We awoke this morning around 9AM to a blue sky and the sun shining. It’s becoming more frequent that I wake up and have to remind myself where I am. My dreams are still set back in the states, so that’s my first thought when I wake. We stayed up pretty late the night before finishing up laundry and posting a couple blogs. A couple Dutch girls made an apple pie from scratch in the hostel’s kitchen and shared it with everyone sitting around the common room. Delicious. We ate the standard hostel breakfast: toast with jam, cornflakes, and coffee. Not bad for free food.
After checking out, we had to hoof it across town to a Barclay’s bank to stock up on pounds, and then catch a bus to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival. Walking there I noticed the temperature here in perfect; around 65F and just a little cool in the evenings. We were in time to catch the bus, but didn’t take into account that everyone and their dog wanted to go to Edinburgh today as well. We weren’t able to get on because it was full, but luckily the next one left ten minutes later.
I’m writing this paragraph while sitting in a cafe next to The Elephant House, the restaurant that J. K. Rowling began Harry Potter, and hoping the same muse might help me out. This could be the beginning of “The Adventures of The Loomi Wonder Twins,” or “There and Back: A Loomis Tale.” Maybe not.
Edinburgh is absolutely insane. The weather is gorgeous, and the people are nuts. There’s a huge hill in the middle of it called The Mound where Edinburgh castle is built right into the side of it and overlooks the entire city. While walking up to the castle, we passed a tour guide giving a speech about the castle. The pointed to the two statues of Scottish Kings standing guard at the gates. I couldn’t hear who he said the first one was, but his voice got quiet and his tour leaned in, and he said, “The other statue is of the second most famous person in Scottish history. Mel Gibson.” Britt and I laughed and continued to move on down the street.
The architecture is all of very old stone, but it looks almost like black marble because age has made it look ashened. The area where the actual festival is held in on the Mound in the pedestrian section just West of the Castle. People everywhere are dressed up in costumes and performing various street art. There were break dancers, tight rope walkers, knife throwers, musicians, and skits every few yards.
We stopped in The Museum of Scotland, which caused me to take a vow to never set food in another museum until we reach The Louvre. They might have been cool when I was 8, but now they just bore me out of my skin. Speaking of, I’m pretty sure the detergent I used last night for the laundry is making me break out. The underside of both my arms is getting little itchy bumps. It could just be that I’ve been carrying a backpack longer than I have in my life. Oh well.
We did some more sightseeing and got to our bus stop with a half hour to spare to catch our bus to Carlisle, England. However, our plans were once again shot down when we found out that bus only runs on Fridays and Saturdays. We don our packs and head a few blocks to the South to the train station.
I feel like picking a destination, jumping on that train, and just going. Brittany, being the sensible and cautious one, reminds me that we’ve already paid for a room in Carlisle. We find a train on the timetable, and I notice a fact come onto the screen. Out of over 15,000 trains running through the UK, they are running at 94% efficiency. Amazing. We catch a train to Carlisle that departs not too long after our arrival in the station.
I’m starting to notice things about myself on this trip that I should change, and also working toward fixing those deficiencies. My main concern is my patience. Britt reminds me all the time to slow down when we’re walking somewhere. I find myself always rushing, and worst of all, rushing her. I need to stop and take things in. Moments only happen once. They cannot be recreated or retold in the exact same way. I also need to be more aware of the fact that our plans should be extremely flexible in terms of the logistics of it. Anything could happen that causes us to miss a train or not have a place to stay for the night. There will always be another train, there is always a place to sleep.
We’re now about to cross Hadrian’s Wall that the Romans built to keep the Saxon invaders in the North from reaching their territory on the British main island. The bright purple and deep green fields of heather are everywhere. William Wallace may have led his troop of rebels through this very one. I turn on my ipod to Bon Iver’s newest album, put it on repeat, and stare out the window into the twilight. Recipe for enlightenment. Every once in a while I saw a golf course that greenskeepers in the US would love to have. They did invent the game here after all.
After Carlisle, we would like to do some hiking in the Lakes District and maybe some camping. I almost used that word ‘plan’ again. You can plan on seeing it less frequently on here.
We arrived in Carlisle at 8:30PM and it was getting dark. We weren’t quite sure where the hostel was, but we knew the direction. We got there safe and sound, and found out we have separate and single rooms. I wanted to go to a pub to watch the Manchester City/Swansea match. I debated earlier, when passing a bookie’s, on placing a £10 bet that Man City would win 4-0. I would have won £110.
We walked into a pub right down the street, The Joiner’s Arms. Insider were twenty or so middle aged to elderly men standing around the TV and playing darts. The only other women besides Britt were a couple of toothless, overweight lasses with sideburns.
I walked up to the bar to order Britt and water and myself a pint. On tap I saw a Strongbow logo, and I’m always willing to try out new beers. After ordering, the old barkeep looks over his glasses and says, “Huh?” Apparently he can’t understand me, and I’m feeling likewise about him. I point to the Strongbow and he looks inquiringly again, and says, “A whole pint?” I’m starting to think this wiseguy is testing my masculinity in this bar full of hardened Englishmen and reply, “Of course!”
I bring the glasses over to the table where Britt is seated. I take a long swig from my cup and make sure the barman is looking over. I about spit it back in. It’s effing cider. I hand it to Britt and walk back up to the bar. I point back at the Strongbow label and say to the guy, “You didn’t tell me it was cider.” He replies, “I thought you knew what you were ordering.” Touche’ old timer. I order a Foster’s and head back to watch the game.
I see a pool table towards the back of the room and notice there’s only red and yellow balls with the black 8-ball. I’m wanted to gain some dignity back after that cider episode, so I walk back and ask if I can call next game. An old geezer in a Christmas sweater is sitting next to Brittany, and he encourages me to put my money on the table to call next game. I do, and then talk with a guy that’s playing about the Lakes District. He tells me some places I should check out, and asks if me and my sis want to go to a party down the street. I pass, but thank him anyway.
After his game, both participants leave. I’m standing there with the balls already racked and no one to play. I go ask Father Christmas if he wants to, but declines and recommends I play Alan, another oldie sitting near the pool table. Alan’s up for the challenge. He walks with a limp and uses his cue as a cane sometimes. It’s my break. Nothing falls. Alan lines up and knocks in four off the bat. I look at Britt, who has come to watch, and wonder if I’m going to get a chance to play. By the time Alan is on the 8-ball, I have all but one of my balls left on the table.
He pays for the next game and says it’s my break. I haul off and scream the cue ball into the lead ball in the rack. It glances off, takes a hop, and it’s heading right for Brittany’s kneecap. It just misses and hits the wall between her legs. She might be in the hospital now if she wasn’t a little bowlegged. I run to fetch the ball and hear laughter coming from the bartender and Santa. Alan’s holding back a smirk too as he takes the cue ball from me. This game was closer, but still he waxes me. I shake his hand and head with Britt towards the exit, eager to not show my face in here again.
We ask Sweater Man on the way out if he knew Alan was that good. He and his buddy with no teeth nod their heads in unison, and say, “Oh yeah. We knew it.” Thanks you old farts. First night in England-Dejection Accomplished.