Tuesday August 3
Welcome to Scotland, says the sign at the border, "home of Rabbi Burns", and on to the city of Edinburgh, home - for the next three weeks - of Jewish Chronicles, my Fringe show of stories in song about all things, erm, Jewish.
It is a sunny morning in Soho. On the hotel terrace where Howard Jacobson is eloquently considering what it means to be a Jew, the clinking of coffee cups and the odd Yiddish imprecation mingle with the sights and sounds of London’s most cosmopolitan strip of earth.
Thematically and literally, this is familiar territory. Many have been the discussions with this most articulate of writers trying to identify the elusive essentials of being Jewish. And, however much this feels like putting up a tent in a hurricane, it is always stimulating, always fruitful.
Simon Amstell is best known for bursting celebrity egos as the host of the BBC pop quiz, Never Mind the Buzzcocks. After three years of laying into the likes of Cheryl Cole and the Sugababes, he declared himself bored, quit the show and disappeared from our TV screens.
Now he is back, making his debut as an actor in an autobiographical sitcom he has co-written with Buzzcocks collaborator Dan Swimer.
‘Mahler helps us make sense of our modern world,” explains Norman Lebrecht. “Uniquely, he is a composer who was derided in his lifetime, ignored for decades afterwards but ultimately displaced Beethoven at the box office.”
At 62, Lebrecht is one of the world’s most prolific and widely read commentators on music and culture. Before immersing himself in the arts, he studied Talmud and rabbinic debate — knowledge which has stood him in very good stead, especially when it comes to Mahler, whose 150th anniversary is being celebrated this year.
Dog, Frog, Bird, Dragon and Witch are having lunch. So are Cat and Monster. This gives Olivia Jacobs, co-founder and artistic director of Tall Stories, the chance to talk about the nation’s most successful theatre company for children.
Justin Bartha may not be a household name, but the 31-year-old outshone J-Lo and Ben Affleck in Gigli, played the missing groom in 2009's surprise comedy hit The Hangover, and provided Nicolas Cage with a wise-cracking sidekick in the family-oriented National Treasure adventures National Treasure. If you still cannot put a face to the name, then his latest film (not to mention its poster), The Rebound, should change that.
All the years Zoe Silver made documentaries with Alan Yentob, she was sitting on the best arts story in Britain. But it was one she could never pitch. "It would have been a conflict of interest," she laughs of her late father's audacious collaboration with David Hockney.
She is president of an international festival, founder of the world's leading piano competition and a world-renowned teacher who will work in Washington, Seoul, Beijing, Hanover and Leipzig this year alone. At the age of 90, Dame Fanny Waterman shows no sign of slowing down.
Tate Director Sir Nicholas Serota is for many one of the most important and influential people in art, regularly securing a top three placing in Art Review's annual list of the art world's most powerful figures. But he is also subjected to virulent criticism from a number of quarters, in particular from the Evening Standard's provocative art critic Brian Sewell, who regularly uses his column to lambast him for "furthering so many worthless careers".
Sha'anan Streett, the frontman of Hadag Nahash - the biggest hip-hop band in Israel - is hung over. And the waitress in the Jerusalem cafe clearly knows it. "Black coffee followed by a big green salad?" she suggests. He gives her a wry smile. "You know me too well," he replies.
Then he turns to me, sotto voce. "Last night," he murmurs, "too many substances." He motions to his "f*** the police" T-shirt. "This is my own design," he tells me.