Why I believe in the Loch Ness monster: Edinburgh Fringe 2017

I’ve just returned from a very enjoyable week at the Edinburgh Fringe. Unlike last year, we were fortunate enough not to encounter a bad show. However, the “star” system is clearly broken, as everyone’s literature only ever owns up to four (or occasionally, five) star reviews. For example, here’s a random sample that accompanied my gin and tonic at the Pleasance one evening.

Four stars

Everyone only admits to four stars or more – so how do you pick shows that are really worth seeing?!

So given that everything we saw almost certainly had a 4* or better review somewhere, I’m not going to play that game. Instead, everything gets a sentence or two. That seems fairer to me, as it doesn’t attempt to quantify something that is inherently subjective. In no particular order, here are my star-free reviews of everything we saw this year.

Shaken not Stirred – The Improvised James Bond Film

Coincidentally the first show we saw last year as well. Alexander Fox and Dom O’ Keefe with an hour of silliness – this year we saw A Quantum of Sausage. Good fun throughout.

Education, Education, Education

Set in a secondary school the morning after Tony Blair’s victory in 1997, bringing a whole new twist to the question “did you stay up for Portillo”? Brilliantly staged and performed by an ensemble cast. The Stage presented an award for the production at the end of the show we saw – definitely deserved. Hopefully audiences elsewhere in the country will get to see this excellent production too.

Henning Wehn – Westphalia is not an option

Proof (if any were needed) that the Germans really do have a sense of humour – especially after he enthusiastically encouraged us all to clap along to an old Hitler Youth song. “That’s how it starts”, he said …

Ringo

Alexander Fox again, this time with a new solo show. It took a few minutes to get going, but the final 2/3rds was one of the funniest and most innovative shows I saw during the week.

Finding Nana

Jane Upton’s bitter-sweet play about how memories of our grandparents formed in childhood affect us as we grow older, and what happens when we eventually lose them. Cleverly staged, with Phoebe Frances Brown providing an emotionally charged solo performance.

Showstopper! – The Improvised Musical

This is the third time I’ve seen this (twice at Fringe) and I’m still in awe of the sheer amount of hard work that clearly goes into making the concept work. It’s really, really funny too! This time the audience came up with a country pub setting for The Pint Before Christmas. Improvised musical numbers in the style of Rent and My Fair Lady were the highlights.

Rhapsodes

Adam Meggido and Sean McCann (both of Showstopper) hold a Shakespearean (and sundry other theatre styles) improvisation duel. Like Showstopper, it clearly takes a huge amount of effort to make it work as well as it does. A particularly creepy ‘poltergeist’ anecdote from an audience member helped make this year memorable.

Great British Mysteries?

Probably the strangest show I saw this year. Memorable because it was so unusual and funny, as well as being brilliantly performed by Will Close (Dr. Teddddy Tyrell) and Rose Robinson (Olive Bacon). If you’ve ever had to suffer in silence through pseudo-science tv shows, you’ll love this. “Evidence schmevidence”, as Olive Bacon would say. A great handout (and badge) at the end to remember the show by. I’m glad that the car park at Loch Ness will still allow an hour’s free parking, even though the monster has now been found.

Loch Ness

Remember, fool is proof spelt backwards.

Whose Line is It Anyway?

Clive Anderson, with Mike McShane, Colin Mochrie, Steve Frost, Tony Slattery and Kirsty Newton. Still as fresh as it was when it first appeared on Radio 4 back in the 80s. Improvised comedy at its best.

Matt Forde

The only overtly political standup we saw. Matt happily took apart May, Corbyn, Farron, Sturgeon and Nuttall (remember him?) with equal vigour and humour. Naturally, his evisceration of Donald Trump was the highlight of the show. Happy!

Sara Pascoe – Lads Lads Lads

I’ve enjoyed her performances on television ever since her role in the ill-fated “Campus”. Her stand up material is delivered with great pace and timing. Sadly, I’m clearly a bad person as I really don’t like dogs.

Lucy Porter – Choose Your Battles

Another standup who deliberately avoided political topics this year and instead made me laugh at her “benign neglect” approach to parenting, wince at the thought of the extortionate cost of losing your electronic car keys and made me determined never to watch Coronation Street ever again.

Reduced Shakespeare Company – William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged)

Great fun. The Tempest meets Richard III meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream and many others. Sitting in the first few rows is dangerous – as water pistols *may* be involved …

Murder, she didn’t write: The improvised murder mystery

Similar format to Showstopper! but without the music. An entertaining hour of improvised comedy.

 

Phew!

The fringe also helps to get you fit – I took 82,534 steps, climbed 267 floors and logged 714 active minutes over the course of the week. Even the weather was good. Food was generally found on the hoof, with two of the best meals of the week had at The Cellar Door and 56 North.

56 North Gin Menu

The extensive gin menu at 56 North – hic!

I’m looking forward to 2018.

B5023 Cowers Lane to Middleton

I filmed a clear run on the B5023 from Duffield to Cowers Lane in March. Today I managed a clear run from Cowers Lane to Middleton via Wirksworth. The weather was much better and the sky looks amazing. The video follows, but for those of you who are interested, this is what Croots Farm Shop on the route I filmed in March has on offer this week …

50% off chicken fillets

Cowers Lane to Middleton from Tim Holyoake on Vimeo.

Blatting along Snake Pass

Gnu did his bit for Derbyshire tourism by filming along the A57 Snake Pass last weekend. It’s beautiful. This is the stretch from the turning for the Fairholmes Visitor Centre near Ladybower Reservoir to Glossop. I must have been lucky – no sign of another vehicle in front or behind me (on my side of the road) for almost the entire 18 minutes or so it took to drive. I haven’t been along this route in years, so I was sticking faithfully to 49mph the whole way, rather than pushing the 50mph limit. And it’s too pretty at this time of year to go any faster of course.

The video (and my complete 120 mile route) follow, but here are a few stills from the journey if you don’t have another 18 minutes to spare …

Derwent Dam

What I’d been to see just before the video starts – the stunning Derwent Dam, completed in 1916.

Ladybower Reservoir

The view from the Fairholmes Visitor Centre turning, looking towards the bridge over the A57 Snake Pass and Ladybower Reservoir.

Trees

The early part of the route is heavily wooded – trees (and sharp bends) everywhere.

Moors

As the road climbs, the woods give way to beautiful purple heather moorlands.

Steep descent

The Snake Pass then descends steeply towards Glossop …

Glossop

… which is where my video ends.

Visit us in Derbyshire soon, and blat carefully!

 

Snake Pass from Tim Holyoake on Vimeo.

Route map for Derwent Dams And Carsington Reservoir by Tim Holyoake on plotaroute.com

Yes, we are all individuals!

Josh Friedman’s recent article for Time, “It’s Okay to Be a Coward About Cancer“, is an interesting piece about the language that surrounds the disease. It’s written from the perspective of someone who has experienced cancer for himself. In it, he takes issue with the dominant interpretative repertoires (*) of “fighting” and “surviving” the disease.

When I was first diagnosed with MCL, I initially adopted positions from the “fighting” repertoire. After all, it seems the logical thing to do. No-one wants to die from cancer – and not many people want to die,  ever! “Fighting” is how I perceived that the majority of people were talking about the disease, and I started to talk about it in that way too.

However, over time, I started to think of myself as being more of a survivor than fighter. This was because I found it difficult to declare war on my own body, regardless of its faults. But even that phase didn’t last long. These days, given my current non-treatment status, I feel more comfortable with the idea that I’m “living” with the condition rather than fighting or surviving it. My twitter and facebook biographies have reflected this progression over the last three years since my diagnosis.

While understanding and respecting Josh’s position, I think that rejecting the dominant fighting and surviving repertoires as cowardice undersells his own strength. Coming to terms with cancer by rejecting the culturally dominant discourses is definitely not cowardice. Taking a position against what the majority believe to be commonsense is always hard.

I wish him and all other cancer patients well, regardless of their approach to coming to terms with the disease and their own mortality. After all, in the words of Brian, “You are all individuals, you don’t need to follow anybody!”

 

(*) For those of you who aren’t discursive psychologists, interpretative repertoires provide commonsense and relatively coherent ways of talking about a topic, providing a basis for shared understandings to be reached. They are culturally and historically situated – for example, it is unlikely that a Victorian would have talked about cancer in the same way as a citizen of the 21st century.

760 years of the Seven

OK, so I know the event last weekend at Donington Park celebrated 60, rather than 760 years of the Seven, but it’s how I keep reading the logo. Sorry.

760 years of the Seven

760 (?!) years of the Seven – souvenir programme

In the end I only managed to attend the Friday evening event and joined a run out to Bakewell on the Saturday morning, but very enjoyable it all was. Even the queueing on Friday evening was a great (if a probably unintended) way to break the ice with fellow enthusiasts. I’d like to thank and congratulate the organisers from the Lotus 7 Club – you did an excellent job looking after so many people and their cars.

Friday evening’s event was held in the Donington Collections Museum. It had been some time since I’d last looked around it. The overwhelming impression you get is that they desperately need more space to do full justice to the exhibits. Even so, it’s a fascinating place and the normal entrance fee of £12 for an adult is a bargain.

F1 collection

Just a few cars from the museum’s enormous F1 collection

A Hesketh and a Lola

A Hesketh and Lola displaying some, well, very 1970s sponsorship

Saturday morning saw me return to Donington and join a run out to Bakewell. Unfortunately, as I was too busy looking at the route book and strapping myself in, I headed off last and spent the first few miles of the run playing catch-up. Through a fortuitous piece of satnav lunacy (I took a wrong turning), I eventually caught up with the pack just outside Hulland Ward.

I see you!

I see you!

The weather was perfect and after a brief stop outside Bakewell Showground I had to leave the group and head back home to join the rest of the family for a theatre trip. That was brilliant too (The play that goes wrong, as you’re asking) – even though there wasn’t a Seven in sight.

The gnu and friends at Bakewell

The gnu and friends at Bakewell

I missed all of Sunday as I needed to head ‘up North’ for work. I’m now looking forward to the 70th anniversary. I promise not to double book myself then …

Good news – and looking forward to playtime!

Hurrah! The good news on Wednesday morning was that my white blood cell (neutrophil) count was just above the minimum for “normal” adults for the first time in three tests. This would suggest that my bone marrow is hanging on in there after all. I’m therefore back on the watch and wait routine until September, assuming that nothing out of the ordinary happens.

My medical team remains of the opinion that I’m in the luckier 15% of people with MCL as it’s still behaving indolently rather than aggressively three years after diagnosis. There’s still no evidence to suggest that my survival prospects would be improved by taking the chemotherapy option sooner rather than later. I’m happy with that – but there’s a little voice nagging in my head telling me that if we really knew how to treat MCL, it wouldn’t be so. Some lifestyle changes – not taking on too much physically and mentally – also seem to be helping with the tiredness I sometimes feel.

This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of the Lotus 7 and the owner’s club have a celebration weekend at Donington Park. I’m going as it’s nearby and I’m looking forward to it. Something tells me the gnu is also looking forward to the event – you can see the gleam in his eyes headlamps.

Is it playtime yet?

Is it playtime yet?

Little darlings: Dealing with watch and wait anxiety

I’m three days away from my regular watch and wait appointment at the hospital, and I’m panicking again. Last time my white blood cell count was low, so I was “promised” another bone marrow biopsy if it hadn’t moved back closer to normal this time. They’re not fun. I can feel myself coming over all unnecessary as I contemplate the prospect. To try to distract myself, I’ve therefore spent the day doing two things I’ve really enjoyed.

This morning I took the gnu (or he took me, not quite sure which!) out along the roads to Carsington Reservoir and back. I even had time to pull into the visitor centre for coffee. That was just after he’d found an impressive turn of speed to overtake a couple of vehicles alongside the dam. There’s clearly nothing wrong with his fuel and exhaust system, unlike that of his driver. He’s a little darling.

Carsington Reservoir

Carsington Reservoir, as seen from the coffee shop

The gnu at Carsington

The gnu, as seen in the car park

The second was being taken on a date to see “Despicable Me 3” this afternoon. Like Mark Kermode I think that the minions can do no wrong. They’re little darlings. Watching them perform the Major-General’s song from The Pirates of Penzance was definitely the highlight of the movie for me. But I admit that I also found the fart gag before the film even started funny. Is that wrong? I even managed to put up with a little shit darling constantly kicking the back of my seat with something approaching good grace. If you were sat in Derby’s Intu Showcase, screen 2, row F, seat 5 for the 1700 screening, it’s you that I’m talking about. Don’t do it again. Ever. The next person you do it to might not be as reasonable as I was. Or enjoying the film as much. Or both.

That was my Sunday. Only three more sleeps until the watch and wait anxiety dissipates again.

Wallpaper stripping: messages from another century

A time capsule from 1999, found as I was stripping the wallpaper from my old room at my parent’s house. The discovery of these messages from 18 years ago affected me more than it probably should have done. Emily is still at school – it’s just that it’s bigger and she’s not a student! Jessica is still lovely, obviously. Steve is no longer at Acordis (but then again, no-one is).

Finally, Dad put the wallpaper up so well it’s been a real so and so to remove. Good job!

Emily is still at school

Emily still at school

Jessica still lovely

Jessica still lovely

Steve still at Acordis

Steve still at Acordis

RH did the work Nov. 1999

RH did the work Nov. 1999

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