Edinburgh 2009

Gilvan, White and Foster
Originally uploaded by fred pipes
Edinburgh is like this big buffet of delicious and exotic morsels (I was going to say smörgåsbord, but I'm not sure what one of them is) - but do you choose the tried and tested (Simon Munnery, Robin Ince, Stewart Lee?) or sample something new and risk disappointment? Whatever happens, the food on someone else's plate will always look more interesting, confirmed when it's all over by looking at their photos on Facebook! Ah well, we can but try... As I said in the last blog, night 1 found us at the Illicit Still for free fringe comedy. It was two separate sessions, before and after food at son Sam's flat (he lets me sleep on his sofa). They weren't brilliant (for example, one comedian asked everyone at the front what they did for a living - I took his earlier cue and said pilot, some girls said they worked with pipes!) but he didn't have any jokes prepared to cope with the answers. Two of the comedians were so sweatily nervous they looked like they wanted to run - why on earth do they put themselves through it?

Saturday 22 August we went to Holyrood Park for the Foodie festival. Sam had free tickets but even so thought it was like paying to go to a farmers' market. We did have the most delicious Arbroath Smokie each (£3), straight from the barrel - I was surprised to discover they were haddock! We also popped into the Scottish parliament to use the loo and see a photojournalism exhibition - I had my Swiss Army penknife confiscated, but got it back when we left. So, onto the first art of the festival, at the Talbot Rice gallery: video art in the main gallery, with the Georgian bit used for the first time with neon sayings of Darwin and Nietzsche, a pretty obvious visual pun on the theme 'Enlightenment'? Then to the Udderbelly to meet Sam's friends - spotted disgraced Blue Peter presenter John Lesley surrounded by a hen party, thence to the Canon's Gait for Robin Ince versus the Moral Majority - an excellent one-man show. A pint of Stewart's 80/- (and a pint of No. 3) then next door for a mexican meal.

On Sunday I used Sam's Friend card to see the Spain exhibition at the Mound. Not particularly impressed tho I liked the big Zurbarán, and the last couple of rooms, with Bomberg and Dora Carrington. Then it was to a crowded Guildford Arms to see FC Ukulele, who I didn't think were that good at the start but improved no end by the time they attempted 'Sultans of Swing' (listen to it on MySpace). Then it was a late night 1am start at the Pleasance Dome for Karaoke Circus. We met up with Max in the bar and got seats right in front of the judges (one of which was Baron Gilvan!). It was excellent fun, with Robin Ince (again), Richard Herring and other assorted stars singing along to the house band of Martin White, Danielle Ward and Foz? in full clown regalia - wish I'd had my Flip with me. The audience were great too, knowing all the words and joining in. We even got a badge on the way out, approx 3am!

I popped along to the Book Festival on Monday, thence to the Assembly to buy some tickets, and on to the Pleasance Courtyard where lovely Lauren Laverne was recording The Culture Show (you can spot me, Sam and Rob in the background just before the Arthur's Seat item). She interviewed Michael Clark and the live music was by Mikelangelo and the Dead Sea Gentlemen, a sort of kletzmer band fronted by a rockabilly. I'd never ever seen the Tiger Lillies, so we had to go to their show - and good as it was with examplary theramin and saw playing, I'd have prefered to see them collaborating with something a little more visual.

On Tuesday I ambled along to the art school to take a look at the live stonecarving, but was more interested in the exhibition 'Remembering Little Sparta'. And I was more taken by Ian Hamilton Finlay's toys and collection of model boats than Janet Boulton's watercolours, I must confess. I then went to investigate Forest Fringe and reserve some tickets for Sporadical, which promised pirates and sea shanties. Then it was over to the Assembly via the Malt Shovel for Frank Skinner's Credit Crunch Cabaret, with Andrew Lawrence and Daniella Ward - and a couple of George Formby inspired banjolele songs. Singing 'Oh oh Osama Bin Laden' we headed down George Street to meet Peter and Lisa - and the newly arrived Nick - at the Cafe Royal.

It was back to the Book festival (and more free coffee with my Scotsman) to see Marina Lewycka talk about her new novel We Are All Made of Glue. Apparently A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian is not very popular in the Ukraine, tho it is available in Russian! She was a wonderful generous speaker and I look forward to reading the new one - the hardback I could have had signed was £18.99 so I think I'll wait for the paperback! Then it was a walk to the Stand for Simon Munnery's AGM (with the mandatory extra hour across the road at Lord Bodo's). On the way to the Cafe Royal again, we popped into Home Sweet Home on swanky Multrees Walk to build wee houses - a great example of using empty shops for Art. It was then a bus ride to a Malaysian restaurant on Nicholson Street, to Forest Fringe for Little Bulb's folk opera Sporadical - a little too much audience participation for my liking, and thence to the Udderbelly for a swift half.

Thursday was my last full day in Auld Reekie. There was a rumour that Foz? would be appearing at Robin Ince's Book Club at Bannerman's. And he was! See a short video here, tho he was uncharacteristically shy. The hot ticket for this year's festival was Mark Watson's The Hotel. Now I usually hate 'immersive' theatre and will run a mile, but had to do this one, and apart from the horrible admin area where we had to take a shoe off, loved it! Sam got a 60th birthday cake in the 'restaurant' and I had a Pony Whine and Sahara Des(s)ert ( plate of sand) from a lovely waitress called Cat. I was lucky enough to be in the IT room when the manager on the verge of a nervous breakdown wandered in. Great fun and wish we'd had more than an hour. To Rose Street for a drink then home on the bus, all cultured out!

Edinburgh always involves lots of late nights, too much drinking and not enough eating, so a big thank you to Real Foods at Tollcross, for their 99p filled rolls and pasties that kept me going. I only wish I had a quarter of the stamina of Peter and Lisa! Overall I thought this year's art was very disappointing - I didn't even bother to venture out to the modern art gallery or the Dean. Should have seen Faust (and we wasted unused comp tickets for Miss Jean Brodie) but thoroughly enjoyed Karaoke Circus and The Hotel - and Robin Ince can do no wrong at the moment!

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