My Stand-up & gigs
The Coding Craftsman
An Open Letter To HSBC
Pay What Now?
Hearing the music
When to quit
I am not as other men
Tonight I was funny
Attack of the Drones
Notes on your set
Why Pissing off a Fellow Comedian was Fun
The Missing Post
I didn't blog much this month, but at some point I sat down on the toilet in the office with a palmtop computer and wrote something intended for the blog. Here's what I wrote, which I may as well have online for posterity:
This is my first attempt at writing with my latest toy, the ipaq. Why do I have an ipaq? Well, the story probably goes back as far as the month I met my girlfriend. I had decided to lose weight and so I bought a bike. Then an mp3 player. Then I started a long distance relationship, which added to my already ridiculous mileage, and changed my perspective on spending money. Then my girlfriend admitted that she hated my car, which was getting so worn out it needed replacing... Then it was broken into, the mp3 player was stolen and I decided that I wanted a good driving experience to and from gigs.
So, I bought a car. Not the car I set out to, and costing more than I really wanted to spend. As a consolation prize, I reckoned I may as well spoil myself with a satellite navigation system, which led me to buy the wee palmtop computer that I am using.
Thursday, I bought the palmtop. Friday, the car. Saturday I had two gigs and so rested. Sunday, I bought a new car stereo and some CDs. Monday, after the insurers told me I was getting cash, rather than a new mp3 player, I bought an mp3 player with knobs on... Which means I should probably use my bike more, and save money on petrol.
My last day in the office before going away to Tunisia. We managed to finish off a bunch of stuff which looked impossible yesterday. Heaven knows what the hell it'll do, but it's done.
I still have a few things to buy for my holiday, so will hopefully get out of the house tomorrow and sort them out. I feel woefully unprepared, but how prepared can you realistically be? We'll get on a plane, go away and see what happens. It should be fine!
Time after work, was mainly comprised of mowing the lawn, eating pizza and watching "Pimp my Ride" on MTV. I'm not proud of it.
I'm not ashamed.
You can't beat fate. I tried and I failed. I had hoped to use my new guitar pedal at the gig in Penzance, but it hadn't arrived in time for me to play with it (and it wouldn't have worked anyway) despite the fact that I tried to speed up its arrival by paying with something other than a cheque. It arrived on Wednesday, but that was still too late to use it for the gig I had that night as, again, I hadn't had time to play with it.
Given that I wasn't expecting to see my girlfriend that night, I skipped home for lunch (she wasn't coming to the gig and I thought I'd be home after she went to bed). While at home, mindful that I've had a bunch of sound-checks recently that have gone awry, I picked up some equipment which should make plugging into odd PA systems a lot easier. This mixer would have saved the day single handedly in Penzance, and would have given me more control over the sound of the guitar in a couple of other gigs, recently, where all I've had is a DJ booth to plug into.
As I drove to Manchester for the gig, I was feeling optimistic. As I got to the gig and realised I needed the kit I'd brought, I was over the moon. We got the guitar plugged in and sounding great. Brilliant!
You can't beat fate.
There was no mike stand. Without a mike stand, a guitarist can't use a mike. I tried using the MC as a pretend mike stand, but he kept moving the mike to my mouth and it kept getting too loud, cutting out, and making me giggle. After all that effort, I had to do the gig acoustically. Plus, my wee guitar is not quite loud enough to do that effectively, even though it was a small room.
Under the circumstances, the fact that I kept my set going for about 30 minutes was quite something.
I got off stage at 10.20, I drove home 10 minutes later and got to spend some time with my girlfriend after all. We watched "Big Game TV" which was rubbish!
The last day of the ludicrously early breakfasting. After the breakfast, we packed up and left. We had to go back to Reading to pick up the things we'd left there on the way down and ensure we had everything that my girlfriend needed for Tunisia. Then we headed up to Newcastle.
Penzance to Newcastle via Reading is a long way. We arrived in Newcastle at about 9.30pm and I'd been driving for many hours. Once there we got some takeaway food and took what was left of an early night.
Another early wake up for breakfast. This was followed by a return to bed and some more sleep. It's sad but true. That's what we did.
Then we drove to St Ives and had a walk from the clifftop car park to the town centre. I had my hair cut there. Then a walk along the promenade and even on the beach. The rains came again, but we had an umbrella. Ha! Lunch came and went, as did 100g of fudge. Then, discouraged by the rain and with a gig to do in Penzance that evening, we quit St Ives and headed back.
I was told to be at the gig for a soundcheck at 6pm. I was there around that time, but could easily have come a lot later. For a while, it even looked like the guitar would have to be played though a microphone, rather than plugged into the PA, but it all worked out in the end. My extra long guitar lead partly saved the day, as did the fact that both my guitar and that of the headline act, have extra loud pickups on them, which allowed them to be plugged into a part of the PA system which they, by rights shouldn't plug into.
The gig itself was hard work. The MC had told me that they were a loving and appreciative audience, but I had to work hard to keep the energy levels going. There was a bit of a flat bit, but I dug myself out of it and ended on a reasonable high. The MC later told me that he'd purposely lied to me. Fair enough - nobody feels too funny if they think they're going on to certain death.
I don't think I had my finest hour on stage, but I didn't feel a fool.
We left soon after a man started fiddling with himself at the bar. I didn't see him do it. It wasn't me.
We awoke at 8. This was owing to the rather bizarre nature of the hotel's breakfast policy. Breakfast, preordered the evening before, would be available between 8 and half past. I'm not one to miss a breakfast and we felt that we might be implicitly insulting our landlady's hospitality if we skipped breakfast. So we went downstairs and breakfasted.
After breakfast, we returned upstairs for some relaxing. This was, after all, a holiday of sorts. Some reading was enjoyed and the time passed very quickly. Mid morning, we quit the guest house and went to Lands End. It was the end of the country when viewed from the perspective of someone who wants to define an end of the country. it's not the most western or southerly point, but it's called Lands End, so we went there to celebrate it and to pay the £3 parking it costs to get into their American Theme Park styled world.
Soon after we saw the end of the land, the heavens opened and we were, within 2 minutes, entirely drenched. We went to get Sunday lunch at the pub within the complex and found it to have run out. That's the second time Sunday lunch has been denied us of late. Still, an alternatively was found and we lunched.
Deciding that Lands End had little else to offer us, and requiring a drying off, we returned to the guest house for more reading.
In the evening we finally found a carvery and a roast situation that suited us and Sunday roast was ours. The sheer quantity of meat provided much raw material for making "poo smoothies" - a phrase which my girlfriend found increasingly unpleasant, but which I rather enjoyed using in respect of the saniflow that our hotel toilet was equipped with.
I drove to Reading after work on Friday and stayed the night. On the Saturday morning, it was time to go to Penzance to stay in the guest house I'd arranged. We got directions from the online direction thingy and it reckoned it would be a 6 hour journey. It was even longer! In a hot car under heavy traffic we sauntered along the route, eventually arriving in Penzance, quite frazzled. Then we couldn't find the place we were looking for. Very frustrating indeed. However, we drove around and around in reasonably good spirits and located our guest house.
Parking was a bit of a nightmare, but we found somewhere to park, grabbed the entire contents of the car and relocated to the guest house. Result!
In the evening we went to a nearby pub for something to eat. They were initially reluctant to take our food order as they'd had a deluge of people wanting to eat steaks and were overloaded in the kitchen - the fact that everyone had ordered the same thing had cut down their ability to work on many orders concurrently. We felt slightly guilty ordering steaks too. But that's what we wanted!
The day had been spent travelling and eating. We went to bed, resolving to get up and do something more interesting the following day.
Yesterday was quite a mixed bag of a day. I almost made it into work on time. That was quite enjoyable. Once at work, we discussed the changing priorities which seem to act as the backdrop for what we're doing. Bizarrely, we find the changes in priority unsettling, despite the fact that the idea of our main working technique is to do something, see how people feel about it and then replan to aim better at the ultimate target - the perfect solution... which can never be achieved. So, what's the result of this? Changing priorities. We're sort of getting what we want. The problem, I think, is that the things which are changing are not the things we're expecting to change. There's still a lot to learn about how to work this way, but it needn't be the end of the world.
I'd brought my home-made pizza to work as a packed meal. I'd say packed lunch, but that would be misrepresenting the facts. We were taken out for lunch on the company as a celebration for everything that we've achieved so far. This is a good thing. Having said that, sitting for an hour in a restaurant waiting to be served was not a good thing. Given that it was an Italian restaurant and that I had pizza in the fridge, I wasn't planning to order pizza for lunch. I had a bizarre wild mushroom ravioli concoction and it was very nice. I also had a soup and a cappuccino in order to prove that I am, at least, not a cheap date. It was very free as far as I was concerned.
While my colleagues went on, after the late lunch, for drinks and celebration, I went back to my desk, via a quick trip to a guitar shop to try out a guitar I probably have no intention of buying (though I might be persuaded to buy it if the guitar which my insurance company send me proves to be quite different to the one it's replacing). I pootled around the internet in the afternoon - mainly on work related issues. I also agreed to trial some software that would cost $3000 to buy. That's expensive. Later in the evening I came to conclusion that we already own some software which could do the job a lot better. Ah well, one can always window shop.
After I was done in the office, I set off to Blackpool for the gig which I'd been booked for the previous evening. A last minute gig can sometimes be a curse in disguise. I remember a "booked on the day" gig I once did in Scarborough, which I came to regret quite quickly. In this case, I was going to a gig run by some people I'd giggde for before. The last gig, in the centre of Blackpool went pretty well. This one was in a small town outside of Blackpool called Poulton Le Fylde. It would involve the same bizarre trip across the country from Scotch Corner to somewhere around the Lake District. Never mind, I had the radio for company and my package of home-made pizza, sitting on the seat ready for consumption after the Radio 4 comedy half hour.
I have to confess that last month's experience of Radio 4's comedy output at 6.30 had somewhat lowered my expectations, so I was delighted when the show turned out to be I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue
with Barry Cryer, Graham Garden, Tim Brooke Taylor and Ross Noble joining Humphrey Lyttleton at a show recorded in Edinburgh. This was possible the dream team and proved delightfully entertaining for its entire duration. Luckily, it ended just in time for the radio black spot to kick in (or more importantly I didn't miss any of it) around the Lake District.
Needing a wee, I found the venue (after a little jiggery pokery) and had managed to arrive significantly earlier than I originally planned. There's nothing like an office full of colleagues loafing on a celebration to make it seem reasonable to avoid a late evening stint. I had plenty of time for a sound check and to catch up with the organisers and other acts. The audience were slow to arrive and we were briefly concerned that it would be a quiet night. It turned into a largely full house.
I overran slightly when I did my set, but that was because I was having a lot of fun. I finished on Bridget the Diabetic Midget
which is a song I rarely ever do. However, I have found ways of making work with a reticent audience, and I also knew that this audience, at the end of my set, would probably go for it anyway. I won't say how well, as it will look like bragging, rather than wonderment, but I felt that my set was well received. I didn't leave the stage and arrogantly remark "Follow that, ye bastard." to the next act. That would have been inappropriate. No, really. I didn't. I didn't think it. I was happy with the performance, though and I was also very sweaty. Looking back, I was also pleased that the majority of the material was written this year, though some of it was older - it had all been updated in some form or other. Best of all, I got to do The Counting Song
I hung around after the gig, a bit like a bad smell, but a bit more like a needy performer. I wanted to be certain of a future booking. They said they'd ask me back to close the show in April sometime. I'd enjoy that.
Then I set off home. I managed to drive nearly 10 miles out of my way towards Kendal, before mercifully realising my mistake and then turning round. I got home at a not-entirely-unreasonable hour and managed some sleep.
Getting into the office this morning early, I still managed to get to my 9.30 meeting late - this was caused by extensive time wasting while making coffee and toast. D'oh! I also wasted some time trying out my new joke on a few work colleagues. It pleases me. The punchline made me laugh a lot last night as I chewed over it in the car. Rarely do I write a joke or routine that cracks me up, so I should really try this joke out. The rule for what's good in comedy is that it should make you laugh when you write it. Fingers crossed.
This weekend, I'm off down south again. The plan is quite ambitious. Tonight I'm at my girlfriend's place and then tomorrow we're going to Penzance, where we'll be staying for 3 nights (this weekend Penzance, next weekend Tunisia - spot the contrast!). We'll tour around Cornwall entertaining ourselves with Cornwall's bounties (probably two pasties and a sea view) and then on Monday night I'll do a gig in Penzance. Tuesday is "travel back up North" day. It'll be a day too!
Until next time I write...
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