Mind my bass while I park the van

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I HAVE been up in Edinburgh on the Fringe for a week, and someone said to me the other day: 'A friend of mine here at the Fringe dreads audience participation when he goes to a show. You see, he has an artificial leg and has to sit in the front row to get enough leg-room, but that's where the comedians pick their victims from, so he gets more than his fair share.'

Apart from being a poignant and poetic statement, it is one that you are unlikely to hear anywhere else but Edinburgh, and this has solved a problem for me. I have been wondering how to try to convey the atmosphere of this strange and wonderful festival and I now see that the best way to do it is simply to transmit to you some of the things I have overheard in the last week or so. So here goes.

Man in street, thrusting leaflet at me: 'How would you like to see the first staging of any Martin Amis novel?'

Edinburgh tour guide: 'The average thickness of some Edinburgh walls is more than three feet. The outer foot of that is, usually, composed of compacted Fringe posters.'

Man in street, handing out leaflets: 'Sex and Violence] Sex and Violence] . . . God, isn't anyone interested in sex any more?'

Two friends from Bradford- on-Avon: 'We went to see a Spanish puppet group today, doing Don Quixote in Spanish. Unfortunately, we don't understand Spanish and neither of us knew the story of Don Quixote. But we're sure it was very good.'

Edinburgh tour guide: 'I've brought you here because this is where most of the public beheadings took place, and they were a public entertainment in their day - the Fringe of their time, if you like.'

Japanese tourist, standing in Royal Mile: 'Excuse me, please, you tell me where is Royal Mile?'

Musician, getting double bass out of vehicle: 'Mate, could you just look after this bass while I park the van? Ta.'

Lady in coffee bar: 'There's a French mime group at the Pleasance called Les Macloma, who do things with a piano I have never seen done before.'

Woman, when I answer the telephone at my digs: 'Is Hugh there? Oh. I just wanted to ask him if he could recommend a good basic book on Celtic jewellery . . . I don't suppose you can point me towards one, can you?'

Man in shop, with leaflet: 'Hi - do you want to go out and boogie till 4am? Come to our Fringe club - it's got mellow jazz downstairs and a real feel- the-bass sound upstairs]'

Well-known musician/singer in Cafe Royal bar at about 8pm: 'I finished my show at lunch- time and was so relieved that I have been celebrating ever since. I am now well in my cups.'

Woman with child: 'Some of the children's shows we've been to are a talentless rip-off. I think I'll form a children's theatre group next year and come back with it.'

Overheard in bar: 'I saw him last night at the Gilded Balloon. He wasn't very good. I think I'll go and see him again tonight.'

Man in bar: 'I promised this fabulous Australian girl I met that I would go and see the show she's in. And I did, and it turned out to be a Buddhist adaptation of Peer Gynt, which serves me right, I think.'

Fringe performer: 'We had to turn people away from the show tonight] Unfortunately, it was only because they'd come with tickets for the wrong night.'

Man coming out of the polemical medical show, Struck Off And Die: 'I am now fully determined to cancel my subscription to Bupa.'

Girl in bar: 'Actually, I'm up here doing the light and sound for a jazz revue, but normally I'm a psychiatric nurse at a Northampton hospital.'

Poster for the Edinburgh Highland Games: 'See kilted heavies clash in Scotland's traditional events] Tossing the caber, throwing heavy weights for height . . .'

Woman in bar: 'Our landlord asked us if everything was all right. I didn't like to say that it was a grotty flat and that we were being grossly overcharged, so I contented myself with saying that I couldn't find the teapot. He asked if we were from down south, and I said yes, and he said, well, that would explain it - they didn't have teapots in Scotland, they were quite happy with teabags.'

Sign outside church in London Road: 'We are Open] You are Welcome to Come Inside and Rest, Or Pray.'

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