Days 136 & 137: thank goodness for trains

Friday May 26th-Saturday May 27th

Friday was a busy day.  I started packing to leave in earnest, both for my short trip to London and for my eventual return to the States.  I also got rid of a bunch of stuff–there’s a huge bin in the lobby for donations to a heart condition research group.  As you may be able to guess, I am all about researching heart conditions.

Then, in the afternoon, I went over to uni.  After the “passing out publicly in front of the Visiting Students Office” thing, the VSO contacted me to help with my Special Circumstances paperwork.  They’re incredibly efficient and organized, and I should’ve been in contact with them all along.  The office was something I was vaguely aware of from orientation, but I wasn’t sure what they did.  I thought maybe their main function was to coordinate people who were in special study abroad programs.  But nope!  They’re basically an entire office of advisor-type people just for visiting students.  And they’re great at their job!  I implore you, o future study abroad student–get in contact with them as soon as you show up.  They’re a great resource and I wish I’d talked to them back when I first started having problems.

I made a stop at Health Services on my way over.  See, I’d been emailing someone at the VSO for a few days and I knew that I needed to get proof that I’d been in the E.R.  So when I was there for the second time, I asked them for something.  The condescending doctor told me they don’t write doctor’s notes (so knowing him, who knows if that’s even true) but they do email discharge letters to your G.P.  I asked the people at Health Services if I could get a copy.  They had to get permission from one of the doctors on duty there, but the answer was yes.  So I went to the VSO with my older letter about my fatigue, plus the records of the two E.R. visits.  The person I’ve been working with had already added her own commentary to the part of the form where that’s supposed to go, and she’d copied and pasted in the little paragraph that my Personal Tutor had emailed the two of us.  She scanned the letters and put them together with the Incident Report from the first time I fainted.  She said that while the PPLS paperwork’s deadline is May 30th, the deadline for the school that owns my Traditional Drama course might be today.  (Since I’m applying for Special Circumstances in classes from two different schools, I’m going to be reviewed by two different Special Circumstances committees.)  So she sent the paperwork in right after I left her office, and I can still email her any edits I want her to make over the weekend.  It was all so efficient!

I went home to pack and clean some more.  I did pass out again late on Friday night, but after what happened on Wednesday I decided I didn’t want to go back to the E.R.  Also I was worried that they wouldn’t let me go to London on Saturday if I showed my face there again.  (This time I passed out due to pain in my hip–I think something is wrong with it after the three mile walk on Wednesday.)

I ended up taking a lot of painkillers for my hip, which meant that I didn’t sleep at all on Friday night.  (I know the stereotype is that heavy-duty painkillers knock you out, but it’s the exact opposite for me.)  Still, I managed to be productive during that time, and I got more packing and organizing done.  I realized that I’d selected “print at home” for my Globe tickets and since the printer downstairs has vanished and reception is closed on the weekends (they’re printing stuff for people in the interim) I would have to go to the university on Saturday and figure out how to work the printers there before I left for the airport.  No pressure!

Speaking of travel stuff, I forgot to mention this earlier, but the Seven Seas people kinda screwed me over.  I got an email a day or two after they picked up my bag saying that there was some paperwork I was supposed to fill out and give to them along with my luggage and that I had to fill it out and send it to them and also they’re gonna charge me £20 for not psychically knowing I was supposed to fill out this paperwork that they didn’t tell me about.  It took me a few days to get all the info they wanted together, but I finally sent it in on Saturday, attached to a mildly outraged email.

My flight to London wasn’t until 5:55 pm, so I had plenty of time to get stuff done on Saturday.  And boy did I need that time!  First I went to Princes Street to get cash and buy little bits and pieces I needed for traveling.  Then I went to the post office to mail a letter.  After that, I came back, did some more packing and cleaning, and had lunch.  Then I got my hair cut!  Yes, really.  I’ve been cutting it myself, but it was at a point where it needed professional intervention to get it growing into the bob I want it to be.  I decided to do it now because the back was getting long and with this heat wave it was making my neck super sweaty and gross.  I found a hairdresser I really wanted to go to on Yelp–they were cheap, no-nonsense… it sounded too good to be true.  And I guess it was, because when I called to ask if they took walk-ins, it turned out there’s some other hair salon in place of that one now.  Luckily, I had a stroke of genius!  I needed to go to uni to print my Globe tickets and there’s a cool-looking hair salon on the way there.  I could stick my head in and see if they did walk-ins.  If they did, I could get my hair cut and then go to the library.  If they didn’t, I could print the tickets and schedule a haircut for when I’ll be back in Edinburgh.

It turned out they did do walk-ins, although they were busy so it ended up taking a lot longer than I’d thought, which pushed back my schedule for getting to the airport.  Luckily, I’m an anxious baby and I’d left myself loads of time.  I figured out the printers pretty quickly too.  I used a USB drive to get the ticket PDFs on a school computer, and then I hit print.  Nothing happened, and I spent a few minutes being confused, but then I realized that you’re supposed to go over to the printers, scan your card, pull up the print queue, select the stuff you just sent over, and print it.

After that, I sped back to my room and took care of the last few things I needed to do–taking out the trash and eating some tomatoes.  (The tomatoes were all I had in the fridge that would go bad so I just sliced ’em and topped ’em with salt, pepper, and dried basil.)

While I was behind schedule, I showed up to the airport about two hours early.  Good job, Blythe!  Unfortunately the rest of the world wasn’t willing to cooperate.  I spent a miserable 45-minute bus ride being slowly bounced out of my seat only to find when I arrived at the airport that British Airways (the airline I was supposed to be flying to London with) had suffered a catastrophic computer failure and all their flights were canceled.  And the person who told me this also told me that all the other airlines’ flights to London were full.

I have tickets for Romeo & Juliet tomorrow at one in the afternoon.

I was in severe pain due to the bouncing bus, and I couldn’t figure out flight information on my phone, so I turned around and went home.  I spent maybe five minutes total in the airport.  The British Airways person said I can get a refund, but I’m not sure how.

(Some of the bus ride back was nice because while I don’t like kids, I had a lot of fun making faces at one who was sitting across from me.  It’s nice to be appreciated–after the other kids decided it wasn’t “cool” anymore, my talent for making weird faces has been sorely wasted.  Also there was a cute service dog on the bus for a bit.)

So once I got home I had to decide how I was going to get to London early enough to see Romeo & Juliet.  First possibility–wait for British Airways to fix their computers, and get them to give me a replacement flight in the morning.  I decided this wasn’t a good plan, because there’s no guarantee that they’d fix it in time.  Second possibility–book another flight with a different airline and hound British Airways for the refund later.  I figured this should be pretty easy, but I was dead wrong.  There was nothing for Saturday evening, which made sense with what the person at the airport told me–everyone had already filled up the few replacement flights that other airlines had.  But when I went on CheapoAir and looked at Sunday morning, I was down to four options as soon as I deselected “British Airways”.  One of them was at the right time, but it flew into an airport that wasn’t even in London.  The other three were at various wrong times.  Well, alright, how about Kayak?  That was just plain weird.  There were a few different flights on Kayak that would have worked, but every time I clicked on them I either got an error message saying they never existed or one saying that my session had timed out, even if I’d just started it.  So now what?  I was back to square one.

And that’s when it hit me.

I could take a train.

It took some website wrangling, but I finally managed to get a look at some of the trains that were headed out of Edinburgh.  A bunch of the trips were for reasonable lengths of time, you know, four or five hours.  Unfortunately they were all on Sunday morning, and they would all get me to London too late.  But hey… why were some of these train trips marked as taking fourteen or fifteen hours?  Because, as it turns out, they were two-part trips with an overnight “layover” in between them.  Alright, I decided, I can handle that.  The only trip that worked for me was in forty minutes–if I missed it, I was screwed.

Luckily, the train station isn’t too far from Portsburgh Court, and I made it.  Barely.  I think I only got on the train about five minutes before we left.  I booked a hostel in the “layover” city while I was on the train, and that’s why I’m writing this blog post while sitting in a spacious hostel room in Newcastle.  (I think I accidentally booked as “four women traveling together” and not “one woman who is fine with sharing a room with three other women”.  Oh well.)

It was getting dark and we were moving fast, but the view out the window of the train was so gorgeous that I had to get some photos!  These two are the best, even if they are still a little blurry.

[Image description: two photos.  The first is of a piece of rocky coastline, with an overcast grey sky above it.  It’s pretty hard to tell where the sky ends and the sea begins, because they’re very similar in color.  The rocks near the water are brown, and there’s some blurred green grass in the foreground.  The second photo is of a quaint village on a river that has a bridge across it.  The photo is taken from above and the buildings are all light-colored with reddish-brown roofs.  There are only a few cars showing, so it looks very old-fashioned.  This photo is a little blurry pretty much all over.]

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