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Take That China!
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Wednesday, August 31

Me? Cynical about releasing? Surely that's wrong? Well, perhaps the haitus on the release we just completed proved some sort of point.

I spent a lot of the day doing bitty things and eventually managed to help work out what we need to do to break some of the barriers between where we are now and where we need to be. We made some inroads into sorting this out.

After work I went to Tesco to buy ingredients to make pizza. I was going to mow the lawn when I got home, but the weather didn't look good. I was also in a rancid mood. While I was in Tesco, the warm day turned into a thunder storm with torrential rain. This may have made my trip to my car somewhat slow, as I took shelter near some trolleys, but it also pretty much broke my mood, which was nice.

At home I pittled around, making pizza, eating this and that, watching the Simpsons and generally wasting time. I put some washing on, which was nice, I suppose.

I've spent much of the rest of the evening either on the phone or writing this blog. On the up side, one phone call I made allowed me to cleanly pull two gigs (one of which I couldn't do through being on holiday), and another call booked me for a last minute gig tomorrow, so I had better get myself together and get ready to perform. I have a gig on Monday in Penzance, so I'm off down south again for the weekend. We're going to stay in Cornwall for the whole weekend, so I need to sort out somewhere to stay too.

It's really quite a busy life.

I've barely time to scour the internet for more information about the movie Memento. I will learn the truth!

Tuesday, August 30

First day back at work after the long weekend and I wasn't feeling especially motivated. Still, I got stuck into something. I started writing some user documentation. Progress was slow, but I did a reasonable job of it. I apologised for my somewhat miserable attitude of the tail end of last week. I had been downbeat about the rather good act of releasing our software, but perhaps I was proving to have a point. We were in no man's land with regard to where to go next and I wasn't sure of the bigger picture anymore. Still, that's work stuff and things are always in a state of flux, so undoubtedly they'll sort themselves out.

I went for coffee at lunchtime and had a chat with someone I know who is well travelled. He was upbeat about Tunisia, which made me happier about the decision to holiday there. I bought a guide book and a phrase book to cement my happiness. I also collected my Amazon order, which included the Ukulele Orchesta of Great Britain and a Tim Vine DVD.

After work I came home and watched the DVD of Tim Vine. At one stage he hit 10 gags per minute - I counted. It was extreme stuff and pretty damned funny. His extras were a bit bleak, but perhaps that wasn't entirely unintentional.

Then I went to watch some live comedy at the local comedy night. The show was closed by a renowned comedian, doing 2 minutes to try out some new material - he was still hilarious. The local nutcase also had a go in the middle of the show. How queer. I still laughed until I was nearly sick!

Monday, August 29

It's bank holiday Monday and the cat has wandered off to do its own thing. We woke up late and ended up going for a pub late-lunch. I was embarrassed to find that the answer to the question - "What types of Sunday lunch are you doing?" was "It's not Sunday". It felt like a Sunday.

Lunch, playing on the quiz machine, and then back to the house. It was time to get serious about booking a holiday. We'd been scanning the holiday websites looking for somewhere to go, but we'd not gotten anything sorted out properly. No more messing about. So, we went online, chose a destination, looked at some options and then chose a holiday. We didn't book it. First I went round looking at various review websites and the government advice website. Eventually, I felt that I was prepared enough to give it a try and we booked.

We're off to Tunisia in about 2 weeks' time. Time to learn some French and buy some cool clothing.

After the holiday buying there was time for a quick sandwich before I was sent back up North to Newcastle. The car has done too many miles and it may be time to either get it sorted out for the short journey to 200,000 miles, or exchange it for a newer car and start running that one into the ground.

It seemed to take a long while to get home, but the radio was reasonable enough company.

Sunday, August 28

I awoke and had a very slow rise from the bed. I had Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes running round my head, though, bizarrely, not the ones from the previous evening's show - ones from some of his other shows, which he'd clearly borrowed from (can you plagiarise your own work) for this new show. Very little of the previous evening's music had remained in my head for some reason.

Anyway, with a woozy head, I had a shave and shower. My fuzziness of brain was matched only by my fuzziness of face, having not shaved in about 10 days. The shaving is hard at that length without the use of electric clippers to trim the beard first.

After I was clean and clean shaven, we left the hotel and headed for Leicester Square for some lunch. Actually, we wanted to go to Covent Garden, but Leicester Square is nearest on the tube without changing. We found a neat Australian-dominated cafe-bar called Belushi's and had something pleasant to eat. Then we set off back to Reading.

In Reading we stocked up with some supplies for a night in front of a DVD and then spent a night in front of a DVD. Memento. This movie really caught my imagination and I've spent a lot of time, since watching it, looking it up on the internet and trying to find out more about it. Everyone in the movie is an unreliable source of information about the true goings on. In fact, there is no single interpretation of the overall story... which is frustrating and entertaining too. Good movie.

Sleep came next and was interrupted only by the presence of a cat on my chest. It was lying there comfortable and purring, waking me occasionally with an accidental/playful/malicious dig of its claws. Nothing actually injured, just slight discomfort. Did the cat know?

Saturday, August 27

We woke up in Reading and my girlfriend decided that she was too unwell to go to her party. It was going to be a busy night for her if she went, and she was already feeling under the weather. Better that she should miss the party and have someone looking after her in the interim.

Expecting an overnight stay in London, I'd already booked and paid for a hotel, so we decided to go and make use of the room. We set off for London and found ourselves in a traffic jam. We used this time to play silly in-car games and generally make the most of each other's company. I enjoyed that. Then we arrived in London. London's traffic wasn't too bad and we found somewhere to park. Then it was a short tube hop to the hotel, which was near Euston. We threw our stuff in the room, avoided getting sucked into a TV programme about TV makeover programmes, and then zoomed off to Leicester Square. We found a cheap theatre tickets booth and bought tickets for The Woman in White. I had a post-it note on my desk with a list of musicals on it that I wanted to see or see again. Over the course of our relationship, we've done most of the items on that list. Anyway, this was a member of the list and we headed towards the theatre.

On the way, we grabbed a sandwich, having not had chance for anything to eat over the course of the rest of the day. Well, there was a bit of sandwich at lunchtime, but nothing substantial.

The show was quite good. The performances seemed relatively flat and the show didn't seem to have any stand-out show-stopping songs. It was more a landscape of feelings, which was nice enough, but not mind-blowing. Still, the sets were good. They were computer generated and projected onto moving screens around the stage. Some scenes really looked good as a result, especially when they rotated the stage in a church scene and we got a 360 degree view of everything in and around the church. However, a lot of this felt like more gimmick and less substance.

Again, we enjoyed the show.

After the show, bed. There was a little time for a morsel of pizza at Leicester Square, but tiredness was summoning us to a place where one could rest.

Friday, August 26

For some reason the day was something of an anti-climax. I was in a stinker of a mood, adding tiredness to my illness didn't suit me. I was still nonplussed with my performance of the previous evening and even the fact that we were completing 11 months' work and releasing our efforts didn't seem to engender a good feeling in me in the office. I rather pissed on my colleagues' bonfires as they tried to be enthusiastic about the whole thing.

I left the office despondent and went home to pack for a weekend away. We were going down south to my girlfriend's folks' place. We were planning a trip to London the following day where she was due at a party and I was due to kill time in the city until it was time to pick her up - I reckoned on seeing a musical (or two) to do this.

During the packing, I got a call from the Manchester Comedy Store. They were quite happy with the gig I'd done and would be reporting back to London positively about it. I got a few technical notes from the guy who rang and it was good feedback that I should have been pleased with. I think I probably was.

We set off down south and made our way to Reading. We were in no rush and we didn't arrive too early.

Thursday, August 25

It's all blogs and wikis these days. The home publishing revolution is upon us. I choose to use it to write about the incidental and unimportant, with a smattering of the useful and important-to-me thrown in.

I had a gig in Manchester to go to. This was to be my fourth appearance at the Comedy Store there, as an open spot, and was part of my ongoing quest to learn the trade of a stand-up and get bookings with good clubs.

I was quite excited as Milton Jones, one of my preferred acts (it's hard to have favourites) was on the bill. He's very good and I'd already managed to make my girlfriend laugh with my incorrect account of one of his jokes. Bizarrely, she was laughing more at the setup than the punchline, but that's probably why I love her. She thinks differently.

Anyway, I was still unwell and was a bit worried that my tiredness and chest infection might hamper my performance. I had cancelled the spot with the store last time I was due to go on and there had also been some sort of mix-up surrounding the cancellation. I didn't want to appear to muck them around any more than I already had. The importance of the gig, plus the fact that it was my first after the Fringe, added to the fact that I'd be in excellent company (the other acts were very good), coupled with my malaise meant that I was feeling a lot more nervous about the gig than I would ever normally feel.

I wandered across town to meet my girlfriend, who had bought us an evening meal. She drove us to Manchester. Thanks.

We arrived in plenty of time and waited in the green room, which had a sort of fertility clinic vibe about it. It relaxed me enough to get in the right sort of mood.

I don't remember much about the performance, except that I was heckled on my opening line, I ignored the heckle, got too small a laugh (for my taste) on the punchline and then darted for safety behind many "bankers" (well worn bits of material that seldom fail). I threw in one gag which pleased me and wasn't on my list of things to say and I closed to applause, which was nice. I wasn't happy with my voice or the level of the guitar and generally felt I'd done "okayish".

We enjoyed watching the rest of the gig and then drove home.

Wednesday, August 24

Today could be going a lot better than it is.

I had a very restless night. I'm not sure why and I was partially awake and partially asleep, so I've no idea whether I was a disturbance to my girlfriend, who occasionally appeared to be trying to make me do something useful, like resetting the alarm clock, or roll over or something. I suppose I'll find out.

Apart from having interrupted sleep, in which I was having some sort of stand-up flashbacks, I also dreamed that I'd taken the ultimate revenge at a gig, turning the room against someone in song. I was virtually awake at this point, so the song was reasonably coherent as I recall. There was clearly some anger/embarrassment issue getting resolved in my head as I awoke with this vitriol running through my mind.

So, feeling confused, glum and still ill (I've got post-Edinburgh lurghi making me wheeze and feel all bunged up), I dragged myself out of bed and drove to work. Despite having arrived in what seeemed like enough time to get into the office and do something useful, I was still a bit late. D'oh.

I arrived to find an email from someone who had taken offense at a comment I'd made. This person had told me that they were going to learn stand-up at a course. I'd wished them luck and pointed out that the only way to become a stand-up is to go on stage and do it. Lots. I also, self-deprecatingly, pointed out that after coming up to three years and 300 performances, I still consider myself a learner. Apparently, this caused offence. Maybe it looked like I was saying "you can't learn stand-up", when I think I was saying that it's a long haul, but it's worth it. It's rare that one has a meteoric rise through the ranks of the world of comedy. I certainly haven't.

Meanwhile, to make the morning go worse, I got a phone call from my insurers who are using the fact that my guitar is used for gigging as a way of getting out of paying out for its theft from my car earlier this month. I have pointed out to them that I do not use the guitar for business reasons as it is fair to say that stand-up comedy is a hobby, rather than a job. The thing is that insurance companies are there to do their best to pay out as little as possible. So, I may be £600 down on the break-in to my car. Brilliant! Who would like to guess whether the police have looked at the CCTV footage from the car park?

My illness means that I'm unsure whether I'll be able to do my gig tomorrow night at the Comedy Store in Manchester. Doing good gigs for the Comedy Store is on my list of things to have achieved in my comedic "career". I cancelled my last spot there as I had tonsilitis. I particularly want to do some routines which require good breath control and I'm currently feeling a bit wheezy. So, do I cancel again? or do I go along and soldier on? I don't know. I'm currently inclined to just go for it and see what happens.

Work is particularly frustrating at the moment too. We're on the brink of stuff, but lots of last minute details are getting in the way. I shall get back to it and see if I can't make some minor miracles. That might, at least, make me feel a bit better.

Monday, August 22

It's not surprising to me that, after so much effort to get the site up to date, I managed to completely avoid posting while I was at the Edinburgh Fringe last week. I nearly posted some stuff, but, quite honestly, I couldn't be bothered. I was tired and busy and never at a computer long enough to put down my thoughts.

I'm now back in the office on the outside of a can of luke-warm soup and a sandwich, and I feel ill. It's not the food that's made me feel ill. I've picked up some sort of lurghi while running round Edinburgh without a coat, talking to many people and, undoubtedly, picking up their germs.

Last week was pretty cool. Despite only making a brief appearance at this year's fringe, I've managed to perform 25 times, including a couple of gigs where I must have easily smashed my own personal record for the longest amount of time on stage. I should also add that I was still getting laughs towards the end of the set on these occasions, which is a good sign. Any idiot can stay on stage and do stuff, but to get the laughs throughout is harder. This year was my fourth consecutive visit to the Fringe and I'm still only just really starting to understand how naive I was when, in August 2002, I vowed to return the following year with my own hour-long one man show. To be entertaining for an hour takes a lot of doing. To be worth paying money to come and see for an hour takes a lot more. Sure, it's possible to do such a show for Free (as indeed, someone is doing) but it doesn't necessarily make it worth the time that your audience have spent watching you.

At some point, I should write up my show watching diary. I saw quite a few shows this year - I managed to see more per-day than last year (I think). Most of what I saw was pretty good. There were a couple of shows which were terrible and, of course, there was Mudfinger, which I consistently laughed at, though for all the wrong reasons. I got a text from a friend which read Saw mudfinger, a couple of the audience members spent 20 minutes with one wacking him with a cardboard tube, while the other shouted "kill him" - they were 4. Brilliant!

I'm glad to be back home in the arms of my girlfriend. I've had a variety of different forms of company over the fringe. There's been drinking with comedy chums, there's been teaching a Big Brother winner/pin-up to perform stand-up (I'd never heard of her... that's showbiz), there's been the solitude of show-watching alone, I met someone I fell out with under mysterious circumstances and had the chance to clear the air and forget about it, and I've had about 1000 random encounters with members of the public I was trying to issue with flyers. Quite a mix. It's hard to believe that it all fit into a handful of days.

Life at home is, in some ways, a lot better. I've had the chance to relax. I'm now sporting a new pair of well-fitting jeans, courtesy of my girlfriend and the larger-sizes available in America. Even returning to the office didn't seem too bad.

I've got to get rid of this hacking cough and general malady. I'm due in Manchester on Thursday to do a gig and I want it to go well. I've got some new stuff which came out during the Fringe and I would like to be considered as a better act as a result of the recent work I've put in. I'm not sure that I'm happy to continue indefinitely as a stand-up comedian if I do not get some taste of success. However, I shall have my opportunities in the next couple of months and it will be up to me to capitalise upon them. We'll see.

Saturday, August 13

Oh dear oh dear. The best laid plans etc etc.

I took the car in yesterday in order to have its window fixed. I was concerned that I was leaving my guitar and other stuff in there while I went to work and left it not secure, but I couldn't carry all my stuff with me and so I had to take the risk. I left the car under the watchful eye of the staff.

Having to take an hour out of my day at lunchtime to pick up the car cost me the earlier departure time I'd rather hoped to get after work, Edinburgh-bound. When I got to the place to pick up the car, I found they'd fixed the window, but left it all unlocked. Reception had lost the keys, and for a moment, I imagined that they might have been left in the ignition. However, the keys were found and the car hadn't been interfered with, so no harm done. As a bonus, the boss told me how much the windscreen replacement might cost me and his advice might have saved my car from an early termination. The jury is out.

After work, I headed to Edinburgh. There was traffic, there was fast driving and I was just pulling into the old city, focussed on maybe seeing a few shows and performing at a particular late night show when I got a call which changed my plans. I was asked to come and help develop an act for a first-time stand-up comedian. This person was under pressure to do well and needed a set, fast. So, I joined a couple of friends and then we brainstormed with the person in question. It was fun and illuminating.

The friends were in the show - Scotland 4, Australia 1 - which I'd seen on its opening night, but which I went along to see again. It went really well and made me laugh a lot. There's some good comedy value in that show.

Afterwards, I had a car to get parked somewhere safe - it had been parked on Cowgate next to a pavement so high that I couldn't open the door and had to climb in and out of the passenger. Plus, the parking space was controlled and I was liable to getting myself ticketed if I didn't. So, off I drove. I went to the venue where I was planning to perform, looked around and changed my mind. Then I went and parked somewhere miles away from where I would be staying that night, and where I had to walk to meet everyone. Well, the walking is good exercise.

Then I walked to the pub where everyone was. I ended up doing a gig there, which went pretty well. I enjoyed it. Then we drank until kicking out. Kicking out is late. Very late. D'oh!

We walked over long distance to the flat where I was to be sleeping. I got about 3 hours' sleep... if that.

Waking up at 9 at the Fringe is not a good thing, but I didn't want to risk going back to sleep and wrecking my day. I walked back to my car to drop my stuff off - I had to forego a shower as I couldn't get the bugger to work. I realise that the last sentence contains two fractured thoughts, but it was a fractured morning, the hangover and the tiredness not being exceedingly good bedfellows. I had slept in a sleeping bag on a floor with my fleece as a pillow... forgive my confusion.

Anyway, I decided, after coffee, to go and see a show this morning. The show was called Mudfinger and was billed as a kids' show. Let's just say it was more a demonstration of mental illness... the audience had a whale of a time, so no harm done... in fact, I may never laugh that much again. I very much doubt that our amusement was created by the performer as much as it was generated, tangential to what he was doing. Oh dear oh dear. The kids got the idea of the show very quickly and had the better of the performer.

Mudfinger: Would you like me to turn your sister into mud?
Little boy: I haven't got a sister.
Mudfinger: We can change all that!

Aaaaaaaaaagh. Brilliant fun.

I have a meeting before my first show of the picnic. So, this is just a quick bit of bloggage. More later, if there's time.

Thursday, August 11

I had a hangover this morning. It wasn't an alcohol hangover. It was a thought hangover. My brain is bristling with ideas from last night. Stuff makes me laugh spotaneously and I'm feeling quite big and loud at the moment. I'm also still in a bit of a mood. I was rather rude with the people at the auto windscreens place, as they really need to pull their thumbs out of their collective ass and get my window sorted out. I've also been somewhat brutal with other colleagues at work, as I'm genuinely frightened that we'd rather sit back and pontificate, rather than actually reap the fruits of our labours. Perhaps I'll come back from Edinburgh and discover that I was the problem and that they've done tons, or perhaps I'll come back and be livid that they've done sod all.

It remains to be seen. I can, at least, rely on the fact that there are no morons on the team anymore. It's good to work with people who have a high level of intelligence - you should be able to tackle any problem rapidly and effectively under those circumstances. I'm a bit worried, though, that we've cosetted people and made them frightened to stand-up and DO SOMETHING. Perhaps my new stand-up comedy catchphrase - "Rock, you motherfuckers" - should be used to rattle their cages. Perhaps it might not be appropriate, especially blared out in the office environment.

I spent the morning trying to get the automated tests which prove our project is working to continue to do just that. Nearly there.

Later on
I ate a huge quantity of food, almost as though I wasn't expecting to have time to eat food again in the next week. The evening started with a trip to Morrisons to buy a few items for either eating or using in Edinburgh. I was running low on shampoo and shower gel, and my notepads were stolen with my guitar, so I bought some new ones. Blank ones won't bring back my material, but I can write new stuff on them.

At home, I ate. I watched The Simpsons and then I got my wireless network working. I'm very pleased to be able to announce that I can now browse the internet from my toilet seat. In fact, I have been. How cool is that!? Ever since I was a child, I dreamed about having a computer to use on the loo. Now I have and it's network connected. Amazing!

Yahoooooo! I'm up to date on the blog. It's been not up to date for months and it even went offline for a few days.

Now, I've made it. I have written up the last few months of my life and reached a point where I'm posting on the day of writing.

Thanks to those who have stuck by and kept checking. Thanks to those who complained. Always remember to read the archive - there are 100's of thousands of works (probably) to enjoy/endure in there. Bear in mind, as you sit, mindlessly reading this drivel, that there is life away from the computer screen. Maybe even come along to a gig and say hi.

Or maybe don't, unless you sort of know me in real life too. Random strangers just saying hi might be really weird.

By the way, I just noticed that blogger thinks that this is my 1000th post. What a coincidence. It's through no contrivance of my own, so I'm glad to have achieved it by chance. What better way to use the 1000th post than to get this bugger up to date. Happy reading!

Wednesday, August 10

Last night I replaced the hole in my car window with a black bag. This was not a security measure. The perspex flying off had meant that my car was more subject to the elements than I was comfortable with. I hoped that the black bag would do the trick to protect the inside of the car from driving rain.

It did. It also made an interesting fluttering noise as I drove to work. Sadly, I woke up too late for a shower and the rush into the office was still a rush... though I arrived early. I parked the car in sight of a security camera and took my guitar into the office with me. I hope dto go to Edinburgh after work, sans-window - sod it. I would perform and watch shows and forget about the annoyances in life for a bit. I'd have to shower when I got home later on.

For breakfast, some fruit juice and a tea-cake. I wonder how they got their name. It was a bit too sweety/carbohydratey, but sod it. I was in a mood.

Morning in the office felt like wading through treacle. Things are not looking particularly limber. I've been able to use some of the down time to update this blog, though, which is nice.

Lunchtime involved a baked potato and "I'll have some creamed horseradish - you can go to town on it if you want". She did. I sweated through my eyes eating that baked potato. It was very good!

Fringe Foray 1
Well, I couldn't keep away from Edinburgh during the Fringe. As I may have mentioned on more than one occasion, I love the Fringe. My relationship with this festival has changed over the last 10 or so years as I've visited it. For a while, we had a very distant relationship, in that I didn't visit it at all while I was with my ex-girlfriend. That was probably a bad move. Here's my recollection of the fringes I visited and what happened.

1994 - Went for a few days and had a good time
1995 - Went for a few more days and had a very good time
2002 - Had ten days there and saw a shed load of shows. Decided to become a stand-up and take a full length one man show the following year.
2003 - Didn't take a one man show. I did 10 spots as an 8 month-old stand-up. Learnt some of the craft of stand-up. Spent 3 weeks there and saw nearly 70 shows.
2004 - Took The Musical! and performed nearly 70 times (including that). Saw a lot of stuff, but missed a lot more.
2005 - Only going for a week. Will be performing The Great Big Comedy Picnic... and I want to watch a lot.

So. Where in 1994, I was watching the one man shows of Stewart Lee and Richard Herring, here in 2005 I will be... er... watching the one man shows of Lee and Herring respectively (or perhaps Herring and Lee).

I drove to Edinburgh with some degree of excitement. My desire to go on Monday had been unsatisfied, so I was extra excited. The journey was, of course, in the company of the whistling wind, as my rear window still hadn't been replaced. I also had Radio 4 and its "comedy" bit. Actually, the comedy in question was a sit-com in which the principal character is a dog, played by Alan Davies. This is a pretty good show, although it's intentionally witty and amusing, rather than laugh-out-loud. No problem, I'd quite enjoyed it the last time I'd heard it. I'd last heard it perhaps 6 months ago and they were repeating it. They were repeating pretty much the only episode I ever recall hearing, but it was worth a second listen.

Once in Edinburgh itself I had two urgent requirements... no, make that three. Perhaps I should have just gone back and corrected the first half of the last sentence, but why not just write this as I think it? Eh? Eh? Ok, then, I will. Urgent requirement 1 was to find somewhere secure to park the car. In this case, the word "secure" meant to park against a wall or similar. I had some ideas of where to try. Luckily, I found a portakabin near the Pleasance and parked very very close to it. Smashing, because urgent requirement 2 was to have a wee wee. The Pleasance has a toilet and so I used it. This was an excellent choice as requirement 3 was to see a show and I had pretty much decided to see Richard Herring's show (8pm, Pleasance Above) as my first paying-entry show of this year's Fringe. Quite appropriate to support Mr Herring, given his position as one of my comedy icons, and his presence in my ears over recent weeks.

Much as I was unimpressed by Richard Herring's performance on May 26th (read back), so I was relatively skeptical about what he was really delivering on the stand-up stage. It had its moments and, apart from his somewhat luvvie-styled bowing at the end, I felt quite comfortable.

After the show was over, I hurried across to the Baby Belly to see Priorite A Gauche. They are a spoof French pop/folk duo. They were very funny and musically stunning. I was very very impressed. With two electro acoustic guitars and an electro acoustic fretless bass (plus a tiny bit of electronics), they made one hell of an impressive sound. I bought their CD afterwards. It's great.

Then I sauntered across town to the Gilded Balloon and watched Frank Hovis. I have never seen Frank Hovis live (he's a character, created by John Sparkes of Absolutely). Watching him in the flesh was a quasi-religious experience for me. He was, in places, outrageously funny. In other places, he was corny, but that was an intentional character-flaw of the character. In other places, he was just doing the same shtick that I memorised off the telly in 1993. I could have mouthed along to bits of it. It was simply great. I giggled for about 10 minutes after the show. I felt great.

Speaking to a friend of mine on the telephone, I gaily jaunted across town to a venue where the 4th show of my evening would be occurring. I was going to perform. I arrived just before show time and managed to avoid going on 5th (which would have meant an exceedingly late night for me, rather than just a very late night) and managed to go on 1st, claiming something about having to tune my guitar (which was pretty much in tune, as it happened).

So, I went on 2nd. I went on with the intention of rocking the place. I used my new catchphrase -"Rock, you motherfuckers" - which they took far too seriously! I also did my opening song in the style of a swing singer, which was fun - I really need a big band. Bizarrely, having managed to avoid having that song stuck in my head for years, the swing version has become a new catchy tune that I occasionally find myself hearing. After about 30 minutes, I was on the finale and a heckler pulled my guitar-lead out. That's quite direct heckling. He was booed by the rest of the audience. I think that proved something. The heckler was, perhaps, nonplussed by my last song, but his actions bought him an additional verse of it. As I reclaimed my lead from the floor, to the cheers from the audience, I proclaimed - "They can take our leads, but they'll never take away our freedom". Well, I was amused.

This is, I performed for 30 minutes. In places, they were dropping interest. In places I did big hitter stuff, in places I chuntered on. I didn't give a shit. I didn't care about the hecklers. I didn't feel phased. I was there to perform and my brain was in gear. I was able to ad lib and make myself time to come up with the right lines. I purposely slowed bits of material down. I also purposely forced myself to do many bits of my set in some sort of new way. I had a lovely time.

I drove back home at top speed. Well, I could have gone faster, but I wanted the car to be under some degree of control. I showered and went to sleep very late. It didn't bode well for my levels of alertness the following day, but I'd had a smashing night.

This guerilla warfare approach to the Fringe is not quite how I set out to enjoy the festival this year, but I'm happy I did it. I would have wanted to do it again the following night, but I had to reserve the next day for preparing for going to the Fringe properly. With a car with a bust window, and with washing to sort out, I have to be realistic and get things sorted before I head to very busy city for a very busy week.

The one evening in Edinburgh had involved quite a lot of laughter and a reasonable amount of walking. I fully intend to run myself at full throttle for the next week and a bit. The world of performance comedy is important to me and I don't believe you get extra points for not living life to the max.

If I keep control of my eating while away, then I should be able to come back healthier and full of ideas and energy. It's only a week, but at that pace, it could be the week. The following week at work will be busy too and I have already booked time off to go on holiday with my girlfriend a couple of weeks after. So, life is not going to slow down. I'm looking forward to the next 6 weeks, really.

I accidentally made the mistake, while on the phone to my girlfriend on Friday, of promising her that I will not have any fried breakfasts (excluding, perhaps, the occasional sandwich of one item or another) while in Edinburgh. By linking my commitment to my relationship with my girlfriend to my commitment to my own healthy eating, I have, in some ways, shot myself in the foot. I shall have to do it now, there's no failing to be allowed.

On the up side, I'm sure she'd prefer a boyfriend with a longer life expectancy and a bit more energy!

Tuesday, August 9

Getting up like a bear with a sore head, or at least a bear with a broken-into-car and a missing guitar, I grumpily headed to the office. I wasn't pleased. I shouldn't have bought a wee girdle scone for breakfast and I shouldn't have been so moody at our morning meeting.

I shouldn't have sat frustratedly solving a problem with a colleague (which was entirely caused by his lack of understanding of what he was doing the first time, and a pressure to call it finished, when it was clearly not even slightly working). I managed to keep my temper, despite a few times wanting to shout out or flounce out of the room in disgust. I also managed to recognise what was confusing and explain it calmly.

It was draining.

I returned to the problem that I wanted to solve, at my own desk, and managed to get that sorted. I also took a trip into town where I checked the local cash-converters to see if my guitar had been pawned yet. Perhaps it will end up there. I suspect it will just disappear. Poor irreplaceable bright red Fender guitar. I miss it.

Actually, I'm also grumpy through missing my girlfriend. We've not spoken in a few days and that makes me very ratty... she is, however, on holiday, so I can't complain.

Over lunchtime I also went to a local guitar shop and bought an electronic tuner, a capo (for changing the pitch of the guitar mid-performance), some spare strings, a rapid-winder for putting strings on, and a pair of clippers. All of these were to replace the accessories lost in the theft. I spent over £50. It's not a cheap business being robbed. I also contacted my insurers.

A lunchtime coffee came with a muffin... I'm shit at dieting.

In the afternoon, I got very angry again, as we're wasting time and not being firm enough with the people who whine, rather than recognise that we can't go forever without finishing something and giving it to people in exchange for money.

In the late afternoon/early evening, I set off for Manchester, my perspex temporary window, gaffa-taped to the car and flapping in the winds. It lasted 10 miles before flapping off.

I thought I might use my annoyance for comic effect at the gig, and there was certainly a lot pissing me off, including the utterly shite "Bearded Ladies" sketch show which I listened to on Radio 4. Comedy is supposed to be funny. This was tripe. That's two different shows on Radio 4 which are pure shit. What the hell are they playing at. Repeat something that's good, don't commission this bollocks! The Consultants are good. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, Just A Minute, The Now Show... all good. Don't give me some watered down piss to listen to.


I got lost in Manchester as my directions accurately sent me to the wrong place.

I found myself in Manchester and was early for the gig.

I secured the car as best I could by parking it with the broken window/door combination very very close to a wall.

The gig was hard work for everyone. However, I closed it and I used the opportunity to let off steam as an opportunity to let of steam. One of my routines, which got a big laugh, was taken on for longer than ever, as I realised I could shout out my stress of the last 30 or so hours. I also told the audience some of what was annoying me.

I drove home at breakneck speed and should have arrived 30 or so minutes later at normal speeds, or at least died on the journey at the speeds I hit. I guess that luck was on my side (unless I lose my licence for speeding - though I don't know if I was caught).

I'm also upset because I worked out that my ex-guitar had travelled probably about 50,000 miles with me to various gigs - that's twice round the world. The only companion more faithful is my car, which looks set to be retired in the near future. It will, apparently, fail its MOT for the crack in the windscreen that developed recently. I can't see how I can justify spending the money on a new windscreen and new tyres for it, AND have it serviced, when the car is not worth anything like what those will all cost. I think I may have to get a newer one. I like my car. My girlfriend doesn't, and I like her more!

Monday, August 8

Monday mornings are not too easy. Somehow I managed to be awake and yet unmoving for much of the time between the alarm going off and the last few seconds in which I can remain in bet before becoming horrendously late for work.

I drove to the office at top speed and parked my car at the rear entrance of the car park. I was planning a speedy exit from that car park after work. The aim was to fly to Edinburgh in order to see three shows and maybe perform in two. I was looking forward to it.

Before that, though, there was work to be done and we did some planning and discussion and then I leapt into action on the tasks I had to do. I worked fairly hard over the course of the day, sorting things out and getting things done. I tried to encourage a workmate to join me in my 5 o'clock jaunt up north, even volunteering to treat him to the trip and shows etc. I was really on a high as I bounded down the steps of the office to my car. In fact, I was on such a high, contemplating my notes about the shows I wanted to see, that I walked past the car, comically having to double-back to get to it.

Something wasn't quite right, though. It took me a few moments to put my finger on it. The fragments of glass were a clue, and the absence of my guitar bag was a real clincher. I'd been broken into. It's now 90 minutes later and I'm sitting at home feeling really really miserable. Oooh the contrast. One moment, I'm off to Edinburgh to watch and perform, the next I'm sitting at home, alone, having lost maybe £600 worth of stuff I can buy again, and a trusty friend in the shape of my probably irreplaceable guitar (obviously, I can buy another guitar, but I don't know where I can get this particular model - if at all).

What a pisser!

The guitar bag also contained my mp3 player, which was never my favourite gadget, but had its uses and also had some recent recordings that I hadn't had chance to transfer to my computer. The bag also contained pretty much all the stuff I'd written down on paper for my stand-up. Luckily, there wasn't very much, and a lot of it I have in my memory anyway, but there was some stuff which I wrote down for reviewing later on... it's gone for good.

There's CCTV cameras in the car park, but the parking warden spent a lot of time bemoaning how shit they are. He's complaining to me about the security in the car park. I kept my temper. I really didn't want to mention the fact that the little bastards who work there were quick to ticket me for parking one space to the left, but can't even get their asses hauled out of their cosy little portacabin to wander around the car park to see if anyone's breaking into cars.

I listened to the circular conversation of the warden for a while until I felt my temperature rising, then I left. Murder of parking attendants is still illegal.

I've spoken to the police and my car insurers and I'm now off to get my window replaced with some perspex, to secure it. It will have to be replaced with glass when the part comes into stock.

Some people might say it's my own fault for leaving my back seats down and my guitar on display. I would say that it's probably (and indeed more likely) to be the fault of the little gits that smashed my window.

Well, I went off to get my window boarded up with perspex. This is a virtually pointless operation. They may as well have stuck a bin-liner to the car for all the good that the perspex will be. It's attached with gaffa tape, so anyone with... hands... could easily remove it.

I whiled away the time in the replacement windscreen place chattering to the girlfriend of the fellow who was sorting out the piece of perspex for me. They'll have a proper replacement window for me in the next day or so. That'll only cost me £50 plus the time and inconvenience of actually going along and getting it done. This is not much fun.

I'm quite upset to have lost my lovely guitar. It's been on stage with me so many times - I reckon about 225 times or so - and it never deserved to be stolen for some bastard to make a quick buck. I hope it's ok.

More later
I'm the other side of a shed-load of ironing. I feel a bit lighter of spirit, though still pissed off at the loss of my guitar and the inconvenience and everything. I've been watching Bill Bailey's Part Troll DVD, which I bought back in June. I've also been blogging some more, including the bit where I bought the DVD... not that I made a big deal of it.

I did some tidying up round the house, which would probably have gone undone had I gone to Edinburgh this evening, watched three shows and performed in two, as was my original plan. I also, in an act of taking care of the things I still possess, spent a bit of time with my bike. I oiled the chain, cleaned some of the mucky bits and fitted the bike stand that has sat on the floor of my house since I bought it some time ago. (Well, two or three weeks.)

I'm rapidly trying to plough through the missing blog items. It would be amazing if I could have this blog up to date before I leave for Edinburgh... that's probably not going to happen, though.

Sunday, August 7

I'm easy like Sunday morning. Sunday morning was, in fact, very easy as I relaxed throughout, with my eyes shut and the occasional disruption of the alarm clock easily ignored. Eventually waking up in time for the end of Michael Parkinson's radio show, I had some breakfasty-lunchy-sort of thing and listened to a little Elaine Paige before adjourning to my home-office-roomy-thing (never known what quite to call it) for some planning.

I've decided that I would quite like to see this year's Fringe festival. I missed a lot of last year, and things like gigging really get in the way of seeing shows. Therefore, I sat down with a guide to this year's Fringe comedy and worked out which shows I'd quite like to see and when and where they were all on. Last night I also looked online at one or two acts that I've heard about, but hadn't seen. There are some acts which I may find myself hating when I ought to love them, and vice versa. There's only one way to find out.

I now have a list of the 30 odd shows I might go out of my way to watch. Within that list there are maybe 15 which I would be peeved to miss. Sadly, seeing Rolf Harris is simply not an option as he sold out before the Fringe even started. D'oh! Never mind. However, realising the practical problems of seeing a Fringe while busy and tired, I've decided to take the precaution of going up to Edinburgh twice this week before I go up there properly on Friday night. I'll sneak in a gig of my own on both occasions to make it apparently worth my while going up there, but I will try to see 9 shows before my first performance of The Great Big Comedy Picnic. I really adore going to the Fringe.

If I play it right, I should be able to return home on my last Sunday in Edinburgh tired, happy and relatively early. We'll see.

The rest of the day today should be spent preparing for my trip to the Fringe. I can think of the following things that need doing:
  1. Washing
  2. Ironing
  3. Cleaning
  4. This blog
The latter of these feels the most urgent. It's 7th August and the online blog reads from the 22nd May! That's shocking. Even if I'm end up skimping on detail and bloggin entire weeks, I should really do something to get this thing up to date. It won't get any easier after a week in Edinburgh.

I would also like to get together a log of all the shows I saw last year. I will keep track of what I see this year and log that. I have a Fringe diary from the previous two years I went to Edinburgh in this part of my life, and they make reasonable mementoes of an otherwise hazy time.

In addition to these myriad tasks, some of which I may well get onto in a moment, I have a gig tonight in Hartlepool. My aim is to have fun, but I also have the responsibility of driving a fellow comedian to the gig and setting up the venue, as the promoter/venue manager is off doing other things. I've already been paid for this performance, so I feel more obliged than normal to do it. I also feel like I ought to be glad of the paid work, as my credit card bills have cleaned out my bank account again! D'oh! Having said that, there's money owed to me from a couple of sources, so it's not the end of the world, and I have other bank accounts that are not cleaned out.

Perhaps a lack of cash will inspire me to keep a tight rein on my spending on pointless food items while in Edinburgh. I reckon I could live very cheaply on a diet of soup and porridge...

The gig in Hartlepool wasn't as easy as it first looked. In fact, the audience there took some playing too. I was hampered by a string snapping and the fact that I felt all hot and sweaty as I slowly turned to liquid under the hot lights. Still, they laughed and I did my stuff and got off the stage. I can't help but wish that I were a better act.

On top of all of this, I miss my girlfriend, now off in America, hopefully having a really good time. This is not a bad thing, I suppose. It's not nice to think of the amount of time between now and next seeing her - the longest time in the course of our six month-long relationship that we've been apart. However, it's nice to have someone to miss. I never missed my solitude when I wasn't in a relationship. I never looked forward to returning to the empty house because nobody was there. Life in a relationship is good. It's just a shame that the supply of hugs has dwindled for a bit. Still, one must look on the bright side. There's plenty of laughter to be had and to generate in the next couple of weeks and then there'll be plenty of time for togetherness when we're reunited.

Saturday, August 6

For once in a long while, this entry is being written on the day in question, rather than after the fact with the benefit of hindsight and the negative effects of long-term memory loss. My short-term memory is hardly at its best, but I'll try to recount what happened since I awoke.

I rose at around 9.30 this morning. I had a shower and some breakfast - not at the same time, of course - and then headed to Jesmond, where I dropped off my car and picked up a Citroen van. The van was being hired by a friend of mine, who lives in Edinburgh. My job for the day was to drive to Edinburgh, pick her up, along with a shed-load of stuff she planned to store in my loft and then store it in my loft with her. This will enable her to go to Australia for a year and forget about her stuff, knowing that it's safe and sound. She could have forgotten about her stuff without me, but the safe and sound bit was where I came in. To pay for storage for her belongings would have been significantly more expensive than stuffing it in my loft, even when you factor in a day's van hire, fuel for a return trip to Edinburgh for me, and a train fare to get her home afterwards. Fair enoughski.

So, by 10.30 I was heading to Edinburgh on the A1, as is my way. I had the radio for company and, after reconfiguring it to have a reasonable sound and to use its own RDS feature to keep tuned into Radio 2 (some idiot had dicked with both) found it to be very good company. I had Jonathon Ross's show and some of "Jamming" and then I was at my friend's flat.

After a bizarre coffee - bizarre as it was made from a mix of different grounds, as supplies of neither grounds were grounds for a whole caffetiere (see what I did there) full - we started packing the van. This involved moving lots of boxes. I was outside moving them from doorway to van and my friend was going in and out moving from her flat (thankfully ground floor) to doorway. This worked rather well.

Then we hit the road, via the Tesco garage in which a feintly amusing incident once happened to me. We used the garage to stock up on supplies akin to lunch. The road trip was eventless, trafficless and, therefore, entirely dull.

Arriving back in Newcastle, we filled up with diesel (it's 50% more to take a van round trip to Edinburgh than to take my car - useful statistic!). Then we had a two-phase approach to sorting out the loft-loading. Phase 1 (in which Doris gets her oats - email if you got that) was to shift all the stuff from the van to the upper floor of my house. This involved a lot of running up and down the stairs and was, quite frankly, quite tiring. Hot, bothered and in need of a break, we then had a coffee. This too was a bizarre coffee in that I set out to make a cappuccino but was told, at the last minute, that my friend would prefer to keep control of her lactose-intolerance and skip it. I had to boil a kettle and run some more water through the coffee to justify handing it over. Still, no harm done. It was an americano and I am not a bad host.

Over coffee (and ironing) brief chatting was indulged in, and then it was time to get to work. With my friend up in the loft and me at the foot of the latter handing boxes up, or climbing up with them, the items soon moved into place. Not a bad job. Not bad at all. But, it was now 5.45pm and I had to be in Darlington for a gig. I jumped into the shower (well, stepped carefully, I didn't want to do myself an injury) while my friend went online to look for directions to the venue.

Then, after a quick dry, I rang the hire company to arrange a 6.30pm drop off of the van. This achieved, we were back in my car and heading to Darlington. We arrived in plenty of time. Quite cleverly, my friend had arranged herself an evening train from Darlington station to Edinburgh. This left us plenty of time and plenty of options for getting her back... had we run very late, I could have dropped her in Newcastle on the way to Darlington and she could have picked up her train later than booked as it would have passed through Newcastle station. If we were running to time or early, she could come with to Darlington and save the bother of sitting bored, alone, hot from a day's moving of her worldly possessions from one country to another.

We were running pretty much to time. I arrived at the venue early enough to do a soundcheck and then sit and relax before the show. The train was caught in plenty of time and I had a really nice time with the audience when I went on stage in the "easy middle section". We had a few gigglers in and I made a few lines up as I went along to keep it all together. It was a completely different experience to the previous evening in Newcastle. Rock on, Darlington!

Back in Newcastle, the late night Tesco garage proved to be full of idle bastards who don't understand that closing at midnight means that the shop shouldn't be dark and inaccessible at 11.50. Gits! I had soup and porridge for an evening meal. It's probably healthier than what I might have bought from the Tesco express bit. We'll never know.

Friday, August 5

Another day testing, another day of Lee and Herring in my ears. It's not a terrible thing to do for money. I was ripping through the sections of the test plan - this was something to do with the fact that I was on the really short bits that one can rip through. I felt like I was motoring. Still, there seem to be many barriers to rip through next week.

Towards the end of the day I had a very frustrating technical support phone call. I tried to diagnose the problem and fix it, but the guy on the other end was totally IT literate, exceedingly helpful and largely unhelpable. We couldn't get any of the diagnostics I wanted to run because some bloody idiot has taken them out of the program. I used to work on this part of our software and I always made sure that there was something by way of error message or output file to explain why things weren't working, but some plonker, in their (lack of) wisdom had simplified the error message to "Er... it's not bloody working... sorry!". Useless (I'm paraphrasing the actual message - it's more polite, but still as pointless).

A last minute diagnostic tool of my own devising failed miserably at the customer's end when I sent it to him, so I must start the week with that and a bunch of other stuff hanging over me. Grrr. This is meant to be an important week too. I guess hard work will have to be undertaken.

After work, I drove (fairly early) to the gig I had in Newcastle. I did my soundcheck, everything was fine, and then I went outside to give my farewell phonecall to my girlfriend, who was jetting off to New York at a ridiculously early hour the following morning. We chatted for a while and she made me laugh. She's naturally very funny and should probably write jokes for me or something. Her description of the internal monologue of seagulls was inspiring! We said our farewells and I left her to go off and actually pack. Apparently, everything was ready, but just not in the bag.

The gig was a disappointment for me. I did ok. In fact, I think I did pretty well under the circumstances, but I don't like to be treated that way by an audience. They were chattery and generally unimpressed. I got a couple of heckles, which were easily dispatched (I think I got a round of applause for one of my responses, which wasn't even particularly harsh or witty). Overall, I felt like I had to really work the room very hard. This sort of situation shouldn't arise. However, I think I know where I'm going wrong and I think I know why that gig was hard. The other comedians seemed to continue to treat me with respect after I'd performed, so I shouldn't feel too ashamed.

I didn't go out for a meal with the other acts after the show as I'm trying to stop myself from eating shit. So far, I'm doing ok, but I am still probably eating too much. However, it's better that I should be eating too much healthy stuff than too much rubbish. Probably.

I had to get a reasonably early night as there was a busy day ahead.

Thursday, August 4

I am a computer programmer. I like writing computer programs. That's what I do. I don't particularly like following a dull test script to try out a computer program to see whether it works. There are other ways of proving whether the software works and we must adopt them if we're ever to get anywhere. However, this mindless testing was, at least, made more entertaining over the course of today by the presence of Messrs Lee and Herring in my ears. They were broadcasting on Radio 1, from 1995 (or thereabouts). It was great. I was transported back to a time when I was a big fan of theirs and when their quirky humour was, for me, the pinnacle of all that was good in comedy. I still really like their stuff. I would also be unable to listen to it unless I was doing something mindless, like testing, so it wasn't a wholly bad experience.

After work, I jumped into the car and drove to Edinburgh. I wanted to be in Edinburgh for about 7.30 and so left the office at 5 to achieve this. I had a three-fold mission. I wanted to perform
once and see two shows. As I drove to the Scottish capital, my mission was altered. I was to perform twice and see one show. Fair enough, you help out with the performing when you can. The show I was definitely going to see was a venture involving some friends of mine, one of whom helped us out extensively last year while we were doing The Musical!. It was only fair to go along and support his first preview this year.

Still, I had a car journey in which to contemplate life, the universe and so on, and I had two performances to give before I was allowed to scoot from the venue (in New Town) where I was performing to the other venue (in Old Town) where I would be watching. As I drove, I listened to the radio. I always like to tune into Radio 4 at 6.30 (when I'm gigging at least) to listen to their comedy half-hour. On this occasion, it was the Hudson and Pepperdine show. For some reason, I felt like I'd heard of these guys before, but I didn't recognise their show or style. Overall, it was 20 minutes' worth of wasted time. While there was comedy value in some of what they were doing, it was over blown, only vaguely amusing and largely falling on the deaf ears with their live audience. As a more experienced performer, I know more clearly what a failed joke sounds like. I hoped that their mediocrity wouldn't affect my own performance.

So, I sat in the driving seat and pondered what I could do to spice up my own act. "I know," I thought "I'll do it backwards!". Now, I don't mean that I bizarrely decided to perform the words in reverse order, more the sections of my reasonably carefully arranged set. I would go from the finale through to the intro. I started to sketch this out in my head and then stopped myself. I would do it backwards but I would not be allowed to rehearse it or otherwise prepare it. It would have to be spontaneously backwards.

As I arrived at the venue. I saw the compere getting little out of a disinterested crowd. Then an act came on and got a bit. Then, after a wee break, I went on and, with gay abandon, got the room whooping. My opening line of "waheeeeey" seemed to capture the mood. I don't quite know how I did it, but I go through a set from back to front... and left the stage highly amused at my own stupidity. I giggled for a good 10 minutes afterwards. Such is my nature. I sometimes make myself laugh... so long as the audience have laughed too, that's probably acceptable.

My girlfriend was due on holiday in a couple of days, so I left the venue between shows (I'd closed that show and was to open the next) for a chat with her before she went. We discussed many things including a rather vindictive act on the part of someone who has recently left my employer's employ. We said our goodbyes and she went off to pack, and I went in search of food.

My new jeans were really starting to hurt me - they're lower cut than my others and the belt digs in and makes me feel fatter than other clothes might... but I'm still really at a zenith of obesity at the moment (not my own zenith - I've been immense - but still a local maximum). With this in mind, I'm really starting to look for ways of being less fat. Hopefully, running round Edinburgh is one of them. In this instance, buying a portion of sushi from Sainsbury's made me feel better about what I was eating and what I wasn't. No pastry or mayonnaise, or chocolate for me!

In the second show, I left the guitar in the bag and did some material - largely new stuff. I think I'd like to be able to make an audience laugh with spoken material. I didn't really manage it this time. Still, I got some response and in a better atmosphere, my new stuff might actually work.

Then I scooted at top speed to the Baby Belly venue, which looks amazing, to see my friends' show. I'd seen the Baby Belly venue as I drove in. In fact, as I drove into Edinburgh, I got three hits of excitement: there was anticipation as I drove up the royal mile and saw the venue I'll be performing in, joy at seeing the top end of the royal mile all set out for the Fringe stuff, and then a real surprise as I saw how the Underbelly organisers have stamped their brand over their new acquisition - the Baby Belly. All of a sudden, I wanted to just see shows and shows and more shows. I really love the Fringe.

I'll not say much about the show I saw except that it went rather wrong. This was down to a computer problem which I may or may not have solved after the show. However, the guys kept the audience entertained with "stuff" and it was the first preview, so hopefully it won't count too much against them. If they keep getting audiences like that, they'll not go too far wrong.

Eventually, I set back to Newcastle for my real life. I'd be back in Edinburgh before long, though.

Wednesday, August 3

Did some work. Went home. Spent the night on the phone and playing online games with my girlfriend. This may sound sad to a cynical reader, but we enjoyed ourselves. Had we been together, we might still have played some of the games. We've done that before.

Tuesday, August 2

Sadly, my girlfriend had to leave the city in order to go home to get ready for her holiday. However, we did meet up for lunch, which was a nice way to break up my day and she had been staying longer than planned (or indeed expected) which was a bonus in itself.

As I sat in the office, with nobody to go home to, I conceived a plan for the night. This was going to be agility and dynamism personified. I had already been pondering the imminent arrival of a friend's boxes of stuff, which I was going to be storing in my loft while she went away for a year. How could I store the stuff? Surely it would be tricky to get it all into the loft? I had no ladder, and I'd never really seen much of my own loft, except vaguely and by torchlight. I wanted it boarded and I wanted some light up there. So, how could I do it?

I decided that I would board my loft in one evening. I needed loft-boarding skills in order to be able to please my sister at some future point when she might ask me to make good on my promise to board hers. So, could I do it in one evening? Well, not exactly. Boarding a full loft is a massive operation and the edge-cutting alone could take an evening. However, making a loft "boarded enough" for my purposes could probably be done in one go. I had 5 and a half hours from leaving work to get it done within the same day as I decided to do it.

I had a shopping list. I needed:
  1. Floorboards for a loft
  2. Some means of getting up to the loft
  3. Some sort of light
  4. Screws
  5. Some means of putting the screws in
That's not too big a list. I contemplated buying a loft ladder, but realised that I didn't need a loft-specific ladder. I'd have to buy a regular straight-ladder to be able to get up there in the first place, so why go to the bother of installing a loft-ladder too? I don't plan to visit the upper floors very often.

As for a light, I reckoned I'd need an inspection light - a wee bulb in a cage - especially as I would have to turn off the upstairs lighting circuit to work in the loft - handling the lighting cables - and would want a light I could run from a power socket. However, I also bought a pull cord and a bulb holder, so I could install a proper light in there when the time came. I bought some wire too (and some other bits and bobs, just in case).

I couldn't buy enough floor boards to cover the entire loft, but I could buy 8 packs - at £4 each, that wasn't much cash, but it was enough wood to do the business. Bear in mind that I was working alone and so would have to find some way of getting all this wood into the loft. Getting it to the first floor of the house was bothersome enough.

Finally, I bought what I thought was a corded power screwdriver. Frustratingly this turned out to be a lack-lustre cordless driver, which was of little use to me. I ended up using my regular cordless drill. Never mind.

So, could I board my loft in 4 hours?

Well, actually, yes. It took a while to get going. The first couple of boards went down easily, but then I had to reroute some cabling. This gave me an opportunity to wire in my permanent light and also to knock out the mains circuit for the entire house. I was working with the lighting circuit disconnected, but accidentally touching earth and neutral wires together seemed to disappoint my fuse box. Nothing was damaged and it's nice to know that the fuse-box protection stuff actually works!

With the light installed and a few more boards down, I hit a critical mass where getting further boards down was pretty easy. My drill's power went after a while and so I took to laying the boards down without screwing them in. They still work when not screwed down, and enough were screwed down to give me a firm base to work from. I can screw in the boards later on.

Despite wearing a face mask for much of the operation, I had a nose full of dust and a headache when I came down the ladder, put everything away (or at least in a pile) and completed my vacuuming up of the detritus that had fallen from the loft. I hadn't done a bad job. I'd rerouted some cables, removed the ancient wiring that was still up there from when the house was first wired up for electricity, put down 24 floorboards and made a habitat for the boxes soon to arrive.

I'd tackled my fear of something "coming to get me" while up there - somehow the unexplored territory of my loft seemed a bit foreboding, and I'd also removed the corpse of a small bird that had died up there sometime. Not bad for an evening's work.

I slept well!

Monday, August 1

I managed to get an extra day out of my girlfriend's visit as we had a weekend that tired her out enough to give an excuse to her mother for her late return. It wasn't an immensely tiring weekend, but it was busy enough to get me into a shop to buy jeans - jeans which don't feel so well that I feel comfortable or unfat. We managed to fit a Saturday night in at a pool hall, which was nice. I think I managed to recoup some of my losses at the game. Previously I've had my fat ass whipped. My new form was probably only temporary.

The weekend was also busy enough for us to attend a family barbecue in Leeds on the Sunday afternoon. It was a great barbie and we were made to feel very welcome... and full... and laden with leftovers.

Monday night involved eating some leftovers and feeling full again.

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