Saturday, 24 August 2013

Getting carried away


It has been a more surreal than usual on the bus this week.  I saw a dog wearing a hat:  neither rain hat nor sun hat but a rather snappy fedora.  He was travelling in a Tesco’s supermarket shopping basket tied to the back fender of, appropriately enough, a ‘sit up and beg’ bike.   I also saw a man riding a bicycle carrying a birch tree in a bag.  Not a sapling, you understand, but a tree of substantial height waving its silver leaves gently about ten feet above the cyclist’s head.  It was a curiously soothing sight.

Another day, over the course of one journey I saw no fewer than eleven sofas, all of varying sizes, shapes, colours and conditions, tied to the tops of cars or lolling in the backs of small flatbed trucks of various design and headed east down Ferry Road.  Do sofas lead secret lives, I wondered, attending raves when their owners aren’t looking?  Is other furniture involved?  Is there a secret movement of radical armchairs holding rallies in the dead of night in a Safestore in Leith?  

It reminded me of a dark, fiercely cold afternoon a couple of winters ago when I was walking through the tunnel out of the Grassmarket where a busker was exploiting both the shelter and the fabulous acoustics playing ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ on his saxophone (which was accurate as well as enjoyable).  Heading up toward the Lothian Road I was pushed into the road by a three piece suite hurtling down the pavement, their little caster wheels practically smoking they were in such a rush.  It was quite a disappointment to discover someone at the back, pushing. 

Of course, one always expects to see unusual sights during the Festival, so the hats, dogs, trees and sofas might have gone relatively unremarked, had I not seen several bus spotters in the same week as well.  Easily recognised, they travel in pairs, discussing buses in a technical sort of way and have notebooks and stubby pencils and copies of ‘Buses’ magazine (which is apparently the world’s biggest selling bus magazine--although I expect this is only really impressive if there are other bus magazines?).

I should not, of course, be surprised to discover there are bus spotters, if only as a sort of logical extension of train-spotting (and what could be more appropriate in Edinburgh than Trainspotting?).  There is even a GB Bus Group, which describes itself as ‘a bus enthusiast society founded in 2006 aimed at those interested in the modern bus scene.‘  I hadn’t even realised there was a ‘bus scene’; the very words make me think of go-go boots, beehive hairdos and lots of polyester velour--like the stuff they use to upholster bus seats.  Maybe that’s where all the sofas  were headed:  to a totally groovy omnibus/furniture Velvet Underground fringe event at the Lothian Buses depot called something like ‘Transports of Delight’? 

Edinburgh is such a Salvador Dali sort of city just now that on Friday I came home from work, put my feet in the kitchen sink and read a book*.  But seriously, who would want things any other way?  Even the crankiest Festival nay-sayer could not fail to be charmed by the bus driver who, after a short debate with himself, decided he could allow a duck on-board...and he didn’t even make him pay a fare. 

*an act of homage to ‘I Capture the Castle’--a novel about, among other things, the importance of eccentricity.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

What a mashup...


I saw my double on the bus yesterday morning.  I must tell you that it is unsettling, seeing your doppelgänger; especially if you have not had your breakfast.  It makes you immediately want to get a radical haircut...or a paper bag.  It makes you wonder what they see when they look at you, or if they see you at all.

And it isn’t just my own double I’ve come across.  This afternoon I saw the spitting image of someone I worked with recently.  I’m thinking of emailing her to ask if she knows she has someone wandering around Edinburgh impersonating her, right down to her fashion sense.   It's downright spooky. I am now wondering how many other people I know who aren’t them I might come across in the next month,  because if there is ever a time and place appropriate to finding  long-lost twins, ghosts or android facsimiles; it has to be in the vast mashup of festival Edinburgh.   

Mashups seem to belong in Edinburgh:  that quirky combination of a pre-existing classic with something from another genre entirely.  Think Little House on the Prairie with Pa as a werewolf, or Alexander McCall Smith and vampires:  ‘Bertie Plays the Bloodsucker’.  Can’t you just imagine 18th century society hostess and poet Alison Rutherford welcoming the Ladyboys of Bangkok to her intellectual soirees along with Walter Scott and David Hume?  

In festival Edinburgh you can be Dr Jekyll, Mr Hyde and Joan Rivers all at the same time (you could call your show ‘Monster Mash’, or you could team up with the Ladyboys and  call it ‘Sausage and Mash’)...and possibly make a profit doing it, if you can find a cheap venue, enough friends to distribute your snazzy flyers and, most importantly, catch the Scotsman critic when his judgement is impaired by too many cheerful blues singers, garrulous mime acts and plays about women talking through their lady gardens.  

The festival is the zombie in Jenner’s hat department.  It’s what stops dour old Edinburgh getting too stuffy for its own good.  Despite the complaints from over-worked taxi drivers and those who face life with a  frown at the ready, just in case they need to disapprove of something, most of us love it really.  Just the way we love our city when it returns to normal again.  

It seems entirely fitting that Edinburgh’s mainline railway station--Waverley--is named after  a  novel about a young man who reads too much poetry and falls in love with a Jacobite heroine and her cause.  For a time all is romance and adventure, but in the end reason prevails and he marries more rationally--a pragmatic union that will get him places.   I expect if Scotland votes for independence Alex Salmond will want the name changed.   Something just as meaningfully Scottish, but modern, of course.  ‘Trainspotting’ springs to mind.  All aboard for Begbie Station?