Posts Tagged ‘Edinburgh Fringe’

Housekeeping: OK, so I’ve now been back in London for two weeks, and while I’m pretty much physically recovered from my stay in hospital in Edinburgh (50 plus 05: er… e.r.? Eh? No, A&E.) and a couple of visits to GP and hospital since I returned to London, I’m still utterly shattered most of the time, and any stamina I got back seems to have deserted me the past couple of days. I really don’t want to bother my GP again, but if I’m still feeling like this tomorrow or Tuesday, yeah another visit beckons.
 


 
OK, so one other thing about Edinburgh I hadn’t mentioned this time around, because I hadn’t quite realised how unusual it was, and it’s only been sinking in slowly since I returned. (Look, I’ve been ill, and you have to remember that, even in good times, I am exceedingly stupid on occasion.)

In fact this thing has only occurred on one previous visit: 2014’s. I doubt that my earlier than usual visit is the reason. (I usually get up there after my birthday, but in both 2014 and 2019, I celebrated my birthday up there.)

In 2014, I attended the Edinburgh Fringe a few weeks before Scotland’s Independence Referendum. It was only my second visit to Edinburgh, so I didn’t have much to compare it to, but I’d already discovered how much I enjoyed sitting in the main food court area outside the Gilded Balloon of an evening, having a drink, doing some writing and watching… watching performers promoting their shows, watching people enjoy themselves, watching people chat away.

But as I say it was my second visit, so I had no idea whether the seemingly ever present politics chats among other groups were common or unusual, whether how everyone seemed to at some point or another express an opinion on the politics of the day, and seek another’s opinion, was usual or uncommon.

Future years showed me just how uncommon, how unusual, it was, by the way. Most years, it’s shows they’ve seen that people are chatting about, shows they’re about to see that they’re animated by. And the telling of gags they’ve heard. Seriously, you hear some cracking gags, and delightfully, all credited to the right comedian for once.

But in 2014, the referendum chat was everywhere. Not only in the food court chats, but almost every political show covered it, everyone’s topical material had ‘a bit’ on it. And rarely, very rarely, it got angry. Occasionally, but only that. Even many of the political comedians got angry, very angry, then punctured it with a joke that returned everyone to enjoyment.

And in the food court, usually, it was informed, sensible, rational debates, addressing the arguments in a way that I wished politicians would follow. I even saw people make a point, get called on its potential unreliability, or flat out falsity, and then one or other of them would look it up on their phone or tablet… and then both would agree whether or not the point was valid. (Small caveat for the potential post-independence Scotland’s finances; only occasional agreement on that, but on everything else to do with the Referendum? Lots of agreement.)

I got asked my opinion loads by strangers at the same table while up there, and despite my always saying ‘well, not really my place to say is it, I’m not Scottish‘, I was courteously encouraged to give a view, and where I said something the other person disagreed with, there was a genuine attempt to change my mind, not an insult to my intelligence, or honesty, or parentage. (The less pleasant exchanges I had were all online in 2014.)

Well, 2019’s Fringe was similar and dissimilar. Sure, yes, the politics chat was back in full force, moreso than in previous years, and yes, plenty of heated chats, but what was missing was the ‘huh, yeah, you have a good point there, my friend, but what about…?’ That wasn’t merely less, but was entirely absent, as was the implication of good faith on the others’ part.

Anyone who was still pro-Brexit (an important caveat; people seemed to have far less of an issue with people who’d voted Brexit three years ago, mainly because it was three years ago), and there were a few I heard, well, their views were treated not with contempt but flat disbelief.

And the anti-Brexit positions weren’t merely “anti No Deal”, they were flat out anti-Brexit.

I’ve said before that one of the things I like about The Fringe is that I’ve rarely seen angry drunks up there. Plenty of drunks, sure, but few who were angry. And those few either calmed down or were escorted off the premises by very big security people.

This year, it wasn’t anger, but heated frustration that I saw a lot of: a complete lack of ability, not mere refusal, but an inability, to see, or even attempt to see, the other person’s point of view.

That scares me, genuinely.

Because I’ve seen more of it the past two weeks since I’ve returned. I see it in politicians, I see it online, I see it with some friends. And no matter what happens in the next few weeks, I suspect it’s going to get worse.

I wrote a couple of weeks back about why I’m dreading the next election. What I was foolish enough not to realise when I wrote it was… we’re already in the election campaign, whether the election comes in a few weeks or a couple of months. And the battle lines are already being drawn.

This will be an election of double standards, of fervently supporting your ‘own side’s’ actions and behaviour while vehemently decrying and condemning the same actions and behaviours of your political opponents. And both sides, all sides, will hold themselves out as the morally superior, the only honest one, the only rational one.

And that scares me as well.

Here’s just one example. Amber Rudd, until today Secretary of State for the Department of Works and Pensions, quit and said it was because she was no longer convinced the government wants a deal to leave the EU and is in fact going for a No Deal Brexit. She was previously very anti- that, seemed to swallow the possibility when she joined Johnson’s cabinet but now has quit.

And the responses to her resigning have been many, but one notable one is “well, I’ll take her support, sure, but dont forget she did this and that and this and that, so it’s two cheers at best; she’s no hero”.

And I get that as a reaction, I honestly do.

In fact, it’s the same response I have to people leaving the Labour Party, or at least trashing the current leadership, from people for whom antisemitism in Labour wasn’t a deal breaker but apparently Brexit is.

Again, I’ll take any anti-Corbyn support I can get, but I’m not going to celebrate someone discovering a backbone but for whom antisemitism was – if not fine and dandy – at least not something ‘up with which they would not put.’

And yet, when I express this view, I’m told, ‘but no, you must welcome them warmly and fully, embrace them.”

Well, I won’t. I’ll give them the same two cheers. And sadly, but invariably, wonder, at what point, if Labour changes their Brexit policy to something they can live with, the antisemitism will once again be something they can similarly live with.

Something else tomorrow, I think.

David Allen Green, who tweets as @davidallengreen, will occasionally quote-tweet some bit of news and merely append the single word: “Well.”

It can mean anything from a gentle “I told you so” to “I wrote about this, you know” to a “yer never gonna believe this, folks, but…”

But often, it’s just a “hey folks, this is interesting.”

And that’s how I intended the title of this post until I started writing it and realised it additionally meant a few other things.

For a start, I’m ‘well’. Which I wasn’t completely sure I would be on this day when I re-started the blog eight weeks ago.

With the exception of the annual A Life In Pictures post, and one about my late brother on the anniversary of his death, I’d last blogged in January 2017… two and a half years ago, and a fair bit has changed since then; for me, for politics, for everyone and everything.

And here I was, not planning on a gentle re-introduction to blogging; no, I chose to commit to a daily blog for fifty-five days.

Which doesn’t sound an awful lot… until you have to do it. I fully expected that I’d get about ⅔ of the way through, and chuck it in¹, decide it’s not worth it², decide the readership wasn’t responding in any way at all³, decide that hardly anyone was reading it⁴…

To which I can now respond, at the end of the run:

¹ I didn’t

² It really was worth it. Not for all of the posts, I’ll admit, but for many, for most, of them, yeah. I enjoyed writing them and I believe some people enjoyed reading them.

³ If I hadn’t known in advance that the ‘responding to blogs’ thing had for many gone out of fashion – comments often come in reply to the promo tweet, not the blog itself – I’d have been worried. But with the exception of very popular bloggers, the days of getting a couple of dozen replies on the blog to an interesting entry are long gone. At least for anyone not on Medium. (I only realised, well over half way through, that I should have grabbed a Medium account and cross-posted to that… I might do something with that idea at some point; get a Medium account, and cross post the ‘important’ posts.)

⁴ Other than when I knew a post was getting some traction on Twitter, I didn’t even check the blog stats. And I didn’t promote the blog on Facebook, for the simple reason that I’m not on Facebook. Amusingly, I got almost no click throughs from Tumblr. Posting the links to that was, probably, a waste of time.

So, how did it go?

For me? Great. I got to stick – near or less – to the plan I’d had when I started: some old fiction, some Saturday Smiles, some commentary on London, some on British politics, some on American politics, some on antisemitism.

Some stuff didn’t work out, of course. I intended to put up more brand new fiction. That only happened the one time, though I maintain that most of the stories I put up, readers would probably not have seen before, or at least not remembered seeing.

It does bug me a little that I never got around to publishing Part The Fourth in the series within the run dealing with antisemitic imagery. It’ll come at some point, but I don’t know when right now.

Which leads me to another thing and…
 


 

Actually, before I write that bit, I should have said this upfront. Apologies if this entry is a little more disjointed than usual, if it flows from one paragraph to the next a bit less than is my habit.

It’s just after 8am as I’m writing this, and I’m currently sitting outside a coffee shop in Edinburgh, on Princes Street.

I didn’t sleep as much as I’d hoped to on the overnight journey, so I’m a little bit fried. And I’ve a full day planned in Edinburgh: seeing a couple of shows and then having a wander, feeling the city again, remembering how I get from A to B.

So, again, sorry if this rambles a bit. I’ll edit it a bit for clarity and typos, etc., before I hit post.
 


 

Anyway, back to what I was saying. Yeah, this is the final post in the run of blog entries leading up to my fifty-fifth birthday, which if you’ve been paying attention and have even the slightest understanding of, y’know, numbers… is tomorrow: Saturday 17th August.

I’ve genuinely no idea right now whether I’ll post anything tomorrow. There’s a part of me that says ‘sod it; give yourself a day off’ and another part that says ‘Oh, come on, even if it’s just some quotes you like about birthdays, post something‘.

And then…?

I would take a few days off after that; I’m in Edinburgh for the fringe, after all, and I want to enjoy myself without having to post something every day.

The problem with that is… that’s that’s exactly what I said after the 75 day countdown I did at the end of 2016, leading up to New Year’s 2017: ‘take a few days off, budgie enjoy the break, then come back refreshed’.

And I did take a break. Which lasted two and a half years.

Again, I haven’t decided what I’ll do yet. My gut says I’ll continue to post, but less dense posts than in this fifty-five day run of entries. The occasional deep dive into something, sure; the irregular observations on the shitshow known as ‘British politics’ or “American politics’.

(I remain convinced, by the way, that UK politics and US politics got drunk on 31st December 2015, and they bet which of them could fuck up more over the next five years. Every few months, one of them gets an opportunity to up the stakes. And takes it.)

But I doubt I’ll blog every day. We’ll see. (Might do the first ten days as ’55 plus’. Again, we’ll see.)

But I’ve enjoyed writing again, I’ve enjoyed making the words do what I want, and saying what I wanted to say.

There were some surprises during the run, I’ll admit. I’ve never been one for recommending things to other people, or at least not a set of things. Recommending a book or a tv show, yes. But “ten podcasts I like” or “ten old movies I can happily rewatch”? No. However, I really enjoyed doing the half a dozen entries in which I did precisely that. And from messages I received, the pocket recommendations for each movie, podcast, individual tv episodes, some people enjoyed them as well.

(Small mea culpa; didn’t occur to me that if I was doing 10 recommendations, then with adding in the intro, you’re talking 2,500 to 3,000 words per post. Silly me.)

I didn’t exactly enjoy doing the ‘antisemitic imagery’ posts, but I thought them necessary; I’d been planning on doing something along those lines for a couple of years. And I’m pleased they’re done, easy to read I’m told, and achieved their aims.

One of the aims, of course, was to provide a reference source, for me, and for others, in the same way a post I wrote in 2014 – 50 minus 3: Israel, Gaza and anti-Semitism in the UK – has done for many.

I did enjoy digging out and showing the musical comedians in the Saturday Smiles, introducing them to people who didn’t previously know their work.

And I thoroughly enjoyed resurrecting some fiction from the vaults… and presenting you all with a brand new story. I’ve three other brand new stories that I didn’t post during the run… maybe they’ll appear here in the future.

Anyway, I hope that you enjoyed reading the run.
 


 
As I mentioned earlier, I’m now in Edinburgh, for the Edinburgh Fringe. Until 2011, I’d never been to the Fringe, I’d never been to Scotland, in fact. But I’d had a rough year, a very rough one, and close friends arranged for me to spend three days up in Edinburgh in August. Both to catch up with an old friend who’d rented a house up here for the month and invited me to stay, and to introduce me to The Fringe.

Despite the fantastic comedy and entertainment, going by the usual ‘me being me’, I shouldn’t enjoy Fringe. Genuinely. It’s made up of lots of things I don’t like: huge crowds everywhere, enforced jollity, and everywhere’s uphill. No, seriously, everywhere. You walk uphill to a gig, come out and think ‘well, at lest it’s downhill back, yet somehow this Escher lithograph of a city makes you walk uphill again.

(The Escher line is Mitch Benn’s; it’s wholly accurate.)

But everywhere being uphill causes me an issue with my fucked up foot.

So I shouldn’t have enjoyed it.

But I did.

I loved it. And I returned to Edinburgh to celebrate my 50th birthday in 2014. And made it back in 2015, not for my birthday though. And in 2016. And… and… and you get the picture.

This is my seventh visit in nine years, and my sixth consecutive visit. I love the Fringe and I love coming to Edinburgh. I see friends I haven’t seen in a year, I see great comedy, and I spend an awful lot of it laughing. Fringe is very, very good for me.

And this year, for the first time since 2014, I’m here for my birthday. No idea what I’m going to do for my birthday; I’m not doing the drinkup I did for my 50th, but I’ll see what occurs.

I have three Edinburgh Fringe traditions – hey, it’s my seventh visit; I get to have traditions:

First tradition: The first show I see is Mitch Benn’s. And the last show I see is Mitch’s show, again. Not only because he’s one of my closest friends, and I love his work, but it’s they’re perfect bookends to my visit to this fair city. I could make a list of what I owe to this man, how much I respect and like him, and how grateful I am that he’s my friend and occasional collaborator.… and it’d take until Sunday to finish.

Second tradition: There’s a coffee shop I discovered on my first visit in 2011. Couldn’t find it in 2014, but rediscovered it in 2015. And I’ll visit them while I’m up. They’re very nice people in there, they make great coffee and it’s just… nice, you know? Nice is an underrated attribute and quality. We should prize it when we find it.

Third tradition: Twice during my stay, I see comedians I’ve never seen before. I’ll find myself with a few hours to spare, I’ll check on the app what’s on… and I’ll pick one almost at random. So far, I’d say I’ve been lucky enough on average to have a two-in- three hit rate, two of the three are good, one of the three… really isn’t.

Actually, there’s a fourth tradition I’ve just realised. At some point, I’ll find myself in Bristo Square just after midnight, really, really, really wanting some chips.

OK, I think that’s about it.

Thanks for reading. Not only today’s but any of the posts you’ve read.

Fifty-five days. Fifty-five posts.

Well.
 
 
This post is the final post of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.