I wrote this for the Edinburgh Evening News - published 11th Aug 2011
They wanted my take on living in Edinburgh but not performing at the Festival:
Here’s something you would have never guessed about me - I’m a Virgin! Yes this is my first year at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I’ve been here 10-years-in-a-row as a performer but this is my first time as a punter ... And I’m loving it!
The excitement and vibrancy of the Fringe has a magic hold over Edinburgh. Well, most of Edinburgh...
I went over to Morningside on Tuesday to meet a friend for lunch at Loopy Lorna’s (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d be typing!) It was a very enjoyable lunch, and I’m glad to report since she’s been on the antidepressants Lorna is a lot less loopy. But leaving Lorna’s mental health problems aside, I couldn’t believe Morningside! Not one single Fringe poster on display, no one handing out flyers - its as if the Festival doesn’t exist.
They really are a different breed down there, aren’t they? Its like a gentrified version of The Land That Time Forgot.
Back in town the Festival is in full swing. The Assembly at George Square is packed, the Pleasance Courtyard is overflowing and Greggs the Baker on Rose Street has queues halfway round the block. Mind you, its like that every day of the year. You really do have a bad diet here in Scotland.
Going passed the EICC I overheard two French girls coming out of Ed Byrne’s show. They were obviously trying to decide which show to go and see next. The first girl pointed at Vladimir McTavish’s poster. “Oh no”, said her companion, “If you did not understand zee Irishman you will NEVER understand zee Scottish man”.
That’s a tough crowd.
But while all the performers are vying for one the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Awards (No, I’ve no idea what they’re called either) I’d like to give out my own award to Lothian Buses.
Please take a minute to go and look at their website. They give FULL instructions on how to use a bus, there’s even a short video. A short video of HOW to travel on a bus! Its aimed at tourists & foreign visitors - people who arrived here by train, plane and car. Much harder modes of transport.
Whoever decided they needed that webpage of instructions and the video deserves the “I’ve Invented Something That Wasn’t Needed To Make Me Look Busy And Keep My Job” award.
I think me favorite part is “Step 7: Take your ticket, find a seat and enjoy your journey”.
I asked a bus driver about it. I said, “Don’t you think that’s blatantly obvious and actually a bit patronizing to the foreign visitors?” He said, “No, it’s aimed at foreign visitors. It’s aimed at people from Niddry.”
Before you write in an complain, that was a joke, he was joking.
I’ve always loved that deadpan downbeat sense of humour the Scots have. I was fighting my way through the crowds on the Royal Mile with my friend Paul. He’s a big football fan. I said to him, “You must be happy about Hearts being drawn against Spurs in the Europa League play-off?” He looked me straight in the eye and with all the bedlam going on around us, all the buskers, and drama students, and stilt-walkers and chainsaw jugglers, he said, totally deadpan, “Oh aye. It’ll bring some much needed excitement to the city.”
By the way, in London my two nearest football teams were Chelsea and Fulham, two clubs owned by crazy megalomaniacal millionaires who sacked managers at the drop of a hat - so its great to be in a city with two more sensibly run clubs.
Anyway back to the Festival. John Malkovich is in town. As is Maraget Cho, Ruby Wax, and Dave Gorman - I know because I’m playing the ‘Let’s Spot A Celebrity Who Didn’t Pack The Right Clothes And Is Now Getting Soaked In The Rain’ game.
As the days go on I’m actually becoming very defensive about the weather. I’m fed up of comedians asking “Does it always rain? When will the rain stop?”
I tell them the famous Scottish saying my Aberdonian mother-in-law taught me when I first arrive here: “If you don’t like the weather in Scotland, wait 5 minutes ... and if you still don’t like it g’way hame tae London ye big whinging crybaby Sassenach strumpet”.
I’ve no idea what that means but the whole family laughed when she said it so I’m sure it must be delightfully amusing.
Should you want to take a breather from all the wonderful comedy and theatre and dance why not indulge in a bit of people watching? I’d recommend Hunter Square.
Tourists, students, buskers, pickpockets, plain-clothed policemen. It’s like a live version of Crimewatch UK. Why not kick back for a couple of hours: watch the professional fire-eaters, engage a visiting Australian tourist in a discussion about world politics AND delicately sip from a can of Special Brew lager?
And I have a question: does Edinburgh have its own anthem? Does Auld Reekie have an equivalent to “I Belong To Glasgow”, or “The Northern Lights Of Old Aberdeen”, or “Ferry Cross The Mersey”?
If it doesn’t I’d like to propose Funky Town by Lipps Inc. Yes, its an old disco song. Yes, its loved by gay men everywhere. But more importantly its an automatic shot-in-the-arm feel good factor ... and that, my Edinburgerer* neighbours, is what makes it so perfect.
All-in-all I’ve been very happy to lose my virginity with you. You’ll phone me in the morning won’t you?
*You do call yourselves Edinburgerer’s, don’t you?
BTW I took a year off from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival but I WILL be back in 2012 with a BRAND NEW SHOW!!