“Are you doing your traditional late-night tour of the Royal Mile?” I asked comedian and national treasure Arthur Smith yesterday, beside his new exhibition of socks.
“Yes,” Arthur told me. “And I will be introducing the13ft Norwegian giantess Jadwiga.”
“She’s the one with only one sock?” I asked.
“Yes,” confirmed Arthur.
“Which Saturday night?” I asked.
“The 20th,” he said. “Well, strictly speaking, it’s the Sunday, because it’s after midnight.”
“What time?” I asked.
“I dunno,” said Arthur. “One o’clock? Two? I don’t care. You decide. If you put it in your blog, that’ll be the time I do it.”
So, dear reader, Arthur Smith’s legendary annual late-night tour of the Royal Mile this year will start at 01.00am on Saturday night 20th August – or Sunday morning 21st August if you are being pedantic. The starting point, as always, is the top of the Royal Mile outside the entrance to the Castle.
“But what about Arthur Smith’s socks?” I hear you cry with some justification.
Well, tough shit. You will have to read on for a bit.
A few days ago, I got a Facebook message from one Broome Spiro asking if I fancied having breakfast with a stranger.
So, of course, I let him buy me breakfast yesterday morning. He turned out to be a retired immigration attorney living in upstate New York who had chucked in his job and gone to work in a pizza parlour. His son had worked in Zoo venues at the Edinburgh Fringe a few years ago. Broome is fan of my blog and of the weekly Grouchy Club podcast I do with Scotsman critic Kate Copstick.
“How did you stumble on us?” I asked.
“When my son was working at Zoo,” explained Broome, “my wife Penny was following the Fringe on the computer – online, you can almost be here – and we became interested in the politics behind the Fringe and the different business models – PBH and Bob Slayer – and we ran into your blog, which was ‘real’. It’s nice to have it done with historical perspective so you can understand if you are new to it all.
“Over the years, I have collected a tremendous amount of things. My first job was with an antiques dealer, holding up stuff, and my mother made me quit after a month because I had not had a pay cheque yet, but I kept on coming home with antiques. I have this 3,000 square foot house with four 38ft tractor trailers and two barns filled with things and how I finance coming to Edinburgh is by selling things.”
He took out and showed me a jockstrap made from a plastic duck.
“You created it yourself?” I asked.
“Well,” said Broome, “I found the duck and designed the jock strap, but a guy called Dara Albro is the one who made it a reality.”
“Was it tested for size and comfort?” I asked.
“I was the fitting model,” admitted Broome. “I am going to present it to Paul Currie.”
“Why?” I asked.
“I like his show.”
Later in the day, Broome also turned up at the Pleasance Dome for the official opening of the exhibition of Arthur Smith’s socks.
Which is where we came in.
The exhibition includes one sock belonging to (or, more correctly, formerly belonging to) the aforementioned 13ft Norwegian giantess Jadwiga.
Scotsman critic and Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award judge Kate Copstick is of a mind to nominate Arthur’s sock exhibition for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid Award on the basis that it is “very Saatchi”.
“Have you,” I asked Arthur, “ever been prosecuted in a Scottish court for your legendary annual late-night tour of the Royal Mile?”
“Not quite,” he said. “There was a balustrade on a corner once – well, it’s still there – and I paid a guy to stand on it and take his top off and sing Scotland The Brave and then a woman said Oh! That’s sexist! so she took her top off as well. They were a couple and had a big row. Anyway, the next day I looked, I realised there was a 40ft drop behind it and they had both been arseholed. They could have died. Maybe I would have been up for manslaughter if they had fallen. I dunno.”
Also there at the grand opening of Arthur’s sock exhibition – rather grandly titled Arturart’s Museum of Socks – was Scotsman journalist and increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award judge Claire Smith.
“I am staying in a tent in Worbey and Farrell’s garden,” she told me.
“What if it rains?” I asked.
“It makes a lovely splashing sound.”
“Why are you staying in a tent in their garden?” I asked.
“Because I love them. They are sweet.”
“Why a tent in their garden?” I asked.
“It’s really lovely,” explained Claire. “I’ve got a little office in there. And WiFi, a vase with lilies and a carpet. And a cherry tree. Have you heard about Lewis Schaffer?”
“Constantly,” I said.
“He forgot his suit,” continued Claire. ”He left it in London. He had to do his show in civies yesterday. In his jeans. But he needs his suit. He usually buys his suits from ASDA because he says they are very Armani-ish. Well, a bit. But cheaper. So he left his suit in London and had to do his show in his jeans yesterday and he is wondering if it is a subconscious desire to give up comedy forever.”
“Has he started performing comedy now?” I asked, surprised.
“I have heard,” confided Claire, “that his suit is on its way up from London.”
“Via one of his entourage?” I asked.
“What other news?” I asked.
“Topping (of Topping & Butch) has given up alcohol and wants to do people’s feet in Edinburgh. He does reflexology in London. He’s really good at it. He lives in a little castle in London. He thought he would come up here and offer people reflexology.”
“People at random in the street?” I asked.
“Well, he was wanting to do it from my tent, but we haven’t really been able to organise it. We thought, if it was sunny, we could have a garden party. Get a load of people round to my tent and get their feet done.”
“Sunny?” I asked. “In Edinburgh in August? Where is your tent?”
“Near Meadowbank Stadium.”
“Oh,” I said. “I’m moving to a flat between Meadowbank and Easter Road for the last four days of the Fringe. It could be noisy at the weekend.”
Meadowbank is a 16,000 seat sports stadium and Easter Road is the 20,000 seater home of Hibernian football club.
“There’s a circus tent down there now,” said Claire.
“Let us hope,” I said, “that they don’t have elephants.”