Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Wide Roads, Swedish Flags and Urine: 25 Hours in Edinburgh

This morning I got back from Edinburgh after a fairly uncomfortable overnight coach journey. I was there for an interview for a PGDE at Edinburgh University (a PGDE is a diploma as opposed to a PGCE which is a certificate in education. Other than that, what the actual difference is between the two is something I have yet to discover. Scotland is just further alphabetically advanced than the rest of Britain I guess).

I arrived at about 9:00 on Monday evening after an exciting and fun packed 10 and a half hours on a National Express coach (I finally finished Roy Hattersley's Blood and Fire. Nuff said.) and I think the first thing I really noticed about Edinburgh was how monumentally wide the roads were. They're huge! I had to hail a taxi just to cross one. I discovered that you can't trust traffic lights when you're crossing an Edinburgh road because they'll have completed a whole cycle by the time you get to the other side. Seriously - roads in Edinburgh? - big!

One thing that I felt quite self conscious about as I was hiking the wide and winding roads of Edinburgh is that I was English. Now this may sound stupid but hear me out. I've only been to Scotland once before and that was years ago with a large gathering of people. Since then, I've seen Braveheart. They hate us!! I was half expecting to be greeted by a band of burly looking men with blue and white face paint, kilts and large pointy sticks: "Ach the neugh" the leader would greet me "coom t' steal aah teachin' jobs 'ave ye". The rest was kind of a blur in my imagination but it certainly didn't end well for me. But once I got there to find more jeans than kilts, not very much face paint at all and a distinct lack of pointy sticks I managed to convince myself that this whole England/Scotland rivalry had been completely blown out of proportion and that actually, I'm sure they're all very friendly and welcoming of the English. I'd probably even be able to walk into a pub the next day and find that they're all cheering for England against Sweden and would take one look at me with my lovable English swagger and fish & chip stains down my front and they would hoist me onto their shoulders singing God Save the Queen and we'd all join hands as a symbol of unity and brotherhood. Well something like that anyway. Imagine my horror then when I get to the travel lodge where I was staying to find the whole place kitted out with Swedish paraphernalia. They had Swedish flags on the wall, yellow and blue balloons hanging from the ceiling, yellow and blue footballs dotted around the place, photo montages of Freddie Ljungberg. It was like I had stepped into the Swedish embassy for all things Swedish. Except it was so much worse. I wouldn't have minded so much being in Sweden for the match yesterday. Of course I'd be the odd one out but they would be cheering and supporting Sweden because of a love for their country. Scotland, on the other hand, was cheering and supporting Sweden because of a hatred for England. One of the bar staff was even wearing a full Swedish football kit. Who buys a whole football kit just because they have such strong feelings against that country's opposing team for 90 minutes? Did he also have full Paraguay and Trinidad & Tobago football kits laying at the bottom of his wardrobe? Is he now rushing out to purchase the Ecuador strip for Sunday? Or does he, perhaps, already own the 31 football kits of every team in the world cup finals with the exception of England, just in the eventuality that any of them play the foul, hideous nation that he has the misfortune to be neighbour to? It just seems ridiculous that anyone should spend so much money and go to so much effort out of sheer spite. I should probably clarify, at this point, that most of the Scots that I came into contact with were very friendly and not in the least attempting to skewer my head onto a spike as an example for all Englishmen who dare to think about entering their land. Which was nice. In fact, there were a surprising amount of English people living and working there, feeling very at home indeed. But the rivalry between nations seems very strong there nevertheless.

But it was about to get worse. Much worse.

After having got into my room at the travel lodge and then gone to find something to eat and then returned I was pretty ready for bed. I put on the tv as I cleaned my teeth and undressed and did all the other stuff that you do to get ready for bed. BBC1 were showing what can only be described as the worst film ever made. It was called Woo and starred Jada Pinkett Smith and seriously - avoid it. After having cleaned my teeth and got undressed and watched the worst film ever made, I turned the lights out, pulled the duvet back and got into bed. The weird thing was, the sheets seemed damp. No, not damp - wet. Now I'm not the tidiest person in the world and will often leave damp towels and dressing gowns on my bed. As such, the sensation of damp sheets when going to bed isn't something I'm completely unfamiliar with. So it took me a while to realise that something wasn't quite right. But slowly but surely, three things began to occur to me:

1) I haven't had a shower or anything that would make the bed damp. And even if I had, the duvet hadn't been pulled back till now. If it were something I had brought in (was it raining outside? - no, don't think so) the duvet would have to be wet enough to make the sheets damp. The duvet seemed quite dry to me.

2) This wasn't general dampness that would be the result of a wet towel being flung on the bed or a wet pair of jeans (are you sure it wasn't raining outside? - yeah pretty sure) laying down. This was a very specific dampness situated around the area of my upper right leg. This was very definitely, a patch of dampness.

3) This wasn't damp. This was wet.

I pulled the duvet back and turned the lights on to see that my leg had been resting in what was quite clearly a distinct patch of wetness about the size of a large watermelon. Two questions were immediately raised. First of all: what was this? Second of all: was it mine? A quick revision of two of the above three revelations answered the second question for me. This wasn't a product of something I've done since I've been here. The only conclusion one can reach, therefore, was that this wet patch was caused by a previous inhabitant. Which brought me screamingly to my first question. What in blue blazes was this? Now I'm sure by now, as difficult as you're finding it to believe, you've pretty much worked it out. And at this point I had a fair idea. But I had to be sure. I had to know for sure. And there was only one way to check.

I was going to have to sniff it.

I sat there for a few minutes beside this patch of wetness, trying to bring myself to do what I knew had to be done. Eventually, I bent down, bringing my nose as close as I could to the offending wet patch and sniffed. At first, nothing. But then, the unmistakable aroma of...

OH MY GOOD GRAVY IT WAS!!! I had just been lying in somebody else's urine.

I sat there for ages, stunned, just staring at the incontinence of the previous guest of room 306. I was sitting in a bed with someone else's wee. I had just been lying in someone else's wee. I had just bent over and inhaled the urine of a complete stranger. I was disgusted. I was horrified. But right at that moment, two tremendous character flaws almost caused me to do one of the most ridiculous and disgusting acts that has ever entered, albeit ever so briefly, my brain. These two character flaws are as follows:

1) I am incredibly lazy. It was 2:00 in the morning and I was shattered.

2) I am terrified of confrontation. As such, I hardly ever complain and will pretty much roll over for anyone.

With these two flaws I was momentarily reluctant to do anything about it. And this was the solution that my brain, in its tired, lazy and confrontationally challenged state suggested:

Well it's late and I'm tired and do I really want to go through the hassle of complaining about this? I could always just try sleeping on this side of the bed.

My brain was going to let me sleep in the pee!!! Needless to say this tiny part of my brain was instantly beaten to a pulp by the rest of my mind (that responsible for common sense and not sleeping in someone else's urine). But for the briefest of moments, it just seemed like too much hassle to do anything else. Of course this was promptly followed by the strong desire to get downstairs and ask reception at what point they thought £65 a night wasn't quite enough to ensure dry and pee-free sheets. So I quickly got up, dried the damp hair on the back of my leg, got dressed and went down to reception.

Roughly 10-15 minutes later, a man knocked on the door with fresh sheets, a duvet cover and a couple of extra pillows. He came in and looked at the damning evidence before him. He looked at the patch. He looked at me. "It wasn't you was it?"

"No it wasn't flippin' me!!!"

"Alright alright. Well let's get these sheets changed then"

And at this point he drops the crisp, new, clean bedsheets onto the bed - RIGHT ON TOP OF THE PEE-PATCH!!! I couldn't believe my eyes. I mean what is the point?! Why bother? Maybe that tiny section of my brain was right after all. There really is no point in getting someone up to change the sheets. He'll only smother the new one in urine beforehand anyway. Realising his mistake (and perhaps seeing the shocked and bewildered gaze taking over my face), he quickly whipped the clean sheet away and put it on the side. He then proceeded to take the soiled sheet off the bed at which point we saw that it had soaked through to the mattress.

"Oh dear" he said "we'll have to flip that"

As he lifted the mattress up, however, he noticed that the underside was covered in pretty massive stains. So he put the mattress back pee-side up.

What on earth was he doing!?!! I don't care about your stinking stains mate - flip that bad boy.

My actual response was a tad more mellow - "actually, could we flip that? I think I'd rather take my chances with the old dried stains rather than the fresh wet ones"

In response, clearly not wanting to display the stains that had been discovered on the other side, he took a long, hard look at the wet patch on the mattress. After a while, he bent down and started prodding and stroking it. He looked at me hopefully - "well it's almost dry".

Oh well in that case, forget the sheets altogether. Let me just jump in right now and roll about if it's almost dry - that's absolutely fine.

Eventually I convinced him to flip the mattress and together we changed the sheets and duvet cover. I even managed to muster up the courage to demand a refund (who would have thought that sleeping in a bed of wee would be my breaking point?).

So all in all it worked out ok. I got a free room for the night and after plenty of scrubbing (shower gel, flannel, scouring brush, brillo pad, sandpaper, a plane...) I think I got most of the human waste out of my leg hair.

The next day went alright. I told Matt W about my ordeal who was convinced I'd confused the travel lodge with the crack den across the road. I assured him that "across the road" in Edinburgh accounts for about half a mile so it was less of an easy mistake to make.

I had my interview from 1:00 till 5:00 in the afternoon which seemed to go ok. They'll let me know in 7-10 days (I'll keep you all posted).

I managed to find a bar that was pretty much 50/50 in terms of England/Sweden supporters and it turned out to be a pretty awesome match. I was worried it was going to kick off at one point when some England fans started chanting "Stand up if you qualified" to the tune of Go West but other than that it was all pretty harmless.

And then my coach left at 10:00 in the evening to get back home at 8:00 this morning.

So all in all a pretty eventful 25 hours. On the whole (soiled bedding aside) it was a pretty positive experience but I'm glad to be back. I'm absolutely shattered and I can't wait to get into my own bed where the sheets are damp but pee-free.


Lard said...

So let me get this right, they don't change sheets in Travelodges? Only if they're soiled in someway . . . I may need to go and be sick and stand in the shower to rid my self of the many nights spent in such places. Yuk

lucy AR said...

yeah. that is truly yuck. congratulations on your courageous confrontational antics though! and hey freebies are always a good thing... almost even worth a bit of a wee leg for a moment.

matt said...

so Lucy.......just to clarify what you're's worth a free night in a travelodge to lie in someone else's must be really easy to buy Christmas presents for?!?!

Andy said...

Well, you always were a bit dramatic weren't you, Glynn?

Anonymous said...

Was it DEFINITELY not yours? ;-) Howdy Glyn - didn't get to catch up with you much at the wedding, but thought I'd say hey! And, by the by, I got me a blog: (It's Johnny Mitch if you hadn't guessed!)

Anonymous said...

And by the way Glyn, this was the first time you'd been to Scotland without having me to translate everything for you! (Seriously, last time we went to Scotland I had to repeated EVERY SINGLE THING the billet said in a slow English accent for him. Not just a few words - EVERYTHING! What a friend) ;-) johnny mitch

Christina said...

Reading this has just made me laugh so much I nearly wet myself!!!!

As I write this comment I am listening to a very dramatic sea cadets brass band playing Jackson 5 outside my window - truly shocking!