Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Fringe and the Steps

Have I been dreaming? it is as though I have spent the last week or so at a non-stop surreal party. The Edinburgh fringe scene can’t really be described. Or it can, but rather as one might describe a dream. I still feel as though I’m half in the dream and a bit out of the body so won’t try (and can't work out how to download the video footage we took, and Him Outdoors is watching football) - but it was full of people and sound and extraordinary exuberance. I have come home to this:

and walked on the forest today to try and bring myself back. But I still have Festival in my ears and eyes.

We had an apartment right bang in the middle of the Royal Mile where much of the action is, in one of the tall old tenement buildings where Robert Burns apparently hung out during his time in Edinburgh, from where we could watch the tail end of the military tattoo pass by at night, and yet the bedroom at the back was quiet. Daughter stayed out partying until the small hours and slept on a futon in the huge front room and it might all have been perfect but for one little detail: we had booked a first floor apartment but they put us at the top of the building. There were seventy seven stone steps to climb up the circular staircase. Something to do with “overflow”, or the fact that the agency had fucked up and/or didn’t know or care about the reality of dealing with this when you have M.E. – which I had told them about. I am hounding them for compensation. And that’s all I will say about this except to vow to you, my brothers and sisters, that when I have finished hounding they will know and care a great deal more.

On Wednesday I met up with lovely NMJ and we had supper together. I said I’d be wearing something purple, but spotted her at once, sitting at the back of the restaurant scanning the menu. We slipped into conversation as easily as if we’d already known each other a while – which we have, in a way. We talked about life and blogging, and then we talked about blogging and life (and I could not resist asking about the vittun cooker hood), over a very nice starter of haggis, neeps and mash with a whisky gravy followed by some leathery steak, coffee and chocolate. Then we noticed everyone else had gone. We were hustled out too soon for my liking, would have liked more time. But I’ll probably be back again next year – by which time NMJ’s book will be out and I may have completed chapter one of mine.

We were near the café where JK Rowling began writing Harry Potter and it struck me that the locality was just how I pictured the settings for the daily life and business of the wizards and witches. The world of the non-magical muggles is the privet-hedged estate of dormitory/commuter middle-england and the magical world is Edinburgh old town, I’m sure of it.

I saw eleven shows. The four highlights were (in the order I saw them):
- A play my daughter directed.
- A jazz a cappella group my son was part of.
- “Woody Sez” – the story of folksinger Woody Guthrie, including his own words and songs.
- Jerry Sadowitz – superb (“world’s most offensive”) comedian.

The two real bummers were:
- A ghastly play about William Wordsworth, his sister, wife and opium addicted mate Sam Coleridge, inexplicably given four stars and it makes the one-woman Dorothy Wordsworth show satirised in the film “Festival” (showing tomorrow 11.40 C4) look like sheer genius.
- An hour of Scottish folk of the kind that endlessly, and with nauseating coyness, prods at the imagined sensibilities of the Sassenachs and whose idea of humour is a cheeky little ditty about Nessie the monster.

And there I was wanting Hamish Imlach. But he’s deid.


Kahless said...

Hello Signs,
Welcome back. Glad to hear you had a fab time in Edinburgh.

I smiled when you said

And that’s all I will say about this except to vow to you, my brothers and sisters, that when I have finished hounding they will know and care a great deal more.

You go girl!

You wrote a nice description too of meeting NMJ. Must be weird though meeting a fellow blogger in RL?

Reading the Signs said...

You know, Kahless, the weird thing was that it wasn't weird at all - felt as though we already knew each other.

And (re. stairs) oh yess! Watch this space.

Rabbit said...

Glad to hear you had a nice time at the festival. The stairs situation sounds awful though.

You can see more of bill at, this one was only a quick idea for Illustration Friday but was also brought on by loads of people crashing here for the festival :)

NMJ said...

Hey you, Just to say again was so lovely to meet you, hope you were not too done in by your trip/many stairs.

And I am jealous as hell of your tranquil surroundings - I want to lie down on that forest floor!

Eleven shows, you're bound to get a couple of duds, nine out of eleven ain't bad.

Hamish Imlach, I had forgotten all about him, Cod Liver & Orange Juice is so wonderful, I will have it in my head all day.

(It's not strange at all, Kahless, not if you have made a real connection with that person, we all flit around each others' blogs, it's cool, but there are a few we feel a real affinity for. And you know you will get on when you meet that person. You just know!)

That's so pants said...

Hi Signs

I'm so glad son's and daughter's events were the best - not that they wouldn't be, of course.

Can't wait to hear what happens when you get your claws out for those thoughtless gobshites who put you on the top floor.



Reading the Signs said...

Hi Rabbit, I'll enjoy looking at that. Living in the land of Festival, with loads of people crashing at yours, must so take it out of you. You need to be able to shut the door. Well, last night today.

NMJ, I wish you could beam yourself here and come and lie down in the heather (I know it's associated with Scotland but we have lots here too) - it's warm and we could have a picnic under
the trees.

I love Hamish! I remember seeing him in Edinburgh years ago. Must find a way of getting some of his songs.

Hi Pants, I usually keep my claws well hidden - but once they're out I do get stuck in, which I think they've just begun to realise. I got a "courtesy" call today (the bastards). It's not just the money I want. I'm on something of a mission to have this thing recognised. It made the week much harder and more painful - and many PWME would not have been able to manage at all.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back -- from the emotional and physical flight you climbed.

I am with NMJ in that to see 11 shows and come away with four sure winners is a pretty good stroke of luck -- and to see your lovely, talented children each do their thing in one of them, well, it must be bliss. And speaking of NMJ, how grand that you too could meet. I envy both of you.

Lovely images, Ms. Signs.

Robert said...

Beautiful British Heather. Miss it already.

Reading the Signs said...

Hi David, yes it was all grand - apart from the stairs.

Robert - I think I have noticed it more than usual this year. It is extraordinarily lush.

the periodic englishman said...

An hour of Scottish folk of the kind that endlessly, and with nauseating coyness, prods at the imagined sensibilities of the Sassenachs and whose idea of humour is a cheeky little ditty about Nessie the monster....

Yes. Don't be wasting your time with that kind of shite in the future, please, Signs. You've really only got yourself to blame. I think, perhaps, it would be a good idea if the ghastly Scottish people involved in such things could be hurt quite publicly with knotted ropes. It would certainly make them think twice, in any event - an improvement of roughly 200% on their previous efforts at thought.

Apart from that, hello. It's lovely to have you back, deservedly proud mother that you are. Good luck with your war against the apartment guys, by the way. Hurt them, Signs, hurt them very roughly indeed.

Kind regards and multiple good things,


Reading the Signs said...

My dear Mr. McEnglishman, I really feel you should have warned me about the unnacceptable face of the Scottish folk scene. I used to know all about this, but in a moment of weakness I completely forgot and by the time bum was on seat it was too late - btw me and Mr. Signs were the only Sassenachs in the audience (oh yes, they asked for a show of hands). Hoots, but they had a good time.

I have established (if that is the right word) a partial victory over the apartment people. Some dosh and a few comlimentary nights - which I'll accept as I'd like to go back again next year.

Sincere regards and a plethora of goodly things to you, Mr. Teepee.

Gael said...

All sounds lovely, especially seeing das kinder perform. I've never made the Festival, which is unforgivable given that i lived north of the border for four years : ( Shame Hotel World was only on for one week, would have been interested in your view of it.
And Yay for meeting bloggers - I met some very nice, apparently sane (well as sane as me, anyway, FWIW) ladies from the other place at Sissinghurst last week, a good time was had by all : )


Nearly, Ms McSensuality, but no cigar. I fully agree that you should have been warned about elements of the Scottish folk scene - maybe even held in restraints until your urge to see such a thing had passed - but feel that NMJ was better placed to carry out this necessary task. She failed you, sister.

That is hideous that they asked for a show of hands. I'm sorry, it just is. Maybe you could seek compensation from them, too? What were the odds of you finding the perfomance even more tiring than the effort it took you to get there? Seventy-seven stone steps must have seemed like a picnic compared to that.

You're on a roll, Signs, take them to the McCleaners - the daft wee jaunty Jock bigots.

I'll have a word with NMJ. I feel she's probably to blame for all of this. Oh, I really love the purple in your photographs, by the way. Gorgeous.

Space hugs and mwahs,


(hello Gael)

Reading the Signs said...

The thing is, Mr.McTeepee, when I met with NMJ, I myself was unaware that I had this urge - perhaps my enthusiasm for haggis might have suggested something, but then she was just as keen on it as I. I like the idea of chasing them for compensation and, as you say, I'm on a roll. But, but - they will probably offer me complimentary tickets to more of their terrible gigs. I deserve something, though, you're right. Mwah back atcha.

Hey Gael I'd love to have seen Hotel World as it's my favourite Ali Smith. I hope you make the Festival some time - it's a buzz, exhausting but good. Oh, Sissinghurst - I've never been, which is ridiculous as I'm not even that far away. And you met up? Would like to hear more about it all.


A worthwhile worry, Signs, but you’re clearly not thinking far enough out of the box here. What you need to do is write (out of the blue) to the management team of these folksy performers and absolutely insist that they never send you complimentary tickets for one of the shows. Be firm and unequivocal:

Dear Management Team,

don’t you even think about sending me free tickets to one of those folk shows, k? No need to respond, I’ll take your silence as acceptance of my terms.

Mrs Signs

I’m telling you, Signs, I’ve lost count of the victories I’ve scored over pint-sized millionaire and racing car supremo Bernie Ecclestone this way. I detest Formula One and always make sure to thwart in advance any notion that Ecclestone may have of trying to foist freebie grandstand tickets my way on the eve of the Monaco Grand Prix. I’ve never had any trouble from him, you know, and these victories help make me feel good about myself. Your husband, proud Gunner that he is, may want to write in a similar vein to the board at White Hart Lane.

Yes. So there's a chance I need to shut up now, quite urgently. Do keep eating haggis, though. (I've only ever had vegetarian haggis. I think that is maybe a wee bit shameful.)

McMwahs upon your person,


Reading the Signs said...

I like this, Mr. McTeepee. I can think of a number of other people to send this to, including Davina McCall - should she ever think of inviting me into the BB house.

I'm supposed to have received an email confirming details of agreed compensation from the bastard apartment people. I suppose one shouldn't count chickens etc. Getting ready to launch Woman on the Edge of Psychotic Breakdown if I don't hear tomorrow. Heck, it passes the time.

p.s. Veggie haggis no good - honest, I've tried it and it's nothing like the real thing. But you know this anyway, surely.

Collin said...

I've always wanted to go the festival. Sounds like you had an amazing time, despite the clunkers.

cusp said...

Glad you had a lovely time -- apart from the steps. Duff accomodation can ruina holiday. Go after them like a terrier.

Reading the Signs said...

Hi Collin,

I hope you manage to get there some time.

Hi Cusp,

I thought we'd come to some "arrangement" but they have gone very quiet so teeth and claws out again (have something more cat-like in mind).

NMJ said...

now, now, periodic pony & signs, don't be blaming me for the shite scottish music. x

Reading the Signs said...

NMJ dear, believe me I blame no-one but - I was almost going to say myself, but no, I blame Mr. Signs - he got the tickets. It was to please me, fair enough, because he knew I wanted to see some Scottish folk, but as I said to him later, he should just have known it would be shite from the look of them on the flyer photo.

Are you well after travelling?

Anna MR said...

Whaaaaaaat - vegetarian haggis?!

(Sorry, folksy Signs - I need to take a moment to talk to McTeepee the Indian Ch(i)ef for a bit)

Such a thing exists? What in God's sweet name is it made of, McPoni - the stomach and intestines of a very large swede? And could you make me some, please, pronto. Because I have always wanted to taste haggis, so as to be able to say I've eaten it, but have been disabled in this desire by my silly eating disorders.

And Signs, honey, the post upstairs is beautiful, about the pain in your room. I need to go back and reread it.

Mwah-mwah-mwah's all round. I won't tell you what the word ver is, because it's not funny.

(except now it is rhono - a large African pachiderm with a mild case of dyslexia)


Ha. Well I lied, unwittingly, Anna MR. I've actually had real haggis (once) in a restaurant in Portugal. Beautiful. Wouldn't touch it again for large sums of money, though. I've never made vegetarian haggis, I must admit, but you should probably gather up a collection of nuts, lentils, beans, onions, oatmeal and spices and then just sort of trip and fall. Scrape together the mess on the floor and whack it on a plate. Bingo. Vegetarian haggis. Or vegetarian anything, in fact.

I'm still working on the problem of getting a veggy haggis to you, Finlander, rest easy. You must taste it.

Signs - I see that NMJ popped in from Helsinki to tick you off. Fully deserved, if I may say so.

You didn't like the veggy haggis you tried? That's a shame. Some of them can be reasonably good - MacSween's esp. do quite a nice version. You're doubtless right, though, the real thing is better than any pale beany and lentilly imitations. Vegetarians are weird (just take a look at how Anna behaves).

Did you watch the Big Brother finale last night? Or were you busy pestering me as I tried to do so? I forget. I think you would make a brilliant contestant in the house, Signs, so don't write to Davina just yet. Sleep on it.

Your wise guru, spreading warmth,


Reading the Signs said...

Hiya Anna, merci pour les comments re. upstairs.

Wise Guru, 'tis done. Have sent letter to D McC post haste. No reply as yet but then she's been busy. Of course I've been pestering - Down With BB!

(would much rather watch the McTeePee House - there's a thought)

NMJ said...

hey all, i would just like to say that macsweens haggis, veggie & meat are both delicious, you can barely tell the difference.

signs, i am f***ing knackered, completely overdrawn at the energy bank, but still having a good time, if you know what i mean. it is pretty easy to get around with minimal walking.

pony, brian won, yippee!!! i am delighted & was just saying over at mell d's that i predicted exactly this order of winners. am i brilliant or what?


Reading the Signs said...

NMJ, if you are overdrawn I will have a word with Headquarters to arrange an interest-free loan. Leave it to me, I have friends in High Places.

Re. the veggie haggis - it just doesn't seem to have the same kick, and I speak as one who loves her lentils etc.

Who is Brian? Who is BB? Am I going bonkers? Down with them, down with them I say.

(enter men in white coats from BB Ministry of Mental Health with straightjacket, gag and large syringe).

Anna MR said...

McSigns, McTeepee, McLegs - now that I have a recipe for vegetarian haggis, consider yourselves invited over to my place (well, you know, as soon as I again have a place - and it shouldn't be all that long now), to dinner. You know what I'll be cooking. We can then also do a quadruple blog swap and really confuse issues for people, it'll be brilliant. Maybe we can even set up a webcam and go into competition with BB (another brilliant idea, Signs, go girl).

urnkur - you are now cured (it'll be the friends in High Places)

vfnoxcf - very friendly noxious cooking feat

Reading the Signs said...

Are you psychic, McMr? I have just been telling McTeepee about my vfnoxcf. I'm on my way over to your place, ready or not. Prepare the mash and neeps.

Anna MR said...

McSigns, you are welcome. Try to ignore the fact I'll be in a state of high agtfxs (agitated fixation - a state of mind which effects me when valued people come round to eat food I haven't cooked before).

Mwah - and yes, I am psychic. You must be, too, because how else would you have guessed?