Frolics in the Forest – The Fringe Files Part III

The final installment of my Edinburgh tales, and I have saved the best to last. Well I think it’s the best. If you don’t think so, screw you, it’s my blog and I don’t need you please please please don’t leave me.

When last we spoke, Green Diesel were still dashing across the city for early afternoon and late night gigs, and I was trying to fit in as many shows as possible while also fulfilling my duties as a band-aid. As my tales draw to a close, I bring some more Fringe highlights for you, stories from the band and a particular venue that needs to be written about.

But first, having had time to reflect, I thought I would share my tips on surviving the festival – from one Fringe virgin to others. Seasoned attendees, please feel free to add your own tips and advice in the comments!

  1. Plan ahead – as in get a spreadsheet or a calendar or something, and fill it with shows from the Fringe website. There is so much to see and do, it makes sense to have some staple shows to base your day around.
  2. You can’t plan ahead – do everything I just said, and then spend your first day surrounding by programmes and flyers with you head in your hands, sobbing “so many beautiful things, I cannot see them all!” You won’t know half of what is going on until you get there.
  3. With 1 & 2 in mind, instantly extend your visit by 2 days – the venues are many, the scale is massive, the advertising is limited so you don’t want to have based your stay only around what you’ve research beforehand.
  4. Set a day or two aside to get out and wander – walk the streets like a common whore and check out what’s happening.
  5. Bring suitable walking shoes. Edinburgh is cobbled and hilly and crowded, and cheap flip flops will result in serious leg pain a couple of weeks later (trust me, you will be sorry).
  6. Because of 4, for the love of God factor in naps. Seriously, you will not survive the Fringe without naps. Maybe you can if you’re 19 and full of drugs, but with so much going on and so much partying to do from morning to night you will need a little shut eye between shows.
  7. Budget – top shows cost £15 to £20, and beer hits London prices. But there are hundreds and hundreds of free shows. Pricey shows are no guarantee of quality so give up & coming artists who are performing for free your time (and your donations). Also, take advantage of early 2 for 1 deals in the week.
  8. Be nice to people – the performers flyering you are tired and they need your support, so don’t go all ‘London’ on them.
  9. Bring a portable phone charger – if you’re taking snaps, using apps or trying to stay in touch with someone, a battery charger is invaluable. I took this one. When fully charged, it has up to three charges for a standard phone, enough for you and your pals.
  10. Bring a waterproof. I don’t care how fabulous you want to look, it’s wet in Scotland. Also, ladies, bring a shawl or scarf for the evenings

Back to the merriment…

Days dashing between venues and lugging equipment around meant that lunch often needed to be quick, cheap and filling. Enter the worshipful Mosque Kitchen.

For those who are painfully out of the loop, the Mosque Kitchen is a another fast food restaurant, run by a mosque. That’s…that’s pretty much it. It serves excellent curry at a good price, is quick, filling and warm. We spent many a happy meal here.

On Tuesday, JB and I were in the mood for nudity – okay I’ve just re-read that I know that doesn’t sound good. What I mean was, we wanted to see naked ladies…..look we had booked 2 for 1 tickets to see Blues & Burlesque: Hotter Than Hell at the Bosco Tent in George Square.

But having stuck to beer for several days, I was determined that I would not – NOT – watch any form of cabaret without a cocktail first. I put a call out for suggestions on Twitter. I received this reply:

Secret Gin Garden? Oh that’s something I want to be a part of. JB, the beau and I skipped along to 56 North to sample some goodies at their a pop-up cocktail bar.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe, 56 North, Secret Cocktail Garden
The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe, 56 North, Secret Cocktail Garden
The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe, 56 North, Secret Cocktail Garden

 A lovely little haven in the middle of the Fringe madness, we enjoyed many gins. It was just a shame the weather wasn’t better, but it didn’t spoil the nectar.

JB and I then passed a happy hour watching two very talented ladies sing, crack wise and strip, accompanied by a growling blues man on the piano. Very talented gals, them two. The show DID, however, prompt the very straight JB to say: “It can’t be a good sign that I was watching the burlesque girl strip and all I could think was ‘wow, that is a really nice dress’.”

Tuesday night ended with an 11pm show at The Tron Kirk attracting hordes of people from the Royal Mile who wanted to dance and spend lots of money on CDs (it must have been my drunken banter and amazing hair). Such a successful gig called for ales and dancing on tables to the late night blues band.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe, Green Diesel, Green Diesel Folk

Wednesday was spent in a hangover haze. I should have stayed in bed like a normal person instead of going into town with the band for their early gig, but I suspected that after the gig, there would be lunch. And I like lunch. We consoled ourselves with curry from the Mosque, and tea and cake from Love Crumb. Their salted rye brownie is such stuff dreams are made on.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe, Green Diesel, Love Crumb
Much needed tea

By around 3pm, it was evident that no one was going to be able to stay awake for any daytime shows – even Ben could not bring himself to watch a talk by Henry Blofeld – so we staggered back to the flat to languish on sofa, rising only to swim and fetch more tea.You see, we suspected that the impromptu gig the band had been booked for might turn into a bit of a session. We just didn’t know how big.

Flashback to Tuesday night…Green Diesel are booked to play an early evening gig at The Forest Café.

The Forest Café is a volunteer run venture in Lauriston Place, Tollcross, and is well renowned in Edinburgh and beyond with good reason. The Forest is a volunteer-run, collectively-owned free arts and events space and vegetarian café, providing a dedicated space for people to get involved in any creative activity imaginable. It hosts everything from music, theatre, and dance to yoga, massage, knit-ins and book tours.

It’s reputation preceeded me and is too long to recount here, but I urge you to read up on it HERE. I arrived at the Tuesday gig a little late but in my finest hippy skirt and drinking bra, I was instantly entranced.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe, Green Diesel, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh

A small enthusiastic crowd welcomed the band, and danced along to the tunes. There was even a spot of waltzing.

 The set ended all too quickly, and the band packed down murmuring that they’d like to return later in the week. As they loaded up a giant taxi for the gear, one of The Forest’s founders – the deliciously named Ryan Van Winkle – dashed outside and asked if the band would come back the next night for a special event. With the Black Medicine gigs cancelled, Wednesday was pretty much empty so it was a goer.

Flashback to the future….

Needless to say I was thrilled at the prospect of returning to the Forest and getting some proper pictures. After a quick jaunt to a local pub, half of us went to the café to set up.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe, Green Diesel, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh
The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe, Green Diesel, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh

It is an unassuming facade but inside is an explosion of loveliness. The walls are adorned with art, messages about events, inspiring thoughts, and peculiar murals. In true bohemian style, the furniture is gathered from what could be found, and people laze on sofas reading the shared books and strumming the ‘house guitars’.

The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh
The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh
The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh
The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe EdinburghThe Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh

The band had eaten at the café the previous night and could not stop raving about the food. I duly grabbed a window table and ordered a giant burrito in the evening sunshine. Dear GOD, I thought Illegal Jacks was good, but this! THIS! For a mere £6 I was presented with a burrito groaning with rice, beans, cheese, salsa and sour cream, with a beautiful salad on the side.

The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh

To wash the goodness down, I started a new love affair with the bottled beers on offer from the Alchemy Brewery. Just look at this description:

The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh

In addition to great food and beer, the people staffing the café were as lovely as you’d expect. A lot of love has clearly gone into this venue, and it radiates from the folk inside. They couldn’t have been more friendly to the band, plying them with a huge plate of nachos and a crate of beer.

 The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh
The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh

As the café began to fill up with revellers, Ryan hopped on a chair and announced the night’s proceedings. We learned that the night’s event was one of Ryan’s Cultural Lasers, bringing together many cultural acts in one happy bubbly pot of loveliness and booze. In his role as host, Ryan and his helpers began dishing out free knock-off champagne. Ben was also treated to a glass of Ryan’s personal hooch – a thick brown liquor called Buckfast. It is essentially hobo liquor you can clean combs with it. It’s just terrific.

The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh
Getting blurry…

The basement room was soon packed with people as the music started. It kicked off with a quartet of rough and tumble American youngsters, travelling the world with their fast-paced gypsy Americana and looking for a bed for the night as they went. They had only decided on a name that day, and I’ve forgotten it. Shame on me.

Ryan gets the night started

Things mellowed for a while with a poet, a bearded ukulele player and a solid singer songwriter before Green Diesel took to the stage, and the night then descended into happy chaos. There was fevered sweaty folk dancing and cheers for every song, and some serious audience participation for the special secret move in the middle of The Southcliffe Jig.

After the music, revelers gathered upstairs in the café for more beers and chatter and various musicians drifted back downstairs for a jam. We caught up with the Scowling Owl girls while a suited man swore his undying love for the band to Ben, and I practiced spinning high fives with Ryan (it made sense at the time).

JB balancing beer

The party continued long into the night, though we sadly had to depart around 2am to meet some friends in a nearby pub for some whisky.

My post and pictures don’t do The Forest Café justice, and we were lucky to have been there on two wonderful evenings, surrounded by great people. An honest bohemian paradise, it was one of the nicest venues I have ever visited – a worthy addition to my Places to Quaff and Quarrel.

So this pretty much brought my Scottish journey to an end. The band played one last gig on Thursday lunchtime, though I went next door to see a fantastic comic singer Tamar Broadbent play a blinder of a show. Another free show that was utterly fantastic.

Beau and I then started the long journey home with the others waited for the late bus back down south. You should also know that all my hangovers from the week thoughtfully converged during our car journey home, which was fun.

And now for my final thought…

I may be contractually obliged to sleep with one member of Green Diesel (beau and I like to keep things legal), but there is more to why I admire the band than their damn fine bass player. It is easy to only be into live music for the ‘fun’ parts, or to let laziness and the inevitable lethargy of daily life distract you from performing. The reality is apparent – being in a band is fun but it’s hard work, as my earlier accounts of the trips should have demonstrated. Green Diesel aren’t daddy rich or investment flush – they all have full time & very demanding jobs. But they stick at it, day in day out, and carry themselves with grace and good humour. Whether you like their music or not, you can’t deny their professionalism and their heart as a band. I owe them a debt for letting me following them around Edinburgh.*


*No, Ben, I am not buying you a mandocello.

The Fringe Files Part II: Here comes the band

When last I left you it was Sunday night at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and the beau and I were enjoying a last hours of privacy before four days of frenzied music making began.

Such gaiety we had, tiny darlings, exploring the sights like a normal couple instead of two people who practice wrestling finishing moves on each other and sometimes forget how to kiss.

But as the weekend drew to a close, a faint rumbling could be heard across the fair city. Crows cried from the rooftops, dogs howled, mandolins began to play by themselves.

The band was coming…

From here on in, my Edinburgh tale morphs into a band diary mingled with further tales of my own escapades. Hopefully it will inspire you to take up music while drinking gin and pointing at cats.
Green Diesel (in which Ben plays bass) had been booked to appear at the Fringe by Lost Horizons Folk Club, a London-based folk night putting on a variety of acts at various venues throughout the festival (They are a small venture but are manned by thoroughly lovely people, please do go and support their shows.)

Here they are:

Green Diesel, Green Diesel Folk, The Demon Gin
From L to R – Greg, Ben, Ellen, Colin, Matt and Jon

Booked to play 12 shows over four days, the weary travellers rolled into the flat around 8am Monday morning – Ellen (violin and lead vocals) had taken the sleeper train, while Greg (vocals, guitar, mandolin, and dulcimer), his brother Colin (drums, vocals), Matt (lead guitar, vocals) and John ‘JB’* (accordion, mandolin) arrived creased and crumpled following a nine hour coach trip.

Tea and aspirin dispensed, Ben updated his cohorts on a couple of issues he’d encountered in the previous two days.

Flashback to Sunday…cue wavy lines…Exterior, day, Black Medicine Coffee Shop. A striking blonde woman with haunting eyes shelters from the drizzle in the café doorway, her porcelain skin glowing in the grey fug. A man called Ben exits the shop and is a man. He looks troubled and the striking woman speaks to him expositionally.
Me: What is wrong, my love? How is this venue? The band is due to play quite a few gigs here, is it not?
Ben: Yeeaahh, the thing hasn’t actually been built yet.
Me: What’s that now?
Ben: The basement band area….is not….it’s not there.
Me: Oh. Fuck.
Ben: I should call some people….

Wavy lines back to the future…

Yep, one of the venues was a bust and six of their advertised shows would not be happening. A crisis? Actually, a bit of a blessing in disguise. Lost Horizons quickly got on the case and sorted some of extra excellent slots at other locations. And even though the band would have been pleased to play as many gigs as planned, the cock-up did grant them a bit more free time to relax and enjoy the festival.

“So,” said the band in summary, “that’s the only problem so far?”

“Well,” Ben said….

Flashback to Saturday…cue even wavier lines….Interior, night, The Tron Kirk. Ben and the striking woman sit listening to live music. Green Diesel are scheduled to play in the same venue many times in the coming week.

Ben: (Peering at the sounds desk) The sound desk has four channels.
Me: (Pause) WOOHOO! I don’t know what that means.
Ben: In addition to our own amps, we need four microphones, three guitars, one violin, an accordion, and a mandolin to go through the PA. At least.
Me: (Counting)…(counting)….oh my God, you need 21 channels!!!
Ben: Ten channels.
Me: Oh my God, you need ten channels!!!
Ben: We can manage…. But we’ll need a spare guitar amp

Cue wavy lines back to the present…

So it was that Ben, having finished his story, promptly ran out of the building and sped across Edinburgh to borrow a spare guitar amp off a friend of a friend of a friend.

With him gone, there was an important task to complete before the first midday gig – the sampling the building’s pool and sauna.

As previously reported, I had managed to book a very reasonable holiday apartment with a gorgeous communal pool for the troops, meaning we could start each long day with a peaceful swim and a sauna – a little luxury for a very hard working band.

I was banned from taking pictures at the pool but I looked exactly like this:

Although we did start getting territorial about the pool; we came down one morning to find three people in the pool not observing lane discipline, so Colin ripped out one of their hearts. He was right to do it.

On to the shows…

The first gig kicked off 12.30 at The Cow Shed, Cowgate, to a small but happy audience. The venue is exactly as it sounds – a large cowshed resplendent with bales of hay, sawdust and a well-stocked bar (just like any decent farm). It was a great space to chill out in, surrounded by many free venues and opposite Underbelly.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh, Green Diesel

Now, I want to get this out of the way right away. Playing nine shows over four days may seem like a piece of cake if you’ve got nothing but a guitar and a pocketful of dreams to lug around. For a six piece electric folk rock band, it’s a weeeeeee bit more complicated.

Despite their continued efforts, Green Diesel are not (yet) lavishly paid rock stars with fleets of helpers and Volvos* at their beck and call. This means each gig requires a lot of additional work, and those ‘free hours’ between shows quickly melt to nothing when you’ve got equipment to lug, kit to prep, instruments to tune and free parking to find.

The process in Edinburgh was roughly as follows: collect and prep kit (all instruments, amps, leads, stands, and microphones) cram into car, drive to venue (most of the band have to walk), unload, park car (try to find free parking), set up (30 to 60mins), play gig, briefly bask in applause, set down & pack up, load vehicle, park vehicle securely, unload if needed, and walk back to where the beer is OR drive to next gig and repeat.

You’re looking at up to 3 hours work for a 45 minute gig, even with the occasional luxury of getting a taxi. Still think being in a band is all coke and hookers? Nope**

Once the band had set down from The Cow Shed gig, and after I walked out of shit comedy show (I felt bad for the comics, but it was getting painful), my stomach started to growl and only one place could quell the beast – Illegal Jack’s South West Grill.

I wanted to show you a picture of the burritos, but I ate it too quickly. So here are the leftovers…

This sizable fast food restaurant is famous for its reasonable priced and exceedingly excellent burritos bursting with fillings. Choose from pulled pork, beef, chicken, haggis or a veggie option, and load up with your choice of beans, sour cream, cheese, spicy or mild salsa and guacamole. This is not the place to do things by halves – always go large and you will be sated for many hours afterwards.

With a few hours, the band divided in search of entertainment or naps. JB and I missed one show we’d been planning to see, so ducked into the Captain’s Bar for a pint and sing song and then caught a free comedy show at The Free Sisters before the band’s next gig.

As I knew I was in for a lot of Diesel action over the next few days, I declined to attend Monday’s evening gigs and went off to see a show I’d been looking forward to all weekend: Miss Behave’s Game Show.

I arrived early as while the previous show involving some kind insane chef was still underway. I witnessed this:

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe festival, Fringe

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe festival, Fringe

 Then said chef spotted me, and tried to give me a melon from his pants.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe festival, Fringe

When I ran away he tore across the street to present it a man in a van. I have NO idea what was happening. Only at the Fringe.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe festival, Fringe

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe festival, Fringe

A little while later, I returned to the now sparse shop front where the sparkling Miss Behave (a renowned compere, cabaret artiste and sword swallower) hosted a phone-based game show, ably assisted by her glamorous assistant in short shorts, Hilary.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe festival, Fringe, Miss Behave
Miss Behave (borrowed from her website)

The crowd was separated into two groups – iPhone and non-iPhones (I was in the poorly-populated Samsung catergory). Miss Behave than led us through a series of silly phone based games – who could dial her phone number fastest, fastest selfie, numerous word games, name that tune. Basically whoever shouted the loudest won. It was fevered furious fun, and she was an exceptional hostess.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe festival, Fringe, Miss Behave's game show, miss behave
I won the fastest selfie round….it’s not a good look for me
The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe festival, Fringe, Miss Behave's game show, miss behave
Hilary dances
The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe festival, Fringe, Miss Behave's game show, miss behave

Hilary was also a huge hit with his long legs and impromptu striptease. In fact, we all voted him as the winner in the end and he took his prize of smashing an old phone up on the pavement. Sound bizarre? It was. Brilliantly bizarre.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe festival, Fringe, Miss Behave's game show, miss behave
Playing smash the phone

While I waited for the beau to finish band business, I wondered across the North Bridge to explore.

Old hats will roll their eyes at my naivety, but as a Fringe virgin, I was staggered by the sheer scale of the event. Pockets and plazas of performance are positioned across the city, with the main action centred in New Town and Old Town. I did my fair share of walking, and every day I found a new hub of activity. The little dots on my map did the enormity of the Fringe little justice.

It was pleasant just to walk around the beautiful St Andrew Square garden, sit in a deck chair and stare at the fairy lights in the shadow of the Spiegeltent for an hour.  (Yeah, at this stage I was regretting not taking a tactical nap earlier in the day)

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe festival, Fringe,
The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe festival, Fringe,

As the night drew to a close, I met the band back at the Tron Kirk for a drink and some burlesque (watching). Ben, Greg & I stayed out for a last whiskey while the others staggered home, coach-lagged.

We finally turned in close to 2am, merry with Scotch and with only the cries of the world’s most desperate kebab shop owner following us through the deserted streets.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe festival, Fringe,

His shop didn’t even have a name, you know. It was just ‘Kebabs, Burgers, Fish, Chips’. I think he also shouted through the window that he could make a lobster.

Anyway, join me soon for the next instalment of The Fringe Files, where things get real. I think.

*I call him JB. I don’t even know if he likes it.
** Well it was for that yodeling group I used hang around with. Seriously, every night it was titty bars, titty bars, titty bars.

Edinburgh: The Fringe Files Part I

This month marked my first trip to the famous, frantic, fevered Edinburgh Fringe Festival. And my renewed love affair with alliteration, apparently.

The Fringe has been on my ‘must do’ list for many years, along with the West Country and various cast members of the film 300. But every August, fate has conspired against me and I’ve never been able to make the trip. Until this year, when I was presented with a tantalising opportunity…

No, I wasn’t acting in anything. Nor was I singing, dancing, miming or semaphoring. I was, instead, given the chance to travel up with my beau’s folk band as they played various gigs across the fair city. Basically, I’d be a groupie*.

Obviously, I accepted the challenge and herewith recount my adventures to you, tiny darlings. Part one, as detailed below, covers my first couple of days in Edinburgh with the beau when we discovered the delights of the Fringe as best we could. The second part, coming soon, will detail the band’s story, when all hell broke loose a little bit.

Let’s begin…

For those who don’t know, the beau (Ben) is the bass player in the six-piece folk rock band Green Diesel. They play a mix of original and traditional tunes at gigs across the country, and are currently signed with Talking Elephant. This is what they do (beau is the eejit back left):

Green Diesel had been booked by Lost Horizon’s folk club to play a series free gigs over a few days at the Fringe in early August. As a supportive girlfriend, I felt it was my duty to accompany them to the world’s biggest arts festival and help them listen to great music, watch splendid shows and drink copious amounts of beer and Scotch. It’s just the sort of splendid person I am.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh fringe road trip, fringe festival
Road trip

Bright and one Saturday morning, the beau and I set off from Canterbury to Edinburgh. We drove up with all the kit a couple of days early so we could see some shows together and have sex in all the apartment’s rooms before the rest of the band arrived** by coach a couple of days later.

434 miles, a bag of Opal Fruits (it’s what they’re called, children) and only one Paul Temple audio mystery. We did it in just under eight hours. BOOM. 
In an effort to do my bit, I sourced the band accommodation back in February. Normally Edinburgh Fringe + seven people + parking vital = are you INSANE woman??? Luckily, after much digging, bagged an absolute gem via Edlets: apartment 16 in 51 James Square on Caledonian Crescent.  

Three bedroom apartment, two bathrooms, secure parking, 15mins walk from Old Town (or a £6 taxi ride) and a Co-op and good pubs on its doorstep. Oh, and did I mention there was a swimming pool? Because there was a fucking swimming pool. All for an extremely reasonable rate.

I can’t recommend the apartment highly enough. Agnes, the owner, could not have been nicer and we found tea, coffee, milk, bread and OJ waiting for us. After eight hours on the road from Kent, the apartment was paradise. Even though we instantly faced an impossible choice…

Tea consumed, the two of us tried to see as much as possible on Saturday night and Sunday before the relentless band schedule commenced. Obviously we only scratched the surface of the Fringe, but we had a grand time wandering from place to place, catching free shows in between pre-booked delights.

For those still planning to explore the Fringe this month, here are some of my highlights… 

The Royal Mile (I know)
Seasoned festival goers will probably mock me, but I decided to brave the Royal Mile early on. For those who’ve never walked the famous street during the festival, the city’s main artery becomes an artistes’ cattlemarket where performers from hundreds of shows set up camp and flyer the fuck out of you.
The sheer number of people can be quite overwhelming, but it’s a great way of getting into the festival spirit – and to laugh at people trying to be edgy.
Obviously, this was part of the act!!!

I actually bumped into a girl who I’d previously acted with in Faversham – she was in town with two shows as part of Another Soup’s Victorian Vices programme. Small world, small world.   

Fin Taylor: Real Talk, Just the Tonic at The Tron, 10.20pm nightly
(and the Terrible Tron)
After seeing a bit of mediocre improv on Saturday night, we were in need of food and ducked into a standard looking chain pub for a quick cheap dinner. Oh how wrong we were to do so.
The menu promised sausage and mash, with colcannon and fried onions. After a considerable wait I was given cold mash, brown sludge AND vegetarian sausages. Observe my Twitter disgust:


I turned down the food and asked for my money back, and assured the  bar staff that I would never return. I showed them, I did!…..Little did I know that the show we’d booked to see that night was actually in that very pub’s basement.  Cue me sneaking into the venue in a large hat and dark glasses, and begging the beau to fetch the drinks all night while I fought any urge to go to the toilet.
It was worth the effort as the evening show was Fin Taylor’s Real Talk. We had chanced up his stand-up at a festival last year, and his full set is worth every penny. He’s easily one of the best comedians I’ve seen in a long time. Beau and I were doubled up with laughter, and never has a room been so joined by a mutual love of Robot Wars. Fin has also been singled out as having one of the best jokes from the Fringe this year.

Twas a great start to our visit.***

Here’s a teaser:

Upstairs Downton: The Improvised Episode, at The Counting House, 2.30pm daily
On Sunday, the beau went to do some afternoon band admin and I went in search of a reported free burlesque show at The Counting House on West Nicolson Street (it’s never too early for nipple tassles).
Unfortunately, there was no burlesque to be found but I did stumble on an outstanding free improv show, Upstairs Downton. A small cast acted out a mock episode of Downton Abbey while playing the hat game – before the show, audience members wrote random phrases on bits of paper and put them in a hat. Any time someone in the audience shouted ‘hat’, a cast member had to immediately draw a piece of paper from the hat, read it aloud, and go with it accordingly. This is a format that can easily go wrong in unskilled hands, but the cast were exceptionally strong and the entire show was hilarious as a result – and it was free! I gave generously to the donation bucket. I was that person nudging other people saying “that fiver in there, I did that, I did that, I’m generous!”

Knightmare Live – Level 2, Pleasance Forth, 5.30pm daily

The much discussed Knightmare Live. If you haven’t heard of the live show, and are a fan of the late 1980s kids TV adventure programme, you really are missing out. If you’ve never seen the kids’ TV show GET OUT GET OUT OF MY BLOG GET AWAY FROM ME!!!

The live version of the hallowed TV show is unadulterated joy. Treguard, Lord Fear, the knapsack, the big pointless dragon – they are all there. Two guest comics attend each night and guide a hapless volunteer through a flimsy set and a series of challenges in the style of the show we know and love. Within a matter of minutes, everyone was shouting “sidestep right! RIGHT, RIGHT, FOR GOD’S SAKE!”, cheering at the appearance of the life force, and solving riddles in high-pitched squeals. The small cast was outstanding, and several of them (as you’d expect) had solo comedy shows elsewhere in the Fringe. The show is a steal at £13, I would have happily seen it a million times. 
The Tron Kirk, The Royal Mile
Hark at the venue where we spent a great deal of time on our trip. This beautiful old church was converted into a glorious music venue for the festival, featuring entirely free events. 

Tables and chairs, very comfy sofas, and a bevy of acts were laid on from 12noon to midnight (and beyond) every day. Beers were pricey and not spectacular, but they brought in some tasty bottle ales half way through our stay, which were most welcome. 

Green Diesel played there many times, but beau and I were lucky to catch a few early shows from the raucous bluegrass folk quartet Tales of Two Counties, who were great fun and very supportive of all the gigs in the Tron Kirk, and the gorgeous all-female folk band Scowlin Owl. The latter band do beautiful harmonies, and we ended up sharing a few beers with them over the course of the week – genuinely lovely lasses.

Scowlin Owl

But there was an unexpected highlight of the Tron Kirk. And I’m not talking about the bouncer who asked me for ID and then questioned whether my driving license was real because I ‘couldn’t be 33’. Ahhhh. That was a pretty good day……sorry, where was I?

Appearing as a promo for the ticketed Best of Burlesque show (at Assembly George Square Gardens nightly at 11.55pm), each night a chorus of different ladies enter the once sacred Tron Kirk and performed gorgeous, comical, sensual dances for our delight. One lady (whose name I could not grasp) did a veil dance that made me feel new interesting things, and there was also a double act involving a lady dressed as a flower and a woman in a giant bee outfit….it worked, somehow. A delicious tease.

Between shows of near-nudity, the fantastic comedy duo Jollyboat performed a series of pirate-themed covers of popular songs. Silly, brilliant fun. They have a full free show every day at 5pm at The Beat, Cowgate.

If you’re in town, with nothing to do, head to the ol’ TK. You won’t be disappointed.

The Captain’s Bar, South College Street

Late on Sunday, we ducked into The Captain’s Bar for a pint and to see an Edinburgh-based friend’s excellent folk duo Gillywolfe play their regular weekly music session (Kent pals, they will be at the Faversham Hop Festival at the end of the month and are well worth seeing).

This is a consistently solid wee pub, with traditional music every night and often into the afternoon. The Royal Oak (a couple of streets away) maybe the famous salt-of-the-earth venue for live folk music and late night sessions, but the Captains more than holds its own in the music stakes. Lovely people, delicious beer, and oddly untroubled by the hordes of festival goers, this became a regular watering hole for us. Prices are also very reasonable compared to the festival price hike you find in most other venues.

I even did some singing when I returned there later in the week with JB (Green Diesel’s accordion/mandolin monkey). Apparently my song made one of the customers (a fellow Irishwoman) cry. Which may have not been a good thing.
The Five Thirty Cabaret at The Famous Spiegeltent, St Andrew Square
I defy anyone not to swoon a little when they enter a Spiegeltent. Glittering mirrors, carved wooden booths, deep sensual colours, and delicious cocktails. The Famous Spiegeltent is a mainstay of the Fringe, hosting parties, music, comedy acts and, of course, top notch cabaret shows.

I was sad to be so time poor (and, after a couple of days, money poor) on my trip and missed the chance to dress up and spend the night dancing at La Clique and Club Spiegel. But I did grab an hour to see the fantastic Five Thirty Cabaret, a mere £6 for some excellent afternoon entertainment.

The shows features some of the best performers from the Fringe, and on my visit, I was fortunate to see the fantastic Desmond O’Connor (master of comic ukulele songs), the delightful crooner Frank Sinazi (yep – a cross between Sinatra and Hitler), time-travelling magicians Morgan and West, Marie Antoinette-esque dancers Hustle, and the out-fucking-standing Oz comedian Damian ‘Damo’ Clark. I wish I’d had time to see his whole show – never has a man summarized the prep needed for a hangover in your 30s so beautifully.

As you may know, several Spiegeltents tour the world. If one appears anywhere near you, go and revel in its splendor. Canterbury folk! The Spiegeltent will be returning to this year’s Canterbury Festival, so book your tickets soon and do your best to support its appearance

Ahhhhhhh! So much whimsy, and still all the band banter still to come…

Check back soon for Part II of the Edinburgh files. Bring gin. Or whiskey. Or both, in a teapot.

*I was a terrible groupie as it goes. I only had sex with one member of the band, who I already livd with, and scored no drugs. But I did share a nice bottle of Malbec with them, and we went for tea and cake.
** We didn’t (we did)
*** I should point out that the combination of me not eating and drinking many pints of cheap beer DID mean I ended up crying on the apartment sofa at 1am, asking the beau if he really really wanted to see Knightmare Live because I felt he wasn’t engaging enough in the idea of it. If nothing else, I am a catch.