The Fringe Survival Guide: How locals survive August in Edinburgh

I’ve lived in this city for four years now, so am officially declaring myself a stalwart of Edinburgh culture – a large chunk of which is defined by the annual frenzy that descends on the capital come August. That’s right readers, Fringe season is almost upon us.

I absolutely love the festival. I love the way Edinburgh comes alive with weird and wonderful people, acts, shows and events for a whole 3 weeks.

Trying to get anywhere in a hurry during that time though? Nat so much.

With this in mind, I’ve put together a survival guide for any new Edinburghers experiencing their first Festival living in the city. Here are my 9 snippets of humble Fringe wisdom.

1. Do not take the bus anywhere.

Seriously. During the Fringe the population of Edinburgh doubles – as a result, some aspects of our travel infrastructure are affected. Basically, get on a bus in central Edinburgh in August and expect to be there for a loooong time. Pigeons overtake you (seen with my own eyes). My suggestion would be to walk and soak up the atmosphere. Granted, power walking isn’t likely to be effective with the amount of dawdlers around, but the bus is the same or worse, and you end up in a bad mood. Best avoided.

2. Be organised (but not too organised.)

It’s easy to be complacent when you live here, but there are too many good shows I’ve missed from thinking I’ll get round to booking it – cue, the festival ends and I’ve seen nothing. The half price hut, normally located outside the Scottish National Gallery, is a good compromise for last minute Larrys, and the app is worth downloading to keep track of it all too. But the festival is also all about spontaneity too, so don’t go too hard on the old organised fun.

3. Have at least one big night out.

The festival license means places stay open at least two hours longer than usual (so 5am in some cases), and a lot more cool venues are available to check out, so make the most of it!

4. Be prepared to queue. Everywhere.

That’s all I’ve got to say about that one really. Maybe don’t turn up to a show with minutes to spare?

5. Take an umbrella.

Even if it starts off sunny, remember: we are in Scotland. And there isn’t anything much more miserable than standing in said queues in the pouring rain. It happened to me circa 2007 and I’m not sure I’ve ever fully recovered.

6. And a hoodie.

You spend a lot of time outdoors during the festival and while it’s summer, again, we are in Scotland and once that sun goes down, the temperature takes a nose dive. So take something warm if you know you’re going to be sitting in one of the festival’s many outdoor areas!

7. Cash up.

Although a lot of the shows are free, it’s courtesy to leave a fiver in their tips collection at the end. Also some food and drink stalls don’t take card – and you cannot festival without beer and street food. Catching ubers can also be pretty extortionate (and slow – see point 1), so in case you need to grab an old-school cab, best to have a non-plastic form of payment on you.

8. Do NOT get over-excited when you see a celebrity.

After one too many drinks in the Gilded Balloon, I came face to face with a well-known comedian. And, er, told him who he was. He looked at me scathingly, muttered “fir fuck sake” and turned his back on me. Three years later, I still cringe every time I think of this. Stay cool out there, people.

9. Explore outside the city.

If it all gets too much, remember Edinburgh ain’t the only Fringe in town. North Berwick hosts Fringe By the Sea every year, which has music, food and drink, can be a welcome break from the assault of the Royal Mile. It’s a really arty community there and has a pretty chilled out vibe for days when you still wanna soak up some culture but cba with being in the city.

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The One with The Birthday: 28 lessons in as many years.

Birthdays in your late twenties are kind of weird. While I still enjoy them, I feel like every year brings with it an added pressure to be doing more with your life: this year’s not-so-gentle reminder to achieve. This feeling is, I accept, a result of bowing down to certain outdated social pressures whose threads, though increasingly fragile, remain intact. Like big, unwelcome cobwebs.

When are you going to do all those things you thought you would ten years ago, they whisper.

Who cares you have all those things we said you should have – a stable job, a boyfriend, a mortgage? You still haven’t cartwheeled across a beach in Costa Rica, or volunteered at a husky farm in Finland, they say.

You haven’t learned to surf (and what’s further, surf while the sun sets on an empty beach in Paraguay?). You haven’t walked the Brooklyn Bridge and you haven’t gone to live in Paris for a year like your 16 your old self said she would.

And what does life even MEAN, these cobwebs say, if you haven’t done everything you wanted?

And then there’s the loudest whisper. Quiet, but insistant.

“Life is passing you by.”

You’re not getting any younger, you’re reminded. If you still want kids in a few years you better get a shift on… Time waits for no-one, and you still haven’t done it all…

So in light of my recent 28th birthday on this big old planet, here are as many lessons I’ve learned so far along this winding, beautiful, pain in the arse, breathtaking, gorgeous, painful, exhilarating road of life. When I’m experiencing that Great Millennial Affliction of not being “enough”, or “having it all”, I offer myself the following advice:

  1. You’re here. And as long as you’re here, you’re still in the game.
  2. What you have done, you’ve done for a reason. It was your priority at the time, and it’ll stand you in good stead for whatever choices you make down the line.
  3. What’s for you won’t go by you. You want something enough and you’ll make it happen.
  4. No-one else is you. You are your USP. Use it.
  5. Never compare yourself to others. They don’t have what you do – not the other way round.
  6. Choose your friends wisely. Good ones are surprisingly hard to find, but you’ll know them by the way they bring you up, not pull you down.
  7. On that same token, distance yourself from toxic people. If they’re all about the drama and less about the substance, they’re never gonna be there for you when you need it – factoid.
  8. Be kind to others. You don’t always know what people are going through.
  9. Life is about compromise. Nobody Has It All. Including you. Choose the things that are the most important, and the rest will fall into place.
  10. Nobody else is having an easy ride while you’re struggling. Everyone’s facing some kind of battle – try not to be a martyr.
  11. It’s OK not to be OK. Seek help when you need it. Silence is a killer and taboo is outdated.
  12. Mistakes happen. Learn from them and do not beat yourself up.
  13. Question things. If you don’t agree – say so. You matter.
  14. Let people in.
  15. (But make sure they’re the right people.)
  16. ‘What if’ are two words that will kill you. Unleash your inner ABBA and take a chance on life.
  17. Get a kitten.
  18. You can’t appreciate travel without somewhere to come home to.
  19. Be the ‘yes gal’ as often as is responsible. It’ll lead you on many adventures. If not, it’ll give you stories.
  20. Don’t ever care what people think of you. It’s not about them.
  21. Don’t dwell on what you haven’t yet done. Celebrate the things you have (and there are plenty.)
  22. Practice patience. It can get you to all sorts of places.
  23. Don’t run away with the idea of something. It almost never lives up to the reality. Living in a world of unreachable ideas is the key to heartbreak. Keep your mind open and keep it real.
  24. It’s OK to be a dreamer but don’t distance yourself from reality, or the people who are right in front of you.
  25. Listening to classic road trip playlists can lift your mood massively.
  26. Knowledge is power – soak that shit up and you’ll be so much more prepared to take life on.
  27. Just like how you make mistakes, so do other people. Forgive.
  28. This is one I’m still working on but believing in yourself is paramount to living a fuller life. (Enter R. Kelly, stage left.)
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I don’t always make good decisions, but when I do…

There have been a few choices I’ve made in my life which, in retrospect, weren’t my wisest. Dying my hair black in secondary school was a big one. Taking a pair of heels with me the first time I went backpacking aged 18 was another (yes, they sat at the bottom of my bag for 4 weeks and no, I did not wear them once.) Going out for “a few” the night before a 5am flight also ranks up there in the Poor Judgement category, among many, many other bad life decisions which aren’t *quite* as suitable for public consumption.

But despite these fairly regular lapses, I’ve made a few conscious decisions which I’ll never regret. Here are a five of the most important ones I’ve made in the past few years.

Chasing travel

After graduating from university, I wasn’t interested in chasing any kind of ‘career’ job. I wanted to work for the sole purpose of earning money so I could go away. And yes, clearing tables and pulling pints while friends and fellow classmates were migrating to the big cities in the pursuit of degree justification was sometimes tough – but I am so, so glad that I stuck to my guns. It was all part of a bigger plan I had for myself.

I lived at home and saved for months before going off on two consecutive ski seasons in Europe and travelling South America. It sounds like a cliche but there’s nothing like throwing yourself out of your comfort zone, meeting different people and being exposed to environments at complete odds to your own to shape your outlook.

Although I’m in less of a flexible position now to travel for as long periods at a time, I try to make up for this by exploring new places as often as possible. I would love next year though to move abroad somewhere for a year or so.

Signing up for my Masters degree

During my last few months of uni, I had such a crappy time that I vowed I’d never take another academic exam again. Which of course is easy to say fresh out of graduation but alas, two years later and no relevant-to-degree job offers in sight, I realised if I ever wanted to earn a decent salary and use my skills at the same time, I’d have to face that return to uni fear.

Despite the fact it set me back all of my savings at the time, and I’ll be paying the debt off for another few years (possibly even decades…), it was a decision that had a hugely positive impact on my life. Yes, I was poor as hell for about 2 years, stressed out much of the time and exhausted from working various jobs to pay my way – but I made some brilliant pals, had some hilarious (er, and educational) experiences – and of course it got me my current job in writing, which was always the end goal.

Saying ‘yes’

I would probably call myself a confident introvert. This means that although I’m outgoing and confident, I really relish time on my own or I feel drained. This meant that a lot of the time when I was younger, I avoided certain social situations because I’d rather hang out in my comfort zone, doing ‘me’ things and ignoring the outside world when I wanted to.

But, like going to the gym, I realised that actually, the thought of the thing is not as bad as the thing itself. In fact, the thing itself can sometimes be really good fun. I think I made excuses for why I couldn’t do things too much of the time, instead of just going for it and taking part in experiences and opportunities that may never come my way again.

As a blogger, I’m invited to loads of different, exciting new things and this has become something I look forward to and embrace rather than finding excuses for. #Whoknew?

Conforming to my inner ‘adult’

The concept of having a steady job, paying a mortgage, maintaining a relationship and still somehow enjoying life used to baffle me. It all sounded so suffocating and restricting – and to be totally honest, occasionally I still feel like that.

But I’ve now come to see that for me, the pros far outweigh the cons. In some ways, having all the things I once thought would suffocate me in fact gives me more freedom than ever. My job gives me a regular salary, which allows me to plan my future better than I ever could before. Owning a house means I can do whatever the hell I want with it, creating an environment that I love (hello neon signs), and being in a relationship with the right person allows me the added confidence of not only accepting myself, but having someone else celebrate exactly who I am too.

And yes, ‘adulting’ can sometimes be shit – I still occasionally crave those heady uni days of random day drinking, slothing in pyjamas dissecting the night before, drinking jagerbombs mid week and living on money you didn’t *really* have.

But nothing beats that feeling of having control of your life, supporting yourself and laying your own path.

Flicking my comfort zone the finger (oo-er)

Three years ago, I applied for an internship in Turin, Italy, working in the Communications department of an EU agency. I applied not really thinking I’d get it, and about 10 days later I’d rented my room in Edinburgh out, said bye to my (at the time) new-ish boyfriend and gone to live in a country where I knew nobody, was living with strangers and didn’t speak the language.

Was it intimidating? Yes. Did I sometimes want to cry? Frequently. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

To be honest, I found the first half of my time there really really tough. I was struggling a lot with low mood and felt completely isolated. I missed my friends and boyfriend at home and felt stressed out by the uni course I was also juggling. Writing a dissertation and studying for exams while working full time is no joke let me tell you – and I was a childless, effectively single woman with no social life at this point so big cheers to the parents out there who somehow manage this!

Anyway, I got through it, and those 3 months remain some of the most important in my life. They showed me the power of determination, motivation, inner strength, independence and the life-affirming rewards you get from stepping completely out of your comfort zone and proving to yourself you can and you will.

 

As far as I’m concerned, making bad decisions is a vital component in being able to recognise the good ones. As long as you’re trying stuff out you’re nailing it. So get going and decide what that future of yours is gonna hold…

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10 things that made me happy last month

It can be a tough old world out there. The past month has been littered with various personal stresses, ones that we as humans let get us down too easily. While it’s important to ruminate on the difficult stuff – character building and all that – you can’t afford to overlook those little things in life that make it all worth living.

So in this nu-age spirit of positivity, mindfulness and general life enthusiasm, here’s a little round-up of April, where the following 10 things reignited my recently dampened outlook.

1. A fun photoshoot with inspiring people

I kicked the month off with a really fun photoshoot with one of Scotland’s key style influencers, Scot Street Style, and the wonderful photographer Ellie Morag.

I had such a good time meeting new people, wandering through little corners of Leith and going full on trial and error on certain poses and walks. There’s something so life-affirming about shoots like that, where you can just forget yourself, have fun and surrender yourself to the moment.

It’s strictly hush hush for now, but if all goes to plan the results should be revealed soon so, as they say, watch this space.

2. The boyfriend’s birthday

‘Cos what’s nicer than seeing your partner happy? Piggybacking on their celebrations of course.

For Dave’s actual birthday we went out for dinner at Leith Chop House – a venue I’m drawn to as much for its pleasing industrial and marble aesthetics as I am to its menu.

Oh god though, that menu. Those cocktails.

Happily, Dave’s birthday also fell on a Tuesday which is Leith Chop House’s BYOB night. Which meant sirloin steak served with many glasses of Sainsbury’s finest Malbec. Result.

3. A visit to the Harry Potter pop-up bar

Being a bloggaaaaa, it was of course inevitable that I’d end up here at some point. In the company of blogging comrades and top champs KK and Daniel we descended on this place on a rainy weeknight – and I gotta say, the simplicity (or severe complication, if you’re Daniel….) of getting to mix your own cocktail perked my mood right up.

The interiors have now been replaced by Rick and Morty-inspired Wubba Lubba Dub Dub, which opens this weekend. Hurrah.

4. A weekend in Aberdeen

When your soul needs some love, is there any better cure than good pals, booze, insanely good food, hilarious chat and daytime activities?

If your answer to that was anything other than ‘no’, you gotta get living asap.

Highlights included a tour of the NuArt murals around Aberdeen, a trip to Lane 7 and the 70s-inspired cheese toastie Mecca that is Melt. Next time you’re in the vicinity you have, have, have to go – if not for the toasties then do it for the brownies – or at the very least the vintage wallpaper.

6. Interiors collection for the new flat

You know you’re firmly ensconced in your late twenties when nothing stands your hair on end like a beautiful piece of furniture. Or, indeed, a neon sign.

Yup, the first two things we’ve bought for our flat so far consist of a chest of drawers, found in the beautiful Pad Lifestyle sample sale at Custom House a few weeks ago, and a neon sign emblazoned with one of my favourite quotes. And yes, you will have to wait until I grace my grid with this beautiful specimen to find out what said quote is.

7. First Pitt of the year

One of the things I love most about Leith is the energy that surrounds it, a large generator of which is the mass of events and activities that are happening here all the time.

Pitt Street market ranks highly in my list of favourite weekend repasse – especially when it’s a babe of a day and I’m surrounded by some of my favourite people!

Until a couple of weeks ago I hadn’t been since last November so my return to this fabulous outdoor market came with a bang.

8. Double wedding Saturday

The first Saturday of April was spent attending two weddings in two different cities (first one Dundee, second one Edinburgh!)

There’s something so beautiful and life-affirming about seeing an unwavering love between two people, and how that love extends itself through the room to friends and family.

I’m not going to another wedding until October and I think I may be more excited than my friends themselves. Super dooper excited to see one of my favourite couples ever get married.

9. Getting my hurr did

You can’t get your hair done and be miserable. Well, unless it’s horrendous, or not what you asked for. Or, god help you, both.

Thankfully I get mine done by a hair goddess who walks among us, found a couple of years ago by chance at Kalon Hair.

I’ve definitely raved about this place before (any excuse) but honestly, my hair hasn’t looked or felt this good in years. Every time I leave the salon it makes me feel like I have – at least temporarily – got my life together. Yay for balayage, regular trims, a curling wand and Sarah.

10. A good old fashioned book

As an English Literature degree holder, I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to books. If I don’t get ‘feels’ I tend to throw them aside before I’ve reached the first 100 pages.

Now, you’ve probably heard this already but quite honestly, Gail Honeyman’s debut novel Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time.

I came home from work most days, sprawled on the sofa and read this solidly. It’s one of those ones that stays with you long after the last page is turned. Best £5 Amazon spend.

Here’s to May!

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Edinburgh Life & Style weekender 2018

Got a love for fashion? What about interiors? Health and beauty?

What if I were to tell you all of these topics and more will be covered at this year’s Life & Style event? Add some cocktails to the mix and I think that ticks all of the majors on my ‘favourite ways to spend a weekend’ list.

Here are some of the star attractions coming up at Life & Style 2018…

 

LIFESTYLE STAGE

This event is all about celebrating the luxurious things in life. So naturally, that covers hair, skin, make-up, fashion – to name but a few.

Award-winning celebrity hairdresser Jason Collier, whose scissors have graced the barnets of icons like Victoria Beckham, Eva Longoria, Laura Whitmore (a personal fave) and Sienna Miller will be taking to the stage to share his expert hair advice.

Joining him will be facialist Charlotte Connoley, whose client list boasts babes such as Meghan Markle, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Cheryl (Cole? Tweedy? Anyway you know the one) with skincare tips to help us rival our celeb counterparts.

Also appearing will be fashion director and designer Wendy Rigg, Scottish make-up artist Sara Hill aaaaaand the ever talented blogger and author Vicky Psarias (aka Honest Mum) and lifestyle blogger and STV queen Susie Bruce.

 

WORKSHOPS + POP UPS

Great as these guys are, it ain’t all about them, huns. Life & Style 2018 is also giving guests the chance to attend one of many themed workshops and expert talks – including floristry with Snapdragon, calligraphy with Laila Lettering, tea tastings with The East India Company, and lots more.

Plus, there’ll be cocktail classes from Badger & Co and Element, to help guests learn to serve the perfect tipple. Hurrahhhh.

Pop-ups from everyone’s fave Instagrammble brands such as Oliver Bonas, John Lewis, Jenners, Anthropologie and more will also be appearing throughout the weekend. Get ready to lust.

TICKET HOLDER PERKS

Included in each ticket is access to the much-loved fashion show and trend talk, which returns this year and will be hosted by Scottish fashion designer and author Lynne McCrossan.

You’ll also receive an express beauty treatment in the pop-up beauty hall, including a choice of mini makeovers, manicures or massages, along with an Edinburgh Gin cocktail on arrival, an exclusive offers booklet and goody bag.

…WHAT NOT TO LOVE??

MORE DEETS

Choose from either a Saturday or Sunday full-day ticket, priced at £10 – exclusively available from www.edinlifestyle.co.uk.  (FYI – the first 500 customers receive an exclusive goody bag so get yer skates on.)

After buying your ticket, you can select your preferred time slot for a seat at one of (many!) fashion shows, and book yourself into a workshop and Lifestyle Stage talk. These will be available on a strictly first-come-first-served basis – so keep afore-mentioned skates on.

Edinburgh Life & Style will be from 10am-6pm on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 May 2018, with doors opening from 9.30am.

 

♥ SEE YOU THERE! ♥

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