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Pirates, pantomime horses and prep-school uniform: Edinburgh in August

August 11, 2010

The Edinburgh Festival is enormous fun, if you have unlimited time and energy and a certain amount of ready cash. The whole city centre puts on a sort of collective silly hat and breaks out into song and dance and general mayhem. Fringe groups vie for your attention, leaflets are thrust into your hand, groups of performers barely attract a second glance as they trudge to and from their lodgings in full costume. If you are just a hapless worker trying to push through the crowds to your office, of course, it can get pretty tiresome, but even the grumbliest natives secretly quite enjoy the buzz most of the time. For those of us outwith the capital, there is the choice of avoiding the whole thing if we are not in mood, or going in specially and making the most of it. What you do not want to do is to go into Edinburgh in August and try to achieve anything unconnected with the Festival.

My elder son is about to start at a new school and, being a ‘posh’ (i.e. private) school, there is only one shop that supplies the uniform. The shop is in Edinburgh. We received the uniform list at the beginning of July, when we were away; and so we were left with no option but to go into Edinburgh, to buy school uniform, in Festival time. Not ideal. My son, though, was ecstatic about the prospect: not because of the Fringe, but because it meant traveling by train and, possibly, please please, even on a double-decker bus.

Thus it was, dear reader, that my son and I found ourselves alighting at Waverley Station and emerging into the maelstrom of tourists, performers, beggars, shoppers, pipers and double-decker buses in the centre of Edinburgh. We decided that we might as well make the most of it: we caught buses for even the shortest journeys (frustrating for a long-legged adult but thrilling for a country boy) and travelled up to the Royal Mile to catch a taste of the Festival. A large section of the High Street (part of the Royal Mile) is closed to traffic at Festival time and becomes a stage for impromptu performances by groups trying to attract an audience to their main shows. We met moving statues (an oxymoron, surely?),

'10p? I only move for a quid, mate'

a rather hot pantomime horse who nobly out his head back on for a photo,

and a genial Henry VIII with a scary queen clutching a foam rubber axe, who was determined that everyone else should have their heads removed forthwith.

'Woman taking a photo! Behead her!'

There were glamorous showgirls,

an adorable Cowardly Lion,

and a chorus of pirates singing their hearts out at the Tolbooth, all but their flag hidden behind oblivious crowds.

There was a lady so covered with piercings that her face was indecipherable,

and a  charming pink fairy who sprinkled my son with fairy dust.

Armed with the fairy’s luck, we headed off down the Mound in search of the school uniform shop, all the while accompanied by that extraordinary view of the castle, surely the most beautiful city skyline on Earth.

Edinburgh Castle from the Mound

Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street

The luck held: we got everything we needed within half an hour, and caught another bus and then our train home over the famous Forth Bridge. Listening to my son talking about what he had seen and watching him drinking in the view of the bridges from the window, I thought that buying school stuff in Festival time was, perhaps, not such a bad idea after all.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. Margaret Lambert permalink
    August 11, 2010 11:07 pm

    No doubt buying school uniforms will be an annual event, but it sounds as if this year could be the most memorable. I hope the school is as good a fit for him as the uniform.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      August 11, 2010 11:21 pm

      Thank you, Margaret. Yes, we are optimistic and he is looking forward to it. Quite a step in all our lives!

  2. August 12, 2010 10:35 am

    Sounds like a lot of fun! Only been to the festival once, quite a few years ago now, but loved it, so much atmosphere!

  3. Mary Carver-Stiehler permalink
    August 14, 2010 12:30 pm

    Just found your blog through Needled. Look forward to reading it 🙂
    Mary
    Camden , Maine USA

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      August 14, 2010 2:58 pm

      Thanks for visiting, Mary, it’s nice to hear from you.

      Becky, yes, the Festival can be enormous fun, can’t it? I haven’t been to much except the art exhibitions and the book festival for a few years, mainly owing to having babies, but look forward to taking my boys along to a few shows in the coming years.

  4. August 15, 2010 10:23 am

    The pierced lady was truly surreal! We couldn’t get over how many piercings she had or how much that must have hurt!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      August 15, 2010 11:03 pm

      You saw her too! Yes, I don’t really want to think about that too much. I guess she must like it…

  5. January 20, 2011 6:55 pm

    Your son would love my daughter’s daily bus journey to school across Edinburgh – top deck of the bus from near the sea up to Morningside. Sometimes she texts me to tell me about something photo-worthy she’s seen in Princes Street so that I can take a photo at lunchtime or on my way home.

    Can’t think where your uniform shop is, tho, since Aitken & Niven closed their George Street shop. It’s always strange to think there’s something about your own city that you don’t know!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      January 20, 2011 11:04 pm

      It’s a weird little place in a basement in an obscure road near Haymarket – can’t remember its name, but you’re not missing much! We spent several years in Edinburgh but I think that there is still so much of it that I don’t really know.

      That bus journey sounds wonderful!

  6. May 26, 2011 4:00 pm

    We have fond memories of Edinburgh at Festival.

    We visited a few years ago, and forever left our hearts (and a packet of cash) in Scotland. The atmosphere is electric from dawn to dusk, and the people are outstanding. Followed our time in Edinburgh with a week in the Highlands, and our conversion was complete. Not a day goes by that we don’t dream about returning.

    You are indeed fortunate.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 28, 2011 3:05 pm

      That sounds like a really great holiday, even for a native. I’m glad we converted you! As for me, I am never complacent about living here: we are certainly blessed.

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