It’s August, and it’s the early hours of the morning. I’m at Belfast International Airport, and i’m not tagging myself on Facebook as being at The Lagan Bar because i’m too cool for that.
It can only mean one thing, my annual trip to Edinburgh.
A milestone trip for me, as this year is ten years since I first travelled to the Edinburgh Festival, and I’ve been every year since 2016. I had a good excuse for that, choosing instead to head to the European Championship in France that year.
As is tradition, I manage to be both organised and disorganised at the same time.
Going through the programme, making a (very long) shortlist of shows that interest me, before whittling them down to a daily itinerary.
That itinerary, was compiled by me scribbling in my notebook at Aldergrove.
Eventually making it into Edinburgh City Centre, I got a taxi outside Waverley Station to take me to my accommodation.
I knew I wasn’t too far away, but I didn’t know the exact location, so I got a taxi as I didn’t want to be trailing a suitcase around trying to find it.
I asked the Driver and he replied “13 Sheens”. I thought he was quoting me £13, with “Sheens” being a Scottish word for pounds.
Turns out, that’s how Sciennes is pronounced, and after a few quid changed hands, I was checking into my accommodation, which was a modern apartment.
It was in a very good location as well, right beside The Meadows, a park beside Edinburgh University. I’d walked through The Meadows and always wondered what was at the other end, and now I know.
That meant I had Guilded Balloon and Assembly almost on my doorstep, which was handy, with Pleasance being a slightly bigger stretch.
I went for a quick walk before my first show, a free show at lunchtime called What Has The News Ever Done For Me?, a panel show taking a comic look at the long running TV show, The News.
It is a show that has been running for a few years, and keeps changing venue. I went to the wrong one, because I forgot my programme and couldn’t find one in the venues I walked past. Turns out, I had to walk up Pleasance to find the correct venue. I was not anticipating a fast walk up a hill on my first day.
Amongst the topics discussed was a round where Panellists had to guess which petition on Change (100,000 means it gets discussed in Parliament) got more signatures, with a petition to get Westlife to do more concerts in Belfast getting more signatures than one to knight Tommy Robinson.
If you care, 29 people signed the petition for more Westlife concerts in Belfast.
After a spot of lunch, it was down to the Fringe Shop on the Royal Mile to purchase tickets. Thankfully, I was able to get tickets for everything I wanted.
Due to queuing up for tickets, I missed out on Socially Awkward Penguin, a free show in the afternoon.
This was the opening weekend of the month long festival, and there was a lot on. The Book Festival wasn’t though, with the venue still being assembled when I walked past it on Saturday morning.
There are a number of other events piggybacking onto the Fringe.
In North Berwick, a seaside town 35 minutes away from Edinburgh has a small event called Fringe By The Sea with some well known names, but not enough to tempt me away from Edinburgh for a few hours.
Despite that, it’s well worth keeping an eye out for the line-up. I’m still annoyed that I only found out about the event in 2017 too late to get a ticket for KT Tunstall.
In Leith, an event called EH6 At The Fringe also puts on events as an alternative for those who prefer their venues to be less crowded.
On the Friday night I arrived, there were two concerts, both at a wonderfully named venue called Dr Bell’s Bath, a former public bath now converted into an events venue.
They were by Space and Kyle Falconer, who I had both previously seen in Belfast, with Falconer doing a Q and A around his set. He was doing a three night residency there, but unfortunately, all three were sold out.
I decided that my Friday night entertainment would be a short trip to the Kingdom Of Fife to see Dunfermline Athletic take on Dundee at East End Park.
On the train journey, I could see the Forth Bridge out my window. Very impressive. I might go and try to see the First, Second and Third Bridges.
Saturday morning was spent having a gentle stroll around George Street, Grassmarket, Princes Street and Rose Street. The good thing about Edinburgh is that you can easily escape the Fringe if you want to. It’s good to do so and explore as much of the city as possible, especially when so many venues so crammed together.
After putting my feet up for a short while in late morning, I headed out for lunch before taking in my second football match of the weekend, Hibs v St Mirren at Easter Road.
Saturday night saw me head to George Heriot School, but not for lessons. That’s where the BBC Hub is based, and includes a tent for TV and radio recordings. You can also get a decent view of Edinburgh Castle if fireworks are your thing.
Initially unsuccessful, I got a flurry of tickets for BBC recordings the week before I set off. On Saturday night, it was a showcase of Scottish comedians. It had it’s own moments, but none of the eight had me wanting to see their shows. The compere, Ray Bradshaw, was funny though.
I also had tickets for recordings of a radio show hosted by Russell Kane, but I didn’t go to them. The tickets were free and as people can turn up on the day to be part of a reserve list, so it was no loss to me and someone would have benefitted from my absence.
As I left the recording on Saturday evening, I was met by rain. It took two days for it to rain in Edinburgh, that must be some sort of record.
The rain continued into Sunday morning, when it died down, I went for a stroll around Royal Mile and Victoria Street.
Sunday afternoon saw me see my first paid for show, The Beautiful Game, a look all aspects of football, weird and wonderful through the medium of dance, which was very enjoyable. It was a show that you didn’t need to be a football fan in order to enjoy it.
The venue, Zoo Playground on Infirmary Street, was a new venue for me as well. EVen after a decade, it’s always good to visit new venues.
With a bit of spare time, I spent Sunday afternoon on my now traditional Charity Shop Rummage through Newington.
The highlight was seeing some (loose) late 90s Corinthians, though at £4 each, I gave them a swerve.
With some time to kill, I loitered around Guilded Balloon, although a sudden burst of rain meant I headed indoors to wait for Keith Moon : The Real Me, a one man show where Keith talks though his life.
Whilst acknowledging he was a brilliant Drummer, it wasn’t a hagiography, not shying away from his personal flaws.
The only problem was, that Keith was talking and drumming at the same time on occasions, and you couldn’t hear him.
Despite that, it was still an enjoyable show. It was worth it for the story about the prank he pulled in Marks and Spencer.
Sunday night was spent at David O’Doherty. I can’t go to Edinburgh and not see him, he’s brilliant.
After ten years, I’ve learnt to get a mix of people I’ve seen before and people I’ve never seen. Doing one or the other wouldn’t work.
Not only was he hilarious, O’Doherty hates Vape Dicks, which makes me like him even more.
On Sunday night, I went to bed relatively early. There was a reason for that.
That’s because I was planning to walk up Arthur’s Seat.
I’d heard about it, so I decided to do it, having made a start on Bray Head last month.
I phoned for a taxi, thankfully the Driver could give me advice, dropping me off at the entrance near Royal Commonwealth Pool, as it would be the easiest place to start from.
Easy, being a relative term.
I eventually made it, the top was surprisingly busy for 6.30am. I just stood and looked over Edinburgh, it felt amazing. I could even view Easter Road. Could be the start of a niche, Football Stadiums Seen From The Top Of A Hill, Might walk up Divis to see if I can see Windsor Park.
I’m going to make this a part of every visit to Edinburgh from now on.
Back to my accommodation for a bit of a rest, I was out at lunchtime for a second helping of What Has The News Ever Done For Me? before taking in Socially Awkward Penguin by Emmy Fyles, three days later than planned.
There was no penguins in it, she just had to get a use for a penguin costume she drunkenly purchased online.
The show was about social awkwardness, and we had some unplanned social awkwardness when the sound wouldn’t work when trying to play videos, plunging the show into doubt, before two Technical Wizards in the audience, who didn’t know each other, amazingly both called Darren, saved the day.
This year saw the 50th anniversary of (NASA faking) the Moon Landings, and one show covering this was Apollo Take 111, a comic farce where a lowly Civil Servant gets a promotion, tasked with faking the moon landing.
Monday night was spent seeing Frisky and Mannish. It was their first visit since 2014. I saw them then and loved them then, so I made it my business to see them again.
They look at Pop music, analysing how some acts can be merged and fused together.
In short, Rick Astley can sing anything while Doris Day can’t.
My final show, on Tuesday morning, in the interest of balance, was about Apollo 11, and a series of simultaneous stories of how some people spent that night and how their plans changed.
I then went for a walk along Leith Walk.
Not everybody in Edinburgh is there for the whole month. I would have loved to have seen Arabella Weir of Kieran Hodgson but they weren’t performing when I was here.
I’d literally pay to watch Arabella Weir disapprovingly say “Oh for fuck sake Eric” for an hour.
If you haven’t got into Two Doors Down, do it.
With it being warm most of the time, a couple of things stood out. The most obvious being a lack of bins solely for plastic bottles, as I went through a lot. There was also a lack of water refill stations, the only one I saw was in Assembly Gardens.
Also, every venue for the shows seemed to be roasting. Surely the venues could remedy that?
The Scotsman newspaper usually set up camp at venues to give away goodie bags to people who purchase it, but not this year.
If you are stuck for what to see, newspapers are a handy resource, with The Scotsman having a daily preview guide, as well as the Scottish editions of The Times and Metro.
Venues and Promoters also produce their own booklets to promote their events. There are plenty of free books and magazines to guide you if you haven’t made your mind up.
I’m hoping to go to Euro 2020 next summer, so Edinburgh might have to have a fallow year, like Glastonbury.
While I was in Edinburgh, I got an e-mail when heading to the airport on my way home to say that the games I applied for tickets for Euro 2020 was unsuccessful.
We’ll see what my plans are for next summer.
There is still so much for me to explore in Edinburgh, i’d love to see what the city is like outside August.
This year, I’ve been fascinated by Secret Scotland on Channel 5, and Michael Potillo turning up in Scotland in his latest railway adventures.
I’d love to based myself in Glasgow or Edinburgh, and do a tour of Central Scotland.
It wasn’t all bad news when travelling back, as I found 50p when leaving the train and then discovered that Linfield were 2-1 up in their UEFA Cup tie in Montenegro.
Rangers v Linfield in the UEFA Cup? That would be a great excuse to have an extra long trip to Central Scotland.
Wether I return to Edinburgh in 2020 or 2021, i’m missing having flyers shoved in my face.