Sunday, 24 August 2014

Fringe in my eyes

Happy Sunday everyone! Hope you all had a great weekend and are ready for the week ahead! No? Me neither. Wake me up in a week.

However, before I go into a deep hibernation, I suppose I had better talk about my weekend at the Fringe Festival. Yup, for the first time in my 27 year life (and my 24 years or so living in Scotland), I've attended shows at the Fringe (as I've technically visited before, though not deliberately) and it was great fun! For those who don't know, the Fringe is a month long festival held in Edinburgh that has a variety of comedy, theatre and music/dance shows (and many in-between – Entertainment Ed). However, this doesn't really put the size of the festival into perspective, so here is a couple of other facts:
  • Over 100 venues
  • The guidebook has over 500 A4 pages of shows
  • Each page can have over 10 different shows, each with multiple dates (and most do)
  • In 2012, there were over 40,000 performances

Earlier, I had decided to spend a weekend visiting some of the shows and enjoying the festival atmosphere, and so it began with Alison and I heading to the vegetarian restaurant David Bann, which was actually queued out the door...not great when you have a show to get to! However, we decided to wait it out and were rewarded with a delicious meal and a lovely sharing platter for dessert (try the vegetarian chilli in the red bean pancake). I say rewarded...we still paid for it but you get the idea. The d├ęcor of the restaurant was pretty plain but that doesn't matter as long as you get good food and drink: that's all that matters and that's what you got. David Bann's has a good selection of drinks and the food was really good as well, and quite inventive. Worth a look if you are vegetarian and are looking for a more upmarket meal.

After dinner, we headed to the first show of the weekend: Stephen K Amos, which was held in the Comedy Stand. It's been a long time since I've seen Stephen K Amos (on tv, not in person - Ed) but he was as funny as I remembered. When he first came out, he informed us that this was a 'work in progress' and that he was test running some new jokes out. Uh oh, this could be hit or miss. However, my worries were unfounded as he promised and then delivered we were going to laugh and have fun.

Word of warning though, and I'm pretty sure that these are general rules for comedy shows: don't shout out and avoid the front rows. Let's just say that I felt sorry for the 20 year old neuroscience student who came to the show with his mum, who then decided to also shout out. Obviously, I'm not going to sit and talk about the show in detail (though that would make my job a little easier) but both Alison and I were laughing from start to finish.

Finally, we ended the evening with a couple of drinks at The Red Squirrel, which is always great for a good beer and a chat, then we headed back to the flat and then to bed, to rest up for the next day.

After a well deserved sleep, it was then time for an early start as there was a show I wanted to go see at 10am, so we decided to skip breakfast (opting for a brunch) and headed straight out. As such, we headed happily and merrily into town, with a spring in our step and a song in our heart at the thought of this enjoyable free show. After a short bus journey, we navigated the crowded streets of Edinburgh, searching for the venue and eventually, we found it: rising up on the horizon like an angel. We had arrived. Like children at Christmas, we rushed into the venue and approached the desk, eager to join the show...

You can probably tell where this is going right? Yup. We didn't get in. Turns out (and this is a useful thing to note for the future – Ed) that free events often need tickets. Oh. Makes sense, yes, but it never even occurred to me. Oh well! Somewhat dejected, we headed off to find a place for breakfast and ended up at the Filling Station, which was ok (get the waffles, not the fry-up) and it filled a hole.

Feeling somewhat better after food, we headed around the streets (after buying tickets for the next show, of course. You're not getting me twice!!!), enjoying the street performers that we were able to see over the crowds. Damn you shortness! That said, I have a whole new appreciation for performers who use unicycles: you can actually see them above the crowds! The street show we spent time watching was a hula-hooping Australian woman who was performing a fake American tv show with guests from the audience. Entertaining but slightly odd, especially when she began throwing her underwear into the air. And then we came across the man playing the grand piano in the middle of the street...

After a while, we walked to Haymarket for the next show, which was my favourite of the week: Taekwon Percussion Performance – Bigabi. Now then, this is a show comprising of an eclectic (but well balanced) mix of Taekwondo, drumming and dance, with bits of comedy and story scattered throughout. Let me put it this way: you know it's going to be good when you're warned that there might be pieces of broken board flying through the air. The first three quarters of the show were loosely story based, with you getting to know some of the characters as they fought between themselves, mixed up with dancing and intense traditional drumming. The final quarter was the grand finale: a fast paced and explosive performance of martial arts and gymnastics, with lots of kicking and flips and breaking of boards. I was genuinely engrossed from start to finish. And if you don't believe me, I recommended this show to my parents and when they came back I was told that my mum had sat with 'a smile from start to finish'. A truly brilliant show.

After a quiet Saturday evening and Sunday morning, my parents arrived and after a while, we headed to the final show of the weekend: AAA Stand-up. After a quick beer in the courtyard, we entered the basement for the show, which was comprised of 3 amateur comedians performing around 15 minutes of comedy each (including the host doing his sections as well). Overall, it was a fairly funny show, if a little slow paced but the highlight was the final comedian (can't remember his name sadly) who managed to trick the crowd into believing that he was Glaswegian, then English, then admitting he was actually Glaswegian as previously stated, all the whilst telling some pretty hilarious stories. A good end to a great weekend and a strong finish to the show.

Wow, it's kind of hard to talk about comedy shows...'they're funny and er um, they wore a nice t-shirt'.  This is probably why I'm not a reviewer but he did have a really nice t-shirt...

Pick of the Week

Guardians of the Galaxy – Forget whether or not you're a marvel fan: this is just a damn good film. With great casting, characters and action (plus a couple of spectacular dance scenes to boot and a quirky soundtrack), you'll love this if you're an adult or child. A mix of action, drama and comedy, the story follows a rag-tag band of heroes trying to save the planet who arrested them.  Oh and one of them is a raccoon and another is a tree.  Plus, if you're a Marvel fan, then there are a few surprises and treats for you as well!

Music of the Week

This week, it's the turn of the comedian piano player, Tim Minchin - Rock and Roll Nerd.

See you all next week!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

I've peaked???

Ooft that's another week gone speeding by. Seems like you blink and miss half the week these days. That wouldn't be too bad if you didn't miss the majority of the weekend as well. I'm actually a little scared to go to sleep, in case I wake up and it's Christmas. I realise that this is a regular feature of my blogs but alas it's a regular feature of my life as well!

So I was actually at home for a long weekend last week (which explains the lack of a post, as I was on holiday), as I had to go to the dentists on Monday (My teeth are fine, yay!). Kind of depressing when you start using your holidays just to carry out tasks like going to the dentist and getting a haircut, isn't it (It's that time of year again when I have short hair, to make me less hobo-ey)? Despite this, I ended up having a pretty fun weekend anyway, as it's always good to see the parents and to get cuddles from this little guy:

Obligatory Ollie Picture
Although my time at home was the usual relaxing and unwinding, my dad and I also went out for a walk on Saturday (pretty much the only good day of weather for the entire weekend) up Lowther Hill and as usual, it's just a reminder of how beautiful Scotland can be. Except, that is, for the massive flight radar and winding road up at 700m on the peak. I appreciate that they are needed but you could make them a bit nice looking...put some moss over it or something.  Hell, paint a giant smiley face on it!  Freak out pilots looking out their window to see the hill smiling at them...

So, the walk was really enjoyable and I'll put the pictures up below (it's a picture blog, this week, so limited reading necessary – Ed) but one of the best parts was that I learned a new activity from my dad, whilst we were walking down the hill: screeing. Now, time for a lesson for those who don't know: scree is a pile of broken rocks that have been created by weathering (See, you can learn with my blog – Teacher Ed). Okay, back from the classroom and onto what screeing is! Screeing is the art of sliding down the loose rock to speed up the descent!  Although you are sliding through it, it's controlled as you reaaaaalllly don't want to fall over in this stuff.  It would strip you to the bone.  It's a pretty fun way to get down part of the hill and is sort of like skiing without snow, as you have two walking poles that can help you slide. I reckon it should have been added as a commonwealth sport: the screeing championship!

All in all, a great walk and a great weekend!

Pick of the Week

The Fringe – Now this is a very loose recommendation for the week but if you can, go check out the Fringe! I appreciate it's late but there is still two weeks left, and there are loads of shows left as well! I've just had a great weekend seeing various shows and just wandering around as well. If you have some time, check it out, especially as there are loads of free and cheap shows as well!  So far, I've seen taekwondo percussion, outside grand pianos and a tv game show with no cameras or tvs... but more on that next week!

Music of the Week

This week, the song of the week is Liam Lynch - United States of Whatever.  Why?  Because whatever.

Fringe blog next week!  See you then.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

It took a while to get here

Good morning Vietnam! Em I mean the UK (and to all my foreign readers as well). It's once again time for that bitter sweet day, Sunday: a day of rest that is actually the prelude to the working week! Not sure if it's just me or did anyone else feel that this week just dragged by? I normally find that it flies past but this week, it felt like it should be Friday when it was only Wednesday and that's just depressing! It should feel like Monday when it's Thursday if you ask me! Regardless, all this meant was that I was tired and grumpy, though I'm not sure that is much different from me normally.

In other news (not sure being tired and grumpy counts as news – News Ed), the Commonwealth games have been on this week (I'm writing this during the week, so apologies if they have finished but don't think they will have) and well done to Scotland for breaking their medal records! In honour of the games, I decided to travel down to Glasgow (fair enough, I was also visiting Derek and Co. but still) to enjoy the Commonwealth atmosphere! This roughly translated to it being slightly busier than usual... as it turns out, to really enjoy the atmosphere, tickets are a good idea. Oh well.

I still managed to have a pretty enjoyable weekend, starting with meeting Chris and Derek and heading to Tribeca in Glasgow for a rather enjoyable (and large) brunch. Seriously, this American style diner serves massive portions (I had a fry up with plenty of toast) and some pancakes I saw appeared to be about an inch thick each, and there were multiple of them (alas I never got to try some: I do draw the line at approaching strangers and asking to try their food). It was particularly nice as they had opened up their massive bay windows to allow for the air to flow freely into the restaurant as it was a stunning day.  If you're looking for a nice restaurant with a great atmosphere, good food and that is also great value, look no further.

Once again fueled up by a fry-up, it was time to head to the Kelvingrove Museum which is just a great day out whether you're an adult or a child! I mean, how many places can you get to see a giant crab?  Probably lot's to be honest but this is certainly one of them.

Giant crabs aside, the museum does have a huge variety of well maintained (except the elusive haggis perhaps) and interesting exhibits ranging from extinct animals to Glasgow's history to Salvador Dali's 'Christ of Saint John of the Cross' painting (and various other artworks): meaning that there is something for everyone.  I would thoroughly recommend checking out the painting, as it really is just spectacular to behold. It's beautiful to see and haunting as well.

Over various wings, the museum holds a lot to see and like most museums in Scotland, is completely free to visit, so no matter what your taste, it's well worth dropping by: either for an hour or for an entire day.

After some hard museum meandering (Holy alliteration Batman – Robin Ed), we decided to replenish our strength with some cake and coffee in the museum's cafe, in preparation for the next challenge ahead: wandering across the road for a couple of pints in Brewdog. You have to set your own challenges: no one else will! As it turned out, we actually failed in this particular challenge, as it was stupidly busy so we had to settle for the 'Crafty Goat' which in fairness was a really nice bar/restaurant and had some good beer.

The day finally ended after a fairly long discussion about what to have with dinner, that included learning swear words in both Greek and Italian (thanks Jenny and Chris), then deciding on some pizza whilst watching 'The Lego Movie' which is actually pretty fun.  Batman in particular was a highlight of it. Check it out if you want some nice wholesome fun!  It's worth noting that ordering dinner also involved a rather tense race between the delivery van and us, as we tried to make sure we got back before, with Chris actually having to run ahead and arriving just before the van.

Pick of the Week

Hawkeye (Marvel Now!) - The first thing that will attract you to this is the offbeat and slightly obscure artistic style of this comic series and once you start reading it, you'll discover that the style matches the content perfectly: it's wonderfully quirky and odd.  Following both Hawkeyes (yes, there is two) and Clint's dog, you'll find out what the Avenger get's up to when he isn't saving the world.  A great read and well worth checking out if you like comics.

Music of the Week

This week, it has been a long long long week (as previously mentioned - Ed) and to honour this, I'm going to choose a long song.  It's the turn of Mastodon - The Czar which is made is made up of four parts:

1. Usurper
2. Escape
3. Martyr
4. Spiral

Prepare for an epic 11 minutes.

Well that's it from me for this week!  See you all next week,