A Day At The Edinburgh Fringe Festival With Old Muckers, 22 August 2017

What fun.

Rohan Candappa announced that he would be performing his one man show, How I Said F*** You To The Company When They Tried To Make Me Redundant, at The Counting House, Edinburgh.

You can listen to the first 10 minutes of the show by clicking here.

Rohan piloted this show in the Z/Yen Boardroom in January 2016 – click here for my write up of that evening.

I worked out that there was really only one day that I could be away from London that week, having committed to several days in Brum the week before for the first ever day/night test match in England.

Janie, who would have loved to have seen the show, felt that she couldn’t free up the day.

Still, I learned that there were to be several old muckers from Alleyns in Edinburgh that day and also that Marie and Joe Logan (the former being a Z/Yen alum) would at least be able to join us for lunch.

Marie and Joe’s application to become honorary school alumni for the day was unanimously accepted, especially when the gang discovered that Marie is a close friend of Linda Cook’s, as Linda had organised the Z/Yen Board Room gig.

But, when Marie inadvertently mentioned “Old Alleynians” in correspondence, I felt obliged to explain:

…there is one really important point you need to get right.

You are each an honorary Alleyn’s Old Girl/Alleyn’s Old Boy (respectively).  Neither of you is in any shape or form an Old Alleynian, honorary or otherwise.  Old Alleynians are alumni of Dulwich College, the pathetic, rival school of Alleyn’s.

Let me illustrate with well-known examples:

  • Alleyn’s Old Boy – Jude Law;
  • Alleyn’s Old Girl – Florence (and the Machine) Welch;
  • Old Alleynian – Nigel Farage.

Need I say more?

Mercifully there was no unpleasantness in the alumni-confusion-department on the day.

So I rose about 4:30 (a bit earlier than necessary in truth), setting off on an early flight from Heathrow (thank you, Janie, for the lift all the way to Terminal 5) and then took the tram into Edinburgh.

In schoolboy mode for a meet up with old school muckers, I got very excited with my smartphone when I realised that there was free wifi on the tram, sending Janie a picture and a sound recording of the Chigley-like tram sounds.

On The Tram To Edinburgh – Sound (below) and Vision (above)

Janie messaged back to say that I’m a big kid.

Then a solo stroll through Edinburgh from New Town to Old Town…

Edinburgh Old Town

…towards The Counting House…

The Counting House

When I arrived, only Rohan was there – John and Steve were out soliciting trade…for Rohan’s show, readers, control yourselves…

…but soon after I arrived, there was a surprise (to me) arrival – Claire Tooley (now Claire Brooke) – a very pleasant surprise indeed. Even more pleasantly, Claire was able to join us for lunch after the show.

Rohan was good…very good.

I thought the performance was very good. Rohan hasn’t changed the show much since the pilot, but he has tightened up the script and his delivery has some lovely pauses and nuances that have clearly evolved with practice and experience.

It was a pretty full house, which at 11:00 in the morning on the Free Fringe I reckon is a big win. Certainly there seemed to be little activity for the other morning/lunchtime shows at The Counting House.

The audience was very receptive, I thought, although those who had attended performances earlier in the week thought that the laughter was slower to build that day, but the attentiveness, reaction and laughter as the story built ended up better.

We strolled to Spoon to meet Marie and Joe. Apparently this place is an old haunt of JK Rowling’s, so well suited to an arty gathering.

Like a fool I neglected to take any pictures in Spoon, but we gathered as nine: me, Steve Butterworth, Rohan Candappa, Paul and Cathy Driscoll, John Eltham, Claire Tooley-Brooke, Marie and Joe Logan.

One coincidence about this event, I realised, is that this season is the 25th anniversary of my own material premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe. In 1992, Brian Jordan brought The Ultimate Love Song – click here to Edinburgh in his wonderfully-named show “Whoops Vicar, Is That Your Dick?”.

When I mentioned this coincidence, Rohan (naturally) asked me to give an acapella rendering in Spoon, which I did as best I could – not very well. You can hear Ben Murphy’s excellent recording of the song below:

But back to Spoon. The food was good, the chat was jolly. People drifted away as journeys home or appointments with other shows approached, but we were a pretty lively group for a couple of hours at least.

Eventually, when it was just me, Marie & Joe left, we went for a stroll around town to see what we might find for the remaining couple of hours, before I needed to head for the airport.

We found the Vintage Mobile Cinema outside the Assembly Rooms on George Street, where we heard a short talk about the extraordinary space and were shown some Pathé newsreels from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s about the Edinburgh Festival.

Logan! What are you and Logan doing at the back there? Stop it! Are you listening or taking pictures, Harris? Stop that too!

Then a stroll around the Book Festival before the lure of a wine bar just around the corner from my tram stop, for the last 30 minutes or so of my visit, was too much to resist.

Finally, a wee dram of wine (or two) with the Logans afore I go home

I got back home about 21:00 – it had been a long day but a very pleasant one.

I excitedly told Janie all about my exciting day.

Then I thought I should ask Janie about her day.

“Oh, nothing much,” she said, “I just did a few patients and met Rihanna.” You couldn’t make it up.

An Evening Watching Daytime Television? Impossible, 3 January 2017

I don’t watch daytime television very often.

I define daytime television as programmes that are designed for a daytime audience and regularly, probably exclusively, broadcast during normal working hours. Catching up on TV news while I am at the gym or following cricket matches during the day through the TV don’t count as daytime television by this definition.

So, in the five years 2012 to 2016, I guess I had watched daytime television twice.

The first instance was around 2012 or 2013. Hugh Rycroft, one of my old writer friends from NewsRevue, who now devises quiz-based game shows, mentioned to me at one of our Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinners back then, that he had devised a new show, Tipping Point, a daytime quiz, being broadcast on ITV.

“I’ll take a look at that”, I said, meaning it.  “I don’t think Tipping Point is your sort of quiz show”, said Hugh, meaning it.

I looked up the timing of the show and resolved to watch it the next time I was at the gym in the afternoon at that hour. Thus I took a look at Tipping Point, as promised. Hugh was right; it’s not my sort of quiz show. The conceit of the show is a facsimile of a coin pusher arcade machine, for which contestants win tokens to play and from which they get (or fail to get) prizes.

My second instance of watching daytime TV in recent years was Bargain Hunt in 2014, when Z/Yen’s practice manager, Linda Cook together with her friend and Z/Yen alumna Marie Logan, appeared on the show. We wrote this big moment up for the Now and Z/Yen blog – click here. As it happens, this programme’s momentous first broadcast was on a Friday when I had no meetings, so I actually watched the programme when it was first shown.

I don’t think Bargain Hunt is my type of programme either, although it was great to see people I knew so well on that show.

But let’s be honest, whether or not these programmes are my kind of show is rather beside the point. They must be a lot of people’s kind of show, because they are phenomenally successful. According to Wikipedia at the time of writing (January 2017):

  • Tipping Point had 10 series and 508 episodes (at 6 January 2017);
  • Bargain Hunt had 39 series and 1264 episodes (22 January 2016 figures).

Anyway, I saw Hugh again at this year’s Ivan Shakespeare Christmas Dinner – click here. He mentioned that he had devised a new quiz show, which would start  broadcasting on the New Year Bank Holiday Monday; Impossible.

“I’ll take a look at that”, I said, meaning it. Indeed, I intended to watch it on that Bank Holiday Monday.

Come Tuesday evening, after finishing work, I was pondering my evening (probably planning to do some Ogblogging), when it occurred to me that I had clean forgotten to watch Impossible; indeed I hadn’t even set the vid to record it.

But these days, what used to be impossible (seeing a programme despite such neglect) is now more than possible, thanks to iPlayer.

Thus I spent a chunk of Tuesday evening watching daytime television.

I did spend some evening time not all that long ago watching bizarre (in this case comedy) telly on the computer, in bizarre circumstances, but that’s another story, click here for it.

The conceit of the show Impossible is that all the quiz questions are constructed to have three rather than two types of answer: correct, incorrect or impossible. Impossible answers fail some aspect of logic in the question. For example, the name of a British film star would be an impossible answer to a question starting, “which American film star…”  Impossible answers get contestants eliminated or make them lose their accumulated winnings, adding an additional dimension of pressure to a time pressure-based quiz.

Surprisingly, I rather like Impossible. As I said to Hugh in a congratulatory e-mail:

…I liked it and enjoyed watching it far more than I can ever remember enjoying watching such a programme.

The format is clever without being too clever.  I am tempted to watch it again…

Hugh seemed pleased with this note and even suggested that he plans to use the phrase “clever without being too clever” in his elevator pitches henceforward; which surely means that I get a significant share of the (presumably substantial) earnings from successful “clever without being too clever” programmes, for ever.

Joking apart, my fear, though, is that the very fact that I liked Impossible might be the kiss of death for it. I don’t suppose I am a barometer for successful daytime TV shows; I might be an anti-barometer for them.

Indeed, on reflection, I’m not sure that Hugh should want his shows to be “clever without being too clever” at all. The phrase reminds me of Spike Jones’s explanation for why his hugely talented comedy orchestra was not more successful:

“We’re too sophisticated for corny people and too corny for sophisticated people.”

Still, I am rooting for the TV show Impossible. I sincerely hope it gets the hundreds or thousands of episodes it deserves.