The end of the Edinburgh Festival (and I feel fine)

So it’s the final weekend of the Edinburgh Fringe! Thank goodness. Fun though it has been, it’s time for life to calm down again… or at least time to start drinking a little less and sleeping a little more.

I did a post halfway through the Fringe, about some of my highlights at that stage, and I’ve already done one over-emotional post about some of the lovely people I encountered throughout August, but here are some of my other festival moments I haven’t had a chance to ramble about yet.

Nom Nom

We might as well get the food chat out of the way. Lord knows you’ve probably worked out by now that the only think I enjoy more than eating is writing about eating. Next year I’m determined to spend an entire day wandering from food stall to food stall, trying everything that the Fringe has to offer. This year I only made it to one or two old favourites, but found time to taste the offerings at a couple of new stalls too.

The fabulous Passion 4 Juice bar had been moved from its usual spot outside the Gilded Balloon to a new, much quieter, location on the south side of George Square. They were rightfully indignant at being bumped down the culinary pecking order. From what I overheard, while I was subtly eavesdropping on the muttering punters outside Teviot, the indignation was twofold, and Passion 4 Juice’s presence was much missed in that part of town. Irrespective of Edinburgh’s geographical politics, though, their fresh, zingy smoothies with shots of ginseng and echinacea remain awesome… If you need to recover from over-indulging in their evening offerings (Hot Apple Cider) then I recommend the watermelon, pineapple and mint.

The strawberry and Nutella crepes at C Too provided some sweet and very welcome warmth for DorkySon and me as we queued for a show in the rain. We made almost daily visits to the Mackies Ice Cream bike, shared several hummus and carrot sandwiches in the Pleasance Courtyard, and thought we’d found our favourite festival food when we had the lamb burger from the lovely Outsider people in George Square. BUT… that was before we’d found the Laughing Stock stall tucked away in a corner under the purple head of the Udderbelly. Not just the tastiest burger and chips I can remember eating at the Festival, but the tastiest burger and chips I can remember eating anywhere in a long, long time. I really hope they’ll be back next year.

Earworms

“Sure!” I said. “I’ll do the kids shows! One a day for the entire Fringe.”

Little did I know that I was exposing myself to some of the most persistent earworms known to man. I owe a large and sincere apology to the numerous festivalgoers who have caught me wandering around the city, pushing DorkySon in his pram, belting out songs from whatever kiddy theatre performance I’ve just left.  My voice is not the best. In fact, it’s pretty horrendous. Normally I mime when singing Happy Birthday at family parties. But still…

“I am a mole… and I know… that it is none of my business.”

“Hairy Maclary…. from Donaldson’s Dairy.”

And my enduring favourite… “Stick Man” – pause – “lives in the family tree” – pause – “with his stick lady love, and stick children three.”

Cue jazzhands.

Perhaps by this time next year they’ll have stopped going round, and round, and round in my head. And I’ll be ready for Toddler Tunes Take Two. Bring your earplugs in 2012, people.

Loveliness

If the downside of reviewing kids shows is earworms, then the upside is meeting some of the nicest people at the Festival. I’ve already rumbled on about meeting John Hegley, and being taken aback by how lovely and normal he was. My second interview was science communicator and BBC presenter Marty Jopson. If he’d not had another interview and a performance to do, I would have happily sat under an umbrella in George Square and chatted to him all day. He was interesting! Self-deprecating! Smart, funny, and kind! Obviously he hadn’t received the memo instructing him to display all his performer lanyards prominently and act like a complete arse.

I thought encountering two nice performers was already pushing the boundaries of possibility… and then I found myself reviewing Kevin Cruise. I expected to hate it. I actually loved it. And because I was the only reviewer who bothered to show up to the Bosco Tent in the middle of the afternoon to see him, KC was terribly grateful. I woke up, the morning after my review was published, to a lovely email from him saying thank you.

It was all very civilised indeed. If I am lucky enough to be given the opportunity next year, I will definitely be sticking with the Kids section.

DorkySon upstages his Dad

So I’d made plans to meet a friend for coffee in the Forest Café, not realising that DorkyDad was doing a poetry reading in there the same day, as part of the 36 hour No Sleep In Bristo event. We showed up just as he was coming to the end of his set  – DorkySon couldn’t even see his Dad, as a decent-sized audience and a dividing wall blocked his view – but he sure as heck heard him.

“DADA!” he yelled!

“Shhh…” I whispered. “Daddy’s reading his poems.”

“LET ME OUT, MAMA!”

“Let’s just listen for a minute.”

“I WANT TO SEE DADA”

“In a minute…”

“WHERE IS DADA? DAAAADAAAAAA? WHERE ARE YOU?”

So I let DorkySon out of his pram; just as DorkyDad was starting to read a poem about him. He rushed up, snuggled into his Dad’s legs for a minute, did a couple of twirls for the audience, just to make sure he’d been noticed, and then scooted back over to me. He doesn’t like to be the centre of attention for too long, DorkySon, but he likes to know that you’ve noticed him.

My other highlights, in no particular order, are: The Incredible Book Eating Boy; meeting up with old university friends; Bubblewrap and Boxes; walking along Jawbone Walk and seeing lots of eggs hanging from the trees; a very temporary exhibition of canvases, hammered to the trees, also on Jawbone Walk; overhearing someone tell John Malkovich that their favourite film of his was Con Air; the colour John Malkovich’s face turned when he heard that; hearing my sweet DorkySon say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ everywhere we went; the Fest end-of-festival staff meal, even though I bailed out to go to bed at 9.30pm; getting squashed on the bus by an embarrassed looking man with a tuba; Fest’s Kid Critics; being very proud of DorkyDad for his show; seeing the outpouring of love for the Forest Café; being grown-up enough that I don’t feel the need to wear my press pass anymore; someone at the BBC saying to my husband “You’re married to DorkyMum? She’s a legend!”

Edinburgh Fringe: The Halfway Point

We’re halfway! Or almost. It may be only one week into the Edinburgh Fringe, but on Sunday the third issue of Fest magazine will be sent to the printers, with only two further issues to go… and by Monday afternoon DorkyDad will have done five of his solo spoken word shows, with only four more shows left in the run.

There is plenty fun left to be had, (and hopefully the sun will make an appearance at some point too), but here are some of my highlights (and a couple of lowlights) so far.

Highlight: Fest writer cuts out the middlemen

This made me laugh. We wanted to do an interview with the wonderful Neil Gaiman for the Kids section of Fest. Stevie – the writer who was assigned the job – spent several days trying to track him down – through the Book Festival Press Office, then Neil’s publishers, then his PR, then his PA…  They were all very friendly, but noncommittal because Neil was ‘travelling’. When her calls weren’t returned, she finally resorted to sending him a message on Twitter, and within an hour they’d got a time and venue set up. Seems he was in Edinburgh after all. Props to Stevie for tracking the man down, and props to Neil for responding so positively. You can read the interview here.

Lowlight: Rain

There’s really not a lot to be said about the rain, except that it is ever-present. It makes everything harder – flyering, queuing, getting DorkySon’s pram into any of the outdoor venues, finding somewhere to have lunch – and I hope it goes away soon.

Highlight: I pretend to be John Hegley, briefly

I was lucky enough to spend half an hour interviewing John Hegley, who is also in town with a show. We started chatting about social media, and I mentioned seeing that he’d joined Twitter a few days earlier, and was already up to 2500 followers. “Well yes,” he said. “But a friend set me up and I don’t really know how to use it. There’s something I want to say to all my Twitter followers today though. If I give you my password will you send it out for me?”

Umm…

So he wrote what he wanted to say in my notebook (and, amazingly, it was exactly 140 characters long….), and then he wrote down his password. And when I came home, I logged into John Hegley’s Twitter account and sent a Tweet on his behalf.

I’m still scratching my head about that one. What an amazingly trusting, lovely man. You can read the interview here.

 Lowlight: Rioting

Okay, so the riots didn’t spread this far North. You can see the full extent of the Edinburgh riots here. (You really should watch that, it’ll make you laugh…) But the city is full of Londoners at this time of year, and it wasn’t much fun for them to sit several hundred miles away, watching the news footage on TV and wondering if they were going to have homes to go back to. Nearly a week on, and most comedians have incorporated something about the rioting into their show, but it still cast a shadow over proceedings for the opening weekend.

Highlight: Fest’s Kid critics cut everyone down to size

‘How cute!’ everyone said. ‘What a nice idea’ they cried. Yes, everyone thought it was a great idea to have children – aged between 5 and 10 – reviewing children’s shows for Fest… until they started to read the submissions.

“I did get bored as it was a bit too long.”

“One of the actors sometimes forgot their lines.”

“I only give the show one star.”

Personally, I think they’re some of the best reviews I’ve ever read of the festival. Completely honest, to the point, and BS free. The kids aren’t self-conscious, they don’t dress things up with long words, and they write for themselves rather than their audience. If there’s any justice, they’ll be back again next year.

Lowlight: Celeb Spotting

I’m not doing very well with this yet. I’ve seen Mark Watson walking up some steps in George Square, and Stewart Lee pushing a pram through the rain in Marchmont. Meanwhile my friends are putting pictures of themselves with John Malkovich up on Facebook. Must do better.

Sorry for the lack of blog posts at the mo. Hopefully that gives you some idea why. Normal service will be resumed in September.

Live In The Now August

Although Scribbling Mum will no longer be hosting the link-up, I’ve decided to carry on with the tradition she started of doing a monthly Live In The Now post. This is partly a look at what’s to come in August, and partly a reflection on 2011, since we’re now well into the second half of the year.

There is a stack of empty pizza boxes by the front door, that haven’t yet made it out to the recycling bins. Mounds of clean but unfolded laundry are piled high on every available surface. Our plates are shifted from dishwasher, to dinner table, and back to dishwasher again, without ever making it into the cupboards. Welcome to the Edinburgh Festival.

How did it get to be August? Didn’t we just celebrate DorkySon’s second birthday in March, and didn’t I just start this blog in April? Didn’t DorkyDad go to Paris for the Poetry Slam World Cup in May? Didn’t we go to the States in June, and Ireland in July, and how did it get to be August already?

It was a long winter in Edinburgh. There was more snow in the city that we’d ever seen before. People were cold, and crabbit, and could never get an answer when they called the council offices, trying to find out if the pavements would ever be cleared. We had chest infections, and stomach bugs, and arguments with our neighbours. The bin men didn’t show up for weeks.

We have earned our sunshine, I think, but tonight it is raining in Edinburgh. It always rains in Edinburgh, especially during the Festival.

We started DorkySon at nursery in March – for two mornings a week – and making the decision to do that was one of the hardest things I’ve done as a parent, but a few months on it feels like it has been good for him, and me.

Right now, he is discovering how much fun language can be. He loves to find expressions that make us laugh. When we sit in the bath at night he asks us for ‘big words’ that he then tries to repeat. Sometimes he will join in adult conversations, with something hilariously leftfield but surprisingly appropriate. (I was chatting to DorkyGranny the other day about the flight times for her upcoming holiday… “Remember to take your toothbrush,” said DorkySon.) And he drives us crazy by talking constantly, providing a full narration of everything he sees and feels, without any filter.

I love DorkySon’s honesty, and his lack of self-consciousness.. He has no hesitation pointing at someone on the bus and asking why they have purple hair. We are reviewing kids shows for the Festival just now, and although he is very well behaved, he is ‘that kid’ that always pipes up with a long and complicated question during a quiet moment. When he’s had enough of your company, he’ll come up and wave, and say ‘Bye Bye’. But that means that when he rushes up and throws his wee arms around your neck, and says ‘DorkySon loves Mama best’ you can trust that too.

DorkyDad and I are learning so much from our son. We too are rediscovering the joy of language – he through his poetry, and me through blogging and journalism. While our styles are very different, I think we are both mindful of how effective DorkySon’s simple and honest communication is, and we try to bear that in mind with our own writing.

We are both having our awkward moments – but not really with the writing, just with all the action that surrounds the writing. He only had ten people show up to his preview in London, one of whom was drunk and fell asleep. He tried to go to the Fringe’s Meet the Press event yesterday but the queues were too long and the rain was too heavy. I sat down to interview John Hegley a couple of days ago, and my Dictaphone jammed. But we are having fun.

There is a good chance that this will be our last summer in Edinburgh for a while, so we – all three of us – are packing in as much as we can. The rain doesn’t really matter so much. But I’m afraid the dishes and the laundry will have to wait.