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The Festival and me

So we've just learned that the car is off the road until August.

This has slightly gubbed our holiday plans. As we still haven't sorted out a passport for daughter number one [1], the idea had been another driving holiday. A border journey, starting in Carlisle (because there must be something to do in Carlisle, right? ) and then jumping back and forth across the border all the way over to Newcastle.

It was planned as a holiday for everyone. J could indulge her mild obsession with the Ancient Romans with a visit to Hadrian's Wall [2], I wanted to check out the public art around Kielder Water and the kids could go to the Metro Centre. Crashing the car has scuppered all that.

So what, I ask as we all sat around the dinner table the other night, will we do instead? "We could go and see some shows at the Edinburgh Festival?" daughter number one says.

This is unexpected. Getting her out of the house normally can be a bit like trying to find a TV channel not showing sport this summer [3]. We have persevered, though, and dragged her to the odd Festival show over the years. Mostly they've involved Koreans. Koreans kicking balls. Koreans playing drums. Koreans waving bits of ribbon around their heads while they do triple saltos and tucks and needles. In short, Koreans being active. It's probably just coincidental that posters of Korean boybands have, until recently, adorned her walls.

When I first came to Scotland in the 1980s it never occurred to me to go the Festival. It didn't seem very cool back then. ("Cool" was a word that mattered to me more than I care to recall). In my head the Fringe was just a bunch of Oxbridge students at play and why would I want to see that? I was redbrick and proud of it.

I felt the same about Glastonbury back then. It was just for raggedy-arsed ageing hippy mud-huggers. I haven't wavered on that, but I am prepared to concede that there's maybe more to the festival than a few Tarquins and Jemimas on holiday.

And you know what proved it to me? Modern dance. Honestly. My favourite times at the Fringe have been spent in Dance Base watching dancers contort themselves into shapes out of a Picasso painting. I get the same horrifying exhilaration from it as from watching uber-violent martial arts flick The Raid 2 (out on DVD soon). That's what the Fringe taught me. That modern dance is essentially live-action martial arts. But without the claw hammers.

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