My Stand-up & gigs
The Coding Craftsman
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
Why Pissing off a Fellow Comedian was Fun
March has been a 12 gig month. My rule is that a 14 gig month is the point at which you lose your mind. Given that I spent a week in the middle of the month ill with a stomach bug, that's actually a 12 gig month in a 3 week period. So that makes it more like a 16+ gig month. This feeling has been exacerbated by the fact that I watched a gig last Wednesday, and have been on stage every night since. So, I've been full-time gigging in some shape or form for a few days.
It's good for honing the comedy skills. I'm more confident than I've ever been. However, the flip side is that it erodes the brain. Add the change in time calculation to the mix, and tonight's shenanigans, and you can see why I've hit near breaking point.
Tonight's shenanigans were extreme. I had been asked by a friend if I would give her a lift to a gig in Nottingham. She lives in Southampton. I live in Reading. I thought it would be a laugh - perhaps she could stay at mine on the way back from the gig. However, being a comedian and, therefore, a stage-addict. I made it a pseudo-condition of the gig that she'd have to get me on stage as "payment" for the ride. I say a pseudo-condition, I wouldn't have held her to it. ROAD TRIP!
As it happens, she did get me the gig. It also transpired that we were going as a three. I felt it best not to have two people staying at my rather poorly equipped-for-guests house, and so decided that we'd leave the gig early and return back to the South via Southampton, which only adds 100 or so miles to my return journey from the North. Only 100 or so.
I was working in a different office than usual today. I had a lot of telephone calls about stand-up over the course of the day. One of them was from a promoter whose Nottingham gig I'm doing on Saturday. He'd gotten wind that I was doing a gig tonight in Nottingham. I thought he was going to be cross with me about playing the same city twice in the same week. I find it fascinating when such coincidences occur. Indeed, over the weekend I was fasincated to find that I pretty much had to go to Clacket Lane services for each gig I did. Now, having only gigged in Nottingham once before, I'm gigging there twice in the same week. Odd how these things can follow the bus-sod's-law pattern.
Anyway, the promoter wasn't bothered about that. He wanted to offer me the chance to double-up and go and do his gig in Derby. I explained that I had people in tow and probably couldn't get between the locations in time. Such is life. A double-up can be fun, but I couldn't fit it in.
An hour or so later, I got a text offering me another gig tonight. This was an "audition" gig for a show which plays the Edinburgh Festival and is prestigious enough that I was slightly nervous to be asked. There had been a drop out, would I like to step in and take an audition? Was this my only chance? Aaagh. This is a hotly contested night. I can't let my friends down... wait a minute. Isn't this club based in Nottingham? So it is.
So, I got to double up. After a slightly awkward start to the journey with train delays waylaying my friends. We got heading to Nottingham. We found the venue in the end via the use of Google Maps AND the Sat Nav. I did the opening 10-15 at the first club and then hot-footed it (well, I drove, but with warmed feet) across town to where I thought the next club was. As it happened, I had found their offices, but the organiser realised that he'd not told me the venue and rang to offer me directions, which were walking distance from where I'd parked.
I closed the second show and I had a nice time, mixing songs, lines and a bit of audience banter/moment creation. One run of jokes seemed to stop the show a bit - well it made one woman on the front row wail with laughter, which I pretended to be patient with, when I was rather chuffed about it. Then I think I probably quipped something about her laughter being "the whole point".
It's been a long journey home. There's so much else I could write about recent events, but this will have to do.
Woke Up Extra Early
Following yesterday's massive lie-in - well, it was more of a coma day - I had to get up and do stuff. I'd asked a friend to give me a ring to see whether I could be awoken from my Sunday slumbers before lunchtime. The prospect of receiving this call made me wake up early, even though the call did not come.
Knowing that I had some work to do to prepare for my plasterer, I headed to B&Q. In truth, I just needed to buy some plasterboard so that an awkward section could be covered in skim and we could forget about it. However, a cascade of thoughts arose and I ended up reasoning thus:If I'm going to put the plasterboard up for the plasterer, I should probably put a stick of wood up for him to use as a line to plaster up to on the chimney breast that then morphs into a cupboard. If I'm going to have the room replastered, I may as well sink the light switches into the brick. If I'm going to do that, I'm going to need some better drills.
And so I talked myself into buying a good hammer drill... or at least some sort of one. As I arrived at B&Q, the special offer on drills hit me... as did the residual desire for a new cordless drill, especially since there was a special offer on one of those.
I left the shop having spent a couple of hundred pounds on drills.
And a new doorbell.
I'm happy with my purchases and I made a good afternoon of sorting out the room that's ready to be plastered. It was fun and I was ready for a shower at going-to-gig time.
My gig tonight was in Gillingham in Kent. I drove there, I did my gig. It was fun. I watched the rest of the show. That was fun. I drove a couple of acts home, and that was fun too. Gigs are fun. It all makes sense now. Friday's realisation, that I'm doing all of this "for the hell of it"
has put everything into perspective.
I was pooped. A busy week with too much in it, followed by an exhausting but enjoyable Friday night was too much for me. I couldn't wake up until after lunchtime. In fact, some people were probably having their afternoon tea when I woke.
I gave up on the very thought of doing any DIY and sat around chasing up emails and generally doing stuff. I got the results from the speed dating event last Wednesday. I contemplated my navel some.
Then I breezed out to my gig in Hove. I had been booked for this last minute (ish) but was looking forward to it. The compere is someone I like, and the closing act is always a pleasure to watch.
Owing to a lack of planning and timing on my part, I was very low on fuel en route and so had to drive about 20 miles out of my way to be guaranteed to get to a service station before the car stopped having fuel enough to get me to the next one. I was worried about arriving at the gig late and gave the promoter a quick call to assure him I was on my way and would be there on the cusp of the designated arrival time.
As it was, the gig didn't start until about 90 minutes after I arrived, giving me chance to chill out and share time with the compere and other acts. I hit the stage at 10.30. It was a tough gig. The audience didn't really know who they were or feel comfortable laughing in the space. It can be like that sometimes. You have to kind of acknowledge that and give them permission to laugh. Sometimes you can see people smiling and trying to laugh, but waiting for someone else to go - like a massive mexican stand-off - a room full of people straining, hoping someone will crack.
It wasn't my best performance or best reaction, but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed watching the rest of the night too. It was a lesson in how a difficult room can and cannot be tackled.
End of a long week
The week had stretched on a bit, the late start making it seem shorter, but then the rush to pack everything else in making it seem longer.
After a taxing day in the office, I headed to my evening gig. The second gig in a run that would take me to Monday. I was in some ways looking forward to this gig and in some ways hoping it wasn't going to be too hard. Last time I played there things hadn't been too easy, and I was the closing act that time. This timed I'd be opening. Perhaps that's a demotion? I wasn't taking it as such.
It can be hard to return to a room where you felt you once died. However, every gig is a clean slate and I was optimistic that the gig would go well. I was also looking forward to it as Tim Vine would be trying out some new material mid gig. That's great. I love Tim Vine. I didn't touch him. I laughed at his stuff, though.
I'm getting ahead of myself in the narrative here. I drove to the gig in good spirits, listening to Radio 4 and getting there much earlier than I expected, the promoter having requested we all be there on time and me compensating for traffic that couldn't be bothered to show up and impede me.
I chilled out, did my soundcheck, wore in the string that broke the previous evening, which I'd replaced at the last venue - to make it easier to get going in a hurry lest it be required.
The audience came. They were nice. The opening spot was still a bit tricky. I had to remix my set to make it work, having found some disruptive audience members suck me into some banter which needed a different tack than the prepared one. To be honest, remixing the set was fun. As was flirting with the pretty girls in the audience.
After the show I was chatting with an act about why I do this comedy lark. I said that I do it for the hell of it. He seemed shocked. Then the pretty 20 year old girls came past and coquettishly said their goodbyes - that's worth enjoying for the hell of it. Then the remarkably tall girl dropped by and insisted on a kiss goodbye (on the cheek). That's part of the hell of it.
Then I drove home with a chuckle in my heart and a sense that I'd been part of a night's entertainment. That's worth doing. For the hell of it.
An audience of a few dozen in a small pub in Surrey are not going to propel me into some sort of massive turnaround in my fortune or philosophy, but it's a laugh. A good time, for the hell of it.
Beating About The Bush
I had been booked into a gig today. It was "somewhere in kent". I realised, the previous night, that I still hadn't been given the address or arrival time by the promoter, so I emailed him.
If I were a promoter, I'd be double checking my acts knew where to come on the week of the gig. I'd certainly check all email on the day of the gig.
I heard nothing back. I googled the gig. I found a listing without my name on it from a gig that had long since happened. I also found a number. I left a couple of messages at that number. I also tried to find contact details for this promoter on the comedy forums. Nothing.
I could not justify leaving the office to go to a gig whose address I'd deduced and which I didn't think was happening. An email from another act in the same boat made me feel it was probably off. So I stayed in the office a bit later than planned, which was necessary as we were having a "war room" type meeting on the planning of the project which underpins all our potential success/failure in the next few months.
Then I got the call. Could I do another gig? The Holly Bush pub in Cradley Heath. I'd done this last only 4 weeks previously, during a week where I missed two nights' sleep. I told them that they'd have to double check that it was ok for me to repeat the gig, given how recently I'd been there.
The call which came back told me I was needed. I drove to the gig in good spirits. Though one booking had fallen through, another dropped along to replace it. I listened to some good radio comedy. I listened to my mp3 player. I made myself chuckle with memories of when I was a student, along with some godawful recordings I have of myself being shit musically. I was in fine spirits.
I got to the gig and the compere told me that he'd had some bad news and didn't really feel up to the gig. Would I mind MCing? I hadn't really had time to prepare any non-musical stuff, so I agreed to MC with banter and my musical stuff.
As gigs go, it was something of a bear pit. The audience were highly spirited and not necessarily easy to please. However, I had a whale of a time with them. Playing on all the weirdness of the gig and making it enjoyable for myself at least. There was a 7 year old child in the room, whose parents didn't seem to mind a gutter-language show happening in front of. He heckled. I brought him on as an act. He refused to tell the joke I wanted him to - believe me, it would have killed the room and he would have been in the local paper. Still, it was his choice and I couldn't force a child to tell a filthy joke against his will, no matter how funny.
Don't get me wrong. Filthy language in front of children is not something I approve of. I think it was delightfully wrong in a situation where the parents didn't care and the environment was a self-declared "group of pikeys". In fact one woman complained to me that the other people in the audience weren't really pikey enough to call themselves pikeys. I had no idea that there were echelons within the pikey community.
I think I raised the crowd into a bit of a rabble, but I certainly kept them from getting the better of me, and this set the bar. The other acts had to raise their game to play this audience and it was good to see what happens when a bunch of lesser experienced acts, at what's supposed to be a friendly new acts night, have to just roll with the audience they've got.
I had a whale of a time. I may have flirted with some audience members, but that's just my new party trick. I'm a puppy chasing a juggernaut.
I rushed home after work so I could get food, get showered, changed and then into town for a speed dating event.
I arrived early.
The event was poorly attended. As a result, we got longer with each other in what was a situation that once would have scared the living daylights out of me. After a couple of introductions which were pleasant but a bit formal, I decided to loosen up, be myself (as much as alcohol would allow) and be properly effusive about stuff I like to be effusive about, rather than too cool for school.
Then it was a lot of fun.
Finishing at 9.30, I handed in my form and rushed across town to watch a comedy gig. This was a lot of fun and ended in laughter and a remarkable lack of sobriety from me. I then proceeded to do a drunken tour of fast food establishments between the venue and my house. I arrived in my bed with a belly full of toxins and a head full of confusion. Had I really been speed dating? Had I really watched a gig. Was it all just my imagination?
Either way, I was no shrinking violet. I did what I wanted to do and had fun tonight.
Back To Woik
Well, it's back to the chilled out atmosphere of the office. By this, I mean that the office was excessively cold this morning, rather than that the office is a very laid back place. Laid back we ain't. Having said that, the atmosphere here this morning is fairly relaxed, which makes for a nice start to the partial week after the long weekend. The two weeks around easter are a series of bizarre 4 day phases. There's a four day week, then a four day weekend, then a four day week. It's all part of a conspiracy to confuse you. I think the clocks may change sometime soon too, which can only add to the confusion. It's just a way of getting people to be less on their toes when it's time to buy Glastonbury tickets.
That's only a theory.
To add difficulty to the mix, the people who run this building had decided to have the heating off for the entire duration of the 4 day bank holiday weekend. This is why the office was really chilled today. It was chilled because it was bloody freezing. They hadn't turned the thermostats down to save money, but carefully calculated how to get the building up to operating temperature in time for us to start work at 9ish. No. They'd just let the place be cold. I wonder how the money saving compares with the productivity lost with people sitting shivering in their coats, unable to work.
Cost savings in office space are a delusion.
The long and winding weekend
Long weekends are great, but there's still that pressure to achieve. I think that the massive progress with painting my kitchen and bathroom, coupled with the installation of the fridge into its proper place, was enough to call this weekend a massive triumph.
I wasn't keen on damaging my finger with a saw. I wasn't keen on damaging my other finger with a bannister that I was tensing back into place (with finger in the jaws of the closing bit). I wasn't keen on the head injury, sustained, when the immovable object of a door met the irresisitable force of my head moving to "get a better look". At what? Stars apparently.
Still, the plasterboarding got done, the paintwork got done, a series of small but perfectly important tasks got done and the house felt like it moved into a new phase. A phase of having its kitchen and bathroom a mere radiator away from completion.
Post DIY Gig
I got some DIY done, but I had a gig to do in Brentwood, Essex, so I headed off to that having achieved "bits".
The gig was fun. I videoed it, and there was some nice banter with the audience, which made me chuckle to watch it back. I was worried that I have a lot of bad mannerisms on stage. As it happens, I have some mannerisms, but I think I look okay as a stand-up. I'm not going to rest on my laurels here, there's plenty of work to do, but I'm not scared of how I looked on stage.
I am scared of my instincts to entertain the dark voice inside my head that wants me to say the wrong thing. Having some young teenage girls on the front row set of a series of "you can't say that"s in my head. Thankfully, I have the filter. I didn't say any of the things that I thought would be quite wrong.
It's My Bank Holiday Too
Having injured myself with a saw (A DIY injury that I, quite sensibly, fixed with masking tape. Seriously. It worked too.) I had to have some down time where I wasn't doing anything too actively. A busman's holiday was in order, and I headed into London to watch a comedy show. It was a touring version of an Edinburgh Fringe show I hadn't seen last Fringe. I knew the performer, but bought the ticket without his knowledge, thinking he might be free to join me in the bar afterwards (or vice versa).
As it was, the show was excellent. I laughed loudly. As I'd texted him, he knew I'd be somewhere and he picked up exactly where by ear. Like a comedy bat. Also in the audience was another comedian with a loud laugh. We both laughed at places where the audience, in general didn't - comedians find other things funny. That's how it goes.
After the show there was much mixing in the bar. I know the performer's wife and also the girlfriend of the tour manager. A chat after the gig. That's nice, even when you've not performed.
Then they went for food and I went for home. I'm not a groupie or stalker. Not too much.
A good night out and a good show.
I Feel Quite Light Headed
I don't know whether it is a result of stress, or a hang on from last week's illness. Either way I'm getting bouts of dizziness and they are very distracting. Life is moving at a hefty pace at the moment and I really want to be on more solid form than I am at the moment.
It could be stress. There are two houses to worry about, and things at work are far from easy. I think that I can correlate some of my light headedness with times when I'm really chewing over what needs to be done, but then I'm constantly working on work or house stuff, so it is bound to coincide. I can't call that cause and effect. Maybe I should be eating healthily and exercising more. They might help, though my eating habits have somewhat been broken by late nights in the office, broken digestion and general hedonism. Still I do get some physical exertions in somehow. Labouring mainly.
I am generally taking charge of things and this was clearly in evidence when I did a 6 hour (and the rest) painting session on monday night. Despite running around and climbing up and down ladders, and balancing on the rim of my bath, I didn't feel noticeably woozy, which I would have thought I might. Perhaps the process of painting was relaxing enough to help. I think it can be quite therapeutic. I think it can. Equally, last night, under the pressure to perform that is the stand up gig, I felt on top form, and I fought my way through the audience's stupor with varying degrees of energy, but no sense of wobble. So perhaps it is a stress thing, but stand up is relaxing? Or doctor theatre took over? Though there was no after show relapse. I just don't know. I'm not quite myself, though, which is a nuisance.
I am presently on a train on the way to watch a music gig. Today might have ended differently, since I was supposed to be returning to Newcastle, last weekend's visit, apparently, not being enough. The reason for this return would have been to let in a plumber to deal with the leak I had found on my last visit. Luckily my tenant has taken that responsibility on, and I can sit back and just wait for the full horror of the bill to become apparent. No. It can't be stress. In the original version of tonight, I was due to drive to the gig and them drive 5 hours to Newcastle afterwards in order to work the last day before the bank holiday remotely before coming back to Reading for the bank holiday itself. Yeah. Let's add 600 more miles to the week.
This version of tonight is better. I get to take a relaxing train ride to the nearest station to the gig, meet up with my co gig watcher, and then walk the rest of the way. I get to enjoy the experience without worrying about staying awake and alive for the night. Better.
I should also be looking forward to the coming bank holiday. I have a plan. I have a shed load of diy tasks on my list, and I really hope to see some big results from these efforts. I have workmen coming in the next few days and getting the way clear for them to make things happen is very important. It's a potential turning point ahead.
The Newcastle house is more of a worry. It's no fun being grown up. I can't even begin to itemise what's on my mind relating to work.
I've Not Been Up To It
I've really not been myself this week. Well, I have been myself. You know. I've worn my clothes, which seem to fit me reasonably well, so I assume they're mine, and I've gotten into my car (well, the one I call mine - it's just a loan) and gone to my job and sat at my desk. Technically my desk feels a bit like it's the wrong desk, since I've been moved across the office recently to a separate section. However, my desk is on the corner of the "hi" section, the section where ladies walk past at eye-to-boob distances and then catch your eye and say "hi". I suspect this is not friendliness, but boob protection. Who knows.
I probably shouldn't write such things on a blog which my workmates would be able to find quite easily. They might assume that my long pained expressions this week have been caused by ocular/boobular proximity issues, rather than, in fact, my rancid stomach and its naughtinesses. I should also remind them that if they know who I am enough to Google me, then they probably know I'm a stand-up comedian, they probably know I'm working hard under a lot of pressure, and they can probably work out that blethering about boobies on my blog is probably not entirely 100% serious.
What was serious, however, was my trip into work this morning. An ex-colleague of mine is now a new colleague. That's right, I've managed to contract in someone I know from a previous job. There might be a potential for old working habits not to re-form as expected. There might be a clash as old work dynamics have to be replaced by new ones. Things might seem different. As I got into the office at the expected time (to him) of 10am, it seemed like everything was as it always had been. In truth, I was an hour late, delayed by my inability to break through the pain of the morning and get myself to stop feeling like calling in sick and, instead, call in late. At least I came across as reliable to someone in my extreme tardiness this morning.
I decided I would beat this stomach bug. I decided I would go and get something to eat. It's one thing having a stomach that hurts and doesn't want food. It's worse when that stomach turns food into what can only be described as insane unpleasantries of the water closet. It's worse in a half-shell when the stomach then quips something along the lines of "you know, I'm feeling a bit empty - why you no feed me, Seymour?". Make up your mind Gastro-dude! Am I to be starving the bug out or feeding it fuel for its organic macerator? Will feeding it turn my poo-smoothies into perfect cumberland excrement sausage? or will I be back to bum-sick in no time? Is this too graphic? It's just words where I'm coming from, but then I'm just writing, so I don't have the form the images in my head.
Anyway, my decision having been made to eat something, I popped into the cafe. I wanted a really plain sandwich. The cooked breakfast stuff was too greasy and complex. There was a single cheddar and roasted vegetables sandwich in the fridge which I couldn't be doing with either. I thought a nice bread roll with a filling would do the job. All the ingredients were laid out at the sandwich counter. I had my bottle of water in my hand and I wanted a sandwich to be made. The lady, and I use that word with respect I've dug out of a fictional respect-bank marked "euphemisms for bitches I temporarily deplore", told me that she couldn't make a sandwich because she had a buffet to prepare for. She then proceeded to bugger off, despite my suggestion that I could wait 5 or 10 minutes. "Not a chance" was her smart, curt, and twattish, reply. She even left the till unattended and I couldn't leave the money for my unpriced bottle of water, since it was unpriced, and I couldn't determine the exact change for "how much is this fucking water?".
So, I put the water back and stormed out of the work canteen feeling like I'd been mistreated. I was an ill man denied sustenance by someone who clearly didn't give a flying toss.
Looking at it in a bit more of a balanced fashion. The staff member in question was trying to make a series of sandwiches for a buffet, help at the hot breakfast counter and man the till. Perhaps they're understaffed. It's not her fault. Perhaps the problem is endemic. The cafe appears to be run to suit the organisers of the cafe. It's never open when I need it to be, never serves even a sandwich after 2, shuts early, overcharges for most of its products and... well, I decided to take my lunch custom elsewhere, since I'd have to wait for a couple of hours before I got to eat.
I took my lunch custom elsewhere. I tried the sandwich shop which claims to make anything I want. They only had white baguettes for sandwiches. I wanted to tell them to "make me a fucking brown bread roll", but I decided that would be a bit harsh. Starvation makes me a bit miserable. I went to another shop which just looked too fancy to exist even near Bracknell, let alone in it. I say it looked too fancy. I mean that it looked like it was trying to be too fancy. I will not buy pretentious food. I went to M&S. Okay. That's probably more pretentious and middle class than anything, but sod it. I was ill.
I even bought a tomato/pepper/laden focaccia, which is, essentially, a middle-class dairy free pizza slice.
Work had ups and downs. I felt like the day escaped me.
The ups included the progress enjoyed by my rekindled-colleague. There's a phrase. We even included a constitutional walk-and-talk, which helped. The downs, however, came after 5pm when my blood sugar level had tumbled back down and my body was crying for sleep and then the high-importance meetings came.
I didn't cry.
I drove home crying, listening to the wonderful Bleak Expectations. It took me to a supermarket (well, I drove, but the recording lasted the journey) where I chatted to my housemate on the phone and had a massive giggling hysteric fit in the aisles. I said a few things which amused me:"People aren't even staring at me for giggling. They expect this of me."
and"Do you want anything from Asda? Cos I'm in Tesco, but I could go there if you prefer."
Ooh the hilarity.
I bought ingredients for what my body wanted to eat. I say my body wanted it. It was a body and mind conference. My body wanted sponge pudding and custard. My mind offered low-fat custard and some stewed fruit. I'd read that "apple sauce" might help with a poor digestive problem situation. I also like rhubarb. So I bought three apples and a packet of rhubarb.
When I got home, I converted my ingredients into a bizarre sweet fruity yellow-tinged soup. It was very nice. It took longer to prepare than it did to eat. This is normal.
What's the point I was making?
There is none. The message is that stomach bugs suck. Don't get one. And if you do. Then don't.
A New Beginning?
I couldn't let my previous afternoon's weakness get the better of me, and I awoke with the resolve to grab the day by the horns and get going. I decided I could face the world. I especially wanted to face the world where we had a new member of the team, whom I wanted to help induct, though I'd made efforts enough to ensure he had someone to get him involved in the project were I not able to make it.
I dropped a line to my colleague and let him know I'd be arriving after a trip to Tesco for supplies. In this case, supplies involved rehydration formula, energy tablets, bottled water, painkillers and wind reduction tablets. The aim was to stabilise my system, get the fluid back into myself and not worry about eating - hence the energy tablets.
As a system, it saw me through the day.
As a whole, it felt like a positive, though tiring day. I'm frustrated by the fact that I have a whole week away from gigs - the perfect chance to get the house stuff moving along, and I'm too broken to be able to do a thing about it.
Driving home from work last night, later than I wanted, I listened to episode one of Bleak Expectations, which I bought as a sort of birthday present to myself. It made me laugh, then I got a bit overcome with the feeling of laughing and I was sort of crying - happy crying, but still, a bit of a wreck. Scary stuff.
I was worried about lack of productivity at all in the home, but I managed to get some of my laundry done. Most of it, in fact. So that's something. I don't like dirty laundry hanging about when it's so straightforward to do it. I now have clean laundry hanging about instead. Yay.
I watched the last four episodes of series one of The Mighty Boosh - a show I knew I could grow to "get" if I put the time into it. I never had the time, so I didn't. However, a cheap £10 box set and they were sitting waiting to be watched. I'll be honest, I got into weepy crying with laughter at the "Spirit of Jazz" scene, which I've seen before, and talked about, and which just IS funny.
I had a rather sleepless night, which was, in part caused by a rather good novel. However, the page-turning aspect of the novel merely kept me company as I bore the discomfort of my stomach complaint. I'm not an ill person. I don't do being ill very well. So, was quite frustrated. Ultimately, the book was very good, so I couldn't complain about staying up to finish it.
A mishmash of a day, really. A bit like the mishmash that is my digestive system.
A Doggy Picture
Posting a picture of a dog is not my ideal concept of productivity in the office. It's probably the best thing I managed all day. I was not well at all, and had to get home and back to bed. The stomach bug was making me uncomfortable and sleepy and hurty. (Hurty - one of the lesser of the seven dwarves)
So I went home and I listened to the last two episodes of Bleak Expectations - the CD set which arrived today, after great anticipation on my part, along with the CD of Mack and Mabel, and a novel by a friend, who very pleasantly acknowledged me in it (as a survivor of a real life event she'd fictionalised in the story). Then I drifted out of consciousness and got some sleep.
I spent the night between bathroom, computer, DVD watching and book reading. It's not something I'm pleased with. DIY would have been better. Abusing dogs to make twee photographs would have been worse.
Errors of the day included the smoothie I had in the car on the way to work. It's that old principle - smoothie in, smoothie out. Also, the lunch I ate, which I thought might be good for me - some chinese chicken on rice. Would probably have been best with just some steamed vegetables.
One Hundred Percent Wrong
There is simply nothing right with this picture. The idea of dressing a dog is one thing. The idea of dressing a dog in Gingham booties is another. Lace-up Gingham booties on a West Highland Terrier... and it looks like it's enjoying the experience. Lordy lordy lord lord lord!
All Day In Bed
I couldn't do it. I couldn't get out of bed. I tried to rise with the alarm. I had things I wanted to do. I had the racks to fill. I had some colleagues to visit. I just couldn't. My mind had been racing all last night and my stomach was reeling too. Something was wrong. I concluded that I was either totally preoccupied with a new way of religious thinking which nobody on the radio programme on my alarm clock seemed to understand... OR... I'd been sleeping fitfully, in a slight delirium caused by half-sleep and illness, and the whole religious thing was part of some dream, but that I was physically wrecked.
I couldn't let myself be licked - who would lick me anyway? I'm a grown man of 34 years old with a reasonably unpleasant and rather unpalatable physique. Who would tongue this? Noone. However, I couldn't let myself be metaphorically licked in a boxing sense, either.
So I took a shower. I sat in my towel, thinking about the clothes I would wear to go out in. I really tried.
Then I was licked.
I had to get back into bed and sleep more.
I slept all day.
I couldn't eat.
I was tired and ill and my stomach wasn't happy. The start of the illness.
I thought I could sleep it off.
All day in bed - used to be an ideal of mine. In truth, it just kind of aches and you get bored.
Rack 'Em Danno
The plan had been to make these last, but plans get waylaid. Instead, therefore, these were made today. I woke too late, but I still managed to do a recce and discover that the garage could be locked with existing keys and locks. I went to get some keys cut for the main door and left the back door permanently locked. I bought a lot of timber, which is wood for MANLY people. I even took some stuff back to B&Q for a refund, though my purchase took Mr B&Q into profit by about twice as much as he'd refunded me earlier. No matter. I had lots of wood and some screws.
In fact, it took something like 18 lengths of 2.4m CLS timber and 9 lengths of 100m x 19m x 2.4m sawn timber to make these racks. I did all the cutting by hand and all the screwing with my black and decker cordless - a remarkably trusty tool, given the cost, age, and treatment it's had.
The results are racks that live in my garage and can house (or stand over) most of the tools and paint and other crap that's in the way of all the DIY jobs. The next step would be to fill these racks with the stuff.
Night came. I ate. I got tired. I did some paint stripping. Today had had the ups of moving the house project forward a notch without the actual completion of anything. There was still plenty of sorting out to do, but the racks would help.
What Is Wrong?
I knew what was wrong. It's something I read in the book about using excessive uptime with your staff. At some point you have to get downtime back. We were on the back of what had been a successful trip. I was on the other side of what had been an excessive night. There wasn't a great deal that could be done, except work through the day and not expect to make a grand leap forward on the project work.
Except... we were interviewing. We had three candidates. In no particular order, there was the one we hired (obviously good, and how good should not be the subject of this blog, but one could wax lyrical about a candidate that aces an interview). The other two included a rather laid back individual who clearly could talk the talk and could possibly have done a good job, but who knows and there was no urgency really. The final candidate was just bitterly awful. And here's a think. Such a person could, theoretically, earn about 20% more than I do in a year if they worked the average number of days a year that they should expect to work. Perhaps she would never reach that particular state - perhaps she doesn't get contracts. It's scary and eye-opening to interview someone like that.
Now, I'm an intellectual snob. I'm a dickhead. I'm a braggart. I'm a show-off. I'm lazy. I'm self-centred (read the other million words of this blog for evidence, or simply look at the word count). I'm solipsistic. In short, I'm someone who takes professional ability too seriously and fights to prove my own, fearing at the same time its obvious flaws. So, when I'm faced with someone who can't really do more than the basics, what do I do?
You could kick someone out after 5 minutes.
You could barrack someone, showing them that they're not worth the time to interview, let alone the money they want to charge.
You could question them to smithereens, breaking them down to show who's boss.
Or, you could try my "innocent until proven guilty" approach. I try to prove that the candidate has some ability in something. I try to find the one thing they can do. Maybe try to waft the wee sparks of ability to see if there's really a fire of skill under there. I give clues. I give positive feedback. I try to help them show me that they get it. In this case, it went far off. I was looking at my co-interviewer to see if I could spot, in his eyes, recognition - the look which says "I know what answer your question should get". He was reassuring, making me feel like I wasn't off on too much of a tangent.
After doing something I never do, namely stepping up to the whiteboard during an interview to draw half the answer, and then asking the candidate to complete it, I had pretty much done all I could do to buy this person some self-esteem. We knew before we started that she was a no. It was just a case of going through the motions so she felt she'd had a fair hearing. In the end, I told her what she seemed good at (I lied a little, but not too much) and explained why the role was about something that she needed more experience with. It was the first interview I've given where I told the candidate the verdict then and there. It was the fairest thing to do, I think. She knew it hadn't gone well, but we'd gotten the role into a more friendly examiner/teacher, than angry bank-manager scenario, so I hope she went home thinking she'd been given a fair shot and that she just wasn't suited to the role.
In my view, it was worse than that, but if she's the sort of person to Google me just to find out what I thought of her, then she's vain enough to need to learn that I was as kind as I could be with someone I wouldn't trust as a junion in a technology she claimed to be experienced in.
There was only one person we could hire for the role and they were hired. I was looking for help, not a warm body. I'm not sure I would even trust myself 100% to do the job I was looking to get done.
After a taxing day on a worn out body, I went over to see some colleagues to catch up on news across town. We caught up on progress and compared interview notes. There are some good interview ideas out there and we discussed how hard it is to get the right people. The conversation lasted until later than I planned and I had to abandon my thoughts of late night DIY and go instead for some supermarket action, followed by getting some sleep.
Today In Song Form
Woke too early.
Went to Zurich.
Talked too much, but it was well received.
Oh the hurly burly.
Could'a' made me sick
But I had no time for that so came back for me eve-nin'
Went to London
For my gig-yeah
Talked too much, but it was well received.
Didn't wear a condom
Didn't even need one
A coffin would'a' been more appropriate for my jokes were bereaved (of laughter)
Left the venue
Got some food, but I was tiring fast
Didn't get a menu
Just ate whatever turd
I happened upon as I was walking past
There was booze running through my veins
Driving me insane
Soothing my brain from the feeling that the death on stage would be a drain
There was chatting on the train
And I don't feel too ashamed
That I told the nice girl to set me up with one of her hottie mates. (It didn't happen)
I was nearly home
And I got more fast food
Didn't talk because my mouth was full
I got under the covers
After too many hours
I'd packed too much into the day for a quick song format to really work.
Today had me hurting. Now, I'm not hurting this minute, so this is not a whingeing, mewling, self-pitying moment. I'm not sure exactly why I ended up with a slight feeling of hurtiness, but I did. I descend into such a pit if I'm tired or stressed, and especially when I'm tired and stressed, and it would appear that today never really started on the right foot, thus exacerbating my tiredness and elevating my stress levels.
Then the pining can begin.
However, I'm not pining now. I just was. Pining for a time when my heart was full of something other than stress and tiredness. This heart-full-of-the-wrong-thing, is itself not a product of work, though a trying day at work, coupled with my relentless out-of-work-schedule, and I'm in trouble. Emotionally, at least.
I got into the wrong frame of mind quickly, after a rush to be at work early enough for the first job interviewee had me woozy and there before the interviewee, who arrived late. We need the interview process to yield someone at least half decent. Preferably really good. After three interviews, I had seen one person who was just pointlessly useless, one person who was annoyingly argumentative and wrong, and one person who I wished had "it", but simply didn't.
I ended up calling up a friend who I know does this sort of work. I needed to speak to someone who I knew would get the job if they applied. Just to be certain that I wasn't going mad. I needed to feel like there was someone around who would just "get it". Thank goodness for that. Total crash into confusion averted.
Mind you, it's something of a confidence boost to think that there are people out there, potentially able to charge more as a contractor than I earn, who can't even talk the talk, let alone to the work. If it all goes wrong, I think I have me a general purpose backup plan - I'll become a contractor and be one of the people that interviewers like me actually breathe a sigh of relief when they come into contact with. I'll be informed. I'll hold views, but I'll be pragmatic about them. I'll be flexible. I'll be willing. I won't be shit. I'll be doing it for the work and for the satisfaction of a job well done, not for my CV.
I won't go contracting, probably. Life's complicated enough. Maybe I'll eat those words.Me:
Any questions for us?Him:
Why haven't you asked more technical questions [gives some questions we didn't ask]
I'm asking about the things I'm interested in, and your answers have been quite non-technical, though I was looking for fairly detailed explanations of how.Him:
But people usually ask really obscure questions, and I know the answers to them.Me:
Do you actually want this job?Him:
Not really, it won't look good on my CV.Me:
Ok, well, I think we can stop here, then. Shame, though. I think it could have looked good on your CV. [thinks - it wouldn't look good on mine to have hired you, though]
As the clock ticked on to the end of the day, I sorted out a couple of things and then got in the car headed for the gig. A drug deal was taking place in the work car park, so they were parked in my way. Thanks lads.
I drove to the gig and my body was being all emotional on me. Hormones, perhaps. However, I can't underestimate the power of a good drive-to-gig to sort me out. A bit of the radio. A bit of mileage. Some music and singing along. All of a sudden I was amused again and back into comedy mood. I took this mood into the gig with me.
On stage, some banter with the audience ended up with me semi-believing that two of the girls in the room were prostitutes, out for a night with their pimp. I'd had it all tonight. Drugs and prosistutes. I bantered a little with them, doing my material and getting to the fat end of a 10 minute set - namely about minute 15.
I was there to do a 10-minute try out spot for the promoter. I ended up doing longer (which was fine) and receiving calls for "more" as I left the stage. I guess I left the audience wanting more. Neat.
I've been told I'll get booked again.
Comedy has cured me again of my heavy heart and I'm tired enough to be susceptible to tomorrow's stresses, but it doesn't seem to matter.
The Wrong Trousers
I finally managed to go to the Barber's today. This took a great exertion of will on my part, since the work really isn't going away and the temptation to sit around and just do it is very great.
Despite the obsessive personality, I managed to get a bunch of things doie today which should stand us in good stead for the next couple of weeks. The restful nature of the weekend was really an essential part of today's successes.
Sadly my barber's visit was a bit stuffed by a rather poor job on the part of the barber, which meant I've had to have a shave tonight - the first shave I've had in a couple of years!
We made a pact not to work too late tonight, so I got to get home at a reasonable time. Of course, I immediately got myself into the DIY. I have primed a lot of woodwork - top bedroom and downstairs bathroom. Slapping primer on is fairly straightforward. It's quite good fun with the radio on. So many things are.
That is all.
The Perfect Day?
I think that the only thing imperfect about today was the lack of time for all of the things which made it such a perfect combination of things of a sort of a day, yes, I know this isn't making a great deal of sense so far, so I'd best itemise what today comprised.
Firstly, I slept until lunchtime. This is not something I'm proud of, but I really needed the rest and so I got it. I woke up blurry, but basically feeling like a lot of the sleep I needed to catch up on was caught up. This was a good thing. Most definitely. A good thing. I needed sleep. I don't feel so shell-shocked now.
After plentiful Z's, I did my next favourite thing. I did some DIY. Whether DIY is preferable to music or stand-up is a debate I don't want to have. If I admit that the entertainment stuff is so much better, then I run the risk of wondering why I've done so much DIY over the last year. So, let's pretend it's a favourable activity, and let's call it my next favourite thing because it happened next today. Right? Good.
I did some painting touch-ups that were needed. I put up the replacement light in the kitchen, replacing the one I took back to B&Q when it stopped functioning. I did some sanding and preparation in my bathroom. I did some sanding and paint stripping (not necessarily in that order) in one of my top attic rooms. I set off the smoke alarm many times with the paint-stripping fumes. Finally, I put up the shelf I'd started to put up a week ago, on my birthday, and now it looks totally mint, ready for a bunch of recipe books.
I did about 4 hours of DIY and I was happy enough with the results. I've managed to clear two rooms of anti-DIY-detritus, which means I can work in those rooms. I think I'll work in them simultaneously where I'm basically doing the same activity in both, like the same sanding or the same painting. I won't prioritise the bedroom room, yet.
After DIY came a trip to Subway. I won't put it down as the perfect way to eat, but it was enjoyable. I've not been in a while. Oh, and they have a special Scrabble-themed promotion, which is definitely good news.
Then I went to do a gig in London. I had arranged to meet a friend at the gig. I drove so that my departure and arrival times could be my own. It's not too bad driving to London on a Sunday night, but it's not too good either. It didn't matter. I had my car, music, radio and the opportunity to buy a nice big Costa coffee. This was company enough for the drive... and I also had some on-the-phone style company too, which is nice.
Getting to the gig, I discovered a 17 piece, yeah, 17 piece, jazz band setting up. They would be the closing act. I was doing musical comedy at a music night. I guess that's comedic music, where at a comedy night it's musical comedy. Who knows!? I just like to dabble in the music scene, since I can hold my own on a stage and my stuff is largely songs, so it's quite in keeping with the idea of a music night.
My set went down ok. I won't be claiming that I stormed it, but I managed to get laughs with jokes I'd not heard myself say before - ad libs, essentially, and I felt like I was holding the audience's attention. It's hard to judge at a non-comedy gig, what the reaction is. I could see some people cracking up at every punchline, but others just listening. I think it's best to take every positive reaction as a plus and ignore everything that was not a reaction.
Then a drive home with a picnic comprising some M&S food.
Not a bad day, really. I even snuck in a little late-night-painting at the end of the night. That's not too bad. And I put some laundry in.
The next week at work promises to be a total slog. I want to sneak some DIY in too. I have no idea what's about to happen. I'm sure I'll make it through, but it won't be particularly easy. Nice to have a good day to end the weekend before the sheer graft begins!
The Day After
This week was quite a challenge. I knew that recovering would be important. I slept through until lunchtime, when my housemate woke me with news of his departure. He's going to his mum's for the weekend. That was good. He could enjoy mother's day, and I could try to raise myself up from my slumber.
I arranged to meet a friend for lunch and started to get myself out of bed. I received answerphone messages from the cycle shop and from my neighbours in Newcastle. My bike was ready (I knew it would be, it had been there ages) and my garage door in Newcastle had blown open. Later I'd discover from the other neighbours, that my fence had blown down - not the section I'd just done, but a neighbouring section. Grrr!
I got my bike. My friend and I went into town for shopping and being scared of the sheer number of people pushing around you in a shopping centre. We had lunch and it was very pleasant. I had a gig to go to tonight, so was dropped back off with my bike and I headed home to prepare.
I would like to have done some DIY, but there was time for ablution and sticking my towel into the washing and then I was away. I ran late for my gig, but it was ok. I was still there for the start of the show. A friend of mine had come to see the show and I regret not getting there early enough to have a proper chat, rather than the snatched, in-between-things few words. However, such is the nature of the comedy night and the 90 minute journey that ends up taking 2 hours.
The show was a bit uppy and downy. When I took to the stage, the last caffeinated drink I'd had was still causing an odd sensation in my body, and I think, if I'm honest, I was just totally knackered. As a result, I had a sense that my mind and body were somewhat disconnected, almost as though I was working a puppet of myself, rather than quite being 100% present in the moment. This was, again, a probably symptom of exhaustion. I gave a performance which I should neither be proud nor ashamed of. It filled the room and got laughs, that's main thing. I managed a bit of ad-libbed audience banter, which, as has been happening a lot recently, made me wonder about the quality of my material, compared with my blethering skills.
The truth is that the ad-libbed laugh is always stronger than the scripted. Making the one look like the other may be a trick of the seasoned pros.
Still, I'm confident enough that I gave a good enough performance to warrant more work for the promoter. I'm that confident, because he told me he'd be giving me more work. Simple eh?
I drove back, via an all-night garage for some food. I bought mainly healthy stuff because I need to start eating more healthily (low cal, low fat etc) or I will re-gain the weight I so proudly lost.
Now back at home, my eyes are heavy and my body needs more sleep. There's DIY to do tomorrow, there's a gig. Life doesn't stop. Next week will be very very hard work. I need to be ready.
I need a holiday!
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