All in all, Tuesday was a splendid day.  How unlike the day last week in which I completely failed to fulfil my intentions of “hitting” the Fringe, for all sorts of bleak and utterly uninteresting reasons – a day the written-up account of which is so dull and dispiriting that I cannot bear to polish and publish it here.  Be thankful.   Be very thankful.  I was determined not to let weather or mood or the state of my digestive system or anything else stand in the way of my “doing” the Festival this week, however.  And, by St. Dwayne and all his dweeby disciples, nor did I. 

I began with a mid-morning trip to the half-price ticket box in an attempt to save a bit of the hard-earned.  Typically, nothing I had planned on seeing was reduced.  Had I not any idea what I wanted to see, I would almost certainly have let the reduced price of these shows be my guide.  As it was, only my enthusiasm was reduced.  This could so easily have been the beginning of the sort of resolve-rotting that afflicted me on Wednesday last.  But no – I wouldn’t let it be, bedad. 

Instead I stuck to my initial plan to see two shows in particular: a piece of theatre (odd phrase, that: “A chunk of proscenium arch or perhaps some of the Royal Box, Sir?”) at three-ish and a stand-up comic at eight.  In addition, I was most keen to “catch” (it’s what one does at the Fringe, doncha know) some free music.  Having scanned the available freebies, I settled upon a lunchtime concert at Sir George Gilbert Scott’s boreal gothic masterpiece, St Mary’s (Piskie) Cathedral, Palmerston Place, and Choral Evensong also thereat later in the afternoon.

My day was planned out ahead of me like a military campaign and, perhaps cowed by my own unusual decisiveness, I spent the next hour-and-a-bit doing some aimless blogging etc. at my usual netcafé (“Mmm, Netcafé!” as Gareth Hunt so nearly used to say, shaking his beans the while).  I also checked St Mary’s website for details of the concert and Evensong that day: a free lunchtime treat of one Martinu and one Schumann piano quintet, and an office-full of Bairstow and Balfour-Gardiner was promised me, and I was exceeding glad. 

My other treat to myself was to be a solitary luncheon at a half-way decent grub-shop, so on the way to Our Lady of Palmerston Place’s gaff I booked a table for 2pm at a nice wee eatery mere yards away from my next cultural appointment at 1455.  Plenty of time to get there from St. M’s “35 min.” concert, I thought to myself as I squelched merrily through the greasy drizzle to the West End. 

As indeed there would have been  had the concert not lasted until a few minutes beyond 2pm.  Which it did.  The excellent young musicians fairly scampered through the scherzo of the Schumann as if they could read my anxious thoughts and I waited with exquisite discomfort until the very last note of the last movement before bolting for the west door, applauding as I went.  After a damp dash and a very hasty but remarkably unhurried and perfectly delicious lunch (assisted upon its alimentary way by a decentish glass of merlot) I was able to make my next venue with a few minutes to spare. 

This particular play, as well as being recommended by both a fellow book-grouper and the Hootsmon, would have appealed thematically to me anyway: a one-man (plus on-stage fiddler) play about the actor-playwright’s Polish father settling in Inverness as a tailor after the WWII and his various accounts of his post- and ante-bellum existence.  I won’t spoil if for anyone who pops past here in time still to catch it, but I will recommend it for its simple, subtle artistic and emotional effectiveness.  Also commendable is the direct transparency of its title (“The Tailor of Inverness” – delivers what it says on the tin) in a festival strewn with titles which seem to rival one another in opacity or strained allusiveness: given the example set by many such efforts, I’m grateful it chose not to call itself something ripely idiotic like “The Unbearable Brightness of Ceilings” instead.

Thence to the netcafé (“Mmm, Netcafé!” [You’ve done that one already.  Ed.]) again briefly, then another trudge to Evensong.  I am always deeply nostalgic at choral Evensong, especially when the music is stuff I sang as a wee piskie chorister, and this one was no exception.  The Balfour-Gardiner (his setting of the office hymn for Compline “Te lucis ante terminum”) especially punched above its weight in my gut.  Sitting at the front of the nave and having eschewed the service sheet for a plain old prayer book, I automatically found myself standing for the Magnificat – alone amongst my fellow congregants, as I found out from my peripheral vision.  Undaunted, I remained standing and stood again for the Nunc – it was meet and right so to do, whatever the cheat-sheet said.  Since when, I should like to know, did it become the form to sit for the canticles?  [There’s another fringe-title in search of a show: “Standing for the Canticles”.]  I intuitively felt the whole assembly’s tacit respect for me as an Athanasius-like champion of liturgical posture: oh yes, I’m quite sure that’s what they must have been timidly murmuring to themselves…

In need of a swift pint after these devotional exertions, I located my next venue and took advantage of its propinquity to a grand old boozer, Sandy Bell’s.  Thus accoutred with a foaming jar of nut-brown ale, I sat down near the bar and was soon joined at my table by a muy simpático couple fresh from Orthodox vespers at the nearby Greyfriar’s kirk.  After much friendly banter and festival-chat, I bade them (and sir’s handsome golden lab) a good evening, my faith in my fellow citizens of Auld Reekie filled to the brim and running over.

So thus in high spirits I made my short and soggy way to the last of my day’s choice cultural nuggets: a stand-up comedy performance by a young chap I’d seen a couple of years before and at whose routine I’d laughed “literally like a drain” – a drain on the other audients’ patience, that is.  I forewent another pint, remembering the pain that can be wrought upon a toper’s kidneys et al. by a chortle-wracked diaphragm, and so it was whilst waiting the ten minutes or so on the stairs up to the venue that I caught sight and sound of the young ladies in front of me in the queue. 

This was unfortunate, really, because I was pretty much constantly distracted by the thought of one of them for the whole of the performance to come.  I had, you see, begun to form the impression that the smaller, darker gal was an old acquaintance from by undergrad days whom I had on many occasions resolved to contact since I’d moved down here: truth to tell, she’d been a lucky but unwitting (I think) object of my youthful amatory attention.  Kirsten McGillivray (names changed to protect the innocent/oblivious/indifferent) and I had performed together in many Gilbert and Sullivan productions, and I had once played a highly susceptible Lord Chancellor to her graceful Iolanthe – “Iolanthe, thou livest!”  That sort of thing marks a chap indelibly, you know.

To be continued…

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