A Musical Chain

Before we start, it seems worth noting that this far-from-august organ has been in existence for five years.  Who, back in 2010, would have thought it?  What pointless commitment to a rather foolish idea this demonstrates: if only I could generate the same long-term dedication to something more useful.  So, that little bit of admin over, let us proceed with post 675!

I should start by making clear that I have no intention of impinging on the copyright of Messrs Radcliffe and Maconie: rather than linking tracks, I shall be linking gigs through the interstitial medium of my own life.  Southampton has a surprisingly vibrant cultural scene, but does work quite hard to conceal this fact from the casual (or merely mildly determined) viewer.  I am becoming better connected, largely by using social media to stalk any individual, group or organisation that, by lucky chance, I discover – but this is a slow old process.  It would seem that most use social media to share images of themselves, their food or children and to shore-up their political beliefs and share videos of cats: I seem to mis-use it terribly by sharing bad jokes and attempting to find interesting gigs – but I don’t seem to be breaking any rules, so I shall continue with my slightly outré take on the virtual world.

Still, the last ten days have been pretty fruitful when it comes to finding live music.  It started, as so much does, at the Arthouse Cafe with my first visit to a Three Monkeys gig.  This involves three, unrelated guitarists who each play a song.  This is repeated three times, followed by an interval and then another 3×3 set of songs.  This is a very entertaining format and occurs every month – so I’ve only missed 24 or so.  At the end, I discovered that an Oxjam gig was taking place the following day in a vault beneath Southampton High Street – not much notice, but better than the negative notice which often accompanies my discovery of local culture (which is less than helpful given that my best wormhole, to date, has only allowed a worm to move a short distance within space).

The Oxjam gig involved a series of ‘acts’ playing a ~30 minute set across the afternoon and evening.  A broad range of music was covered, though mostly involving stringed instruments and remaining within sight (albeit sometimes aided by binoculars) of the folk genre.  A lot of fun, if a lot of standing up, and a chance to see half-a-dozen acts before I was forced to retire (a wise decision as my walk home just managed to beat the start of the monsoon which has been such a major characteristic of the end of August 2015).  Most significantly, the gig introduced me to a local singer-songwriter called Jack Dale and another two CDs were added to my collection.  I also discovered that another charitable gig involving a line-up of local, musical talent was taking place the following Sunday (or ‘yesterday’ as I now like to call it – but only for another twelve hours or so) at a pub just a short walk from Fish Towers.

I rather enjoyed spending the afternoon in a dank vault as the last of the summer’s sun beat down on those foolish enough to be outside.  No need to worry about UV protection for me!  However, I can’t help feeling that Oxfam would have done a little better financially had the gig been more widely publicised: it was rather sparsely attended and I only found out about it by chance (and would like to view myself as fairly core, potential audience).

Yesterday (see above), the Big Gig at The Shooting Star – a pub with a bar billiards table (among other delights), a rare sight in these debased times – was huge fun (and, I was even able to spend much of it sitting down).  The three bands on the bill, included two fronted by soloists seen the previous week at Oxjam.  The Horse – fronted by the aforementioned Jack Dale – were particularly entertaining and meant that I ended the night with a smile on my face (and once again, a lucky return home just before the heavens opened: I feel I’m going to pay for this continuing good fortune at some stage).    Another two CDs also managed to sneak their way into my flat: this burgeoning habit might start becoming a storage issue if I’m not careful.

The chain of musical events will continue on 3 October, which I now know to be Music in the City: where live music fills all manner of odd spaces across Southampton (and of which I’ve only missed two through complete ignorance of their existence).  I can only hope that this in turn reveals more musical events which have so far been hidden from my insufficiently curious gaze…

I have a dream

Well, if I’m being more honest, “I had a dream”.  This did not involve the aspiration that people would cease being vile to each other on the trivial grounds of how recently (and, indeed, willingly) their ancestors left Africa: I fear humanity is rather too attached to its mutual hatred to give it up during my limited span upon this Earth.  In consequence, I seriously doubt that even a single US state will create a public holiday as a result of this post – though, if any are interested, please feel free to go ahead!  No, my dream relates to my attempts to sojourn in the arms of Morpheus this night just gone.

I am fully aware that other people’s dreams are, if possible, of even less general interest than their baby photos and holiday snaps (though Facebook and its ilk are a brave attempt to fly in the face of this particular, undeniable truth), so I shall try and move swiftly through the dream-world and onto the conclusion (I deliberate avoid the world “punchline”).

As I lay in my hypnogogic state, it would seem that I was on a train journey – but one which was delayed by an unspecified, or now forgotten, incident.  In an attempt to avoid the incident, my train reversed for some distance and then took to the sea to bypass the problem.  Obviously, it remained close to shore – a modern EMU rake is not designed for operation in the open ocean (even a dream must maintain some contact with reality).  High above the sea flew winged men (but no women – this may say something very deep about my subconscious views on female flight-worthiness or be an attempt to retain a PG rating for my slumber as all the flying folk were bare-chested). Their wings had more of the condor about them than the angelic, replacing their arms, and they flew in a manner appropriate to their feathery appendages – no doubt riding thermals from the nearby cliffs.  As well as these flying men, their were also swans which dove – gannet-like – into the briny.  They emerged from the sea in a manner more reminiscent of an ICBM than a bird – it was really quite a remarkable thing to behold.

Even now, I can remember what I thought as I dreamt – still believing, as dreamers often do, that the matters described above were real – that this fascinating behaviour, by a hitherto unknown member of genus Cygnus, would make for a great blog post.  It would seem that even when dreaming, part of my brain is working on content for GofaDM – perhaps there is even another, parallel blog which exists only in the dream world?  Sadly, of course, none of this was real and so I was left with no new material from which to form a post – and so the hunt for fresh inspiration must continue…

Narrative commitment

Many years ago, I was accused by a colleague of trying to turn everything into a narrative – well, man is the story-telling ape (among other less complimentary epithets). Some of this urge is now sublimated through this very blog, but the urge remains strong.  I was recently reminded of one of the longest running of my personal narratives and have decided to regale you, poor reader, with the story.

I have not drunk milk since I was roughly eleven years old and, until fairly recently, as an adult only had it in the house if I was expecting visitors (and had remembered that most people expect milk to be available).  This can be traced back to an incident which occurred on my first French exchange trip to Boulogne.  The word ‘exchange’ is used in an unusual way here as my own body and that of a French youth of similar age were never actually swapped – at the time of all the exchanges (between three and four), our two bodies shared a residence: either his parents’ house or mine.

I was ‘exchanged’ at an abnormally young age as I was relatively good at French (compared to my fellow secondary modern students) and my French teacher (actually English) lacked issue of his own.  His counterpart, an English teacher (actually French) in France had a son my age and so he found himself in need of a suitable ‘swap’ – and I was apparently the best available option.  So, armed with a few verbs, limited vocabulary and whatever I had gleaned from Longman’s Audio-Visual French (and the doings of Marie-France, Jean-Paul and Claudette), I found myself as a guest of a French family in exotic Boulogne (well, it was exotic to me – but then I’d never left the mainland UK before).

Veiled as it is by the mists of time, I seem to recall that this whole Fish-out-of-water scenario went reasonably well and I managed to resist the urge to bring a flick-knife back into the UK (the very pinnacle of criminality back in 1978).  I do remember that my one-and-only attempt to play golf occurred on one of these trips – but clearly it was not successful enough for me to ever repeat it.  I also recall that the French students of English were obsessed by the relative merits of the words ‘shall’ and ‘will’ in sentence construction and I fear I could offer little in the way of enlightenment.

However, the relevance to today’s tale comes at meal-times.  At this stage, I had little experience of foreign food (though given this was 1970s Britain, you might think that anything would be an improvement on my local cuisine) but mostly handled the French offerings somewhat successfully.  My only major issue was with the mashed potatoes, which were not at all to my liking – and some measure of my disgust must have become apparent to my hosts.  Madame revealed that their creation involved milk, and so latching onto a convenient excuse ‘revealed’ that I didn’t like milk.  This was not, at the time, a true statement – but I felt it offered a polite route to a mashed potato-free diet without causing offence.

To maintain this fiction, I had to ensure I was never caught actually consuming milk while staying in Boulogne or when my French counterpart was staying with me in Kent.  Such is my level of commitment to this particular lie that from that day to this (almost forty years later), I have never drunk milk: well, you never know who might be watching and could carry word back to the staff of the Lycée Mariette.

Over time, the lie became true and I soon found milk to be nauseating – especially when warmed.  I consumed my breakfast cereal ‘moistened’ with the aid of yoghurt – which, in a cost-saving measure, my mother made at home.  This would often go a little fizzy, but I would still be expected to use it (in some ways, I came to prefer it): I have now come to realise that I may have been putting kefir on my cereal and so was probably slightly inebriated for a portion of my secondary school life.  After leaving home for university, I stopped drinking tea to further expunge milk from my diet.  Later, I realised that tea could be consumed black and so have returned to enjoying an infusion of the dried leaves of Camilla sinensis.  Today, I am even able to tolerate milk in my porridge and cocoa – but tend to go for a heavily-skimmed version which is, frankly, more water than milk.  At no stage did my invented antipathy towards milk spread to other dairy products – i.e. cheese, cream and yoghurt – which I have always loved and consumed in quantity.

I think what this story tells us is that ‘Yes, I will lie to you’ but that I will really commit to that falsehood.  You have been warned!

Spoken Word

GofaDM lies, almost exclusively, tied to the written medium in which it was created.  Despite this handicap, readers should not feel embarrassed to read it out loud – nor even to arrange soirées at which treasured extracts are read aloud and shared with an audience of right-minded folk (obviously, if money changes hands at such events, I shall expect to receive a cut).  Perhaps I should consider preparing an audiobook version of this blog?  This could attract those with fading (or faded) eyesight, that class of folk unwilling to commit to the effort of reading themselves and drivers others.

But that is, very much, by the by.  This post will instead form my final dispatch from the Edinburgh Fringe (you do know that I can hear you cheering, even at the back).  The Fringe brochure does have a very modest section entitled Spoken Word – but has much larger sections entitled Comedy and Theatre.  In my experience, both comedy and theatre do involve the verb “to speak” being applied rather directly and repeatedly to the the noun “word”.  For the avoidance of doubt, I shall be applying the title to cover theatre and poetry and the strange shadowlands that lie between.

One of the joys of the Fringe is the huge range of spoken word (my definition) on offer, usually (for budgetary reasons) with a cast of two or fewer.  One can see in a week a bigger range than is usually possible in a year: the challenge is always in the selection and the regret about the ones that “got away”: either from a failure of discovery or excess discovery by others (i.e. sold out weeks in advance).  Below are my recommendations from this year’s Fringe:

  • The Solid Life of Sugar Water: a two-handed play by Jack Thorne.  Given the bleakness of the material, it is about a couple dealing with the death of a child, this play has a lot of laughs – and I coped rather better emotionally than many fellow attendees.  I like to believe that it ended with a slight hint of hope for the future – but this may just be part of my own coping mechanism.  The staging is very clever and the two actors were both disabled: she was deaf (as required by the script) and he was largely missing one forearm (not mentioned in the play, so far as I noticed).  This made me realise how rare this is to see – especially where the disability isn’t a primary focus of the ‘action’.  In the real world, people with such ‘minor’ disabilities are far more common than you could guess from stage or screen – much like women and ethnic minorities and with as little excuse (though even less pushback).  Something to bear in mind in my own future theatre-going.
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family by Ben Norris.  I can’t remember how I discovered Ben Norris (I don’t think he’s been on The Verb, so it must have been via Twitter) but this was my first chance to see him live.  The piece fuses theatre and poetry (and slide-show) very cleverly and was really enjoyable.  In a normal year, it would have been my poetry highlight, but this year was eclipsed by…
  • What I learned from Johnny Bevan by Luke Wright.  I’ve seen Luke’s poetry sets before, but this turned poetry into theatre and was at a whole new level.  Luke is a surprisingly decent actor (and can carry-off a top-knot with surprising élan) and the play is incredibly powerful, despite the very simple staging (and perhaps enhanced by the amazing venue at Summerhall – one time veterinary college).  This has rightly obtained very good reviews, though tickets were still surprisingly easy to obtain last week.
  • Stay at Home Dandy by Luke Wright.  After WILFJB, both Luke and I (separately) high-tailed it across Edinburgh to the Underbelly for his other show (the boy does like a challenge!).  This was a more traditional poetry set about his life on the school run, but is a lot of fun and well worth seeing.
  • This Will End Badly by Rob Hayes.  Once actor plays three characters, switching between them apparently at random (I suspect there may be more pattern than this, but I’d have to watch it more times to be sure) each in problematic situations.  The three characters have different accents and mannerisms which helps the audience to keep up, but you do need to concentrate.  Another powerful piece and a veritable torrent of words.  I saw it directly before Luke Wright’s two shows and by the end of this spoken word ‘trilogy’ and the level of concentration needed, I think my brain was starting to ooze out through my ears.

I find it even harder to select spoken word shows than stand-up (there is less chance to catch  works via YouTube, TV or radio – or I don’t know where to look) and I am more dependent on reviews or following writers or theatre companies whose work I have enjoyed in the past.  I guess 80% of this year’s highlights were from writers whose work I somewhat knew and the other came via a review – otherwise, the range on offer is just too great.  Still, this feels like an area of cultural life in which I should try and do better  and expand my horizons (it’s usually inexpensive, so no excuse there) – and not just at Edinburgh!

Self-medicating

It has often been said, mostly by those with no medical training, that laughter is the best medicine.  While I was up in Edinburgh, I developed a cold (OK, as this did not involve a lab and a team of rogue geneticists perhaps I should say a caught one) and I am unconvinced that any over-the-counter ‘medicines’ have any positive impact on the progress of the virus (except – if I’m lucky – for acting as a brief palliative).  However, my location and the time of year did mean that I did extensively self-medicate with comedy.  The cold proved very mild and the worst of the symptoms swiftly passed – could this be down to my frequent laughter?  Or was this purely coincidental?  As I am unwilling to be infected with multiple cold viruses and then ‘treated’ with varying degrees and styles of comedy we will probably never know – sorry folks, my commitment to the advancement of scientific knowledge only stretches so far.

Despite my obviously overweening self-regard, I do realise that the vast majority of the readership of this blog will not be visiting the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  However, this is also true for significantly more august organs with a much wider readership and the fact doesn’t stop them – and so it won’t stop me.  Plus, I do have an actual reader request for my comedy highlights!  And, you never know, these funny folk may visit a venue near you one day…

So, in no particular order (though I have not properly randomised the list) are my favourite ‘acts’ from those I saw over the last week.

  • Kieran Hodgson (FF): this is the third year I’ve seen Kieran’s one man show, in which he tells a story playing all of the characters.  The bad news (for me) is that his genius has now been recognised by others, including a 5* review in The Guardian, which may make him rather harder to see in future (or it may involve arriving very early to be sure of a seat).
  • John Robins: probably my 5th or 6th visit to his Edinburgh shows.  He really is a very funny performer, mining two-and-half relatively minor incidents for a full hour of laughs.
  • Brett Goldstein: my first time, inspired by seeing SuperBob earlier in the year.  He was a lot of fun, and surprisingly soft-spoken given that when he is invariable cast as a thug when you see him acting.
  • George Egg: almost a speciality act with jokes.  George cooked a full, three course meal using only the equipment you find in a typical hotel room. e.g. iron, kettle, trouser price etc.  At a time when many struggle to microwave an instant meal, the man should be an inspiration to us all – and perhaps placed on the National Curriculum.  His poached sea bass was glorious and you will never look at a wire coat-hanger in quite the same way again.
  • Max and Ivan: incredibly funny, apocalyptic story-telling.
  • Alfie Brown: inspired to see him following his interview on ComComPod.  Very funny and the finest Derby accent you will ever hear (including in Derby!).
  • Stuart Goldsmith (FF): I’ve seen and loved all of his Edinburgh shows.  This was his first time on the Free Fringe and he seemed much more relaxed and the show was excellent.  Arrive early as it tends to fill-up.
  • Nick Doody (FF): effortlessly funny, intelligent comedy.  I think we can all see why I’m not paid as a critic – this is nearly as bad as writing “satisfactory progress” in a school report, but Nick was brilliant and criminally under-attended last Tuesday.

It was great to see some old ‘friends’ doing well, some newer discoveries and some acts entirely new to me this year.  None of the people I saw are massively famous (as far as I know – be aware, this does not preclude massive fame) and it is hard to see the character comedy, in particular, working as well on radio or TV.  As I grow ever more ancient, I become increasingly convinced that comedy works best seen live and preferably in a small, sweaty venue – somehow it loses something important on the television and in larger spaces and even, sometimes, on radio (which is the medium that introduced me to comedy).  In so many parts of the country, it seems so hard to see a broad range of comedy – and, particularly, the full hour scale shows which can be important for more narrative acts.  I usually have to travel to London or Edinburgh to see old friends or expand my comedy horizons – a situation not helped by the fact that the ‘industry’ seems to believe that comedy should start late in the evening with little thought for those who have to catch the last train home (and the rail industry’s view that this last train should be well before 10pm unless it departs from London).

I always suspect that live comedy is missing a substantial, albeit latent, audience who are put off by the difficulty of seeing so many acts and the late nights and/or additional hotel costs which even the keen must endure.  Then again, I am broadly recognised as slightly odd and so generalising from my own experience may be fiscally irresponsible.   Nevertheless, if I had a larger parlour (and owned a few more chairs), I would be tempted to book acts myself and then attempt to defray the costs across an audience of 20 or so friends or acquaintances (or total strangers with cash – though this may cause issues with my lease): I suspect a couple of hundred quid (plus standard-class rail travel) would be enough to tempt many to indulge in a mid-week visit to the south coast.  I suppose I could rent a space – but this increases the costs and so would require improved marketing to boost the audience and keep my costs down.  Then again, how much can a church hall or pub room cost?  I think I shall investigate: if things go well, I could have a whole new career as a live comedy promoter!

Bread and circuses

Before we proceed with the main agenda of today’s post, I felt it was time to inject a little, much-needed structure into the madcap anarchy that usually typifies GofaDM.  So, let’s start with Matters Arising from the last post.

Having boasted of my skill and perspicacity in organising a rather successful trip to the Athens of the North, I feel I should perhaps give a little credit to mother nature (you really don’t want to end up on the wrong side of Gaia).  The weather in Edinburgh was unusually clement – so much so that I began to regret my failure to pack sunscreen (or a parasol).  According to the natives, this was not typical of summer 2015 as a whole and, in my brief visit, I estimate that I experienced more than 40% of the actual summer.  The sun is not always a friend to the Fringe-goer as the venues have a tendency to become rather toasty (and, indeed, sweaty) if the mercury rises by even a modest degree.  Here again, years of practice came to my aid and I chose to spend my whole Festival in shorts, thus gifting the general public with 360° views of my all-too-rarely exposed calves and shins (despite the potential provocation, swooning was, fortunately, kept to a minimum).  This additional exposed flesh seemed to work wonders for my body’s temperature regulation – well, either that or the Fringe have become better at venue cooling.  And now, that little piece of business out of the way, we can return to the main agenda.

Despite the title, I should prepare any lovers of the baker’s art for disappointment now.  Loaf-lovers will find little succour for their obsession here as I shall be concentrating on the expanse of title lying to the right of its conjunction.  At this year’s Fringe, I took in twenty-five shows over my six-and-a-half day visit – but this included four that might be considered to fall within the genre of circus.  This might not seem that many to you, but it exceeds in number all the circus-based entertainment I had attended in my adult life prior to that point.

When I say circus, you can keep your jugglers, fire-eaters, clowns and any animals whose participation remains morally viable: I’m really just interested in the gymnastic and/or acrobatic elements of the modern circus, basically, I’m looking for inspiration or tips.  The four shows were all very different, with a wide range of feats performed and a variety of approaches taken to link the physical feats together (and give the performers a brief opportunity to rest).  I could thoroughly recommend them all.

Something – a curious name for a show (does one go to the box office and ask for an hour of something?) – was the most approachable of the four shows, i.e. a few of the feats I can almost do and rather more I can imagine one day attempting.  It used the floor, tables and a ring or chain suspended from above.  The more physical elements were linked by slapstick and comedy and there were lots of costume changes – it definitely provided the most laughs of the four shows.

La Meute – used a lot of props, and in particular a lethal looking all-metal swing (constructed of something akin to scaffold poles).  This involved the cast being flung scarily into the air before summersaulting back down to a landing pad.  It also included some comedy (albeit of a slightly curious, French nature) and the male cast performed the whole show wearing only towels (which miraculously did not fall off – I can’t even keep a towel on whilst shaving).  I will not be attempting any of this in the near – or even distant – future: far too much need for split-second timing and risk of being smacked with extreme force somewhere painful (or worse) by a scaffold pole.  Irritatingly, most of the cast demonstrated that they could also sing or play a range of musical instruments as well as perform such extraordinary acts of physical derring-do.  I had thought that I was unique in trying to learn to sing and be a gymnast at the same time.

You – another oddly named show – had a single performer, ex of the Cirque du Soleil (which I know only via an episode of The Simpsons).  He used more limited equipment – a Swiss ball, some books and a frame with some long straps hanging down.  He maintained quite an odd monologue through most of the show – which given that I can barely speak having performed much more basic activities was rather impressive (even if the content revealed some substantial gaps in his understanding of nuclear physics and genetics).  He did do a few things which I might aim towards (and many far more impressive ones which may have to await my reincarnation into a more flexible form) – but he will not be invited to use my library given his treatment of his own books.  The show was good, but rather strange with a finale involving a lot of pudding rice and the audience being invited to throw it around on stage.

Limbo – was the last, and most expensive, of the shows I saw.  It also had the largest cast and set and included sword swallowing and fire-eating – which I will admit is quite impressive (and very hot) when you are seeing it from the second row.  It covered almost all the physical feats I have seen in previous circus acts, but generally added at least one little extra twist.  There was an extraordinary section where five of the cast were atop flexible poles swinging together and out into the audience which I have never seen before (and won’t be trying at home).  However, by far the most impressive element of the show was the most flexible man I have ever seen in my life.  I can only assume he must live a dairy-free life (an existence I am not willing to copy) and has no bones at all.  Not only flexible but incredibly strong in what seem impossible and unstable positions.  His acrobatics manoeuvres were the most impressive to me as they started without momentum – and I don’t feel the audience gave him the credit he deserved (showier colleagues gained the greater plaudits).

I rather fear that I am becoming obsessed by the circus: so many new feats to try (one day) or at least at which to take (very distant) aim.  If nothing else, I will be rather more diligent at working on my flexibility and stretching in the weeks to come.  I also found that the circus shows made an excellent counterpoint to the wordier fare which made up my other Fringe-going (and this very blog).  Should I be adding a more physical element to GofaDM, do you think?

Fringe mastery

I believe this may be my tenth year of coming up to Edinburgh in August to see the Fringe and, sometimes, a little of the Festival to which it forms a rather overgrown adjunct.  However, as I type this racing south by train, I feel this is the first year that I have truly mastered the experience (obviously, mistressy remains an even higher standard, but one which will ever lie beyond my reach).

This hard-worn mastery has a number of components which, as the more prescient or fatalistic reader will have realised, I am going to reveal to you (whilst studiously avoiding use of the phrase ‘life hack’ – except just then).

Let’s start, as some actors do, with the feet.  Enjoying the Fringe does involve a lot of walking around: most of it up hill and much of it over cobbled ground.  This can – and, in the past, did – play havoc with a chap’s feet and ankles.  This year, in one of those flashes of insight which is such a rare visitor to my intra-auricular void, I travelled north with the perfect footwear solution.  What are these wonder-shoes?  They are a pair of New Balance 1060s, bought several years ago as urban walking shoes: but rarely used.  They entered my life just as I started cycling everywhere and they make for a poor cycling shoe.  As a result, they have lain forgotten at the back of the wardrobe for several years – just waiting their chance to shine.  Shine they most certainly did – taking hills and cobbles in my stride.  Never have I left Auld Reekie with such undamaged feet.  I’ll admit that they lack style – and whilst gloriously breathable (a boon in the hot and sweaty venues that characterise the Fringe) are not the ideal companions in heavy rain or deep water – but they have more than repaid my faith in them.  No longer will they be mocked by more obviously popular footwear in my wardrobe: they have (finally) found their niche.

Next, I shall turn my attention to the duration of the visit.  I started at a mere couple of nights and have gone as far as a fortnight.  This year I went with a week – and I feel that is the perfect length.  Enough time to indulge thoroughly in the delights on offer, but not so much time that the physical and mental toll on the visitor becomes excessive.  To avoid missing out on too much on offer, in the weeks prior to Edinburgh I caught a number of acts previewing their shows – which is also quite a thrifty option (special thanks must go to ARGCOMfest and the BAC).

This year, I also decided that you may have a very fine show – but if it starts after 22:00 it will not be graced(clumsied?) by my presence.  I now miss the last bus home for no man (or woman) – and so can generally have my head in contact with pillow by midnight.

It is generally best to avoid buying beer in most of the paid Fringe venues – the choice for the connoisseur is limited and prices are higher (£4.00-£4.50 per pint!).  The Free Fringe or Fringe-free venues are a better bet with prices falling to £3.90 (that I have lived to see the day when £3.90 seems a relatively reasonable price for a pint) and a much better range of session ales on offer.  This year, I acquired a cold mid-way through my visit – though my immune system has already (almost) sent it packing – so on health grounds, during the day, I switched from beer to black tea for my liquid refreshment requirements.  This was a much cheaper option and must shoulder much of the blame for my current abnormally healthful state.

This year my events formed a rather pleasing balance between comedy, spoken word and circus (of which, more in later posts).  In the past, I think I have tended to over-emphasise comedy and it can all become a something of a blur – but adding circus made for a much more balanced(!) mix.  I also spread myself across a wide range of venues and between the Free and paid Fringe – though, in general, I pay as much (or more) for the Free Fringe – so the latter is rarely the cheaper option.

The final element is my growing knowledge of where to find some decent food or a refreshing session ale when one is called for.   This year’s discovery was Malone’s – an unexpectedly spacious and architecturally-interesting Irish bar which is handily close to several Fringe venues.  Here, standing on the gallery, I took in the second half of the England-France rugby match and indie music from the Free Fringe.  Not a combination which would generally be wise, but it was time-saving and did make for an enjoyable end to an evening out.