I HAVE spent the entire week bumping into national monuments.
I refer, firstly, to Sandi Toksvig, 55, the diminutive Dane who combines the cuddliness of a koala bear with the tartness of balsamic vinegar.
When she was sent to an English boarding school, she recalled, she was greeted by a woman who said: "I'm matron." Was this, young Toksvig enquired, her first name or her surname? Things went downhill from there. She doesn't tweet, she said. If she wants to tell anybody anything she sticks a Post-it note on the fridge door. Nor is she celebrity-savvy. For example, she can read a whole issue of issue of Hello! without recognising anyone in it, a quality I share. Once she appeared in its pages, photographed beside a bloke who looked like Alan Bennett. It was David Hockney. That amused her.
What didn't was the tube on a train who took her picture with a phone and shared it with hoi polloi. Among those who picked it up was her sister, who texted her to ask if she was enjoying her cheese sandwich.
YOU will be wanting to know how my gig with those self-styled "old gits", Tony Benn, 88, and Richard Holloway, 79, went. In a word, swimmingly.
Mr Benn arrived hot foot from the Yorkshire moors. Like most of the male population (pace Jeremy Poxman), he has grown a beard, possibly to allow him to move through the mean streets incognito. Mr Holloway beamed himself down from Morningside. His beard comes and goes. For this occasion it had gone. Mr Benn, who I've often wished was called Bill, as in the Flowerpot Men, asked in the Assembly Room's green room if he could smoke his pipe. Mr Holloway, who loves to cause a fuss, begged him to do so, which he did. I was rather disturbed to learn that Mr Benn had neglected to bring his hearing aid, which meant I had to bellow into his ear. If only I'd brought my trumpet!
Over the course of an hour we three sorted out most of the world's ills, Mr B concentrating on the political, Mr H the spiritual, and me the trivial. I had wanted to ask Mr Benn if it was true he'd once given a copy of the Communist Manifesto to one of his children as a Christmas present, but clean forgot. Thereafter we returned to the green room, where we thought we'd chill out for an hour, but it was invaded by a Russian circus troupe. A quintessential Fringe conjugation.
THE vultures gathered at the Book Festival in the hope that my dear and revered friend Alasdair Gray, 78, would say something that could be twisted into a headline that would set the philistines at the Daily Drivel slavering.
Mr Gray, you may recall, received pelters for describing incomers to Scotia as either "settlers or colonists".
But did he? What he was actually trying to address was the vexed question of arts administration that bedevils us yet, especially at the likes of Creative Teuchter, where the last heidbummer/ banger was happy to parade his ignorance of the culture of which he had charge. Inevitably, Mr Gray was asked what he thought about the daft decision by Shir Jonathan Mills, director of the Edinburgh International Festival, to pretend that next year's referendum isn't happening. Mr Gray did his best to answer but soon had to give up, asking exasperatedly: "Who is Jonathan Wills?"
Despite spending hours on end in the Royal Kilometre I am still to spot the man who is dressed as a penis trying to get his mitts on a woman dressed as a vagina.
Where, I would like to know, did they get the idea? I recall my great amigo, Alastair Reid, 87, poet extraordinaire, describing in one of his essays a football match in a central American state where the half-time entertainment involved something very similar. Then, neither man nor woman could see where they were going and had to be directed by the chants of the crowd. How very avant garde!
My dear chum Jim Haynes, 79, is floating about, having flown in from Paree. He tells me that he has donated his body to French medical research. Few bodies, I remark, have been as well used as his. He does not disagree, observing that some of its parts have been more used than others. It does seem to me, however, that if Mr Haynes's body is to be donated to anyone it ought to be to the Fringe Society, for who better than he embodies - ha! - its spirit?
I can see it now, cased in glass in the foyer of the Traverse, which Mr Haynes helped found, though not, one trusts, for many a long year.
The other day I was making my way to a Portaloo in Charlotte Square when a woman of a certain age asked, rather sweetly: "Would you like me to undo your buttons for you?"
Dear reader, I did not know where to look. As you might expect, I replied: "No thanks, I think I can manage." But no sooner had the words escaped than I realised that the woman had not been addressing me but her five-year-old grandson. What - in more ways than one - a relief!
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