The Edinburgh Fringe And Related Stories

Wow. That was a fantastic week. If you can’t read all of this on Abnib or on LiveJournal or wherever you read my blog, try the original post:

  1. The Engagement Party
  2. The Quirky Little Village In County Durham
  3. The Fringe At Edinburgh
  4. The Most Embarrassing Thing In The World
  5. The Train Ticket Nightmare

Let’s get started.

1. The Engagement Party

We kicked off last week when we left town to go to Preston for my mum’s engagement party. The party was a fancy-dress themed one, so Claire and I went as Fry and Leela from Futurama.

Dan as Fry on an 80s video game Dan as Fry Claire as Leela

The party itself was fabulously good fun. Many drinks and a little dancing later and a great time was had by all. Of course, I’m now beardless (as shown in the photos) – Fry is clean shaven and my costume really wouldn’t work with my former goatee – which is an unusual experience: I keep on reaching to stoke my beard and being momentarily surprised and alarmed to find a cold clammy chin where I expect to touch reassuring hairiness.

I’ll get another grown.

2. The Quirky Little Village In County Durham

Next up, we drove on to a strange village on the other side of the Pennines called Maulds Meaburn, where Ruth and JTA were staying with Ruth’s dad in his house there.

Maulds Meaburn 2 Maulds Meaburn 1

Maulds Meaburn is a tiny village which feels amazingly rural despite it’s surprising proximity to the M6 – a perfect distance away of being completely cut off from most pass-through traffic and almost all motorway sounds and still being close enough to get to any meaningful place in the country at a moment’s notice.

Oh; and it’s full of sheep. Everywhere. In the gardens. In the play area. Just running wild. And a herd of cattle marches through the entire settlement twice a day, much to my joy and Claire’s horror. Fabulous.

Anyway: eventually we all moved on to just-outside-Durham, where we stayed overnight before abandoning the car and taking the train up to Edinburgh.
3. The Fringe At Edinburgh

The flat Ruth had picked out in Edinburgh was absolutely fantastic. Spacious and clean and fabulously well-placed (right on the Royal Mile!) and with cool facilities like a dishwasher… luxury!

Claire snapped some unusually-framed pictures of the place.

The Flat in Edinburgh 1 The Flat in Edinburgh 2 The Flat in Edinburgh 3

As we flicked through the hundreds of flyers we’d had thrust upon us as we walked the Royal Mile, spread out across our living room floor, we first discovered the Free Fringe. Amongst all of the money of the Edinburgh Fringe there’s a handful of venues and comedians working their arses off to produce a shedload of great comedy for no cost at all to the consumer. The venues take the money from the bar. The comedians take donations only (after the flyers have been paid for). It’s a fantastic concept in an otherwise over-expensive city, and, better yet, it’s a chance for new comedians to make a stand without getting themselves into heaps of debt, and for old comedians to publicise their “main” shows with a little bit of good old-fashioned entertainment.

Reading some of the Free Fringe publicity one venue’s name came up time and time again – the Canon’s Gait on Canongate. “Looks like there’s some great shows at this place,” I said, “Where is it.” JTA slowly stood up, walked to the window, and pointed across the street. “There,” he responded.

And so began our schedule. We’d get up at a time appropriate to the time we’d gotten to bed the previous night and have breakfast. At about 11am, we’d open our first bottle of wine (Ruth had ordered 15 bottles of wine to be delivered before we arrived, and there was no other way to ensure we got through it all). By midday we were at the Cannon’s Gait for their first free show of the day, and – with breaks for lunch, dinner, more wine at the flat, and (occasionally) other venues – we stayed there pretty much for the rest of the week, on the front row in the cellar of the pub across the road.

JTA’s already written quite a bit about some of the acts we saw. Go read that.

By the end of the week, we were well-known amongst some of the comedians who also frequented the venues. The fantastic Peter Buckley Hill, mentioned in my previous post, autographed JTA’s flyer made out to “the front row”. Other comics joked that we should be paying rent to the venue, or passed on comments about us and tipped one another off. By late in the week we were casually chatting with most of the bar staff and entertainers, and even got sufficiently cheeky to insist that one comedian took a photograph of us standing with another: the picture shown in the aforementioned previous post.

We only ever paid to see one show (although we went to two “paid” shows: as for the other, we acquired free tickets for an undersubscribed show as we walked past the performers while taking Kit and Fiona to see Jekyll & Hyde, a fantastic pub we’d discovered) – the show was the final one we’d see, and it ran over it’s schedule by an hour and a half before we got too tired and departed at a time approaching 3am, leaving only comedians watching other comedians. Exhausted, that was our last event.

Oh: if you’re ever in Edinburgh, do check out the Jekyll & Hyde on Hanover Street, off Princes Street. It’s an amazingly well-themed pub, with potions and chemical works and electric chairs and twisted architecture and secret fucking doors, I kid you not. Below is a picture of the entrance to the toilets in the pub, in the “library” corner. Can’t see them? That’s because they’re hidden behind secret doors: you have to be told where to push (or see somebody else go!) before you can find them. Better yet – in the gents at least – a speaker makes eerie noises and announcements on a motion sensor/timer system. You’ve typically got just enough time to get to a urinal before a booming voice calls “I’m coming to get you!” or something similar. Well worth a visit. Nice cocktails (named after the seven deadly sins) too.



Bookshelves at the Jekyll & Hyde

4. The Most Embarrassing Thing In The World

Well; it wasn’t the most embarrassing thing in the world for Ruth, JTA or I, but I’m pretty sure – based on her reaction – that what follows was probably the most embarrassing thing ever to happen to Claire. I’d promised I’d share it here with the world, and so I shall.

On our first night in Edinburgh we found ourselves at the “Laughing Horse Late Show”, which started at midnight at a bar about 15-20 minutes walk from our flat and went on until 3am. We were all already quite tipsy, having been drinking since we’d gotten off the train that afternoon, but nobody more so than Claire, who was particularly enjoying the comedy and participating quite actively. The day had been long, though, and by about a quarter to two Ruth, JTA and I were completely knackered and wanted to go to bed. Claire insisted that she should stay and see more comedy and was confident that she could find her way back to the flat by herself, so I left her with a map (just in case) and a set of keys and we left.

At a little later than half past three our doorbell rang. I got up and, realising that it was probably Claire unable to get the key to work or, worse, having lost the key, pulled on my trousers and went to the doorphone to let her in. The doorphone was either broken or there wasn’t anybody down there, though, because I couldn’t hear anything, so I took a chance on it and just pressed the “door unlock” button. The phone buzzed, and within a few seconds Claire was up the flight of stairs and on the doorstep of our flat. She seemed upset: I hugged her and discovered that she was freezing cold. How long had she been outside, I asked. She’d gotten lost, she replied, and eventually gotten a taxi. Ah well, at least she was home and safe. And so, we went to bed.

And that’s when the alcohol kicked in. I was sobering up quite nicely, but Claire was still quite unwell, and took several trips to the bathroom to throw up. So frequent and sudden were these bathroom trips that eventually she stopped putting clothes on to go (we typically sleep nude) and just streaked down the hallway – “There’s only Ruth and JTA here,” I explained, “And I’m sure they’d rather you streaked past them – if they even get up – than that you vomited in the hallway.”

Therein lies my mistake. Claire was confused and drunk at best, and we suspect that on her 5am trip to the toilet she’d quite possibly fallen asleep in there awhile and dreamt that she was still trying to find her way home. At just past five I was awoken by a knocking sound and Claire’s voice shouting “Let me in!”

I pulled on my trousers and went to the front door of the flat: presumably, I thought, Claire had gone out for a breath of fresh air or something and forgotten to take a key. But the door of the flat was open. I heard her call again. She must be outside, I thought, going down the stairs to the front door and opening it. Still nothing. “Why won’t you let me in?” she cried, and it sounded like it came from upstairs. I ran back upstairs and to the floor above, and that’s where I found her…

…stark naked and banging on the door of the flat above us. When I arrived a very confused-looking elderly lady had just answered the door and seemed completely baffled by the sudden appearance of this nude young lady banging on her door and asking why she wouldn’t let her in. In the morning, Claire barely remembered her night’s escapades, but did report remembering – almost as if it were a dream – being naked and locked out. Once I’d explained to her my side of the story and she started to recall what had happened she attempted to drown herself in a cup of tea, but, thankfully, couldn’t fit her head into it.

The punchline: when Claire went up to the lady’s door the following day to deliver her some flowers and apologise for waking her in the middle of the night (and inadvertently flashing her), the lady’s friendly response was “it could have happened to anyone.” Not quite anyone, I think.5. The Train Ticket Nightmare

The plan for the return journey couldn’t have been simpler. Well; actually it could, but thanks to Ruth’s great planning it couldn’t have been better organised. Almost.

The plan was that we all left Edinburgh by train: JTA to Birmingham down the West Coast, and the rest of us to Durham down the East. Having gotten so far, JTA would meet with his family and they would drive onwards to Ruth’s home, near Oxford. Meanwhile, Claire and I would get a lift from Durham back to Maulds Meaburn to pick up Claire’s car and drive on to Preston to spend the night with my family before returning to Aberystwyth in the morning. Having seen us off, Ruth would get a train from Durham to Oxford to finally be reunited with JTA.
On the train to Durham Ruth discovered that her train ticket for the remainder of the journey had the wrong date on it. The person who’d sold it to her had made other mistakes in the order that had been corrected, since, and this was just one that managed to slip through. Worse, it was one of those cheapy super mega advance-buy tickets, so there was likely no chance of a straight swap for an alternative.

It got worse: when we showed the ticket to staff at Durham station it became apparent that the ticket wasn’t even a ticket for the wrong day – it was a “first class upgrade” to be applied to ticket she didn’t own, still for the wrong day. Durham station refused to do anything to help, insisting that Ruth took her complaint up with Oxford station where the ticket had been purchased.
After trying and failing to find any other suitable means of using public transport to get Ruth down to Oxford (or, failing that, to somewhere near enough to Birmingham that it would be feasible for JTA and his folks to pick her up en route), Claire volunteered to drive her to Oxford, in exchange for which they’d give us a bed for the night there, and we’d make it our “stop over” on our way back to Aberysywth, rather than Preston, as was the original plan. A 200-mile dog-leg later and we were there, somehow even managing to beat JTA who’d set off along a shorter journey some hours earlier: probably thanks to the speed Claire was able to maintain on our carefully picked combination of A1(M) and M1 motorway junctions.

On the up side, we got the change to play the Buffy The Vampire Slayer Board Game, which has potential, given a few rules tweaks. This guy sums up what I’m thinking quite well: it’s got rules which are complex (because they’re badly-written) rather than complex situations (which require deep thinking), so it’s a bit of a shallow game. Plus, another post brings up a valid point that I suspect the designers didn’t think through as fully as they’d like to think they did. And I’m not sure it’d ever be much fun playing as Cordelia. It’s got some great ideas (variable-power players, hidden identities, asymmetric sides, etc.) but it lacks the “umph” that I think would keep it enjoyable after a few times playing it. We shall have to see… if, perhaps, we can get a cheap copy of it. But if I were given the choice between getting it and, say, Fury Of Dracula, Puerto Rico or Candamir – three games I’d like to get copies of – I’m afraid Buffy would lose hands-down.

Not that I’ve got any spare money for board games at the moment anyway. Ah well.

And yes, this is the end of the post.

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