We travelled up to Motherwell on Thursday evening. Sally and I met Jack at Sheffield station (he having travelled up from Oxford) and took the train up. Callum, my sister's son, joined us at Leeds and we settled in for a fairly dull trip, sat at a table for four. I got out the jacket I am knitting and sewed up the raglan sleeve seams then picked up the stitches around the neck to knit the collar. All was relatively quiet until Darlington when the boys got on and sat at the table across the aisle from us. The problem with knitting on a train, apart from making me look like a granny according to Ian, is that people talk to you. What are you knitting? How long have you been making that? And so on. The boys were three men, Gaz, Gary and Dave, going up to Edinburgh for a weekend of male bonding. Apparently they've been doing this in various cities since they were 30ish. They started with a trip to Blackpool. After that the only way was up. They're in their forties now and still doing this once a year. This year they were going to join the rest of their party of eight in Edinburgh.
It's amazingly expensive for an apartment in Edinburgh, they complained.
That'll be because of the Fringe.
You don't know about the Fringe?
So the fact that huge numbers of performers, students and audiences pack into Edinburgh for the month of August had passed them by. As Jack commented, in a couple of weeks they could probably have got the same apartment for half the cost. Never mind. They were halfway through a hefty number of cans of lager and they didn't care. They'd each got £200 for the weekend, they said, £20 for food and the rest for booze. Each of them teased and was teased about their wives and kids and each, sooner or later, wandered off to tell their wife they loved her and to say 'night night' to their kids. They entertained us all the way up to Haymarket where we kicked them off the train. Their bags were much lighter and they left a stack of empty cans, despite a regular search for a bin to put their rubbish in.
So, on Friday, an early lunch at Equi's then Ian drove us over to Edinburgh. I'd booked an additional show, Out of the Blue, on Alex's recommendation so we had four shows. The first thing we did was book another show for Saturday (an Oompah band at the GRV) then we parked up and made our way through a lovely little public garden to the C Plaza where we had a coffee and waited for our show.
I love a cappella music. Much as I like other types of music, the human voice, particularly in harmony, is what moves me. Alex is always recommending a cappella shows, and flamenco and generally culture sort of stuff, but Ian cleaves to comedy passionately, stubbornly. Never mind, I'd got him a ticket and he was prepared to give it a go. The show was put on by Oxford undergraduates, all male and with lovely voices. The choreography was amusing and energetic although, to be honest, they could have stood perfectly still for me and allowed me to concentrate on the music. They started with 'Don't You Want Me Baby' and bounced through a familiar songbook to finish with an encore of Pokerface. Callum identified it. Good job we had someone along who has some idea of the Zeitgeist. Ian had had to leave to save the car from predatory traffic wardens or I'm sure he'd have known Pokerface too.
My favourite arrangement was Billy Joel's Lullaby. They didn't allow themselves to be distracted by the traditional mobile phone ring in the quietest section. They're good! Later we wondered how you fall into this sort of thing. We guess they were all choir boys in a previous life. That would explain the sometimes over pure tones and unconvincing sensuality in the dances to the 'raunchy' songs. On the way out I bought a CD. It's lovely but a cappella loses something in electronic format. They're just songs; the wonder of the performance is lost.
We dashed from there to Rainer Hersch being Victor Borge. I very much like Rainer and I have fond memories of Victor Borge. The story of his life was interesting and engaging and I think that these snippets of classical music are ideal for me. I love them when surrounded by anecdotes but I don't generally have the concentration or appreciation for an entire piece.
After Rainer we split up. Callum wanted to see Rhod Gilbert but Ian, Sally and I had seen his show, 'The Cat that Looked Like Nicholas Lyndhurst', at Nottingham Playhouse relatively recently so we sent him and Jack to see Rhod and we headed over to the Underbelly to see Susan Calman. (The picture at the top of this piece is Sally, already exhausted by the culture, waiting in the Underbelly bar for the show.) We first saw Susan a couple of years ago when she seemed promising. Since then she has appeared on the News Quiz and was sufficiently amusing that we thought we'd have another look. She's much improved, even in the dank warmth of the Underbelly. Sally loved the show, laughing all the way through. I like Scottish women comedians, especially those from Glasgow. Susan used to be a lawyer but gave up the glamour and money for a dank cavern in the Underbelly and a life of semi-poverty. Good! I'm glad she's turned from the dark side.
In the same way, Mickey Flanagan has recently come to our attention through Radio 4. Having moved up from the East End of London through a social science degree into teaching he has also turned away from a career of horror into comedy. Susan is very short and Glaswegian, Mickey is tall and cockney. It seems like a theme. The stories were very funny. I loved his definition of doing fuck all and his assertion that the 'Chicken Children' of today have completely lost the art. They may be wasting time but they have lost the ability for complete indolence. This was a show very much based in his own life and experience, a man who has made the transition from working class to rather smart middle class, marrying a long suffering multitasking woman who perfectly complements his persona of idleness. This was a splendid finish to the day. Ian complained that he'd heard most of the material on the radio show. Luckily I'd been too lazy to iPlayer it so it was suitably fresh and funny for me.