When they say “the Caledonian Sleeper is as romantic as ever!”, clearly they weren’t sleeping in the seats.
Oh, they’re not so bad. They’re nice and big, they’re laid out 2+1 which means I could pick a 1 seat and not have anyone next to me but when you come down to it, you’re trying to sleep in a seat for seven hours and that’s not very comfortable. I’m pretty sure I twisted some internal organs into the wrong place overnight. We stopped at Preston and Carlisle – don’t know why because you can’t get on there and I’m pretty sure you can’t get off either. I do understand why we stopped at Carstairs – in order to separate our sixteen-car train so half could go off to Edinburgh and the other half to Glasgow. By Carstairs, it was about 6.30am, the sun was up, people were awake and they were giggly, as if they were at a sleepover, instead of having spent a good chunk of the night awake and all of it curled up in a chair.
Edinburgh was not as quiet as I expected at 7.30 in the morning although I was later to learn that by August standards, it was very quiet indeed. By mid-afternoon, it’s extremely difficult just to move. But all that was a long way off.
I had breakfast of toast and apple juice and then went off to my flat – and when I say “flat”, I mean “student room”, which wasn’t available until 3pm but they did let me leave my luggage there. I ambled around a bit, went up under the castle, went to the Fringe shop and collected my tickets, eventually – the machine having malfunctioned and thus convinced itself it had printed tickets it had not. It took four people to sort that one out. But once that was done, I was essentially just killing time. I’d deliberately not planned much on the Friday to give myself time to recover from a night on the train and all that ended up meaning was that I was at a loose end and homeless. Somehow I stumbled across the Hop On Hop Off tour buses and that seemed as good a plan as any – get taken on a tour around Edinburgh, with a seat, kill some time. I did the full circle and then started it again until we got to Holyrood and Arthur’s Seat because sitting down there is a place called Dynamic Earth. I don’t want to call it a museum but I can’t think of any better word right now – it’s a series of interactive exhibitions on subjects close to my heart such as earthquakes, volcanoes, glaciers and tectonic plates. First exhibit is a room full of Scottish scientists discussing the various roles they played in our current understanding of the Earth, one a hologram, four others moving portraits – all surprisingly lifelike, actually. Then you go in a time machine to watch the creation of the universe and then in the earthquakes and volcanoes room and so on. They did have a few problems – their iceberg has melted, leaving nothing but a wood and mesh frame, and no surprise really, given that the room it lives in is about room temperature. The 4D flight is currently 2D because of systems failure when the plane crashed, so you don’t get the 3D glasses or most of the special effects, except the snowstorm. That still worked. It finished up with a show in the showdome – where it’s all projected onto a domed ceiling and that’s pretty impressive.
Even better, when I came out starving hungry because it was gone two o’clock and I’d last eaten at eight in the morning, I found that in their cafe you could make up a lunchbox, with apple juice and cheese rolls and so on. It didn’t say anywhere that it was for children so I went ahead and did it before taking the bus back to Waverley Bridge.
My room… is on the basic side and it has a fluorescent bulb so weedy I have to put the lamp on until I’ve been in the room for at least an hour. Flat 3 is split across two separate corridors and it turns out (on Saturday afternoon) that the kitchen is in the other corridor. I’ll investigate further in the morning because I’ve just eaten and I have no need to use the kitchen right now, or later on this evening.
First up was Jody Kamali, in the Clover room in the Med Quad – these are all run by the Underbelly and so everything is cow-themed. I’m not sure what to make of the show – teeny tiny room, audience of 19 of which at least three were children and I spent the first half an hour wishing I could escape without looking so conspicuous. But then people start to relax and get into it and you know it’s silly but you stop hating it and start going along with the silliness.
Second show – and last of the night – was Ed Byrne in an oven at the top of the tower at the Gilded Balloon. Not the sort of heat that grows over the course of the show – the sort of heat that hits you as you walk through the door and makes the entire audience fall asleep ten minutes from the end.
And that was it for Thursday and Friday. Having got to the Gilded Balloon via the Pleasance, I found the more direct route back with no problem, fell onto my bed- the train already seemed weeks ago rather than merely last night – and discovered that, student-style, it’s rock hard. Fortunately, that’s how I like my bed and I would have been very comfortable if not for the roaring all night from next door – air conditioning, I assume. If you’re not listening to it, it fades to a background whisper but the moment you notice it’s there, it becomes deafening.