Friday, 20 August 2010
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