Edinburgh Fringe Diary Day Seven : A joke offered to Frank Skinner, and semi naked men.

Edinburgh Fringe Diary Day Seven

So today is already my last day at the Edinburgh fringe. As always I’m going to feel very guilty leaving tomorrow morning. Guilty knowing that so many of my friends and my new friends will still be here, working away and worrying and celebrating and commiserating and I’ll be on a train going back to Devon, hopefully. Or stuck at Preston again.

This is my sixth time at the fringe. I started out with Dan Haynes in a show called Poetry Ping Pong, and since then I’ve brought Static, Juicy, In the Glare of the Neon Yak, and of course, Spout and The Two Robbies. I also had one year doing guest spots at other people’s shows. And that was the best. It was totally worry free!

I went flyering today. And I met some very interesting people. One lady pointed at my flyer and said, ‘oh wow, it’s you!’, like this was the most amazing thing ever. And then I met a gentleman who was very excited because he had just seen Eddie Izzard walking along the street. ‘I saw Frank Skinner the other day, too’, he said. ‘And I told him a joke! It goes like this. Why shouldn’t you wear Ukrainian underpants? Because Chernobyl show. Ha ha ha! Do you get it? Chernobyl show. Yer-nob-will-show! Ha ha ha! Do you think he will use it in his act?’ I told him that he might do.

My audience yesterday was amazing. Not only was it my biggest yet, (if you include me, then it was in double figures), but a couple from Leith came along, and they had seen me last year. Indeed, they’d come especially to see me, which was totally amazing to know that I have fans in so many parts of the country. And after my show they gave me a packet of Scottish shortbread as a present. How many other performers get presents from their audience, I wondered.

As soon as my show was done I had to scoot across town to a cabaret where I was doing a guest spot. While I was doing this, the most amazing torrential rain storm erupted. I had to shelter halfway at a shop awning because the rain was so intense. I think it would have been dryer to stand in a shower, that’s how intense the rain was, and the street became flooded within less than a minute. I was joined by a party of young men who were obviously out on the razz, and as the rain intensified they took off their t-shirts as they surrounded me. And I was thinking, hello, this is a nice day at the office. I’m sure they might have taken off more had it been even wetter.

So it’s been an amazing week and as ever, I have no idea how I’m going to go back to normal civilian life. This has been a week of amazing memories and wonderful people, and apart from the train dramas at the very start, nothing has gone hideously wrong. And will I be back next year? If I can get my head around flyering, and actually enjoy it, then yes, definitely.

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Edinburgh Fringe Diary Day Six : The ennui is setting in

Edinburgh Fringe Diary Day Six

And then before you know it the fringe experience is almost at its end. I only have two more shows to do and one guest spot and then that’s it. The end of Spout, for now, and I can start looking forward to doing poems about things other than tea. That’s going to be such a bonus. I’d almost forgotten that anything else existed as a potential for poetry.

I’m writing this in a crowded bar at midday having just seen Melanie Branton’s lovely kids poetry show, Rhyme Marmalade. And that’s the amazing thing snout Edinburgh during the fringe, you can end up seeing anything and whatever your friends might be doing, rather than reading about it later in social media.

I had one of those days, yesterday, during which I was walking around the city almost all day. I tell you, I was knackered by six in the evening. It was my fault, really, as I’d spent the morning doing my laundry at the student accommodation and half of that time was figuring out how to load credit on to the card that one needs to use the washing machine. And that left me with less time actually to get out and do the things I needed to do.

And one of the things that I needed to do was to go over to the new town area and appear at an LGBT cabaret show at eleven o clock at night. Only it was due to start twenty minutes after my show ended. So I did a dry run, choosing the route and finding the venue so that it didn’t come as a nasty surprise when I had to do it for real. I then discovered that I’d left some bits at my student flat that I needed, so that meant a walk across town in the other direction to fetch them. It was one of those days.

So I only had the time to see one show, and that was Dominic Berry’s show at the Zoo venue, and I loved every moment of it. Dominic has always been one of my favourite performers and a personal influence so it was great to catch up. I won’t give anything away about his show, suffice to say that it is brilliant, funny and meaningful all rolled in to one.

So, then. Two more days of flyering. Two more days of Spout, and the sound bleed coming from the room next to my venue, where it sounds like someone is being murdered every night. And then a thirteen hour train journey back to Devon followed by work the next morning. Oh well.

This bar is getting crowded now of people coming in for the next show. Apparently she has on office party, and she’s also been on the radio publicising her show. There must be fifty or sixty people in here. My average audience has been two. . .

Onwards, as they say, and upwards.

Edinburgh Fringe Diary Day Four. Or is it five?

Edinburgh Fringe Diary Day Four. Or is it five?

The Edinburgh fringe is hard work. It’s a fourteen hour a day job mostly spent out of doors. The flyering is conducted in a sea of humanity, people from all over the world in anoraks and rain macks, holding umbrellas aloft, wearing earphones, desperate not to get flyered. It’s physical and it’s relentless. There are hills everywhere, and cobbles. It’s impossible to walk in a straight line because of all the hills and the cobbles and the tourists but every now and then you might meet someone who seems genuinely interested in what you have to offer.

Yesterday was possibly my best ever day at the Edinburgh fringe in six years or so. I flyered all morning with Rob Barratt for our show at Banshee Labyrinth, which is my favourite venue in Edinburgh just for its sheer quirkiness, but also because the performance space is amazing and atmospheric. Nervously, with five minutes to go, we hung around outside the venue and it looked like there was nobody interested. Rob went inside to prepare our space, when a group of people arrived for our show. And what a show we put on! Rob whipped the audience into a frenzy with his audience participation poetry, and my material went down really well too, and we made such a great atmosphere that I wished every show could be like this. We were funny, whimsical, charming, non threatening and generally made everyone feel great, and that made me feel great, too.

I spent the afternoon in my student accommodation rehearsing for the BBC slam, in which I as entered. This meant that I couldn’t do any flyering until twenty minutes before my actual show. I arrived at the slam, met the other wonderful poets including the amazing Carys Hannah, and took a deep breath, and went for it. As luck would have it, I was drawn last, and for my first poem I did Beard Envy. And the audience seemed to like it a lot! I got through to the next round, amazingly, during which I was first on, and I did, ha ha, the Orgasms poem. Once again the audience seemed to love it, and afterwards I did think to myself, gosh, have I just gone to the BBC and spent three minutes talking about orgasms? Alas, it was not good enough to get through to the final, but I had an amazing time and it really made me feel upbeat.

I then hurried over to my venue and did a frantic twenty minutes of flyering, fully expecting that I would be going home early with no audience, and I didn’t mind, as I was pretty exhausted. Y now. My flyering was somewhat interrupted by the spectacle of watching a man dressed as a clown drive his Nissan Micra into the pedestrianised zone and get pulled over by the police. Amazingly, I ended up having the best audience of my fringe so far! How on earth does that happen?

Admittedly, a lot of them had come specifically to see me. How they found my is anyone’s guess, as I’m not in the Free Fringe brochure, but they’d seen me at various gigs all around the Uk, in Cheltenham, Wolverhampton and Swindon, and they told me afterwards that they even quoted the Fozzie poem to each other at odd moments. This made my day, as it proves that there are Robheads in places other than south Devon!

So I did the show and it was probably my best performance yet. And it made me feel amazing! The audience lingered around afterwards to chat, which is always a good sign.

It’s the next day now, and I’m writing this while I’m waiting for my laundry. It’s been an astounding week so far!

Edinburgh Fringe Diary Day Three : It’s not raining

Edinburgh Fringe Diary Day Three : Its not raining

It takes a very short time to get in to the swing of Edinburgh, the routines and places for flyering and the shows that need exit flyering and the methods of flyering and the hours spent flyering and the strategies for flyering and then having small audiences because you haven’t flyered enough.

Today started out weird. There are a lot of musicians staying at my student accommodation and as a special treat they decided to put on an impromptu spur of the moment concert. So a youth orchestra set up in the ground between the student flats and had just started but then had to stop because the bin lorry needed to get through. The Albert Hall this ain’t.

Later on a similar thing happened. I stopped to watch a street acrobat, he had a huge crowd around him and he was doing something very impressive involving a tightrope and some juggling, but nobody was paying the slightest attention because a lady had had rather too much to drink and was having her can confiscated by two police officers. And I tell you, she was kicking up such a stink. Shouting and screaming and yelling and everyone was watching. The acrobat almost fell off his tightrope.

One of the pleasures of Edinburgh is that every now and then you might see someone famous. Eddie Izzard once tottered on a cobblestone and almost crashed into me which running across a street once, a few years back. But today, I saw Paul Merton, a comedian I have admired for a very long time. And a cunning plan took hold. I would give him my flyer! And I would invite him to Spout! And he would come along and like it a lot and tell everyone, and before long my show would have audiences of a hundred or so. But instead I babbled something incoherent like, ‘I’ve always been a fan of your work!’, and he said, ‘Thanks’, and I said, ‘Have a good afternoon!’, and he said, ‘well, i’d better be off, then’.

I did a show today with poetry and folk legend Rob Barratt. We had been given odd slots around the schedule to fill in for people having a day off. We got to our venue only to find a comedian setting up. She had had yesterday off by mistake, instead of today, and was firmly intent on doing her show today anyway, even though the room had been scheduled to us. Seeing that she was not exactly in a position to do her show, alas, she relented, and the room was ours. Amazingly, this was Rob’s debut at the fringe, and he was excellent, funny and as whimsical as ever.

I went for a hot drink at a trendy drinks van next to one of the squares. Tea please, I said. Sorry, we don’t do tea. Oh, coffee then. Ok, sure, that will be four pounds. How much?! Four pounds. OK, here you go. I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t take coins. And just wait at the end of the counter, please. Fabian will make your coffee, he’s a coffee artisan and it should only take six minutes . . .

I’m back at my accommodation this afternoon. I’m having a few hours off before flyering, time I’m using to rehearse poems for the BBC poetry slam tomorrow night, which I shall be losing in the first round, hopefully doing a valiant job as the oldest competitor. So I’ve been running through my poems and timing them, standing in the window and suddenly realising that everyone must be able to see me, gesticulating madly like a bad politician. Even the bin men looked up, at one point.

Edinburgh Fringe Diary Day Two : Molly the ghost and a stained glass Berlusconi

It rained, yesterday. It rained like you wouldn’t believe. And I mean that. You wouldn’t believe now much it rained in Auld Reekie yesterday. It was a relentless deluge which lasted all day, persistent and it made everything moist. As I walked into the city from my university accommodation I thought, well, there’s no way I’m flyering in this. I hate flyering at the best of times, but when you’ve got a show that has no publicity whatsoever, and is so wet that your fliers are going soggy while they’re still in your backpack, it all seems ever more unnecessary.

And yet, what other method is there of getting complete strangers to come and see a show about tea?

The town was gloomy. Like a teenager whose come on holiday with his parents. The old tenements and bridges leaned in frowning, like an old lady confused by an iPad. The rain ran in the gutters of Cowgate and actually came up from the drains. I’m sure that drains are meant to work the other way. For a short while there was a fountain in the middle of Cowgate, as the water came up and sparkled in the headlights of the taxis and ambulances.

I went and caught up with Melanie Branton and we chatted in her town centre accommodation about flyering tactics, exit flyering and street flyering, and the shows that she had seen, and it was great to spend time with her. It was also great to be out of the rain. I then went to my venue, the Bar Bados complex, and stuck up posters around the place advertising my show, which at the very least made me believe that I was achieving something tangible and proactive.

And then I tried some flyering. Jeez, it was impossible. Within minutes my flyers became a soggy mush of paper and cardboard. I gave up very easily and went to watch Sez Thomasin’s excellent and thought provoking show about diversity and representation in the NHS, and then stayed in the same room to watch Melanie Branton’s incredibly show about class and her background, delivered its passion, enthusiasm and warmth, humour and emotion.

At this point I really should have done some flyering, but instead I went for a pizza with Melanie in an Italian restaurant in Grassmarket, the most defining features seeming to be a stained glass mural representing stereotypical Italian images, such as a Vespa scooter, the Alfa Romeo logo, the colosseum, and, I swear, Sylvio Berlusconi. And the man at the table next to us had a soup and when he went to put some pepper in, the top came off and pepper went absolutely everywhere. ‘Would you like another soup?’, the waiter asked. ‘No,’ he sighed, ‘I’m fine’.

And then I did some flyering. And Melanie helped. And she was brilliant, in the torrential rain and the dim and gloomy Cowgate area, chatting and stopping people and generally showing me how to do it. I’m sure that this would have worked much better if the weather wasn’t so awful. Twenty minutes to go, I went up to my room and chatted to Jemima Foxtrot, who told me that there’s a ghost at the venue and at Banshee Labyrinth called Molly, and if you don’t get an audience, you perform your show to Molly, and she gives you good luck for the rest of the fringe. It seems a better idea than flyering.

And the show? I had an audience, which was a bonus, so no need for Molly. And I think I performed well. There’s a section in the show where I try to throw a teabag over my shoulder into a tea cup and for the first time ever, I actually managed it.

I’m writing this the next morning and it’s actually quite sunny out there. I’m looking forward to doing some flyering with dry flyers and a potential audience who haven’t got their hands full with umbrellas. It’s going to be a long week, but I’m happy to be here, and feeL privileged to be in the festival at all.

Edinburgh Fringe Diary Day One – Getting here

Edinburgh Fringe Diary Day One

I usually fly to the Edinburgh fringe. I usually fly for two reasons. The first is that it’s cheaper than the train if you can book it ahead in time. The second is that it only takes an hour to fly from Exeter to Edinburgh. However, as you may know, I absolutely love flying. I love everything about it, the sheer impossibility of an object heavier than air floating through it, the raw power of the engines, the speed of take off and landing, the weird noises the flaps make on landing, and, with the Dash 8, the disconcertingly bumpy landing. But I didn’t fly this year. Feeling an environmental conscience telling me that this was not good for the planet, I decided to get a train.

And maybe, perhaps, for all those times in the past, the planet bit back.

I started out at six in the morning, walking to the station in Paignton with all of my luggage and then catching the local service to Newton Abbot. Things were going great so far and I even had an idea for a poem, which I wrote as a draft as the train chugged its merry way through the South Devon countryside. At Newton Abbot I transferred to the long distance service to Birmingham. Now, the slightly interested and ironic fact of this is that the train was going to Edinburgh, but the booking office and the website assured me that if I got off at Birmingham, I’d be able to catch a faster train that took the west coast line, whatever that is, getting me in to Edinburgh at two in the afternoon. Sure, why not!

The journey was marked by my decision to listen to as many Laurie Anderson LPs as possible. I managed two. My attention was taken by the machinations of an old lady two seats ahead of me. Travelling alone, she became insanely jealous of the seats that other people were in, and would come and stand over them. ‘Will you be sitting there long?’, she would ask. ‘Yes’. ‘Oh’.

She then decided that she wanted a table seat. A young man was sitting at a table working on a laptop. ‘I’d like your seat’, she said. ‘When are you getting off’. ‘Glasgow’. ‘Oh’. And every time the train started to slow for a station, she would be up again hovering over this young man with his laptop. ‘Just checking to see if you’d decided to get off here’. ‘No, I’m going to Glasgow’. ‘Oh. Oh, never mind’.

The train started to get packed so she then came over to me and asked me to get her luggage. Sure. I did so. She then plonked it on the seat next to her at the window side, and employed the tactic of sitting on the outside seat, so that nobody could sit next to her. It was all most amusing.

At Birmingham I transferred to the train to Edinburgh, the west coast line special. Feeling pretty smug, I found a great seat and even contemplated opening the small bottle of red I’d bought the night before, wondering if it was socially acceptable to swig from the bottle, having nothing to pour it in to. By now it was getting on, it was almost eleven o clock in the morning. I’m not sure of the etiquette for swigging red wine for a bottle on a west coast line train at eleven in the morning, but decided not to. Perhaps, I pondered, this is better than flying after all.

And then the planet bit back. At Preston station the train managed announced that the service was terminating and that we would have to ‘de-train’. Apparently the line was flooded further north, and we would not be able to get to Scotland on the west coast line. We all spilled out on to the platform and I had no idea what was going on or where I was meant to go, and I even wondered if I might try to get to Manchester Airport and fly the rest of the way. A rather harassed gentleman in a high vis jacket pointed me towards platform six, where I’d be able to get a train to Manchester, from where I might get a train, as he put it, ‘north’. I thought I was already in the north, but there you go.

The only trouble here was that trains kept arriving which had to terminate, and passengers were ‘de-training’ all over the place, and the trains to Manchester kept shifting from platform six, to five, to four, then back to six, so I spent the next hour hauling my luggage from platform to platform and just missing trains to Manchester, because they were hidden by the bigger trains that were terminating.

The train to Manchester was standing room only, and I stood in the vestibule with a young family from Manchester who had three young daughters in push chairs, and a sullen teenage son called Ed, who they didn’t seem to care much about at all. Ed just stood in the corner looking sullen while the parents entertained the young kids. I felt for Ed. A friend of mine has just had her lips made bigger so that she can pout better in her Instagram pictures. I told her that she could pout for free. Ed would have given her a good lesson in pouting.

At Manchester I took the first train I could find to Newcastle. Amazingly I managed to get a seat. And the atmosphere was most jovial indeed. I sat with a party of pensioners who were going to the fringe but had got split from the rest of their group, who were taking an alternative train to York instead of Newcastle, and they were racing one another, keeping in touch by mobile phone having all had to de-train at Preston, too. They got off at York, and then three young ladies got on who were had been out on the town in York celebrating their friends wedding, and they were absolutely plastered and yet good fun, chatting up the young man sitting next to me, and the young man in front of me, and the young man across the aisle from me, and the young man at the end of the carriage, and the young man who was the train manager. They didn’t speak to me, though.

At Newcastle, I had half an hour to spare to get a cup of tea and was served by an incredibly cheerful young man. I’ve only been to Newcastle once before but was quite taken with how cheerful everyone there seems. This young man in the station cafe kind of reminded me that maybe, when I retire, it’s Newcastle that I’d like to live.

The train to Edinburgh was quite crowded and the train manager kept coming over the speakers to say that people could get off at Berwick upon Tweed if they liked, and catch the train behind ours, which probably might not be as crowded as this one. Amusingly, at Berwick upon Tweed, nobody moved. By now I was very tired.

Eventually arrived at Edinburgh at seven in the evening, thirteen hours after setting out. I hopped into a taxi and we drove through the city. We passed a young man walking along the pavement dressed as a clown. ‘My god, did you see that?’, my taxi driver said. ‘He was dressed as a clown! I mean, what the hells all that about, eh?’ I would have thought that a taxi driver from Edinburgh would be used to such things during the fringe, but there you go.

So I arrived at my accommodation around half seven. My room looks out at Arthur’s Seat, and just as I looked out the window, the most amazing thunderstorm commenced. It seemed a fitting welcome. I’ve had a good nights sleep and I am getting ready for a day of flyering and meeting friends and perhaps seeing a show or two. Due to administration errors, my show is not listed anywhere so it feels like a secret show, a show that doesn’t exist, which will make it incredibly hard to get anyone to come and see it, but it at least takes some of the pressure off.

So yes, I’m here, now, and come on Edinburgh, it’s time to work your magic!

Live updates from the Paignton Town Carnival Procession

It’s Paignton carnival tonight! Here we go with some live updates.

8,00
The Poundland float is looking amazing, they’ve gone with a circus theme and a chorus of self service scanners which have been programmed to say roll up, roll up.

8,03
Poundstretcher are going with Enchantment Under the Sea. That’s Jim from the regional office dressed up as a giant crab.

8,05
It seems that not everyone has got the memo about a different route this year, basically last year’s route but in reverse. Reports are coming in of a hideous head on crash between the Stoke Fleming Marching Band and the Churston Ferrers majorettes just outside Winstons.

8.08

Probably in poor taste for the Paignton Ferry Company to have gone with a Titanic themed float.

8,12

Hats off to the team at Paignton Library whose float is a giant microfiche and is fitted with speakers blaring out white noise and a giant sign saying ‘Sssssh!’

8,15
WH Smith have just gone with a wheelbarrow filled with water with a duck floating on top. Only the duck has just flown away. So the wheelbarrow, which reads ‘we are all quackers at WH Smith’, now has extra poignancy.

8,17
The Paignton Topiary Enthusiasts float is blaring out Kate Bush, and I’ve only just got the joke.

8,21
Big Jim’s Fish Bar has a Jurassic Park themed float but they’ve obviously not realised that hippopotamuses and crocodiles aren’t dinosaurs. Nice try, lads.

8,23
Paignton Carnival itself has a float and the Paignton Carnival float is a float depicting Paignton Carnival itself. This is all getting very meta.

8,25
Oh! Here comes the Stagecoach bus float. It’s in the shape of a giant book. And it’s fiction! Just like their timetable.

8.30
Oh no! The Paignton pier helter skeltor on the back of a low loader has just got wedged under the railway bridge.

8,35
Nice touch! Mickey’s Fancy Dress Hire shop are marching along in their normal every day clothes.

8.36
The Wilmington funeral homes float, we are all agreed, is in very bad taste, but the horses do look amazing in their black tassels and feathers.

8.40
Torbay leisure centre gym are doing demonstrations of weightlifting and exercise but they’re being followed by the McDonalds float handing out Big Mac coupons.

8.43
Ah! Here’s comes the Carnival Queen of Furzeham, she’s looking resplendent, shame about what that seagull did to her dress. If she could just put down her mobile for a second and wave, that would be a lovely touch. I’ve never seen someone texting so furiously.

8.48
And the Dartmoor Prison float, belting out George Michael’s Freedom. I’m sure there were more people on it when they set out earlier?

8.52
And here comes the Winstons float! They’re playing ‘Everybody was Kung fu fighting’.

9.00
The sharp bend on to Torquay Road is causing some carnage, so far the floats have lost two large plastic goats, a wardrobe, a giant sequinned shoe (which we think came from the Tesco’s float), and a selection of shrubbery and potted lupins, and a lifesize cardboard cut out of Monty Don, which we think has come from the garden centre float. Oh, and a teenager called Brad who’s dressed for some reason as Pam Ayres, and due to his concussion, he can’t remember which float he was on.

In fact there’s quite a pile of items on that corner.

9.05
The vape shop have got an amazing float in the shape of a steam engine, pumping out so much smoke and steam that it’s obscuring almost everything else. Smells of caramel, though.

9.09
The girls from Superdrug are keeping us all entertained with their soulful vuvuzela playing. Although it does sound like the mating call of a wild goose, its going to cause problems when they come through the park later on.

9.11
As ever the procession is finished by the wonderful synchronised electric scooter team from the Old Wellhouse pub.

9.13
Paignton station showing even they’ve got a sense of humour with their rail replacement bus. Oh, I’m sorry, I’ve just been told it actually is a rail replacement bus.

9.16
I think there’ll be an internal investigation at the zoo tomorrow to see if it really was a good idea to parade around two hippos called Donald and Boris.

9.19
Heeeeeres the Lidla float! They’ve gone with a Strictly Come Dancing theme this year. But Dan from checkout six has just pirouetted dangerously close to the edge of the lorry, there. He’s now hanging on with his fingertips and Beth from the frozen aisle is trying to drag him back on by his Tyrolean braces.

9.21
And Paignton police there, with their police car with flashing lights. Instinctively, most of the assembled locals have just done a runner down some side streets.

9.30
To be honest these last few ones are quite boring now, they just look like cars and occasional vans.