Today’s the last UK public holiday before Christmas. The last time we get a state-mandated three-day weekend, and it’s all we have to sustain us through that gulf of nearly four months. I’ve always found the front loading of the year with public holidays a little ridiculous. Obviously I don’t feel like that during the first six months of the year when I’m getting all that extra time off. I only feel like this when the end of the year rolls around and the prospect of a free long weekend dries up. I shouldn’t really complain though, I’ve still got sixteen days left of my yearly holiday allowance and through the tactical deployment of days-off, haven’t worked a full week for nearly two months. What I can complain about is the fact that I’m manfully attempting not to drown in my own mucus. Unsure as to whether it’s hayfever or a rotten summer cold I’ve been double fisting handfuls of cetirizine hydrochloride and ibuprofen in a frankly vain attempting to stem the tide. As I write my nostrils are plugged and capped with rolled-up strips of kitchen roll to stop the flow of watery snot long enough for me to write this post. But enough with my unnecessarily graphic descriptions of my personal maladies.
Today is the last day of 2012’s Edinburgh Festival, subsequently I think it fitting that today I draw my Tales From the Fringe to a close by recounting my last day at the Fringe; Sunday, August 5th, the arse end of JP’s stag-do and our weekend of debauchery and self-inflicted liver damage.
Sunday was the day that the fine and fair weather finally decided to pack up shop and revert to the Scottish stereotype. When we finally rolled out of bed the whole city was covered in the wet, glistening, film that gets left behind after rain. The mists had rolled in off the sea, rolling down the sloped streets like fluffy, white treacle. Although the rain had abated when we set out in search of entertainment I knew that more was coming. This was not through anything as arcane and mystical as smelling it on the wind or as far-sighted as the checking of the weather forecast, it was more a simple matter of logic. If the sky is that shade of grey and it’s that pervasive anyone should be able to tell that more rain is one the way. I headed out with my trusty waterproof. JP headed out in just a shirt. JP is not a wise man. JP got quite damp. Lessons were learnt. Sadly we had to say goodbye to three members of our little group as they jetted off back home so that they could make it into work on Monday morning.
Our first port of call on the entertainment-sea was another free show. This particular one was called Crunch the News in the delightfully ominously named Voodoo Rooms. An establishment reached through a staircase soundproofed with a fancy, studded, black leather that would have been more at home on an armchair at a swanky Victorian Gentleman’s club. Crunch the News was a news satire show in a similar vein to Mock the Week, but without being filled with its self-aggrandising ego-stroking, infantile circle-jerking or general twatishness. Or to put it another way Crunch the News was actually funny. As we entered the host gave everyone a piece of paper and asked us all to write down how we thought the government should spend £100 billion, should that amount of cash be pried from the iron-fists of tax dodging wankers. I think they were expecting a lot of tongue in cheek answers and general righteous indignation, I threw them a bit of a curve-ball with “A Space Elevator,” following it up with some well basic facts and figures as to the cost to weight ratio of a standard orbital insertion and the subsequent reduction a space elevator would bring. They were suitably impressed by the amount of thought I’d put into this. I was rewarded with a lollipop. It also featured what I would call some pretty solid stand-up from Josie Long. The rest of my party disagreed about this assessment, primarily because, unlike me and Josie, they were not dirty, filthy, pinko, commie, liberal scum.
It was after this show that the break-neck pace of the weekend thus far started to catch up with us. JP proclaimed himself to be “utterly fucked” and decided to have a nap to recharge his batteries. Myself and Mr Brown however were made of sterner, more northern stuff. We decided to wait out JP’s nap by trundling over the road to the nearby Brew Dog Bar we had briefly frequented the day before. Brew Dog are a strange bunch of chaps based out of Aberdeen. They don’t tend to follow traditional rules when it comes to beer. Which is why myself and Mr Brown quite happily sipped away at a beer named Anarchist Alchemist a beer of a strength comparable to most commercially available wines. It was fruity and smooth until you got down to the dregs whereupon it set about kicking your brain in with hob-nailed boots wrought from crystallised alcohol. After that we followed it with a small serving of a beverage known as Tactical Nuclear Penguin, a triple freeze-distilled stout which once held the title of “World’s Strongest Beer” at a frankly pants-shittingly terrifying 32% ABV. It tasted of surgical spirit and burning black treacle. It was what most sane people would characterise as an “experience.” All the while we discussed the wonders of Ravenloft and Dark Sun, because we’re cool like that.
After a couple of hours JP finally returned from his sly kip, to find us a bit on the sozzled side. Our next point of entertainment call was Toby Hadoke’s show My Step-son Stole my Sonic Screwdriver. The half an hour before the show was somewhat fraught as we desperately tried to meet up with JP’s best man: the man who had our tickets. We arrived at where thought he had asked us to be: a bar, just above the main entrance, on the second floor of the building where the show was being hosted. He wasn’t there. While myself and Mr Brown helped ourselves to a pint of Guinness JP dashed mad-cap around the building vainly trying to get in touch with his best-man, beset at every side by signal failure, lack of response and general communication failure. It turns out we were in the wrong bar and there were in fact two bars on the second floor, just above the main entrance. One on either side of the building. The show itself was rather unsurprisingly very heavy on the Doctor Who and as funny as it was also chronicled the heart warming tale of Toby Hadoke’s journey from childhood to adulthood and his attempts to connect with his deaf step-son. I think I almost cried a little at the end.
By the time the show ended we were all quite hungry and in need of a late lunch. I for one had only consumed liquid nutrition since breakfast and could really do with something substantially solid in my belly. We popped into a curiously named establishment called Elephants and Bagels. Shockingly they sold bagels, disappointingly they didn’t sell elephants. I went a bit fancy and had houmous and sundried tomato on a cheese and jalapeño bagel, but most importantly of all, I had a cup of tea. Having only had one cup of tea thus far that day I was gasping. Such was my desire for tea I would have shortly reached the point where I began considering homicide as a viable means for its procurement.
I can’t quite remember the specifics as to what and where and who and how that followed in the next couple of hours. There’s just this grey and ragged hole in my memory where I can’t quite recall what exactly it was that we did. We did a bit of wandering and a bit of drinking and before I knew it several hours had passed and we were in the bowels of a labyrinthine Nepalese restaurant waiting for dinner. We had also reacquired a whole hoard of JP’s Gilbert and Sullivan associates. I ate some brown, highly-spiced, lentil based mush out of a small stainless steel pot while necking nearly three litres of sparkling mineral water. It felt very much like the kind of food and utensil combo you’d use while sitting round a hastily thrown camp fire in the middle of god-knows-where while jaunting about on some great and important quest. It felt a bit like adventure food. The splitting of the bill was an adventure in-and-of-itself. With nearly twenty of us gathered round the table all of us having had different things and some of us wanting to pay by card and the general nuisance of trying to carve up a bill of nearly £500 and sorting out the tip. Suffice to say, the calculators were out in abundance. With the bill finally settled off we went into the night and our final show of the Fringe.
Our final show was to be Pappy’s Flatshare Slamdown a show which since our visit was short-listed for the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award for best show. Getting to the venue proved to be yet another arduous challenge. By the time we left the restaurant it was dark, it had rained again and the city had become a twisted nocturnal mockery of itself. Nothing looked how it had in the wan daylight of the afternoon. The paths which we took towards our destination turned out to be wrong, slightly off, or as was the case in one instance, fenced off for “safety.” While circumnavigating this particular obstacle JP took a bit of a tumble. We were quite sedately walking down a hill, JP taking the role of point-man. As we reached the bottom and began to round as corner his feet just went out from underneath him, sending him sprawling across the pavement like a discarded rag-doll. He was alright, thus giving us all permission to have a good laugh at his expense. The pain of others, is after all, utterly hilarious.
Pappy’s was a show which shockingly, from my experience over the last few days, didn’t take place in a dank and seedy basement. It took place in a stifling hot loft room, reached by one of those old shrouded iron fire escapes. The entire room was decked out in black drapes to hide the walls and benches were arrayed in small tiers around three of the four walls. It was a small venue, close, intimate and ever so much like a small lecture hall from a university. The show itself focuses on the thrashing out and discussion of the trails and tribulations of shared student living, filled with side-splitting anecdotes and witty repartee with the show’s guests. It was really how panel shows should be. Evidentially I wasn’t the only one who agreed judging by its short-listing for the Foster’s Comedy Award. The show massively over-ran as the hosts got really into their stride and just didn’t stop, a tight script rapidly bloating out with distractions and asides that really added to the experience, no one in the audience minded, we certainly got our money’s worth. The only complaints I could offer about the show are that in a room that size with that many people? It gets really, really hot. The other complaint was entirely personal. I spent a lot of the show discretely trying not to kill everyone in the immediate vicinity with lentily farts.
With the show’s end I bid farewell to all the last of the new faces I’d met that weekend. Saying goodbye to good, decent, friendly people I knew I would likely never see again. It’s not an easy thing to do. But off we went into the dark and gathering midnight of Edinburgh, capital of Scotland, letting the others part themselves into whatever trouble they might find. Myself, JP and Mr Brown set off in search of sleep, for unlike the others we had had our fill of the Fringe, we were bone weary and worn out and in the morning, we had a train to catch.
And thus did the Fringe end for us, just as it does for everyone today.