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Take That China!
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You've Been Cancelled
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Give Me Your Voice
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My Way of Losing My Mind is Quite Constructive
I'm A Cilla Black Fan On Bike

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Wednesday, May 31

In the crap

Well, today was my turn to be in the crap. I've been a bit of a misery all day. Having said that, I still managed to get on with things and sort them out, but I hope I sort my life out and cheer up before tonight's gig. The week has been going off the rails a bit, with exam preparation (not mine) knocking sleep patterns into outer space and fraying tempers. It doesn't help that the subject in question is a load of made up bollocks. Still, we have been getting through and I hope I've been useful.

As a brief aside, one good thing has been the company of Stephen King's novel "Cell", which has kept my mind occupied when my body wasn't. It's probably also a good thing that my weightloss seems to be continuing, or the doldrums would be erupting into full-blown rage.

However, this week is still not fun, and today has been the worst so far. I've had two of my 3 gigs of the week cancelled. On the up side, at least I won't have to go running around into the middle of London for them. On the down side, my gig diary is now feeling very empty. Gigs were cancelled because they were not running, rather than because they didn't want me.

Today's big fuss was down to the fact that I took some initiative and did something my way in the code I'm working on. This was bound to cause trouble and I could have predicted that. I also didn't manage to be smart enough by covering my arse with some neatly written documents and diagrams predicting that I'd do what I did. As a result, I appeared not to have done what I was asked to do and, instead, appeared to have gone wandering off in my own odd direction, rather than where we should have gone.

I truly believe that what I've done is functionally equivalent to what was asked/required. However, that's immaterial. I have smoothed things over, but I feel like I've lost my "can't put a foot wrong" image - even if that was only in my own head.

Tonight's The Night In Bright-on
In a few minutes I'm heading off to Brighton to do a comedy set. I worry slightly about this because it seems like quite an eclectic night I'm off to, but I'm sure I'll find something to amuse them with. If I don't, then I'll call it art.

Producing again
I think I've been taking out some of my frustrations on a task which has recently started bothering me. I signed myself up (foolishly in my opinion) to do a 6 night run as part of "The Camden Fringe", which is a euphemism for "let's see if we can get some people who aren't in Edinburgh to fill our otherwise dark theatre for us". The theatre is the Etcetera, which I used for The Musical! back in July. I'm only down to do a 20 minute spot as part of an hour-long show. It will be with two other comedians. All comedians believe that all they have to do is turn up and the show will be great. Indeed, there's a good reason that comedians don't put on shows themselves - it's bloody hard work to promote a show.

However, when it comes to Fringe shows, the only way to get an audience is to promote it yourself. Unless have Off The Kerb or Karushi working their magic behind the scenes, people don't just magically turn up. I talked myself out of my naive belief that people would just come and now I've had to give the other two acts involved in the show a reality check too. In fairness, both of them have been really nice about it, and I fear I've been a bit of a dick about it. However, I was a bit stressed out by some of the early reactions they gave to the venue's request for publicity info and my suggestions that we publicise the show ourselves.

Annoyingly, the lady who runs the Etcetera has remembered how to push my buttons and make me feel like a producer again. As a result, I'm now worrying about bums on seats and wires again. It has been a couple of years since I first started this obsession and the situation now is very difficult. I proved what I wanted to prove with The Musical! and now I feel a bit like I'm going through the motions. I don't quite have the confidence in "Three Stand-ups You've Never Heard of For £7.50" - not the catchiest of names - that I had in my magum opus.

Still, we'll get some flyers, hand some out, put up some posters and maybe Robert will turn out to be our father's brother.

Tuesday, May 30

More Content

So, I finally managed to complete my online description of my visits to the Edinburgh Fringe. An overview can be found here, which includes the full story of what I saw at Fringe 2004 and Fringe 2005.

At some point, I might try to assemble some memories from the first two Fringes I visited. It may be tricky.

A Weekend of Letters

I spent the bank holiday weekend inside mainly. I was most commonly found in front of a screen, though I watched fairly little TV. I wrote several thousand words and my girlfriend did her revision. In one sense, it seemed a waste of the opportunity a bank holiday offers to get out and about and enjoy the world. In another sense, the weather wasn't so good and I was quite happy to do things the way I did them.

Here is a breakdown of events which shaped the weekend.

I'd booked an appointment with my bank on Friday lunchtime to talk about mortgages. I liked what they had to say, but they took long enough saying it to seriously cut into my work time.

I left work before completing my full weekly hours. I did this to be back at my girlfriend's place in time to go out for dinner. I would have to go back to work on Saturday to make up the hours.

Dinner was very nice. Chicken. Always a good meal, in my opinion. You can't go wrong with a chicken, unless you're thinking of marriage or dating, in which case, try a human.

Friday night was spent working on my World's Worst 100 Websites article.

I woke up around 10 on Saturday, drove to Farnborough, checked my mail at my rented accommodation and then headed into the office. Having not been into the office on a weekend before in this job, I wasn't quite sure what to expect of the experience. For my troubles I received a very quiet office and the chance to put in some serious concentration on the task in hand. I worked for longer than I planned to and didn't quite complete what I'd intended to.

I left a bit stressed and my mood lowered.

Returning to my girlfriend's, I helped her locate some revision notes and then set about continuing the gruelling task of reviewing websites. I enjoy writing, though, so the gruelling was complemented by the opportunity to make words do my bidding and express ideas of some sort.

Saturday passed by largely without incident, though we did break off mid-evening to go ICE SKATING. I've been ice skating once before in my life, when I was very young. My experience as an adult was similar to that of a child on the ice:
  • I realised that I can't skate
  • I realised that I'm not "a natural" and so will have to spend some time learning it - I won't just pick it up overnight
  • I felt slightly over-awed by the other kids... er... people... on the ice who could clearly just skate
  • I joked my way through the moments where I was clearly making an arse of myself
Unlike my childhood self, who would be frightened of falling over because it hurt and was embarrassing, I was loathe to fall over because I didn't want to damage myself or my jeans. Other than that, the potential embarrassment was lessened by not really giving a damn, but intensified by the loss of control it would seem to suggest.

So, I played it safe and didn't fall over. As it was, I one tenth skated, nine-tenths grappled my way along the wall of the perimeter of the ice rink. I think I might enjoy knowing how to skate, but whether I'll ever get myself up to just-going-for-it enough to learn-by-falling-over how to avoid falling over, I don't know.

I slept deeply and long, which was nice.

Sunday was principally occupied with gathering the images for my article. This basically required going to 50 websites, selecting something to represent that site, pasting it into a graphics program and cutting off any detritus. It's the work of a couple of hours.

I also spent a fair amount of time searching for people to contact about gigs. I've realised that I need to put the effort in to fill my own gig diary, despite having the services of a part-agent. I have, on average, four gigs a month, which is enough to keep me in practice (just) but not enough to keep me improving as I've done in the past. There comes a point where too many gigs is not enough to keep me sane/in a relationship/in a stable job, but I don't need to worry about that limit at the moment (though August will be hairy!).

There's not much else to say about Sunday.

Woke up, got on the computer and spent the day typing/mousing. Hardly a surprise.

The day was punctuated by testing my girlfriend on her revision, and a short trip I made to the nearby shop for supplies, which was at around the exact time that it started to rain quite heavily. Still, I got some fresh air into my lungs, and some rainwater.

There was, as always, a purpose to my computer time. The purpose was two-fold. Fold 1 was the production of some publicity for a show I'm doing in Camden (at the same venue where I previewed The Musical! in July 2004. I produced flyer, poster, lengthy blurb and photographic jiggery pokery for this thing. I suspect I'll want to bleat about it more in later blogs.

The second purpose to my computery-time was a task I've been meaning to do for the last 21 months. I've finally managed to complete the write up of my show watching from both 2004 and 2005's Edinburgh Fringes. I know this doesn't sound important, but I wanted to preserve the record and memories of those shows in some shape or form, and I've now done it. I will post links to the updates in a separate blog entry.

So, I spent a lot of time in front of a screen. I sent several emails, wrote a few thousand words and manipulated about 60 images. I came back to work today rested relaxed and ready for more screen-related behaviour.

Thursday, May 25


With a girlfriend studying psychology, it's unsurprising that I might find things like this out. In addition, being female, this particular lady can see right through me. I am totally transparent. Anyway, here are some things about the intrinsic bias my brain has. I think they may be a little more universal than just quirks of my personality. Perhaps they might be Western cultural traits. So, in my own words:
  • I always think I'm wiser than I was
  • I underestimate how much I eat and spend
  • I underestimate my size/weight
  • I overestimate my wealth
  • I overestimate the amount of time I have free for things
  • I underestimate the amount of time things take
  • I overestimate the effort I've put into things
  • I underestimate the effort things will require
  • I overestimate my abilities
  • I underestimate my failings
  • I overestimate my achievements
I think all of this boils down to the fact that I'm a born optimist with an ego-centric view of the world. Maybe the problem in my case is that I reveal a lot of these things, perhaps other people are like this too, but by virtue of keeping quiet about it, don't get noticed.

Just Listen To The Rhythm Of My Part

My car is not in the best of condition again. The problems come and go. I suspect that it's something to do with the brakes (them's the breaks). In addition one of the tyres on the front is not looking in tip-top condition either. As a result, I either get a vibration in my front wheels or a sense that the car is holding back - feels a bit brake-related to me. I have an increased belief in it being a brake-thing due to the fact that the garage told me that the brakes were a point of concern last time I had the car serviced. So, it's going in for service again. I have to wait two weeks before they'll see it, though. This is a nuisance, as I have a fair bit of driving to do before June 7th. I do about 50 miles a day commuting, and gigs add maybe 200-300 miles to that. There aren't a huge number of gigs before June 7th, but each drive could potentially make the problem worse.

I should have booked the car in sooner. However, I'm an idiot. I kept delaying it because I had gigs. I foolishly believed that I would find that they could take the car in within the week and that I would find myself having to put it off because there would be gigs in the way - ideally, I don't want to use a garage-courtesy-car to drive to a gig. I'm an idiot. Did I mention that? Yes? Good, because I am. I should have avoided the prevarication, procrastination and utter laziness, and sorted this out sooner. The car will, as a result, be in a worse condition when they come to fix it than it should be. Indeed, some parts may wear out more as a result. D'oh!

Lowestoft was a giggle
I had the opportunity to spend a fair bit of time listening to the rhythm of my car's wheels yesterday as I did a gig in Lowestoft, which is all the way over on the east coast of the landmass we call Great Britain. I've used the phrase "listen to the rhythm of my..." twice in this post because I'm trying to be funny and quote the band The Darkness. The Darkness hail from Lowestoft, indeed they went to school within a few inches of where I did my gig - those are map inches, so in reality it was more like a few hundred yards.

Being a musical comedian with material spoofing The Darkness, I decided to research Lowestoft's musical heritage. Gene Simmons visited there to do a "School of Rock" (I bet I can guess the porn-film-spoof of that movie) style band-making exercise with the kids of Kirkley High School (alma mater of 3 of the 4 members of The Darkness). Benjamin Britten was also born in Lowestoft. Sadly, this town also gave the world Tim Westwood (Tim... you're not black!).

With research complete - thank you Wikipedia - I drove to the gig looking at the landscape and odd Stars-in-their-eyes place names. The place names are definitely strange round there - they're like names of more famous places, but with subtle differences. My favourite was the "Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be wishing that I was on Cat Deely's lap, but I shall be impersonating Oxford" - the town was called "Yoxford". Brilliant.

I arrived at the gig in plenty of time. This is good, considering I'd been driving for over 3 and a half hours and needed the toilet. The sound check was somewhat fettered by the lack of a suitable hole in the sound-desk into which I could stick my guitar. However, we found a separate self-amplifying speaker and the balance of nature was restored - the guitar sounded quite good coming out of it. I also felt very effective and technical as I managed to twist every single knob on the speaker and most of the sliders on my guitar in order to achieve this feat. It probably looked really geeky, but I felt like I'd suddenly become some sort of sound-check superhero, quickly appraising the way to operate this sound equipment and optimise the sound coming out of it.


The gig itself was great fun. Had the room been filled to capacity, it would probably have been one of the best gigs of my life. As it was, the room was sparsely occupied by about 50 people, but they were in clusters and were determined to have a damned good time. In that situation all you have to do is appear to be delivering them with the aforementioned good time and they'll do all the work. That might sound cynical or self-deprecating, but it's meant affectionately. Audiences that want to laugh are great. They keep their own energy up and they'll really go for something if it's delivered with conviction. I'm a cheery high-energy bubbly bugger. As a result, I think of these self-powering audiences a bit like petrol... all I need to do is lob some Ashley-sized matches at them and, even if my matches would fail to light a more discerning crowd, we all have a good time.

It was very good. I overran my spot, but the time flew by. I listened to a recording of the gig on the way home and I was happy with it. I can still see my faults. A lot of my improvised asides misfire slightly (though I'll admit that some of my improvised phrases amused me more off stage than they appeared to amuse the audience while I was on stage). I also have to learn to keep my stage persona up in between bits. I think I've worked out what it is, and I think I'm improving. I drop the energy levels in between sections in order to bring the audience down so I can lift them up with the bits that are meant to be funny. I think what I may be missing is a low-energy version of my stage-self. You can hear it in the tone of my voice. I'm not that good at a stage-confident low-key thing.

Anyhoo... self-appraisal/criticism aside, the gig went well, and I'm a happy chappy. It was my first performance for that promoter and I hope that good reports will get back to them. More gigs like that will do me no harm. I think it's probably one of the best crowds I've played in a while. That's more down to bad luck and sparsely attended run of gigs than anything else.

I feel quite strong at the moment. Losing some weight has given me more energy (not too much of a suprise) and the last few gigs, though not always easy, have been confidence boosting in some way. What I need to do now is write some new funny material and keep my eye on the middle-week of August, which should be an Edinburgh-based comedic frenzy.

Tuesday, May 23

Code Rage

I've just coined a phrase for the sense of misery that washes over me when I see something in the code which has been done so badly and on such a scale that I cannot just step in and sort it out. It takes a combination of stupidity, short-sightedness and lack of skill to make something bad enough to invoke code rage, but once I feel it, I'm virtually incapacitated.

Two At The Same Time

Last night was a definite case of doing two things at the same time. After a day in the office which was bordering on the productive, but never actually got there (not to my satisfaction at least), I headed to Tesco for shopping. Shopping and calorie counting.

Then it was back to the house for food. I did eating and talking at the same time as I shared the kitchen table with one of my housemates, and we talked about the Edinburgh festival - he's thinking of going along this year too.

Then I drove to my girlfriend's place, while listening to the radio. When I wasn't listening to the radio, I was worrying about the mechanical condition of my car. So that counts as doing two things at the same time too.

Back at the house, I fixed a laptop and headed downstairs with it to watch Doctor Who on DVD while writing the final part of my article for Micro Mart. I reviewed about 15 websites while watching TV. A quick retrospective on those articles shows that I didn't do a brilliant job, though it will be easily fixed with proof-reading.

Then, after 4 episodes of Doctor Whoey amusement, I headed upstairs and watched the film Roxanne while reading a Harry Potter book.

Finally, I slept while wearing my pyjamas.

Monday, May 22

Who loves ya baby?

I feel like I've done nothing this weekend. I recall a lot of sitting about watching TV. I managed to watch 4 episodes of the 2005 series of Doctor Who, a couple of movies and about 6 episodes of Friends. That's quite a commitment to sitting on my arse. Somehow, though, I also managed to travel to London to see my sister, brother-in-law and neice and attend an emergency wedding.

An emergency wedding? What is such a thing?

Well, the wedding itself not the emergency. It has been long-since planned. However, my attendance at the wedding was the last-minute, dashing across several counties sort of a thing. My girlfriend had been invited to the ceremony and day do. Her invitation was for herself only. She discovered, mid-do, that my company would be allowed at the evening part of the festivities and so rang me up to invite me along.

Always one to spring into action, I travelled to Farnborough for clothes, to Reading for other clothes and then, some two hours after I started, to the venue for the wedding itself.

It was a good wedding.

Other activities included capturing the graphics for the article I'm currently writing for Micro Mart.

I feel awake and in good spirits today. I need to get motivated for a busy week's working, mind. Plus, I have a gig on Wednesday which looks set to challenge my levels of energy. It's in Lowestoft!

Thursday, May 18

Wednesday Night Comedy

Last night I went to Tewksbury. More accurately, I went there yesterday afternoon, as I was worried about arriving late and so set off from the office in plenty of time. The drive was fairly uneventful, though I spent the last hour of in it dire need for the toilet. The sat-nav did its job beautifully and led me straight to the venue. The roads were very rainy and this added, no doubt, to my need for toilet-based relief, as well as increasing my stress levels a bit.

Still, arriving at the venue long before I was due to (about 2 hours), I had a leisurely trip to their plumbed facilities and changed my work trousers for my jeans, which are more conducive to performing in.

I went for a wander around Tewksbury, which was silly, because it was raining, but I had to occupy the time somehow. I saw their discount superstore - "Merlins: Magically" low prices. I saw the "Burger Star", possibly the most depressingly named fast food place. I saw a church whose porch appeared to be inside another porch. It wasn't dull, it wasn't earth shattering. It filled the time.

I sat in my car for 30 minutes or so, eating my low-calorie/low-fat snacks from Tesco and listening to Radio 4. After a time I also packed all the crap, which I've been chucking into the footwells in the rear of the car, into carrier bags and put them in the bin. The car is a nicer place again. Now, if I can hoover up the crumbs, it will be even more habitable - assuming it's not already occupied by some well-fed rats... or maybe pigeons.

A more respectable time to set myself up in the venue arrived and I went in, tuned up the guitar, did the sound-check, chatted to the promoter, his family and one of the other acts - the usual. I had noticed that one of the rooms in the venue was called the "Eric Morecambe Room". It was a sort of green-room. I did the glasses-wobbling Eric Morecambe impression that comes with the territory of thinking about the man. At some point, however, it was time to find out why the room was named after him, especially since there was no obvious association between Eric Morecambe and Tewksbury, more specifically the Roses Theatre.

Do you really want to know? You could Google for Eric Morecambe, Roses Theatre and Tewksbury and find out. The top link is this, a Wikipedia entry which tells the story. Eric Morecambe died in that theatre. He came off stage, suffered a fatal heart attack and died. It's shocking to write it down. I've visited the statue erected to him in Morecambe and I've smiled at the toothy grin he's sported in that statue. I've watched DVDs and videos of Morecambe and Wise movies and TV shows. I have a Morecambe and Wise CD. Eric was a comedian. He made me laugh. Now I've accidentally been to the place where his life ended. It was a bit of a mood killer at first.

Comedians talk about dying on stage, which is a very melodramatic way of describing what happens when the audience don't light up the way you intend them to and when your presence as an entertainer and clown is revealed for the pretence that it truly is - just some guy trying to get a reaction from some stuff. When comedy doesn't work, it's pretty appalling. I couldn't help but wonder whether the site of a famous comedian's death would be a good or bad omen. Was the essence of Eric in the building trying to help all comedians to get laughs? or is this the building which does comedians in? Would it be an insult to his memory to go on stage and be unfunny?

We were in the cafe above the theatre, not the auditorium itself... so maybe the rules were different. As it happens, I had one of my most enjoyable gigs in quite some time. The audience were nice and I nearly burst out laughing myself at a few points. If Eric had anything to do with it, then I'm thankful. If nothing else, it was suitably humbling to remember a great comedian before going on stage and being my own sort of comedian.

I worry about whether I'm smug about my own achievements. I think I have the traits of a smug person. I like to celebrate success. I smile a lot. I'm overenthusiastic about things, especially things I've been involved in. All of these seem to suggest a smugness. The corners of my mouth turn upwards by default. It's hard for me not to look happy. There's another person in my office who has a facial structure which implies smiling. I occasionally find him infuriating for this. He'll ask an innocent question, but the look on his face seems to suggest condescension and self-satisfaction. I'm learning that this is my problem. By that, I mean that it's my problem that I've misinterpreted him and that it's also my problem that I'm just as misinterpretable as that.

So, I'll admit that this blog probably contains 50,000 words of self-congratulation within the waffle. I'll also admit that I'm far too easily amused by my own success. However, you show me someone who is genuinely genuinely modest and I'll be surprised. We all like success, it's one of the main driving forces for people. The problem is when you use your own success to attempt to prove that other people are lesser, or when you take your own success and an indication that everything you do is great and stop trying, or stop recognising good in anyone else.

I've been guilty of the above. I've also been self-aware enough to break that cycle of self-admiration.

Back to last night at the gig, there were a couple of moments where my amusement was, disgustingly, based on the "Hey... what I just said/did was absolutely funny - how cool is that!" sort of glee. Maybe that's wrong of me, or maybe it's important for a wannabee comedian, with a raft of insecurities joining him in the car on every trip, to have the occasional moment of insecurity-banishing confidence. It's still proving difficult for me to find many gigs at the moment, and I'm capable of writing material that even I find desperately unfunny... so if I have the occasional flash of ability, then perhaps I should acknowledge it, try to work out how I did it, and see if I can focus on doing more of that.

I listened to the recording of my performance on the way home. I laughed in a couple of places. The rest of the time, I contemplated what I'd done wrong and wondered why I forgot the chords to two of my songs. I think that's fairly evenly balanced.

Sometimes I miss the old days

Like that time after I'd lost the heap of weight I lost, and felt like I could eat the occasional sweet thing or two. Buying something to eat while away at a gig was easy - just choose whatever takes your fancy. It's not that easy now. Last night I had two bags of Ryvita Apple-Flavoured crunchy things. Of course, the problem with the laissez faire attitude to food that I indulged back then was that it led me back to my current state of weight problemage.

I also miss the days when I lived only a couple of hours from Edinburgh. Nipping up to Scotland a few times a week was easy, and I could quite happily mess about mid week, gigging and even going to see shows, safe in the knowledge that when I returned to work the following morning, exhausted and bleary, that it wouldn't make a great deal of difference. Of course those particular old days led to the point where my job was getting me down during the week, and the distance from my girlfriend was causing me problems during the weekend: the weekend didn't begin until after the 6 hour drive, and the week didn't start until I'd woken up at 3am and raced to work against a further 6 hours of traffic!

I miss being younger and keener-brained, though without the years that followed, I wouldn't have whatever it is that I have that passes for wisdom and an appreciation of what I no longer have.

Basically, I can miss whatever I like about things in the past, but I'm in a better place now than I was then. That's true for most people, I think. I am fearful of getting properly old, but there's plenty of time for that to happen and for me to get used to the idea.

Wednesday, May 17

Some random thoughts

The guy who sits opposite me at work keeps his stapler in the cardboard box it came in.

I've got a gig tonight.

I lost weight this week, but my trousers still look dodgy around my belly.

I've not had much sleep so far this week.

I have a headache.

I spoke a swearword very quietly to the car which zoomed over the zebra crossing I was about to cross at lunchtime.

My desk is a mess.

I'm finding music to be a distraction today.

Randy Newman's Faust is okay, but there's only one really good song in it.

I want to set up a comedy gig or workship (undecided) in Reading.

We've not heard much about The Musical! in quite a while. I should chase up the people who wanted to do a production of it. I should also get back to writing my radio adaptation of it.

I finished the write up of the first 50 of my World's Worst 100 Websites. In doing that, I decided not to help get the Nazi website any more traffic. I will be wittholding its URL and exact name. I may even put a clown's hat on the chief Nazi.

I think that owning a cat would be easier than owning a dog.

People are eating sweets and biscuits in the office. I had a salad at lunch.

Fat people don't eat too much, they just don't poo enough. (I wish I'd thought of that.)

Tuesday, May 16

Don't Give Out Your Bank Details

I'm currently buying a few CDs from ebay. This is because I'm an idiot. While on the one hand I feel perfectly justified in spending a few quid on some ear-candy for when I'm hard at work, I have just spent a fair bit of time and effort upgrading my MP3 player to avoid running out of space and I know that I'm actually now reacting to the spare 35Gb on there by trying to fill it up!


Still, I do, at least, get to meet curious individuals, the likes of whom sell items on ebay for £1.60. I've just gotten the bank details of a someone who goes by the name of "Deathmeister". Curious and unusual. I shall, of course, be using her bank details to pay her £1.60, and not to subscribe her to some weird Nigerian scam scheme.

I don't think "Deathmeister" is her real name.

Monday, May 15

Le Weekend

This weekend comprised two main activities. The first was my article and the second was the gig I performed last night.

The World's Worst 100 Websites
There are some entries on here relating to the construction of this article. I'm now into phase 3, which requires the most concentrated effort. The phases were:
  1. Find over 100 candidates for the list - this came from either sites I knew, or random Google searches - make sure each site is bad enough to be in the list. In other words it must have something distinctly bad about it
  2. Score each site against some arbitrary criteria. Order the sites according to score. Mess about with Excel to weight the scoring system to account for the fact that I can't score out of 10 especially well. Adjust the scores of things which come in equal place to each other, so that each entry is in a unique position.
  3. Write a 100ish word review for each of the 100 worst sites according to the final scores
As I say, I'm in phase 3 now. This is good, since it's phase 3 which actually generates the article which I will, ultimately, get published and be paid for writing. It's a sad fact that phases 1 and 2 had to be completely finished before phase 3 could start. However, now I'm into this 3rd phase, the article can take some sort of shape. I have to provide part 1 - i.e. sites 100-51 - by 22nd May. I've so far reviewed 15 of the first 50. That's 30% of the reviews for part 1 and 15% for the whole article (yes, I know you probably could have worked that out).

The article is more entertaining than this description of it. I hope to bite out another wedge of it tonight as well.

The World's Worst Gig?
Not really. However, it's fair to say that a comedian at my level has to play a fair share of gigs like last night. Thanks to a certain to-remain-nameless Scottish promoter, I've had a lot of experience of this particular sort of gig experience, so I wasn't prepared to appear crestfallen in any way. In fact, listening to the recording I made of the gig, there are some moments which I'm quite pleased with... overall, though, it was nothing like my finest hour and some of it is well worth forgetting. I must learn to speak up when I'm not delivering big. I must also learn to slow down a little more at times too. Anyway, I'm telling you the summary before I get into the story. This is a bit like one of those over-written abstracts to a scientific paper, where reading the paper becomes nothing more than a formality. So, safe in the knowledge that this is just another gig story, you may now continue reading.

The gig was organised by a promoter who uses the epithet "Up For It". It was in Bishop's Castle, which is somewhere in Shropshire. It's not too far from Shrewsbury, Kidderminster and Kinver. I've been to the latter two of these and done gigs. In fact, I did the same promoter's Kinver gig about a year ago and had a whale of a time.

I set off in plenty of time for the gig because I was told by Google that the drive was 4 hours and I though I'd been told by the promoter to be there for 6 for a 7.30 start. I was wrong. He said 6.30. So I was already running early. Then the drive was nearer 3 hours - it's 150 miles, a lot of which is on country roads, so there was room for variability on the timings, but I made good time. Oh, and the promoter was wrong. The show didn't start anything like at the planned time... but we'll see why later.

So, I had time to arrive in this small town, go to the venue, have the wee I'd been saving in my bladder for over an hour (saving is perhaps a strange way to put it - I'd been storing it, to avoid soiling myself or my car, or the side of the road, with it), and be finished before 5.30pm. It was about 5 past. As a result, the bookshop/CD shop/coffee shop (one multi-purpose shop) in the town centre was still open. Bonus. I went in and bought a CD and a coffee. I couldn't be bothered looking for books. With my cappuccino and a notepad, I set my thoughts straight for the evening. I wrote a really bad new song and decided that it was terrible - later in the afternoon, I was to try out another new song I've written and decide that it too was terrible. Plus, I wrote a quick song which I didn't think was terrible, but tried on stage a few minutes later and didn't get much out of, mainly because it was so new that I'd forgotten it. Oh, and another new song appeared too. But I'm jumping ahead in the story again. So, I've had my cappuccino. So far so good.

The shop closed at 5.30 and I went for a wander along the picturesque main street of Bishop's Castle. The comedy club rotates between venues and I wandered past the other venue where they play. I also wandered past a few posters plugging the gig. It's reassuring to see a promoter do that. It shoes that they're trying to get an audience. After I was suitably relaxed, I wandered over to the venue. It was empty. The promoter had arrived, but no audience, and very few random punters in the venue. This is warning sign number one of a tough gig. You can't play to nobody and it's unlikely that lots of people wll turn up out of nowhere... I've seen it done, once, in Salford, and it's usually not like that.

I did my sound-check no audience turned up. Then no other acts turned up. Then they did... but still no audience. During this time, I messed about, wrote a quick two-verse song about the scottish lass who become pregnant during a night on the piss, aged 11! Then I forgot it, though I didn't realise at the time that that is what I was doing. It wasn't looking good. In the end the promoter scraped together 15 people. I think he knew them all. It was enough to allow the gig to go ahead.

I went on to a fairly cold crowd. I was heckled quite quickly by an impulsive heckler - he shouted out whenever he felt like it, irrespective of whether this would make him look like an idiot. At times it was source for amusement, at others it just added a sense of drag (as in slowing, not cross-dressing) to the occasion. In the end, after I'd screwed up my new bit (which got a laugh in the end) about the Scottish lass, I used Ashley-trick-number-7, which is to improvise a song based on the heckler and win the audience. The first version bought me something like 8 bars of applause, which was probably when I should have stopped, but I threw another couple of verses together anyway, BECAUSE I'M AN IDIOT.

I got off the stage after about 28 minutes of being there. I'd gotten some big laughs and some slightly awkward pauses. I'm not entirely ashamed of what happened. If nothing else, I was amazed at how little of my normal material I'd managed to do, considering how long I'd been up there. Still, the other acts were still prepared to talk to me, which was good.

I stayed to watch the rest of the show, drove home with my new Bernstein CD playing, got back at a non-unreasonable time and then went to sleep an hour or so later. A good way to spend a night, in my opinion.

Is This Just Fantasy?

One of the guys at work, a man of senior, though not ancient, years, has a The Matrix style screensaver, rolling unintelligible green symbols down his screen in strings at various distances from the viewer. Perhaps he's just a fan of the movie? Perhaps he's trying to be "down with da kids", in which case he's a few years too late. Perhaps his screen is a window on the real matrix that's holding the whole of our confusing world together, and the movie wasn't really a movie, but a ghastly insight into the mechanics of reality.

Probably not.

The world is, however, an odd place. The simplest of things cause some of the greatest joy, and the most complicated of things promise to solve all of our problems, once their side effects have been sorted out - come back in 12 years and we might have it ready. I live a life which constantly confuses me. I realise now that I've not been comfortably settled in this life for several years, now being one of the times when I'm much more on top of things, yet totally out of my comfort-zone of homely familiarity. This is largely my own doing - the life of a travelling performer playing a large part in contributing to the weirdnesses I notice about me. I'd rather have it this way.

The world doesn't make life easy. You might be settled in a routine. You might have a job which you go to for a regular number of hours each day. You might have a family you go home to and do this and that with. You might sit down every night and watch the same TV shows. Then one day, your job becomes harder, or the company has troubles and threaten your job. Or maybe your child becomes ill and needs a break in the routine. Or maybe you get injured at work in an accident that was not your fault, successfully sue your employer and then wonder why people don't treat you as well as they used to. The point? Change happens, and we must adapt to it.

Even if you think you interact with nobody in the average day, you're wrong. Of those countless interactions, one of them could yield a significant change in the course of your life - either short-term or long. It just depends. It's almost random. Recognising this can help foster a sense of responsibility in how you interact with people. On the way to lunch today, I had a silly impulse. I saw some people crossing the zebra crossing ahead of me. I suddenly reckoned that I could whack my foot down on the accelerator and nip into the gap that they'd walked out of. I thought that I'd be able to get through without hitting them and that it would be fun. Then I pictured what might happen if one of them doubled-back to get something and how, despite the fact that I'd previously been moving slowly towards their roundabout, I'd suddenly turned my car into an unstoppable limb-breaker. I played through the enquiry in my head and decided that I wouldn't have a leg to stand on, nor would my victim, no doubt. I realised in a split second that my envisaged behaviour, although probably unlikely to go through this worst case scenario, which immediately transformed me from a lunching colleague into an impulsive, reckless, bone-breaker, was not the way I wanted to go. The same process could be applied to less extreme cases, though. The way you behave around other people, or directly towards other people, has the potential to affect the courses of both of your lives.

So, think twice about how you treat other people. I guess that's what I'm saying. A harsh word could tip someone over the edge. Conversely a quick smile for a stranger might stop them tipping over the edge, or running at you with scissors (the most dangerous thing to run with).

Friday, May 12


One of the reasons I go to North Camp (a part of Farnborough near both my office and my rented accommodations) every week for a haircut is to get it done properly. Another reason I go every week is that I have a reasonably fast-growing set of hairs, but the set is incomplete. As a result, I look a bit odd periodically, as things sprout out of my head in an uneven manner. I have a pair of hair clippers and I could put the effort in to do my own head myself, but that comes with a lot of contorting and a clean-up operation after. I could get my girlfriend to perform the operation of clipping my head, but it's not incredibly pleasurable for her, the clippers aren't that good and it never quite seems appropriate to be naked in her parents' kitchen - the obvious place to do the job... and we're not equipped with the various robes you need to protect you from falling hair.

So, all things being equal, I pay a lady to do my hair for me. She gets enough money to buy a large pizza, and I get a shaved and washed head. It's a fair deal. I have noticed, in recent weeks, that the extra benefit of getting a professional hair-cutter to do the cutting of the hair is that the process is much more comfortable that with my own clippers being brandished by someone who has only ever used such clippers a handful of times. It can be quite pleasant being attended by someone who has your scalp's best interests at heart. This is how loyalty to a barber's shop begins.

Today I went to the very same barber's shop as I've been using. There was a new face on the scene. Gasp. A trainee. Now, I'm a hard to please person, I'll admit that, but a trainee is just learning, so should not be given discouragement. They don't pretend to be great. They need heads to learn on. They need to learn their trade. So, I did my best to avoid letting this woman know exactly how much unlike her boss's service the events that happened on my head were.

Where the boss would make the hair trimmers feel like they had ball bearings on the ends of them, moving them so smoothly and gracefully over my head, the trainee made them feel... well... a bit scrapy. In fact, the word "OW" came to mind quite a lot. But I stayed poker faced. In fact, I've had scratches from my girlfriend's cat which felt more comfortable than these clippers.

I smiled. It amuses me when I pay for a service which hurts me. Like when the dental hygienist scraped away at my gums - that was hilarious. So, this cack-handed hairdresser made me chuckle to myself too.

Then I bought a fig from the fruiterer across the street. That is the correct word for it too. Though it seems like there's an extra "er" in there.

Thursday, May 11


Try rotating your head through 180 degrees:
ambigram generator


The word insurance reminds me of the cheesy gangster movies where the heavies would press the owner of the locksmith's shop into paying them "insurance money" to make sure that "nothing bad happened". Actually, I think that was an episode of Police Squad. In fact, I know it was, but they were spoofing that genre of drama, so it still counts. I don't think insurance salesmen in this country would like to think of themselves as akin to the mobsters running protection rackets in cheesy fiction.

The sad fact, however, is that the people selling insurance in this country might as well be running protection rackets. I've recently been looking for car insurance, and I can only conclude that the whole thing is a scam. I've been quoted prices ranging from £300 to £800. In some cases, I've been given a price, said no to it, and then had the person selling me the insurance immediately come up with a significantly lower price. If it costs less, why are you trying to screw me for more?

Insurance is a very negative thing to buy. You're paying money in case the worst happens. Ideally, I want the basic level of cover for the right money. I don't want bells and whistles - they're not worth more unless I use them, and I don't plan to have a car crash or break-in. If I do, then I will be put to great inconvenience and cost, and the insurance is there to stop the cost being in the thousands, rather than to make me feel like I'm getting a treat for having had the misfortune to be involved in a motoring problem. My favourite story from the last few days' insurance prospecting came yesterday with Swinton insurance. They were trying to beat a quote I'd had from the Post Office. They couldn't get the price low enough. So, they told me that they'd be prepared to upgrade my courtesy car. I pointed out that this was not a benefit I'd really expect to use, given that I didn't plan on having an accident. The operator said - "Ah, but you had an accident in February, didn't you...?" as if to say - "Ah go on, you may as well have another now, you're getting good at it!". I said no.

Overall, I think that the hassle of organising car insurance is a real pain. I also think that it's a damned cheek that the government require car insurance in order to issue road tax, and they also require MoT in order to issue the tax, but they don't require tax on all cars and they also tax petrol, and they don't provide a system for making it easy to pay your dues. Worse than that, there are people who don't pay their dues, have accidents, and then expect someone to pay for the damage. The people who suffer are the honest people like me, who have to go through the hoops to organise the required documentation and policies and end up, on top of that, paying for other people's mistakes, either with higher premiums or with personal loss. I believe there may even be a common pot somewhere, into which all insurers pay, to cover the uninsured accidents. This is a bloomin' cheek. I have a solution.

Ashley's solution to tax and insurance for cars
The following should happen and the country would be a better place:
  • Every car should display a certificate of MoT test pass, in place of a tax disc
  • There should be no road tax
  • Every car on the road in the UK should automatically have insurance against 3rd party losses, such insurance to be provided from a central pot, organised and administrated by the government
  • People can buy additional insurance for comprehensive cover, theft, windscreens, courtesy cars etc
  • All of the above would be paid for by tax on fuel
  • MoT tests would also be free (paid from taxes), though the work to make the car road legal would be the responsibility of the car owner
This system would work because nobody would be able to avoid it. You can't tell if a car is insured from the tax disc, as the tax disc is bought when the car is insured and can last beyond the insurance end-date (or can come with the car when you buy it despite the fact that you may not have insured the car). However, the tax disc is a useful way to ensure that the car is road legal. Replacing tax disc with MoT test certificate would solve the roadworthiness thing, and making all cars insured to the minimum standard by default would solve the insurance thing. Petrol prices are high and added more tax to them would seem counterintuitive. However, in so doing, the entire machinery of the road-tax administration system could be ditched which will reduce the amount of tax needed to claim the same amount of actual money from the motorist. If I need to get the equivalent £180 in road tax from fuel, let's say I'm really trying to get £150 out of each motorist, and let's say that each motorist currently spends £20 a week in petrol... well, that will go up to £23, if that. However, let's also recognise that some people are higher users of fuel than others, they will pay a little more, and the £20 a week people will, therefore, pay a little less. So maybe it will be nearer £21 or £22.

The same goes for insurance. There are lots of people out there with different categories of risk, some of whom don't even pay their insurance. Insurers are profiting from all of this. A single pot for every car on the road in the UK would level the playing field. I might be saving £100 from my car insurance as a basic level of cover, someone else might be saving £200 and so on. All of this would probably only add a couple of pounds a week to my fuel bill.

The argument that it will hit heavy road users more than light road users is true, but that's commensurate with the fact that heavy road users have a higher risk of incident, make more wear on the roads and burn more fuel and, therefore, have a higher environmental impact. Tax on fuel is the ONLY way I can see to link the use of a car with paying for the essentials that come with that.

Feel free to comment if you think there are holes in this policy. Sadly, I don't think we'll ever see such an approach ever adopted by government, which makes the last 15 minutes' typing of this seem strangely pointless.

Wednesday, May 10

Why am I so tired?

I feel exhausted. How can that be? The most I've done in the last 24 hours is sit about, drive a bit and make an Apple Crumble. I remember a week back in June 2004 when I was significantly busy. I did gig after gig:

8th June 2004 - Capital Comedy, Laughing Duck, Edinburgh (actually, I think this was moved to the Three Tuns - in fact, I KNOW it was)
9th June 2004 - Talent Hunt, York Comedy Festival A very sweaty gig, which my brother attended
10th June 2004 - Capital Comedy, Edinburgh Edition, Edinburgh Also in the Three Tuns, I had to improvise or rewrite much of my set as they'd seen it before)
12th June 2004 - Capital Comedy, Glenrothes The start of a long and happy relationship with that venue

In fact, I remember a week that was busier than that, but that's no guarantee that that week actually happened. I know I took the train to Edinburgh on evening of the 10th and then came back to Newcastle for work on the following morning's first train. I did that quite a lot in those days. I'm not sure whether I stayed in Newcastle on Friday night, or whether I didn't just turn around after work on Friday and go back. It was very draining and I know it took a lot out of me, but I was still in a mood (once 8pm came, at least) to get back on the stage and make merriment.

Now I'm knackered from doing bugger all. Am I getting old?

Maybe it's my diet. I'm presently eating plenty of salad and drinking lots of water. Back then it was hurried sandwiches, baked potatoes-a-plenty and quite a lot of railway muffins and flapjacks. Perhaps it was those that kept me alive? Or perhaps it's those which were responsible for me gaining approximately three and a half stone since January 2003!

The Dilbert Blog: Getting Abused Toward Success

The Dilbert Blog: Getting Abused Toward Success - a nice entry by Scott Adams on how he deals with criticism. I wish I were that smart.

Tuesday, May 9

Sitting and Cooking

Sitting Around
Today has involved a lot of sitting around. I didn't even go back to my house for lunch, instead choosing to go and sit around the cafe across the road from my office and have lunch there (lunch was a chicken salad with fruit for dessert, so no loss of goodwill on the diet plan, then). And I suppose that crossing the street to get to the cafe was a sort of non-sitting-around. Mainly, however, I've sat in this seat and done very little.

I've been trying to do work. We're in what's called "wash-up week" at the moment, which involves taking the work we did in the last four weeks and tying up any loose ends, tidying up anything which, with hindsight, looks a bit messy and generally ensuring that nothing got forgotten. As such, I've been unable to shirk a few tasks which were on my "oh, but surely it doesn't really matter that much" list. At the end of the day, a tidy workplace is a happy workplace, so sorting out these small things is good for everyone concerned.

However, progress has been very slow. This is largely because of factors external to the work that happens in the few cubic feet between my brain and the CPU of the computer, via fingers hitting keys in occasionally beautiful rhythms. So, lots of waiting around for things to resolve themselves, test themselves or otherwise prove themselves worthy of something.

Cooking Around
The plan for tonight is to get something to eat here in Farnborough and then head to the girlfriend's place in order to bake her an Apple Crumble. I can't really eat much of this dessert myself, as it involves things like sugar, which I should probably not be eating too much of, in my condition. That's the condition of being several stone overweight. Anyway, I like cooking and hadn't operated any form of cooking appliance in months until a couple of days ago when I made an Apple Crumble. It was such a success that I've got leave to do it again. This is good. I used oats last time. I also think I solved a mystery from the previous times I'd made crumble.

I like oats in my crumble. Fair enough, right? Everyone's entitled to their own preferences. However, on a previous occasion when I made crumble, which was when I had rhubarb from my own garden. I just looked this up and it's quite surprisingly something I did back in September 2003! I hadn't realised how much the last 3 years had flown by. Anyway, the cookie dough problem, as I may as well cause it, seemed to happen why my crumble didn't crumble. I now believe this to be caused by premature oat adding. If the oats are added to the crumble mix before it's crumbled together, then the oats seem to make it into a dough. Adding them afterwards to the crumbly stuff and mixing it dry, would appear to be the answer. I know this because I made two batches of crumble mix the other night, the first had the oats in and went all gooey, the second, a supplementary mix, as I didn't have full coverage, had no oats and crumbled quite sensibly.

Blog this!
What an odd blog. Sometimes it's software, sometimes stand-up comedy and sometimes it's about bakery. Oh, and musicals.

Monday, May 8

Inventory in Software Engineering

I wrote this as a comment on another site, but thought I'd stick it here too. If you don't give a damn about software, then don't read it.

I consider inventory to be any software that we've written but have not yet sold a single copy of. Much like the manufacturing-equivalent, where unsold stock sits in a warehouse, this software has cost us money to make, and has also cost lost-opportunity of the workers who made it, who might have made something else that we sold instantly. Although, unlikely manufacturing, it probably takes the same amount of physical storage space for lots of inventory as it does for none (i.e. about the size of a server rack, compare with differening sized warehouses in the physical world), in my opinion, it is still highly undesirable to let completed code remain unsold and unused. If there's no way this code can be sold now, then perhaps that's an indication that something else should have been made first. However, there are some reasons I've seen given for why "we cannot sell this yet".

1. We're waiting for more features, to make a bigger impact.
2. Selling it in this state will give a false impression of the software.
3. Selling it at this stage will give a negative impression of the company.
4. Deploying a new solution is so much work that we can only do it infrequently.

The first three of these come into the category of "minimum marketable feature set", something which makes sense, perhaps, in the earliest stages of a product, but which, in a mature offering, could be a falsehood, born out of not understanding the customer, having customers with unrealistic expectations, or to cover up inadequacies in the requirements gathering process. If a single story cannot add some measurable value to the product enough to make it worth buying by a customer who needs that value, then the story may not be worth implementing.

Number 4, however, is a compelling argument. If the process of deploying a new version requires a lot of people, training, communications, supporting materials and so on, then perhaps the deployment shouldn't be done that often, though internal deployment should continue, to ensure feedback etc.

The big problem with inventory, apart from lost opportunity cost, is that it goes out of date. Technology moves, as does our understandings of user requirements. Something I made last year may no longer cut it as the solution a customer wants to use. So, the sooner the code is out of the door, the better. I reckon it's best to get in there first with something simple and coherent, than join the party increasingly late with something brilliant, but costly.

Two Oh Six

This story would be better had I woken up at 6 minutes past two in the night. I didn't. Sorry. I woke up at about 20 past 3, if that's any help... No? Ok, then I'll get on with the story.

My girlfriend had to be up at half past six this morning, so I had a restless night's sleep. This was caused by a slight concern on my part that I'd failed to set the alarms properly, or that I wouldn't hear them if they went off. By alarms, I mean our two mobile phones, both of which did go off at about the right time and woke us up.

With the lady in question heading off to university, I didn't want to lay around, afraid that I'd drop back off to sleep and miss work. So, I dressed and followed her out of the door, the rain immediately dampening my spirits and the shirt which she reckoned didn't go with my trousers. I agreed and made a mental note to change it at the next opportunity.

Backing out of my parking space in my car, while she backed out of her space in hers - a Peugeot 206 - I made a special note of trying to avoid knocking into her. This would have been a bad move. Apart from the costs, it would have lost us both time and caused something of a tension. When I looked, she'd gone. Good work. I got onto the road and headed to my job, no collision occurred, because we were both driving sensibly.

I would have to say that morning is not my time (unless it is before 5am and I haven't gone to bed yet). Busy roads are also not my thing, any time of the day. So, to have woken up early and then be rewarded with a traffic jam was not really my bag. Luckily, some of the jam was caused by what looked like an expensive but non-fatal crash on both sides of the road (how that happened, I don't know, but there were two cars with extensive damage, either side of the barrier). I say that it's lucky that there was a crash, I mean that in the sense that it's a lot more reasonable to expect a road accident to be the cause of a traffic jam than just tolerate a busy road for no apparent reason. Bizarrely, most of the jam was caused by people slowing down to see what had happened, in some bizarre mockery of paying last respects at a funeral. Again, nobody appeared to be hurt. Plus, I like to think that if I'm being inconvenienced by a busy road it has, at least, been because something important has happened.

Overall, I'd rather people drove responsibly and that roads were built with a capacity to deal with the traffic that goes on them, rather than the traffic that the authorities optimistically believe should go on them.

Anyhoo, no actual events occurred on the road to Farnborough and I stopped off at my house in order to set off some washing and change my shirt. I parked on the right hand side of the road, i.e. facing what would be the oncoming traffic, were it to be a particularly busy road. After a brief time in the house, I surfaced and headed to the cash machine at the local co-op (because I needed some cash... obviously). I needed to make a U-turn in the road in order to be able to get to the co-op. So, I waited until there was a gap in both the oncoming traffic (in front of me) and the left-hand lane traffic (coming from behind me) and started my u-turn. I got all the way round and just needed to cross back into the lane I started from. The oncoming traffic from the lane opposite to where I'd parked had now waited for me to finish this obvious u-turn. It's a good job I was checking mirrors and blind spots. A Peugeot 206 was rushing me. Had I continued my swing, I would have had a car parked in my rear passenger seat. On the one hand this would have been convenient, as the wheel arch on that side is in need of a similar sort of replacement as the one which occurred after my last crash. However, on the other hand, no car accident is a good thing (even if it does explain a traffic jam). Amazed at the stupidity and lack of consideration of this female 206 driver, I continued on my way, unhurt and unimpressed.

The cash machine at the coop was out of order. What a waste of time. I'd parked in the parking space in the righthand lane again, facing the oncoming traffic. However, I'd learned my lesson, This time, I swapped my u-turn for a 3 point turn as I headed back the other way. The three point turn is the staple diet of driving tests and road behaviour. Surely nothing could go wrong. Again, I was scrupulous and assiduous and punctilious with my use of the mirrors and general looking around me. This was to my benefit as a car decided to nip into the space I'd just vacated, and which was part of my 3 point turn maneouvre. Guess the make and model. Another Peugeot 206, driven by a woman... recklessly.

So it's been 206 morning. My girlfriend proved herself to be the only female 206 driver that I like. She didn't cause me to have to do any defensive driving.

I've also learned that it's better not to park facing oncoming traffic.

Sunday, May 7

Something of a non-day, really

I slept in later than I intended to. There were two reasons that I should have gotten up sooner. Firstly, I didn't want to waste the whole morning stewing in bed. Secondly, I was experiencing a bit of back pain from the particular position I was lying in that particular bed. But, my natural-born-indolence got the better of me and I didn't emerge from my slumbers with any sense of urgency.

Juggling The Two Gigs
I'd spent some of yesterday on Chortle looking for gigs. The recent experience in Watford had somewhat buoyed my confidence in myself as a stand-up comedian and had also made me feel like I should be doing more pleasant gigs, as well as toughies, and that I should try harder to get my feet under the table (as it were) in this part of the country. To that end I'd applied for a last minute gig in Leicester tonight. The condition of the spot was that I'd have to pick up the headliner from Wolverhampton and return him there after the gig. In return for that favour, I got a decent-sized support slot, a fee and some petrol money. Seemed reasonable to me.

Unfortunately, the person offering the spot was not the promoter, so although I got my details off, I didn't hear back and wasn't certain whether this Leicester gig was happening (for me at least) or not. At midday today, I was then offered an MCing spot (from someone else) in Southampton. This had the advantage of being a direct offer from the promoter and also nearer than Leicester. My system is to go with the thing I first committed to, so I had to make sure that the Leicester gig wasn't happening before giving a definite on Southampton.

By the time I'd gotten around to deciding that Leicester wasn't happening and had rung the Southampton promoter, he'd given the spot to someone else. So, I found myself with no gig to do tonight. Given that I hadn't expected to be doing any gigs at all tonight, I suppose this wasn't a great loss.

Mr Harry
As part consolation for the absence of comedy with me involved, I decide to watch the Harry Hill DVD (Hooves) that I'd bought earlier in the year on eBay. I've been carrying this DVD back and forth from my girlfriend's house in the hope that I would find time to watch it. I made the time this afternoon and saw it all, extras included.

I think that live comedy doesn't always translate well to DVD. In this instance, it felt like some of the music-hall aspects of the show, along with some of the chaotic on-stage absurdity, might have been better experienced in person. Some of the material seemed to fall flat, and some of it was loosely executed. Having said that, the overall standard was much loftier than a pub full of open spots giving it their best, and there were a few absolute corkers of jokes in there. To keep the pace for an entire show without a break was an impressive feat, and the time spent watching the show passed by quickly. The extras were fairly dull and pointless.

Harry chose to end the show on a song, which was played moderately straight. This was reminiscent of the ending to the Lee Evans XL DVD, which I watched earlier in the week. That DVD ended with Lee singing a totally bland song, accompanying himself on the ukulele. I don't see what point it served.

Rule number 1 of a comedy show - if it's not for the purposes of creating a laugh, then don't do it.

I would have thought that that was obvious.

Scraping the barrel
I'm close to the 100 mark now with my catalogue of the World's Worst 100 Websites. It's getting harder to find candidates now. I want to get a list of around 120 to choose from. Any tips would be appreciated. Use the comments feature on that site.

Is Technology Killing The Art Of Conversation?

Seen on an AOL discussion page:

my view

i fink txting emailing and so on is destroying the way we live the way we fink for example. when somebody is txting some friend the proper expression is not fulfilled so we either get the wrong idea or just get confused talking face to face makes sure we can expres out view opinion and so on and if we want to hide something we can in our way but txting emailing just make everything difficult and make us try harder to txt and txt causing more confusion to both people because the other person is like well ave just explained it so why u still going on about it. it nt that it just the person hasnt explained it properly because it a txt or email we belive we shouldnt have to express it fully bt that destroy the art of converesation we were given voices and minds to express wat we say to each other to love people with wat we say to care bout people with wat we say. a simple sentence saying good luck is simple and sounds quick and as if the person doesnt really care we need to speak to each other more people have no idea about the way we can say thing to each other can change somebodys life we are give the special ability to say things wid tone or make it sound boring u no wat i meen. wow im doing it rite now im not truly able to express wat i meen so everybody look at it and finks am a nutter lol thats because i cant truly express my opinion to u al even if u are brilliantly amazing at expressing your feeling through txt most of us are nt it all makes sense dont it :)

Posted at 8:38 pm on 2 May 2006 by teamawesome

Team "awesome"? Awesomely bad writing. I would like to think that this is ironically bad to prove the point, but somehow I doubt it.

Friday, May 5

A Day In The Life

Maybe I do no more in any given day than anyone else, or maybe I am "full of busy". I suspect that I do about the same as most other people in total, but that I spend less time with important things like washing, cooking, tidying etc etc. Given the various professionals I've seen over the years, I can definitely veer towards this latter explanation. I don't do any of the following:
  • Spend 5 minutes moisturising my feet every night
  • Use a bizarre bottle-cleaner-style between-the-teeth cleaning device every other day
  • Brush my teeth for 5 minutes twice a day
  • Walk up stairs at every opportunity (not sure that saves time)
  • Do 30 minutes' exercise every day
  • Wash my car every few weeks
  • Check my car oil every week
the list goes on. Perhaps my day could be filled with busy if I did more of these things. However, I have done quite a few things of my own devising in the last 24 hours or so. These come into the following categories:
  • Getting a tooth filled
  • Upgrading my MP3 player (finally)
  • Ripping CDs and listening to Beethoven
  • Paying a surprise visit to my girlfriend
  • Watching Friends
Not quite as healthy a series of things to do, but I'll still write a few words on each. Well, ok, the dentist bit was probably quite healthy.

Dental Care
Perhaps if I spent more time poking my gums with things I'd have better teeth. As it is, my first dental check-up for some years revealed the need for two fillings. At £50 each, these are not a cheap commodity. I went to the dentist at lunchtime yesterday, with a meeting scheduled for an hour or so after lunch. I didn't really want injections to make my mouth go all numb and cause me to spit throughout the meeting.

Two good things happened within the dentist's chair. Firstly, he decided only to do one of the fillings. This was a less painful and less costly. Good start. Secondly, he agreed with me that injections are for wusses and are probably more trouble than tolerating a few moments of drilling. Thirdly... okay, THREE good things happened... he didn't hurt me at all. The sensation of being drilled will never be pleasant and I did feel some sense of threat from it. Discomfort is about as bad as it got. This has been my experience with dentistry since being an adult. This either means that my tolerance for pain has improved, or that dentists have become much more skilled at painless procedures. Alternatively, it could be that the dentist I had as a child was a hamfisted maniac.

The meeting after the dental treatment went pretty well too.

MP3 Success
Upgrading my MP3 player has been a massive undertaking. I started looking for a new hard drive for it back in November. I ordered the new drive in early March. Now, a good 6 months or so later, I now have it working. Upgrading an MP3 player isn't an end in itself. The point to consider is that I have a large music collection, one which was bigger than the internal storage space of the MP3 player I bought in September to replace the one that was stolen from my car in August. At the time that I bought the new MP3 player, I should have thought it through and bought one that was bigger than the 20Gb I'd first bought (Dec 2004). However, I didn't. Once the unit started filling up, I started to have to choose which songs to keep on there. This somewhat goes against the idea of having a fairly large hard disk in the first place. To give you an idea, I once got a 0.4Gb hard disk for my computer and thought it was the largest drive I'd seen. My music collection was weighing in at 25Gb before I left Newcastle and I had to prune it.

I use the MP3 player to record gigs too. If it's low on space, the recording gets jitters as it tries to find the next wee bit of space on there. In today's technological landscape (did I really write that?) there's no need to be short on storage space, especially not now that I have a 60Gb (count 'em, that's sixty) drive in there. This means that I can now have all my CDs on the player.

In anticipation of the upgrade to the MP3 player (which was done in the evening, finally possible after various false starts because I had a part which would help me undestroy something I'd destroyed), I continued my task of downloading the contents of my CD collection into the computer, which converts from CD to the MP3 format that the player uses.

I only have a fraction (maybe 25%) of my CD collection with me here in Farnborough. A lot of the CDs I don't have present are already ripped, or are in the B-list category of "not likely to be listened to at the moment". Why is this important? Well, I spend most of my day with headphones on, and I drive long distances. If I can have a music collection which follows my chain of thought and requires nothing more than a button press (rather than going digging through a shelves, or box, or whatever) then I'm a happy Ashley. I'm prepared to pay for that privilege.

As part of my ripping yesterday, I put all 9 of Beethoven's symphonies through the computer. Herbert von Karajan's conducting is now digitised on my hard disk. Given that music is for listening to, and given that I hadn't listened to my Beethoven Symphonies collection (all 5 and a half hours of it) in a long time, and maybe not that many times through in total anyway, I set about listening to it all. With it on the hard disk, it's possible to arrange the symphonies in ascending order, rather than the order they appear on CD, which was determined by the people who made the CDs by working out how to make the best use of the space on CD. So, a 40 minute symphony goes on the same disc as a 20 minute one, rather than the symphony which numerically follows it, which might cause the symphonies to cross discs. It makes sense, but it's not particularly logical from the point of view of listening. On my computer, each symphony is now in its own folder. Simple.

I couldn't get to sleep last night because Beethoven was going round my head. Mainly his 5th.

Surprise Visit
The theory is that I spend a couple of nights a week in Farnborough and the rest at my girlfriend's house. This theory does not stand up to any physical evidence. I'm rarely at my Farnborough place overnight. Last night, I planned to be there. I did the MP3 player upgrading with Lee Evans playing on the DVD player. Once I'd completed it, I felt lonely, so I decided to pay a surprise visit to my girlfriend. This was a surprise, despite the fact that she'd only seen me a few hours previously, since I turned up unannounced and unexpectedly. She'd even been suggesting that she should make the effort to come and see me, but I got in there first.

It made her smile, which is worth the effort of driving 20 miles or so.

Every so often my girlfriend says "Friends?", which might, in some relationships be a sign of making peace after an argument, or maybe a way of being let down gently - i.e. relegated from partner to just a friend, to just a nobody. However, in our relationship, it means "Shall we continue to watch the collection of every episode of Friends ever recorded.". We did. It was, quite simply, a pleasure. Not a huge pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless. Each episode is 22 minutes of tightly written amusement. It gets self indulgent from time to time, but it's still good.

Thursday, May 4

Fabulous Relationship

I just witnessed one of the most pitiful, yet archetypal conversations. It was between two work colleagues who knew each other by sight, probably by name and maybe even had a history of working together on projects. However, they hadn't realised, until the conversation got going, that they didn't really know each other personally:

Him: Hi there, I haven't seen you in ages, how are you.
Other: Yeh, not bad.
Him: Yeh, it's been ages.
Other: Yeh.
Him: So... er... how are things.
Other: Yeh, not bad.
Him: Yeh.
Other: Hectic.
Him: Hectic.
Both: Yeh. [pause]  [walked away from each other without saying anything else]

Wednesday, May 3

Missing the musicals

I'm currently listening to Camelot, the Lerner and Loewe musical based on the stories of T.H.White, in turn writing about the legend of King Arthur. Given that "Camelot" is a fairly famous noun, I probably didn't need to explain what the show was about. This musical has a famous quotation, linked with JFK's presidency, which itself is one of the most famous improper uses of the English language. The quote is:

Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot

Without its "Camelot"ey tail, this line was used to commemorate greatness. Obviously, not the greatness of the word "forgotten".

Anyway, I performed in a stage version of this musical back in February 2004. I remember much of the show and still get a slight sense of excitement in the final scene in which my character had a bit of stomping around the stage and a few lines to deliver during the song. I was always nervous that, when I knelt in my armour (yes, I was a knight), it would either break, knock me down, or prevent me from getting back up. It never did it, though the sword had a few hairy moments... and I saw the red mist a few times when fighting with Lancelot!

Anyway, as I sit here, well over a year after my last performance in any sort of musical, I can't help but miss it. With the focus I've put on my blog recently, I've happened upon various scribblings on the subject of rehearsing for musicals. It was a large part of my life. Perhaps when I'm more settled in this part of the country I should look at finding a new group to join and get on stage with.

They say size is not important...

While waiting for a slow machine to do something slowly, I made it slower by pasting all my blog content into Word. I've been blogging on this blog for 4 and a half years. A printout of the blog would run to 544 pages and over 367,000 words. Blogging became most intensive around September 2004, where I think I needed the outlet of the blog the most.

Some of the retrospective posts within 2005, which were blogged for blogging them's sake, were also far too detailed.

The Soul of Wit

Apparently it was the 18th Century scientist, Pascal, who wrote: "I hope you will pardon me for writing such a long letter, but I did not have the time to write a shorter one." This pretty much sums up a problem I've faced a lot recently. Here are the occasions when I've been affected:
  • Writing my Around the world in 80 websites article, where I ended up creating a huge 12 page spread for the magazine
  • Writing emails to people for whom English is not a first language
  • Writing emails to busy people and trying to avoid confusing the issue with extra words
  • Helping my girlfriend achieve the word limit on her essays, from the high side
  • Writing elegant computer programs
A friend of mine stands by the principle that a design is not complete until there is nothing left to remove, and I agree. In terms of computer programming, not dealing with the redundant stuff, left over, can lead to increasing levels of inertia, the equivalent of trying to get around Mr Trebus's house. In writing, an overtly woolly style of prose can lead the reader into wasting their time or, worse still, missing the important point, hidden among the WORDS.

It's all very well for me to be preachy on the subject of good writing, but this blog is a classic example of write-only text. The way it works is that I blather on into a window on my screen, post it to the internet and then forget about it. If some bugger reads it, then great. If it finds its way into Google's search index, then good luck to Google and any searcher who finds my words when they're trying to find something useful instead.

There's a difference between this blog, which is little more than a brain-dump (emphasis on all meanings of the word dump) and the writings that I pride myself on. The whittling down of an article for a computer magazine is a good 75% of the effort I put into writing it. When I've spent time writing songs or scripts for stand-up/other performance, I similarly put effort into getting every redundancy removed from the piece. I think about the rhythm of the words, the pace of the piece and myriad other factors.

So, dear reader, if this is boring, then that's because it just is. As my school reports used to say, "[I] could do better".

Please bear in mind that this particular piece comes to you courtesy of virtually no sleep, a 5am wake-up and a morning of trimming down an essay with my girlfriend. So, I'm enjoying the freedom to write whatever I like and care nothing about the world limit.
(448 words)

Tuesday, May 2

Sites For Sore Eyes

For some reason the backlash section has been hotting up recently. Virtual no changes for ages, and then a few in close succession. In the latest instalment, I get a reply to the 5 year old letter to Asda about mini trolleys. The reply came in the form of an email from a 3 year old child who may or may not be off his trolley.

In addition to the backlash update, I've also been working on the overall format of the blog. Those who give a damn will notice that the comments facility has been activated - on with the abuse! Those who don't give a damn should also notice that I've made the archive pages and post pages all work, so you can now go back and read everything... and with a reasonable amount of Incredible-ness surrounding the page. It's taken some wangling and I don't really understand how to do it properly. I would imagine that the links from within a post-page to another page on the site may not actually work.

Bye bye blog
I deleted the blog, which had lain dormant for quite some time. A friend of mine recently deleted his blog and I was aghast... so aghast, that I copied the 30 or so entries from the AshleyFrieze blog into this blog - they're all backdated and you'll have to go digging if you want to find them. My advice is not to bother. However, I have preserved virtually every word I've ever written here, safe in the knowledge that nobody, apart from Google, will ever read them all!

An Almost Total Downer

Down in the day
Today has been a washout. I've very little good to say about all the events prior to 7pm. I'll give you a run down of all the minor things which have caused my blood to bubble and my stress levels and general levels of misery to wobble.

The Unexplained Traffic Jam
It's a general risk of being a 40 minute commute from the office, I suppose. However, I still despise traffic jams and need to keep myself under control. I particularly dislike the unexplained jam or the jam in a place which shouldn't have a jam, never has had a jam and seems to have suddenly jammed for no jamming reason. Well, it's probably volume of traffic or an accident, but you know what I mean.

I left slightly on the late side this morning, but managed to get to within 5 miles of the office in reasonable time. Then there was a huge traffic jam ahead. Huge. In a place I've never seen a jam. So, I went another way. This way was also congested. I arrived in the office a little later than I wanted to, which is a shame, since I'd been up and out of bed for long enough to have been there earlier, if you see what I mean.

I realise, reading this back, that this is not even a slightly interesting story. There's no explanation of why there was so much traffic, or exactly where the jam had started. There's no information here at all. Just reading this is tedious and pointless... which is exactly how I feel about traffic. It's tedious and pointless. I don't get in my car with the objective of spending as long as I can in there. It's a nice enough car, but I just want to get to my destination and get out.

You can continue reading now, the topic changes in a moment.

The Demo That Lit The Fuse

A few days ago I downloaded #develop, the free programming environment, and started a mini project of my own. It related to something that had been on my mind a bit, after an idea, discussed with a colleague at work. It was a simple idea, and the code to do it is also, pretty simple. As you can see from the code segment at the righthand side.

So, what I wanted to do was show the idea to some people who might pick it up and run with it. I'd already gotten a few people interested, but the demo today was for some of the sorts of people who could really argue the idea down. Essentially, the idea can complement an existing mechanism or replace it. People don't like things to replace other things. We hate change. We especially hate looking at a tried and tested solution and wondering if there could be another way. As a result there was much thunderous resistance to this idea. I tried hard to pitch it correctly, but it didn't help that one of the main people I wanted to buy into the idea hadn't even received the meeting request that invited them along, so in some ways they were wrong-footed and ill-prepared before we even started.

I don't think the idea is dead in the water, but it was a bit depressing to have to see something I care about knocked so readily. I managed to keep a reasonable sense of proportion about it. I think.

More Trouble
I also heard the news about my ex-colleagues from my previous employer. Things aren't going so well for them at the moment. I couldn't help but wonder whether things mightn't be going better for them if my final year at the company had been full of successes, rather than full of petty battles and irritations. I truly hope things go well for them all. I miss the guys (and gals). And I'm not just rooting for them because two of them are also my tenants.

Going Postal
I went home at lunchtime for lunch (obviously) and found a card from the Post Office. They'd tried to deliver a package for me that morning. I went round to the collection office (which closes at 1pm) to see if it was waiting for me. It wasn't. Another downer. I even went back, after I'd had lunch, to see if it had arrived in the interim. Still nothing. What a pointless waste of time (for more pointless timewasting, see the rest of this entire blog!).

Running out of steam
Back in the office, I never really managed to get my teeth into anything. A new debate raged about a meeting, called a stand-up meeting, which I'd originally pioneered in our team, apparently now everyone thinks they're a waste of time. It felt a bit like "hate Ashley's ideas day".

I did some tidying up of the work I'd hurriedly completed on Friday. I wish I'd managed to demonstrate it, since it's working pretty well and would have given me a sense of having achieved something. However, things got in the way of that. Perhaps tomorrow.

Running out of oil
My car drinks oil. I'd forgotten about that, what with the various other distractions in my life at the moment. I'd also rather hoped that the recent repairs to the slightly backfiring engine might also have stopped the leak, which I hoped might be exacerbated by each backfire (sort of opening up the seals a bit or something). No. I have an oil light periodically. This is not good. I must put a few litres of oil in the car. I also must insure it. And get my excess back from the last insurance claim. And protect my no-claims discount, just in case.

Running out of patience
Another traffic jam on the way home. This wasn't my day at all. My mood dropped into my boots and I really didn't think I'd be able to smile for the rest of the week, let alone be pleasant to my girlfriend and her family.

Some Enchanted Evening
Well, I'm not sure that this evening is in anyway related to seeing a stranger across a crowded room (see the libretto for the exceedingly dated South Pacific) but it was, at least, a good break from the day which preceded it. We went into town, had food, went to Tesco, tried on clothes, got weighed and bought a CD. A perfectly pleasant evening spoiled only by the actual weight reported by Tesco. Let's just say that I spent a while losing weight in 2002 and now I get to start all over again. Whoopie doo!

Monday, May 1

Chain of fools

Another update in my backlash section. That's two this year. I've received an update on the old fashioned "send all your money and be a moron" letter - it's done with email and PayPal. Read all about it here.

Writing, Gigging and Shopping

There's been some writing going on this weekend. The last time my blog went out of date, it was due to the last article I was writing Around the World in 80 Websites, which was published in Micro Mart just over a week ago. On the day I submitted, the article, having vowed never to do that sort of thing again, I accepted a commission to do a general review of bad things on the internet, called The World's Worst 100 Websites, which will be a two-part piece, the first part of which is due in to the Micro Mart offices in some 3 weeks' time.

I spent a reasonable amount of yesterday trawling the internet for bad sites. This is both easy and quite difficult. You can find yourself in some weird and totally unpublishable places, if you're not careful.

Writing the last article was really hard work, which makes me wonder why I'm doing it all again. Probably the money, but maybe the sheer hell of it. After all, it's quite good fun thinking of 100 words to say on someone's website. I have some big ideas for what to do to add extra value to the article, but I guess we'll have to see whether I have time to do that. The correct approach is to get the basics done first, and then add to them.

I've done a lot of gigs (333 as of yesterday morning). As such, I know how to recognise the signs of a difficult gig. Arriving in Watford for my 334th gig, all sorts of concerns popped into my head. Firstly, I was concerned that I had no idea how to get into the pub where the gig was. My sat nav knew where it was, and I could even see it and drive up to it, however, I couldn't park near it, or work out how to walk to it from the car. If experience has taught me anything, it's definitely proved that arriving at the venue is the first step to successfully performing there. Without that, there's no chance whatsoever.

Finding a Sainsbury's supermarket that didn't seem too far from the venue and parking there, I wandered into the town centre bit of Watford, with plenty of time before the gig started, and tried to get some cash and a Subway sandwich. The cash was successful, I even found the Subway, which had been clearly marked on the back of its building as I looked for a space, and which was also clearly a Subway from the front of its building. Sadly, Subway isn't open in Watford at around 7pm on a Sunday. Good tip if you ever visit the place, that.

Without the food inside me, and with my guitar and stand in hand, I walked in the direction of the venue. I found a great big dual-carriageway-style A-road between me and my destination. I asked a local how to get across, and with a voice that sounded like it was long-since weary of this exact question, he called out the answer, like a bored heckler calling out the punchline of an ancient joke - "underpass!".

Now my first concern, about the reaching of the venue, was no longer a concern. I was going to arrive. No problem. However, the next worry was that it was very quiet around the pub. Perhaps there would be no punters at all. Getting inside, a new worry replaced my first worry. THere were, in fact, lots of people there, there was even a stage and the remains of a small acoustic band, packing up. However, the crowd hadn't come specifically for the comedy, and the performing space was in fact the main body of the pub. What if they didn't listen?

Had this been a free gig - i.e. one where the punters pay absolutely nothing for the comedy - I would have been well advised to turn around and leave. As it was, the bouncers went around collecting £3 from each punter and turfing out those who were not prepared to pay. You'd think that, if they'd bothered to pay £3 a head, the punters would shut up and enjoy the comedy. You'd think that, wouldn't you?

In honesty, I didn't expect that to be the case. There was too much hubbub, chit-chat and general disruption going on. If I even become a good comedian, I hope that I'd have an agent who would never send me to such gigs. However, on the way to becoming a better comedian than I am now, I knew I had to learn to tackle this exact room.

I was in a simultaneously good and bad position in the running order. I was on last. Headlining, if you will. This was good because there's a certain amount of clout you can command as the headliner. As though perhaps you're the act who they've really come to see and everyone else has just been warm-up. You can also play the "let me finish this and then we can all go home" card, which earlier acts can't. On the down side, the running order contained (including yours truly) some 7 acts AND a compere. This meant that, as last on, I had to witness every act that preceded me and watch the audience get more and more tired.

In fairness to the acts who were on, all of whom were fairly newish acts, the trouble was not so much that they didn't have anything funny to say as much as the audience didn't give a toss either way. Those who cared were more interested in heckling - not even useful heckles, just "You're not funny" and "Get on with it". Those who didn't give a toss were talking and building up a barrier to laughter that is a general rabble.

They say that you should do something every day that scares you. While I'm rarely that bothered by the prospect of performing (in terms of fear, at least - I'm usually a little excited about the enjoyment ahead), yesterday, I got the adrenaline rush. I found my heart beating, my hands sweating and a sense of being about to be pushed off the edge of a cliff.

This is where I tell you the tale of the hard gig that I turned into a good gig, but before I do, and I will, I should perhaps bring my glorious tale crashing down with a sense of proportion. I left the venue sweating, relieved and with the "fee" in my pocket. For the 90 minute drive, three hours standing around waiting to go on, 20 minutes on stage and hour long drive home, I was rewarded with ten English pounds. Ten quid. That's what I'm worth. I'm not complaining, because I agreed to do the gig on pretty much that basis. But let's put this in perspective. I couldn't even expect to make a profit on the petrol for that gig, let alone a living out of doing that sort of thing. Any achievement, I may or may not have had in that room is quite clearly academic, because there are many comedians who go on stage in well-lit, nicely-disciplined, intelligent-audienced venues, who put less effort into their set and come away with a reasonable reward. I should also add, that it is probably the fact that I use most of the skills which won me the audience last night, which prevents me from getting gigs in some of those venues. Weird.

So, reality check aside, I went on the stage hoping to last 10 minutes. The fact that I use a guitar was to my advantage. The fact that I decided to stand my ground and fill the room, also seemed to work. I got the audience laughing. I got them applauding. I did my new song (2nd time out) and it worked. I kept it going. I did my preferred finale followed by my old finale (the George and Zippy bit, which I hadn't done for ages until Kidderminster a couple of weeks ago). I got off the stage. The encore started before I left the stage and I gamely returned to do one more song.

The irony of my xenophobic Eurovision song contest entry was lost on the crowd.

Shopping trips to Tesco are barely worthy of a blog's worth of mention. I will just mention that the size Nazis nearly got me today. Had they been at full strength, they would have remembered to remove the trousers that were in my size from the rack. However, they forgot, but had some presence as all the other sizes were reduced to £9 from £12. My size stayed at the £12 mark. In fairness, I get more material than the smaller people, so I'm prepare to pay £3 more. However, it's still a slap in the face from those evil size-bigots.

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