Monday, 2 August 2010

Welcome!

What better way to cross the virgin ground of my first blog post than by declaring my arrival in Edinburgh. Bloody bloody hello!

It’s always an intriguing experience arriving in Scotland for the start of the Festival. As you approach Arthur’s Seat from behind (quiet there at the back!) your mind stars to wonder what flavour the Festival will have, who you’ll meet, what, exactly, you’re going to say on stage, how many late-night, ill-advised takeaways will happen to you and how often you’ll have to throw keys out of a fourth storey window, narrowly missing a passing member of the All-American High School Street Dance 4 in 3D tech crew.

And this year is no different in its delight and in its difference. I’m arriving earlier than ever, staying not in blagged accommodation or over-priced student digs, but in my girlfriend’s plush Marchmont flat. I’m doing solely stand-up for the first time ever. I’m part of the Five Pound Fringe for the first time ever. And, strangely, I’m yet to feel the real bubble of excitement. For the first time ever.

I know it will come. Arriving by the Meadows with the sunlight hitting the children’s playground and watching a shambling Jack Sparrow look-a-like snip into view, Edinburgh put a Cheshire Cat grin on my face within minutes, but I’m yet to really feel like a raucous, gregarious Fringe is about to start. Maybe it isn’t.

I’ve been saying for months on end that this Fringe is about writing, honing, developing, creating and most of all sticking a leviathan of a rocket up my ass to get better, better, better. Now it’s not like other comics come up to the Fringe without the desire to improve, but I know very clearly what I need to do and this feels like a crucial time to do it. I need to write, get in the habit of writing and start chasing that most wondrous of beasts: the rolling laugh.

I’m definitely the kind of person who like to narrativize his life – fill it up with grand gestures only for myself, as though I’m part of a second-rate coming-of-age movie on Hallmark, but this year seems to have a couple of good markers. Moving in with my girlfriend in London means that I spent this morning sifting through all kinds of hoarded crap in my old home in Newcastle. I threw so much out: flyers, exam sheets, birthday cards, congratulation and commiseration cards, wristbands, a toy helicopter, concert tickets, bleached polaroids, stubs of a late adolescence. Shoebox upon shoebox of magpied nostalgia that I don’t actually need, but pretend is important. It took me a long time to unwrap the anchor-rope of the past from around my body, but I think I’ve done it. I value and cherish all bits and bobs of my past, but throwing out so much ephemera from my two times at university felt very liberating. Especially throwing out all my history, politics and acting notes taken from lectures, kept ‘just in case’ I become a teacher. They’re now compost. No way back. Only looking forward.

Couple that with what feels like a real determined effort to knock smoking on the head (I no longer enjoy having crepe-paper lungs) and a fresh, new morning feel to Edinburgh, and I’m really excited about this month. Not because of shows or audiences or good times or drinks or capers or being spotted or good reviews or making money, but because this time the blank slate isn’t going to be defaced with a Jackson Pollock of hazed partying and occasional good performances. It’s going to be scrawled and scribbled and sketched and doodled on till it is covered in ideas, words, thoughts, ruminations, aphorisms (and most importantly jokes, jokes, jokes) until I’m blue in the face and sore of wrist.

3, 2, 1…