Initially Titled: Project Shitnic

I'm going to have a Shitnic. A Shitnic is a picnic in a shit place. It is an outdoor, al-fresco dining experience in an odd, uncomfortable setting. It could be eating supermarket sandwiches next to a road, perched on some bent railings - or drinking cold coffee out of a soup mug at a bus stop.

I'm going to have a Shitnic because I miss these sorts of moments. Moments outside on the way to places, moments I've shared with friends or family but equally as much on my own. Moments that arise from a busy, hectic city lifestyle or holidaying on the cheap: too hot sat in a dirty doorway on a steep street in Lisbon eating supermarket bread and cheese and grapes. Or cowering from a rainstorm under a bike shelter munching on boiled eggs, or the doorstep of a Waitrose in Glasgow eating cheap pasta salad from Tesco. 

A Shitnic for me is a moment unplanned. It is a moment that arises out of necessity. You are hungry, you need to eat, a variety of factors (usually financial) prevent you from going "for a meal" and you spy a Sainsbury's Local. There are no benches (Shitnics cannot take place in a designated seating area), you look around... a step, a wall, it's all you need. Having a Shitnic is a a very particular sort of experience. I have seen it done simply sat leaning against a shop wall, two girls and a pizza box from dominoes on Nicolson Street during the first tentative liftings of lockdown in August. 

You can do it on your own, or you can do it with a friend or your sister. You can do it just about anywhere, eating any sort of rubbish food or snacks you may have with you (I usually like to carry dry oatcakes, nuts and apples. Just in case there isn't food because you never know). The most important aspect of a Shitnic though, is that you embrace the experience wholeheartedly as if you were in fact having a Picnic in the most beautiful and picturesque location imaginable. It is this attitude toward the situation of eating a cheese sandwich next to the traffic lights outside Union Square that transforms it into a Shitnic. You are self-aware, you look around and you laugh. This raises the experience to Shitnic level, far and above your average pleb scoffing a Greggs on a bench on George Street.

Today, though, I am bending some of my own definitions as I have planned to have a Shitnic. I obviously in no way can be allowed to decide where the Shitnic will take place - that would turn it fully into a picnic, by which point I might as well go somewhere nice. Therefore, I have devised a system to bring some spontaneity and chance into the experience: I will leave the flat when I am ready, not for a set or appointed time; I will walk to the closest bus stop; I will board the first bus that comes along; I will wait until the bus reaches it's final stop or terminus at which point I will disembark; I will find a place to sit and wait there for an as yet undecided amount of time; when I am finished the Shitnic I will return to the stop and board the next bus returning to my starting point.

01 071020 44

at 14.06 I leave the flat.
I am trepidatious, if I get the 35 I know where I am going, because I know that bus. Any other bus will be a completely unknown adventure. Im excited.

I narrowly miss the 34. The 44 arrives shortly afterwards. I am going to Wallyford, the name on the front loudly announces. I have absolutely no idea where that is, and zero conception of what I might find there. Let alone how long this journey might be.

14.12 the bus picks up people and some idiot sits right behind me. The proximity during covid times makes me nervous.

14:17 trying to backfill notes is tricky. Im not enjoying my phone or the time it takes to type and all the typos. On Dalry Road already.

14:22 West Maitland Street, I dont know what I am looking for. But I think Ill know when I find it.

14:30 Princes Street is shockingly busy. Theres a long queue for Zara

14:31 The idiot is going to get off the bus, and walk to St Leonards to play aerobic football. He hates St Leonards, apparently - but must stay there incase there is another lockdown

14:33 The bus turns towards St Andrews Square - an intriguing development as I have no idea where it will go beyond Princes Street.
It is occurring to me that I may feel safer travelling on buses heading away from the city. My closest stop is "to city" but as demonstrated this leads to business.

14:35 The bus trundles along York Place, I wonder if it will go down London Road. If I took an "away from city" direction I would bypass a lot of areas that I am already familiar with.

14:37 the terminology is "from city" - I can see the no.16 to Silverknowes. I know where that is, I have cycled there.

14:39 this may be a very long journey, I hope that the coffee I brought will still be warm

14:40 London Road, will this bus go past St Margarets House? The 16 is ahead of us and I am confused. Perhaps part of Leith Walk is closed

14:45 there are parts of the city that I know, that I have seen. streets I have walked and memories of them. Maybe flats I have looked at or friends that I have visited. I cant believe that we could lose all that so quickly

14:48 I drop my bottle of hand sanitiser. I pick it up. They have torn down and are rebuilding Meadowbank Sports Centre

14:49 Passing St Margarets House

14:52 I think we may be going to Portobello when the bus swings right. I had just gotten excited by the prospect of chips from a particular chippy...

15.00 its been nearly an hour since I set off. Im tired and quite hungry. The thrill has left me. I might crack and see how far Wallyford actually is. It would be a shame to give up on my first trip but the school kids are out now and getting on the bus

15.04 Its past Musselburgh. Im going to get off the bus as close to 15.10 as I can

15.10 My first shitnic is at an MOT testing centre

A forgettable location, unsuited to picnic-ing. A way-station by un-design. 01 071020 44

I sat on the white wall between the backs of the grey and black car. I drank black coffee, looking around, my eyes blinded by the low afternoon sun. It was cold and there was a slight breeze. I felt comfortable in this location as there were a few other people waiting outside of the test centre. This helped me feel in-context. I did consider sitting in the middle of a traffic island at a nearby junction on a Grit Box but decided that at this early stage I would feel too conspicuous. I want to be the observer, not the observed.

I looked around and I waited, I tried to observe, and make mental notes - to notice the architecture around, the signage, the old road-markings and cobbles, the cracked road surface. The carpark outside the MOT centre was full but there were not many people around, a few buses passed. This was a sort-of nowhere place, a place you would not choose to go to unless for a very specific reason. 

Black coffee outside an MOT test centre in Brunstane.
7th October 2020 15:15

I stayed for fourteen minutes before deciding to leave. It would be a full hour at least before I would get back home. I crossed the road and waited four minutes for a bus.

15.28 I am back on the bus towards my starting point. I think the act of sitting in the place is more important that the experience of being on the bus so next time I won't make bus-notes, but maybe try some observations on location. Its too bright where Ive sat so I am going to move.

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