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The Edinburgh Experience

Image: Smart City Hostels

This evening I returned from Edinburgh. I'm sitting in my house in Canterbury and it's quiet. I've spent a day on trains - just sitting and reading, and now I'm sitting here.

My Mum described our few days at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as like being on a high without taking anything, and I think that sounds about right. So I guess that would make this the come down.

We had the best time. I've been twice before over the past couple of years and she had only been once before - about thirty years ago.

There's just nothing like it. It's not just the shows (though getting to see five shows in one day is an absolute dream) but the atmosphere - everyone seems to be in a good mood and everyone seems to want to talk, and not always about their own show.

The buzz about the place is indescribable, and now I'm sad that it's all still going on and I'm back at home. In the lead up I loved that the majority of my Twitter feed was people talking about #EdFringe, and now I can see that's going to make me wish I was there all the more.

What was nice about this trip was that as well as giving me a boost in mood, it also boosted my self-esteem. That seems like a weird thing to say. No, I didn't get complimented by flyerers, and if I did I would have presumed it was a cheeky and charming little marketing technique.

What I mean is that since I've been ill with POTS I've felt very limited. Whether I can make an event depends on how I'm feeling on the day, and my last holiday was an absolute nightmare. When you continually find yourself collapsing unexpectedly it knocks your confidence - and it's only looking back that I realised just how much that happened.

While I'm still very driven and confident as a person, new experiences have become difficult and I know that I make plans much less than I used to - worried that I won't end up being able to attend. The result of which leaves me feeling disappointed and a tad guilty.

It's now been just over seven weeks since I last passed out. I can't quite believe it.

My increased dosages of my medications with added extra techniques to help me manage seem to finally be really helping.

I worried that going up to Edinburgh, I might pass out on the first day and just not be able to do many shows. That didn't happen though. My other worry was that my luck would be out, and I'd be troubled with fatigue - again, not so.

I was in pain some of the time and I got tired, but that's pretty normal. I coped well and I had a bloody good time.

I also surprised myself with just how well I knew how to get around. Having only been twice before, the last time being in 2010 I thought I might struggle - but this was almost completely stress-free.

So basically the trip brought me to life a bit. I'm really counting my blessings and so grateful my body behaved itself. I'm aware that at any point that could be reversed, as is the nature of this unpredictable condition, but it's reinstated a bit of hope and determination: to make the effort to do the things that I love.

I may not have gone travelling in Asia,  but it seems, I may have found myself a bit. Who would have thought it!

I'll be doing lots of blog posts in the next few days with reviews of what we saw. I'm also sort of glad of this - I feel like this blog started off mainly about theatre and with how things turned out for me, has largely been dominated by health posts of late. So getting to write about theatre again is exciting.

Overall we saw fourteen shows in our three days there, which was a lot and a good variety - but frustrating as so much more we wanted to see.

It's interesting to note that, unintentionally, a few common themes emerged in the shows we chose: illness, aging and international heritage. I'll talk more about that in individual show reviews - but wonder what that says about me and my Mum!

As the last few visits were spaced about, it's odd to look back at who I was at those points. 2008: the summer before starting university. I went up to help with my theatre company's set-up, and also got to explore and see shows by myself - which gave me an exciting glimmer of independence. In retrospect I felt very young then - still shy and anxious a lot of the time.

I chose shows by what sounded good, and inadvertently saw Theatre Ad Infinitum at their first Fringe! I also saw shows that there's no way I'd pick now. I got but a taste of the Fringe I guess.

Then 2010: the Summer after my first second year at University. By which I mean, I did a term of that year and then intermitted, no longer wanting or able to be there. So I was working full time at Sainsburys Local and having a fine time. I went with a good friend from work - we saw some interesting shows, though not as many shows as this time.

We were very chilled out about it all and I didn't have much idea of particular theatre companies. We couchsurfed with strangers and stayed out drinking til 3am, then stayed in bed late the next morning.

That last trip especially feels odd to look back on - I guess then I felt wild, that I could do anything. Now, staying up that late is not only implausible, but I don't think I'd even want to.

So this trip felt - I don't know, different. That now, although it's a transitional process, I'm grown up. I've got a proper job (in theatre as well) and sort of know what I'm talking about. I know what I like, who the good companies are and I take more risks.

In turn I've become judgemental too. My Mum suggested a show which sounded interesting but I dismissed it on the basis of their artwork (can you tell I work in marketing?). I worried I'd got too judgemental but to be fair, it was a show about matricide and their image featured neon coloured unicorns. So not a big worry then.

It seems, for now at least, my health and finances are stable. So from now Edinburgh Fringe should be a yearly trip - and next year's should be at least a day longer. Three days is just a tease really.

So very quickly (if anyone's read this far) - my highlight show out of everything we saw was Ballad Of The Burning Star by Theatre Ad Infinitum. I won't say too much about it as I'll do that in a separate post, but just to say this show stayed with me.

You know something's good when you not only enjoy it in the moment - but keep coming back to thinking about it. It's powerful, stunning, heartbreaking, hilarious and just ingenious. See it.

Let me know if you saw any stand-out shows. While I may be jealous, I still want to hear what I should look out for in the future!