O Flower of Scotland

Been a while but I’ve been busy. Real busy.

Saturday was largely spent recovering until I got back to the flat to find police on the ground floor. I panicked, and played it as uncool as I ever had, hoping it had nothing to do with my previous Friday. It hadn’t, luckily, but I still got a bit of a shock. The 5-0 refused to tell me what had gone on, but I lost interest as soon as I found out it wasn’t me.

The rest of the week went by without much of a hitch. I spent some of it writing in a local youth hostel. Since I was there early afternoon and had been abusing their wifi for so long, I felt obliged to order lunch. I did so in good time, which seemed innocent enough. It was bacon and cheese panini with chips. But, as fate would have it, the order was screwed up and arrived about an hour late. I was in no rush and didn’t really have a problem with the mix up. However, in the interim, a group of fairly plump women were lining up outside the community hall, just off the restaurant. The plump poppies shot me looks now and then, but I took it as a compliment and went on. My food finally arrived just in time for me to see the sign over the door of the community hall. I had ordered my feel-better-about-me meal just in time for “weight watchers” Edinburgh, and had managed to have my carby meal in full view of the fatties. It became the new thing they decided on watching. The sight of them salivating only clouded by my trying to understand why they used brown sauce in the place of  sauce here. It was almost as awkward as it was delicious. Same time next week then.

Decided to get lost on Leith Walk again, and deviated into the side roads. I now have a Haggis guy, and I find this the food of the self-loather. Magic. Apparently it’s sheep’s stomach or some strange part of it like that. All I cared was that it was in my stomach and was under 3 pounds. Plus it was deep-fried because Scotland.

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I felt a tad offended that many of the parks around there were locked to the general public, until I realised the reason I wanted to go in was for a piss in the bushes, so it made sense. My subconscious and unconscious seem to be in synch, as I randomly ended up on George street, the student pub central.

Thursday night was fairly tame and I seem to really struggle to find that medium drunk. Especially judging by Sunday, but we’ll get to that. I started the evening by getting off at the wrong bus stop and ended up walking through the varsity. Was bizarre to see a house of tertiary education unlittered by protesters, but I suppose they already study for free, so they haven’t got too much to shout about. Not too many of them were studying in Afrikaans either.

Found an Australian bar and was pretty impressed. I asked the guy if they played Super Rugby and I got a bit of a “Yea no, yea, shrimp on the barbie, test team 1999, Pocock haha”. I took it as a no. But the bar was cool, adorned by various pictures of what Ozzies love: Australia, Ozzie rules, beaches, boobs. I thought that was alright.

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Moved on looking for some live venues with with varying success. Found a pretty happening pub and was eager to enter. Bouncer told me it was 6 pounds to get in and I walked away so fast I almost left a skidmark on the road. Not this time. Found a castle-like place I could get in for free. The band was pretty good, but it was when I was the only one really watching them. I got cold and checked the time. 10 mins to the next night bus. Cheers, I’m out.

The weekend was pretty chilled, waiting on the rugby. Had my first Starbucks experience and it was average. Didn’t even write my name on the cup. Granted, we sat in and the cups were porcelain, but still no excuse. Went to watch “Grimsby” with the cousin and we ended up laughing so hard that when the lights went on, people stared at us just so they could tut.

Went off to Glasgow on the Saturday and this was a whole other kettle of fish. Far fewer foreigners, far more weirdos. Did a bit of a tour and I was unable to compare it to any South African city. It was industrial, but renowned for shopping. It was student-oriented, but had many museums. It also seems historically-based on a river for trade, a river that can no longer be used for trade, which seemed a bit of an anti-climax. We gave the Museum of Modern Art a go for a full 10 minutes, but opted out after we saw the 100th photo of a drain pipe. We then spent double that time in the gift shop. The bus was late, so we managed to get to the other museum 10 minutes shy of closing time.

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The real social experiment was our trip to McDonald’s. In Edinburgh, everyone has a little bit of body modification; a piercing here, or a subtle tattoo, or even funky-coloured hair. In Glasgow there is no middle. Either you appear the way you do in nature, or your face begins to resemble a bunch of keys and you live in a constant fear of magnets. Rainbow-coloured hair is and optional extra. I finally understood the need for bouncers in McD’s as there were gangs of adolescents planning all sorts of antics. At least we thought they were, it’s difficult to tell if people are 13 or 30 in this country. I’m often mistaken for the former.

Sunday peaked its head from around the corner, me not knowing the fucking 9mm she had hidden beneath her coat. We were on the other side of Scotland, at a health club swimming in a heated pool and dominating the kiddie pool slide. A wee drive back to Edinburgh and we were off to watch the Scots take on the French at Murrayfield.

This deserves its own blog post, but I don’t care. The trip there seemed to be a bit of a dress off- Scots in their kilts and ginger hair, French in their berets and tricolour paint. I had forgotten how small Europe was and was astounded by the amount of French support. A couple of Guinnesses later, and we were in the stadium amongst a sea of berets and kilts to witness “Flower of Scotland” sung out loud. It was breath-taking. I’d been to a few rugby games in SA, and each country has a different vibe. The songs played at the stadium were the first major change. No “Impi”, “Loslappie” and definitely no “Blou Bulle”. These were replaced by “500 miles” andmthe Strokes.

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My first Scottish rugby match can be likened to other firsts in my life: involved a lot of alcohol, a few people in skirts, and it was over before I could fully comprehend what was happening. I am increasingly laying claim to my Scottish heritage (3 out of 4 grandparents’ surnames and counting) but am not quite close enough to own a kilt. Not yet. I did, however, struggle to really get behind another team that wasn’t South Africa. Even though it was against the French in a competition that didn’t involve us at all, my inner romantic patriotism made it difficult to shout for the favoured home team. But I did, even though we were sat in a predominantly French area, complete with band, Cockrel hats, and white flags.

The match was the best kind I could have had: it was tight, high-scoring, but ultimately a win. The stadium erupted in a joint drunk cheer, despite it being a Sunday. The French grunted in unison, although it was unclear if they were being lippy about the loss or just being very French. A definite tick off the bucket list and I was stoked with the experience, which is where I should have stopped. We started the long trek home and prepared for a bit of a celebration for the win.

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Seeing that my identity is anonymous, this shouldn’t be a problem, but if you have any respect for your humble narrator, I’d suggest stop reading now.

So we’re out on the town any my cousin shows me the Irish pubs in preparation for the upcoming holidays. We do the usual bloke thing and decide to solve all the problems in the world and in our lives. The drinks start flowing and only stop to find a guy cover the whole of Bohemian Rhapsody on guitar. Was quite amazing.

We continue the tour and decide to have a shot. Those who have read previous posts know that this is my kryptonite and I should have seen the writing on the wall. I didn’t. We head off to our favourite musical pub and my cousin says he’s off. I decline the invite. O dear.

Next thing I know I’ve hitched a ride out 30 km out of Edinburgh. But who were you riding with? Why would you want to leave? Where were you planning on going? Dear reader, these are questions I cannot answer. All I know is that they drop me off and sobriety hits me like a kick in the teeth. It’s 2 AM and Google Maps says I’m dick-far out of Edinburgh. My bus app also reminds me that the first bus is only coming out at about 5.30. I see the error of my ways and immediately do the only thing I could think of to rectify the situation: I walk.

And boy, but did your humble narrator walk. I had skipped the half-drunk part and ill-feeling of the hang-over, and gone straight into the self-loathing. It was me, the countryside and a whole lot of miles in between.

The scenery reminded me of a foiled plan I once had in Pilgrim’s Rest, and this is a trip I’d rather forget. So i walked, taking various photos of the country as I did. Silver linings and all that. I passed two 24hour ASDAs, many Burger Kings and a hell of a lot of fields. I even found a photo from earlier outside a military training ground. And I walked.

I sent messages to my cousin saying I was still alive, trying to keep the mood light, unsuccessfully. I went past intersections, towns, and highways. And I walked. I started to develop a rash from the jeans I was wearing and supporter’s scarf I got at the rugby and it began to support me more than I ever had it. And I walked. I tried to think about how I got into this mess, while doing the only thing I could do to get out of it: I walked. Me, Google Maps, and my Zumbuk, we walked.

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Nearing the end of my Odyssey, I reached the outskirts of the town with an early morning bus into the city. I had a power-nap at the bus stop and ended up at the foot of Princess Street. The street in the morning has quite a beautiful blanket of fog around it. it’s something I had never seen before, and something I hope to never see again. I caught the number 7 bus and stuck on it until I was close enough to home. I was not even the worst one for wear on the bus, and this was mildly comforting. The bus went round trip past the airport and I started getting chatted up by some old ladies on the bus. I was still blown away by the absurdity of the evening and it had been a while since anything of the sort had happened, so I took it as another little victory. I arrived at the front door, receiving the looks I had been giving myself all day.

I am fully aware of both sides of the story: the holy shit you got in a stranger’s car to fuck knows where, and the lol you walked for like hours in the countryside because you’re and idiot side. Perhaps it’s time I found a hobby.

I owe my guardian angel a drink, although I’m going to take a wee hiatus from drinking. Except for Thursday, because you know, St. Patrick’s, but there’s only so much a man can take.

I took this sabbatical to learn more about myself, and I already feel I know too much. It’s a long trip down the Rabbit hole.

Rabbit out (of town).

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