London to Edinburgh

No, I didn’t give up my seat for Jeremy, mainly because I didn’t see him. Mine was also a busy train, and reservations are definitely a good idea in August. Incidentally, my first ever LP was bought from Branson’s scruffy so-called Virgin record shop in Oxford Street, back in 1971:  I feel so connected to these beardy guys! (

As always I loved the journey uphill to Scottyland, the main pleasures of which begin in Northumberland and contimue through to the glimpses of Arthur’s Seat (more impressive than Jeremy’s) and Calton Hill. I may have said before that Edinburgh is my second favourite city, and beats my home town Cardiff. Only London trumps the Athens o’ the North.

This was my second or third trip to the Festival.My memory now is such that I have just had to check whether I have posted about it before, and of course I did last year. This year we hadn’t booked any big plays, but managed only one small one – plus two song recitals, a choral work, two talks, and goodnesss now I have to check the tickets to see if I have missed anything out.* What was I saying about memory? It proved to be a nostalgia-fest.

‘Oh, Hello’, the play, was very funny, but deeply sad too. The name Charles Hawtrey may not mean much nowadays, but to British cinema audiences of the 50s/60s he livened up every Carry On film he appeared in…and he was a star in a very British sort of way. As always, his art was very much himself it seems. The main prop on stage was a bottle of gin…I don’t think I need say more. It made me cry a bit, rather like gin does.

Tim Parks’ talk at the book-tenty-thing was excellent. It made me want to start on my novel, in true Pooter fashion.  I think his point was that for any author, at least writers of fiction, a book is a life event, and books work best when something of the author is allowed into them, that some life-adversity is essential, that sometimes books are best understood by looking at the author’s own personality and experience. Howard Jacobsen too was inspiring.

I knew the choral work was going to be a difficult one for me. We sat in Greyfriars Church, and within 3 or 4 bar of the opening chorus tears were streaming down my face. I don’t even like choral works, but this one – Bach’s St John Passion – I’d sung in at school, as a treble. We won’t dwell on it here. I should have worn dark glasses. I know I can never join a choir again…that much is clear.

Same thing again at the song recital, at St Andrews. I lasted as long as ‘Is my team ploughing’, the 1896 poem by AE Housman set to music by Vaughan Williams. His poems were in the knapsacks of troops in the Boer War and the Great War, many of whom never saw their farms and homes again of course. I was in the front row, right in front of the singer (excellent) and I do hope he didn’t notice the sniffing….

Happily, there was no danger of any tears at the other recital, despite it featuring the songs of Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel. Suffice it to say that the audience were invited to sing along to ‘Non, je ne regrette rien‘, which must be a first. It may have all been a spoof…one can’t be sure on the Fringe.

  • I left out tw0 whole events: a wonderful tribute to Flanders and Swann in an ace performance by genuinely witty and musical chaps in their own right, Tim Fitzhigham and Duncan Walsh-Atkins ; and Adam Kay performing some of Tom Lehrer’s acidic songs.

2 thoughts on “London to Edinburgh

    1. Edders is doing good! Hot and crowded, but fun. At St Andrews, the recital was by Susan Mcnaught (soprano), Walter Thomas (baritone) accompanied by the ace pianist Robert Melling with a very impressive hipster beard. At Greyfriars, it was CoroEdina. Sadly, reviews of fringe classical events are hard to find.

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