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Whingein' in the Rain

By • West End
Well, I think we're making the best of it but, honestly, this weather is no fun at all.

I'm looking out over the crags where eagles swoop and mists swirl, and the rain has been so heavy all night and all morning -- and no sign of cessation -- that it's pressed open windows that are only half ajar on their hinges.

For the first time in coming to the festival for decades I finally gave up on a show late last night because I couldn't find a taxi, couldn't stand upright in the belting monsoon and suddenly felt damp, depressed and deflated.

My plan was to fly from the brilliant cabaret set of New York singer Liz Merendino and cross town to the Underbelly in Cowgate to see When Women Wee.

Not where women wee, but When Women Wee. I didn't feel too bad about this as I've already had an underbelly-full at the Gilded Balloon of girls talking dirty in Looser Women and I really need to wash my ears out and pull myself together.

I had watched Merendino in the compnay of just two other people in the audience, the West End Whingers. I'd never really heard about these guys -- they buy their own tickets and post bitchy blogs on their private web-site -- until the other day, and now I can't avoid them.

They're everywhere, and one of them is even working on the fringe, talent-spotting or something for the turbaned comedian Hardeep Singh Kohli's festival chat show.

Well, he's certainly made a good choice with Merendino, and much as it pains me to fall in with the opinion of two non-critics who seem full of trivial opinions, I bow down in admiration to the pocket-sized chanteuse, too.

Earlier on, I'd caught Diana Quick's lovely solo show and sat behind her good friends Julie Christie and Guardian journalist Duncan Campbell. It must be weird for her appearing on the fringe thirty-five years after she first came here as an Oxford student.

The amazing thing about Diana, who was the first ever female president of the OUDS, is that she as lustrous and sensual as the first day I met her. She is an extraordinary woman, highly intelligent and politically engaged, and she seems now to have acquired an added layer of poise, authority and gravitas on the stage.

London friends are texting me to stop moaning about the weather and be grateful we don't have a riot. Not yet we don't... it's not Saturday night, and that's when the fun starts. People don't just shout at each other in the streets, they often kill each other.

This has nothing to do with the festival, as far as I know. There are more people selling copies of the Big Issue along the Royal Mile than there are fire eaters this year.

And you can't walk over North Bridge and into Nicolson Street -- that bustling purlieu of grand architecture and cheap shopping -- without passing at least ten people with bruised faces and junkie jaundice.

I must try and make it into the International Festival offices today. And I've limited myself to three shows so that I can have a proper meal for a change and catch up on all the gossip with my favourite Press people, Liz Smith and her young son Fraser.

Actually, Liz and Fraser aren't, as far as I know, related. Liz was once married to Emlyn Williams' son, Brook, who was one of Richard Burton's closest friends, and Liz remained close to her namesake Taylor till the end of the film star's life. So lots to catch up with there. Fraser isn't related to anyone at all of note. He just knows them all.

I say Emlyn Williams. Anyone out there remmeber him? I only ask because I went round town yesterday saying how sad I was at the passing of John Wood, one of the truly great actors of our time.

John Wood? Folk on the fringe have never even heard of him, mate. I received more blank looks than a nudist in a nunnery. Ah well, there's still the International Festival to come, where at least one can touch hands with the living and the cultured.


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