Category Archives: 2015 Scotland

Edinburgh Festival 2015 – Day Four

Having identified an early morning show to attend today we didn’t actually end up going as we weren’t up early enough. This meant our last show was last night and while we did look for possibilities for later this morning we couldn’t find anything that we wanted to do and where the timing fitted. So we walked the streets and then the much promised rain arrived which made things less pleasant than the beautiful weather of the previous three days.

We met up with a friend from Reading who had just arrived in town for the Festival for lunch at the quirky Black Medicine Coffee co. before heading to the airport.

Reflecting on our first fringe I have the following thoughts:

  • Both Helen and I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be coming back.
  • I wish that we had been more adventurous. Everything we saw we enjoyed but was that because we chose things that we knew subconsciously were our sort of thing? Next time I think that we should look for more theatre and some dance rather than just variations on a comedy theme.
  • I really like Appletiser.
  • People who I have never met before were happy to come up to me unannounced and tell me that I was taking a picture from the wrong angle or sound their horn and wave at me (in a friendly manner) as they drove past. I know the latter sounds like they were just telling me to get out of the way but I was on the pavement and it really was a friendly gesture. They probably either weren’t a Scot or didn’t realise I was English 😉
  • It can rain in Edinburgh. I have been to the city probably half a dozen times now and the expectation always is that it will rain. On everyone of those occasions bar one the weather has been fantastic and even today when it did rain it wasn’t for long. Maybe the Scots in Edinburgh send the rain to Glasgow?

As a final footnote. You know those little clear, seal-able, bags you are supposed to put your liquids in as you go through security at airports? If you “forget” to put a bottle in your carry on bag you will get found out, as I did today!

Edinburgh Festival 2015 – Day Three

 A quiet start to the day but it did include opening presents as today was my birthday. We walked along Princes Street in the sunshine which was ironic as the forecast had, of course, been for rain and the incoming texts from home described the torrential rain there.  Still we were going to make the most of it.

Our first festival appointment was a lunchtime audience with The Bletchley Girls, four women in their nineties who had been involved in helping to break the Enigma code during the war. For years I have found the Enigma story fascinating reading books and watching films, both fact and fiction, about it but this was an opportunity to hear first hand just what it was like to be working on the effort to crack the code.

Each woman’s story was interesting but what I found most astonishing was their willingness to join the war effort. All joined up early, one at 16 and most voluntarily. And not just to do some job away from the front line either, they wanted to be in the thick of it, driving ambulances in France for example. However, they never really got that opportunity much because they were whisked away to Bletchley or associated outposts.

It was a really interesting way to spend an hour and I sincerely hope I am that sprightly when I am in my nineties!

Late afternoon we were booked in to see John Lloyd of QI fame. Before going in we went to a local coffee place and while there I looked up and saw John Lloyd grabbing a pre-show coffee and muffin. He sat alone at a table unnoticed, it seemed to me, by the rest of the clientèle. This led me to thinking about just who were the others in the cafe? For all I knew everyone there was someone waiting to go onto perform somewhere. There are certainly enough venues and shows for almost everyone you bump into in Edinburgh to be an entertainer. Where do they all stay?

Things like this are a continual conundrum to me. I am fascinated to know how many of these shows make any money. The average entry price is about £10 and while most of the shows we have been to have been, I would say, at 80+% capacity but pretty small. With promotion, venue costs and the like there cannot be any left for the performers, surely?

This sort of postulating was very much the territory for John Lloyd which while it was amusing, it was more intellectual and thought provoking than anything else we have seen. I had seen him do something similar on a TED talk.

After a meal out to celebrate my birthday we had one more event booked, a 10pm Gershwin piano recital, which was something of a departure from what we had done so far.

Tomorrow we fly back but there is time for one more event first thing if we can be bothered to get up in time for it…

Edinburgh Festival 2015 – Day Two

The festival doesn’t really get going until about lunchtime so we filled the morning with, firstly, a trip to The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art to see the Roy Litchenstein exhibit. They also had an exhibit of one of my other favourite artists, MC Escher, but we had seen the same one when we were in Rome last year so we passed on that.

Running alongside the main festival is also a book festival so I deposited Helen there before going to a hotel over the road where they were holding a record fair. It has been years, probably decades, since I last visited such a thing and I had imagined a number of rooms full of ancient vinyl but this was tiny. However, they did have some records that I hadn’t seen for a while. Who could resist Mike Rutherford’s underrated “Small Creeps Day”?

A quick stop for lunch and then a walk down the Royal Mile. This is where the real festival action is. It was stuffed full of visitors and people promoting their shows pushing flyers into your hand. Some also give a detailed explanation of just why you should see it.

Having a fistful of flyers we stepped aside to consider what we wanted and what we had time for. In the end we plumped for Departures, a musical set on a railway platform. We were let into the theatre right on time which I thought was strange as they left no time for us to get seated but the reason for this quickly became clear when the actors came on and purchased railway tickets from the “ticket office” while we filed in. It was well done and very enjoyable and was a lucky pick given the random nature of its selection.

Similarly our next show was something we had seen advertised on a street hoarding and so could have been hit or miss. It was described as Stomp meets Animal from the Muppets and that was probably doing it a disservice.

Fills Monkey are two French drummers and boy could they drum. They had two kits and plenty of props – I had never seem drums played with tennis balls before, for example. It was funny and high energy and they got a well deserved standing ovation at the end.

One of the things you need to consider with the festival is the logistics. While Edinburgh is a compact and walkable city things can still be on the other side of town from each other. This was the issue we had this evening where our dinner reservation which sandwiched two shows and was a mile and a half away. The up side of this was that by the end of the day I had more than doubled my daily steps target and we had walked over 10 miles!

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Our final stop was to see Marcus Brigstocke who we have seen a couple of times before and knew him to be good. Through a luck of timing we ended up on the front row which was a mixed blessing given that the show included cheese and nudity! He was, however, incredibly funny. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so loud. It was a really great end to the day.

Oh and the weather today continued to be great!

Edinburgh Festival 2015 – Day One

The Edinburgh festival has been on my bucket list for years and given that this year it also coincides with a “significant” birthday (all birthdays are significant but this one ends in a zero) we thought that we would celebrate by making the trip.

Like every holiday we take we plan it within an inch of its life and this one was no different. By the time we flew up here we already had a number of shows in the bank. However, we will look to supplement those with both some free shows and a bit of culture.

So far the trip has been full of surprises:

  1. The plane left Heathrow on time
  2. The plane arrived at Edinburgh half an hour early
  3. The sun was shining in Edinburgh
  4. Let me repeat that the SUN WAS SHINING IN EDINBURGH!
  5. There is a lovely new tram to take you from the airport to the centre of the city.

The marvellous weather was, quite frankly, an added bonus as the forecast has been for rain this week, in fact it is still showing as such, so we made the most of it while we had the chance.

Being Fringe virgins we weren’t quite sure what to expect. The first show we had booked was called “Victoria Wood + Me”, a one woman show performing the songs and sketches of Victoria Wood. The venue was tiny. Had I thought about it that would have made perfect sense of course, with so many shows on they can’t all be in massive grand theatres. The show was enjoyable but we probably knew the work too well to find it laugh out loud as we did the first time we heard them but still it was a good introduction and a good bit of fun.

Our next show was the other side of the City but one of the great things about Edinburgh is that it is very compact and eminently walkable. We had booked to see The Missing Hancocks where actors take on the parts of those from Hancock’s Half Hour and re-enact two radio shows, the scripts of which were missing and they were never aired. It was very simply done – it was as if you were watching the recording of the radio programme – but was brilliant, so funny. Made better by the actors seeming to enjoy it so much too. There were a number of bits that seemed to be ad libbed but you can’t really be sure – they are actors after all.

All the shows we have booked are part of the Fringe, so not the Festival at all, but there is so much else going on here away from the shows. Already we have been to a craft show and taken a wander through the book festival. Tomorrow we have booked to see a show described as a cross between “stomp and the muppets” – should be fun!