Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A riot of a time in Edinburgh

Saying "the month has got away from me. Again." is like saying "the dog ate my blog." It's lame and it might be true but no one wants to hear it.

The first couple of weeks of August were a write off thanks to an exhaustion-induced sore throat that turned into a chronic cough that came with the free gifts of insomnia and snot. It wasn't fun. But thankfully it did mean I was at home on the sofa in my pajamas when rioters set fire to a bus outside the gallery in Peckham. Even from the relative safety of Hammersmith the air was uneasy during those chaotic, sickening 48 hours. Not that I was sleeping much anyway but the lullaby of sirens and helicopters didn't offer much by way of sweet dreams.

On Tuesday afternoon I went up to the chemist on the high street only to find the bus station full of police officers and all the shops and banks along King Street closing up as a precaution. The rational part of my brain said nothing was going to happen after the Monday evening and that it certainly wasn't going to happen in Hammersmith (thankfully, reliably as uneventful as ever) but still I felt this rising tide of anxiety and couldn't help but look at every teenager and wonder if they were going to mug me. I even found myself slipping my engagement ring off and shoving it deep into my pocket as I strode home without looking back. I think that was what horrified me the most - this insidious, invisible threat of menace that vanished as quickly as it flared up. Because it hasn't gone anywhere. It's just wearing new trainers now.

Last weekend we actually got out of town - not for fear of looters but in search of theatrical enlightenment and a laugh or four. We went to Edinburgh for the fringe festival. In the company of Tor and her Hungry One we flew up on the Friday night and had 48 hours wandering around rainy but still beautiful Edinburgh, dodging people in unitards thrusting flyers and ducking into small rooms above pubs for an hour of hopeful laughs.

Edinburgh was teeming with people, a fairly even mix of festival visitors and amateur street performers and with a keen eye there were all sorts of odd, beautiful, carnivalesque moments to be found amongst the crowds and the chaos.

One noticeable trend in the comedy we saw was young, articulate men plying their trade as a form of self-help therapy. Lots of jokes about divorce. Painful funny really - or not funny at all and hence no doubt the divorce.

I think the highlight was definitely the African American comedian W Kamau Bell's show 'Ending Racism in About an Hour' - razor sharp, rich in pathos and deadly accurate without being aggressive or ugly. And fucking FUNNY. I love smart funny. I definitely don't like sketch comedy troupe's where the returning motif is a dick joke and the comedy is light on funny. That and a skin crawlingly awful play about Take That and cancer (and no, it wasn't a sick joke) were definitely the low points. The point where you say, "Really? REALLY? How about we try a grown up job?"

We had a lovely meal on the Saturday where every member of the party (apart from my self-respecting self) ate haggis and on Sunday we moseyed about and crammed in a last few shows (including the Take That cancer monstrosity) before heading back to London.

It was so lovely to get out of the city, even just for a weekend, but it has made me start to really ache for the time and space to stretch out, not even to do anything, I'd be happy to do nothing, but just to exhale and stop for a while. No such luck yet but we're making up for the lack of holidays by planning ones for next year. I've already mapped out exactly how I want to spend my 26 days of annual leave. I just have to wait until March before I can start...

In the meantime there is a wedding to finish planning, work to be done and The Occasional Sunny Day (what I'm now calling Summer) to be enjoyed, even if it is while at work. It could be worse. I could be on a burning bus. Or employed at JD Sports. Or flogging tickets to rubbish theatre while wearing a beige unitard. Yes. Things could be much, much worse.

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