“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” Joshua 1:9

August 29, 2017

August in Edinburgh Pt.1

28th August 2017

I was really fighting to keep my eyes open, my body from uncontrollably shaking, and customers from getting too annoyed at me from sending them up the wrong stairs to their seats. 

This was the first Saturday of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, where I was working as an usher directing people to their seats. And the Saturday show meant that, unlike week days, there were two shows in the one night. This meant that we started an hour earlier than usual at 6pm, and finished at around three hours later than usual at 1am. 

So there I was in the midst of a crowd of people feeling like I had hypochondria. It was not fun. So that was my first week on the job done!!

Leaving Helsinki
I had had a lovely and relaxing time with my family over June and July in Finland, and then took a flight end of July to Edinburgh to have my first training for working as an usher at The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. I was really looking forward to it!! It was my first time in Edinburgh in August and, for those who don't know, Edinburgh comes alive in August filled to the brim with tourists and amazingly persistent flyerers trying to get you to come to their shows. There is the Fringe festival, with 3, 269 shows in various venues and genres throughout August, and the Tattoo, with a show every week night and two shows on Saturday evenings. And I was going to get to experience these world-renowned events!! Yay :D 

I arrived in Edinburgh with two suitcases, and managed to somehow get keys to my flat I was staying in for August as there was a mixup with the keys. That afternoon was training, where we were told about the security and responsibilities that we had to watch out for within the event. We were also given our uniforms, which included a tie, jacket and rain-proof trousers. As I was employed through Queen Margaret University I was also given their tartan to wear as a scarf during the show, along with a journalist-style notepad to jot down interviews on with the audience throughout the show. None of us were too sure how this journalist interview thing would work because we were thinking that people might not want to give us their names… 

We then had a week to wait until the final training at the venue at the Castle and when the show to start!! During which I twisted my ankle on a walk down Arthur's Seat, made key-lime pie cupcakes, paid an emotional farewell to my family in Edinburgh who was moving to Australia and had tea with Sophie and other friends billions of times. I know … it was a rest week ;) 

Key-lime pie cheesecake cupcakes  
Walk up Arthur's Seat
Excited to have finally reached the top of Arthur's Seat, in the most torrential wind I might add, we decided to take a victory selfie!! From the right: Graeme, me, a random guy looking like "The Thinker" statue, and Sophie 
On my way, after spending two days on my own at the flat recovering from a twisted ankle, to an emotional dinner to say farewell to my family in Edinburgh <3
Having tea!! I actually had a hot chocolate because I needed a chocolate, but that is just a technicality ;) From the right: me, Sophie and Berenika
The first day of actual training arrived!! So I got dressed up and headed to the castle: venue of the Tattoo. It was not an easy feat.!! There were tourists milling around everywhere on The Royal Mile, so I felt like I was dancing ;) This way, that way. One step forward, two steps back. 

My uniform <3 Made me look like a local at Hogwarts ;) 
After a 30 minutes walk, that would usually take me 15 minutes or less, we all clocked in and were told to head up the stairs of the temporary stands of the Tattoo venue to the Royal Gallery. There we were divided into groups, socialised a bit, and were shown by our supervisors where our sections were. We were then shown a short preview of the show, in the full sun, which was amazing!! 

Watching some of the show
Pyewww. That was the sound that the CO2 fire extinguisher made when you pressed down and it exerted a large puff of cloudy white dry ice. We were then told when, and shown how, to use the fire extinguisher in case of fire. The guy allowed as many people as wanted to use the extinguisher, but I didn't quite feel that excited about it so I allowed others to have a go. haha. Or maybe I was nervous ;)

After being told about the run of the show we were dismissed and told to meet again tomorrow for the first show.

So the next day when we arrived we were thrown into learning all the numbers and letters in our section. I found it super complicated, because we were basically looking after three sections: 6,7 and 8. Not to mention that section 5 tickets would somehow make there way up to our platform. And in the stands for section 7 the numbers fanned out from low to high numbers, so it was easier to send low numbers up one staircase and high numbers up another stair case which was different to other sections. So I remember the first day my partner Jo-Anna basically did all the tickets. She was double-checking every ticket that I was directing just to make sure, which I was glad because I did get many of them wrong ;) She was working for two people!!

The next day was better, because before the show started I took time to go up and down the staircase trying to memorise the letters and numbers. I mean, I did better than the night before. Not perfect, but I was getting there ;) 

View of the castle from where we had to stand throughout the performance, except when we were on breaks 
Walking down the hill after a show. I waited a while till there was no-one on the road. There was actually a lot of people still up at that time!!
My tired, but happy, face while walking down the hill after the show to my bed
So, the run of the show: During the week we met at the castle at 7pm. We then waited for around 30 minutes for the performers to come up the castle in their buses. After that the disabled people could either walk up or come in cars. So we would then go and help them to their seat, sometimes wheeling a wheelchair to the right seats. The first two days I was disappointed because I didn't get given an opportunity to wheel a wheel chair. I remember the day that I finally did get to I was smiling so much that the military police who directs the traffic was very surprised of the reason ;) Fond memories of my first wheel chair-wheeling experience!!

After the disabled convoy was finished all the other customers would flood into the esplanade and file up into the stands to their seats. That is where we had to be very quick and precise to make sure that they got to their seats with no hassle. 

After everyone was seated we would then wait at the bottom of the stairs so that we could direct people to the bathrooms. Funnily enough, most people were even confused where the bathroom was when we pointed it out!! The other ushers and I joked that we should have a laser to point it out to them ;) Or the lights that they have in airplanes to direct people to the exits. I actually got a comment from one of the people in the audience that I was like a flight attendant. haha.

So throughout the show we were the only section that were given a 30 minute break, rather than 15 minutes in other sections. Not to brag or anything ;) Somehow our section got divided into two groups, and we tended to always go in those groups to our break together. 

Our breaks were divided into the first and second half of the performance. Usually depending on what performances you wanted to see: the first half was the highland dancers, Indian, French and Japanese performances; and the navy, Jacobite scene, airforce, fireworks and final march were in the second half.  For the break we would head down some stairs to a basement where we could have tea and coffee, and on Saturdays there were hotdogs. In terms on seating, in the beginning we would sit on some stairs looking out towards the Pentland Hills, but after all of us got a cold from the chilly winds we started sitting in chairs in the basement where we would chat and check our phones. I would be looking forward to those breaks to get something warm into my stomach!! 

Having our break on the steps. From the right: me, Shannon, Melinda, Lena and Rebecca. 
Funny picture <3
After the show I would then go and stand at the bottom of the stairs to The Royal Gallery. That is where the VIPs would sit and have champagne and listen to a talk and other stuff that they do up in their box. My job was to stand at the bottom of the stairs and make sure that the people who go through to the Gallery had the right pass. On the first few nights I was on the stair case that the VIPs didn't come down, where I got to see all my fellow ushers clocking out 15-30 minutes before me, and then from there I got upgraded to stand on the stairs where the VIPs actually came down. So … I got to stand millimetres away from Prince Charles and William one night!! That was surreal, especially when I shared a glance with William :D Ever since I told my fellow ushers that experience they nicknamed me “Princess” ;) I also got to see many important military people and talk with many interesting VIPs. For example I talked with Benedict Bruce, son of Lord Bruce from the Bruce clan. He was very animated!!

Where I would stand after the show was finished
My radio!!
And I also got to have a radio so that I could talk to the people up in The Royal Gallery and to my supervisor if anything happened. I got to use this many times, it was so exciting!! So I would say: “Laura to Katie”, and then she would say: “Go ahead”. “There is someone here from (insert company) with whiskey and umbrellas”. “Okay, please send him/her up”. I sometimes heard some people saying “over” after everything they would say on the radio,  making me think of a walkie talkie, but the guy who taught me what to say said that there is little radio etiquette at the Tattoo ;) 

The team who worked with me on the platform 
The most majestic place to say that you work at!!
Watching the fireworks at the end of the show
Another selfie while waiting to start the show!! Lena was annoyed that we took a selfie the night before because we hadn't warned her and she hadn't washed her hair. So we took another one ;) 
The pipe band marching off the esplanade. Behind the performers you can see the height of the stands where people would sit. It was amazing!!
To make things even more difficult during August I was working 4 days a week at the St James Centre development. I would be responsible for directing people to the department store and wherever else they would like to go. At the end of the month, though, it all started getting way too much for me so I quit with only three more shifts to go. I am so glad I did it though, and made many friends through the experience!!

Here I am with Kat working our purple jumpers and Queen Margaret University scarves helping tourists find their way around Edinburgh
My go-to face from 10:30 to 12:30, and then 1:30 to 3:20. Especially this day when I took the photo, because I was on my own due to my partner having concussion :o 
On this day a guy came over from Caffe Nero and handed me a chai latte, saying that the guy behind the check-out ordered it for me :D That was so sweet!! I was smiling all afternoon :D

So this is all the work that I was doing during August. The Tattoo was from the 3rd to the 26th of August in the evenings, and I was working four days a week at the St James Centre from the first week of August to the week before the end of the Tattoo. Some how I managed to fit in many social events as well :D The first week at the Tattoo I filled in all my time with socialising, and then learn from that that I needed breaks. So after that week I made sure that I had enough food to eat, time to nap and energy to stand hours on end in the evening. 

I have learnt so much from everything this month, and am super grateful for all those people who would put up with my tiredness!!

Till next post,

Laura xoxo

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