It's the 8.05 train to Edinburgh, a couple of days before the festival starts, and every year it's the same. You want to be prepared to see all the comedians and performers you're inevitably going to bump into, you want to be oozing confidence and looking your best so that you can hold court across the carriage, chat with vim about the forthcoming month and share hilarious Edinburgh experiences from the past, like an old Irish family.
But as we're pulling out from York station and my reflection is jerked from side to side in the train-loo mirror, I see my August alter-ego staring out at me from the glass: Miss Havisham's back and once again I've become the earthly incarnation of her fictional form. Deathly tired, pallid and looking several years older than I am. Although I haven't yet been left at the altar, fingers crossed, and for a change, today I'm not wearing moth-eaten antique lace, which are the only discernible differences between Miss H and me. And the horrible old harridan will continue to haunt me every August, until such times that I take a holiday somewhere hot and exotic for a month instead of work really hard somewhere cold and rainy for a month. (You can see why I'd be torn.)
So I'm afraid all I can muster for the comedy folk is some chat about how I struggled to get the luggage trolley out of the luggage trolley depot and that I lost my pound coin in the process. Come on Catriona! This is supposed to be the month of fun and banter! Start as you mean to go on!
I'm sitting here with the Boom Jennies, the sketch-group I perform with and my Edinburgh Festival saviours (we've been doing the Fringe together for five years now) and we're still writing our show. That's not me trying to sound cool. We're honestly still writing it. And not only are we unable to muster the strength to tackle the script, even we're struggling to find things to say to one another.
There are far too many compelling things to stare at, Zombie-like, in the carriage: the next generation of youthful, bubbly, hot-pant cladded Edinburgh acts who are so full of vim and vigour it makes you tired just to look at their fresh, un-addled faces; a trolley selling teas and coffees which rattles by more times than anybody could possibly need; or just waiting for that next announcement which heralds your arrival to a place you'll only ever know as the one en route to Edinburgh. Not to mention the moment when you find yourself sitting across from someone who you know you know from Edinburgh but you just can't quite pin down where from and you keep catching one another's eye and it's awkward and you tell yourself to stop catching their eye but then you catch their eye again and, god, you're travelling backwards anyway so you're already feeling pukey. It's a minefield!
So, yet again, the journey to Edinburgh hasn't been, as I assured myself it would be, a time where I'd be focussed, inspired, jolly, a comic beacon shining in the East Coast Trainline half-light. But I think I like it. It should just be a time when everyone - comic, tourist, child, mother, beast - can just sit quietly before the August onslaught of shows, reviews and Jaegerbombs starts. Makeup-less, banterless, and in silence. A place where even good friends can pretend they don't know one another.
Catriona Know: Hellcat
1-27 Aug @ 17.40