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Monday, August 16, 2010

The Fringe of Death?


I'm up at the Edinburgh Festival. I'm still alive, but if the festival lasted more than its scheduled four weeks I'm not sure I'd stay this way for long. It shouldn't be as tiring as it is. All we performers have to do is perform for one hour every day. Those aren't long working hours. But then there's all the other stuff: the attempts to get publicity, the attempts to get an audience, the socialising, the commiserating, the walking on cobbles, the pies, the alcohol, the late nights, the fun, the festivities. When it's all over, everyone gets ill. That's just what happens. We traipse back to whence we came, lie in our beds and feel as close to death as ever.

Dangerous stuff for someone trying to become the Oldest Man in the World.

But I think it's worth it. Just because you briefly flirt with death, doesn't mean you'll get there any quicker in the long run. In fact, it's good to have these brushes with death (and I do acknowledge that compared to some brushes with death, spending a month at an Arts Festival is a very light one, perhaps with a duster); I think they harden you up and make you far stronger. Victory is even greater when ripped from the jaws of defeat (I know it's a cliché but I was in Istanbul to witness the Liverpool team coming back from the dead to beat Milan and win the Champions League and could only speak in clichés for the following week).

Also, my faith in the attempt has been strengthened during the festival thanks to the encouragement of various people who, at various times, have found me, slapped me on the back and told me I could do it.


‘Don't die, Alex', said one quite drunk young man quite late at night, completely out of the blue. He'd heard about my plans in the article in the Observer but to any uninformed bystander it must have seemed like a dramatic thing to say to a stranger. I told him I wouldn't and he gave me a hug.

‘Is the attempt still going?' asked an older gent a couple of days later. Presumably he thought that I might actually already have died. I wish I'd simply guided his hand to my pulse and walked away but instead I awkwardly said, ‘oh yes, still trying to stay alive, thank you!' and he went on his way. I'm generally useless in social situations but despite the awkwardness I was thrilled that people were behind me.

And then last night, just as I was attempting to order a beer at the bar, my neighbour leaned over and said, ‘I've heard red wine is good for you', before winking knowingly. At first I didn't realise he was referring to longevity and thought it must be some strange chat up line, but then it clicked, we both smiled and then chatted about my plans to avoid death at all costs (I ordered a beer in the end, but do plan to drink a bottle of wine or two on my day off, so that should help).

The more I talk about becoming the Oldest Man the more I think it might happen. Visualisation is key, according to Paul McKenna. So keep coming up to me, keep telling me I can do it, and I'll keep not dying.


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