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Friday, February 23

Not Quite According To Plan

The plan for last night didn't tally with the reality. However, plans and realities seldom tally, which is probably why I'm still in the planning stage of what I'm presently working on, rather than in the making-it-reality stage; every time I get close to declaring the beginning of a new view of reality, the goalposts move. Though it would be great to drive a stake into the ground (or at least into something), and work from that, I can roll with it for the time being, or, at least, I'm going to have to.

So, planning a night out is more the sort of thing I wanted to focus on. In this case, it wasn't a heavy night's drinking or a night of debauchery. Here's what I thought would happen:
  • I'd finish work
  • I'd make my way into London and meet at a pub at 6pm
  • The sketch group I tech for would do a run through, which I would follow on the script, marking on the sound and lighting cues
  • We'd finish and I would head over to the Comedy Store
  • At the store I would meet up with a comedy buddy and a couple of his friends (girls)
  • We'd hang out until later on when he would be involved in the late show and I would make my excuses and get the train back
  • I would have to try very hard to force myself to leave, rather than miss the already late train back
It wasn't a bad plan and it involved girls. It had a few points of failure and I certainly hadn't considered exactly what would be going on at the Comedy Store on a Thursday night, which is odd, since I've done a 5 minute open spot in that situation and know exactly what goes on there.

Anyway, very little went exactly as envisaged. The train ride to London was good. I read the Return Of The Timewaster Letters on the train and it made me laugh like a girl. Again, I was reduced to a giggling heap by this guy's writing. Brilliant. It turns out that one of the members of the sketch group I met with later on used to date him. It's a small world.

Arriving in London, the plan was already going wrong. The meeting had been rescheduled for 7pm. I went, instead, to meet with two of the group at one of their houses, somewhere I'd been before but couldn't quite remember the way to. After going a little wrong with the walking, I called up and got better directions. There was some sitting around chatting, which was nice, some confusing conversations, which was also nice, and then a dialogue which went a bit like this:

Her: Oh, my moods, sometimes I'm up, sometimes I'm down.
Me: Oh dear, maybe you're a bit bi-polar.
Her: I am, actually.
Me: Oh great, wrong time for me to make a flippant remark about mental health, then.
Her: It's fine so long as you take the medication. I'm on loads.
Me: Good. Good. Erm... I know a bi-polar person too. Erm. Yeah.

That could have been more awkward than it reads. It was fine. Nice people.

Anyway, we went to the pub, sat around a table, and a committee instantly formed. I stayed out of it, noting down some sound cues. In fact, there was no read through. They discussed a running order. It was fine. The people involved seem very nice and very clued up. I am glad not to have to contribute more than an offer to fade the lights up or down slowly or quickly.

The meeting ended around 9ish and I headed back into town. I reached the Comedy Store to find that my friend was alone - no ladies with him at all. Not a surprise, really. I also wasn't surprised to find that there was a show running, rather than him just chilling out at the bar. It's Thursday in London's West End, there's bound to be a show. I got "guested" in and watched the second half. The headline act, Marcus Brigstock, was a bloomin' joy to watch. A true hero. Brilliant. My friend did an open five minute spot in between acts and he got some laughs. I've got a recording of it.

The initial plan had assumed that I'd be forced into staying later in London than I intended, and then would have to hot-foot it to the station at the last minute to get back to my car. In truth, I was back on the train home at 11, which is a bit late for a school night, but not that late. Perhaps in this case, the reality was better than the plan. Though the sketch group met later and didn't do a read through, I was able to get to the Comedy Store in time. Even if they'd met earlier, the read through would have delayed me. Likewise, though the meeting at the Comedy Store was meant to be a mixed-gender more social thing, the simple case of sitting on the back row watching half a night's comedy for free, including a cracking headliner, was probably preferable.

Indeed, had the reality not deviated from the plan, I wouldn't have met my train-companion on the return journey. So, who needs plans? Plans are a waste of time, work around reality, replanning as you go.

The train-companion was a fairly drunk woman, who was sitting next to me on the train (across an aisle, which I find very good for conversation) eating some pizza. She was the worse for wear and opened our conversation by asking whether I was going to be sick on her. That is a bloody humdinger of a conversation opener. No, I wasn't going to be sick on her. Why? Apparently the woman who had recently vacated my seat looked like she was going to be.

The conversation went from there, really. I was lucid and cheery, and the woman, Katja, was not entirely in control of what she was saying and kept forgetting answers I'd given to previous questions. It took her three times of asking before I stopped pretending that I wasn't a stand-up comedian. Usually, I'm quick to claim that I am, but for some reason it made more sense to me in this instance to assert that I wasn't, but that some of my friends are. There are some people in comedy who would nod their heads in agreement to this statement, but those people can go stick their heads in a pig.

I was keen to admit that I work in IT and she told me that she was a barrister. In this short exchange of jobs, we each established, in the other's mind, that we were probably reasonable earners. I say that, but perhaps it's only me that thinks like that. When people over the age of 27 get together and talk about what they do, I'm pretty sure they size each other up as socially/financially compatible. That's my guess. Again, it may be cynical.

She did a lot of talking and I happily let her, asking occasional questions. It was pleasant enough. She was very drunk. I don't really drink, though I explained quickly that it wasn't on some bizarre moral grounds, I just don't happen to be able to fit it into my life very often. Occasionally, I do. Often I don't. Simple.

She turned out to be French, which her accent didn't really give away, and 39, which her face didn't really give away, even on closer inspection. I jokingly asked her secret of long-youth and she explained that it was a cocktail of drink and drugs. She may as well have stood up and said the following:

Hi, I'm too old, too exotic, too much of a high-achiever, and suffering with too many substance misuse problems for you, Mr Geeky Bloggery Man

As it happens, I've pretty much decided my policy on the whole people-you-meet-on-trains thing. People you meet on trains are, by definition, people you'll probably never see again. So, don't get attached and spoil it. Equally, don't worry about what you say to them, just be whoever you want to be.

It turns out that I want to be me, which is nice, and that the me I want to be is quite a sympathetic male figure that the likes of the drunk lawyer types want to give a hug and a kiss (on the cheek, well, neck, but I think she missed) goodbye to. Impassively, I allowed it. She suggested that she thought it would be nice if we should have a drink sometime, I responded by giving her my number and suggesting we do that... only kidding... I, in fact, responded by enigmatically saying something like "maybe one day we will" - woooo. She left the train thinking one of three things:
  • Oooh, maybe fate will bring me back in touch with that nice man
  • Shit, he wasn't interested in me, was it maybe the bit where I described my cocaine use?
  • or (more likely), now, how do I get home? what just happened? was I just on a train now? where am I? (etc)
There's meeting and flirting with strangers on a train, and then there's predatory behaviour which probably ends up with nudity in the train toilet. I think I'll stick to the one which involves words only. Thank you very much.

I returned to my car, and returned home listening to Guys and Dolls. The plumbing in my house is nearly finished, but my toilet has stopped flushing - the valve which releases the water from the cistern is no longer working. D'oh!

If everything went to plan, then only the act of planning would be any fun, as everything else would have an unsatisfactory sense of inevitability about it. As it is, most of the rich experiences I've had in my life have occurred within the framework of a plan, but usually off a tangent from the expected. I prefer it that way.

Right, back to the pointless planning.


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