Sunday, August 26, 2012

Edinburgh - Part Two

(Do you want to read Part One first?) (You don't have to.)

The first day of our show was hectic. Sophie had left all her knickers in Manchester, and our flyers hadn't been delivered to the venue. We rushed up and down the bending streets of Edinburgh, our thighs getting a taster of what they would be put through over the weeks to follow. It was the Thursday before the official starting weekend of the festival, so flyerers were comparatively thin on the ground: only a smattering of teenagers in their pants promoting their re-working of Henry V in a 1920s New York cabaret club featuring the songs of Buddy Holly (or whatever).

We arrived at our venue, the 3 Sisters, and went at once to inspect our performance space. The bus squatted in the corner of the courtyard, half-painted and looking unmistakably bus-like. We had been wondering how they would have transformed it to make it into a performance space, and when we got to the top deck we realized that it really was just a bus. A bus with lights and a small P.A. system, yes, but pretty much just a bus. It only occurred to me a while later, when chatting with a comic who was also performing on the bus (a nice guy, about 6ft tall) that it was lucky none of the three if us were particularly tall.

That first day Sophie had an incident involving lack of knickers, a wrap dress and an enthusiastic dog. And we couldn't flyer, due to lack of flyers.

Right, we thought, that's kind of OK (the flyer thing, rather than the dog thing). We could probably do with a day without an audience anyway, seeing as how we had been too rushed to really put it together before we left Manchester. In fact, we told each other, it's a good thing! We can have a dress rehearsal in the venue we'll actually be performing in! What luxury!

Lowri and I were in the bus about ten minutes before we were due to start, when Sophie came upstairs, pale-faced. We had audience members, she told us. Not only that, but three of our audience were reviewers.

Oh God.

Ten minutes later we began, and about an hour later we finished, relieved that we had not died or had aneurysms or anything. The reviewers went off to judge us, and we decided to inspect the offerings of the bar.

Soon we sat clutching pints. I was calling the print company to chase up our flyers and posters. The man I spoke to did not help my mood, calling me 'love' and 'darling' more times than was necessary (which is exactly no times, in my book). In the many, many conversations that followed he even had the temerity to tell me not to "get in a flap about it".

(I would like it noted that I did not immediately commandeer the nearest vehicle, go to Glasgow and kill him totally dead. The self-control that required should impress you greatly.)

It took another three days for our flyers to arrive (the posters are still a total mystery). We still needed to promote the show, though, so Lowri whipped up some excellent stand-ins:

For our first few days in Edinburgh we rushed over cobbles, performing over and over, meeting people, celebrating birthdays, seeing shows, doing band busking slots on the Royal Mile in the baking sun then in the whipping rain (top tip: an umbrella is not big enough to cover a cello), went to see a terrible, awful musical ("did someone write this as a dare?"), went to the opening night of Ben and Dan's show, Anthropoetry. We encountered some extremely posh and even more extremely drunk people ("what does your father think of what you do? Is he disappointed in you?"), waited for night buses before giving up and hailing taxis, trudging up and down hills and handing out our ersatz flyers to whomever would take them.

Time scuttled sneakily by.

We were reviewed, which was really weird. Seeing yourself in print being critiqued by a stranger to whom you can't respond, it is peculiar. Anyway, I won't put the reviews on here, but if you want to see some of the nicer things that were said about me, I have put a page on my real site for them. This is a cunning way of being a narcissist whilst pretending not to be. How sly I am, you hadn't even noticed, had you? (No.)

The weather suddenly went hot. The sun tripped off the cobbles and hangovers, and the top deck of the bus became a dramatically sweaty place to be in the middle of the afternoon. People still came, though, and bravely watched the show, gently steaming and fanning themselves listlessly with our newly-turned-up flyers. We had some good shows, some great moments. One day the queue was snaking out of the bus, and we jammed as many people on as we could before sadly having to turn the rest away. It was bizarre, telling a story in the middle of the top deck of a bus. If you did that on a bus in South Manchester you would get pelleted with rolled up bus tickets (or worse), and quite rightly.

Some shows weren't so great, of course. In one I forgot the end to my story. I just, kind of, didn't say it. I only realized halfway through Lowri's piece, and by then it would have been churlish to leap in with a punch line. We had some walk outs. Some bored stares. One man answered his phone during the show, which you just cannot hide on the top deck of a bus.

But we had as many laughs, as many thanks and warm reactions and one guy even came back a second time. We got better as we went along, it got easier to ask people to donate, and my looping got smoother.

About halfway through Lowri, Sophie and my ten day run Ben managed to score the band (Geddes Loom, with me, Ben and Dan) a gig (can I get away with using the phrase "score us a gig"?). We'd decided that busking was a bit crap, as we risked totally ruining all our equipment every time we played at the mercy of the weather. The venue was called the Tron Church, at the bottom of the Royal Mile.

We did the gig, and they liked it so much that we performed there everyday until we left Edinburgh eleven days later.

I've got more to tell you about all those gigs, but not in this post. It is long enough already and I suspect that Ben might be about to give me some food, so I am going to go and look hungry at him for a bit.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Edinburgh - Part One

The day before we went to Edinburgh I nearly suffocated in lists. Our flat was littered with small, desperate scraps of paper with scrawled To Do haikus on them.

Loop pedal (and lead)
Black dresses (one, two and three)
Ibuprofen (lots)

On the morning we left Ben made egg mayonnaise sandwiches for five people, while I checked corners for lurking fruit that might be ready to go dramatically mouldy as soon as the front door slammed shut. As usual I did not check my lists, considering a thoughtful frown in the vague direction of my luggage sufficient insurance against forgotten things.

Once at the train station we met Dan and stood amongst our metropolis of luggage. A cello, a speaker, a guitar, a loop pedal, a midi keyboard, computers, a snake nest of leads, a keyboard stand, a wooden board and two weeks' worth of clothes and shoes. I may have been responsible for slightly more of the last two things than Dan and Ben, but luckily for me Sophie and Lowri soon arrived to even up the scores.

Having wrestled our suitcase city onto the train, we excitedly all ate our sandwiches way before lunchtime, gazed out of windows for goat-spotting and made jokes about what we were going to do next year instead of saving for six months to go and rinse our money trying to get people to validate us. "2013: Costa del Sol!" I remarked, hilariously, privately deciding to make it an in-joke for the rest of the trip.

Finally, after quite a number of "are we in Scotland yet?"s and "have you brought your passport?"s, some whole carriage conversations and sudden realizations that one of us had forgotten something vital, we pulled into Edinburgh Waverley.

Two taxis later and we arrived at the accommodation we'd booked months previously. Loud music screeched from the battered, pebble-dashed flats. "Don't you just love the summer holidays?" one of us muttered in response to some howls that echoed from an upstairs open window. We sat on a wall and waited for the estate agent to come and let us in, everyone trying their best not to look like a snob and consider the over-a-thousand-pounds we had paid for a two week stay in this place where brown water was seeping down the walls and the hallway seemed dark and foreboding through smudged glass.

Eventually the agent loped into sight. He was tall, with a bald head and an expression of amused distaste. He gamely picked up a suitcase and lead us through the damp concrete hallway to our flat on the fourth floor.

I was heaving my cello onto the second set of stairs when I heard Lowri and Sophie being shown into the flat.


It was an "Oh!" that could have been "Oh! An en suite!" or "Oh! A balcony!" or "Oh! A hot tub with a built in Champagne dispenser!".

I made my way up the next two flights to discover that, in fact, it was an "Oh! What is that smell that has just hit me round the face like a three-week old haddock?"(which you will certainly agree is a significantly inferior "oh!").

The flat smelled impressively bad. Like, horrifying, kneecap-tinglingly, retina-searingly awful. Later we decided that it smelled as though a dog, or possibly some dogs, had urinated copiously, then died and not been discovered for a few weeks. I do like to employ poetic licence sometimes (read: flagrantly exaggerate) but I promise I am not in this case.

The estate agent tried to tell us he would have it cleaned but we all went into simultaneous lawyer-mode (as learned from Ally McBeal circa 1998) and determinedly lugged all our stuff back down the stairs and demanded alternative accommodation.

After a short phone call ("yeah, no, it is really bad actually") he announced that he had an alternative for us. Taxis were called, luggage heaved once more and he said he'd meet us there.

Again, Sophie and Lowri went in first. "Oh!" I heard one of them say. "A balcony!" I waited hopefully for the hot tub/Champagne dispenser to be discovered, but when it didn't happen I didn't really mind. It didn't smell like a canine mortuary, and for that I was immensely grateful.

It was a much nicer, infinitely nicer, stupidly nicer flat. It was further from town, overlooking the shore, but it meant our balcony had a sea-view, so we could watch ships do disappearing tricks and try and pretend we were on a proper holiday. ("Costa del Sol!" I said, to gales of disapproving silence.) We chose not to focus on the fact that the estate agent was clearly going to charge us loads of money for a dump when they had perfectly lovely flats available, and settled in.

That night we unpacked, drank wine and got excited, nervous about the following day, when Sophie, Lowri and I would start our show on the top of our bus.