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Take That China!
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Give Me Your Voice
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My Way of Losing My Mind is Quite Constructive
I'm A Cilla Black Fan On Bike

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Monday, July 28

Racing Round

I can't help but feel that I'm going to be constantly zooming about between now and my trip up to Edinburgh. There are loads of things to kick into shape before I get up to Scotland, and some of those were tackled this evening.

I would have successfully soldered the broken lead for my guitar, if only my soldering iron hadn't gone missing at the critical moment. The regular iron doesn't work for soldering. It did work for shirts.

I also managed to cram in a cycle ride, trip to Tesco, quick catch up with a friend and some of the emptying of the car that I was too knackered to even consider last night. And I did two loads of washing. And de-scaled my shower head.

Now I must sleep.

Wednesday, July 23

A Pulse

I ate way too much fruit last night. The result was that I had an uncomfortable belly all day and was good for nothing more than lying uncomfortably in bed all evening, chatting on the phone, eventually relaxing to the point where I was a blackout with a heartbeat for a while.

Perhaps some of that was recovery from the cycling effort.

Shame I put weight on this week.

Tuesday, July 22

The Intentional Marathon

A week ago, I cycled 26 miles accidentally. This was caused by bad planning and bad transport. Tonight, I ended up asking myself whether I could repeat the experience on purpose. I'll save you the bother of guessing: I could.

A Marathon is, according to my sources, 26.22 miles. I know this because I googled "385 yards to miles" to find out the decimal bit to go after the 26 miles, having found out that it's 26 miles and 385 yards from wikipedia. Google is very good at numeric conversions, just ask it whatever you need to know.

Anyway, I'm not quite sure when my urge to do another marathon really kicked in. (I should point out that cycling a marathon doen't really count, so all you long distance runner readers can quite happily switch off and call me a lightweight. I know. Legs can't coast.) My original plan was to cycle to Twyford and then back through Bracknell. Along the way I contemplated how far this was - about 20 miles, and then thought I may as well stick on the other 6, and then I thought that it should probably be 26.2 miles to make it a proper marathon. I reckoned I'd be running under, so I'd have to think of detours.

When I set out for the cycle ride, I had some objectives. I wanted to get some exercise. I also wanted to visit a supermarket to by some surface cleaning wipes and maybe some more fruit. I like fruit. I'm eating a lot of fruit at the moment. In fact, having come home and filled my belly with fruit, I'm now, officially, rather fruity.

Anyhoo. I pootled along to Twyford and then onto the country roads that lead to Bracknell through Binfield. I found one hill that nearly threatened to stop me progressing up it, as it still required an awful amount of push even in my lowest gear, but I wouldn't be beaten. Overall, there was a lot of up and down and so I could achieve some high speeds, but I would also get the occasional drop in gear for a bit of a climb.

I had expected to stop halfway round for my supermarket break and maybe some refreshment. As it was, I actually kept steering myself back on course throughout the whole thing. I got as far as the outskirts of Reading, about 20 miles into the journey, before I took my detour to the supermarket. I went to Asda, half hoping to find more of those weird peaches I bought yesterday (all eaten).

At Asda, I bought supplies and took a break, sitting on a wall, to relax and put some liquid into my system. Then I headed home.

I realised as I neared home that my route had fallen short. So I took a slightly long route around the cemetery which sits on Cemetery Junction, just to get the extra point somethings of a mile. I miscalculated a little and ended up doing almost exactly 26.22 miles. I think I was only really expecting to hit 26.

And that was my night on the road. Not a ridiculous achievement, but an evening with enough exercise in it to make me feel sleepy enough for bed. I have a bit of work to do before I turn in, though.

No rest for the marathon man.

Monday, July 21

Preview Time

I woke up at a reasonable time this morning, which was handy since I had a meeting at what I consider to be an unreasonable time. Owing to the wake-up, I was able to arrive at my meeting and be almost coherent enough to participate. Afterwards, my plan had been to take a slight detour, via my house, to the next office for further work. The detour would allow me to sort out a small problem and do a couple of hours' uninterrupted work from my home.

As it happened, there was no pressing need for me to go anywhere after home, so I worked the rest of the day from my house and had a very productive and useful time in the process. I should do this more often. In fact, I think I will. I'm remote working next week.

After work, I jumped on my bike with a rather heavy rucksack (though heavy rucksacks can teach us a lot about the world) and cycled to the station. Then onto London and to the bar where tonight's Edinburgh Preview would be staged. Camden is a good distance from Paddington. I don't mean it's a long way, I mean that the precise distance it is, is, in my opinion, good. I like that distance. It was far enough to break sweat, but near enough to be local. I had McFly playing on my mp3 player. I couldn't help but peddle cheerfully.

In honesty, I've been very cheerful recently. I'm revving up for next month in Edinburgh and, following my last trip to this lovely city, I've barely had time for anything other that big beaming grins. That's good. I suppose my mood can drop when I get tired, or when my energy levels drop. That's actually fair enough. It's chemical, then isn't it? However, on average, I've been a sickeningly cheerful bundle of joy.

The preview tonight, the inner workings of which I won't burden you with, went well. I remembered my song at the beginning, and the cast's first attempt at performing the closing number wasn't disastrous, though it left room for improvement. The audience still got some of the jokes in the song and it ended well, so I think it proved its point enough for a preview.

I was proud of the results - there's a lot of love gone into that show, and there's more to go in.

I made a sharp exit back to the station, then onto a train and ten I sat and pondered my phone for a few minutes to get me between London and Reading.

Back in Reading, there was the cycle home. The good distance from Camden to Paddington gave me an odometer reading about 10 miles when I returned to my garage. I followed the cycling up with a road trip to Asda.

I bought some donut peaches in Asda. They were bizarre. They're peaches, but shaped like mini donuts (without the hole). They have tiny stones in them. They taste like peach, but you could feign being a porker while getting your five portions a day. Genius.

Back home for some washing up, and to finish the changing of my bedsheets. Not bad for a day's bimbling about.

Sunday, July 20


After morning ablutions and breakfast (not simutaneous), I headed off to London. A combination of bad traffic and sat nav diversions led me to a long time stuck in traffic, the picking up of a hitchhiker and a great chat about 80's TV.

When my bladder finally stopped complaining and started making threats, wet threats, I parked near a public loo and added about 20 minutes to my journey. The rehearsal wasn't looking like it was going to be soon.

I'll admit that I'd neither learned my song nor finished the backing track for the song the cast were about to learn. However, it turns out that singing along to a recording of yourself reading and singing a song you originally wrote is a pretty good way to get a song into your head. Also, the cast were fairly distracted by how much learning and practicing they were doing with my piano to notice how empty the backing track was.

I'm impressed, mind. We put the big production number together in about 3 hours. It ran ok a few times. It will need more rehearsal, but they recorded one of the run throughs so they can rehearse against that - much as I learned my song in the car with my own voice.

After the rehearsal, I headed home and sat at my recording equipment to add some more tracks. I started with the bass, then the tremeloing guitar, then maracas. Then I had to put a four man Ashley choir in to do the do's and the wah's (well, ooh and dums).

Overall, I was pleased with the results of the day. Perhaps sharing them with my freshly emptied of detritus bed was a bit lonely, but life's not perfect.

Saturday, July 19


I amazed myself by waking up today in plenty of time to do useful things. Before I knew it I was in a Tesco, which, as we all know, is a useful and domesicated place to be.

I dropped in on a friend and provided help where help was needed, company where company was appreciated and then we celebrated a job well done with a good meal out at a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant, where they throw the food at you, after first mesmerising you with its preparation.

There followed eating and intelligent conversation.

If more days were like this, I think my IQ might actually raise. Getting up, doing useful things, having intelligent conversations. That's a remarkable shift from the norm.

I liked today.

A lot.

Friday, July 18

Taunting The Audience

I should not have behaved the way I did on stage tonight... except... well, it made the audience laugh and I knew it would. I regret some apparently disrespectful lines I delivered to a very placid and pleasant elderly lady sitting on the front row of my gig. In fairness, it was in the spirit of a comedy night and I'm not going to be ageist as such. And she had been a nurse - this woman has seen the world. In many ways, what I said was a reflection of that.

When I got into the middle of one of my songs I believe I called into the wings "Start the car". All of this was an acknowledgement that what we were giving the audience, instruction not to censor it by the organisers, was perhaps not what they were used to getting... but give it to them we did. With both barrels.

I got out of that place pretty quickly. This wasn't because I was ashamed at making improper suggestions to an old lady. I would have been ashamed if they hadn't caused a minute-long-room-sized laugh. I left so that I could get home at a reasonable enough hour to get a night's sleep in time for the fun of the weekend. I'm helping someone sort some stuff out at their house this weekend, and I need to be up bright and early to be useful, plus I've rehearsals and other jiggery pokery to achieve... and I'm not prepared. Not in the slightest.

Correction. I'm slightly prepared.

Don't worry. It's not like the show is on Monday or anything!

Thursday, July 17

Little Italy

A nice relaxing night out. That's what you need in the midst of a big stress-laden week. Actually I'm not sure if the week is stressful so much as just busy. It seems to have late nights and I seem to be even waking earlier in the day than I expect to under the circumstances.

Still, I had the pleasure of a meal out in a small Italian restaurant in a small town. Very nice indeed. Probably not good for the diet, but I think I need a few days off dieting, to be honest. After the cycling the general lack of weight-loss and the sheer busy-ness of the week, I can tolerate forgetting the calorie counting for a few meals. It will all go back to fatty-rations next week.

Wednesday, July 16

Donkey Derby

My gig radar keeps letting me down. I arrived in Derby after a fairly long drive to a room in a "flat-iron" type of building, after a parking nightmare (which turned out not to be so bad after all) to see fewer people than chairs and remark "oh, a quiet one then".

What I didn't expect was for the room to fill with an audience that wants to laugh. It did. They laughed. A man introduced me to his daughter and asked me for an autograph. I gave her a business card and suggested she download me. Weird.

Driving millions of miles for no money to play to five people is a good statement to satirise what stand-up can be about. As it was, I had journeyed far, but it proved worth it to be bathed in the laughter of a good audience.

Tuesday, July 15

The Accidental Marathon

Of all the things to fall into, I didn't think I'd fall into a marathon. Usually, you use this term to describe something fairly massive. What I'd actually intended was different, so I can say I fell into the marathon, though I can't say it felt so big. It's only retrospectively I realised that, had my name been Pheidippides, I should, by rights, be dead now.

Anyway, the story was this. I arranged "last minute" with my sister, to go and play on our bikes. By "last minute", we actually mean with over 24 hours' notice, but it's all relative, I suppose. By "play on our bikes", I mean that my sister has a new bike, and I offered to come along, have a peep at it and then go for a ride together as a bit of a laugh.

In truth, I'd thought that this might be one "sport" I could comfortably hold my own with in the same space as my sister. She's improved her fitness levels considerably and is always quite competitive (or maybe I am when I'm with her and blaming it on her - either way). Anyway, I had planned to arrive at hers mainly on public transport, avoiding the 8 mile trek from Paddington to her house, which would lose me the edge.

I won't really have to explain much more beyond the fact that the London transport system abhors people's bikes and the rest is obvious. I cycled to her house, tackling the one daunting Highgate Hill as an optional detour on the way to my destination. It was still hard work, but I relished every push, because I could do it.

I arrived, had a quick drink and then we knocked out a few miles together. I ended up cycling back and then getting off the train and pushing myself to the 26 mile mark (pretty much) as I got home. As it happens, I was still going strong at 26 miles. It's not that far on the bike.

I was burning off a fair bit of energy, though.

Monday, July 14

Let It Never Be Said

It's late and I've titled this post after the opening line of a Kaiser Chiefs song. A great song with the line "There's nothing at all 'cept the space in between finding out what you're called and repeating your name". One of the most applicable lines I've ever heard about love, at least from my own experience.

Today I told someone I loved them. Perhaps they got scared. I'm not surprised. It was the man from Orange.

Me: I want as many minutes as possible, loads of texts and unlimited internet on the phone.
Him: Ok. Well your talk plan needn't be upgraded, I just need to move it over to the latest version of the same plan.
Me: How much?
Him: It costs the same, but then we give you a ten pound discount and you won't be needing your £4 internet package.
Me: So you're charging me £14 less and giving me everything I want and more?
Him: Yes. Shall I go ahead with that?
Me: I think I love you.
Him: Er. Thank you sir.

Brilliant. A good lesson for me, too. The call started a little badly and he had a bit of an Indian accent, which put me a little into "oh dear, it's a call centre man working from a script" mode. He then had to check to see what my existing plan involved. I thought he knew nothing. The result - perfection and reduction in cost. Hell, the planet may be slowly doomed and the credit crunch may be ruining lots of hard working people, but I get to use my phone, so I'm happy. Hmmm.

I left work after conducting a job interview and then jumped onto my bike for the evening. I cycled the most ludicrous route I could think of to Tesco - this involved going in the direction of Asda, detouring around Morrisons and then going past my favourite guitar shop. The purpose was to clock up some miles on the old legs. I clocked up just over 10 miles before I got home. Job done.

While in Tesco I bought various supplies, clothing and some shower gel. Back in September I'd had an awful trip to this very supermarket and bought exactly the same shower gel, tormenting myself owing to some bizarre inner struggle that I could probably explain now, but it would be boring. However, a freak of circumstance meant that I actually ended up choosing a shower gel I really like, which I bought tonight as a nice liquid to use for self-washing.


I went home, regained my breath and spent the night ironing. Then I restrung two guitars - my gigging guitar, which I also cleaned, and my new mini-guitar, which I thought might like some better strings on it.

Now I'm sitting in a towel, cleaned and smelling nice. I even did a little washing of my shower room on the way towards using it. Things that have been bothering me to look at are now looking good.

I'm in good spirits today.

Sunday, July 13

Not Ironing After All

Today was meant to be the ironing day. I did a number of things but none of them were ironing. I can't really report doing much before lunchtime when I jumped on my bike and went into town to try to recoup some energy. I started with a smoothie and then progressed to coffee and lunch. Refueled as best as I could be, I then took myself on a series of errands. The purpose of the errands was two-fold. I wanted to get some stuff for my guitar and I also wanted to get myself cycling over distance.

I plan to use a lot of bicycle and guitar over the month of August, so the more I do now to make those activities better, the better August will work out. That's the theory anyway. I had picked up my bike from its service with this in mind.

My detours to Maplin and the guitar shop were followed by taking the reverse of yesterday's cycling-for-pleasure route. I ended up back at home on the outside of about 14 miles of cycling pleasure. That's good. I liked that.

Apart from getting a Subway at about 8pm, there's not much else I can think of reporting about today. I ended the evening in bed watching Normal Lovett's DVD with my eyes drooping. This wasn't induced by the disc, I was just knackered.

I like to end a week as I mean to continue the next one.

Saturday, July 12

Panic On The Streets Of Reading

I woke up with a head full of worry. Ricochets of ideas about meetings I had to attend and things I would be missing were getting themselves into a traffic jam in my synapses. I knew I was running late for work.

Except it was Saturday. I was just being overwound up after a tiring week. I think it had been a good week, and I had plenty to look forward to for the weekend.

I spent the day in preparation for an evening out. I had some CDs to copy (I mean backup) and I also wanted to use my spare time to get a cycle ride and take my bike in for servicing. The zoom around the river was very pleasant and I managed to find the rain as I did my little detour to Staples to buy CDs (turns out I had plenty) and cartridges for my printer. Never mind, a little drop of rain can't hurt.

Plans for domestic bliss today were put aside. I saw the time move inexorably towards my evening out time, so I grabbed a shower, left the house behind me and went out and had a very good evening. I like chinese food and I like good company where the conversation goes everywhere and ends up back where it started to continue in a new direction.

Some Saturdays are worth repeating. Mine was healthy and fun with a smattering of getting things I'd promised to do, done.

Friday, July 11

On Days Like These II

Some Fridays are relaxed. Some are fraught. I managed to make today exhausting and full of mileage, but not actually stressful. I'll be honest, I've started more promptly than I eventually got going today. However, the working day was fairly practical and useful.

I had a luncheon appointment across the county, so I went for that and made some useful decisions. It was pleasant and we did what we said we would. Then I spent the afternoon in another part of the county doing other things. Such is the mobility my job can sometimes demand, which makes what I said in defence of my driving licence, back in January in Rotherham, anything but a lie. Had I lost my licence then, I'd be getting it back around now, anyway.

At about 6, I headed to Manchester for a photo shooter for the poster for this year's show. I was lucky enough to have some telephone-based company for the journey, so it passed in something like the blink of an eye. I like chatting on the phone while driving. I have a hands-free kit, so I'm legal.

Arriving in Manchester, I was the subject of about 500 pictures, one of which would be used for the poster. As we were doing them, the song "On Days Like These" played on the computer in the "studio" - I say studio, it is a bedroom. It was all respectable, though, no "and now let's try it with your pants off, love" about it. Anyway, given that I'd, the previous evening, made a blog entry about the song "On days like these", which I think has been through my head a couple of times recently, it seemed quite appropriate.

After the photos there was an immediate late night drive back to Reading. Anyone up at that time of night must be keen. It's a ridiculous time of night to be up. I could feel myself flagging, and I'm used to such things. I ended up in the M&S simply food stocking up on supplies, just to put some energy back into my system. I'd been running on empty for way too long.

I slept deeply.

Thursday, July 10

On Days Like These

I love the story of how Quincy Jones and Don Black wrote the song "On Days Like These" for the film The Italian Job. Quincy was having trouble finding a tune to fit the film, so Don Black gave him a title, picked out of thin air, and then went off for a walk. When he'd returned, the haunting melody that we know and love was fully formed and the rest is song-writing history. I think making music is something that's a privilege, especially when people come to just know your song - to have it inside of them.

It amazes me when I know any of a song that I've never set out to learn. On my car journey this evening, I played the John Barry CD I have in my car. The link to Don Black is fairly clear when you get into the Bond Themes section of the CD and it's all Barry/Black songs for about 20 minutes. I sang along, warming up my voice for the impending gig. In general, playing film music in the car is a good way to get aroused (not in a cheeky way) and ready for a gig. In particular, when I switched over to the deliciously camp Xanadu soundtrack, I knew my mood would be lifted.

I arrived in Burton-on-Trent in what could be described as a playful mood. I then had some of this mood drummed out of me by the circumstances of the gig. The main body of the gig was in the main body of the pub. This meant that the ante-room in which I was waiting for my bit (the last bit of the show) would either be straining to hear what was going on, or talking over it. As a result, there were times when all I could hear was chatter and no gig - as though the comedy had winked out of existence. Given that I was trying to tune into the night and get myself ready to go on, this was not the ideal way to prepare. My mood dipped. This can happen, and I ignored it as best I could. Ultimately, I knew I was tired, running on very little energy, with only a packet of rice cakes for sustenance, topped off with my 4 shot coffee, which I'd bought about 30 minutes before the gig, slightly scaring the motorway service station staff with my chipper pleased-to-be-here attitude.

Still, an espresso-gasm and some rice cakes cannot counter the sense of isolation from the gig and I wasn't sure whether I'd connect with the audience when I hit the stage.

I did.

I could wax lyrical about letting myself go and bantering with the playful crowd. It would come across more as self-praise, than gratitude for a night with a gift of an audience and a room which really does work for comedy. I think I managed to pretty much silence the ante-room, or at least cut myself off from them, so that was good.

Late night drive home, food, washing up and then bed. The washing up was an attempt to break the mexican stand-off between myself and my housemate. I feel like I've been away from the home pretty much permanently for the last two weeks, so I don't feel like the washing up was mine to do. My housemate has probably reasoned that I've not done the washing up in ages, and so probably should... so I just did it. Now it's done and the kitchen is a little tidier. It wasn't a big deal. Sorted.

Just one long drive left this week (tomorrow, Manchester) and then I'm done. It's been a long week:

Sun - 405 miles from Edinburgh
Mon - 350+ miles Taunton
Tue - the London trip, including 12 miles on the bike and a 3 minute run along a train
Wed - 280 miles round trip to Cambridge
Thu - 300 miles round trip to Burton
Fri - 440 miles round trip to Manchester - for pictures

Not bad... I'm a one man carbon footprint.

And gig wise:

Mon - died a little, was largely ok, but the audience didn't 100% like me and I was a bit too distracted
Tue - did ok as the MC, the audience let me be unfunny and laughed when I was funny - cracking night overall
Wed - had a great one with a playful audience - a few moments they didn't laugh at, but overall, a corker
Thu - had an answer for everything, really enjoyed myself - noticed when the audience energy was dwindling and stopped at the right moment

So, this is called "getting match fit" and now I've got about a week with no gigs in which to go stale. Yay!

Wednesday, July 9

A Load Off

I didn't mention last night that the return train journey from London to Reading was marred by one rather unpleasant event beforehand. I'd had a nice cycle from Islington back to Paddington (a lot of -ingtons there) and found that I had 3 minutes before the Cardiff train left Paddington, first stop Reading. This would be the best train since it would not make any stops and would go on the fairly swift route to Reading. On top of that, I wouldn't have to sit with my bike, since there's a bike van... at the other end of the train. Oh shit!

Yep. I had 2 minutes to run from one end of the train to the other. You can't cycle in the station, so I couldn't do it the quick way. I literally ran. Fast. There were whistles blowing as I did it. I was certain the platform guards were trying to jeer on the fat man and maybe would even vindictively send the train off just as I reached the end.

As it was, I made it, with a few seconds to spare, plopped my bike in the back and got into a carriage.

Then the industrial strength sweating could begin.


I mention this because it might have something to do with the shock I received when I stood on the scales just now. I assumed I would have gained weight, given that I've had various edible treats in the last week, and have not shied away from filling my belly (albeit with healthy stuff) and have even enjoyed more than a tipple. Ooh, and I had a sneaky fried bit of something in Edinburgh which I'd sort of forgotten. However, I have, bizarrely, lost 3 and half pounds since the last weigh-in - a week ago. No idea how that happened.

So, I'm now back across a stone boundary and I promised myself that when I did this this time I'd do a bungee jump. I'll look into that for September, perhaps.

The gig tonight took a lot of getting to and I assumed it would probably not be worth it. I assumed wrong. It was a bloody lovely gig and I had a cracking time talking crap on their stage. I even found myself coming across somewhat, er, sympathetically to one of the audience - so I'm told. Perhaps I was radiating the cheer of a good gig. Perhaps I get attractive at this weight and below. Perhaps she was just short sighted and low in her standards. However, one particular lady in the audience took a shine.

I didn't meet her myself. Two of her friends came up to try to get me to come over and meet her. This was the late 30-something equivalent of "My mate fancies you" and it's not hot. Sorry. I don't do that.

In any case, I'm not sure that I should be making the most of people who think they fancy stage-Ashley. This version of me is not quite the real deal. Dependent on the sort of room and its size, this version of me is a bit more of the alpha-male than I truly am, and I don't always like him. I like him a little more when he's funnier. Generally, I stick him out there to stop him bothering nice people the rest of the time.

Don't worry. It's not a split personality, it's a metaphor.

The final thing to relate from tonight happened when I arrived in Great Shelford. I couldn't find anywhere to park, so I drove until I found somewhere where the road was wide enough to park on one side and had no cars on the other side and no markings on my side. I stopped the car. Another car pulled up behind and started hooting. I turned my engine off. More hooting. The car is now parked. The following conversation occurred when I got out of the car. Bear in mind that a queue had formed behind the hooting man, who was not happy.

Me: I'm parked here.
Him: Why are you parking there? There's a car park around the corner.
Me: Is there? Sorry, I'm not from round here.
Him: Well, you'd hoot me if I'd decided to park there.
Me: Erm, why don't you just go around me. We can discuss this another time.
Him: (general unhappiness, swearing, flicking of Vs and smoking)

Now. Was I being unreasonable? Maybe, maybe not. Was I prepared to move? Actually, I was, but wasn't given the chance to have a reasonable discussion about it. Was I in the wrong? Legally no. So what was happening?

Well, I think what I just witnessed was a "Game". In this case I think we were playing a variant of "Now I've Got You You Son of a Bitch". The disgruntled driver was hoping I would park somewhere that he could complain about. Then he could complain. He complained, hoping to goad me into a position where either I would back down and move my car, thus allowing him to exert control over him, or where I would have a go at him back, in which case he could use the moral high ground over the traffic jam that he had contrived to occur as a result of my actions, and would, therefore, be able to complain that some idiot had given him a mouthful after they (me) had parked stupidly. I was suckered into the game a little. My suggestion that he should go around, which was intended to be a neutral comment, was a bit too critical, and was enough of an attack to enable him to at least flounce off. Thus, his game was complete.

If this man writes a blog, he'll tell the story that someone came along, blocked the road and then had the audacity to suggest that people just drive around him. This will satisfy his need to play "Why does it always happen to me" and deal with his own issues. Fascinating.

I was suckered into the game as I was "in the moment" with this guy. When you are dealing with a stranger over something to do with the car, you kind of feel reactive and a little nervous about it. So, you don't get the chance to step outside of the moment and behave "perfectly". My analysis of what occurred was done after the event as I walked a little stunned to the gig from the car parking spot.

Before I totally walk away from this, as though I'm the flawless being and Mr Shouty Smoky Man is the dickhead, I think I too have this instinct - the one which looks for an injustice to complain about, thus giving me some vent to some inner frustration or other. I don't know that I do it very often - probably mostly when my drive is blocked, which I think I usually end up acting fairly reasonably over. I used to do it a lot when I was a hot-headed younger man.

Beware of the books you read, they may show you too much about how people work. That takes some of the mystery out of life.

Tuesday, July 8

A Long Time In Politics

Time has really gone mental for me. I feel like this week has already lasted forever and that it has been ages since I wrote my last blog post (which was, in fact written about 48 hours ago, though I'll fill in the blanks in a minute so I'll look like a liar).

Not only has the Monday and Tuesday seemed to take an age, but the events of exactly a week ago seem almost like they happened on another planet. Perhaps the weekend had a time-stretching effect, given that it was deeply restorative, included an extra day (of leisure time on a Friday) and was some 405 miles away from here. I'll blame the weekend for putting last week way out of the picture. It only goes to show that what can prey on one's mind one day, can be almost totally forgotten within 7. Go me for spotting obsessive behaviour just before it goes totally overboard... ok, just after.

So, here we are. My expected pile of washing is smaller than I imagined, because I've not been out the house as long as it feels like I have. I could claim to have lived here yesterday, but that would be a euphemism for having paid the bills while not actually being here. Something I can do in two houses simultaneously - perhaps a new world record!?

Tonight I drove from work on a conference call, which I completed while languishing in my bedroom. I then cycled to the railway station and took a train to London, where I further cycled to a gig in Islington, returning home after about 11 miles of biking and a cracking night. I was to MC the gig, which had two comedians doing extended sets. Each comedian is someone I admire in very different ways.

So I had a lovely time.

There are no real comic or emotional twists to this entry. I could talk of texting away over the course of the day, but I wouldn't share the contents of the texts and you'd go "So what, so do teenage girls, like, you know, totally" and I'd be like "Yeah, you're not the boss of me" and you'd be like "Shuh, what gives dude" and I'd be like "That's not even proper talking innit" and you'd be "Mnyuhuh" and I'd be like "Are you trying to sound like a black teenager and failing because you've no idea how they sound" and I'd be like... totally silenced.

So let's not go there brother.


Monday, July 7

Check Your Facts

I like the flexibility surrounding my job. I can, where necessary, spend a day working out of the office, so long as I'm actually working. I took a half day of remote working yesterday in order to be able to be in the right place after work for my out of work activities. I can do conference calls and emails from anywhere really, so I headed to an appropriate cafe and did just that.

Before I left the office, one of the comedians for the gig called to say that she had a family crisis and wouldn't be able to attend. I had to mobilise the troops and try to find a replacement. I asked a lot of people and everyone was busy. As I arrived at the café where I was going to hide and work, I spotted a well known comedian sitting working too. I was tempted to offer him the gig. In the end, I thought he'd prefer to be left alone, so I got someone I know to text him to offer him the gig. Tee hee. It didn't work. "Tee hee" is the sort of thing he'd say.

Anyway, I found my comedian, I found the rest of the cast too and we hurried out of our location towards the motionless traffic jam which added 90 minutes to our journey to Taunton.

Arriving in Taunton, a little late, we found a vastly reduced audience and not the expected amount of levity or goodwill in the room. Still, we put on a good show for them... until the headliner went on. He rather indulgently followed every whim and played with the audience, often without laughs for a bit until he whipped something out of thin air and got back on track.

Towards the end, a man heckled "get on with it". This is a heckle which you can't really get back from, since the heckler isn't suddenly going to go all happy and enjoying it, and it's a sign that there's unrest and boredom in the ranks. The next heckle was "sorry, we have to go, babysitter" and a few people left. The headliner wrapped up and left to a mixture of applause from some and disdain from others.

This poor guy, was left to wonder whether he should have a bruised ego from the ambivalence of the small audience, or a bloated one from the people who came up to him and told him they'd only attended because they knew he was on and had had a great time. I don't wonder how he coped. He was me. I was him. It was a weird gig.

Speaking about it in the third person didn't help just there. Made me sound a bit Jimmy Saville. "Ooh, Sir Jim 'as broken 'is leg."

You win some you lose some, but here's a tip. If you are going to go on stage with the attitude of "Ah well, it's a tiny gig in the middle of nowhere in Taunton, they'll soon forget about me" then check your diary. Guess where I'm going back to in 10 days for a different but similar gig in the same building...

Given the distances involved and the honourable decision to drop everyone home... and mainly because of the M4 diversion from West London, I didn't get home until the birds were singing something like "You're going back to Taunton". This is not helpful for starting a week.

Sunday, July 6

How lucky we are

This will sound lame. It's way too late in the day and I should be asleep. I just used the BBC iPlayer to watch the season finale of Doctor Who. I downloaded it first so that it came onto my laptop screen at pretty damned good quality. I was a little kid again, totally engulfed and transported into a world for 65 minutes.

We have Doctor Who back and perhaps it's better than I remember it from being a kid. It's certainly gripping. We also have the technology to let me watch it, even though I wasn't anywhere near a TV when it was officially broadcast. We also have a BBC that bothers to make a programme on the scale. We have actors and writers and special effects people who can create such a vision.

In short, we are very lucky to have our Doctor Who to enjoy.

I regret not seeing the episodes that I could have seen. I am sorry I don't always have time to watch this sort of thing, or that I choose to spend my time taking in less worthy stuff.

But it's a positive marking scheme where Doctor Who is concerned. I've seen and enjoyed enough episodes to put me in touch with a childhood hero and to enable me to understand the world I occasionally drop in on.

I like being a giggly kid again for an hour every so often.

Back To The South

Somehow today went swimmingly aswell, despite waking up later than yesterday, having felt the effects of an unusual succession of two drunken evenings. Also, I managed to survive the 405 mile trip home. Not sure how. Actually, I know.

I woke up, missing breakfast, checked out of the hotel and drove to a Starbucks near The Stand comedy club. There was my surrogate breakfast. Then I went to Fopp, which I thought had gone out of business, but was back in business, stealing my money and replacing it with shiny discs. I bought enough entertainment to last well over my trip home, even though I'd anticipated an 8 hour stretch in the car.

Then I met a friend and we watched the free lunchtime improvisation show that plays at The Stand every Sunday. Brilliant fun. A friend of mine was in the cast too, which was good to see. We laughed. I felt good.

Then my show-watching friend and I got some Subway and I was dispatched from the city at around 4.30. So, I'd sort of had another day in the city - not an evening (nor really much of a morning) but it felt like I'd done a Sunday there.

The journey only took 7 hours home. This was punctuated by various CDs, soundtracks and one stop - only one (I'm proud of my bladder). I'd be lying if I said I didn't stay in touch with various friends by mobile means while en route, but discretion prevents me from explaining how or whether I was road-legal doing that. I do have a handsfree kit, mind.

So there. A feelgood weekend. Marvellous.

Saturday, July 5

A Day Of Joy

I woke up with the lark. Well, I woke up with the toast, actually. It was before my alarms, but I felt fresh and thought I may as well get some of the breakfast that my room rate included.

Then I headed around a scenic route to the Starbucks on the high street where I sat with a Private Eye magazine, chuckling away until nearly lunchtime. I returned to my room merely to freshen up before I met a friend for an afternoon's amusement.

Then back to the hotel for more freshening and out for an evening's amusement.

In a beyond-tipsy state, I returned to the hotel amused. What a great day.

It's days like this which make me think that Edinburgh would be a great place to live. But I have worked something out. I'm only ever there for leisure. Of course I think it's great. I've virtually never had to wash my pants there. I'd love to be surrounded by all the lovely people I know there, though.

Oooh... I'm there for three weeks... in about three weeks' time. Gerrin!

Friday, July 4

We Ding Dong The Bells

The day of the wedding. I won't review the wedding. That would be inappropriate. It wasn't my wedding to review. I had a lovely time, though and met some lovely people, some of whom I already knew.

I woke up in Carlisle later than planned. I had a shower that managed to exfoliate my head of the horror film special effects that had been replacing my skin as the sunburn/tan turned to peeling skin, turned to what looked like congealed gravy in the shower. I ended up with a head that looked normal, rather than like a case of leprosy.

Then I scooted by car up to Edinburgh with a small but essential coffee break.

In Edinburgh I managed to check into my hotel, ditch the car and walk to the pub which I knew the boyfriends of the bridesmaids would be in. From then onwards, the wedding was a case of just following the right person to the next place. Job's a good 'un.

I stayed in party mode until quite late and then went back to the hotel for a good sleep. Unfortunately, I'd managed to switch from alcohol to soft drinks somewhere along the way, so I had my hangover before I went to sleep. D'oh!

Thursday, July 3

Up The Pool

Heading from work to make the 250 mile drive to Blackpool, I had a nice time. I don't know why I had a nice time. I just think that the holiday feeling set in. This was to be the start of a long weekend which would include various hotel stays and meeting friends... and having fun. Plus, the gig I was going to, for my 3rd visit, is one I've always enjoyed.

I had been amused when I read the marketing blurb which read that they've finally managed to get hold of me and secure me for their gig, when the truth was much closer to "they've finally stopped ignoring my requests for the gig and let me come back". Having said that, it's a monthly gig, so returning even after a year would be a bit soon. I had last been at this gig almost exactly 2 years previously. Not quite to the day, but certainly to the week. Then I'd managed to both screw up the trip and turn up on the Monday instead of the Thursday, having to then re-appear some 500 miles of driving later on the right day, and I'd also managed to have some improvised-song-based heckler handling.

Though I got my arrival timed to perfection, the audience needed some work. This was a "mexican-stand-off" audience, who had tired a bit when I went on. They had a slight uncertain patch when I did one bit of material, but I brought them round. Again, I felt the gulf between the laughs I can get by ad-libbing and those that come from tried and tested material. Are my ad-libs getting better than the set? Who knows?

Anyway, after a forced encore (the MC did it, not me), I got heckled by someone at a critical moment in a song. The mexican-stand-off audience weren't sure if to scorn the heckler or laugh at his bravado. I watched from the comfort of the stage. This is a good phrase. I felt comfortable up there. I know what they don't... that it's easier for me to look funny than it is for a heckler, who is risking a lot more when he heckles. Sure he got the laugh. I watched... then I diverted my song into a sugar-coated whipping of the heckler... this got a laugh and I finished up and left the stage. Somehow, playing games with the audience is more fun than just trotting out the same old shit.

Then I went to my hotel room in Carlisle and played on the internet via my mobile phone. Broadbandy.

A Change Of Perception

Every so often I'll read something which affects the way I see the world. Reading a book on design, for instance, changed my outlook on simple things like taps and door handles because I had gained some tools to enable me to see them more critically than before. Reading a book on manipulating human relationships was also quite illuminating, though I should stress that I only read some of it (so far) and have no intention to practise it, which in turn would require a lot of rehearsal.

The latest subject to intrigue me is transactional analysis. In brief this seems to suggest that we interact with each other in one of three behavioural states. There is Parent, a controlling and conditioned force of authority. There is Adult, a logical thinking being. Then there is Child, a self interested bag of need. It seems like I act in the Child state as often as I can. This can be good, as in a child to child interaction, where both people have fun. It can be quite bad, as in the child parent interaction where I need either telling off or praise. It depends. I am, however, clearly the kid that didn't grow up.

Then I wonder about the writing of this. On the one hand it is written by the adult in me, with occasional influences from the parent or child. Overall, though, the very act of writing this is to get a free ego stroke as is clearly required by the over active child side of me.

Some would say that this is a sound critical analysis, but I think it's shit.

Wednesday, July 2

Things I Should Do Instead

There are so many things I should be doing instead of what I've been doing. Additionally, there are many things I'd like to be doing right now and simply haven't the time before I go to bed.

Tonight I went out to watch a comedy gig and then I took a friend home and came back to my house to get weighed and watch Doctor Who.

What I'd like to be doing now is reading the book I started at lunchtime, write a couple of songs, record the backing track for a song, maybe watch some of my DVD mountain and possibly eat something that tastes delicious. None of this is going to happen.

What I should be doing is another dimension of different. I should have weighed myself at the peak weight I'd reached. Then I'd know how much more than 9 pounds I've lost in weight. I can measure that my trousers fit me again, so that's a simple measurement. That measures in at "yes".

What I should also be doing right now is packing for the long weekend. I haven't done that yet. I will in a minute.

I should also be sleeping.

And painting my house.

Or paying someone else to do it.

There's always something else you should be doing in life. I guess that's a conflict we adults have to face.

Tuesday, July 1

Not The Perfect Start

I didn't enjoy the start of the month as much as I might have liked to. I didn't enjoy the start of the day that started the month either. Having lain myself down to sleep at ridiculous o'clock, as is my way, I was rudely, but thankfully effectively, woken up by the triumvirate of alarm clocks, all of which sounded long before 7am had truly materialised. This is not nice.

I left the house before 7.30am for a second attempt at a meeting which I'd sadly missed the first time it had been scheduled for 8am. I didn't want to screw this meeting up a second time, the outcome might be useful.

Though unsatisfied by sleep, I was awake enough to determine that the meeting was not a success, nor was it worth getting out of bed for. Frustrating. I tried hard to make it work, but in the end, it just didn't. Still, at least I paid back the debt of having missed it first time around.

Following a good night out, the day can seem dull, especially when it starts about 2 hours too soon. I mooched through the day, cheering up as afternoon came around and the doors beckoned me to leave. Lunch was also a good break from the afternoon.

Home was a waypoint between me and my bike. Actually, the guitar, ignored yesterday, was tried out and turned out to be quite a pleasant instrument. It will be a friend in August, I hope.

I cycled about 9 miles, taking in some air and feeling less like it was any effort. I feel like the healthy eating and exercise have had some effect on me again. This is how I want to be. The cycle ride ended in Tesco and a chance to stock up on supplies for the evening.

Then home to record a piece of music that it turns out I'm totally ill-equipped to play. It took way too many takes to get the piano part down. The bass part is coming along, but I just don't play in B minor and D, especially when I wrote it in A minor and C and transposed the piano electronically. My brain is not functioning quite right. I've had to pause these efforts to save my sanity.

I will have to come back to it after the weekend. The week hots up any minute.

The start of the rollercoaster month which takes me to Edinburgh.

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