Edinburgh’s a great city for cross-dressing. It’s also a great city for confusing the hell out of tourists. Usually, this is done in August when the various arts festivals are in full swing, but you don’t have to wait until then if you don’t want to…
One summer, before tourist season really got going, I did a bunch of photoshoots in the morning and figured it was a great day, so why not keep going? My girlfriend had been up for hours already, driving about and taking pictures, and needed a break (it had been an early start – a story for another time, I promise).
So I called up another couple of friends to help out: a couple who live in the old city centre, and possess a quantity of swords: perfect!
We’d taken a handful of swordfighting classes in a freezing community hall (which lingered rather more on the history of bladed weapons, and not so much on the Errol Flynn style derring-do we were hoping for), so staging a cross-dressed swordfight on a centuries-old ruin up a steep hill in the middle of one of the city parks seemed like an obvious choice.
I defy anyone who disagrees with me.
She wanted to dress up as a Viking, braiding her hair to form a long (and ticklish) moustache (this was a character she’d dressed as at a fancy-dress party earlier in the year).
I wanted to wear a tartan skirt borrowed from a friend who runs a local fashion shop, thinking it would help nail the look of a demure/minxy/anachronistic warrior-maiden. (At the very least it would provide a photoset for that skirt unlike any other…)
Her husband kindly agreed to do the honours with the camera (and advise us on fighting stances – from the practical and historically-correct, to the tropes of Hollywood).
Of course, you can’t have two kilted maniacs prancing around hilltop ruins bashing each other with swords in broad daylight without them drawing attention to themselves.
The first group of onlookers were from the Far East, so we found ourselves performing for a couple of dozen cameras instead of just one (but they were all very polite and thanked us before moving on to the rest of the park).
Then it was a group of Europeans – Spain or Italy (I didn’t catch much of what they said) – who lingered out of frame while we struck improbable yet epic poses, hoping the wind wouldn’t lift our kilts up too much.
The third group were from the US. By this point, we decided to have a little fun.
“Hey! How ya doin’?” I said. Cue a crowd of dropping jaws.
“Oh my god! I never realised you were a man!”
We both introduced ourselves to the group, who were gratifyingly weirded out by the pairing of our looks and voices. They asked if they could take photos of us and we said yes.
“Are you doing this for a show?”
I could have told the truth. I could have said no, we were simply doing this for the hell of it; instead, I lied and said yes. I fed the tourists a line of shit about doing publicity for a Festival Fringe show. In retrospect, I kind of wish I’d just said that this is what everyone does in Scotland.
In any case, I’m sure it enlivened people’s holiday photos and Facebook timelines across three continents…
And now I can take ‘writing a blog post on 29th February’ off my bucket list (not that it was ever on it…)