It’s only been more than a week since I got back but I’m going to finish this!
I planned to start Wednesday with a lunchtime Free Fringe show but it turns out that even free shows can sell out and so I missed out on Ed Gamble and also found myself with an unexpectedly free day. I ambled up and down the Royal Mile, bought a nice fleece tartan blanket for use on the train on the way home (the train is freezing!) and eventually found myself back at the Underbelly Med Quad in time to see Laura Lexx’s show. A large part of it revolved around whether or not her boyfriend was going to propose to her and a handful of us had been spoiled for the ending by the girl in charge of the queue outside who told us Laura is really nice, she’s married to one of the guys from the Noise Next Door, so that gave it away before I even knew it was going to be a question.
Next was a slow amble down the road to Just the Tonic at the Community Project, a five minute walk if you walk really slowly, where I sat outside and read Wallander for an hour before I went into Comedy in the Dark. It’s basically your typical “four comedians do twenty minutes each, one you’ve seen before and three you haven’t” except that they turn the lights off and you can’t see a thing. This particular one was hosted by Joel Dommett (one I’ve seen before, at Altitude), with Amy Howerska, Stephen Carlin and Paul Sinha (him off The Chase) and the darkness… was a novelty. I don’t know how much it actually added, other than the reveal that Lauren Black, owner of a huge voice, turned out to not look at all like his voice and also turned out to be sitting right behind me, rather than at the back of the room.
I finished the day with Daniel Sloss, right out at the EICC, which was my closest venue when I was staying at the Premier Inn in 2013 but is now quite the trek. Google Maps says it’s about a twenty minute walk – which is actually only about as far as the Assembly Rooms but I stopped for food along the way and then I stopped to look at the castle glowing in the sky on the way back, before they turned out the bright red lights and the castle just vanished into thin air.
I had to be out of my room quite early on Thursday, so I packed, left my luggage at reception for the day and went off down to Holyrood for the purposes of climbing Arthur’s Seat. The weather had no idea what it was doing – it got damp, it got hot and sticky, it got cold, it got windy and it changed every couple of minutes, which meant I was constantly taking layers off and putting them back on again. I took the summit path which is pretty direct and took about three quarters of an hour. The internet had said an hour to two hours, depending on how slow you are and as I was pretty slow, I was expecting it to take two hours. As I started the first real climb, the sun came out and it went really hot but when I got up to the little plateau right below the summit where the easy path joins from Dunsapie Loch (it can’t be that easy if you’ve got to walk fully half the circumference of Holyrood Park before you even start climbing) it got a bit wet and a lot windy. So I thought. I scrambled up to the top – the path sort of runs out there and you just pick a line to the summit and go for it. As for climbing up onto the rocky top, there’s no path of any kind. I picked the north side of it to scramble up in winds that were by now ferocious – so ferocious that when you lift a foot to move it, the wind buffets you and you put it down in the wrong place, resulting in the most awkward stumbling scramble ever. At the very top, it was so windy that you couldn’t even sit down without tipping over. I queued for my chance to climb up to the trig point and I took a few selfies there, since I didn’t have anyone down at the main summit to do it for me. Having climbed up, I didn’t want to go down immediately but it was very windy. I took photos in all directions and as I was about to descend, a man came up with some bagpipes, so I paused to watch that. For five minutes, it was entertaining to listen to the bagpipes being played at the summit of Arthur’s Seat and then I started to feel like I just wanted him to shut up and put them away.
When I got back down to civilisation, I thought I’d go and have a cup of hot chocolate at the bookshop and I went via the Mound, for some reason. As I walked along Princes Street, it occurred to me that the road was very quiet, just as I noticed the signs blocking it off. “Well, that’ll be a Festival thing”, I thought. The signs were Police Accident ones but I didn’t think anything of that. They’d just found some road closure signs. I couldn’t find the bookshop. I’d gone too far so I turned back and walked in the other direction. But before I found it, I stumbled upon a huge crowd being held behind blue police tape and looking through the crowd, I could see police cars and ambulances and blue flashing lights. Oh. An accident after all, and I’d come up on the wrong side of it and not noticed it. I crossed the road. Couldn’t get through there either. Couldn’t get through via the gardens. I had to cross the valley and go via the other side and as I approached Waverley Bridge, I began to see the scale of what was going on. Six fire engines, a fire brigade lorry, a fire brigade ladder lorry, an ambulance, half a dozen police cars and hundreds of people staring at the Scott Monument and taking photos. I got out my camera and used the zoom as a telescope to see what was going on. I could see someone in a yellow police vest up there and some people with ropes and helmets, some kind of mountain rescue. And by now I could hear mutterings that there was someone trying to jump off it but I couldn’t see a thing. I left the chaos and went into the tourist information to see if there were any Arthur’s Seat badges for my blanket in there and then ambled off to the Royal Mile to see what was going on.
I sat down behind the Tron to watch a street show – a man juggling a chainsaw and then riding a ten foot unicycle, during which I got stung by a wasp. It was crawling around on my knee and I didn’t notice, so I must have moved and accidentally annoyed it. It didn’t fly away. It kept crawling around on my knee so I sent it flying with a swipe of my sunglasses and when the show was finished, I limped off to get some magic to make it stop hurting.
I stumbled upon the City Cafe, the venue for my last show of the day, which it turned out I’d walked past at least every day for the last week. It’s another free venue, so I went in and sat down and watched the Clean (As Possible) Comedy Show, in which four comedians tried to keep it family-friendly – with more success than they did at Hyde Park a while ago.
After that, I thought I’d kill a bit more time so I jumped on a bus and went out to Ocean Terminal. I saw Britannia but she wasn’t nearly as interesting as the tall ship parked next door, with the biggest flag I’ve ever seen attached to her stern – a bit flag almost as tall as the masts. I took the bus back, through the city and out the other side, then decided to turn back as it was raining quite heavily.
I went and sat in the City Cafe again and watched Seizure Kaiser not doing the advertised show. I was expecting Supervillain, a tale of wearing capes etc and instead I got Gutless, a tale of “everyone’s got cancer and I’m going to be a bit too graphic”. But Mae Martin, my last show, was on straight after so I stayed put when everyone left, only for Mae herself to approach me and tell me she needed to empty the room and I needed to join the queue but if I wanted to sit there, she’d put a reserved sign on my seat so I could come straight back to it. We had to queue right down the stairs in the semi-darkness and the heat for ages but when I finally got back, she had indeed reserved my seat, which was just as well because Mae has been on TV once or twice and is far and away the most popular act at the City Cafe and the place was packed, and justifiably so.
After that, it was a bit of a dash back to the station. Well, I supposed it wasn’t really. The train didn’t go until 11.40 and we were allowed on at 11 and I wanted to be there at 11 to get settled and comfortable for the night and decide who I was going to hate all night (the people behind me who had the single seat and one of the double seat and argued in matching Margo Leadbetter voices about who had to sit next to a stranger, and the people who’d brought two small girls into the sleeper seats, especially the mum, who wouldn’t sit still, kept deliberately waking them up and tried to squish into the seats with them – those seats are already not that comfortable to sleep in, especially not when you’re trying to squish three people into two seats, despite having your own seat with the fourth member of your party). For some reason, I just couldn’t get comfortable enough to fall asleep. We sailed through Carstairs, paused on the far side and then went back in. We stopped at Carlisle, Preston and Watford Junction. You can get on and off at Watford but I don’t understand why Carlisle and Carstairs are on the timetable because you can’t get on or off there. You can’t get on or off at Preston either but at least they don’t put that on the timetable.
London crept up quite unexpectedly. One minute we were at Watford Junction and the next minute I could see the Post Office Tower. Blanket got hastily put away, boots shoved on and the next minute we were gliding into Euston. It had crept up so unexpectedly that half the people on the train were still asleep. They weren’t when we arrived in Edinburgh – the sun had been up and bright by Carstairs and people were awake and giggling half an hour before we got in. Maybe they’d all had too much comedy in Edinburgh and were too tired to notice the sun as they arrived in London.
I got across to Waterloo in record time (no tube strikes after all!) and back to Winchester by just after 9.30. Just in time to get home, get my Guide uniform on and go out to Wellies and Wristbands….