australia, people slumped into furniture, listless and irritable, except they aren’t full of food, all they could manage was a salad and a prawn. They’re just broken by the 40 degree heat outside.

I don’t miss the drunk football fans.

If you could summarise your life in a paragraph or two, what would stand out?

The thing that has stayed with me the longest, from when I was very young right up to today is cricket. I’m that unusual thing: a Scottish cricketer. Actual, not that unusual: more people participate in cricket in Scotland than play Rugby Union. That likely says a lot about the state of the Scottish rugby team over recent years.

Cricket has allowed me to travel, stay fit, make friends and be part of a broader community that is truly global. (And I took 7 for 12 once in a devastating 10 over spell)

Now, you’re most likely to find me playing dinosaurs with my boy or feeding my baby girl. I play cricket or badminton once a week but otherwise very happy to be a family man at home. I was made redundant the same day my first child was born. That really focuses the mind on earning money. Managing to keep him (and his sister) in nappies, Lego and dinosaurs whilst moving continents, having several jobs and suffering through bouts of homesickness will probably represent my greatest achievement when I look back at it in the future.

Our final question has to be – Scotland or Australia?

I don’t think I can pick a winner! Really they are very similar. Two multicultural Western countries with capitalist economies. That’s 95 per cent of the cake of life, the sponge of life that is exactly the same. The other 5 per cent is the frosting, sometimes it’s the tastiest bit but it’s still only 5 per cent.

People will talk about the weather but actually they are two countries with extremes in weather, just at the opposite ends of the thermometer. In Scotland, one often doesn’t want to go outside in January or February; and in Australia: the same. Australian cuisine is quite a bit healthier than Scotland (not hard) but, dang, I miss a haggis supper.

I like Australia, it’s where I live and where my children will call home, I enjoy the space and the cities and sometime in the next 12 months, I’ll probably become a citizen. But it’s not Scotland, there’s no driving through the Glencoe pass on the way to Skye; it can never mean what Edinburgh and the Lothians have meant to me in my formative years, the friends I made, the fun I had, the very special, private moments that will never be taken away. I’ll carry Scotland with me forever, and use those experiences to benefit my new life.


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