You find me at the end of a month in the role of grillmaster at Eusa’s Gilded Garden burger outlet.
After an unshaven dressinggowned week or so with a short intermission in Stirling for my brother’s brass band course concert I set sail on the overnight ferry from the confines of my native island to Aberdeen.
I was venturing out without guarantee of employment, hedging my bets that Auld Reekie’s Fringe would extend the welcoming hand of a temporary contract a day after the festival had officially begun. A scattergun approach to the job search had so far yielded only one response and my answer in the affirmative was rejected promptly once she knew I couldn’t make the immediate start. So, frustrated and eager to return to the city I’d made my home over the course of two years I concluded that night to take the Hjatland south.
Handily my health decided to give way just at that moment of resolution and as I settled down into my reclining cinema seat in the semidarkness I was sporadically set upon by chronic sneezing fits. Having watched an Outlander episode the previous evening I felt like an ill-fated voyager struck down by deadly typhoid on his speculative passage to the colonies.
And yet the risk paid off and I arrived in the capital in the late morning of the next day with two offers to my name. I called up the Students’ Association (they were offering more hours and had called me directly), they interviewed me at two and I got the job that afternoon with first shift the next day.
So began my career, initially as chief late-night nacho-microwaver, but soon, after that re-assigned to the burger van. Although…I hesitate to call it a burger van exactly. It was more of a stall, a portacabin, a hut, a shack. It certainly did not have wheels.
There were four burger items on the menu. Cheese, Scottish, chicken and halloumi. In addition we sold hot dogs, chips and “garden fries”, which had bacon on them.
I had four duties to perform before opening in the morning, depending on stocks. Slice sticks of haggis. Butterfly chicken. Dice peppers. Chop halloumi. Nothing simpler. Nothing more complex.
My hours were ideal; I was outside but never cold, it was usually busy enough to keep boredom at bay but rarely so bad as to be overstrained. And the company, mostly made up of impractical but intelligent humanities students and/or recent graduates wasn’t bad either.
It was also an ideal vantage point for minor celeb spotting and the odd direct encounter. Over the course of the festival I gave Jon Culshaw directions, served Dolorous Edd from Game of Thrones a “smashing” cheeseburger (ditto Phil Jupitus), had lunch across from Alex Brooker off the Last Leg and walked past Sarah Pascoe.
Now all that’s history. Two weeks of September lie head before the start of the fourth and final semester. I have missed Edinburgh. The Wee Red with its indie nights and weird school disco vibe, Paradise Palms lit low in soft pink with pineapple pints and future funk jukebox, the view from the top deck of a Lothian bus going over south bridge at dusk; russet-tinged Calton Hill a whisper of the Northern Athens of the Enlightenment.
I’ll be studying Political Shakespeare, Edwardian literature and Brecht this year and along the way completing a dissertation on Heiner Müller and GDR theatre. Part of me would like to take on more responsibility at The Student or Fresh Air and maybe get involved in the German play again. I have definite ideas for the radio and quite a specific one for the play. Yet again, I don’t want to dedicate too much time to that in fourth year seeing as real life is looming large.
Leipzig lingers in my thoughts. The beer; the climate; the folk. Leipzig wouldn’t pimp itself out so monstrously for the sake of “the arts”. Even if the standards of authenticity are so low, I feel it wins in that realness category. Capital hasn’t yet entirely conquered the East. There is space to breathe, to idle and to think. Shame about the Nazis though…