Andrew Abbott's Blog

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Beyond the Fringe. Hibernian v St Johnstone and other delicacies.

Edinburgh in August means the festival which in turn has been swamped by something which has attached itself and become much greater, the fringe. If you’ve not been you should if only to sample the atmosphere of the world’s greatest arts festival in one of the world’s great cities.

Don’t be put off either by the term arts festival. Though there are highbrow events most are down to earth, homespun even in a way that would make our own comedy festival seem quite sophisticated. There’s that much on in Edinburgh that every hall, cellar, nook and cranny is pressed into service.

Ordinary life still goes on in the city though and no visit to Scotland’s capital is complete without a visit to Easter Road, home of the green half of auld reekie, Hibernian. My visits normally herald a home defeat, a result that had been depressingly familiar last season where the team conspired to burden their fans with a cup run, all the way to the final, and a relegation fight. What is it with me and struggling teams?

However, a strange thing has happened. Hibs have got themselves a manager who knows what he’s doing, Pat Fenlon, and even though it’s only August, Hibees are dreaming of better times. In fact with no Rangers this term, Hibs fans are really letting their imaginations run wild. At the time of writing, Hibs are joint top of the SPL.

All of the above were far from the minds of fans in the first half as Hibernian huffed and puffed making their opponents look like the home team and it was they who were knocking the ball about leaving Hibs to chase after it. James Mc Pake, the former Coventry City man was all that stood between Hibs and yet another home defeat, he was later to be awarded the man of the match trophy a richly deserved accolade in my view but the fans I chatted to in the bar afterwards disagreed. Hibs somehow managed to get almost to half time level and then the sort of thing that happens when you’re having a bit of luck, they scored completely against the run of play.

It occurred to me that the home team needed to score in the first ten minutes of the second half and this they did, courtesy of Doyle, they never looked back. Celtic await however.

On to some comedy and a curious cellar down a spooky passage deep under Edinburgh was the venue for John Robins’ incredible scenes. Billed as comedy’s best kept secret, Robins has had a bit of TV exposure, appearing on Russell Howard’s good news. How can I put this? If you’ve ever been to Lincoln’s Red Herring Comedy Club, Robins would have been act one or two. Still, it was a decent laugh and a good start to our fringe experience. The venue was tiny; the artist waited behind a screen for the “auditorium” to fill up, did his gig and then retreated behind the screen again for everyone to go. Yep, it’s that homespun. There are no encores, well not unless your name is David Hasselhoff, the venues are that booked out that gigs take place one after the other, shows are short, then it’s on to the next one.

The Guildford Arms would probably be the best bar in Edinburgh were it not for the Café Royal. The Cafe Royal trumps the Guildford by virtue of the fact that is probably the best bar in the world, in looks if nothing else. In typical Edinburgh fashion, the Guildford was holding its own jazz/blues/folk festival. There we saw one of the highlights of the fringe. The host act were Yard of Ale who were an ok-ish Scottish Folk combo but their guests were the fabulous FC Ukulele. THIS was the best kept secret of the Edinburgh Fringe. Fronted by a cute blonde this group really could play. Sultans of Swing played on a ukulele? In fact several ukuleles,

"You can't say you've experienced the Fringe until you've seen a ukulele group play an eight-minute version of 'Sultans Of Swing'. That might not be strictly true, but that experience captures the spirit of the folk and blues shows at the Guildford Arms. After an entertaining set of folk classics from hosts Yard Of Ale, guests F.C. Ukulele put in an energetic performance, full of memorable covers, from 'Mr Brightside' to 'Baker Street'. Artistically, the music you're likely to see at the Guildford Arms is unlikely to change the face of the music scene, but it doesn't aim to. The atmosphere is lively, and the bands serve a valuable purpose in keeping the traditional British pub culture alive and vibrant."

That was a review from last year and they can’t be any worse because they were absolutely brilliant. Quite simply the best night we’ve had in a long long time.

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