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Thursday, March 31

I made it into work... probably only just on time. As might be expected with a combination of a vague mind in the office and a time delay between then and the time of writing (I'm writing this about 6 weeks after the fact), I have no idea exactly what happened on this particular Thursday. I do recall getting a telephone call in the middle of the day asking me whether I'd be prepared to do a gig in Leigh that evening. It was a paid gig - paid at a level where I could afford to do it an not make/lose too much on the petrol.

I have a rule. I will not turn down a gig that I can actually do. I'd turn down something which would do me harm (either financially or mentally) or which I was not available for, but otherwise, I can't afford to say no. It's not necessarily the career aspects of doing gigs in the right places, it's more the necessity to ply my trade in front of lots of different audiences to learn what I need to learn and to gain enough experience to relax into it.

So, I left the office and drove to a bistro in Leigh. They have a regular comedy night. The crowd was very small, but I gave them 20 minutes or more of my shit and they seemed to enjoy themselves. The MC, also the owner and the person who booked me, was a musician himself. He introduced the acts with a song, which the audience seemed to know how to sing along to. He inserted the name of the act into the song and I was slightly scared by this and also saw the potential for doing something with it. I hadn't been certain whether I should go on first or second - the first act also wielding a guitar. However, he'd said he'd go on first and I didn't want to demand a position on the bill; I should be able to go on whenever and make it work for me. The fact that I wasn't on first gave me a chance to see how this gig worked. It was a nice crowd and the song thing was a good touch. I checked with the MC about what key he was playing in. I couldn't let the opportunity go to waste. He played me onto the stage in the middle section and I bounded on and picked up the song on the guitar and turned it into a self-deprecating rant about the fact that my career had led me to a weird half-empty bistro in Leigh. Something like that can go either way - it went in my favour. Phew.

The audience were nice and I had a good time with them. I don't regret doing that gig. Some gigs you do regret. Leigh will remain a happy (albeit weird) memory for me.

Home, bed, more Avenue Q for good measure. I was getting quite tired, but it had been a good week for me, so I'd earned my exhaustion.

Wednesday, March 30

Quite what happened between the gig in Glenrothes and today is anyone's guess. Well, I'm sure that there were things that I could remember if I tried, but let's skip them on the basis that they're either private or so totally trivial an unimportant that they even drop off the scale of unimportance. I usually write about the unimportant, but even I have my limits. For my part, the important bit was that I was going to work and then returning to the company of my girlfriend, who was staying with me, during her Easter holidays. We were filling our time happily on evenings. I know we went to the Chillingham Arms gig on the 29th March, but I can't remember exactly what happened there - we went to that gig a lot, so it all blurs together.

Today (30th March) was a bit of a sad day. It was time to give my girlfriend/houseguest a send off. She was taking the coach back home to her family home in Reading. It was to be one hell of a long journey. Coach journeys are truly awful and long. I've already mentioned that they're a good way to disappear from the public gaze for a long time. If you're not careful, though, they seem to have the capacity to totally consume you and destroy your will to live. Luckily she survived, but only just.

So, I picked up the object of my affections and dropped her at the coach station. I saw her onto the coach. She spoke to the driver and showed him the online reservation thing. She was going to Victoria. I helped her with her bags to the luggage bay. The other coach-staff member there just looked at us. What was the problem? I pondered. Maybe, I thought, he might want to know the destination for the bag. He just stared at us, disapprovingly. I told him the destination - uncertain whether this would be the key to some activity on his part. He acted as though we were the foolish uncommunicative ones. "See, I don't hear what you tell the driver, so you have to tell me the destination", he said condescendingly. In the interests of harmony and peace, I didn't point out that he could have just bloody asked! Smug cock-monkey!

Waving off the girlfriend was a passable experience - it would have been preferable to keep her, but she was only going away for a bit and there was always the possibility of a return visit.

I had work to get back to and I had, by good fortune, a gig that night to look forward to. If tricky things like waving off a girlfriend are on the horizon, it's good to have something to look forward to for soon after. This gig was going to be an odd one. It was called One Big Laugh and was a charity gig. I was very early on the bill, but the gig wasn't to start until 12, so I couldn't expect to be on stage before about quarter to 1. This was sort of good. I got the chance to work as late as I felt was necessary. I then had a leisurely drive to Edinburgh.

On the drive to Edinburgh, I listened to two musicals. I listened to Titanic, which is the show to be performed in February by the same group with whom I performed Guys and Dolls this February. Rehearsals start at the beginning of may, giving a 9 month run up to the performance dates. For that amount of preparation to be worthwhile - remember the show only runs 7 public performances once it's all done - the show has to appeal. I had put a great deal of effort into sourcing the CD, but I'd not had chance to listen to more than some of the opening song. A long car journey was just the ticket. It's quite telling that I'd not found the time to listen to either of the CDs I'd brought back from America in the 20 days I'd been back in the country. I'd had long car journeys, but I'd been very pre-occupied and hadn't gotten myself organised to listen to two CDs I was particularly interested in.

I can see the good in Titanic - it's not a bad musical. It's modern, I could imagine it working quite well on stage... but it was quite depressing to listen to. Nothing really grabbed me. The words seemed to be arguing with the meaning and some of the language seemed wrong. Things "being staved" and referring to a natural disaster as "a day of wrath" seemed quite contrived. Words in musicals mean a lot to me. The music was ok, in some places it was very good... but the show didn't speak to me. I don't plan to be in it.

As I was dispairing of the purchase of one musical on CD, a musical that I was rather willing to end, the next CD came on. Avenue Q. Thusly, I would like to declare:

Avenue Q - musical of the day 30th March 2005

Wow! What a show. I wish I'd gone to see this instead of Spamalot earlier in the month. To summarise it, it's like Sesame Street, but for adults. The characters are all puppets, living among other puppets in a bad part of New York. The only non-puppet is Gary Coleman... well, it's a woman playing the part of Gary. The songs are consistently of a high standard and they're very funny. Songs about sexuality, racism, porn, sex... it's adult and it's inventive and brilliant. I laughed heartily. Indeed, the show put me in a top mood. When it finished, I put it on again. It's the business! I arrived in Edinburgh on top of the world.

It was also rather late - 10.30. I met up with some friends and we headed over to the gig. We were there before it started. I had time for a quick sound check. Then the gig started. The gig was intended to be record breaking in that it was meant to have the most comedians on the bill of any comedy show (I'd been involved in the previous record setting - 128). In addition, this show was to be the longest comedy show at 36 hours. They had 200 or so spots of 10 minutes to fill. However, comedians were either not properly booked or had dropped out. So the actual number available to perform had dropped quite considerably from the original plan. As a result, I was asked to perform for 30 minutes. I hadn't done a 30 minute gig since August. I had 30 minutes of material (sort of) then, and I planned out a long set for this show, using some newer and therefore better stuff. I wrote the set list on a piece of paper and placed it under the drink I put on the speaker to one side of the stage. It's an easy trick and it works. You get a drink - the audience don't mind that - but you get to read your set list too. Cool! and his gang.

At one point, I struggled to get the laughs, I did a song I hadn't done in ages and it's not all that good... at least, it needs working to make it funny and I was out of practice. Overall, though, I had a nice gig there. It's all on video, so I guess one day I'll see for myself whether my memory of the gig matches the reality. The audience applauded and cheered nicely, so it can't have been all that bad. I left part way through the next act, dropping a friend (our tour guide from the previous week) home. I then headed back home. I'd been in Edinburgh for 3 hours, one sixth of which I'd spent on the stage.

I got to bed late. Surprise surprise.

Saturday, March 26

Nope. We missed breakfast and nearly missed the checkout. Sleeping and showering were all we really got from the hotel. Still, they were damned good sleeps and showers, so fair play.

On the way into Edinburgh, we found somewhere for breakfast and had something to fill in for the absence of food in our stomachs. The plan was to go into town and meet some friends of mine for lunch. I'm slightly vague in my recollection of how we filled in the time between breakfast and lunch. I believe it involved visiting the promoter who was organising the show I was going to MC that evening.

At the designated time, We met my friends and had a very pleasant lunch together. There was plenty of time after lunch to get to the gig. This time whiled itself away somehow and we arrived in Glenrothes rested and refreshed.

The gig itself went pretty. My MCing was good enough. I wasn't shit-hot, but I had fun and some new material worked pretty well out of the box. Having played that gig in front of some regulars quite a few times, I was trying to force myself to do new stuff and/or banter. It worked pretty well. The other acts had a good night too and one act, whom I'd seen do reasonably well, really had a great show. Given that I'd seen him the previous weekend at my show in Glasgow, I was really thrilled for him that he'd had a good show of his own.

After the show was over and all the backslapping complete, we set back to Newcastle. I was able to share and demonstrate the exhausting late night trips back from a gig which pepper my life. However, it was hardly going to come with a portion of loneliness when I had the company that I had. Indeed, it was the most enjoyable post-gig ride home that I've had.

Friday, March 25

I had a gig in Edinburgh on the 26th and I hadn't realised that the 25th was, in fact, a Bank Holiday. I looked for somewhere for us to stay on the Friday night, so we could make a weekend of it, and found, on, a reasonably priced hotel. The hotel, though, was a castle. How cool is that!?

It's like an old family estate that has been adapted into a hotel. It was a good looking hotel as well. We set off for Edinburgh a little later than planned and arrived at the hotel in late afternoon. The plan had been to enjoy the grounds of the hotel (if that was possible) and then head into Edinburgh to get a ghost tour (friends of mine work on the ghost tours and they're very good). Evening ghost tours are the best, hence the idea of going the night before. It all starts to add up now.

First thing we did on arriving at the hotel is lie down for a minute... well, a couple of hours. We just had a long snooze. It seems that the previous weekend's exhaustion was still present.

After the snooze, we got up and headed into town. A meal was found on the Royal Mile and then we did the ghost tour. It was very enjoyable, though we didn't see any ghosts. We were hoping to find a ghost on a bicycle, but sadly there was not even the faintest trace of one.

After the tour we went into the Scots bar of Nicol Edward's. This is a room where I've had some of my finest moments as a stand-up. Actually, that's not true anymore, but it once was. It was a place where I cut my teeth and enjoyed gigging. A man on the stage there had the guitar I wanted - the Stratacoustic. Actually, I wanted the Telecoustic, but it's basically the same guitar, but with a different shaped end.

Late night chat with our tour guide eventually led to a need for more of the sleeping thing. So, off we headed to our castle. Perhaps we'd make more of it the following day.

Thursday, March 24

Summarising the last few days in one. I returned to work. I don't think that they'd changed a great deal of things in my absence this time. There was stuff to catch up with, but it wasn't too radical.

Time was spent at home. Curries were eaten. We tried to get a pub meal from a pub which serves food all day (but not in the evening). Lunches were enjoyed in town with my house guest and I making time to spend together. More curries were eaten. We went to watch some comedy in Newcastle - the regular Tuesday night gig in Heaton. Life tasted good... albeit slightly of curry.

My occasional housemate returned from Bolton and the household swelled to 3 - the most people who have lived in the household for an extended period in a very long time.

Tonight we went to see Kiss Me Kate at the Theatre Royal. This was a professional production and it was very very good. I was debating with myself about which musical I plan to do next. It's a choice between Kiss Me Kate and Titanic which are being staged in February 2006 by Tynemouth and Durham groups respectively. I hadn't listened to the Titanic soundtrack yet, despite my efforts in procuring it, but Kiss Me Kate was looking a favourite already.

We sat on the front row. I've done this before and it can make some of the upstage action look a bit confusing, especially if there's stuff happening downstage. It can also give you a smashing view of all the performers and a much bigger experience of the show. The latter was the case on this occasion. We sat in the middle of the front row. Good seats. I was pleased with them. There was a disabled man on the very left of the row. This wasn't noteworth in itself... bear with me. Sitting to the left of us were two women. As the interval approached, the women asked if they could leave the row by passing us (even though the other aisle was closer). The request went something like this:

Woman: Can we go out your way? - the man on the end has sticks.
Me: Are you worried that he'll attack you with them.
Woman: (failing to recognise the joke in my comment) Er, no. He's just disabled.

Ah how I laughed. Then I stopped.

The show also starred Michael Greco. He of ex-Eastenders stardom. He really speaks in that gruff a voice. Not only that, but he sings in a gruff voice. He was one of the "toughs" who sing "Brush up your shakespeare". He did really well, but I feel for him. Having such a gruff voice - all phone calls will sound like obscene phone calls. Weird.

It was a good show and a good night. I was leaning more towards it as my next musical.

Monday, March 21

There's not too much to say about today. There was a lot of sleeping required. I showed my house-guest around Newcastle a bit - enough to enable her to navigate in and out of town. It was the breather I needed to get my head back into my own life, rather than trapped in the world of musical theatre.

Anyway, plans were looming. The weekend was a bank holiday and we were going to go and stay in a castle. More on that later.

Sunday, March 20

Day 4 of the tour. It rhymed, but it wasn't going into the script. Life was complicated enough without having to learn a new script. This last show was supposed to be the easy one. Of course, nothing that's supposed to be easy ever is, so I didn't want to breeze into the theatre late in the day and suddenly find myself swamped with problems. We got up reasonably early and headed off for breakfast. I had a small problem of my own to solve too. I had miscalculated the number of shirts I needed for my time away. I was expecting female company for the journey home and I didn't want to be wearing the same shirt I'd sweated into for the last couple of days during the ride. I didn't think that would be very nice for anyone concerned. Therefore, I wanted to stop off at a Tesco to buy a quick shirt. To quickly buy a shirt? To buy a shirt quickly. Whatever. We could get breakfast at their cafe. I'd chosen this plan carefully. There was a big Tesco placed conveniently between the house we were staying in and the theatre we were headed for. Bonus.

At the Tesco, I left my musical colleague in charge of ordering the breakfast while I headed to the clothing department. I grabbed a shirt that looked like my sort of thing (made of 100% cotton and patterned) and ran through the self-service checkout with it. Good stuff... so I thought... then I realised that the shirt had a tag on it. The self-service checkout doesn't de-tag stuff. I called an assistant over. He looked at my shirt and took the tag off. He didn't ask for a receipt. He just assumed that he should remove the tag. Somehow, I couldn't help but wonder whether there was not a lapse in security there somewhere. Never mind. I could live with it. I got to the breakfast queue before my colleague was served. Breakfasts were procured.

It was only when I got to the table with mine that I realised that something big had been missed off. I can't now remember what exactly it was - a piece of fried bread, perhaps, or a hash brown. At the time, I remember thinking how little care and attention had been put by the member of staff into providing me with my breakfast. Surely it's not difficult to put a bunch of items on a plate? However, I didn't go running after the extra item. I realised that my dietary habits had been pretty poor over the last few days and even the extra energies I was expending in performing the show weren't quite enough to save me from my eating. It was probably for the best that mine was a slightly leaner breakfast. I was full enough and ready for the day ahead. There was to be much work to do in the theatre, unloading cars and setting up the final version of the show.

It should be easy
We'd been to the theatre before, so we knew the score. We knew where everything was and what sorts of problems to expect. I'd sent a full technical run-down of what equipment I needed - it was a new requirement of the theatre. We'd been doing the show lots recently and so knew exactly how to get the techie up to speed quickly. In addition, it was the same techie as last time. Yeah. It should be really easy.

We got to the theatre, unloaded and started work. The secret with the show is to locate the carpet first. Everything hangs off it. The lighting needs to light the acting area - this area is defined by the carpet. The set and props are all located at the right place on the carpet. This is exactly why I decided to use a carpet. It was a placeholder for the whole show. So, we put down the carpet. We argued slightly over its position. I was wrong. It wasn't actually an argument - nobody got heated. What was the point. We all wanted the same thing. So, the carpet was moved. Ultimately the set was constructed upon it, thusly:

This doesn't look too dissimilar from last time we were there:

We decided, having used no microphones since the 4th show, not to use microphones for this show too.

Mirror ball action
Since last time we were in the theatre, I'd bought a mirror ball. I was planning to use that. No. The theatre in their wisdom had hired me a mirror ball. Somehow they'd managed to remember that I used one the previous time and completely ignored my instructions for what to provide me for the one I was bringing. Never mind. We'd use the mirror ball that was already up there, rather than complain. This mirror ball had a motor which was rigged up to the same circuit as the lights. This meant that the motor wasn't running when the lights came on. The effect of this was an effect where lots of little dots came on and then started moving. In Glasgow, we'd experienced a similar moment accidentally. The mirror ball motor there was located at an angle and so acted a bit like a universal joint with the ball. Sometimes this arrangement jammed for part of a revolution, so the ball sometimes stopped for a moment before turning again. When we got the mirror ball effect on on the Saturday night, this happened and my other half felt that it had contributed to the effect, rather than detracted. Whatever... we had a mirror ball hanging off the lighting bars, up in the air, one less thing to rig. Never mind the cost - after all, Glasgow had lost me most of its costs, so this wasn't going to be a money-making scheme.

Well sound, like
Last time we'd had a cool auto-pausing CD player, provided by the venue. This time they'd managed to provide us with no CD player. My DVD player was going to do the treble. It's a bit tricky to use, though quite logical once you learn it. It can also read the sound effects CD, so it was to be the workhorse for the sound effects for one last time.

Since the first time we played this venue, I'd gotten a lot more kit. I'd also found lots of different ways of rigging up the sound equipment we needed. This last performance was to use the method I used in Edinburgh (and Newcastle on the second performance) for getting the instruments connected. We'd run it all through my wee little mixer, which did us well in Edinburgh, simplifying the setup as much as possible. You can see the flight case for this mixer, hiding in the top left of the picture (well, in plain sight, but less visible during the show). I only needed to run one line to the sound desk. It was the same sound desk as last time. I like that desk. The equipment was starting to feel like a collection of old friends. I had been on the road too long.

The runaround
As I ran round sorting stuff out in the theatre, my colleague had a problem to solve. We had lost some costumes. To itemise what we'd lost:

1. My shirt
2. My jeans
3. His jumper

My shirt was made at great length on a train, which made it easy to strip off (velcro is a great thing) for the big reveal of the nudity stuff. Sadly we'd have to go for a manual shirt removal - the shirt I'd been wearing the last two days, in fact. The jeans were just jeans. I could wear the ones I already had on. The jumper was more of a problem. He needed to be wearing a jumper during the show which came off easily and which masked the fact that he was wearing a white shirt, waistcoat and bow tie.

Somehow we managed to lose stuff that was either not absolutely critical or replaceable... but only just. In addition, we'd forgotten to bring CDs, which I'd planned to sell after the show. The big supply of discs was still left in Newcastle Arts Centre, but there were some spares back at the house in Bolton. So, again, I was left setting up in the theatre as my colleague went out to run after loose ends. Again, it was the only way to do it. I feel bad that he had the stress of running round after stuff as I was left in the relative sanity of problem solving in a confined space. I'm Mr Techie and he couldn't do what I did (or at least, he might have got it to work, but perhaps I would have made it tricky for him with my technical pedantry). Plus, he had local knowledge and would know how to get hold of a polo neck unzippable jumper on a Sunday afternoon in the North West... I didn't even know where to start.

So, we beavered away on our different bits as the afternoon drew on.

The technical run through
Running the show is tricky and we have only given that job to a single techie on a few occasions. The first time was in this venue (so we reckoned that the techie would be able to do it). The second time was in London. The third time was throughout the Fringe where we had an expert techie - at least he became an expert after a few goes - with a computerised lighting desk, along with the sound effects on his own computer. Everywhere else, we'd used multiple techies. This last show was going to be a challenge for the techie, though.

The lighting desk was antiquated and tricky to get quite right. However, we'd learned tricks from the Newcastle show on how to prepare such a desk to get the easiest route through the cues. The DVD player is tricky to run, but it can be done.

We knew exactly where it would all go wrong as we showed him the cues. The bottom of page one. That's where it all goes wrong. And it did. And we rehearsed it extra times. We did enough run throughs and felt the techie was well prepared. He vaguely remembered bits from the previous time. During the tail end of this preparation, I got a call, indicating that a certain young lady had arrived in the area and needed picking up. She'd been travelling by coach from the South of the country and had transferred, with a heavy bag in tow, from the coach station to the Metro and then to the vicinity of the theatre. I headed off to pick her up. She got the pleasure of sitting in the auditorium, dazed from the long journey, as we finished our preparations. We got to the stage where we thought it was all done and still had time for food.

As a backdrop to the day's preparations, in stark contrast to our fears for the previous day's show, we were concerned about ticket sales for this show in terms of exceeding a sell out. We only had 49 seats and there would be no room (safely) for anyone else. There were random ticket orders coming into us over the phone, the theatre having weird systems for allowing people to reserve or book over the phone. I'm not going into it. It's too complex. I received a call myself from the cousin of someone who had seen the show in Newcastle. She was most accommodating when I told her that I couldn't give her an answer until the box office staff were present and we'd resolved what we knew about extra tickets with what they'd done for us so far. The box office had been closed for enquiries for a lot of the last few days - we only knew that we had a good house... but we wanted it to be full, but not over-full. Aagh. Anyway, I had a number to call if we happened to have tickets. The person in question only needed 30 minutes notice before the show started to decide to come. Wow! That's a good audience member!

Somehow we resolved the ticketing stuff and kept on side with everyone.

Pre-show preparation
All was ready to go. To prepare completely, I headed into Altrincham centre and bought us some Domino's pizza. This fed three hungry mouths and left some leftovers (which were nice in the car on the way home... and the following day too).

The audience appeared and found their way to the bar. They settled there and it was all looking good. It was going to be a good night. A near capacity crowd attended (I think we had 3 empty seats), lots of friends; the last show should have been a breeze.

For some reason, the theatre had managed to provide no front of house staff. I arranged with the box office lady for her to collect ticket stubs for us. Then I had to go to the bar and tell everyone to go out of the bar into the auditorium. I'm very much of the opinion that you shouldn't be seen before the show. If you are seen, you shouldn't be seen in a particularly active role. It undermines you if you appear to be house-staff and then turn out to be the cast... even if the audience know who you are anyway! Still, we did what was necessary to get this show ready to start.

Waiting to go on
Where was the hubbub? The auditorium sounded quiet before we went on. That's not the plan. Surely they should be excited?

Okay. So it was a Sunday night and maybe 40% of the audience had seen the show before... and some of the audience weren't sure what they were getting.

Getting on with it
I realised, as the show started, that this audience needed working. They started out quite quiet. However, the show does have something for everyone. Overall we turned out a technically competent performance. We leaned on the audience in all the right places and the new bits of the show were fresh for everyone - even the people who'd seen it countless times before. Around 20% of the audience were ex-work-colleagues, from Cafe Nero, of my musical other-half and warmed to us at one of the new gags, which related to ordering coffee - it also led us into a great routine - the Tuna Ciabatta routine (which someone else in the audience found extra funny because he was there when we first noticed that "a tuna ciabatta" sounds like "Hakuna Matata" - it was in a pub before we saw Jesus Christ Superstar in Bolton last May... a few weeks before the last time we did The Musical! in Altrincham). Anyhoo, we cracked the audience. They laughed. They weren't energetic, but they gave us a respectable grand finale to the show.

Post show party
I was due back in Newcastle that night with the lovely lady who had joined us a few hours previously. Before going though, there was the backslapping to enjoy. In an attempt not to court praise, I decided not to sell the CDs. I went round and gave them out for free to whoever wanted them. Some people probably felt obliged to take them, but what the hell. If people listen to the disc even once and enjoy it, it makes all the effort we took in writing and recording those songs even more worthwhile.

I had done all I planned to (except packing the car) and nobody in the bar, except my girlfriend, had come to the show for my benefit. There were 3 people in the audience who had come at my suggestion, but they headed home instead of going to the bar. So I sat, rather unsociably, after handing out the CDs and enjoyed some time with the young lady who I got to take home after the show. It's not like a groupie thing. She was visiting Newcastle via Manchester - that's perfectly normal.

Let's get it over with
At the designated moment, we started packing cars. Everything that seemed valuable or needed back in Newcastle was placed in my car and some things were left with my co-performer and occasional housemate to bring back to Newcastle when he chose to return.

We got on the road. We drove for just over a couple of hours. This is an experience that demonstrates the life of a stand-up comedian such as this one. I'm sure it bonded me with the lady with whom I was sharing the journey.

Er... and that's that. There was a huge amount of sleeping to be done. The car needed unpacking, but that could wait for a bit. Sleep. Number one priority. The tour was over and that was the end of the show. That was it. The end.

I was glad to see it end.

I will miss it always.

Saturday, March 19

I'm glad I took my shower the night before. I am slow to get up in the morning and I don't think I would have made it out of bed and through the shower and to the car in time. However, we managed it... there wasn't actually a traffic warden hanging around, but perhaps the spirit of fairness reigned in us. We were obviously frightened of parking tickets, but also wanted to play fair with the rules. If it's only free until 8am, then we shouldn't be flouting the regulations and parking later, just because some traffic warden was too lazy to come and get us.

Anyway, this spirit of following the rules, was a bit dearer to my colleague than it was to me. We left the hotel (which was provided for two nights) with our bags and we didn't check out. We also didn't return the little plastic key cards. There was a reason for it: I wasn't certain that we would definitely be leaving that night. In addition, I'd been asked by the person who organised our room to keep hold of the keys and to ensure that the room was available for two nights in case he wanted to make use of the second night to give it to another weary performer. Fair enoughski. So we skipped the hotel without paying and without checking out. The fact that there was no fee didn't seem to alleviate the degree of guilt in my colleague. He was worried about the cards... they're disposable. There really was no reason to worry.

Anyway, having absconded from the hotel, we returned to the scene of the crime of the previous night. I reckoned it made a lot of sense to park near the venue, since we'd need to do a rapid get-out after our evening show, and fetching cars didn't seem to match with that necessity. While the show following us on Friday had been a stand-up show and we had been able to store our stuff in the adjacent room, tonight's following show was a band - they had tons of their own equipment, and we had to get everything packed into cars and transported to the North West, ready for our show in Altrincham the following day... it was going to require more and more of the energy thing that was already feeling quite short in supply at the START of the day.

We found somewhere to park for the day for £4 and went off in search of breakfast. A plan was forming. As a precaution, I'd packed some of our Edinburgh flyers that had been surplus to requirements and had made their way back to Newcastle with me. There had been maybe 2500 further flyers that we didn't use, which I was charged (yes, charged) for the disposal of by the venue. However, in this case, I reckoned we needed only a couple of hundred flyers to advertise the show in Glasgow. The plan was to go and get some address labels, write on them with details of the different venue, and hand them out on a busy shopping street in sight of the big comedy festival banners. It seemed like a good plan.

As an aside, we were looking at a low audience level for the Saturday, but had had a lot of help in filling the room on the previous night. Everyone had pitched in to come along. I don't think there were any strangers in the room. Among the pitcher inners were a comedian colleague and his wife (they'd come in for free in Edinburgh and paid in this time). In addition, this particular chappie had used some spare flyers he had from the Edinburgh run of the show and customised them for the Glasgow show (he did this out of the goodness of his own heart) and had put some around the place - I saw one... it was a great feeling to see someone else doing work to make the show happen more smoothly for us. At a later meeting with this guy, he complimented us on the performance, which I think was a solid performance (another friend of mine, present, had suggested it was a more emphatic, nay aggressive, delivery on my part - and she could be said to be a good judge, having seen the show in Edinburgh about 4 times). Then, after commenting on the fact that the show had bits he'd forgotten, he started on about the amusement during the "pre-show lesbian show". Apparently he'd notice a couple of girls "copping off". I stopped him before he went too much further. Remember: everyone in that room (unless I'm very much mistaken) was a friend of mine, or a friend of the show. So, yes, I did know the girls in question and it would have been awkward to discuss their relationship in terms of it being "hot girl on girl action".

Also present on the Friday night was the person who had arranged the lighting manual for us. He initially contacted me because he was using the lighting and wanted to know a bit about it, but ultimately he put the effort in and got the technical data and offered me the vital manual. Then he came and (for free, of course) sat on the front row of the show and laughed along. There had been a lot of good will in the room on Friday night. The friend of mine who was techying was part of that good will. We'd started well in Glasgow.

In stark contrast, things weren't looking all that good for the Saturday night. What help we could rely on had all be focused on the first night. Which was for the best. One good night is worth more than twice the value of two half-good ones. All I knew about the Saturday night was that a couple of friends might be coming and that we needed to promote the show. There was a big Julian Clary comedy gig for which a lot of tickets were being given away, and Kylie Minogue was playing the Arena, thus dominating a lot of the evening's market for entertainment. I think I would have preferred to go and see Kylie than come and see my show that night... but the show must go on.

Morning and waking
We got some breakfast in a greasy-spoon style cafe, and my colleague continued trying desperately to order some flowers for his grandmother's birthday. All previous attempts had been beseiged by random technical problems. His phone kept dying. Internet terminals kept getting him close and then failing, or just stole his money. It was amazing to discover how frustrated he had been in his attempts to do something so simple and so altruistic. It was almost as though some evil angel had decided to get in the way and prevent him. He'd get close and then, shazam, a thunderbolt into the appropriate equipment. We surprised the angel by using my phone to do the job - at the crucial moment, when the order was nearly underway, a beeping started in the cafe - like the frustrated angel, unprepared for interfering with my phone, wanted to make his anger known. The order was completed.

Breakfast was good and I followed it with a call to a friend of mine, who'd seen the Newcastle show a couple of days previously, and whose birthday it was that day. As I write this, I'm realising how many people I know. Lots. Lots of pals. Okay, some are closer than others, but I've met a shed load of people in the last couple of years and they're all great... at least the ones I've mentioned so far are.

We went for a post breakfast wander and found the ultimate guitar shop. This is a non-selling shop. You go in, you see the amazing range of stuff they've got. You can sit on a sofa and play the guitars on display, or just drool quietly to yourself. If you want it, you'll buy it. The place was designed a bit like a museum and a bit like a furniture shop. Everything looked so bright and clean and wonderful. There were so many guitars and it was a pleasure just looking round. I asked them about a guitar I hadn't seen - they insisted that I play it (they had one, but it had been hiding from me) despite the fact that I assured them that I'd not be buying it. Mmmm, the Fender Telecoustic, I said I wouldn't buy one that day, and I was right (I bought one a few weeks later, but that's a story to be told later). It was a great experience being in the shop. I could imagine taking a bunch of musicians to this shop on a day trip and being thanked for my troubles. Wow!

Anyway, we couldn't hang around. We had publicity to do.

Preparing the publicity
We went to WHSmith and bought a few hundred address labels and some felt tip pens. Then we adjourned to Starbucks where coffee-style drinks were purchased and we set about writing 200 identical labels which said - "Tonight 8pm, 13th Note, King Street". After that lengthy process which was repetive and, therefore, quite good at reducing stress levels (stressed? me? don't be silly), we went back to the car. At the car, the labels were applied to the leaflets I had brought with. Within about 20 minutes we had some modified leaflets. Woof. The sticker has been written on in such a way that allowed us to wrap it round the back of the leaflet, thus covering the venue logo on the well as covering the venue logo on the front. Convenient!

With a handful of flyers, we set off into town.

I'm not going to go into too much detail about flyering. We handed out a few tens of flyers. We had a competition about who could spot the most orange person. I actually ran up the street after one that my colleague had seen - just to see for myself how orange she really was.

We had very little interest. One girl - a flyerer herself - was so interested that she guaranteed that she'd be coming and even told us, on a later meeting, that she'd made her boyfriend change his plans to come along and bring her to the show. Cool. Flyering works. No. She didn't come. Lying bitch!

In Edinburgh people expected to be flyered for shows... whether they liked it or not. There were gangs of people flyering and it felt safe to be doing that sort of thing - it was what the city's culture had become for that one month of the year. In Glasgow this was not the case. It was difficult and we resorted to a coffee shop for relaxation and commiseration after a couple of hours of flyering.

We returned to the venue and I flyered tables there. People were more receptive. In fact, I found a couple of people who had come for the show and looked very keen about it. They were a couple of Japanese girls. I always worried about the "Japenese Gypsy" gag in the show's description... it seemed to lure Japenese people... really on false pretences. These weren't native Japanese girls, though... they were Glaswegians of Japanese descent (or at least I think they were). So, no harm done.

Here we go again
We went downstairs in the venue at around 5 o'clock to set the show up again. While our newly-appointed lighting techie was to return to do the honours again, our sound man of the previous evening (he had done a great job) was not returning. We had someone else. This guy turned up and reset the entire sound desk. I remonstrated with him, since it was all set up exactly as per the previous day's sound check. He took offence and I had a brief moment of realisation. I was being a dick. I was asking someone to do a job my way, rather than telling them what I wanted and letting them do it the optimal way. I immediately explained my stress to the man, acknowledged that I was being a dick and calmed myself down. We did the sound stuff afresh and actually it turned out better than the previous night's sound, so it was a hidden benefit. Then we ran through the cues with the guy and he picked them up. We did a full lighting and sound run through, by this stage fully aware of where the pitfalls are. We'd got to the stage of almost knowing where it was going to go wrong on the first attempt and so we were able to focus our efforts on the stuff which goes wrong, rather than the easy stuff.

We had the technical side of the show ready again in record time.

There wasn't much we could do except get some food. We didn't want to hang around the venue, so we went to a nearby fish and chip shop. We ate a meal and made jaunty conversation. But we were really worried. Things weren't looking good. For a start, my right foot was hurting, the inside of the shoe I used in my "costume" having deteriorated enough to cut into my heel every time I stood on it - the dance routine was painful to do. But, more importantly, we weren't looking forward to playing to a tiny audience. It looked likely that the audience would be tiny. But how tiny would it really be? This was our nightmare.

Playing a tiny audience
What's a tiny audience? Well. A very large audience is in the many hundreds. A large is over a hundred. A medium audience is 50+. A small audience is around 30. A quite-small audience is around 15 or lower. A tiny audience is under 10. That's my system for defining audience sizes in a comedy show. As a stand-up you can play all different sized audiences by varying the size and timing of your performance and, in cases where they're of an unusual size, speaking directly to the people in your crowd to acknowledge how things are going. In comedy, the comfort to laugh comes from security that everyone around you is laughing. The larger the audience, the higher the probability that someone around you is laughing, thus the more comfortable you are and the room warms itself up. In smaller audiences, you have to work hard on the front row (or wherever responds) and hope the rest of the room follows.

The Musical! is about two guys trapped in the prison of a show. As a show it's a sort of prison in its own right. You can't really stop being in character and talk to the audience. That's not how it works. This means that if the show isn't working, there's not a huge amount you can do to bring it back... not without compromising the show. Little ad-libs here and there are possible and can help, but the show will only work if the audience suspend disbelief, and we had discovered that debunking the premise of the show didn't get us closer to the audience, so stepping out of character to get to the audience would have exploded our chances of making it work. Why all the analysis on how to make the show work? Well, we'd never had much luck with small audiences. In Edinburgh (admittedly in a room which could seat 150), our smallest audience had been a total disaster. We had 25 as our smallest audience on Friday 13th August. Some shows at the Fringe would kill for an audience that big... we had grown to a size where that was a small audience for us and one we couldn't charm. All our other audiences (bar the Altrincham preview) had been bigger and we didn't feel confident in a tiny audience.

So, facing the prospect of a really tiny audience in Glasgow was a nightmare. Facing the reality was going to be a living nightmare. We still didn't know how many people were going to turn up. As we stood outside the room, me in my hurty shoes, we had no idea how long it would take to get everyone into the room. We send our friendly techie in to count the heads. Four. For fuck's sake... four... well that was the chance of profits gone! More importantly, how the hell do you play the show to four people in a cellar in Glasgow. Oh my god! My colleague was sweating it and I was worried too... but I plot when I'm worried, rather than just curl up and die. The show must go on. We'd make it work. We could do it. It's a good show that people like. Let's do it!

I sent our technical friend in to explain to the audience that there were a tiny audience and that Kylie had stolen the rest of the people who might have come. The reason for sending him in to do this was two-fold. Firstly, it sort of broke the ice with the paying punters who must have been wondering what on earth they'd bought into - was it an exclusive club? or was it the most unpopular show in the world. Secondly, they were told that we were going to go on with the show for them, but that they were asked to move to the front row. Essentially, we'd play to a full front row and so they'd be packed in close and it would give the room some atmosphere. They were reluctant to do this, thinking that they might get picked on, but they were told that it was not that sort of show. As an extra security blanket, a drinks table was placed in front of this miniature front-row-only audience and they relaxed into place. In some ways, this was one of the things which gave us an early in-road into the audience. They had to do something more than turn up to "buy in" to the show.

Winning over a tiny audience
There was no further delaying it. We had to go out there and do our shit. We had an audience who were ready. There was a sound-guy who hadn't seen the show at the back of the room. There was our lighting guy who has a nice laugh, and there was a random member of venue staff around the place. Four paying audience sat in a 4-person wide front row (the rows were that wide anyway) and 3 others. That's seven. I've done gigs to fewer than seven. It's doable.

We went out there and did the opening scene. The audience gamely giggled at the gooning around and then applauded. Good work so far. Plus, we had an ace up our sleeves. The script actually mentions Kylie minogue - about 30 seconds into scene 2. We'd discussed ad-libbing something about her being in Glasgow. As was often the case with ad-libs, my colleague would deliver something off script and I'd step in with a punchline and deliver the laugh. Here's the way the script should have gone:

C Greatest hits musicals are rubbish and they just don't work. Except perhaps...
Both Moulin Rouge
A which worked because it was almost...
C but not quite...
Both entirely incomprehensible.
C Yeah, and it had a touch of Kylie in it.
A A touch of Kylie... that's all you need... mmm Kylie
C Yeah, but we're not going to re-write Moulin Rouge, and we're not going to get Kylie in our show.

You see the idea. This last bit changed thus:

C ... not going to get Kylie in our show - she's playing Glasgow tonight.
A Yeah. I bet that's having a big effect on ticket sales for the other shows playing tonight.

It wasn't a massive change to the script. I think the audience must have realised that we had a Kylie bit anyway, but the effect of this line was electric. A massive belly laugh exploded in the room. The audience's attentions and sympathies were bought. I was quite relieved. We still had a whole show to do, but I reckoned that we'd earned enough respect from the audience that they'd come with us on the hour-long journey.

I relaxed. I was right to do so. We played the show pretty much as scripted. There were one or two moments that I played down a bit to account for the fact that it was a smaller audience. I didn't just strip in front of them in the naked bit. I made myself a bit more reluctant to get my kit off... I also flashed them less. It would have been awkward for them. Not for me. I don't give a toss. The dance was modified a little to account for the fact that the shoes were cutting into my feet... this is not important. The audience laughed throughout the show.

Having done a show around 30 times, you learn where all the principal laughter points are. You learn to wait for them. You learn to play them harder and connect them with different audiences. This is why it takes so long to learn stand-up, there's a 6th sense you need to be able to make funny with an audience and to have the confidence to know when to lean on them for a laugh, rather than push on and keep the momentum up (I remember once seeing a guy leaning on his unfunny material and it looked like he was playing a stadium gig in his head, but missing the laughter track). Anyway, with our experience playing, I knew that we'd consistently been hitting the laughs throughout the show. Had we had a sub-ten-person audience earlier in Edinburgh it might have destroyed our confidence or forced us to learn how to play the show quicker. We'll never know. By this penultimate-ever show, we had learned and we fought off our demons and the discomfort of playing to a tiny audience.

It was a good show. I'm glad we were able to do it. I'm proud of us. It was a really hard thing to have achieved.

Post show packup
There was a band coming in and we had to clear our stuff. I got dressed quickly and then we started lugging stuff out of the venue and upstairs. Cars were got and everything was shoved into them. There were three of us working on everything. I guess there was bound to be a risk of leaving stuff behind. I made a few checks and I relied on my colleagues to have managed to grab everything we needed. It wasn't like we'd lost anything before... okay we had, we'd lost the A-costume in Newcastle and we'd lost the wobble boards too. However, we didn't have the time to do everything in a slow and considered manner.

Post show drinkies
We went for a relaxing drink after the show. I spent much of this talking to my lady friend, who was going to be joining us at the Altrincham show the following day. She'd still not decided how she'd be travelling, so I was slightly worried that she'd make it - short notice public transport being absolutely rubbish in this country... though here's a tip. If you want to disappear completely... if you're on the run... just take a National Express coach. You'll be out of sight from the whole community for many hours and you'll turn up god-knows-where.

After a bit of drinking and much thanking of our friend who had been sacked as our host, but then had excelled completely as lighting man, and, principally, great friend to us both, we headed off into the night.

To the North West
It was an uneventful trip to Bolton. I realised that I knew exactly how to get where I was going from previous trips, so I didn't hang around the last service station and wait for my colleague to arrive. Somehow I was ahead of him. I had been leading him (badly) out of Glasgow until he recognised where we were and overtook me. Somehow I then managed to catch him and pass him on the motorway. I ended up outside his parents' empty house at 3 or 4 in the morning (I forget which) and he arrived soon after.

I hit the bed very tired and with still a very busy day ahead. Setting up the show again, in another venue, and worrying about another house and box office success. This was the last time for The Musical! and perhaps I was getting glad. 4 shows in 4 days in three cities... it seemed such a good idea before we started doing it.

Friday, March 18

In truly the blues song stylee, I woke up this morning (da dah da da). There was little time to lose. Despite having lost one of the skimpy girlish costumes I wear in the show, we had a spare and we had a show to put on. We had also managed to misplace some 250 CDs, but we weren't likely to sell any in Glasgow and I reckoned we might sell some in Altrincham, for which we had a supply of spares to raid at my co-performer's house in Bolton.

So, we set off. We agreed to meet at the last services before Glasgow. Off we set, in separate cars. Had we been in the same car, the issue of meeting at services would have been awkward. There we would have been, sitting side by side, not talking to each other because we'd agreed, arbitrarily, that we weren't to meet until some services. We'd be doing our best to avoid meeting in the confined space of a Volvo 440. It just wouldn't have been practical. No. In this case we were in two cars, which drive at different speeds and in different ways by different drivers.

I arrived at the services first. It wasn't a race and I felt no sense of pride in getting there first. I was, in fact, feeling a sense of slight confusion. As I'd been journeying to the services, I received a text with some hotel details. The text came from the person whom I'd hired the Glasgow venue through. I assumed that he was texting the wrong person. I hadn't asked for a hotel. In fact, I'd bought, on Wednesday lunchtime, a new sleeping bag and I had arranged to kip on someone's floor in Glasgow. I certainly wasn't able to afford a hotel on the show's meagre budget. I texted him back questions about this hotel.

When my colleague arrived at the services I was able to proudly announce that we'd just scored ourselves free accommodation in a Glasgow hotel. I didn't quite understand the deal, but it was a deal nonetheless. Basically, the hotel was giving free accommodation to performers in the comedy festival. I can only assume that they were expecting to make their money on the bar from the late-night culture that comes with the performers. Or perhaps it was their way of buying into the brochures that the festival promoters put out. It didn't matter. We had a twin hotel room to share and I wasn't disappointed at all.

I had to break the news to the person we were to be staying with that his services were no longer required as host. However, I insisted that he come along and join us at the show. This insistance, proved to be rather important.

Arriving at the venue
Once out of the services, with coffees and breakfasts consumed, we headed to Glasgow in convoy. I'd bought an A to Z of Glasgow at the services and this proved to be most useful. I had an idea of where we were going, but Glasgow's one-way-system is something of a bitch and a pig. We did some jiggery pokery, then some poddling about... eventually we got near the venue. Everything, so far, had been running to time and I was quite pleased about how things were going. The venue staff showed me the room we were going to use. I started to feel a little less pleased and excited. It was going to be hard to make the show work in the space... hard, but not impossible. Then I was told where the best place to unload was. We weren't parked in the correct street.

One more wander through the one-way-system later, and we were unloading. The lighting equipment wasn't expected until 1pm, so we started to assemble bits of the set. Then we discovered a problem. There was no wobble board. The back of the shelves were missing. I don't know where they had dropped out of our packing list, but they were not in our possession any more. I assumed that they'd be waiting for me at home and contemplated going back to get them on the way to the North West shows. I didn't do that, which was probably a good idea as they proved not to be there on my ultimate return. Weird. Where had they gone?

With cars that needed moving around and parking paid on them, and with a wobble board that needed a replacement, and with a hotel room that needed claiming, there was an obvious plan. My colleague was to become the runner and sort out all this small but important problems. I was to be the techie and get the show set up. We couldn't swap roles as my colleague would not be able to do the technical stuff. That's the honest truth. He had a pretty miserable day of negotiating the one-way-system, not being accustomed to doing much driving, and certainly not in foreign and unforgiving streets. I had a very challenging (and ultimately rewarding) day in the basement of a pub.

Turning the cellar into a fringe theatre
The venue - 13th Note - is a great place for bands to play. It has minimal lighting (but you don't need it) and a good P.A. There's an obvious stage area (though not very wide between the front speakers) and there's a reasonable sized area for people to dance in. It is not a theatre. I had paid for the hire of some stage lighting equipment. This consistuted several lanterns, some stands, a dimmer rack (thing they plug into) and a lighting desk (which controls the dimmer rack). This alone does not turn a cellar into a theatre. A bit of know how and a lot of luck might.

I wanted the mirror ball to work. I like the place it has in the show. I had nowhere to hang it. I eventually improvised and attached it, with its motor at an odd angle, to a metal beam... I had to clamp it into place with a piece of wood in there to give my motor clamp something to bite into. It was probably most unsafe. Since the motor was at an angle, the ball turned rather oddly, but it worked. I had to be careful, though, not to let the erection of the mirror ball take too high a priority. After careful consideration, I got myself into a routine where I did things in the order they were most needed and with the highest risk stuff first.

I had to be sure that I could understand how to make the lighting stuff work. With no lights, the show wouldn't work well. I wasn't totally convinced that the equipment was all present and correct, so I did a test to see if I could make it all work. I had luckily been provided with a copy of the manual for the lighting desk, which proved to be totally useful. It wasn't the hire company providing the manual, nor the venue manager. No, it was someone else, who was getting the benefit of that equipment, who emailed me a copy of the manual to print out. I couldn't have done the show without this manual and I was foolish not to think of sourcing it myself. However, luck was on our side and the manual quickly got me up to speed on how to work the desk.

What the manual didn't mention was that plugging in all the lights and turning the desk up to max was going to lose me power for about half an hour. I accidentally set off the breakers for the main power circuit and had to work in the dark for a while. I mean I had some light, but overall, I was working without the lights I intended to use. This gave me time to set up the chairs and relocate the lighting desk to where it belonged - the technical area at the back of the room. As I set it up there, I started to realise that I needed two techies, not one, to run the show. I only had one techie, but perhaps I could persuade my now-no-longer-needed-host to act as the other. Like the friend of mine of the previous evening who had done the lighting, my chosen ad-hoc techie was an IT expert who had never done lighting before. I reckoned he'd be up to the job. I wasn't wrong.

We got the power back on and did a sound-check of the instruments. One good thing about the venue was that they had a great sound system. It did not require very much of our equipment to make our instruments sound their best. We just left it to the techie. Everything sounded good, the CD played in the house CD player (though I had my DVD player of the previous night on hand anyway, just in case) and we were all set. One small problem, though. The technical operator was going to be someone different. The guy who helped us set up wasn't staying. So, we were still going to have to wait until the last minute to do our technical run through. This was a bit stressful, but didn't seem like the end of the world.

Making the technical stuff work
It should have been easier than it was. We had the set looking good:

Plus, in a spare moment, I had worked out how to program the lighting desk and I'd written, on a technical script, all the details of how to run the show from the desk. Largely, it was a case of pushing one button to move to the next lighting state (at the right moment) with an occasional twist of a knob to control how quickly the lights did this change. It wasn't too complicated and it was to be the most reliable and straightforward lighting we'd have on this mini-tour. The best lighting we ever had was in Edinburgh during the Fringe.

I'd used a fair number of lanterns and, despite the angles being quite wrong, I think we got a good looking show. I don't think it could have been done better with that equipment. I was happy. Things should have been going well.

I'd already prepared my newly-appointed techie that his duties were to change. I rang him to see how he was doing. He wasn't really headed in the right direction and was due to the venue after 7pm. The show started at 8pm. I got him to change his plan. After 6pm, I rang him again, worried about the show (there was no sound guy at that stage either). The help we needed was stuck on a train. So, while he sat on the train, I explained to him all he needed to know about the lighting desk. I reckoned that this explanation would, in some small way, make his transition from IT expert to lighting expert possible. It helped me feel like I was doing something.

I think we got into costume early so that we'd have as long as possible with our techies when they arrived. I'd marked up a sound script with the cues for the CD player. Everything was ready on paper.

We didn't get access to our techies until 6.30ish. At that point, we split into two groups. There was me briefing my friend on the subject of lighting. He'd seen the show in Edinburgh, so had a reasonable idea of what was going on... but seeing a show and running it from the technical box are two very different experiences. He was helped a little, but needed to learn it from scratch. Simultaneously, my colleague was telling the sound guy what to expect to see on stage around the location of each cue.

Things were going well... until the CD player suddenly started refusing to play my CD. The office, in which our spare equipment was stored, was locked, so we ran off to get the key and then darted in to get the DVD player and leads. After a bit of messing about, the DVD player was installed and working. Aaagh. Time drizzling through our fingers like cheap olive oil. I had friends coming to see the show - they were upstairs eating, unaware that my world was collapsing down below.

However, put pressure on good people and they can deliver. We did a technical run through. It didn't work first time. But it was close enough. A bit of polishing and rebriefing and the tech stuff came together in record time. We got the doors open about 15 minutes before the show.

The show
Well, the relief of getting the technical stuff ready and the problems solved was shortlived. The stress my colleague had endured had gotten to him slightly and I was quite tired. We had to get ourselves into the right frame of mind. We had a set. We had an audience... there were even extra audience members in the form of our techies at the back. It was going to work. For some reason, the sound guy decided to play weird techno-trance stuff (not really music, though perhaps a cousin) which put an odd mood into the room, but never mind. We were going to do our show!

The time came for the off and we went in there and did our thing. It worked. It was an audience of about 15 - maybe fewer - and they laughed in all the right places and had a good time. Result!

After show
After the show, there were instructions to put me in a taxi and send me to O'Neills on Sauciehall Street where I was to perform a gig. Having made sure my colleague was going to be okay with this (he seemed to need a rest - lightweight... just kidding), I agreed. We first of all cleared the set from our show. There was a stand-up show due in after ours. I made sure that he had suitable lighting and that we did as quick a changeover as possible. I also made sure that our costumes were laid out in the office so that they'd probably dry, ready for the next day.

Then I jumped into the taxi and was sped across town. I arrived at a weird gig. The audience were being whipped into a mob-like frenzy by the compere and there were two acts I knew, getting ready to go on. I was told that I'd be closing the show. Fair enough... well, not really. The audience were pissed and lary and the other acts felt that they weren't really being listened to.

I went out there, with a borrowed guitar (my colleague having tidied mine away to the hotel... not realising that I'd brought it because I might need it to do stand-up) and did my shit. In places they listened (and laughed), in others they sang-along. It wasn't too bad. I had to work for it... but I like working for gigs. I got off stage before they sussed out what I was up to. Good stuff.

Immediately after this gig, we were shepherded to another one. This other one wasn't ready to start. I left my stuff and went off in search of company. My friends in the audience (which was, I think, most of the audience... probably all of the audience) had largely made it to the other gig. I got to thank them for their efforts in supporting the show and spend a little time with them. One of the friends of a friend who came to see the show was most quiet and star struck... but then she had just seen my arse and the show had been on her favourite (and my favourite) subject - musicals. We chatted, quietly, about musical theatre and everyone was a winner. It's a good subject to talk about.

For this late night gig (my third performance of a tiring day), I was asked where I wanted to be on the bill. I opted to go on later on on the bill, giving me more chance to spend time with the folks upstairs. My musical colleague, having rested, managed to wander directly from the hotel to the bar where I now was, without even planning a route or knowing if he was going in the right direction... it just happened. I spent a little time with him upstairs, enough time to witness a fight and then get out of its way (big men like me can be fuel for fights). Then I went downstairs to see what sort of a crowd the promoter had rustled up for the gig.

It was looking like a bloodbath. The audience really ripped into the first act. He was immediately followed by a newish act whose stuff went over their heads completely. They were too stunned to heckle too much. Then another act went on and, while he was on, I was told that I'd be sent on straight after him. I wouldn't get chance for a soundcheck and the audience wouldn't get a break either. Several acts in a row with no break can wear an audience out. In particular, this audience were showing signs that read - "it's late, we're drunk and tired and nothing seems funny anymore"... well, they read that to me.

I went up there, bursting with whatever energy I could muster and did my stuff. Some of it worked ok. I discovered the thing which did work. Giving a damned big performance. The bigger I played it, the more I got. I didn't have much energy left. This had been a pretty big day. I'm only human. An improvised song about the woman on the front row, which descended into un-Ashley-like-filth, seemed to get a lot of laughs. I wasn't really impressed with myself, but what the hell... you play the audience you've got.

Post shows party?
After the gigs were over, I was confronted by several men chanting "Titty Bar" over and over again. I couldn't be doing with that. I've no desire to go to such a place. I don't want ladies to wave things at me that I'm not allowed to play with. I do want the attentions of a lady and to have her wave things at me, but not in a public place. Basically, I don't get titty bars and wanted no part in one. Anyway, why would I want to pay money to some strange girl in a bar to do rude things when I could spend time with a non-strange girl and exchange intimate pleasantries..?

All these arguments only excited my antagonists all the more. I remained firm and they went away - to the titty bar - without me.

Late night food
My colleague, our technical non-hosting friend and I all went to a Chinese takeaway style diner. We ate good food. We were merry. We dropped the technical dude off at his home. We went back to the hotel and I got to sleep after a late night shower. It had been an exhausting day. It wasn't going to be an easy ride from this point. Pre-sales had been disappointing for the Saturday night, so we needed to do some promotion... and, oh yeah, our cars were parked for free outside of the hotel, but needed moving by 8AM - yes, 8AM the following morning. No rest for the wicked.

Thursday, March 17

There was a certain air of deja vu as we got ourselves ready to do the show again at Newcastle Arts Centre. This was not the first time we'd unloaded much of this equipment into that room. This was not the first time I'd looked at their antiquated lighting equipment and wondered how I was going to make it work for me.

I had a number of things to solve. I did things in half hour bursts. I had to tackle the highest risk things first and I didn't want to do things in a silly order which slowed me down. I was left by my other half in the venue, once we'd unloaded, as he went off to drop off his car and sort some other things out. I needed some time alone with the equipment, so I was happy.

I started out by laying out bits of the set that form the foundations of the whole show. The carpet (meant to represent the genuinely nasty patterned carpet of my dining room - in which the show is set) went down first, to act as a guide for lighting and as a location upon which to place the instruments. I set up the piano next and spent time getting sound to come out of the P.A. system, via the various bits of equipment I'd brought. We had used a band P.A. last time we were there, and this system was still something of an unknown, though it had looked good when I visited the previous day and had a look at it.

Joy of joys, I got some sound out of the system. I could make it much louder than I needed, and I could make it quiet enough. The sound wasn't going to be a problem. My next task was to set about working out the lighting. The lighting rig in that venue is not the most easy of things to work with. However, I managed to find enough lights and enough spare leads to connect them up. The mirror ball was last up. I said that I owned a mirror ball and I proudly connected this ball with its own motor in the centre of the room. I remembered that there was a quirk with the lighting equipment, relating to the lighting of mirror balls with mini pin-spots. I even solved that problem.

After a couple of hours in the venue, my friend from London arrived, as did my co-performer. Our technical friend helped us make the sound sound right. We balanced the instruments. I connected up a DVD player for the CD-based sound effects. I hid the evidence of my solution to the mirror ball problem (the solution was spare lights, sat on the floor of the lighting booth, but plugged in - these spare lights had the effect of increasing the load on the lighting channel and stopping it from doing an automatic cut-off). I had not one but TWO pin spots on the mirror ball as if one's funny, then two is funnier. It looked great. The lighting was quite balanced, as CAN'T quite be seen in this picture of the show after everything was set up.

At 4pm we gained the company of two guys from work to help with the technical stuff. After worrying about not having a techie at all, all of a sudden, I had three. This was a good thing. Teaching the show to three people meant that there was a chance of them all remembering everything between them. Not only were they three in number, but they were people whose abilities I had no reason to doubt. Brilliant! Another volunteer was going to take over the front of house responsibilities. He was to get his briefing at about 6.30. I had been in the venue working non-stop for 4 hours or so and things were looking good.

We went carefully through the technical stuff for a couple of hours and the guys picked it up. The lighting was tricky, but we worked out an optimal way of operating it and it seemed less tricky. I was feeling confident. As a way of improving our group confidence, it was suggested that we do a full-length run through. We pretty much did this. Not in dress. One of the guys in the technical box hadn't seen the show before and perhaps I wanted to save some of the "gayer" bits for him to experience on the night itself. Anyway, the technical run through went well too. It was all confidence building.

Once everything was ready, we roped off the back section of the hall so people wouldn't sit there until it was necessary (a good way to get your less-than-capacity audience to sit near the front). My performing partner's CD was put on as run-in music and we were ready for the audience to arrive.

It's a bad idea to hang around the front of house as your audience arrive. I should have known that from last time. I just couldn't help myself. Most of the audience were coming because I'd sold them tickets and I had nowhere else to go. That's my excuse. I had some food and something to drink and I relaxed in the front of house (not in costume... it wasn't quite that unprofessional (yet)) and then I stopped relaxing. The anticipation got to me. I escaped to the backstage area, got naked and then costumed. Then I felt calmer. My throat was a bit dry from a day's exertions. We had an audience. We had a show. We had tech... all we had to do now was deliver it. No pressure. 90 people I knew from various walks of my life, were about to watch either a total embarrassment or our finest hour.

A quick aside. I've never held back from getting people in to see the show for free. In Edinburgh, I gave a bunch of free tickets out. In Newcastle, I gave many fewer freebies out. However, one young lady, who used to work at my office when we premiered the show, had been unable to see it at that time, despite buying and paying for a ticket. I bumped into her a few months ago and agreed to give her a freebie, since she'd refused a refund of her ticket to the original show. She was in attendance on this last-night-of-the-show-in-Newcastle. In fact, a few people from the office who'd not seen the show first time round, were in attendance. The front row was made up, from left to right, of Guys and Dolls cast and then people from work. Not that I checked the front row. You perform to the whole room.

Finest hour?
I think we had our best reception in Newcastle. Before the show started, we got a massive round of applause. We did the opening routine, the audience applauded and we were off. This wasn't greatly different to how things had been first time around. However, the big difference was that we understood how to play the show. It wasn't all new. We weren't all nervous and erratic. We gave an assured performance, and the laughs didn't stop coming. It was a joy to do the show. The audience relaxed into it and had come along with an excitement and will for it to succeed. It was indeed a very enjoyable experience.

As with all such experiences, it seemed to last all of 90 seconds. However, I don't think we zoomed through the show without pause for breath as last time. This show had a high-energy pace, but we weren't frightened to take our time. It was great fun. I think we took the roof off. People felt they'd had their £5 worth.

Doing the show is one thing. Surviving it and enjoying the backslapping is quite another. There was much backslapping to do. I also felt the need to thank everyone I knew for attending. While I was doing this, the friend on Front of House duty, along with the ex-boss of my co-performer, decided to sell as many of our CDs-of-the-show as possible. Not bad for the profit margin.

People had really had a good time and were very keen to let us know. Usually, I shrug off any positive feedback, but I'd had a good time doing the show, so I was keen to enjoy the moment with the well-wishers, even if I think it's a little cringeworthy to court praise or revel in it. What the hell. We all had fun and I was already facing the fact that the show would soon enter its never-to-be-performed again phase... best to enjoy it while you can than hold back and miss out forever.

I retrieved my car and we packed all the stuff up. I later found that we'd left the box of CDs and an important bit of costume (for which, luckily, I had a spare). Somehow, in the melee of people packing things (perhaps I'm wrong to say this, but I sort of wish that I'd packed it all myself and had people bring me stuff... then nothing would have been forgotten) the wobble board and back of the bookshelf was lost too. We didn't realise this until quite late on. But that's a story for later.

Back at home there were sandwiches for a late night meal. My friend from London was staying the night. He and my co-performer ate together and I sloped off upstairs for a chat with the ladyfriend. Perhaps this was unsociable, but I'd worked my arse off all day and needed some "me-time". This "me-time" was better spent as "us-time". So that was that. I remembered feeling the hole in my elation at the success of the first ever showing of the show in Newcastle. I'd felt so happy that it had worked and yet simultaneously small and meaningless since I had noone special to share it with. After the success of this show, I felt less small. Possibly this was something to do with having gained a little weight since last May... or possibly it was because it was a harder-earned success and one which I could talk about with someone I felt close to.

However, we couldn't sit talking all night. I had to be in Glasgow the following day. There were bags to pack and sleep to be had. I wanted to be in Glasgow for lunchtime to repeat the whole rigmarole ("whole rigmarole" - internal rhyme in "How to handle a woman" from Camelot).

One show had pretty much exhausted me. Could I do 3 more? Could I also do a bit of stand-up in between? We were soon to find out.

Wednesday, March 16

Putting my attendance at the office to one side for a moment, this was the day when stress eventually turned to results. I contacted a friend of mine in London and solved my not-having-a-techie problem. I was right to reason that I was best of using someone who had seen the show. In fact there are a few people who have seen the show several times. One of them saw it before we premiered it in Newcastle, then saw both London previews, then saw it 2 and a half times in Edinburgh... and this person, now working as a consultant, based in London, was free on the day of the Newcastle performance. An invitation for him to come and see the show soon turned into a plea for him to come and do some technical stuff for us. His IT background giving me the confidence in us both that I'd be able to bring him up to speed in the matters he'd need to know in order to run the show for us.

So, I had a techie. The guys from the office were umming and ahhing about coming. I could do the show with just my friend, though the more, the merrier.

At lunchtime, I went to the arts centre and checked out the P.A. system they have there. It was well and truly up to the job, so I didn't need to worry about buying any more bits to make one. I paid the rest of the rental and suddenly realised that I had solved the basic technical problems for the Newcastle show. All problems left to solve would be the little on-the-day-style problems that would inevitably arise. The important bit was that it should, on paper at least, have worked.

After work, with a lighter heart, we did another rehearsal and the show dropped into our consciousnesses quite solidly. We felt confident about the run of four shows to come. There was nothing more to do but get on and perform the wee blighters.

Tuesday, March 15

Panicked about the absence of a techie, I spent some of the day desperately looking for a way to get in touch with the guy we'd used in Edinburgh. It struck me that it might make sense to find someone who knew the show to use as techie. They would only need to learn the equipment and revise the position of the cues in the action. This made increasing sense and I became more and more keen to find the guy we used in Edinburgh. The problem is that I didn't have a number for him. I didn't know his surname and I couldn't remember the name of his band. It looked increasingly impossible to locate him. I tried asking for help from the venue who employed him and gave him to us. They were, unsurprisingly, tied up with other stuff and didn't help us very much.

I was onto plan G and had taken to begging some of my team mates from the office to help. They were looking like maybes... but it was also looking like an increasing risk that I'd be nipping off stage to do the technical stuff myself. I really had absolutely no idea what I was going to do. There was an audience coming. People were out there selling tickets and I had sold maybe 60 or so in person (and I knew there were more people coming on the night)... but the show couldn't function without technical support.

Could we turn this around? It was looking like a problem.

I started having strange ideas to solve the problem. I put out feelers and reckoned that I may be able to make it work with a complete technical novice and a drama student who was originally meant to be watching the show. It was far from ideal.

However, I put all these problems to the back of my mind when we did the dress rehearsal. The dress went very well. So, if I could solve the technical problems, we had a show. Oh... and there were 3 more to do after too. This was expected to be stressful... but it was exceeding expectations.

Still, the show still seemed a long way off (it wasn't) so I kept my head. It's amazing how much you can fit into a couple of days. We had, brought the show up to speed. We'd also done a little editing of the script. We improvised a couple of scenes to "fix" some moments that never really worked on stage in Edinburgh. We put in the "Tuna Ciabatta" routine and found a "Writer's block" gag which finally worked. I accept that this will mean nothing to anyone who didn't see the show, but they meant something to us. We had something new to present in the show and we had a performance which was intended to be as good (if not better) than any we'd done before. It was an exciting time as well as stressful. Could all the loose ends come together in time?

Monday, March 14

I'll skip the fact that I spent a day in the office. It was probably interesting at the time, but it isn't the important bit of the story I remember from mid-March. One notable thing that occurred on the Monday in the office was that I asked the people who had offered to do technical things for me whether they were still up for doing it... expecting the answer yes. The answer was no. This caused me mild discomfort. Some would say panic, but I'm not some. Oh no. It was just uncomfortable. I had to resort to plans C onwards. I think plan B was a non-starter.

I also had bits of kit to buy in an attempt to turn what part of a PA system (to the non-technical, that's the bit which makes the sound come out) I had into a totally working entity, capable of filling the Arts Centre with sound. So far, this was not looking good.

All I needed was a bum rehearsal with Chris and I'd be feeling like the whole show was a really bad idea. It was quite a stressful time. I took the majority of the stress on my shoulders, since I felt like being Mr Responsible and I wanted my musical other-half to get on with the important task of remembering the show. Perhaps I felt more confident about the performing and wanted to make sure that he had the chance to get as confident. I also have a knack for making technical things work out... whatever the cost. So long as we had the show to put on, I'd make the machinery come together... somehow. Did we? Did we remember how to say our lines and act the part?

About 5 or 10 minutes into the rehearsal that evening, which we conducted "off the set" i.e. just in the dining room with no set set up. We both started giggling. The lines were coming. We neither of us know exactly where they were coming from, but they were coming. They weren't quite flowing. It wasn't a performance-standard rehearsal, but we got through it enough to show us that we could get to performance standard quite easily. It was still really weird for us finding these words flowing... almost of their own accord. It wasn't so much a conscious effort of memory on our part, more like we'd just tapped into the show where it was residing, ready to go, deep inside of us. I guess that's the benefit of having performed something 28 times... it drills its way deep into your subconscious.

Anyway, we couldn't sit about congratulating ourselves on the show. We had more work to do. I can't remember how many times exactly we rehearsed the show. I know that we did it without the songs, with the songs, just the songs and that we got back into the flow quite quickly. I nominated the Tuesday as a dress rehearsal. The idea behind this was that we'd have Wednesday to put right any things which had gone wrong in the dress... better that than do the dress on Wednesday night and feel like the day of our first show - Thursday - was also our only chance to put right the performance problems.

I went to bed on Monday night confident that the two of us would be able to make the show work. However, I'd realised in the brief time we had in rehearsal, that there was a vital element missing. Our technician in Edinburgh had made himself an important part of the show. It was obvious when we started rehearsing without him. At certain moments, the machinery of the show takes over and moves the story onwards. At certain moments, the performers do it. Without the technician, the show would stutter and some scenes would not be possible. We needed to have capable techies (or one very capable one) for Thursday and it wasn't sorted out yet.

Sunday, March 13

Two things were due to happen on this Sunday. My weekend visitor was due to return to the distant place whence she came (calling her a weekend visitor sounds a bit seedy actually - let's assume that I wasn't paying her for her visit and that we have a perfectly above-board and wholesome relationship). Secondly I was due to convert my one-man-home into a house-share again and start preparations for The Musical!. The other half of the aforementioned (indeed over-mentioned) show was due to arrive during the afternoon sometime.

Life was due to change gear again. What had seemed like a distant dream back in February when I was selling tickets, was going to come crashing down as a harsh reality in only a few days. I needed to concentrate on bums on seats and wires again. We had a tour to organise and, in all honesty, only the bare bones of it was in place.

When my musical-other-half arrived, he came with a new guitar (which was soon to join the show) and a CD of music he'd been working on since last we met. This CD was well-produced pop. Last time I'd heard some of these songs, they were recorded on my multitrack recorder in my dining room and in some sort of embryonic form. Now, here they were in full polyphonic glory and they sounded really good. The 20 minutes of music passed by quickly as I and my young ladyfriend sat like a polite audience and listened hard. I felt some sense of pride, despite having had no input whatsoever on the results. I guess it was just pride of association... a bit like the moments these days when I point to the telly and say "I've met him/her" (I vary the statement depending on the gender of the person, I don't say "him/her", which might be insulting and might discredit my claim to have met the person - "If you've met them, surely you know their gender?").

Although it might seem like I was kicking out my house-guest of the weekend once the new resident had arrived, there wasn't quite a complete cause and effect relationship between the arrival of one and the departure of the other. It was certain that I had work to start with my musical-partner and it was also necessary that my guest returned to the deep south of England in plenty of time to get rested and ready for the week ahead. So, the arrival of one did act as a convenient cue for the preparation of departure of the other. I sat in the middle and watched it, wishing I could have more time.

But time is a strict mistress and you just have to do as much as you can in that which is available. So, I bid farewell to my not-so-strict-human-mistress (neither of us are married, so that's "mistress" not "Mistress" - I think the capital letter makes the difference in my mind) and prepared to prepare for the show.

Oh god... the show... the show
We hadn't performed our songs or the routines between them in months. This was the 13th of March and our last performance at the Fringe had been the 29th August. So... how many months is that? six and a half? We were bound to be rusty.

We took it slowly at first. We ran through the songs in my dining room. We didn't use the set. We just had a go at playing the songs through. They were rusty. We pretty much remembered them, but they didn't come together especially tightly. It wasn't scary, though. We had four performances to give, starting in less than four days, and things were not looking too worrying just yet. But we hadn't started the floor work.

The other task we accomplished that evening was to watch the video of the show. This video was taken at the height of our powers in Edinburgh and we worked the reasonable, though not completely easy, audience pretty well on the recording. Watching this brought back much of the script and also reminded us of the little bits and bobs which had worked their way (through ad-libs) into the performance. My co-performer had blossomed greatly during the run and the show had too. Sometimes you can't rehearse or write these extra little interplays between the characters up front, so it was nice that we'd captured them in their natural form on DVD. We planned to include them this time round too.

Watching the DVD is a disturbing experience, not just because I get quite naked in the show, but also because you (as the performer... so not you... more me) sort of see it from two perspectives simultaneously. You're watching from the audience, but because you did the performance the first time and still know it, you're also faintly aware of how it feels to be on the stage. You know what line's coming next. The whole thing feels like a memory in your head that's being broadcast onto a screen from a different perspective... because it pretty much is just that.

I certainly felt that the viewing of the DVD helped refresh the show in my head. One thing I forgot to mention about my U.S. trip is that I forced my hosts to watch this very DVD with me. I don't quite know why I did that. It wasn't entirely necessary for them to see the show, but I kind of wanted them to. So they very gamely let me show it to them. As a result, the show was even fresher in my mind, which undoubtedly helped with the preparations for the coming week's shenanigans.

The new week starts here
After some late night chat with the recently arrived-back-down-south ladyfriend, which undoubtedly took us into early Monday morning, I went to bed ready to tackle the week ahead. The plan was to work from Monday until Wednesday and then I had Thursday to Monday as holiday. Thursday was to be the day of the Newcastle show. Friday we'd travel to Glasgow and set up the show for doing there. We had two consecutive days in Glasgow (Fri and Sat) and were planning to stay at the house of a friend of mine on the Friday night. On the Saturday night, we were planning to go to the North West, where we'd stay at my co-performer's parents' house and then get up early-ish on Sunday in order to set the show up in Altrincham and perform it that evening. The Sunday show would be attended by the recently-down-south-travelling-but-soon-to-return-to-the-north young lady, who would then return to Newcastle with me after the show on Sunday evening. Monday was to be a day of rest.

It was going to be one hell of a week. Rehearsing a show we hadn't done in 6 months back to performance standards. Performing in 3 cities, 4 times, in 4 days. I hadn't done any press. I hadn't got any posters. I didn't have a confirmed techie for Newcastle and I had put my blind faith in the Glasgow promoter to provide me the right techie for there. I had no PA system for Newcastle, though I had some bits which looked promising, and there was a PA system in the Newcastle venue... basically, there were a lot of challenges to face.

Could we do it?

Well, given that I'm writing this in April, backdating it to the time in question... I know the answer, but on this occasion, I'll let you read on to find out.

Friday, March 11

I woke up late.

It wasn't a surprise. I was exhausted. When you burn the candle at both ends, you get more light, but you end up with a short stubby candle. I was burning it in the middle too, so I was, unsurprisingly, sleeping like a pool of wax in the bed. I took quite some peeling off the sheets, I can tell you. I believe I rang in to let them know that I hadn't completely disappeared and that I would be turning up for an afternoon half day.

So, I went to work and caught up with the emails and progress that had happened in my absence. I did what little I could in the time available and then headed home, via a supermarket. I had a visitor for the weekend and I wanted to cook. I like to cook and I rarely do it these days. My chopping boards used to be used for chopping vegetables or slicing raw meat; nowadays it's usually slicing tomatoes and cucumber for sandwiches. I was keen to prepare a splendid pasta bake for my guest. I'd made one before I went to the states and it had been very good - in fact, I took some of it with me on my flying trip to Southampton to demonstrate how nice it was. However, cold pasta bake leftovers are not as impressive as the real thing.

So I made the real thing. I even put in little suprises, in the form of pools of buffalo mozzarella. It was prepared and ready to be assembled and oven-baked as soon as my guest arrived. I probably did some other vaguely domestic things around the place as I waited. I'm like that. I had, for the previous visit of this person, rearranged my dining room back into the shape of a dining room. Guests bring out the home-maker in me. The dining room had been turned into a pseudo-fringe-theatre back in April 2004 and had remained as such during preparations for The Musical! right the way up to the Edinburgh festival. On returning from the festival, I was always too busy with one thing or another to get my arse into gear and put my back into tidying the room. Then, one day I'm expecting a visitor and I can be bothered. Interesting. Interesting also, that I put the room back into the shape of a dining room only a few days before it was due to be used as a rehearsal room again for the re-run of the show which had made its home there for the last year.

Anyway, I digress. It's probably best that I do, since there's not a huge amount that I want to say about the weekend which followed. Friday night was good, and the rest of the weekend is was a haze of relaxation and company. Just what was needed.

Thursday, March 10

As with many of the days I spend in the UK, I managed to pack a lot into this one. Since I was on holiday from work, perhaps it is good that I made the most of the day in question. Since I was also at risk of falling asleep if left to find the tiredness and wallow in it, it was also probably best that I kept moving... and moving did I keep. Oh yeah.

Off the plane, I made my second attempt at spot-your-own-baggage-and-then-fail-because-you're-a-moron. I succeeded in the game. I then played the find-your-baggage-was-there-all-along game and left a winner. I'm such a loser. I shall be marking my bags a lot more carefully in future. I think a big silver spray-painted emblem which reads "This is your bag, don't ignore it big boy" may help. Or perhaps I'll get a bag which is not a black faceless generic copy of most travel cases on the market.

Anyway, out of the terminal, I played a game of "where's the ticket machine for the car park" - the answer was "back in the terminal". I then paid for my ticket. They have a special system. The price is - "about £40" - but it goes up by about 50p per day once they have got to "about £40". So everyone pays pretty much the same, but people who have been there for only a few days get to feel that it was quite steep.

I paid and retrieved my car. I was glad to see it. Once therein, I called a certain person and we chatted as I found my way out of the car park and then onto the various roads that lead to Leeds. I was off to see the folks - also known as "The olds", "Les Parents" and, surprisingly, Mr and Mrs Frieze. Spot the family resemblance. We all have the same surname. Coincidence or what!? It must be something in genetics.

The day in Leeds trotted along gracefully and I was due to leave by mid-afternoon in order to get to Liverpool for the gig which I'd been prompted about on Monday while I was Central Parking around the place... well, I was wandering nonchalantly through Central Park at the time. It was a few seconds before I encountered a woman practicing some roller skating. I didn't mention that in Monday's post, but here it is now, in all of its glory, unlocking itself as a nugget of memory which is true but has no great meaning in the grand scheme of things. She seemed a good skater and was quite graceful in her skating. I couldn't help wonder why she was doing it. Perhaps she was going to audition for Starlight Express at some point? Perhaps not... not everyone turns everything into a musical.

Anyway, I left Leeds on time and, with virtual telephone company, travelled to my gig. They may have felt the need to remind me of my commitment to it, but I'd long-since planned the route, with the aid of the internet, and already had directions sitting in my car, ready to go. These directions took me to within 2 minutes' walk of the gig, but I had no idea of exactly where it was. It's always the last half mile that's the hard bit (unless you know what you're doing, in which case, the last half mile's the easy bit).

Anyway, I made it to the gig and was, overall, treated very nicely by the folks in Liverpool. The gig organisers were efficient and friendly. My soundcheck when well. The audience reaction was pretty good. I stumbled over a few words here and there, which isn't a great surprise, since I was jet-lagged and a half. I don't think it got too much in the way. I enjoyed standing on the stage and felt like the room were listening.

As a bonus, I got to see a headliner I've not seen before, and he did a very good job on the room. It was a good night of comedy.

As if my virtual travel companion hadn't had enough of me, I headed to Newcastle from Liverpool in conversational company and got myself to bed at an unreasonable, but not ludicrous hour. The jet-lag hadn't beaten me. I'd survived my bizarred merged two-country two-day Wednesday/Thursday. I'd done a reasonable gig, and I'd even received a call that indicated that the gig I'd previously done at the Comedy Store, before I left for the U.S., had gone well enough for me to get an invitation to go and do another. As a bonus, the person I was speaking to on the telephone was due to visit me the following day in Newcastle. All I had to do was go to sleep, wake up, go to work and all would be sorted. I'd survived the hard part and I'd returned home intact.

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