Sunday, August 19, 2007

In the Burgh of Edin, day 1

It's time for the vacation update!!! [in Kermit the frog voice] YAAAAY!!! *waves arms in air*

We left the Preston area on Sunday August 5th and drove north. I would have liked to have gotten an earlier start, but Mrs. Pirate had made a huge sunday dinner/lunch thing with lamb and the works, so we couldn't skive off early.

The drive up was lovely: up the M6 for a couple hours, hang a right onto the A702, and voila! Edinburgh. I like driving the M6 on the norhtern stretch. It's always grey and rainy, and the moors and hills are bleak and lonely little whisps of mist and fog hang about here and there and never seem so go away completely. Pirate's been reading "Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follet, so to pass the time I read to him from the book while he drove. There was cricket on the radio, but the reception was shitty at the best of times, so we gave up on that.

Turning onto the A702 was a surprise. This is the major route to Edinburgh from the southward direction, and it was a 2-lane (one each way) undivided country road, twisting and winding through tiny villages and hamlet. It was grey and drippy and I was enchanted and was hypnotized by the windshield wipers and enchanted by the surroundings.

We found our B&B with little difficulty, and a pleasant French girl showed us to our room. I had been told beforehand that it was small. Small, in this case, meaning the double bed takes up fully HALF of the total sqare footage of the room. I've seen bigger prison cells.

The bathroom was down the hall, but we had it all to ourselves, and it had a FANTASTIC shower, which was a treat. (The shower in my room here is warm on a good day, and doesn't so much spray as pee.)

It was almost 6 pm by that point, and on a Sunday nothing is open at that hour, so it's a bit of a stupid time to arrive someplace, but we decided to wander in to town (about 1 1/2 miles) and see what there was to see. What there was to see, was this:

It's the Fringe, baby!

Neither of us had ANY idea we were arriving on the opening weekend of the famed Fringe Festival. It never factored in to our travel plans. I had only heard of the thing once, from a chinese student in my building telling me about it during a trip in the elevator. We selected the timing of our holiday based on when Pirate could get time off work, and I selected the location based on
a. I'd never been to Scotland
b. my brother said it was awesome and I should go
c. Sal made it look pretty cool in his blog
d. It was a convenient distance from our setting-off point
e. I know a few people there, notably Hendrix Cat and a good mate of mine from the boat club

As we walked along toward town, a man handed us a flyer. It said "One night only: Norman Lovatt reads the phone book!"
Normally I don't look at flyers but, being a Red Dwarf fan, the name Norman Lovatt caught the Pirate's eye. The man said he was giving away free tickets. We didn't have anything to do, so we took them. And that was how the whole thing started.

The Fringe Festival, for those of you who don't know, is a crazy cultural festival of performing arts that takes place every August in Edinburgh. It's manic. Every square inch of usable space in the city is turned into a performace venue. We saw shows in attics, in the Grand Masons' Lodge of Scotland, in a low stone-vaulted crevice under a road, in a giant upside-down purple cow (called The Udderbelly, not to be confused with The Underbelly -- that's something else entirely). We stumbled into the main Fringe info office on the Royal Mile (which Pirate referred to as "Fringe Central." Think about it for a second. There ya go.), elbowing our way through the crowds and stopping to watch a few of the myriad street performers and living statues along the way. At the Fringe info office we got a schedule of events and sat down in a pub to examine it. We were stunned.

Even Pirate had no idea the scale of the thing. The program of events is a magazine of over a hundred pages, and it's all scheduling. There are over 250 venues, with something going on in each of them from midmorning to well after midnight all day long for a month. Pirate took a pen out of my purse and we dove into the comedy section. Within minutes we had lined up a schedule for ourselves for the next three days. We then ran to the box office to get ourselves tickets.

The major advantage to going on the first weekend is the reduced ticket prices. Most shows are offering "preview" rates or 2-for-1 discounts to get butts in the seats early and spread the word. So we got tons of tickets. Hey, why not? We never did manage to see Edinburgh Castle, but that will still be there later. And I got meet Marcus Brigstocke!!! But that happened later. Right after I got locked in the portaloo with 7 other women by the giant, dead, purple cow.*

After hearing Norman Lovatt read the phone book (which was funny in one of those wierd, awkward ways were people laugh more out of nervousness than humor) and stuffing some chips in our faces we sprinted over to where some unknown guy was giving a standup called "Why All Daily Mail Writers Must DIE." We just couldn't resist the title. The show was hilarious, although it got a bit preachy toward the end. We were sitting in the front row and, being a Yank, i got riddiculed quite a bit (not for the last time that week, I might add). It was all in good fun, and by the end of the show my sides were actually aching (also, not for the last time that week).

We wandered back to the B&B and collapsed into bed.

The end of day 1.

*At the Fringe, exciting things happen even to boring, normal people like me. They just doo.


Dave said...

A giant purple cow locked you into a portaloo?

GreatSheElephant said...

nah, you don't want to use the A702. Up to Glasgow and across on the M8 is the way to do it.

Chaucer's Bitch said...

dave: hehehe. whoops. what i meant to say was "next to the giant, dead, etc..." my bad. :-D

GSE: it might have been slower, but it was certainly more serenic and we weren't in any hurry. and some of the towns along the way are adorable, esp. West Linton.

Geosomin said...

Ooooh. The Edinburgh Fringe...I've always wanted to get to that.
Lucky you. Fringe plays are always great because they're odd, scattered and slightly bizarre and usually make me laugh until I'm crying...and often even a bit of nudity too :) What more can you ask for with live theatre?
My home town's Fringe is rather cool but it's a teensy one compared to that one- I think it's probably the biggest in the world. A friend of ours was doing a show there this year - TJ Dawe - didn't happen to pick him out of a hat and see him didja?
Norman Lovett reading the phone book would be strange, yet I'd have to go just to see it too...