Five of the best overheard conversations during the Fringe
Chris Stokes

Think you have to go watch a show to discover some of the finest examples of writing? Think again.

Writing which penetrates deep into the human condition and offers up a depiction of our kind and, ultimately, one’s place in it isn’t only confined to the stage during the Edinburgh Fringe. If you keep your ears open, that is.

Years ago, I took to jotting down the snippets I overhear and here are my favourites.

‘First Date’ – Wetherspoons (2010)

A 60-something couple were mid-conversation at the table next to the one I’d chosen. The man was wearing a trendy little scarf indoors and he was rolling up the sleeve of his stylish shirt (unbuttoned for the first two buttons, revealing a little of his grey chest fuzz) and said:

“They absolutely LOVE taking blood from me because my veins are so close to the surface.”

He then showed his companion his now exposed inner arm. And he was no liar.. Rolling his sleeve back down he remarked, “It’s like a fountain.”

They must have been on either a blind or a first date and, what’s more, despite his odd choice of boast, he was nailing it.

“Sometimes I meditate with friends… Unless my knees are bad.”

‘Wheelchair Zombies’ – Udderbelly (2007)


Outside the big purple cow, there was a long old queue filing into Stewart Lee’s 41st Best Stand Up Ever show and, as I stood drinking a cider under a patio heater, two young men with comic book T-shirts offered up a brief snippet of the debate they were having.

“Wouldn’t it be great if there was a zombie in a wheelchair?”

“Well if a zombie uprising were to happen, there’d be no wheelchair zombies.”

“That’s really narrow-minded of you.”

‘What I Did With The Chair Bracket’ – Cowgate (2013)

This was late, that time when Spank! has finished for the night and Cowgate is full of merry revellers trying to work out where to go next. Wending my way from the Underbelly back towards Grassmarket, I passed two men in the middle of catching up:

“So I took the chair bracket off him, hit him on the side of the head and put a huge slice down his ear… Mind you, I was angry because it was the week after I got in the head with a log.”

‘How Embarrassing’ – Rose Street (2015)

Rose Street

Alex Watson

As two women left Holland & Barrett, health was clearly on their minds as their conversation had turned to something very serious:

“I could never, ever go for an AIDS test. I mean, what if it came back positive? I mean, I’d DIE of embarrassment.”

‘Truth is Beauty’ – South Bridge (2009)

Finally, my all-time favourite as I passed a homeless man sitting in a doorway, chatting away to someone who had stopped to listen…

“There’s more meaning in a snowdrop, or one of Bach’s sonatas than in any of this… All I want to do it write childrens’ books.”

Aug 4-28: Chris Stokes – The Man Delusion, Underbelly Med Quad, Teviot Place, EH8 9AG / more info

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