In Susan Morrison’s day, sleeping well during the Fringe meant you woke up in a bed, not on top of six beer barrels at the back of a dodgy pub down the Grassmarket.
Back when I were a lass and the Fringe was nowt but a couple of mime artists and a theatre group from Hampstead doing Shakespeare in a coal bunker, us performers gave little thought to things like well-being and looking after ourselves.
In fact, we rather gloried in tales of human carnage fuelled by diets of booze and nicotine. Back then the choice brand of cigarette was Benson and Hedges, which my mate always referred as “cleaners’ fags”.
These days, though, youngsters are all about getting a good night’s sleep, eating properly and making time to exercise.
Back then, sleeping well meant you hadn’t thrown up over yourself and you woke up in a bed, not on top of six beer barrels at the back of a dodgy pub down the Grassmarket.
Eating a balanced diet meant a chip in each hand, and if you’d asked a battle-hardened veteran of my generation if they’d “made time to exercise” they would have gazed upon you with the puzzled but mildly interested expression of a baboon staring at a one-armed bandit.
Nowadays it’s all starting the day with power yoga and lunching on quinoa. Some of these up-and-coming folk have clearly confused doing the Fringe with the first days of parenthood.
I blame Australians. It’s all that sunshine and fruit. They started massing here in greater numbers in recent years and they brought with them that air of optimism and dangerous habits like going outside. They jog. Naturally, we didn’t. We’d have spilled our drink.
Obviously, I can’t talk, since I’ve turned into the sort of old dame who says, “just the one”, means it then uses her bus pass to get home instead of weaving uncertainly through the Old Town at “what time do you call this” o’clock.
Ah, but I have my fine memories of the mad nights, like the occasion when I had to step in to break up a drunken rammy between an outraged Canadian comedian and a dwarf Elvis impersonator from Nottingham. Possibly the only time in my life when I’ve ever used the phrase, “just put the dwarf down, Alan”.
They’ve all got ambitions, these young folks. Our biggest goal was to find the last pub open, but they babble on about branding and being seen with the right people, which is why none of them ever talk to me, I guess. Even buskers have ambitions now. Once it was just a bloke with a tin whistle, occasionally accompanied by a scabby dug. Not now, mate. Yer busker now is a conservatoire-trained violinist and the dug’s been ditched for a full-on chamber orchestra. There was yet another six-piece quartet up on Rose Street. They were playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I came to shuddering halt convinced I was on hold to an insurance company. I was there for nearly 20 minutes.
Fancy Festival footwork needed
IF there was ever an intercity Strictly Come Dancing then Edinburgh would demolish the opposition.
No other city can hold a candle to our high speed footwork when it comes to a close encounter with 14 Japanese tourists taking a selfie with the castle, two American tourists just taking up the pavement and a fire-breathing Korean dragon.
Few sights in the world can compare to the determined stride of a wee wumman frae Leith hellbent on getting to John Lewis, weaving like a matador past six flyer wielding students in a slalom formation on Princes Street.
Week one of the annual mad fest and I have found that walking along any street in Edinburgh with long folded easel is a brilliant way to accidentally nudge tourists into the path of oncoming trams – and a surprising number of people don’t understand the phrase excuse me.
There’s an app for that – so ditch the big maps
Why are tourists obsessed with big maps suddenly? Most of them have smartphones. Surely the Americans have. So why, all of a sudden, is my way being blocked by people using huge sheets of paper?
Two Canadians standing on Princes Street during the week had a map, I swear, that was bigger than the city. When they tried to fold it they found a Ukrainian folk band hand had requisitioned it as a venue.
Perhaps they have other uses for smartphones. I watched a guy, possibly Korean, stand in the lottery and fag queue in a supermarket. He was muttering into his phone. When he reached the counter he shoved the phone into the assistant’s face and a robotic voice intoned, “Can you sell me a pack of cigarettes?”
Without missing a beat, the assistant bellowed into the screen, “whit brand?” Cue confusion as the customer expected the translator app to make sense of this. In the end, she slapped down a random pack with the deathless Scottish blessing, ‘that’ll dae ye”.
No translation forthcoming from the smartphone.