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My Week at The Edinburgh Fringe (or 50 Ways To Lose Your Liver)

If there’s one thing I learnt at the Edinburgh Fringe it’s that comedy is really, really hard to get right and a small Pinot will set you back around £4.60. And you should take comfy shoes with you. If there’s three things I learnt at the Edinburgh fringe…….

 

Anyway, this year was our first experience of the festival and, in fact, our first visit to Edinburgh. What a beautiful city (if you overlook the disruption the building of the tram is causing)! It had a great party atmosphere, loads of fabulous traditional pubs (try Rose Street if you’re up for a challenge) and a wonderful variety of people.

 

Our purpose was to see some live shows, comedy in particular, and we spent a lot of time at the free fringe as it’s important to support up and coming acts. This had absolutely nothing to do with the ticket part of our holiday budget being accidentally subsumed into the alcohol one (yes, I’d subdivided the budget, what’s your point?).

If, like me, you’ve not been to the fringe before, you will need to take a bag with you which is the perfect size to store one hundred A5 pieces of card in until you come across a handy filing receptacle, otherwise known as a bin. These cards are circulated by performers and students who live in The Royal Mile in dwellings constructed out of discarded wet wipes and misplaced dreams.

This lady won a prize for most determined fliering.

Our first day of the free fringe saw us hustled into the underground cavern that is the Kasbar at Espionage (Victoria Street) to watch ‘Pandora’s Box‘ performed by Joanne Jollie. It’s midday and I sit there, glass of wine in hand, ready to be ‘Fringed’. I have to say this wasn’t a bad start to my experience. The hour passes as Pandora tells you her story of how she became one of Barnsley’s premier strippers, punctuated by well known songs adapted to suit each chapter of her life. While the delivery of the spoken sections of her performance could have been smoother, her humorous reworking the songs to fit the story was clever and powerfully performed.

Although we saw some truly awful acts (you have to admire their determination), there are some gems to be found in the back streets of the city.

Gemma Arrowsmith is performing at Le Monde at 3pm every day with her ‘Defender of the Earth‘ show (preview here).

In a nutshell, it’s a sketch show about an ordinary girl who finds herself in the unenviable position of having to save the earth from certain destruction. This may sound weird (of course it is, it’s the Fringe) but it works brilliantly well and you’ll enjoy the whole hour as she takes on the persona of a small child, a soviet space dog and even Cheryl Cole. An absolute gift on the free fringe!

The other gem we found hidden within Dr Ettrick-Hogg’s Manly Stand-Ups at Espionage was James Hately. His fifteen minute journey that was ‘The Name Train’ had us (and others) crying with laughter and I will definitely be seeking him out in future.

Back on The Royal Mile, we stood and watched a workman for ten minutes before realising he wasn’t a street performer and then we made fifty quid after falling asleep on a bench for half an hour.

However, we couldn’t go to to the Fringe without having some established performers show us how it should be done. We needed to be choosy, as we’d blown the ticket budget on healthy food, educational trips and yoga classes.

Our first choice was Jo Caulfield, who is playing at The Stand in York Street with her show ‘Thinking Bad Thoughts‘. We’ve seen Jo perform before and I wondered whether we’d be seeing the same act with a couple of new jokes thrown in. Not the case. An hour of new material had the whole room LoLing out loud in stark contrast to the acts we’d spent the day watching.

The Stand is a great venue with an intimate feel allowing you to connect with the performer and Jo was keen to take advantage of this; only the confident (or late) sit at the front.

Jo relates her stories to the audience in relaxed conversational way which can only come from experience and confidence in the quality of your material. Described as ‘waspish’ and ‘a stalwart of the circuit’, Ms Caulfield is definitely worth an hour of your precious Fringe time so you can make your own mind up.

The other show we made the financial effort to see was Josh Widdicombe’s ‘The Further Adventures Of..’ . I booked this later in the week because Jeff was getting fed up of being dragged (by me) into dubious venues because ‘this might be funny’.

Josh had put on on an extra date at The Pleasance Dome as his other shows were sold out (if there’s someone you really want to see, book before you go as good shows do sell out quickly). Crossing my fingers that Jeff would find at least one joke funny, we were led into what can only be described as an oven on a medium heat and took our seats at the back (thus avoiding any ‘where are you from?’ confrontation). We weren’t disappointed as Josh presented an hour of witty observational stand up that had everyone roaring. The buttercup joke is either my favourite or the only one I can remember, but it was a fantastically funny act and I lost two stones!

I left Edinburgh with many happy memories, disfigured feet and an enlarged liver – you should do the same!

 

Why I Don’t Cook with Bread

I should have known from the moment Jeff tipped the chopped ham into the sink that my ham, cheese and potato stuffed loaf was doomed.

I’m quite an accomplished cook but two things defeat me. The first is rice pudding; what should be the simplest of desserts seems to be beyond the realms of my capabilities. I have tried more times than I care to remember to bake a mix of pudding rice, milk and sugar to a soft, creamy consistency reminiscent of my childhood but to no avail. Eventually I have had to accept that a can of ambrosia creamed rice is as near as I’m ever going to get.

My second nemesis is cooking with bread dough and, knowing this, I decided to make aforementioned stuffed loaf on Saturday and thought I’d share the recipe with you:

  • Make up the bread dough as per packet instructions (yes, it’s from a packet because mixing flour and yeast together is incredibly difficult and much cheaper than buying it ready mixed….. oh). Leave the dough to rise in your airing cupboard for about an hour.
  • Boil around 500 grams of new potatoes until tender – easy. How hard can this be?
  • Chop up 400 grams of thick ham and slice a bunch of spring onions. This is going to work!
  • Mix 500ml of creme fraiche with around 200g cheese. Use the cheap grater your husband bought at a jumble sale which is only slightly more useful than using a piece of tin foil with holes cut in it.
  • Season to taste. Your taste, sod everyone else.
  • Roll out just under half the dough until it’s around 25 cms round leaving the imprint of a line of ink from the side of the ruler. Place onto a baking sheet which is just slightly too small but the biggest one you have.
  • Halfway through rolling the dough ask your husband to tip the ham into the sink. Scream at your husband that he’s an idiot and attempt to fish the ham out from among knives, lumps of wet dough and a bowl you’re soaking.
  • Rinse ham in a colander (you’re not an animal!)
  • Chop the potatoes and pile them onto the base which has started to rise again due to ham incident. Decide there are too many potatoes and discard a third of them. Repeat with the ham freezing the leftovers for future use since the recipe clearly doesn’t know anything about ‘correct quantities’.
  • Dollop the creme fraiche and cheese mixture on top. Wonder how exactly you’re going to dollop it since it is the consistency of milk but carry on anyway.
  • Use five pieces of kitchen roll to soak up the ‘milk’ which is running off the sides of the base and garnish the whole sorry mess with a flourish of spring onions.
  • Roll out the remaining dough so it will cover the piled up ingredients using your growing desperation to help force it into shape.
  • There’s no need to moisten the outside of the base with water because it’s now swimming in milky creme fraiche. Simply plop the top over the prepared contents.
  • At the speed of light, due to the ever advancing milk-come-lava-flow, fold the edges of the base over the edges of the top. Use a fork to ensure it’s completely sealed. Feel convinced it’s not completely sealed.
  • Paint all over with beaten egg and transfer the baking sheet to the oven.
  • After five minutes, check the oven to make sure that part of the seal has indeed broken and liquid is seeping out onto the baking tray.
  • Inform your husband that dinner will be ready in an hour, it may be a bit dry and he’d better eat it without any comment.
  • Pour a large glass of wine and ignore anyone who says ‘is it ready yet?’. Pretend you are Nigella Lawson which means it will miraculously look gorgeous once cooked.
  • Take pie out of oven and compare it with the picture in Good Food Magazine

Just Like the Picture!

.

(It was actually very tasty)

 

 

The Day My Lady Garden Went Grey

I’m forty three and last Tuesday I found my first grey pubic hair. ON MY BODY! ATTACHED!  I’m not sure that Tuesday is relevant, it could have been a Sunday, there’s probably not a preordained day on which your lady garden is going to betray you.

The funny thing is, I don’t remember my first ever pube but it should have been a momentous day, surely? I’m convinced this is something young women have documented in their Hello Kitty diary in their thousands: “Monday 6th June, PUBE!!! I’m a woman! Bought a soul belt today and dreamt about George Michael – he will be mine one day….etc..”

I’ve had grey hair on my head for some time now but I have it disguised regularly by a lady called Amanda who can do wonders with ‘natural brown’ and ‘spicy red’. What I know from this experience is that grey hairs are like fleas; if you can see one there are another million hiding somewhere. As soon as you see your first greyer, more start erupting out like those pop up games at the fair you bash with a plastic mallet.

So, I’ve been on fanny watch each morning since my gruesome discovery. So far, still just the one but I’m ready with my mascara wand should another appear.

I would ask Amanda if she does ‘collars and cuffs’ but, to be honest, it’s only my husband who’s going to see the offending threadlike growth so probably not worth the £68.50 she’d charge me. And I’m not sure how you’d get a good rinse with your legs dangling over those crazy hair washing bowls that hairdressers like to use.

The important thing is the significance. It’s the last awful sign of ageing, isn’t it? You cope with your first wrinkle with expensive anti-ageing creams and always ensure you’re holding a camera up in the air when taking photos so your chicken neck is fully extended. Once your child reaches fourteen, you know you’re completely not ‘with it’ but get pay off by embarrassing them in front of their friends.

But the private horror of a greying love chamber? You’re alone in your grief. People tell you that you look good for your age and inside you’re screaming “IF ONLY YOU KNEW! I’M A FRAUD!! I’M AS GREY AS A SCHOFE DOWN THERE!!!”

So, since old age appears to have started the second phase of it’s attack, I’ve stocked up on Tena Lady. I know what’s coming next……

Farewell February

February is the ‘coalition government month’ of the year; it achieves nothing, no-one wants it and it goes on for far too long.

Ok, February tries to make itself more interesting with its Valentines and Pancake days but neither of those do anything to dispel the depressing greyness of each crawling twenty four hour period.

The problem is that by the time February arrives I’ve had enough of winter, with its dark nights and mornings, and most of my winter clothes are either rubbish or my husband’s jumpers so I look like an extra fromFargo.

I have wondered before whether I, like so many people, suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and found some information on the MIND website which explains that ‘the cycle of light and dark determines our sleeping and waking patterns. Until the widespread use of electric light, people used to wake and get up with the dawnlight and sleep when it became dark. In winter, people would sleep longer and be less active’.

Damn you electric light! Perhaps, I need to go back to those more primitive times and obey my natural body-clock, I’m sure the office will understand if I roll in at ten. The problem with this approach, though, is that it doesn’t work out so well for me in the summer months.

Anyway, MIND lists the symptoms a sufferer of SAD may present with and it appears that ‘you want to punch February in the F’ isn’t one of them so I have to surmise that I don’t technically have a mental illness. I simply have to accept that February is just there to be hated and this year it’s clinging on like grim death with its extra leapy day.

So, I welcome March with open arms and the anticipation of warmer, lighter days. I look forward to the orgasm of daffodils, sprightly lambs and Britain’s Got Talent which will climax in a ‘clocks going forward’ frenzy in around four weeks time.

Farewell February. You make everybody sick.