Travel, Trepidation, and Theatre

Kathryn Funderburg University of Aberdeen, Scotland


October 6, 2015

O wonder
How many godly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't.
–William Shakespeare

My journey to Edinburgh to see the theatrical adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World began well enough. I had no problem finding the Aberdeen train station; printing my ticket went smoothly. I was even able to buy a new pair of earbuds before departing (I swear I am a bane to the longevity of working headphones!). The first twist in my travel plans occurred when I asked a customer service agent what platform the train to Edinburgh would be leaving from. I had examined the departure board, but I couldn’t find the listing for my train anywhere. I was told that I wouldn’t be taking a train to Edinburgh, but the train I wanted was leaving from platform 5. I walked over to the advised platform and, sure enough, there was my train, but instead of going all the way to Edinburgh it was only going to Carnoustie. Apparently, there was a derailment blocking a section of the track. I decide to board. After all, I had already paid for my ticket and the train would at least get me part of the way to my destination.

A quick skim of my ticket revealed that my seat number was 47F in compartment A. I shuffled through the aisles—trying not to brain anyone with my backpack—before arriving at my designated seat. An empty spot did not great me. No, instead I find the contents of a man’s lunch sprawling across where my ticket clearly indicates that I’m supposed to be. So, I make a loop through the compartment again, trying to figure out if I am mistaken about the seating layout. After ten minutes of wandering around the train I drift back to what I believe to be my spot and say, “Hi, I think that might be my seat.” The man looks at me like I am a complete idiot, grunts something about “no reservations”, and then goes back to eating. Now I was getting a bit panicky. Not only was the train not going all the way to Edinburgh, I couldn’t even manage to board the blasted thing. Fortunately, my mumbled expletives where cut short when I spied a railway employee. He kindly informed me that I could get a bus connection in Carnoustie and that I could sit anywhere I wanted. Evidently one no cares about what the ticket says. 

On the way to Carnoustie I tried again and again to figure out how I was going to get from there to Edinburgh. The Wi-Fi signal, however, was not sympathetic to my desire to avoid being stranded in a random town I had never been to before, and I soon gave up. I am a person who highly values both plans and audiobooks, and so in an attempt to ignore the fact that I didn’t have the first of those items I began to listen to the second. I found Anne of Green Gables to be a wonderful book for postponing thinking about one’s problems, mainly because being an 11 year old orphan that nobody wants because you’re a girl is considerably worse than having a few inconveniences while traveling. By the time I reached Carnoustie things were looking hopeful for both Anne and I. There was a coach waiting to take those traveling to Edinburgh to the station in Dundee where we could catch a connecting train.

By the time I finally arrive in Edinburgh it was too late to go to the National Museum of Scotland like I planned too, and I decided against going to Mary’s Milk Bar (I am determined to try their gelato before I leave Scotland). Instead I grabbed a quick dinner and started walking to the King’s Theatre to meet up with the Arcadia group before the play. My style of navigating while abroad so far strongly resembles the childhood game of “Hot and Cold”, in which someone hides something and then tells the person that is searching for it if they are getting closer (hot) or farther (cold) away. My location is the hidden item and the blue dot on my phone’s map tells me if I’m getting hotter or colder while I walk in the general direction of the desired destination. (Don’t judge, it’s worked so far!)

Getting to the theatre was fairly straight forward and I was soon settling down into my seat (the one specified by my ticket, as is good and proper). The King’s Theatre is beautifully ornate, a mix of Art Nouveau and Viennese Baroque with a stunning dome painted by Scottish artist, John Byrne. I am always excited to see theatre, but I was especially excited to have the opportunity to see the adaptation of Brave New World. I’ve read it several times over the past few years as the result of an Advanced Placement practice essay I had to write my junior year of high school. I remember the class was told to compose an argumentative paper on whose vision of the future was more relevant: George Orwell’s in 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s in Brave New World (Huxley, of course!). We had just finished 1984, yet none of us had read Brave New World, and so after writing the essay (we were given a brief synopses to make it possible) I vowed to read the book. I loved it and have reread it almost every year since. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the play. The playwright, Dawn King, successful kept the key elements of the story intact, yet made it possible to be told on the stage. The acting was good across the board, but I was most impressed by the scenic design. On both sides of the stage there were two rectangular towers with television screens on the exterior and encased tree trunks and branches, highlighting the harsh divide between civilization and the savage wilderness. The use of the screens—as well as light and sound—truly made the show a multimedia sensory experience. 

As I left the theatre to head to the station to take the Megabus back to Aberdeen I realized that I really didn’t know the best way to get there (part of the problem being I was quite sure where “there” was). It was dark and normally I would take a bus, but I had no idea which bus to take. So I resorted to my “Hot and Cold” method. Walking along the softly illuminated pavement of the city and watching my breath appear before me in little puffs of fog was electrifying. I oscillated between feeling adventurous and young and thinking that unless young was the only age I ever wanted to be I should probably take the bus next time. After about a mile of walking, and a few minor moments of panic, I found the bus station. I boarded my bus with no problem, thinking that I found a method of transportation less troublesome than the train (Spoiler: I was WRONG). My phone was rapidly running out of battery by this point, so I gave Anne of Green Gables a break. Fortunately, I agree with Lemony Snicket, in that I, “never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them” (I’m sure Rory Gilmore would be of the same opinion) and began reading Far From the Madding Crowd. Let me tell you, there are far worse ways to travel than speeding along the dark streets of Scotland while eating fudge and reading a good book.

But alas, my enjoyable traveling was not to last. It turns out that the bus I was on only went as far as Perth where it would connect with the bus going the rest of the way to Aberdeen. The bus pulls up to the Perth bus station at 12:17 (or 00:17, which, to me, looks more like an explosive count down than a time). As I and ten others exit, the driver says our bus will be there soon. So we all stand there and wait. And then wait some more. A couple of the men are smoking, but it looks like we all are, our breath forming clouds in the chill air. There is an old woman in a wheelchair without a proper coat and a 26 year old man (I overheard him say so) wearing shorts because he was robbed while in Bulgaria. Still we wait, and by this point I am becoming fairly anxious about my predicament. I am in a town that I have never been to, it’s late, I don’t have any way of contacting anyone, and I really don’t know how I’m getting back to my flat. Everyone is just as concerned as I am and we ultimately decide as a group to get a taxi to Dundee. The taxis are called and we are getting into the vehicles when, lo and behold, there is the bus to Aberdeen. What time was it when this bus showed up? 1:30. 1:30 in the morning, an hour and fifteen minutes past “soon”. 

By the time I got back to my room it was 4:00 a.m. and, after a brief call to my understandably concerned mother, I wearily fell into bed. My travel to and from Edinburgh was less than ideal, but I was able to see the sunset on the Royal Mile, watch a play put on in a beautiful theatre, and eat salted caramel fudge at midnight while whizzing through the city. In Brave New World Aldous Huxley writes, “But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.” Well, I don’t want comfort either. I want travel mishaps. I want plays. I want being alone and afraid. I want sunsets and art. I want feeling young and alive. I want confusion and cold feet. Beholding the wonders that this world has to offer makes it worth accepting the less pleasant aspects of life. So, the troubles that I ran into on my journey do not negate the wonderful things I experienced, but are simply part of the privilege of getting to experience them. It was worth it.


Scotland Semester Travel