Yet another train journey, in a pale, pale imitation of Paul Theroux’s penchant for them. Only that this left me with an aching bum (never mind the rather nice countryside obscured greatly by fog that lined the North Sea east coast of Scotland), and a lingering bit of train feebleness (read: motion sickness). It was however, fantastically quiet in the Quiet Coach – that’s not really the norm by the way – and I tried to pacify myself by bringing a large book to lug around in the hopes that some academic distance might be gained in recompense for taking a day trip when it seemed just unnecessary.
“Did you read about us?” trilled the lady inspector as she made her way down the carriage. “We’re busted. The government’s got us.” A fantastically fatalistic way of beginning a journey to the Granite City – or Aberdeen.
Then came the train driver, who made a woefully funny announcement which I think only tickled my funny bone as the train pulled into Inverkeithing.
“Ladies and gentlemen…passengers in Coach B are requested to alight from other coaches. This is due to the national express train being longer than the platform.”
Britain is in the middle of a sweltering heatwave, and for some insane reason, a city as far north as Aberdeen wasn’t spared the heat and humidity, made worse by granite, granite and more granite. Stately buildings vie for visual priority, and seem determined to create an urban jungle sort of beauty on its own aesthetic terms. It makes for a strange feel though, almost Nordic, but not quite.
Travel guides don’t seem to be able to know what exactly to say about its atmosphere, industrial, made rich and thriving by its night life and North Sea oil industry. Union street is where the visitors naturally head for, a long, long shopping street to indulge every fashionista – but without the crowds of London or Edinburgh or Glasgow. To my disbelief, I had never seen Primark so empty. H+M was in comparison, dull with the lack of people around. People seemed to have forgotten that Topshop was smack in the centre of it all. Even the Scottish accent mellows out here, vowels pitching and rounding and flattening when you last expect it.
But I loved it all – what do I not, really? There wasn’t much to do except to duck in and out of shops, wandering in the tiny streets off the arterial one, and popping into the Art Gallery. Somehow that passed the 5 hours rather easily that I had there.