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|Sunday, September 7th, 2014|
|Edinburgh diary, last bit
I’d supposed I’d just go straight home today, but the temptation to stick around was too much, so I left my luggage at reception and had a look at the City Art Gallery. One thing I learnt here is that it’s an increasingly big mistake to go up “up” escalators if there’s no obvious sign of a “down” one. I wonder how many of Edinburgh’s art fans find themselves trapped on the top floor with no hope of escape, presumably to become food for aliens or some such. Anyway, there was a lot here that I liked, including a large exhibition called “Where Do I End And You Begin?” (another clue, I think, that the top floor was being used to extract our life forces for the benefit of our Centauran overlords). I particularly liked Arpita Singh
’s paintings, which seemed to be of real life painted over the maps where they were happening, Kushana Bush
’s paintings of people who seemed to be leaving a dominant cuture and entering a subculture, and Masooma Syed
‘s models of architectural structures that had been made out of packaging, particularly whisky boxes. I suspect that I was reading completely different meanings from those intended, but that’s the nature of art. I also liked Rebecca Belmore
, a four-poster bed refitted with hair and animal skins, not least because I was able to use it to make a rope ladder and escape the building. But at least one member of staff was able to compliment me on my hat on the way out. Seriously Edinburgh, what is it about hats? If you like them so much, get a hat.
There were other things I’d wanted to see - it was a shame I missed Miranda Kane’s new show, as I’d liked her last year - but I found myself finishing off by going back to The Mechanisms
. This time I was more familiar with the music, and could appreciate how cleverly the story had been constructed. When Johnny d’Ville half sang and half shouted the line “But you’re a liar!” he pointed directly at me, easily the most terrifying thing that’s ever happened to me at the fringe, and this time I found to my surprise that I was the one with the tear in his eye at the final showdown. But as Mordred rode off into the sunset, I realised it was time for me to do the same, and I took my leave of the fringe, returning to a life of normality and the occasional vitamin.
This entry was originally posted at http://neil-in-the-hat.dreamwidth.org/2521.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Friday, September 5th, 2014|
|Edinburgh diary day 3
Wednesday 20 August
I finally managed to meet up with Rowan for coffee and lunch, after establishing that I’ve been walking past her flat several times a day since I got here. As a consequence, I now believe I know everything about next year’s Bicon, as my brain simply refused to process words such as “might”, “maybe”, “possibly”, “actually no” and the like. Lunch was vegetarian haggis tacos with guacamole, which made me suspect that either everything Scottish should be Mexicanised, or everything Mexican should be Scottified. I could certainly go with Tijuana Bagpipes.
I had to run off though as this was my best hope of seeing The Mechanisms’
new show, “High Noon Over Camelot”. I’m sure that if I wrote a story about gunslingers of the round table in space, no magazine would even read it (although come to think of it I think Circlet are soliciting such), but once again the whole thing worked excellently, even though the return of a couple of former Mechanisms meant that they were now a nine-piece on a five-piece stage. Once again I would find it impossible to justify why I love the band so much, but I know I’m not alone because at least one person told them afterwards that it was even better the second time around and that she’d been in tears at one point. I bought the CD with the minimum of obsequiousness and scuttled away.
Aware that I seemed to have spent a bit too much time watching absolute filth, I decided to watch Joanne Tremarco’s one-woman show which was billed as “untwisting the herstory of the world”. I therefore took my seat for Women Who Wank
and was treated to a partly improvised show in which she seemed to spend half of it impersonating genitalia. I think that two things set her apart from anyone else. Firstly, her improvisations were largely based on gesture and body language - in fact, during the first five minutes, as she desperately tried to keep her hand away from her genitals at the sight of certain members of the audience, I wondered if the whole show would be mimed. Secondly, this was without doubt the most spirited yelling of the word “wankers!” at the two audience members who walked out that I’ve ever heard. In fact the biggest audience wanker was the man in the hat who forgot to switch his mobile off, and I deeply regret now that I didn’t do as she said and pass the phone over, because I think I’d be getting far fewer life insurance spam calls if they’d been forced to speak to a clitoris. Excellent stuff, I think, although not everyone in the audience got it. After this I went back to my room, only to be accosted by a Mechanism to whom I was able to pour out all the obsequiousness that I’d managed to avoid at the gig. She even gave me the flyer I needed to complete my collection.
In the evening I more or less randomly went to see Frenchy and the Punk
, a two-piece steampunk bank in that most steampunk of venues, a bingo hall. They admitted that steampunk music only really meant music that steampunks listen to, but this was good stuff, although I wasn’t tempted by a CD.
I then moved on to the only show that really fell flat for me, The Widow, the Virgin and the Lamb
. This claimed to be a “bouffon show”, and it’s possible that if I knew more about what that meant I might have appreciated it more. The Widow came on first, with blacked-out tooth and ghastly make-up, but it became clear that her only plan was to embarrass the audience rather than do anything funny or interesting (at one point she had people on stage playing I-Spy). The Virgin and the Lamb were better, Mary and Jesus apparently on a cheap flight and indulging in disco dancing. Some of it was funny but again, I had the idea that they were trying to be strange for the sake of it, rather than having a real surrealist sensibility. They also had some interaction with the audience, and at one point Jesus asked my name, said we’d known each other for 2000 years and that he liked my hat (I have more sense than to sit at the front at these shows). There were some good ideas but I felt that it had misfired, and by the end of it I was just relieved to get away.
(I’m a little embarrassed, by the way, that all of this is coming across as a set of reviews. I hate reviews, didn’t consult any before deciding where to go, and don’t understand why everyone else seems so obsessed about them. These notes are somewhat selfish attempts to say what mattered to me, and what didn’t, not to try to say anything meaningful about the acts themselves. If anyone disagrees with me, that only means they’re a different person, and I’d hate it if anyone avoided seeing an act simply because I didn’t get it - which is, after all, most likely to be a lack of understanding on my part and my loss.)
Anyway, it was my last night here, and I had a long drive back tomorrow, possibly in a car with bouffon brakes, so I decided to call it a night.This entry was originally posted at http://neil-in-the-hat.dreamwidth.org/2056.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Thursday, September 4th, 2014|
|Edinburgh diary day 2
It’s a good job I haven’t done anything else interesting since I got back from Edinburgh, or I’d be getting well behind now.
I spent the morning looking at art galleries, as paintings are better at getting out of bed than performers. I found Stephen Campbell’s installation On Form and Fiction
at the National Gallery to be interesting: a room full of pictures from various sources, apparently including film noir and Boys’ Own adventures, while “Je t’aime ... moi non plus” played continuously in the background. It’s visual effect doesn’t really come across in words, but I would like to think that’s very much in the nature of a successful artwork. I liked it ... me neither.
So the first actual show I went to was Emily Snee is Bifurious
. I was relieved that there were already three people in the room when I arrived. “These are my family,” Emily explained, and I realised that I was the audience. Her songs were pretty good, mostly about her various relationships and only getting slightly awkward when she started singing about her family. The only oddity was that although she was certainly singing about relationships with more than one gender, she never directly addressed the concept of bisexuality, even though I suspect the show’s title put off more people than it attracted.
The rest of my afternoon turned into a bit of a faff - it’s impossible to get anywhere fast in Edinburgh at the best of times, and I realised if you need to be anywhere in ten minutes, you’ve already missed it. I had a brief interlude at the Royal Mile where I found myself chasing a member of The Mechanisms
down the street loudly demanding a flyer (a newsworthy event during the festival, but one that I think they’re starting to get used to). I also got chatting with a comedian called James Ross, who liked my hat and thought I would be interested in his show Unicornucopia
, as I looked as if I’d read a book and could cope with some difficult words. He even gave me a badge with a unicorn on it, and I promised to make it to his show.
That unicorn is the unicorn of guilt, its horn pointing at me like an accusatory lodestone to the magnetic north of broken promises. I’ll get there next year. (I didn’t get any other hat comments today, although someone seemed to be muttering about undertakers as I walked past.)
In the evening I went to another concert by the Kronos Quartet
, this time offering pieces by Philip Glass and Clint Mansell. Fortunately I’d had the sense to buy a programme this time and realised that they were playing considerably more than that, although tonight David Harrington had got over his shyness and actually told us what they were playing. The first piece was Nicole Lizée’s “Death to Kosmiche”, which incorporated a stylophone (an instrument whose star, you would have thought, had no further to fall in the twenty-first century) as well as other archaic proto-electronic instruments which reminded me that my brakes might need seeing to when I got home. Philip Glass’s “String Quartet no 6” sounded very much like a Philip Glass string quartet (as a longtime Glass fan I have a certain sympathy with people who think his music sounds the same - it can take a second or third or fourth listen before you start to hear what’s actually going on in the piece, what’s actually different. I remember being particularly tripped up by his second symphony, which isn’t anything like his other music. It just sounded like it) and Mary Kouyoumdjian’s “Bombs of Beirut” was a major piece which really should have had the star billing above Clint Mansell’s loud film music. It incorporated interviews with her family and recordings of bombings and attacks on civilians and was quite effective, although the music didn’t catch me as much as Vrebalov’s yesterday, and the text didn’t integrate with the music to the extent of its obvious precursor “Different Trains”.
After this it was time for more filth in the form of Nymphonerdiac
, a double-act with “Nympho” Carmen Ali and “Nerd” Ella Murray. At first it looked as if they didn’t have an act - they involved the audience in a game of “I never”, in which I chose to keep quiet, as virtually the only thing I never did was announce it all to a room full of complete strangers. But then they got started with two stand-up spots. Ali was the filthier of the two, but I think Murray was funnier, even though she seemed to spend just as much time talking about sex. Carmen Ali felt that you hadn’t really had anal sex unless you can feel your heartbeat in your rectum the next day: Ella Murray mentioned how disappointed she was when she took the veil off and discovered that her flesh wasn’t tempting sex-crazed men into carnal acts. I think that probably tells you enough about both of them, and with the bedtime stories over with, I went to bed, possibly with two or three people fewer than Carmen Ali.This entry was originally posted at http://neil-in-the-hat.dreamwidth.org/1861.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014|
|Edinburgh diary day one
As regular readers will know, it’s usually taken me a couple of weeks to get around to writing up my experiences in Edinburgh. Always a great respecter of tradition, I have done exactly the same this year and will therefore start with 18 August.
One of the problems with being fan of early 70s German electronic music is that I’m not always sure if the sound is coming from the CD or my car. On this occasion I had to admit that the noise of my brakes wasn’t possible on a Moog oscillator in 1971, but as I’ve solved most problems in my life merely by outliving them, I decided to keep driving and just not brake much. It did look as if my trip would be cancelled before it had even started, but in fact the noise subsided and I arrived at Edinburgh only a couple of hours after Google Maps had promised. One person complimented me on my hat, but this appeared to be an excuse to give me a flyer. I felt used.
There had been nothing I’d come for in particular, but once I’d decided on the dates I’d decided to book tickets for the Kronos Quartet
. I had an odd seat, at the right-hand corner of the stage, which gave me an excellent view of the cellist’s back but otherwise wasn’t such a bad place to be, especially as none of the seats around me were full and I was spared the experience of people coughing in my ear louder than usual so they can be heard above the musicians. I didn’t know any of the music on the programme, but this was largely because I didn’t get a programme until on the way out (I sometimes experiment with living backwards, or rather, I‘m going to), and as David Harrington wasn’t talking to the audience to an almost Gothic extent, I was confused - I’d been under the impression that it was a single piece by Aleksandra Vrebalov (whom I’d never heard of) but in fact the first half of the programme was music from the early twentieth century, making me believe that Vrebalov must write in a large variety of styles (although to be fair, Kronos virtually never play non-contemporary music). The main piece was Vrebalov’s Beyond Zero, accompanied by a film of unseen World War One footage that seemed to be in the process of decaying even as it was being shown. I’m pleased to say that I really enjoyed this music and have made a mental note to find out more about her.
There was only one way to follow a film about the horrors of the First World War: Miss Glory Pearl, The Naked Stand-Up
. I can report that Miss Pearl would not be prosecuted under the Trades Description Act, although in fact she wore a pair of shoes, as would anyone who‘s ever been in an Edinburgh bar, and hat for decency‘s sake. This wasn’t just a gimmick: her show was about our attitudes to our bodies and sexualities, and besides, as she said, when you’re a stripper, it’s a lot less work if you don’t put the clothes on in the first place. The audience seemed to be half men and half women (the word “seemed” being my assume-nothing gender-issues get-out clause) and Miss Pearl insisted on talking to all of us individually about our own bodies, her main point being that we spend too much time complaining about them and not enough appreciating them. If I were being savagely critical I’d say that this was 101 stuff - you’d have to have given it no thought at all to be surprised by the point of the show - but some people probably haven‘t, and I suspect that most stand-ups in Edinburgh have far less to say about the world. So I thought this was great, it was one of those shows where I felt as if I’d become friends with the performer, and had to remember that I wasn’t. Even though I’d been talking to her while she had no clothes on.
This only took me to 11:30, but I’d spent most of the day travelling and the rest thinking about industrial-scale warfare and naked women. I hadn’t even unpacked. So I went home and unpacked a bottle of wine.This entry was originally posted at http://neil-in-the-hat.dreamwidth.org/1617.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Tuesday, August 5th, 2014|
|Traditional post-Bicon post
Is there anything you want to say to me after Bicon? Comments are screened and sensible responses are not guaranteed.
I found this to be one of the better Bicons, plenty of chatting, chilling and extracting money from people who actually think I'm contributing to the community. I even made it to three workshops, probably my Bicon limit, in one of which I shared too much and the other two I didn't share anything. I don't want to go into too many details though in case I write it all up as a zine page and then can't use it because I gave it away free on my blog.
You know this is an advert. Anyone who still wants a copy of Bike Immunity news can get it here
. I was also selling my new self-published collection of stories The End of the World: A User's Guide
, information and buying opportunities can be found here
Many thanks to all those people (and there seem to have been a lot of you) who supported these ventures, and to everyone who just stopped for a chat.This entry was originally posted at http://neil-in-the-hat.dreamwidth.org/1365.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Wednesday, June 18th, 2014|
|Surely time for an update.
Anne and I stayed in a hotel in Workington for my birthday, using a voucher that we’d got off Richard and Rhona - very nice but I had to pretend to have a broken leg and be on my honeymoon to get away with it. We spent the day driving around an area which was disappointingly spelt “Wrynose”, and consisted of all the hills and bends that were left over from the roads in the rest of the country. We found a Roman fort which was too out of the way to be any kind of tourist attraction, so we had it to ourselves - not all of it was well-preserved but half of it was still there. We also rescued a goat which had got its head stuck in a fence. Goats: gratitude costs nothing. We went to Windermere the next day as Anne was reliving her childhood and insisted on going on the ferry, which wasn’t so much like a ferry as I understand it but was really a piece of road that was towed across the lake.
In writing news, my story “The Mistake Bureau” has been accepted by The First Line
, and in fact they seem to have published it already.This entry was originally posted at http://neil-in-the-hat.dreamwidth.org/1090.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Sunday, May 11th, 2014|
My livejournal is still subject to a two-week delay. We had a good time at Whitby, with a couple of odd experiences. I got seriously hit on within about five minutes of entering the Spa, when the woman next to me at the bar began to tell me how cute I was with an amount of physical contact that wasn’t really necessary to make the point. When she realised that I was here with someone else, she said that she hoped it had done my ego some good, although I think this depends on whether she was won over by my enigmatic good looks and astonishing personal magnetism, or whether I was just nearest.
Then when we came out of the Spa on Saturday night, two fairly disreputable-looking blokes came up and asked if they could have a photo. They said they’d been looking for someone suitably dressed all night. It then turned out that they wanted to be in it as well, so a friend of theirs took a photo of the four of us, looking as if we were all friends. We were then surprised to see them scuttle away onto the tour bus, and we could only assume that they were roadies.
Further research on google images reveals that in fact, New Model Army wanted a photo with us.
Unfortunately the weekend was utterly scuppered when we discovered that one of our oldest friends had died unexpectedly. I remain torn between not being able to believe it, and wondering how the fuck he made it past 1970. We went to the funeral on Wednesday, he was being cremated but we all had to leave before the curtains were drawn and the body was taken away, because he’d never been the first to leave a party when he was alive and wasn’t going to start now.
|Sunday, April 20th, 2014|
Somebody rang me at the shop to say that they’d left something important in a donation. This happens from time to time and my heart always sinks, because it’s invariably a stained and moth-eaten rag that’s already on its way to the tip. They wouldn’t say what it was though, so I had to let them come back and sort through it all.
It slowly became apparent that grandma was being embalmed, and they’d forgotten to keep a change of clothes. So I had to watch as they chose an outfit for a corpse.
It’s a rum old job sometimes.
|Monday, April 7th, 2014|
I hadn’t even noticed that the podcast of my story “Eurydice in Capricorn” has been put up on the Third Flatiron
site, as well as the Q&A with me. It’s not even the current anthology any more, but everything’s still available.
|Thursday, March 27th, 2014|
When I was about fifteen, I discovered radio shows such as In One Ear and Week Ending, and was fascinated by the list of two dozen writers at the end of them. Some of the best comedy writing talent was contributing just a single sketch or one-liner every week, and getting paid.
"That," I thought, "is what I need to be doing."
"Best give it thirty years or so first though," I thought on reflection, never being one to rush things.
People of livejournal, the time has come. I have a single one-liner on tonight's Newsjack
. And I have no explanation for why it took thirty years.
|Monday, January 27th, 2014|
Plan for January: write two short stories, make six submissions, write two zine pieces and make a new plan for the second draft of a novel.
Current progress: I’ve just finished the first story.
Now rolling my sleeves up so far they’ve become turn-ups.
|Tuesday, December 24th, 2013|
|The Nine Months of Christmas
Nowadays, we don’t just celebrate the birth of Christ, we celebrate the whole damn pregnancy. So let’s countdown the festive season:
April. This is when the infant Jesus was conceived, which is celebrated by the first person saying “it doesn’t seem like a year since last Christmas”. Clearly some kind of festival of birth is called for, in which we look forward to a long and trouble-free life. Meanwhile Amazon finds £100 behind the sofa, and uses it to pay for its staff wages over Christmas. (The remainder pays off its tax bill.)
May. The festive season is in full swing, and we celebrate the date of the first holy pregnancy test with the annual Christmas card records. Up for grabs are the titles of Closest Relative Who Manages to Mis-spell Your Name, Maximum Number of Children Included In The Words “And Family” By Someone Who Has Forgotten How Many You Have, and Most Pointed Omission of Your Partner’s Name By A Relative Who Disapproves Of Your Life Choices.
June. An official delegation is formally sent to Simon Cowell, who then chooses this year’s Christmas number 1, and makes a television series to publicise it.
July. Now is the time to start planning what you’re going to say to the Boss after a couple of drinks at the Christmas party. Remember, Christmas parties have a kind of Parliamentary Privilege regarding critical comments, so don’t be afraid to put the boot in during this general amnesty! Remember also that you can buy special Christmas underwear, red with a white cotton border, and covered in mousetraps for when the accounts clerk tries to grope you.
August. It’s two thousand years since the birth of Jesus, and this is commemorated by broadcasting every supermarket advert that many times. They are launched this month, complete with soundtracks about festivity, peace, and having to leave town because you’re gay. This means that no television programmes can be shown until next spring to make room for them. It’s rumoured that in 1978, they even stopped showing the Joan Collins Snickers advert for ten days in order to make room.
September. This is the month in which businesses that are likely to go bankrupt on Boxing Day announce their results, so that relatives who don’t know you very well can buy you a gift voucher from them.
October. The Wise Men appeared from the East, and prophesied that there would be an arctic winter lasting three months. In honour of this, the tabloids continue to make the same prophecy every year, and people celebrate by forgetting the occasions on which it failed to happen.
November. It’s not often realised that Bonfire Night was originally a Christmas ceremony, in which Guy Fawkes was burnt for that most of heinous of crimes, breaking a no-present pact. This is second only to breaking a suicide pact (and I’ve fallen for that one too many times in my life. “You go first” indeed.)
In the meantime, opportunities arise for seasonal work. Jobs created include inserting a dud bulb in every string of fairy lights, and being cruel to vegetables so that vegetarians don’t have to feel left out during Christmas dinner.
1st. The beginning of advent, and you can now open all the doors on your calendar and eat all the chocolate. Don’t forget to close the other doors to make it look as if you haven’t cheated.
19th. The last day for posting a card to a random stranger you’ve picked out of the phone book, so that everyone gets at least one card from people they can’t quite place.
20th. The day on which all the Christmas cards arrive from people you forgot to send one to.
24th. Christmas Eve isn’t a Bank Holiday in this country, but still counts as a special occasion on which straight men can ask their wives for anal sex. Good luck guys!
25th. Finally, that special day when Father Christmas comes down the chimney, checks that all the children are asleep, and cuts their benefit for having too many bedrooms. Incidentally, it was on Christmas Day in 1899 that Max Planck first discovered Planck time, the shortest meaningful period of time, which equates to 5.4 x10 to the power of minus 44 seconds. It is defined as the length of time between midnight and his children getting up to open their presents.
And of course, let’s not forget that staunchest of Christmas traditions, Neil putting a complete of bollocks on the internet because he forgot to send cards to all his friends. See you all next December!
|Friday, December 6th, 2013|
I love opening an advent calendar. The thrill of guessing what’s behind the door! The bafflement at what it could possibly have to do with Christmas, and the disappointment when you realise that all the other kids got chocolate! Circlet Press’s advent calendar
is no exception. Short time travel erotic fiction? Oh well, you’re not going to get chocolate so you’ll have to make do with my story “My Heart Beats Backwards”, available for free for today only. Keep it merry!
|Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013|
The glory that I'm currently basking in (and forgot my glory block - I hope I don't burn) is that good eggs Third Flatiron have now published Redshifted: Martian Stories
, including my "Eurydice in Capricorn", which can also be read on the website. The podcast and Q&A don't seem to be up yet, but are presumably impending.
|Sunday, November 17th, 2013|
| Third Flatiron
are determined to let it go to my head. Not only have they made my story "Eurydice in Capricorn" their lead story in their new anthology, making it my first sale at professional rates (I think), they insist on doing a podcast of it and accompanying it with a "Q & A" in which I provide the A's, and have nominated it for a Pushcart Prize
into the bargain. Eat my hubris!
(Incidentally, you can't make up anything in sf. I thought I'd invented one of my character names, but it turns out to belong to one of the other contributors.)
|Wednesday, November 13th, 2013|
I went on another interesting art walk recently. We started in St Marys with an exhibition by Bruce Naumann
. This was preceded by a talk by the Curator (I don’t remember her name) who made a lot of the unintentional juxtaposition of the art with its venue. In particular, she noted how the slogan “partial truth” on a granite slab was next to a grave inscription marked “she led an exemplary life and had a happy death”. I didn’t really object to any of the art (unlike the usual baffled outrage in the comments books, works of art in themselves) but I don’t think any of it really spoke to me either.
We then walked to the Amnesty book shop in Goodramgate, which I didn’t even know existed. This was a “pop-up” exhibition
curated by local art students, inspired by the Naumann exhibition, and was much my favourite of the three stops. For one thing there was more work by Poppy Whatmore, a small model that seems to be a study of the room she entered for the Aesthetica Prize, and a door that had been dismantled and folded (called, pleasingly, There’s More Than One Way To Open A Door), which confirmed my opinion of her from the first walk. Upstairs was a piece of performance art by Charlotte Salt and Bonnie Powell called Wrapping and Unwrapping: A Mind Traveller’s Guide, which we were encouraged to drop in and out of. We were encouraged to drop in and out of this. The work consisted of the two women sitting at a table playing a game with tarot cards, to a soundtrack, largely consisting of static and a beat, and regular instructions given on the soundtrack: I wasn’t clear if these were instructions that weren’t being obeyed, or descriptions that were false. I love this kind of weirdness, and the sense that we were in a completely different space and situation than the one we were supposedly in. But people drifted off, and I would have found it much too embarrassing to be the last person watching. I also liked three collages that were on the walls, which I was told was a student’s leftover A-level coursework.
Sorry, Bruce, you got out-arted by students.
We then went off to our last stop, part of the Illuminating York
exhibition . This was Experiential Consumption by Ritchard Allaway, a post-grad student accompanied by his tutor, which made me just as self-conscious as he was. His work consisted of a tree on which numerous coloured fluorescent tubes had been hung, and was to illustrate a dragon consuming the tree. It was effective enough, although the type of person who writes in comments books would probably claim it was just a load of lights on a tree.
|Sunday, October 13th, 2013|
When I was a kid I lived just close enough to Broadmoor to hear the siren. They used to test it at 10am on a Monday morning, so every Monday on a school holiday I used to listen at the window for the siren, then ten minutes later they'd sound the all-clear. I couldn't hear this at school so I always knew it was a holiday when I could hear the siren.
There really is nothing more interesting to say about my childhood.
|Sunday, August 25th, 2013|
Last one then.
I was delighted to accidentally bump into the lead singer from The Mechanisms
in town, or at least as accidentally as I could given that I already knew exactly where he was handing out flyers. There was no need to look at me like that though. Honestly, you build one shrine and people think you’re some kind of weirdo.
I started the day proper with Catherine Scott’s show A Woman With a View
. Unfortunately it was obvious as soon as I walked into the room that I was in the wrong place, but there were only four of us there and she got my name, making it very difficult for me to walk out again. Her poems were largely about how the good old days were better (they weren’t) and it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Then again, neither is a cup of tea, and I could at least see that they were good for what they were and genuinely witty - I was worried that we were in for the kind of crap you get in the “readers’ poems” section of the local newspaper, but she was much better than that.
I then decided, more through habit than anything else, to try to catch Miranda Kane’s show The Coin-Operated Girl
, and to my surprise, actually made it. It was well worth the wait, Kane is a funny and personable presenter and managed to pull the humour from her experiences without actually denigrating the clients, whom she seemed to genuinely like.
After that I did something that would probably horrify hardened fringe-goers, and went to see The Mechanisms
again. I bought their first CD, thereby ensuring I didn’t get the discount for buying both, the singer handed me a poster, and I decided that there’s only so much stalking you can do in two days and left it there.
That left the thing I’d supposedly come for, The Poet Speaks
, a performance by Philip Glass and Patti Smith as a tribute to Allen Ginsberg. Most of this consisted of Glass playing piano while Smith recited poetry, but both had a solo spot as well. They also seemed to have brought along two different audiences, each completely baffled by the other. I have to say that Glass’s solo spot was probably the highlight for me, Smith seemed to completely forget the point of the evening during her own and began reciting poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson instead, and in one of the least rock and roll moments I’ve ever seen, sang a version of “Beautiful Boy”, changing the final word to “George” and adding “goodnight, sweet prince.” I’m fairly sure he wasn’t in the audience. I’m still not sure what to make of the show as a whole, but it was worth it just to see Philip Glass almost incredibly playing a piano accompaniment to “The People Have the Power” while the audience clapped out of time. His piano music is usually his most static and minimalist nowadays, and not likely to win any new converts - although judging by what I overheard on the way out, he’d done exactly that.
I felt a little flat after that, and decided to head for one last show - The Magic Faraway Cabaret
, another compilation show, but as the name hints, more cabaret than stand-up. It was the right choice and I cheered up immensely. The acts included a couple of gays gaying, two burlesque dancers whom I found particularly cheering, a magic act, two strange men singing about the end of the world, and ...
I don’t know if it’s a sad reflection on me or on comedy that the most screamingly hilarious thing I saw in my time in Edinburgh was Hitler singing Sinatra songs. But Frank Sanazi
was just so far on the other side of wrong that there was no point fighting it. I’m fairly sure he carried the five levels of irony necessary for this kind of thing to be acceptable, and it was worth it just to watch the audience all carefully checking what everyone else was doing before laughing. I know I’ll be losing friends mentioning this - perhaps almost as many as when I talked up Bono - but I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
There was no point trying to top that, so I went home to bed. There was a lot running through my head this weekend, some of which I can’t quite put my finger on and some of which I’m not talking about, but I actually felt as if my life changed a little during all this. Which is why I’ve bored you all with this account on it. Don’t worry, I won’t describe the train journey home.
|Saturday, August 24th, 2013|
The further adventures of me nearly two weeks ago
I started the day by visiting Michael Nyman’s exhibition Images Were Introduced
, the bulk of which consists of the film Man With a Movie Camera
shown alongside Nyman’s ten remakes, all with a common soundtrack. In fact the ten new films are quite similar to the extent that there were usually only three different scenes on screen. Next door was another film by Nyman, with a soundtrack that, even with headphones, was completely inaudible beneath the soundtrack of the first film. Nyman has become his own noisy neighbour, perhaps he should make a film about an encroaching leylandii.
I then went to see A Complete and Comprehensive History of the Roman Empire in Less Than an Hour With Jokes
by Ed O’Meara, which more or less did exactly that except for the bit about being complete and comprehensive. The Romans weren’t that good at jokes so it was good to redress the balance. I then went to a show consisting of various stand-ups performing around the fringe
. All were good, but by the end of the show I’d realised a couple of things. Firstly, I was the only person in Edinburgh on his own. Secondly, I wouldn’t cross the road to see another stand-up comedian, and this was unfortunate because during the fringe, that’s what happens when you do. When I used to do stand-up myself, I felt that the circuit was full of people who had funny material, but weren’t funny themselves. Now it seems to be the opposite, professionals with nothing to say. I was particularly disappointed to find that so much of comedy still depends on national stereotypes. I don’t find this offensive so much as unambitious.
So instead I went to Ulysses Dies At Dawn
by the Mechanisms. These are a set of steampunk self-proclaimed immortal space pirates, playing a folk-derived hour-long science fiction take on Greek myths. Now I know that sounds like the ingredients list from a recipe for disaster (a Delia book that I’m still awaiting, by the way) but I absolutely loved it. I’ll try not to bang on about it too much, but I bought the CD on the way out and went straight back to my room and played it.
After that I decided that I should take it easy before having another go at finding Miranda Kane’s The Coin-Operated Girl
. This time I found the venue in good time, only to discover that this show was on at 2:15pm, not 10:05pm as advertised in the fringe guide. Honestly, Anne doesn’t have to worry about what I get up to on my own. This was my second night in Edinburgh and I still hadn’t found a prostitute. Instead I watched another compilation of stand-ups, and thought much the same as I’d thought this afternoon. Most of it was okay, but there were more jokes about national stereotypes, and it was as if alternative comedy had never happened.