Pirates, pantomime horses and prep-school uniform: Edinburgh in August
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?),
a rather hot pantomime horse who nobly out his head back on for a photo,
There were glamorous showgirls,
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.
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.