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On the 0800 Express

Well, isn’t this a.m.?

Greetings, readers, from the 0800 train from Edinburgh Waverley-London Kings X. And the first question I think we should all ask is this – why, but why oh why, is platform 2 next to platform 19? Waverley is a brilliant station, bang smack in the heart of tourist-tastic Edinburgh, but I’m sure I’m not the only ignorant southern nit who wanders bemused round the concourse with desperate hot chocolate in hand going… ‘But I don’t understand! This way for platform 1,4 and 7, but that way for platform 2,3 and 19? What’s going on here?!’

Oh yes, the Edinburgh Festival is kicking off, and all across the UK actors and directors and all creatures in between are flocking to theatres, halls and converted covered spaces that should have thought better to put on plays, musicals, operas, concerts, sketches and heaven help us, interpretive performance arts. In my case, I’m heading back down to London having just sort-of teched a farce, in order to tech a play, in order to go back to Edinburgh in a few days time to actually assess whether the lighting I spent most of yesterday trying to coax into brightness was, indeed, worth the wattage wasted on it. Fringe festivals, you see, are all about turnarounds. A play that goes up at 2.15 p.m. will be down by 3.05 p.m. and the next play will be opening by 3.15 or else, and thus, where you might aim to tech a show patiently, carefully and with a great deal of judicious scratching of imaginary beards, what you actually do is go ‘can we see it, does it look okay, quick, next!’ and hope that you pressed the right button. (I am, for any nerds out there, a terrible Leap Frog programmer. But on the plus side, I am a much, much better Leap Frog programmer than I was 24 hours ago.)

So all things considered, it’s going to be a week spent on trains. (To the gentleman in a as-yet unnamed Waterstones in Edinburgh who contacted me via this blog… not only are you a genius, but this is a new and scary power internet in action… to any other bookshops out there, watch this space, as in the next few weeks I’m probably going to be bouncing between London and everywhere-else like a yoyo in a low gravity environment… starting bizarrely enough in Ascot, but that’s another story…)

So yes… I stand by the assertion that the Virtuous Burglar is a very funny play, albeit I’m still waiting to see if the lighting is okay… should you be in the audience during any of the previews, keep an ear out for the sound designer’s laugh, which is a thing beyond all fair description.

In the mean time, I am watching southern Scotland go by out the window and counting the stations back to London. In much the same way that as a teenager I began to fill in my knowledge of London by walking between underground stations, I’m starting to be able to tick off stations on the London-Edinburgh lines where I’ve been. Alnmouth was the site of a weekend spent with five others and a battered car perpetually in search of a magic shortcut that would somehow make the side of an impenetrable hill seem flatter; Berwick will always stay in my memory for the Morrisons (a bad reason to remember Berwick, but a true one…) … where we loaded up on more chocolate mini rolls than the mind can comfortably conceive. Newcastle is tragically strongest in my mind as a stopping-off point for Gateshead, where as you walk along the shallow cliffs by the sea you may find signs with the enigmatic guidance – ‘Thinking about it? Call the Samaritans!’ (A student comedien I once had the pleasure of lighting at LSE had an excellent yarn about working for the Samaritans, whose punch line was essentially ‘yeah, well, I see your point frankly and you know if I was in your position I’d do it!’ Just to make the tone more morbid there….)

Durham goes down forever in my mind as the only university that rejected my UCAS application (boo!) although to be honest, three of my six application choices were to London and that might have been suggestive… According to the seat reservation next to mine, someone is getting on at Doncaster, and I apologise in advance to whoever that may be for the fact that the shower wasn’t working this morning when I got up. (Something that the acting company have yet to discover for themselves… I figured it would be crueller to wake them at 7 a.m. to tell them this little problem than it was to let them find out at 10 for themselves…) I have nothing whatsoever to say about Peterborough… so far…

… but I might wave as I go by…