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Pay What Now?
Outro
Hearing the music
When to quit
I am not as other men
Tonight I was funny
Attack of the Drones
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Why Pissing off a Fellow Comedian was Fun
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Thursday, May 31

A Change Of Plan

I left the office last night intending to get to my gig early. I was down for a 10+ minute spot, which I was going to use as an opportunity to run in some spoken material, some of which I wanted to re-write after my last couple of bouts with an audience without the aid of my guitar.

That was the plan.

As I hit the M3 and masses of traffic, two things became very clear. Firstly, I wasn't quite going to be on time, and secondly, my need for the toilet was greater than my ability to wait until I reached my final destination, or even one of my official motorway service station stops.

After about 20 minutes in a 4 mile traffic jam, I was back in business. I went to KFC near Bracknell. This seemed to be at loggerheads with my own major plan of the day. I've decided to get back on the wagon. I'm going to eat healthily and try to lose weight. So, a trip to KFC, with the alluring smell of frying and spices, is not really the best approach to weightloss. However, I wasn't going to start my diet and immediately go to KFC. That would be taking the piss. It was taking the piss in a different way which brought me to the house of the frying buckets. I threw money enough for a coffee at a staff member and headed for the upstairs toilet while he was converting my money into a hot drink.

Equipped with an empty bladder and a capuccino, I returned to my car and got back on the road.

After a fairly uneventful journey, accompanied by the radio, a gig recording of me part doing well and part dying at a gig without my guitar, prompting me to do the rewrites in my head that I'd planned to do after that gig, I arrived in Kidderminster. I then proceeded to have trouble with the one-way system and the poor parking arrangements. For some reason there were about 4 spaces directly outside the venue which were 15 minute waiting period only with no return within 2 hours. These spaces didn't have a time boundary on their restriction (e.g. rules only apply between 9 and 7 or something). So I had to drive around a bit.

Then, with nothing but a watch, a notebook and a pen, I headed to the venue.

I had anticipating a little backroom in a little pub with maybe an audience of 15. Floundering through a few blethered bits of stand-up would be inauspicious, but not that much of a problem. The point, in my head, was to use this unpaid spot, for my own purposes - to sharpen up something I'm not so good at.

Then I saw the room. Oh my god. It was lovely. A proper music venue with a proper stage, nice lighting rig, jammed full of tables. There were plenty of people gathering. There was a buzz in the room of good humour. The owner of the venue was up for it. The nice looked like it could be a cracker. I felt like I was standing at the world snooker final, equipped with a straw, rather than a cue... and, to flog this metaphor further, I felt like I had a laser-guided power cue in my car, in the shape of my guitar.

I changed my approach. I asked for a bit more time from the promoter. I went to get my guitar. We sound checked it and it was sweet. I then planned to stick in a few of the newer bits into my set, assuming there was time and it was going well enough.

Why not push myself? Well, I think I just wanted to have a good gig. I wanted to have an audience laughing heartily. I wanted to see if I could do more of the sort of performance I'd done while jet-lagged at my gig in Shrewsbury. Somehow, the necessity to rise above the challenges of tiredness and no lead for my guitar (at that particular gig) had made me really perform my way through the set. It had been great. I want to really perform and interact with the audience at gigs, and maybe I felt like this gig in Kidderminster was the right place to polish that skill.

I sort of wanted an easier time, but maybe it was also a question of choosing the right performance for the gig.

However, for every thing that appears to make a gig easier, there's something to make it tougher, or at least potentially tougher. I made a sort of mistake. The running order originally had me on first - I'd volunteered when everyone went quiet on the "who wants to go first?" question. The running order also had another act on at the end. When this was shown to someone else, they were curious "Why aren't you on last, Ashley? Why is he?". I recalled that this particular act wasn't especially a closing act and that I'd seen them bomb last time they performed... not that I'd done much better at that gig.

I'm not sure if it was a case of me saying "come on, if you need a headliner, then it should be me" or a case of me saying "I'm not sure that this act will flourish in this particular spot", but I diplomatically suggested to the promoter that the running order be revised. I was promoted to last. The act in question was moved to another place in the show and the opening act job went to a fine bunch of men, with bananas.

I've now made my role harder. There are 8 acts and an MC on this bill and I'm on last - after the audience have seen a lot of comedy. I also watched, and laughed, as the act who was due to close, went on and stormed the gig. They loved his furry backside to bits. So, now I have to go on last to a tired audience and not bomb, or I'll look like some evil prima donna figure.

The act before me is someone I love and adore. The room didn't get him. Perhaps he was running a bit too quickly, I think he looked visibly nervous. Perhaps the room were too quick to take him at face value, rather than as a character act. I don't know. He's always made me laugh, but I watched him have to work hard to break even with this particular gig. In this situation it either bodes really well or really badly. If the act before you struggles, then maybe the room has gone beyond being amusable and tamable as an audience, OR maybe it means that their departure will leave the room with lower expectations - easier to grab than if they're still lusting after the last act's schtick. Perhaps the fact that the act before him had done so well was the reason he had it tougher. I don't know. It doesn't really matter.

Anyway, I went on. I was there to do a fat 10, I'd agreed that it could be upped to 15, the promoter said "or maybe a little more if it's going well", I asked, while on stage, if I was okay for time, which is code for "can I do a bit more". The audience were cheering me to continue at that stage. I came off at 25 minutes with them calling for more - though I'd cheekily put the idea in their head, as is my cheating method for telling them to maybe encore me.

I didn't do an encore, which is probably for the best.

I did two newer jokes. One written in the car and one which I'd written in the car before a different gig and had only tried out a couple of times.

The set worked. My change of plan was the right thing to do. I didn't end up looking like an egomaniac, trying to overpromote himself.

I'm pleased to say that, as I was returning to my car, some of the audience members stopped me and said they'd enjoyed both my stuff and that of the guy who was "relegated" by my interference. So, he came out looking as good as he may have done if our roles were reversed. I hope so. I don't think I was really playing prima donna. Maybe I was being a bit selfish... or maybe I was just being genuinely confident that I could use my guitar to follow anything that had gone before with less risk than any other act might have.

Pass.

I had a good gig. I was "being funny". That's what I set out to do, even if I used different tools to achieve it than first planned.

Too Busy?

Somehow I've managed to be busy enough not to find time to write up my thoughts in the last couple of days. This doesn't please me since, although I've no plans to become a "must blog every day" person. The whole point of writing something is to keep a handle on where I am. Welcome to my twisted world of words.

The reason I've been busy is that I returned from holiday with the intent of trying to get the plan at work sorted out. I couldn't do this single-handedly. In fact, I barely did anything except get everyone else to do it while I acted as the medium through which it all flowed (flew?). This is not quite placebo progress. I think I came in from a suitable distance and could both rise above and sink low into the detail of what was required.

Where, before going on holiday, work seemed like an insurmountable mass of intractable problems, it now seems like an insurmountable mass of intractable problems with a few manageable and meaningful tasks sitting atop the midden, waiting to be plucked out, washed off and dealt with. Progress.

To make progress slower, we've now got new computers. Theoretically, they will make life easier. In fact, the twin monitors and the must faster CPUs, bigger memory, more hard disk space... yes, these machines will be a lot lovelier to work with. Having said that, the effort to set them up has meant that I've been absorbed with silly things like which background picture to use for best effect across two screens.

My background picture is this:



Nice, isn't it?

The house also requires a lot of time. I have a couple of free nights to devote to it and I will. I was going to do something constructive (literally) on Tuesday, but I ended up moving some stuff around to make it possible to do work in one of the rooms and ended up turning my bedroom into part-bedroom/part-office. This isn't ideal. Not in the least. Anyway, I then took the opportunity to do some paperwork that's long been overdue. This was a good move. In one fell swoop, I managed to sort out a fair number of annoying issues that feel like they've been hanging over my head.

In fact, I've just discovered, this morning, that I've finally sorted out my PayPal account. This has been suspended since February when I was the victim of some internet fraud. At the time it struck me as ironic that the only person who didn't seem to be able to screw around with my account was me. I had a bit of effort to get the money back and then get the currency adjustments sorted out so that I was refunded the actual number of pounds that were stolen, rather than the number of US Dollars, which were worth fewer pounds than were taken, by the time they got round to dealing with everything.

However, the problem of not having account access resulted in there being about £600 sitting in my PayPal account that was my money, but I had no way of spending it or transferring it anywhere. They wanted me to prove that I was who I said I was. This involved receiving letters (each of which took about 10 days to arrive) to both my old house and then, after that one, my new house. Then they wanted me to add more credit cards to their system. I couldn't re-add my existing card, or take it off their system. Annoying. They wanted to see a faxed copy of bank statements, credit card statements, utility bills... I mean, I applaud their making the effort to verify my veracity, but they seemed quick enough to allow $2000 or so to be plundered from my account in the first place. Horse? Stable Door? Bolting?

Still, it's all sorted out now and I can start selling all my possessions on eBay again. Given that I discovered that I bought the same DVD twice recently, I can now start putting that right.

So that's good.

There's more to life than paperwork...

... whiteboards!

Unfortunately, I had to take down my whiteboard and pinboard when I started wrecking the kitchen. Shame. Still, the kitchen has moved on a little since I was away. The new backdoor is in place, as is the new kitchen window. I need to start thinking seriously about plastering. I suspect the deadline will move further back.

Oh, and finally, on the whole sorting things out front, I had been worried about money and the potential cost of my Gas Boiler installation in Newcastle. It's on a knife edge there. It's either going to be £7000+ (boiler and redecorating after) or it's going to be significantly less. The heating engineer who will ultimately do the new boiler install, went along to see if the problem could be fixed. I paid him about £120 by cheque yesterday, and the problems are sorted... for now. That's a lot less stressful than it seemed when I was getting reports about how bad things were while I was on holiday.

In fact, gas and electicity have been behaving quite well this week. I rang in my meter readings to the power company, who had threated to put my monthly payment up to £130 from £80. They told me that they wanted to drop it to £50. Neat. See. Meter readings really do help.

So, a lot of bitty things have been getting sorted out. This is good.

It has kept me away from writing, but I'm back for now. Maybe I'll write up some gig stories later on.

Tuesday, May 29

Not Dead

There are a couple of ways I might have died between the last blog entry and this. I might have been in a plane crash. I wasn't.

I might have been in a car crash, given that I managed to get no sleep before my flight between Jerusalem and Amsterdam, about 20 minutes dozing between Amsterdam and Manchester, and I didn't get to bed at home until about 43 hours after my last proper sleep. But I didn't crash my car. I had a tough final 20 minutes of the journey, as my system started to anticipate bed and stopped its suspension of exhaustion. But no crash or death.

I suppose I could even have metaphorically died on stage in Shrewsbury at my gig. There was no means of plugging in the guitar, the journey to the venue from my car had been stressful, and I was knackered. But I didn't die. In fact I gave a fairly assured performance.

So. I'm still here. There may be more to say about the events of the last couple of days, but the overall point is that I'm back to my world. Let's see how long it takes before I decide if I really want to be here.

Sunday, May 27

Dunno Why

I've no idea why, but being here in Tel Aviv airport has felt like a bit of a wonder. I suspect it's because I didn't manage to get any sleep before my taxi came to pick me up and then I watched with amusement as the taxi had to go past the airport and swing back round a complicated route, owing to some twat in the inside lane not letting him get off the motorway.

Things are bound to fill me with wonder at this time of the day. It's 1.48 in English money, 3.48 in Israeli, and I've no idea where my body clock is. That's AM, by the way, not PM. If it were PM it would be nothing. But I've not slept and things feel a bit strange - I'm already exhausted and if I'm to do my gig and then drive home before my next sleeping session, there's 24 hours of being awake still to do.

Anyhoo. Things feel odd, that's for sure.

I think the fact that there's free wireless internet here and the airport is an amazing work of engineering and design has something to do with it too. There's this massive fountain in the central lobby, leading to all the different gates. It's a fountain where the water comes from a massive rotunda in the ceiling and drops into a pool. It's only droplets of water, but it looks like a perpetual light rain. Very impressive. What's more surreal, though, is the people sitting next to it, just ignoring it. How could you ignore something like that!? It would, for me, be like going on a safari and catching a glimpse of a Cheetah and going "meh - so it's a cheetah".

Weird.

So. Blogging in an airpot. I've nothing to say except "hello".

Hi.

Bye.

Saturday, May 26

Time To Think

You can add "The Long Way Down" by Nick Hornby to my list of books read on this holiday. I spent the entire day in the company of his cast of characters - a bunch of suicidal self-deluding types who discover something over the course of some 257 pages of narrative.

I think I probably most fear being self-deluding. If I'm not clear about my own mind and real life around me, then what chance do I have? It's something which I think I've prided myself upon. The constant taking stock of the situation. Constant reviewing of where I am and where it can be improved. However, writing this now, I know that that's not entirely true. I know that I often get an assumption locked into my head and refuse to shift it long beyond its natural end. Here's an example. Despite all the evidence to suggest that it's not the optimal plan, I still believe that I'll stay in my current bedroom when I come to rent out my house. I'm starting to doubt that at the moment, but it's an example of why I probably do give head-space to ideas that are not necessarily the right ideas, not necessarily the solutions I'd produce have given all the facts now at my disposal, yet I still believe these ideas to be perfect.

I think I'm big enough to change a decision once it's been questioned properly.

I know I believe better of myself than is probably justified.

Here's the problem, though. Do I do a constant fundamental reality check all the time and end up crushing my spirit with some of life's harsher realities? Or, do I give myself the scope to foster some slightly ridiculous aspirations in the hope that I might actually achieve more than seems possible? I quite like the latter approach, maybe tempered a little by knowing the difference between the stuff I think I can do and the stuff I KNOW I can do.

I often look at the story of Don Quixote for inspiration. I'd like to say that I read, digested, dissected and otherwise imbued myself with Cervantes' original text. Given that it was in Spanish, perhaps I should claim that I devoured the English translation. In truth, I got about 100 or so pages into it and got lost. However, I'm a fan of the musical adaption of it - "Man of La Mancha". So let's assume that the basic essence of the story made it across to the musical vesion of it. Let's assume that, in the story, a storyteller starts to explain how an old man goes a bit mad and adopts the manner of a knight, that he sees a simple shaving basin as a helmet that will give him strength and that he sees a wretched wench as a refined lady. Let's assume that he's "cured" of this and then, as he lays on his death bed, the woman, whom he saw as a lady, wishes he could be uncured, so that the optimism his condition brought with it could be restored. The moral of the story - sometimes seeing the world as you wish it were could be better than seeing it for what it is.

I forget whether I've harped on on this blog about this theme before. I think I'm amazed when I meet people who behave in what is termed a "Quixotic" manner. It turns out that, if you have a strong enough idea, people are often loathe to challenge you. As a result, you can sometimes succeed when an impartial observer might reasonably deduce that you couldn't possibly succeed. In fact, they may even judge your success as a failure by any reasonable standard, yet somehow it's a success to you.

I wish I had such cockiness to plough ahead with this sort of blatant disregard for the facts. To be a stand-up comedian, I have to plough onto the stage with enough optimism to make the audience laugh, even though I may well have looked at them and come to the conclusion that it's impossible to relate to them. So maybe I have some of these techniques. Maybe my aspirations in relation to my comic "career" are all about selective blindness to my limitations on stage. Maybe it's the other way around. Maybe I would have gotten further if I were more pushy and more capable of telling people amazing things about what I'd do for them if only they'd capitulate and let me prove myself.

Thing is, I hate high expectations - they're seldom met in my opinion. Better I should cause a drop in expectations and then hop over the small box hedging that results, rather than build the expectations like the unassailable of a well-guarded castle. The similies and metaphors are running away with me here, but you get the idea.

So, there has been much time for reflection as I've sat around in Jerusalem doing various shades of bugger all over the last few days. I've contemplated what the hell I'm doing in life. I've thought about work, home, family, stand-up, plumbing (this wasn't entirely my choice), money, successes, failures and what I want out of life.

I wish I had more answers than I started with. In truth, I think I have fewer. I think that I'm a bit more aware of the brutal truth that I, in general, lead quite a privileged life. I'm aware that this life of privilege is linked intrinsically with my line of work and that I'm not incredibly satisfied with anything in life at the moment. I know that everything I want is a hotbed of contradictions. For example, I don't want to be alone in the way that I am as a single man living alone, but I don't really want to be living in a massive house-share - the one I'm racing to create, nor do I particularly want the absence of a girlfriend, nor the demands on my freedom to do what I do that the average girlfriend would... what? impose? that's not it... cost? that's closer. Everything in life comes at a cost, and I think I want things for which I'm not prepared to pay the cost.

That's a problem. Being the exception to the rule is not actually available to me. I'm not any more special than any of the people I know. I may do things that make me stand out in some way. I'm probably one of the very few computer-programmer/landlord/stand-up comedian/musical-writers in the world. So what? I can't have it all without it all conflicting in some horrendous way.

On top of this is the extra dimension of family. It's good to have a family. It's good to make a fuss of my 18 month old niece. It's good to sit around at my father's expense in nice hotels getting meals and company. Yet... well, I can't imagine any of my girlfriends past fitting into the environment I've flitted into these last few days. I can't imagine choosing a girlfriend on the basis of her resilience to this environment and I don't know if I might ever meet, at random, someone who would. In fact, I don't know that the sum total of all my neuroses, activities, commitments and interests could ever either appeal to, or avoid alienating any other living human being asked to join their life with mine.

It's different being a friend. You can be there for friend-time and don't have to be there alongside the rest of the stuff.

Life partners are for life, and maybe I can compromise, or reduce, my involvement with certain things which might act as a barrier to a relationship, but all of it? or completely? I don't know. I think I'm too selfish. I want it all...

Everything in life comes at a cost. Sadly, it would appear that the principal cost of the life I'm heading into is the absence of partnership and my own sanity. That's sort of sad. At least my lunacy will be entertaining for me (and hopefully other people who get to see me as I float between venues doing what I call comedy). However, it seems like my attitude towards relationships - I'm a serial monogamist - is at loggerheads with my attitude towards life - do it all and do it now.

If I could write a shopping list for everything I'd look for in a girlfriend, it would be full of contradictions. Moreover, I think I'd probably instantly dislike anyone who fit the bill. More probably, they'd not find me worth the effort. This is, itself, a contradiction, since item one on the list would be "someone who really really likes me and thinks I'm worth the effort". Damned contradictions.

If ever there were a better argument for the use of prostitutes - don't worry, I'm still fundamentally against that (as far as I myself might be included in such a thing - the wider debate is nothing to do with me) - I haven't seen one. It seems like there are several versions of me co-existing in the same life. Each one needs a different sort of partnership and they're all contradictory. So, a series of prostitutes with specialities, might suit... and could be diarised like I diarise gigs.

Or maybe a series of open relationships with open-minded women... who would have to be available when I need them... To agree to such a thing, these people would clearly be unhinged and that's going to get messy.

So. No.

In summary, having no delusions sucks. I'm going to die alone at some point.

I'd better make the most of the time before that happens. This probably means playing this year according to the nearest thing I have to a plan, and then doing some serious assumption-reviewing around September/October. The lot. Maybe something will occur to me in the next few months. Maybe I'll have an idea of what's the next thing for me to do.

I can tell you this. Things can't continue as they have been over the last few months indefinitely.

Although this particular bit of blether started with reference to a book about some people who had considered suicide, I'm at totally the other end of the spectrum. Though I'm concerned about my long-term future, I'm concerned about making it a good one, not ducking out. It pains me to believe that I've no room in my life for wife/kids/domestic bliss, but I think I may just have to accept that for now. It's certainly not possible this year and I can't see how it could ever come without so many conflicts that it destroys one or other of the two key adults involved.

As a selfish surviving sort of a fellow, I'm rather keen not to be destroyed myself. I quite like myself. I could try harder to be a better me, but generally speaking, I'm not too bad an egg.

Or maybe I'm kidding myself.

Self-delusion stand-up comedian kids himself. It's a good headline and maybe a good closer.

In summary. Life's weird.

Taxi for Frieze!

Friday, May 25

Books I Have Read So Far

I can really read on a holiday. So far, though, I've not surpassed myself. I've managed to read the NewsPox book, the complete scripts to Porridge and The Great Train Robbery. Perhaps it's time I went and read some more.

I had planned to do some writing while away, but it seems I haven't.

Oh Dear

So much for holidaying. The news from Newcastle (newscastle?) is that my boiler is not working. This is bad news, even worse for the guy living in the house. With no boiler there's no hot water, and the tenants, when they first moved in, replaced the water-heating shower with one that uses hot water from the boiler. There were good reasons for this, the lack of water pressure being the prime candidate, but the end result is that everything in the house that's wet is also cold. Cold and wet - two words that sound bad together, except when used to describe a nice beer.

So, yesterday, having pittled around on the internet for an hour, I had to order another hour's internet access in order to pittle around some more working out how to start getting the boiler progressed from off-due-to-condemnation towards fully-working-due-to-non-condemnation. It's easy to condemn the boiler, but it's not its fault. The fault lies with the small gas leak - I wondered why the gas bill was so high, some ventilation (oooh, smelly) and the need for a switched, fused, spur, rather than a junction box. None of these should be a big deal. Except the gas leak, which could be the big deal of the year.

Oh, one small thing... if any of the operational parameters of the boiler change too much, and it fails... then there's no repair and a £6000 (count 'em) replacement cost for the entire heating system. Oh the happy times are here again.

So. It's nice and relaxing here on my holiday.

Thursday, May 24

A Couple Of Days Go By

Wake up. Eat. Go online to sort out emails. Go to the pool and read. Have a shower or sleep. Eat again. Sleep again. Another day on holiday has passed.

Tuesday, May 22

Twisting By The Pool

Up for breakfast and then I took a walk into Jerusalem with my father. Those are words which look weird written down, especially by a self-confessed lapsed Jew with a number of big issues on what to do with the conflict between the religion practiced by his family and his own ambivalence about that same religion. Still, a walk, via some shops into an ancient city is just that. Something to do that's a bit more of a way of burning off breakfast than sitting getting hot under an umbrella by the pool.

We even went to the western wall. That probably needs capital letters. It wasn't a non-event, it wasn't an event. It was a wall.

We returned to the hotel and then did our stint by the pool. I managed to graduate into the actual scripts of "Porridge".

My sister, her husband and my niece were all back from their trip to his parents' place. So, my vision of being at a poolside with an 18 month old child was pretty much a reality. I was on full "Uncle Ashley" duty. It was fun. Between us, we managed to keep an eye on the child and have someone to follow her if she decided to go off for a wander - the sort of wander that might end up in her absconding with someone else's shoes, or falling in a pool. I'm not sure which is the greatest faux pas, but neither happened.

For dinner, we were back at my brother's place. This time there were loads of us. His catering is very accomplished and we had about 900 courses, all of which were very nicely presented and good tasting. I managed to get the end of the table with his friends on it, so I had people to talk with over dinner, which is nice. I'm not suggesting that nobody else present was capable of conversation, but there's a time and place for each sort of conversation that one might have with each sort of person present. I preferred the dinner conversation in my part of the table for the occasion I was enjoying.

So good.

We walked back to the hotel. It's about 40 minutes or so to do this. This is because the whole of Jerusalem is now celebrating the Jewish festival of Shavuot, which is the festival that has something to do with something or other. Apparently, I could get up at 4am and go back to the wall to see a lot of people seriously celebrating some important aspect of the event that they're commemorating. Apparently, that would be a big deal - 9000 Jews in one place thinking something or other simultaneously.

It might not mean much to me, but it's fair enough that someone gets it.

The walk was probably a good contribution towards the burning off of the 9000 calories that I consumed today. Good cooking requires good eating.

Tomorrow there'll be relaxing to be done. I think I'm up to the job.

Note: today's entry was written today, the last few days' entries (19th-22nd) were also written today. Apologies for the changes in tense. It's easier for me to write it as it occurs to me to write it. If this ever gets published as a book, maybe I'll edit it more carefully than both the books I've read so far on this holiday.

Monday, May 21

First Day

The day was shortened by the late wake up, which was more lunchtime than morning. I unpacked and went downstairs to the pool with my book - a combination of the history of and scripts of the TV series "Porridge". Though I read the book very hard, I didn't manage to finish ploughing through the often repetitive "inside story" of the show. They had done a lot of research and managed to cobble together lots of words about the programme. If only they'd managed to edit it to the interesting bits and avoid the regular repetition of random facts, it might have read easier.

My brother came for lunch by the pool, which is where I sat reading for the afternoon. In the evening we went to his place for an evening meal, which was shared with a friend of his. Good food, good company. Not much else to say.

Going on holiday doesn't have to come with the pressure to do something. You need time to unwind. I was unwinding.

As a bizarre aside, I was asked over dinner, by my mother, if I had "Sampled any of the produce in Amsterdam", which is as good a way of saying "So, did you get stoned, then?" as any. No. You do not turn up to family holidays stoned.

That's a fact.

Sunday, May 20

Come Fly With Me

I got the airport transfer coach to the airport. I guess that was no surprise. I checked my baggage in and the kindly lady at the check-in desk said she'd get me extra leg-room on the Amsterdam-Israel leg of my journey. Neat. For some reason she pronounced the name of my final destination - Tel Aviv - as "Tellaveee", but I didn't argue. Who cares. Well... I care, but I didn't have the need to illustrate that. I was on holiday.

I mooched my way into the departures area and got myself a coffee/breakfast in Starbucks. It turned out that the gate was next to Starbucks, so there was no pressure to do more than have my coffee, croissant and panini while reading my book. Easy work.

I had missed an evening meal the previous evening, so it was a breakfast I'd been looking forward to for a while. The company of the book helped a fair bit. I later finished this book - the Newspox blog in book form - on the plane to Tellaveeeeey.

I breezed onto the plane at some point and found myself sitting next to a young woman from Leeds. We chatted for the brief duration of the flight, during which I managed, while talking energetically with my hands, to knock coffee all over myself. I sort of didn't care. I mopped it up and continued unabated. We had an interesting conversation, why let a cup of coffee spoil it?

The woman turned out to be muslim, which turned our conversation into a "So a jew and a muslim get on a plane" set up for a joke. The punchline being a bit of a let down "and they had an intelligent conversation on a variety of topics, including being offended on someone else's behalf". It's not a keeper of a gag.

Arriving in Amsterdam, we parted company and I had to go into Amsterdam. I'd not thought this through. My English arrogance took over and I sort of breezed my way, via an English-"speaking" ticket machine, onto a train that was bound for Amsterdam Centraal, which I sort of guessed was a railway station somewhere useful in Amsterdam for tourism purposes. After the first stop, I realised that I had no indication of how long the journey might take, how many stops it would be, or where I was. The signs at the stations were not as clear as I was expecting from my arrogant British attitude that everything would be as I expected from my experience of travelling at home and that everything would be signposted in English.

I asked a man who looked like a railway guard about where the central station stop was. He told me clearly and then sat down. Just because he was dressed in a manner which looks like an English railway guard, doesn't mean he's a railwayman in Amsterdam. In fact, he was just some guy. Oops.

Anyway, it was easy enough to work out how to get off the train at its last stop and go into Amsterdam. I left the station by a door marked as an exit and was near a canal in something Amsterdam-looking-like. I wandered aimlessly for a bit, decided to go on a boat on the canal, bought a ticket and sat on the boat for an hour or so as we were taken around various random places where there was something touristy to tell us. It was pleasant and relaxing. It's not a bad way to break up a long-ish journey.

As I got off the boat they were putting out the cards they made from the digital photo they take of each person as they get on the boat. I stayed around to see what mine looked like. I looked good. It was a nice photo of me. I almost bought it. Then I cursed myself for my narcissism and stopped myself from buying something I had no use for whatsoever. One point to me, I think.

I was hungry, so wandered round in search of lunch. I was trying to work out what might be a suitably authetic Amsterdam thing to eat. I couldn't. I wandered some more and eventually went for a steak at an Italian restaurant on a side street. It was ok. Nothing special. The salad tasted like it had been dressed with Dulux. I didn't eat so much salad.

As I was leaving the luncheon place, it started to rain. I had no particular need to be around Amsterdam, so considered returning to the airport, rather than get wet. First I got an ice cream and wandered around a C&A, feeling like I ought to maybe have more shirts than I'd taken with me in my suitcase. I decided C&A was not my thing, nor particularly nicely priced. So I left.

The train back to the airport was easier - I had experience of trains in Amsterdam now. I like the fact that they're double-decker. Neat.

I somehow killed some time in the airport with food and then made my way to the gate. There was a mini-check-in at the gate, a full-on security check, and I was early for that. In fact, even that time was two hours prior to the flight. As luck would have it there was an Israeli guy chatting with a young german woman and I joined in the conversation, which lasted us until we reached the plane.

At some point we got to the bit about religions. The german girl was a christian and myself and the Israeli were both jews. She didn't get it. "We're jews, you know, jewish?". Nope. It didn't register. How do you quickly tell a german what a jew is? "Don't you remember? Your people killed about 6 million of them?" We didn't say that. In the end, she got it. We were three people communicating in English, though her English wasn't very easy for her and the Israeli guy was also communicating in a second language (asking me occasionally for the right word or phrase to describe something). It's not a surprise that a particular word didn't register for her. I guess that if we'd pointed to some of the black-hat wearing brigade with long beards and curly hair and said "Jews" she'd have known what we meant. Me and the other guy were just dressed in jeans and shirts. We don't look like a caricature of a jew might.

Anyhoo, during the conversation the gate opened and we went through security checks. I was slightly fazed by the way the person questioning me talked about my arrival in Israel in the conditional form:

Her: If you get into Israel, how will you get to your final destination?
Me: (If?) I'll get a taxi. (If they exist!)

I didn't back-chat as indicated. I just answered the questions, a bit worried that a wrong word might suddenly disbar me from being allowed on the flight, or, at the very least, earn me a rubber glove up the bottom. She quickly stopped asking and let me go through.

The flight was uneventful in the end. I had extra leg-room and a rather oddly behaved religious English girl from Salford at the other end of my row. In the end, she disappeared and left me on the row on my own. Loads of leg-room, no company. I was in a good place. I had my book, which I finished, and my mp3 player, which managed to feed me "I'm sorry I haven't a clue" until we landed.

Landing I went through passport control, a few easy questions, finding my bag, which proved to be easier than with my previous suitcase - a very anonymous and hard to identify creature. The fact that I had a matching ruck-sack really helped me to remember what this bag looked like. Good trick.

Then I found a taxi to take me to my hotel. I agreed a fixed price with him. It turned out to be more of a trek than he'd hoped, but I turned out to have paid more than the perfect going rate for such a journey. So, swings AND roundabouts.

I got to my bedroom and was impressed at the lavishness of the hotel that my family had chosen to put us all up in. I can cope with such treats, I think. I don't think I've very often treated myself to such a class of hotel - certainly not for extended periods of time, like longer than a night. (I've never booked a hotel by the hour, not even in Amsterdam).

It was 4am and I had to sleep. So I did. I dreamed that my hotel room was a mistake and that I was going to be transferred to a grimy cellar room with a dirty duvet.

Saturday, May 19

Alternative Arts

I was due to do a gig in Chester. It had originally been scheduled for January, but I had hopefully had it rescheduled for May 19th. I say "hopefully" because I wasn't sure that I'd be able to do the gig when I booked it. At that point, I was expecting to take quite a few months off stand-up until the house was sorted. Is it sorted? No. Am I living in there with a girlfriend who would consider any form of gigging as some sort of desertion? No. The plan had changed when we split up, which is why I've been gigging solidly since February.

Anyway, plans change. In fact I was offered another chance to reschedule the gig in April when I was called up asking if I could, in fact, "come tonight instead". I was happy for the gig to remain on May 19th, especially as I've planned a holiday around it.

On Friday night, I was chatting to a friend and he suggested that I could head up to Leeds that night and buy him a pint. Though this was tempting, I realised that I had far too much organising to do to enable me to get everything sorted AND be in Leeds in time to be useful. All it would have done was steal time from sleeping and make me forget something.

So, it was decided that I would not do any last-ditch DIY on Saturday (which I would probably not have done anyway) and would head to Leeds in time for Lunch. Then I could, after Lunch, head over to my gig in Chester and everyone's a winner.

I spent Friday night doing something which I know to be deeply narcissistic. It's okay. I'm aware of it, so therefore it can't be a total act of self-admiration. What I did was produce a "best of" CD of some recent gig highlights. The purpose of this was to provide a friend with something amusing to listen to. The other purpose, I suppose, was to audit my stand-up set. How much do I actually have? The answer varies, depending on whether you're after rip-roaring quality or just quantity. The CD ran to an hour. Some of it was bankable material, some was just some stuff that happened to me at a gig once.

There was a lot to be learned from the process. I'd also received a DVD in the post on Friday of a gig I did back in March. I had felt like that gig didn't go too well, and that a particular moment was cringeworthy. Though I also had an audio recording of that gig, seeing what I do in motion was useful, and the sound picked up by the video recording was more generous.

What I'm saying is that on Friday night I managed to pack up both my stuff for holiday and also my feelings about where I'm at with my stand-up. I have an idea of how I do well with an audience and also why. I also know what doesn't really work so well, and I like the idea of the challenge to improve on that.

Saturday I set out reasonably early, for a Saturday morning, and made it to Leeds in time to take my friend out for lunch. We followed a pleasant lunch with a trip into town for some pleasant coffee. I was making comments about lesbians. I have nothing against lesbians, indeed, I have lesbian friends. I just like the word - "lesbian" - it has a lovely sound to it. I was making some silly comments revolving around the word, rather than particularly besmirching the concept of lesbianity. Then my friend suggested that the two girls in front of us in the queue might be lesbian. I then started trying to say more about lesbians in order to add to my silliness a possible slant that might demonstrate I didn't really harbour oppressive or bigoted thoughts about lesbians. I could feel myself digging deeper. So I gave up.

After an enjoyable afternoon. I headed over to Chester. I arrived in plenty of time and spotted one of the other acts in the courtyard outside the venue. The headliner was due to arrive later. Bizarrely (or not) the three of us were a large part of the bill of a gig I did back in July 2003 which was really the first time I'd ever gotten big laughs out of an audience. It was the Buzz club in Chorlton back then and I had a set which went up and down. It was the second time I ever pulled George and Zippy out of the bag to impress an audience, and the result was electric. A formative gig.

Anyway, Chester was a different experience to last time. There were fewer people in the audience which dropped the pressure a bit without dropping the ability for the audience to give their all and laugh heartily. There were a few bits of banter, some of which worked. There were a few moments where I dropped the threads, but I picked them up again and gave a fairly assured performance. I won't be writing much more on the subject - I feel like I'd learned a bit from the previous night's CD compiling and that I'd also managed to put my last gig behind me quite some. I'd been a bit worried about the fact that my previous gig had been a real stinker (in my opinion, and speaking comparatively). Now I could go on holiday on a reasonably good note.

The other acts were good and I stayed until the end. The last act had a routine which, when he revealed the punchline, made me laugh giddily almost to the point of being sick. Had I been drinked I would have spat my drink out. However, I wasn't drinking. I had nothing in my mouth. The best I could have done was be very sick, but I'm sort of glad I didn't do a sick. It would have been a big compliment, but might have precluded my return to the club. Nobody wants to book vomit-boy back. "He's funny enough, but the cleaning costs are dire."

I drove the act, whom I'd met at the start of the night, to where he was staying, which wasn't too far from the hotel I'd booked for my pre-check-in/parking requirements.

I turned in at a reasonable time in a reasonably uncomfortable bed in a room with a damp patch outside of the bathroom. On the up side, they had free broadband in the lobby.

The following day I would be heading off to Israel via Amsterdam. I'd managed to think my way up to the point of getting to the airport, soon to happen. I also had managed to think my way beyond the holiday to the point of returning and doing the necessary gigs and return journey home.

Everything else was left unwritten.

Friday, May 18

Madness

A family went on holiday. They went across the road from their apartment for dinner, leaving a four year old child and a couple of younger children unattended. This was, assuming that it is what actually happened, a tragic mistake. The child was apparently abducted. The media are really homing in on the story. People want to do something about it. The parents of the child have worked closely with the media in the apparent hope that it will somehow help bring the child back.

There's something very wrong. A charity has been set up. There are missing child signs in my office, as though someone here may have seen the abduction and not thought to report it. There is a sort of hysteria surrounding the case.

I'm away soon on a family holiday where my niece will be with us. She's a young child and I can sort of see how this case can resonate with any parent or family member who believes that their loved ones should be safe on holiday. It's a hell of a responsibility.

But I still find this particular case and the reaction to it to be unsettling. I wonder what really happened. Sadly the over wrought bullshit that people call journalism these days is unlikely to help us truly understand.

Lovely Ladies?

The rule of three states that there will be three items in the list and the last will be the surprise. For example "My wife, is thin, blonde and a racist". The third is a kicker because you weren't expecting it. By the way, I'm not suggesting that that line is funny, or that I have a wife, or that I'd marry a racist.

So it was that I had three different experiences with female members of the opposite sex last night.

Women On A Train
I noticed, as I got onto the train, headed for London, so I could see Evita, which I'd been looking forward to seeing, that the two women at the back of the train were painted up to look like cheap hookers. They weren't quite dressed as provocatively as that, but they looked really ghastly. Why do women dress themselves like that? Is there no such thing as self-respect?

I had my mp3 player and I tried to focus on Michael Bublé. The smell of their perfume and occasional bits of yakkety yak filtered from their seats to mine, but generally I managed to stay out of their way. I was slightly depressed by them, but I was much more miserable in general, so I barely noticed it.

In fact, I was so miserable that I deliberately tried to push the misery buttons on myself by building a mini playlist on my mp3 player of miserable songs, which I thought would really allow me to indulge in misery. As it happens, the songs were so good and so miserable that I sort of became less miserable as a result. I'm beginning to understand Goths.

Arriving at the far end, I hastened to the theatre and realised I was early. So, I hung about a bit, got something to eat, got to my seat, in a good stalls location, and hung around until the show started.

The Three Witches
People filtered into the theatre. Eventually, running quite late, three women came into the row behind. One of them was huge. The other two were gaily painted. As the overture began, their rustling of sweet wrappers and their murmurs, along with those of some of the rest of the audience, didn't subside.

Now I know I've said this before, but I'm going to fucking well say it again. If you want to go and see a musical, don't make noise over any part of it. The musical is a combination of sights AND SOUNDS! The overture isn't the boring bit before stuff happens - it's an essential element of the show, a series of textures and flavours that are being played, live, by a fucking ORCHESTRA. It's not like going to see a live band, with a couple of people who are there to make you excited and make some noise. It's a thing of beauty and subtlety; it's included in the ticket price, and if you disrupt it, then you're stealing from my enjoyment of something I paid to see.

I realise that this isn't helping much.

Still, the show got going and I think my particularly raw mood meant that I was really enthralled and much more likely to be emotionally affected by what was happening on stage. Whether it was an emotional moment, or just something I thought was well executed, I could feel my heart straining in all sorts of directions, influenced by the performance. Metaphorically, of course. This is part of what live theatre is supposed to be about.

There were still some disruptions around me, but I did my best to ignore them.

Interval arose and the three harpies went out for a bit. I relaxed. I didn't move. They returned towards the end of the interval and we had a bit of banter. They were in good spirits, had had a couple of drinks. I thought that perhaps, having spoken to them, that I'd maybe be able to tolerate them more, or maybe be able to influence them to be quiet more.

As Act 2 started, it was clear that they were still going to rustle and crinkle their way through the show. Bitches. What's the point!? I turned round a couple of times to wave them to be quiet. It didn't help.

The point is that the emotive music and the performance can heighten one's senses. I was trying very hard to immerse myself in the show and sometimes I was so hyper-aware (as I am when I'm on the stage) that I could hear everything going on around me, from the twat next to me biting his nails to the three witches behind me, whispering and giggling every so often.

To be honest, if you can't behave in a theatre, then I say you shouldn't bloody go.

I was incensed.

After the show had finished. I asked the three witches whether they were listed in the programme? Where are you in here? Where does it say "director's commentary provided" by you? Are you on the CD?

They didn't take it well. They suggested I was a miserable bastard. A sad wanker who should get out more. I explained that I'd not paid to hear them chat over the show, that I'd had a bad day and had looked forward to enjoying a musical. The chief witch said that "if I was paying attention enough, I'd not have noticed anything but the show". Oh, how I wanted to lay into the three of them. Oh how I wanted to reduce them to tears, by insulting them, rather than attacking their behaviour... but I couldn't. It's not what I do. I may appear to them to be someone who needs to "chill out and get a life", but maybe they left the theatre pissed off. Maybe they left with some of the irritation that I'd gotten from them. If so, then good.

To be honest, making an arse of myself with other theatre patrons wasn't enjoyable. I'm not really into confrontations. I hate it. I realised that when I started. I was just annoyed and slightly miserable and taking it out on the protagonists wasn't helping. It wasn't just them to blame and I didn't see the point.

In the tube station, there was a woman talking about emailing another woman - she pretended to be typing in mid-air. I copied her gesture back at her and it made her laugh. That's me.

I took the emotional baggage of the argument I'd sort of lost in the theatre with me. I fumed my way to the railway station. On the train were a couple of women who'd seen The Drowsy Chaperone and they were more than happy to tell me that I must go to see it. They also had seen Evita, so we had a bit of a chat about that.

I also had a chat with another woman on the train - because I like chatting. I even managed to contain my irritation at the guy who sat pissing about with his electric fan for a few stops. Only just. Why do people have to be irritating!?

I'm not particularly thrilled with people at the moment.

A Comedy Chum
Then I drove home chatting to a comedy chum, who happens to be female. She wasn't dressed as a tart. Her every word didn't annoy me. In fact, far from it. She was sympathetic, entertaining and a racist. Not the last one. That's a callback. Rules of three aren't enough in comedy.

Anyway, I actually ended the evening with some positive conversation with women, rather than ending the night feeling the whole "aren't women overpainted harridans?" vibe.

Thank goodness for that.

Lovely Ladies?
A bit of musicals geekery in the title. The song "Lovely Ladies" in Les Miserables is sung by a bunch of overpainted tarts, who are anything but lovely. I think the absolute truth is that some women are lovely. And some aren't. Why did the ones that weren't have to spoil my last chance to see Evita while it was still on the West End. I bought the CD today. I'm pretty sure they won't be on it.

Perchance To Purchase

Another helping of the random bletherings from my brain.

She was shopping again. It might have been because they’d run out of instant coffee, even though she preferred fresh, or it might have been some primal hunter-gatherer instinct, she didn’t really know these days. With the kids old enough to look after themselves if she dropped out to the supermarket, and with her husband always occupied with some scheme or other, she had come to see her shopping trips as her special time for herself.

Everything in the display was neat and free from dust. It was like the whole of the world of the supermarket was a three dimensional catalogue of everything you could possibly want. Unlike a catalogue, though, you didn’t just admire the goods from afar, modelled by some strangers. You could reach out and touch anything. It was all here. Just put it in your basket or trolley, take it to the till, and after entering a few digits on the credit card machine, it could be yours right away. She always found something she wanted to take away with her.

Rounding the corner of aisle seven, she noticed that the special offer shelf was in a state of disarray. Checking over her shoulder to see that she wasn’t observed, she hurriedly set about putting it right. It wouldn’t do to leave it like that. The shelves of neatly stacked goods were the ideal, the ordered world she escaped to when everything at home was chaotic and stressful.

Getting back to the car, she found that she’d bought a number of things that she no longer wanted. She had a feeling that she was missing a few things she really needed. She’d be back again tomorrow to see if they were sitting neatly on a shelf somewhere.

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Thursday, May 17

Right back at ya

I read blogs. I should know better. I know what my blog is like, but somehow I still get drawn into the world of other people through their writings. And you really do get to know someone quite well when you read their blog pretty much daily. That's how it works. I've recently met someone whom I'd only previously known through his blog and he met my expectations head on.

The problem is this. The more you read a blog, the more emotionally invested you can become. Even if you and the other person haven't met in real life, their daily grind gains an importance. At least this is my experience.

Yesterday I read a blog entry of someone I know in real life, albeit not very well. It filled me with a great deal of sadness that someone whom I know in passing had so much hurt and injustice to write about. Life can be very cruel, and though I appreciate that it's both very brave and cathartic to write about these hurts, reading that blog filled me with a deep sense of powerlessness. What can I do? I sent a note, but that was about the most I could practically do and even then it was hard to find the words.

There are a pair of blogs I've read on and off, the second one a result of the first. The bloggers were a couple. Today I read that they're no longer a couple. Again, I've been party to someone else's heartbreak. In this case I really have no connection with either party, so I feel a bit of a voyeur... it's not good. It's not good to vicariously experience a complete stranger's pain in such a personal way.

Having said that, maybe it's not meant to be good. Maybe it is something which somehow enriches the human experience these days. Everyone is online and you can share your thoughts with the world. And maybe someone is listening. And maybe they're not.

This blog is clearly an offender on the whole "being a bit miserable and gloomy" front, with the occasional flashes of hilarity or heartbreak. Sorry if it's given you a bit of a downer. I'm supposed to be using this to exercise my brain to commentate on life as I see it. As a pretender to the role of comedian, I need to do this. It's how comedians operate. Yet sometimes, this is just my brain dump - a place to whinge.

I hope my whinges can be seen as laughable if not, at least, funny. Compared to other things I've read recently, my problems are trivial.

A poem?

Well, maybe not quite poetic, but this particular bit of writing of mine is still as true now as it was when I first penned it.

Typed it.

It's brief, which isn't like me.

Everything's Broken

I woke up this morning broken. I had been feeling a bit off key last night before I got to sleep, despite having a reasonably productive attempt at sorting out the essential things that need sorting out before my trip away this weekend. However, it became apparent to me as I returned to bed that I wasn't quite on the top of my form.

This morning I woke up in the form of a puddle of myself (figuratively, not literally - I'm still not wetting the bed) that lay inert under the covers, unable to move more than the hands that work the snooze buttons. I contemplated whether I was just being lazy. I wasn't. I knew that I wasn't just being morning-slow, either, as I was clearly waking up - I know this because I started to realise how loud the alarm clock really is.

I couldn't move.

I considered ringing in sick.

I couldn't.

I'm going to London after work to see a show. If I play then I work. That's the deal. No taking a sickie, only to go out for the evening. It's not about fear of being caught, it's about fairness.

So, I'm going to see Evita, 9 days before it closes for good at the Adelphi. That's reason enough to try to muster some sort of muscular reaction from the heap of cells that I'd melted into. I sort of managed it.

My toothbrush, which had been charging in my bedroom overnight, filling the room with mini flashes of light (brighter than the energy saving lightbulbs I use, probably) like a landing helicopter might, was the most energetic item in the house when I eventually swaggered up to the mirror in the bathroom and attempted to use it to clean my mouth out.

I mustered enough momentum to get myself through the clothing process and into the car. Driving doesn't take much effort, especially with a good CD blasting away on the stereo. I was in the office about 5 minutes before the first meeting of the day.

I couldn't get out of the car. I didn't have the energy.

Well, I found something, obviously, or I'd still be there.

I ambled through the car park, across to the office building and headed straight for the lift. I couldn't even be bothered to get coffee, fruit, food, whatever. In fact, I was feeling slightly nauseous, and it wasn't, for once, work-oriented contempt bringing such a sense of nausea.

So, I'm now sitting in my seat in the office with a bunch of things to do before I leave, in the vain hope that I'll be able to complete them and that my team will be able to make sense of it in my absence next week.

Really, I'd prefer it if I could just curl up and die for a few hours. I'd like to come back to life in time to see Lloyd Webber and Rice's offering this evening.

Thank you.

In For The Duration

It's double helpings this week of the Friday 200. I'm doing this one to cover my holiday next week.

They’d told him that they liked him. They’d said that he was one of their people. They encouraged him to talk about himself and to share his problems. When he’d said what was really bothering him, they’d said that they understood. Somebody had understood him. He hadn’t thought it possible, yet from the first moment he went to one of their meetings, everything started to fall into place.

It’s not easy for the perennial individual to suddenly become part of the group. He was suspicious at first that he’d somehow have to compromise himself. He was worried that they’d stand in judgement of him and require him to change in some way. When he realised that they took him for what he was and seem pleased to know him, he knew that he’d go to the ends of the earth to preserve this new important force in his life.

When, eventually, they demanded their quid pro quo, he wasn’t surprised that it would take some doing. It might even be the last thing he did, but as he climbed the telegraph pole, the tools bashing against his leg, he knew that he was at last doing something he believed in.

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Wednesday, May 16

Don't Lose Hope

So, I lost my recording of a really cracking gig. I lost it because I accidentally caused it to be deleted while trying to move it around between folders on different hard disks that I then synchronise with each other. Oh yeah. I'm a geek. Oh yeah, I'm a gig who gets stuff wrong.

Cue the saviour in the form of Brian Kato's restoration program. You just run it and it finds the file you lost and you get it back. Simple. It does exactly what it promises to.

I have my recording back. I didn't just forget about it and give up. So that's good.

Admittedly, my case was one which might enable the most chance of recovery, given that it was a disk that is only written to when I'm changing files and I hadn't added anything else to it. A system hard disk is changing all the time and every second you leave it running makes it more likely to end up recycling the file you just lost. The above program is small enough to be run off a floppy or memory stick, so at the very least, you could try using it.

I don't feel as much a sense of loss as I was doing.

The failed archivist

I tend to record most of my gigs. I like to listen to them to see what really happened. Like the gig last night, which wasn't brilliant, but wasn't quite as bad as I thought... though there wasn't nearly enough room-sized laughter.

Occasionally I will re-listen to a bit of a gig for some reason. I re-listened to the Taunton gig a few times yesterday, partly to learn some new material I'd tried out and got reasonably right first time. I tend not to write spoken material down in full, so the first outing can be a bit improvised, based on comedy instinct, rather than calculation. If it works, you need to know how it worked... that's my excuse. I wasn't just listening to myself, on reasonably good form, doing one of the best gigs I've ever done from the point of view of being on the ball, if not audience response.

Like a twat, I just accidentally deleted the Taunton recording forever. I've still got last night's, the one where I went from 40 minute headliner to 10 minute shit open spot in less than 24 hours.

Oh, how pleased am I!?

Total Vegetable

Wow my bed is comfortable. I couldn't move out of it this morning. It was too comfortable. Maybe this is a matter of contrast. The previous night's 4 hours' sleep on a floor in my sleeping bag was nowhere near as restorative as about 8 hours on my actual bed.

But I weighed heavy this morning. This might have been a result of having a crafty beer and some even craftier convenience food from the station. I had walked to and from the station last night, which is, at least, some sort of exercise. Indeed, I've been walking to the station a fair bit recently. I tend to eschew the bus. Walking back from the station was a rare joy. I was on the phone with a friend, so the time passed quickly.

My brain drifted in and out of wakefulness this morning. I was having a bizarre dream that seemed to be an alternative-reality version of the TV show Lost, merged with War Of The Worlds. Pointless and weird.

Today is my slack day. I have to use today to pull my life into gear, in preparation for the rest of the month. I say toDAY. I mean this evening. There's work to do first. Obviously.

Like a bad hangover, the events of last night wore heavy on my soul as I walked to the car from the house. Luckily it's only a few feet. Then I was on the way to work with the CD to lighten my mood and the urgency of arriving on time to keep my thoughts away from the dark places. What do I remember from last night. Like the flashbacks from a drunken bender, little moments returned to me.
  • Getting to the area behind the London Palladium and not being able to find the venue
  • Finding the venue eventually - it was right under my nose, and underground
  • Going to the toilets at the base of Carnaby Street and realising that the guy at the urinal at the door wasn't so much pissing as looking hopefully at everyone who came in while standing around with his penis out
  • Getting OUT of that toilet...
  • ...After washing my hands
  • Chatting to the comedians before the show
  • Chatting to the reviewer before the show
  • Wishing the reviewer hadn't been in
  • Telling myself not to care about the combination of reviewer and lack of my comfort zone and just play to the audience
  • Coming off stage and not really being able to make eye contact with anyone
  • The walk away from the gig in the middle break, with another act, in mutual consolation mode
  • We knew we'd been shit
  • Taking the piss out of a cello in the tube station - describing its case as the container for a giant magnum lolly
  • Comfort eating at Paddington station
  • Chatting to the engineering lady on the train
  • Making a comment about a Jewish comedian for her to tell me that she was Jewish, down her mother's side of the family, so I should watch out what I say about jews
  • Her missing the bit where I said "Yeah, me too"
  • Her thinking that she was failing to convey humour and friendliness in this warning, because she'd not heard my reply
  • Me eventually explaining that she was the one digging, not me - "This is the jew table" I proclaimed
Where does last night leave me? Well, it leaves me tired, with a rough voice, and a house that's not progressed further. Perhaps it also gives me the opportunity to get a poor review on my official record. Perhaps not. I can tell you what I didn't really get last night.

I didn't get a confidence boost on the stand-up... though my confidence is still riding fairly high. The confidence in non-guitar based stand-up is a bit lower than it was, but maybe I've enough excuses about why last night didn't work - like the words having a little fence to jump over between my brain and my mouse - no idea why (probably exhaustion and too much coffee). Random encounters with strange half-jewish-half-catholic women on trains leave me no further forward in my quest. Yes, I'm on a quest!

So... yeah... Bunch of Flowers!

Tonight there's packing to get ready to do, with the possibility of running round trying to buy missing items. Maybe there'll be ironing and TV. I will rest. There's a little time on the weekend for some extra DIY bits. I would like to come home to a house that's moved on in my absence, so I don't want to obstruct that.

Ok. Enough for now. My brain just turned to mush... better do some work.

Tuesday, May 15

Foom

I love comedy. It can build you up and it can knock you down. Last night, headliner, solid 40 minutes in front of an attention-deficit disorder crowd, constantly able to find some way of dealing with them and constantly being funny. Not necessarily very funny, but in the moment and making 'em laugh.

I listened to the spoken bits of my material as I walked to the railway station and I was smiling so much that I must have been radiating gay vibes - some gay student lad, kind of leaned out of his in-group, walking past, to flirt in my face. I didn't react. It was weird.

Anyway, I'm the big-man, the big headliner in Taunton. I am their king. They like me. I could have done more...

Then tonight, without guitar, I drop into the basement of a bar in London's West End - pretty much one which shares a sewer with the dressing room where Connie Fisher of the Sound Of Music probably does her poos. I do 10 minutes, it's not going especially well, the principal reviewer for Chortle is in. I feel a fool.

I leave. I'm an open spot again.

My career progression comes full circle.

Still, if I'm going to get reviewed, it's probably best that I first consider my own performance to be shit. Then if the review is shit, I can be like "told you so" and if it's in any way positive, then I can be like "wow"... of course no review would be preferable.

The shitty thing is that I'll probably be peeved if there is no review. I almost need to be some reviewer's bitch. I'm weird.

Unaccustomed To Company - Gig Accompaniment

Just a quick burst of statistics first. Here are my monthly averages of gigs for the last few years:

2005 - 8 or 9
2006 - 4
2007 - so far - 8

I'm excluding Edinburgh gigs from this. In fact, in 2005, I had a 14 gig month. That's tough. This year, I had a month where my rate of performing was, pro-rata, about 20 gigs, but half the month was idle, so it was still under the 10 mark in total.

The point I'm demonstrating is that I appear to be gigging at a much higher rate this year than last. As a result, I'm growing as a performer again, and I'm wearing myself down a bit with the effort. A lot, in fact. Stand-up comedy, especially with a day-job, but even without one, involves a lot of late night driving and stressing about getting to gigs on time. Usually, I've only myself to coordinate and this makes things easier. In fact, that's a weird part of comedy. It seems like it's such a social pursuit, with rip-roaring nights out, but the comedian truly understands the meaning of loneliness. It can be lonely up there on stage, but more so, the travel to and from the gig, can be very isolating.

If you tour, with public transport, maybe you won't have a meaningful interaction with anyone over the course of the day as you step between conveyances in one giant comedic conveyor belt that crushes your soul and makes you wonder if it's worth all the effort. Traveling alone, maybe staying in a city where you either don't know people, or don't have long enough available to use to spend time with your friends, can be very boring. Comedians end up going to the cinema to kill time.

What I'm saying is that it's better to have company for gigs. There are, I think, three sorts of company for a gig.
  1. Other comedians
  2. Friends
  3. Partner
I would have to say that the partner thing is a novelty (for the other person) that soon wears off. The friend thing is nice, but you can't take the same friend to see you too many times, that gets old a lot quicker. Other comedians is fine, provided you need to travel together. Choosing to do weird routes just to pick up others is no end in itself.

Given that I'm single and found that my (now ex-)girlfriend was increasingly less involved in my gigging life (which was fine - I think I'd done with trying to impress her), I can't really say I've recently had, or am likely to have the partner option of gig companion. In fact, in some ways, that's the worst, since you want your partner to be supportive, particularly after a gig - if you've done well you want to celebrate; if you've done badly you want sympathy. It's too precious. In fact, though, the worst sort of comedian's partner is the sort who is basically a fan of anything and everything. That's terrible. If I wanted someone to lick my arse, I'd pay like any normal pervert. I personally want a partner who will be simultaneously supportive and unimpressed. It's too much to ask. I think I'll die alone. But anyway...

In the last couple of evenings, though, I've had the other two sorts of occupant in my car. My gig-drive has never been so social. Really. It's been a blast.

Sunday - Eastbourne
I drove to Basingstoke to pick up a friend on Sunday afternoon. Running early, I dropped into a coffee shop with a book and sat chuckling over some pages and some caffeinated drinky. Very nice. Chucklesome.

I then picked up the friend in question and we headed to Eastbourne. The sat nav did a good job of getting us directly to the venue, despite my best efforts to ignore it. Idiot.

We got Sunday dinner at a very sparsely populated cafe/restaurant, which was nice, and then went to the venue.

I was doing an open spot for the promoter. The idea of doing an open is to demonstrate one's wares and secure further paid work. For some bizarre reason, though, I already had the booking from the same promoter for the following night. Now, if I were depending on stand-up for an income and sliding into poverty from it (it's not stand-up that's draining my resources so much at the moment, so let's forget blaming that for my slidage), I would have said something like "if you're already prepared to book me for paid work, why do the open?". Except I'm not and I didn't and I didn't mind. A gig is what I have to do to be a comedian. I'm a comedian for the time I'm on stage - outside of that I'm just a bit stupid and badly behaved. Plus, I do believe in proving oneself and paying one's dues.

I asked how long a spot the promoter wanted and he said, essentially, whatever I wanted. I decided to do a 10-15 for him, thinking that's what he wanted me to want to do. In fact, when I went up there, I got a bit carried away and did a 20. Sometimes, it just needs doing.

The gig went well. The middle two acts were both new acts and both brought something interesting and well-crafted into the mix. I'm seeing a lot of good new acts at the moment, which is nice. It reminds me of why I like comedy... it also reminds me that I can't afford to be complacent - there's always going to be some young hopeful ready to take my place if I don't keep pushing my way into the comedy throng.

We stayed until the end of the gig, I chatted to a girl called Shemane - never heard that name before - whom I'd done on of my routines at during the show. She didn't seem scared of me. I was worried about it being too scary and intimidating during the show and had backed off from the front row, while doing it, to make it seem less real. I'm worried about upsetting audience members. Not that I'm sensitive, it's just that upsetting people isn't what I set out to do. Ever.

Then the long drive back. Eastbourne isn't so very far away from anything. It's not so amazingly near either. I managed to get to my bed before 2, and I was even up in time for a shower the following morning, which was nice.

The in-car company was very nice, especially since it was demanded that I should play the Phantom of the Opera on the journey back. That I can do. And did. And it was good.

Monday - Taunton
Here's a secret of comedy. Sometimes the bill of a comedy night is composed out of the convenience of who can be fit into a single vehicle making the journey to the venue. This car-share plan is definitely good for the environment. It's not necessarily what you'd imagine would be the principal criterion for assembling a bill. Surely, you'd think, they would take some comedians whose style was complementary, and maybe consider experience as well. You wouldn't think that it's just "we need a driver, someone cheap and a couple of people who happen to be free that night to go along".

It's not quite that bad. But it sort of could be, if it were not for the goodwill of all involved to make these car-loads of comedians into a living breathing comedy night. As it happens, I've never done one of these since I've lived down south. I've generally eschewed the whole "you've got to drive to London before you even set off for the gig" thing. It seems like a lot of effort. But there was this gig offer hanging in the air and it seemed to involve a nice fee for me, some petrol money on top, and a night out in Taunton. Not that I particularly imagined that I MUST go to Taunton, but I find it hard to have reasons NOT to do gigs. In the end, it seemed like the sort of offer which I could only see as a good thing.

So, the stress began. You see, I find it more stressful getting to the gig than actually performing the material. Sure, about 10 minutes before I'm due to go on, I might pace the floor a bit, trying to arrange my thoughts into a sensible shape in my head. Sure, I might worry a bit about sound checks before the gig, but generally, I'm quite unworried about the gigging. The getting there, however, is always the biggest risk. What if I break down, hit traffic, hit another car, don't find the venue, arrive too late? etc etc etc. With the entire bill's worth of acts in the car, this risk gets bigger. I won't say it gets bigger exponentially. That's not true. I'm not sure that 4 comedians in a car is 4 times the risk. Maybe it's 12 times the risk. I'm not sure of the exact correlations here.

Anyway, the extra complexity of this arrangement was how last minute it had been put together. I knew the name of the MC and another act. I knew that a particular act who had been enlisted wasn't coming. I knew the MC was due to bring a friend. Everyone had been emailed my number, but nobody had called. I'd prompted them for their numbers. I had the MC's number, but it wasn't a valid mobile. Basically, at about 2pm yesterday, I didn't know whether anybody would turn up at Richmond tube station - my chosen meeting point, being about on the apex of where I could reasonably get to in London before having to change direction towards the actual gig, which might have been better reached had I taken a less London-centred route (though London wasn't a huge detour).

I had texted the act whom I'd heard was on the bill. The MC was apparently bringing act 4. Let's say I was act 2, so it's act 3 we're missing. Mr Act 3 replied to my text saying he wasn't coming. Who was the replacement? We had only 3 of our 4 people. What do we do? I tried ringing the promoter, no answer.

I'm due to leave the office at 4, I'd finally got the MC's phone number - he emailed me a corrected version, but there's no act 3 and I feel like we have an incomplete bill. I was closing the show and had planned to do something bigger than normal, but there was a hole.

I decided to take it upon myself to call a friend in to help. She'd have to jump on a train to meet us en-route to the venue. So, despite the fact that I work in Farnborough and live in Reading and was driving to London to get to a gig in Taunton, I had to suggest to someone in Southampton that they might get a train to Bristol to be picked up via a minor (in the grand scheme of things) detour. This was getting complicated. In the absence of guidance from the promoter, myself and the MC decided that this was a plan, and I rang the comedian in question up and basically said something akin to "run Forrest run".

Now I'm driving to London, wondering about traffic for me, tubes for the two London boys and the train journey for Southampton girl. No gig stress at all then!

I arrived in Richmond in plenty of time and ended up sitting in the car for about 40 minutes, needing a wee, and waiting for my two gig colleagues to arrive.

I could tell from first words on the phone with the MC that I liked him. It turned out I really liked his mate too. This was the friend who was to go on to do his 3rd ever gig that night and totally storm the room. They were both naturally funny and inventive people. We jammed, comedically, in the car on the way to the gig and made each other laugh. It didn't even feel like a "who's got the biggest willy" contest, which was nice. We were just sharing jokes. Lovely.

Stopping in Bristol it was time for some serious weeing. Weeing was done. Then we continued, with our act 3 in tow, to the venue, arriving 2 minutes before my guesstimated arrival time of 8.30pm. Conversations included discussion of the futuristic adventures of "Buck Lazerquest" with his arch nemesis "Darth Racist", along with in depth discussions of "birds you might shove up your arse". I know. You had to be there. Thing is, we were.

At the venue, the sound guy was reluctant to plug my guitar into his desk as he'd have to run a wire across a room. I didn't push the point. I just brought my new practice amp in from the car and made that work.

Then the gig was underway. The material we'd workshopped in the car, for the most part, probably didn't work. How many audiences are going to understand that you can't shove a swan up your arse? It's illegal. Only the queen can shove a swan up her arse... Oh dear. Still, it wasn't me delivering that material, so it wasn't my problem.

All the acts did well over the course of the night.

I took to the stage with a rowdier crowd and had 40 minutes with them. That's a long set by my standards. I essentially crowbarred in about 15 minutes of spoken stand-up surrounded by music and a fair bit of banter to keep them the right side of under control. I did a lot of ad-libbing, some of it was crap, some was hack and there may have been a couple of lines in there that I might consider using one day again. I borrowed my favourite mobile phone answering heckle put down. So I think I owe GD a pint. It's pretty much public domain anyway, so I guess I can't feel too guilty. You basically answer someone's phone and pretend you've found it at the scene of a road accident. The audience fell for it hook line and sinker. I'd cancelled the call on the way from picking the phone up from the guy. I'm not a total bastard. The audience were loving it, so I was enjoying it too.

Note to self: invent something funny on the spot, don't just borrow.

Note to self: there was something about how all shepherds are trying to do Rolf Harris impressions... weird.

I had a lot of fun. I was concerned about running out of energy and voice. 40 minutes is not twice the effort of a 20 minute set, but I managed to keep it funny until the end and people were very complimentary of me, so I guess it wasn't too bad.

Then the late night drive back. We spent a lot of the journey looking for toilets, heading to Wimbledon in London - a good 50 minutes from my bed. Still, I suddenly stopped the car, after I'd spent a certain amount of the journey giggling almost uncontrollably at the silliness around me as the comedians kept jamming - and I told the lads to get out. We were in Wimbledon. The night could have gone on longer and I would much have preferred to forget about the following day and just go get beers and giggle myself into oblivion with these chaps, but real life is not like that.

Then I headed back to my house, with the lady I'm referring to as Act 3 in tow. We got in, I gave the "the grand tour ending in the bedroom", but then stopped her entering the room until I'd emptied my bin, tidied up a bit, changed the bed, gathered my things (for spending the night in my sleeping bag in the other 1st floor bedroom) and finally unveiled the room as the "guest facilities".

I got a shower, got into my jim-jams, and then got into my sleeping bag. At some point around 4ish, the floor finally stopped being obdurate and moulded into the shape of my body. Next thing I knew the alarm was going off and I didn't feel as tired as I'd imagined I'd be.

A drive to work was taken via the railway station where my house-guest was able to get her train back to her real life. It had been an amazing night out and I had a very good time. Given that I left the office at 4pm and got to sleep at around 4am, I think we can say that it's definitely a double-life I'm leading at the moment. Half man, half imbecilic wannabee comedian.

It's fun when you've company.

Labouring Efforts

I had plans for this weekend's labouring. After a late night in the office on Friday, I went to B&Q to buy timber. That's manly. I didn't buy wood. I bought timber. TIM-BAH! I also bought my first ever big sheet of plaster board. Oh yeah. And I bought a saw and a set square. I was going to be manly with my timber and my saw. I had been reinvigorated by the previous weekend's labour at my friend's house, where I was shown the correct usage of the saw, and actually sawed through a fair bit of timber (TIM-BAH!).

I also bought a shower, some tiles, and some extractor fans from B&Q. I've nearly bought enough for my builder to install. The fact that I've not seen him in the last 9 or so days doesn't worry me too much. I had a date with a plasterer for Saturday, and the plastering is on the critical path of this whole project.

My shower screen, for the bath, was waiting for me in Homebase, so I went to get that.

Home, I did some more rubble creation - chipping plaster from the walls, and then set about using my timber and plaster board to board up the fireplace - a fireplace that I myself had unboarded in the first place. I built a timber frame for the purpose. I even had a small wooden subframe within it, that I could affix a vent to, so that it wouldn't get too damp in there or something. I'm not quite sure.

Anyway, I did a reasonable job of building and fitting the frame. I even cut the hole for the vent nicely and put the vent in nicely.

It was later that I reviewed the height of the vent from the ground and concluded that there was no room for the skirting board. D'oh! I'll be redoing that, then.

That was my friday night. I had achieved something, even if some of it might need to be redone a bit.

On Saturday, I continued the DIY, after a late wake-up. I had my roofing man coming to finish some stuff off and get the last of his payment in the afternoon. I also had my date with the plasterer. For some reason the impending plasterer visit made me go into my 1st floor spare room and pull off some of the ceiling tiles to see what the condition of the ceiling underneath is like. It's like... ceiling papered. So there'll be wallpaper stripping in there before I can get it replastered. It may not need particularly serious replastering, maybe just a wee patch. As in a small patch, not a patch where wee has come through the ceiling. That would be just plain wrong. Nobody should be weeing upstairs on the top floor. There's no toilet up there. I guess that's why it would be coming through the ceiling. Except it didn't, because it's not that sort of wee patch.

So I made a mess in a room I'm using. I really need to clear that room out, but when I do that, it will really come home to me how little space there is in the room I will have as my sole dominion when the house is rented. Maybe the smallest bedroom will become my study and I'll just reduce the number of tenants - that way madness lies. We'll see.

Getting back to the main task in hand, I think I chipped off the last piece of wall that I'm going to chip off. I'm not sure. Maybe I need to do another area. Advice is definitely required.

While I was doing my DIYage, I had one of my two new Michael Bublé CDs playing. I put it on a loop, rather than listen to the second one too soon. I wanted to savour the Bublé. He's good. It's just what Frank Sinatra would be doing now if he were MB's age. And not dead. But there's nothing wrong with seeing a well understood style done well. In fact, it's very enjoyable. Even if it may well be classed as "mum music".

The roofer and I chatted. We chatted about the bits of roof he hadn't quite finished. Then he finished them. Then we chatted about his work ethic. He got a bit descriptive about multi-culturalism, and it was at loggerheads with my more liberal-minded views. I would like to think that his opinion wasn't so much opposing as orthogonal. It wasn't racism. At least, not in the category of a recent London cab-driver I spoke with, whose attitude to immigration was to "line them up and shoot them". Extreme.

The plasterer never came.

I substituted for his absence by plaster boarding some lintels above windows. I first drove some spaxes into them to make sure they were well fixed. Then I attached the plasterboard. I like cutting plaster board. I like DIY. I'm just not very good at it.

Saturday night was an evening out. Saw Spiderman 3 (bollocks) and had some food. It was very pleasant.

On Sunday I was going to do some more DIY - maybe sort out that stupid vent error. In the end, I decided to do my ironing and continue watching Peep Show, which had kept me awake for an entire first series' worth of watching, Saturday night after I got home from the night out. So, 3 episodes of series 2 were enough to enable me to complete my ironing.

On Sunday night I had a gig, so the DIY ended there. I had achieved something over the weekend, except receiving the visitation of a plasterer. It's his 3rd attempt at standing me up. Or at least, it's his third standing-up of me, and I think it's going to have to be three strikes and you're out. Sigh. If only the stuff I chipped of the wall had been that easy.

Tuesday Already

Typical isn't it. You plan to go on holiday and the process of getting ready to go becomes so very stressful that you need a holiday by the end of it. It's so typical it's a cliché. It's such a cliché that the very process of writing about it adds to the stress - "Oh my god, this whole writing about thing it is so cliché" and that too increases the need to write about it.

So, to avoid these circular references (and I so wanted to write "circular saw" there) going too far up their own bottom (or mine). I'll just tell you straight. I'm tired, I'm in a haze of confusion and I need to put some more time into the week before I'm in a place where I can safely get into the car to go on holiday safe in the knowledge that every piece of my holiday puzzle will engage and result in my arrival in a distant location with items enough to enjoy being there.

Part of my holiday preparations involved buying luggage. I need something for hand-luggage within which I can store my laptop without it being totally destroyed. Although I have a few suitcases, some of which are not in Newcastle, my big suitcase was destroyed by the last holiday I took. It's good enough to have in the house to store things in, but it wouldn't last another flight. So, on the weekend, I went to Argos to look at their luggage.

Why!?

Why Argos?

Why did I feel the need, before even going into Argos, to go to MacDonalds for a milkshake and a muffin? I think I was trying to give myself a chav innoculation. You do something vaguely chavvy that you might like (and Maccy D's is not something I normally would go for, but I always like calories and fat in me) and that gives you a heightened tolerance. Entering Argos, I perused the "laminated book of dreams" (thanks to Bill Bailey for that reference - I can't go in there without that in my head) and decided that I couldn't fairly judge the quality or size of the cases from the pictures. I gave Argos up as a bad job.

In Tesco, I bought something vaguely bag-shaped for each of my requirements. It was more expensive than I might have liked, but it was "job done" and that was really the aim of the exercise. £10-£20 here or there will probably pay itself back with the extra longevity of a case that looks like it might actually survive the car trip home from the shop.

I can't complain about going on holiday. I need a break. I need a break from the relentless series of challenges that life and, more accurately, my own gluttony for life, keeps throwing at me. Let's hope it's a relaxing time and that the post-holiday come-down is not too extreme.

Time is ticking along, but that's its job. If it didn't, then we'd never do anything, and life would be dull, but we wouldn't even notice.

Friday, May 11

Getting On Top

A lot of life could be seen as a race to get head and shoulders ahead of something. Perhaps some people are racing to get ahead of other people. Perhaps there's a massive heap of shit on your head, and you're clawing your way up it to get to some fresh air. Maybe it's just a matter of racing into the gap between your achievements and your potential. Maybe this last one is the fairest. I don't know.

I'm feeling a bit of all three at the moment. As a potential landlord, there's a whole heap of worries on my head. As a comedian, I often feel like I'm in a race for spots against other people. As a person, I know that, whatever I do, I should be just aiming to get ahead against my own scale. This means learning from the past, and pushing into the future.

Last night I had a gig in London that was cancelled. I used the opportunity of meeting new people at a gig to chat about stuff I'm passionate about: comedy, musicals, whatever. In fact, I even chatted a little about what appears to be a recognised technique for one-night-stand evaluation. Apparently you should prompt a girl to mention her boyfriend or absence of same within the first 10 sentences. Really!?

I could tell the conversation had been friendly, and we'd shared a laugh together. As the gig was cancelled, the promoter was asking people if they wanted to reschedule. To put things in context, the gig was a 5 minute spot, with a low-probability of audience, with the vague promise of getting a better open spot at the club in the future. This is not something I'm quick to put my name down for. At the end of the day, I am no prima donna, but I have some sense of self-worth. A bit of chutzpah can get you somewhere. So I said "On the strength of this conversation, can you not recommend me for the better gig?". Bizarrely, this seemed to work. I think we'd done the usual comedian willy contest, where you work out whether the other person is a noobie, or if they're battle worn and experienced. I've been doing stand-up for a good 4 years and 5 months, so I guess I don't look all fresh-faced anymore.

Whether I'll get any gig on the back of it is a totally separate matter.

Getting to go home at 9pm on a gig night was some flavour of fun I'm not entirely sure about. On the upside, I was in my bed, all showered and washed, at around 11pm. I still couldn't wake up this morning, but that's not a surprise.

This weekend appears to promise a series of appointments. I've got places to go and people to see. There are workmen, DIY tasks, women and gigs. None of these are sexual. Well, the DIY always gives me some sort of thrill, but that's a matter between me and my conscience.

I think, on balance, I'd prefer to curl up in bed with a pizza and a lover, but I don't always get the choice. In fact, I don't think anyone does.

If I could go back in time right now, step through the door into a day in my past, I think I would either walk into last weekend, which was totally brilliant, or onto Wednesday night, which was similarly brilliant, but a lot more compact. Any further back and I'd have to go through a lot of crap again that I can't be bothered with.

I might like to do a remote viewing of some events in my life, just to see how they differ from how I remember them. That's a whole different ballgame, though.

Right. This day has gone on long enough. It's time to return to my alternative life, where I'm switched on and motivated enough to complete household tasks.

Come again?

This didn't happen. Not like this. Not at all.

It was supposed to be today. He’d left the letter under her door three days ago, and he was certain she’d have read it by now. He thought she would have appreciated the self-deprecating manner in which he’d expressed his interest. He thought she might have melted when he told her how beautiful he thought she was. He even thought she might have understood how much effort it took for him to sneak out of the house at night, drive 40 miles to her University Halls, get himself let in, and slip the envelope under the very room in which she was sleeping.

She didn’t call the next day, but he wasn’t expecting her to. He had it all planned. First she’d spent a day reading the letter and trying to take in the enormity of his feelings. Then, she’d probably spend a day talking to all of her friends, maybe nervous of how to get in touch, even though he’d made it clear that all she had to do was ring his parents’ house during the afternoon when they were both at work. He knew there was a call box at the end of her corridor – he’d tested it on the way out of the halls. It was going to be easy to get in touch. But he knew she’d be nervous. Who wouldn’t be. This was a major decision.

Then he reckoned that, after her friends had told her how lovely he seemed, from the six hundred and twenty eight words he’d written to her (he’d counted them just to find out how much he’d had to say compared to, say the essay he was due to submit in school the following week that was still struggling at the three hundred mark), she’d spend a day composing her own thoughts.

So, three days had passed. The phone still hadn’t rung yet. But he could feel that it was about to.

As the silence of the empty house seemed to grow louder, as though the air pressure was getting higher and higher and squeezing his head to heighten his senses, the phone rang, the mechanical bell mechanism drawing him back down to earth with the sudden reality that contact had been made. There was someone there.

Gingerly, he picked up the receiver. Total silence. Who was on the other end? Nobody spoke. Then he heard the sound of an entire room full of girls letting loose their stifled giggles. He could hear a voice among the crowd, but whatever it was saying was lost in the ringing of his ears. As their laughter reached its crescendo, he replaced the handset. The roaring of their scorn stayed with him until that summer. He could joke about it, but it was never truly funny.

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