August 12, 2017

While we were away, my mum – half-blind and pulling to the right – stayed at our house, primarily as a conduit to ensuring that there was not a dead cat to be dealt with upon our return.

And, hopefully, not a dead mother either. We spent all week waiting for a text each morning so that we at least knew she was okay first thing in the morning. Because it’s easy to conjure up a gazillion ways that your mother could die in a house she’s unfamiliar with, with stairs that she doesn’t normally contend with and a cat who is a trip hazard even to those with full eyesight.

But talking to her today, after our return home last night, I’m not sure we needed to worry about anything.

Basically, over the last week, as well as watching so many episodes of The Flash that she is “all Flashed out” and entirely confused by the whole thing, possibly spurred on by The Flash planting subliminal messages about cleaning products, she’s cleaned, hoovered and/or washed everything,


She’s stripped, washed and remade our bed, she’s washed the previous bedding we’d taken off earlier in the week. She’s hoovered everywhere. She’s hoovered the stairs – which, in a way, doesn’t even bear thinking about as she dragged the Dyson along with her. She’s cleaned the kitchen, washed the bathroom, including the mats.

She’s also done all the ironing.

Basically, we are now trying to come up with places to go every couple of weeks so we can get mum – half-blind and pulling to the right – to do all the housework for us.

We didn’t ask her to do it. We didn’t ecpect her to do it. There was us, 235 miles away, worried about boredom setting in and mum going slowly mad and, it turns out, she was as happy as could be with random bits of mainly unnecessary housework.

And all we had to pay her in was cat snuggles (that she secretly adored)  and some custard creams.



August 11, 2017

Well that’s our Fringe over for another year. As I write this we’re somewhere in the 13 miles or roadworks on the A1. It’s something to eleven at night and we’re both knackered, broken husks of our former selves.

You forget, or maybe block from your minds, the emotional turmoil your feet will be subjected to. And your lower legs. And upper legs as well for good measure.

You walk – and this year I know this thanks to Carole’s Fitbit – fricking miles every day. Even though in your head you’re just nipping between venues that, until this revelation, you considered to be almost geographical bed-fellows.

Your feet know differently, and by the fourth or fifth day they’re taking every uneven cobble as a personal insult and letting you know exactly where you can shove the notion of any more walking about. And when you throw in the propensity for venues to work vertically then you feet and calves hate you even more, if such a thing is possible.

And they will continue their campaign of hate for the next couple of days. Already, on this journey home, they’ve hated being sat down and the walk betwixt car and plush motorway services toilet.

And tomorrow they’ll hate going to and from the car unpacking all the crap (Carole’s, incidentally) we took to Scotland with us. They’ll hate me every time I go up or down stairs. Or go from the couch to the kitchen. Or go… you get the idea -my legs are sore. Very sore. My feet the same…

And yet, despite the impemding limp, it’s all completely worth it.


Fringe Fail

August 10, 2017

We saw, probably, the worst show we’ve ever seen at the Fringe. Ever. Including any future shows we might see in however many years we continue to come here.

I won’t name the show or the performer because I think it’s only fair that other people think it will be an uplifting tale of funny anecdotes and the like only to discover it’s basically an hour of self-indulgence on behalf of the performer from which the take home is if you don’t get your own entitled way then chuck a tantrum until you do.

The audience for the show was small. And silent. So very silent. Laughter was not forthcoming. In fact the audience was so quiet that at a section which concerned role play and audience participation (via the medium of a very reluctant man with a beard) Carole, quietly and under her breath went “Oh for fuck’s sake…”

The only thing about quiet under-breath speaking is that when the room is quieter than a library with a morgue built inside it words like “oh for fuck’s sake” can be heard further than possibly intended…

Carole also apologised twice during the show for picking it. Although we are both to blame because you should always, especially when you’re pre-booking, YouTube the heck out of people you haven’t seen before and then go from there. We’ve done it before, and generally not put a foot wrong.

Maybe we got a bit cocky that all our previous random choices have been good and we let our guard down…

… perhaps if we throw a huge tantrum everything will be okay.


Get In, Get Out

August 9, 2017

Because we’re nerds – and we are, let’s face it – we love an escape room. What’s not to love about them, though?

I mean, they’re a puzzle made flesh, so to speak. A point-and-click adventure in real life. A text adventure where there are no syntax issues.

They’re the next logical step for people who love video games (50%) and board games (100%). And puzzles. And satisfaction. And occasional bouts of smugness.

We did our first escape room in Huddersfield. We escaped with twelve minutes left on the clock. We did our second escape room in Edinburgh this morning. We escape with two and a half minutes on the clock.

It was tense, as you might imagine. Panic set in at the forty-five minute mark. We’d solved puzzles – most of them anyway – with amazing skill and panache. We’d solved one letter cipher using, subconsciously, letter frequency techniques before – much later – we realised that the clue to how to use the cipher was elsewhere. Smug, you see.

But the latter half of the escape, or 19 remaininh minutes in our case, went to shit. We had to get hints – which pains me greatly – but for daft stuff like why the frick the complicted word tumbler won’t open. Our hints, aside from one when we were too flustered to think, revolved around technical issues – we’d radio and say we’d solved x but couldn’t get y to open. We had all the solutions, just a woeful lack of finger dexterity or something of that nature.

But we made it out –  having retrieved the Holy Grail (presumably not the real one…)

We’re two for two on escape room victories going into our third.

Which is tomorrow.

In the other room at the place we went today.

Can’t wait.


August 8, 2017

Shakespeare For Breakfast Day is one of my favourite days at the Fringe.

Its name, as you might suspect, comes about because it is the day we see Shakespeare For Breakfast. It’s normally early in the week so if we like the cast we can stalk them through their other shows as well. Which is why we’re seeing Dickens For Dinner tomorrow.

What makes Shakespeare For Breakfast so special is the breaking of the fast element to the proceedings.

You arrive, and you are offered a beverage. This may be hot or cold depending on your preference for tea, coffee or freshly squeezed (from a tetrapak) orange. This is given to you in a styrofoam cup.

You then enter the performance area to take your seat. Upon the seat is a croissant.

The fun comes with the combination of beverage, croissant, sitting and any bags the person may already have.

Standing in the foyer, hot drink in hand, you hear many, many people – a lot who would not look out of place in the film Cocoon – discuss previous times they have been to see the show.

And yet… and yet… the croissant still throws them.

It’s easy to deal with. You move the pastry to an adjacent chair, sit down, sort your bags out, get pastry back. It is easy. You can also ask someone you’re with – maybe they are less burdened than you – to take it. Even a stranger, if you ask, will scoop a pastry out of the way to allow you to sit down.

It really is that simple.

This morning we enjoyed all variations of the croissant shuffle. Every variation you could imagine.

And then… and then, for the first time I have ever seen it but surely not the first time it has happened, a woman in quite excitedly patterned trousers sat squarely upon her baked good.

The people in the row behind tried to stop it happening but, alas, gravity had taken a firm hold and her descent was past the point of no return. She sat, as a cloud of buttery pastry crumbs rose into the air like the pyroclastic cloud of an erupting volcano.

The show itself could have been the worst thing ever to grace a stage and it wouldn’t have dampened my love for that hour. But it wasn’t. It was great. Really great. Macbeth through a tale of allotment treachery was just brilliant.

Not as good as sitting on a croissant, but close.

Unreserved Heating

August 7, 2017

The thing you forget about the Fringe, when you’ve missed it for a year, is the ability of any room – of any size – to attain a temperature higher than that experienced by the fruit chunks in the centre of a McDonalds apple pie.

A temperature hotter, even, than the jam in a conceptually sound but practically flawed toasted sandwich I once made at University. I spent most of the third year with no skin on my lips. And a new-found appreciation for the passion and emphasis you can put into the word “fuck!” before all speech is taken from you and only sobbing is left.

A temperature so high that the surface of the sun wishes it could be a Fringe venue.

A heat capable of melting the actual Milky Bar kid so that he is nothing but a Milky Bar puddle.

A text adventure I used to play, called Savage Island, had a puzzle where you had to distract a bear with salt you obtained from evaporating sea water on the side of a volcano. If ever I need to distract a bear in Edinburgh, in August, and I have sea water in my inventory I shall do the same in a Fringe venue (I do appreciate that is a very specific set of circumstances but it pays to be prepared).

They are warm rooms, is what I am saying.

Like, sweaty warm rooms.

We have seen grown men – strong burly looking men – wafting themselves with dainty fans you’d expect to find in the hands of foot-bound Japanese girls.

You can go into a room needed a wee and reabsorb the entire thing back into your body to stay alive over the course of an hour.

The rooms defy all known laws of physics – it can be cold and rainy, and the rooms are still warm. But also steamy. Like you’ve found yourself in a sauna with a diverse selection of strangers. Entropy and enthalpy go out of the window (which, if it exists, is definitely painted shut). The laws of thermodynamics are bent out of shape, warped by the presence of a specific number of human-sized bodies in all their exothermic glory.

I cannot stress enough how warm the Fringe is.

And yet, the is one constant. A rule that cannot, will not and should not be broken.   If there are a group (collective term: envelOAP) of pensioners in the room – together or in little clusters – one will keep their coat on throughout the entire performance.

Like I said, these things defy conventional physics.

Even Brian Cox, in his best pointing and smiling mood, would be disheartened by this one.

Long Road Ahead

August 6, 2017

The A1 is a long and windy… no, scratch that, it’s just a long road and when you’re on it for the better part of three – four hours it’s important to find things to do.

Nobby, cheesy and beautiful things to do.

Last time we came to Fringe we used the flooding road at Holy Island to convince Carole’s parents that we had somehow stranded the car in rising flood waters. They did not see the funny side.

This year we were more sensible and have involved no-one but ourselves.

We were under the vast metallic wingspan of the Angel of the North by nine o’clock, doing all the usual photographing that tourist nerds do.

And then later we were on a cliff top overlooking crystal clear sea water and doing all the usual photographing that nerds do.

But the main thing to do when travelling along the A1 is pass judgement on the toilets at the services along the route. Because for a main thoroughfare the facilities leave a lot to be desired, sometimes just being a room tucked away in an unused corner, but always – always –  the wrong side of manky.

But now… sleep.