Sunday, 19 December 2010


Do you know what really bugs me? A personal appeal from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. That stupid banner takes up half my laptop screen with his stupid beardy face and sparkly crinkly eyes looking like he's about to cry. Has anyone actually clicked on it? Yeah, yeah, it's probably a request for donations or something, I get that. But still, it's gumming up my Wikipedia use, dammit. So if somebody could please just click on the appeal, send Jimmy a large amount of money and get him to take his whiny-assed appeal somewhere else, I'd be terribly grateful.

Do you know what else annoys me? Websites that demand ever more abstruse password protocols. It's got me so annoyed that I've used the word abstruse without even bothering to check what it means. It could mean 'the act of squeezing one's buttocks far too hard' for all I know. I just don't care anymore. But it just bugs me that just when I've managed to get all my secure logons to use the same password (yes, yes - I know...) 'made up of at least nine characters, one of which must be numeric', some new-fangled johnny logon pops up and says my password must now have two numerics, or one upper-case character, or two numerics AND one upper-case character. I mean, Gordon H. Bennett, how'm I supposed to keep track of which sites use which password? Good thing I have them all written down in a secret blog in tiny invisible letters...

But here's what's really, really getting my goat right now, and not just getting my goat - it's jolly well laying a cunning trap with an attractive lady-goat doll ('Realistic Udders!'), bashing it over the head with a frozen chicken, driving it to Land's End and throwing my goat in the sea - what's getting it, right, is bloody platform games. Yeah, topical eh? Oh yeah.

Ok, so picture the scene: it is 1984. You have a BBC microcomputer, not a pikey Spectrum, coz your parents have aspirations for you, and you're playing this game. It is called Frak!

In Frak! you control Trogg, a caveman armed with a yo-yo (obviously), whose mission is to run, jump and climb along a sidways-scrolling world, populated (as far as I recall) solely by Big Freak Pink Things perched on platforms suspended in an endless cyan limbo. It's a bit like how Steve Ditko drew the Dark Dimension of the Dread Dormammu:

Perhaps it is an homage. Perhaps not. No matter.

Anyway, despite Frak!'s clearly rich storyline and immersive characters, it used to wind a fifteen-year old Yours Truly right up. Why? Because in order to get Trogg from Point A (the left hand side of the screen) to Point B (the right hand side), you had to get him to run and jump just so, with absolutely no margin for error. Sometimes you had to edge him pixel by pixel right to the edge of a floating platform before pressing Right Arrow + Space at exactly the same time, or by Hoggoth, he'd plummet to a sanity-defying doom somewhere in the bright blue depths off the bottom of the screen. I mean, you had to have the coordination of a microsurgeon with the hands of a blind hairdresser to complete the bloody game. Ooo, it made me mad.

And Frak! was far from an rarity. Every other game in those days was a platform game (they're probably called platformers these days, but I'm old and rarely watch those 'We got an improbably hot young lady to review Assassin's Cry Of Honor for you' television programmes that seem to crop up on Channel Five of a morning). I seem to recall Killer Gorilla (the Beeb's copyright-dodging version of Donkey Kong) and Manic Miner being particularly demanding in the hand-eye coordination area. And these were the days when you generally just got three lives and then you had to start all over again. From the beginning! No namby-pamby 'Just keep on respawning and replaying until you pass out from lack of food or have to jump up with a cramp in your foot' modern games, oh no.

Bloody annoying, that's what they were. I never did get Miner Willy past Eugene's Lair and his predatory, roving khazies:

Sooo, fast forward twenty five mother-loving years to 2010. In a moment of incaution, a far older (and prettier) Yours Truly wanders into an HMV shop unchaperoned, and a wouldn't you know it, a copy of Batman: The Brave And The Bold (for the Wii) leaps into my hand, just as my debit card leaps onto the cashier's counter. That's just how it happened. How could I resist? It looks just like the recent cartoon of the same name, has simple, well-rendered graphics (do we still call them graphics?) and bears the following promise 'Play through the exciting terrain of the DC Universe in this side-scrolling action thrill ride as you solve puzzles, fight dozens of foes, discover new foes, save the day and see if you truly have what it takes to be a superhero!'

And you can summon Aquaman to make a subsea whale attack - what's not to love?

(As far as I can tell this isn't actually a scene from the game, but hey - it's got Plastic Man and Gorilla Grodd in his special mento-hat!).

The first level of the game's great - you play Batman and/or Robin as they punch, jump and swing through a sideways-scrolling Gotham City, hot on the heels of an unidentified cat-themed villain. And the best bit? Every time the Caped Crusaders get to an obstacle they can't jump over, like a yawning chasm between rooftops, all you have to do is press the '-' button and they automatically throw out a grappling Bat-Line and swing across. Which is very cool. You get all the grooviness of Batman navigating across a dizzyingly vertiginous cityscape, and none of the fiddliness of pressing Forward ('Right on your Wii nunchuk') and Jump ('the B button on your Wiimote') at just the right time in just the right spot. That would be madness, of course; an irksome nigglance that we have long since abandoned to the back room of gaming history.

Until we get to the second level, and I'm playing Blue Beetle with his cute little flappy beetle wings. Surely he should be able to make any leap that Batman can make with his Bat-Line? Apparently not. Poor Blue Beetle - how often did he fail to make the all important leap up the cliffs of Science Island in pursuit of Grodd's rogue primates? Too bloody often, that's how often. Ditto Hawkman in level three (honestly, who decided to put Hawkman - a man with whacking great hawk wings on his back - in the level set almost entirely in underground tunnels? Tch.) and even more so with Green Lantern in level four - there are whole sections of this one where you have to run and bloody jump just right to clamber up platform after misbegotten platform. And to add insult to injury, they take Batman's Bat-Line away and give him some lame-ass Bat-Wings that allegedly enable to him to jump further. Allegedly.

Holy retro-gaming conundrum, Batman - all I want to do is play a nice simple game with pretty pictures and not too many controls. Something that plays to my gaming strengths (i.e. hammering the attack button continuously for two to three hours). But instead I've been sold Bat-Frak! The 25th Anniversary Edition. And he doesn't even have a yo-yo.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Backfarts and Ocular Horror

Here's something that annoys me: novelty Google banners these days. Like today, it's Robert Louis Stevenson's birthday, but the banner in no way represents a cunningly Stevensonised version of the letters G O O G L E. Oh no, not these days. Now it's just a long picture of pirates 'n' shit. Okay, so the compass symbol could pass for an O, but no way is Long John Silver there on the left a G, not to mention the cliffs, the ship and pile o' treasure. They're just taking the piss now. They're like "Oh, we're Google, everyone knows that we usually put the word Google in the middle of the screen. We can just put what the hell we like there now and everyone will still know what it means. We could stick up a plate of spaghetti, a dead cat, Anthony Eden, a map of Namibia, a helium atom and a green lobster, and they'd still be OK with it. We rule the world. Nobody uses Yahoo anymore anyway."

Well that's what I think.

You should know that I've just finished squeezing soap bits. I'm sure you know what I mean by that - those skinny slivers of handsoap (for those of you who haven't switched over to pump-action space goo) that are too small to use on their own anymore, so you end up trying to squish them in with all the other older soap bits that you've prepared earlier, in the hope of fusing them into one mega-combo-soap-zord. Doubtless other people just throw their slivers away, or else actually manage to use them up individually - massaging each mono-filament soaplet into their hands/body/companion with a manual skill I just don't possess. At any rate, I was just now squeezing soap bits together in one fist, really bearing down on those mothers, and when I released my grip, they were all squooshed into one. It was just like when young Clark Kent compressed a lump of coal into a diamond. Just like it. I just thought you ought to know that that is how I roll.

And to prove I am an adept multi-tasker, you should also know that not only am I typing this here article, I'm also dunking as many digestives as I can before Herself gets back home and admonishes me for ruining my diet (again), and I'm running an ohrwurm of a tune constantly through my head on an infinite loop. Said tune is a variation on Ronnie Hazlehurst's timeless 'Blankety Blank' theme tune, but instead substitutes the name 'Bethany Black', a comedian I saw last night. She said I'd be humming her name all the next day, and she was right. Actually, here in my head it keeps sliding into 'My United States Of Whatever' and Eminem's 'Without Me'. It's quite the mash-up you know. Now would be an ideal time for me to commit a crime and then undergo questioning by telepathic police. They'd get nothing.

And another thing - I had my nails redone yesterday and I've just realised that the colour I chose is exactly the same as my new(ish) car, Elwood. Holy serendipitous silicon gel, Bruce. I think this is rather cool, though many may see it as hopelessly sad. Those critics would doubtless have felt justified had they seen me in the car park half an hour ago, holding my hand palm down against the driver's door, admiring the chameleon-like blending of nail into bodywork. I felt like some kind of Transformer. Does this edge me into Legally Blonde chihuahua-in-a-handbag everything-must-coordinate territory, or is the fact that I colour-matched against a blood red Chrysler that looks like it was left over from the set of American Graffiti nudge me into some sort of blokey car obsessed midlife crisis zone? I am, as ever, a bit confused.

Here's a thing - why am I unable to resist the siren call of an 'Updates Available' icon on my desktop? That little yellow shield's been staring up at me from the bottom right hand corner of the screen for the last 15 minutes, but I've finally given in and clicked on 'Express Install'. Look at my poor old hard drive thrash away. That's my fault that is. I couldn't wait.

Anyhows, there was something I was going to tell you about today, and that's my trip to the tanning place. I say 'tanning place' but it's actually a beauty salon that happens to have a couple of ultraviolet light tanning booths; one stand-up (like the Quantum Leap accelerator) and one lie-down (like a hyper-sleep chamber from a deep-space adventure fillum). Said tanning place is manned at all times by one or two dolls. Dolled by one or two dolls, I suppose. The dolls are young, female, skinny, mahogany hued, blonde, oh so blonde, and adorned with eyelashes the weight and density of fruitbat wings. It can be quite intimidating to slob in there with no make-up and hair waging its usual civil war between the straw-like split ends and the greasy roots, laden down by a collapsing third-time round Tesco's plastic bag, only to be greeted by one or both of these brown and yellow fembots, wafting the air into my lumpen face every time they blink.

As usual, signing in at the tanning place includes me lying about using some sort of 'special cream' that they banged on about when I first went in there. Nowhere else goes on about special cream, so I suspect it's a little money spinner they've come up with, if they can gull the customers into shelling out for some sort of exotic guava-jollop to enhance the natural bronzing effect of two-dozen megawatt purple tubes blazing away at your naked flesh from a distance of 6 inches. Not me though - I just smile, pat my bag suggestively and mumble that I've brought my own. I shall develop my melanomas at my own pace, thank you very much.

Thence to the lie-down tanny capsule thing. First off, it's in a sealed room. You'd expect it to be in a room of course, not alongside the people getting their nails done, but I mean that the room itself is sealed, in some sort of air-pressurey, eerie whistling noise, can't-open-the-door sort of way. I think it's something to do with the extractor fan or the cooling unit from the lie-down capsule thingy. But it's a bit weird all the same. You can hardly wrench the door open while the fan's going, which would make it a good place to trap a particularly feeble vampire, I suppose.

The capsule itself, unlike most others I've used, is contoured to the shape of the human body, not flat as a board. This may sound great at first, but there are a couple of problemettes. The first is that it's bloody hard to climb into, coz you have to sort of roll into it and down into the depression all in one go without bashing your head on the enormous coffin-like lid that never opens up enough. It's even worse trying to get out afterwards and can be a little panicky, but this may be because I have enfeebled limbs from years of steadfast and regular non-exercise.

The second problemette is actually quite fun but a little naughty. I discovered, quite by accident mark you, that you can make the most amazing backfarts by raising and lowering one's body off and back down onto the contoured surface of the tanning capsule thingy. It must be the concave shape of the capsule. Or else my flabby and enfatulated back. Whatever the acoustic causes of this phenomenon, the sound is really quite remarkable. I'd liken it to a copulating hippopotamus. Disgusting you might say, but think on: that regular raising and lowering motion is doing wonders for my lower abdominals and general core stability. It's like my very Ab Circle Pro(tm).

Before we leave the tanning place, I'd like to draw your attention to one final thing. It's a poster on the wall of the worryingly airtight tanning room. The poster was issued by Eye Pro, the makers of the hilarious little tin foil stickers known as Wink-Ease that you can use in place of protective goggles whilst undergoing the ultraviolet treatment. The poster is one of those health and safety jobs, warning of the dangers of unprotected eyes being exposed to UV, or of using contaminated eye-protection (manky Wink-Eases I imagine). I borrowed Herself's digital camera so I could show you a bit of the poster. This is conjunctivitis or pink eye:

Great Krypton, is that horrific or what? Put me right off my digestives, I can tell you. It's odd to see such outright foulness in a place dedicated to beautification and the employment of bat-lashed dolls, but I guess they're obliged to warn you of the dangers.

I wonder what the rest of the person's face is like? It might be quite pretty. They might be smiling ruefully at their foolish snubbing of the eye-safety guidelines. They might have really good hair to make up for the ocular horror betwixt nose and ear. We shall never know. I am minded, and I believe I am one of the few people living still to be minded of anything, of those other health and safety posters we've probably all seen over the years - leprous feet on the chiropodist's wall, receding gums on the dentist's wall, possibly snaggled genitals on the fertility clinic walls, I don't know. But wouldn't it be great to collect all those posters together into a catalogue of medical horrors? Splendidly Victorian. I'd like to pick out all the really ghastly body parts from each poster, and then photoshop them all together into one supremely ruined body. Blasphemy, you say? No, science!

(Be grateful I resisted the urge to blurt out She's alive! Ah, too late.)

So yeah, that's the tanning place.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Passing Judgement

Imagine it’s - I dunno - 1940. You’re in Nazi Germany, parachuted in as a British spy. For the past six months you’ve managed to move amongst the Germans undetected – speaking, dressing, eating as one of them. You’re pretty sure you’ve got away with it, seeing as how you’re still at liberty and in possession of all your finger- and toenails. Then one day you get a coded message from Whitehall to meet another agent at Der Blaue Engel coffee house in Berlin. You turn up and find that the agent is dressed in lederhose and insisting on ordering a stein of foaming beer at 9 o’clock in the morning. You wince – this chap’s fitting in as well as Churchill at a Hitlerjugend rally.

You nervously trot over to his table and exchange codewords. He’s your contact alright, but By Timothy, what does he look like? It’s a miracle he hasn’t been hauled off by the Gestapo already. As it is, you can feel the curious stares of the coffee house’s other patrons flicking over at him. And if they’re looking at him, it’s only a matter of time before they turn their attentions to you.

You speak to him in a low voice. He replies in English-accented O-level German, constantly getting his endings wrong and flinging verbs around like wet fish. He seems to be totally oblivious to his incongruous mode of dress, and once more loudly orders EINEN BIER BITTE from the bemused waiter.

And here’s your problem – if this chap carries on as he is, he’s going to blow his cover with disastrous consequences. Moreover, by associating with him, your cover is in imminent danger of being blown into the bargain. Just by sitting next to him, you’re exposing those little inconsistencies in your own German clothing, those tell-tale glitches in your own German speech. Tiny give-aways that would have escaped everybody’s notice, were it not for the fact that you are sat next to someone who might as well be holding an enormous sign saying (in German, naturlich) LOOK AT ME – I’M NOT WHAT YOU THINK I AM. Worse still, the poor fellow is either totally unaware of his inability to blend in, or he’s in some sort of denial about the situation, or else he does know deep down but is so desperately desperate to be an ace spy that he’s willing to risk disastrous exposure in his flawed attempts to pass undiscovered.

What do you do? Continue to share a table with him until the sinister men in long leather coats turn up for you both? Hiss at him to shut the bloody hell up and point out what a terrible, terrible German he makes, all the while watching his sad little face crease up in shame. Or do you just make your excuses, get up from the table, walk away and Never Be Seen With Him Again?

OK, so much for the laboured spy metaphor. Did you work out what I’m really talking about? You did? Jolly well done. Reward yourself with the fattening snack of your choice.

Passing. It’s a term much in use among those of a transgendered persuasion. What it boils down to is ‘Passing as someone of your adopted gender such that none would suspect your birth sex.’ Getting everything right – the face, the body, the clothes, the walk, the voice, the personal history, even what topics you might talk about. For some, passing is paramount – they don’t want anything to give them away, not a stray facial hair, not a prominent supraorbital ridge, not a dropped octave nor an ill-chosen pair of thigh-boots. For others, it ain’t so important – they may be happy for people to know who they were, whether their chromosomes are XX or XY. Some folks have no choice in the matter – they’re never going to pass on account of insurmountable physical giveaways – no amount of surgery can sort out 6’4” of height, nor shoulders like a prop-forward. There’s only so much an artfully draped pashmina can disguise.

If you really want to pass, and you’ve got more or less the right sort of body to start off with, and you’ve put enough effort in, and spent enough money, and suffered enough discomfort, then yes, it is entirely conceivable that you could pull it off. Many have, so successfully that nobody knows their original past. Well done to them. Then there’s those that don’t pass for whatever reason – they’re too big, too stompy, too bony, too basso profundo, too damn bloke-in-a-dressy. And somewhere in between, there’s those of us who do kinda pass, on a good day with a following wind. If we spend enough time on our hair, and dress carefully, and constantly watch what we say, and make sure we don’t stand too close too many petite born females who make us look like hulking she-trolls.

And there’s the rub. When transgendered persons gather, there’s often a mixture of thems that pass, thems that don’t pass, and thems that kinda pass. And anyone on the outside looking in, let’s call them a bunch of drunken men staggering past you in the street, are going to clock the thems that don’t pass, call them out, and then probably take a second look at the thems that kinda pass, and call them out too.

Coz for a group of TGs, you only pass as well as the least passable member of your group. See the problem? You might be a Kinda, getting by day to day, sneaking under the radar and talking your way past the security checkpoints, but as soon as you get together with a Don’t, there’s that nagging voice in the back of your head saying ‘She’s giving you away, the big blokey tranny. Walk away. Don’t be seen with her in public. She’s an embarrassment.’

I feel bad even thinking about thinking it, but I know I’ve done just that. Of course I flatter myself that I qualify as a Kinda, all 5’11” of me with my stupid hair and funny voice and face that can’t stop pulling the most unmistakeably male expressions. Not to mention my compulsion to harp on about World War Bloody Two far too much. But on a good day I like to think I’m getting away with it, fooling the Gestapo and enjoying my Kaffee at Der Blaue Engel. And then I meet up with another transgender person, someone who for whatever reason just isn’t pulling it off. Maybe it’s the short skirt fit only for a teenager, or the overdone make-up, or the voice like a lost Mitchell brother, or the constant references to tuning their motorbike. Whatever it is, they’re blowing it, and by extension they're blowing it for me too.

And these are nice people, people who might have been or are still going through a hard time, transitioning from male to female. But golly gosh, sometimes it’s hard being with them in public, you know? That’s rotten of me. Rotten and selfish and snobby, but it’s horribly, secretly true. Doubtless there are a few of thems that pass out there who have seen me, clocked me, and made a beeline for the door before I give them away, just as I fear the Don’ts give me away. Maybe. I dunno. But I’m neurotic and vain and evidently given to writing my every petty thought down for the entertainment of others, so I wouldn’t put much stock in anything I say. I’m clearly one of those needy types.

Right, I’m off to work on my voice.

Deep breath, palm on chest and say ‘Ah’.

P.S. I tried to work in a reference to The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission where they realize, halfway through disguising themselves as German soldiers, that one of them is black, so they bandage up his face. So if you could be so kind as to mentally cut and paste that reference into one of the above paragraphs where it will do the most good, I’d be terribly grateful.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Fiction Friday (An Apology)

Hello, and many apologies (pronounced in the accent of Prince Ludwig the Indestructible) for the appalling delay in posting up a new article type thing. I am a shocking slacker, and no amount of 'Oo, I just don't feel like it,' or 'Too busy at work' feeblages can excuse my shoddy behaviour.

But take pity on the Ocelot, for I have just suffered a most grevious assault upon my person. There I was, sneakily having a go of Bejwelled Blitz while Herself was out, when I heard, over the tinkling of exploding computerised jewels, a strange hissing in my immediate area. Was it the boiler next door overheating? No. Was it Mr Fluffy, our resident python, being especially vocal regarding the discomfort of his skin-shedding? No. It was the inflatable therapy ball, upon which I was perched, springing a leak. Sadly I didn't figure this out until in the midst of casting my head from left to right (not unlike one of the big ol' mystic creatures in The Dark Crystal) in search of the source of the hissing noise, the bloody thing exploded and dumped me hard on my bum. Ouch.

Good thing my bottom is well padded from consuming the hardened remains of Herself's failed vegan sponge cake experiment, or I may actually have hurt myself.

Still and all, I survive to ocellate another day. Though I type this very entry propped up precariously between the keyboard and the back of the therapy couch. I'm basically half-stooped as if I was trying in vain to rest on one of them padded pseudo-seats they've started putting in tube trains. Honestly, what is the point of them? I'm not sat down, I not stood up; I'm half leant against a padded roll of sponge bolted to the carriage wall at vaguely bum-height. Madness.

Any road up, I was going to bang on about that prince among biscuits, the custard cream, or else speculate fruitlessly about who would be best suited to play Loki, God of Mischief in the forthcoming Thor film. Or even my abhorrence of the term 'early adopter' and how associating with such people can only lead to unhappiness. I can also feel a lengthy diatribe regarding the misuse of the term 'perfect storm', but alas time, our old enemy, is against me today. I really should be pretending to do some proper work, or at least proof-reading (o frabjous day!) a rulebook for a chum.

So, to keep you going until I properly get my mildly-concussed bottom in gear, here is some actual fiction from the depths of the Pouch, what I had to write for my inevitably unfinished creative writing course. In true authorial fashion, I must acknowledge Mr JT of the Hughes Tool Co. for giving us the shockingly kitsch calendar which is the inspiration for this story:

Jan Zoiz CCCV And The Perfect Headgear

In the second year of her great reign, Her Majesty Jan of the line of Zoiz, three hundred and fifth to bear that noble name, stretched out upon her Plush Throne and yawned. The human courtiers cringed before that massive fanged mouth, fearful of her displeasure. Was it a yawn of boredom or fatigue? Only Pelvis, the hook-nosed royal vizier, claimed to understand the workings of the cat-regent’s mind, or at least only he was privileged to interpret her wishes.

‘Our monarch has spoken. She tires of the endless drudgery of court, and will have amusement.’

A shiver rippled through the assembly. Men and women stiffened involuntarily, their eyes flicking from the great, white, mutant feline, the size of an Old Time elephant, to the wooden cage suspended high above them.

‘Let the entertainments begin!’ barked Pelvis, and clapped his hands twice. The cage was lowered, and creaked as it settled on the marble floor of the throne room. The guards, armed with sturdy stun-prods, immediately went to work, unhooking the bars and prodding the inhabitants out to quiver before the court.

They were a sorry sight. Three captive off-humans from the atomic ruins, scraggy and pale, the telltale signs of radiation burns on their idiot faces. They huddled together, twitching their heads left and right as they scratched at the rough fur-suits into which they’d been sewn. Comical plate-sized ears adorned their heads, along with foot-long wiry whiskers, while long floppy tails drooped pathetically behind them. They grunted unintelligibly as they sought to escape the semi-circle of guards, but were trapped on all sides save for that which opened before the cat-regent herself.

Her Majesty’s vast wide-set eyes betrayed interest in the three playthings presented before her. A fluffy white tail the length of a man unfurled and began a slow, rhythmic motion from side to side. The mouse-people foamed and gibbered before Jan Zoiz CCCV, and scampered back and forth in a frantic frenzy, their sewn-on tails flapping behind them. The bloated cat-regent went abruptly stiff. Then shot forward. And the screaming began.

* * *

It was later in the day, and Her Majesty had retired to her private quarters to ponder, as Pelvis had put it, ‘weighty matters of state’. During this blessed recess, while servants were brought in to hose down the floor of the throne room and change the royal litter tray, the assembled courtiers took the opportunity to consult their sacred relic from the Old Time, and once again debate its obscure meaning.

‘And I say it is a scarf of finest mohair!’ roared Lord Mandible, a red-faced man with fat wet lips.

He jabbed a meaty, ringed finger at the holy icon before him, a large crumpled picture of a furry white cat, cryptically titled ‘Jan 2012, © Kute Kitties’. The paper was torn at the edges, ending raggedly at the bottom halfway through the cryptic word ‘Wednes’. Mandible gestured empathically at the cat, its flat open face and tiny pink nose portraying an ineffable sense of ambiguity. Was she sad or happy? Smiling or frowning? It was hard to say under all the fur. More maddening still was the unidentified and thus controversial object atop her head. Some said ‘woolly hat’. Others, such as the blustering Lord Mandible, said ‘scarf’. Still others said ‘neck of a baggy sweater’, but they were a small and oft-ignored movement.

‘My dear Mandible,’ soothed the slender Lady Tibia in a studied purr, ‘whilst we all admire the fervour with which you and other Scarfists put forth your beliefs, you must remember that the nature of the Perfect Headgear of our Most Regal Majesty has remained a mystery for three hundred and five generations of Jan Zoizes, or over five hundred human years. Do you honestly believe its truth to be revealed in our lifetimes?’

She arched an eyebrow at her rival.

‘Hattist thinking at its woolliest!’ riposted Mandible, flecking his nearest hangers-on with spittle. ‘You would have us sit upon our backsides and wait idly for the headgear to manifest itself, whilst the off-humans grow greater in numbers and raid ever closer to the walls of our Retreat? Is it not spoken in the Verse of Leo (22 July to 23 Aug) that “That which was lost shall be found, and unwelcome guests shall leave thy house”? Do you dispute that this clearly refers to the headgear of the line of Zoiz, and that its return will signal our deliverance from our enemies without?’

Mandible panted, his cheeks flushed and billowing.

Lady Tibia sighed indulgently.

‘Of course not. None here would dream of denying the prophecy. I am simply suggesting that speculation regarding the headgear is pointless until such time as our blessed monarch, mice be unto her, makes her wishes in this matter known. Surely you can wait until Presentment Day for her decision?’

Pelvis then coughed politely and edged forward into the knot of nobles.

‘At which point, my lords and ladies, I feel I should remind you that recess is over, and Her Majesty’s return is imminent, much refreshed from her afternoon nap. The evening entertainment is, according to my schedule, Chasing The Fluffy Thing Dangling From The Stick, so do please remember to stay behind the wire fence for your own safety. We wouldn’t want a reoccurrence of Lord Scapula’s unhappy accident during the reign of Jan Zoiz CCLIV.’

The court visibly paled and withdrew to the edges of the throne room.

* * *

‘I’m just saying,’ whispered Lord Mandible, wearing his special Presentment Day ceremonial scarf, ‘that perhaps Her Majesty could be persuaded in her choice of headgear today, rather than leaving it to chance.’

‘To chance?’ hissed Pelvis, so close to Mandible’s face that his hooked nose brushed the lord’s cheek. ‘Have a care that you do not speak treason, sir! The Furred One will choose her headgear this day, or she will not. It is not for such as we to influence her decision, as in the dark days of Jan Zoiz CCXXIX and the Heresy of the Fishy Hat! No, we will present such items as have been recovered from the ruins beyond the Retreat and leave Her Majesty to select one. Should she favour any such object and tolerate its presence upon her royal head for more than a few seconds before shaking it off in irritation, then prophecy shall be fulfilled, and we shall be delivered from the massing off-humans. If not, then we shall patiently await the next Presentment Day.’

‘You mean we’ll wait years for that over-grown, inbred monster to die, then drag its least boss-eyed mutant offspring up from the kittening chambers, proclaim it to be Jan Zoiz CCCVI, and go through the whole farce again!’

‘You go too far, Mandible! Never forget that I speak for Her Majesty, and I can voice her displeasure at you as easily as I can her approval. You would find the mouse-suit a most uncomfortable fit, I can assure you.’

Mandible actually blanched beneath his mottled jowls, and went silent.

* * *

The sounds of battle beyond the throne doors were becoming steadily louder, and ever more guards were dispatched to reinforce the defences, whilst inside the Presentment Day ceremony went ahead with mock serenity. Mandible shivered under his robes, while Lady Tibia stood in unseemly proximity to her bodyguard. Pelvis droned on, apparently oblivious to the off-human hordes baying in the distance.

‘And so it comes to pass, that Her Blessed Majesty, Jan Zoiz CCCV, shall choose the headgear from the offerings presented before her, and in so doing, deliver us from peril. So shall it be.’

The court stammered out his last words in response. The sounds of stun-prods and screams outside died away to be replaced by a hammering at the doors, and the nobles shuffled closer to their giant, bloated monarch. As if in approval, Jan Zoiz CCCV let out a silent but powerful fart, sufficient to render several courtiers insensate. Pelvis himself, long accustomed to the royal emissions, stifled a sniff and then leant in to whisper the secret words in a great feline ear.

‘Do you want a hat, girl? Do you? Do you? Choose a hat, go on!’

At first, the beast did not stir, whilst the grunting and pounding at the doors grew louder. Then, fantastically, she stretched and stood, padding down to the offerings set before her. The doors bulged in alarmingly and the courtiers pressed behind the Plush Throne. Jan Zoiz CCCV sniffed at the objects impassively. And then amazingly, she nosed at one, manoeuvring it improbably onto her vast head. Even as the doors burst open and the capering hordes of off-humanity fell vengefully upon the court, the great cat sat resplendent before them, modelling the Perfect Headgear.

Feebly tugging at the makeshift spear in his belly, Pelvis burbled out his dying words.

‘Bloody hell. It was the neck of a baggy sweater.’


Sunday, 29 August 2010

Shorter Cuts

Hello. Something a little different today - less wordage, more picturation.

Doubtless like myself, you sometimes find yourself enjoying a complex, multi-stranded three-hour film with around two dozen main characters, only to discover that you have to stop halfway through due to external time constraints. Doubtless also, you subsequently find yourself faced with the problem of coming back to finish your viewing experience at some later date, but balk at the thought of trying to remember what the heck was going on...

'Which one was he again?'

'Is she married to that one or the other one?

'Was she naked earlier on?'

'Why are there so many bland brunette actresses in this film?'

If any of those questions ring a bell, despair no longer, for help is at end. Or to be more specific, if you, like myself and the rest of the Monday Night Film Club, have only got halfway through Robert Altman's 1993 film Short Cuts and find yourself having to wait a full seven days before seeing the rest of it, help is at end.

For behold, the Short Cuts - 90 Minutes In: Entity-Relationship Diagram:

Don't make me explain it to you. If I have to, that means I have failed to make it intuitive, which is a poncey way of saying it should be fairly obvious to anyone with a reasonably functional brain.

I will admit though that it'll help if you have A) seen the first hour and a half of the film in question, and B) are not unfamiliar with the concept of functional data modelling. System Design Methodology purists will no doubt take me to task for failing to normalise the entity-relationships to Codd's Third Normal Form at the very least, for which I apologise abjectly. I was pressed for time.

Shabby as it is, I can happily report that the diagram really did come in handy during our viewing of Short Cuts Part Two one week later, for which I must thank Microsoft - the vendors of the excellent Visio diagramming tool - and certain other parties for their fine A3 colour printer.

And just to show that this wasn't just a one-off, here's another film I have made simple through the magic of entity-relationship diagramming:

See how much simpler that makes it to follow?

On a personal note, I have to say that I enjoyed drawing up the Short Cuts diagram far more than any normal person should. I think it may just be my perfect job. Pity it isn't...

Job offers welcome.

Post Script

How to upload a picture into your blog without the Blogger uploader crunching it all down and making your lovely intricate diagram a blobby lo-res disgrace:

Avoid the Blogger Add Image function like the plague.
Open up another window.
Go into Picasa Web Albums under your Google login.
Click on the more drop-down.
Select Photos.
Select the album and picture you want to use.
Click on Link to this Photo.
Set Select size to Large 800px.
Tick Hide album link.
Copy the contents of the Embed Image box.
Flip back over to Edit Blog and go into Edit Html.
Paste in the contents of the Embed Image box.
Pray to God you got that all right.
Retry an indeterminate number of times, varying every single step of the process through every possible permutation until you stumble ape-like upon the solution.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe - Epilogue

Just finished The Lost Symbol. Langdon ends up in the Washington Monument. I bloody knew it.

Here endeth the Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe.

Friday, 20 August 2010

The Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe - Friday again

Up with the lark at 7am. Well, get out of bed at half past actually. Much packing up and cleaning of flat, as Herself takes pride in leaving a place even cleaner than it was when we got there. To this end, I clean the inside of the washing machine we never used.

Leave a nice message for Landlord Jim in the guest book, and plod down the stairs and out of flat for last time. Climb up Tokyo Steps around 10 am to battle the first wave of castle tourists, and then trundle our trundly cases down to Waverley station. A last chance to spot a performer on the way down – the sadly-missed Timandra perhaps? But no. Onto the train and off we go. Bye-bye Edinburgh. Our Fringe is over, but for you it is just beginning.

Resolve to complete Dan Brown book by the time we get to Kings Cross, but am delayed by a compulsion to solve a pictorial grid puzzle by hand, rather than let Robert Langdon do it for me in a few pages. Doggedly solve puzzle, only to be left with a map which means nothing to me because I’ve never been on a bloody Masonic tour of Washington DC. Tch. Remember conversation with Herself from yesterday about how Edinburgh is crying out for a Da Vinci Code style mystery book. The plot, details and characters are as yet unclear to me, but it will certainly involved Alexander Hume’s shiny big toe, Greyfriars Bobby, and the mysterious carved letters in the flagstones of Castle Wynd South. May call it The Auld Reekie Enigma.

Ponder being misidentified as Australian again today, this time by an old guy from Dingwall. Beginning to get a thing about this.

Herself makes ample use of the free tea services on the train back to London, ‘to make up for the one she missed’ on the way up. Thus cosmic beverage justice is served. Try to watch movie on laptop of woman next to me, but am at wrong angle to enjoy properly. How selfish of her. Have brief exchange with gentleman across the aisle about Scott’s Grotto in Ware. It is a splendidly quiet and well behaved journey. Notice that man next to me is reading earlier Dan Brown book – Deception Point - am tempted to wave my own Dan Brown book at him and tell him ‘That’s quite good that is’, but am overcome with Englishness, so keep quiet.

In a mirror image of our journey a week ago, manage to spill tea over book, thus enhancing its crinkly brown appearance magnificently. No way I can offload it down the Oxfam shop now. They have standards.

Out at King Cross, along Victoria Line to Tottenham Hale and thence to home, where the heavens open in memory of Edinburgh as we get out of the train, though at least this decent home counties rain has the good grace not to gust sideways and soak me from the thigh downwards.

Home again, home again, and begin the post-hols ritual of unpacking, washing, getting of food and working through voicemails. Emails can wait for another bloody day.

Am quite adrift without a multicoloured timetable to structure my life.

Shows seen: none
Flyers collected: none

The Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe - Thursday

Have a nice dream about helping big fat seals who have been stranded in a narrow riverbed, by clearing a channel for them into deeper water. Then have a more disturbing dream about visiting a wildlife park where whey have genetically engineered some sort of cheetah/sabretooth tiger cross. Am talked by the keepers into entering the smilodon pen, in order to bond with them. They have two massive bloody fanglike tusks. The alpha male rears up on his hind legs, puts his front paws on my shoulders and proceeds to urinate over my legs, in some sort of dominance ritual. The keepers assure me this is to be expected, and I must not flinch. He finishes pissing all over me and I bolt for the door of the pen, only for another smilodon to nip me on the hand. Fortunately I lose no fingers.

Have no idea what that was all about, but suspect it may have been inspired by this here current advert:

Morning – realise that this is our last full day, and once again, we have far too much food in the kitchen. Suggest that Herself’s breakfast consists of two eggs and a snap pot of baked beans at the very least, while I resolve to get though half a packet of porridge oats, some chicken and forty-three tea bags in the remaining 24 hours.

Realise I have once again miscalculated my underwear requirement for the holiday by one day. Am now faced with a potential pants-less final day, unless I take the decision to either re-wear yesterday’s, or double up tomorrow for the journey home. After much deliberation, choose to put on my last fresh pair today and blag it tomorrow – if I can just make it home without being run over, I should be fine.

Can feel another elongated fingernail on the go. Arse. It’s the only part of the body which never heals once you break it, which is so unfair. Wish I had fingernail regeneration powers.

Take photo of Herself in toilet. In toilet, not on toilet. The preposition makes a world of difference. Photo is to demonstrate the tininess of the toilet. It is basically a cupboard where they have removed the shelves or what have you, and shoved in a loo. The room is literally the size of a toilet. If you’re knocking on six feet as I am, closing the door while sat down is something of a contortional operation. I have to position my knees just so, to stop the door from springing open. It’s so tight that the inlaid panels of the door make all the difference between privacy and dreadful exposure. If you rent this flat with someone else, make sure you are on very, very intimate terms. And depending on your specific ‘post-toilet’ routine, you may find it easier to open the door, stand and turn before attempting any papery hygiene rituals. Like I say, it’s cosy in here. Not only that, but the toilet also contains The Towel That Is Not A Towel – a tissue thin, totally unabsorbant tea-towel like object, which soaks up absolutely no moisture at all.

Your best bet is to wash your hands in the shower room opposite. This slightly larger cupboard perpetually smells of dampness and cabbages; no idea why. At least it has decent towels, but it also presents a problem for the toothbrushing person. There is a tiny shelf below the mirror and above the titchy sink. This shelf comes up to about chest height on me, and juts out from the wall a fair bit. Given the cramped confines of the shower cupboard, I find myself having to spit out the toothpaste with pinpoint accuracy, precisely calculating where the sink might be, since I can’t bend down past the shelf. It is all very perilous. A tip for gentlemen, you may actually be better off weeing into the sink in the shower cupboard rather than bothering to use the toilet.

This is my last blog from our exclusive flat on Tokyo Steps. Aaah. The last day of our Fringe week, which is weird, because the Fringe is going on for another two weeks. It’s like, Christmas is over now for us, but it’s just beginning for a whole load of other people, and hasn’t even begun for some others. Weird. We’ll be home tomorrow looking back on all the acts we’ve seen and wondering if we’ll ever see them again, when in fact we could conceivably hop on a train again and see them all over again. Weird. Expect there’ll be quite a come-down for us when we get home tomorrow, which is why it’s important to save some tablet and shortbread to keep that rush going as long as humanly possible. Have also saved a comic we bought from Forbidden Planet.

Do fabulously unselfconscious stretch in flat, accompanied by lion-like roar and out-loud narration of same act. Much to amusement of Herself.

Right, on with the final shows.

We walk down the royal mile to St Giles cathedral for a free, yes free, walking tour of a portion of central city. Much prefer historical walks to bloody ghost walks, which are rarely if ever scary , except for the first time down Mary Kings Close, before it became a bloody London Dungeon theme park. And that time we were shut in a crypt in Greyfriars Cemetery at midnight.

As is traditional, our guide is unmistakably English. Haha. Some good stuff about the city gaol, various gallows, and William Burke, whose skin is supposedly on display in the Surgeons Hall museum in the form of novelty book bindings. Our guide also mentions John Knox, whose statue we have seen several times around the city; all long robes, flowing beard, outstretched hand and Good Book. Had no idea who he was, but from the statue, I was immediately put in mind of the Lawgiver from Beneath The Planet Of The Apes. Apparently he was a firebrand Presbyterian, so I was almost right.

Needless to say, because we’re on a walking tour, it tips down. One woman on the tour insists on standing less than a metre in front of the guide as he gives us some history, while the rest of us stand a customary and respectable two metres away minimum. It is quite funny, but not as funny as the sight of her fighting with her ridiculous blue plastic poncho as the wind takes it up over her head.

Almost at end of the tour, notice that a young woman in a wheelchair has emerged from a hostel down on Cowgate, where we’re stood listening to some more history. Then notice she’s come down the ramp from the hostel and is right next to us, looking up the steep Blair Street leading off Cowgate and up to the back of the Tron. She actually starts trying to wheel up it somewhat weakly, and this is a fecking steep road, I dunno – 1 in 5 or something, I dunno. Have a moment of hesitation, then I see someone look over their shoulder at her as they walk by. Suspect am urged on by possible thought of someone else ninjaing my good deed, coz I’m suddenly in there, offering her a hand. Can’t really believe she wants to get up this hill, but amazingly she does, so find myself pushing her and her chair up it. It’s bloody steep, I can tell you, so am grateful she’s just a wee slip of a thing. She is very softly spoken and talks a bit funny. It may not be palsy or anything though - she does have a pierced nose and is clearly Scottish, so… Get her up to Hunters Square behind the Tron and onto a relatively level bit that she says she can manage Herself. Wave her off. Am now fairly glowing with sweat. Turn round to look down hill to Cowgate to see that historical tour has gone on without me. Am briefly disappointed that they’re not all stood there cheering me, but then spot that Herself has kindly waited for me, so I jog down the hill and feel well smug for helping wheelchair girl. Christ almighty, what a city to be a wheelie-person in.

Then back to the flat to eat as much beans on toast as possible in our last day, before setting out over to Princes Street for a show called Dig For Victory, supposedly a sketch show featuring crap superheroes etc. Again, the skies weep upon us, and we are fairly drenched by the time we get to the Voodoo Rooms, a rather swank bar just behind Princes Street. Turns out that the Dig For Victory chaps have suffered a manpower loss to the tune of two out of their four members, which has put a bit of a crimp in their sketchable abilities. But pluckily they have soldiered on, by hosting a random selection of performers from the Fringe. They do actually manage a couple of routines themselves – I like the one about the two skydivers finding out that they’re both first-timers, though it does peter out a bit.

The first guest act is Thunderer, or at least the first 20 minutes of their hour long show. Yet another Victorian spoof, but this one is actually quite well acted and even better, it’s funny. Mainly about members of the Daily Jupiter newspaper investigating the Ripper murders. Shame we’re going home tomorrow, coz I would have liked to have squeezed them in properly somehow. Talk to them later having splodged back over North Bridge, and they say that they’re working on a Radio 4 show, so jolly good luck to ‘em. I bet they all say that though.

The second guest act is a handsome American lady called Scout something. She has a ukulele and does funny songs, though she seems disappointed that the ten of us in the audience don’t react with spontaneous recognition and mirth, soaked to the skin and bemused by her needy and somewhat neurotic performance as we are. Am wondering if she is the same Scout who is the daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, but suspect she could only be about sixteen by now. Unless I’ve fallen asleep for ten years during one of the more boring acts at the Fringe.

Herself’s umbrella has finally given up the ghost, and is now merely a dangerous wire octopus loosely wearing a green and blue tartan shawl. We purchase a new red tartan model and humanely dispose of the old one in a rubbish bin on Princes Street, though it protests and tries to brace itself against the bin opening, a bit like a man fighting against an open airlock in a Jerry Bruckheimer film.

Kill some time in the Advocate pub near the Tron, with a cup of tea and a quiz machine. This is where Dr Foot and HFM were found wankered last year, and we hope to recreate their success at the quiz machine. We manage to find a completely unplayed game on the machine and in so doing get our names up as first and second place. Result for us, I think.

Then over to the skanky Tron pub to see Alexis Dubus. Saw him last year doing his swearing show – this year it’s about nudity. Starts with him doing a portrait of an actual naked lady on the stage, so fair play to her. It’s well nippy down there too, coz they’ve had a/c installed this year, so now it’s too cold rather than sweaty and hot. He does a good show about nudity, and I am brave enough to keep hand up when asked if I’ve been naked in public and not drunk. Admit to naturist past, and am braced for much probing questions, but fortunately he is nice and spares me that discomfort. He seems a really nice bloke, and the content of his act is not so different in tone to one of Richard Herring’s, though without the self-regarding inner monologues and personal sadness. He does highlight the plight of that naked backpacker who’s still in a Scottish prison though, which is fairly cool of him. He ends the show by stripping down first to a ‘naked man suit’, complete with felt genitals, and then all the way proper naked along with the woman from the beginning. Jolly well done to them. He is a nice bloke and I wish him more success at the Fringe.

We then trot down to the Gilded Balloon quick smart to see Barry Cryer, who we’ve been trying to see for a couple of years, and have finally got tickets for. Only to find that the show’s been cancelled due to a family illness, which is a bugger. A bugger for the family member, really. Have most unworthy thoughts like ‘I wish we’d seen him earlier in the week, before whoever it was took ill/died/got hit by a car’. Isn’t that selfish? Too late to exchange tickets now though, because the Fringe office back on the Royal Mile is closed for the day and we’re going home early tomorrow, so will have to get refund when we get back home.

This leaves us with a Cryer-shaped hole in our splendid timetable, which we fill by seeking out the finest falafel restaurant in all of Edinburgh. I have a medium sized pepperoni pizza, which I will come to regret in the hours that follow. Confess to Herself that one of my unfulfilled Fringe fantasies is where we are sat down in some sort of foodery, the two of us at a four person table, and then a highly stalkable performer comes in and has to share the table with us. We are then perfectly at liberty to chat to them at length without the usual pressures of them being knackered post-show, or there being a long line of similar stalkers wanting to chat to them, or it just being to bloody awkward to walk up and say hello. This fantasy has yet to happen. Am thinking of staking out a table at a likely haunt like the City Café, and waiting.

The falafel/pizza experience on South Bridge does not adequately fill the Cryer-void within us, so we venture further south down Nicolson Street, past the now closed Forbidden Planet and its excellent diorama of the Tom Baker Dr Who arm-wrestling Davros, and back to the Black Medicine Coffee Shop where we saw CB earlier in the week.

We enjoy a jolly nice cup of tea with ginger cake and cookies, whilst I try to read what the girl sat in front of us is typing into her laptop. It’s a history of the Algerian war of independence against the French – I have to fight down the urge to clumsily remind Herself out loud about the time we watched The Battle Of Algiers on DVD. There are at least three people in here doing laptoppy activities – it must be the place to do such things. Begin to regret not bringing mine out with me, though suspect it would have got thoroughly drenched during the downpour earlier in the day. Speaking of which, jeans are completely sodden, so try thinking warming thoughts and rubbing thighs to dry them out. This does not look so clever in a public place like the coffee shop. Also spot Basil Fawlty chap from The Faulty Towers Dining Experience, sans-‘tache and in mufti, getting a cup of tea. Also see a man who might possibly be that American bloke we saw at the steampunk do at the Scala a couple of months ago, who did an overlong act involving odd bits of whirling machinery. But I did not feel that was a sufficiently flattering description with which to approach him, so unusually for me, we pass him by.

Have interesting conversation with Herself about nudity, and which performers from this year’s Fringe we would like to see naked. The capoeira boys come to mind, as do various posh girl actors from sundry Edwardian/Victorian/1940’s spoofs. We agree that Herring’s portly and doubtless befurred body should not be seen. Resolve to purchase a naked man-suit for Herself, along with the dinosaur suit.

Cryer time has finally been exhausted so we nip round the corner to The Oak pub, for a bit of folk, as per last year. The music is downstairs in the cramped confines of the Wee Folk Club, hosted by the genial fluting-voiced Paddy, and his long ginger and white beard. Come to stunning revelation that the Wee Folk Club is so named because it is a small club for folk music, not a club for leprechauns and pixies as I had erroneously thought for the last couple of years. Tch, it’s like Incantation all over again. Not to mention Larry Grayson’s mate Everard, the punningness of whose name having not occurred to us until it was pointed out by a comedian a couple of nights ago (Stephen K Amos, perhaps?).

The random act on tonight is Blueflint, or possibly are The Blueflints. I’m not sure. Two ladies with full-size banjos and a fella on double bass. Needless to say a ukulele makes an appearance at some point. I swear we’ve seen more ukes this Fringe than any other piece of equipment apart from a mike stand. It must be because you can get one for only twenty quid (as seen in the music shop on South Bridge), and they’re apparently a piece of piss to learn. Herself promises that we will get one each when we get home, doubtless to gather dust along side our guitar and djembe.

Come up with a great name for a show – Ukulele-Li! It’s basically HP Lovecraft meets George Formby. Possibly involving Deep Ones attacking Blackpool. It writes itself.

Purchase a Blueflint CD as a present for the parents, and also as a way of disposing of Scottish funny money before return home, where such suspicious paper currency is rejected outright, even by the restaurant at work, which is in a Scottish bloody bank for Burns’ sake.

Nip out of The Oak with one song to go, coz we have a late appointment down Cowgate for our last show of the Fringe – A Nifty History Of Evil, which Dr Foot has already seen and recommends. We mooch up to the venue - one of the more disreputable clubs down under George IV bridge, and mosey inside, slightly confused by the bar-like activity going on, and the youth of its patrons (they were actually having to show their passports to the ape on the door, for God’s sake). Doesn’t look like a show is going on downstairs, and a quick trip upstairs results in me having an unintelligible exchange with a check-shirted, fluffy-haired youth, and Herself asking a half-naked heavily-tattooed man where the Evil show is. It’s plainly not on here. Maybe it’s been cancelled. We resolve to leave this increasingly loud and child-filled dive, and fight our way out. Thus our last show is a no-go. I briefly suggest, in a moment of madness, that we could go and see something over the road at the Scumbelly instead, but Herself snaps me back to sanity, and we skip home and climb Tokyo Steps for one last time, nodding to the hi-vis boy guarding the barrier at the bottom.

Walking up steps to the flat, spot flattened dog-end that has been there all week. It hasn’t moved, save to have gotten flatter with each successive footstep upon’t. Surely it should have been ‘washed’ down to the bottom of the stairs by now at least? In fact I think it’s actually one stair higher now than it was yesterday. Spooky. I fear it may start scratching away at our front tonight like something out of The Monkey’s Paw.

We get in and then realise we had the right venue for the Evil show, but the wrong time of day. The late night viewing was actually just down the road, but too late now. Ah well, time for a cup of tea (still thirty-seven bags to go) and a final in-flat blog. Refer to notes hastily scribbled on back of spare timetable whilst sat in the gloom of the Wee Folk Club, when realised I could no longer maintain all my to-be-blogged thoughts in my organic head. This must be how proper writers do it.

Shows seen: 3 + 1 tour
Flyers collected: 4

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe - Wednesday

Robert Langdon has now had a stone pyramid and a gold capstone in his possession for over 100 pages, but has failed to even unwrap the bloody capstone yet, let alone stick it on top of the pyramid. The padding in this story is a work of genius. He has just been whisked from Building A to Building B by a Negro Ex Machina, so am expecting him to end up in yet another historical DC building any chapter now.

Try to style hair like many of the young women we have seen, with parting starting just over one ear and fringe draped massively over forehead. Turns out I do not have sufficient length and weight of hair for this to work, and wisps are soon fluttering all over face. Fortunately lip gloss, the most adhesive substance known to woman, collects most of the loose hair by helpfully affixing it to my mouth.

Leave flat, down Tokyo Steps and cross Grassmarket. An early morning leafleteer spots our diagonal move away from him and plots an intercept course. Clever young devil. First flier of the day collected. Herself cowers behind me while I take the leafletty hit for her.

Off to Zoo, south of the Pleasance to see 2010: A Space Oddity. Turns out that Gavin Robertson out of Thunderbirds FAB is in it, so am expecting good two-man physical theatre. Show is a sort of 2001/2010 parody, with bits of Solaris and some amusing googly voiced aliens. Not as strong as his earlier stuff though, which is a pity. Don’t think anything could have topped Fantastical Voyage, which we saw at the Pleasance about 10 years ago. Years have not been kind to Gavin - once curly dark hair is short and receding, and big tum looks especially unappetising in cheap fancy dress silver spacesuit.

Have lunch in Auld Jock’s Pie Shop on Grassmarket. Very nice steak pie. Actually, it is more of a Gravy Pie, with Special Guest Star: Bits Of Steak. But most tasty nonetheless.'s_pie_shoppe-12178344

Spot a picture of our ‘forgotten man’ from the BBC showcase night – he is David O’Doherty – no wonder I couldn’t remember his name. A comedian having a name like that at the Fringe is like being called like Jason O’Byrne or Brendan O’Oirish. Ten a penny. Actually he was quite good, now I remember him – did good little musical sketches with the aid of a Casio keyboard.

Have just noticed vast, black, thick hairs growing out of back of right hand. Damn them. Need to laser the little bastards out of existence sometime. In the meantime, a painful five minutes with the tweezers is required.

Next, off to the GRV on Guthrie Street - a secretive little venue which we’ve never been to before. Herself has cunningly planned three shows in the exact same room, one after another. So we only have to spend 20 minutes hanging around between each one. Genius.

First up is a live Collings and Herrin podcast, which I’ve listened to once or twice before. Richard Herring is very funny as ever, and away from a structured stand-up routine, is completely filthy and naughty, which is good. Andrew Collins is… what? A straight man? A feed for Richard Herring? Or just the guy who sets up the laptops for the podcast? I dunno. Trying to remember what else he’s done, and all I can come up with is a bunch of them poxy list programmes on Channels 4 and 5. Tch.

Man, podcasts are a piece of. No wonder the internet’s lousy with them. I could do one easy. If I wanted. And had a willing stooge like Andrew Collins. And knew how to do all the fiddly bits on the computer. Prospective podcast stooges partners, contact me via the usual channels, please.

Oh yes – Herring told us again about the time he was wanked off by an Edwardian ventriloquist’s dummy operated by Stewart Lee.

They both turn out to be nice chaps, so we summoned up the nerve to chat to them in the bar after the show. Didn’t buy any of Herring’s DVDs though, coz I couldn’t remember which ones I’ve already seen and am haunted by the memory of the DVD of him berating a middle-aged couple so horribly that they stood up and left . Not his finest hour. Herself dug out her timetable – a reliable conversation piece, and compared it to another woman’s timetable. Geeks of the Fringe unite.

Show #2 at the GRV is the Oompah Brass band, who we last saw at the Scala a few months ago for a Steampunk event. Highly entertaining – they do a fine Bohemian Rhapsody.

Show #3 is Bane, as recommended by Dr Foot last year. One man playing all the parts in a hard-boiled spoof, with another chap providing a live musical soundtrack on the guitar. Bruce Bane is played a young chap called Joe Bone, if you can believe that. He has a very expressive face and does some great American voices. Takes me ages to place his standard Bane-voice as that of Christian Slater. There’s also a Bane 2, which we must see some time.

We finish our stint in the GRV, and nip back to the flat for a nibble. I have fifteen minutes to eat a hissingly hot microwaved shepherds pie. Mmmm. And Ouch.

Then to the undercroft (undercrypt?) beneath St Augustine’s church to see Bowels, which turns out to be a small cast doing a parody of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. All the cast are female apart from the central chap, whose plumy Edwardian English accent periodically slips back to his presumably native Frankie Boylesque Scottish tones. There is a great bit when a ‘magnificent beast’ of a dinosaur marauds across the stage and into the audience, played by a young lady in a sweet fluffy green dino outfit. Delightful, as Herself would say.

We carry on down George IV Street to the Gilded Balloon, for to see the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre, which Herself has been most looking forward to. Excellent as ever, though is a pity that he - sorry – they don’t do more of the Dr Who stuff as seen on YouTube. Hang around near the loos after the show for about ten minutes and are rewarded by the sight of slightly sweaty sock-puppeteer Kev Sutherland emerging from the gents. He is a very friendly chap, and surprisingly English. He thinks I’m Australian, which I get very occasionally; no idea why. We sing his praises and speak much of Dr Who, Torchwood and Life On Mars. Turns out that he is indeed the same Kev Sutherland who ran the Bristol Comic Con. He also did comic strips for the Red Dwarf comic and is currently working on the Beano, which is most cool. He is still most sweaty, so bids us a goodnight. Result.

Is now too late to see our last show of the night – Carnival Of Souls, which am quite glad of. Getting too old for these late nights.

Nip outside Gilded Balloon to get a late night crepe. The trick with crepes is to eat them quick, coz when they cool down, they look, feel, and presumably taste, like cold dead flesh.

Skip back to flat, swimming upstream against the tide of exiting tattooists and struggle to open the useless front door with its rubbish rattling loose lock. An intrigued/suspicious young military policeman comes down Tokyo Steps towards us and asks if we need a hand. We decline, but he hangs around anyway, watching us, as if we’re a couple of terrorists laden down with a plastic bag full of explosive semi-skimmed milk and highland shorties. I bridle at his military nosiness. It’s a bit like a scene from Inglourious Basterds.

Rubbish bags must be put out tonight, as flat is beginning to smell strongly of shepherds pie. Edinburgh continues to inexplicably smell of Weetabix. No idea why.

Apples continue to rot on kitchen table. Is degenerating into a war of attrition between Herself and I.

Shows seen: 6 (but should have been 7)
Flyers collected: 4

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe - Tuesday

Eyelashes: none anywhere.

Am woken in middle of the night by unwelcome shouting outside and above our flat, as if young (obviously) and foreign (possibly) people were running up and down the stone stairwell and then shouting to each other from the open doorway of their apartment above ours. Los bastardos.

Apparently fail to meet obligations re: scheduled sauce session. Do not even realise invitation to sauce is being extended until much later – was far too engrossed in adventures of Robert Langdon at the time. Instead gratefully settle for rub of aching shoulder, proving am both married and old.

Breakfast consists of local shortbread and last two chocolate hobnobs – the biscuit of champions.

Take over an hour to write up blog of Monday. Have not yet mastered art of précising. Half-wish I could have carried laptop around yesterday and blogged as we went, but stupid battery would have given out after 5 minutes. Treacherous device.

First show is The Ukulele Project at Scumbelly – turns out to be two young men and two young ladies, a spirited junior version of the UOoGB. Very good.

Hanging around in Scumbelly for another of Herself’s many, many toilet breaks (am coming to the conclusion that we have markedly different liquid intake requirements), see a flyer for The Dog Eared Collective, which we need for scrapping. Picking it up, spot actual Dog Eared person herself handing out the flyers further along the room. Nip over and say hello. It is the one that looks like my cousin Lindy, possibly. She is very nice and friendly. Say we enjoyed show yesterday and tell her we’ve seen them before. God, I am such a sad stalker. Write email address down in her little book, so can be informed of London gigs. It seems almost all the performers here carry a little book, for the writing in of email addresses. The film people we met in Dead Head Comics did. Talking to nice Dog Eared Lady makes up a bit for not talking to Timandra yesterday.

Then off to Surgeons Hall for The Oxford Alternotives. What a name. Like the Be Sharps in The Simpsons. Very good, very young a capella group. Mixed boys and girls, which is much better. Have seen some all female ones and they sound so weak. The little monkey-faced lad is particularly entertaining.

Then back to Scumbelly for The Fitzrovia Radio Hour. Brilliant. Love the way they do all the sound effects as they go along. Think the two girls look lovely. Wish my hair was like theirs. The Mud Men Of The Thames and The Man Who Was TenMinutes Late are splendid Quatermass / Appointment With Fear parodies. Not too silly, which was nice. Well done to JT for recommending them when Arthur Smith cancelled his show.

Have just made up a song called ‘Lasagne’. Basically, you hum the tune to ‘Tequila’, and then go ‘Lasagne’ instead. Genius.

Can hear American tourists talking outside flat window. How do they manage to talk so nasally? It must surely strain their mucus passages.

Have interesting conversation with Herself about our relative daily water intakes. Mine being a couple of cups of tea and a swig of Coke, hers being several litres of water, which she carries at all times. This explains the many, many toilet breaks. Some discussion ensues concerning our relative bladder sizes and the impact of uterus and ovaries on female bladder retention.

Down to Just The Tonic on Cowgate for Simon Donald off of Viz comic. The venue is yet another subterranean vault converted into a series of bars, toilets and performance areas. You have to climb down some steep wooden steps without bashing your head on the stone archway above for this one. Dr Foot has already seen Simon Donald, and has warned us that his reminiscences and anecdotes about Viz are more entertaining than his comical characters, and he’s more or less right. The characters are lightly funny, and it’s quite interesting to see how each one is a bit like Sid the Sexist, or Mr Logic, or Spoilt Bastard, but they’re not quite up to Steve Coogan standards. Once again, as in so many shows here, there is audience interaction; this time it is a hapless girl called Sarah who must endure banter with all five of Mr Donald’s characters, the poor mare. Am so glad have mastered the art of sitting well back in the shadows.

Simon Donald has overrun a bit, and then we get lost in the vaults of Just The Tonic, so we must trot to The Pleasance for Jonny Sweet. Herself is mental about being late and starts to motor through the crowds on Cowgate like a greased staffie. I discover that my fast walk is the same speed as her trot, so manage to keep pace with her without looking too foolish.

The Pleasance is as crowded as ever, but manage to locate correct venue with a few minutes to go. It’s that weird portakabin in the main courtyard with all the windmill things stuck on the outside.

Jonny Sweet’s show is a similar format to the Mostly About Arthur one from last year, but even more built around a laptop slideshow this time. He gets a lot of mileage out of his handy Mac, flipping around different files when his presentation on the decommissioned HMS Nottingham comes up short by some 15 minutes. The best bit is right at the end when he takes the laptop backstage but leaves the projector on, so we can see him on the webcam typing up some post-show notes. Most charming. I like the way he gives almost everyone a warm hug when they come in at the beginning. We manage to avoid this though.

Then wander all the way over to the Assembly Rooms on George Street for Richard Herring. The Assembly Rooms are a step up for him this year, and a welcome escape from his regular venue at the Scumbelly. The queue is very long, stretching down George Street. Show itself is entertaining as ever – it’s a rehash of a previous show, but fortunately we’ve not see the original Christ On A Bike, so am not sat there trying to identify all the old material. He seems as podgy as ever – wish he’d lose some weight. Interestingly, as he often bases the shows around his personal life, he doesn’t bang on about being single for once, so he really must be in a relationship, as Herself claims. Good for him.

Finish with Mr Herring and back to flat. Listen to the Edinburgh Tattoo warm-up taking place a scant few metres beyond our window. It’s weird - there’s a sort of Ken Bruce-voiced fella who not only narrates the show itself (Here’s the massed pipes and drums of the Scots Guard! and all that), but also reads out all the dedications and happy birthdays for the audience as they file in before the Tattoo proper kicks off. That’s fair enough, and doubtless makes some old person’s day, but then it gets slightly odd, when he starts to ask if there’s anybody here from Australia, then New Zealand, then South Africa, then America, then Canada, then France, then Germany, then Poland, then Russia, then China, then India, then Japan, then every possible bloody country that somebody who is attending the Tattoo might have come from. He does a shout out to every bloody one – it takes over ten minutes – it’s very weird, and puts me in mind of a Manowar song for some reason.

Herself breaks open the elderberry wine she got from the market on Saturday and we settle down to watch something on telly. The tradition is that we watch some crappy DVD that we’ve bought from a street trader down by the Meadows, but we’ve not been over that way this year, so have come up short. There’s a small supply of DVDs on the flat, but they’re all worryingly romcommy. Watch King Of The Hill instead.

Have a confusing conversation about snowballs with Herself, until I realise that I’m actually talking about speedballs – a drug cocktail- and she’s talking about snowballs – an imaginative sexual act involving one man and two women.

Remove two apples from rucksack – they have started to go funny. Feel bad about just throwing them out though, so leave them on kitchen table overnight, in the hope that Herself might have one – she is less intimidated by rotting fruit than I.

Shows seen: 6 – a much more reasonable number
Flyers collected: 14 – a bumper crop

Monday, 16 August 2010

The Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe - Monday

Lashes on pillow: 1
Lashes on eyelid: 1 :(

It is raining. Sodden Japanese are trudging up Tokyo Steps outside window, while soberly clad workers are walking to the office. But not us, haha!

Looking back at previous day’s blogs, am concerned that am starting to write like Rorschach. Not sure if this is entirely healthy. Can see dog carcass in alley far below.

Today is to be the busiest, maddest day for us so far, squeezing in the maximum cheapity 2-for-1 shows that we can. Resolve to write up blog at end of day, while events still fresh.

Decide on army surplus combat trousers and walking boots today, combined with long black sweater. Looks a bit funny put all together, but am trying to strike a balance between utility, rainy appropriateness and attractiveness. It works if you only look at my top half or my bottom half.

Over to old Assembly Rooms on George Street to see friend of friend Timandra in Your Days Are Numbered. Horribly early start for Fringe event – 11:25am. Show is very good – all about probability of death from various causes. Spot Simon Singh in audience, sporting baby in frontloading papoose. Say hello to Timandra and chum Matt Parker very briefly after show, but she can’t stop to talk cause needs to tidy up before next show comes in. Quickly ask to see her outside in a few minutes. Herself thinks he hears her mention upstairs bar, but this turns out not to be the case. Two slowly nursed cups of tea later, we come downstairs only to see Timandra in ‘members-only’ lounge area on ground floor. We don’t have special Fringe passes, unlike, it seems, 50% of the bloody audience in this first week. She is only thirty feet away, but engrossed in own laptop, so doesn’t see us. Cannot go into members zone cause would be momentarily cautioned by 17-year old helper girl in official Assembly Rooms t-shirt, so walk away disappointed.

Then go outside to munch on packed lunch – home made chicken sandwich. Almost immediately choke on third mouthful, as I occasionally do. Panics me for about five minutes until obstruction goes down. Am now most grumpy – almost choked to death and have been denied hanging out with a genuine Fringe performer, which is most important thing in world to me right now. Sheer depth of own star-struckness know no bounds. Am unable to express disappointment to Herself, because am embarrassed by stalkerish fascination with showbizzy people, even though really really really want to say hello to Timandra and talk about numbers and comedy and shit. Puts me in well bad mood for rest of day. Cannot express reasons for bad mood, coz by anybody else’s standards, is a very silly reason. Am so star-struck, it is tragic.

Grumpily march to Hill Street Theatre near George Street to see Call of Cthulhu. Theatre has lovely, big, squishy sofas for waiting on, which imperceptibly lessens bad mood. CoC is unexpectedly a one-man show, and is damn-near unfathomable if you don’t know the story well already. Good, deep, unworldly mood music though, and weird green and red lighting. The episode involving the Louisiana swamps is the best bit.

Heavens open.

Umbrellas initially stand us in good stead. What an odd phrase – do things ever stand us in bad stead? Or adequate stead? At any rate, umbrellas do their job at first, but as the spitting becomes a shower becomes a torrent, they show increasing signs of stress; one of the legs of my one gives way and it starts to flap wildly on one side, like a strangely circular black bird. With no head. And a handle. Herself’s umbrella fares much worse, and turns inside-out in the gusts. She has not mastered the seasoned brollier’s trick of flipping it rightside-out with a short, sharp thrust of the arm, so I do it for her. It’s what I’m there for. Being a fair bit shorter than me, her umbrella comes up to just about eye-level on me – this makes walking side by side in the rain a perilous affair for yours truly. The rain forces us to walk apart.

Off to the see the Dog Eared Collective at scummy Underbelly. In the rain, it has become even more moist and humid in there. The Dog Ears are slightly unusual, not just because they are a rare 3 women / 1 man group. The first year we saw them, they did Barnaby Brown: Orphan Extraordinaire – a sort of Dickens piss-take. Last year and this though, they’ve done a series of short sketches loosely strung together. Some of which work. They’re certainly energetic though, all leaping around in silly beards, The smallest of the women (who has a touch of the Jimmy Krankie to her) is used as a battering ram by the others. One of the women really reminds me of one of my female relatives on my dad’s side, but would feel weird asking her if she’s my cousin Lindy.

Am now soaked from mid thigh downwards. Obviously downwards. Combat trousers rub uncomfortably against skin as we settle down for Aleister Crowley play. I will clearly be wet for many hours to come. What I’ve just done there is called foreshadowing. Dan Brown taught me that. However, unlike in his books, the dampness of my clothing will not later turn out to be a vital plot point.

The Crowley show is very good – it’s in a venue we’ve never been before, just on the southern edge of North Bridge – s’always good to try out a new place. It is a one-man show, our second of the day, and not a million miles from Cthulhu in style and set-up. The chap himself is suitably shaven-headed and bulky, though I suspect he’s padded his shirt a bit. Not sure if Crowley was actually Welsh, but that’s how he sounds. It does give the show a strange Under Milk Wood quality. Dr Foot and HFM have already seen this and given it a qualified thumbs up, which was mainly to do with the fictionalised death of the character at the end. But it was entertaining nonetheless.

Down to the Gilded Balloon (currently occupying the Edinburgh University Stdudent Association building in Bristo Square) to see Doon Mackichan in Primadoona. Very accomplished one-woman show about actual recent events of her life – mainly plummeting career and son getting leukaemia. Needless to say, is all very actressy and worthy. But there are funny bits as well. Am fascinated by weird pock-marked stippling on her back. Either she’s been practising lying on a bed of nails, or those are some serious acne scars.

Off to Udderbelly (gigantic inverted purple cow. Honest) to see Brazil Brazil. Join queue after finishing off now-mangled chicken sandwich, only to discover some minutes later that queue is for a different show. Not only that, but we are in the wrong location entirely. Herself’s previously impeccable map-reading has taken us to George Square, not Bristo Square. I think. Put it down to innate dyspraxic mongness. Return to Bristo Square, wherein correct venue is located. This is where we saw male a capella group The Magnets last year. Udderbelly must specialise in man-candy, as Brazil Brazil is built mainly around five exceedingly fit young men displaying both their capoeira skills and their incredible abs.

And now, a brief note on capoeira. Herself booked this show; you could not get me to see capoeira otherwise. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have touched it with a bargepole, but she sneakily sold the show to me as ‘some sort of music and dance act’. Capoeira, for those of you who don’t know, is ‘a fusion of dance and martial arts, born on the streets of Brazil, among the slaves’. It sounds better in a broad Brazilian accent, believe me. Street dance and martial arts. God help us. Scientifically formulated to appeal to the posey element of society, and those people who really want to be elven Wardancers. Capoeira is the sort of thing dabbled in by your mate who’s a bit of a show-off. Basically, any activity that features in a BBC ident is slightly, well, pretentious, like doing tai chi by a loch, wheelchair people playing basketball, and capoeira in front of the London skyline:

Apart from the synchronised swimming hippos – I like them. Insert rant about what I pay my licence fee for here.

Oh yeah, and another thing, a special secret combat dance? Really? I find that highly unlikely:

- Hey Eduardo, what is that the humble slaves are doing over there?
- Oh, that is nothing Paulo, it is just a simple, humble dance that they practise, to while away the long hours of captivity.
- But my friend, they seem to be jumping and kicking and punching quite a lot. It does look an awful lot like they are practising some sort of martial art.
- Ha ha, you are so suspicious Paulo. The slaves, they would never turn their beautiful rhythmic close-contact dance moves to violence and use them to attack us, their brutal and cruel oppressors. To think such a thing is madness.
-You are right Eduardo, what am I thinking? Come, let us draw closer and admire the grace and power of their humble ‘Driving The Foot Into The Bastard’s Head’ number.

Hmmm, I don’t buy it.

Ok, back to the show. There is hardly a cubic inch of body fat on that stage, certainly not on the Brazilian dancer/showgirl creature, with her suspiciously implanted chestal region. Feel a bit sorry for the trick footballer they bring on, because his ball skills are clever but mainly consist of him sitting on his bum doing keepy-up. Catchy samba music is a bit too Girl From Ipanema for my tastes, but is all very energetic and jolly. A couple of the capoeira boys look like they’re from Apocalypto, with their top-knotted hair and lean bodies. Bet none of them have any trouble pulling audience members, boys or girls. Feel exceedingly unfit and unattractive after watching them. God knows how the old people or the boy in the wheelchair down the front feel. Maybe it’s just me. People stand up and applaud at end. I do not do this. Others do because they are sheep.

Come to regret choice of clothing – look stupid and mannish. Reach the conclusion that this summer’s fashion for the young ladies is shorty short black tights and flat shoes. The accompanying massive hair and eyelashes are no surprise. Not sure I could carry it off at my advanced age. The fashion for a certain sort of skinny young man seems to be a close-fitting checked shirt, which in my day would have screamed ‘NERD’ in pocket-protected, bespectacled capital letters. Strange how things change. Also, the popular style for boy-hair is this weird, slightly bouffant, tousled affair with much covering of forehead. Hmm.

Next, Plague! The Musical at C on Chambers Street. Am expecting the cast to be mainly young people, as this venue seems to attract them (see: innumerable Discworld adaptations in years gone by). But am pleasantly surprised by adult cast. Most amusing production and well sung, but as is often the case, the central boy/girl pair seem a bit weak – maybe it’s just that the characters are soppy and uninteresting. Liked the eccentric performance by the Alchemist – all very Terry Gilliam. Nod off several times during show. The day is taking its toll.

After Plague! The Musical, stop for late night nosh at strange triangular café by statue of Wee Bobby. Two microwave-reheated slices of pizza are just what’s needed. Flick through ubiquitous Fringe magazine looking for decent pictures of acts to scrapbook later. See flyer for a play featuring the actor Clive Russell. Realise this is the man I saw a few days ago, who played Tim’s scary editor in Spaced.

Then head south to Pleasance Dome for final show of the day, a BBC Comedy Presents thing. This is one of those showcase affairs where you don’t know who going to be appearing on the night, and the listing gives you an unreasonable expectation of seeing well-known acts by listing past appearances by French and Saunders or Vic and Bob (probably both about twenty years ago). It’s actually being recorded for the BBC website, not proper telly, so is a lower key affair, which is probably just as well. Have sat through quite a few TV recordings in my telly-struck past, and know how long those bloody things can go on for. Distinctly recall having to sit through retakes at the end of the Danny Baker chat show, while he re-recorded questions for his interviewees, Who Had Already Gone Home. Also remember being asked to laugh uproariously to gags on Men Behaving Badly which had already been delivered, and fluffed, a couple of times.

We sit at the back of the room at the Dome, partially obscure by a pillar, so are safely out of comedian-interaction range. Am in no mood for bantering with stand-ups at this hour of the evening. We are just behind the cameramen and producer (including the requisite semi-pointless young woman with clipboard who just wanders back and forth), which is quite interesting. You can see the producer’s concerned face when one of the mikes starts to pop.

The host/compere is Carl Donelly, an afroed ginge who makes me think of Steve Merchant. He is decent enough, but ends up stumbling though the intro as much as the guest acts subsequently stumble through their turns. The main sticking point for all of them is a Beeb requirement to not swear much, and I think every single one of them Fucks at least once, so much retaking of punch lines is required, with nice words inserted instead. Yorkshireman Tim Wigginshaw (or some such) is alright, but soon completely loses his thread due to sweary retakes and unsuitable material. Two Episodes Of MASH are very good – love the deliberately non-funny sketches and the way they all just peter out. The Irish rappers Abandoman are alright – clever how they improvise raps about members of the audience and objects from their pockets, but if you pay attention, you can see that the songs have a basic framework that the incredibly Irish singer Rob just has to slot a few personalised bits into.

Final stand-up is… God, I can’t picture him at all, or his name. I think he was quite good. But it was sooo late at night.

Completely shattered by time BBC thing finishes and trot home as fast as we can. At least tonight we have not ended up at the pigging Scumbelly last thing, which saves us a killing climb up two long flights of steps from the Grassmarket.

Too tired for telly, as it is gone 1 am, so sit on collapsed sofa (please Mr Landlord, some new springs), and read new Alan Moore comic – Neonomicon. It seems to be a sequel to The Courtyard, so much gurgling in Aklo and strange bescarfed freaks.'s_The_Courtyard

Peel ‘DEAD’ sticker off sweater, a memento from Numbered show some thirteen hours earlier, which has survived a day of rain and trudging much better than I have. It takes sizeable amount of black wool from sweater with it.

Utterly fail to write up blog last thing, as planned.

Shows seen: 8 - far too bloody many
Flyers collected: 1 – grumpy face was on
Steps taken: unknown. Bloody miles.