Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why do you have three guitars?

As I write this, to be typed and posted later on, I'm sitting on the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow, listening to the fife and bagpipes over electronica beats sound of the Peatbog Faeries, realizing that dozing off on the train probably won't happen. I'm also realizing, far too late, that Scotland holds as much appeal to me as Ireland did, and that we're not spending nearly enough time here. We'd need to hire a car to spend weeks exploring the Highlands and the surrounding islands. But my imagination is sparked, my curiousity piqued and so it shall stay until I make it back here.

Fields of heather roll by and I'm tired enough that my mind gives the impression that maybe the train is still, that its the world outside the window is moving by, like some old film backdrop from the 40s. The illusion is ruined by the arrival of a train station and new passengers, but the sentiment stands. And I'm truly tired, my eyes feel fuzzy, my mind functioning at half-clip - at Edinburgh Waverly I forgot how to count change while trying to pay for my coffee. I have a hard time falling asleep in a mixed dorm, alone in a twin bed, room full of strangers lending me a slightly unnerved feeling to an already frayed and care-worn psyche. To make matters worse, one of the bunkmates began snoring, ripe full of allusions to the timber industry, his gaping, cacophany-producing maw mere feet from my forlorn aural channels. I plugged in my headphones, hoping the Peatbog Faeries would help, but alas, not even the droning of bagpipes could drown out this psychological terrorism.

Sleep is something I'll only be peripherally acquainted with over the next few days, it would seem. Due to an error in online booking, our flight from Glasgow to Paris is at 6am, which hurts my brain to think about, but Ryanair charges more than our combined flight plus baggage fees to make changes to our flight, so we cowboy up, as it were. We have a full day in Paris, which will be exciting. Maybe I'll have some revelations about my relationship with the French.

Edinburgh, for the record, feels much older than London, partially because most of the places we saw in London were Georgian in era and kept sparkly clean by the wealthy and pretentious inhabitants. Edinburgh, in contrast, looks filthy, and its much easier to imagine the medieval inhabitants living in squalor when staring at its soot-stained walls. I like Edinburgh as much as I liked Derry, and maybe even a little more.

We went on a free walking tour in the morning yesterday, one that lasted for several hours, on a twisting meander through the older parts of Edinburgh. Our guide, a Scots-Irish-English girl named Elspeth, regaled us with tales of the city's more illustrious residents, places and moments, sordid stories of the lives of the commonfolk, and she was generally and genuinely charming and amusing, and immensely engaging. We saw the monuments to David Hume, Adam Smith and Sir Walter Scott, the imposing Edinburgh Castle perched high on its crag and saw the place where J.K. Rowling was supposed to have dreamed up Hogwarts and Harry Potter.

Later that evening, leaving Zoe in the hostel bar, I rejoined Elspeth and about 40 others for a nightwalk around the newer (circa 1700AD) parts of Edinburgh, up through Old Carlton Cemetery and Carlton Hill on a ghost walk. It was fascinating to hear these tales of woe and despair, of suicides, cannibals and desecrated graves, to feel a palpable sense of dread, and it was a bit inspiring.


About an hour or so later, in a Starbucks, on an overpriced wireless connection:

And so now we're in Glasgow, which, for reasons unbeknownst to us, has two airports. That's right. Two. One, the one we need, is international. The other is domestic, which is where our hotel is booked. And of course there is no connectivity between the two, they're about 50 miles apart and we can't cancel our booking. Of course, our flight is at 7am and there is no way but for a 50 Pound Sterling Cab Ride to get between the hotel and the airport we actually need to fly out of at 5am. So it looks like we'll stay in Glasgow proper and catch a ridiculously early busride to the airport. Did I mention that we can't cancel our booking at the hotel we can't actually use?

We're both pissed at Glasgow, for having two airports and being needlessly confusing, pissed at the hotel for not letting us cancel, pissed at Ryanair for its ass-early flight and generally sleep-deprived and cranky. So now we're off to find someplace to stay, someplace private where we can hole up from the outside world and sulk and sleep until our 4:30am bus ride.

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