Edinburgh Festival Day 1: A day out with Arthur Smith

MORNING Personally I have only ever seen morning in Edinburgh when it has turned up unexpectedly during the night. Therefore I recommend you consult the Fringe Brochure, find a dull production, perhaps something in a foreign language by students, and sleep soundly throughout it. Over an invigorating coffee in Princes Street Gardens, take a red pen and carefully print the word PRESS on your bus pass. You are now in a position to avoid the horrendous expense of being at the Festival.

AFTERNOON Be careful not to have drunk too much as you are not looking to peak for another 12 hours. You might relax watching the galaxy of buskers who work the space by the National Gallery. From here it is a short walk uphill to the Royal Mile, where you will find the Fringe Box Office. It will become apparent that your tarted- up bus pass is useless, so buy some tickets for two evening shows. You will now, by a process of osmosis, know of several shows you definitely want to see. Book tickets for two of them. One for a famous comedian and the other for the show so warmly praised by the Dutch tourist you met watching the fish juggler.

Look in at an art exhibition. Perhaps the Edinburgh School of Art. Whichever you choose, remember that organisation on the Fringe can be haphazard and it is often simple to steal a piece or two. Sod (starting at 6.50pm), written by myself with Nigel Cole, is my pick of the Festival. I don't suggest you go, I merely want to be able to put on my poster ' 'My Pick of the Festival' - The Independent'.

You may at this point be hungry and wish to go for something to eat. Don't bother. Nearly all the restaurants in Edinburgh are terrible. You don't go to Edinburgh to eat, like you don't go to Paris to buy marmalade. Most venues contain a forlorn person in a T-shirt, who will sell you a cheese roll.

EVENING Having failed to get to one of the performances you have booked, you find yourself with an hour-and-a-half to kill. Shut your eyes and use a pin to select a convenient show to see. Using the same technique I have found Metamorphosis, Kafka's beetle tale, performed by Accented Images. Perhaps it is appropriate to try and get off with one of the cast members afterwards. Make a rendezvous with them at 1am. One of you will fail to turn up, but it was fun while it lasted.

You have had your first couple of drinks, you have walked seven miles, you have seen a lot of stuff, you feel exhausted, but don't worry - you will get your second wind, because now it is time for:

THE NIGHT The best place to be is in and around the Gilded Balloon. There are some good pubs, the odd club and Late and Live in the main theatre. Here you will find yourself in conversation with Tracey McLeod, Roger McGough and some bloke from Preston with a tattoo. There are comedians, a band and arty oblivion. Somewhere unexpectedly in the middle of the night, morning turns up. Consult your Fringe brochure, find a dull production - perhaps something in a foreign language by students . . .

Arthur Smith's new show 'Sod' is at the Pleasance (venue 33), to 4 Sept. 031-556 6550.

(Photograph omitted)

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