For years, I, like many, have heard that Scotland is a dreadful place. Wet, grey and cold, it seemed to have struck fear
into the hearts of many, and it was quite sad that I was slowly starting to believe these myths without actually visiting our Northern neighbours- so I was honoured when I finally got the chance to visit.
Departing from my cosy-warm bedroom at roughly 4.50 in the morning, I felt a tingle of excitement and a tinge of nerves- we [we being my girlfriend and I] would be flying to Scotland, and the fact that I hadn’t flown in quite a few years had rendered me slightly apprehensive, with my girlfriend not being the biggest fan of air travel either. After leaving ten minutes late, worrying that our cab driver had given up waiting and gone home [in reality, he just wasn’t able to get to my house without getting lost], and seeing that the owner of the Subway in Finchley Road would have a bit of a shock when he turned up for work [His shop door was smashed to pieces and the shop itself raided, before being boarded up with giant chunks of wood by the Met Police who left a helpful note to the effect of: “Hey, you’ve been broken into, but we’ve boarded your shop up. Call us!”], we boarded a coach to London Stansted.
Now, I try to not to be annoying- especially on journeys that require sharing several legs with another person. But I couldn’t resist, upon arrival at Stansted, trying to find locations where Matt Lucas and David Walliams filmed parts of their hit show “Come Fly With Me”, whilst doing impressions of ‘Peter and Judith’ and an attempted [and I use that word loosely] impression of ‘Precious Little’ [“Weh gat cah-fee, weh gat scallllldin’ hat wah-tah, but weh gat no coos-too-mas! So, I gaht no ahp-shan, boot to claws da shaap ear-leh! CLAWSED!” seemed to be a phrase that my girlfriend and several other passengers had to put up with for quite a while.]
After wandering around departures, going through security [where the security officer made me take off my hoodie and shoes as well as my jacket, and didn’t even give me a courtesy smile when I remarked: “Blimey, I’m gonna be freezing!”], and waiting at our gate, the time came. All the travellers stood, elbows sharpened, adrenaline levels rising. You could hear the pulses race as people rose from their seats. The appearance of a staff member at the doors of the departure gate was pretty much a metaphor for a race-starter, firing the pistol to start the 20m airport hurdles. Yes, you guessed it. We were flying with easyJet. I said earlier that I haven’t flown in years. But when I did fly frequently it was with this very airline, and the memories were suddenly flowing back to me. Aaah, yes- the “Jesus Christ, were you Tango’d, or did you just rub up too hard against Dale Winton?” orange-clad flight attendants; the rush to board quickly so you could get fresh air; the distinct smell of cheap-and-cheerful.
But something didn’t feel right. Although my girlfriend and I proved that we weren’t cut out for low-cost flying [we ended up pretty much at the back of the queue, and ended up with seats at the back], easyJet doesn’t seem to be the laughing-stock anymore. Before, you’d be thousands of feet up in the air, looking at other passengers with a look that said “Yup… I’m in the same boat as you”, and flicking through the inflight magazine and catalogue, where it became apparent that you could buy a shortbread biscuit on-board for roughly 300 pounds. Now, although the price of the on-board items is still extortionate, everything seems quite reasonable, and no-one’s laughing at easyJet like they used to. And that’s probably because of a certain Michael O’Leary, and his little ragtag team of aviation chums, also known as Ryanair; whose flights were also taking off from Stansted that morning, and were still painfully abysmal, I judged by the looks on the faces of passengers through the tiny windows on the side of their plane. Poor buggers.
After what was an incredibly fast flight [all in all, it took us around 50 minutes, which seemed to be just enough time to panic, but not enough time to get completely pteromechanophobic], we landed in a cloudy, yet still quite warm, Edinburgh.
Our first leg of the journey from the airport was by bus- the Caledonian Buses Airlink 100, which although very clean and swanky, seemed to have gone for a cheap and cheerful voiceover to announce its calling points, resulting in the words “Mariott Hotel” being chewed up and spat out as “Maria… Toh-tell”. Whilst the audio wasn’t great, the visuals were simply spectacular- both my and my girlfriend’s heads kept swivelling and tilting to look out of every window possible to examine the capital city of Scotland, which seemed to have a perfect blend of modern design and vibrancy, whilst also displaying several monuments of a very eventful history; buildings that had been erected centuries ago, nestled right in with something that could have been finished as soon as last week, with a great buzz and energy created by the people who gathered outside. Edinburgh, I decided at that moment, was a place that I would love to be in for long periods of time. Not only was it incredibly similar to London, but it seemed to be so charming. This slight
obsession [something that made my girlfriend laugh at me several times over the course of this trip] developed more and more, to the point where I now [at time of writing] am looking at transferring my University course to Edinburgh [though this looks unfeasible- it’s pretty damn expensive there]. After slowing to a halt on Waverley Bridge, a place that was overlooked by the magnificent and awe-inspiring Scott Monument, as well as the Jenners Department Store building, we entered Edinburgh Waverley Station, which, I believe, is the second largest train-station in terms of square feet in the United Kingdom [with the first being London Waterloo]. Scotland so far, it seemed, not only had a good eye for inventions [John Logie Baird invented the television], but for incredible and remarkable engineering [something that I’d also discover on the way to Dundee].
My girlfriend and I would have loved to go on one of those sightseeing tours around Edinburgh, where you sit on the top of a bus, plug headphones into your seat and get told almost every detail about a monument that you could ever want to know, but unfortunately we didn’t have time. However- I did manage to grab a free sandwich from Upper Crust [no, I didn’t steal it- but they didn’t give me a receipt with my change, which, as I found out 10 seconds before ordering, allowed me to get a refund on my sandwich], which brightened up my day to no end. Ravi’s stomach-1, Cultural awareness- 0.
After this, we walked for [what seemed like] an eternity in order to find a train that we had booked, to get to Dundee; a place that Eddie Izzard once likened to jail. Would this put me off Scotland? Would I finally find truth in those harsh stereotypes that I had once heard? Only time would tell…
My DeviantArt store, with several pictures from Scotland: http://www.deviantart.com/print/18341079/?