My Stand-up & gigs
The Coding Craftsman
Hi, we’re calling from Some Criminals.com
An Open Letter To HSBC
Pay What Now?
Hearing the music
When to quit
I am not as other men
Tonight I was funny
Attack of the Drones
Notes on your set
Best Day Ever?
Lots of things just fell into place today. The books I'd ordered were sitting on my desk when arrived. The guitar I'd bought was sitting in the post room. The programming tasks were challenging but fun. Work was a good environment. Ok, so I overslept through my alarms, after the return from Glastonbury, but this was suitably ignored.
Then after work, I skipped home for my second post-Glasto ablutions and then headed out for a very pleasant evening in Portsmouth.
This is a good way to start back in the world after a mini-holiday. A stimulating day followed by a lovely, relaxing evening out... even if I couldn't fix the broken computer that happened to find its way into my lap while I was out.
I'm allowed to fail at some things and still have a nice time... right?
In other news, a friend of mine just became a Dad again, and I appear to have now lost the approximate weight of this child in the last 4 weeks... I'm not suggesting these fact are related.
With a prickly forehead from yesterday's sun, I awoke and started packing my things away. Then I concentrated on undoing the outside of the tent as my co-tent-inhabitant packed away its innards. It was a fairly long process, but I was wearing my walking shoes, the Glastonbury mud, now a distant memory, and feeling limber.
This proved to be a useful thing to be feeling as the next couple of hours were spent lugging a huge tent and a lot of camping stuff back to the car, across the whole width of the Glastonbury site and then a fair way outside of the site to the car itself. My companion gave up the fight a bit, a couple of car-parking fields away from the car, so I went on ahead to deliver a rucksack and scope how much further to go. This enabled me to encourage my companion with real data when I returned, as well as allowing me to take more of the remaining load in my second visit to the car from the stopping point.
I felt great. Full of energy, healthy, not like last year where I was exhausted, in pain from the wellies and generally miserable.
In fact, when the big rucksack came off and went in the boot and I walked back to the drop off point, I felt like a big hand was shoving me forwards. This was actually my body compensating for a very heavy rucksack no longer weighing me down.
Returning to the main site we got a very unhealthy lunch and then watched various gigs. Along the way we saw Marcus Brigstocke who was stunning, and Tony Benn, who as also great. Neil Diamond gave an ok performance, though I'd have to say that Mark Ronson was one of the gigs of the weekend for me. Even Lily Allen didn't annoy me.
Mitch Benn, playing in the Cabaret Tent was inspiring and I bought his CD. Then it was off to watch Suzanne Vega - mnyeh. Then The Verve, who were too rock and roll for talk.
Going back to the car was a fair old hike, and the traffic out of the site was not moving too quickly. All in, I didn't get home until way after 4. Not good for a school night. It was the traffic's fault.
I set out to do Glastonbury this year because I thought it would be unmissable. I don't think it was unmissable. If you average out this year and last, you end up better off, though. Though there were some musical performances this year that were excellent, nothing was completely off the map... but the weather and the mobility around the site were very good indeed. This makes my last Glastonbury memory a positive one.
Got a chance to see Seasick Steve again today. He was very good. I like his homemade instruments. The man is a legend.
I wanted to watch Crowded House, so I did. They were very good, but unfortunately they were immediately followed by James Blunt and I didn't leave the field in time. However, I did manage to get into another field and hook up with a couple of friends and have some drinksies. This made the afternoon fly by.
Amy Winehouse came along in the evening a little more drunk than I. She was very funny, but overall, I think she may have been too drunk to declare her performance anything other than a sad waste of her and her band's talent. Having said that, she managed to belt out some good singing, despite being fairly out of control. So, if she had been straight...
We skipped Jay Z - mainly to avoid his fans being dicks near us - and headed straight for Biffy Cliro - a rather hair-farmy sort of band who were really not our scene... but they were good. So why not. The techies played a game of "yay/boo" with us by switching the stage video link to show Jay Z before Biffy started. We booed. Then they switched to the blank stage in our tent. So we cheered. Then boo, then cheer... and so on. Oooh the hilarity.
It was fun.
Somewhere along the day I got a sunburn.
First Day At Glastonbury 2008
Waking up in the tent was pleasant enough. Realising that the night's rainfall had made it welly weather wasn't 100% pleasant, but we got on with it and went to see a full day of gigs. Highlights for me included KT Tunstall, The Feeling and The Hoosiers.
We ended the day with Seasick Steve at the Acoustic tent - sitting on chairs at the back, listening. There's no point in overdoing it on day one.
Back at the tent, some hoodlums decided to have a guitar-off at 3am. I heckled, but they didn't hear me.Hoodlum:
Why shush - it's like a fucking library in here. Give me a library card.Me:
Library card? Surely that assumes you can read.
I was moody about losing sleep to people with lack of respect. Glasto 2008 wasn't populated by too many people who gave a shit.
Off We Go Again
A morning in the office, which started later than planned, owing to some over sleeping which was itself inspired by late night chat and faulty alarm clocks.
Then it was time to go to Glasto. There's a ritual. First you leave the office, then you change at Fleet services into more outdoor-type clothing. You have the final in-civilasation poo. Then it's a bit of lunch and time to get to a field in Somerset.
Today's trip was enhanced by a bit of waiting for my travel companion. I used the time profitably. I organised next weekend's accommodation.
Once at the site, later than last year's arrival, we lugged a bunch of stuff a long way, not really thinking how far behind we were leaving the car. We headed to the area of the site where we camped last year and found a new gate in it. However further inspection revealed that not too many people had thought to camp near this gate, so we set about pitching a huge 8 man tent for the two of us. Last year's experience of doing this proved useful, and it went up pretty effectively in not too long a time. Just in time for the rain really.
A bit of wandering around the site and it wad bed time. Things had run fairly smoothly so far.
I could have sloped off to bed, but I thought I'd do just one more thing. Just one more task before getting to bed. Perhaps this friend of mine will call me in a minute, so I'll just sort the next thing out, rather than be asleep and miss the call.
In the end I sorted out some arrangements for next weekend, completed two articles for publication and felt good about myself.
And the phonecall came just as I was in the vague bit between awake and asleep. So chatsies too.
And I'd packed for Glasto.
And I'd been out for dinner in a pre-Glasto celebratory stylee.
Gig number 550 was back in Coventry, trying out some new material. This material was something I couldn't use in the article I'm writing for the computer magazine. It relates to some rather dodgy research I did based on a "honey trap". As a result, I got some rather strange emails.
Although the 15 minute set I did on the subject was over-long and has some misfires in it, the principle of doing a totally new long set worked well and I got laughs. And it felt good.
The other acts were a hell of a lot better and I sat, watched and boomed with laughter at their funny bits.
It was a cracking night, punctuated by pleasant texting fun.
Just In Time
With a set to do tomorrow, tonight was my last chance to compile the material into the form of the set I was going to do. I hadn't motivated myself to do it thus far, but there was a deadline and it wasn't going away. So I sat down and worked it all out.
Trying out new material is both interesting and scary. In the right environment, it's just fun. Tomorrow's gig promises to be the right environment.
Voila, Le Conversation Dans Le Parc
The idea of taking my laptop to the park with a picnic seemed like a good one. With the sun shining brightly and making my screen almost impossible to use, I may have to concede that nature and technology still don't mix as I might have hoped. I can see what I'm doing fo now, so I'll continue, the bizarre bruise on my forearm that I don't remember achieving, can rest off the keyboard enough for me to remain comfortable.
Various things have happened so far today. I woke up early enough to call it mid-morning. This doesn't mean I got into action around that time. Quite the opposite. I lay in bed for some time. I watched Scrapheap challenge, which is bloody addictive - especially when they show episodes back to back. I received a text telling me that tonight's gig is cancelled. This is why, when I might otherwise have been having my pre-gig shower and getting ready to go out, I'm in the open air with a laptop, a full belly and a sense of well-being. Eventually, I dragged myself out of the bed and made some breakfast of smoothie and toast - not all in the same vessel.
Ironing, which I'd valiantly started the previous day, remained to be done and I did it with the accompaniment of further scrapheap challenge.
Then, I decided to get out of the house, into the open air and get some exercise. I have a few things I need to buy before I got to Glastonbury next weekend. I would go on the search for these items. 3 and a half miles to Asda on my bike was followed by 4 miles into town where I continued shopping, punctuated by a trip to Starbucks where I marvelled at how beautiful the girl opposite was, as she spoke animatedly and either didn't notice me noticing her, or didn't mind.Live update: a man just came over to my bench and asked me to adjust the date on his mobile phone. I did it, wondering if I'd just gotten me my own nutter for the day. He then thanked me and went away. Job done. I made an old man happy and I didn't even get wet.
As I sat in the Starbucks, I felt a general sense of wellbeing. I asked myself the question. Am I happy. Against my better judgement, I decided that I was. Today I am happy. There are many reasons I could give you for why I should be bloomin' miserable, but I'm not. It's simple. I think we're all basically seasonal creatures, and if you add good weather to pretty girls dressing down, and a day where those things which might be urgent somehow don't seem urgent... well, happiness can occur.
I managed to battle through the disinterested staff in the sports shop - I know, it's not really my sort of place and they regarded me with suspicion and mocked my extra-large size demands - and buy some socks and a zippy hoodie toppy thing. I know I had one of these, but it seems to have disappeared, so I have a new one. In fact, I had a couple. I wonder where zippy hoodie tops go.
Then I cycled home, packed some pitta breads with a mix of tuna, sweetcorn relish, tomato and low-cal salad cream, grabbed an apple and came to sit in this park. This weekend has been unusual in that it's been my first weekend in what seems like forever where I've had no gigs and have spent all my time in Reading. I might even be warming to the place a little.
And maybe this is part of why I'm in the happy zone. I live my life in a very transient way. Everything feels rather temporary. There's little in the way of maintenance, and lots in the way of development. As a result, maybe I feel a bit without a base. In truth, I have a home (I have two, I suppose). A weekend of doing the laundry and staying in the house, and shopping for supplies, and being only biking distance away from my base, all makes a big difference to me. I have lungs full of cleaner air - slightly impeded by my nose, which may be showing signs of hayfever (don't take viagra for hayfever, you'll just sneeze harder). I'm kind of me without an agenda for a bit.
Of course, for all the flipsy flopsy nothing to do carefree behaviour I'm displaying here, there is a list of things I should be doing right now:
- Clean the house
- Write the article
- Update the other article
- Write up the comedy material for Tuesday night's gig
- Make the backing track for the song
- Continue to exercise - weight needs to drop off
- Undercoat loads in the house
- Think about shelves
- Sort out the trip that's happening in two weekends' time
- Gather the necessary things for Glastonbury next weekend
All of this will happen in good time, I think. For now, let me enjoy the breeze.
As today was longer than normal, it seems only fair that I slept longer than I would have planned. Erm... no. That makes no sense. I did sleep until after midday, though. This is because I was bloody exhausted, and anyone who tells you otherwise hasn't been keeping track of me for the last few days. I'd impressed myself with the burst of energy last night that enabled me to get many obvious tasks complete. I mean obvious in the sense that it was noticeable that I'd been busy.
However, the energy needs to be recouped, and I hadn't really slept properly in quite some time. Last weekend's trips required earlier mornings all round than I'm comfortable with for a weekend.
So, I slept unashamedly. Then I rose, had some cereal, and tried to make a dent in the ironing. As I did this, I watched the second disc of the Absolutely DVD box set. Only 5 more discs to watch. Perhaps I should stop buying DVDs if I've so many that I've not seen? Don't be ridiculous.
I ironed plenty of things. I also paired nearly all of my socks and folded nearly all of my undercrackers. I would have said pants, but undercrackers is much more of a word, isn't it. I'd basically been keeping on top of my laundry for the last month, with the exception of the bit where you put it away. As a result, I had two laundry baskets full of an assortment of clean clothes that I would have to dig through to find what I needed. Also, nearly every shirt and pair of non-jeans in my possession was in need of ironing. "Nearly every" is perhaps too extreme a description. It would be better to say that it was nearly every shirt that I would consider wearing in the average week.
With a couple of hours of laundering behind me, I became aware that I had a visitor due at the house, so I skipped out to buy some groceries and see whether I could find some items I need for my Glastonbury trip next weekend. I spent quite a few minutes at the pleasure of Mr Tesco and returned home with more fresh fruit. I like fresh fruit. It's so fruity. And so fresh.
The purpose of the visit I would receive was to workshop material for a show at the Edinburgh festival. In this case, the performer is a local comedian, who has been working on their material but perhaps needed something to work towards and to take time away from distractions and look at structuring, reviewing and honing what would form the basis of her show.
We blethered about stuff and then I provided a microphone and, unconnectedly, a recording device. She set about performing a show. This was not meant to be the finished article in any respect. I and her husband, also present, made various notes and then we stopped. The show had run pretty much to time and we had a number of things we could talk about.
But first dinner.
I'd noticed that my guests seemed to be particularly aware of the fact that we were sitting in a partially painted living room, furnished only by picnic chairs. I have stopped finding this sort of thing abnormal. Further abormality came when they set about preparing the dinner which they'd brought for our enjoyment and I was called on to provide the necessary cookware. A wok? Mmm - do I have such a thing? Not really. Still, we improvised and the dinner party side of things seemed to go well.
If Confucious were alive today (maybe he is, I've no idea) he would probably say that everything tastes better with Soy sauce. And he'd be right.
We set about the process of dissecting the show after we'd eaten. This was a nice idea. It gave us a bit of time to digest what we'd heard and also allowed our performer to change from performing mode to reflective mode.
We worked until after midnight, unaware of the passage of time. Or at least, I was unaware of it. I may have been boring my guests senseless with my various analyses and suggestions and comparisons. It amused me, though, and it was my house, so hopefully I can't be held to be too much of a party bore.
My guests left and I contemplated many things, including the washing up and the headache that I'd somehow acquired from the coffee I'd made. I decided that what my mind and body needed was to go to bed and read. I know. I read a book. How did I ever find the time? In fact, I've been reading this book a fair bit this week, after I got properly into it on a couple of train journeys last week. Note to self: train journeys are both good for the environment and also good for the opportunity to do some reading.
I finished the book - The Murder Ballad, by Jane Hill. It ended neatly and swiftly and well. I liked the ending, which is odd for a psychological thriller/chick-lit read, but that's the author's prerogative and I applaud it.
Somehow during the day I'd managed to write some postcards and print off something I needed to send off.
It had been a productive day in most respects, though the ironing wasn't complete and I hadn't even picked up a paintbrush, let alone used one.
Not The Longest Day
Though today wasn't the longest day, I think I managed to make as much out of it as could have been expected from a day twice as long and half as wide. What? No idea.
So, a quick summary of what happened after I left the office.
I got home and changed into my cycling gear. I cycled to Sainsbury's in Wokingham. This is 4.15 miles from home, it would appear. There are many hills involved. I got exercise and I also bought some vaguely healthy food... and some rather unhealthy food too.
I came home and cooked a meal and ate it. I was simultaneously doing laundry.
I washed up and made a smoothie, washing up the smoothie maker. The smoothie was gorgeous.
I looked at the DIY jobs that I've been putting off - put a towel rail up in the kitchen and a shelf in the bathroom. I did these jobs efficiently, leaving perfectly level results. Pleasing.
I went up to my computer and wrote the lyrics to a couple of songs. In most cases, I was just typing them up, though I did some edits. I also wrote some postcards and prepared a letter for posting.
I progressed across the hall into my makeshift studio, which I set the piano up in and then recorded a demo of a song we're hoping to do in Edinburgh.
Not a bad combination of activities for one evening. I would like to have completed the ironing, or done some painting, but you can't have everything.
Cos I'm A Minstrel
I can't be held responsible for lunchtime eBay shopping. However, in this instance, I think I needed a guitar which is as small as this one and which I can use at the Edinburgh Festival. And it looks a bit minstrel-like, which is probably a look I need to go for for something I'm doing this year... so why not, eh?
A Bridge Too Far
I finished work at a perfectly normal time and headed in the general direction of my gig. I would normally head in the actual direction of the gig, but tonight I'd decided to add egg to the pudding. This is a metaphor (just in case you have Asperger's syndrome). After recent contact with a friend whom I've not seen in ages, now living in the Telford area, I decided to hook up with them at the next gig I was doing in their general direction. Tonight was the night.
The journey was fairly uneventful. The reasonably open road, some radio, some Radio 4 specifically, a stop for a coffee and a couple of apples - yeah, apples are just like muffins, except cheaper and lower in bad things. Tonight was also to be the first weekly weigh-in of the new regime. Regime!? Pah. It's just returning to eating habits that I know are better for me, and doing some exercise to prove that man and bike can be a powerful duo in combination. I was only slightly worried about not having lost any weight since my first weigh-in... so I had some apples. Lunch had been a bit more white-bread/butter than I would have preferred.
But I digress. The Sat Nav took me accurately to the wrong location, but it proved to be only a mile or so from the correct location. I picked up my friend and her friend, and then I took these two ladies in the "bitch mobile" (I didn't mention the term at the time, it would have put them off) to my gig in Cradley.
Now, there's something I should tell you about the gig in Cradley. I had to tell the ladies in the car, and it's important to set expectations for these things. This gig is not showbiz. Far from it. This is a pub which is not in the category of "nice". You don't take a girl to this pub on a date. You also don't go to this pub expecting to have a fight, or be poisoned or have a miserable time. It's got tons of character. It's just not salubrious. That's not how it works. Also, the night in question: it's a new act night. Audiences fluctuate, the audience can be a bunch of bastards, or lovely or disinterested, and there's no guarantee of their number. The acts can also be good, bad, ugly, or utterly mental. From this description, it sounds like I'm not keen, but nights like this are always worth attending. There'll always be fun to be had. Plus, they've been really nice to me and I've always enjoyed it.
So, disclaimers having been shared with the people in the car, we headed to the gig telling tales of crazy people and crazy nights past.
We arrived just in time for the opening act. I'll now stop detailing the night blow by blow. It wouldn't be fair to review the acts specifically. I can reference the fact that there was a guy there who is always very nice to me when we gig together, and who can be hard to follow. He was on good form. I will say that I watched some acts start out looking weak and then come along with tons of good material and delivery, leaving me worried that I wouldn't be able to follow them. I also watched the clock... as it ticked inexorably towards "too late to get back home at a reasonable time" and then beyond.
Of most note was a character act. Well two. It was one person doing two rather over-written characters, neither of which particularly worked, the second of which was simply totally mental. I think Catherine Tate has a lot to answer for in terms of giving people the notion that a prop-laden grotesque is, in itself, inherently funny. Though eating doritos and cornflakes with beer from a bowl... well that's quite odd.
I wouldn't normally pick up on another act's "act" like this, but I felt like it was distinctly in need of rethinking/editing, and I felt like the performer might have learned something about the art of comedy had she stuck around and watched the rest of the show. I don't really like it when newer acts turn up, go on, and then sod off. You learn more by watching.
Conversely, the gig was in the middle of nowhere and I suppose it was only to be expected that some people would want to get home. I would certainly have considered leaving early had I gone on at anywhere other than the end of the show. Having said that, I would probably have apologised to the other acts for leaving early. It's how I am. A comedy-chum of mine wrote something quite inspiring on a comedy forum. He described that one of the ways to determine if you're serious about comedy is to see whether you actually watch the rest of the show.
I watched much of the show last night. I laughed when I thought it was funny. It was a night out for me as well as a gig.
Apparently, I had "fans" in the audience. About 3 people had turned up specifically because they knew I was on. I was out to impress by car-load of women, then this would have looked like I'd rigged it. "Ooh, Ashley, you're famous in Cradley Heath" they might have cooed.
Yet the clock was saying a bad thing when I actually got onto the stage. It was 11.50pm. I made some gag about it only just being the date I was booked to appear on and then did about 30 minutes of Ashley gold. Well, that's not true. About 10 minutes of Ashley gold was peppered with other stuff. And you know what? I enjoyed myself. If you're going to take yourself to a stupid distance from home on a weeknight in the middle of nowhere with an audience that's dwindled to the hardcore "fans" and the people too pissed to have anywhere else to go, then you have to make it fun for yourself.
I had a laugh.
Then we got the hell out of there.
I dropped the ladies home after a very girlie chat in the car - for a second time in the same week, I concluded that "men are bastards" and felt like I meant it.
Then the long drive home. And it really felt like a long drive. I texted Janice Long to ask her to mention me and she did. That was a bit of a pep. Given the weigh-in and the general weight control plan, I didn't want to stack up on calories to keep me awake. Being mentioned on the radio always amuses me. I used a tip that Terry Wogan implied in his auto-biography. He'd always play requests that were for "something nice" since it allowed him to choose the track. Equally, knowing that Janice is based in Birmingham, I reckoned she'd relish the chance to correctly pronounce the name of Cradley Heath. So, I told her where I'd been - "a late running comedy night in Cradley Heath" - and asked her to play something fun. It was meaningless, but I was amused. It's strange to hear your words coming out of someone else's distinctive mouth.
Eventually, having gotten to the stage where I was counting the 0.1's of the last 49 miles - it's a bit like counting sheep, only you stay awake and time moves quicker, I got home, ready to smash up any car that dared block my drive. None had.
I stripped and got on my bathroom scales. Shit. I'd lost 6 pounds. Good. Brilliant.
I munched on two apples and hit the hay. I will pay for this excessive lack of sleep at some point. Even though I went to sleep last night after 3.40am, I can't actually sustain so many late nights.
Sell It To Yourself
As a computer programmer, I have a number of delusions about the way the human mind works. Some of these delusions are actually decent models of human thought, and some of them are vague instincts, wrapped in pseudo-psychological bullshit. One of them relates to the idea of making oneself so convinced of something that it becomes true. I'm definitely a person whose mind is made up by being sold to.
As a consumer, I'm bloody rubbish. I will buy stuff I don't need, simply because it's been sold to me in the right way. I'm not a trend follower, particularly. I don't HAVE to have an iPod. In fact, I don't have an iPod. I have a device which I chose for different reasons than style. However, I do have a sense of a bargain and will buy all manner of crap, on the off-chance that I might want it, while it's still at a price which I consider to be exceedingly lower than its actual value.
This is nonsense. Something's value is equal to what someone is prepared to pay for it.
Anyway, the self-selling instinct in me is strong. If I make a decision, for instance, I will continually tell myself afterwards that it was the right decision to make. I will find circumstantial evidence showing it was the right decision. I will, in short, declare myself correct. This may, actually, be a good thing. I think a bit of positive reinforcement can go a long way. On top of that, if something actually does work, you want to have the conviction to repeat it.
But, I'm also a self-seller in terms of things that I haven't yet done. I could easily convince myself that I was losing weight, just by positive thinking on the subject. I'm already feeling thinner, just because it suits me to believe that I'm thinner. I will look at my shirt and see it hang, rather than bulge, and believe that my diet has almost completely succeeded. Even though I've been healthily eating for less than 2 weeks. Self-delusion is me.
On the subject of weight loss, I had had my warning signal, when I could feel the presence of the man-boobs in my shirt, where they had all but disappeared. When you can feel a bit of weight and wobble in your chest area, it's quite a surprise. I guess I know how teenage girls must feel when it starts to become "their time". I didn't want that. Now, I feel like the chestal area is less full on me. It may well be. Or, I may simply have convinced myself that I'm getting thinner and, thus, losing my bust, when in fact I've simply become used to the one I have. Self-delusion is powerful.
However, self-delusion and positive reinforcement are quite likely to keep me on the straight and narrow with my current eating plan. Essentially, I've discovered something remarkable. If you eat healthily and exercise, you feel quite good. If you couple that with the positive thinking and self-selling, you can even feel better, plus you don't feel like you're missing out. As an added bonus, you start to feel more attractive which, bizarrely, makes you actually more attractive.
I've a long way to go to recoup the losses (there's a strangely accurate phrase) of last year. But I'm feeling optimistic about it. I can see summer activities ahead with lots of running around and feeling young and happy. Sure, I'm 34. Sure, my life is not turning out anything like the way I expected/hoped. Sure, I've a number of failures that I'm sitting on as though they don't matter. But if I can make genuine happiness by selling good things to myself, then why not, eh?
This post is brought to you with a smile and owing to the slow computer that still hasn't found the droids I'm looking for.
A Nice Day Slightly Kippered
I've not been updating the blog of late. I've been busy or distracted. I'm going to give it a bit of a shot - the last week needs writing up. I've been busy writing emails and allowing other distractions to get in my way. There's an article on the go, and the summer season threatens to steal time like a mo'fo' (or mo'fu').
Anyway, today should come first in the story telling. I don't know why I point out the difference between on-the-day-written blog entries and non-ones. Perhaps it's that time adds a level of blur to the non-timely entries... which is exactly why I should write them on the day. But I've strayed from the point.
Today was good until just now when I returned home from a gig to find an expensive car parked slap bang across my drive. I left this note:
I really wanted to vandalise your car, but I thought a note would be more helpful. You have parked across both my drive and garage. This is very very selfish. Please do not do it again
For all I know, the drug dealer who drives this car will respond by torching my house. Still, the insurance money will enable me to move back to Newcastle, so either way is a good result.
Back to the good parts about today. I went to the office, did some planning, felt optimistic about stuff panning out. Then I nipped home, put some laundry in, grabbed my post-office delivery card, zoomed to the post-office to collect it and then went to my afternoon's office - a different office to the one I started the day at.
The postal delivery included my business cards, for which I have no specific use, and my postcards, for which I also have no particular use. I shall send postcards. It will be good.
This afternoon's plan didn't really hatch as expected. However, I got some nice quiet time with a problem I've been pushing around the plate, rather than devouring. This proved to be a good thing. I got some results and I'm pleased I did. I also had various contacts with various friends and I may even be organising me some form of non-sexual massage too, which will be a treat.
I drove off to my gig this evening. I'd contemplated inviting a friend along to it, but decided not to. That was rather a bad move as it turned out. Having said that, it wasn't a dreadful move to do the gig in its own right, rather than add friendship to the mix, but you sometimes want objective witnesses to some gigs. Luckily, I'd decided to take my recording device to the gig, so I can find out what happened. More on that in a moment.
In the car on the way to the gig there was time to toss some ideas around my head for a song I'm in the process of writing for the show I'm helping with in Edinburgh. I also had time to stop for a strong coffee and change trousers. In fact, the coffee was so strong that I felt a wave rush over me. I named this the Espressogasm and chuckled to myself.
At the gig I did the usual sound-check and pre-gig talking bollocks. It was nice to chat with the compere, whom I've not had a proper conversation with prior to this evening. As chats go, it was in the category of "you know, I wish I had more conversations like this and I wish I could be this intelligent when I'm on stage". Still, you do what you do in life.
It came time for me to hit the stage at some point and so I did. An early bit of banter with the audience bought me the room, really, and the highlight was when I spotted a couple in the front row talking. I asked them what they were talking about. The man said they were trying to decide whether to have beans or mince for tea the following night. I told them that I could resolve that problem and had the audience cheer for their favourite. Problem solved. I can't express how totally surreal that was to do, and how much it made me chuckle, but it did.
People were very nice about my set, and I did about 30 minutes on the stage - a bit over for a 20 minute spot, but it was going well, and there were plenty of distractions drawing it out, so I just did what felt right. I hung around after my set was done to watch the rest of the show. I've seen the headliner loads of times before, but it's always an education to watch him in action and I had a great time doing so.
After the show, one particular lady was quite insistent on chatting outside. I think that was because she didn't want to throw up. She did the rather embarrassing bit of comparing each of the acts she'd seen to declare who was the funniest. I wouldn't want to know either way - whether she thought I was the best, middle or worst. It's just not quite what it's about, comedy.
Anyway, she soon "boyfriended" me, mentioning her farmer of a boyfriend and how she wanted to get home right away for the shagging. She accompanied this particular phrase with a gesture which, to my eyes, looked more like remonstrating with someone whose lapels you've just grabbed. But what do I know of modern sexual relationships. As she bemoaned the absence of her friends to take her home, I said something like "I'd offer you a lift but that would be weird". She then said that it wouldn't and decided to take me up on the theoretical offer I'd just made.
We walked past the compere and her boyfriend, and I had to illustrate in a few glances, gestures and words, that I knew I was taking a girl away from the gig, but that I also knew that she was their friend, that she had a boyfriend, and that I was an honourable gentlemen, most likely to drop her off and then drive away. You have to be careful, I suppose. Not only should you treat the person with respect, but you really need to ensure they get to the door. If I'd dropped her off at the end of her street and then, for some reason outside of my control, she'd gone missing, the evidence would rather point to me as the culprit.
Why did I take a stranger a couple of miles home when I had my own home to go to? Well, it's like this. She was, theoretically, on a promise. Or at least, there was a chance that, of the two of us, if anyone was going to get some action tonight, it was going to be her. Now, although I don't personally benefit in any direct way, if I can be responsible for a lady achieving some form of personal enjoyment at the end of an evening, then I think that's a job well done. She may well attribute her warm fuzzy and slightly sore feelings to her boyfriend tomorrow morning, but if it wasn't for me doing my pre-foreplay-taxi-routine, then none of that would have happened.
That's me. Uniting the world in the spirit of joy.
And then threatening to vandalise someone's car.
You need both sides to be a rounded individual.
A Quiet Evening Out
Tonight was an opportunity to do something I've not done in a while. I went out for the evening for a quiet chat in a pub. Simple as that. I even had time to go home and have a shower. Being me, I also took the opportunity to wire up the switches in my living room and put a load of washing on (as in a washing machine load, rather than lots).
Then out to a pub for liquid and chat. As the evening ended, I saw someone wrapping a piece of string round their head three times and claiming it was their height. I would have considered this local madness if I hadn't heard it discussed on the radio a few hours previously. Finger on the pulse, that's me.
I'm Singing On The Trail
Tonight was a conflict. I had a work party, which was at a pub where we'd have a meal and celebrate our success. I also had my new-found desire for health to consider. How can I drink alcohol and eat meals if I'm trying to lose weight? And how can I cram exercise into my schedule in a busy week. The answer was simple.
I zoomed home from work, changed into my bike clothes with my work clothes in my back pack, and then I hit the trail. I would cycle the ten or so miles to the pub, have the meal and then cycle home. I could reasonably expect to be able to drink and eat (to some extent) with impunity.
One thing I forgot to factor into the equation was a general lack of precise knowledge of the area, so finding the pub would prove tricky. However, I had my trusty mp3 player playing, I was singing along and the evening was pleasant enough to make the journey lung- and soul-filling.
I reached a junction and decided to turn left. I then learned the awful truth. Mile-long wrong turnings and incorrect routes are always downhill. I crawled back up the hill and, running 5 or 10 minutes late already, tried again. As I arrived, with some relief, at the pub, I managed to make an entrance as I discovered a work colleague standing in the car park looking for other party-comers, so he saw me arrive, and I also managed to get a big beeping at from the car that was clearly trying to use my rear tyre as a parking space.
I was angered by the beeping and started to accelerate at the inconsiderate motorist that had been such a knob-end to me. Then I remembered that I was no longer on the road and that I didn't really have the acceleration to reach the guy in time to waggle my finger at him.
So, I chained up the bike, got changed, had the party, to which I'd invited a range of people from different parts of the organisation, drank a few drinkies and then started home.
Sadly, my chain came off about 10 feet into the journey, requiring a bit of swearing and tugging at it, creating very oily hands, before it clunked back into a usable form. Still, I got to cycle home. I sang more as I went.
All in, I managed about 2 hours' cycling, maybe 23 miles, and both acts of Les Miserables.
Cramming It In
Today is best expressed as a list:
- Woke up fairly early
- Had breakfast with the rest of the gang
- Got in the car for about 9 hours of driving from Kilmarnock to Reading
- Packed my electric piano into the car
- Showed my friend how much I'd achieved in the house
- Drove the friend to the railway station
- Headed to London where I wrote a song with the cast of the Edinburgh show I'm helping with
And that's quite a lot of day to have on a Sunday, I reckon. The song we're in the process of creating should be very good - provided it can be pulled off. It's going to challenge me to create the perfect backing track, and it's going to challenge a cast, not used to harmony singing, to have a damned good crack at it.
If I can use their strengths and hide their weaknesses through good musical arrangement, then I shall be a hidden asset. I don't need the limelight. Not all the time.
London To Scotland Via Reading
I woke up at my sister's house in London. There wasn't time for breakfast. My niece came to see me for a chat as I packed my stuff away. She's only two and a half, so we didn't get onto anything weighty, though she did express dismay at the rising fuel prices. I didn't leave immediately because dolly needed dressing and Uncle Ashley can't go round leaving dollies without their nappies and jumpers on.
I headed by car to Reading station, arriving pretty much as my two cohorts for the journey to Scotland also arrived. Timing - the key to comedy. We had what I assumed would be 8 hours of driving ahead of us. With stops, this actually became 9 hours.
However, the journey was very pleasant. I knew one of the assembled cast very well and the other was in the category of "would like to get to know better". We were three comedians forming the entirety of the bill for a gig in Irvine that evening. Setting off at 10am, we had 420 miles to travel, and a gig to think about.
I had been asked by the promoter to bring two more comedians to make up the whole bill, with me as the closing act. A lot of responsibility lay at my feet. Not only did I have to transport the entire show to Scotland, but I'd also effectively chosen the support acts. However, I knew that the driving was doable and I was damned sure that the two acts would prosper on the stage they were being given.
We stopped for various drinks.
Then various wees.
At a little after lunchtime, we stopped for lunch and the promoter in Scotland, who had gone so far as to even book us rooms at a hotel near the venue (on the house), sent one of those texts. It's a text that basically means "I'm not panicking, but I'd like to know you'll be on time". I sent one back "Is it today?". This wasn't really a nice thing to do. But I knew it was a good wind up, so I had to. And perhaps playing a prank on a fellow comedian is a way of saying you love them. He replied with the one word text "Yes". I think that's the one that means "Tell me this is a joke" or "What the hell happens now?". I quickly admitted that I'd been kidding and we were making good time. I suspect that the wind up was probably worth it for the immediate sense of relief I created.
We found our guest house easily enough and had about 10 minutes to sort ourselves out. Then we were on the way to the venue.
It's not worth going into detail about the gig. All, I'll say is that everyone came out of the experience happy. I had a nice time on stage, which matters to me and the audience. The audience were happy. The promoter looked pleased to be parting with the money. All in it was good, or as they say in the area "Brelyint"
We followed the show up with a trip to the takeaway. I ordered vaguely healthily (something about boiled rice and chicken) and we took our spoils back to the guest house for consumption. Given that the day had been largely based on fruit and coffee, it was okay to eat a bit of crap.
In the wee small hours I wrote some more of my article. Then sleep.
The perfect crime.
Evening With The Folks
In the spirit of saying something about every day this year, I'll comment on this evening thus. I left work in time to get on the new route I've decided to take to London. It turns out that this week is the week of traveling to somewhere near my sister's house in North London. Wednesday I went to the vague area for a gig. Last night I went there for some song writing (by bike) tonight was by car, and I have it booked for Sunday again. Not sure why it happens like that, but that's the way it goes.
So, finding an efficient route to Hangar Lane was a bonus. It's the A40 - ok if you don't mind the M25. Asleep? Sorry.
Then I had a meal with my family and got to play with my niece.
It Needed To Be Done
I had been offered a last minue gig for tonight. However, I had other plans. I am helping out with a sketch show at the Fringe this year. It's the descendant of the show I worked on last year. They want me to tech it, but also provide some musical elements for its start and end. The idea of tonight was to co-write the opening song and work out how the show might fit together and how the ending song might then reprise it and tie it up into a bow.
I decided to cycle to the place where we'd be doing the song-writing. This place was in East Finchley in London. Obviously, it's too far to cycle to London directly from Reading. I say that, but I will be giving it a shot at some stage. Not in one evening, though. So I cycled to the railway station, with my guitar strapped to my back, took the train to London and then did the journeying in London by bike.
A few things transpired.
Firstly, my guitar still whacks me on the back of the head while I'm cycling with it. This is not cool.
Next, I remembered how good it is to have a couple of hours of train journey/reading a book time. I read loads of a book I'd started but not quite gotten fully into.
Then I remembered how I seldom get to where I'm going in London by bike without detours. The worst of my detours was when I discovered that the massive hill I'd just sped down at nearly 30 mph (29.4 - so close) was in fact the wrong way. Luckily, I'd climbed so many hills to get that far, the actual climb to back on track wasn't so bad.
We wrote the song and recorded a quick run through of it, which is quicker than trying to learn or transcribe it.
At 11.30pm I left my friend's house, came home, via another cycle ride and then declared my evening over. It had been about 20 miles of cycling. Job done. And coke.
Tonight's gig was for the London Welsh School. It was a fundraiser. I arrived in plenty of time at their primary school building in Harlesden. I discovered that they had a microphone and no stand. I've dealt with this situation before, using my top pocket as a personal microphone stand, so I'd deal with it again.
A few highlights of the gig included:
- Talking tech with an audience member before hand
- Having a nice chat with some other audience members before going on
- Not quite meeting Cerys Matthews, who turned out to be affiliated with the school - in fact, she left before I did my set, so she'll never be able to say she thought I was shit
- Writing a funny Cerys Matthews punchline for a joke, not using it, but using the other bit of the joke
- Riffing on the subjects of Ikea and Greek dips
- Using the word "recalcitrant" for no good reason
All in, it was a gig that I made enjoyable for myself. As a result, it went well. Ok, so the compere forgot my name and I had to run onto stage and present her with a flyer for the gig to remind her. So big deal.
Although a fundraiser, we were paid in compliments, thanks and a bottle of wine. Always good.
The question still hangs in the balance. Will I regain control over my eating habits and start losing weight again? How will I know? I don't own any bathroom scales. I think I'm frightened of what they'll tell me.
There is a placebo effect of doing exercise and eating only healthier food. This effect makes everything that feels good feel even better. I felt like I could wake up easily this morning (I couldn't, but I felt like I could). I felt like I was a bit lighter on my feet (in the sense of healthy, not gay). In truth, my legs ached from yesterday's bike ride and I was stiff and no lighter than I would have been if I hadn't been drinking mainly water and eating mainly fruit.
Anyway, I went to work and then left my desk around lunchtime claiming I had a dentist appointment. I returned an hour later with a haircut. Now, I was hoping that some wag would suggest that my dentist was very thorough. This would have been funny. It didn't happen. The dentist was undoubtedly very good at what he does, which, in this case, was look in my mouth, remove a bit of plaque, declare me in need of a dental hygienist (already pre-booked just in case) and send me away a few quid lighter. Still, it alleviated my worry that my teeth are going to fall out through lack of proper brushing.
I, therefore, had spare time for the barber shop. I also had time to visit Sainsbury AND M&S for various lunchtime foods.
It doesn't take many "goes" at something to develop habits and fixations. I found myself being willed by habit to buy all manner of unnecessary crap as I went lunch-shopping. My instinct to have something to eat on the way back to the office was strong. Rather than argue with it, I simply replaced the object of desire - in this case a rather pleasant focaccia with a red pepper topping - with a banana. You can't go wrong with bananas.
Lunch was sushi and fruit.
Various things caused me to leave the office and go to the office of a company we work with. I had a good session with the boss there and then left him to put our master plan into action. As a result, I was back at my house at around 5.30. I had to write up what we'd decided, so I worked until just after 6.
There were many ways the evening could have gone from there. I decided to do the second coat of paint in the front room. It was very warm in there and I couldn't open the window, since it seems to invite an army of midges who would get caught in the paint. So I sweated it out for two plays of my Percy Faith CD and a bit of the local radio station. The paint went on and dried almost immediately owing to the heat.
It looks like I bought 2.5 litres of paint I can't use. I'm still in my 5 litre bucket of the stuff. D'oh! I'm not "in" it, but I still have some left.
After cleansing the painting kit, I got into my biking gear - shorts and a t-shirt, nothing too special - whacked on the mp3 player and headed to Asda for supplies. It was 9.30.
As I cycled down the road I felt light and free. It reminded me of the journeys I did at the tail end of last year when I was getting fitter and lighter almost by the day. I did loads of cycling, often to the station, and the feeling of jetting down the road at a fair old pace was a sense of freedom and power. That feeling returned a little. And this is where the substitution comes back into my personal psychology. Rather than think of the things I shouldn't eat and want them, I am thinking of how much I enjoy being able to blast down the street, and how a belly full of crap actually makes me less able to do that. Conversely, if I eat well and drink plenty of water, I actually feel like I can cycle up hills and do tons of an evening.
My trip round Asda was fine. I filled my basket not too full, since my backpack can only carry a certain volume. I also had the mp3 player still running, so I was accompanied by Maroon 5 as I did my shopping. The music helps. As I was waiting at one traffic light a mile or so into my journey to the supermarket, I stood with one foot on the pavement and another on the bike and did my little bike dance.
Anyway, I decided "cleverly" to take a new route back from the supermarket. This is better described as "I got rather lost and did about 5 miles in a big circle". Still, when I reached home I was pumped and feeling good. I'd done about 10 miles. I'd sweated a little, but I'd not found my limit. On the last mile, I even raced a Ford Fiesta along a stretch of 30 mile an hour road. She had speed bumps to contend with, so my 18 mph upper limit didn't stop me being a contender. Actually, I think I hit 23 at one stage. I mainly cruise slower. Much slower.
So, as the clock strikes midnight tonight, I am full of fruit, missing the fizzy water I didn't have space for in the rucksack, and looking forward to tomorrow night's gig, where even just the last two days' exertions will probably prove to have had a positive effect on my lung capacity and confidence in my posture.
Simple things prop us up. The return to my saddle has given me a bit of a boost that even random Facebook news pop ups cannot knock.
On Yer Bike
I woke late today. It wasn't my fault. None of the four alarm clocks (I shit you not) managed to raise me from my slumber. How can I be held responsible for that? I blame the paint fumes from last night.
I went to work and then had to scoot back to Reading over lunchtime for, well, lunch I guess. Actually, I came back in order to pick up my bike. I also made lunch for myself as I'm now trying to be officially back on the wagon. My snack of choice at work today was fizzy water. Lots and lots of fizzy water. I must not allow myself to eat the crap I've been eating. I must exercise.
Returning home after I'd returned to work, I decided to eschew the DIY for an evening and headed over to a friend's house to invite them on a bike ride. Then we rode our bikes. We cycled a few miles - of the order of 10 - stopped at Tesco for a drink (more fizzy water for me) and then that was that.
A good evening, not spoiled by paint fumes. I got sunshine and fresh air. I even had my heart beating and my legs pumping.
On The Record
Knowing I had someone due over to record some music today, I slept fitfully, waking regularly before my alarm clock eventually marked wake-up time. I knew that my recordee wouldn't be around until 12.30, so I started doing tasks that needed doing and which I now had time to start.
Task 1 - stop eating crap. This was more of a non-task - don't eat any crap.
I took my bike to be fixed.
I drove to B&Q and returned some surplus paint, picking up some new paint for my living room.
I headed to the guitar shop to see if I could find a back-pack guitar for my trip to Edinburgh in August. It's this Edinburgh trip for which I was planning to be match-fit on the bike for also. I want to cycle around Edinburgh this Fringe, enjoying the sights, the speed of transit and the exercise. It's a dream.
My friend arrived at the station as I was in the guitar shop, so I hurried over to get her. We had coffee and then went to Tesco to buy lunch. I snuck a few weekly-shop type things into the trolley, including some compost, since I've rescued one of my potted-plants from Newcastle and want it to live.
Then over to mine where we spent about 6 hours recording music, eating huge sandwiches (basically healthy) drinking lots of coffee and having fun. By the end of the session, we had two CDs and I had blisters on my bass fingers.
I dropped the friend off at the station, came home and painted by living room.
That was a final activity to hang my hat on for the day. I think I covered most bases there.
Waking up in Newcastle is not a bad feeling. I still like my house there and wish I could live there. I almost got choked up at one stage, contemplating the fact that I'm selling it. However, life moves on, and so did the day.
After morning ablutions and the abandonment of one meet-up too far, my friend and I headed for lunch - Subway - and then I dropped her at the station. I had a gig in Manchester, so I swung past my friend's house in Leeds where we had coffee, giggles and a random window-cleaner entertaining us with his songs and impressions.
As my friend was very busy, I used the fact that I always seem to work well in his house as an excuse and wrote half of an article I'm putting together for a computer magazine. The words flowed well and the time passed quickly. All too soon his dinner guests (family) arrived and I scooted off to my gig.
The gig was in the centre of Manchester and had an old comedy friend on the bill. We chatted about "peddling the same old shit" and then the gig started. There was competition between the comedy and the general noise from the other side of the curtain - leading to the rest of the pub (this is not Wizard of Oz territory). There was a football match on... and a jukebox.
Somehow the gig kept going and most of the distractions had ceased by the time I took to the stage to peddle my particular brand of "same shit different gig". It went really well and I had a nice time.
Then the long drive back to Reading. I had had a busy weekend already and I was feeling tired.
I declared the last 45 minutes of the journey as sing-along time and kept myself awake, in good spirits, and, more importantly. Alive.
I woke up and started work at a time that can be described as "just in time". I sat in my shorts and t-shirt and started dealing with the myriad things that I had to deal with. It's nice working from home occasionally, and I wasn't entirely focused, but I was more productive than I would have been in a similar mood in the office. If that makes any sense.
I took my house-guest out for lunch - she'd woken and showered sometime midway through my morning, and had made us coffee and sat reading a book as I worked. Very pleasant working environment I had there. A mini office.
We got lunch and I returned to my work, thinking about what we might do in the evening. I decided to work from the sofa in my living room. It was comfy and I had a flash of inspiration. Though we'd been unimpressed by what was on offer at the Newcastle Theatre Royal, perhaps there'd be something on in Sunderland.
A few minutes and texts later (my friend being midway through watching a film) we had tickets for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I debated at length about where to sit, but got it right putting us on the third row.
The show was stunning. I've seen this production a couple of times now, though they've edited it each time, I think. The leading man was from the North East and let his accent really run riot, which added to the show, I think. The child-catcher was scary enough (it was H from Steps, standing in for Wayne Sleep) that one kid declared "Right, I'm off" and legged it. Brilliant.
After the show, our heads full of the sumptuous melodies of the Sherman Brothers, we headed back into Newcastle, into China Town and put ourselves on the outside of a superb meal.
A perfect evening.
Good To Be Back
After a day working from my house in Newcastle, I headed to the railway station to pick up a friend of mine who would be staying with me for a couple of days. We gathered ourselves together back at my house and then headed out to my gig by taxi. The gig was at the Chillingham Arms pub, which is where I did many many gigs in my last year of living in Newcastle.
Much has changed around the area. The gig I did tonight was not organised in the same way or even by the same people as the one I used to attend. The pub has been repainted, even. However, the friends who came were still good friends. The people running the gig were people I knew when I lived in Newcastle - I saw two of them do their first ever gig in that very room. I had had lunch, even, with an ex-colleague that day, whom I'd not seen in two and a half years.
What I'm saying is that, though the circumstances may change, the heart of a place does not.
I don't normally perform with any alcohol inside of me, but tonight was a special enough occasion not to worry too much about that. I had a couple of pints in me. That was ok. I did my set. It went well. I had friends to chat to, other acts to watch and the night was really enjoyable. It felt like a mini home-coming.
Temporary of course.
After the gig we went out for curry.
Then a taxi home.
A bit cheeky on a school night, but while it had been enjoyable, it hadn't been too extreme or excessive. It was good to be back.
It's a simple formula.
I had watched a lot of TV last night so I was tired. I had enjoyed the TV, though. So I went to work, came home, packed and drove to Newcastle where I'd be ending my week. The priority was to stay awake and complete the journey.
I'm not dead, so I assume all went to plan.
I Second That
One good coat of paint deserves another. So that's what I did. I went home and put a 2nd coat of paint on my walls. That's enough work to fill an evening and it got me a step forward. Indeed, the work on the house has really been happening over the last few weeks and even a fairly small gesture, like finishing the walls in one room, feels like a continuation of a bigger wheel of progress, turning away.
Germanic Day Trip
I surprised myself and made it to the airport at the designated time. We got breakfast and then a plane. I worked on the flight (to a point). Then we had a long day of meetings/demonstrations of software, with a break for glorious refreshment. All of this was in the environs of the Dusseldorf airport. The hotel in which we met was delightful, but you can't help but feel like you've missed out on actually visiting the place you've travelled to.
Returning home, my energy levels were very low. However, I gave myself a bit of a push and put a coat of paint on my 2nd bedroom. I got my housemate to order shit-loads of pizza, which we then shared, though I really overdid it.
Yo Yo Yo
Waking up, not too worse for wear, surprisingly, I had to prepare for the bitch of a drive from Leeds to Yeovil. I prepared for it with coffee and chat... then started.
It's a good deal more than 5 hours to get from Yorkshire to Somerset, but I arrived relatively fresh and on time. I had to make the gig a brief one because time and tide wait for no man and, in this case, my plane from Terminal 5 wasn't going to wait for me tomorrow morning.
The gig started, I did my thing, it went well. I left. Simple as. I managed to scoop a CD from the closing act (he gave it to me, I didn't nick it), so I effectively got to enjoy the tail end of the show in absentia, listening to the closing act as I drove back to Reading.
Then I tried to sleep.
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