Street Performers (or why freaks should stay in the circus)

Blog by Felice Howden | 13 Aug 2009
  • Your usual Edinburgh fare

Felice guides us through her Festival


The first thing most people will find out about me is this: I hate most people. The second thing most people will find out about me is that I work in a cafe on the Royal Mile. The combination is a bit like scrambled eggs on pizza – separately, they're not so bad but together spells 'disastro'. By the time I get to the end of each shift, I feel like I will eat my own hand off if I have to even smile at another idiot tourist demanding a full-breakfast at 4 in the afternoon.

This is my first Fringe Festival, and despite the rampant stupidity I have to deal with on a daily basis that is increasing exponentially with the crowds, I am excited. Yesterday, when I caught my first glimpse of that giant up-side-down purple beast that is the hi-lariously named 'udderbelly' and combines two of my favourite things (beer and cows), I nearly went into spasms of joy at the prospect of insanity to come.

Yet such thoughts almost counter-acts the fact that the guy who works next door and used to come in for cappuccinos most mornings will probably be making his coffee at home until September. Locals seem to be wearing this expression of surprise, like someone has just slipped a finger into their arsehole and they're not sure yet whether they enjoy it. But I don't mind, because it's a different kind of annoyance to the usual do-you-want-milk-with-your-tea sort of junk, and with the festival just underway, it's easy to imagine that maybe it will just stay like this – one frustrating walk behind seventy slow tourists when you're running late.

So I left work this afternoon in a haze of Fringe-induced joy. I had the afternoon off. Plus, the sun was shining. There was one of those freaks hanging about on the Royal Mile. Not a genuine freak, more like a guy who has some circus-esque skills and decides to wear a crazy outfit to make himself more outrageous than he really is. He was doing contact juggling and swallowing swords, and I realised that I knew him from Melbourne and I'd seen him do the same thing with hallogen lights once and it was incredible. His show on the Mile was average. Yeah, it was cool to see someone juggle fire with a sword in their mouth, and yeah I'm sure it's pretty dangerous. But the whole finale was over so quickly it was like having a shot of cold beer or eating a single crisp. Despite my vague disappointment, and driven by some stupid loyalty to people that I know, I yelled and clapped like a fiend and even went up to at the end to give him some money and make sure it was the same guy.

Me: (dropping a POUND COIN into his predictable bowler hat) Hey, didn't I see you swallow hallogen lights one time last year in Brunswick?

Him: They were neons and yeah you probably did.

I must stress that the chances of me being at the circus in Brunswick where I saw him perform and then here in Edinburgh at that moment are insanely small. It was a tiny gig in Melbourne, only friends-of-friends, held in some crack-den warehouse and I can't really remember why I was invited. But the co-incidence didn't even impress this guy enough to look me in the eye. I pressed on, the good will of the Fringe Festival guiding me toward what I hoped would be a lasting friendship with this douchebag.

Me: Do you do the festival every year?

Him: No, this is my first time.


Blown off by some two-bit sideshow, I went home to think of all the things I could have bought at Lidl with my wasted pound coin. Turns out, freaks can be arsehole fingerers, too. I have been assured that both the quality of acts and the personal relations get worse as August unfolds.