Terri Paddock is the Editorial Director of Whatsonstage.com. She’s seeing 22 shows – and counting – in three-and-a-half days during her trip to Edinburgh at the start of the Fringe festival.
Because I’m cheap and didn’t want to pay for a hotel – and was frankly too disorganised to book one far enough ahead anyway – I arranged a month or so ago that I’d stay with my director friend Owen Lewis while in Edinburgh. Owen has two shows on the Fringe this year and is staying in digs with two women performers. Was he sure there’d be a spare bed? Yes, he was sure.
Earlier this week, Owen called me once he’d got into the flat. Actually, there wasn’t a spare bed and the sofa wasn’t a sleepable option. Did I have an air mattress? Er … no. (I’m not what you’d call a happy camper.) A quick ring-round of more outdoorsy friends and it was a unanimous no from them too – but one of them did at least direct me to a camping store nearby the office where I could buy one.
Luckily, before I shelled out for a mattress I’d never use again, Owen sent me a good news text. He’d persuaded one of his digs-mates to swap rooms so we now had a double bed, as long as I didn’t mind sharing. Did I mind sharing a bed with a gorgeous man? Er … no. And, surely – it occurred to me for one brief, blinding moment – this would vastly increase my likelihood of bettering Bridget Jones’ luck during my festival trip? Er … again … no. Owen and I are just friends. Damn. Still, I was glad I wouldn’t have to find room in my bag for an air mattress.
I left the office early on Wednesday to catch the 4.46pm train from London Euston which got me into Edinburgh Waverley just before 10pm. By ten past, I – along with my laptop and luggage – was huddled beneath an umbrella in the outdoor Udderbelly’s Pasture bar, next to the giant upside down purple cow of a venue which gives its name to said pasture, with two drunk University of Edinburgh students who were explaining how the original Underbelly and its udder spin-offs were an homage to the Scottish love of cow-tipping.
By half-past, I was at my first show, the first preview for one of Owen’s productions, Stewart Lee’s new comic play Elizabeth and Raleigh. Afterwards, there was much discussion with the company and a little bit of bar-hopping. Before I knew it, it was three am and I was the party pooper who bowed out of just one more round. (There had been several rounds by then but, in an effort to pace myself, I was drinking pints of orange juice.)
In the pouring rain Owen and I trooped back to the flat, where, in embarrassed, hushed tones, he explained to me the house rules. The performers are light sleepers so when we get in at night, we must a) speak in hushed tones and b) tiptoe, and we must not c) turn on the bathroom light (which triggers the, apparently, too-loud extractor fan) or d) flush the toilet. Not flush the toilet?!
Well, said Owen, not unless you really have to. “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, get it down.” So, here’s the thing: I have a small bladder and I’d been drinking pints of orange juice for hours. I couldn’t sleep a wink not only because of countless trips to the loo, but also for anxiety. I just had to be first into the bathroom in the morning so I could finally flush. Other thoughts kept whizzing round my mind too: Had I used too much toilet paper for my yellow evacuations? Might the toilet become blocked as a result?
Despite the lack of sleep last night, I’ve managed to make it to all six shows I’d booked today – and I didn’t once nod off either. But now I’m seriously flagging. And it’s only 1.30am. By the way, I will blog my thoughts about the shows too. But that will have to wait until morning. Now I’m heading back to the flat – via a public toilet.
- Terri Paddock, Editorial Director, Whatsonstage.com