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Tuesday, May 31

With the bank holiday over, the week started with a sense of urgency. While in one sense I'd gained a day, the project had lost a day. So, back to work.

I was on the case with the project work and I got stuck into some proper coding for a change. I spent the day concentrating hard. I've not had that luxury for a while and I quite enjoyed it.

After the working was over, we went out for a meal to a Wetherspoons. Sadly, the local Wetherspoons has stopped serving meals in the evening - perhaps it gets in the way of the boozing and leering that the rest of the punters do. So, we headed for the big one in town. It was Steak Night! Oooooh. They were out of steak!

Monday, May 30

Ah, the pleasures of a bank holiday. We got to wake up nice and late again. With revision underway, I headed to B&Q for some proper bank-holiday activity. Buying DIY bits. I then spent a good while in the bathroom. I removed one fan. Rewired a bit, tripped the circuit breaker (which is a benefit of working on live wires), rewired some more, installed a new fan, repainted a bit of wall to make it look like the new fan wasn't smaller than its predecessor, and made it all work - eventually. As a lap of honour, I cleaned the bathroom too.

Though it's long after the fact at the time of writing, I apparently made a pasta dish in the evening. Is there no beginning to my talents? I have no recollection of the dish, so it can't have been overly impressive!

Sunday, May 29

Woke up midday. We both did. It's a thing we share - inability to wake up in the morning. That's probably not a good thing, as people need to get up in mornings and you really need someone to wake you up if you can't. However, the waking happened eventually, which was nice.

I spent some of the day tidying and washing - I'm such a domestic goddess. Mind you, the place is still a mess. On the up side, I made a nice curry for an evening meal, so the mess was easily forgotten.

A while previously two things had gone wrong in the bathroom. The extractor fan had started making a horrible noise, and the light switch for the razor light had failed completely. I decided to start DIYing it to fix it. I sorted out the bathroom light, but found that the only solution to the problem of the fan was to replace it. I headed to B&Q to get a new one to find it closed. I thought it would be open after 4pm on a Sunday, but apparently not.

Never mind, I would have something to do later in the week.

Saturday, May 28

A day at home. I planned to vacuum out some cars. I eventually vacuumed my girlfriend's car, which I also fixed (it had a handle-fallen-off-situation). Then I took my own car to be car-washed and took my bike into the shop to be fixed. Its back wheel shouldn't really vibrate when I try to pedal. During this, revision was being undertaken within the house, so I wasn't being neglectful, I was just keeping busy.

As a "treat" we went to Tesco for big shop. This is hardly a treat and it seemed to bore my companion a bit. However, buying ingredients is always a good preparation for some cooking, and cooking was definitely on the menu.

In the evening I made pizza and garlic bread - it went really well. I was quite pleased with this as I've never made garlic bread pizza before. I should clarify. I made a garlic bread pizza and a regular pizza. I invented a special method of preparing the garlic for the garlic bread pizza. Overall, it worked really well - perhaps it could have been more garlicky.

We watched Romeo and Juliet - the Baz Luhhhhrman version. It was curious. Miriam Margolyes was particularly excellent, lots of stuff with her eyes. Very funny. My conclusion, watching Leonardo di Caprio, is that he can only appear in films where he gets really wet.

Friday, May 27

Tonight was to be the third of a run of open spots that I was due to do for an East Yorkshire based promoter. I've been to Whitby on a few occasions, but I'd not done a gig there. It's nice to revisit a town as a performer, and I had hoped to get some time to look around. Whitby is reasonably picturesque

Sadly, time was not on our side and we only had time to do a sound check and then relax in the downstairs bar as we waited for the paying audience. I was asked if I wouldn't mind MCing the show. The promoter, who was not expecting great things from the audience figures, didn't feel cheery enough to do the MCing that night. Fair enough, I can MC (probably) and I liked two of the support acts, so it's always nice to give your friends a good build up.

The show was really rather tough. The crowd were small and not easy to engage. They seemed genuinely unimpressed at Dracula references, which is a shame, since Bram Stoker's novel is probably one of the only things that the town has international fame for. However, we got through the show, and the final act had a good time, which is always a reasonable sign that the show held together.

As a grand finale, the promoter took to the stage and announced that all future gigs were cancelled. The trip home was a highlight of the night.

Thursday, May 26

This was to be quite a day. We had an "end of iteration" meeting, which was a chance to show off what we'd done so far and move ever closer to release (Note: after the fact... still not there and it's August at the time of writing).

After the stress of the day, which is partially down to showmanship to make sure that everyone feels positive about the stuff we've been doing, I had nothing less stressful than a gig to go to. Er... that's still quite stressful. This gig was important to me. It was one of the ones I'd been looking forward to for some time. There were a few reasons. Firstly, it was an important try-out spot at a club which I would like to graduate through the ranks in, in order to become a paid act. So, the pressure was on to do well... and arrive in plenty of time to perform. (As it happens, as is often the case, I arrived well and truly early.) Secondly, I had an ever-increasing party of well-wishers on their way to witness my finest hour/greatest flop. Thirdly, and perhaps more importantly, I was sharing a bill with a comedian whom I have liked for years: Richard Herring. In my mind this was a massive event.

It was the early work of Stewart Lee and Richard Herring which first inspired me to perform stand-up myself. Reading of Richard's rediscovery of stand-up on his (much better updated) blog had struck a chord with me. He was going through the same process as I had been, finding his feet on the stand-up stage. The only difference is that he's an act with 12 years' experience, good agents and, more importantly, a fan base... so it would be definitely easier for him to get gigs. He was supposed to be opening the show in Manchester at a club it will probably take me another two years to get into! However, I'm not bitter. Far from it. I was looking forward to meeting a hero (of sorts) on the same terms. Everyone's equal in the green room. Don't stare, though, it's not fair.

As I drove to Manchester, full of the joys of spring, I listened to a topical sitcom from other comedy icons, Punt and Dennis. It wasn't very good at all. It had one reasonable gag in it. The rest was fairly dull. I hoped it wouldn't blunt my comedic instincts.

At the gig I paced around. There was no sign of Richard, which helped me keep my composure, but the MC, who had MCed me at his club a few days previously, was encouraging about his expectations for how well I'd do. Somehow his encouragement seemed to make me feel a bit more of the pressure. I'm not happy to admit that I stormed a gig... not in the face of more experienced and better acts. I don't want to allow myself to believe that I have "made it" yet. One specific performance doesn't make a comedian of me.
Anyway, the opening section came and went and still no sign of Mr Herring. He was stuck in traffic. Fair enough. I did my bit and it went down pretty well. Job done. The booker wasn't present, so I got no feedback (and still haven't
in August)
on what my performance might have done for my standing in the club. The only words I exchanged with Richard Herring when he arrived were a nod of agreement to (everything he said) the comment he made about the sitcom that he also listened to and a murmur of the comedian's good luck wish - "Have a good one".

In fairness, I was probably better off not sitting chatting with (at) the man himself. In my imagination, it was too big a deal. We'd sit, we'd talk, we'd fall in love and he'd involve me in all his big new radio projects and then we'd go on to right an Opera together or something. In reality, I'd sent him a few emails over the years, the penultimate of which he'd replied to, the last of which he'd ignore. The last email was on the subject of how well I'd cope with meeting him in person. The fact that it remained unanswered threw up a lot more questions than if I hadn't sent it. It wasn't stalkerish - more just a plea for mercy if I got a bit phased by sharing a green room with him. I think he would probably have understood...

Just to stop myself from sounding like an fawning fool, I should point out that I thought he didn't do altogether very well as a stand-up that night, particularly closing the show. He wasn't completely comfortable, nor was his material necessarily the sort of thing which one still does. Given that he'd spent about 6 hours stuck in traffic and then had to go straight on, perhaps some of this can be excused. Other bits of hackery have probably been dropped as he's furthered his process of finding his feet.

I returned home after a bizarre exchange with the ring-leader of the party of well-wishers, who all enjoyed the show. The ring-leader was my ex-house-mate and ex-co-star/co-writer in The Musical! I had some of his stuff in the boot of my car to give to him. It was just round the back of the venue. He refused to take it, citing that there was no time and that I should bin it all, even though he'd rather like his football boots: "But they're just in the back of the car...? No? Oh. Ok. Bye, then."

Wednesday, May 25

As an aid to dieting, we chose to go out for a meal this evening. This could have been a bad move, especially since we were going to a gastro-pub... well, the nearest equivalent to that sort of thing in the Newcastle area. I remember the particular pub in question from previous visits as being totally busy... heaving... every time. I rang before going to make sure we'd get a table.

Arriving there it was really rather sparse. The same could be said for the portion size. On this occasion, I was partially thankful, as I was trying to control my intake of calories. My Thai food was probably healthyish, but certain lower in calories than the larger portion I might have preferred. But size is not important? Right?

I don't recall getting a dessert, so it was a partial success on the dieting front.

Tuesday, May 24

Work is getting stressful. The linkage between what I do at my computer screen (and what my team mates do) and the success of our project, in terms of its creation of revenue for the company, is becoming ever clearer. Plus, the process of working in small iterations, where we commit to deliver a small amount of stuff, which we can just about do in the time available, means that Tuesdays like this can occur. Basically, we were running a bit behind and I could feel the stress. In some ways it's a good thing to feel the stress. It does put a rocket up your arse and you get stuff done. In other ways, it can be quite demoralising - if the walls start closing in, you start to wonder whether the working life really needs to pan out the way it has.

I like feeling busy. I like rushing from one thing to the next, but I'm not convinced that I like the tightness in the chest.

As an extra bonus to the complications of the day, I had a CD to give to a nice man. Something about the musical of Titanic has as big a jinx as the ill-fated ship it's about. If you remember, I had a big rigamrole when I originally tried to buy the CD from ebay. After that, I decided to buy the CD from Amazon in multiple copies, which I had shipped to a friend's house in America. I picked up the CDs along with the delightful Avenue Q when I was there in March. The plan was to sell the surplus copies on ebay and recoup the losses of the previous attempt to buy it and maybe even pay for my own copy. Good idea? Well, it would have been.

I was selling a bunch of CDs in the week when I was due to send Titanic to one customer and Starlight Express to another. Like a large block of frozen water meeting its fate, I managed to swap the envelopes (or contents - either way, really) of these two sales. Two disgruntled customers! D'oh. The buyer of Titanic got in touch to try to sort things out and he was incredibly reasonable. The other buyer became relatively quiet after agreeing to send her copy of Titanic back to me. A couple of weeks passed and no Titanic to give to the buyer - Roy. He was being very very reasonable, offering to drop by Newcastle on the way past - he was due to go on holiday in Scotland. I had to help him.

I had a contingency plan. I already owned the box and inlay of a genuine copy of Titanic, with a snapped disc to go with it (see the link above). I copied my non-snapped copy of Titanic onto CDR and put it in the case of the snapped version. I was then able to give my own personal copy of Titanic to the purchaser, in the hope that Mrs Starlight Express would send hers back in return for her copy of Andrew Lloyd Webber's relatively harmless train-based musical diversion.

I spoke to Roy outside my office as I gave him the disc. He remained very pleasant and reasonable and accepted the money I also gave him to cover his postage in returning the other disc (and I'd also agreed to refund my original postage and packing, since I'd clearly gotten them wrong). He told me a story of someone trying to buy a Titanic CD online and it going horrendously wrong for them. It wasn't my story he was telling back to me (though he'd read that I think). He was telling me his own. I tells ya, this musical be jinx-ed. As an aside to this story, I eventually got in touch with the buyer with possession of the wrong disc and she'd decided (without telling me) to keep Titanic. Sod it! She was welcome to it. She paid me extra for Starlight Express and had the pair. I hope she enjoys them more than I enjoyed selling them!

As days often go for me, this day wasn't going to end quickly. I had a show to do. I went to the Chillingham Arms gig and did some of my stuff. I have a recording of the gig and I remember being funnier than the recording suggests. Perhaps memory can let you down. I did my Eurovision song - previously aired a few days previously at Glenrothes. It went down reasonably well. Rather oddly, I was closing the show and was preceeded by two very experienced acts, one Brummie woman and a Scottish man. Both of those guys have closed shows that I've been the shitty open spot at... it was weird to think of them as though they were the support acts to my closing the night. Before any comedians reading this (and it happens) think that I've lost my mind, I should point out that the Chillingham Arms gig doesn't work like that. The running order is not in rank of funniness or seniority. They stuck me on at the end because the other acts didn't want to do it - they were trying stuff out and didn't want to feel under the pressure of closing the show.

Monday, May 23

After work I did what any self-respecting comedian might do. I went to a gig. However, I wasn't performing. We went along to the gig because it was being arranged by a local act/promoter and so we would - a) get in for free, and b) swell the audience figures appropriately. We also went along because the closing act - AW - is one of my favourite circuit comedians. It's strange to think of someone as being underrated when you know that both you and the audience wetting themselves at his act clearly rate them highly. However, AW must be an underrated comedian as his incredible power as an act doesn't seem to be matched by how well known he is among the general public.

Comedians rate their performance by how much laughter they generated per capita. That's the best judge of an act - the amusement the audience encountered and expressed. However, there are a couple of things which truly bless a comedian. If someone laughs so much that they spit their beer at you, you smilingly wipe your brow and then feel glad that you made them lose control of their mouth. If someone laughs until a little bit of wee comes out, then you've made it. The headliner on this occasion is a stalwart favourite of mine and I was glad that I could take my girlfriend along to enjoy his performance and his company after the show. Despite knowing his routines quite well, having seen them a bunch of times, the performance I watched that night was so strong and so funny that it was I, the so-called-experienced-comedian, who did the beer spitting. Only a little beer was ejected from my lips, but ejected it was. It was a combination of the quality of the gag and the superb timing with which it was delivered. I couldn't help myself. I ejaculated beer... orally.

Sunday, May 22

Sundays can be quite relaxing. For that matter, sundaes can also be relaxing, though if you have one of the intensely sugary sundaes which comes with 4 spoons and a lot of ice-cream and chocolate brownies in it, then it's not as relaxing. In fact, such a sundae can leave you feeling exhausting as the sugar buzz finally subsides and you drop out of the false sky you'd temporarily been thrust into.

However, this was a Sunday. I was back from my mini tour of Scottish places, with a silly challenge to complete, and I had a girlfriend who needed to revise. So, my solution was to potter around the house disturbing her by tidying various things up. I don't think it caused her too much distress.

Towards the end of the day, we decided to sit down and watch a movie. The 5th Element, which I'd never seen, was being broadcast on Channel 4. It was suggested that we watch it. However, I wasn't keen on watching the movie as broadcast. In a recent shopping trip for DVDs, a bizzare group discount, and the recommendation of my shopping partner (the girlfriend with whom I was now having this discussion) led to me buying the 5th Element on DVD. I don't want to watch on TV something which I own on disc. The TV version would have adverts in, and maybe it would be cut for TV and just not be as good. It wouldn't have extras in it... not that I felt the DVD had any extras on it either, but there was a principle at stake. The solution? We watched the DVD at around the same time as the broadcast. In fact, we started the DVD after the film had started broadcasting on Channel 4.

The 5th Element is a really good movie. I like Bruce Willis, and I've enjoyed his work ever since I saw him in what now looks like a god-awful programme, but which was, at the time, the very wonderful "Moonlighting". I think that Mr Willis manages to portray a sense of repressed pathos in all of his parts that always makes me both wish I were him and be glad that I didn't have to be him.

Anyway, after the movie had finished and we'd enjoyed the utter silliness of it (I'm not going to describe it - if you've not seen it then find a way of seeing it and you'll understand.) we turned over to Channel 4 to see how it was doing. Despite the broadcast starting before we did, we'd beaten it to the finish and had probably enjoyed better surround sound or something.


Saturday, May 21

I awoke woozy and disoriented. I was too tired to get up in time for the official checkout time. I reckoned that the worst thing that could happen is that they could ask me for a couple more quid and I wouldn't have cared enough to make a fuss about it. I was very tired. However, I hauled my ass out of my bed at some point before it was too late and grabbed a shower. No comment about my lateness was made when I checked out. I barely uttered a word and they didn't press me for any comment.

This silence pretty much continued for the rest of the day until the gig. I remember a conversation I had with a rather stunning comedienne at a gig once. She had been travelling all day to get to the gig and saw me not as a man to flirt with, but more as a fellow performer with whom she could talk openly, after a day of no human contact. We don't count talking to an audience through a microphone as that, nor do we count talking to audience members after the show either. Human contact is natural and spontaneous. I didn't get a chance to talk with anyone until the gig. During the gig there weren't really people to talk to either, the performers were in pre-gig mode and the promoter was also quite harried... after the gig, on the drive home, there was room for chat, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I drove from the hostel in search of breakfast. It had to be healthy, so a fry-up (which is what I wanted) was out of the question. I had stayed in this hostel before and had breakfasted well on a fry-up the following morning. It had been at a shopping centre near the Royal Yacht Brittania. I decided to go there. I didn't expect to get a fry-up, but I thought that I might do the comedian-on-day-of-gig thing and go to the cinema. I'd been to the cinema at that shopping centre before - it was with a friend at Fringe 2003 - we took Sunday off the Fringe and watched "The Pirates of the Carribbean" (add or subtract r's and b's to get the correct spelling of that). Anyway, the shopping centre seemed the natural place to go. I bought some healthy food at M&S and then went in search of the movie. I wanted to see "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". I knew it wasn't going to be brilliant, but I like Douglas Adams's world and I wanted to see the movie that he had, in his own lifetime, failed to get on the screen. Perhaps it wouldn't be that bad.

The movie wasn't bad. It wasn't all that good either. They missed the point. Well, perhaps I missed the point of a modern movie. However, Douglas Adams's writing is a lot better than what they did with it. Some of the scenes, were very familiar to me because I've heard them countless times in the radio series as well as having read them in the novels. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy remains one of the few things I've ever re-read. The weird thing about the treatment of these familiar scenes is that they started them, but then cut the dialogue just before the natural punchline. Adams wrote things to their absurd conclusion, but the script only went 80% of the way there. Why cut just before the punchline? Weird.

Martin Freeman was okay as an Arthur Dent, but he wasn't anything special. The pompous and outraged Simon Jones made a better Arthur in the radio series. Obviously he couldn't play Arthur now - he looks too old. His own cameo appearance was enjoyable in itself, as were the various tributes to the previous work. I noticed the BBC TV Series version of Marvin hanging around in one of the scenes, which was nice. I quite liked what they'd done with Marvin in this movie. Alan Rickman did a reasonable job of playing him, though perhaps they should have made his voice sound like like a human voice and more like a computer simulated one. I don't know. There was something just wrong about this movie. Sexual tension and actual statements of love between Arthur and Trillian? Don't get me wrong, the camera loved her and it was nice to gaze into her eyes over the course of the movie, but she's not supposed to be in love with Arthur. He's supposed to be frustrated by her lack of feelings for him and she's supposed to have a soft spot for him. There's the comedy in the tragedy. Aaagh!

So, I enjoyed the big screen experience, but felt rather cheated that they'd reinvented the wheel and made it an unusual shape.

After that I thought I'd go and buy some trousers. I was wrong. I only saw one pair of trousers in the whole shopping centre which fit me... and I didn't like them. Shame!

So, I drove to the location of the gig earlier than I planned to. I thought I'd hang out there and see what came to mind. I'd half imagined that I might write a song for doing that night... maybe something topical. A comedian once suggested to me that I could write topical songs, and I've recently gotten the idea of writing songs to order, so I ordered myself to write a topical song. I started out by wandering around a shopping centre. Another one!? There I discovered the delights of Stationery Box and ended up buying a neat little folder for my notes. This is a good idea. I now have a ring binder (A5) for all the little bits of paper. Good stuff. I then sat in a coffee shop and tried to compose my thoughts. Something came out of the thoughts.

Eventually, it was late enough to go and do my soundcheck in the venue. It was barely 7pm, but at least I was doing something. My soundcheck over, I tried rehearsing the song which I'd written. It needed something. I discovered a piano backstage and used that to help find more musical inspiration. I put an ending on the song and firmed up, in my own mind, what I wanted to do with it. It was a nice piano.

The gig itself went very well. Every act had a good response from the audience. In the middle section, I did my new song, along with some other stuff which I've performed to audiences before. Being the regular MC of a gig is hard. You feel like you need to bring something new to the audience every time. On the up side, you get a lot of new material that way. I can do my tried and tested stuff, but I have to do a little of it each time and then their chance of hearing the same bit consecutively is reduced. They're a lovely audience and I had a lot of fun MCing them.

In the final section, I made the audience a promise. I'm their regular MC and usually come back every other month. Owing to a diary discrepancy, I shall be back the following month. So, I told them the story of Cole Porter writing a song based on the next phrase to be heard in the room he was in at the time - it was a challenge that was put to him. He wrote the song "Miss Otis Regrets...". As a sweetener to the audience to get them to come back next time, I threw myself at their feet and offered to meet the same challenge. I shall be returning in late June with a song based on the phrase "mmm Cabbage". We'll see what happens!

I didn't hang around after the gig. I had a home to go to and a sleeping girlfriend to awaken. We went home listening to Jerry Springer the Opera. It's a good show. My in-car companion, who had headlined the evening's show (very well), hadn't heard the show and enjoyed listening to it. I dropped him off pretty much as it concluded, which was nice.

I returned home and joined my girlfriend in bed. I had been tired over most of the day. I felt washed out until about 8pm - just in time for the gig to the start. I returned home with a lot more energy than I expected I might have. I was still tired, but there were no firm plans for the following day, so there was to be much restorative sleep.

Friday, May 20

Another stressful day in the office. It wasn't bad stress. It was more the challenge of getting a load of stuff done and the excitement about the outcome. I haven't been this motivated about work for quite a while. The diet was also going reasonably well. I was trying to get through an entire week "on the wagon" and it was a case of so-far-so-good. I had been eating healthily, though, so that was bound to cause me problems somewhere.

Anyway, after work, quite frazzled after the late nights and the exceedingly busy moments during the day, I got myself some directions to the gig in Coatbridge and headed there. I didn't know how close I was for most of the journey and had guesstimated my distance wrong by about 30 or 40 miles. As a result, I constantly felt like I was going to be late for the gig. I pushed the car and myself and my stress levels did not subside over the course of the journey.

When I arrived in the town, reasonably early, I was able to relax. On the up side, I was in Scotland again and things were going to be relaxed from that point onwards. On the down side, I had a girlfriend due to arrive at my home in Newcastle (I'd hidden some keys for her - I told her where they were, she wasn't due to play hide and seek) and I was 150 or so miles away doing a gig in front of what would turn out to be a small but perfectly formed audience.

As is often the best advice in a situation where you've been stressed and need to relax in preparation for something where mind and body need to be on good form, I went and had a nice relaxing poo. The poo was mottled with yellow sweetcorn like stuff, so I must assume that it was a wholesome and healthy poo - undoubtedly, it was a poo born of healthy eating.

A couple of things threw me off key when I went up to perform that night. Firstly, the opening act (I was second) covered quite a few of the same bases that I do in my set. In fairness to me, he covered pretty much every base going with his eclectic mix of material. However, he'd pretty much done to death something that I would normally close on. I decided, in reaction to his particular schtick, to remix my set and close on the "racists" song. This is not the best of songs to end on, since it's not a banker. However, it is a big performance piece and I managed to find the energy from somewhere to complete the set with that. After the applause, I just sort of stopped. The MC had little notice to get back to the stage to back announce me. It hadn't been the usual massive climax that I do. In addition, I'd been tired and jittery and had stuttered my way through a few bits of set. In short, I was gigged out from the preceeding 3 gigs in four days that I'd done. The fact that the act before me had pressed on with the material which is similar to mine, thus robbing me of my usual climax, had been the icing on the cake of a tricky performance. However, everyone had enjoyed the performance (as far as I could tell) and I hadn't felt uncomfortable doing my thing - just exhausted.

After the gig, I headed off to my lodgings for the night. I had decided to stay at the Globetrotters Inn on the outskirts of Edinburgh. This is a youth hostel and costs something like £15 per night. I forget the exact cost. It was in sharp contrast to the big castle I stayed in last time I paid for accommodation in the area. I had specifically chosen not to dump myself on willing friends for free accommodation, since I didn't know what time I'd be arriving in Edinburgh and didn't really want to put them to the effort of waiting up for me, or whatever. I am perfectly capable of looking after myself and I think it was important to me to prove that I don't need a fancy shmancy 4 star hotel in which to do it.

The world of the backpackers hostel is a weird one. This particular place has a slogan all over its walls - "Stay Happy", which makes it seem a bit like a cult. Also, the decor of the place, coupled with the bunk beds and shower blocks make it seem a bit like some sort of opt-in prison. You never know quite whether the curtain on your individual bunk is really enough to keep out intruders in the middle of the night. I arrived at the place, exhausted and just wanting my sleep. I waded through the drunk revellers (stag nights on the cheap etc), avoided the smell of sick in the toilets getting to me, and got myself into my individual prison. It wasn't too bad. It took me a while to get to sleep, though.

Check out was meant to be 10am, so I set my alarm for 9. When I'd checked in, there was some mention of breakfast, but I didn't expect I would actually get breakfast. I also suspected that whatever they had on offer would be too high in calories for me on my first week of being on the wagon in a dieting sense.

I eventually dropped off to sleep. It took a lot longer than I expected, as I lay there exhausted, my girlfriend now nearer at 120 miles away. I think she had the better deal, sleeping in my home. I would have joined her (the extra distance not necessarily being a problem economically, as the gigs were well paying) but I firmly believed that I'd not make the distance of a return journey - sometimes one can be too tired to drive.

Thursday, May 19

The coming weekend was going to be busy. I was going to be doing a mini comedy tour in Scotland with another comedian, who is Scottish, but now lives in Newcastle. The weird thing was that each gig we were performing in had been booked independently, and we were not going to be travelling between gigs together. I was due to take him to Scotland on the Thursday, and bring him back on the Saturday night, but we would be doing our own thing in between. He had the pleasure of staying in Scotland Thursday night. I had work on Friday morning, which meant that my weekend would be even more intense. Still, the benefit of working a day job is that it pays for the fun which happens outside of office hours!

So, after a fairly hectic day in the office, I met my comedic chum at 5pm and we headed to Edinburgh. I was to MC the gig that he was closing. There were to be 3 other acts on the bill and the promoters were a couple of friends of mine. It seemed like it would be a pleasant night out. I started the journey in a rather odd mood. The tiredness of the last couple of days' activities, coupled with the pressures of work, meant that my mind was racing and I was burbling a bit more than even I normally do. It took me a while to chill out and get back into being myself. I managed it, though.

Arriving in Edinburgh, we wandered to the venue, with plenty of time to spare, set up and then sat around for a while. It was the first time for this particular gig, run in this particular way. Under these circumstances, you never know who is going to turn up, or what they're going to do. As a means of promotion, someone had chalked a series of instructions on the streets leading to the Royal Mile. Next to the words were pictures of penises. It took me a while to work out what this meant. The gig was on Cockburn street (pronounced Co-burn) but they were playing the "Cock Burn" angle. A couple of the chalk penises were on fire. What amused me, and I explained it to the audience as I MCed the middle section, was that they'd draw an 3 foot high picture of a penis, with hairy testicles attached, and then, next to it, had *ed out the "O" of "Cock" because they didn't want to be rude! Classic!

The gig itself was hard to play and every act, with the exception of a very tightly scripted open spot, the headliner and myself, appeared to be on the ropes with the audience. They were nice, but hard to play to. They weren't all British and this made some pop-culture references hard. Plus, we had a table of Canadians and Swedes, who heckled. They were nice heckles though. One of the guys politely added information, relevant to what was said and what thoughts went through his brain. He was taking part, and it was fun to play with him. Another of the guys on that table heckled me by buying me a drink. Not exactly a problem!

One of the funniest moments in the show for me was when one of the acts, in the setup to a joke, said the words "I was thinking of joining the Al Quaeda network". The polite heckler, at this point, had been swigging his pint and comically spat it out at those words. I don't think he planned it. It's the perfect response to any joke... to be blessed with beer. The punchline of that particular joke was not revealed to that audience. In the interests of authenticity and copyright, I too shall not reveal it.

I enjoyed the gig but had to get back home. The late night drive was a chore, but I had a weekend of entertainment to look forward to. Plus, as a bonus, my girlfriend had decided that the only way she could get any work done was to come and stay at my place. I wasn't going to be there when she arrived, but she would, at least, be able to get settled in and enjoy my company when I did. She was due to arrive the following evening. I was back off to Scotland after work that day.

I like gigging, and May was getting quite gig intensive. Since June was looking almost entirely bare, it was a question of enjoying it while it lasted.

Wednesday, May 18

I'd arranged, a few days previously, to go to see a performance of Jekyll and Hyde (a musical of course) in Sunderland. At the time I made the arrangement with my friend, we'd suggested the possibility of meeting up for food first. I wasn't sure that that was going to be possible (with an intensive work schedule and all) but left it open - to be decided nearer the time. How near the time should it be organised, though?

Late the previous evening, realising that I'd not yet arranged the meeting time and place, I'd checked my email, with the intention of dropping the other person a line about the meeting point. She'd beaten me to it. So, I sent her a late night reply. I decided that we may as well meet for food - there's a pub quite near to the theatre. We clarified the arrangements over the course of the day, and I found myself in Sunderland at 6pm-ish.

My friend had parked her car in front of the theatre, which rather annoyed me, as mine was in a pay-car-park round the corner and I'd not even considered finding a free space RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE THEATRE. We wandered over to the pub and then the doubt set in. Was it really free? Was that yellow line until 7, rather than 6? Would the post-theatre rush render the space a pain in the arse, rather than a convenient location? We had the time to put it right, so a minute after we'd settled ourselves in an eating area with menus, we left the pub, picked up the car, moved it to a new car park and then returned to the pub, to the same table and picked up the menus again.

The pub hadn't been that quiet when we went to see the last show at that theatre. In fact, the available seating last time hadn't been anything like as good as when I booked for this time. Perhaps it wasn't going to be as busy a show.

The people on the next table hailed us on our return to the pub. We joked with them a bit about trying other pubs and coming back to the first and then explained about the car. They asked us what we were doing that night. We said we were going to see a musical. Our new-found friends then revealed themselves as members of the cast of that show. They were self deprecating about the experience we were due to enjoy/endure. They seemed committed enough to it after the 300 or so performances they'd given on their tour so far. Apparently, this was the last venue. Always the one to show off my geekiness about musicals, I asked them whether the ludicrous lyric "And the front bit, is what is called a facade" had remained in the show. Apparently not. I was then treated to a comment on a lyric which still was in the show. As it happens, I didn't know too much about this show, only having listened to it on CD from the original broadway cast. I knew that it had some nice music in it and the lyrics were, in places, quite good. Often, I found it quite poor to listen to, but you cannot judge a show entirely on how it sounds, which is why I decided to see a performance of it.

The cast left before us - something about having to get into makeup and costumes - having recommended moments to look out for in the show. We had our food. Curry. Not bad. Wetherspoons is Wetherspoons.

The show was nothing special. The fact that we were in a reasonably empty auditorium probably contributed to that too. It's hard for a cast to give a totally magical 300th performance of something when they're getting very little back from the crowd and the source material is not all that good in the first place. There were some good moments and it Paul Nicholas gave a solid performance. We spotted a few familiar faces in the chorus, which sort of livened things up a bit. The bottom line is that it simply wasn't a very good show and those people who stayed away because they hadn't heard of the show and didn't want to try something new were probably right to do so, even though one should always try to give a show a chance to entertain.

There was no post-theatre rush jamming the spaces in front of the place. Never mind. Better luck next time.

Tuesday, May 17

Today was a gig I was looking forward to. When I rang the promoter to ask for the booking, he echoed my own sentiments that it had been far too long since I last played XS Malarkey. That gig is always a pleasure to play. No matter how good you think the audience are going to be, they always surprise you. This is a good thing! Oh yeah! I'd celebrated my 30th birthday at that venue, with that audience, and they'd been wonderful. Then, just under a year ago, I did another gig there. The crowd were great that time, though my performance (I listened to a recording I had of it) had been variable and a bit off. This time, with my new found confidence and bunch of new bits of material, I wanted to raise the roof. However, there was a problem: recently, the audience numbers had been dropping off and there had been, apparently, some quieter nices and less enthusiastic responses. I lowered my expectations accordingly.

Apparently, I also managed to lower my understanding of how to get to the gig. Having played there a few times, I assumed that I just "knew" the way there. This was not correct. However, the drive was, for the most part, a good one. I didn't realise that I'd be taking a 10 mile detour at the end of the journey when I enjoyed the first 90% of it. I had The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy playing on the radio - the new series, which I really must find some hooky copies of, so I can enjoy it in full sequentially (the one episode I heard sounded good). I was off to do a gig (which still gives me a buzz) and I had my new guitar in the boot. This should have been a good start to a good night.

And boy was it a good night?

Yes. Yes it was.

The bill started with a couple of newer acts. Bizarrely, both of these new acts were fully grown men who should know a lot better than to force themselves to trot many many miles around the country being silly in front of an audience of kids. The first act did very well. I'd not seen him before, so I assume he did well in his own experience, rather than just in my judgement. The second act, whom I have seen before, did ok. I'm sure he was happy with the response, despite it going a bit flat in the middle.

After the opening two acts, there's a section-closing act (in this case, a very solid and enjoyable performer - I told him that he did stand-up the way it should be done, and I agree with myself on that. Then there was supposed to be me in my own section as main support and the headliner in his own section as... well... headliner. Unfortunately for me, the bill was oversubscribed, and I had to cut my set down to 15 minutes in order to accommodate an act on before me. Not only that, but the act before me was more experienced and, dare I say it, really really good. So, I had to work against the clock and follow a really good act. I wasn't sure I could do it, but I wasn't going to let myself know that. I had an audience to entertain!

I got a nice introduction from the promoter/compere/smashing stalwart of the manchester comedy circuit (now I'm sounding all luvvie, but this guy really is great to work with and I like him a lot). Then I was on stage. I did more than 15 minutes. Some of the time was spent waiting for the audience reaction to calm so I could move on. They gave me the best response I think I've ever had. It didn't get to me, like the first room which lit up when I did my stuff (Bolton, October 2003). I've been entertained by the hilarity in the room and even found it infectious before, but on this occasion, their responses to my stuff, which were, in places, rapturous, didn't break through my performance and make me laugh. In fact, I was nearer to frightened. At one point, they were calling for more and I hadn't even finished yet. Here was me, feeling like I wanted to cram as much stuff in as possible, and the audience were going mental and slowing me down... of course, they were enjoying it and I didn't feel frustrated that they were going mental - that was, in fact, the best reaction I could have created... but it was, in places, just a bit weird. At one point, as the applause was dying down after a song, a cheering started and I felt (at the time) that it might never stop. I didn't really know how to handle an audience that were going mental.

How do you deal with the best audience. On that occasion, I acted in much the same awkward way I think I might react if I found myself in bed with a really enthusiastic partner who was unknown to me (this hasn't happened and will not happen, but I think is a good analogy nonetheless). The other person might be making all of the right noises, and some, and I would wonder what the "etiquette" would be in that situation. I'd ration that one should "talk dirty" but what should I say? I think my resulting actions in that situation might be similar to what I actually did in front of the whooping XS audience. I rather awkwardly shouted at them - "Yeah, you love it!". Still, it seemed to give me control of the room again.

It was a good night. My cousin, who had been in attendance with a bunch of friends, and had been worried that I might not be able to follow the preceding act, was satisfied that I am "the shit". He didn't put it like that... perhaps he said something similar. I don't know.

I shall be asking for another gig there. Gigs that good don't come round very often. Perhaps I'll be able to get in there around the time of my 32nd birthday! Maybe I'll even have a new set by then!

One late night drive home and then I had to get a few hours' sleep in preparation for work the next day. I actually managed to avoid the late night naughty eating. I'm almost a saint!

Monday, May 16

I had had far too little sleep to find myself wide awake at around 8am. Somehow, though, the imperative to get my ass out of bed and get into the office was there. I probably got out of the wrong side of the bed, though. I got out of the side that I normally use, but I'm talking metaphorically. I wasn't in the best of moods all day. This was probably down to a number of things, but let's put in the number one and two slots the lack of sleep and my sudden urge to get back on the dieting wagon. Yes. I've decided to give up eating shit for a while. Let's see if I can't even manage to get my bike fixed (not sure when) and haul my ass around on it to reduce my size that way too. It's been a long time coming, but I just don't feel as healthy as I ought to and I can do better than to blubber (as in whale) around the place feeling heavy.

As a link to my urge to diet, I'm currently bristling with ideas for some writing which would involve a large number of fat-jokes. I reckon that I could channel my need for eating into this writing project and get two for the price of one: a diet and inspiration for the new meister-work.

I spent a long time in the office today with varying degrees of success and frustration. On the up side, I managed to get my newly reinstalled computer up and running and I did some work on it. On the down side, it's painfully slow. On the up side, I was very busy and worked plentiful hours. On the down side, I got stressed and overtired. Grr.

Two examples arose today which showed me the sort of office I work in. The first was the out of order toilet on our floor. The sign read. "Out of order. Please use the toilets on the other floors.". Seems reasonable enough, doesn't it? Except, why mention the solution to this problem. What was the person who wrote the sign expecting me to do? Would I have been expected to hold it in for 8 hours, or perhaps just piss up against the door? Of course I would go to the toilet on a different floor - it's bloody obvious. The more pragmatic solution would have been to say something like - "use the ladies", but perhaps we're not open enough a society to countenance the possibility of men being allowed to use the cubicles in a female toilet (even though the ratio of men to women is something like 15:1 in our office, meaning that the probability of an actual mixed-sex presence in a unisex toilet would have been minimal). The other thing which annoyed me today was to discover that our office supply of AA batteries is a controlled commodity. I had to go and ask someone for batteries. What the hell is that all about?

After work I went for coffee and beer (I had the coffee, he the beer) and took the chance to pitch my new idea with a friend. We also caught up on the world we share and he proved, as usual, excellent company. He also told me that he reads this blog...

The evening was spent blogging (well slightly) and preparing for my gig tomorrow in Manchester. I have a very busy week ahead. I have gigs on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and I'm in Manchester, Edinburgh, Newcastle (for work), Glagsow, Edinburgh (for rest) and Glenrothes before I get to hang up my guitar for another week. This, coupled with the rigours of the office challenges... let's just say that this is the wrong week to quit chocolate. But let's see if I can't stick to my resolution.

Sunday, May 15

Saturday night hadn't been an entirely late one, but it had hardly been early. Yet, for some reason, I woke up at half past eight. I have no idea why. Perhaps my home alarm, set for 6.30am so I can guarantee to get into the office on time, is having an effect on my body clock as a whole. It was certainly an early time to rise.

The day was frittered away pottering, enjoyable and not for description. Lunch was in the pub over the road, not the one down the street. Again, the concept of staying healthy was greatly abandoned. After lunch there was more action on the quiz machine, somewhat interrupted by the football-watching crowd who cheered and clapped as Southhampton played on... ultimately losing and doing themselves no favours in the league (or whatever it is - I know thing of this football game).

Unsatisfied with the fat content of our main courses, we opted for the ludicrously high calorie dessert. It's a dessert so big that it comes in something which may as well be a vase. But you can choose to have 2 spoons and share it. This was a dessert so big that a passing man stopped and remarked: "Gor blimey, that's a biggun" and he was right. It was also amusing to hear someone say "Gor blimey". How olde worlde.

Surviving the pub was tricky but we managed it. Somehow, back at the flat, an attempt to pack and leave turned into a "nice lie down" which turned into a couple of hours' sleep. Waking up confused and aware that time was slipping through my fingers, I started the long and arduous task of actually preparing to return home. You never want a good weekend to end... especially when its ending requires a 330 mile drive in the middle of the night. However, these things have to be done and, after a trip to buy petrol and a disgusting quantity of shite food for the journey (comprising sandwiches and things which chocolate in), the time came to bid farewell and head up North.

Somehow, while driving and eating a muffin, I managed to get chocolate everywhere. I even filled my top pocket with chocolate chips. I gorged myself on food and got sticky hands, a sticky steering wheel and even a chocolatey phone into the bargain. Quite frankly, I was already looking for an excuse to develop an aversion to chocolate. As I pulled into a services to clean up (and I did a good job of the cleaning up) I decided. That was that. From now on, I'm going back on the wagon. I'm going to eat healthily. I'm going to stop eating chocolate (the occasional hot chocolate doesn't count... nor do sprinkles on a Cappuccino), no more mayonnaise, no more flapjacks... no more shite. If I don't stop now, then when?

I got home at 3am, tired, feeling slightly sick and with not too many hours of sleep available before the alarm clock was due to go off. Still, I'd had a good weekend.

Saturday, May 14

A fairly late wake-up was just what was needed for this weekend. The major item on the agenda was lunch. We found our way on foot to a nearby pub where I ate one of the highest-fat items on the menu. My thoughts of going on a diet, which I had almost started to do on Wednesday, seemed to be taking a weekend off. I knew that it was wrong, but I wanted the food and I had the food. Naughty.

The afternoon was spent playing games in the bar. Pool provided much entertainment - I hadn't played in ages and I wasn't very good. Playing best of 3 is so divisive. I reckon it was probably a draw, not 2:1. Or maybe I lost. I don't know. The pub quiz machine seemed to taunt us for the time we played it, but it was fun. The best games on it were the ones with the jauntiest tunes.

The pub itself also plays host to a comedy night and I must now make it my mission to get booked by that comedy night so I can return as a star... or maybe just find another excuse to play the quiz machine.

In the evening, we went to Bournemouth. We found the most efficient route - via Boscombe, twice, and then through Southbourne. Once in Bournemouth itself, we wandered through the park, had a look at some birds and then failed to find a suitable place to eat. It didn't matter. The important thing was that we got some fresh air and some bright skies and we DIDN'T GO AND SEE A MUSICAL. The musical thing was becoming a bit of a habit and it's not special if you do it all the time. Why I'm saying this I don't know. It's largely down to my urge to sit in a theatre for ages that I've seen so many musicals this year. Note to self: don't mention the fact that another musical is to be viewed next week, in Sunderland. D'oh!

The car journey, with a few CDs playing was an opportunity for chat and for inspiration. An idea hit me, while Grease was playing. This idea gained weight as the weekend progressed, when my mind wandered, it wandered to this idea. If this moment of inspiration turns into a fully written show (and it just might), then the next 18 months may prove to be very silly indeed.

Back to Southhampton, it was decided to couple TV with Pizza for a late evening in. The man in Domino's was profound. I asked him how his Saturday night rush was doing. He said:

"Well, this is Domino's, isn't it? and the thing about Domino's, right, is that it's Domino's, isn't it?"

And you know what, he was right. Wow!

Friday, May 13

Despite the relatively small amount of sleep, I arrived in the office on time. I spent the day working at a colleague's computer as mine was being refitted and made nicer. It was interesting to work at a guest machine, since I had fewer of the things which distract me to... well... distract me. I ploughed through some of the tasks that the team have assigned for the next couple of weeks. We had a man on holiday and the aim was to meet our short-term target even though we were short. Ideally we should beat it. Previously, we were going off track long before we'd even gotten to the hard bit where you try to finish everything off - this lead to lots of overtime. Trying to get ahead of the game in advance seemed a good move. We managed it too. Only slightly, but it still counts.

It had been a draining week and I had a date with a lovely lady in Southampton. I wasn't staying in the office any later than I had to. In addition, my last task finished pretty much at the time I might have considered scooting off. I went to my car and pointed it south. I had 5 hours of driving ahead.

I took a stop around 6.30pm and bought a heap of unnutritious shite to eat. I added some chocolate-covered raisins, which almost count as healthy because they're fruit. This is, of course, the sort of nonsense I tell myself while I'm buying shite in the motorway service stations. It managed to fill my stomach and only cost LOTS OF MONEY.

The journey went reasonably quickly, partly because every mile was a mile closer to a good destination, and partly because I had my usual brood of musicals playing. I'm getting quite good at singing along with the "Fu u u u u" song in Jerry Springer The Opera. I really should recharge my MP3 player or put some more CDs in the car to listen to. Still, if it works...

I arrived in Southampton to a warm reception and got chance to relax and enjoy a weekend's good company. I was tired but in good spirits. I think I needed to wash away the week's exertions.

Thursday, May 12

After all the work that the guys had put in over the last few days, it would have been terrible to had a bad review meeting, or come out with a negative plan for the next batch of work. This was not to happen. We were thanked for the extra efforts that people had put in. I'd been a latecomer to the late night slogging and nobody had made it clear how much of a slog there had been until Tuesday. Note to self - ask people what they're doing more of the time. The good news is that we've planned wisely and should have a less fearful time this time around... unless things go wrong.

As my computer was being mangled by the IT guys and as there was a play I wanted to see in Edinburgh (yes, I'll travel 120 miles for a play), I left the office at 4pm, unable to do a huge amount if I stayed, and headed up North. The traffic on the A1 was pretty light and there was some daredevil overtaking - especially by a particular ambulance
. I guess his rational was that if he got hit, he was in the right vehicle to be cured in. However, it wasn't an emergency ambulance, it was the sort where old people get put in to be shipped somewhere to die, or whatever. Maybe he was just giving them one last thrill.

I got to Edinburgh and parked near the theatre where this student production was to occur. I had a friend playing leading lady in the play "The Curious Savage". The theatre is opposite a Subway sandwich shop, so that was my evening meal sorted out. However, something seemed wrong.
The doors of the theatre were not open, there was no footfall anywhere near the place and no posters on the outside. I was concerned that I'd got my dates wrong, or misunderstood the venue. I couldn't contact my friend to ask her what was going on. Internet searches on my mobile and performed by my girlfriend from her desk, as I rang her to tell her that I may have travelled 120 miles in vain, gave

no clues. It was a mystery. It was as I was ringing the boyfriend of my friend-in-the-production that I spotted a familiar face - one of the members of the drama group who were putting the show on. The doors of the theatre had opened secretly behind me as I was ringing. I was allowed in.

My £5 ticket bought me not one but two shows with a 15 minute interval between them. Both were good examples of their craft, the second being a ludicrous murder-mystery story jam-packed with funny and ludicrous characters. It made little sense but was a comedic romp that I enjoyed. My friend's part was the highlight of her own half of the evening and I seemed to recognise other members of the cast.

There is a gig across town in Edinburgh on a Thursday which I decided to drop into, with my friend in town (she frequents that gig anyway), before going home. I saw the last act and then the organiser was doing some live music. It took two songs before I was summoned to the stage. We played this and that for an hour or so, summoning my acting friend to sing lead vocals for a bit too - it all sounds so kids-from-fame-like... it wasn't. It was a smoky pub in Edinburgh. However, it was good fun.

With a car journey and much singing along to musicals, I arrived home later than I wanted to, given that I had an early start the following morning. Ah well... who needs sleep!?

Wednesday, May 11

If it's worth doing once, it's worth doing twice. We really went for the overtime today. By 8pm there were three of us left in the office, beavering away at problems we wanted to whittle down before the review meeting the following day. We had a list of 20 problems and we knew we couldn't deal with them all. In a burst of effort, we managed to tackle 3 each. It took a lot of rapid working and swearing, but it was the best we could do and we rose to the challenge.

Following yesterday evening's naughtiness with KFC, I had decided to get back on the wagon and start eating healthily again. I need to get my bike fixed - it had a rusty chain and the back wheel bearings are knackered. I reckoned that getting back onto healthy eating, coupled with time on the bike... well, it might be the way to get my arse fitting into smaller jeans again. At the moment, I'm going the wrong way. Sadly, in an act of communion with the other guys (that's getting together to commune...) I ended up at a fast food place after work. I bought a pizza. Naughty me. On the up side, it was very nice.

I slept well.

Tuesday, May 10

I thought I might be able to spend some time after work today continuing with the spring cleaning. Fate was not on my side. The project we were working on was running late and the only thing to do to put it right was put extra time in. So I did. I joined with my team mates and worked until after 8. We didn't even get any mints for our efforts. However, the beers stood suggestively on the desk, offering reward for the completion of our efforts if we made it by Thursday morning. It was going to be tricky.

At around 8.30, I headed off. I had reached the point where I wasn't going to be of much further use and there was a gig across town which I wanted to go to. As a comedian it's important for me to go to as many gigs as possible, even if I am not performing. The art of comedy is something which one needs to be immersed in. I've always been a comedy fan, so going to comedy nights is something I should do anyway.

On the way to the gig I thought I'd grab some food. For some reason, it was the turn of Kentucky Fried Chicken to get my custom. I was served by a woman who spoke English with a very thick accent. I don't know which country she was from; she clearly wasn't native to this one. There were a few issues of understanding and I eventually managed to make it clear that I wanted a couple of items off the menu and wanted to eat in. She started, quite slowly, preparing my order, and then informed me that I couldn't sit in as the shop was nearly closing. Had this been someone else, I might have become irritable or frustrated. However, I recognised her as someone who was adapting to a different way of life and culture and she was being nice about it. As I was to eat the food out (I eventually ate it on a picnic table just outside the shop) I asked for extra napkins. She brought me what I wanted, and more, and smiled at me when she handed over the food and napkins in the way that a mother might smile at her favourite son when giving him a slightly extra portion of the meal she'd just made. It was a nice experience, even if the Colonel might not approve of her slow and confused manner. Perhaps the Colonel will ultimately drive her personality from her.

At the gig things were very pleasant and I laughed a few times. I even got to mark the quiz. I should have been stressed from the office, but perhaps the hard work pays off. As a long walk can relax you from stress, perhaps working a few extra hours can relax you too. If you know you're doing all you can, then you can sleep easy at night.

Monday, May 9

Despite the late night last night, I actually managed to raise my sorry ass out of bed at a respectable hour. At that earliness (in my terms, at least) it was even worth measuring the time in half hours. It was after 8 but before half past. What a surprise. I consciously snoozed my two alarm clocks for a bit, but the outcome was inevitable and in the favour of getting to work on time.

I had to go to work by bus as my car was still in the servicing place. Also known as a garage. Also known as "I hope they don't manage to charge me too much - how much is the car actually worth?".

The day in the office was quite busy and I actually got to do something which I wanted to do. I want to do stuff that takes me and my team further forwards towards our current work commitments. So, I had some degree of job satisfaction. That's not bad for a Monday.

I took a slightly elongated lunchtime, but that proved useful, as I lunched with a colleague and we set the world to rights over pizza and some sort of filo pastry thing. No idea what it was.

Come early afternoon, it transpired that my car was ready for collection. It had been there since Thursday and it was time to see how much money it had clocked up since. How much can they do over a long weekend? It turns out that it didn't clock up that much. A bit more than a service, but not too much more.

With my car back in my possession and with a bright early evening, there was no point in returning to the office. I had urges. Spring urges. Time to spring clean.

My housemate and musical collaborator had recently vacated the house and so I decided to give his room a good old tidy up. I also started the rather long process of reorganising my dining room. I put washing through the machine, I emptied bins... I even put a new gas strut on the boot of my car - I can open and close it now without fear of it breaking.

In a post-Simpsons moment of excitement, I ate a rice pudding, realised that there was another Simpsons coming on and started my ironing. I even finished it. I had half an evening in the house and I was a whirlwind. I soon wound down to a halt and spent the rest of the night on this blog, online and on the phone.

Sunday, May 8

I woke up today really late. I hadn't realised how late the hotel served breakfast the previous day. Had I realised, I might have rushed us from our bed to the breakfast room, since we had woken up in plenty of time for their 10.30 finish time. I discovered this finish time when a note came through our door suggesting that an early breakfast might make things less busy for us. I wasn't getting up at 7.30 for anyone - breakfast or no breakfast. However, a late breakfast (busy or otherwise) seemed doable. Not when you wake up at nearly 11am. Clearly there was sleeping to be done. That's fair enough. It was meant to be a relaxing weekend. Sleeping is relaxing. I had no worries.

We checked out of the hotel the easy way - the bit where you don't have to face the fact that you're checking out 30 minutes later than you're supposed to. I dropped my key in the slot and we got the hell out of there. We went to my companion's car where we dropped off our bags. She was parked in Pimlico, which was not where we planned to be, but it seemed a good idea to be unfettered by all of our baggage and the car proved a nice mobile left-luggage depot. As I looked at my day travel pass for the underground, I fully realised the date. May the 8th. It was exactly 1 year ago that we premiered The Musical! to an excitable audience at Newcastle Arts Centre. Having reprised the show, I'd only just managed to collect the stuff I accidentally left behind at the Arts Centre in March. The show is now officially over. It's a year later and I've gained a lot and have to come to terms with it being part of my past now. It may still make me giggle in theatres - in fact a line from Acorn Antiques accurately damning some modern musicals made my companion laugh as she remembered a line from my own show which pretty much said the same thing. Me and Victoria Wood - we're like two of a kind... I don't believe that, though the song-writing in our show was compared favourably to the aforementioned Ms Wood. But then we were also termed a middle-class British Tenacious D... so who knows what reviewers actually can be trusted to think!?

On the subject of reviews, I eagerly await news of the review I wrote of Spamalot. I'd intended to write a review from long before I went to see it on March 7th. A series of distractions meant that I didn't get around to writing the review. However, seeing that it was up for a lot of awards and also seeing that Terry Jones was unimpressed by the show, meant that I was inspired to get my words together and write the review. If it gets published on, I'll link to it. If it doesn't get published, it'll go into my reviews section here.

Anyway, I digress... but it's my website, so I'm allowed to!

We headed back to Leicester Square from Pimlico and didn't go to see a musical. I know. It sounds unlikely, but we managed it. The plan was to meet my sister and her husband later in the afternoon. Firstly, we needed to get some lunch. Before we could get lunch, we had first to run into Darth Vader. Lord Vader was standing outside of Burger King, supporting some Burger King/Star Wars cross promotion thing. It's ever-so-slightly weird to see Darth Vader in person. That's London for you. Everyone's welcome - even the chief of the evil empire.

We had lunch at a cafe in Leicester Square and very nice it was. After lunch and a naughty McFlurry (my bad - the diet starts soon... honestly!), we wandered round a record shop and realised that record buying was not of any interest that afternoon. So, we headed to the Trocadero. It's a silly games arcade that belongs in a super-pier of one of our nation's seaside towns. There is no such thing as a super-pier, so this particular attraction gets to survive in its present form in London's West End. I suspect that's the only reason. Once someone invents the super-pier, the Trocadero will move. Anyway, we played the 2p piece game we'd seen in Portsmouth a couple of weeks previously. The lady playing that had a special system - throw shit-loads of coins in and see what happens. What happens is that you run out of coins really quickly. After throwing about 30 in in rapid succession, I triumphantly exclaimed - "Look, we won one". When you're playing with 2p pieces, it's hard to be too bothered about winning or losing. It was fun and I enjoyed it.

We played on various machines, including a smashing-things-with-a-hammer game and a playing-a-stratocaster game (a bit like the dance mat games but more emphasis on the fingers, and no real effort required). We also saw a man playing the dance-mat game and it was amazing to see... truly stunning. He was all over the dance mat and I couldn't keep up with his feet, so how he could work out how to follow the instructions on the screen at that speed, I've no idea! It was outstanding. After one round, we gave him a round of applause - he deserved it!

There was a quiz game and, buying two credits, we found ourselves pitted against a small child. He won the first round. You get prize tickets - he got 30 points and took his tickets away with him. You can exchange these tickets for relatively worthless prizes. It's not good business to play games and expect to beat the cost of playing the games by taking away a high value in prizes. In our second round, in which we played unchallenged, we got every question right (quite quickly) and won a stunning 40 points. At that stage I had a call from my sister saying she'd just arrived nearby. Not interesting in 40 points' worth in shite prizes, I found the child who had beaten us in the previous round and give him the 40 tokens. He seemed pleased with them. Bonus!

Starbucks played host to us with my sister and her husband. We had a good innings there and left having had good value for the few pounds our drinks cost. I was the only coffee drinker in the group, but other products satisfied the rest of the party and the surrounding were comfortable enough.

For the evening, with my sister and brother-in-law, on their way home, I took my girlfriend to Covent Garden. We saw a rather uninspiring street performer, ate at a restaurant where the waiter seemed utterly disgusted at our table manners. Our table manners involved holding hands and talking face to face. Yeah! Disgusting! I don't know what his problem was, but it was funny at the time, the way he could barely hide his distaste.

Then back to Pimlico. Time to call the evening's festivities to an end. You don't want a good weekend to end, but if they don't then how do you appreciate them? I had a really good time in good company, doing good things. Life is good.

The train journey back to Newcastle involved using an older carriage which somehow magically had 240v sockets on it, meaning my laptop could be powered as its battery started to fade. Good stuff. More time to get this blog up to date.

Sadly, the battery on my mobile phone was low on charge and I didn't have my charger with me. In the last 30 minutes of my train journey, I initiated a game of Scrabble with the online computer that I play against - I was winning as the phone died. Never mind.

I took a taxi ride home from the station and hit the hay. Well, I went to bed, but you know what I mean.

Saturday, May 7

Waking up mid morning, we slowly got ourselves awake enough to function and headed to Oxford Street in search of food and something to do. By the time we reached there, it was practically lunchtime, so we headed to M&S for lunch. While there we spotted a Japanese family who had found the handbaskets and gotten the wrong end of the stick. At least, I assumed that is what had happened. By the time they had gotten to the wee cart in which the basket are kept, there were only two left. To the initiated, this might look a little like a bizarre trolley. There was a tall handle (for pushing the cart around in between fills with baskets) and there was what looked like a basket compartment into which shopping would go. The family must have assumed that this was a rather odd British shopping trolley and so they put their stuff in the basket and started wheeling the cart around the shop. It was funny to watch, but more because it was so unconventional a thing to spot. It is perhaps as funny as hearing a familiar song's words sung to the tune of another familiar song - it's wrong, but it's sort of right. I was feeling a certain degree of generosity of spirit as I watched this family dealing with the unfamiliar as best they could. I'm sure I'd do equally odd things in the eyes of the locals if I ever went to Japan.

With a supply of goodies from the shop, we looked for somewhere to consume them. We found a foodcourt in a shopping centre off Oxford Street. To legitimise us, I bought a coffee from one of the outlets there. We then confidently and leisurely lunched. Overhearing people's conversations is always a pleasure, especially when one has the chance to share one's confusion at curious phrases which appear totally made up by the person talking. I was tickled when the term - "rip raving" spilled over the divide betwen our table and the next. I've heard of "rip roaring", but "rip raving"? Perhaps that's when a fat person goes out clubbing, does some really energetic dancing and, in the process, over stresses their clothing. "Oops, I've just rip raved!".

After lunch we headed down Regent Street in search of the exhibition. As we neared the appropriate end of Regent Street, the heavens opened. It started raining, it started hailing, it was miserable. That coupled with a sense of tiredness on the part of my companion meant that we, at her suggestion, considered an alternative plan for the afternoon. I had been joking about the possibility of going to see a matinee in preparation for the evening show. Why would it be preparation? You may well ask. Well, Acorn Antiques is directed by Trevor Nunn, who also directed Les Miserables. According to what I'd read, there is material in Acorn Antiques which spoofs the barricades scenes from Mr Nunn's other work. He, himself, described it as "cringeworthy" (I assume that he's referring to how good a send up it is and how people involved in the original might find it slightly embarrassing to see their work lampooned). Victoria Wood had, in an interview I read, pointed out how useful it was to have a director for that scene who already knew all the moves from the original. So, I had joked that seeing Les Miserables would be good homework for seeing the evening's showing of Mrs Overall and her cronies poking fun at it. I have seen Les Mis, but my companion hadn't. I've seen it twice - both times at The Palace Theatre, which it has now vacated in favour of The Queen's Theatre. The Palace is now home to The Woman in White. While I have this latter show on my list of shows to visit, I had intended to see how Les Mis looked in a smaller theatre and I wondered whether it would have survived the restaging. So, it was on my list of things to see.

I hadn't intended to turn this weekend into another musicals extravaganza, but the suggestion was made and I'm not one to say no to a few hours in a theatre. Within an hour, we were in The Queen's Theatre, in nice dress circle seats. The show feels, at first, very different in a smaller theatre. I don't think that they have the same size of orchestra, and they may even be using some recorded instrumentation to pad out the sound. A few moments seemed a bit strained, with the chorus not quite synchronising with the orchestra. The sound of the principals was not always perfect. Perhaps the theatre is not quite of the technical standard that the show needs. The performances were, on the whole, very good. Fantine was the best I've seen. It took me a while to warm to Jean Valjean, but he gave the role an assured performance. I'm not sure about Javert - he felt less sneering and more wooden. I didn't really see his inner struggle.

Sadly, as I'd predicted before we got into our seats, I got a bit giggly at one point. It's not surprising. I spent 30 odd performances of The Musical! spoofing "I dreamed a dream" with references to "but the tigers come at night". I was bound to get a bit amused when I sat in the theatre and that song came up. I started shaking with laughter from the instrumental introduction to the song. I totally lost it for a few seconds as the line was delivered. Then, I pulled myself together and actually tuned into the emotion behind the song which was being brought over so well by the actress behind the character. It was truly touching and I'm sorry for my rudeness. Only I was affected, as I didn't actually laugh out loud, or slap my thigh or anything. Oh, and I also laughed whenever Marius sang "There's a grief that can't be spoken" - it reminded me of my own bastardised lyric - "There's a grief that can't be spoke/when you find your ma's been turning tricks for coke".

Les Miserables was well worth seeing a third time. We left the theatre with a couple of hours before the originally planned Acorn Antiques and grabbed a pizza in the first restaurant we came to. Nice pizza. The woman who served us seemed ungracious and sneering so I undertipped her. Admittedly, I still tipped her. Perhaps it made more of a point to undertip her than to omit a tip.

Then we headed off to find The Theatre Royal, Haymarket. It's on Haymarket, which is off Piccadilly Circus. It really wasn't difficult to find it, especially, since I had a map. Challenges like this aren't taxing and wouldn't, therefore, be especially satisfying. However, getting to a theatre in time for the pre-show excitement would always be satisfying for me. We found our seats which were, as the ticket tout I bought them from online promised, best seats - they were in the dress circle, a couple of rows back (so no safety rail to peer through) and were dead centre. Smashing view! Really smashing.

The show itself was a quasi-religious experience for most of the audience. There's no doubt in my mind that this is a show which deserves to close in a couple of weeks. The reason is that it could only truly get the response it got that night from a small percentage of the population. Without "fans" of Victoria Wood, Julie Walters and the curious world of Acorn Antiques, this show hasn't got very much of its own to offer. It has some substance, but it would be, at best, quite entertaining, rather than "rip raving". It was an absolute delight to be in the theatre as a truly talented cast and a gleeful audience held together a slightly overblown, shapeless show.

Am I being critical? Yes. Of course I am being critical, it's what I do. I can't sing you a song from the show, despite enjoying them as they played through. I can tell you what it's about, but it won't sound very good. The bottom line is that that show was an experience which everyone shared, but came without the elements that make for an enduring masterpiece. I loved it. I laughed at classic Victoria Wood punchlines and wordplay. I laughed at Julie Walters' outstanding performance as Mrs Overall. She managed to whip the room into a frenzy of giggles that she herself seemed barely able to keep control in. It was worth the ticket price to put oneself under her capable comedic control. As with going to a football match, some of my feelings were carried by the crowd mentality. As the theatre kept laughing at the happenings on stage, I found myself looking for the specific source of the amusement - why was it so funny? There was always something happening on stage, had I missed a vital bit?

I think that the audience were just non-specifically amused at some points. They came with a lot of built up amusement from adoration of Ms Wood and Ms Walters and they were going to find it funny with a minimum of push from the script and performers. Sometimes the resurging laughs were just coming as the audience got its breath back and starting laughing anew. Sometimes there were very obvious comic performances getting deserved laughs. Julie Walters was funny just walking across the stage. It's as simple as that. The show was funny. There doesn't have to be a specific reason. It was jammed full of material and its form and structure didn't matter a great deal. I liked it.

After a day of mixed emotion - the miserable and the totally light hearted - we returned to our hotel ready for more sleep. It's amazing how tiring it can be to sit on your arse in theatres all day.

Friday, May 6

I woke up early enough to get the bus into town and be in the office before it was either "too late" or "just in time". Good work me. I then spent a rather frustrating day doing everything except what I felt would be most useful for me to do. Sadly, the things I was doing were also the most useful thing for me to do and so I had to prioritise. There are only so many hours in the day. Grr.

However, I did manage to pull a little act of showmanship which seemed to make a lot of people happy and happy with me to boot. I would be perfectly up front about this to anyone who mentioned it. I noticed something good and made sure that the right people celebrated it. Everyone felt good about themselves, and I was the genial host who made it all happen. Now they're treating me almost as though I did the good thing. I can cope with that. Maybe the matchmaker who introduces the people who come to be the happiest couple would also feel a sense of pride in a job well done.

With a train to catch, I couldn't stay in the office for the backslapping. I had to go. GNER and time wait for no man. I made the train and spent the majority of the journey writing episodes of this blog. I'm still currently writing it out of sync with the site. The site is currently on March 26th. This entry is being written on May 8th. As I write the entries for now, in as up-to-date a mode as I would intend to do all the time, I am also writing old entries (backwards from mid April) and very old entries (forwards from the end of March). At some point, all of this will join up and I can just blog what occurs to me on a day by day basis. At present, there are some 16,000 words, covering 20th April - 8th May, which haven't been published. It's not bad to note that I put a lot of words into this blog. It's also a waste of even a small percentage of those words to blog too much about the act of blogging.

Needless to say, the train journey sped by, with plenty of words spewing out of my fingers, and with some very tasteful music playing in my ears from the reduced MP3 collection on my laptop (the majority of the MP3s have been transferred - often rather unsuccessfully - to my MP3 player, which is currently sitting at home with no charge left in it after the highlands weekend a week ago).

At some point during the journey, I got a text message from Orange with a SIM update for my phone. When I restarted the phone, the strange number 1 with a curious line under it disappeared from my screen. This unexplained icon had appeared during my trip to the states where I had been using the phone on remote mobile networks. I assumed that it was some sort of weirdness I'd just have to live with. Apparently I don't have to anymore.

Arriving in London, I found out that my date was late. A late date eh? No problem, we replanned the meeting point and I headed off to the hotel to drop off my stuff and work out where the hotel actually was. It was pleasantly located among the myriad embassies in the particular part of London where there's green grass and "mystery discount hotels" - is a good way to upgrade your life - I wouldn't have chosen to pay full price for that hotel.

With the sounds of the bar pianist ringing in my ears, I left the hotel lobby and returned to Oxford Circus to wait for the lady of the hour, who had been delayed by heavy South-London traffic. It's a very eclectic crowd of people who saunter by you when you're standing at Oxford Circus - many of them wouldn't last 10 minutes in a bustling Newcastle street, but it's nice that London provides sanctuary for the more unconventional of our human brethren. Perhaps my favourite of the curious strangers was a rather obnoxious Australian besuited gentleman who was trying to direct a colleague. He didn't seem to know what this guy looked like and sensibly had him go to a particular landmark. However, rather than cross the street and meet this guy at the landmark, he stayed on the opposite side of the road, he then waved at the other guy and seemed to be treating him like a fool. Before the visitor had chance to cross the road and meet his "host", the man in question returned into an office building near the station, expecting his visitor to come to that office and ring the bell to be allowed in. Weird.

Anyway, my own visitor - well, we were both visitors, but I was waiting there first, so I'll use the phrase - arrived after a short wait and we headed in the direction of our accommodations. We had a quick drink in a pub on the way - largely as a way of getting access to a nearby toilet. When you've got to go, you've got to go. I drank a Bailey's - not sure why. I just thought it might taste nice. It did. Result!

We had a busy weekend ahead of us. The plan was to see Acorn Antiques on Saturday night and perhaps catch an exhibition at the Royal Academy beforehand. It was quite important not to make this a weekend of running round getting tired. Our last time together had been hurried and good company doesn't want to be chivvied along.

I also finally wrote my review of Spamalot today. The review wasn't published on the website I submitted it to. However, you can see the review here. I don't mind disagreeing with all the people who have raved about this show and even given it awards. It was ok. That is all.

Thursday, May 5

Why oh why did I wake up at 6.15? I know why. I was to give my housemate a lift into work in Durham for 7am. Okay, but he could have taken the bus? Yes, but I wanted to be up and wanted it to be an urgent wake up. The best way was to have responsibility for someone else on a deadline. So, that's what we did. Why did I want to be up? Well, I had my car to take in for service and I wanted to get a head start on the day at the office. Working longer hours can't always help, but working minimum hours wasn't going to be better.

So, I got my car to the garage and I got into work for early (in my terms). Waiting for the bus after taking the car in, I saw an elderly man offer to play football with the schoolboys waiting for the bus. He did his keepie-uppie quite well - impressing the lads, then hobbled off... unable to walk, but able to impress with a ball. Wow.

Work was a blur of stuff which I have no interest in describing on this site. After work, we had a leaving do for a member of the company and good friend of mine. He and I had been out a couple of weeks previously and said some of what we had to say. This do was 10 of us in a Tapas bar having a good night in celebration of a good guy. I enjoyed myself.

I didn't vote.

I know that my vote alone would not have made any different to the safe labour seats of Newcastle... but not voting means that I wasn't a part of the society I pay to be a part of. Perhaps I should be more involved in the politics of this country - it's all done in my name. Well, not just my name...

I had a lift home which allowed me to guiltily watch and listen to Election night specials as the BNP got a thousand votes in Sunderland South and North (in that order) as well as cheers from their pitbull band of followers. These racists... they're all the bloody same to me!

Ironing, bathing, packing. I did the lot as I prepared for my weekend away. After much fussing, I'd managed to secure tickets to Acorn Antiques the musical, so a trip to London, via train, was planned to enjoy some time with a special someone and, in conjunction with that person, whose mother is still raving about the show, take one of my only chances to see Julie Walters on a West End stage. Why not!?

Wednesday, May 4

I have no specific memories of this day. I know I put some washing in the machine. I know that I did another day in the office. Er... that is all. No... wait... I got drunk for some reason. Ah yes. I'd taken the bus in because I knew I was going out after work. We then were treated to beers with the boss. This is a sort of out of office meeting where the beer loosens your tongue and you wildly theorise about what would make the world a better place.

I left in time to take my friend ex-collaborator and soon-to-be-ex-housemate out for a meal. We were celebrating his birthday, which was to happen the following day. We'd celebrated his birthday with a curry in the same part of town a year ago... in fact, it was a year ago that our collaboration was about to become a scary reality.

It was probably a good curry. Some people drink to forget, I forget why I drink.

At home, I nearly fell asleep on the phone and managed to get myself fully asleep quite quickly. Sleep was to be precious.

Tuesday, May 3

I hate traffic. I had 3 hours to get from the hotel to my office. Failure was not an option. The traffic was threatening to make the failure thing happen. This was not good at all. Plus, I'd had to say a quick farewell to my girlfriend - I'm terrible at goodbyes. The problem was that I had to get to work on time. There were jobs to be done and no room for excuses.

Somehow, by driving at crazy speeds when it was clear, and by keeping my temper when I hit two rush hours - Middlesbrough AND Newcastle - I got to the office before my self-imposed deadline. I was already frazzled. I had a day's work to do in the office and then I had a gig to perform at that evening. My voice was still rough, but that was fine. The gig is a material tryout gig, so I could try out the spoken-word material I had not managed to get together over the previous weekend. I'd also do some of my usual stuff on the guitar. Plus, I'd written a tiny routine about a headline I saw on the way to the gig in Bridlington. I'd shared this with the Bridlingtonians on the night and they'd liked it - I reckoned it would work with any audience.

So, after a stressful day in the office, where I fought my own frustrations and responsibilities, I got home, got food and then got back out to the gig. It was a laid back night. I enjoyed myself. I was on last and started out by lifting the room. This was fun. Then I blethered my way through my new bit. I think it has 70% chance of ever working in some form or other. I can try it again later in the month when I'm doing a regular MCing slot. That's a good place to try new stuff out for me.

The night ended when I gave a lift home to another act. We got a bit lost, but the conversation was good, so it didn't really matter. I got to bed tired and just about ready for the next day.

Monday, May 2

Mmm Bank Holiday Monday. Day of doing nothing. I considered doing something, but decided instead to go online and see if my girlfriend was doing the same. I won't go into the details, but we ended up replanning my evening. While I was going to go to Bridlington to do a gig, I was also going to stay in the hotel in which the gig was running as I was to receive a visitor. The lady in question was prepared to travel for over 4 hours to see me, I was happy to stay in Bridlington in return. Not only that, but it turns out that Bridlington is quite a nice place.

When I'd called the hotel about staying, I suggested that I didn't need bed and breakfast as I'd be leaving really early and would miss breakfast. Their solution was to ensure that I got an early breakfast the next morning. I was rather hoping they'd just charge me a cheaper room-only rate. This trick didn't work, but announcing that I was a comedian knocked about 30% off the bill. It's good to be a comedian!

The gig itself was lovely. I felt like I knew what I was doing. My "racists" song was still not quite the big hitter I want it to be, but I think that it will grow in time and I also think that it's not meant to be a massive hitter. I have a stronger set up for it now, so it may drag them in more quickly.

The promoter seemed happy with how things had gone, so I was happy too. The audience were very very nice and it was nice to be appreciated, rather than talked over. Sadly, my voice was in very poor condition and some of the audience reaction was dulled by my obviously damaged performance and the audience's realisation that I didn't appear to be singing in a manner which was pleasing to the ear. I have a theory about musical comedy (me? a theory? how surprising!). My theory is that you can liken it to blowing up a balloon. The size of the balloon is the size of the laugh you'll get. There are thing which put holes in your ballon:
  • Poor rhymes, where it's not for comic effect
  • Bad singing
  • Noticeably bad playing - I get away with it by unambitious accompaniments
  • Poor craftsmanship altogether - songs exist because the human brain reacts to music and words in a certain way, if you produce something that doesn't feel right and, again, it's not purposefully bucking the rules, audiences feel cheated and it doesn't work
Sadly, I was breaking my second rule with my dodgy voice. I'd tried plenty of drinks and I'd sucked about 4 Vocalzones... it wasn't enough.

An early night was required to give us a chance for an early morning without a road accident on the way back to our respective parts of the country. It had been a welcome get together for us, and I'd managed to demonstrate my new "racists" song to someone who matters.

Sunday, May 1

Without breakfast, we headed back down south. I say south with reservations, we were already incredibly northern and these things really are a matter of perspective. I'd had to modify one of my routines to cope with this fact... luckily I could leverage some more laughs out of the change I'd made, so it was a double bonus. Bonus-aroo.

We found a cafe to have lunch. I had breakfast - the all day breakfast - it only took a few minutes to eat. The restaurant had run out of eggs. Eggs! Of all the things to run out of! So I made do with a substitution of eggs for beans. You'd think they'd substitute a cheaper price, but no. In fact, when we'd gotten to the till, we'd been overcharged for some of the drinks. When we pointed out the mistake, the waitress started offering us settlement prices... these settlement prices were always a few pence above the amount they should have charged us - I calculated it easily enough in my head and said what it should have been. In addition, she was insisting that we add a tip. So, they'd overcharged us and wanted to bargain for a higher than fair price AND a tip. The place was already over-priced. As it happens we couldn't be bothered dickering over a few 10's of pence and did round up our contributions to the bill enough to cover a tip. Still, there was a hell of a lot of cheek going on at that moment.

Driving through torrential rain seemed to be the order of the day for our return down to Edinburgh. We put up with it. Such is the way of nature - it can't be argued with... and then found ourselves with a nice day on our hands in Edinburgh. We had a couple of hours to kill before going to the final gig of the tour in Prestwick. The ailing computer managed to get our attentions and perhaps it's no longer ailing as much.

Conversation was light-hearted and earlier in the day we'd managed to come up with some amusing material about Glasgow's Ice Cream wars... amusing to me at least. Again, I won't be using this material. It's not for me. That's fine. I like writing. This blog is probable testament to that fact.

Anyhoo. We journeyed to Prestwick for the gig. So far the tour had been hard, but I hadn't found an audience I couldn't work with. This was going to change.

The gig in Prestwick was a free gig. It was held in the public bar of a pub. There was a raised area and some of the audience were sitting on it. The rest of the audience were sitting round it and round the rest of the pub. There was a vantage point from which you could see everywhere, but, sadly, you couldn't see everywhere without turning through about 270 degrees. My problem, as a guitar act, is that I am stuck to the microphone stand and can't turn a great deal, or the microphone doesn't work. This was going to be hard.

It was harder. The room wasn't listening. I went on to a room that didn't care and my job was to make the listeners laugh and make the non-listeners shut up. Musical comedy can sometimes turn off a rowdy crowd as there's a social convention that one can talk over songs. Go to a bands night and people often talk over the music - there's a hubbub and the music is a background. That doesn't work in comedy. Comedy is about supplying punchlines and getting laughs. I've been in this sort of situation before and there's one solution I've used - make it big. Now, there's big and there's BIG. I did somewhere in between, I made all my material very loud and hard-hitting. An objective part of my brain was wondering how I was going to make my pendantry about grammar work in an audience that were barely able to listen, let alone actually listening. I was surprised when I heard myself do it. I made it work for the listeners and I think I drew people in. I spent some of my time working on crowd control too, but it was really really hard. I was charmingly vitriolic to those people who weren't listening and worked on bullying the non-listeners with my band of actual audience members. You do what you can when you're under the spotlight.

Just as I was closing - after about 20 minutes on the stage - I got heckled. I ate the heckler for breakfast. By that stage, I really didn't care. I was not horrible to him, I simply deflected his comments and made funny from the situation. In some ways, I'd been doing a trick on the room. I'd been pushing energy at them to get them to listen and, when they appeared to be with me, then tried to bring them to my pace, rather than blast at them the full time. The fact that I was, by the end of my stint, comfortable to use a smile as a punchline, was indicative of how much confidence I had in my security on the stage. But... the room was still blethering on as I left the stage. I'd put it in a better position than I'd found it, but I'd expended ALL of my good humour and physical energy in the process. I felt almost like crying when I left the stage, my face was like thunder and I was in a real mood of depression.

As a consolation, an act I respect greatly gave me strong praise for my efforts and the promoter standing next to him gave me a booking. You don't get that for being shit. I also didn't get the buzz of the gig at that moment in time.

I packed my stuff away and then had to get out of the room. I felt very badly done to by the whole experience, but I knew what the problem was. I'd given a bunch of largely ungrateful bastards all of my happiness and they'd absorbed in. The idea is that they're supposed to laugh back and fuel me for the next bit. They hadn't... I'd run out.

I had my methods of getting my head back together. I went for a walk. I rang my girlfriend. I got to a stage of feeling okish. When I returned to the gig, the middle act was having an easier time, but still working hard. He did a great job and I was pleased that the room was cracking. The closing act took the roof off and it was marvellous to watch. Where the opening act (me) had drained me of my energy, the laughter and my own appreciation of the comedy on display from the closing act recharged my joy-batteries. Thank goodness for that!

As we were packing stuff for taking to the car, one of the audience members came over and was very very positive about my stuff. He asked about other dates and whether I had a website. I guess he wanted to hear the stuff without the conversation track. That was quite a boost. I'm not after the adoration or stardom, but satisfaction in a job well done can come when you see that someone's appreciated it.

Hungry, I bought food from a nearby takeaway and managed to avoid the fight which nearly broke out in the street.

I was taken back to Edinburgh and I drove myself from there back to Newcastle. I hit my bed at around 4am. I was very very tired. However, I set an alarm clock for lunchtime the following day. I had a gig to do. Frustratingly, having shouted down the Prestwick rabble, I didn't have much of a voice to use at this gig. Perhaps some sleep would sort it out.

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