Saturday August 17th. Ron and Terl, Nick and Matt are driving up with the kit, while the rest of us gather at King’s Cross Station in London for the long train journey north. We board the 11am high speed link to Edinburgh Waverley via the East Coast Main Line, stow instruments and luggage and settle down to read, talk, snooze or simply stare through the window as we roll through the suburbs and out across this green and pleasant land. The ECML is 393 miles long and links London, the South East and East Anglia with Yorkshire, the North East Regions and Scotland. Forming a key artery on the eastern side of Great Britain, the route broadly parallels the A1 Trunk Road. It was built by three railway companies, each serving their own area but with the intention of linking up to form the through route that became the East Coast Main Line. The North British Railway, from Edinburgh to Berwick-on-Tweed, was completed in 1846, the North Eastern, from Berwick-on-Tweed to Shaftholme and the Great Northern, from Shaftholme to Kings Cross, in 1850. In 1923 the three companies combined to become the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), which became part of British Rail in 1948. The ECML has been the backdrop for a number of famous rail journeys and locomotives, including the famous steam locomotives ‘Flying Scotsman’ and ‘Mallard’... for children growing up in the ‘60’s, no model railway set was complete without at least one of those legendary engines... is it just me, or is the driver’s accent changing the further north we get? The announcements change from Cockney to Yorks and broad Scots as we zip through Berwick upon Tweed. Maybe it’s part of the training (or maybe different drivers?) Could just be my imagination of course.... crossing the border now... and the weather has taken a turn for the worse. I knew I shouldn’t have packed those Hawaiian shirts! We arrive in Edinburgh to sunshine and the frayed ends of a street demonstration, taxi to our accommodation on St. John’s Hill, shower and eat and head over to the New Town Theatre in George Street for our 9pm soundcheck... on stage at 11.45pm, tired and a little frayed ourselves, first night nerves fluttering ... until Sadie jokes that she hasn’t “been up this late for thirty years”, the audience laugh, and we launch into ‘How Not To Lose Things’....

Sunday August 18th. After a good opening night we’re out on the Royal Mile for a photo shoot and to hand out flyers. The weather is good, the crowd (and there are lots of them) are happy. The Royal Mile, the name given to the succession of streets which form the main thoroughfare of the Old Town, was first used in W M Gilbert's Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century (1901), and was further popularised as the title of a guidebook, published in 1920. Many millennia ago, retreating ice sheets, deposited their glacial debris behind the castle rock on which Edinburgh Castle stands, resulting in a distinctive crag and tail formation. Running eastwards from the crag, the Royal Mile sits on the ridge of the tail which slopes gently down to Holyrood Palace. Steep ‘closes’ (alleyways) run between the many tall ‘lands’ (tenement buildings) off the main thoroughfare. An eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, pubs and visitor attractions, the High Street is crowded with tourists, entertainers and buskers. We gather at Parliament Square where, in January 2012, the City of Edinburgh Council held a summit with residents, traders and other interested parties to discuss the issue of tourist merchandise, described by some as 'Tartan Tat', taking over the street, and how the Royal Mile can be made into a five-star visitor attraction. Two band members in particular are attracted by the merchandise on offer. Terl and Danica both want kilts, Dani a mini pink one and Terl the more ‘manly’ Highland variety. The truth, we are reliably informed, is that men NEVER wear anything underneath. Terl wants one even more. And a sporran to keep his drumsticks in... we mingle with the crowd, handing out flyers, while photographers follow Elizabeth down the Mile... later we trek over to the New Town Theatre where Elizabeth is the star attraction on Johnnie Walker’s ‘Guest Night’. BBC Radio legend Johnnie Walker, famous for his years on pirate Radio Caroline and Radio’s 1 and 2, is regarded as one of radio’s finest interviewers. We perform ‘acoustic’ versions of ‘How Not To Lose Things’ and ‘LA Days’, and Johnnie talks to Elizabeth about her life (and loves!) and shows clips from her movies and, of course, ‘Downton Abbey’.... another night, another show, half an hour to set up and soundcheck and we’re on again, a little more relaxed, a little tighter, each night a warm-up for the next. Tonight we introduce ‘All My Sins’ and our first encore, ‘Open Mic Blues’. After the show there’s a meet and greet with Elizabeth while the boys pack up and prepare for tomorrow’s early appearance on BBC Radio Scotland’s Fred MacAulay show.

Monday August 19th. Up at 7 for an 8am taxi call, then whisked off to BBC Radio’s Potterow venue where, after coffee and breakfast,  we perform our ‘acoustic’ versions of ‘How Not To...’ and ‘LA...’ in front of a live audience of 350. Elizabeth joins other guests on the sofa while the rest of us retire to the Green Room for more coffee, banter and a flick through the papers. There’s a great photo of Elizabeth handing out flyers on the front spread of this morning’s ‘Times’.... by lunchtime the late night/early morning has caught up with us and while most of us are ready for a siesta, one or two repair to the local hostelry before getting their heads down for a nap... then, before we know it, it’s time to trek back over town to George Street for our third show... a great crowd tonight and the best performance so far, the band cooking, Elizabeth joking with the audience ... lots more energy, we must be getting used to these late nights... 

Steve

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