She sat gazing out of the train window as it moved peacefully through the north east English countryside. The sky was one solid piece of steel grey, while white sheep pin pricked the otherwise hunter green open country side. Intermittently, the train passed through creepy thick woodlands and over stone lined rivers, reminding her of the settings to dark fairy tales she was told as a child.
After the train passed through beautiful old towns like Durham and York the only signs of human life were either the remnants of old cottages and castles in the form of mounds of rubble next to the tracks, or the smattering of chimney smoke along the horizon.
As she reached Scotland, the surroundings became more severe. At one point the train had to veer around a mountain by passing onto a cliff top next to the North Sea. She imagined one strong gust of wind pushing her carriage over the edge and plummeting a hundred and fifty metres into the rocks and waves below.
The dark thought was fleeting though, as she was actually in a joyous mood. She had moved to London four days earlier and in that short amount of time had managed to somehow land both a job and a place to live. She was on her way to Edinburgh to let her hair down before the daily grind began again.
As the train began to slow, about ten minutes out from her final destination, she caught her first glimpse of the city. From a distance it looked a tad depressing. If the city had been a colouring in picture, then an artist had shaded in the skyline by using only the “ugly” colours in the pencil box. However, as she was drawn closer, she found herself charmed by the Scottish baronial architecture and the obvious history attached to almost every building. She loved European history and was convinced even the foot path she stood on outside Edinburgh Waverley train station was older than the white Australia she grew up in.
Her bearings were awry, so she hailed a taxi to take her to Grassmarket in the Old Town. The cabbie sensed her naiveté and drove her the long way around. What should have been a four minute drive and an eight pound fare was twice the time and price. She was then dropped off at the lower end of the street and had to hike up a steep cobble stone footpath, lugging a twenty five kilo bag on her back until she found the hostel she had been recommended to by an ex.
She was checked in by an Englishman and after successfully navigating the labyrinth of hallways was shown to her mixed dormitory. Before he left her alone in the room he informed her the hostel held walking pub crawls every week night, and that he was in charge of the one being held that night. She agreed to go along, so after a quick kip and a shower she made her way down to the hostel bar and communal games room.
All she could remember from that night was being charged five pounds for a long island ice tea, which was served in a pint glass and was nine tenths spirits to one tenth mixer. She had also met a group of Australian guys, but she never made it out to the first bar. It was an embarrassingly poor performance on her first night in Scotland.
The next morning she awoke to familiar voices in her dorm room. The Australian guys from the previous night were staying in the same room as her and were dressing to go for a hike. Somehow, they convinced her to join them. She met them fifteen minutes later downstairs and they lined their stomachs with a full Scottish breakfast; the tweaked version on an English breakfast, but with the disgusting addition of haggis. Half of her hangover instantly disappeared and once they had all finished, they zipped up their jackets, donned their beanies and began their trek to Arthur’s Seat.
In total, there were four Aussies. She learnt three were friends from Sydney, who were in the middle of a five month long world trip, while the other was a random from Melbourne they had befriended a few days earlier, who was in Scotland purely “to get fucked up”.
She quickly learnt she was not in the right state of mind or shape to be climbing steep hills. They had completed approximately one third of their ascent when she stopped and decided to quit. After a momentary meltdown her motivation to move again returned when she saw a dog, which had clearly reached the summit and was then happily running down the narrow dirt path back to sanity. Stupid fucking show off dog she thought to herself as it whizzed past her. If the mutt was able to do it, then she had to too, so she pushed on. Puffing and cursing under their breath, they finally made it to the peak, where they had to immediately brace themselves; not only for the spectacular view of the city and surrounding hills, but because it was windier than a lactose intolerant great uncle, post cheese board. They literally had to hold on to the side of boulders so they wouldn’t blow away. After inhaling the scenery for a few minutes they began their descent, which was much more enjoyable. On a couple of occasions she almost lost her footing from how fast she was running down, nearly wiping out other hikers as if they were bowling pins.
Later that evening she found herself at the hostel bar again. She had recovered from the previous night’s one drink knockout and was ready for her second bout. The Australians joined her on the pub crawl and they quickly bonded with some new faces. First, was a hot Spaniard with dark hair, who had a penchant for chequered scarves. Then there were the four extremely tall, polite, ice hockey obsessed Canadian men; high school friends doing a stint in Europe before heading their separate ways back to University. Then came the crazy Scotsman. He was the type of guy who would always be the center of attention in any social setting, but for the life of him, just couldn’t seem to get his shit together. He was living at the hostel between jobs and a permanent roof over his head. She was the only girl in the group of eleven, but the tomboy in her was completely comfortable with it.
She managed to last four stops on the bar hop before calling it a night. One pound shots served in coloured science beakers were her end game.
The following morning she found herself playing table tennis in the common room with one of the Australians from Sydney. Somehow, she had pulled up completely fine and found herself in a highly competitive mood. In the midst of smacking the shit out of the ball towards each other they discovered they were both often mistaken for people from other cultures. Due to her light hair and eye colouring people usually assumed she was Scandinavian, while he was constantly asked if he was from South or Central America when his heritage was in fact, Iranian. They thought it’d be fun to take on new identities that night at the next pub crawl, so they made a pact to support each other’s back stories. The conversation concluded when the crazy Scotsman entered the room dramatically booming lines from Titanic, with his one night stand from the night before in tow and clearly mortified.
That afternoon she found herself circumnavigating the grounds of the eleven hundred year old Edinburgh Castle, the crown jewel in the city’s landscape and the country’s most visited tourist attraction. It wasn’t even 5pm yet, but it was dusk and the place was already lit up like Christmas. She got the impression it was well and truly haunted. On her short walk back to the hostel she bumped into the Canadians, who had also just visited the castle. As they chatted she found herself particularly attracted to the one with glasses. They had received wind of her persona for that night and were happy to also play along with her. It was gearing up to be an interesting night.
When she made her way to the hostel bar a short time later, she noticed there were more people than usual and they were all dressed in absurd costumes. The staff had decided to throw themselves a party, but had clearly failed to select one particular theme, unless it was called ‘what you can find and afford with no notice’.
Slowly the visitors trickled down from upstairs, including her male posse. She saw the Australian she had made the identity deal with and with a silent nod the game of being a completely fictitious person for the rest of the night begun. She was a Swedish DJ in town for a gig. Her name was DJ Smoggy (a homage to her beloved football team Middlesbrough) and she was supposed to be the next Avicii. The hot Spaniard was her boyfriend and muscle and some of the Canadians were her roadies. Unless someone put her behind a set of decks, pointed a gun to her head and forced her to play them, her story was fairly fail proof. The Australian with Iranian heritage took it to the next level. He pretended to be not only Cuban, but the nephew of Fidel Castro. He was also a world champion Jenga player and was on a holiday, which was paid for by the winnings from the last competition he entered. He convinced some unsuspecting German girls early on by challenging them to a Jenga game and was telling them wild stories about his “uncle” throughout.
By the second bar, word had begun to slowly spread about the Swedish DJ that had decided to join the pub crawl while in town for a show. One man in particular, who could only be described as having Mongolian facial features, with a Polynesian body frame and afro could not stop following her around. He was lovely and harmless, but exhausting. Luckily, her Spanish “boyfriend” helped her escape him.
The next stop was a medieval themed pub. She was told to sit and wait alone at a table while everyone else lined up at the bar. She was minding her own business, studying what she hoped were fake furs on the walls when suddenly the crazy Scotsman approached her. Just as the song that was playing ended he said loudly for all to hear “Hey! Aren’t you that Swedish DJ?” As she nodded suspiciously he turned to the bar and shouted “OI, It’s her!” Suddenly, there was a rush towards her and she was surrounded by her hostel friends, temporarily blinded by the flashing of their cameras. It was in that moment when she felt what it was like to be a celebrity in front of the paparazzi. The stunt had worked, with the entire room whispering and looking at her for the remainder of their stay. A few strangers even plucked up the courage to ask her for an autograph despite not having any clue as to who she was.
They moved on to a night club which had a live DJ. She suddenly felt like her cover was going to be blown any moment. Her “Cuban, Jenga playing” friend, who had been making out with one of the German girls for most of the night walked straight up to the DJ and exchanged words with him before they both looked in her direction. She was ushered over and allowed into the DJ booth. He knew she was a fraud, but was happy to play their game, so instructed her as to which buttons to press before announcing her over a microphone. The crowd was a combination of the last three venues they had visited, so they all cheered when they saw her behind the decks. She pressed the right things and pulled some fake moves which more resembled aggressively mazzing an invisible man off than impersonating a DJ. Fortunately, everyone was too trashed to notice her skills, or lack of.
After ten minutes in the booth she handed the reins back to the professional with a high five. She jumped down into the crowd and bumped straight into the Mongolian Polynesian who had been following her around earlier in the night. He sung her praises and genuinely asked to join her tour as a roadie. She politely declined his request and ran away from him, through the mass of sweaty bodies, into the arms of her fake Spanish boyfriend. She spontaneously took her act to the next level by grabbing his face and sucking it. He hadn’t expected it, but embraced the moment. She thought it was a great way to end her night, so she said thank you and left him shell shocked for the street.
As she was leaving she glimpsed the crazy Scotsman on the dance floor, flashing what was underneath his kilt to all around him. It had a blinding effect stronger than the strobe lights flashing above them.
It wasn’t until she was on the cobble stone in the fresh air she had no fucking clue as to where she was. Luckily, as she was looking around bewildered she spotted the cute Canadian with glasses talking to some randoms. He happily escorted her back to the hostel and when they reached the front door of the hostel she decided to have one more moment of rock and roll and also kissed him. If they had lived in the same city he was the type of guy she would have taken home to introduce to her mum and dad; a perfect gentleman. But, he didn’t live in the same city as her, so, like the Spaniard, she said good night to him, leaving him speechless and for the comfort of her bed with no one (and no complications) in it.
The next morning, before she was due to head back to London she decided to avoid both the Spaniard and Canadian by tagging along on a walking tour of the city, which was also run by the hostel. After all she had hardly done any sightseeing. The tour was led by a young English woman who had the monster of all hangovers, courtesy of the staff party from the night before. The tour began with a visit to the local cemetery, where the woman pointed to a tomb stone and said “This guy was famous for doing fuck all”. It ended with their guide throwing up loudly behind a bush on Calton Hill as they watched on. Is was the most interesting and memorable tour she had ever been on.
DJ Smoggy’s stint in Scotland was officially over.