Are you sitting comfortably (well its a long blog so I recommend you do) then I’ll begin…
This week was the second week of my holidays and I went away for a few days to Edinburgh. A month ago you may recall that I was in Edinburgh for the day with work and this was my first visit to the Scottish Capital. As it was work I didn’t get chance to see the city properly. So I booked short break to Edinburgh to see it properly. My visit also coincided with the Tattoo and the Fringe Festival. As I love the arts I have always wanted to visit the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as it is the biggest Arts Festival in the world and this week this lifetime ambition came true. So this blog is mainly going to be about my visit to Edinburgh and my experience at the Fringe.
I travelled to Edinburgh by train. The train journey to Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. The views of the coast are remarkable and with views of Lindisfarne and the bridge crossing at Berwick it really sets you up for a great stay. Sadly I was travelling during the school holidays which means being surrounded by stressed parents and uncontrollable children. Also the holidays also see the appearance of people who never use trains and refuse to read their bookings or acknowledge other people’s bookings. As I travel on the train to work on a daily basis I understand and respect train bookings and get train rage with people who just refuse to follow such simple instructions. I decided I would block it all out with my iPod and just concentrate on the magnificent views, this is why you should never travel without an iPod.
Once I arrived in Edinburgh I was greeted by beautiful sunshine (which I wasn’t expecting in Scotland). As I had a some time before I could check into my accommodation I decided to go to the central box office for the Fringe on the Royal Mile and book tickets for some shows. After queuing for an hour I came away from the box office with nothing. This is basically because I had not planned in advance. Most people though are more organised order the Fringe Programme in advance and as it is 344 pages long you can understand why you need to do this. Most top acts are sold out but the box office told me that the venues often have returns so best to check with them. With this advice in mind I headed to the Assembly Rooms to see if I could get tickets to see Mark Watson. Sadly I was out of luck as there were no returns but they did say keep trying other days and recommended me to see Pete Johansson at the Assembly Rooms at George Street that night. So with one show booked I decide to go and check in at my accommodation.
I was staying in university halls, which is something I have done when I have visited London. I have to say Edinburgh University halls are fab to stay in and if you want cheap and good quality accommodation then you can’t go wrong at all. Once I checked in and unpacked and refreshed myself I decided to head into town. As I was walking into town the rain started. Now as luck would have it I was near a Fringe venue the Pleasance Courtyard. So I decided to be spontaneous and went into the box office there and booked the next available comedy show. This turned out to be Colin Hoult with his sketch show Colin Hoult -Enemy of the World.
Colin Hoult – Enemy of the World is sketch show which is quite dark and features a variety of characters such as Len Parker who a karate and macho martial arts fanatic as well the brash and OTT Anna Mann. I did enjoy the show and was glad to narrowly avoid being dragged on stage and would give it the mark of 3/5. While I was waiting to see the show I saw Abi Titmuss leaving a show. Not the most high brow of celeb spots I know but its still a spot.
After the show I went into town and had something to eat. I decided to try the Hard Rock Cafe. This is a wellknown restaurant chain and I thought I would give it ago. The service was good and the food ok but a bit overpriced for what you got.
After food I went and found the venue for the show. I arrived there really early and decided to see a show before Pete Johansson. The show I booked was Des Bishop with his show How My Dad Was Nearly James Bond. As I was queuing to see the show a Big Issue seller was walking down the line trying to sell copies of the Big Issue. When they guy got to me he started to criticise my outfit. I was wearing a t-shirt which was also a fake waistcoast. The seller then said to me “you really shouldn’t be wearing a waistcoat when you have a bit of a beer belly”. I was gobsmacked!!!! I admit I have a bit of a tummy but it is certainly not a beer belly as I don’t drink beer but I think it is certainly rude to tell someone this especially when you are trying to sell a product. Not surprising I didn’t buy a copy of the Big Issue from him. Well he did he think he was Gok Wan!!!
Des Bishop -My Dad Was Nearly James Bond. This was a stand up comedy show but also with quite a heavy topic. The show is a tribute to Des Bishop’s dad who has recently been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Obviously this isn’t a laughing matter but throughout the course of the show Des tells anecdotes about his dad including how he nearly was James Bond. The show was so moving and very funny and I was so glad I went to see it. My mark is 4/5.
After this show I had only a short time to get ready for Pete Johansson’s show. This was called Pete’s on Earth. This was a stand up comedy show which is very observational and autobiographical. He reminded me of a young Bill Bryson. He was really good but the room was very hot. It was also nice that met the audience afterwards outside. My mark is 3/5
On my way back to my accommodation I saw the fireworks above Edinburgh Castle for the Tattoo. This is such an iconic sight I was surprised to actually see it.
The next day I had breakfast in the very busy cafeteria. The food was good the coffee on the other hand was grim. I am not a coffee snob (OK I am really) but coffee is not meant to be grey. As I need coffee to function I quickly finished my food and went into town on the search for decent coffee i.e Starbucks. As I seem to have a sat nav for Starbucks in my head I quickly found one on the Royal Mile. Now I had a grande mocha inside me I walked up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle. As I was in Edinburgh on holiday I knew of course I had to do tourist things. This includes the castle. Now as a kid I loved visiting castles and still do so I was looking forward to my visit. The first thing I saw when I arrived was the courtyard all set up for the Tattoo. I was surprised at how small the courtyard was as it always seems so big on the television. I then bought my ticket and just at that moment the heavens opened. I quickly opened my brolly and went inside. I am always amazed at how different castles can be. Edinburgh is certainly a military castle. This might sound funny as all castles had some military purpose. Edinburgh Castle though is still quite an active military castle. I of course saw all the main sights including the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Stone of Destiny, the Great Hall and of course I saw the firing of the cannon at 1pm.
After the castle I went and had a walk in the Gardens in the centre of Edinburgh. While I was here I found another venue for the Fringe which had a show on that afternoon called Best of the Fest.
Best of the Fest is a variety show with 4 acts from the festival along with a host. Each show is different so you don’t know what you are going to get. The show was hosted by Patrick Monahan. He was hilarious and I would love to see his show sometime. I would mark him 4/5. The first act was a singer called Maria Tecce who reminded me of a Spanish Ruthie Henshall. She was ok but not my thing, so would mark her 2/5. The next act was Peter Firman. Peter Firman is a comedian and magician. Now I am not a big fan of magicians so already not overly impressed. Some of his jokes were good but the whole nail into the nose thing was gross. I would give him the mark of 2/5. The next act was a comedy duo called Topping & Butch they were two OTT camp men who did topical parody songs. I would give them the mark of 3/5. The last act was Greg Davies who was a stand up comedian and is also in the TV show The Inbetweeners. He was quite good and would mark him 3/5.
After this show I made a quick visit to the National Gallery of Scotland. My parents had recommended this to me and after them talking about the painting of the Skating Minister I felt I had to go and see it. It is a really good gallery and there are some amazing pieces of art work including the Three Graces. Its such a good scheme that national galleries and museums in this country are free. Whether this stays that way is another matter.
After this quick stop of high culture I went back to my accommodation to freshen up and then went back into town. Now since arriving in Edinburgh I had tried a few times to get tickets for the comedian Mark Watson. I had seen him on TV a few times and thought he was good and thought he would be good to see live. I decided I would try one last time at the Assembly Rooms box office to see if there had been any return tickets. Too my amazement there were and I may squealed with excitement (well I don’t get out much). So with the tickets in my hand I went and got something to eat. the show wasn’t until 10:30pm so I had quite a bit of time to kill. I ended up in the Gardens again where there was bar and some bizarre seating covered in astro turf. So I found myself sitting on some strange garden furniture that was covered in astro turf at the foot of Edinburgh Castle drinking rose in what basically is public park. As one of my friends posted on Facebook I sounded like a posh tramp. After sitting there for a while I made my way up to the Assembly Rooms where I had another glass of rose and then joined the queue to see Mark Watson while watching an impressive sunset over this remarkable city with the noise of the Tattoo in the background.
There was no reserved seating for Mark Watson and unlike all the previous venues which had been small and intimate this was a much bigger venue. Luckily I was near the front of the queue and when we went in I decided I would brave the front row. Mark Watson was already onstage commenting on everyone as they arrived via his laptop and a Word document being projected onto screens on stage. His show was fantastic and I laughed so much. I wasn’t picked on the front row and actually felt sad about that. I won’t spoil any of his show for you but I highly recommend you go to see him if you get the chance. I would mark his show 5/5. A must see!!
I have also discovered that as well as being a successful comedian he is also a writer and has written a number of books. He was in fact launching his new book the following afternoon but I sadly would be on my home then (the book is called Eleven if you are interested).
After a busy few days in the Scottish Capital I made my way home. I really enjoyed my time in Edinburgh, especially the Fringe Festival as it has always been an ambition of mine. I will certainly go again sometime but will plan more in advance.
Once home this week I met up with some friends where we had food and computer games. I am not very good on computer games but I certainly can make a fool of myself especially on the game Dance on Broadway. Myself and one of my friends danced to Aquarius/Let the Sunshine in. We were really bad but in a funny way. Actually the more I think about maybe that could be a show at next years Fringe??? Or maybe not.
Well thats it for another week (sorry it such a long blog this week, the normal short blog will resume next week)
Top TV Programme of the Week : Sherlock
Top Song of the Week : Cast of Sister Act – Fabulous Baby!
Book I am currently reading: Decision Most Deadly by Mark Turnbull
Also check out Mark Watson’s blog! He blogs daily http://www.markwatsonthecomedian.com/web/blog/