A day at the Fringe these days certainly ain’t how it used to be…
I LOVE August. Because August = Edinburgh Fringe. OK, the weather’s always shite, you can’t move in town for all the bloody tourists everywhere and you encounter an insaaaaanely irritating Oxbridge acapella group at every turn BUT, it’s all OK because there’s a world class month-long festival happening right here under our noses and it’s really, really awesome.
Having said that, it’s safe to say the Fringe changes MASSIVELY once kids are on the scene. Here’s a summary of a typical day / night pre-kids, and now…
Wake up about 1130 with an absolute stonker of a hangover and vague recollections of heckling a comedian in the early hours because at the time you thought you were the funnies person in the world EVER. Get out of bed, get coffee, bacon, paracetamol and have a shower because you’re about to do it all over again. WAHOO!
Meet friends in George Square early afternoon and hit the hair of the dog. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a table. If not (much more likely), you’ll spend your first pint on high alert for the most vaguest of movements which might mean someone is vacating a table and if so, you swoop and then agree a shift pattern for the rest of the day so you don’t lose it. The nearer the table is to the little cart giving out free gin samples the better. The group around the table will change as the day goes on because you’ll most definitely bump into people you know / get chatting to the gin-sampler who swiftly becomes a friend for life. You may at some point up sticks and move to Pleasance, in which case the above table-snaring starts again.
Spend the day 50% drinking, 50% standing in queues waiting for drinks. Every so often think you’ve cracked a new strategy by going out the gardens to get drinks at a quiet bar only to then realise you can’t bring them back in so spend time downing pints at the entrance.
At some point quit the beer and spend half your life savings on a bottle of prosecco poured into 2 plastic pint glasses. Drink with a straw. This is known as The Point of No Return. This will be swiftly followed by espresso martinis which cost more than your rent and are gone in about 15 seconds but are ohhhhh so worth it.
Food-wise, you will spend the day eating more dumplings / pad thai / falafel / haloumi / Mac n cheese / chocolate crepes than you ever thought possible. As your festival goes on you will be demanding more and more toppings on your crepe until it is larger than your head. This will most certainly be shared on social media.
You might even manage a show! These are split into 2 camps: 1) the ones you pre-book the tickets for… usually a show that you’ve been recommended by ‘those in-the-know’ (everyone in Edinburgh has a friend like this). Most definitely won’t be anyone you’ve ever heard of because that would just be waaaay too obvious, man. 2) An utterly random show which will almost certainly be shite but when the students came flying your table you’d had about 17 drinks and a rendition of Othello by some precocious drama students using only the medium of emojis sounded too tempting to refuse.
Every so often a rain shower will mean you have to cosy up a little bit more closely under your ‘parasol’ (which in Edinburgh should really just be called umbrellas). You may well end up wearing some branded clothing because you’ve spent over £1million pounds on a drink you have never had before but now it’s “your fringe drink”. (2012: Ginger Grouse. 2013: Aperol Spritz…. etc etc) When the end-of-Tattoo fireworks sound you will all hilariously down whatever drink you have at that time. Yeeeeeeeaaaaah.
Your night WILL end at Late n Live, a show which starts (STARTS!) at 1am. Everyone is wasted. Someone will heckle and you’ll say to your mates that they’e a total dick. 10 mins later you’re heckling and thinking you’re the funniest person in the world. EVER.
Stagger home, singing your heart out, with a quick nip into El Falafel on the way, and swear you will never ever EVER live anywhere else.
Get woken up at 6 with vague recollections of tripping over a toy on the way to ANOTHER night feed. Make coffee, though never actually get as far as drinking it.
Pack up the buggy full of covers and clothing for every possible weather scenario and head to George Square, stopping on the way at at least 1 playpark. On the way pass at least 57 people walking home from their night out. Feel equal parts jealous and smug, but force yourself to focus on the smug.
Arrive at George Square by 9am and join the line of other knackered looking parents at the coffee stand, which until this year you didn’t know existed. Get served by some poor young soul who looks like they’ve come straight from Hot Dub Time Machine and would rather be doing ANYTHING than serving you right now.
Coffee in hand, take some time picking which of the many MANY free tables you are going to sit at. The closer to those things that I think are meant to be seats but seem to just be used by kids as balancing beams, the better. Hear the words “Can I have an ice cream mummy” for the first of about 270 times today. Reply with “if you’re a good boy then maybe later”, thus commencing the first of about 270 bribes of the day.
Buy tickets for show and weep a little as you hand over £20 for 2 of you, the £1 saving on for your toddler not really making you feel any better. Mutter “you’d better bloody enjoy this” under your breath. Join the queue so that you can choose a seat which perfectly balances a) closeness to the stage so your precious charge might get picked for audience participation (something you want waaay more than them) and b) proximity to exit in case of a screaming baby / audibly – VERY AUDIBLY – bored toddler. Awks.
Show starts and is invariably some over-enthusiastic jazz-hander with a permanently massive white teethed smile and hugely irritating sing songy voice singing, dancing or doing general nonsense for 45 minutes. If the words ‘fart’, ‘bogie’, ‘poo’ or ‘bum’ are used, it’s a surefire hit. If a Julia Donaldson character is involved, the place will be full (and the tickets double the price). If the audience are given a sticker / balloon when they leave, they will leave DELIGHTED. If parents aren’t forced to join in, they might book again. Simple formula really, look out for ‘Bumdinger: a musical about farts & bogies starring The Gruffalo” next year…
After the show, make the dreaded mistake of walking in the vague vicinity of the face painting stand, which will pull your child towards it with more force than the Large Hadron Collider. Consider saying no, but weigh up the inevitable tantrum and therefore queue up for 20 mins to part with £4 and transform your child into a superhero / unicorn, which will then be washed off 5 minutes later with the next rain shower / ‘I want an ice cream’ tears. (Sidenote: I have a theory that the George Square face painter and the Royal Mile balloon man are, in fact, a couple and live for 11 months of the year on their own island on the Maldives…
Lay out your waterproof-based picnic rug on the fake grass, looking smugly around at all the other parents with wet dew-y bums (you learnt your lesson last week). Get out the packed lunch (you learnt your lesson last week) and then continue the ‘can I have an ice cream’ conversation avoidance tactics. Sit for approximately 3 minutes thinking “this is nice, us all chilling out together surrounded by live arts. Maybe I should have a cheeky gin & tonic” before realising the baby has crawled to the other side of the square and the toddler has run to the ice cream van.
Retrieve all children, sit down again.
Many, many, MANY times.
Don’t end up getting gin. Do end up getting ice cream.
Walk home, cursing all the bloody tourists walking 5 wide across the pavement and resist the urge to shout “she didn’t even write it there” when walking past the crowds outside the Elephant House Cafe.
Be just about nodding off when the end-of-Tattoo fireworks wake the baby. Finally get back to sleep but get woken at 4am by some idiots walking down the street singing aca-fucking-pella. Decide you’re moving to East Lothian.
The next morning, reflect on what a wonderful day you had at the Fringe and book some more tickets for later that day.