I had started out badly, staggering down the stairs, but by the time I had hit street level, my consciousness was poking through, taking note of the glorious pre-dawn light and starting to enjoy the sound of raucous birdsong. Wandering down the wooded path to the bottom of the hill I was even delighted to be accosted by a cat, leaping out of some bushes and demanding to be tickled behind the ears. I was left with the distinct feeling that it spent most nights in this out of the way place, waiting for someone to walk past and give it some attention, which did bring to mind the question of who exactly it was that usually walked down the hill at 4am.
I bumped into Rob a few minutes later, standing on the corner of Clarendon place, looking somewhat irked that I was daring to look cheerful at that time of the morning. After the usual greetings, we headed for Edinburgh, our mutual cases of sleep-deprivation preventing us from sharing much of a conversation, I watched the gorgeous red pre-dawn light filter through a few low lying clouds. The weather had been almost mediterranean for several days, with the only clouds being long thin streaks more commonly seen in American Road movies or the occasional music video, and the sun reflecting off of them made for a particularly pretty way of passing the half hour trip to the airport.
As usual, by erring on the side of caution, I'd left myself with over an hour between check-in and take-off, and with my stomach very much still asleep (and with my eternal diet being in active mode this week) killing time by eating was out of the question. I headed for the bookshop, but it was resolutely shut, as was the papershop. Glumly, I sat down on a nearby bench-seat and flicked through a book I'd already read 4 times, but was all I'd been able to face when I left the flat. Thankfully, soon after, the paper shop opened and I was able to buy a Guardian and a copy of "Desolation Road" by Ian Macdonald, a writer I'd enjoyed before, but who's books tended to be woefully hard to get hold of. Feeling much cheered, I headed off to check in.
I'll skip over the body of the day, as computer meetings are beyond dull if you're not a devotee of the subject at hand (and frequently even if you are). I picked up a few useful hints and tips, reaquainted myself with a few people I hadn't seen since the previous seminar and amazingly managed to stay awake through the whole thing.
The trip home was somewhat more eventful. The plane was delayed twice. First when they mislaid a busload of passengers (who arrived mere moments before we were about to start taxiing towards the runway) and second when the steps (retrieved for the previously mentioned passengers to board) decided that (despite working perfectly only ten minutes before) they weren't going to extend. This meant that we took off 45 minutes later than expected. The passenger sitting next to me was getting redder and redder and generally blaming everything on the airline (this despite the fact that the airline had no control over buses or steps) and I buried myself in my book, hoping that nobody would think I was associated with him.
About a minute later, I unburied myself and stared out the window to see one of the most beautiful sights I'd ever seen. The sky was almost clear except for a long line of cloud which stretched most of the way from horizon to horizon. It was wafer thin and looked like a normal cloud had been squashed and then spun out like candyfloss. As I watched over the next half an hour, swathes of cloud stretched down the way, forming twisted structures until it looked like some abstract bannister, with the upper rail supported by a strange mishmash of spirals, lines and ovals. All of this against a background of yellow fading to a dark crimson as the sun slowly slipped beneath the horizon. I'd have happily paid the cost of the flight just to see that.
What I could have done without was the lateness of the plane causing me to miss my 10:30 train by 15 minutes and the subsequent cancelling of the next (and final) train at 11:30. I was forced to get onto the Glasgow train, get off in Falkirk High and then take a taxi (at BR expense, thankfully) to Stirling, arriving at around 12:30 feeling somewhat tired. I finished my new book about halfway up the hill and in quiet contemplation walked the last few hundred yards up the hill, up my stairs and in my door on my way to bed (still attempting the 'quiet' bit, but not managing it perfectly). Thankfully everyone seemed to sleep through the occasional clatter and I staggered bedwards, shedding bags and clothes as I went. I took one look at the computer, decided that email was not my highest priority and fell backwards onto the bed, which instantly swallowed me up and spat me out into the dark of dreamless sleep.