It began well. I was in a good mood this morning, having spent last night celebrating the birthday of the writer of the show ‘Wolf’ with all eight of the cast and its director, who happens to be my dearest friend, Kath Burlinson. In our lovely Edinburgh flat, we had a right old knees-up, culminating in a big baggy sing- song, with multiple harmonies (some of them in tune). What a lovely ensemble is the Wolf mob! I haven’t yet seen the show but the sheer physical attractiveness of its actors bodes extremely well. I would have seen the play today, but that was my first frustration. I turned up 13 minutes late having got the time wrong. I can’t bear missing the beginning of any play, so I left, disgruntled, to try again another day.
Never mind, these things happen. So it was on to Fringe Central, the base for performers, which was hosting a media-pestering afternoon. Here was an opportunity for several thousand actors, producers and Uncle Tom Cobbley to make pitches to various representatives of the Press to persuade them to review us. I arrived 15 minutes ahead of the appointed time and the queue of thespian miscreants stretched round the block. The other half of my ‘company’, my technician, Lauren, was working on another show, so it was just me waiting for an hour to enter the building. I endeavoured to be stoic. I bit my nails, looked at endless posters of stand-up comedians, all of whom have reviews saying ‘The future of comedy’ and listened to the conversations of young idealistic Fringers who didn’t feel too old and dignified to do this. At last, the door was mine to enter. I composed my face and straightened up my wilting body. Nobody cared. I walked into a room that was full of many, many more queues. It was a Dante-esque moment. Each journo had set up at a table, and their newspaper title was posted above their heads. The queue for The Scotsman was longer than the unravelled intestines of an elephant. I picked a relatively short queue for something else. I died of malnutrition waiting in it.
I spent two hours in that room and spoke to three journalists. By the time I got to them, they looked like they would rather hit me over the head with a shovel than listen to me. I gave them my spiel. They smiled weakly. I left. As I fell back into the street, I saw Mervyn Stutter walking past all on his own and unencumbered by groupies. I’d been hoping to see him so I could reprise doing his Pick of the Fringe (I’d done it nine years ago and was sure he’d remember me). I was so knackered, dehydrated and late to do my own show that I let him go on his way. Doubtless I will never see him again.
I rushed home to pick up my costume (if you can call a nice blouse and trousers that) and to bolt down a banana (fuel of champions). Then I crossed the Meadows, eyes scanning for a taxi. Not a one. So I trot up Jawbone Walk (check it out – a real giant’s jawbone forms an arch at one end) and Lauren rings. I’m ready to apologise, I know I’m going to walk in off the street and onto that stage, but I’ve a great excuse, all will be well, I know my show like the back of my proverbial. All will be well, I say to myself (again). No, says Lauren, it won’t. The lights in our venue are busted (they are flickering like an epileptic’s worse nightmare), I’m going to have to cancel, there’s no way round it.
I could have just lain down on the Meadows there and then and mopped up the last rays of afternoon sun. I could have diverted myself to a hostelry and drunk a glistening consolatory pint. I could have been cheered by this stroke of fortune and gone to see a great show I would have missed otherwise. But I couldn’t. I just knew that I had to go to the venue and tell the audience how deeply sorry I was, and beg them to come back another day. Which I did. Then I had a pint. Then I talked to every single person who might be able to fix the problem. Then I sat down on the steps of The Tron and felt really really s**t.
The evening was somewhat redeemed by a visit to the home of another mate who has rented an eye-wateringly gorgeous flat near the Botanic Gardens, and who fed me food from the nicest supermarket going (Waitrose) on a lovely terrace with the company of some charming people from Stroud. Better. Nothing went wrong. On the way home (a LONG walk), I was able to flag down a cab before I finally lost the use of my legs, and by 11pm was in bed. It is now 1.30am on the next day. This one is going to be great! I’m starting again. All will be well! (And if it isn’t, my rage will be heard in Leith, nay Aberdeen, much like the blasted fireworks which woke me up at 11.30pm when I was just entering Nod). Poor me.
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