Fringe Benefits No. 4

I do hope you aren’t tiring of these posts. Only two more.

Today it started wet, dribbled a little, broke out into dazzling sun and then started the process again. The buildings in the old parts of Edinburgh are a sort of sandstone-cum-granite colour with dank, dark streaks. Generally not as foreboding as Glasgow but not fluffy and light like, say, Bath. They’re buildings that seem to mean business, solid, serious and embedded. You have the sense Edinburgh isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Same wit the people – solid, thoughtful and well pleased to be where they are, if only it didn’t rain quite this much in August! They have been as welcoming as ever.

By day four, if like us you don’t pace yourself, you are experiencing an inevitable cultural overload. The Artist, he who has drawn the cover for Dead Flies (here’s a reminder)DEAD FLIES 3 cover ben boost   and his girlfriend, the Artist No 2, caught the coach up from London – 9 hours and all buttocks numbed. They arrived late yesterday so we agreed to meet in Mimi’s Picnic Parlour on the Royal Mile – Mimi’s Bakery is on the quay side at Leith and something of an Edinburgh institution so to have a branch on our doorstep is heaven. The Textiliste and I had their porridge, somehow forswearing the raspberry and chocolate brownies for later. Trying to tell the Artist² what we had seen was a challenge – a veritable Kim’s game – thank heaven for my journal. ‘What’s your favourite?’ ‘Jane Fonda and Fascinating Aida, not that you can compare’.

Today therefore, we told ourselves to take it easy. And we sort of managed to comply.


Now this was an unexpected treat. We’d buggered up getting tickets to the third menu of Bite-sized breakfasts when the Textiliste stumbled on this one woman show. It is performed by Rebecca Vaughan, who is also behind the company producing it, Dyad productions. I’ll happily plug these guys and Rebecca in particular. She was extraordinary. As the title suggests this is an adaptation of Mrs Dalloway, the Virginia Woolfe tour de force. Somehow Rebecca convinces you she is not only Mrs D but the variety of other characters by the simple expedient of a hand in a pocket here or some other mannerism there. Her change from Clarissa Dalloway to the enigmatic Peter Walsh during one emotion charged meeting is beautifully done. I was utterly gripped. More than that, her portrayal of the shell shock victim Septimus Waren Smith was so good your heart bled for the man and when, finally he kills himself you understand what it must have been like, if just for a fraction.  One of the features of the Fringe is the rapid turn over of shows. I sat in my seat, wanting to absorb a little of what I had just watched while the set in front of me was ruthlessly dismantled, not unlike poor Septimus’ mind. ♥♥♥♥

Couples who have changed the world

Another radio play recording from the Wireless Theatre Company. If you enjoy quality drama on radio this is for you. This time the play was Trench Kiss by Arthur Smith. Set initially in 1988, with a couple visiting the WW1 cemeteries, ostensibly to find Terry’s grandfather, it begins both humorous and mundane. Sally the girlfriend is wryly annoyed at the morbid focus of their holiday. We then flip to Jasper in 1916, just joining up, 19 and full of hope. Then time slips, and Sally is with Jasper. It’s 1988 and Jasper has to cope. Sally falls for Jasper, Terry is upset but eventually helps Jasper return to the battlefield and his own time – he was missing in action in 1916. The author is a well known comedian and a good one, I believe. The jokes are good, the pacing is fine and the story just the right side of ridiculous. But it was flat. The love story didn’t fire and the character of Jasper was too one dimensional. Shame. I like Arthur. ♥♥

We had a break. We needed to change the Lawyer’s train ticket so he and I headed for the station while the women went to a dance show, Brazuka. Not really my thing. On our way we passed some EDL (English Defence League, for those readers who haven’t come across them) people. If you wanted stereotypes there they were – shaven heads, tattoos, trainers, jeans and hoodies – two were even play wrestling in the street. Apparently they were from Sunderland. Why were they here? Do I really care? Nope. What was noticeable was that for the ten EDL members there were the same number of police. That is the price for hating what someone says but defending their right to say it. Made me think about a history lesson years ago when we discussed Oswald Mosley and his black shirts and the introduction of the Public Order Acts in the 1930s resulting from his activities. How that must have jarred with the sense of freedom of expression that arose after the traumas of WW1. The fundamental right to protest was constrained because it was being abused. Let me quote here:

This Act created the offence of conduct conducive to breach of the peace. This section was repealed by the Public Order Act 1986. The offence under this section is replaced by the offence of fear or provocation of violence.

What’s wrong with this? The legislation also means political protests have to be approved by the police. No uniforms can be worn. On the face of it, these seem fair and thus far, with the possible exception of its use against some fling pickets in the 1970s and 80s, it doesn’t cause much comment. But the addition of conditions to widely drawn rights is something that disturbs me and is a hot topic: on the one hand there is the proposed weakening of the draconian rules on assisted suicide, on the other there are the carrion calls for statutory press regulation. Difficult cases make bad laws. Oswald Mosely and the British Union of fascists; the News of the World and Milly Dowler’s phone. Both dreadful but did they justify a generalised change in the law, giving powers to those in authority? Isn’t it odd (as in, it’ not odd at all) that once the changes are in place successive governments never repeal the laws that give government more control? 1986, the height of the Conservatives power and they changed the law. Why? Because the 1936 wording was too vague to guarantee prosecution.

If you add conditions to an exiting position some future government, at the time of some unforeseen emergency, will be able to push the envelope further.  We’ve seen it with public right of protest, with habeas corpus (where recent governments, using the generalised fear of terrorism post 9/11 and 7/7 have sought longer and long periods to hold people without trial), and now with press freedom. On the other side there is the sanctity of li fe/assisted suicide debate, seeing to add conditions to free up a long held absolute restriction (and I accept some will argue that this is just as bad, given it opens the way to a future widening of the initially limited exceptions proposed). Odd, I thought to myself, as I skirted these unappealing members of the community,  how this thugs makes one thing about how their rights are curtailed and how we need to be very careful in how we justify that curtailment.

Rant over. On to the next show.

Keeping Abreast

This felt like a documentary, mostly about breast cancer, but seguing into other cancers as well. There were a lot of factoids – around what actually is cancer, how you TLC (touch, look, check); there were some odd, jarring moments – listing every euphemism for breasts you can think of; describing the first time a man too off your bra. And then there were the monologues, taken from real people. No they hit home, every one different and making a different point well. All four of us enjoyed this, even if it wasn’t your usual Saturday night entertainment. ♥♥♥

We could have gone on; the youngsters have – to a show in the Cowgate Underbelly (a damp, cramped, firetrap of a building) that bills itself as a comedy about bathrooms (they reported back later that is was wordless and weird). The Textiliste and I head for home, following Simon Callow, clutching a raft of broadsheets as he wends his way towards the High Street. That’s Edinburgh for you.

Tomorrow is our last day. I leave you with this cheerful, if moist, chap…

2014-08-23 21.58.32

‘There’ no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing’

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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18 Responses to Fringe Benefits No. 4

  1. Norah says:

    I can’t say I’m entirely convinced by the bad weather/inappropriate clothing debate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Archaeologist says:

      It depends on whether the clothing is really inappropriate. My favourite Victorian explorers Henry Coxwell and James Glaisher, wore tweed jackets and flat caps for the first trip into the stratosphere. They knew it would be cold so they properly prepared by taking woollen scarves with them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. lorilschafer says:

    Here I am, blogging on and on about my travels, and you’re off having an adventure of your own! I’ll have to read this in full when I have internet again – running out of time here 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      It’s all about filling the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds of distance run… Applies to both of us (except I’m of the view that holidays must have (a) your own bed and (b) flushing toilets that aren’t used by more than two different species. Maybe yours is too wild for me?


  3. willowdot21 says:

    Love the hat


  4. Cindi says:

    “I do hope you aren’t tiring of these posts.” Not tired at all! It’s so enjoyable to experience it through your words and photos!

    Rant included. 🙂


    • TanGental says:

      Splendid; I shall rant on! I guess like all civilised nations, Norway has its far right political groups too. Bearing in mind the trauma of Breivik. How does the aftermath of that play out in terms of people in power wanting tighter controls? Or do such things not get much airtime? Is the political consensus reinforced in maintaining its current approach or do the clarion voices for tougher laws gain momentum? We hear the detail of the tragedy and trial but not the medium term aftermath. Sorry if this isn’t a topic you want to discuss but to someone on the outside who only has happy memories of Norway (well apart from the infamous loss at Football) it is interesting to hear a local’s perspective.


      • Cindi says:

        So many jumbled thoughts tumbling around in my brain, but they’re seen through the filter of me as an immigrant. I don’t have the Norwegian language skills necessary to really understand what is said on the news and reported in the papers. I reacted — and continue to react — based on my emotional response to what I heard in the American news (that attack happened the day before I was flying back to Bergen after visiting family in the U.S. for five weeks) and how I saw the Norwegian people come together as a country to grieve, celebrate life, commemorate, move forward — all while determined to not let this free and open cultural society become jaded and closed.

        Growing up in the U.S. I’m almost a little numb when tragedies like this happen. There’s too much in the news — slanted right or left, depending on which station you’re watching — and when I first heard of the attack my emotions responded based on my at-that-time current environment — “oh no, another attack, how awful, ok what other sadness will next be reported in the news” — and then I really LISTENED and realized it was in NORWAY, it struck at the heart of a country whose politics and culture I respect and am part of … and I just needed to be back in my home with my Norwegian husband and be a physical part of the cultural grief.

        This page on my blog has an image I took on July 31, 2011 of Bergen’s moving and quiet response. The image can’t convey my emotions as I stood there watching my husband (in the white jacket to the right in the image) stand in quiet and grieving unity with his country. I felt almost intrusive taking the image.

        So, there’s my thoughts … but Jan, my husband, is very interested in this conversation and will probably join in when work calms down a bit. He can offer a much more insightful and authentic response to your specific questions about the aftermath and the politicians’ responses.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        Thank you Cindi. Part of the shock for me and for a lot of us Brits was the sense that in a way, maybe a small way, our policies gave this man a push and brought these sorts of polluted thinking to Norway’s shores. Inevitably if you don’t live somewhere you see it through the caricatures created by press and film and the odd holiday. For a country so level headed as Noway to suffer this is what makes it shocking to us. And then there is the response, the gut feeling within the country. Here, after 7/7 our government was reinforced in its post 9/11 view that terrorists were too difficult to deal with by traditional methods so they should begin to erode those methods. This despite the fact we have suffered terrorism on our shores since the 1960s courtesy of the Irish Troubles and our laws were not changed and civil liberties eroded then. I refuse to become cynical about people and the future. We are open societies for a reason and to close them down is no victory against terrorism but a loss. So it interests me to try and understand others responses. Thank you again. The pictures were lovely, by the way.


  5. Charli Mills says:

    And there in the midst of culture and creativity we see the scenes that define our lives. Or our views of them. Rant understood. Then the performance hits a real-life note for me as my best friend lies in a hospital bed tonight awaiting an emergency surgery for stage 3 cancer just discovered two days ago. She battled (and we thought won) breast cancer. Now this. It’s like seeing the EDL at a festival. We wish all of life could be as cultured as the arts we pursue, but dirt gets in. It makes the art gritty. Makes us appreciate the beautiful things in life. That life itself is beautiful. Ah, but on a cheerier note–you piccie makes me smile. You totally pull off that hat!


    • TanGental says:

      I do hope there is some good news, Charli. A significant number of my family have suffered with various forms of cancer some gone some still here and it comes to dominate your lives while it is at its peak. Trying to find some light in the dark isn’t always easy but the effort is always worth it, I believe. In the last month before his prostate cancer killed him my father lost his sense of humour. That, in truth, was worse than any physical decrepitude because he knew it and couldn’t find a way past what I know realise was an understandable depression. I think that’s been the hardest memory, that gloom, because it contradicted the man I knew. Writing about him, the weird wacky and the wonderful as well as the stubborn the shitty and the sanctimonious helps neuter some of those final images.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Charli Mills says:

        Thank you, for this. We now know it’s terminal, but my friend is handling the news with grace and we’ll see what’s next. I’m surprised at how angry I’m feeling, over stupid things, really. I think that would be hard to see her or someone else I love lose a trait so keen. Humor permeates my life, especially with those I’m closest too. I’m glad you write about your Dad as a whole person and take time to reflect on his life’s contributions, big and small.

        Liked by 1 person

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