My Stand-up & gigs
The Coding Craftsman
In Praise of Queen
You Don't Have To Like Everyone
A Sneering Smearing Of Facts
How many intelligent people does it take to change...
To say I cried with laughter is an understatement
Answer your goddamned emails you idiots
Who are we as a nation?
Crying With Laughter
Make that pitch - they can only say no
Back In The Real World
I woke up at 8am, or thereabouts. This was a great start to my first day back in the real world.
I didn't really do very much over the course of the day. I spent a certain amount of time doing some audio editing on the computer. I also did a bit of shopping at Tesco and took a friend out for lunch.
My housemate had managed to organise tickets, in conjunction with his sister, for a New Year's Eve bash in Birmingham. He had invited me, after organising the ticket, and I had been uncertain about whether to go. However, I came to the conclusion that I should seek to do more things and that New Year's Eve was as good a place to start as ever.
So I said yes. Maybe that's my New Year's resolution - to celebrate New Year. We went along.
I would even dare to say that it was good fun.
Post Match Drinks
The Crisis Open Christmas ended this morning and, as is the tradition, we celebrated the end of the week looking after people with dependency issues, especially alcohol dependency, by going to the pub and drinking all day. There's definitely something ironic about turning up to the pub at 9am on a Sunday in order to binge drink under these circumstances.
However, when you've spent a week working night shift, the time-travel that alcohol can afford you, enables you to get through the additional hours of the day after your last wake up and make it to late enough to justify sleeping to get one's body clock back into sync. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Drinks were nice. It was good to get to know people outside of the context of the work environment, and I hope I managed to convey my sincerest of thanks to everyone who had made the successes we'd had possible.
I think this year has been very different and I'm not really in a position to publicly state too much about it, except that I found it in some ways more rewarding than I have done before. Perhaps this is a product of experience and attitude, as much as a product of how things went. Certainly, though, I know we created an environment where we could give people some very personal and very appreciated assistance. That's worth spending your Christmas doing.
I've now done 42 shifts for this organisation and I'm proud to have been allowed to. I do it for my own purposes, rather than to achieve some state of moral high-ground or even fulfil a sense of arbitrary duty. I do have a sense of responsibility to the organisation, but I don't want to be seen as self-congratulatory or indeed righteous in any way. We do things we want to do because it pleases us to do them. That's the human condition. I think, however, that this particular selfish act on my part is probably fairly low damage!
The Grand Opening
My sister, her husband and my niece all came to visit today. They had a look around the house and then we holed ourselves up in my bedroom, with the clean sheets, soon to be covered in banana my the young lady in our midst (it doesn't matter, I like laundry).
After we'd spent time playing games and shooting the breeze, they returned home, and I set about sorting out one or two things before then heading to London to start this year's volunteering for Crisis. It's something I've been doing for the last few years now - this is my 6th year. I do it for my own purposes, but I enjoy it.
I arrived remarkably early for my shift - approximately 7 hours early. However, as I'm an assistant shift leader for the night shift, it was in my interests to do a full recce long before I was officially "on". So I did just that. I bimbled about, talking with people, getting the feel for the place and generally becoming used to what would require about 12 hours of my day every day for the next week.
Then we went for a curry.
Then there were 7 days of looking after the place between 9pm and 9am. There's not too much more to day about it really.
A Big Push
I had been due to wake up earlier today than I actually managed. A friend, with whom I'd watched a movie the previous night, was supposed to ring me up and motivate me to get myself out of bed. She forgot.
However, I remembered in the end and set about the task of getting the car I own, as opposed to the company car that I drive, to the garage where it could be MOTed so I can tax it.
This proved to be something of a big challenge. I knew, the moment I turned the key in the door and only the driver's door unlocked, that I had a problem. The central locking not working meant that the battery was flat, which, in turn, meant that I'd have to somehow get the car moved alone. To complicate matters further, there was a car blocking most of my garage front, which wouldn't be a problem to maneuvre around if I had a self-propelling vehicle to use, but was going to be problematic if I had to push the vehicle using my own power, up and down the incline between garage and road.
In the end, though, that's exactly what I had to do. Luckily my jump leads were long enough and forgiving enough to enable me to get the two cars connected from the awkward corner I got my own car - at this stage, just a glorified trolley - into.
With the cars linked, I turned the key in the ignition, hoping to get a nice startup. My car had been in the garage since about the 20th September and hadn't been started at all. It would appear that 3 months dormant is a bit too much for it. It had been happy after 3 weeks of being dormant and was a reliable starter when I got it going in Edinburgh, ready for the exit from the city and my meeting with post-Edinburgh destiny. However, in this instance, the car wasn't playing. It coughed, it choked, it didn't want to come to life.
However, patience and revving the car with the working battery (to ensure I didn't end up with two dead cars) was a virtue. Eventually, my Mazda sputtered into life and became a vehicle again, rather than an immobile mini scrap yard.
With my bike in the back and the other car locked and left, I drove to the garage I use. I dumped the car with them and cycled into town. My mission was complete. All I had to do next was a bit of Christmas shopping and get a nice coffee.
Then it was time for the big Tesco shop.
Back home for the unpacking, some tiling, and then...
Well, with a cheer in my heart that I wasn't expecting, I unpacked all of my kitchen things, washed them all, dried them all off, and put them in cupboards. I even ran some descaling solution through my coffee maker and tried to wash it out completely. In short, I set myself up with a working kitchen. I was thrilled. I received a phone call during the process and my caller could hear how cheered I was by what I'd been up to.
My tiling, aside from the grouting, is now complete. The kitchen still needs a fair bit of painting, but it's essentially reached the turning point where it can be used.
I did some tidying/sorting/sweeping in my main room, and then I was done for the day. I had my sister visiting the following day and so I couldn't have the place in too much disarray.
With Crisis Open Christmas starting on the 23rd, this was, effectively, my last day to sort myself out in. I enjoyed it.
Going out in style
It was the last day of work and I had expected to be able to chill out with my team in the afternoon and celebrate the last few months. This wasn't to be the case. In a dramatic turn of events, I was required to head over to Heathrow airport to try to sort out a hardware problem. After receiving some brief training in how to sort it out from a colleague, in the other office I've been frequenting over the last few weeks, I zoomed over to the car rental station in Heathrow with the problems.
I spent a long time on the problem and actually managed to both diagnose it and also determine that it wouldn't be easily solved. I was stil there at 7pm. As it happens, though, I was not alone. The programme manager of the project I'm working on came along to provide a bit of company/moral support/attempts to remove problems. It was an act of solidarity which was appreciated and timely.
In the end we did our best to make the kit work and I think things will have been just about good enough for the major rush they'll be having over Christmas.
I ended the year doing the sort of job that was quite different to how I started the year. It wasn't all pondering and doing little. It was taking on a direct challenge and doing my best. That's sort of good.
As The Busy Increases
Don't ask where this blog comes to you from. Let's just call it a spare minute. I have done things over the last couple of nights. On tuesday night I did some more tiling, which got my hands so cold that I could barely move them. Then I relaxed and watched some dvds. That's fair, I think.
Then last night I had a last minute gig to Mc. It was not intended that I would add gigs to this week. Saturday was supposed to be my last gig and I was supposed to use the time from tuesday until saturday to get diy done and prepare for the christmas easter rabbit. As it happens, Saturday's gig has been cancelled, so last night, which started out tough going, but ended in huge room sized laughs, was my real last gig of the year. I like being a comedian and I've now done my fifth year.
In other news, my attempts to be a beardy vegetarian have failed at the hurdle of today's christmas lunch. My attempts not to eat shit have also foundered over the course of this slightly binge driven week. Basically, all bets are off.
I'll probably summarise the year in the next couple of days. It's been a total fucker of a year for me and I'm glad it really has not got long to go. I'll probably look back on this year with an eye on the positives that came out. I don't know just yet.
A Non Haiku
A quick non haiku bit of poetry
The name on my screen
Reminds me that I wasn't up to the task of becoming
The man I never wanted to be
I Did It
I made it through today as a bearded vegetarian. It was tough around lunchtime and then it got fairly easy. I didn't quite manage to stay on top of my calorie controlled diet, but I don't think I particularly strayed too far.
I might be able to do the rest of the week as a beardy veggie. Any reason? No.
In other news, today I caught up with friends, old and not so old, and I also received a string of nonsensical texts, which means something's broken somewhere.
I capped the night off in Kingston at a gig where there were 2 members of audience when the night started, and this number swelled only a little as I took to the stage. With the other performers in the seats where there's usually crowd, and with an attitude of not-giving-a-toss, I did my thing and made some laughs happen. Bizarrely, it seemed like some of my spoken material was the unsung hero of the night, though the songs did ok too.
I'm glad I stayed around to do the gig. It was important for me to learn the art of staying cool while on stage and playing the room for what it was without being spooked. I had fun. I also tussled with a rather vocal heckler who had the awkward role of being in the right. Luckily, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Well, I had a guitar in my hand and that's a useful weapon in its own right.
Today I have decided to become a temporary bearded vegetarian. So far, the beard is itching and it's frustrating trying to find food that is both vegetarian and low in calories - except for plain fruit and veg.
I do not plan for this to last more than the week. The beard may last into Christmas, mind.
This year has been quite unusual when it comes to Christmas music. I didn't hear Slade's "So Here It Is, Merry Christmas" in November at all. In fact, I didn't hear it until sometime last week. This, coupled with the fact that I've not really noticed a huge quantity of outrageous exterior lighting on houses, has misled me about how soon Christmas really is.
When it comes to Christmas music, though, I'm quite torn. I rather love the warm smooth chord progressions and tinkly music, which evokes the race memory being warm in front of a fire while all outside is cold. I'm quite happy to buy into Hollywood's pretty picture of Christmas in reds, whites, yellows and glitteriness. Yet... there's something almost needy about the jollity of the music. As if it's not really giving love, but trying too hard to be happy when there's no reason.
The classic case in point is the song "We Wish You A Merry Christmas", which starts jolly enough, but then begins to demand some Figgy Pudding and if they don't get any, then they're going to sing and sing until they get it. I've not even got a fig roll. This song is surely the "I know a song that'll get on your nerves" of the Christmas music canon.
And that's a fact pop pickers.
I Couldn't Do It
I couldn't wake up. I was having a weird dream that was suckering me into the darkest depths of sleepsville. It was impossible for me to rise from my bed and continue the hard work I'd made such a start with yesterday.
I replanned. To be honest, I'm not sure that there really had been a plan in the first place.
I tackled what I thought was a foothill, but turned out to be a mini mountain of ironing. I did this while watching a TV channel called Dave. That's not normal.
Following the ironing, I went out for some supplies, took a birthday card to a friend, did a lot of eating and then tried to settle down to do some work. As in real work. As in work for work, not for my own self.
So far, I haven't gotten started. But, the night is young and I've only been awake a few hours, so there's a risk that I might actually get on with it.
A Day At Home
I'm not sure that I've had many complete days in my house over the last few months. It's hard to say. I think my weekend have almost always had gigs or some other out of home engagement in them. I had this weekend earmarked for something else, which would have taken me away from the house, but as it turned out, the best plan was to stay at home. This enabled me to do a lot of things which have been sitting firly on the to-do-list but not moving in any direction at all.
Once I'd shaken my sorry ass out of bed, I started on some tiling. These tiles will sit above the oven and hob and, therefore, had nothing to sit upon, meaning I really did have to use the official system for tiling, where you attach a batten (or in this case a spare bit of architrave) to the wall and tile upwards. I will, later on, hang some tiles below the section of tiling I did yesterday, with nothing more than the adhesive and some masking tape for company. These will then set as the lower level of tiling, which will also go below the level of the cooker, thus making things look right. That's my theory.
The tiling is taking a long time. A lot of the tiles need to be cut, and I merrily made my way through the Radio 2 comedy hour with the tile cutter going outside. I've finally worked out that I can use the tile cutter from the side, rather than face to face, and avoid getting trousers and shirt full of water as I do it. I'm a bloody idiot.
At some point I ran out of the will to live and my hands were too cold, and I was running out of tile adhesive and so on and so forth. I've still probably got a couple more nights' worth of tiling to do, but I had to stop. So I did. I went to buy more adhesive and also some paint. I went to Tesco and bought some groceries. I came home and started on the next phase.
Putting new switches on should not be difficult, but it became a long and complicated process. Two way switches can be a dark science and I needed a lot of experimentation and some drawing of diagrams before the exact combination of connections made itself clear to me. If I'm honest, working on live electrics in that situation was clearly not a good move, but I managed to get away with it without actually hurting myself or tripping any circuit breakers. Result!
Then I painted the ceilings of both of my two top floor bedrooms.
Impressed with myself, I took on the painting of the freshly plastered walls of another bedroom. I did this while listening to "Tim Minchin and friends" - a radio show which I think must have been broadcast on New Year's day. This was a repeat of it - obviously. It was very funny and well done.
That pretty much wraps up the day. There are some other details, like the attachment of a door stop and toilet roll holder, one of which I got wrong, but I won't say which, in an attempt to hold back a degree of mystery.
I thought I might go out later in the night - like after 1am - but went to bed instead. Much more sensible. I even managed to get most of the paint off my glasses.
What a day!
It's A Good Job
I went to work a bit later than planned this morning. I had a lunch/afternoon session planned, which would take me off site. Therefore, it was quite important for me to get myself a parking space which wouldn't end up blocked in.
I found one of my special spots and went into the office, just starting to notice how the car park didn't seem nearly as busy as normal, let alone as busy as it would be on a Friday. As I arrived at my department in the office, it dawned on me. This was the night after the office Christmas party. People will have drunk to excess the previous night and, therefore, would either have rung in sick, or planned to make the morning, or indeed the whole day, as time off.
I'm not sure that I necessarily get the whole binge thing. Having said that, I drank to stupid excess a few weeks ago during a work do, but I felt encouraged to do this by circumstance... and it's not what I do... okay. It is. I do get the whole binge thing, but I'm not sure it's really something which we should do in this country. And why should we do it at Christmas all the more? I don't know. I was glad that I hadn't attended the office party myself. I started boycotting them a few years before, at a completely different company, when they seemed to stop being a consequence of a benevolent employer providing fun to its well-respected staff, and started more to seem like the by-product of people proving they can organise a party. An email asking for 100% attendance at one Christmas party was enough for me to find an excuse not to be able to make it.
However, as a single man, perhaps I should be taking the opportunity to get pleasantly merry with a bunch of people who work in the same building as me. For all I know, there's someone in the place whom I might get on famously with in the single man sense.
But I had had other plans for the office party night, and as I sit here writing this drivel, I have no regrets at all.
I raced around a couple of meetings and then went off to the afternoon's meeting offsite. The plan was to get lunch and discuss planning. As it was, things, as always, ran on longer than planned and lunch, which turned into afternoon coffee, turned into a return to the other person's office for about 5.30, where we started work again.
In a desperate attempt to prove that I am still a technical person, I took on a quick technical analysis of something and produced some conclusions and a technical recommendation. Wow. I think that's the first properly technical thing I've really done since I joined the company! Then we started the planning exercise again.
Around 11pm, the exercise was not quite done and we had pizza on order. A lunch trip had turned into a late nighter with pizza. Interesting.
The pizza and garlic bread were eaten and the planning suddenly came to a conclusion. Job done. Home time.
I got home after midnight. I was somewhat pleased that I'd not planned anything to do that night. I had had the weekend earmarked as a possible Newcastle trip, but that had fallen by the wayside. As it was, this extra evening's work wasn't really taking much out of my weekend...
... though the work I realised I'd have to fit in over the weekend, would appear to threaten to take some "me time" away from me. That and the conference call I suggested we did on Saturday lunchtime.
Is this my life?
Darling You Did It Again
Noel Coward, when asked for his opinion after a show would, I believe, come back with that most wonderful of responses - "Darling, you did it again". I might be paraphrasing slightly, so if you're in internet-land and looking for the right quote and indeed the right person to attribute it to, please research a bit more deeply.
This factoid (half remembered though it is) was brought to mind just now as I'm going to report of my trip to see a friend perform in a show. I think that this is an unusual thing for me to do. I'll qualify that. I frequently see people perform. I have a bunch of friends from the world of comedy, whom I may see perform their usual schtick, or even see perform in a slightly different context. However, there are not many people I term friends, from outside the world of comedy, whom I get to see perform... in other words, I don't often get to see shows with people for whom performing is not a regular, or even defining thing.
But tonight was Christmas panto night in Southampton and I went along, with a friend of mine, to watch a mutual friend and some other people we know through that friend, performing their hearts out in a panto in a pub. £5 in. Panto in pub. Simple. You can't say fairer than that.
There had been some "will they won't they" on the journey to Southampton. I'd started my trip from the Reading area and had gone by a sat-nav recommended route, which I think I disagreed with. I also didn't quite know whether some horrific traffic jam might suddenly at 30 minutes to my journey, getting me there "just in time" or whether I'd get to Southampton in plenty of time to pick up my friend to take her with.
Ooh. The dilemma. In the end, 30 minutes before I was due to arrive in Southampton according to the sat-nav (ignorant of traffic) we had to make the decision. If I didn't come and get her, she had about an hour of bus travel to do, so the decision point was so early. After a lot of musing - some would say an inordinate amount of it - I decided that I could pick my friend up. This proved, in the end, to be the right choice.
Such a drama over nothing.
The panto was enjoyed by all and we did audience participation and everything. The post show chit chat was also a pleasure, giving me the chance to get to know some new people, or to know some people I sort of knew a bit more.
Then the long drive home. On a school night and everything.
I was feeling a bit in need of company on the ride home, so I rang a friend in Reading and we chatted on the way back, which culminated in a trip to the late night garage for items which I dropped round at my friend's place as I headed home. A chat for some sweets - a fair swap, I think.
Though things always go round and round my head on a loop, where friends are concerned, I think the night was worth attended, especially in preference to the office party which I'd originally planned to go to and then dropped in favour of this pub-based event.
Reviewing What Went Wrong
This in not about tonight. Sometimes, you can look back at what you did and said and you can think 'I could not have said or done anything differently. I didn't hold back. I gave it my all. I was honest and positive and optimistic.' And when you do that you might wonder how it didn't work out. Surely if everything was right then it should have worked out? And you wonder whether you can ever trust life to be fair. How can it go wrong? What is worth doing if this is going to happen? Why does it work out for careless and unpleasant people who don't do it right? Why do dreams not come true even when they seem like they can?
And the answer is that there is no answer. Look at history all you like, there's no perfect formula. You can't make it work by numbers. It's just luck. In fact you can only define the successful formula after it happens to have been a success. And you cannot make it happen again at will. It's just down to luck. That's life.
And sometimes, life hurts.
When The Night Won't Go Right
So many things about tonight proved not to click. I'd even insured against my departure time being caught up by traffic by leaving for home during a conference call thus enabling me to continue my work day at home and not tangle myself up with the rush hour. I thought I had tonight sussed. I was wrong.
I will admit that my own confidence and my timing and being in the moment were all off tonight, but here are some other factors. Firstly, I had though about going to the gig by car. I'm short on cash at the moment, so the car, with expenses to cover it, would have made more financial sense. But I thought I'd be stuck in traffic and not get there on time. It would have been useful for carrying the guitar amp I ended up carrying on foot to the railway station in Reading. That's not a short walk. Then there was the bit where I thought about bringing my blackberry. I decided not to as I thought it would stress me out with work things. When I arrived at what I thought was the venue and found it deserted, I was really in need of access to the web to find out why.
Sitting calmly in an empty room I did some calling and texting and managed to find out that I am an arse who doesn't know how to understand the venue change on a myspace message. Then I went taxi searching. After one taxi refused to take me because it was not in the right direction, another pulled up. I managed to control my stress levels, but the fight had gone out of me a bit and I'd already come down from the pre gig build up. I thought the gig had been cancelled for a while. So it was back on. So now I was late. It was all disaster recovery. The next cab got me to the venue in time. I set up. I hadn't needed to bring my amp. I tuned hastily, which did no harm. . . Not as much harm as the hasty sound check. So many excuses abound here, but they were all influences on the outcome.
Nothing bad happens when you die on stage. There is a sense of feeling a bit foolish, exacerbated in this case by the presence of a couple of acts whom I respect but don't know well enough personally to feel too confident of their view of me. Such is life. It's not the end of the world, and I did make the audience laugh. Honest. I did exert some control over the room.
Still the evening is going to end on a down. I have things on my mind. Work. I'm worried for the wellbeing of a friend. I'm worried about over concerning myself in someone else's business, both professionally and personally. I'm worried about all the things I haven't sorted out this year and the additional problems posed by changes in my house situations. Lots of loose ends. You sometimes just want to stop the world for a couple of weeks while you sort everything out from the backlog. This is not possible.
A post gig high right now would be an antidote to all of this crap, which makes me understand why stand up is a drug and why stand ups are clearly addicts. Indeed some stand ups use actual drugs, but I'm not in their league. I'd be happy with my cheap thrills, constructed with the cheap laughter and fake adoration of strangers. It doesn't need to get any more showbiz than that for me. I am not Russell Brand. I bet he doesn't end his gigs on the train writing his tortuous prose into a mobile phone with crap software and a slow processor. I bet he doesn't worry about his weight and the inevitable dilemma of hunger plus station food temptation. I bet he has the pick of how to go home and whom to take with him. I am not him.
I am, however, me. Nobody else gets a go at that. That could be my one positive thing to take away from tonight.
Just come off
Here I am off stage after a gig and the gig is still running as I write. It's a lonely feeling on stage when you know it's not working. You can go through the motions as much as you like but if you can't feel it, it is hard to get it to work. I've died on stage before and it will happen again, but this second I feel foolish and have the negative adrenaline rush thing going on. My body is telling me that I'm disappointed. People won't be coming up to me and slapping me on the back. I won't be going home feeling on top of the world. The gig has simply not been my gig. Still. I did what I could and the show will continue regardless.
Have you ever been to a harvester before?
I don't think I've ever been to a harvester. In fact I don't think I've even been to me. I have, however, now, been to a data centre. I don't think it would be giving too much away to say that this particular data centre is in Heathrow. There are a lot of data centres around there. I think a lot of the UK's internet traffic comes through there - they must fly in bits of the internet by jumbo or something.
Anyway, it was necessary for me to drop by our data centre yesterday, and I was really impressed by the place. It had long white corridors and security and the sounds of busy machinery. It was like something from a Bond film, even down to the Eastern European woman at the front desk.
I was due to go there in order to pick up some data on a disk. As it was, I managed to involve myself in the production of this disk, fetching an extension lead from my car, which turned out to be a very handy thing to have with me, and also doing a few system admin type suggestions. It was a real team effort, and I even helped install a server while we were waiting for the data copy to complete. Good times! It should be pointed out that this data centre contains a lot of mission critical systems for my employer, the down time of any of them could cost thousands of pounds per minute. I was quite in awe when I found the master power board with its big red stop button on it. . .
After dropping off the data, I headed home via B & Q. I planned an evening tiling. I got a few hours of it in - about 2 and a half. Then I got cold and tired and frustrated, so I stopped. It went ok, though. I will have to trust the grout to cover a multitude of sins.
Some food, a weigh in - not a worry, but not good - and I was ready to return home and play scrabble with my laptop in bed. I'd designated today as a 'valve day'. I felt little pressure over its duration, but I didn't quite unwind completely. Still, I think it went well enough to be pleased with.
It's Only Monday
This has already been a bloody gruelling week and it's only Monday. I say that safe in the knowledge that I'm over dramatising, but I feel exhausted anted I've had a draining day. The day was probably not helped by the fact that I barely got anything to eat the previous day and that my sleep patterns had been quite weird over the weekend. As a result, I woke up hungry and late this morning. I was late as in tardy for work, rather than dead.
I hurried to work, then I ran around being late for a bit. Then I had a meeting with someone and calmed things down for an hour. Then it was back to running round trying to coordinate the uncoordinatable and failing appropriately. Around lunchtime, lunch was had. This proved to be relaxing and discussion-oriented, with a walk back to the office giving me another opportunity to revise (as in relearn) the advice from this weekend. Apparently doing myself down is not attractive. I knew that. Perhaps I set out to make myself less attractive so at least I can fail on my terms. See... there's me doing it. Not attractive.
Anyway, the afternoon was no less weird than the morning. If anything, it got weirder. As a result, I ended up in the other office I go to, worked up to the point of excessively stressed, and really passing the stress on to other people I was dealing with. The cause of the stress was work-related, lateness-related, exhaustion-based, gig-lateness related, and also caused by the fact that I knew I was missing an important meeting to which my boss seemed to find it necessary to summon me to using text speak when I attempted to explain why it might be more successful if we did it over the phone.
In the end, I failed in everything I set out to do.
I missed the meeting. We missed the desired deadline and delivery. I missed the set off time for my gig, by a long way. I missed the achievement of harmony and goodwill. I missed all of these goals with a chest full of stress and a head full of conflicts.
It wears you down.
I am aware when stress is getting to me and I'm also aware when a situation has gotten out of hand. In a meeting room, before we discussed the way forward, I asked permission to step out of the moment for a minute. I described objectively what had just happened and this gave me enough distance to see it afresh and replan from outside of the issue, rather than from the near panic inside. This was a useful technique, but I think it came a bit late in the day. There's no job satisfaction in not hitting targets.
I'd even brought a bit tin of sweets with me (my own contribution, not a company thing) to thank the team for their ridiculously hard work over the weekend. However, trust is not bought with sweets or with stress.
Not happy, I ran back to my car (after everything had been settled enough to leave) and then headed to Taunton for the evening's gig. I like doing gigs. They're for the audience, but they're for me too. I was supposed to be there at 8.15. I'd proposed being there for 9. My sat nav said it would be nearer 10!
I wasn't pleased. Still, I knew I was nearing exhaustion and my body was telling me that I was hungry. I also didn't quite have the fuel to get to the gig. I stopped to refill everything. It helped a little. With various people to chat to, the journey out went by faster. I managed to get into a giggling fit with my oldest friend over trying to speed up one's curry by ordering a "Lamb Sooner". This was hilarious at the time.
With my laughter battery recharged a little, I felt strong enough to do the gig. As it is, I can usually turn it on for a gig (except that time in Southampton, but that's history). I wasn't pleased with myself this morning, when I forgot my jeans. This meant I had to do my gig in my work trousers. I carry spare plectrums in my wallet, so one was soon ready for action in my back pocket.
I did the gig and I had fun. I did some very very wrong material and made some jokes out of nowhere. It was fun and it was entirely for me. It built my self-confidence back up and washed away the stress.
I got to do the long drive home without company and I went through a process of starting out quite up from the gig and then chilling out a lot. This reduced some of my protection against the bad things on my mind, but not all of it. I admit that I went to a service station and bought some crap to eat and drink, but I reckon I can justify that with the lack of proper nutrition over the weekend. I'm sure my clothes are too loose anyway!
Things play on my mind when I'm alone. This year has introduced me to a world of things that play on my mind. When I'm tired, hungry and stressed, my defences against these things are at a low ebb. A bit of laughter, whether it's my own, or my power to generate it inside an audience, seems to shine away some of the darker thoughts, and for that reason alone, it's worth rushing across hundreds of miles to random arts centres to make it happen.
I wish I could fix the world with laughter. In truth, it can't be done. I can't fix the things I want to fix so simply.
This week looks like it's going to be a challenge!
The morning conference call came at 9am, not 8am. I'd dozed a bit but still managed to respond to the phone. I almost fell back into slumbed, but managed to get into the conference, understand the way forward, agree a plan, and then I called my superior (in the sense of this project) to explain the situation.
I then had a few texts and a chat with someone and then it was 11.
I had to sleep again.
No tiling for me.
I re-awoke at about 4pm. My body clock was screwed, my brain was a mess, and I had a gig to go to.
After a yoghurt, a smoothie, a nectarine and a coffee (all I'd really eat today), I headed to Southampton to my gig. I picked up a friend/organiser of the gig along the way.
The gig was fun. I was MC and I think I had my moments of connection with the crowd. As is often the case, the prepared material was ok, but the banter could prove to be really electric. I played with the people who wanted to be played with and nearly fell down with a 15 year old lad, who wasn't frightened of chipping in, and whom I couldn't tease in a way which kept the audience's sympathy.
Overall, it was a fun night.
I dropped my friend home, stopping for coffee and late night introductions to friends of friends and then I drove back, with a thousand things running through my brain.
Thing 1. Get some fucking sleep!
So Many Events
An early wake up on Saturday, waiting for the call which came late. Then the call, which was work-related and the first of many calls of the weekend. Oh. So many calls.
From the early wake up came some pottering and then I headed off to London. A meeting in the afternoon was followed with a pub trip where I drank so much diet coke, I thought I'd be ill.
Then I had a party to go to, via a Tesco. I took the next work conference call in the Tesco - unashamedly. It required me to schedule the next conference call for about 1am!
The party was fun. Quite grown up, but not too grown up. I spoke to many people and felt like I don't go to parties very often. Then, with the next conference call running late, but imminent, I took some friends home - across London - about 30 minutes. The conference call, at 3am, now, happened.
The absence of my work mobile phone from my pocket had been bothering me. On arrival at my friends' place, we discovered it really wasn't anywhere in the car and, after another call, discovered it had been left on the street outside the party's venue.
Back across London, then. The friends in the car gamely announced a "road trip" and so we all went back to pick up the phone. I'd need this phone for the next conference call at 8am on Sunday - yes - 5 hours later.
Back across London again. Then back home. Then some trying to get to sleep with an alarm set for a couple of hours later.
Too much for one day, perhaps. No chance for restorative sleep.
Down and Up Time
It's been an engaging week, which has been quite demanding. I read somewhere that you can try to get extra uptime from your staff, but it will come back to you in the form of invisible downtime. There's no doubt about it. Today I was suffering the effects of having been pushing things too hard all week. I knew also that my night was pretty much my own, which meant I felt less under pressure to do anything at all.
The day started slowly, but grew to a crescendo as I started to get things done, and the project I'm working on hit a series of snags. The upshot is that there's a conference call at 6am tomorrow morning (or sooner). This is quite something. I was also working until about 7pm this evening, in as far as I was taking calls from people still at work between 6.30pm and 7pm as I travelled home and then hung around not quite travelling to the meal out I was due at.
The meal was ultimately had. I cycled there. It wasn't an incredibly low-calorie evening. It didn't matter.
Then home and I did my first load of washing!
oh my god. I know. How cool is that. I will no longer be shipping my washing out. Wow!
That is all.
Coming Around Again
I like spotting patterns in life. They sometimes genuinely exist, but you can also invent them, because you only need to correlate the data which fits the pattern to conclude that there's a pattern. For instance, my comment about spin off series of "Happy Days" having the names of two characters in the title - it makes the assumption that there were only three spin off series of the show and that I know the names of them. It may be the case that, given there were three, there might have been lesser known fourth. What would the lesser known fourth series be about? "The Fonz Does Switzerland"? "Not So Happy Days" when the Cunninghams have spiralling debt problems and Pottsy gets hooked on smack? Who knows? In the case of something discrete, like a TV series, it's easily researched. That's not the point, though. The point is that I've chosen to conclude based on a subset of the world that's in my head.
So too, can you find a pattern in things you remember having encountered. "I always see you in Tesco"
might be concluded from a couple of encounters, conveniently forgetting the fact that you've seen the person in other places. This is human nature. I think we're always looking for correlations between things to make the world seem simpler and less scary.
So, it may seem like a fabulous coincidence that my Bolton gig last night involved me leaving the surrounding road system at the same exit I'd take to go to my Bolton friend's parents' house and that the Tesco I went to after the gig was the one in which I'd had breakfast with this friend in March 2005 while we were doing the last date of The Musical!
, and in which I bought a shirt that my then new girlfriend (now ex-) considered to be one of her favourites. It might seem awfully connected. It isn't really. Though it's nice to revisit familiar places, especially ones which are random and distant. Why shouldn't I have a little area of familiarity in Bolton, even though I've only been there about 4 or 5 times in my life!?
Fast becoming a familiar place to me is the Oxford Service station. The saga with my Louis Armstrong CD had continued longer than I expected after my second trip to the place to pick up the discs that had been left out of the box set resulted in the wrong, though very similar, discs. I was resolved to get the right discs.
It was while I was being seen at this service station last night, tired and hungry again (that may have been habitual hunger, rather than genuine, but I fed myself anyway, reasoning that my lack of sleep and surfeit of exercise would probably see me right), that I considered the situation I was in. I was buying this CD for the third time, effectively. I had listened to the discs they'd given me, which was from a very similar collection. I even had a favourite recording from the collection and had found it quite enjoyable. In fact, the only reason I had for swapping the discs was to make everything match up. I considered whether I would care if I had to keep the wrong discs. No. In fact, I realised that my favourite track - a rather messed up version of "Stardust" in which Louis clearly didn't give a toss about the song - wasn't even on the collection I'd bought... so fixing the problem would leave me worse off. Why bother?
I think it came down to the principle. I didn't want someone else to get the wrong discs (my discs) in their "St Louis Blues" box set, and I wanted things fixed. As it happens I have already mp3ed the discs I got, so I can have the track that was missing. I guess I can live with the minor copyright issues involved in that.
I even considered really confusing the guy who dealt with me (the same guy as had seen me the other week - what a coincidence... not really) by, after insisting that I wanted the right discs in the box, then going out into the shop and buying the other box set (maybe even asking if he'd do an exchange!). He was confused because all he could see on the box and discs was "Louis Armstrong", which he pronounced "Lewis". I had to explain that the artist is not the unique key field here - it's the union of artist and album title. I didn't put it like that... I should have. That would have confused him gloriously further. But then, he was speaking in his second language and I didn't think it was necessarily fair to take out my frustrations on someone doing a low-paid job in the middle of the night. He was frustrated, I was quite pleasant to him - as much as my late night mental fug would allow.
Anyway, we got everything sorted out.
It's nice to revisit old stamping grounds. It's not necessary to stamp so much, though.
Mr Kipling Had It All Wrong
If you read Mr Kipling's diary, he'd always be talking about lemon frangipans or cricket in the pavilion or heaven knows what. In fairness, it's possible that the real Mr Kipling didn't keep a very British diary, or even that he was a figment of some marketing manager's imagination."We've got these sweet things to sell. How? I know, I'll invent a very British sounding person. Mr.. erm... Wilde... no, too Irish... McDougal... well, it's sort of quite Scottish... how about Jones? Mmm, could be taken to be a bit too Welsh for the home counties. How about something that has a hard sound at the beginning, hits the lips, then the tongue and requires a swallowing guttural end. Kuh Puh Luh Nng. No. Kuhpuh Luhnng is a Korean table tennis player of a name. Wait! Kipling! Of course. Mr Kipling. Janet - hold all my calls, I'm going for a celebratory wank!"
Anyway, my diary is nothing like Mr Kipling's, so I conclude that he's wrong. Simple, really. Today was a day in 3 halves. The fact that a half is usually paired, and I had three of them is a good indication of how today went. I woke up later than I'd hoped, having fallen into a near coma-like sleep from the previous two-day awake session. I'd managed to get to sleep about 41 hours after the previous time I'd been asleep, having cycled about 24 miles across the two evenings I'd been awake, and having eaten a whole bunch of stuff, been to London twice, been to work about 3 times, and having endured a fair old degree of stress... and fun... even fun can require endurance after a point - see me in Edinburgh in August for more on this.
Once awake, I went to work in the main office. I did some things about the place and I need not list nor remember them here. Then I went to work in the office of a company I'm working with. This wasn't even half two of the day, just an extension of half one. The advantage of going over there was that I got to nip to Waitrose for a smoothie and some toiletries, as well as get changed into my jeans, anticipating later halves of the day. I even got to digest my lunch on the journey, which was good. Normally, I don't have time to even breathe in the office, so digestion takes a back seat. Lunch had been a rather nice roast of lamb, which is not my usual luncheon tipple here, so it was good to have the time to digest it. I'd be holding back a tide of poo in the car journey later on in the night, but for now my ass-tsunami was nowhere to be seen, and I was working across two offices and trying to keep things in sync. Many emails.
Half two began when I started the solution to "The Bolton Problem". This problem had been worrying me since Sunday. Basically, I had a week at work where I had a lot of work to do and I also had a little too many out of work commitments for comfort. It was possible to cram them all in, which is why I allowed them into the diary. However, the Bolton gig tonight required me to open and be there earlier than I'd comfortably hope to be at a gig in Bolton on a work night, especially with traffic being what it can be. "The Bolton Problem" seemed to require time travel, or some break in the laws of physics or other. Perhaps it could have been like the "Philadelphia Experiment"
. Things with a place name in them seem to go together well. Totally off topic, I discovered recently, during a conversation, that all three spin off series from "Happy Days" have two people's names in their title "Laverne and Shirley", "Mork and Mindy" (yes, it was) and "Joanie Loves Chachi". Apologies. I'm going well off topic here. I can't help it. I've a woozy brain.
Between you and me, the solution to the Bolton problem had been to make a best effort to get there and ring en-route if I had to run late and hope that the promoter didn't mind swapping me with the middle act, who is a very experienced comedian and could have very capably opened the show better than I did. However, the problem was solved without the use of a Tardis, fictitious US Naval apparatus, or lame excuses. I simply left a little earlier than normal, safe in the knowledge that the ridiculous amount of work done between Tuesday and Wednesday was more than enough to justify a little clawing back of time for my own purposes.
I was slightly later than hoped in Bolton, but I got there and I did my gig and I had a lovely time. The audience were very nice, very responsive and I was in funny spirits - handy for being a comedian. I stayed to watch the second act and then scooted off home. Owing to a problem with not having petrol, I added about 20 minutes to my journey, going out of my way to the nearest petrol station, but such is life.
Half three was the late night drive home. I visited Tesco first for food and some essential groceries I'd forgotten to buy in Waitrose earlier (and more smoothies, of course) and then I had a long drive home. It's 200 miles. I've not done such a long drive in recent weeks, and even with the long drives I have done, I've had company, either in the car, or on the phone. I rang round people and there is always the risk of the occasional cheeky text... but I was largely just in my own company. For hours. Hours and hours. It's weird. I'd forgotten how lonely that can be. When you're tired and your mind is on little more than getting home, it can be lonely. I would have preferred access to my mp3 player where there's comedy to put on to make me engaged and amused, but the car doesn't yet have a good means of mp3 player playing, so I can't do that yet. I'm working on it. (Well, I should, but I've been too busy.)
My third half of day was the bit where I did the long drive home, got home, got relaxed and ready for bed, and then got to sleep. It was a mini adventure in its own right.
Mr Kipling and his pies have nothing on me!
This Is Not My Life
It's 8am and I'm in the office. That's not normal for me.
I've been up all night. That's not normal for me. Even when I'm gigging, I usually get a certain amount of sleep. I wasn't gigging last night. Not enough to warrant calling last night a gig night.
I've been up all night because I was working through the night on something for work. That's not normal for me.
I did a 7 hour day on the back of my work day. That's not normal for me.
I sort of enjoyed it too... that's...
Could whatever has possessed my body please try to maintain the dieting as a bare minimum. Thank you.
An amazing day. Up fairly early, woken in a friendly but confusing way. When my friend woke me up, I resisted the urge to speak my mind - when I'm that sleepy, the thought "do we have to wake up? can't we just snuggle?" always sits somewhere in the back of my mind. Snuggling isn't "snuggling" in the Simpsons sense, by the way. It's more the hot-water-bottle, teddy-bear, snoozy num-nums.
Anyway, there was some helping to find the bus stop and then some driving to work, which, in turn, was a novelty act (as in an action of some novelty value) as I didn't go to work in my own office, but that of the people I was collaborating with for the day. Lunch rapidly approached and I fended off the hunger with the Waitrose sushi - vegetarian sushi pseudo-wrap... oh... my... goodness.
When 5 o'clock came and the work was still not complete, there was only one thing for it. BUNDLE! No, not that. I decided to come back later. First, however, there was the small matter of the stage show I'd agreed to do sound and lighting for in London. So, off home I trotted (drove) and then I got changed while making a phone call, and then joined a conference call while cycling to the railway station. Not content with the cycling, I followed it up with the train, where my participation in the call was less breathless, but more likely to be interrupted by an announcement.
Then, at London, I returned to the saddle and blasted my way across town to the theatre.
The show ran without a hitch. Except for the hitches. I did a couple. The cast skipped a sketch. We improvised our way out of it... and then... well, the show was over.
Then a drink with a friend whom I'd invited to the show only to then pretty much blether at and complain about how ridiculous the last few hours had been. He pointed out that I chose to make them ridiculous and I guess these sillinesses are the product of how I choose to live my life. So it's my fault then. Ah well.
Back on the bike. On the train at 9.57 - the guard tried to chivvy me along. Sod him. I was tired.
Back in Reading and back home for 10.30. I had some salad and a yoghurt waiting for me. I needed downtime. I collapsed for a few minutes and chatted with my housemate. Then, I picked myself up and went back to work. Arriving at the office around midnight, we continued long into the night. At some point coffees were enjoyed. I had bought some fruit to eat. It was a roller coaster of a night.
You bond under those circumstances. You have respect for the other night owls. It's the law.
There was a lot to do today. There had been a lot done last night, so I just continued on in that spirit. It was clear that there was a large planning exercise required, so I scooted across to the offices of my colleagues in order to do the planning. This resulted in something to take and show my manager. The result of coming back to the office to meet to discuss with this plan was that the planning would need more time spent on it.
I picked up a friend from the railway station and we headed off to Derby. I always worry about arriving on time, but this trip was timed to perfection. The same cannot be said for the car load of comedians from Manchester, who managed to forget to pick up one of their number, have to go back, then get lost on the way and threaten not to arrive in time to go on. The promoter was somewhat unhappy. At one stage, it looked like myself and my friend might form the whole of the comedy night and we were discussing forming an impromptu double act to fill in the time.
However, the night happened in a manner that might be described as "according to plan" if the plan had been what turned up on the stage - all of the right acts, though not necessarily in the correct order. I got probably the nicest timeslot of the night and had a load of fun with the crowd in it. I had to do a lot of standing around taking the audience reaction, as they were an energetic and cheery bunch and you have to let them laugh and applaud and stuff... I never quite know how to look when they're off on one. I just smile and nod slightly.
We stayed to watch the last act and then did the late night drive home. Late night chat and then back to mine for sleep. That's a gig night to enjoy.
Fitting It All In
Sundays are tricky days. As the last day of the weekend there's always pressure to either do loads or do absolutely nothing. In some cases there's both. You feel like it's the last chance to relax but that there's so much that won't get done if you relax.
I didn't have anything akin to a relaxing Sunday. The early morning train journey, rushing to a meeting which I thought had a 9.30 start, proved to be a major source of stress. Although getting on my first train at 8.27, I didn't get into Paddington until 10.50. I cycled like a bugger to the meeting, getting rained on quite extremely.
I discovered that the meeting had an 11.00 start, so I wasn't actually that late. I was still late enough. I would probably have been more miffed if I'd arrive on time as planned, but then I could have missed the rain and sat warming myself, reading my book. So, not the best of starts to the day - arriving wet and late.
I had a change of clothes with me. I went through the meeting. I concluded that I'm overthinking and overworrying about stuff. I then concluded, that I'm allowed to. Then I left the meeting at just before 4 and headed off to a theatre to see the cast of the show I'd be teching there Tuesday and Wednesday. The cast told me some stuff and I smiled at them - trying to dry off in my cycling clothes.
As I neared my house, I discovered a barber. I didn't realise I had a local barber. I haven't had time for a haircut in the last couple of weeks, so I opportunistically jumped into the shop and got myself done. It was around 7pm. I couldn't believe the luck of finding a 7 days a week open-til-late barber's shop. Very good. I tipped.
Then it was back home and time to do some more tiling. I tiled a lot. I'm sure it will look fine when grouted. I hope so. The process of tiling seemed to involve a lot of standing outside being sprayed with water by my tile cutting machine. I got very cold and wet. I put on a lot of tiles, though.
There's no rest for me, so I followed up the tiling with some ironing.
I cram it all into the day. That's Sundays for you.
For Goodness' Sake!
Up earlier this morning than I prefer. I was at the railway station with my bike in tow in time to leap on the 8.27 train to London. Then it didn't move so I transferred to the 8.55, mindful of my 9.30 meeting time and hoping that the usual pre meeting delays would make my 'late' into 'on time'. It's now 10.30 and my third attempt to board a train has gotten me just past Hayes. With some luck, I'll get to the meeting at 11.30. Yay. Go England. Signalling problems at Maidenhead indeed. Why do we have to suffer this crap? Why did I bother getting out of bed at all? Sigh.
Be Careful What You Wish For
In a contrived but effective narrative device, I shall link two things that happened to me today. Both fit into the category of being careful what you wish for.
On Monday I'd managed to successfully incorporate a trip to Argos to buy a birthday gift for my niece, as requested by her mother (my sister), which I took to London today to present to the wee tot. I had had my choice of item from a range that was given to me and I chose something which I thought would be fun for my niece and, perhaps, fun for myself too. This, I think, may have been the first error.
The toy, an electric train that you can sit on (if you're small enough) was met with the level of surprise and amusement that you might expect of a young niece, and all was going well. She sat on it. She liked it.
Then we put the batteries in. Why Tomy think a small child will like a machine which rattles and makes a scary noise in the name of rail transport is beyond me. Rather than joy and happiness, we got terror and dismay. She's a bright child and she made it her mission, in a quiet moment, to see if she could remove the batteries and thus disable this horrendous beast from doing its thing.
Such matters are not worth getting upset over. If she doesn't warm to it, it can be swapped for something she likes. It's a shame that, after the trying to get her something nice, it didn't necessarily work out.
I have also discovered that asking for stuff doesn't necessarily have to be done explicitly. I'd made some general suggestion that I wanted a wallet for Christmas. This was, I think, a "well, if I had to choose, then it would be..." rather than a hint to my "readership" to go out and buy me something or else disappoint me. Indeed, I could have easily gone out and bought a wallet if I were that bothered. I did need to replace mind, but I also need a haircut and to road tax my car, and both of those have been sorely neglected, so it would appear.
Anyway, it also appears that my mother reads this blog - perhaps not always, but at least occasionally, as she gave me a wallet today. That's what mothers do. Thanks. It reminds me of the time when a friend of mine's mother read that I particularly enjoyed a drink I drank and so she made sure she had some of that in the house next time I happened to be visiting. It's nice when people make the effort. Full stop. Having said that, perhaps not everything I write on here is in proportion, so if anything else I write looks like a plea, but is not really obviously a plea, then I really don't expect my desires to be fulfilled. Unless anyone really fancies doing some tiling...
Going back to the niece thing, I think that her reaction to the gift is a bit like my reaction to my own tiling. I like it all the way through the process until the end result, which I then look on with disappointment and regret. There'll be more of that to come in the next few days.
After my family visit, which ended when they all went out, and I wasn't in the mood to play mummies and daddies with the babysitter with my niece in the role of baby (Note - this isn't something which was offered, but it could so easily have felt weird had I hung around.) I went shopping. First I went to Brent Cross and visited Borders where I found some Beatles CDs for cheap. I have most of the albums, but these were ones I'd never quite justified buying, given that they're the singles collection and I have all the singles on the albums. They're worth having for car playing and also for the convenience of having them on the mp3 player without having to do lots of research and playlist creation - yes, that's lazy, but they were cheap in Borders.
After the book shopping, I went to Ikea. I had two missions. I had to buy some shit. I did that. I also wanted to work out what furniture I would get for my house when it's ready for furniture. I think I've come to some sort of conclusion. A three seater sofa and a couple of chairs seems the answer.
£60 worth of crap in the boot of my car and I went to my gig. It was a chance to close a gig in a chain of comedy clubs that looks good on my CV to have closed for. It was a nice looking room and the audience seemed to be spirited. I could tell a tale of how I turned the room round single handedly after the acts before me had a difficult time. If that were to have been the case and if I were to tell the story that way, it wouldn't necessarily paint me in a good light. Stories of one's own triumph could sound very big headed. Not telling the story of the night and suggesting it might have been a big triumph would also be fairly self-involved and big headed.
How shall I report the gig? I will say that it didn't get easy towards the end and that I went along, wiped the slate clean, dealt with the weird moments and had a nice time. The PA system was on the blink, so I did my last song kneeling down on the front of the stage singing unplugged. This proved to be a risk which paid off and I really enjoyed myself. For some reason, the riskiness of the gig made me more reckless and I was comfortable trying to hold a potentially tricky room from the kneeling position. This sounds silly, but it was sort of a turning point for me. I just did what I wanted to do and the audience stuck with it.
Maybe it was an easier gig than it looked like.
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