So, yesterday after my final shift at work, I packed up my things, jumped on a train to King’s Cross and headed to Edinburgh.
Oh if only it had been that simple, friends. If only.
Do you know what the worst thing about packing is? Usually, you can’t do most of it until the actual day that you are leaving. So, though I had been gradually packing my bag over the past week, washing clothes (particularly knickers) and packing them away, many of the most important things (laptop, chargers, iPod, toothbrush, toiletries) that I use day-to-day had to be remembered on the day I actually left. And because I am me and I prefer everything to be done in a mad rush, I always forget this important fact until it comes to the day that I am leaving and I realise I haven’t actually left enough time to get everything together. It’s the same instinct that convinces me that everywhere in London is only half an hour away on the tube (everything in London is not half an hour away on the tube). By some amazing twist of fate I had left myself a couple of hours between finishing my last work shift and my train to Edinburgh, but instead of taking advantage of this, I instead chose to go home and eat all the food I had left in the fridge. Fair enough, I hadn’t eaten since the morning and I didn’t want the food to be wasted. But I then followed this up by watching my favourite BBC bonnet drama of all time on YouTube (it’s The Buccaneers, if you’re interested. About 4 American girls who go to England specifically to marry British aristocrats. Please don’t read too much into that). Why, you may ask. Well, because I had tried to watch it the night before, you see, and the internet wasn’t working properly and that had annoyed me, so, of course, I had to watch *just a little* whilst I was packing to ease the irritation of the night before. Of course, watching my favourite bonnet drama of all time whilst I am packing turned into watching my favourite bonnet drama of all time whilst my suitcase sat, open, in the hallway, being ignored.
Now, the suitcase with my clothes wasn’t the only thing I had to drag up to Edinburgh, unfortunately. The other thing was my props basket, of which I had grown so fond and attached to that I had bought a garden trolley with which I could drag around my props basket (it being too inconvenient to carry from my house to the venue every day), instead of, say, transferring the props to some kind of easily carried bag and then buying another, similar basket up in Edinburgh. Of course, I immediately became extremely fond of and attached to the trolley and chose to ignore the fact that the trolley was cumbersome in its own special way and I should possibly have bought one in Edinburgh, instead of carting one up from London. Nevertheless, I had the trolley and it was here now and it had cost me 23 pounds and I had to deal with it. However, me being me, it didn’t occur to me until an hour before I was supposed to get on the tube and head to King’s Cross that perhaps I should have done a test run with both trolley and suitcase and bag-with-tape-player (and backpack for important things) to see if it could be managed. I pushed the hall rug out of the way and attempted to drag the trolley and the suitcase behind me down our approximately one and a half metre long hallway. Even in the short distance, it didn’t really work. So, then I piled everything on to the trolley, suitcase, basket, bag-with-tape-player. Tape player bag immediately slid off. I reached a compromise, whereby I kept the basket and suitcase on the trolley, carried the bag with the tape player and had my backpack on my back. So far, so good. So, more Buccaneers. Obvs.
After this short YouTube break I glanced into the hallway, which was currently housing the trolley with its basket and suitcase, the backpack and bag propped against it. I then thought of the stairs out of my apartment. I then thought of the stairs going into Clapham Common station. I then thought of Clapham Common’s escalator. I then thought perhaps, perhaps I was out of my mind and I should just call a taxi. But the thought of paying a taxi almost the cost of one of my one-way train tickets to Edinburgh hurt too much and I pushed the thought immediately from my mind and watched *just a little* more Buccaneers.
Now 15 minutes past the time I had decided to leave the house by, I immediately started to panic and think that I had forgotten everything important. When I couldn’t think of what those important things that I had forgotten were, I immediately stuffed a variety of not-so-important-but-possibly-useful-if-everything-goes-wrong things into my suitcase (extra shoes, scarves in case the heatwave suddenly turns into a cold snap, a last-minute shirt, more books etc.) Now convinced I had absolutely everything I could possibly need, I pulled my trolley and bags out the door. Standing at the top of the stairs, I realised things were going to be difficult. Very difficult. Sure, it was easy to drag everything behind me on the trolley, but going down stairs? That was another matter altogether. I took the bags in shifts and tried not to think about how I would have to leave my bags unattended at Clapham Common station to do the same thing later on.
Now, my trolley is cute, but set up the way that I have it set up, the handle is very low. Think of one of those childrens lawnmowers that spit out bubbles instead of cutting grass. The handle is about that height. About the height of my knees. So, to drag it along I had to lean to the side, backwards and down. Apart from looking ridiculous, it was terrible for my back. Only a few metres up the street and I was starting to ache. Not only was it was awkward, I had to keep stopping and checking that my screws were all in place (the one and only test drive I had done the week previously ended in disaster when I picked the trolley up at Clapham Common station and it fell apart in my hands because I had not tightened the screws with a spanner – I had only used my hands. This time I had used a spanner, but I still wasn’t taking any chances). It took me 15 minutes to get to Clapham Common station, when it normally takes me 5.
At the station I was confronted with the problem with the stairs. Just as I was about to abandon half my bags and go down, a gentleman asked if I was alright. It is always my instinct to tell a stranger that I am fine (friends are a different matter, but strangers shouldn’t have to deal with all my shit), but this time I decided to take the help offered. He carried my suitcase down and I took the trolley with the basket on. Very pleased with myself (and the stranger), I rolled down to the barriers and looked at the screen of approaching trains. And that’s when I remembered the sign I had seen earlier in the week. Trackwork. Rail replacement service. The worst three words a Londoner can ever hear. Not to mention a Londoner who had a suitcase, a basket, a trolley, a bag-with-tape-player and a backpack and had just dragged all of them down a flight of stairs to get to the station. I cursed myself for forgetting that I had told myself to remember to look at this information online earlier in the week, when I had seen the sign. I asked a station manager how I could get to King’s Cross. He told me I needed to get the overground to Stockwell, then get on the Victoria line to King’s Cross. My whole plane had revolved around the fact that I would not need to change trains. So, in a panic, running even more late and exhausted, I decided to drag all my things back up the stairs, out of Clapham Common station and get the damn taxi anyway. This time, two gentlemen helped. Amazing. ‘I have always relied on the kindness of strangers’, I felt like fluttering at them, except for the fact that I was sweaty and grumpy and they were already gone.
Safely in a mini-cab, my things in the back, we sped towards King’s Cross (well, we sped as fast as London city traffic will allow). The trolley rolled around in the back, making me cringe every time it smashed into the side of the car as if it were trying to escape by breaking through the window. I swore the next time I went to the Edinburgh Fringe from London I would hire a freakin’ car (the next time, oh, the next time).
The cabbie dropped me off at King’s Cross and I started my strange procession towards the station. Somehow, I started pushing the trolley instead of pulling it and everything suddenly was much easier. I mean, sure I was bent over ridiculously (keep in mind the height of the handles) with my arms squished together, making my cleavage if not scandalous, at least overly noticeable; and sure the fact that I was now pushing the cart meant it was going at a speed just-the-other-side-of-manageable, but at least my back wasn’t hurting. Quite so much.
I got my tickets and headed to the train. Next hurdle: getting all my luggage into the luggage storage areas. An Indian family was way ahead of me and was proceeding to pack their own over-large suitcases (and trolleys) into my carriage. I sped around and went to the other side of the carriage, nimbly jumping ahead of a girl coming at the storage area from the other side of the carriage and proceeded to take up all the space with all of my shit. I didn’t even notice the little judgemental pause she left as she stared at my things in the luggage area and then attempted to put her things in as well. Well, I kind of didn’t notice. I pretended I didn’t notice.
Then followed 4 and a half of hours of bliss on a train. Those of you who don’t yet know my love-affair with trains, well. Let me just tell you that it is a deep, meaningful and, I expect, everlasting feeling. I love the time I spend on trains. I love feeling separate from the ‘real world’. I love listening to my music and seeing the world go past. Putting wi-fi on trains was a big mistake, in my opinion. I pretend it doesn’t exist. If people ring me, I’m all, “oh, I’m so sorry, I would do that for you right now, of course, but you see, I’m on a train’. Trains are the freakin’ bomb. Closely followed by planes. Trains win mainly because planes are scarier. And travelling on a train makes me think I am in the nineteenth-century. I read my book, I listened to music, I stared out the window, I napped, I ate, I laughed, I cried (I honestly did), I experienced all the things that it is ever really necessary to experience in a single day in the life of a human being. You don’t need anything more than a train.
The closer we got to Edinburgh, the more melancholy and vulnerable I started to feel. I don’t rightly know whether or not it was the approach to Edinburgh and THE FESTIVAL or if it was because I was tired and hungry (no vegetarian sandwiches left at the train cafe), or if it was the fact that I was listening to Frightened Rabbit’s Fuck This Place or a combination of all three, but I suddenly wished the train journey was three times as long (to be honest, I tend to always wish that train journeys were three times as long). I got off at Waverley station with all my bags feeling very sad and very scared, very small and very intimidated. Drunken Wallys (I mean the character from the Where’s Wally books, by the way – 4 of them, all in very shiny blue tights with pockets over the groin area for… well I don’t know, really. Money, maybe? The pockets were all on the outside of the tights, so they couldn’t be for their penises. Unless they had all, collectively, put their tights on inside-out accidentally due to the excessive consumption of alcohol before getting dressed) caroused in front of me and attempted to steal the roses sticking out of my props bag. I then took the lift up to the street and stepped out into Saturday night Edinburgh, pushing my trolley in front of me. The drunken people were very amused by my attempts to push my trolley over the cobblestones. I was not so amused, especially once I got to the hostel and realised a) one of the goddamn screws had fallen out of the goddamn trolley a goddamn second time and b) there were more goddamn stairs to be tackled.
Once I had everything stored safely in my hostel room, I decided that even though it was 11pm, I wanted to head out and see beautiful Edinburgh. Because I love Edinburgh. It’s a beautiful city. If I could find some beautiful Edinburgh man with a beautiful Scottish accent to marry me and whisk me away to an Edinburgh house to live in, I would do so. I would do so right now (that may be the cider I am currently drinking talking, because last time I remember talking about this I was adamant I was going to be a happy spinster living on a Australian outback farm with two dogs and a lot of crocodiles). Even with all the tourist crap everywhere. Even with the kilts and the whiskey and the red beards on everything, it is a magical, magical city. I walked up the Royal Mile towards the castle and hey, if you want somewhere quiet and a little creepy and a little special and a little bit ‘significant’ and inspiring, I can recommend the Royal Mile at night. There are surprisingly few people about, and the shadows just add to the atmosphere. I wandered and stared into buildings, down alleyways, at historical interest signs, picked up pennies and recited that poem to myself about picking up pennies and having good luck. It wasn’t much, but it at least it all did seem to be mine.
Today, I relished a small sleep-in (to 8:53 am!!!) before heading towards the Underbelly for my first day of training. Did I forget to mention that I’m working up here for a venue as well as doing my show? Did I forget to say that? Did I forget to tell you HOW INSANE I AM? Oh, I forgot, did I? WELL, I AM INSANE. Anywho, today really marked the start of my Edinburgh experience. I was kind of regretting it when I woke up, to be honest. I really would have preferred to sleep in and then go and sit in some of my favourite Edinburgh cafes and eat scones and watch the rain rather then go and be trained and get messy working for Underbelly. I had to be there for 10am, which would have been fine, except for the fact that the streets in Edinburgh are constantly changing names. For no reason at all, it seems. So, I had memorised a whole heap of street names from my Google maps, which turned out to be the COMPLETE OPPOSITE STREETS of where I needed to be (here’s a tip, if you ever find yourself in Edinburgh – and who wouldn’t find themselves in Edinburgh? It’s utterly delightful – and you are using Google maps, if your map shows a little blue path going down one street, don’t read the name of the connecting street over the intersection that seems to continue on from that little blue path and expect it to be the right name. It’s not. Inevitably, it’s not. Even if the streets seem to follow on from each other, it seems that an intersection changes the name of a street in Edinburgh. And many other things also change the name of a street. Like, a bridge. And, traffic lights. And, like, they were just bored of that name so, like, they decided to call it something else from this random point onwards, and, just, like, deal with it, ok?) We had training and then we had an afternoon of assisting with the set-up of all of the Underbelly venues. I spent a good hour sorting screws into different sizes. Never done that before! Luckily I was doing it with a very nice English girl, who sounded American, who had grown up in China and now studied in Scotland, so there was plenty to talk about. There are some fab sounding shows in the Underbelly program (oddly enough, half of them seem to be Australian), so I’m looking forward to seeing some of them, in between flyering and working and doing my show.
Agh, good God, there is no time, none at all.
As it was grey and cold today, for lunch I decided on ‘Mum’s Comfort Food’. That is seriously the name of the cafe I went to. And, let me just say, that if you ever go to Edinburgh (and why wouldn’t you go to Edinburgh? It’s delightful), you need to go to this cafe. It was MADE for grey, rainy Scottish days. Everything is old-fashioned comfort food – mac and cheese, burgers, sausage and mash, pies… As a vegetarian, I often miss out on these comfort foods, because they usually involve meat, but ‘Mum’s’ caters beautifully to vegetarians. I’ve never really had sausage and mash in the UK (having been vegetarian for 9 years now and a diet-freak weirdo before that) but Mum’s not only has sausage and mash, it has vegetarian sausages! It has a CHOICE of vegetarian sausages! It has a CHOICE of vegetarians gravies! It has a choice (of at least 12) different types of mash! DIFFERENT TYPES OF MASH! OMG DIFFERENT TYPES OF MASH. I got 3 veggie sausages with tomato and thyme gravy and chipotle and cheese mash which I couldn’t pronounce, but I could appreciate. Oh, yes, I could appreciate it. It was the perfect meal for a girl who was cold and hadn’t eaten breakfast and was about to spend the afternoon lifting heavy things in the rain (I am so hard-core. I LOVE being hardcore. I should like, totally get something pierced or something). They even gave me a marshmallow chocolate covered biscuit because I agreed to share my 4-person table with another woman that I didn’t know. See, kids? That’s what happens when you share. You get marshmallow chocolate covered biscuits. Someone should let Kevin Rudd and the Australian public know re: letting refugees arriving on boats claim asylum in Australia.
Anyway, I am now in the wonderful over-priced bar that I always go to when in Edinburgh and I have enjoyed a pint of my favourite Scottish cider, Thistly Cross, which is twice the strength of other kinds of cider and is therefore twice as good and is making it twice as impossible for me to type correctly and recognise how to fix spelling mistakes and everything is good because I am also perving on the cute bartender and pretending that he is perving on me too, when really he is just watching the people coming in the door, but I don’t care, I don’t care, because I am in Edinburgh and I am so so excited and everything is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful and everything feels possible and I’m sure everything will be different by the end of the fringe, but right now everything is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful and I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait.