Sunday, 29 August 2010

Shorter Cuts

Hello. Something a little different today - less wordage, more picturation.

Doubtless like myself, you sometimes find yourself enjoying a complex, multi-stranded three-hour film with around two dozen main characters, only to discover that you have to stop halfway through due to external time constraints. Doubtless also, you subsequently find yourself faced with the problem of coming back to finish your viewing experience at some later date, but balk at the thought of trying to remember what the heck was going on...

'Which one was he again?'

'Is she married to that one or the other one?

'Was she naked earlier on?'

'Why are there so many bland brunette actresses in this film?'

If any of those questions ring a bell, despair no longer, for help is at end. Or to be more specific, if you, like myself and the rest of the Monday Night Film Club, have only got halfway through Robert Altman's 1993 film Short Cuts and find yourself having to wait a full seven days before seeing the rest of it, help is at end.

For behold, the Short Cuts - 90 Minutes In: Entity-Relationship Diagram:

Don't make me explain it to you. If I have to, that means I have failed to make it intuitive, which is a poncey way of saying it should be fairly obvious to anyone with a reasonably functional brain.

I will admit though that it'll help if you have A) seen the first hour and a half of the film in question, and B) are not unfamiliar with the concept of functional data modelling. System Design Methodology purists will no doubt take me to task for failing to normalise the entity-relationships to Codd's Third Normal Form at the very least, for which I apologise abjectly. I was pressed for time.

Shabby as it is, I can happily report that the diagram really did come in handy during our viewing of Short Cuts Part Two one week later, for which I must thank Microsoft - the vendors of the excellent Visio diagramming tool - and certain other parties for their fine A3 colour printer.

And just to show that this wasn't just a one-off, here's another film I have made simple through the magic of entity-relationship diagramming:

See how much simpler that makes it to follow?

On a personal note, I have to say that I enjoyed drawing up the Short Cuts diagram far more than any normal person should. I think it may just be my perfect job. Pity it isn't...

Job offers welcome.

Post Script

How to upload a picture into your blog without the Blogger uploader crunching it all down and making your lovely intricate diagram a blobby lo-res disgrace:

Avoid the Blogger Add Image function like the plague.
Open up another window.
Go into Picasa Web Albums under your Google login.
Click on the more drop-down.
Select Photos.
Select the album and picture you want to use.
Click on Link to this Photo.
Set Select size to Large 800px.
Tick Hide album link.
Copy the contents of the Embed Image box.
Flip back over to Edit Blog and go into Edit Html.
Paste in the contents of the Embed Image box.
Pray to God you got that all right.
Retry an indeterminate number of times, varying every single step of the process through every possible permutation until you stumble ape-like upon the solution.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe - Epilogue

Just finished The Lost Symbol. Langdon ends up in the Washington Monument. I bloody knew it.

Here endeth the Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe.

Friday, 20 August 2010

The Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe - Friday again

Up with the lark at 7am. Well, get out of bed at half past actually. Much packing up and cleaning of flat, as Herself takes pride in leaving a place even cleaner than it was when we got there. To this end, I clean the inside of the washing machine we never used.

Leave a nice message for Landlord Jim in the guest book, and plod down the stairs and out of flat for last time. Climb up Tokyo Steps around 10 am to battle the first wave of castle tourists, and then trundle our trundly cases down to Waverley station. A last chance to spot a performer on the way down – the sadly-missed Timandra perhaps? But no. Onto the train and off we go. Bye-bye Edinburgh. Our Fringe is over, but for you it is just beginning.

Resolve to complete Dan Brown book by the time we get to Kings Cross, but am delayed by a compulsion to solve a pictorial grid puzzle by hand, rather than let Robert Langdon do it for me in a few pages. Doggedly solve puzzle, only to be left with a map which means nothing to me because I’ve never been on a bloody Masonic tour of Washington DC. Tch. Remember conversation with Herself from yesterday about how Edinburgh is crying out for a Da Vinci Code style mystery book. The plot, details and characters are as yet unclear to me, but it will certainly involved Alexander Hume’s shiny big toe, Greyfriars Bobby, and the mysterious carved letters in the flagstones of Castle Wynd South. May call it The Auld Reekie Enigma.

Ponder being misidentified as Australian again today, this time by an old guy from Dingwall. Beginning to get a thing about this.

Herself makes ample use of the free tea services on the train back to London, ‘to make up for the one she missed’ on the way up. Thus cosmic beverage justice is served. Try to watch movie on laptop of woman next to me, but am at wrong angle to enjoy properly. How selfish of her. Have brief exchange with gentleman across the aisle about Scott’s Grotto in Ware. It is a splendidly quiet and well behaved journey. Notice that man next to me is reading earlier Dan Brown book – Deception Point - am tempted to wave my own Dan Brown book at him and tell him ‘That’s quite good that is’, but am overcome with Englishness, so keep quiet.

In a mirror image of our journey a week ago, manage to spill tea over book, thus enhancing its crinkly brown appearance magnificently. No way I can offload it down the Oxfam shop now. They have standards.

Out at King Cross, along Victoria Line to Tottenham Hale and thence to home, where the heavens open in memory of Edinburgh as we get out of the train, though at least this decent home counties rain has the good grace not to gust sideways and soak me from the thigh downwards.

Home again, home again, and begin the post-hols ritual of unpacking, washing, getting of food and working through voicemails. Emails can wait for another bloody day.

Am quite adrift without a multicoloured timetable to structure my life.

Shows seen: none
Flyers collected: none

The Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe - Thursday

Have a nice dream about helping big fat seals who have been stranded in a narrow riverbed, by clearing a channel for them into deeper water. Then have a more disturbing dream about visiting a wildlife park where whey have genetically engineered some sort of cheetah/sabretooth tiger cross. Am talked by the keepers into entering the smilodon pen, in order to bond with them. They have two massive bloody fanglike tusks. The alpha male rears up on his hind legs, puts his front paws on my shoulders and proceeds to urinate over my legs, in some sort of dominance ritual. The keepers assure me this is to be expected, and I must not flinch. He finishes pissing all over me and I bolt for the door of the pen, only for another smilodon to nip me on the hand. Fortunately I lose no fingers.

Have no idea what that was all about, but suspect it may have been inspired by this here current advert:

Morning – realise that this is our last full day, and once again, we have far too much food in the kitchen. Suggest that Herself’s breakfast consists of two eggs and a snap pot of baked beans at the very least, while I resolve to get though half a packet of porridge oats, some chicken and forty-three tea bags in the remaining 24 hours.

Realise I have once again miscalculated my underwear requirement for the holiday by one day. Am now faced with a potential pants-less final day, unless I take the decision to either re-wear yesterday’s, or double up tomorrow for the journey home. After much deliberation, choose to put on my last fresh pair today and blag it tomorrow – if I can just make it home without being run over, I should be fine.

Can feel another elongated fingernail on the go. Arse. It’s the only part of the body which never heals once you break it, which is so unfair. Wish I had fingernail regeneration powers.

Take photo of Herself in toilet. In toilet, not on toilet. The preposition makes a world of difference. Photo is to demonstrate the tininess of the toilet. It is basically a cupboard where they have removed the shelves or what have you, and shoved in a loo. The room is literally the size of a toilet. If you’re knocking on six feet as I am, closing the door while sat down is something of a contortional operation. I have to position my knees just so, to stop the door from springing open. It’s so tight that the inlaid panels of the door make all the difference between privacy and dreadful exposure. If you rent this flat with someone else, make sure you are on very, very intimate terms. And depending on your specific ‘post-toilet’ routine, you may find it easier to open the door, stand and turn before attempting any papery hygiene rituals. Like I say, it’s cosy in here. Not only that, but the toilet also contains The Towel That Is Not A Towel – a tissue thin, totally unabsorbant tea-towel like object, which soaks up absolutely no moisture at all.

Your best bet is to wash your hands in the shower room opposite. This slightly larger cupboard perpetually smells of dampness and cabbages; no idea why. At least it has decent towels, but it also presents a problem for the toothbrushing person. There is a tiny shelf below the mirror and above the titchy sink. This shelf comes up to about chest height on me, and juts out from the wall a fair bit. Given the cramped confines of the shower cupboard, I find myself having to spit out the toothpaste with pinpoint accuracy, precisely calculating where the sink might be, since I can’t bend down past the shelf. It is all very perilous. A tip for gentlemen, you may actually be better off weeing into the sink in the shower cupboard rather than bothering to use the toilet.

This is my last blog from our exclusive flat on Tokyo Steps. Aaah. The last day of our Fringe week, which is weird, because the Fringe is going on for another two weeks. It’s like, Christmas is over now for us, but it’s just beginning for a whole load of other people, and hasn’t even begun for some others. Weird. We’ll be home tomorrow looking back on all the acts we’ve seen and wondering if we’ll ever see them again, when in fact we could conceivably hop on a train again and see them all over again. Weird. Expect there’ll be quite a come-down for us when we get home tomorrow, which is why it’s important to save some tablet and shortbread to keep that rush going as long as humanly possible. Have also saved a comic we bought from Forbidden Planet.

Do fabulously unselfconscious stretch in flat, accompanied by lion-like roar and out-loud narration of same act. Much to amusement of Herself.

Right, on with the final shows.

We walk down the royal mile to St Giles cathedral for a free, yes free, walking tour of a portion of central city. Much prefer historical walks to bloody ghost walks, which are rarely if ever scary , except for the first time down Mary Kings Close, before it became a bloody London Dungeon theme park. And that time we were shut in a crypt in Greyfriars Cemetery at midnight.

As is traditional, our guide is unmistakably English. Haha. Some good stuff about the city gaol, various gallows, and William Burke, whose skin is supposedly on display in the Surgeons Hall museum in the form of novelty book bindings. Our guide also mentions John Knox, whose statue we have seen several times around the city; all long robes, flowing beard, outstretched hand and Good Book. Had no idea who he was, but from the statue, I was immediately put in mind of the Lawgiver from Beneath The Planet Of The Apes. Apparently he was a firebrand Presbyterian, so I was almost right.

Needless to say, because we’re on a walking tour, it tips down. One woman on the tour insists on standing less than a metre in front of the guide as he gives us some history, while the rest of us stand a customary and respectable two metres away minimum. It is quite funny, but not as funny as the sight of her fighting with her ridiculous blue plastic poncho as the wind takes it up over her head.

Almost at end of the tour, notice that a young woman in a wheelchair has emerged from a hostel down on Cowgate, where we’re stood listening to some more history. Then notice she’s come down the ramp from the hostel and is right next to us, looking up the steep Blair Street leading off Cowgate and up to the back of the Tron. She actually starts trying to wheel up it somewhat weakly, and this is a fecking steep road, I dunno – 1 in 5 or something, I dunno. Have a moment of hesitation, then I see someone look over their shoulder at her as they walk by. Suspect am urged on by possible thought of someone else ninjaing my good deed, coz I’m suddenly in there, offering her a hand. Can’t really believe she wants to get up this hill, but amazingly she does, so find myself pushing her and her chair up it. It’s bloody steep, I can tell you, so am grateful she’s just a wee slip of a thing. She is very softly spoken and talks a bit funny. It may not be palsy or anything though - she does have a pierced nose and is clearly Scottish, so… Get her up to Hunters Square behind the Tron and onto a relatively level bit that she says she can manage Herself. Wave her off. Am now fairly glowing with sweat. Turn round to look down hill to Cowgate to see that historical tour has gone on without me. Am briefly disappointed that they’re not all stood there cheering me, but then spot that Herself has kindly waited for me, so I jog down the hill and feel well smug for helping wheelchair girl. Christ almighty, what a city to be a wheelie-person in.

Then back to the flat to eat as much beans on toast as possible in our last day, before setting out over to Princes Street for a show called Dig For Victory, supposedly a sketch show featuring crap superheroes etc. Again, the skies weep upon us, and we are fairly drenched by the time we get to the Voodoo Rooms, a rather swank bar just behind Princes Street. Turns out that the Dig For Victory chaps have suffered a manpower loss to the tune of two out of their four members, which has put a bit of a crimp in their sketchable abilities. But pluckily they have soldiered on, by hosting a random selection of performers from the Fringe. They do actually manage a couple of routines themselves – I like the one about the two skydivers finding out that they’re both first-timers, though it does peter out a bit.

The first guest act is Thunderer, or at least the first 20 minutes of their hour long show. Yet another Victorian spoof, but this one is actually quite well acted and even better, it’s funny. Mainly about members of the Daily Jupiter newspaper investigating the Ripper murders. Shame we’re going home tomorrow, coz I would have liked to have squeezed them in properly somehow. Talk to them later having splodged back over North Bridge, and they say that they’re working on a Radio 4 show, so jolly good luck to ‘em. I bet they all say that though.

The second guest act is a handsome American lady called Scout something. She has a ukulele and does funny songs, though she seems disappointed that the ten of us in the audience don’t react with spontaneous recognition and mirth, soaked to the skin and bemused by her needy and somewhat neurotic performance as we are. Am wondering if she is the same Scout who is the daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, but suspect she could only be about sixteen by now. Unless I’ve fallen asleep for ten years during one of the more boring acts at the Fringe.

Herself’s umbrella has finally given up the ghost, and is now merely a dangerous wire octopus loosely wearing a green and blue tartan shawl. We purchase a new red tartan model and humanely dispose of the old one in a rubbish bin on Princes Street, though it protests and tries to brace itself against the bin opening, a bit like a man fighting against an open airlock in a Jerry Bruckheimer film.

Kill some time in the Advocate pub near the Tron, with a cup of tea and a quiz machine. This is where Dr Foot and HFM were found wankered last year, and we hope to recreate their success at the quiz machine. We manage to find a completely unplayed game on the machine and in so doing get our names up as first and second place. Result for us, I think.

Then over to the skanky Tron pub to see Alexis Dubus. Saw him last year doing his swearing show – this year it’s about nudity. Starts with him doing a portrait of an actual naked lady on the stage, so fair play to her. It’s well nippy down there too, coz they’ve had a/c installed this year, so now it’s too cold rather than sweaty and hot. He does a good show about nudity, and I am brave enough to keep hand up when asked if I’ve been naked in public and not drunk. Admit to naturist past, and am braced for much probing questions, but fortunately he is nice and spares me that discomfort. He seems a really nice bloke, and the content of his act is not so different in tone to one of Richard Herring’s, though without the self-regarding inner monologues and personal sadness. He does highlight the plight of that naked backpacker who’s still in a Scottish prison though, which is fairly cool of him. He ends the show by stripping down first to a ‘naked man suit’, complete with felt genitals, and then all the way proper naked along with the woman from the beginning. Jolly well done to them. He is a nice bloke and I wish him more success at the Fringe.

We then trot down to the Gilded Balloon quick smart to see Barry Cryer, who we’ve been trying to see for a couple of years, and have finally got tickets for. Only to find that the show’s been cancelled due to a family illness, which is a bugger. A bugger for the family member, really. Have most unworthy thoughts like ‘I wish we’d seen him earlier in the week, before whoever it was took ill/died/got hit by a car’. Isn’t that selfish? Too late to exchange tickets now though, because the Fringe office back on the Royal Mile is closed for the day and we’re going home early tomorrow, so will have to get refund when we get back home.

This leaves us with a Cryer-shaped hole in our splendid timetable, which we fill by seeking out the finest falafel restaurant in all of Edinburgh. I have a medium sized pepperoni pizza, which I will come to regret in the hours that follow. Confess to Herself that one of my unfulfilled Fringe fantasies is where we are sat down in some sort of foodery, the two of us at a four person table, and then a highly stalkable performer comes in and has to share the table with us. We are then perfectly at liberty to chat to them at length without the usual pressures of them being knackered post-show, or there being a long line of similar stalkers wanting to chat to them, or it just being to bloody awkward to walk up and say hello. This fantasy has yet to happen. Am thinking of staking out a table at a likely haunt like the City Café, and waiting.

The falafel/pizza experience on South Bridge does not adequately fill the Cryer-void within us, so we venture further south down Nicolson Street, past the now closed Forbidden Planet and its excellent diorama of the Tom Baker Dr Who arm-wrestling Davros, and back to the Black Medicine Coffee Shop where we saw CB earlier in the week.

We enjoy a jolly nice cup of tea with ginger cake and cookies, whilst I try to read what the girl sat in front of us is typing into her laptop. It’s a history of the Algerian war of independence against the French – I have to fight down the urge to clumsily remind Herself out loud about the time we watched The Battle Of Algiers on DVD. There are at least three people in here doing laptoppy activities – it must be the place to do such things. Begin to regret not bringing mine out with me, though suspect it would have got thoroughly drenched during the downpour earlier in the day. Speaking of which, jeans are completely sodden, so try thinking warming thoughts and rubbing thighs to dry them out. This does not look so clever in a public place like the coffee shop. Also spot Basil Fawlty chap from The Faulty Towers Dining Experience, sans-‘tache and in mufti, getting a cup of tea. Also see a man who might possibly be that American bloke we saw at the steampunk do at the Scala a couple of months ago, who did an overlong act involving odd bits of whirling machinery. But I did not feel that was a sufficiently flattering description with which to approach him, so unusually for me, we pass him by.

Have interesting conversation with Herself about nudity, and which performers from this year’s Fringe we would like to see naked. The capoeira boys come to mind, as do various posh girl actors from sundry Edwardian/Victorian/1940’s spoofs. We agree that Herring’s portly and doubtless befurred body should not be seen. Resolve to purchase a naked man-suit for Herself, along with the dinosaur suit.

Cryer time has finally been exhausted so we nip round the corner to The Oak pub, for a bit of folk, as per last year. The music is downstairs in the cramped confines of the Wee Folk Club, hosted by the genial fluting-voiced Paddy, and his long ginger and white beard. Come to stunning revelation that the Wee Folk Club is so named because it is a small club for folk music, not a club for leprechauns and pixies as I had erroneously thought for the last couple of years. Tch, it’s like Incantation all over again. Not to mention Larry Grayson’s mate Everard, the punningness of whose name having not occurred to us until it was pointed out by a comedian a couple of nights ago (Stephen K Amos, perhaps?).

The random act on tonight is Blueflint, or possibly are The Blueflints. I’m not sure. Two ladies with full-size banjos and a fella on double bass. Needless to say a ukulele makes an appearance at some point. I swear we’ve seen more ukes this Fringe than any other piece of equipment apart from a mike stand. It must be because you can get one for only twenty quid (as seen in the music shop on South Bridge), and they’re apparently a piece of piss to learn. Herself promises that we will get one each when we get home, doubtless to gather dust along side our guitar and djembe.

Come up with a great name for a show – Ukulele-Li! It’s basically HP Lovecraft meets George Formby. Possibly involving Deep Ones attacking Blackpool. It writes itself.

Purchase a Blueflint CD as a present for the parents, and also as a way of disposing of Scottish funny money before return home, where such suspicious paper currency is rejected outright, even by the restaurant at work, which is in a Scottish bloody bank for Burns’ sake.

Nip out of The Oak with one song to go, coz we have a late appointment down Cowgate for our last show of the Fringe – A Nifty History Of Evil, which Dr Foot has already seen and recommends. We mooch up to the venue - one of the more disreputable clubs down under George IV bridge, and mosey inside, slightly confused by the bar-like activity going on, and the youth of its patrons (they were actually having to show their passports to the ape on the door, for God’s sake). Doesn’t look like a show is going on downstairs, and a quick trip upstairs results in me having an unintelligible exchange with a check-shirted, fluffy-haired youth, and Herself asking a half-naked heavily-tattooed man where the Evil show is. It’s plainly not on here. Maybe it’s been cancelled. We resolve to leave this increasingly loud and child-filled dive, and fight our way out. Thus our last show is a no-go. I briefly suggest, in a moment of madness, that we could go and see something over the road at the Scumbelly instead, but Herself snaps me back to sanity, and we skip home and climb Tokyo Steps for one last time, nodding to the hi-vis boy guarding the barrier at the bottom.

Walking up steps to the flat, spot flattened dog-end that has been there all week. It hasn’t moved, save to have gotten flatter with each successive footstep upon’t. Surely it should have been ‘washed’ down to the bottom of the stairs by now at least? In fact I think it’s actually one stair higher now than it was yesterday. Spooky. I fear it may start scratching away at our front tonight like something out of The Monkey’s Paw.

We get in and then realise we had the right venue for the Evil show, but the wrong time of day. The late night viewing was actually just down the road, but too late now. Ah well, time for a cup of tea (still thirty-seven bags to go) and a final in-flat blog. Refer to notes hastily scribbled on back of spare timetable whilst sat in the gloom of the Wee Folk Club, when realised I could no longer maintain all my to-be-blogged thoughts in my organic head. This must be how proper writers do it.

Shows seen: 3 + 1 tour
Flyers collected: 4

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe - Wednesday

Robert Langdon has now had a stone pyramid and a gold capstone in his possession for over 100 pages, but has failed to even unwrap the bloody capstone yet, let alone stick it on top of the pyramid. The padding in this story is a work of genius. He has just been whisked from Building A to Building B by a Negro Ex Machina, so am expecting him to end up in yet another historical DC building any chapter now.

Try to style hair like many of the young women we have seen, with parting starting just over one ear and fringe draped massively over forehead. Turns out I do not have sufficient length and weight of hair for this to work, and wisps are soon fluttering all over face. Fortunately lip gloss, the most adhesive substance known to woman, collects most of the loose hair by helpfully affixing it to my mouth.

Leave flat, down Tokyo Steps and cross Grassmarket. An early morning leafleteer spots our diagonal move away from him and plots an intercept course. Clever young devil. First flier of the day collected. Herself cowers behind me while I take the leafletty hit for her.

Off to Zoo, south of the Pleasance to see 2010: A Space Oddity. Turns out that Gavin Robertson out of Thunderbirds FAB is in it, so am expecting good two-man physical theatre. Show is a sort of 2001/2010 parody, with bits of Solaris and some amusing googly voiced aliens. Not as strong as his earlier stuff though, which is a pity. Don’t think anything could have topped Fantastical Voyage, which we saw at the Pleasance about 10 years ago. Years have not been kind to Gavin - once curly dark hair is short and receding, and big tum looks especially unappetising in cheap fancy dress silver spacesuit.

Have lunch in Auld Jock’s Pie Shop on Grassmarket. Very nice steak pie. Actually, it is more of a Gravy Pie, with Special Guest Star: Bits Of Steak. But most tasty nonetheless.'s_pie_shoppe-12178344

Spot a picture of our ‘forgotten man’ from the BBC showcase night – he is David O’Doherty – no wonder I couldn’t remember his name. A comedian having a name like that at the Fringe is like being called like Jason O’Byrne or Brendan O’Oirish. Ten a penny. Actually he was quite good, now I remember him – did good little musical sketches with the aid of a Casio keyboard.

Have just noticed vast, black, thick hairs growing out of back of right hand. Damn them. Need to laser the little bastards out of existence sometime. In the meantime, a painful five minutes with the tweezers is required.

Next, off to the GRV on Guthrie Street - a secretive little venue which we’ve never been to before. Herself has cunningly planned three shows in the exact same room, one after another. So we only have to spend 20 minutes hanging around between each one. Genius.

First up is a live Collings and Herrin podcast, which I’ve listened to once or twice before. Richard Herring is very funny as ever, and away from a structured stand-up routine, is completely filthy and naughty, which is good. Andrew Collins is… what? A straight man? A feed for Richard Herring? Or just the guy who sets up the laptops for the podcast? I dunno. Trying to remember what else he’s done, and all I can come up with is a bunch of them poxy list programmes on Channels 4 and 5. Tch.

Man, podcasts are a piece of. No wonder the internet’s lousy with them. I could do one easy. If I wanted. And had a willing stooge like Andrew Collins. And knew how to do all the fiddly bits on the computer. Prospective podcast stooges partners, contact me via the usual channels, please.

Oh yes – Herring told us again about the time he was wanked off by an Edwardian ventriloquist’s dummy operated by Stewart Lee.

They both turn out to be nice chaps, so we summoned up the nerve to chat to them in the bar after the show. Didn’t buy any of Herring’s DVDs though, coz I couldn’t remember which ones I’ve already seen and am haunted by the memory of the DVD of him berating a middle-aged couple so horribly that they stood up and left . Not his finest hour. Herself dug out her timetable – a reliable conversation piece, and compared it to another woman’s timetable. Geeks of the Fringe unite.

Show #2 at the GRV is the Oompah Brass band, who we last saw at the Scala a few months ago for a Steampunk event. Highly entertaining – they do a fine Bohemian Rhapsody.

Show #3 is Bane, as recommended by Dr Foot last year. One man playing all the parts in a hard-boiled spoof, with another chap providing a live musical soundtrack on the guitar. Bruce Bane is played a young chap called Joe Bone, if you can believe that. He has a very expressive face and does some great American voices. Takes me ages to place his standard Bane-voice as that of Christian Slater. There’s also a Bane 2, which we must see some time.

We finish our stint in the GRV, and nip back to the flat for a nibble. I have fifteen minutes to eat a hissingly hot microwaved shepherds pie. Mmmm. And Ouch.

Then to the undercroft (undercrypt?) beneath St Augustine’s church to see Bowels, which turns out to be a small cast doing a parody of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. All the cast are female apart from the central chap, whose plumy Edwardian English accent periodically slips back to his presumably native Frankie Boylesque Scottish tones. There is a great bit when a ‘magnificent beast’ of a dinosaur marauds across the stage and into the audience, played by a young lady in a sweet fluffy green dino outfit. Delightful, as Herself would say.

We carry on down George IV Street to the Gilded Balloon, for to see the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre, which Herself has been most looking forward to. Excellent as ever, though is a pity that he - sorry – they don’t do more of the Dr Who stuff as seen on YouTube. Hang around near the loos after the show for about ten minutes and are rewarded by the sight of slightly sweaty sock-puppeteer Kev Sutherland emerging from the gents. He is a very friendly chap, and surprisingly English. He thinks I’m Australian, which I get very occasionally; no idea why. We sing his praises and speak much of Dr Who, Torchwood and Life On Mars. Turns out that he is indeed the same Kev Sutherland who ran the Bristol Comic Con. He also did comic strips for the Red Dwarf comic and is currently working on the Beano, which is most cool. He is still most sweaty, so bids us a goodnight. Result.

Is now too late to see our last show of the night – Carnival Of Souls, which am quite glad of. Getting too old for these late nights.

Nip outside Gilded Balloon to get a late night crepe. The trick with crepes is to eat them quick, coz when they cool down, they look, feel, and presumably taste, like cold dead flesh.

Skip back to flat, swimming upstream against the tide of exiting tattooists and struggle to open the useless front door with its rubbish rattling loose lock. An intrigued/suspicious young military policeman comes down Tokyo Steps towards us and asks if we need a hand. We decline, but he hangs around anyway, watching us, as if we’re a couple of terrorists laden down with a plastic bag full of explosive semi-skimmed milk and highland shorties. I bridle at his military nosiness. It’s a bit like a scene from Inglourious Basterds.

Rubbish bags must be put out tonight, as flat is beginning to smell strongly of shepherds pie. Edinburgh continues to inexplicably smell of Weetabix. No idea why.

Apples continue to rot on kitchen table. Is degenerating into a war of attrition between Herself and I.

Shows seen: 6 (but should have been 7)
Flyers collected: 4

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe - Tuesday

Eyelashes: none anywhere.

Am woken in middle of the night by unwelcome shouting outside and above our flat, as if young (obviously) and foreign (possibly) people were running up and down the stone stairwell and then shouting to each other from the open doorway of their apartment above ours. Los bastardos.

Apparently fail to meet obligations re: scheduled sauce session. Do not even realise invitation to sauce is being extended until much later – was far too engrossed in adventures of Robert Langdon at the time. Instead gratefully settle for rub of aching shoulder, proving am both married and old.

Breakfast consists of local shortbread and last two chocolate hobnobs – the biscuit of champions.

Take over an hour to write up blog of Monday. Have not yet mastered art of précising. Half-wish I could have carried laptop around yesterday and blogged as we went, but stupid battery would have given out after 5 minutes. Treacherous device.

First show is The Ukulele Project at Scumbelly – turns out to be two young men and two young ladies, a spirited junior version of the UOoGB. Very good.

Hanging around in Scumbelly for another of Herself’s many, many toilet breaks (am coming to the conclusion that we have markedly different liquid intake requirements), see a flyer for The Dog Eared Collective, which we need for scrapping. Picking it up, spot actual Dog Eared person herself handing out the flyers further along the room. Nip over and say hello. It is the one that looks like my cousin Lindy, possibly. She is very nice and friendly. Say we enjoyed show yesterday and tell her we’ve seen them before. God, I am such a sad stalker. Write email address down in her little book, so can be informed of London gigs. It seems almost all the performers here carry a little book, for the writing in of email addresses. The film people we met in Dead Head Comics did. Talking to nice Dog Eared Lady makes up a bit for not talking to Timandra yesterday.

Then off to Surgeons Hall for The Oxford Alternotives. What a name. Like the Be Sharps in The Simpsons. Very good, very young a capella group. Mixed boys and girls, which is much better. Have seen some all female ones and they sound so weak. The little monkey-faced lad is particularly entertaining.

Then back to Scumbelly for The Fitzrovia Radio Hour. Brilliant. Love the way they do all the sound effects as they go along. Think the two girls look lovely. Wish my hair was like theirs. The Mud Men Of The Thames and The Man Who Was TenMinutes Late are splendid Quatermass / Appointment With Fear parodies. Not too silly, which was nice. Well done to JT for recommending them when Arthur Smith cancelled his show.

Have just made up a song called ‘Lasagne’. Basically, you hum the tune to ‘Tequila’, and then go ‘Lasagne’ instead. Genius.

Can hear American tourists talking outside flat window. How do they manage to talk so nasally? It must surely strain their mucus passages.

Have interesting conversation with Herself about our relative daily water intakes. Mine being a couple of cups of tea and a swig of Coke, hers being several litres of water, which she carries at all times. This explains the many, many toilet breaks. Some discussion ensues concerning our relative bladder sizes and the impact of uterus and ovaries on female bladder retention.

Down to Just The Tonic on Cowgate for Simon Donald off of Viz comic. The venue is yet another subterranean vault converted into a series of bars, toilets and performance areas. You have to climb down some steep wooden steps without bashing your head on the stone archway above for this one. Dr Foot has already seen Simon Donald, and has warned us that his reminiscences and anecdotes about Viz are more entertaining than his comical characters, and he’s more or less right. The characters are lightly funny, and it’s quite interesting to see how each one is a bit like Sid the Sexist, or Mr Logic, or Spoilt Bastard, but they’re not quite up to Steve Coogan standards. Once again, as in so many shows here, there is audience interaction; this time it is a hapless girl called Sarah who must endure banter with all five of Mr Donald’s characters, the poor mare. Am so glad have mastered the art of sitting well back in the shadows.

Simon Donald has overrun a bit, and then we get lost in the vaults of Just The Tonic, so we must trot to The Pleasance for Jonny Sweet. Herself is mental about being late and starts to motor through the crowds on Cowgate like a greased staffie. I discover that my fast walk is the same speed as her trot, so manage to keep pace with her without looking too foolish.

The Pleasance is as crowded as ever, but manage to locate correct venue with a few minutes to go. It’s that weird portakabin in the main courtyard with all the windmill things stuck on the outside.

Jonny Sweet’s show is a similar format to the Mostly About Arthur one from last year, but even more built around a laptop slideshow this time. He gets a lot of mileage out of his handy Mac, flipping around different files when his presentation on the decommissioned HMS Nottingham comes up short by some 15 minutes. The best bit is right at the end when he takes the laptop backstage but leaves the projector on, so we can see him on the webcam typing up some post-show notes. Most charming. I like the way he gives almost everyone a warm hug when they come in at the beginning. We manage to avoid this though.

Then wander all the way over to the Assembly Rooms on George Street for Richard Herring. The Assembly Rooms are a step up for him this year, and a welcome escape from his regular venue at the Scumbelly. The queue is very long, stretching down George Street. Show itself is entertaining as ever – it’s a rehash of a previous show, but fortunately we’ve not see the original Christ On A Bike, so am not sat there trying to identify all the old material. He seems as podgy as ever – wish he’d lose some weight. Interestingly, as he often bases the shows around his personal life, he doesn’t bang on about being single for once, so he really must be in a relationship, as Herself claims. Good for him.

Finish with Mr Herring and back to flat. Listen to the Edinburgh Tattoo warm-up taking place a scant few metres beyond our window. It’s weird - there’s a sort of Ken Bruce-voiced fella who not only narrates the show itself (Here’s the massed pipes and drums of the Scots Guard! and all that), but also reads out all the dedications and happy birthdays for the audience as they file in before the Tattoo proper kicks off. That’s fair enough, and doubtless makes some old person’s day, but then it gets slightly odd, when he starts to ask if there’s anybody here from Australia, then New Zealand, then South Africa, then America, then Canada, then France, then Germany, then Poland, then Russia, then China, then India, then Japan, then every possible bloody country that somebody who is attending the Tattoo might have come from. He does a shout out to every bloody one – it takes over ten minutes – it’s very weird, and puts me in mind of a Manowar song for some reason.

Herself breaks open the elderberry wine she got from the market on Saturday and we settle down to watch something on telly. The tradition is that we watch some crappy DVD that we’ve bought from a street trader down by the Meadows, but we’ve not been over that way this year, so have come up short. There’s a small supply of DVDs on the flat, but they’re all worryingly romcommy. Watch King Of The Hill instead.

Have a confusing conversation about snowballs with Herself, until I realise that I’m actually talking about speedballs – a drug cocktail- and she’s talking about snowballs – an imaginative sexual act involving one man and two women.

Remove two apples from rucksack – they have started to go funny. Feel bad about just throwing them out though, so leave them on kitchen table overnight, in the hope that Herself might have one – she is less intimidated by rotting fruit than I.

Shows seen: 6 – a much more reasonable number
Flyers collected: 14 – a bumper crop

Monday, 16 August 2010

The Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe - Monday

Lashes on pillow: 1
Lashes on eyelid: 1 :(

It is raining. Sodden Japanese are trudging up Tokyo Steps outside window, while soberly clad workers are walking to the office. But not us, haha!

Looking back at previous day’s blogs, am concerned that am starting to write like Rorschach. Not sure if this is entirely healthy. Can see dog carcass in alley far below.

Today is to be the busiest, maddest day for us so far, squeezing in the maximum cheapity 2-for-1 shows that we can. Resolve to write up blog at end of day, while events still fresh.

Decide on army surplus combat trousers and walking boots today, combined with long black sweater. Looks a bit funny put all together, but am trying to strike a balance between utility, rainy appropriateness and attractiveness. It works if you only look at my top half or my bottom half.

Over to old Assembly Rooms on George Street to see friend of friend Timandra in Your Days Are Numbered. Horribly early start for Fringe event – 11:25am. Show is very good – all about probability of death from various causes. Spot Simon Singh in audience, sporting baby in frontloading papoose. Say hello to Timandra and chum Matt Parker very briefly after show, but she can’t stop to talk cause needs to tidy up before next show comes in. Quickly ask to see her outside in a few minutes. Herself thinks he hears her mention upstairs bar, but this turns out not to be the case. Two slowly nursed cups of tea later, we come downstairs only to see Timandra in ‘members-only’ lounge area on ground floor. We don’t have special Fringe passes, unlike, it seems, 50% of the bloody audience in this first week. She is only thirty feet away, but engrossed in own laptop, so doesn’t see us. Cannot go into members zone cause would be momentarily cautioned by 17-year old helper girl in official Assembly Rooms t-shirt, so walk away disappointed.

Then go outside to munch on packed lunch – home made chicken sandwich. Almost immediately choke on third mouthful, as I occasionally do. Panics me for about five minutes until obstruction goes down. Am now most grumpy – almost choked to death and have been denied hanging out with a genuine Fringe performer, which is most important thing in world to me right now. Sheer depth of own star-struckness know no bounds. Am unable to express disappointment to Herself, because am embarrassed by stalkerish fascination with showbizzy people, even though really really really want to say hello to Timandra and talk about numbers and comedy and shit. Puts me in well bad mood for rest of day. Cannot express reasons for bad mood, coz by anybody else’s standards, is a very silly reason. Am so star-struck, it is tragic.

Grumpily march to Hill Street Theatre near George Street to see Call of Cthulhu. Theatre has lovely, big, squishy sofas for waiting on, which imperceptibly lessens bad mood. CoC is unexpectedly a one-man show, and is damn-near unfathomable if you don’t know the story well already. Good, deep, unworldly mood music though, and weird green and red lighting. The episode involving the Louisiana swamps is the best bit.

Heavens open.

Umbrellas initially stand us in good stead. What an odd phrase – do things ever stand us in bad stead? Or adequate stead? At any rate, umbrellas do their job at first, but as the spitting becomes a shower becomes a torrent, they show increasing signs of stress; one of the legs of my one gives way and it starts to flap wildly on one side, like a strangely circular black bird. With no head. And a handle. Herself’s umbrella fares much worse, and turns inside-out in the gusts. She has not mastered the seasoned brollier’s trick of flipping it rightside-out with a short, sharp thrust of the arm, so I do it for her. It’s what I’m there for. Being a fair bit shorter than me, her umbrella comes up to just about eye-level on me – this makes walking side by side in the rain a perilous affair for yours truly. The rain forces us to walk apart.

Off to the see the Dog Eared Collective at scummy Underbelly. In the rain, it has become even more moist and humid in there. The Dog Ears are slightly unusual, not just because they are a rare 3 women / 1 man group. The first year we saw them, they did Barnaby Brown: Orphan Extraordinaire – a sort of Dickens piss-take. Last year and this though, they’ve done a series of short sketches loosely strung together. Some of which work. They’re certainly energetic though, all leaping around in silly beards, The smallest of the women (who has a touch of the Jimmy Krankie to her) is used as a battering ram by the others. One of the women really reminds me of one of my female relatives on my dad’s side, but would feel weird asking her if she’s my cousin Lindy.

Am now soaked from mid thigh downwards. Obviously downwards. Combat trousers rub uncomfortably against skin as we settle down for Aleister Crowley play. I will clearly be wet for many hours to come. What I’ve just done there is called foreshadowing. Dan Brown taught me that. However, unlike in his books, the dampness of my clothing will not later turn out to be a vital plot point.

The Crowley show is very good – it’s in a venue we’ve never been before, just on the southern edge of North Bridge – s’always good to try out a new place. It is a one-man show, our second of the day, and not a million miles from Cthulhu in style and set-up. The chap himself is suitably shaven-headed and bulky, though I suspect he’s padded his shirt a bit. Not sure if Crowley was actually Welsh, but that’s how he sounds. It does give the show a strange Under Milk Wood quality. Dr Foot and HFM have already seen this and given it a qualified thumbs up, which was mainly to do with the fictionalised death of the character at the end. But it was entertaining nonetheless.

Down to the Gilded Balloon (currently occupying the Edinburgh University Stdudent Association building in Bristo Square) to see Doon Mackichan in Primadoona. Very accomplished one-woman show about actual recent events of her life – mainly plummeting career and son getting leukaemia. Needless to say, is all very actressy and worthy. But there are funny bits as well. Am fascinated by weird pock-marked stippling on her back. Either she’s been practising lying on a bed of nails, or those are some serious acne scars.

Off to Udderbelly (gigantic inverted purple cow. Honest) to see Brazil Brazil. Join queue after finishing off now-mangled chicken sandwich, only to discover some minutes later that queue is for a different show. Not only that, but we are in the wrong location entirely. Herself’s previously impeccable map-reading has taken us to George Square, not Bristo Square. I think. Put it down to innate dyspraxic mongness. Return to Bristo Square, wherein correct venue is located. This is where we saw male a capella group The Magnets last year. Udderbelly must specialise in man-candy, as Brazil Brazil is built mainly around five exceedingly fit young men displaying both their capoeira skills and their incredible abs.

And now, a brief note on capoeira. Herself booked this show; you could not get me to see capoeira otherwise. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have touched it with a bargepole, but she sneakily sold the show to me as ‘some sort of music and dance act’. Capoeira, for those of you who don’t know, is ‘a fusion of dance and martial arts, born on the streets of Brazil, among the slaves’. It sounds better in a broad Brazilian accent, believe me. Street dance and martial arts. God help us. Scientifically formulated to appeal to the posey element of society, and those people who really want to be elven Wardancers. Capoeira is the sort of thing dabbled in by your mate who’s a bit of a show-off. Basically, any activity that features in a BBC ident is slightly, well, pretentious, like doing tai chi by a loch, wheelchair people playing basketball, and capoeira in front of the London skyline:

Apart from the synchronised swimming hippos – I like them. Insert rant about what I pay my licence fee for here.

Oh yeah, and another thing, a special secret combat dance? Really? I find that highly unlikely:

- Hey Eduardo, what is that the humble slaves are doing over there?
- Oh, that is nothing Paulo, it is just a simple, humble dance that they practise, to while away the long hours of captivity.
- But my friend, they seem to be jumping and kicking and punching quite a lot. It does look an awful lot like they are practising some sort of martial art.
- Ha ha, you are so suspicious Paulo. The slaves, they would never turn their beautiful rhythmic close-contact dance moves to violence and use them to attack us, their brutal and cruel oppressors. To think such a thing is madness.
-You are right Eduardo, what am I thinking? Come, let us draw closer and admire the grace and power of their humble ‘Driving The Foot Into The Bastard’s Head’ number.

Hmmm, I don’t buy it.

Ok, back to the show. There is hardly a cubic inch of body fat on that stage, certainly not on the Brazilian dancer/showgirl creature, with her suspiciously implanted chestal region. Feel a bit sorry for the trick footballer they bring on, because his ball skills are clever but mainly consist of him sitting on his bum doing keepy-up. Catchy samba music is a bit too Girl From Ipanema for my tastes, but is all very energetic and jolly. A couple of the capoeira boys look like they’re from Apocalypto, with their top-knotted hair and lean bodies. Bet none of them have any trouble pulling audience members, boys or girls. Feel exceedingly unfit and unattractive after watching them. God knows how the old people or the boy in the wheelchair down the front feel. Maybe it’s just me. People stand up and applaud at end. I do not do this. Others do because they are sheep.

Come to regret choice of clothing – look stupid and mannish. Reach the conclusion that this summer’s fashion for the young ladies is shorty short black tights and flat shoes. The accompanying massive hair and eyelashes are no surprise. Not sure I could carry it off at my advanced age. The fashion for a certain sort of skinny young man seems to be a close-fitting checked shirt, which in my day would have screamed ‘NERD’ in pocket-protected, bespectacled capital letters. Strange how things change. Also, the popular style for boy-hair is this weird, slightly bouffant, tousled affair with much covering of forehead. Hmm.

Next, Plague! The Musical at C on Chambers Street. Am expecting the cast to be mainly young people, as this venue seems to attract them (see: innumerable Discworld adaptations in years gone by). But am pleasantly surprised by adult cast. Most amusing production and well sung, but as is often the case, the central boy/girl pair seem a bit weak – maybe it’s just that the characters are soppy and uninteresting. Liked the eccentric performance by the Alchemist – all very Terry Gilliam. Nod off several times during show. The day is taking its toll.

After Plague! The Musical, stop for late night nosh at strange triangular café by statue of Wee Bobby. Two microwave-reheated slices of pizza are just what’s needed. Flick through ubiquitous Fringe magazine looking for decent pictures of acts to scrapbook later. See flyer for a play featuring the actor Clive Russell. Realise this is the man I saw a few days ago, who played Tim’s scary editor in Spaced.

Then head south to Pleasance Dome for final show of the day, a BBC Comedy Presents thing. This is one of those showcase affairs where you don’t know who going to be appearing on the night, and the listing gives you an unreasonable expectation of seeing well-known acts by listing past appearances by French and Saunders or Vic and Bob (probably both about twenty years ago). It’s actually being recorded for the BBC website, not proper telly, so is a lower key affair, which is probably just as well. Have sat through quite a few TV recordings in my telly-struck past, and know how long those bloody things can go on for. Distinctly recall having to sit through retakes at the end of the Danny Baker chat show, while he re-recorded questions for his interviewees, Who Had Already Gone Home. Also remember being asked to laugh uproariously to gags on Men Behaving Badly which had already been delivered, and fluffed, a couple of times.

We sit at the back of the room at the Dome, partially obscure by a pillar, so are safely out of comedian-interaction range. Am in no mood for bantering with stand-ups at this hour of the evening. We are just behind the cameramen and producer (including the requisite semi-pointless young woman with clipboard who just wanders back and forth), which is quite interesting. You can see the producer’s concerned face when one of the mikes starts to pop.

The host/compere is Carl Donelly, an afroed ginge who makes me think of Steve Merchant. He is decent enough, but ends up stumbling though the intro as much as the guest acts subsequently stumble through their turns. The main sticking point for all of them is a Beeb requirement to not swear much, and I think every single one of them Fucks at least once, so much retaking of punch lines is required, with nice words inserted instead. Yorkshireman Tim Wigginshaw (or some such) is alright, but soon completely loses his thread due to sweary retakes and unsuitable material. Two Episodes Of MASH are very good – love the deliberately non-funny sketches and the way they all just peter out. The Irish rappers Abandoman are alright – clever how they improvise raps about members of the audience and objects from their pockets, but if you pay attention, you can see that the songs have a basic framework that the incredibly Irish singer Rob just has to slot a few personalised bits into.

Final stand-up is… God, I can’t picture him at all, or his name. I think he was quite good. But it was sooo late at night.

Completely shattered by time BBC thing finishes and trot home as fast as we can. At least tonight we have not ended up at the pigging Scumbelly last thing, which saves us a killing climb up two long flights of steps from the Grassmarket.

Too tired for telly, as it is gone 1 am, so sit on collapsed sofa (please Mr Landlord, some new springs), and read new Alan Moore comic – Neonomicon. It seems to be a sequel to The Courtyard, so much gurgling in Aklo and strange bescarfed freaks.'s_The_Courtyard

Peel ‘DEAD’ sticker off sweater, a memento from Numbered show some thirteen hours earlier, which has survived a day of rain and trudging much better than I have. It takes sizeable amount of black wool from sweater with it.

Utterly fail to write up blog last thing, as planned.

Shows seen: 8 - far too bloody many
Flyers collected: 1 – grumpy face was on
Steps taken: unknown. Bloody miles.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe - Sunday

Eyelashes on pillow:1
Eyelashes under pillow: 1
Eyelashes on eyelids: very few

Some 180 pages into Dan Brown, and am going to make a prediction: the constant references to a pyramid in Washington DC somehow refer to the top of the Washington monument (harking back to a similar plot point in The Invisibles). He does bang on about it too much, and these books do tend to become something of a tourist guide, I’ve noticed. We shall see.

A quick note about our apartment kitchen – it looks out onto Castle Wynd North – a long steep flight of steps that leads up from the road-cum-coach park below the castle to the main gates. This means that the kitchen window is extremely visible to anyone of the hundreds of tourists who trek up and down it everyday. This naturally impinges on my freedom to move about the flat in less than full apparel, to wit: clothing is required when I am about my porridgey tasks. Another thing about the steps – they are ascended and descended almost exclusively by Japanese tourists, since their innumerable tour coaches park down the bottom. The Japanese are early risers by all indications, and stereotypically enough, seem to be disproportionately equipped with photographic equipment. I pray that they have not used their cameras to catch an early morning snap of a naked Ocelot going about her breakfastial duties. The resulting hits on Flickr could bring the internet to its knees.

Don’t manage to get out of flat until just before lunchtime. Takes ages to
a) get up
b) get dressed
c) catch up on blog from yesterday
d) get face on and look presentable

Then it’s a brisk march round to the Ghillie Dhu again, this time for Me Me Me – a three person show featuring Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer, who we really liked when we saw him at a steampunk do at the Scala a few months ago. Turns out that the other two performers mesh with him very well – sparkly-eyed Desmond O’Connor with his fruity songs and sex and drugs, and lovely willowy Sarah-Louise Young and her songs about repressed anger and one night stands. Wish them much luck and bigger attendance figures – there are only about twelve of us there, and two of them are doing that obvious reviewer thing and scribbling down notes in a little pad throughout the show. Honestly, how can you possibly pay attention and write a review at the same time? You could never take it all in properly if you’re critiquing as you go. I found myself starting to review shows in my head as we were watching them yesterday, and it got quite in the way of my enjoyment. Anyway, we order food at the bar before hand and sit at a nice little round table and munch as we watch. Very civilised. Well done the Me Me Meers.

Damn it, why do I keep hitting the caps lock button so often? Stupid fingers. You would not believe how badly I’m typing right now. Since I still can’t touch type and therefore have to look at the keyboard rather than screen, I have no idea what’s actually coming out. Combined with my erratically-lengthed fingernails, courtesy of three washing-machine-moving breakages, my nail/key depth perception is well buggered.

Next show is Moon Dog – a freebie over at one of them bars on Blair Street off the royal mile. Kate Roxburgh is a teeny tiny woman with short blond hair, looks like a Heather Mills MiniMe (but presumably with two real legs). Charmingly scatty, she does a bit of banjo, takes some very odd flights of fancy and makes innumerable astrophysical references. She’s quite good, considering it was only her second show of the Fringe, like most people we’re seeing today.

Then over to the Pleasance to see Colin Hoult’s Enemy Of The World. Tch, have just knocked caps lock on again. Tits. Anyway… queuing up outside, a well-spoken older man (presumably the young girl with him was his daughter. Christ, I hope so), is taken by the multi-coloured marvel that is Herself’s timetable, and asks us about Colin Hoult, ‘Have you seen him before? Is he any good?’ etc. No, he’s crap, that’s why we’re coming to see him for the third year in a row. Honestly. Back in the real world, a short but pleasant conversation ensues, and it turns out that he also has a show on, like half the people in any given audience at the Fringe, it seems. We take a flyer of his for later scrapbooking, and realise that he is Bill Dare, producer of The Now Show and The Secret World. Hurrah. Fail to scab tickets for The Now Show off him. Boo.

Colin Hoult’s Enemy Of The World show is as funny and dark as he was in last year’s Carnival Of Monsters (caps lock again – arse pants). Remember just in time that unwelcome audience participation is a feature of his shows, and manage to sit in the relative safety of the second row. Even so, it is a damn close run thing. Like last year, he has a stooge planted in the audience, who I manage to clock this time round. Halfway through the show, I realise that both this and last year’s shows are named after old Dr Who stories. Resolve to stalk bump into him at some point this week and suggest The Deadly Assassin for next year. Either that or The Terror of The Zygons. Wonder if Robert Langdon feels like this when he has a stunning revelation?

Kill time at Forbidden Planet. Instantly spot that the cast of How To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse are in there, signing books. Actually I spot the old guy who plays ‘Donald’ first – he must be 70 at least, and then ‘Dr Dale’ in his aviator shades. Say hello to them and get a book signed, even though I didn’t really want one, but you have to if you stop to talk to them, don’t you?

Next down south to the Laughing Horse pub for a freebie showing of a documentary about Malcolm Hardee and the Tunnel Club (caps lock on again- fuckity fuck). Simon Munnery pops in to introduce it, which is nice. The full Malcolm documentary is still a work in progress, but looks good.

Then nip round corner to a converted church to meet up with Dr Foot and HFM for the How To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse show. Is quite close and hot inside. A bit like last year, show is too light on zombies and too heavy on panto shtick, like a Bernie Clifton/ Peter Glaze sketch from Crackerjack. Still, most entertaining nonetheless. And I still say that the pirate is a better survival ally than the vampire, no matter what they claim.

Chat to Zombie cast afterwards about pirates and triceratopses, then off to Pleasance Grand for Stephen K Amos, our first gentleman of colour this Fringe. The Grand is a massive auditorium, so it’s like a proper big stand-up gig (just like Michael MacIntyre, probably). Show is good, though of everything we’ve seen so far, this is oddly the most obviously a preview, with fuckups, unrehearsed bits and sections which he is still deciding whether to keep in or not. He also starts doing stuff about being gay, which comes across a bit clumsily, like he’s never done it before. Never seen Mr Amos properly apart from on panel shows, where most of his material is about being black, so couldn’t say for sure but this feels a bit like he’s just come out, or at least just started to incorporate being gay into his show.

All done and back to bed.

Robert Langdon has barely moved in over 200 pages, though now he is at least walking downstairs from the room where he’s been standing for several chapters. The freak killer is also moving slowly though another building. The padding in this book is a marvel to behold. Get on with the weird codes, Brown!

Shows seen: 6
Flyers collected: 10. Herself’s special dance still keeping them at bay.
Steps walked: Unknown – Herself’s walker device has begun to play up, much to her annoyance.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

The Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe - Saturday

Up late.
One eyelash on pillow. Conceal it from Herself. Should add at this point that this is a false eyelash – I’m not suffering from nervous alopecia or anything. Said lashes are supposed to last a few weeks at least, but I manage to lose my carefully glued-on falsies at a fair rate of knots. Suspect copiously applied moisturing cream around the eye is the prime culprit here.

Breakfast of custard creams and porridge (separately).
Arrange to meet local friend CB for coffee later. Strange how we all say ‘Let’s meet for coffee’, even if we don’t drink coffee. But if I said ‘Let’s meet for tea’, my preferred beverage, it sounds like we’ll be having scones and sandwiches. It’s a tricky business.

Wind situation has improved overnight. Huzzah.

Herself is up with the lark to exchange tickets for cancelled Arthur Smith show, then down the hill to the farmers’ market. Content myself with shuffling around in trackie bottoms back at the flat and typing up blog very clumsily, thanks to small keyboard/fat fingers combo. Catch up with Herself at market, which is mainly populated with nice middle class English people selling traditional Scottish produce. Well done the English for cornering this lucrative market.

On way back to apartment, discover that Every Single Bagpipe Band In The World has converged on street below castle. They are all tuning up separately and twirling tasselly drumsticks. It is rather noisy and fabulous. Later that day, I will come to dread hearing Scotland The Brave one more bloody time. One band leader looks marvellous, like a tartan-clad, rayban wearing hell’s angel – he looks like that Charles Bronson ‘the hardest man in prison’. Brilliant.

First show of the day – free concert at St Giles Cathedral on Royal Mile – a decent young orchestra from three (I think) schools in Norway - Jessheim Hovin and (if my translation of ‘og’ is to be trusted) Mogreina. They put on a spirited rendition of Bo Rhap and a catchy Abba medley. We are sat behind the orchestra, so can observe the unruly percussion section larking about. We suspect that they put the kids with ADHD at the back with the drums and maracas.

Next over to The Stand for to see the actor Kevin Eldon. Bloody good – you can tell he’s a mate of Bill Bailey’s by the way he does the musical numbers on his guitar. Some excellent gurning from Mr Eldon, though sadly no Simon Quinlank. Dr Foot, who is also up at the Fringe for a couple of days, will kick himself that his heterosexual Fringe-mate wouldn’t let him see this. We will make sure he knows how good it is. Herself plans to rescue Dr Foot from his picky pal and install him on the z-bed in our flat.

Give the free recital at St Mary’s church behind Princes Street a miss, and instead lurk round Bravissimo. Feel a bit of a fraud going in there, as am only a D and Bravissimo specialises in the higher end of the breast alphabet. Wish had worn padded bra today. Herself is a ludicrous 30E.

Wander south to old town and go into Dead Head Comics, reputed model for Black Books, where, coincidentally enough, we bump into the producers of Electric Man, Scotland’s first superhero/comedy fillum, whom we had previously met at a memorabilia geek con in London last month. Exchange pleasantries, wish them luck for shooting in September, and say hello to the nice young man from London who has been cast as one of the leads. Herself advertises her services to them as bookkeeper, beautician and physio, then blows my cover by handing them a TG makeover business card. Busted again.

Celebs seen on street: 3…
• That wild looking Scottish bloke who I think played Tim Bisley’s editor in Spaced, or else a mad priest in Father Ted
• Colin Hoult walking hand in hand with some sort of lady friend
• Stewart Lee, sitting on steps of The Stand and looking sunburnt

Race the massed Pipes Of The World down the Royal Mile so we can cross the thronged streets and get to the Fudge Shop, there to purchase a full £14.75 of butter tablet – Scotland’s prototype for heroin. Mmmm. Goodbye real food, hello diabetes.

Herself comes up with a clever method of traversing the Royal Mile without being weighed down by flyers handed out by bright-faced young things trying to get you to come along to their improvised puppet show in the room above the chip shop. Said method is to move along the crowded street by means of a little dance, which is part shadow boxing, part Ghostbusters dance (if you are old enough to remember the Ray Parker Jnr video), and part hunched lunatic. It works amazingly well, and Herself passes through the crowds almost unseen, as if nobody, including the flyer-hander-outers, wants to admit even to themselves that they can see her.

Discover that in the afternoon, sun comes in through apartment windows and beats down on head while typing blog. Also makes screen very hard to read.

Visit Transreal fiction, which year on year surprises me that it doesn’t specialise in enforced feminisation erotic fantasy, there to see The Attack Of The Knitted Tentacles – a collection of knitted cthuloid creatures sprawling around the bookshelves.

Then off to meet up with CB and her friend Sylvje (think that’s how it’s spelt) from Norway. Enjoy a very fine tea and biscuit combo at the Black Medicine Coffee Shop on Nicolson Street.

Next, down to the independent republic of The Pleasance – a venue that tries to ignore the rest of the Fringe and trap people in its fortified walls for the whole day. This would never work on me because the main courtyard is a horribly crowded series of bars and outside tables, populated by boozy luvvies and too many smokers. It is a great place to spot performers though. And I like the big yellow totem pole in the centre that points to the different parts of the Pleasance.

Tim Fitzhigham, Gentleman Adventurer, is playing in the Pleasance Ark – a new addition for this year which he takes credit for. Clearly designed as a kiddie activity area – it’s a pretend pirate boast with teeny tiny stools inside for the audience, which were barely adequate for by capacious bottom after an hour. Mr Fitzhigham is friendly and jolly, and makes us all most welcome aboard his vessel. The show is a funny mixture of songs (he is one half of the Flanders And Swann show, after all) and a slide show of his ‘madcap’ (oh how I hate that word) adventures: Rowing the channel in a tin bath; going down the Thames in a paper boat; up the Orinoco by log. You get the idea.

But thinking back on it, though his adventures are great and all that, I’m left with a feeling of jealousy and… well, ‘You over-privileged, independently-wealthy bastard’ comes to mind. Just something about his lack of proper English apologeticness for being able to do the sort of mad exciting things the rest of us will never have the time or money to do. I like his beard though, even when it is drenched in performer’s sweat. And the whites of his eyes are massive and very white.

The show is unexpectedly accompanied by a weird creaking and groaning, which at first I think is some sort of pirate ship sound effect, but it soon becomes clear is emanating from some sort of special person sat behind us. Can’t turn round to see who, though. It is slightly off-putting and I cannot relax into the show. There’s only about twenty of us in the audience, and the sporadic additional vocalisations are somewhat noticeable. Still, can’t say anything ‘cause that’d make me an insensitive cowbag. So forget I said anything.

Next up is token German Henning When (pronounced ‘vain’) in one of the Just The Tonic dungeons down on Cowgate. The show starts late, which is most un-German, and we realise that we’ll have to leave before the end of a show for the second time. Never had to this before this year – don’t like it all. Herself makes it easier on us by asking to sit at the back of the dungeon where he is performing, ‘because we have another show to review straight after’. Cunning girl. I get a piece of paper out to complete the illusion, and scab a Henning Wehn pen from the dungeon floor. He is most amusing, though I am mainly entertained by his weird German/London accent, and the way he pronounces ‘Facking’. He also lays into the ‘lazy and corrupt’ Greeks who asked Germany for a handout following their country going bust. It’s a little too vehement for comfort.

We dash out of Herr Wehn’s dungeon with ten minutes left to go, and skip up and over the Royal Mile to rendezvous with Dr Foot and Heterosexual Fringe Mate at a weird venue down on Jeffreys Street, almost under the North Bridge. This is where we saw both Hamlet Bingo and the other Sherlock Holmes last year. This time it is to see Deepchurch Hollow, which turns out to be a spooky ghost story set in modern Gettysburg, performed by young (but not too young) Americans. A spirited performance, and actually spooky whenever the faceless woman appears out of the darkness. All very Woman In Black, which is no bad thing.

A pleasant stroll back up to the Royal Mile with Dr Foot and HFM, then back to the flat for late night nibblage and bed.

Shows seen: 5
Flyers collected : 10
Steps taken today by Herself: 14,966

Friday, 13 August 2010

The Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe - Friday

Should probably say up front that Herself has persuaded me to make a daily blog of our week at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. That should make the first few paragraphs a little less confusing.

Up stupidly early. Herself cannot sleep. Panic that a power-cut will leave snake bereft of heating lamp during our absence and he will freeze to death. In August.
Arrive at Kings Cross far too early, catering to Herself’s fear of train cancellation and other latenesses.

Discover we are booked into first class coach – surprise treat from Herself – hurrah!
Share table from London to Peterborough with mother and young daughter. Daughter happily playing with Tinkerbell activity book, which does look rather fun. Mother seemingly wincing in embarrassment at daughter’s noise, but honestly she was no trouble at all.

Heft laptop out of bag in order to read naughty scanned-in comics en train. Disappointed to find the power points on the train aren’t working. Boo hiss. Laptop battery depletes within five minutes, four minutes of which is taken up by it powering up. Pants.

Resort to reading new Dan Brown book – The Lost Symbol. Intrigued by plot as ever, predictably annoyed by shitty characters. ‘Langdon completed his regular fifty laps of the Yale swimming pool before breakfast. He was trim, an all-American water polo player.” Gack. What’s the betting he’ll end up in some water-based peril before the book is through? Not as bad as the clumsily foreshadowed parachuting episode in Angels And Demons though.

Mother and daughter replaced at Peterborough by elderly husband and wife. She is plump, overly tanned and has several scars on chubby arms, as if someone’s had to surgically remove malignant melanomas. He is ruddy and has a neat white moustache, not unlike Windsor Davies or that bloke who’s really the dad of the guy from Coupling. Oh you know, the one with the funny eye. He does not speak too much, but we know his name is Gordon. We know this because his wife uses it in every sentence. And she doesn’t shut up. The poor bastard.

Herself is reading a worthy scientific physio book. Try to look interested. Am reading about Dan Brown’s latest freak killer – this one’s a murderous tattooed mega-mason.

She passes me a note asking if we should tip the first class coach staff. Am reluctant, because even though one of the chaps was most entertaining and topped up our complementary mugs with a cry of “Coffeelina? Milkalina?”, one of the other blokes was a surly miserable bastard who looked like he’d been dismissed from a North Sea rig for overbearing macho behaviour.

Pass note back to Herself, having drawn a willy on it. I laugh.

A single man across the aisle is reading a beaten up copy of Heart Of Darkness and is wearing a fabulous multicoloured shirt. I approve of both. He drops his apple and it rolls under our table and against my feet. He beckons for me to throw it to him, but Gordon’s half-helpful outstretched hand deflects my underarm toss, and the beleaguered fruit once again hits the floor. How soon I plummet from hero to zero.

Fat woman continues to harass poor old Gordon about whether they should go and see Tap Dogs or Annie (starring Su Pollard) for her birthday. Gordon grunts and tries to finish his Daily Mail scrabble puzzle.

Mrs Gordon mercifully falls asleep, and then less mercifully knocks her half-full beaker of Diet Coke over the table, somewhere near Berwick Upon Tweed. Fortunately my Dan Brown book and freshly-washed jeans soak up most of the liquid. The Gordons fail to apologise.

We snooze. We reach E D I N Braaa. Dan Brown book has swollen to size of phone book. Recognise Robin Ince getting off the same train as us and almost catch his eye, but then realise he is somewhat mediocre comedy-wise, and fortunately he passes us by. Mainly being “Ricky Gervais’ mate” is no grounds for a comedy career, unless you are the legend that is Karl Pilkington.

Up the hill to the Royal Mile, and heft our cases into our castle-overlooking apartment. A quick loo break later it’s down to the Sainsbury’s on Morrison Street to stock up on Custard Creams and some other less essential foodstuffs.

Return to apartment just beating the heavens as they open somewhat torrentially. Haha – fuck you, rain :)

First cup of tea in apartment. Blag the Wee Bobby mug.

Worryingly, am beset by unsociable wind condition. Hope no-one notices. Too late. Herself detects situation using her amazing nostrils.

First show – Toby Hadoke at the Underbelly. Man I hate the Underbelly – three or four identical floors of damp vaults bodged into performance areas and bars, lots of bars. Every year the Underbelly becomes the lowest point of the city into which all the young and dumb come to drink themselves stupid and annoy the arse off me when I’m trying to enjoy a late-night show.

Toby Hadoke is funny, inoffensive, and a bit specialised. That’s to say, it helps if you already know that only two episodes of the original Quatermass Experiment TV series survived the BBC’s wiping policy. He is also a stickler for the correct placement of apostrophes, which I applaud of course. His Now I know My BBC show is a bit like his Dr Who show which we saw a couple of years ago. Funny, a bit sad, but generally upbeat. I do think he overplays the misty-eyed moral of the story at the end of the show though, just like when he got a bit mawkish doing Dr Who. It just doesn’t feel genuine when he starts pausing and gulping and tearing up. Be a bit more English man! And swear a bit more. It was definitely lacking a well placed Fuck or two.

The main thing is though… I could do what he does. I could. He’s only talking about telly from the 80’s in a slightly amusing way. It’s so easy. So he’s got psoriasis; I’ve got eczema. And I can trump him with the TG card, if I so wished.

Apparently he’s met all the people who make Dr Who, the jammy swine.

Then we have 20 minutes to trot across town to the Ghillie Dhu off Princes Street to see Frances Ruffelle, a massive crush of mine from the 80’s, ever since the school Dance production of Les Miserables. On way, impress Herself with ability to identify someone as being oriental from the back (it’s just something about the shape of head).

The Ghillie Dhu is a strange multi-level bar-restaurant, peppered with candlelit dining tables and nice comfy sofas. It looks like a converted church. After some delay, Frances Ruffelle, my teen heart-throb, comes on. She is still well fit, but a looking a bit ropey around the facial area. And the hair is all big and wild, doubtless to show she is a free spirit. A very loungey hour ensues, consisting of singing on top of pianos and jiggling amongst slightly embarrassed male members of the audience. The music steers dangerously into jazz-infested waters on several occasions, but the rest of the time it is nicely bluesy/torchsongy. A Scottish-Chinese dude and his mate wander in after the show starts and chatter and text throughout. He rattles the ice in his glass every time Frances goes past. This may be his cultural way of showing admiration. Or maybe he’s just a dick.

At one point, Frances Ruffelle digs out a dusty old cloth cap, and I think she’s going to do some numbers from Les Mis, but instead she just does a quick spoof of the opening lines of that one about being alone (doesn’t narrow it down much, I know…). The show ends and I’m glad I got to see her up close (jiggling boobs and all), but am unsure if it was wise to revisit an old crush. She’s well-preserved and has a great voice, even though she only did that great little-girl tremulous thing with her voice once or twice. But she did look, well, a leetle bit skanky.

Wander past Miss Behave’s The Crack venue on the Norloch and get to the new Assembly Rooms/Hall/Whatever to see Tripod Vs The Dragon. Have no idea what to expect. Should have expected a fire alarm and a forty-five minute delay, coz that’s what we got. Herself starts to slowly starve, so she scampers off in search of food. Blag some jelly beans from young ladies advertising an improv musical show. Pretend to promise to come the next day, though am secretly averse to improv after too many traumatic incidents at the Comedy Store in Leicester Square. Herself returns with choccie bars to stave off hunger pangs.

Eventually troop into converted ancient lecture theatre. Tripod Vs The Dragon are surprisingly good. Turns out to be a comedy musical re-enactment of a D&D adventure. They even go on about Edition 3.5 and rolling up stats. The bespectacled brunette with the three Aussie guys has an amazing voice, a bit Cerys Matthewsy, and does a good song about being a big ol’ red dragon. View of stage largely obscured by enormous bobbing head of Tallest Man In Edinburgh sat directly in front of me. Unforch we have to sneak out before the end, coz it started so late. Manage to escape without being mocked. But we will never know what happens after the bit where the fighter has stabbed the red dragon lady with the spear of knowledge.

Trot back to Underbelly for last show of the day – Sound & Fury’s Private Dick. It is now 11:30 pm, and Underbelly reeks of beer. This is only the first day – hope we don’t have any more laties here, or it’ll be like the Bethany Black gig from last year – absolutely ruined by drunken young knobheads in an audience of twelve people.

Sound and Fury dragged me up on stage last year during their Sherlock Holmes show, in an hilarious mix-up between me and Herself who was the one who had actually volunteered pre-show. This time round it’s a much more ramshackle affair – this is clearly only the first or second time they’ve done their gumshoe spoof. Much fluffing and forgetting of lines, but all managed with much good heartedness and gusto, so all is forgiven. Musical numbers not so hot, and a fair bit of padding to stretch material out to an hour. But at least they didn’t get me up on stage in front of a hundred people to play a musical hall performer this time.

Clear out of Boozybelly at 12:45pm, knackered and starving. Have had nothing to eat apart from Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, and Herself is starting to go vague and peculiar. Soon the madness will set in, so we locate a late night foodery on Grassmarket and buy some nosh. Back to apartment for beans on toast (me) and cold tin of macaroni (her). Watch half an hour of The Land That Time Forgot. Way too much time wasted by McClure faffing around on a Nazi U-boat. He should be in with the dinosaurs by now. Shattered – fall asleep reading crinkly Dan Brown. 150 pages in and very little has happened. There is a severed hand in a building. Robert Langdon spends a lot of time talking to a tiny objectionable Japanese woman. Another woman goes to a lab in a warehouse and has lots of flashbacks. The tattooed giant is mysterious and annoying.

Remember I had two apples in rucksack all day which would have staved off starvation earlier. Bum.

Shows seen: 4
Flyers collected: 8

Thursday, 5 August 2010

A History Of The Pouch, In One Object

Picture an infinity of mock-pine workstations (formerly known as desks). Picture a human being at each one of those workstations, each divided from their neighbours by a low sweeping partition, impervious to drawing pins and blu-tac but just high enough to leave their heads visible. Picture me, sat somewhere in the unfashionable end of the western spiral of this galactically dull environment1.

Time moves slowly here. Slower than in the real world beyond the grey rollerblinds marking the distant borders of the Workstation Galaxy. This probably has something to do with gravity. Possibly due the enormous bulk of a female manager four rows and several pay scales away from me. Curse her singularity-inducing bosoms.

It is a quarter to five. It has been a quarter to five for several hours now. I have resorted to marking the passage of time, such as it is, by sporadic trips to the most distance multi-function-device (formerly known as a printer), even though I have nothing to multi-functionally, er, deploy. I have also rotated the corrugated card sheath in which my waxed cup of tea nestles, so that the point at which the sheath is joined to itself exactly matches the join of the waxy cup. Such is my existence. It’s not unlike that bloke in Greek mythology who had to roll a boulder up a hill for all eternity. Syphilis, I think his name was. I remember him from an episode of Ulysses 31, though I’m not sure if the giant robot ant they had to fight was strictly part of the original legend.

It is in this mood that I write to you. I feel it’s important to get across the setting in which it is being written. Robert Rankin writes longhand in exercise books sat in the pub, Douglas Adams had to be locked into a hotel room to finish So Long And Thanks For All The Fish. I sit at workstation 04-BK13 (there is also a barcode, I shit you not), and struggle with the brain-squashing numbness of office unlife.

Now, I could start banging on about the many and varied irritations that drift over the partitions and buzz about my head. The cumulative nigglances of Whiny Welsh Bloke’s whiny welsh voice; East End Annie’s inability to speak at anything less than a cat-strangling bellow; Starey-Faced Asian Man’s burnished pate teasing me from behind a coquettish veil of thinning black hair. I could bang on about them and others besides, but I won’t. I don’t hate these people, honestly. I’m just stuck with them forever, until 5:30. So I shan’t fulminate any longer. Disappointing to those of you who like to see me fume impotently I know, but I have another matter to bring before you. A mysterious matter of unknown origin…

Regular readers may be aware of my on-off relationship with Radio 4, especially on a Thursday evening. Dubious comedies not fit for a proper TV series, that interminable agricultural drama, poncey arts magazines and so forth. Eagle-eared listeners may also have come across a programme called A History of The World, In 100 Objects. I include the comma in the title deliberately – the voiceover always pauses between World and In, as if to tease you with the possibility of a proper world chronology before snatching it away by reducing the entirety of global history to some bloke’s hundred favourite items from the British Museum. Since the bloke in question is the museum’s curator, a doubtless decent but forgettable chap whose name has already escaped me, the objects are guaranteed to be worthy lumps of archaeological ephemera which would barely warrant the merest flicker of the museum-goer’s eye as they hurried, and rightly so, straight to the room where they have genuine mummified crocodiles (oh yes). But this is the British Museum teamed up with the BBC, and Radio 4 at that, so what we get is a series of fifteen-minute yawnoramas about Cretan ceremonial goblets, Mayan birthing stones and Polynesian arse-flutes.

All very worthy, all very BBC, all desperately dull. But, and we’re finally getting to today’s subject, it did at least inspire me to present an object of my own for your fascination and wonderment…

“A History Of The Pouch (pause) In One Object”

“The object under examination tonight dates from the Pouch’s early period, prior to any known written records. It is a fired clay figurine some six inches in height, crudely fashioned by hand, though there is some evidence of primitive tool use around the base and head.

The figure itself is Sejant Erect in attitude, seated upon a three-legged device not unlike a stool. The head, such as it is, is raised slightly, as if questioning, or perhaps addressing a crowd of supplicants. Its right forelimb bears an item of unknown provenance, possibly representing a lit brand, a ceremonial baton or else a single scoop ice-cream. The limbs themselves are jointless and digitless, mere clubbed stumps such as a child might fashion to imitate elephant legs, or else to get out of having to model fiddly bits like fingers. All four limbs are spread, as if delivering a benediction, or else inviting the observer to stroke its swollen paunch. The trunk of the figure is a solid featureless affair, lacking any obvious sexual characteristics – ruling out any possibility that the object is an effigy to some forgotten fertility spirit. Here as, elsewhere upon the figure, we see the tell-tale marks of the sculptor – a partial fingerprint here, a moistened thumb-smoothing there, the occasional attempt to impart texture and detail using a fingernail.

But it is the head of the figure that is truly the most fascinating part of the object. A vast snouted proboscis juts forth from a misshapen neckless mass, sporting pendulous, almost turgid ears which dangle down to brush the forelimbs. The suggestion of a short mop of hair covers the crown of the head, masking the eyes, if indeed it has eyes…

Is the creature blind? Does it, like Lady Justice, choose not see, oblivious to the invocations of its petitioners? Or is it merely in need of a proper bloody haircut, much in the style of Adam Parkinson out of Butterflies?

So, what does this figure represent? To what purpose was it fashioned from rude clay? Is it a household charm, intended to sit in a niche by the fire pit and bestow good fortune upon some ancient tribal unit? Is it a forgotten god of some animistic belief system, embodying the concepts of blind benevolence, sturdy furniture and massive noses? Perhaps it is some sort of antediluvian gaming piece, a sort of ‘lost chess man’ from an earlier age, now forever separated from his fellows. If it was ever intended to move diagonally on the whites or do a funny sort of L-shaped hop, we shall never know. For now at least, this strange chimera will remain a tantalising chapter in… A History Of The Pouch (pause) In One Object.”

Alternatively, should you have had the pleasure of doing some sort of pottery class at school in the 1980’s and can remember what on Earth it was that Mrs Medd (née Dobie) set us for practical work that week, please do get in touch. I half recall being given a passage to read not unlike an Edward Lear poem, which described a peculiar womblesque beastie, but I’ve hit a dead end packed full of Quangle-Wangles and Scroobious Pips.

I tried a Google image search for ‘womble stool ice-cream’ and got absolutely nowhere. But a word of caution: never Google anything with the word ‘stool’ in it. The results can be unsavoury.