Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Bill Coles' Blog

Featured in the new cycle of Exclusively Independent is Bill Coles' book Dave Cameron's Schooldays published by Legend Press. This is a fantastic fictional account of Tory leader Dave Cameron's days at Eton. This title has coverage in The Edinburgh News, Evening Standard and The Mail. It is also Waterstones' Independent Book of the Month. Here's a blog from Bill, detailing the adventures you can stumble upon when you least expect it...

In Edinburgh, underneath Scotland Street - the same Scotland Street that has been made famous by Alexander McCall Smith - there is a kilometre-long tunnel that stretches all the way to Waverley station. I first came across this tunnel eight years ago, but at the Scotland Street end it was all bricked up, and with a thick metal door which seemed to be permanently locked. It was one of those locks with thick steel plates welded all around it, so you couldn’t get a hacksaw onto it. How it vexed me. I had also examined the other end of the tunnel, which comes out at Platform 19 at Waverley Station. This was also padlocked and was behind some fencing, and I was dubious about the railway police and all the cameras. I’d even thought about renting some industrial-sized bolt-cutters - but unfortunately, these were not to be had. At least not in Scotland.

So for a long time, my little tunnel-walking dream had to be put on hold. And then …

And then a week ago I discovered that the tunnel entrance was nothing but a gaping black hole: the entire wall, metal gate and all, had been knocked down. Last night, I and three friends blithely ignored the keep out signs and explored the tunnel for the first time. Within just 200 yards, the light at the end of the tunnel was just a pin-prick. Stalactites, like long strands of spaghetti, dripped from the ceiling. There were hollow inside and tasted of stone. The stalagmites on the floor were nubby blobs, like white jellyfish that were growing out of the floor. Further in, a sewer had ruptured, giving off an extraordinary fusion of smells - faeces and scented bath-water. The tunnel had been built by the Victorians to connect New Haven with Waverley - though more recently it was used as a bomb shelter during the war. Block after block of brick-built lavatories were dotted along the tunnel - some with the wooden seats still in tact. One door still on its hinges, with the words “Do not slam” etched on the outside.

At the far end, the tunnel suddenly becomes much smaller - so low that you have to bend your head. There was also some sort of babbling noise, like a radio in the distance. It was difficult to make out, but then we realised it was the station tannoy. We peered out onto Platform 19 - to see the reassuring sight of a police van parked up 30 yards away.

A mini-adventure - right in the heart of Edinburgh.

Dave Cameron's Schooldays is launched this evening (Wednesday) at
Waterstones George St from 7:30pm.

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