Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Edinburgh Day 4: Walking Tour, Censorship, Beatboxing and Ghosts

(I am writing this in The Elephant House! You know, the JK Rowling cafe! And feeling slightly self-conscious, writing... Out the window you can see the castle on its cliffs and a graveyard and an old school. Hmmm...)

I never really understand what happens to the morning. I wander around, and then suddenly it's time to go to something and it's nearly the afternoon. Yesterday I went to look at the Half Price Hut, where you get Fringe tickets for half-price, got myself a thick magazine book with 375 pages that lists all the Fringe shows (there are that many), and went up to the Royal Mile for a walking tour at 11am.

The walking tour was pretty good, going around a few closes on the Mile and explaining such things as punishment for small crimes in the middle ages (nailing your ear to a post), gardyloo (watch out, there's nasty stuff a-coming out the window) and the national animal of Scotland (a unicorn. No one mentioned you were allowed mythical creatures!). Some of these stories I'd heard before, but it was much more real when you could look up at the windows and stare at the ear-post and think that's where they did that.

We also walked through Greyfriar's Graveyard with the memorial to Greyfriar's Bobby (little dog who never left his master's side) and heard about the names on gravestones that appear in Harry Potter. I went back later and found McGonnagal, Black and Thomas Riddell, but couldn't find Crookshanks.

At 3pm I had a talk about censorship at the Book Festival. It was incredibly interesting, with Chika Unigwe as the chair and Patrick Ness as the keynote speaker talking about how, today in a Western society, we more often self-censor than are externally censored. He put this down to fear of consequences and offending people, but also talked about freedom of speech and the courage to say something that might offend someone, but that needs to be said.

Then the floor was opened up to discussion from the audience, at least half of whom were authors at the Edinburgh Writer's Conference. People kept standing up and introducing themselves as China Miéville or Melvin Burgess (well, only those two did. No impersonators) and saying what they thought. It was a bit disjointed at times, with so many people wanting to air their views and not really reply to the previous question, but I think the general idea that came out of it was that people have the right not to be punished for saying stuff, but that everyone should always be arguing about what you should say. Another interesting point was that the backlash against political-correctness is often a way for prejudice and 'repugnant' views to sneak back in.

I hadn't realised that the event would last two hours, so by the time it was finished I had fifteen minutes to get right across town. Google told me it would take twenty-four minutes. I ran all the way, round the bottom of the castle cliffs and up along to my first Fringe show: the Vocal Orchestra.

I was a bit late, but they let me in anyway. The Vocal Orchestra are beatboxers and singers - beatboxing is where you make noises into a microphone that sound like music or drums (for those who've never come across it). If it's really good, it can sound almost exactly the same as the original music, but it's all done with voice.

The Vocal Orchestra are really good.

Among other things, they did Teardrop by Massive Attack, got stuck in a time machine and came out in 1723 (Vivaldi), had duels both musical and physical, and used the audience as an instrument (we had to sing notes according to our section). It was great.

I stopped back at the hostel to drop my bag off, and went to meet the ghost tour on the Royal Mile. We heard about the curse of the North Bridge, went up to Calton Hill where witches meet in front of the unfinished Parthenon, wandered through a graveyard with a very scary headstone (weathered to look like someone screaming) and took lots of photos to examine for supernatural apparitions. I got lots of 'orbs', but that was most likely dust caught by the flash. It's amazing how wandering around a graveyard in the dark can make you jump at everything.


1 comment:

  1. oh WOW :-o sounds fantastic :-)
    Aunt-who-lives-on-the-North-Shore is thoroughly enjoying letters passed on to her and recommends you seek a career in travel writing :-)


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