The Scribbler

15 August 2012

Bottled lightning

Living statues at Edinburgh Festival

Performers taking a break from the festival

Another weekend filled with sights, sounds and sensations. Pipes and fiddles, clogs and choirs, Edwardian style magicians with mutton chops to outdo Bradley Wiggins, a flutter of silk kimono and fans, a madame de pompadour living statue taking a break and enjoying a glass of wine with a man with a seagull on his head. Only at the Edinburgh Festival.

I took the early train north, settled in to enjoy my book and the scenery and arrived in plenty of time for Lesley to pick me up and take me to Cramond for a fast and friendly parkrun. Got my Scotty hug, and then Kate turned up, fresh from running up Arthur’s Seat as part of the Speed of Light.

It was a glorious morning on the prom, bright, sunny and barely a breath of wind. We set off together with Scotty and Kate just out for a bimble, taking it easy and chatting all the way round. Only their taking it easy is pretty much me at full blast and after a quick kilometre trying to stick with them, I dropped back to a pace I could sustain. I managed to keep racing, to keep them in sight and to reel in runners ahead bit by bit all the way along the route.

When we turned, the bright morning sun hit my face and the heat rose, turning the air hot and dry and set me longing for the shade of the trees at the end of the run. Still I pushed on and reeled in as best I could and when I could finally see the finish line I put the hammer down and sprinted for it. Bright red and breathless, my exertions got me noticed.

At the nearby cafe, refuelled on coffee and scones, it was great to catch up with my Scottish Fetchie pals. Changed out of my sweaty running gear, and Lesley took me to the other place I really wanted to visit on this trip – the Tri Centre. What a lovely warm welcome we got there as we browsed round the kit and admired the shiny bikes. I treated myself to a super new tri suit to match my bike.

Too soon I had to say goodbye to Lesley and I walked into the main part of the city to drink in the madness that is the festival. The Royal Mile was a mad, glorious confusion of noise and bustle, singing, dancing, music and acrobatics as performers gave tasters of their shows and passed on flyers in a bid to attract the public. I spent a good hour people and performer watching, just soaking up the sunshine, smiling and enjoying the entertainment.

I was particularly struck by how young the performers were. Is that a sign that I’m getting old. These fresh-faced students seemed so bold, so confident, so full of life. There was a group from Redditch in the Midlands dressed in the kind of clothes I associate with the cotton mills of Lancashire. Their boisterous singing and enthusiasm as an ensemble on stage caught my ears and I stayed to see their show taster which was about the needle-making industry.

Young boys playing cello and fiddles on the street

Boy band – Edinburgh festival style

They sang like they meant every word, stamped their feet and drew in the crowds, then stepped off the stage and challenged us face to face and just inches away to listen to their tale of hard work, long hours and short life expectancy. I was impressed, but sadly couldn’t make their final show as it was late in the evening after my train home. But I wished them well with all my heart.

And that was the theme of the day really, too much to see and wish to do and not enough time to fit it all in. But I tasted a little of everything and enjoyed wandering without plan and picking up bits and pieces of performances as I wandered by until hunger drove me in search of lunch and a well-earned sit down.

One day, I would love to spend a week at the festival, enjoying a great mix of comedy, theatre and music and more.

The only event I did have tickets for was a talk by Simon Callow about his book on Dickens and the theatre as part of the Book Festival. By the time I got to Charlotte Square, I was glad to escape some of the loud hustle and bustle and to slow down the pace among the reading crowds, browse the bookshop and fall into conversation with a nice lady waiting to see the same show.

Callow is a huge Dickens fan and so passionate, knowledgeable and enthusiastic about his subject that I think the interviewer only had to ask him one question and he talked for 15 minutes. I learned a lot about this writer that I didn’t know, particularly about his love for the theatre, his career as an actor/director and bad playwright. And his wonderful way of referring to himself as ‘the bottled lightning’. I reckon Mr Bolt could borrow that.

Olympic rings on the Mound in Edinburgh

Olympic celebrations in Edinburgh

And then it was time to go. To saunter back through the city, soaking up the last snatches of festival fun and pick up a treat from a bakery for the train home. And then, as the train passed through the outskirts of my home town, to get a mobile signal and watch in miniature as Mo Farah brought home his second gold medal. I’d forgotten to take my headphones, so had the volume turned right down, but around me in the train carriage, people sensed I was watching something special and by the end, three of us were crowded round the little screen with me yelling ‘Go on Mo!’ and punching the air as he crossed the line.

No wonder then that I found my long Sunday run rather hard work. My legs were full of running and walking and wandering. My head was full of colours and noises and sensations. It was hot and hard work, but I did it and gave into my cravings for ice-cream cream and and afternoon nap when I finished.

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