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Sunday, February 5

Overall, I think today was the day of the near misses. So many things threatened to go wrong but didn't. It was weird. The only near miss that wasn't a near miss was when I burned my thumb on the iron. This was my own stupidity and serves me right. It hurt though.

Sorting out the net
I set myself the target of getting my internet connection working. I say my connection. It actually belongs to one of the housemates. He has broadband in his room - directly connected to his laptop. I decided that I wanted to share it with him and so, after consulting with NTL, the provider, bought a device which enables me to do so - using wireless. After borrowing his key to enable me to get into his room to set this up, I prepared to go to Maplin to buy an extra cable that wasn't provided in the box, in which the device arrived the previous day.

The near miss? Well, I assumed that the housemate's computer would, being a laptop, have a network socket. It didn't. Good job I found out. Had I not, then I wouldn't have been able to connect his computer into the network when I'd finished setting it up. Not a good result. As it was, I bought him a wireless card at Maplin.

Then there was the actual set up. There were so many things that could have gone wrong. They didn't. It pretty much worked first time. The signal even works in my room - hence my ability to sit here and write about it and put it on my blog.

Once I had working internet, I felt a lot better.

Sorting out the pad
No near miss with sorting the room out. More vacuuming. Amusement as the vacuum cleaner "ate" one of my dusters. It sucked it all the way into its belly. Hungry Henry!

I moved things here and there and I now have a room which is still largely in boxes, but the boxes are not blocking the key things like a desk on which to have my computer, a bed and a wardrobe and drawers with many of my clothes in - ready to use. Brilliant.

I don't plan to spend a huge amount of time in this room in Farnborough, but I have a base here now, and I have somewhere to do all the things I do. Yay!

Nearly missing the train
Chatting with one of my housemates, I suddenly discovered that I was due to miss the train I'd planned to take to my gig. The idea was to walk from the house to the railway station in time for the 6.05 train to London. That train time was essential as I wanted to be at the gig before the audience for my soundcheck.

Discovering that it was 5.35 and that the station was 30 minutes' walk from the house, I decided to drop any thoughts of getting a crafty beer at the gig and drive to the station. I nearly missed the train (in the parallel universe where I walked, I did miss it). However, I was, in fact early.

Nearly being delayed
So, off the train went, at the allotted time, heading for London. We stopped at a station at 6.15 and the guard said (over the tannoy) that, owing to a delay, we wouldn't be arriving at that station until 6.30. We were confused. We're here. What's the problem. The problem was that we were on the middle track of three and the platform was not near enough to the train. Apparently, they don't make passengers cross the tracks.

So we had to wait to be shunted between tracks. Weird!

However, the shunt happened and then we were off. I rang the organiser to confirm that I was definitely coming. There had been some confusion over email. He said he definitely had me down, but that I should try to be there at the gig in time for its start. I promised to do my best.

Nearly being delayed 2 - the sequel
Actually, we arrived in Waterloo pretty much on time. It just goes to show - trains aren't putting in the effort normally. We made up 15 minutes... so they can normally go faster than they're scheduled to. No wonder this country's a mess.

Actually, it probably makes more sense that they don't go everywhere at top speed as then a small delay would put them beyond getting back on time. But I digress.

So, we arrived on time and I went from the rail service to the tube. It's a simple case of taking the Northern Line from Waterloo to Camden Town - the tube station within 1 minute's walk of the venue I was due to arrive at within one hour of arriving in London.

The words "severe delays" on the Northern Line's chart should have given me a clue. We were delayed... severely...

At one point, the driver came over the tannoy to explain that he had no idea which branch of the line the train was actually going to end up on - it had Edgware on the front, but it could be 50/50. Apparently things had gone all screwy at Camden Town, which is where the branching occurs, and it was luck of the draw. I didn't care - so long as we got to Camden Town.

As with all of the events of the day (except the ultimate burn of the thumb). The threat of failure loomed but didn't strike. I was at the gig in enough time to enter a room with no audience in it - yet.

Nearly not on the bill
Despite the fuss of getting onto the bill with the organiser, my name wasn't on the list of comedians. Did I mention that this was a competition? No? Well, I was probably frightened to. Competitions scare me. If I do a gig, then I get laughs and go home. If I do a competition, then I get laughs, spend the rest of the night trying to tell myself that I'm at least as good as the other acts, while secretly hoping that they're shit, and then get a judgement at the end about whether I'm good enough. I usually take failure quite hard and so I don't see why I want to put myself through it all.

However, I'd put myself down for this competition. Actually, I'd originally planned to do it in Edinburgh, but got myself rescheduled for a London heat. Except that I wasn't on the list. Would I have to walk away ungigged? Could I escape the ultimate judgement of whether I was any good? No. They just added me to the list. D'oh!

Checking the sound
The sound check was quick. We checked to see where I could plug in. I couldn't. There were no facilities except a microphone. So we checked that my guitar could be heard "enough" from a few rows back. It would do. I redesigned my set to avoid the bits where the guitar is quietly played. It didn't take too much doing. So, I was nearly not going to be able to play the guitar to the audience, but we sorted it out.

Going on first
We had a draw for the running order and I picked first. This was bad for many reasons and good for one. It was good as I wouldn't have to sit through anybody else's act and get nervous with them as they did the competition. It was bad because they'd be a cold audience and because I'd have to warm them up. Statistically it's as unlikely to win a competition from going on first as it is to win a debate by going as first proposition. In other words, it's very unlikely.

Still, I didn't care a great deal. I was there to do my thing and to get the message to the promoter that my thing could be done. So, I'd go on first, take one for the team and see what happened.

Other acts
I should have hated every other act. I think I satisfied myself with the fact that I'd given a reasonable show of myself and that there was nothing I could do to change the judges' opinion of me. So, I generally enjoyed the other acts. Ok, I can't deny that I occasionally pondered their merits, relative to my own self-regard. This is human nature and I am but human. Overall, I laughed when I thought they were funny and forgave any quirks or groaners.

There are some interesting new acts out there.

The result
I listened to the names of the runners up, hoping that I'd at least have gotten a place. I had little to gain from getting through the heat, as I don't honestly believe that I'm competition-winning material. However, given that the average experience for the majority of the competitors was under 10 gigs, and given than I've done significantly more than 10... well, it would be a kick in the teeth not even to place among them.

I won.

The walk of shame
I used to talk about the walk of shame after a bad gig. I think tonight I had a bit of a walk of shame after my, apparently (according to judges) good gig. When they called out my name, I stepped forward, as though to collect a prize. I stopped myself, as there was no prize, just the chance to go through to another round of this madness. The room was applauding me, and I felt rather odd. Generally I don't win things. I think my main feeling was relief. I think I secretly expected to win... in much the same way as your lottery-playing friend secretly expects to win this week... but perhaps with a more irrational edge.

Leaving the gig, I texted my girlfriend and told her the good news and how I imagined it might make me intolerable. Then I thought it through. The majority of those people were newcomers - just like I had been when I did my first ever gig at the 2003 North East heat of that very same competition. I have been given paid work. I've done a lot of gigs. I have no reason to feel satisfied with myself for beating people with less experience by the degrees that separate us. It's "beating your toddler brother at scrabble" sort of territory here.

I'm not going to let it change me.

Home for the early bath
The gig finished at 10.45, so I traded my 1.05am train ticket for a 11.35pm one. I didn't have to trade anything. I just found an earlier train at Waterloo and came home.

Back home, I seemed to fritter away some time. I did some laundry, burned my thumb and pondered what I've learned today.

Not much.

A sore thumb hurts more than winning a heat of a competition feels good.

There's a message there for us all.


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