Gilded like her brain, JK Rowling’s handprints astonish

Edinburgh’s formidable City Chambers sits just off the Royal Mile cradling a courtyard. The court is paved in Craigleith stone, the same stone the building is constructed from; each slab carved in tribute to one of Edinburgh’s greatest living citizens.

Including a little known author who you should discover on my Potter tour.

JK Rowling's Edinburgh award handprints outside City Chambers

She actually has three disguises, Joanne Murray, who she is amongst friends in Edinburgh. Joanne Kathleen Rowling, who she is to me and the world. And Robert Galbraith, JK Rowling’s Clark Kent, they’re ‘friends’ on Twitter.

Rowling is hard to describe because her hair colour changes from work to work and she can drop a dress size if she has a fraught public speaking engagement ahead.

As you can see she has small hands with thick hardened skin from writing; she likes drinking tea these days and she’s thoughtful and usually kind. And she likes to wash her hands in cafe bathrooms before signing autographs.

JK Rowling received the Edinburgh award, by popular vote from the city, in 2008 a year after the sleeper hit the Deathly Hallows was released on the day of Hermoine Granger's 19th birthday.

Besides her...

Ian Rankin & JK Rowling work shifts

Ian Ranking is Britain's most successful crime writer, his handprints sit to the left of Rowling's and they are friends.

Edinburgh Award winners JK Rowling's & Ian Rankin have coffee
Although Rankin complains Robert Galbraith is taking away "all his bloody readers"
For several years they lived around the corner from one another. Morningside ladies who lunch report having seen Rowling, Ian and Alexander McCall Smith all writing in the same coffee shop on 'Holy Corner' at different times of the day, working shifts.

Indeed beloved Alexander McCall Smith is a next door neighbour but one from Ian Rankin and cast him as a character in his Edinburgh novel, Number 44 Scotland street, as himself. All the good are friends
Zeno of Citium, 342-267 BC

Ian’s wife Miranda put her foot in it

She let slip JK Rowling was writing a detective novel. Rowling wanted her work secret, Miranda was mortified - ‘I shouldn’t said that, I should not have said that’. A volley of denials were issued by the stricken Rankins to quell the media excitement.

Rankin writes the popular (though less so than Harry) detective John Rebus novels set in contemporary Edinburgh. Rankin was the very first person to be awarded the Edinburgh award; the council recognising that his outstanding achievements have brought honour to the city

Miranda says it’s very trying living with 62 year old Ian, because whenever he begins a new novel he behaves like a teenage student. He draws into himself and will not communicate with his family ‘on a human basis’. She says the family try and avoid him and go on trips without him, till he gets on with it.

Crisis point regularly hits at page 65. Rankin runs out of all of his original ideas for the novel and has to feel his way through the story, trusting putting in the time will bring inspiration. Sometimes he doesn’t know the end till his protagonist reaches it; the uncertainty weighs upon his mood.

As a result of Miranda’s care and management Ian produces one book a year.

JK Rowling is the anti-Rankin

She has meticulous plot plans worked out, she knows the ending from the start, so writing begins easily. Although completing can run away from her as her ideas begin to fire and her character’s stories balloon.

Rowling’s husband, doctor Ian Murray, says
When Jo is very stressed [ perhaps a deadline's looming ], she’ll detach herself and only trust one person and that’s herself. So everyone else gets blocked out... She becomes less and less able to accept help…

It is stressful, the barriers go up. Only one person is trusted and she’s got to do everything herself.

For both Rankin and Rowling writing and racing to complete is a solitary activity, requiring blinkered single mindedness.

JK Rowling's Edinburgh award handprints outside City Chambers

George Kerr - bottom left

Nicknamed ‘Scotland’s Mr Judo’, George is a 73 year old Judo master who once taught Mick Jagger how to deal with unhappy boyfriends. He’s one of only 19 ‘tenth Dans’ and has worked as a Judo master for 64 years. He can kick the Mundungus outta anybody.

Beside him is

Sir Chris Hoy - bottom right

A former pupil of Kerrs. Hoy practiced at Edinburgh’s Meadowbank velodrome and won us the Olympic gold for cycling down in London. Edinburgh has a gold postbox in his honour too! (You can see it on my tour)

Palm reading JK Rowling's handprints

JK Rowling’s Edinburgh Award palm read outside City Chambers [ edited transcript ]

This is city chambers

home of Edinburgh city council.

The courtyard is a tribute to those who have brought honour to our city

The fabulous bronze on the ashlar plinth is Alexander the Great taming his horse Bucephalus. They’re Burghers too obviously.

The legend of Bucephalus

Bucephalus was untamed and uncontrollable. According to Plutarch, when the horse was brought before Alexander's father, Alexander noticed that Bucephalus was frightened of his own shadow, so turned him to face the sun.

The Scotsman newspaper stated that Steell's intention was to display 'the predominance of mind over brute force'

This was sculptor John Steell's first major work, begun in 1829 soon after his tour of Italy. It was also his last major work, as it was not cast in bronze till 1883, when the council finally coughed up a contribution.

Steell was appointed as Sculptor to Her Majesty the Queen and became internationally famous making sculptures for Canada, New Zealand and the US, but remaining in Edinburgh his entire life.

You can see his most famous work, the dynamic sculpture of Wellington at the meeting point of my tours, a perfectionist, he cast the metal himself in Edinburgh.

A brief history of City Chambers

In 1753 acclaimed neo-classical architect Robert Adam was commissioned by Edinburgh council for a new public-private building. The public were asked to donate for…

A dwelling house for the Lord Provost during his office, a robing room for the Lords of Session, a handsome library for the Faculty of Advocates... and to provide accomodation for The Principal Clerks of Session ..... Easy access be made to the High St and the North loch made an ornament in place of a public nuisance.

Yep, it was Scotland's largest open sewer and the smell was wicked. Little wonder it's now Edinburgh's most verdant park, Princes Street Gardens.

Edinburgh City Chambers in 1895
1895: City Chambers soars 12 storeys from Cockburn Street. The penthouse canteen has views to the Firth of Forth & the climb takes your breath away

Originally the arcade arches to the South of the Courtyard were filled with shops, bar a central vaulted passage; while in the courtyard there was a staircase down to a coffee house.

The walled-in courtyard was intended as a place of exchange but the traders preferred to be further from the gimlet eyed fascist and continued business on the open street around the Mercat cross.

Nelson Mandela forever

You can tell how right-on our council is because exactly opposite Rowling, on the East side of the courtyard, is a tribute to those devastated by AIDs.

The city cheered Mandela’s fight against AIDS and his charity ‘46664’; so called because when he was imprisoned for terrorism (like Sirius Black) in Robben Island prison, his jumpsuit was emblazoned 46664. Mandela was a number, not a man.

Nelson Mandela’s Edinburgh award was unveiled by Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox, whose prints stand beside his. She said: It gives the passer-by an opportunity to pause and reflect upon the significance of the HIV/Aids pandemic, which is devastating the lives of millions people across the continent of Africa and across the entire globe.

When JK Rowling smashed all book sales records Nelson invited her to visit him in South Africa, but she was pregnant at the time so sadly couldn't go. She did however form her own charity around this time, now called Lumos. I think the hob-nobbing of the great and good helps them inspire one another.

Mandela was given the freedom of the city; Jenny Sawe, leader of Edinburgh council, said "Nelson Mandela has represented world peace for decades and he's an inspiration to us all." They actually have a ‘Mandela Room’ inside City Chambers where councillor’s have meetings hoping to channel his wisdom.

And soon Mandela may get a palatial new square named after him in Edinburgh’s New town. Mandela won freedom for the Blacks of South Africa, Harry saved the entire wizarding world and I can’t even get dumpy Waverley station renamed ‘Potter Station’! How unfair is that?

A Harry Potter tour poses by Bucephalus, outside City Chambers
A class poses before Bucephalus on my Potter tour

JK Rowling's palm read transcript

I first met Anastasia, first and only time, she arrived for my tour with this big bundle of sheets cradled in her arms. She left them with the museum of Scotland cloakroom staff. I thought… ‘this is unusual!’.

She blagged her way onto my tour claiming she worked for Condé Nast Russia said to look out - three months time I’d be part of her centre page spread.

It's been more than six months since then, long time more and I've heard nothing, not seen over a peep. As the Muggles say. I think she gave me something even better, funny how things turn out.

🤲

Ext. City Chambers Edinburgh
We’re at the Edinburgh award for JK Rowling. What's your name again?

Anastasia. My name’s Anastasia.

Like the rock band, excellent.

Anastasia: And right now we’ll see what is the actual lifelines of JK Rowling. As you might see here, this is the lifeline of hers, it's quite long that means she will live up to 85 maybe 90 years she has a really huge lifeline. And also the life-will because just sits in the middle right here.

You see the little line? This is her destiny and the writing career line and also the Travelling. That means that she will have a different country than her own, like the tour of the life, the base.

Also right here you will see the career line and it's also the ambitious. She don't have a lot of ambitious but she's very straight what she likes to do.

And the difference between them both is describe how big an ego she got and also what is her place in the world. So if you like to see here this is a bit narrow, which means that she is not decisive here.

Okay.

And in this one you might actually see that she choose who she is now. And it's usually different in the life career, in the life period.

You might see on mine it's also really big. This means I know who I am and I know what I want from the life and I decide which thing I would like to have in my life. Which means that yeah you kind of describe your place in the world.

Okay she's been many things, she's temped as a secretary, she's been a teacher.

Yes yes, this is why they’re different, that’s why they’re different.

Now a screenwriter.

Exactly. So you might see here that she finally knows who she is. So this hand has one set of careers and this hand has another set of careers? Yes, yes yes. It’s different. So usually they changes.

This one is more what she becomes and this one is more what she was, like born to be.

Okay.

I have also this one [ points at hand ] it's more narrow and this one it's a bigger, you see the difference?

Mmmm.

This is how I am now and this is what my parents gave to me in my country, like it was a base and that was what I build up on this base.

This one is her love. That's a really long line isn't it? compared to her career one. Yes exactly exactly. Maybe it is actually long you just can't see it.

Okay.

So right here you might see that she get a lot of struggles in her life about the love.

It’s the deep one, that’s the struggle one is it?

Yeah it’s the struggle and the love.

But the most important thing about here, is when it ends. If it were to end right here, it means that she's a receiver and she only get the love.

[ If it were... ] Right here it means she's truly a giver but she don't know how to get a pleasure from the love. She only give and she always struggle because she don't have enough.

And she actually... it's just in the middle that means she find the right person to be with, to be a giver and the receiver. She will have really brilliant kids.

She knows how to take care of the man and yeah I mean she would just end up in a really peaceful, quiet way.

Because her travelling line never ends probably she will move from Scotland one day, to more peaceful place, to be out of the crowd and out of press and the fame. Because she already got what she wants. Now she's looking for the peace and quiet.

Okay.

And now you have to make the interview and ask JK Rowling if it is all true.

Sure sure! How would you summarize it overall?

Overall she find who she is and the hand it's quite small. That means she's more artistic, and actually the handyman.

Also the fingers are quite tiny and narrow, that means she might also find some hobby which she never discover before, like drawing maybe a poetry something more lighter, so she show her womanised version.

[ Rowling’s building stables in Edinburgh, exciting minor controversy ]

Okay.

Maybe that's why she likes the France and she'd been in France and she choose the languages because she's just born to them.

Okay, right brilliant! Thank you very much Anastasia!

🤲
Ext. Dean village

(Sam to camera)
So what do you think?
I think she could flourish as the Condé Nast professor of divination. Perhaps at Durmstrang, it’s a bit further East.

It's funny if you look at my gap, my palm here, my gap... There is none! I'm docile and loving like man's best friend.

So I've written several screenplays, mostly shorter and long looked to Rowling for examples for on how to live more successfully. I'd love you to come on my tour and explore with me how Rowling faces setbacks, manages anxiety and creates sparkle and wonder... Years of it.

So what do you think about that JK?

Edinburgh Award winners JK Rowling's & Ian Rankin have coffee
Holy Trelawney divination is the best!

I really would love you to come on my Potter tour. I have a Dragon-ton more to tell you about Rowling and how she writes.

What is Rowling’s James-Bond name?

Snape: Well well, we learn something new every day, today it's lobotomy Longbottom may have an estranged sister.

Draco: Is it a Hippogriff? Is it a Dragon?? Nooo. It's dumbass Potter on a stick.

Neil and Rowling were married in 2001 💖

JK Rowling's handprints outside City Chambers Edinburgh, a witch & wizard fight using their wands like pirates
A class ends at JK Rowling's handprints, they failed wandwork

Harry Potter sights nearby

3 minutes walk brings Victoria Street's Potter shops, reputed to be an inspiration for Diagon Alley.

5 minutes walk away is the renowned Elephant house cafe.

Hearty and delicious Spoon restaurant is where Rowling wrote 'great chunks' of the Philosopher's Stone. 7 minutes walk.

Or you could just Apparate.

Credits
1895 photo of City Chambers rising from curvy Cockburn street from "The Muncipal buildings of Edinburgh" by Robert Miller

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