In Chapter 9 of Novel Friends, I write about being in Edinburgh with my Scottish friend Helen during the Fringe Festival in August 2010. Now that it’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival time again, I thought it would be fun to relive those 2010 memories. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 9:
The next day was Saturday, our day to tour Edinburgh. I don’t think I could have purposely planned it this way, but I just happened to be there during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world’s largest arts festival. In Minneapolis, we have our own Fringe Festival wannabe, patterned after the original, but it’s nothing in comparison. This was the first weekend of the festival, so it was going to be extra crowded in Edinburgh.
Once in Edinburgh, we joined the throngs on Waverly Bridge to catch a tour bus of Old Town, the main tourist area. We had our fingers crossed that we’d be able to snag a free ride because Gordon’s brother-in-law was working as a tour bus driver that day. Helen systematically checked each bus that pulled up until at last she found him.
“This is my friend Susie from America,” she said as we poked our heads in the door. He smiled cordially, but looked askance as he surreptitiously gave Helen two free tickets on the next bus. With a full bus and a schedule to keep, there was no time for further conversation.
“Thank you!” I called out as he closed the door. My frugal husband was going to be impressed.
The upper deck of the tour bus was the perfect way to get the lay of the land and see the highlights of the Old Town without having to walk. Not all buildings were old, though, and the most memorable of this category was the contemporary Scottish Parliament Building with its abstract motifs over the windows that looked like giant hairdryers. Apparently this new parliament building was infamous with the natives.
“Nobody likes that building,” Helen admitted. “We don’t know how they ever approved that design.” I agreed but had to admit those hairdryers had an iconic effect.
Along the way on the bus tour we saw many of the brightly marked Fringe venues and accompanying posters—they seemed to be everywhere. We wouldn’t have time to catch a show, but just thinking of all the possibilities overwhelmed me. I could tell you had to have a definite strategy to do the Edinburgh Fringe Festival properly.
We got off the tour bus at one of the stops on the Royal Mile, the main thoroughfare in Old Town leading to Edinburgh Castle. Scattered down the Royal Mile were street performers promoting their Fringe shows. Many were in pantomime—a woman in a costume made entirely of little mirrors, a human statue. Like many of the passers-by, I took photos of the Fringe statues. “Can you take my picture?” I asked Helen.
She obliged and took my picture with a couple of statues, but eventually said, “I think you’re supposed to put money in the hat if you want a picture.” Embarrassed, I quickly took out my wallet, found a bill, and dropped it in. Apparently I was ignorant of street performer protocol. My apologies to all the other human statues.