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Sunday, November 18

Vertical Stripes

The Oddness
Today's definitely been an odd one. I woke up alone in my bed. That, in itself is not odd. It's remarkably normal. In fact, I do it all the time. It would have been odd if I'd woken up with someone else there. That doesn't happen. I'd had a friend around the previous evening and we'd contemplated "bunking up", but decided against it, since it wasn't necessary and isn't really a "friend" thing.

I don't know why I mentioned it.

Ah yes. I woke up alone in bed in an odd way since it was Sunday morning and I was negotiating with myself on extra sleep before 8am, knowing that I'd be rising myself out of bed before long. Indeed, I was dressed and on my bicycle at around 8am. On a Sunday. That's not normal.

I had to be at a meeting in London. As a result, I had my jeans and jumper in my backpack and I was sporting my cycling gear, which is not really cycling gear. It's just how I wear clothes for cycling. I had my white England rugby shirt and my cheapo Tesco shorts on. The rugby shirt was also cheap. I'm frugal with clothing. I also have a lot of clothing, so I don't necessarily have to buy more. So when I impulse buy rugby shirts, I tend to go for cheap. This is a major distraction from the bit where I braved the low temperatures and got on my bike (for the first time in a few weeks) and blasted my way down to the station, past the route I'd walked into town the previous day, with some associations with the previous day's activities registering in my mind in that part waking, part dreamlike state that affects me for a good coupe of hours after waking up.

I had my mp3 player for company - that's not odd - and I was listening to something or other that was good. I made good time to the station and the 8.27 stopping train to London was the first one I attempted to take. It was delayed. That too is not odd. Some of the day wasn't too surprising, but again, I was on my bike at Reading station before 9am on a Sunday morning.

I wished I'd taken something to read on the train and my rush to get to the train in time denied me the purchase of a paper. Of course, I had plenty of real time to buy the paper, the scheduled train time and real time having little in common. I didn't take the risk. I wanted to get to London as quickly as possible. I had to cycle to the Brick Lane area of London by 10.30 and I knew I'd get it wrong. The longer I had to fix my mistaken route, the better. All of this is in a day's work for the amateur cyclist in London.

A London Journey
Arriving at Paddington, really tired, having actually had about 4 hours' sleep, I got the legs to work on the bike and made most of the route to Brick Lane without error. Then I messed something up. I know not exactly what. I added about 2 miles to my trip with the errors. I know because I have an odometer on the bike and I had printed directions out, which were nearly, but not quite, adequate enough for me to follow. I knew I'd got it wrong, which was not too helpful.

I got to the location of my meeting. I'll not mention too much about it, except to say that it was something voluntary and I don't really respect myself for talking about voluntary things I do, since if I was really doing them out of the goodness of my heart, I probably wouldn't need to talk about them. I will say that it is not some weird religious cult. I'm not into weird religious cults. Not one bit.

I parked my bike, went up to the meeting room, just in time for the meeting to start... late... Not surprising. I got changed into my normal clothes and put the cycling behind me. I didn't have a coat, which is fair enough when you're in a reasonably warm rugby top and cycling and getting hot. However, I wished I'd brough a coat since my lesser body fat and my jumper weren't working well with the unheated room we were meeting in. Typical.

The meeting ran with occasional coffee breaks. The coffee managed to make me a little jittery, a little unpleasant tasting of mouth and not in the least bit warmer. Then I left around 2.30 to cycle back to the station. Of course, I got a little lost again, adding more miles to my trip, not many. I know the way back a bit better, it would appear.

Back To Reading
Another train, a return to a rainy Reading, a slightly elongated quick trip to a shoe-shop, and I was heading back home. I had planned to drop in to a friend's place to use their bathroom scales. I'll come to that in a moment. However, the cold was so cold that I wanted the warmth and sanctity of my own house. Typically my house provided something in the way of sanctuary, but little in the way of warmth. Great. However, the heating is behaving better and I warmed the place up quickly enough.

I pithered about on the computer a bit, had a shower and then headed out in the direction of the station again, this time to pick up someone for the gig I was doing in the evening. However, I anted to take a trip via the friend's house. I needed to consult the bathroom scales. I was worried. Very worried. I had been so worried about my weight, since returning from holiday, that I even used my "clever" (read "bloody stupid") tactic of cycling 18 miles on an empty stomach after a few days of scant eating and then getting weighed on an empty stomach as an encore. I had a smoothie I wanted to drink, but I left it in its carton to drink after the weigh-in.

Weigh Out
Let's review the evidence. At some point in September/October, I reached a weight which scared me, because it was quite low. As time went on, I levelled at this weight and then, just before going away, had gained 3 pounds, putting me at X stone 0. After returning from holiday, I got on the scales - perhaps heavier with clothing and other flight/holiday related intakes - but I got on the scales in good faith. I wanted to know how bad it had been. Bear in mind that I thought I was 3 pounds up from my previous successful weightloss point. I learned on Thursday morning that my weight was X stone 6. That's a gain of 6 pounds on holiday.

Now on the holiday there had been various bit of rash eating. I'll be honest, some of the crap I ate I did because it was there and I wasn't in control of my resistance to "treats". I didn't necessarily enjoy all of the crap we ate. However, there was a flip side to this. We barely ate any full meals. We didn't eat more than one meal-sized thing in a given day, and we were walking loads - enough, in fact, to warrant the replacement of my trainers at a shoe-shop today. I reckoned I'd possibly get away with it. A gain of 6 pounds had somewhat scared me.

As a consequence, I didn't eat at all on Thursday. I didn't quite do this deliberately, but when it happened by chance, I didn't resist it. On Friday, I had a modest lunch but was largely on liquids and declined a perfectly reasonable offer of an evening meal because I wasn't hungry enough to feel like it mattered. I think that my body was detoxing from the crap I'd eaten, and I think I wanted to break from all eating habits, good or bad.

On Saturday (yesterday), I had a busy day and again didn't managed to eat over the course of it. However, I did go out for an evening meal - a curry. We ordered plenty. However, the conversation was somewhat extensive (I got yattering) and I didn't really motivate myself to complete too much of the food.

Today's weigh-in was supposed to be a new baseline so I could see what hardcore diet/exercise regime needed to lie ahead. I had been at Y stone 11 at some point and had gone up to X stone 6, apparently gaining 9 pounds (6 of which were on holiday). I don't want to regain the weight I've worked hard to lose, but it looked that I had. Then I got weight at Y stone 5. In other words, I'd lost 9 pounds over the course of the holiday PLUS the last 4 days, and as far as the scales were telling me, I'd lost 15 pounds in the last 4 days.

I've done a lot of pooing in the last few days and not a lot of eating, but 15 pounds. That's not right.

I was wearing a shirt with vertical stripes, though. They're quite slimming, vertical stripes. Maybe that's it.

Slim again!?
In relief, as I appear to be at the lowest weight I've been since I was 20 and off on holiday in the summer of my 2nd year at university (where I recall being about Y stone 7), I drank most of my smoothie, sharing some with my friend. I could go to my gig and even get something to eat along the way. I had a text from the person I was supposed to be picking up from the station and arranged to meet him at a cafe in the station, where I might pick up a cheeky sandwich. I think I'm allowed to eat, so that's fair enough, really.

One aside. I'm not quite going to get neurotic about my weight, but I would like to continue to fit into the clothes that I just bought, all of which are a trouser size down. I'd also like to drop a trouser size or two, since I may actually gain some choice about what clothes I buy, rather than have to go for the dregs that sometimes get scaled up. At the very least, I'd like to stay this size, not go back to the recidivist's option of giving up and eating crap again. I don't even enjoy eating crap! Honest. It just sets me into a feeling of being assaulted by toxins.

Ok. I do enjoy eating crap, but only just before I've got halfway through and the hit of the crap entering my system makes itself felt.

Il Stazzione
I arrived at the station with the gig in my mind. I had a map to where we were going and I was looking for a comedian to pick up. I spotted one, not the one I was looking for. This guy is a comedian from Eastbourne. I called his name and he and his mate, whom I've also met, stopped for a chat. I assumed they were also headed to the gig I was doing, but they were in Reading for a whole other reason. The mate, noticed the shirt I was wearing. I'd put it on as a gigging shirt, since it has vertical stripes and I have a joke about them. Most of my shirts have vertical stripes and this shirt isn't all that special to me. A friend of mine likes my vertically striped shirts, though not this one in particular.

However, the friend of the act was captivated by the shirt. Where did I get it? I told him to peer into the collar and he confirmed my suspicion that it was a Tesco-bought shirt. Then he told me that it was his favourite shirt, or at least, his copy of it had been his favourite shirt until the arms fell off. He said he couldn't find a replacement. I asked him his size. He said he wore L/XL shirts. I told him he could have the shirt - not then at there - I was wearing it. However, if he sent me his address, I'd send him the shirt for him to have. He offered me his hat in return. I declined - that way it would be a trade. I didn't want to trade. I would give him the shirt. Surely it was an odd moment to happen upon such a circumstance, such an opportunity to return someone's favourite shirt (or a copy of it) to their life. Such things are gifts, not trades.

If he sends me his address, I'll send him the shirt. Washed. Maybe even ironed. That's weird. I like weird.

The shirt wasn't really suiting me today - I'd noticed it looked a bit... er... big... Well, not too big, but not really hanging like a favourite shirt of mine would hang.

I mentioned earlier that a true act of altruism wouldn't need shouting about. I appear to be saying "Oooh, aren't I generous" here. That's not the core message. The message is "Life can be weird, do something to try to play along with it.". It's not normal to give near-strangers your shirt. That's reason enough for me!

Then Off To Gig Land
I got my sandwich and a coffee and waited for the act I was supposed to meet. I wondered if he'd declare my new shoes as his favourite shoes and whether I'd give them up. No I didn't. I just made that up to make this bit of story seem more interesting. Sorry.

I took my coffee into the car with us and we sat-naved to the gig. It was easy. As an encore from my healthy moment, I went and bought some fruit from the co-op. This proved to be a good move as the combination of me and the fruit increased the population in the pub about 3 fold. 12 satsumas count as 6 portions, but that was enough. To while away some time before the gig organisers arrived, we played pool and I ate my banana. That's not a way I normally prepare for a gig, but some gigs are odd and this was didn't warrant any normal sort of preparation.

The audience were small. The room was really not laid out with a gig in mind, but we found a way of restructuring it so that something vaguely gig-like could occur. It was the inaugural gig in a remote pub in a remote town on a damp night. Those people who were actually around had largely been drinking all day and had been told to stick around for the comedy. They didn't quite know how to behave. That's unfair on the half of the audience who didn't sit up on the staged area where the mic was. It was the front row who were rowdy, some onlookers were actually there to enjoy the comedy and not disrupt it and they were appreciative.

However, the gig was really hard to control. The front row was largely composed of some low-attention-span drunk people who could easily distract the whole gig. More than that they were spirited, playing along, heckling quite emphatically and, often, being pretty funny and cutting to the acts. In a situation where acts are new and the hecklers are easily upstaging them, the gig can go either way. What made it flounder occasionally was the high-spirits of the "participants". Bizarrely, though, this also proved to the reason why the gig worked. There was an energy about the audience and you could harness it for laughs if you either knew what you were doing or got lucky. Every act managed to get some sort of laugh or other going. They had to compromise their set, but they didn't have to compromise themselves especially.

It was a hard gig to watch and my expectations dropped as the night drew on. It was overrunning and the audience were getting more emboldened by their participation. The last section had little lead into it and then I was thrown onto the stage.

I thought I'd struggle and come to hate the room.

I also thought that the weight of woes that have been wobbling me of late, coupled with low nutrition and a bizarre combination of fatigue and euphoria from the discovery of the weightloss, rather than gain, would undermine me.

I did 30 minutes with them, often distracted. I threw in various quips, some of which I'd written while sitting around waiting to go on, related to the people, or stuff that had occurred to me. I had ad-libs which make me feel a little too smug to report them, and I used a reasonable quantity of cliché and even sort of "borrowed" a joke on the spur of the moment, relating to someone's name. I immediately credited it and told the audience that I'd nicked it... their applause was for someone else. I shall buy him a pint next time I see him. It's wrong to use a "borrowed" joke, but I hope that he'll understand and I think he will. When the lights are on you and the moment's right, some jokes have to be said.

They liked my material. I liked some of the new things I trotted out, including my joke about vertically striped shirts, which was on its third outing. I won't remember the outing numbers for it much beyond this time.

I had fun with them. It went from a possible gig-from-hell-that-I'd-have-to-shout-down to a nice play fight, which we all had fun with. I even did some camp shouting.

This sort of experience makes being a comedian worthwhile. You never know how it will go, but it's an exciting journey to find out. Maybe it's a bit egotistical to look over at the acts when you think you've just trotted out a smart reaction to a moment in the room and hold a proud head when you see them double with laughter. No. No maybe about it. It's utter conceit. However, this sort of ego-trip is harmless when it's done in the name of entertainment. Really. I think very little of myself as a person. I just like the moments that I can sometimes muster when I'm given that bizarre microphone stand opportunity that we call stand-up comedy.

It's a good job I enjoy it. Though a totally inconsistent existence, stand-up has been the only consistence force in my life over the last few years. I think I've come to rely on it. I think I've even found something approaching the embryo of my own voice.

Any more weirdness?
Nope. Nothing more weird happened. Morning trains, weightlosses and gains, vertically striped shirts and gigs that defy definition - that was enough for one day. I picked up some washing and then came home to write this stuff down.

A voice
It's nice to write stuff down. It's nice to express the day and one's thoughts and feelings. I can't do that about everything. There have been things on my mind of late and I haven't got the words for them. Sorry to hold back. I can't do it all. I can sneak out snippets in joke form here and there. I know what I'm not saying and I'm dealing with it in a different way.

For reading what I can write here, thanks.

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