After two days struggling to get out of Europe, yesterday we finally did. And man, what a huge day. Up at six am in Norway to catch the red eye to Aberdeen that they'd put us on after the cancellation the day before. We checked out of the airport hotel after a quick graze of the breakfast bar and caught the taxi - voucher provided by the airline - back to Bergen airport. Thankfully, all progressed smoothly and we finally left. The flight even arrived early.
We got into Aberdeen at 9am. We'd expected to stay a night here so that we didn't immediately have to drive down to Edinburgh, and had picked 2pm as the time to pick up the car so that we could drop it off in Cardiff before 2pm and save on paying another day. The AVIS staff were understanding, but they simply didn't have the car yet, as it was en route. With no desire to go into town with our suitcases, we squatted in the airport for five hours. When the car was ready, it turned out to be a bit of an upgrade - a lovely, spacious Peugeot.
We set off out into the UK, maps prearranged on our phone to get there as soon as possible. We covered most of the ground from Aberdeen in about two hours flat. As soon as we hit the outskirts of Edinburgh, though, we stalled. Roadworks everywhere on the highway. And then, in the city centre, it was even worse. All the tram work - a neverending infrastructure joke that I think was made to us when I was here six years ago - just kills the traffic flow. We edged our way into the city to our rooms, which are actually on the University of Edinburgh campus. Breakfast included, Wi-Fi was not. Such is life.
I had, perhaps optimistically, booked shows that evening for the Fringe. We are here for two nights, and I wanted to make the most of it. The first show was at 6:45pm, and we had got finally got to our rooms at 6pm. I had bought the tickets online, but didn't have the physical ones to be able to hand in. So not only did I have to get to the show, but I had to get to the ticket box to collect them first. On foot.
When I bought them online, they said that there were several places you could collect them. I had a piece of paper from the reception desk, and started running into town. Unfortunately, when I got to one of the ticket boxes, they said because of different ticketing systems they could only issues tickets to shows at that venue. Fuck. 6:25pm. I then had to go to another ticketing place and try again. No luck. 6:30pm. Third time lucky - I queued for a few minutes to get the tickets but had to get to the first venue to see Phill Jupitus. It happened to be right at the top of town. 6:40pm.
I jumped in a cab and told him where I was headed. It was too far to run, definitely, but of course the traffic wasn't exactly light either. 6:45pm, and I was still in the cab. I'd missed the start. People had warned that some places didn't let latecomers in. I gave the cabbie a tenner and didn't wait for change. The guy was a nice bloke, familiar with Australia because his son had lived there last year, and he got me as close as he could. I thanked him and sprinted around the corner, dishevelled and sweaty. Thankfully, the man let me in. 6:52pm. Not too bad, coming from Norway.
Jupitus was funny, but was doing characters that would respond to audience questions, so it was entirely determinate on who said what. It was good, but not as witty or clever as I'd hoped from his QI and Never Mind The Buzzcocks performer. Perhaps it was just jarring. He did end the show miming an entire Alanis Morrisette song entire as a hologram from the future before being crucified against the wall with a bleeding face, so he gets major points for surrealism and going full out on a joke. I had to leave as soon as he was done.
Next stop was back in the heart of the city where I'd bought my tickets. Again, I was right at the top. I had fifteen minutes to get to Kumail Nanjiani, where Sam would be meeting me. He had bought tickets to all three tonight but decided just to go to the middle one. Also worth noting - I hadn't eaten since 12:30pm at the airport in Aberdeen. I started sprinting, in chinos, back down south. I got a fantastic sense of the energy of the place, darting through crowds, festivals, pedestrian-only malls with street performers, and more. As I crossed a bridge, I looked up to my left to see a fantastic view down to the water. Up on my right, historical buildings filled every corner of the city. It was a surreal, 'what the fuck am I doing?' moment, but awesome too.
I made it back to where I got the tickets, and asked a guide for directions. I felt like I knew what I was doing, but after running off again I realised I really wasn't confident I was in the right spot. I turned around and headed back for a mulligan, Sam phoning me three times and telling me to run faster. Second time lucky, I found the place, again, roughly ten minutes late. I had looked at the locations on the map before buying and thought it seemed doable, and asked if anyone had experience and knew how long to leave between shows. The website didn't help either. Live and learn. Anyway, we entered and sat down for some more traditional stand-up.
I knew Kumail Nanjiani through his work with the Nerdist network, including his appearance on the TV shows and his podcast work. He's a bit of a geek, with a love of movies and games, but just tells great human jokes about it. It was his first time in Edinburgh and you could tell he was sussing out the crowd's overlapping pop culture knowledge, so I heard a few older bits rather than new pieces - not that I was complaining. It was a great, hilarious set. I grabbed a glass of water at the bar afterwards, at which point Sam departed. On my exit, I saw Kumail out on the street and went up to say thanks and shake hands. Awesome guy. Go see him if you're in Edinburgh right now. Okay, you're not. But you should Google him at least.
At this point, 9pm, I was pretty faint. Had sprinted for kilometres, barely any water, and no food for hours. Thankfully, my last show for the night - and bear in mind I'd been up since 5am local time - wasn't far. I had half an hour to get there too, for a 9:30pm start. I found it easily and went into the garden area to get a yiros and a beer. Man, it was good. For the first time of the night, I had the time to actually sit down in the lobby of the show. The show was The Blanks.
The Blanks are probably best known as Ted's a capella group from Scrubs, the TV show. They already existed before Sam Lloyd, who plays Ted, got the job, and were then worked into the show. They are a great singing group that do covers and arrangements of pop songs and TV tunes. Framed in a scripted narrative about getting a record deal in space, it was an enjoyable hour of classic tunes and comedy.
The main show is quite carefully choreographed, and so included some cultural references that didn't hit as hard as others, including a Halloween bit, but the crowd was still into it. They came back to do an encore of "11th century Scottish folk songs", which turned out to be a more modern pop medley of things like Barbara Streisand (the song), Taio Cruz and more, all of which instantly sounded about fifty times better than the actual pop. The crowd were sated, and the Blanks told us that they'd be outside for merch and photos soon.
I headed out to the queue and a few minutes later had the chance to meet them. Sam Lloyd, probably the most famous of the group, turned out to be so fantastically lovely. They all warmly shook hands, all smiles, chatting freely. I told them I'd missed them in Australia recently and so had to come here instead. They laughed and joked that it wasn't far. Sam asked which city and I told them Adelaide, which has the second biggest Fringe behind Edinburgh, to which he genuinely replied that he had heard that. Maybe next time. I got a lovely photo and they were charming in wishing me well, waving me off, saying thanks for coming and just being fucking awesome people.
Now 11:30pm, I started to stumble home. It wasn't actually that far from the last place, so in about ten or fifteen I was back at the room I'd only briefly glanced at before dashing out. I tried to drink a lot of water but predictably I woke up in the middle of the night with a dehydration headache. A few painkillers later and I slept through to my alarm, which was for the end of breakfast. A huge cafeteria served every type of breakfast imaginable. Bacon, eggs, sausage, hash browns, black pudding, pancakes, fruit, juice, cereal, toast, yoghurt. Everything, included in the room price. Awesome.
I've been lethargic today, slowly easing into it and not exactly won over by the scattered showers. Plus, I had this blog to do. I'll grab some lunch now though, and get a sense of the place again before heading back out tonight for four shows, three of which are thankfully in the same place and the fourth is around the corner. I'd run probably five or more kilometres last night, in busy pedestrian traffic, and I'm glad I don't have to do that again. I have to say, though, it was worth it.