Never one to watch much television, I have been totally captivated over the past few weeks with the series called “Outlander.” It is fraught with drama, passion, history and the now well known gorgeous, delicious frame of Jamie Fraser. Piercing eyes, high cheekbones and chiselled jaw, beautiful calves, swanning around in a kilt and speaking with the most beautiful Scottish accent, ye ken? Each evening I end up clammy palmed and dreaming of the Scottish Highlands. It draws me back to a story a few years ago. We were travelling from London to Edinburgh, Scotland, for the Arts Festival and I had made all the travel arrangements. For those of you who are not South African, our travel preparation is a little more involved, with our foreign exchange requirements and visa implications.
I booked the train ride as an alternate to other forms of transport as I pictured an “Out of Africa” sort of experience, train rocking through the grasslands. I kept clothes near the top of my rather large suitcase for changing into after a bath and the dining cart where I imagined crystal glasses and silver cutlery (the ticket had cost a small fortune). I had fantasised the clickty clack noise lulling me into a deep sleep as we crossed into Scotland. I was rather confused when I reread the tickets and noticed that we were boarding at 23h00, but still unperturbed. You can imagine my consternation as unused to travel, I’d huffed and puffed through the underground trailing my suitcase on wheels, heaved it up the stairs where I’d had too, and down the other side, arrived at St Pancreas Station, to be herded down the train line, passing carriage after carriage. By the time we boarded, I don’t remember too many carriages after ours. Anyway, onto the train we fumbled and staggered, and then came the pushing of the suitcase (now upright as the corridor was too narrow) down the corridor to find our ‘suite.” I would love to have seen my face at the doorway. When both our bags were in, there was no space to stand. We had to put one bag up on the side table and leave the other one on the floor. Blow me down if there was no en-suite……..my heart started hammering and I shakily asked where the bathroom was. Oh no, no bathroom, just a toilet with a basin down the carriage. No supper and no dining cart available either. Still being the self composed person I pretend to be, I held everything in check and was determined to make this fun. From my domestic flight in South Africa we both still had a small packet of Niknaks and a Ceres fruit juice. We ate these bent over as we couldn’t sit upright on the bottom bunk, drank our juice, cleaned our teeth, and washed our faces in the toilet and bunked down for the most tortuous night of my life. I must have fallen asleep eventually as I woke up to banging on our door, and we were presented with two polystyrene cups of tea with the tea bags still floating. Horror of all horrors.
We peered out of the window, it was raining, not much to be seen. We had made really good time and arrived an hour earlier than predicted, a 6am start in Edinburgh.. Determined to conquer the day we pushed and shoved our large luggage onto the platform and looked around. There was not much sign of life and the rain was now making a steady path from my hair in rivulets down my face. We both thought keenly of a coffee stop to orientate ourselves and then a search for our B&B, stopping first at the Tourism Office to get the bus times. Once again the confounded suitcases were trailed and pushed up the station in Edinburgh. In unison we realised that nothing opens in Edinburgh before nine, besides McDonalds, where let me tell you, at that time in the morning, the coffee tasted absolutely fantastic as did the sticky muffins. We idled three hours away on coffee before once again trudging off with our blasted suitcases to the Tourism building that had just opened. We found an umbrella each en route for 1 Pound, absolute bargain. We were treated ever so warmly, given all the bus routes ,and pointed in the right direction.
Picture me, young and inexperienced and about to board our first colour demarcated bus routes. Umbrella up to protect my now curly hair, backpack on my back housing every important document that we both needed, including our passports, visas, and pounds recently converted for spending money, and hanging onto my suitcase which I hauled up into the bus. I let the umbrella down, shrugged off my backpack and slumped into my seat, so excited to be eventually finding the B&B and having a long glorious bath. As we moved through the awakening city I was so overwhelmed by the beauty, that in no time we seemed me near the road we should be exiting off the bus. Up we jumped, anxious about making any errors, umbrellas, 2 heavy suitcases and out we tumbled, pleased as punch to be at the right spot. Off trundled the bus and as I watched it of, I felt for my backpack. I saw it clearly still on the floor of the bus where I’d shrugged it off.
My stricken face was soon met with a “what’s wrong?” Well his eyes nearly popped out of his head, and all he said was, “I can’t be with you right now, you find the B&B…”and off he raced up the road after the bus. Eyes blurred with tears now, I turned and started down the cobbled street with two suitcases and two umbrellas in tow, the odd sob escaping. The B&B appeared and in I staggered. The person in the entrance area was aghast with the sight. “What is it my love?” I snotted and spluttered my story, to which she smiled and said, “eh donna be worrying about it, ye ken, the bus goes up and then it comes back doon, the driver will be bringing ye bag back soon,” She clucked and made me tea. True to her word, the spouse arrived back as pleased as punch bearing my bag like a trophy. My bag had been handed to the bus driver at one of the stops going up, and all he did was look for the person with the most pained expression on his face at all the bus shelters on the way down.
There are still ethical honest people in the world, ye ken.