How late it was, how late

Steve Cramer's festival blog

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This article is from 2008.

It happens annually. Just as our railway system’s management professes the same astonishment that it should snow during the British winter each year, so Edinburgh’s transport infrastructure collapses with monotonous regularity each August, quite as if the crisis were as unprecedented as a sudden solar eclipse. I do not complain without purpose.

On Saturday, I missed a second show of the festival, this time the important and sensitively deadlined Tell-Tale Heart at the EIF, and feel justifiably narked. My lack of decent nutrition was finally addressed by a fine meal at my significant other’s home in Gorgie, but everything comes with a price. A taxi to the Royal Lyceum Theatre, which should have left us a good half hour’s chatting among the lobby gin and tonics, was ordered for the 8pm start. By 7.30, we stood outside her flat, spitting distance from Tynecastle, waiting the slightly tardy vehicle. By 7.40, the nerves that might beset a Hibee like myself in such a location were added to by its non-arrival. A telephone call to the company revealed that the operator, speaking in a broad Edinburgh accent. was amazed by the volume of traffic, quite as if he’d suffered a yearly coma for the month of August every year since his birth.

At 8pm, the taxi arrived. It’s the kind of occasion when you wish for an eager young boy racer. Our driver, instead looked a bit like Harold MacMillan in the House of Lords in the 80s. He was so old that one feared to look at him in case he died as one did so. We explained our lateness, to which he replied: “Oooooooh, IIIIIII seeeeeee, riiiiiiight“. The slowness with which I’ve written this does no justice to his speed of speech, yet compared to his driving it was like lightening. As we meandered on a circuitous route toward, or perhaps away from, the Lyceum, my significant other enquired about our direction “Shouldn’t we take the Western Approach Road?” she asked, in admirably even tones. “oooh noooo hen”, he replied with an ostensibly arcane knowledge, as we seemed to detour via Aberdeen. Overtaken as we were by dog walkers, it didn’t seem to matter anymore. The driver, who was surely only getting on a bit at the first festival of 1947, professed the usual surprise at the traffic volume, as his fee ascended to the holiday on St Lucia level. Such a break would surely curtail the few days he had left on earth, I reflected as we were lapped by a tree. At his age, I’d surely be in a greater hurry to get things done I thought, and shuddered at the idea of being behind him at a cash point.

Our arrival was greeted by Jackie, the saintly house manager at the Lyceum in its empty lobby, with a look of infinite solicitude, and the announcement that no latecomers could be admitted. Thanks, Edinburgh taxis.

This article is from 2008.

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