So there I was, sitting on a toilet at Edinburgh University, pants around the ankles and feeling confused.
Everyone warned me about the Scottish climate. They told me to pack thermal underwear and waterproofs and that I'd leave work in the dark and that it would rain and I'd feel shit.
Yeah yeah, I said when I bought my plane ticket. Yeah yeah, I said when we arrived to a bright and crispy April. I yeah-yeahed my way through the following seven months of delicious summery mildness.
Then last month we wound the clocks back and I went a little batty. I never expected it to get so dark so early so quickly.
The morning commute really baffled me at first. My brain kept thinking I was eight years old and going on school trip. When else had I ever been on a crowded early morning bus, headlights leaking all over the street, the aisles all fat with scarves and coats and hats and germs? On my way to the Snowy Mountains, that's when. Why did my fellow passengers look so blank and indifferent? Come on people! School trip! Tobogganing! Paltry snowmen! Hydroelectricity! Can't you get a little excited?
It took so long for my mind and body to connect and realise they were no longer in the Southern Hemipshere. On the Night of the Toilet, I wandered through The Meadows in a daze. Student couples cluttered up every surface. They huddled on benches, leaned against trees, hung upside-down from the branches, joined mitten to mitten with their tongue-piercings clashing. Evidently they figured out it was cheaper to get busy with someone than to buy another layer of clothing.
I'd signed up for a class at the university to make some friends and force myself to write. The first two weeks involved me in the back row with one hand shielding my forehead, pretending to write but actually snoozing. But the third week I was determined to focus, despite having had a shit of a day. It had rained that afternoon and I'd walked right through a huge puddle. An old man had sat beside me on the bus, reading a Spanish phrasebook and interrupting my brooding. As if the 4.30 darkness wasn't odd enough, the rain was like nothing I'd ever seen. It lashed at the windows and I couldn't see anything outside but a mishmash of car lights. The old guy kept muttering Gracias, gracias, gracias in time with the windscreen wipers. The way he pronounced it was grassy arse. Everything felt so surreal and claustrophobic, I wanted to scream.
So I headed into the loos to collect my thoughts before class. I didn't have any business to take care of, but you can get some solitude and it's so much easier to think with your dacks down.
I examined the student graffiti and tried to relax. It was hard to do because this bathroom was rank. The smell was sharp and grotty like nothing I'd smelled before.
I thought about how I liked it when people smiled and patted me on the head when I started moaning about the changing weather. It's so much better than the insane cackling and, "This is NOTHING! NOTHING! Just you wait!". Why can't people let me be bewildered and overwhelmed for awhile? It's a bit of an adjustment from sunlight on tap.
It occurred to me that the graffiti was a lot saucier than any university toilet I'd perched on before. There were the usual knock-knock jokes, a poster for the Trampoline Club, but then there was an awful lot of talk about penises.
And drawings of penises. Lots of those. In various stages of alertness.
Oh boy, I thought. I really admire these Scottish chicks. They know exactly what they want and they're not afraid to draw it in exquisite detail. I wish I could be so bold.
Then I noticed under one particularly spectacular member there was a phone number.
And beneath another was an open invitation to meet in this very cubicle on Thursday night for some unprintable action.
I was in the Men's toilet.
I remembered thinking when I walked in, "Dude, those sinks are sure low to the ground. That's really handy for wheelchair access."
I yoinked up my pants and reached for the door handle, but then froze. I had to wait until the coast was clear. My lecture room was right across the hall, and these people already thought I was a twit for sleeping through the first two classes. I tried not to breathe as I listened to liquid hitting porcelain, zippers going up and down.
Finally I crept to the door and peered outside. The hall was empty. Grassy arse, lord.
I dashed into the lecture room and slipped into the back row, but then had to dash back out as I'd forgotten to wash my hands.