A hitch-hiker's ballad of the Fringe

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I thought that I would not be referring to the subject of the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe again for another year. I thought I would be able to get back to more congenial topics, such as my ever-growing collection of motorway ballads, those modern examples of folk verse which I collect from hitch-hikers and stray encounters at motorway service areas.

But today I find myself in the happy position of being able to do both, because this week I gave a lift back from Edinburgh to a travelling man who told me a long ballad about a chap who goes to work on the Edinburgh Fringe when he is young and impressionable, and then makes the mistake of going back when he is grown-up. It's sad and touching, I think, but ultimately hopeful. It also has quite an ambitious rhyme scheme for a ballad.

When I was only 22

I went to the Fringe with a revue

From a drama college in Crewe

- I'd never been north before.

We stayed in a flat where fungi grew

And tried to live on tinned Irish stew

While the beetles marched past two by two

As they came across the floor.

Yes, when I was young and little knew

I went to the Fringe in a revue

Which went on stage at midnight 02,

And we all got late to bed.

Our script was good if somewhat blue

Our audience was very few

(Our venue was somewhere near the Zoo)

And we all went home in the red.

I was known as the technical crew

Which mean that everything nasty to do

Was always left to you-know-who,

Whether small or large;

When amps broke down or fuses blew

Or the stage was totally covered in goo

Or someone had to unblock the loo

I was the bloke in charge.

So, when I was only 22,

I slept in a room with a lovely view

Of piles of discarded tiramisu

From the Italian joint next door.

Every time the east wind blew

The smell of pizza came right through

And this was true of the west wind too;

It was very hard to ignore

Yes, when I was only 22

And went to the Fringe in a revue

I met my future wife called Sue

In a pile of student bedding.

And I didn't really know what to do

And then she said, I'm pregnant too

And the doctor said, I'm afraid it's true

So we had an unscheduled wedding.

And now that I'm over 42

We've come back to the Fringe with deja vu

And there's nothing left of the old venue

- It's now a snooker hall.

And we really don't know what to do

For the Fringe is a monster which grew and grew

And everywhere you have to queue

Even if you're going to the loo.

And tourists throng from Kalamazoo

And Venezuela and Peru.

It's not the Fringe that once we knew

So we finally went to the Tattoo -

At least THAT's still quite small!