Happy Blog Day to me!!

Today it’s four years since my first blog post, yay! Who’d’ve thunk it! This will be my 218th post, so that’s one and a tinsy bit a week. Outside it’s a gloriously sunny day, I fully intend to enjoy some sun today, yesterday afternoon was spent wrapping Christmas presents which takes time to do properly (I pride myself on my gift-wrapping skills, friends are always saying how immaculate my presents look). Mind, this lot may not look their best once transported down to deepest Yorkshire, where I shall be heading in the near future. At Christmastime I usually leave the wrapping of presents until I’m wherever I’m spending it but hey, what’s been usual about this year?! I was so engrossed with planning, well, just thinking about all the things I need to do, what to take, who’ll water my plants that time slid by. Half nine at night was when I went wandering…..

I decided to head to Portobello Beach, brrrr, it was rather chilly. The wind was blowing down from the north so any daytime warmth was gone, not that a bit of cold will send the locals packing, oh no. I counted thirty, yes, thirty beach fires (it is a long beach and the tide was heading out). There were thirty beach fires, two groups had windbreaks, a smart idea, and there were two little groups with no beach fires or windbreaks, they must have been bloody freezing sitting on the sand! Don’t judge me that I counted them, I like a bit of precision, “a lot” wouldn’t have cut it for me. I would’ve taken a photo but it would’ve been red blobs surrounded by darkness.

Oo, that reminds me, a few evenings ago I went out to check how the bats are doing up at Dunsapie Loch. They’re doing very well! It had been a warmish day with little wind, so I reckoned there’d be plenty food on the wing for them. Indeed, and as the bats up there come out relatively early I could really enjoy watching them. The difference in watching the bats at Dunsapie rather than St Margaret’s Loch is like an action movie with long shots where you can see the action played out, as opposed to one with so many cuts between cameras you don’t have a scoobies what’s going on. Anyhoo, that’s not actually what I was reminded of, walking back down the Queens Drive I saw a dark figure approaching me in the gloom, at a low level was a green glowing thing moving at the same speed. Of course, I knew it was one of those dog collars but really I could not make out any dog at all! Ah, finally when we passed by each other – a black labrador, it was darker than it’s surrounding, which made me think of the aliens in Attack The Block, I picked up my pace.

It’s now over a week since Edinburgh Fringe announced that registration for shows would open in May. Since then the local press have said that Underbelly have decided their big purple cow will be summering in London this year at their new Wonderground. Underbelly are planning their own festival that will, and I quote “champion the spirit and quality of the Edinburgh Fringe”; indeed, they’re going to program a “Best of the Edinburgh Festival” season of performances. I can see the idea and why they’re marketing it this way, but also, it’s not Edinburgh, won’t be, ever. Oh, how the Facebook commentators went berserk! Underbelly are not well-liked by the stampy-feet local rag readers any time, it was all “Good riddance!”,”Cheerio”,”Don’t come back”. Erm, guys, Underbelly are still hoping to have some kind of Fringe presence in Edinburgh, it all depends on what the Sturgeon decides and how long that decision takes. See, England has given one metre as the social distancing necessary for venues, in Scotland it’s still two metres which is obviously not viable. If the fishwoman won’t change her mind or takes until midsummer to change it, well.

The Free Edinburgh Fringe Festival are looking at ways to put something on this year, the size of the venues they use are really, really not viable for two metre distancing, one metre would be tough in some of the rooms, we’re talking snug places! At least they’re probably well placed to be online as they’ve had plenty of experience this last year. I saw something about maybe putting the online shows on the big screen at the Pear Tree, I assume that’s the one in the beer garden, in which case there does also happen to be a big screen in the beer garden at the Three Sisters.

Ho hum. Who knows what the next month will throw up? Enough of this doom and gloom, I’m going to take me out into the sunshine. Oh, and I need to get milk on my way home.

Toodle pip!

The natives are revolting!

Finally, it’s over, November’s done for another year, yay! Christmas is already old hat in the shops and the ever-expanding Christmas Market is causing the usual ruckus with locals. Yes, not everyone loves a Christmas Market! The local evening paper’s Facebook following have been pouring out vitriol by the bucketload about the council and the Underbelly (aka the Plunderbelly!). Some paint the Underbelly as the evil villain and the council as dumb, some just hate the council as totally money-grabbing and/or inept (they have a point there).

Probably a lot of local papers have similar followers on Facebook, i.e., people who love to complain and will at very opportunity.  This brings me to the point of Facebook’s “Top Fan” status; I assume this is bestowed purely on the number of times a person has responded to posts, I wouldn’t really call the Edinburgh Evening News top responders fans! The latest news stories (or often non-stories) are often “Suggested” for me, and like a guilty pleasure I succumb to the Comments where I’ve found that the Top Fans are the top lambasters and rather entertaining to those of us who don’t take it seriously.

A few weeks ago everyone become construction experts as the city was shocked by a picture showing part of the lower scaffolding holding up the market. The scandal grew when it was reported that Underbelly were going ahead without planning permission, meaning that when the market collapsed (deemed inevitable by all these new experts) it wouldn’t be covered by insurance. Many were threatening never to set foot on such a dangerous deathtrap!

I grew bored of it all. Quite obviously the construction was fine, the Underbelly are now a very big, successful company, like they’d risk everything by cutting corners on something THAT important, seriously. The planning permission thing, well, that is dodgy and in my opinion is all about the council being happy to cut corners, being lazy and inept, and only being interested in looking after big businesses rather than the local population.

Will I set hoof on the Market of Doom? Sure I’ll go for a meander round one weekday evening, I’ll even take a few pics pics for you. Will I buy anything? Most likely not, I’ve seen all the same stalls every year and have already bought anything I liked a few years ago. The market, like the Fringe, is a victim of the premise BETTER=EXPANSION, but too many stalls and none will make enough money.  Also the fact is that many people go to the Christmas Market like it’s an art gallery – great to wander round looking at everything feeling all christmassy, maybe have a mulled wine, but not to actually buy anything.

The council claim that Edinburgh needs a Christmas Market to compete for tourists. Oh yeah, Edinburgh has nothing to offer tourists without it, actually the council probably do really believe that, they seem to be totally blind to what tourists love about Edinburgh (like the history, architecture, scottishness). Every city seems to have a Christmas Market these days, maybe I’ll pop down to Durham or York, beautiful old cities, spend an hour in the Christmas market, then enjoy the ambience of a grand old cathedral city.

Hope you have a great December wherever you may be!

It was a very good year (part III)

In 2013 even the turkey was quite awesome in it’s awfulness and it still holds the record for my quickest exit from a show, somewhere just under twenty minutes! A few days before this traumatic experience I was wandering down an old town close when I heard a beautiful song that quite charmed me, I went to investigate the source – a young man who gave me a flyer to his Free Fringe show.

The show was Masters of Drip at the Fiddler’s Elbow, in the programme blurb it was described as “sketch theatre”, well it wasn’t comedy that’s for sure. I do vaguely remember enjoying the first sketch, the second one went downhill, the third made us envious of the folk who’d scarpered after the second sketch, by the fourth we knew what we had to do! See, between each sketch the Masters went “backstage” (a side room from the stage area) which folk quickly realised was a good time to run. When a couple more left after the third sketch and the fourth didn’t show any signs of better things, Bud and I were ready to leap up and legged it – leaving about seven folk left.

If you read my previous post you may recall that the Fiddler’s Elbow was the venue that also played host to the very popular Captain Morgan and the Sands of Time, which happened to be the show on straight after Masters of Drip! Indeed, the queue for Captain Morgan had already started outside when we escaped. I almost felt sorry for Masters of Drip, almost.

One show I didn’t see in 2013 was a one-woman play written and performed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, somewhere within the depths of the Underbelly, called Fleabag. Six years later she’s done a final sell-out run of Fleabag at the Wyndham Theatre. Ticket prices may have somewhat increased between productions!

In the interim Fleabag became a tv series with two seasons; in May this year Waller-Bridge was drafted into the James Bond writing team; then in September she went and won three Emmys for Fleabag – best lead actress in a comedy series, best writing for a comedy series and outstanding comedy series, like wow. And if that wasn’t enough, the lady has only gone and got herself a contract to make tv shows for Amazon!

It makes me wonder about the futures of this year’s crop. Does a story like this inspire them to work harder knowing it can lead to great things? Could I have witnessed the early performances of a future Oscar winner? A national treasure thirty years hence? And the people at the previews of Fleabag – they saw it for just six quid a ticket!

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A Poster Is Not The Show

See what I did there? I’ve heard it said that the songs in Mary Poppins Returns aren’t memorable – poppycock! Ok, so I don’t remember the words much but I often find myself humming them, even whistling them on occasion (when did whistling tunes go out of style?)  Anyways, the song A Cover Is Not The Book has been making Jeremy Lion, a bygone Fringe performer, pop into my head. Why? Because I judged and made presumptions about Mr Lion from the poster.

And here it is in all it’s glory!

2019-02-18 23.11.30Nothing about this poster appealed to me, not even the Perrier Best Newcomer bit – we hadn’t always seen eye-to-eye Pez and I about what funny actually is. This was 2003, the year of God Inc. the only show Bud and I had ever walked out of at that point, and not just because it was running an hour late!! The show we caught after God Inc was thankfully also running late, but it really wasn’t up to much and hadn’t been worth our mad dash to catch it. We’d also had the pain of watching April in Paris (see A Cautionary Tale), I was in no mood to waste more money on a dubious poster!

2019-02-18-23.23.15The following year Mr Lion returned with a new show; The Guardian described it as “Play School meets Hellraiser”. Actually on that description I’m surprised we didn’t give it a punt!

Looking at the posters again now, they are perfect for the show they were advertising; all the colours and tones have an old-fashioned, yester year feel. It’s the 50s and 60s and Butlins again (I do have vague memories of Butlins holidays as a young calf!) He’s the children’s entertainer who wants to be anything but that, but he keeps going with what he thinks is entertaining (and educational) with the aid of the odd drink or two or three or ……

So when he returned yet again in 2005 with Jeremy Lion – What’s the Time, Mr Lion? Bud and I decided we should give him a go, after all, three years in he must be doing something right! Even then we bought tickets for 241 Monday, 18:25 in Pleasance Beyond (by’eck I’ve seen an awful lot of shows in that hut over the years,  worth a post of its own at some point). OMG!!! One of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen to this day! So good we saw it twice, both immediately having agreed that we had to see the show on the last day to check if he was still alive!! Surely no-one could drink that copiously through an entire month and live to tell the tale?! We debated long into the evenings how much may not have been actual alcohol but decided he really was drinking that much, wow. We drank plenty ourselves at the time but even we would have been under the table against old Lion! And the belching – he could have done a masterclass, such was his talent. It wasn’t just about the drinking and the belching though, it was a brilliantly conceived, written and performed show. Total Fringe. We both felt thoroughly miffed with ourselves that we’d poo-pooed his previous shows.

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Did he come back again? He reappeared in 2010 moving over to the other Pleasance presence the Dome. It had taken five years to have sobered up and now be looking back fondly thinking what fun to do it again. Mind in those five years he’d got older, could the liver take such punishment again? He now had the very enchanting Lucy Porter as a wife and a child on the way (she was at show we went to, looking very pregnant). Ah, she’s married to Justin Edwards, Jeremy’s alter-ego, I’m not sure there’d be many takers to be Mrs Lion. He’d obviously taken time to reflect on life, the world, the times, and so his final Fringe show was Jeremy Lion Goes Green, an environmentally-aware show, which as usual with Lion went awry with arguments with his pianist, daft props and, of course, drinking. We did murmur to each other that he wasn’t drinking as much, until, to quote from my Fringe diary “Finding bottles of Malibu in his bit of the desert was the start of the end and the finale was a marvellous rendition of Ten Green Bottles that he decided should be ten empty bottles to recycle – so he drank a lot of them.” I notice I said “a lot” rather than “the lot”, well, the mother of his child was looking on 😆

 

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A late contender

So it’s almost over for another year, already some venues have reverted back. The flyerers have been making a big effect today to fill that last performance, all those I’ve chatted to have loved their time in Edinburgh and would come back again another year if the opportunity arises. It’s even been good weather this weekend, so I’ve been out getting a few more photos.

About now I start composing my Fringe Top 20, oo this year there’s a few in there for top spot. On Friday I went to the Underbelly warren in the Cowgate (very surprisingly the only time I’ve seen a show there this year) for Nick Coyle:Queen of Wolves, ok so I’d been hoping it might Half Price Hut at some point but I finally bowed to my instinct and bought a full price ticket. Like, cor Blimey guv’nor, so worth every penny.

This was outstanding, as a naive, nervous Bronte-style governess he was very good, and he can play the cello. Yes, it was a comedy but the horror aspects were quite chilling. The moving chair and falling books, the sounds around the house, the incessant sound of the rain, all really kept the tension going. Nick Coyle kept his audience gripped from start to finish, and that finish! Well done, sir! If I wore a hat I would take it off to you!