Monday, 11 August 2008

Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)

I'd better kick off by reassuring everyone that there's no actual violence depicted anywhere in this blog posting. Some harm may come to the English language, but even that will most probably be of a cartoon-like and highly unrealistic nature. Ok, so, disclaimer over, this week I'm asking "What better place to become completely lost in a crowd than the very heart of Edinburgh during the world's biggest performing arts festival?" (Yeah, I know, I can think of quite a few, too, but my travel budget won't stretch that this'll just have to do for now, ok?).

Or,to put it another way, where better to feel a sense of total disconnection and dislocation from teeming hordes of your fellow human beings?

(Quick apology for the intensely musically-minded: I was originally going to bang on about mediocre acoustic guitars, yet again, but something made me think about Saturday nights in general, then 2 Saturdays ago in particular - probably having to queue in a packed Asda while trying to keep the kids from destroying everything within their collective grasp).

Now, I'll admit that this lack of late-night (it was after 11pm - oooh, the hedonism) joie-de-vivre on my part can partially be explained by the absence of any alcohol in my bloodstream, something which definitely set me apart from the bulk of my fellow wanderers. That, and my dismal failure to achieve the objective I had set myself. Well, the primary objective, at any rate. The secondary objective* was never going to happen, although I did actually succeed at one point in making a very attractive lady I'd never met before laugh in a loud and immoderate manner, (which is supposedly a good start**). Not, I must confess, through the sheer charm and brilliance of my debonair wit and repartee, but by walking (stupidly and painfully) into a temporary road sign - and not with the slapstick genius of Buster Keaton, alas, but rather the lackwitted clumsiness of the execrable Mr. Bean. Ho hum.

No, what I'd set out to smother myself in that Saturday was a bracingly nostalgic dash of "true spirit of the Fringe" body-lotion...those slightly 'downmarket' (aka "cheap"), 'experimental' ("The Life And Death of Salvador Allende", in mime, set to a soundtrack of tree frog mating calls), 'minimalist' ("We couldn't afford a set. Or props. Or costumes. But we do have a wig.") productions that used to be stuck on in tiny halfway-down-the-pee-stained-close*** venues at bizarre times of day and night. And why the hell not? I was free from child-related responsibilities, was master of my own fortune, and had bugger-all money with which to pay to see a semi-decent show.

Sadly, my search was entirely in vain. Rents, competition for spaces, the price of getting even a single-line entry in the Fringe Guide (£289 - £385, for those too lazy to follow the link - which does contain a fascinating breakdown of all the costs involved), and my not-having consulted a copy of that guide beforehand (apparently there was quite a lot of free stuff going-on in various pubs - but by that hour almost all 'comedy', not quite the "wonderfully-terrible" drama I had in mind, but still...) meant that I was condemned to wander the streets, surrounded by a strange combination of meandering tourists, festival goers striding between the comedy behemoths at the Pleasance, Assembly Rooms and Gilded Buffoon (sic), and the usual weekend drink-yer-face-aff Edinburgh pub-and-clubberati.

One of the latter I really out to thank, as it happens, since her sudden appearance (rounding the corner of West College Street, this barely-legal, tiny party-pink-outfit and over-used tanning-bed-glow princess carried on a high-pitched argument with some altogether invisible disputants, while remaining completely oblivious to physical obstacles of any nature), sparked off some strange song-writing notions buried deep in my head, and by the time I'd skirted the immense queues of people waiting in the spitting rain to get into... anywhere, frankly, and was heading back over Bruntsfield Links to my designated sofa-bed, I'd got about 90% of a song swirling around in my head.

Which is most unusual, because I'm one of those people who can't - absolutely can't - write songs. Oh, bits of music, sure - riffs, chord sequences, odd snatches of tunes - they come and go pretty much as they please from time to time. Whether they're any 'good' or not, well, that's another issue entirely. When it comes to lyrics, however, I've never been able to write anything that hasn't made me cringe almost immediately, and recoil from the page in a fit of abject literary worthlessness. Now, some cruel folk might go so far as to suggest that the world would be a far better place if only certain famous recording artists had had the same reaction towards their own efforts, (I was so sorely tempted to include a vast list of obvious offenders at this point, but for the sake of brevity...Oasis), but then if I ever get round to recording this rare beast, I'm sure that it'll offend a great many people's linguistic sensibilities, so I couldn't possibly comment.

Ah well. So much for Saturday night. One or two of you might have expected the "wedding ring" story from last week to be revealed, but that happened on the next Monday morning, so including it here just wouldn't be appropriate. And that would never do.

*"The secondary objective"
- I'm a reasonably average male, not entirely dead (yet), and have been enduring involuntary singularity since the end of last October. Work it out...

**"supposedly a good start" - When you have such an ideal face for radio as myself, amusing the ladies is, so I have been informed by many a "women's interest" magazine left in doctors' and dentists' waiting rooms (that's my story, and you can't prove otherwise), a good way to install yourself in their affections. I am, unfortunately, utterly without flirting skills, (as many of my friends will confirm with amusing anecdotes of my ineptitude in that department), so am serially incapable of progressing from that stage to the mythical goal that many of the great historical chroniclers describe as "closing the deal". How I ever got married is still one of the great unsolved mysteries of modern science. ('Why' I got married, and why it took 9 years to fall apart are different - yet equally mysterious - questions altogether.)

***"close" - a 'close' is an Edinburgh term for an alleyway, most of which run north or south from the old High Street - the historic spine of the city that drops steadily from the castle promontory at its western end, down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse (just past the crass expression of architectural ineptitude that is the Scottish Parliament building) to the east. Some of the 'closes' are over 400 years old, and seem to provide excellent outdoor toilet facilities (primarily for males, it must be said, although on occasion...!) late at night - especially during large public events. A bit too public for pursuing "the secondary objective" for most, not that that deters some people - who shall, for the purposes of libel suits, remain nameless...


Richard Brewer said...

Interesting and entertaining blog, sir. I shall be dropping in from time to time as we both share similar interests in the music and imaging department.


Andy Gilmour said...

Richard -

A comment! And from someone who isn't a close personal friend!

You have no idea how pathetically grateful I am, both for the kind words, and also the fact you took the time to write them... :-)

Oh, and I had a look at your blog - we may have similar interests photographically, but I'm light years behind you in execution!

Richard Brewer said...

Ah, but it's the musical tastes also. Jack Bruce, for instance...and Cream. Did you make the Royal Albert Hall shows? I was there on 5/5/5 (and yes, it cost me an arm and a leg).


Andy Gilmour said...

Oh, I wish I'd been able to be there - still, thanks to BBC4 I at least got to see a fraction of their live brilliance!

Jack Bruce is definitely a major influence on my bass playing (as is 60's Clapton when it comes to 'leccy guitar), and it was good to see him back to relative health, even if still a little frail. Frankly though, how Ginger Baker can still play the drums like that..? Hell, more to the point, how come he's still alive?? :-))

Caught an interesting interview with JB, where he said that one of the problems they had in the 60's was that their music was so "busy", the PA gear of the day wasn't able to reproduce the complexities of their sound, often with abysmal lucky folk such as yourself were the first to hear them live as the band intended...