I never said I was going to write a fringe blog every day. Where did I say that? I always knew there would be days that I wouldn’t get to write it and I always knew the reason why… my fucking kidneys.
Last year I went into A&E with severe kidney pain whilst up here, meaning I had to cancel aPeacock & Gamble show and reschedule every cup of coffee I was planning to have for the entire fringe as they do not agree with kidney stones on any level. This year I promised myself I would keep a better eye on it, as – brilliant as they were – I did not wish to revisit the Royal Infirmary this year. Didn’t care what happened this fringe, as long as I didn’t have that pain to contend with again.
I am delighted to inform you I managed nine days, this morning whilst having my morning coffee I got a twinge and an hour later I was in tears and agony whilst hastily trying to find co-codamol and necking water. I spent the day in bed, and have felt slightly shellshocked since.
Problem with kidney stones is, after the initial attack, your body goes into shock. It’s like a proper trauma thing where your body is trying to regroup itself after the pain, it’s really rather disorientating and makes you pretty maudlin and slow and – well – just not quite up to anything. Including writing a blog.
So, bit of a cheat but I’d kept this in reserve, before the fringe I was asked by The Guardianto contribute to an “Edinburgh Nightmares” article. Asked to put pen to paper, in my own time, to write about a time at the Fringe that had been, erm, a nightmare. I wrote it, and only realised when I had finished that they had stipulated a word count of 400 words. What I had written was more than that, but I thought “fuck it, it’s the online Guardian thing, so it’s not as if it needs to fit on a printed page or anything”. Well apparently word counts are very, very important, even on the internet, and this – coupled with the fact that Ed had mentioned in his one something about our show last year – they felt they could not include mine. I’m sure they were very grateful that I still spent the time doing it gratis for them, and anticipate that one day these thanks shall be passed over to me. They are probably very busy, just like I fucking was when I stayed up writing it for them. But anyway.
So rather than write a proper blog whilst convalescing slightly, I’m just going to cut and paste the thing I wrote for them and that can be today’s entry. It is annoyingly relevant as I’ve had a similar day to it today but didn’t know this when I was writing it (didn’t cancel the show though – brave boy. In fact I also did Rob Deering’s brilliant Beat This show with Ed which I will write about another day, so there should definitely be presents for courage forthcoming from anyone who can be arsed).
Here it is, enjoy:
My Fringe Nightmare
There’s an odd machine-like quality in the performers perception of the Fringe, once you arrive there it can feel like a rollercoaster that you aren’t allowed to get off. Due to the huge financial hit most of us take in August, an increasing number of acts (myself very much included) no longer take the “day off”. It used to be that all acts would take off Tuesdays, as this was traditionally the hardest day to sell tickets, but then around 2004/5, a few acts got savvy to the fact that it had now become the easiest day to sell tickets as there was nothing else on. At the moment about 75% of shows carry on right through and don’t have a break. (I have no facts or figures to back up that percentage I just confidently stated, it is based purely on my own personal estimate).
The problem with the Edinburgh rollercoaster is it kind of throws you about a bit, it’s all dips and peaks and loop-the-loops, very little of it is straight track where you can catch your breath for a moment and prepare yourself for the next steep drop. The Fringe is also the 2nd most unhealthy place in the world to reside for a month (another invented statistic there), everything pushes you towards hedonism and gluttony and stress. You can’t get off the ride, it’s making you sick, and you have no time to take evasive action. It’s an accident waiting to happen and last year my kidney decided to make a stand.
I’d had kidney stones before, won’t waste words talking about the pain but if you want to imagine the worst agony you can think of and then multiply it by a million, then you’re halfway there (that one is a true statistic based on personal experience). The attacks tend to happen a little after I’ve had a cold or been coughing a lot, I guess the tension in the body just pushes the blighters down the tube a bit and I get to enjoy the bodyshock it provokes.
For some inexplicable reason, myself and my comedy partner Ed Gamble decided in our show last year that we would pretend to be sponsored by a fictional Japanese butter company called Yuki, and to compound the idiocy there would be a moment at the end of the show where I had to drink a bowl of melted butter. In reality the ‘butter’ was banana milkshake and even typing those two words has made me retch a little bit, as not only did I have to drink it fast, from a bowl, in a hot room, every night – I also had to then pretend to be sick violently…
I lasted nine shows before ending up on my knees, in tears and excruciating pain, in the waiting room of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. I’d awoken that morning with a slight backache that got steadily worse and three hours later I couldn’t really stand up. Despite only being a little boy, Ed had very bravely called for an ambulance (up to you if you want to nominate him for a Pride Of Britain award for this but I’d certainly encourage it), and off I went.
I maintain that the worst part of that day, even with all the pain, was hearing Ed saying my name on the phone to emergency services then pause before saying “Yep…he’s forty”. My birthday is late June, this was the first time I’d heard somebody say that horrible number out loud when referring to my age. I’d have cried, if I hadn’t have been crying already. Not because I am a baby but because I had something in my eye probably.
The upshot of it all was I ended up in the hospital and couldn’t do the show that night. When that was even suggested as a possibility I had a sheer blind panic, how was that even possible as a thing? We had to do it surely, the show must go on! It’s the stupidest phrase in the English language. In an emergency, the show is the last thing that should ‘go on’.
Ed called our management and there was no discussion, there was no “well is there any possibility…?”, nothing like that. It was as simple as, “Ray is in hospital” “Well then we will cancel the show”, and other than the very slight guilt that people had bought tickets, and that they may have only been in Edinburgh for that night or whatever, it brought about a stark moment of clarity that many of us lose sight of completely during the Fringe, which is – and this is so glaringly obvious when you take your head out of your egomaniacal arse – it’s just a show. Performers go insane with worry up there, completely buy into the rollercoaster and convince themselves they are trapped on it and that it is a real life ride, but it’s just a load of stupid shows that most people aren’t fussed about.
Particularly those in A&E coming round after fainting from giving blood. Not me, I mean another bloke.
RAY PEACOCK – HERE COMES TROUBLE – 9:25pm Underbelly, 30 July-24 August 2014. Tickets at underbellyedinburgh.co.uk or 0844 545 8252