When I was at the Edinburgh Fringe last month, I occasionally posted blogs about what had happened at the increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club which I co-hosted with comedy critic Kate Copstick. But the shows were an hour long and what I mentioned in the blogs were only 5 or 10 minute excerpts.
One character who never turned up in the blogs was someone I did blog about last year – newbie comic Machete Hettie.
She lives in the Leith area of Edinburgh – or ‘Leithiopia’ as she calls it.
When she called in to The Grouchy Club, she had just come back from a holiday.
“Where did you go?” I asked.
“I went to Sunny Beach in Bulgaria,” she told us, “and the place was mental. The taxi drivers are really fucking crazy. They drive aboot wi’ a bottle of beer in one hand and a phone in the other and nae hands on the wheel. They charge what they want. They’re the dearest part o’ yer night oot.
“Everything over there’s fake, from yer handbag to yer fake lighters. They even sell ye fake lighters wi’ nae gas! Look!” she said, rummaging in her handbag, “I’ve got twelve bloody lighters! They’ll give ye one light and that’s it! Everything’s fake-it-an-bake-it.”
“How long were you there?” Copstick asked her.
“A week,” Machete Hettie replied. “Ma liver is in pain. Seven days of shots. I managed to get steamin’ drunk for like £2 a night. They give you great big tubes with a half bottle o’ vodka in them. It’s meant to dae ye from midnight to 6 o’clock in the morning. Great big tubes. But they’re that heavy you can hardly carry them. You end up using them as a dancing partner, ken? They’re that big.
“Till 6 o’clock in the mornin’ ye can get steamin’ in Sunny Beach an’ I’m sure there’s loads o’ people that must come back pregnant an’ call their baby Sunny cos that’s no very hard cos they’re all at it in the streets an’ that..”
“How do you know?” I asked.
“Cos I seen it,” said Machete Hettie. “Cos I was there. It happens oot in the street. It happens everywhere.
“I didnae have any shenanigans wi’ them myself, like for sex or anything like that, no matter how much they were nice-lookin. I had it in my mind that, if you done anything wi’ those Bulgarians, you’d end up wi’ no flip-flops. But I ended up getting robbed o’ my flip-flips and my phone anyway. There was a great big fuckin wave came and took it all away. It took ma handbag, ma shoes, the fuckin lot.
“I was sunbathing a bit too close to the sea and a great big wave came and snatched ma bag and the whole shebang, then it threw it back at me wi’ a broken phone and ma money all tae fuck.”
“You’re used nicking things,” I said. “Surely.”
“But I’m no used to stuff getting fuckin robbed offa me,” replied Machete Hettie. “Especially by a Bulgarian Black Sea wave. I thought it was gonna be from some sort of Bulgarian/Romanian/Russian gypsy. I didn’t think some black wave was gonna come along and tax us.”
“Why did you decide on Bulgaria?” I asked. “Because it was cheap?”
“Aye. Cheap and nasty,” replied Machete Hettie. “It was a last minute deal.”
“Was the nasty bit good as well?” I asked.
“Nasty was very good. That good that I’m going back.”
“How did they manage with your accent?” I asked.
“Extremely hard. They were asking me which part o’ Bulgaria I was frae.”
“I’ve known you about a year,” I said, “and you’ve never ever told me why you’re called Machete Hettie.”
“Well, how do I explain that?” she replied. “It was basically shit that happened when I was younger. Let’s say I was up to nae good in the neighbourhood. Dysfunctional shenanigans. I was in my twenties.”
“What sort of no good?” I asked.
“Remembering,” I told her, “that this is being recorded.”
“I probably just hung aboot in she gangs and things like that. It was gang related.”
“They’re called She Gangs?” I asked.
“Aye. I’m originally frae Dundee. I’m a Dundonian/Leithiopian.”
“That’s scary,” said Copstick.
“That’s scary,” agreed Machete Hettie. “Now you can maybe understand ma nature.”
“So you were in teenage she gangs in Dundee?” I asked.
“Yes. They were called the Hull Toon Huns.”
“Why Hull Toon?” I asked.
“Cos I was frae an area called Hull Toon – the Hull Town – which was quite a rough area. I done some shit years ago and I got the nickname Machete Hettie. I’m using it as a comedy name now because it’s catchy, but the balaclava and the whip, well… I’ve dropped them now; they was causing too much trouble… where airports and that were concerned. I’ve been accused of everything.
“They’d say: A gimp mask? They’d ask: Did you knit that yourself?… I wouldn’t like to be your neighbour if that’s what you go about doing to your neighbours. A lot of men thought it was quite kinky, ken. But I was fuckin sweating. I couldn’t handle it nae mare underneath them lights.”
“Have you ever in your life,” I asked, “held a machete?”
“Aye, of course I have. When you were allowed to bring them back frae Spain – and big Samurai swords an’ that.”
“The fact you were allowed to bring them back,” I suggested, “didn’t mean you HAD to bring them back.”
“Oh,” she said, thinking about it, “maybe you weren’t allowed to.”