Four days at the Edinburgh Fringe: Part two

I wasn’t being handed any fliers on Wednesday morning and I couldn’t understand why not.  Ordinarily during the Fringe Festival it is virtually impossible to avoid walking any street in Edinburgh without having a glossy advert for some comedy show or theatre production thrust into your hand by an enthusiastic volunteer who is often dressed in costume.  I had been walking for around an hour and not one person had attempted to sell their show to me, and I was beginning to take it personally. I slowed my walking pace out of hope that it would make me appear less in a rush to get somewhere important and therefore more approachable, but even that was having no effect.  I walked with my arms outstretched a little, in the manner of a monkey, and still nobody was willing to place a flier in my hand. I considered that on this particular day no-one was looking for a single man to attend their shows and I was feeling a little low and put out, so I purposefully walked past the same juggling act a couple of times for confidence.

Wednesday morning had started out with the city’s cobbled streets slick with rain, but by around midday it had dried out and there was a warmth from the sun in the sky.  I decided that I would no longer need the denim jacket I had come out wearing, so I returned to the hostel where I had been staying and stored it in a locker with the rest of my luggage.  This is when it occurred to me that I had been walking around for more than an hour dressed in double denim and I suspected that this was the reason I wasn’t being handed any fliers, though a man wearing double denim should probably be a prime comedy victim.

After watching Peter Brush make a very convoluted and brilliant joke about snails in an awkward manner in a room full of ten people or less, I went out to Pleasance Courtyard where I would spend much of the day and first saw the Irish comedienne Catherine Bohart, who performed a set about being a bisexual Irish Catholic who had recently been diagnosed as having OCD and whose father is a Deacon.  In the small room I was seated next to a woman who shortly after taking her seat reached into her bag for a paper fan, which was a deep red and the sort that stylish ladies would use in the movies. She began to fan herself in an elaborate and exhaustive fashion and it made me wonder if the flushing she was experiencing was in any way related to my testosterone. It made me feel good to think this and I was sitting smugly as Catherine Bohart took to the stage.  As I glanced around the room, which was very compact and warm, I noticed several other women who were using tickets to fan their faces and I accepted that my masculinity probably wasn’t having that much of an effect.

Later, whilst entering another show, the usher called out for “any singles” to fill a seat in the corner, around three rows from the front, which was the last remaining in that particular row.  There wasn’t a rush of people who were attending the show by themselves, or who were at least willing to admit to being alone, and I raised my hand in the air in the most meek way and was directed to walk along the front of the stage to reach this lone chair, as though I was being put on display.

I had some time to spare before seeing Alex Edelman and I decided that I would spend it in the warm early evening breeze in the courtyard with a pint of beer.  Pleasance is one of the major hubs of the Fringe and there was a buzz of activity with audiences lined up outside the numerous venues and people handing out fliers in an effort to sell last minute tickets.  A girl approached me with a handful of such fliers, her hair was a kind of sunkissed hazelnut and she was wearing skinny jeans which were impressively tight fitting and a lime green top which matched the colour of her shoes as well as her handbag.  It struck me that if I was female this is the sort of style I would favour.

The girl with the hazelnut hair offered me a flier for a show in which stand-up comedians perform in the dark.  I took it and asked her how the comedians can see whether the audience are laughing when there are no lights. She laughed in a pained way, as though she really wasn’t wanting to laugh but she couldn’t help but admire the effort made to concoct such a terrible joke.  I took this response as an invitation to ask the flier dispatcher why she thought it might be that I had such a barren leafleting experience earlier in the day. She crinkled her nose, in the way some people scrunch up unwanted fliers, and thought it surprising. We exchanged a silent stare for what might only have been three or four seconds but felt more like a minute and I thought it would be a good idea to ask the citrus styled saleswoman if Comedians in the Dark was good enough for her to consider wasting her time going with me.  She said that she had seen the show earlier in the month but that different comics perform all the time and if she could hand off the rest of her fliers she would go with me.

After the show, which was performed in near darkness, I asked the girl with the hazelnut hair if she would consider having a drink with me.  She declined, citing an early start in her day job the following morning, but invited me to take a short train journey and we could share a bottle of wine at her place.  From Waverley Station her stop was only around ten minutes and it was a place I was not familiar with. Her flat was on the top floor of a building which was in the middle of a high street that was like any other, and she asked me if I would mind sharing a flat with a young dog.  I have formed a bond with many a canine over the years and didn’t consider this a problem, though as we approached her home I felt myself becoming anxious as I realised that now I wasn’t only having to impress her, but her dog would have to like me too. Somehow my attempts at humour and conversation had gotten me this far, but if I didn’t hit it off with the dog then it could blow the whole thing.

As she opened the door a small dog scampered to greet her, and soon its little paws were clambering onto my thighs and I could tell that it was much too cute to hate anyone.  We sat on the couch and she opened a bottle of white wine, which was foreign and as delicious as its name was unpronounceable. The little dog sat between us on the cushions, as though forming a protective barrier until I had its absolute approval to proceed.  As we talked – the girl with the hazelnut hair and I – her dog arched across my lap and demanded that I rub its little pink belly. It was impossible to refuse, and it was probably the first time that I have cultivated a friendship with my ability to scratch.

Some time passed and having removed her own lime green shoes, the girl with the hazelnut hair reached for my laces and insisted that I would be much more comfortable if I wasn’t wearing my boots.  Soon her hand was working its way around an area of my jeans where ordinarily only my hand ventures, and when my penis was released and she was kneeling on the floor between my feet, the dog sat up on the couch next to me, and as its deep black eyes stared at me I began to worry that it might mistake me for a sausage.  Once I had raised this concern the dog was quickly ushered from the room into the hallway, for at least twelve minutes, and whilst it probably didn’t have the capacity to understand what was happening I’d like to believe that the neighbours did.

After the dog was welcomed back into the room and my host had changed into a pair of pyjamas which were much less colourful but every bit as fetching as her daytime wear, I was asked a question which I had not anticipated being asked and which I had never been asked before.

“How would you feel about sharing a bed with a dog?”

I weighed up the options in my mind:  I could either sleep with a girl or I could not sleep with a girl, and I quickly decided that sleeping with a girl would be preferable and that I could live with the dog, which had befriended me as much as I had it.  Following another glass or two of wine we all went to bed, and I had to wonder what the dog was making of all of this. I was a guy who it had met for the first time only a few hours earlier, I had not even bought it dinner, and now I was sharing its bed and bumping bones with its owner.

In the dark of the night I was having difficulty sleeping, partly out of a fear that if I fell asleep I would find that this entire night and this fantastically beautiful woman I was lying next to was a terribly unlikely dream woven by my wild imagination, and partly because at the foot of the bed I could hear the dog licking itself profusely.  When I was finally able to fall asleep I was soon woken by the soft and wet lather of a tongue lapping at my face. My eyes gradually opened and I was considering how this was an unusual but not unwelcome way for the girl with the hazelnut hair to waken me and rouse my attention. She must be ready for some more action, I thought to myself, and it was something that I could get used to.  Then I caught the unmistakable scent of dog food and realised that the dog was right in my face, and that was were it spent much of the night.

An alarm soon rung in the morning and the girl with the hazelnut hair had to be up early for work.  Before getting herself ready she lifted the dog into the hallway and she and I were investigating the integrity of the mattress once more.  She climaxed as the dog urinated on the carpet and it seemed like each of us got something from the experience.  After a cup of tea I asked where I was, how I got here and how I get back to Edinburgh. She explained that the train station was a couple of minutes down the street and that the trains are frequent.  I thanked her and left, hopeful that as the day progressed I would receive some more fliers for my satchel.

 

Four days at the Edinburgh Fringe: Part one

It never matters where my final destination in the capital city is, every time I arrive in Edinburgh Waverley railway station I have to exit by the steps onto Princes Street so that I can see the Scott Monument, which is not only one of my favourite landmarks anywhere but is also, as far as I am concerned, the best monument dedicated to Sir Walter Scott.

During the month of August in particular, when Edinburgh is host to one of the world’s largest arts festivals, I am almost immediately filled with a tremendous sense of regret over my decision to take the long and unnecessary detour by the Royal Mile, rather than walking out onto Market Street where my hostel accommodation is located directly across the road from the station.  This was the case yesterday, when I found myself trapped behind an endless stream of slow walking pedestrians – the sort of people whose pace would make a tortoise retreat into its shell out of shame – who inexplicably stop to a standstill on the middle of bridges or suddenly change direction to walk straight across your path. My internal monologue was seething, and I couldn’t be sure if I was more annoyed with them or with myself.

The journey from Glasgow into Edinburgh had already soured my mood when the elderly man sitting opposite me and to my left had fallen asleep practically as soon as the train had left Queen Street.  This was a particularly large man and he had the appearance of a novelty-sized helium balloon from a children’s birthday party which had been caught up in a strong breeze and carried onto the seat opposite me on the train, having deflated just enough air so that it had flopped neatly into the seat.  He was asleep the entire way across the country, and when the train was approaching Haymarket station and he had still not stirred, not even for the ticket inspector, I was becoming anxious that it would be my responsibility to waken him.

I was beginning to visualise how I would attract this much older and much larger man’s attention without startling him so much as to cause a cardiac event.  Would a gentle hand on his shoulder be enough to do the job when there was so much of him? What if it wasn’t and I went on to strike him so hard that he awoke in a furious mood and I had an angry mob of commuters baying for my blood, accusing me of assaulting a pensioner and a war veteran?  Then I thought about what I might say to this man if I was able to waken him and he was sitting there in his seat looking up at me, dazed and confused and sleepy. I have always wanted to use the phrase “it’s the end of the line” but have never had reason to do so, because there are so few instances where it can be applied without sounding silly.  This was the perfect scenario to use that line, though, and I suddenly found myself feeling excited and hoping – almost willing – that the pensioner would stay asleep just a little while longer so that I could tap him on his shoulder. “We’ve reached the end of the line, bud.”

As I continued to daydream, a passing stranger reached down, having noticed the trouble that this man had gotten himself into, and he placed his hand on his shoulder.  “This is the last stop,” the good Samaritan informed the elderly man as he awoke, and his delivery wasn’t nearly as cool as I had imagined mine would be. I gathered up my belongings and sighed, feeling a mixture of disappointment and relief that at least I had not caused a heart attack.

After checking into my hostel accommodation I enjoyed a pint of lager at the Jinglin’ Geordie bar, which is approximately halfway up or down Fleshmarket Close, depending on which way a person is travelling.  For my first beer of the Fringe I considered the price of £5 a little steep, although not quite as steep as the steps seemed after drinking the pint.

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The top deck of a green bus, which was parked on Potterrow Underpass, was the venue for the first show I attended.  Chris Betts Vs The Audience had received a four-star review on The List website and the premise was a fun one where the comedian would argue against anything the audience said.  During this show the audience were tasked with debating in favour of legalising public urination and later Chris Betts would argue for the poaching of elephants, while a couple of ‘quickfire rounds’ took place between.  It was interesting to see the lengths people would go to in order to win an argument.

Much of the evening was spent in the Brass Monkey bar, which was close by, and the pints of Innis & Gunn were a slightly more agreeable price of £4.50.  The bar had the atmosphere of being in a persons living room, with its velvet-like red lampshades and the cast of photographs on the walls and the selection of board games which were available to play.  The white trimmings around the edges of the ceiling reminded me of the living room I grew up in and I enjoyed my time there. On the door leading to the bathroom were the symbols for both male and female sexes and inside there were two cubicles and a short urinal, which was enclosed behind white gates, similar to the saloon doors you would see in a western movie.  I had forgotten about this setup when I used the toilet for the second time and exited the urinal into the common handwash area whilst still fumbling with the zip on my jeans. I was momentarily surprised and felt like a very mild sex offender when I encountered a slightly older woman who was standing at the sink. Then I remembered that this was Edinburgh and that things are different on the east coast and I reminded myself that in future I should probably fasten my zip as soon as my penis is safely away.

At the bar in The Advocate I found myself in conversation with a woman who was waiting to order some drinks for her group.  She had pleasing facial features – it was symmetrical, with two eyes, a nose and a mouth, just the way I like a face – though she had a very strong Edinburgh dialect which jarred a little with my senses.  I tried to use alcohol to dull this but it was proving difficult. The woman spoke of her love of the city during the festival, which is in contrast to most locals who tend to despair during the month of August.  “Other people,” she said, “charge £1500 a week to rent their flat but I only ask for half of that.”  The word only hung in the air and she said it like she was doing somebody a favour with some grandiose act of charity, like she was welcoming the homeless into the warmth of her living room or saving the whales.  She threw a shot of tequila down her throat and introduced herself before leaving with a handful of drinks to convene with the rest of her group outside and I thought about everything that had happened.

Not so far away at The Bunker in Espionage, I went to see Cosmic Comedy, which was a show produced by a group from Berlin and featured four comedians performing around ten minutes of standup material each.  Three of the acts ranged from mediocre to terrible and there were no fewer than two jokes about the German invasion of Poland, which happened nigh upon eighty years ago. The fourth act, who was on third, was Josie Parkinson, whose blog (‘Making Of’ ) I have recently started reading and who was the reason I had decided to attend the show.  She was comfortably the most assured of the performers and I found myself laughing at her Tinder experiences and supermarket tantrums. I had been considering attempting to talk to Josie after the show finished, to tell her that I had enjoyed her performance and that I admire her writing. For a brief moment I found myself within speaking distance of her and I considered how weird it might seem for someone to mention such a thing as a blog in public, and the guy she was with was much bigger than I am, so I decided against it and continued walking.

Outside the venue, I was accosted by a girl who was handing out fliers for a show across the street, as almost everyone seems to be doing in Edinburgh.  She was wearing a sheepskin coat which looked very warm and I felt compelled to compliment her on her fashion and to ask her why she was wearing such a coat in August, which is still meteorological summer at least.  She smiled – perhaps out of enjoyment of my compliment, perhaps out of awkwardness – and told me that she has a cold and has been working outdoors for around twelve hours every day. I again made reference to her sheepskin coat and queried whether she felt others would follow her sartorial lead.  This seemed like a good point to leave.

I saw another four-act comedy show which featured a Russian and an Icelandic comedian, amongst others, at Banshee Labyrinth after the midnight hour and I returned to my room at the hostel happily drunk and satisfied with my first day at the Fringe.  I undressed and crawled into my single bed, which was closer to the floor than any bed I have ever slept in, and I fell asleep immediately.  Some hours later, at 6:56am, I was awoken by a housekeeper who had entered my room.  She apologised from her vantage point in the doorway when she saw me semi-naked amongst my sheets, and for some reason I also felt the need to say sorry.  The housekeeper closed the door again and it occurred to me how it really doesn’t take very much to wake a person up.

The night I made the most ridiculous promise I have ever made to a girl

It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I visit Edinburgh or how familiar I think I am with the city’s streets, I always manage to walk down the wrong cobbled alley or take some inexplicable misstep which has me up some steep incline far away from my intended destination.  There is something about its quirky collaboration of old and new which leads to eternal confusion.  That I am usually drunk in Edinburgh probably doesn’t do my internal satnav any favours.

In the August of 2014 I was making my third or fourth trip to the capital for the Fringe festival and I had set myself the target of Tweeting my review of each show I saw to #TimesReview with the aim of having one of them published in The Times newspaper.  Each day they had a pullout section devoted to the festival, and within this there was a small column which was devoted to the Twitter reviews of Times readers.  On my first night in Edinburgh I went to one of my favourite bars in the city, Banshee Labyrinth, where I saw Skeptics on the Fringe, which was a collection of shows on science, reasoning and critical thinking.  On the night I attended the show addressed the topic of psychics and I found it interesting and amusing.  I felt certain that my short review of the event would be printed in the following days’ paper, but it never was.

Skeptics on the Fringe – enlightening and funny. Tonight’s show was on psychics, which I could tell was going to be great

By 9.30 on that Friday evening I had enjoyed several beers and I was on my way to see Shit-Faced Shakespeare at Bristo Square.  I had approximately half an hour – maybe even forty minutes to an hour – to find the venue and I was feeling confident as I left Banshee Labyrinth and set off along the Royal Mile with a glossy venue map for guidance.  Some time had passed and after walking up and down a seemingly endless procession of paved hills I was beginning to realise that I had no idea where I was.  Despite being able to find the venue on the map in my hand I could not adjust my bearings to figure out how to get from wherever I was standing to Bristo Square, and time was ticking.

I continued walking, one foot before the other in an aimless drunken haze, and my surroundings were becoming vaguely familiar.  A spring returned to my step and I entered Princes Gardens, which I had convinced myself was on the right route and somewhat close to where I was wanting to go.  In the dusky distance I could see a couple of men wearing fluorescent vests, which I recognised as being the international symbol of good sense and wisdom at any public gathering, and I felt hopeful as I approached them.

I walked up to the stewards and I asked them how I would get to Bristo Square, by this point feeling sure that they would tell me it wasn’t very far from where we were situated.  They glanced at my glossy map, which I had thrust upon them to illustrate that I was lost, and then exchanged blank looks with one another.

“Ummm,” the steward hesitated.  “I dinnae really ken…we’re from Fife.”  His partner was no more reassuring.  “I think it’s somewhere that way,” he said pointing in the direction from which I had just walked.  My shoulders slumped and I was becoming increasingly concerned that I was going to miss Shit-Faced Shakespeare.

I thanked the stewards for what I’m sure they believed was helpful advice and I turned and walked that way.  My steps had taken on a frantic gait and I was practically power walking up the cobbled hills I had minutes earlier walked down with careful caution.  A booze and fear-induced sweat formed on my brow and I was becoming desperate as I once again reached the Royal Mile with the clock running against my favour.  A young couple who were approximately my age were walking towards me and in my haste I put to the back of my mind all of the anxiety and self-consciousness I feel when talking to strangers and I stopped them in the street and asked how I would get to Bristo Square.  The female of the couple spoke with a well-educated southern English accent and she told me that they were walking in that direction anyway and she invited me to follow them.  A deep sense of relief washed over my sweaty forehead.

The three of us set off in a direction which was entirely different to the one I had been following and I found myself struck by the poise of the woman as we became engaged in conversation.  She had the sort of blonde hair that resembled a healthy crop of golden wheat in a field, and she was at least as tall as I am, though when you are drunk and walking downhill these things are difficult to measure.  She asked me what I was on my way to see at Bristo Square and I told her about the excellent review of Shit-Faced Shakespeare I had read in The Times two weeks earlier.  The wheat haired female stranger had read the same article and agreed that the show was very good.

As our conversation developed it was revealed that she was not just some random and very kind stranger who I had accosted on the street, but that she was a performer in a show at the Fringe.  She reached into her handbag and presented me with a leaflet which had an image of Alex Salmond and Vladimir Putin looking like pirates as she told me about News Revue and how it was a Guinness World Record holder for the longest running comedy stage show, how it was in its 35th year at the Edinburgh Festival and how it had helped to launch the career of Bill Bailey and many other comedians.

By this point I had become aware that the male half of the duo had been largely uninvolved in the conversation, and although I wasn’t particularly interested in hearing anything he had to say I was wondering if he was harbouring any resentment towards me for commandeering so much of his girlfriend’s time on our walk to Bristo Square.  I thought about the nature of their relationship and whether a drunk Scotsman who makes a modest living working in a supermarket could win the affection of a striking woman from a man who was surely the director of her comedy show, or at the very least a set designer with skilled hands or a scriptwriter with a sharp wit.  What kind of chance would I have?

We reached Bristo Square with some time to spare before the show was scheduled to start.  It was a large and impressive area with all sorts of different things going on.  The couple were going elsewhere and I expressed my gratitude to them for helping me out of my hopeless situation.  I shook the wheat haired English woman’s hand, and recalling that she was also a reader of The Times newspaper I made one last attempt to win her favour.  I had an opening in my schedule on Sunday evening and I vowed that I would go and see her perform in News Revue.  As is typical of a man who is trying to impress a woman I went on to make a promise which by all measurable standards was unreasonable and unlikely to come to pass, but it sounded flattering and the words had fallen from my mouth in a drunken slur before I could contain them.  I promised her that I would Tweet a review of the show and that it would be published in The Times.

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On Monday morning I rushed to buy my copy of The Times and I went straight to the Edinburgh Festival pullout.  I thumbed through the pages to the Twitter reviews and felt a flutter of excitement when I spotted my name at the head of the column.  Something I had promised a woman – something drunken and ridiculous and implausible – had actually come true, and even though I had no way of knowing if she would ever read the twelve words I had written to win her heart I felt satisfied.  Though a small part of me was wishing that the psychic joke had made it instead.

The week I cooked too much pasta (and other instances of household mismanagement)

After around seven months of living in bachelorhood I was finally forced to concede that I have an inability to measure an appropriate portion of pasta for a solo diner with an average appetite.  It was the last Monday in July and I had half of a large sweet potato left over from a chicken, sweet potato and quinoa stew I had enjoyed the previous night and I was searching for something to do with the remaining root vegetable.  It is almost always the case in such situations that I find myself asking can this go in pasta?  And the answer is usually yes.

I found a recipe for a sweet potato and spinach pasta which was written in a fashion which suggested that someone like me could cook it, and it was accompanied by some pretty pictures which made it look like a mouth-watering meal.  I followed the internet’s instructions to the letter and used nature’s measuring instrument – the eye – to calculate how much Penne Rigate I would need to soak up the vegetable stock, thyme and parmesan I used as a sauce.  When the cooking time had elapsed and I carefully drained the boiling water from the pan and used a spoon to transfer rubbery and slippery tubes of pasta onto a waiting porcelain plate, it turned out that one plate would not suffice for the amount I had cooked.  I immediately, and not for the first time, cursed my inability to measure a single portion of pasta and, in the same moment, decided that I would eat both platefuls because they were there, because hot food is better than food at any other temperature and because I couldn’t be sure of the rules of microwaving sweet potato.

Whilst I didn’t regret my gluten-laden gluttony I quickly found myself becoming weary and lethargic, and before even nine o’clock came my eyelids had taken on parachutes and were heading for the ground.  I drank an Earl Grey tea in an attempt to lighten my mind, but it had no effect and I was in bed much earlier than usual.  I fell asleep with a great deal less of the usual tossing and turning in the face of the interrogatory street light which glares through the bedroom curtains.  Most nights it is like trying to sleep in an old-time war movie, but it didn’t trouble me in the fog of my large pasta dinner.  However, by three o’clock in the morning I was wide awake after a particularly disturbing dream.

I could remember it vividly as I lay amongst my tangled 200 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets.  The scene seemed to be a flat warming, though despite many features of the place being familiar to me it seemed much larger than the flat I am currently living in.  There was a group of people of moderate size – somewhere between 5’5″ and 5’10” – and I recognised many of them.  There was music playing and everybody was drinking beer and Jack Daniels with orange juice, which is how I could tell it was definitely my flat.  In the kitchen there was a woman who I knew very fondly.  She was foraging in my fridge and had come across a large cooked ham.  She took it from the shelf and declared that it was hers and that she was leaving with it.  I disputed this and argued that the ham was mine, that I had laboured over cooking it for hours and that it was the centrepiece of my food offering for the flat warming party.  She scoffed and announced that she was taking the ham anyway.  The woman who I knew very fondly left my flat with the ham and it was then that I woke up.  I lay in my bed feeling very dazed and confused, because women hardly ever visit my flat and I never keep ham.

As the week unfolded I had recovered from my troubling ham nightmare and walked straight into a waking nightmare as all of my toiletries began to run low in unison.  I have an unwritten household policy of replenishing my supply of toiletries in small batches some time before they are finished.  There is no conscionable reason for this other than a deep-rooted fear of how a shopping basket filled with Lynx bodyspray, toothpaste, Nivea deep cleaning face wash, 400ml of shower gel, rehydrating moisturiser and a pack of four shea butter toilet rolls would look to a passing stranger.  I was forced to confront my fears – as I also was when the summer skies finally broke and turned the colour of a wet dishcloth which has been sitting on the sink for a fortnight and a score of umbrellas exploded open across the pavements – and I went to the supermarket to restock my toiletries.  I dropped each of the items I needed into my basket and placed a bunch of bananas prominently on top for perception.

In Aulay’s I was seeking refuge from the sodden streets and the downpour of day-to-day life whilst simultaneously hoping that maybe this would be the night where my soul mate would stroll into the lounge bar and become bewitched by my purple pocket square.  Instead I attracted the attention of an Alpine furniture restorer who seemed to have decided that this would be the night that he would seek the therapeutic ear of a stranger in a bar.  He clutched his pint of Guinness in his right hand, and my own cold glass became a crutch.  His eyes darted wildly from side to side, like a moth flailing around a lampshade, and it didn’t take long for the conversation to turn from innocuous pleasantries to a winding tale of woe which visited such traumas as Brexit and the difficulty of renewing a Visa, civil court cases, small court fines and the habit of women running away.

I frequently nodded my head at the appropriate moments and offered the occasional consolation smile to indicate that I was still listening, though any effort on my part to respond with words and enter the conversation was swiftly cut off with the precision of a tattoo gun and he would go off on another tangent.  I looked over his shoulder at intervals and gazed hopefully at the door, wondering if this girl I had never met would walk in.  She never did, and as I was standing at the bar I found myself wondering if I would be better off staying at home playing board games, because this search for a woman was becoming more like a trivial pursuit.

Late on Friday night I received a visit from a plant doctor, and we drank beer and listened to Neil Young and Richard Hell and the plant doctor offered to diagnose my family of houseplants.  He observed happiness in one, a need for growth in another and the likelihood that I was killing my sunflowers with the water of my love.  I felt relieved that most of my plants were thriving and as I went to bed and laid my head on a duck feather pillow, the street light and a hint of breaking daylight yawning against the curtains, I began to consider the possibility that maybe a man who spends his Sunday preparing a chicken, sweet potato and quinoa stew isn’t supposed to have a girlfriend, and is instead more likely to have to repot every now and again.