For some the pressure of bringing a debut show to the Edinburgh Fringe following a global pandemic would be enough. Personally, I've always enjoyed the rush of cortisol raging through my system, so I added an extra element to the mix by breaking my ankle a week before the start of the festival. Besides, being both northern and queer just isn't really diverse enough these days, is it?
I turn 40 during the festival and nothing has reinforced my feelings of age-related decline like this injury. I've broken this ankle twice before, back in the days when I was an athlete. The first time was in 2000, doing judo, and the second in 2012 at rugby training. This time I was just walking across a field. It was a sunny, Sunday afternoon at a festival for middle aged lesbians in Llandudo. I misplaced a step in a small divot on the otherwise perfect field. As my ankle buckled my girlfriend and I heard the almighty crack of the bone breaking. Against all advice, I iced it for 45 minutes and then drove home to Liverpool.
That evening as the swelling grew, panic set in about the Fringe. Due to the previous ankle breaks along with several broken toes and metatarsals, I've probably spent around a year of my life on crutches. It is a horrible time, it never gets any easier. Lugging a heavily plastered limb around, getting blistered hands, not being able to carry a cup of tea. The idea of trying to do this whilst also delivering a show at the Fringe was frightening. But the financial implications of cancelling my show at such a late point was even more frightening.
After an x-ray a doctor confirmed the break, and I pleaded with her not to put me in plaster. Luckily, the guidelines for a clean break have changed since my last injury. She told me I'd be fitted with a boot and could weight-bear the entire time, no plaster, no crutches, hands free! I hobbled around in the boot and the doctor was happy to send me home. She said I could carry on as normal and any restrictions would be self-limiting based on my pain threshold.
I took a day or two to gather myself and make a plan: I had a week to get organised. I'm a very independent person and asking for help takes a lot, but I knew I needed support to pull off my adapted Fringe plan. Luckily my friends and the comedy community rallied round to support me. In no time at all I had managed to secure a lift up to the Fringe with comedians Che Burnley and Phil Ellis. Tech legend Joe Hollingworth would transport some props for my show and various people slid into my DMs to see how they could be of assistance. I realised my main issue was going to be getting to my venue each day. A 15 minute walk across the Meadows would be fine under normal circumstances but the giant moon boot I was now sporting just wasn't cut out for the daily hike. It was suggested I get some sort of mobility scooter, but knowing how busy the Fringe gets I didn't think that would be a good idea. I also thought I'd feel a bit like a disability imposter in one, so that idea was off the table.
Eventually I decided to try to get an e-scooter. This would be much easier for zipping in, out and around Edinburgh. I'd also have my independence without feeling like I was committing benefit fraud. Super producer Olivia Phipps popped up a crowd funder and in less than 24 hours had raised the £450 needed. I was absolutely blown away by how many people donated to help me out with this unexpected cost.
The path to my e-scooter was not a smooth one though, with the initial company failing to deliver it before I left for Scotland. This led to a last minute scramble by the legends at Objectively Funny to source a scooter in Edinburgh. The evening before my first show, Kathryn Higgins, Ellie Brayne-Wyatt and I sat silently Googling in the Gilded Balloon garden, searching for a local solution. We found a local shop, Skootz, who were more than happy to help out. They gave us some great advice and got a scooter up and running ready for me to take away. After a quick driving test around the Meadows with Tom Mayhew, I was ready to scoot off to my first performance of the festival!
My journey through the Meadows each day has been a breeze. The cycle lane means I can pass people easily and there is plenty of space for everyone. I've also scooted past several police officers, who despite the illegalities of using e-scooters have smiled and waved me on. It's a little bit tricky getting through the crowds at Bristo Square to my venue at Gilded Balloon Teviot, but if I slow right down and remember to use my manners and my bell, most people are happy to make way for me. Initially people read me as some sort of yob for scooting around in a pedestrianised area. But as a Scouser, I'm used to people making assumptions based on their own misconceptions. Once they spot the boot or I explain I have a broken ankle people are generally quite happy to clear a path for me to scoot through.
I have a little storage space at Gilded Balloon so my scooter is safe while I'm doing my show, Sian Davies About Time. Then I scoot over to The Counting House for my compilation shows, Best in Class and Comedy Queers.
I can potter about on the pavements in my boot with no problems, but the cobbles are pretty tough. They are not designed for scooters or broken ankles! This means I've yet to venture too far from my own venues: the many hills, stairs and cobbles are just not accessible to me. I did take one trip over to The Stand to watch Tom Mayhew's show Trash Rich, but due to the roadworks on South Bridge and the huge amount of pedestrians, I had to face off with a double decker bus!
I'm settled into my daily routine of scooting around to my venues and most of the staff know me and are happy to help. I hope as the festival progresses I can brave a few more areas and see some more shows. I miss the hustle and bustle of City Cafe, but the cobbled hill of Blair Street really is the stuff of nightmares at the moment!
So if you see me scooting about the Meadows or apologising to pedestrians in Bristo Square this month, give me a shout and say hello.