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Edinburgh Fringe Pt 2

18 Sep

Here we are, part 2 of our Edinburgh journey! (If you haven’t seen part 1, click here.)

Saturday started off with Tony Law and his aptly namely Nonsense Overdrive show. How can you not love a man who enters the room with light up rings and a head torch strapped to his top hat? A great show, with lots of surreal stories and a trip into outer space.

After that we headed over to Pleasance Courtyard for I Need A Doctor, which was hilarious! The premise was that the writers (who were also the actors, the whole 2 of them) had trouble with the copyright and as a result, had to change certain phrases and lyrics in their musical, which lead to non-rhyming songs and bizarre nemeses. A very funny hour it was, you know when your cheeks hurt from laughing that you’re in the right place.

Half an hour after the Whosical musical and about half an hour’s walk away, was Stella Graham; a fine comic who told us the troubles of working at summer camps in America (parents will sue you), a story involving curley chips and the c word, and who used to have a mullet (she provided us with photographic evidence).

The evening’s show was 4.48 Psychosis. Now I don’t know if you know about 4.48 Psychosis (is it still part of GCSE drama?) but it’s a piece of writing by Sarah Kane in 24 sections with no stage directions, characters or settings. Seen by some as the writer’s suicide note, it’s been the subject of much debate and interpretation when performed. The production we saw – DEM Productions – intermixed normal everyday conversation, settings and characters with Kane’s abstract prose. It worked well but there wasn’t really any closure (though I didn’t think there would be) as it just ended.

Sunday was a later start to the day, watching an impressive piece of physical comedy in The Sword & I. The tale of an invisible sword that has terrible and magical properties were interspersed with accents clouds, punctuation and pretending to be a small South American mammal.

The evening began with Caroline Rhea (Aunt Hilda!) who was on top form and possibly the best event at the Fringe. Matchmaker extraordinaire and lover of star signs, she was hysterically funny and I was genuinely gutted when the hour was up.

Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer finished off our day with a superb set of covers and originals, including his Six Ages of Love. There was dancing, naps and fabulous banjolele solos.

The next morning was spent wondering round the city, stopping off at our favourite new café the Elephant House before heading over to the Assembly Rooms for Avenue Q featuring a Scottish Trekkie Monster. Harry Styles* made for a wonderful Nicky and the show was fun as it usually is.

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image by Daisy

The rest of the day was spent exploring the castle and taking pretentious pictures which is what happens when you run out of colour film and have to revert to black and white.

All in all it was a brilliant week and I would definitely go back!

*No, not really. It was off putting how much he looked like him though.

About the writer: Daisy is an irregular photographer, wannabe writer and full time female. In between tea and toast breaks she spends far too much time on the internet blogging, tumbling and tweeting. She is unapologetic in her love of the Spice Girls.

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Edinburgh Fringe Pt I

13 Sep

The idea to go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival came about at the beginning of the year and was jumped on with enthusiasm and delight by Sarah and me. There was endless flicking through the gigantic programme that was sent out and scrolling through their website for shows and events to see. I do love planning things!

Luckily, having a similar taste in humour, it wasn’t hard to find things we both found interesting. Tickets were ordered for cabaret acts, music and even a few theatre pieces. Most of the shows last for an hour and there are also plenty of free things available to see, from the obvious street performers to an excellent murder mystery and a very interesting one-woman play about Bette Davis.

We arrived on a Tuesday and after booking into our B&B, headed straight back out for our first performance. The Creative Martyrs’ After The Apocalypse was delightful and I fully recommended going to see something the day you arrive if you can. The basis of the show is that the inevitable apocalypse arrives halfway through one of the duo’s performances and survivors make their way over to the musical hall; hilarity ensues.

It was an hour of songs, comedy and political campaigns that I would have happily paid for (the show was free) and would leap at the chance of seeing again.

The next day was an early one; our first show was at 10 on the top deck of a bus at the Free Sisters. Miss Clara Bell was a funny, piano playing girl who stored chocolate down her top. Interesting observations about moustaches were made and correct Twitter etiquette was discussed – do we ‘tweet’ or ‘twot’?

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image by Daisy

After the squishy chocolate we headed over to Biddy Mulligans Bar for For The Love of Folk aka an Irish chap called Raymond playing his guitar in a tiny, tiny pub. The songs were accompanied by short intros or stories about them; recurring themes were drinking, love, prison and fighting. Funny, charming and educational, it was a wonderful way to spend 90 minutes. (Props to the guys in the corner for singing along.)

In the evening we had a troupe of Aussies called Instant Order doing a Harry Potter themed trial by audience. Someone had been murdered and audience members got to decide the witnesses’ houses, patronus and favourite spells. I mean come on, how many duck patronuses have you heard of? Another hour that went by far too quickly, with laughs coming thick and fast.

Next up was EastEnd Cabaret who were filthy and oh so hilarious! Manbeasts, gin and creepy photoshopped images of Meatloaf filled the hour and it felt like it was over in a flash. I wasn’t so fond of the Rohypnol song though; it just all more creepy than funny.

Day number 3 started off with Bette Davis Ain’t For Sisses, an interesting look at the actress on the night before the 1939 Oscars. I can’t help but feel that it would have been more enjoyable if I knew more about Bette Davis. Nonetheless, I liked the show very much and was another free one I would have paid for.

The evening show was The Bloody Ballad, which was amazing! A rock n’ roll fuelled musical about murder, manslaughter and true love. It starts with a girl called Mary recounting her story along with her band, The Missin’ Fingers of how she met a boy and the chaos that ensued. It was a hell of a lot of fun!

The next morning we were up bright and early for The Hawke Papers at The Blind Poet. Now this was good: an interactive murder mystery set in the 19th century, someone has died (obviously) and another is incorrectly identified as the murderer. The audience’s role as detective is to question and frisk (!) other witnesses and gather evidence.

Immediately after was Blues and Burlesque and, lucky for us, it was at the same venue! It was OK. There two girls, one stripped while the other sang amusing songs including a jazz cover of Boom Boom Boom by The Outhere Brothers.

Our show for the evening was Emilie Autumn, which was a bit disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, I love Emilie Autumn but she didn’t play many songs and the crowd didn’t seem very lively. There was an amusing re-enactment of some fan fiction (the things people write…) and it was visually stunning but it never really came to anything.

In between shows we wondered around the city, watching street performers, finding fantastic places to eat and traipsing around the museum. Edinburgh is such a fantastic city and there was no end of things to do. True story: we unintentionally raced Stephen Moffat up some steps and won!

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image by Daisy

Next week, part two of our Edinburgh Adventure featuring Avenue Q, Aunt Hilda and a castle!

About the writer: Daisy is an irregular photographer, wannabe writer and full time female. In between tea and toast breaks she spends far too much time on the internet blogging, tumbling and tweeting. She is unapologetic in her love of the Spice Girls.

Spišský Hrad

31 Jul

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Just around the corner from my home city, there is one of the biggest castles in Central Europe. We came here often on family trips. I was always pretending to be a princess. Slowly and gracefully, I would descend the spiral staircase as if from my room in the tower, wearing a lovely dress. I saw myself entering a huge dining room where the feast had been holding a place. Fires, candles, the dogs lying in front of the fireplaces, jumping up as soon as I entered, happy to see me. The musicians playing, people dancing. I could have been a knight as well, but I chose to be a princess.

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The castle has been lying in ruins since the fire in the late 18th Century but it is still lovely to walk up there, have a look around, contemplate what the life must have been like during its famous period.

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After the visit to the castle you can walk to the Chapter of Spiš (Spišská Kapitula) to breath in the atmosphere of ecclesiastic town.

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St Martin’s Cathedral

If you would like to try Slovakian specialities in a lovely rustic place, definitely try the restaurant Spišský salaš.

PS: Read ‘š’ as ‘sh’ and ‘á’, ‘ý’ prolonged.

About the Writer: Zdena comes from Slovakia but has made Wales her second home, that is when she is not travelling, which she can’t live without. Two important things in her life are books and Scrabble and she also loves world cinema.

THE Meet Up

8 May

On the 20th April 2013, Yellow Bunting (that’s us!) held their first writers get together in the historic town of Bath.

The morning of the 20th consisted of rushing around to get ready (and in my case applying masses of make-up) and getting to the train station. At the Reading end of the trip we had to deal with the newly constructed Reading station which Daisy and I had never been in before!

We reached the station and the platform with plenty of time to spare and were soon on our way. Daisy treated me to A Cup Of Brown Joy the song she thought we should celebrate reaching 100 likes on Facebook as we sped through the sunny countryside, out of Reading towards Bath.

After a rather uneventful train journey, where I admitted to worrying about getting along with anyone apart from Daisy, we reached Bath and were the first to do so. I think we had about half an hour to wait before we were joined by Becky and Melody, who had come in on the train from Cardiff.

After initial introductions and conformation that we had about an hour to wait for Zdena to arrive, we decided that we should do something while we waited. After consulting a handy tourist map outside the station, we headed away from the station for a riverside walk.  While we wandered and talked along the riverside path for a bit, I got to know Melody a bit better, at the same time as taking on the role of the annoying photographer.

It was nice to be able to keep up the conversation after my initial worries that I wouldn’t be able to and as the day wore on I was certainly felt at home with my new friends. During our walk we passed a cannel boat full of pirates (they appeared to just be people in costume… or were they? Hmm…) and scrambled up the steep bank to the park benched on the grass verge by the road. We must have sat there for at least thirty minutes, chatting and snacking on vegetarian Percy Pig sweets, curtsey of Becky.

I can’t quite remember what we talked about, Vegetarian Percy Pigs certainly came into the conversation, school, partners, work, and I think bras were mentioned. It was certainly a mired of topics of conversation! I must say it was probably about the first proper day of sunshine we had had since the pitiful summer last year and even though the breeze was a little chilly, it was lovely to be outside and in the sunshine without needing to be wrapped up in layers and layers of warm clothes.

Keeping an eye on the time to make sure we were back at the station to meet Zdena, we strolled back just before half past 12 and started discussing where we all fancied going to  lunch more keenly. The hot favourite was Nandos, so when Zdena arrived and we all agreed, we wandered along to the Nando’s  and eventually got to eat.

Over lunch we ate, chatted and were presented with some smashing Yellow Bunting Business cards- which was insanely awesome. It was nice just to kick back and natter over food.

After lunch we went for a walk up through Bath’s high street, heading towards the Royal Crescent. At one point, by the first of many buskers we saw, I stopped to take a picture of a polite pavement. What? It had “Thank You” engraved into it.

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Polite pavement.

We kept walking and conversing, wandering through the streets of Bath towards the Royal Crescent, stopping briefly in a magnificent circle of Georgian houses known as the Circus. A short walk and a few distractions later- we checked the prices of housing in Bath and pretended that we had money to burn, and ducked into a lovely little boutique shop which sold a treasure trove of goodies- we arrived at the crowded  Royal Crescent and sat down on the (slightly) damp grass.

Time just seemed to fly by that afternoon. I suppose that is what good company and good weather can do for you.

All too soon it was time for our last port of call was the delightful Tea House Emporium. Gosh it was awesome! The street level floor was a small teashop where you could buy almost anything related to tea, such as a regular breakfast tea, Ceylon tea and pomegranate tea. Downstairs in the cellar was the tearoom. It was eerily brilliant down there: all the artificial lighting added to the atmosphere with some very pretty Arabic style lamps on the walls and ceiling.

It was grand because people came over and asked you what kind of tea you wanted and it was brought to you in proper teapots, with a timer to let the tea brew thoroughly for three minutes.  It was quite something and I would love to go back!

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After tea, it was unfortunately time to part company with Becky, Melody and Zdena heading back to Cardiff while Daisy and I headed in the opposite direction back home to Reading. We didn’t stop chatting until we parted ways at the station.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I had a brilliant day, and made some new friends. I found out that there are many like-minded people out there- it certainly helped that we all write for the same magazine.

I think this successful meeting day will be the first of many. Three cheers for Yellow Bunting!

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About the Writer: Stef is a 22 year old graduate who has a lifelong obsession with books and reading who also loves music and live theatre. You’re most likely to find her in a book shop or out in London standing at a theatre stage door. She can be found on twitter and running The World of Blyton.

Wild Goats

13 Apr

Not everybody dares to go for a winter hike, even smaller number of people enjoy hiking in the mountains after dark. I don’t belong to them but because some of my friends do, now I’m on my way to a chalet, 1.475 metres above the sea level. It’s November, the sunset was at about 5 o’clock – just when we were having sauerkraut soup down in the village. Now I’m fighting my fear of encountering a bear. We all have food in our backpacks and bears are, as we know it, always hungry. I don’t trust that they are hibernating somewhere in a den, this is their habitat and I feel like an intruder. And above all, we are lost. I’m panicking and hope the people who can actually read maps will find a path now. Now. Now? Now!!!

Got it! Back to the waterfall, up its left bank, there is our path. The sign says 30 minutes to the chalet where we are to spend the night. With the power of adrenalin we make it in 15. I’m hopping on the slippery rocks like a native. Well, we should have been there 2 hours ago. Smoke, dog’s barking, light in the window, our friends – those who can have fun hiking in the daylight – on the porch waving and jumping. ‘Hello, hello, let’s go in, there is a fire.’

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After the night in a cosy, although slightly overheated room, we are ready for our next ascent. Inversion induced weather brings sunshine, sunshine, and more sunshine, we were expecting it but, of course, nobody thought of sun protection. Chamois love it too – my first sight of chamois ever, I’m so excited I could fly. I love every minute of this trip. Chamois, weather, friends, the fact that the mountains today belong to us, us only.

Speaking too soon, we are being overtaken by some people with hockey sticks. How weird. To our surprise, they brought them to actually play ice hockey, 2012 metres above sea level. How cool!

Yet another dinner of sauerkraut soup and then we head back long before the night falls. I’m not willing to try my luck in the dark again. Bears, the night is yours.

There have always been thousands of reasons why I couldn’t write. Among the biggest obstacles I would count what about and I’m not good enough. Oh well. I fuelled my passivity with negativism, hatred, self-destruction, prioritising basically everything and anything to justify why I couldn’t write. And then came more self-loathing until I decided to change my tactics and I threw myself into experience; good, bad, weird, funny; didn’t matter, I knew I was doing it for my future characters – for the times when I would be able to put a pen to the paper and leave it there long enough to produce a piece. The plan worked, the first baby was born and here we are, today I’m exploding, I’m happy while creating my little babies and nothing else matters. And when my piece finds a reader, I am flattered. It feels warm.

About the writer: Zdena comes from Slovakia but has made Wales her second home, that is when she is not travelling, which she can’t live without. Two important things in her life are books and Scrabble and she also loves world cinema.

A Fairy With Green Wings

16 Mar

I think that to live a life as people knew before Industrial Revolution is pretty much impossible now. We are so used to convenience of modernity that it would be really hard to go back to wells, horse carts and corrugated washboards. But I also think that rather sooner than later, we should all start living as closely as possible to simplicity if we want the future to be at all . We are slowly getting there, first with recycling, then shopping bags (hallelujah!!!), and now a scare of horsemeat. These and other small things mean that there is a chance for the future generations to walk with bare feet on green grass and not to live in tall buildings hidden in grey smog as sci-fi films portray. Maybe I shouldn’t care; I would be dead for decades before that happens, but I do. I love this planet and my bit helps to shift the future in a direction I want it to.

My biggest experiment in this sense was a year living in a campervan, travelling around Australia. What a trip! My dreams come true, how lucky I am! To be able to afford it, my partner and me were saving like mad. It meant that the heating wasn’t on until my finger nails turned blue even with all warm clothes and the blanket on, not buying take-away and chocolate (or only occasionally) and so on, because we didn’t have any prospect of working there and we wanted to see so much. We continued living cheaply there. This inevitably led to sustainability –  proving that it is possible!

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In the space of a year, I bought only three brand new pieces of clothing, in the sale of course. The rest of my acquired clothes came either from charity shops or as a present. It was the same with books, I bought six second hand books but I managed to read twenty-seven, thanks to brilliant book-exchange system around the country. I guess a lot of travellers want to read. I found pearls on the shelves such as Amy Tan, Arthur Miller, Alice Munro or Margaret Atwood!

We were saving the electricity too, because we didn’t have any. As soon as the dark hit, we may have watched a film and then go straight to bed. We were able to sleep for ten hours, from nine to seven, just because it was dark. We used torches and candles, charging the laptop when possible – at libraries or campsites.

Food-wise, we only bought what we could eat; no way we would throw the food out! We had a cool box but saving on ice, we would freeze two-litre bottles at the campsites and have cheese only as long as the ice lasted. Cooking was simple and fast. We would utilise the heat of the food itself, which meant that some time before it was actually cooked, we would turn our portable stove off (gas bottles; what a precious commodity) and whatever was cooking, would cook. Otherwise we ate salads, light and filling meals in such heat. I found out that I can pretty much live without chocolate, ice cream and pizza.

The hardest part for me was limited water. We loved being in the Outback, far away from civilization, which meant bringing our own supplies. We would have fifty litres of water, which would last us up to five days. It is very little, if you consider that in a five-minute shower you can use more than thirty-five litres of water. I am always thirsty and we like our cups of tea. Water was therefore used only for cooking and washing up. It did disappear fast though and we still didn’t have a shower! I learnt that I can last four days without one before I start hating myself. A big thanks to a person who invented wet wipes but nothing beats running water down my spine.

Now we are back, again enjoying a privilege of constant water, electricity and gas. It does make one lazy – there is no need to think about it. I already started cooking and washing dishes in my pre-trip way and now I’m making a conscious effort not to. The immediate availability at the tap/switch/hob is a luxury we don’t consider. There is a great possibility that it won’t be for long, though. Before that happens, try to follow simple rules, save the future and meanwhile save yourself a bit of money to be able to afford a year-long holiday. I know that temptation of comfort can be stronger that the will to live sustainably, we are only humans, after all, but we can have a lot of fun exploring our own boundaries. I trust myself that I am stronger than I actually think I am.

About the writer: Zdena comes from Slovakia but has made Wales her second home, that is when she is not travelling, which she can’t live without. Two important things in her life are books and Scrabble and she also loves world cinema.