Act one: The big walk
During our exploration of the Royal Mile earlier that week we had stopped by the Scottish Parliament building and gazed up towards Arthur’s Seat, which used to be a volcano before some guy called Arthur plonked a seat on it. According to some, it might be the location of the legendary castle of Camelot! I would therefore assume that the Arthur in this case is the famed King Arthur, played by Bradley James in the hit BBC series. However it would be very unlikely that we would meet Bradley James today, as it was raining. In fact, half of the squad we had assembled to walk up the hill had already pulled out! Of course, we were undeterred by the rain, and neither was fellow Huaweier Cláudio, and we all ascended in earnest. Although I had been informed that this was a ‘proper hike’ and would test my walking prowess, I had no problem darting up the rocky incline. This confirmed what I had already suspected: that I was in fact a master wayfarer and no walk was beyond my abilities.
(This might have been the case if I wasn’t incredibly lazy)
It wasn’t long before we reached the top and were treated to some nice views over Edinburgh. The seat itself turned out to just be a trig pillar, which wasn’t very comfortable when I sat on it. Maybe it was just because of the rain.
Todd and I survey our kingdom.
We descended the mountain via an alternative route. It soon became apparent that this was an incredibly slippy route and I became increasingly concerned for my wellbeing. Perhaps this had been the ‘proper hike’ I had been warned about! Fortunately I survived despite some scares and reached flat ground once again. Rather than head back the way we came, Cláudio led us along what used to be a railway, and through a long tunnel. It turned out that this was a national cycle route and one could follow it all the way to the coast. We decided that we would do this the next day.
As we wandered back home, we immediately went the wrong way and had to double back on ourselves. Since we needed food, we stopped in at a very swanky Co-op. Neither of us knew what we wanted for tea but after circumnavigating the store a few times, we settled on the idea of pizza. Unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed with the selection on offer, as my tastes have been spoiled too much by the bougie pizzas they sell in Waitrose. This frustrated Todd to no end and he made it very clear that he thought that I was being pretentious, but I refused to get any of these pizzas and we made a note to stop in at Tesco to see if they had any better ones. The selection there wasn’t much better, but they had a Finest™ ham and mascarpone which could just about live up to my lofty tastes.
Act two: The big cycle
Inspired by our encounter with the cycle route, we decided that we would spend an afternoon cycling along it and seeing where it went. Not having any bikes wasn’t a problem, as Just Eat had kindly set up a cycle hire service within the city, for a fairly reasonable rate. Once we had located some bikes and figured out how to unlock the things, we set off on the route I had planned. I immediately started complaining that the gears didn’t go high enough, and accelerating to an acceptable speed was near impossible. I did not receive a response.
We had travelled for about ten minutes when I realised that the really obvious route that we were following wasn’t so obvious, so I had to whip out my phone to check where to go. Then I discovered that I had two missed Messenger calls from Dan and a message telling me to call him back as something urgent had come up. This had happened about a minute ago, so I rang back, but he didn’t pick up. I tried again in the hope that this time he would pick up, but he didn’t. Then Todd tried while I sent a message saying that I had tried to call him but he hadn’t picked up. Todd’s attempt didn’t work, so I was about to try again but then Dan called me. It turned out that Dan’s phone didn’t tell him that people were calling until he actually opened Messenger, a fantastic design feature. Fortunately, it turned out that we already knew the important news, and so we could proceed on our journey.
We managed to find a way out of the city, passing through the long tunnel on the way. At one point I made to overtake Todd with my superior cycling ability, but he chose at that moment to turn right and we narrowly avoided a messy collision. The reason he was turning was because the cycle route now took us through a retail park car park, just another sight to see on our two-wheeled odyssey. At the other end of the car park was a bridge over the railway. Since this was National Cycle Route 1, the flagship route from Dover all the way to the Scottish Highlands, a route designed especially for cyclists, this bridge was constructed using steps with none of those trendy bicycle ramps you find in some places. The steps themselves were actually fairly shallow, but we would still have to perform the forbidden art of bicycle lifting.
The bridge that blocked our way.
Normally this would not be a problem: I frequently have to drag my bike up the stairs from the basement I keep it in, and that’s a much more confined space. But there was a slight snag with this plan: the Just Eat bike apparently contained a small black hole, as it was one of the heaviest things I have ever tried to lift. It was actually staggering how heavy it was, and I spent another five minutes or so complaining about this, and telling several group chats about it. I attempted to retrace our steps and try and find another way around, but Todd said we were going this way. I wondered who had made him navigator since I had been the one planning the route this entire time, but I relented and lugged the bike up the steps anyway.
Our trusty steeds look out over the coast.
Eventually we made our way to the coast and admired the view. However we could only do this for so long: Todd had to return quickly for a Pathfinder game! To save time, we had intended to leave our bikes somewhere and train back to Edinburgh. But it turned out that Todd had forgotten his mask, and hadn’t packed a backup mask! So we were forced to cycle back instead, only this time it was uphill so it took longer and Just Eat took more of our precious coppers. Halfway through Todd decided that his bike seat wasn’t adjusted properly, and once it was in fact adjusted properly his cycling ability increased tenfold. Why he had only done this now was left as an exercise to the reader.
Act three: The big meal
We had an appointment to make: a meal with none other than (ex-)Birmingham compatriot Calin Tataru. Finding a place to go had been tricky, so eventually I just picked a random place in Grassmarket: as we were in Edinburgh, it was fitting that this random place was an Irish pub. After booking an outdoor table, I saw that the small print said that they couldn’t guarantee a seat outside if the weather was bad. Now, the weather being bad is a fairly subjective thing, but I looked outside and there was a bit of rain, so I imagined that we could run into some problems. I told Todd about my concerns and he told me I was being stupid.
When we arrived at the pub and met Calin for the first time in about a year, I went in to tell them we were there, and the lady tried to seat us inside. My worst fears had been realised, and I would have to deftly navigate the impending conversation. I told her that we had actually ordered a table outside, and we would have to sit outside anyway because of the covid restrictions. She seemed very perplexed by this, remarking that it was raining. I said that we were perfectly happy to sit outside as there was a canopy that would protect us from the worst of the rain. Although she still looked curiously at me, I had successfully stood my ground and she let us sit at the table that we had already occupied anyway. Success!
The frontage of Biddy Mulligans, with the canopy exposed.
After downloading yet another pub order at table app and examining the menu, we were astonished to find that we could order Irn Bru as a mixer. We were fascinated by this concept, so of course we ordered many gin ‘n’ Irn Brus. After all, I might never drink Irn Bru ever again after leaving Edinburgh, so I had to make the most of it.
But then something even more astonishing happened. Calin remarked that suddenly he was getting a lot more wet. We looked up and realised in in horror that the canopy was retracting above our heads, and all the rain that had been kept away now began to soak us. Would we be stuck in the rain for the remainder of our meal? Fortunately this was not to be the case, and a member of barstaff rushed to make the canopy come out again. Apparently the canopy retracting was in fact a feature, not a bug: we mused over what possible reason this feature could be for, but couldn’t come up with any. This was because there was no possible reason that one would want a canopy to retract on a rainy day in a country known for being quite rainy.
I got a niçoise salad and was subject to yet another torrent of abuse for being the slightest bit sophisticated.
Act four: The big lebowski
That evening, it was time for my introduction to the cult classic that was The Big Lebowski. I had been informed by many people that this was one of the greatest films ever made, so it would have to be good. I had also been warned that the film ‘didn’t really have a plot, it was more of an experience’, which sounded like classic film person guff. It turned out that the film did in fact have a plot and it was incredibly easy to follow, which must mean that everyone else who watched it must have been morons.
Midway through the film, I dared to look at my phone for a fraction of a millisecond. This greatly enraged Todd and I was subject to several minutes of anger during which I was told that I would miss essential plot details. Given that this was just a film about bowling, I somewhat doubted this. It later transpired that Todd had told Tom de Jong about my transgression and I was subject to more abuse the next day on a video call.
We enjoy The Big Lebowski against my will.
Epilogue: The big cheese
Eventually the time rolled around for us to return to Birmingham. Just before we left the flat, I thought I’d tuck into a nice piece of cheese. The thinking man would have acquired a nice sharp knife for this, but my intelligence transcended this and I picked up a regular knife that was sitting on the counter nearby, saving myself approximately half a second. Overcome by insatiable hunger, I began to carve myself a chunky slice. But there was one last twist in this tale: the unstoppable force that was my grip met the immovable object that was a slightly chilly block of cheese, and the only thing that could give was the knife itself, which prompty bifurcated and embedded itself within the block.
The aftermath of my encounter with the block of cheese.
I put the knife in the bin and we absconded immediately.