A brush with the Fringe

A brush with the Fringe

Ever since visiting for the day, more than 20 years ago, I’ve held a romantic view of the City of Edinburgh. From stepping off the train at Waverley Station, the cobbled streets winding among centuries old architecture, from Medieval to Georgian, captivated me.

And yet I’ve never had, or made, the chance to go back until last week.

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Knowing we were heading to Scotland for a week of walking lochs and glens, I suggested we break up the journey by stopping in the country’s capital for a wander, lunch and to revisit some landmarks I’d stopped by first time around. And maybe take in a bit of the Fringe.

The Fringe Festival, if you are unfamiliar with it, is the world’s largest arts festival, held annually in Edinburgh for almost the entirety of August and showcases anything from comedy, street performances, theatre and caberet to busking, dance and spoken word. Anyone can participate and there are loads of free performances for the public to watch.

This was Sam’s first time in the City, so I was hopeful that he would also fall instantly in love with the place, if I dragged him to various landmarks and throw in some comedy. What I hadn’t realised however, was that August is not only the month of the Fringe but also the month for the famous Military Tattoo.

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So it was busy. Which we admittedly anticipated but not to the level we witnessed. We were like Scottish salmon trying to reach our spawning grounds as we made for the castle, inch by inch, against the torrent of tourists flowing down the Royal Mile.

Eugh…

I made it clear that should I ever suggest spending New Year’s here again (it happens once every couple of years) that someone should slap me with a kipper and bring me to my senses!

And unfortunately, once we reached our destination, it was pretty obvious I was not going to get any of the city views that I had remembered, unless we paid the high price to enter the castle, due to the stadium seating erected to watch bagpipe and kilt parade!

Oh well, let’s go and look for Greyfriar’s Bobby, I said. He’s nearby…

Sam was not versed in who, or what, Bobby was until I brought him up to speed. Which I will kindly do for you now, too! Here’s your crash course: Greyfriar’s Bobby is the story of a Skye terrier, who guarded his master’s grave (purportedly a police nightwatchman) for 14 years until he died himself. Locals looked after him and then had a fountain made to commemorate him, which is now a tourist attraction.

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On my first visit, it took me over an hour to find the statue once I’d located the correct street in the city…only to realise I’d been stood next to it for a very long time. I blame my height and the fact that I don’t generally look up.

So you’d think this time would be easier, wouldn’t you? Yeah…me too!

*Sigh*

I’ve not grown much and as such, when something is surrounded by a throng of people, it’s difficult for me to see what is at the centre. I mean, the large group should have been a clue, but then pretty much every corner in Edinburgh has a large group snapping away with an array of devices.

But once I’d spotted him I was able to take a pic of the wee little doggie and rub his nose for luck. Which Sam found hilarious as he says I was the only non-foreign tourist to do so. Plus, he didn’t really get what all the fuss was about.

We moved on.

Passing, apparently, where JK Rowling penned her first Harry Potter. I felt a little guilty at not knowing this fact but then reminded myself that I was a fan of HP and not JKR…

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So after a Mexican midday snack, we ventured into the Fringe to be entertained. As we knew we only had a few hours in Edinburgh, we opted for the free street shows situated around the Royal Mile.

Hmmm…

Okay, I get that art is subjective and what one person doesn’t understand, another will rave over. But I was expecting some kind of quality. Or humour. Hopefully a smidge of both.

Instead, we got weird. And I doubt very much we got the weirdest!

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Boys walking around in their pants anyone? Cast of Magic Mike, you ask? No. But we do have some pasty, gangly teens who might be about to start a monologue lamenting their lack of chest hair.

Dance: Two performances, one with lots of moody looks and red silk. The other…quite possibly just a bloke from the crowd who thought he’d try to embarrass his kids with some full-on ‘dad dancing’ and a few impromptu lunges and waggles of his tongue.

Then we have the woman singing to Kylie. Everyone loves a singalong and a bit of cheesy pop, right? Wrong. Because what I can’t get out of my head is Kylie’s track of a similar name, sung by a woman on top of a bucket, in a shower cap, pretending to be a seal. (Perhaps there was some ironic twist / reference to another singer she was going for…)

Oh yes, and nobody could hear the track, as it was being played on her headphones. But the beat was unmistakable. La, la, la…

We were saved by a group of A cappella chaps, who weren’t supposed to be performing to the crowd but saw the opportunity of an empty stage and grabbed it. Which I guess is part of what the Fringe is about: spontaneity.

But I have to say I was expecting more – a melting pot of eclectic performers to wow the masses. What we got was more like a bad episode of Britain’s Got Talent in the rain (yes, after months of glorious heatwave, we chose a week of damp and drizzle!) So I doubt we’ll be rushing back, unless we have more time and can plan in some paid shows that we’ve researched.

Edinburgh on the other hand, is still up there for me in a top list of cities I like to mooch around in. So I will return and perhaps stay longer than a few hours. Sometime in the next twenty years, I reckon!

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Have you been to Edinburgh or experienced the Fringe? I’d love to hear what you think of the place if you have. Am I just old? Did I get it wrong?

The Fringe Festival runs until Aug 27th 2018 and the Edinburgh Tattoo until Aug 25th.


IMAGE CREDITS: All my own, so please be sweet and ask before sharing! 🙂

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14 thoughts on “A brush with the Fringe

  1. The old time I’ve visited I was on a hen weekend and fairly pregnant – which just makes for a very weird weekend. I’ve never rushed back.
    Oddly enough I was just discussing a potential trip to Scotland as my 40th is on the near horizon but I’m thinking Dublin instead. Maybe. Would rather go to Iceland but it’ll be Christmas week and dark so that seems silly. Too many tricky decisions 😬

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I reckon Iceland would be magical at Christmas. More chance of seeing the Aurora! Although, self drive is still the best way to experience it, in my opinion, and the weather might make that a bit risky.
      Surely, as it’s a special birthday, you can hint that at least two adventures are required?!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep, we’ve kind of agreed to do a trip for my birthday itself then Iceland in the summer. Weighing it up I think the higher chance of light spotting would stress me out – I’m a bit weird like that and would then be spending all my time chasing them. on the whole I think I could explore better with more light later in the year. Amsterdam was on the list too but I really just don’t know! 🙈 So many places I’d like to go but the time of year isn’t ideal. 🙄

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Unfortunately, as with most things nowadays, what started out as a great idea, and a very successful festival, has been overtaken by popularity and money grabbing. You can still find lots of good entertainment, at a reasonable price, some even free, but the down side is the crowds, the impossibility of getting good food, at a reasonable cost, in a comfortable establishment, and the fact that in a single day you will see very little, and become very frustrated.

    The truth is you went 20 years too late!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds about right – I’m usually late for everything! I think it’s sad in a way as it shows what rubbish a lot of people manage to make a career out of – I can’t think that all these people set out in life to stand on buckets warbling like seals! Some of it must be them adapting to try and get a break in the business and trying anything.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your Fringe experience definitely sounds like it was provided by the low-budget, fringy opportunist performance level of participation. lol.

    I attended one of the productions in last June’s Los Angeles Fringe Festival, a musical called “The Complete Works of Julia Roberts”, book and lyrics by my writing partner, Robb Beus, who also directed it. Better yet, it won the Encore Award, granted by the Producers of the festival! There were many venues throughout LA, but I attended only his show and didn’t see any street performers in that neighborhood.

    In June, a dozen years ago, I spent four days and three nights in Edinburgh, and I would love to go back. There were banners and flyers advertising the upcoming Fringe Festival, which I thought would be a marvelous experience. Your description has erased my mild regret at having missed it. But the essence of Edinburgh seemed to me to be a sense of deeply rooted age and authenticity. The castle, which we did visit, grows right out of the ground, and as I trudged up the cobbled street carts and horses must have taken to deliver goods to the kitchens, I imagined Gandalf and Shadowfax cantering up the cobbles in Minas Tirith to warn Denethor of the growing shadow in the East. I already knew about the Harry Potter/The Elephant House connection, and had put it on the itinerary for my sister and our two friends, all of whom are HP fans. We went in for lunch and couldn’t find an empty table, but two women — one of whom had already earned her Official Guide medallion, and the other of whom was halfway through the two-year training program — invited us to share their table. It turned out they were both Londoners who had retired to Scotland. I’m sure the retired teacher never would have volunteered this, but because my questions were relentless, it eventually came out that she had been one of Daniel Radcliffe’s teachers just before he was cast as Harry. And here I am, one degree of separation from HP’s star, and two degrees from JKR!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. How fantastic that you were able to meet one of his teachers in the place it all started. Extremely serendipitous!
      I think I am painting the Fringe in a bad light and know that on another day, or with more time, we would have had much better entertainment to choose from. Scores of people recommend it and it has launched the careers of many comedians.
      Edinburgh is gorgeous though. It reminds me of a Scottish version of York in a way, which is probably why I like it, being a fan of our county capital. But my legs could do with fewer steps!!

      Liked by 1 person

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