Tag Archives: edinburgh

Edinburgh Fringe, Day 26: To feel that tranquility amidst the Fringe adrenaline

Today, I did my annual trip up Blackford Hill, to the south of Edinburgh. The photos below are all from today. The one above was taken in 2010.

The reason I try to go up Blackford Hill every Fringe was explained by me in a book which the website Such Small Portions published in 2013. It was titled Secret Edinburgh, sub-titled A Comedians’ Guide To The City. It had contributions from over 160 comedians and/or people listed in the Comedy section of that year’s Edinburgh Fringe Programme.

Which is why I was asked to contribute, although I was not and am not a performer.

One section of Secret Edinburgh was titled Out of Town and contributors basically wrote about their favourite places which are not in the centre of the city.

Below is my contribution in 2013, interspersed with photos taken today.

_____________________________________________________

When I was newly 18, I tried to commit suicide with pills. This was a bad idea, because I had always been shit at Chemistry in school.

I was persuaded to go into a mental home in Essex, because I had tried to kill myself. I did. But I only stayed two days and one night because they kept asking me questions when I just wanted to be left alone.

I went back to my distraught parents’ home, but it was no better there. Not their fault. So I ran away from home.

I hitched to Edinburgh which was and still is my favourite city. Ever since I was an embryo, I had gone there once a year with my parents to spend a few days with my father’s aunt, who lived in Morningside.

When I ran away to Edinburgh, I slept one night in a multi-storey car park at the foot of the castle rock. I spent another sleeping in the stairwell of a block of council flats. It was very cold.

In Morningside, I saw my great aunt on the other side of the street. I did not talk to her.

Later, I walked up the Blackford Hill at twilight to see the view: the city spread out before me, the castle rising up in the distance on the left; Arthur’s Seat rising in the distance on the right. The waters of the Forth were twinkling in the background with Fife beyond them; the lights of the twilight city were starting to twinkle in the foreground.

It was totally peaceful and now, every time I go to Edinburgh for the Fringe, at least once I walk up the Blackford Hill to feel that tranquility amidst the Fringe adrenaline.

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Simon Caine seeks people to literally do elevator pitches for their comedy shows

Simon Caine – Glass half full or half empty?

Comic Simon Caine runs the Ask The Industry Podcast and two Facebook groups for comedy performers – The Comedy Collective and the Edinburgh Fringe Performer Collective.

“You are also doing this lift thing,” I said. “Or this elevator thing, for American readers.”

“It’s a concept,” he replied.

“That sounds like something in a Woody Allen film,” I told him. “A concept that could become a project that could become a…”

This is not Simon but could well be?

“I got a message the other day,” Simon said. “Out of the blue. No context. A message from a girl who saw me in Derby last year. It said: SAW THIS AND THOUGHT OF YOU… It was just an image of Woody Allen with a quote: Life is full of loneliness, misery, suffering and unhappiness. How good is that? She had seen that and thought of me.”

“What’s your Fringe show called this year?” I asked.

Laughter Is The Best Placebo. The strapline for the show is that my life is a constant search for emotional electrical outlets – as in I’m always charging my phone and always trying to project my emotions onto other people. The opening line of the show is that the show is an attempt to work out whether comedy has improved my life or immeasurably ruined it.”

“Which is it?” I asked.

“Definitely the latter.”

“Your fan in Derbyshire is going to love it.”

“It’s on at the Sweet Grassmarket venue, 5.00pm ever day except Wednesdays, when I get rudely awoken by the dustman.”

“I have no idea what that means,” I said, “but we will get to the rubbish later… Your elevator pitch idea is in the same venue.”

The Edinburgh Fringe Apex elevator pitch lift

“Yes. In Apex, the really posh hotel in Grassmarket. They have two lifts and they’re allowing us to commandeer one of them for a couple of hours each day on the 14th and 15th of August.

“A reviewer will get in the lift with a performer, travel 3 or 4 floors and he/she has that amount of time to pitch their show to the reviewer.

“They can do anything they want as long as they don’t touch the reviewer. They can bring in props, do a little skit, sing a song – whatever. Anything they want. Then, at the chosen floor, they get out, a new act gets in and they have the same number of floors to pitch their show.”

“So,” I said, “it literally IS an elevator pitch.”

“Yes, the idea is you get through quite a lot of pitches and the reviewer is left bilious.”

“What time of day is this?”

The performance space for the elevator pitch

“In the afternoon, I think, but we can do it at any point in the day when the reviewers are free. Kate Copstick said she might do it after your Grouchy Club show.”

“So,” I said, “even though a review is not guaranteed, if the pitch is good enough, a reviewer may come and see the show.”

“It’s an opportunity for performers who can’t afford PR,” said Simon.

“Comics at the Fringe can barely afford food,” I said, “which brings us neatly to rubbish. At the end of the Fringe, you are collecting left-over food.”

“Yes,” said Simon, “it’s a food bank collection for the homeless of Edinburgh. If you’re anything like me, you buy food for your flat but, at the very end of the Fringe, there will be some left over. So, instead of throwing it away, you can give it to people who need it much more than you ever did. People you have probably passed several times during the Fringe and not given anything to, like I don’t.

An Edinburgh street during the Fringe – amid the showbiz

“The first two years of doing it, I worked with a charity and wrongly assumed they would be run the same way as the food bank charities in London. It turned out they weren’t.

“With the one I was working with, I found out the people could only go three times a year and had to bring bank statements to prove they were too poor to have enough food.

“And it turned out they were a for-profit food bank, which didn’t make any sense to me.

“Now I have moved over to a thing called The Basics Bank, who only accept food that is not opened, and the Granton Community Orchard Garden. And there’s a third charity, The Homeless Period, who help redistribute hygiene products to women because, obviously, tampons and sanitary towels are not the cheapest things in the world and, if you are broke and living on the street, you don’t necessarily have the money to afford them every month.”

“Shouldn’t,” I suggested, “the period charity get together with the food charity and they can make black puddings?”

“I’m not giving you a reaction to that in case you use it,” replied Simon.

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Scottish comedy – Getting mature?

Is Ben Verth pulling out his hair with his new venture?

Ben Verth lives in London and runs the new Monkey Barrel comedy club in Edinburgh.

“What is your real day job?” I asked him.

“This is,” he replied.

“What?” I asked. “Running a comedy club in Edinburgh while living in London?”

“Yes.”

“You make money from it?”

“Enough. I’ve never been massively rich, but I’ve never been uncomfortable. It used to be just two of us running a fairly profitable gig in a pub on Fridays and Saturdays. Now it’s five of us and our new 7-night-a-week venue. The club is not just me – it’s a collective.”

The Monkey Barrel comedy club opened in Edinburgh two weekends ago. It is a two-level theatre, café and bar space with a 100 capacity main room and a 60 seater basement theatre called The Banana Skin.

Ben told me: “My two big comedy club inspirations are Peter Cook’s The Establishment and The Comedy Store in London. But what John Millar – my business partner – and I most want Monkey Barrel to be is more akin to a National Comedy Theatre of Scotland. Or like the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh – a home for new and exciting writing and performance. We are not just going to be night after night of stand-up.

Monkey Barrel opening night

The opening night of Monkey Barrel

“We want it to be a great home to sketch and improv and comedy theatre too – and, with new media really guiding the development modern entertainment, we want it to be a studio for podcasting and online video content and production. Just a great house for ideas. John and I want to create a great comedy lab and see what happens.”

“Isn’t Scottish comedy,” I asked, trying my best to be provocative, “just second rate London comedy?”

“It’s not shit,” replied Ben. “It’s just young. Scotland doesn’t really have a strong gig infrastructure outside of rowdy weekend shows, so the sort of opportunities to perform are largely harsh and combative and local. It is not really a place for nuance and experimentation – not if you want to start earning money.

“Because I live in London, I can see first hand what the differences are between the two comedy scenes and honestly I think there is as much interesting and exciting comic work going on in corners of Scotland as there is in London. But, in London, you are just much more free to develop on long-established stages. Though things are certainly changing and even over the last few years comedy and comedians’ attitudes in Scotland have begun to mature and acts and like-minded audiences are beginning to find each other.”

“You used to be a performer,” I said. “Have you stopped?”

Ben taking a break from his Sabbatical

Ben taking a break from his Sabbatical

“I think ‘Sabbatical’ might be the right word,” Ben suggested. “I can’t run and market the club and feel like I’ve earned the right to perform there. I started off doing sketch comedy, but there’s no network for that in Scotland, so you find yourself having to become a stand-up. I was not terrible at that, but it didn’t suit me.”

“Why,” I asked, “is the new venue called the Monkey Barrel?”

“We were running comedy nights in a pub in Edinburgh called The Beehive on the Grassmarket and we just generically called ourselves The Beehive Comedy Club. But we knew we were gonna move and thought: What the fuck do we call the new club? How do you even come up with the correct name for something? So we knew ABBA had come about by putting all their initials together and so we put ours into a word randomizer. It was me (Ben Verth) and John Millar – and one of the things the word randomizer came up with was MERLIN’S HERNIA.

“For a brief moment, after a whole day of this bullshit, going absolutely insane trying to think of a name, we thought it would be a great comic name and we could see the figure of old Merlin all bent over with a wizard sign on the door. But then my missus said: That is an awful name! For God’s sake don’t call it that. Why don’t you call it…I dunno… Monkey… Barrel… So we said: Oh, OK.”

“Merlin’s Hernia,” I pointed out, “does not have a V in it.”

“It was right down the list,” said Ben. “It had been a long day.”

“How long,” I asked, “had you been running the Beehive comedy club in Edinburgh?”

“About five years. We had our 5-year birthday last January, but I mis-counted. It should actually have been our 6-year birthday. We were just doing it Fridays and Saturdays and the occasional New Act night as well. But, when there was a bit of economic uncertainty, people stopped coming to the New Act stuff.

Monkey Barrel, Edinburgh

Monkey Barrel is the new comedy contender in Edinburgh

“Now the Monkey Barrel is me and John and our regular host Rick Molland. Chris Griffin is the organisational manager. And a guy called David Bleese, a comedy fan, got on board for the move to the new venue. He used to work with John at the Royal Bank of Scotland.”

“Oh dear,” I said, “There is another club in Edinburgh doing comedy seven days a week. They might be rather vicious if there’s competition? I think there used to be five or six clubs in Edinburgh; then really there was just them… and now you… as competition.”

Ben seems to think the other club is amiable.

“After a rocky first year or so,” he told me, “the old Beehive club started consistently selling out and turning people away, while they (the other club) were also packing out their regular seven nights a week – something which has continued since August when we started our beta-test preview shows in the new venue. So, basically, Edinburgh definitely seems like it has an appetite for weekend comedy. We didn’t go into this with our eyes closed. So I don’t know if the city needs another club, but everything I’ve encountered over the last few years shows it certainly wants one.

“I’ve always been a promoter of some sort and, I think, a decent one – founding and producing The Edinburgh Revue at university, running my own nights at various venues around the city, building up comedy at The Beehive, creating the Scottish Comedy Festival. The real Yes, I can do this! moment came when I met cartoonist and writer John Millar who wanted to do exactly the same thing.  I had the contacts and the know-how; he had the business expertise and the cool head and same ideals and, it must be said, the most remarkable drive I’ve ever encountered,”

“And the new venue is where?” I asked.

“We bought the 17-year lease of a place on Blair Street, just beside the City Cafe.”

“Near the infamous sauna?” I asked.

Google StreetView’s take on Blair Street, Edinburgh

Blair Street seen from the Royal Mile on Google Streetview

“Ah, well, yes…” Ben laughed. “Saunas! We found out very quickly that the landline telephone number we had been given by our phone provider – the one we had started using as our booking line – was originally the phone number of a sauna (not in Blair Street) and it was still listed as their number all over Google. So 50% of the time the phone goes it’s people looking to book tickets.The other 50% it’s seedy-sounding men asking if they can stop by to see Mei Ling (she must be the best one, she’s the most popularly asked for), or can we send her round ‘with some oils’.

“My favourite incident was when a someone rang up asking who was on that night and I said Former Scottish Comedian of the Year Larry Dean… and we’ve got Michael Redmond and… and the voice on the other end of the phone cut me short and asked: Big Jessica not working the night, naw?

“We have been waiting six months to have the number changed. I feel like Mei Ling is the unsung sixth member of staff.  We should maybe start a MeiLing list.”

“Although,” I prompted, “the other organisers of the club are up in Edinburgh, you are doing all this while living in Ealing, London, because of your wife’s job?”

“I am up and down on the train all the time,” Ben said.

“You were born and bred in Edinburgh,” I said. “Do you enjoy living in London?”

Ooh no, missus! - Carry On Constable!

Ooh no, missus! – It’s Charles Hawtry & Kenneth Williams!

“When we first moved to London, we lived in Drayton Grove and, at the end of the road, is the school that was used in Carry On Teacher and the whole surrounding area is where they filmed Carry On Constable. Charles Hawtry’s trousers fell down at the postal depot round the corner.”

“You have a populist taste in movie comedy, then?” I asked.

“I think the greatest four films ever made were the first four Police Academy films. I also love Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who”.

“So why not,” I asked, “go off yourself and make some comedy B-Movie with cheap special effects?”

“Maybe I will,” Ben laughed.

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When I came home yesterday at dusk… Tomorrow & tomorrow & tomorrow…

Durer_NurnbergRuins

I live on the outer edge of London in what is called a Close but is actually a square, with buildings on three sides and, on the other, the back gardens of houses in another street.

When I came home yesterday at dusk, the buildings on the three sides were half demolished, the roofs non-existent, the walls and innards had been broken down to half or more or less than their old height, the bricks and plaster destroyed or exposed and everything was covered with that light white dust of demolition.

When I had walked up the nearby street to my home, there had been red double-decker buses and waste bins and people walking around like it was hundreds of years ago and you were living in and walking through a world you had only known previously from old, faded images. It was dusk and all the 2-dimensional detailing and colours and sounds were there in 3-D reality.

Then I was standing on the Blackford Hill, looking north towards the Firth of Forth and Fife, with the waters stretched out flat and wet before me, the little black island of the Castle Rock sticking out of the water on the left and the larger green island of Arthur’s Seat sticking up out of the water to its right. And, way down, in the waters between them, were the underwater streets and passageways and stone buildings of what used to be Edinburgh. Just dark stone passageways and alleyways in a dark underwater maze now, with light marine growths on the dark stone walls and fish swimming along and between and inside the empty rooms of all the old buildings.

Dreams are strange.

It is very very rare that I remember mine.

Perhaps once a year; maybe twice.

I wish I remembered them more often.

But all the above was not a dream I had last night.

It was yesterday at dusk and I was awake and the images were in my mind.

MyEye_CUT

 

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Prince and the tangled web which gave farter Mr Methane his big US TV break

Prince in 2008 (Photo by Micahmedia)

Prince in 2008 (Photo by Micahmedia)

I stopped writing this blog daily at the end of last year, thinking it would give me more time to do other things.

Since stopping, I have had less time. Who knew? I am now seven un-transcribed blogs behind.

Almost four weeks ago, I had a chat with Mr Methane – the world’s only professional performing farter.

Around midnight last night, he texted me a message. Surprisingly, it did not say: Where the fuck is the blog your were going to write? Instead, it read:

“Quite stunned and saddened to hear about the death of Prince – an artist whose global success indirectly led to me appearing on the Howard Stern Show in the US.

“I made my first ever visit to the Howard Stern Show thanks to the hard work of Lenny Shabes. He was President of WATV. Lenny was a big fan of Howard and became aware of my alimentary talents while in London visiting his friend, artist manager and producer Steve Fargnoli – a man responsible for the careers of Prince and also possibly my biggest fan Sinéad O’Connor.

Mr Methane Let’s Rip in his VHS release

Mr Methane Let’s Rip opened him up to the US audience

“Steve Fargnoli introduced Lenny to my manager Barrie Barlow and, on returning to the States, Lenny sent a copy of my video Mr Methane Lets Rip to Howard’s producer Gary Dell’Abate AKA ‘Baba Booey’.

“Lenny followed it up with an astonishing 90-odd phone calls until Gary and Howard eventually caved in and watched the tape.

“Gary and Howard liked what they saw and invited me to the show where I performed a special rendition of Happy Birthday.

“The appearance was judged to be a success and was shown on Howard’s E TV & CBS television shows with Howard Stern proclaiming himself to be a huge Mr. Methane fan.

“This may have never happened if Prince’s Purple Rain hadn’t established Steve Fargnoli as a giant of music business management with an office in London.

“The law of unintended consequences strikes again.”

There is a video on YouTube of Mr Methane’s first appearance on the Howard Stern Show.

Last year, I wrote a blog which pointed out Mr Methane is related to the Queen of England and Thurston de Basset, Grand Falconer to William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.

It now turns out that, as well as being related to Queen Elizabeth II, he is also related to Lord Byron. Genuinely.

When Mr Methane and I met again a month ago in St Pancras station, he was NOT going to the Paaspop festival in Holland. He had been booked to perform in a cabaret tent at the festival but then, for unknown reasons, the cabaret tent and all its acts were cancelled. They paid him half his fee and all his travel costs. So, instead of going to Holland, he took a train down from Macclesfield to London to celebrate what he called his “birthday we won’t mention.”

Mr Methane’s sister is still researching the family tree.

“Our grandma was Joan Byron,” Mr Methane told me, “and she married into the Bassets. She came from the Byron dynasty which used to hang out originally at Clayton Hall, where Manchester City’s football ground is now.

“We’ve got another grandma – Cecilia de Warren and her dad was the Earl of Surrey. She’s a connection that takes us back to the Plantagenets.”

“So,” I said, “your sister’s doing all this family research.”

Mr Methane wearing a Howard Stern badge

Mr Methane wearing a Howard Stern badge

“Yes. She’s got a BA and an MA and she took the BA in Art History. Before she came out with her Art History degree, I used to think Salford Van Hire was a Dutch painter.”

“Wey-hey!” I said.

“I’ve learned a lot off other people,” Mr Methane continued. “Barrie, my business manager is in the music industry and I knew very little about that too. I used to think Dexy’s Midnight Runners was a laxative.”

“Wey-hey!” I said. “So what have you got coming up in your farting career?”

“I’ve got a very very secret thing that I can’t talk about in Finland.”

“And sadly,” I said, “you can’t do the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards show in Edinburgh in August because…”

“…I’m at the Dorset Steam Fair,” agreed Mr Methane. “Blowing my own trumpet. Then I’ve got to start writing the Mr Methane book. It’s going to be a long time in the process, but this year’s going to be the start of that. I think I need to leave a legacy. I don’t know whether to call it Behind The Behind or Life at The Bottom.”

“This will be your auto-blow-ography?” I asked.

“Yes, there will be loads of double-entendres in it,” agreed Mr Methane. “There’s something else I’m doing… I should write a list, shouldn’t I? But, being a performer, I don’t write lists, I just have things rattling around in me that come out.”

At this point, our conversation was interrupted by a text on his phone from a friend. It read:

A Belgian Shepherd dog not on the beach (Photo by Ulrik Wallström)

A Belgian Shepherd dog shot not on the beach (Photograph by Ulrik Wallström)

Can’t get on the beach for sheep.

“That’s right,” Mr Methane told me. “A friend has got a couple of big Belgian Shepherd Dogs and the sheep graze on the salt marsh, so you can’t have big Belgian Shepherd dogs chasing the sheep, can you?”

“No,” I agreed, “you can’t.”

I had no idea what we were talking about.

It often happens.

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One woman’s epiphany in Edinburgh

Edinburgh from Blackford Hill

Yesterday’s blog had a reaction from Sue Blackwell in Edinburgh, who occasionally crops up in these blogs.

I have no idea idea why she had this reaction. Perhaps it was because I mentioned my ‘inherent nihilism’.

For whatever reason, this is what she wrote:


Your blog triggered a memory of something that occurred many years ago now, when I was in my late thirties. I was drying some cutlery at the time.

Possibly I was over-tired, overstressed, I don’t have any explanation for it.

It was a state of mind that is sometimes reached – so I understand – by taking mind-altering drugs, which I had not done.

I don’t have a belief in God or any sort of higher being although, in my earlier years, there was an urge to question the reason for our existence – which took me down many avenues of exploration.

Not so today nor for many, many years now.

But in that moment or moments – I have no recall of how long it lasted – it was as though thought had stopped and this other state of consciousness came into play. I was aware of overwhelming joy, love and an awareness of order in our existence.

This order was incredibly beautiful, and it was as though a curtain had been drawn back and I understood all things. It was an Aaah! Now I understand! moment.

I have no recall of what I understood or experienced, because thought was not there.

As thought returned, this other state receded until it was no more.

I didn’t tell anyone about what had occurred because, certainly for the next three weeks or so, I found it too overwhelming to speak about.

What a lot of old bollocks this sounds now, but there is no denying that it happened.

I was not depressed at the time and have no explanation for it.

Words could not capture what had happened, so there was no way of communicating it with anyone else.

When I eventually did talk about it with one or two people it moved me to tears each time.

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Edinburgh toilet humour, some bearded French Canadians, Death on the Fringe

This morning, I received an e-mail about the Edinburgh Fringe from comic Paul Ricketts. It was something he had actually posted on a Facebook page. It read:

Ceci n'est pas une affiche Édimbourg

Ceci n’est pas une affiche Édimbourg maybe

Four years ago I sent out a press release for a hoax show to be performed in the gents portacabin toilet cubicle in the Pleasance Courtyard.

It was supposed to be taking the piss out of the expense of hiring rooms at the ‘Big Four’ Fringe venues – something which I can’t afford to do.

Strangely, enough people (including US Comic Tom Green) took this show seriously and I went ahead and did a performance on August 20th, 5.30pm in cubicle 3. I charged a penny for all those who want to watch – I made 11p! 

I am considering bringing the show back this year (from Aug 6 to 17) this time as a mixed bill show on dates and big 4 venues toilets to be announced. Everyone is welcome.

Later in the day, I got another e-mail from Paul. this one read:

So far, three comics are willing to do spots/slots in Big 4 venue toilet. I am now SERIOUSLY considering bringing the show back! 

Barbu

The men who conquered the world with timber

At almost exactly the same time, I got sent a picture of three semi-naked men in black trunks and one suspended in a red bag. The accompanying e-mail read:

After having conquered the world with timber, Cirque Alfonse will now hit Edinburgh Fringe with its latest show Barbu (Bearded) Electro-Trad Cabaret

It is two weeks before the Fringe starts, but the quirkiness has started already.

It is probably unfair or in bad taste to use the word ‘quirky’ for my Skype conversation with Robert James Peacock up in Edinburgh this morning. He is the Managing Editor of the TV Bomb website.

“Death,” I started. “Tell me about death.”

“I am,” said Robert James Peacock, “ Director of Death on the Fringe, My main job is working freelance doing arts marketing but last year, as a voluntary thing, I started working for a charity called the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care and one of their campaigns is a thing called Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief.

“It’s an alliance of various end-of-life associations – a lot of hospices are involved, a lot of NHS Trusts – and it’s run by the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care. They’re promoting another Scotland-wide festival in November called To Absent Friends.

Robert James Peacock

Robert James Peacock talked from Edinburgh this morning

“The basis is that we, as Brits, are not very good at talking about death and dealing with death. Everyone has to go through it sometime – everyone loses someone close to them – and, if you don’t talk about it, you don’t necessarily confront all the issues involved with it.

“You don’t know if gran wants to be buried or cremated; people don’t leave wills; people don’t know how to support people who have been through a bereavement.

Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief is a year-round campaign doing all sorts of activities and they came to me last year and said: We would like to do something during the Edinburgh Fringe. So we came up with this idea: Death on the Fringe. Basically, all the shows on the Fringe to do with death, bereavement, grief – put them all together in one programme to raise the profile of the campaign. It also gets more people to see some shows and kick-starts a debate about death and bereavement.

“It went well last year and, this year, we’ve had a bit more time to get all the existing shows together, so we have also programmed our own series of lectures – academics and thinkers – about death.

Richard Smith brother of comedian Arthur Smith

Ex-BMJ’s Richard Smith, brother of comedian Arthur Smith

“We have the former British Medical Journal editor Richard Smith, who’s the brother of comedian Arthur Smith, doing a lecture on 31st August about the ‘up side’ of death – based on the idea that, if no-one ever died, there would not be space for all the people who are born.

“And we have Professor Scott Murray, the Chair of Primary Palliative Care at the University of Edinburgh, comparing death in Africa with death in Scotland and how we deal with it differently.”

“Is,” I asked, “death in Scotland any different to death in England? Is there a psychological difference?”

“Well,” replied Robert, “the Celtic tradition of death is very different to the English tradition, if you think about things like Irish wakes which are very different to the Anglo Saxon treatment of death.”

“I suppose,” I said, “Scots just remain dour.”

“All the performers have been very supportive of death on the Fringe,” said Robert. “Lynn Ruth Miller’s involved.”

Lynn Ruth Miller wants to rub some matzo balls

The inimitable Lynn Ruth: nearer to God, than thee

“Well,” I said, “I guess she’s closer to death than most.”

“Last year,” Robert reminded me, “her show was called Not Dead Yet. This year, it’s called Get a Grip. We don’t want things that are necessarily serious things about death; we want things that are contemplative, reflective, which make people think about how they want to live their lives.

“It’s not just comedy. We have a couple of plays at the Traverse Theatre. One is called A Gambler’s Guide to Dying about someone who placed all his savings on a bet that he would live to see the year 2000. The other one is called Am I Dead Yet? which is being done in conjunction with the emergency services and is about how death is no longer a moment: it’s a process.

“Then there’s a comedy play – The Ascension of Mrs Leech – in which a Mrs Brown-esque figure dies and ends up causing trouble in heaven.”

“You’re not,” I asked, “associated with the Dr Death or Mel Moon shows?’

Am I Dead Yet?

Am I Dead Yet? Live as part of Death on the Fringe

“Well,” explained Robert, “because the charity is very involved in things like hospices, Dr Death was a difficult one for us, because putting that in the programme would be almost like endorsing assisted suicide. It is a topic to debate, but we didn’t want to go so far as looking like we were endorsing it. We don’t want people to assume assisted suicide is the way to go if they haven’t explored other issues.

“With Mel Moon, although she’s now separated from Dr Death, it’s a bit too late to start adding her to the programme.”

“How,” I asked, “are you going to develop Death on the Fringe next year?”

“Well, this year, we took the step of programming some of our own stuff, like the lectures and a couple of cabaret evenings. Next year we might actually start looking at finding a space where we can host our own events throughout the Fringe.”

An unexplained giant sloth

Unexplained giant sloth attacked (Photograph by Anna Smith)

“It’s very interesting,” I said, “because Edinburgh does like meaty, serious subjects.”

I talked to Robert via Skype this morning.

When I got home tonight, there was an unexplained photograph from this blog’s Canadian correspondent Anna Smith.

It appeared to show a giant sloth being attacked by a giant cat while a Chinese gentleman looked on.

I was also sent a YouTube link to a video of Cirque Alfonse, the bearded French Canadians. They seem very energetic.

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