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Take That China!
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Give Me Your Voice
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Tuesday, June 28

For a few days, with my girlfriend back from partying at Glastonbury, life became a blue of domestic bliss, pizza and pay per view. Perhaps we should have been healthier and walked somewhere, but sweet things and sitting watching movies are both enjoyable.

I believe we did watch the turkey of a movie - "Churchill: The Hollywood Years" - which, despite having paid for it on the pay per view, made me want to turn it off. Its mildly amusing-ness just about rescued it from being ignored, but it was hard bloody work!

Monday, June 27

I had a tiring day at work. At the time of writing (August 10th), I can't say quite what was so tiring about it. I'll hazard a guess that having had little sleep the previous night may have had some bearing on it. I vaguely recall that I may have cycled into work too - just for fun. At this point, I was trying to keep some sort of rein on my exercise/eating regime.

After the work, I decided that there was only one thing I could do to wash away my troubles. I would relax in a nice hot bath. Given that I also had a DVD of Bill Bailey's BBC 2 series - "Is it Bill Bailey", which I bought from ebay recently (and which was actually a transcription of someone's "video off the TV" of the time), I thought that I could combine two good activities - bathing and watching. I believe I may have started the bathroom trip with a poo too. Too much information? I suspect so.

So, with my laptop actual as converter of digital data from the disc into moving images and sound, I installed myself in the bathroom. It was hot. Very hot. I had a hot bath and I think it may have been filling up from the sweat that was exuding from me. I sweated for England. I laughed along with the DVD and got myself all cleaned up and cheered up for the imminent visit from my girlfriend. She was due the following day and it wouldn't be a moment too soon.

Sunday, June 26

After waking up and discovering that my snoring had bothered the person I was sharing a floor with (I was in my sleeping bag, he was across the room - it wasn't dodgy) enough that he'd had to adjourn to the hall, I headed across town to a birthday barbecue. That's two good things in one. A celebration and a barbie. The second barbecue of the weekend.

I was feeling a bit low as I had a hurting leg from my "stage dive" the previous day and my ego was still feeling injured. I hadn't felt like I was being especially funny. Therefore, it was very nice to arrive at a flat and be treated with warmth and enthusiasm. I wasn't especially in the mood to make myself the centre of attention, which made the attentions all the more enjoyable.

We sat outside on the grass and ate sausages and home-made burgers. At some point a guitar was thrust into my hand. Without "playing up", I did a few songs and the absence of microphone, stage and any real burst of effort from me somewhat freed me from my fears of whether it would be funny. The people who were gathered, sitting in a semi-circle around me, laughed heartily and enjoyed themselves. I felt like, perhaps, I might be funny after all. Perhaps my problem is that I sometimes deal with the absence of laughter in a gig by performing harder - this can blast an audience into amusement, but it can be hard to maintain. I've found myself out of breath on stage on a number of occasions and I think that that comes from over-performing it. The audience can start to build up a tolerance to the immensity of the performance. If I don't pull back and do some low-key stuff, with confidence, that I am really only ever going to struggle on stage, even if it looks like I'm doing well. The gig which worked the best, in May, was good because I didn't need to play it immensely hard to get the reaction I wanted. Indeed, I felt quite meek, compared to the reaction of the audience.

Anyway, just as the mood was lifted, I had to leave the barbecue to go to the next gig. I'd had a good time. I brought my comedy along with me as an afterthought, and it had been appreciated. The birthday girl is a fan of one of my routines - Fluffy - which I performed for her at her party. In addition, though, she'd been given a copy of it on a CD, as downloaded from my website (not by me, her partner did it for her).

With my slightly better spirits, I went into town, parked the car, got a Starbucks and discovered that I was holding up the rest of the party - I thought that they were on their way, but they were actually parked and waiting for me. Oops. We drove to Fort William.

I can only describe the gig at Fort William as bloody difficult and the audience as a bunch of small-town mindless imbeciles. I had a very hard time opening the show for them. Part of the problem was a table who were chattering. It contained an old lady and, as it was a small audience, made up perhaps 10% of my audience. I considered turning on this evil old bitch, who, when confronted about her talking said - "Oh, we're talking about you" and then refused to elucidate. However, I had an instinct that this old woman was probably a key figure in the small in-bred community that I had in front of me and that having a go at her might amuse everyone else, but if I annoyed her, they might actually feel ashamed to laugh. So, I put up with their shit. It wasn't fun.

The gig ended later than I hoped. It was about 11.30pm and I was looking at the clock and realising that I had to be in the office at 9.30 the following morning. I had 10 hours. In that time we had to drive to Edinburgh, I had then to drive to Newcastle. I also had to sleep. No matter which way you looked at it, anything we did with the order of events, whether I slept in my own bed, on a floor in Edinburgh or here in Fort William, there was no way of escaping the fact that every second we delayed was a second out of my night's sleep. We had to get moving. I was miserable. I felt unfunny and I was tired. I missed my girlfriend, having been unable to contact her for the whole weekend - her phone was off (batteries die at Glastonbury). Life wasn't feeling good.

While we're flown to Fort William at speeds in excess of 100 miles an hour, we couldn't fly back to Edinburgh. There were loose deer near the roads and an impact on those winding roads at high speed would probably kill us all. I had to put up with the "leisurely cruise" back to the Scottish capital. I was moody and miserable. I was also mindful that Fort William is a hell of a lot further away from home than I should find myself at 11.30pm on a "school night".

At Edinburgh I jumped into my car and headed south. It was around this point that I discovered a new found love of speeding. I was cruising down a straight section of A1 at 3am or so and allowed myself to ponder whether my car could really cope with high speeds. It's a bit of a bone-shaker at 81 miles per hour, but the shaking goes away when you up the speeds and it can really shift. I was quite surprised that this 10 year old vehicle, which has done the better part of 175,000 miles could feel very limber and stable at speeds in excess of 100. Unless you're a policeman, in which case I was doing 70.

I got to bed at some point. Apparently.

Friday, June 24

While at work, I received a sorrowful phone call from my girlfriend, from Glastonbury. It was raining and she was swimming in the tent. She was stressed, upset and I could do nothing to help. Quite frustrating. I shall have to accompany her next time!

I left work at 5.30 and drove to pick up some friends to take them to Bolton for a farewell barbie. The farewell was a send off for my, now Japan resident, co-writer and friend - a man who has had tons of farewell parties, in various cities, and this was the first I'd actually attended.

There was some hanging around in Newcastle, some unpacking of a car into a house, as one of my travelling partners was moving house as I was supposed to be picking him up. Then we set off. After a brief stint driving through the centre of Bolton, we hit the right area, bought far too much food in the Tesco and went to the venue of the party. I parked my car there for the night (we were a short walk from where we were sleeping) and started playing catch-up on the beers.

We had a great barbie. Over the course of the night, I managed to counsel many young women. That sounds in some way pervy or wrong, but it's quite the opposite. For some reason, my avuncular presence and confident way was proving quite a source of comfort for some of the girls at the party. I think they must have noticed me giving one of their number a pep talk and thought that that was my purpose. I was the person to talk to about life-worries. I did my best. At the end of the day, you have to do what you can in this world and stay optimistic.

Thursday, June 23

This was a healthier day. I cycled to work, worked late, cycled back, encountering a weird spasm in my groin area, that sometimes happens from cycling. Then I went to Tesco Express for food, cooked the food, mowed the lawn, hoovered a bit, and did some laundry. I even managed to iron one of the shirts I'd just washed and then watched series two of Black Books on DVD. That's what happens when I get a night in!

Wednesday, June 22

A friend of mine, who lives in New Jersey, was back in the country for a bit. I drove down to Leeds to visit him. This was my third weeknight out this week.

We drank double-rounds as the bar in The Oak in Leeds was heaving. Double pints of diet coke can get you buzzing... indeed it did. We felt old as we looked around and realised that it was a good 14 years since we were regulars at this pub. Then we felt younger as we looked around and saw much youth on display and felt its vigour somehow permeating our souls. Then we felt fatter as we headed across town for pizza at, you've guessed it, Domino's. I even called ahead so it would be ready as we arrived.

Dropping people off home after a night's drinking (me on the diet cokes, so I was flying home), I then took a short trip back home. Leeds doesn't seem that far, at only 100 miles, where most of my trips are usually 120+. Indeed, a couple of days previously, having driven from down south back to Newcastle, arriving at silly-o'clock in the morning, I'd done something like 16 hours in the city before turning round and driving most of the way back down south to go to Derby. (Well, if not most, then certainly a good proportion.)

Anyway, I'm young enough to keep apace of the trials of a busy life. Why not, eh? I'll be old, bald and dead one day!

I had a gig in Glenrothes to do and I woke up in Bolton, with a slight hangover, and with my friend out of the house, at work. I grabbed a shower and found my travelling partners (who had made their way from where they were staying) already downstairs when I surfaced. Slightly sheepishly I said my thank yous to the father of my friend and accepted a lift to where my car was.

We hit the road at 11.30. I didn't get home until about half past two in the afternoon. I had a couple of hours at home and then got back on the A1. I hit the outskirts of Edinburgh in enough time to sit with my laptop and do some scant preparation for the gig and also write a few outstanding blog entries (not enough). I then picked up a friend, whom I was taking to the gig in Glenrothes. We headed up to the place.

The gig should have been easier. It wasn't. I was unprepared and struggled. The opening act didn't do much better. My attempt to smooth over the cracks with the guitar after the opening act didn't help. In the middle section, my guitary stuff, which included a song which I'd set up from the last show (the previous month) left them moderately cold. Then I introduced the promoter/sound-man and ran up to the sound box to take over for him as he ran down to the stage. He did really well. As he finished, so I ran back to the stage, and tripped and fell sprawling over it. I realised, as I was falling that I could make this seem funnier, by using it to my comic advantage and hamming up the fall, but it was a genuine cock up. I'd gone onto the stage at the beginning of the evening, too sure of myself and unprepared. I ended up literally falling on my arse. I also really hurt my shin, which had caught the stage as I fell. I was pissed off.

However, in the closing section, I played off my embarrassment and staged the room for the final act who did really well. If a show is compered terribly, then the closing act will have a harder job than this one had on his hands. I learned an important lesson too! I'm an arse!

After the gig we went for takeaway food at a nearby house - it was owned by a regular patron of the gig, who is also an act in her own right. It was very pleasant.

After that, we went back to the flat of the promoter and had beer and late night chat about comedy. I was fairly gutted to have had a bad gig in front of one of my favourite audiences... the audience I have a resident compere role with. D'oh!

Tuesday, June 21

The following day, still buzzing from the previous night, I went to watch some comedy. I sat at the back of the room, perhaps a little too self-assured, and mocked some of the truly awful acts we saw. I didn't heckle them, just laughed at them for the wrong reasons. One particular act, who temporarily deluded himself to think he was Ross Noble, had me in stitches because he was just talking gibberish. It was a great example of terrible performance.

A pair of new acts took to the stage (separately) with jokes that were either as old as the hills or very racist. Not that there are degrees of racism (as I'm often quick to point out in my set) but there's obvious racism and subtle racism and they were in the category of the obvious. For each I kept a count of the offensive and a count of the hack jokes. One of them scored highest on the old-school-stolen jokes front and was back announced as "so and so, and his joke collection" - classic! Just for those people who don't know the etiquette of the comedy world. In the alternative comedy circuit - i.e. the circuit where you don't do racist, homophobic, sexist or mother-in-law jokes (except, perhaps, with post-modern irony) you write your own jokes, or, at least, perform jokes that you have had written for you (or given to you). You do not come on stage and do Les Dawson's act from 1979! The act who scored 20 points for stolen jokes (and those were just the ones we recognised) was clearly ignorant of the etiquette.

In a scene reminiscent of Les Miserables, we plotted revolution after the gig... then I went home singing songs from Les Mis and forgot all about it.

Monday, June 20

I had a gig booked in Derby. I discovered, at some point, that I was closing the show on a door split. The door split is a theoretically fair system of payment, as the acts get a proportion of the money actually paid by the punters to see the show. However, put too many acts on, or get too few in the audience, and this system seems less fair. However, it is fair, it's just not necessarily a way of making money from a gig.

It's not about the money though. It's about making audiences laugh. So, with the last spot secured, my job was to watch the rest of the night, gauge the audience and see if I could make them laugh after everyone else had had a go. They were a nice bunch. I could see that had a bit of a dark streak about them and there were some people who wanted to play along. It had the potential to be good.

On the downside, though, the random selection of acts and the varying degrees of capability meant that the room I was handed, as I took to the stage, was a bit fragmented and uncertain of itself. It took about 5 or 6 minutes
before I fixed the room. Then the real fun started. It was a great gig for me and I really enjoyed it. I did more than my allotted time, with the permission of the promoter, who had previously suggested that the audience would probably run out of energy... they didn't. I left the stage and the cheering satisfied that I'd done a pretty decent job for once.

One particular thing that tripped out of my mouth related to a punter, who had been chipping in from the front row all night. Just as I was about to do something, he announced to all that he was going to the toilet for a wee. I pointed out that the creed of many comedians is that they want to make people laugh until just a little bit of wee comes out. I suggested that perhaps in his case, it would be nice if maybe some blood came out too... it sounds harsh, but it was delivered as a joke with a smile and no malice, and it cracked up the room... sometimes you just know what to say.

Sunday, June 19

The following day we went out for a drive. We ended up in Portsmouth where some vague Jeans shopping was attempted. Of course, the size nazis were in force and there was nothing to be found. We managed to wander round an entire outlet shopping mall and we even bought some sweets. Hang on, that's not quite the best plan for weight loss to beat the size nazis, but what the hell... the calories feel good in the short term.

If I've not mentioned the size nazis for a while, and I know I haven't, then I should briefly explain. The size nazis are the people who look at what size I am and then remove all clothes of that size from shops. Or, if they're feeling particularly vindictive, they relabel clothes of the lower size at my size and then watch me suffer as I struggle to get into something which, according to its label, should be too big for me. It's very frustrating and it's a punishment for obesity.

After our day out, I had to head back to Newcastle. I was leaving my girlfriend behind as she was preparing to go to Glastonbury. We were to face one of the longest periods of separation in our relationship so far. This was not something I was looking forward to, but I'm a big boy now and I can look after myself for a few days.

I drove back home up north in what I termed, at the time, weird weather. It turned out that the torrential rain actually managed to wash away a small Yorkshire village, and flood various places. Some friends of mine were doing a gig in a basement Durham when "the waters came". It's a good job they were on bar stools! Weird!

As I drove, I noticed that the debate on Chortle, about whether I am some sort of comedy Pariah, was pootling on without me. There's only one thing worse than being talked about, and that's being bitched about by a bunch of disgruntled fuckwits who have no respect for anyone and dare not even put their real name to their ramblings. I'm not bitter, though. I feel like I'm building up some sort of a head of steam in my comedic career.

Saturday, June 18

The weekend was set aside for taking my girlfriend back to Reading. There's a lot of driving up and down to the place in my life at the moment and I don't mind. I'm quite well prepared for a long-distance relationship. All the gigging means that I've learned to communicate reasonably well and drive over long distances at the expense of sleep. These are ideal skills for the long-distance lover.

We got to Reading. We sat around the house and watched my girlfriend's half-birthday present - The Incredibles. I'd nearly seen this on the plane in March when I went to New York. However, I'd been too interested in the book I was reading (purchased for me as a birthday present by my beloved) to watch it. Now, able to devote time to watching the movie, I was glad I'd reserved seeing it for a special occasion. It's a splendid movie. We laughed, we were gripped and the time flew by. Pixar are back up to full strength. I'd been less than impressed with Finding Nemo, but this movie was right up there. I loved the pseudo-Bond soundtrack too.

Friday, June 17

Though June had been looking pretty empty, the gigging was really quite intensive. Bookings were coming in at the last minute and I was doing too much. I had to keep a grip on things, or I would over-stretch myself and bore my girlfriend to tears.

On the Tuesday, I'd been discussing the Michael Jackson trial with a friend and I decided that I had to write a song to cover the outcome of his trial. I'd been toying with some ideas, but I had a gig that night and I thought that I could, perhaps, try to get the song written before the gig.

I nearly managed it. I had the song working in rehearsal in the house, but hadn't quite memorised the lyrics. Thinking that the show was in three sections (as had been planned at the start) I sat at the back of the room, writing my final crib sheet - trying to get the song into my head - as I suddenly heard my name announced. This is like the ultimate performance nightmare. My guitar wasn't wired in and I wasn't ready. However, you can't postpone your spot and so I went up there and grabbed the room.

The song didn't quite die, but the words were not truly in my head and I stuttered a bit within it. I clearly forgot where I was going, but I pretty much got to the end and got some good reaction. I'd started it too quickly, which was my major undoing. Still, it's a safe gig and the sky didn't fall in because I got a song slightly wrong.

The Wednesday night was my girlfriend's half-birthday. I invented this celebration as I didn't know her on her actual birthday and wanted to celebrate something. In this case, I bought her a wee gift and was nice to her (not that I'm ever otherwise).

On the Thursday, the work thing got intensive again as we crawled past another deadline without the world ending. Then I headed up to Edinburgh to close a show. I did my Michael Jackson song again and got it wrong again... not quite as wrong as last time, but wrong enough. My girlfriend knew it better than I did and nearly shouted out just as I grasped it from my mind and sang on. The audience reaction was very good, which was nice. There had been some bitchiness and silliness on the Chortle website and the organisers of the gig had promised the readers of Chortle a report on how I went. My status on Chortle isn't greatly important, though it can feel undermining when you read things about yourself which are unfair. Still, the big debate was yet to happen.

At the end of the week, we went out to Nando's. I've never been to Nando's before. I like it. It's a chicken restaurant. That's pretty much it, but it's very very very good. I'm glad we have one in Newcastle. I'm also glad that we moved within the non-smoking section to the part of it where there aren't smokers at the next table.

I'm glad of lots of things.

I'm particularly glad that I didn't take up an MCing job that was offered to me on the Friday night. This is partly because I wanted to spend some time with my girlfriend, and partly because I would have been required to introduce an act that I personally find offensive. How do you do that then? Well, you don't. So I didn't!

Sunday, June 12

It had been quite a weekend. After a fairly action packed week, I drove to Reading after work to rendezvous with my post-exam-stress girlfriend. We were to spend the weekend down South, where I had a gig planned, and then we would return to Newcastle.

Once in Reading, things were fairly relaxed. We went out on Saturday night to see the very memorable Sin City. We did this and that (I forget precisely) and then, on Sunday, pootled over to Southampton for some tidying, prior to the gig that I was doing in Southampton itself. We had food in the local pub and then made our way to the venue of the gig.

The gig was a charity benefit, and I was on after a choir who matched their lack of ability with their lack of ambitious arrangement. It was bloody awful. I was hardly doing very well when I took to the stage either. I didn't really enjoy it at all. Still, a gig's a gig.

After we were able to leave Southampton, we headed up North. At 1.30am, some two and half hours from home, we hit a traffic jam on the M1 - unbelievable. 30 minutes in traffic. The girlfriend sleeping in the passenger seat, I did what I could to pass the time - I played Scrabble on my mobile phone. It was a fitting end to a ludicrous week.

Thursday, June 9

I don't know how I did it, but I got to work on time. Despite having had little to no sleep. I even managed to get there on the bike, which is very healthy indeed. I worked solidly until 7.30pm. This is something that's possible when there's a bike in tow, as you don't have to worry about parking tickets and there's a good reason to work an extra 30 minutes - it delays getting back onto the bike and cycling up a great big sodding hill!

I had officially broken something in the software we were working on. Not only was it broken, but it was of vital importance. So I'm important. I can smash important stuff. Sadly I also had to fix it. I will, ultimately, fit it a whole lot better. For now, though, it had to be put back the way it was so that it worked.

After work, I zoomed off home in order to beat some workmates who were due to come over and look at what could be done about the mini that sits on my drive. One of the guys was the owner of the mini. His thought was that he might be able to bump start the mini against its locked on brakes, thus making it possible to move it, thus making it possible to tow it away or something. I thought that it sounded like a plausible plan.

I arrived home and sweated a lot. Then I put the oven on for some low fat chinese food that I intended to eat. The guys arrived just as it was nearly ready.

We huffed and we puffed, but the car wouldn't start. Actually, we didn't blow on it. We connected a battery and tried the starter motor. I'd spent about 20 minutes inflating the tyres of this car by foot pump while on the phone to my girlfriend. To a casual observer it might have seemed like an obscene phone call as I huffed and puffed down the phone (that's where the huffing and puffing came from) - you'd be amazed how physically demanding foot pumps can be. However, we never even came close to needing inflated tyres. What a waste of time.

With a starter that wouldn't work, we did what men would normally do under the circumstances, we took some of the car to bits to see what would happen. When this got tiresome, we stopped. Then I decided to throw out two old TVs and we decided, as men do, to smash them up first, wondering whether they'd hilariously explode if shattered by, say, having a hammer thrown at them. This laddish amusement was amusing, and laddish, and followed up by a trip to my utility room for swarfega - the hand cleaning substance for real men. Men who work on cars. Men who smash TV screens with hammers.

What a very silly day!

Wednesday, June 8

The exertions of the previous night meant that I was slightly late for work. Such is the risk of gigging on a school night and I'm not happy for it to have that effect on my work life. Sleep is something I can do without, but waking up is something I'm bad at. Still, I managed to get a day's work done before I was picked up by a fellow comedian and driven to Coventry. I was to open a show on the world's most dynamic bill. It was dynamic in that the promoter got virtually none of the acts he'd originally planned to put on. Straw after straw was grasped at until I was drafted in, as was a headliner who was, quite simply, stunning.

I had my work cut out for me, mind. I had to keep dropping the energy levels and then building up to try to engage the audience. Coming on strong can be too much for a small crowd in a small room. Having said that, coming on weak can lose their interest too. Ultimately, I think I managed to get done what I could under the circumstances and I had no regrets.

I really enjoyed the headline act, who has now spoiled "Easy like Sunday Morning" for me. I also noticed that comedy can have a dark side to it. One of his reasonably innocuous routines sent a couple out of the room, the lady crying her eyes out - she must have been affected by the issue in question in some way. This minor event was quite an eye opener for me. It's not just words on there. There is some sort of responsibility - people's reactions are genuine.

I was back home very late. Coventry is a very long way away. I was glad that I was not driving, but I still had to get up for work the following morning, after a stagger home in the car (from the car park where I was dropped off).

Tuesday, June 7

After work I headed to Liverpool. There was a preview show to raise funds for the stand-up show I'm doing at this year's Fringe. The show is called The Great Big Comedy Picnic. It's a simple enough concept. Three comedians, for free. Simple really. We want to be able to pay for the show and some of that money comes from our own pockets, and some of it comes from playing benefit gigs to raise funds for our show. Since my contribution to the benefit gig involved driving to Liverpool, I might have preferred to stay and home, send £30, save myself a tenner on petrol and give the pot even more of a boost. However, that's not how things work. Comedy in this case is about live performance, not the money and I was glad of the gig. My gig diary for June was looking pretty empty at this point.

I'd received a phone call detailing the gig as I'd cycled home from work the previous day. That I was cycling is probably a good thing. That I had a gig was even better. I'd only ever performed in Liverpool on two previous occasions, and I thought I might like to engage in the humour of the city some more.

While in Liverpool, which I managed to find pretty easily, I recorded a new message for my answerphone - not interesting, but true. I also grabbed my guitar from the car and wandered off to the pub where we were playing to be accosted my a chap who wished me a good gig. What a nice fellow!

I somewhat insisted that I close the show. This might seem a bit indulgent, but I reckoned I was doing it for the good of the show. There were four of us on, and I knew that I'd be able to raise the roof of the gig if it went well, and pick it up if it dropped. I also wanted to turn the crowd into a bit of a rabble, which can make it harder for later acts to pick up from. So, they let me go on last. It was incredibly good fun. I even did a song which I'd never performed on stage before. It went pretty well. I'd written it in the bath on the previous night, and only rehearsed it briefly during the soundcheck. That's comedy rock and roll for you.

I enjoyed that gig a lot.

Monday, June 6

I was very good this morning. I managed to wake up in time to get on the bike and arrive at work early. I actually cycled in. It was hard work, but pleasant.

I spent the day fiddling with a problem which turned out to non-existent. Such is life. I also managed to sort out some posting of letters and sending of money to people. My tidying at home spilled into the office with a general tidy up of my desk making me feel a bit more orderly and prepared to do battle with the challenges at hand.

After work I cycled to the post office to post my envelopes of purpose and then I made the long cycle home. I'm out of practice and it was hard work. Well, not easy. I didn't struggle as I did when I first got the bike, but people were looking on my efforts in amusement as I crawled my way up the various hills home. Still, it's good exercise.

Once home, I must admit that I vegged out in front of The Simpsons for about 80 minutes, with various bits of food replenishing the lost calories from my exertions. I ate nothing intrinsically bad for you, so hopefully, I didn't over replenish. I did not go hungry, though.

The evening seemed to fly by. I decided to work on a song which I'd started for a possible musical. I also had a bath and came out of it with a different song idea. The different song idea is very silly and belongs in a stand-up act. The song-for-the-musical was the overriding interest for me and I ended up, after first winning a game of online Scrabble, downstairs in my recently tidied dining room. I intend to use this room as a home recording studio as well as eating area. The kit was all there, but it wasn't plugged in or set up. I soon had that sorted. I spent about an hour and I had 2 minutes of music. I had recorded a 4 man choir of me singing the song along with a piano part. It has its moments and I'm quite taken with it. However, listening to it, it's a poor performance of a rough draft of a song. On the other hand, a few years ago, I'd never written an original song - music or lyrics and now I'm able to knock them out.

The question is whether the song is any good. I've sent it to some people for feedback. Ultimately, it's up to me, but the reactions of others are always good to help me resolve how I really feel.

Sunday, June 5

Well, I woke up predictably late. For some reason, though, I had the notion that I was snoozing to a perfectly reasonable time. I'm quite good at self-delusion at the best of times, but my temporal optimism is clearly at its peak when I'm actually asleep.

Raising myself from the bed, I sat at my computer with a bizarre task in mind. I had decided to rid my house of some of the junk which I neither need nor really want around the place. There are some CDs that I really don't want to give shelf space to. I had also bought a few things on Friday, one of which superseded something I already owned. So, in an attempt to make shelf space available, recoup some of the money I've already squandered on shit I don't need, and generally play on the internet, I put a bunch of items for sale on ebay. As an encore, I then bagged up a bunch of books which I plan to give to the charity book store that I last attended as a customer. The afternoon was going well. My ultimate goal is to make my home a little more habitable. Some rooms were cluttered up so much that my previous systems of organising things had become submerged in STUFF. My house is full of STUFF. I want this stuff either put away, thrown away, given away or sold. Having said that, I've barely put any effort into the upkeep of the house for many many many months.

As a testament to my carelessness around the home, the pile of Cadbury's drinking chocolate which I spilled last night while carelessly removing it from the pantry, was still there. This cloud of fine powder needed the attentions of my vaccuum cleaner to dispatch it, and the aforementioned device had been upstairs when the incident occurred. I'd not yet made the effort to take it downstairs and sort things out. Not intending to tramp the chocolatey goodness around the house, I went downstairs with my Dyson to suck up the spilled chocolate-dust. The Dyson makes a very satisfying whirlpool of regular dust in its see-through cyclinder. When the dust is a fine chocolatey powder, the miniature tornado is a pleasure to see and smell. The machine did a great job in the kitchen. I was pleased.

As time was marching on and Sunday trading laws are restrictive, I jumped into the car and headed out to do a weekly shop at Tesco. I also planned to get some folders and box files to help me organise some of the rogue paperwork around the house. I spent about 50 minutes in the Tesco and spend an average of £1 per minute. Expensive. However, I emerged with plenty of things to play with. There would be food to eat, something to drink, and recipes to try, with a healthy theme underpinning the whole shopping basket. I'll admit that the headline dish of the day - homemade pizza - was probably not the healthiest of things I could have chosen to make, but I doubt that it was as bad for you as the Domino's pizza which we brought into the house earlier in the week.

I returned to the house and got into the cycle of washing up and laundry which seems to occupy much of my weekends these days. I actually managed to make my principal washing basket empty. Ok, so the clothes I was wearing have now gone into that basket, thus making it non-empty, but there was a moment when its contents were all washed and through the dryer (assuming that they required the drying process). The washing up is now done and put away, notwithstanding three glasses which found their way out of the kitchen at some point. Never mind. You can't have everything clean and put away all the time (if ever!).

My pizza making was an experiment. I was wandering past the flours and bread mixes and saw a mix for sundried tomato bread. I thought this mix might make a nice pizza base. Well, there's only one way to find out. So, I used half the mix, along with a little olive oil to make it behave itself a little better and made a base. I used 3 tomatoes, some tabasco and one or two other things to make the tomato sauce to go on top. Half a garlic, crushed and mixed with olive oil, made for an additional covering for the rolled out base before it was topped. I used some chorizo and low fat mozzarella as the rest of the topping. The cash value of this pizza was about £3. The calorific content is nothing something I plan to calculate. It was very nice. I was pleased with it.

After eating, I watched an episode of Dr Who, which I've been religiously missing every Saturday. It's not a veto, just a habit. I seem not to be able to get myself sat down at the right time to watch it. I'm also not likely to get much benefit from setting the video, since I probably wouldn't watch it. However, I watched an episode from start to finish tonight and enjoyed it. It's not making me jump up and down with glee as I would like it to. Star Wars would probably make me do that (I must go and see it), but this Dr Who isn't quite striking a chord with me. It's well made and quite tightly scripted and performed, but something isn't quite right. I don't know. Perhaps it's just that I've joined the party a bit later than everyone else and have missed the introductions.

After TV I helped my girlfriend with her revision. Then, when that particular section was over, I set about de-The-Musical-ing my dining room. Back in April 2004, I converted the room into a rehearsal space. From that point until today, the room has always borne some responsibility for storing or helping us organise the show. Today I removed the last of the boxes and paraphernalia
that were just hanging around the place. Sure, there are still things in that room which we used on stage, but they're there because they belong there, rather than because I couldn't be bothered to move them. It's been over a year and finally my dining room is a room in its own right and not a dumping ground.

As part of the day's organisation events, some of the bookshelves in the dining room were cleared (hence the intended donation to the charity shop) and I've finally managed to convert the piles of DVDs into ordered and shelved DVDs - there's even some space for any new ones I might happen to buy. I'm pleased with the result, even though it's still a packed room.

As another exercise in dumping unwanted paper, I went through every edition of Micro Mart which I kept, having contributed to it, and removed only the pages with my own contribution on. This turned a massive stack of magazines into a thin wallet, comprising my entire contribution. Hooray. Another bag for the bin.

My home is still full of STUFF. There's no doubt about it. But, I've taken the first steps into removing some of the totally unwanted stuff. Via the gift of ebay, I've even planned to send some of it into other people's homes, having charged them for the privilege.

A quick ebay update. Readers to this site may know that I've had various difficulties with the musical Titanic. I first bought this on ebay a while ago and ended up in a rather unpleasant exchange with the seller, ultimately I had the CD inlay and box and a cracked disc. So, I bought three copies of this CD while away in America and sold the two I didn't want for myself on ebay. Sadly, in a moment of confusion, I managed to switch an envelope containing Starlight Express with one containing Titanic and ended up with two buyers with the wrong discs. The buyer of Titanic was very helpful and returned his incorrectly sent disc. I foolishly forgot to pick up the registered item quickly enough and it went back to him. I also had trouble contacting the person who had his disc, so I eventually gave him my own disc (having first made a CD-R copy of it to go with my cracked disc - I reckon that sort of copying should be allowed, given that I have a box with all the genuine contents and a CD-R to enable me to hear them). Today I contacted the buyer who had the wrong disc and from whom I'd heard nothing. She had decided to keep Titanic and hadn't managed to let me know. Her email was playing up. I pointed out to her that she couldn't just keep it, the purchase having been made on a different disc. She then agreed to buy it in addition to the disc she was supposed to have. So I'm a few quid better off, and I'm not sure I mind having the CD-R version of Titanic. It's hardly going to make much difference to my life. I'm not especially keen on the show anyway!

It does seem that the musical is as prone to catastrophe as the ship it was written about. I have had no end of fuss with it. The purchaser who has my own copy had troubles and the person who decided not to send it back has clearly had her own issues. Weird!

Don't ask me why, but for some reason the most hotly watched of my ebay sales at the moment is a rather poor musical version of Spiderman. I even pointed out in the notes that it's not up to much. well, I didn't, but they hint that it's a pile of shit... that and the selling price.

In a final act of getting ready for the week ahead, I prepared a CD excerpt of one of my gigs back in mid-May. This CD will be sent in to a BBC new comedy competition. As usual, I don't expect to do well in the competition, but a gig is a gig!

Right, now I must go to bed and get some sleep. I shall get more than my revising girlfriend, who went off for a quick three hours just now. I'm glad I don't have exams anymore.

Saturday, June 4

Well, all good things must come to an end, and it was time for the sojourn of my girlfriend to do just that. While I bleary-eyed-ly (idly too) slept-in, packing appeared to be going on around me. I wasn't being deserted for my oversleeping. It was just time for her-adored (rather than her-indoors) to return to the south of this country in order to take her exams. Much revision had been going on in this house and there's only one reason for revision and that reason wasn't going to be served if she stayed 350 miles away from the exam room.

Parting is such sweet sorrow, as they mentioned in the Romeo and Juliet movie we'd watched a few days ago. In this case, parting is something you don't do until lunch has been prepared (I prepared it - it was sandwiches) and a printer cartridge has been bought. Shakespeare never mentioned those things and certainly didn't put Romeo and Juliet in a PC World before he departed to his exile. But this love story is not intended to end in the tragedy of the twin suicides that was Shakespeare's dream of the most romantic couple ever. No, this story hasn't ended yet. The girlie is back at her student accommodation, and I am here in Newcastle writing about it. MSN keeps us together when we're not in the same lcocation.

Following her departure from my street, I leapt into action. Okay, so I didn't actually do any leaping, but I did want to get myself busy, rather than waste the day moping (or even mopping). I drove to the bike shop to pick up my newly fixed bike. I haven't cycled in about 6 weeks, maybe even more. The bike was vibrating when I tried to pedal it and the chain was nasty and rusty. The vibration turned out to be a snapped axel (sounds nasty) the rusty chain turned out to be rust, on the chain. I bought a new chain and the warranty sorted out the rest. The lyric "That wouldn't pay for the chain" from Les Mis just popped into my head for almost no reason.

Talking of musicals, and no, that wasn't a contrived link, I don't lie on this blog - it did just pop into my head, providing a neat segue. Talking of musicals, I used the bike to attend a musical. I had first driven to a retail outlet where I had bought some new shoes and a new rucksack (my old one had really worn out), so I was now equipped for cycling again. Well, that's my excuse for spending money again. So, when I arrived home I spent a little time getting ready for an evening out and then cycled from my home to the People's Theatre (not the "Peoples' theatre" as the programme so erroneously put it) where they were playing Guys and Dolls. I hadn't got a ticket and I didn't know how long it would take me to get there on the bike. I set off just after 6, assuming that I would just get there in time to maybe get a seat if they still had one. While the theatre is a massive barn that is hard to fill, in all senses - sound, performance and audiences - I assumed that the Saturday night of a popular musical would probably be heaving.

I assumed incorrectly. I also thought I would have a harder time on the bike than I actually did. I breezed through the journey and had plenty of time to chain my bike up at a nearby pub before going to the box office. I had been cycling in just my jeans and shirt, but I had my fleece in my rucksack in case the return journey was too cold for such attire. I listened to some of The Producers on the way on my MP3 player. Finally I was back into the swing of cycling. I was getting exercise and getting about. Good stuff.

They had a seat for me at the theatre. I went and sat in the bar with a coffee and waited for the rush. There was no rush. Maybe about 100 people in attendance. Possibly 150, certainly not a theatre full. It's a shame that there were not more people present. There was a somewhat attention grabbing art display on the wall which included several glamour-shots of a middle-aged lady. They were tastefully painted, but there were also reasonably explicit. It's quite hard to concentrate on the conversation when there's a pair of oil-painted aged areloae staring at you in the corner of your eye. Conversation? Wasn't I alone? Well, yes I was, but I joined a woman and her 6 year old grandson at one of the tables, rather than hog an entire table to myself as I sipped my coffee. The grandson was complaining to his grandmother than this was "an old people's show" and he also asked the question "why are we here", which amused me enough to comment that he'd just asked "the eternal question". I like being amused. Children amuse me - in their innocent naivity, rather than in an alleged Michael Jackson sort of a way. The child was keen to rabbit on about films he'd seen, and he had seen musicals on film - he spoke quite informedly about the movie of Chicago. I tried to enthuse him about the show he was about to see, while also agreeing with his grandmother than this is the perfect musical.

I settled into my seat, among the space of the theatre, and waited to see whether my £7 ticket price was money well spent. I had low expectations. In fact, I fully expected the society who were putting on this amateur production to murder the show. On the up side, I expected the band to do a good job of the score. Although they had a rather shaky start on the overture and had, somehow, decided to include every note of that score in the evening's entertainment (it can be cut if necessary without too much loss in some places), my trust in the musical director was not misplaced.

What can I say. The show I did in February had sumptuous sets, glorious costumes, good direction, excellent principals and big production numbers. This thing was limp and lifeless. It was partly down to budget. Their set was composed of a few cloths and a few props. Their costumes looked like they'd come from modern day department stores, rather than a theatrical costumiers. The two female leads were fit to be chorus girls. In fairness, one of them had a very good singing voice, but the quality of the acting was poor. The two male leads were actually rather good all rounders, but that was it for the whole cast. In some cases I wanted to knock heads together. In other cases, the quality of the writing managed to leap above the impoverished performances that were on display. I had set myself up to think it was poor, but the cast managed to exceed my expectations of an abysmal show. They also managed to rewrite bits of the script.

It was a loose interpretation of a good show and they turned it into something dull and lifeless. It was a disappointment, even though I'd expected to be unimpressed. Shame.

I came home on the bike at unknown speeds. I managed to bust my tachometer as I retrieved my bike. This sounds painful, but should be fixed if I spend some time with it and its manual. Maybe tomorrow. I thought I'd be more puffed out from the cycling, but it seems that I've not managed to lose the knack completely. Hopefully, the cycling, coupled with my attempts to get on the wagon and stay on it, will help me shed a stone or two. I'm sick of the size nazis and perhaps it's time that my trouser size enabled me to buy whatever trousers I wanted, rather than the dregs.

Arriving home, I put the bike away and drove to a nearby petrol station/Tesco where I bought some food for my evening meal. It was healthy food. Then I returned home and ate the food while online. I played online games with my girlfriend for a few minutes, which was geeky but fun. Then she went to bed, and I was left to my own devices. I've revisited a writing project I thought that I'd lost interest in. Perhaps I haven't. Frustratingly, the wireless network connection, which I set up a couple of days ago, has gone and died. The moral of the story - don't buy cheap shit on ebay and expect it to work for very long. Perhaps it's just the power supply, I don't know. This means that I can't take my laptop down to the dining room and use it and have the internet at the same time. I'm not sure I need to do that, but perhaps it would have been nice!

I've also spent some of the night trying to get this blog up to date. The situation is this. I've currently got the text from 6th-20May written. Everything prior to that is posted online. I don't want to post too much online at any one time. If anyone is reading this, they should do so it easy to digest chunks. I have to write up from 21st May to today still. I've got some notes, should this should be possible. Perhaps, at some point, I will actually get this blog up to date. Maybe it's destined never to happen. I don't know. I don't even know why I write the thing... so what difference does it make?

After a bit more blogging, I went online and played and won two games of scrabble. It seems that my games against the computer player on my mobile phone version of the game have helped me get better. In the second game, I had reached a score of 340 when the other played resigned. She resigned when I had two 7 letter words (well, there were words where I used all 7 of my letters). I started with "virulent" and then gave her "fingered" which was also on a triple word score. I got 95 points for it. I was very happy. She gave up. I must remember to play more online scrabble. It's fun when you win!

Friday, June 3

I'm terrible at waking up, and with the occasional dig from my girlfriend, I nearly woke up too late to get into work. However, I was there on time.

I had been selling well on ebay and decided to redress the balance with a lunchtime buying splurge. I bought this and that. In this case, the "this" was "Bill Bailey" and the that was a "John Williams" soundtrack - just the ticket for getting work done. Return of the Jedi was the soundtrack to some of my best adventures in good solid coding.

The following day, my girlfriend, who had been staying with me revising for her exams, was to go back down south to get ready to take the exams. We had a nice meal at a local curry restaurant in order to bid her farewell. Actually, it was more an excuse to go out. That's one of the lessons about being in a relationship that I hope not to forget. One must make the most of each other's company. A meal here, a walk there, a not-sitting-in-front-of-the-TV-all-your-life hither... it all counts!

Thursday, June 2

No online pizza. Thankfully. Having pizza delivered to "Reverend Maria Von Trapp", which is the name that Domino's now have in their system for my address, even when I order by phone, is fun, but it's not a sensible approach to nutrition.

The team were quite down in the mouth in the office, and a short meeting turned into a clearing of the air, I hope. The hard problem revealed its crazy insides. That's probably of no meaning to anyone, but it's how I felt at the time. There were a few problems bubbling under the surface, like a small matter of a small minded person becoming insubordinate and pissing me off, but I rallied well with the punches and had a productive day.

I came home for lunch, making sandwiches for myself and my beloved to enjoy. Then back to work. I sorted out the problem that was bugging me and had flash of inspiration on another one too. I was kicking. This was, as I mentioned previously, a new experience. I used to be able to get stuff done, but had increasingly felt out of the loop and not very useful. I was coming back on top.

In the evening we had pasta "Pimp my Ride", which I'd used in the meeting, earlier in the day, as an analogy - that's the "Pimp my Ride", not the pasta.

As my girlfriend worked on my computer, I took the time to finally sort out my wireless. I can now buy things from Amazon on the toilet! Well, theoretically, at least.

Wednesday, June 1

I had been doing well on two counts. There was a certain degree of control of the eating and I had spent another day concentrating at work. I had a difficult problem to solve. In fact, it was so difficult that it wasn't solved, but we were getting there. Good stuff.

After some mix ups with not cooking and not really being inclined to go out for ingredients or food, we thought we might go to bed early with no evening meal... then the online pizza service happened. Ooopsie. Domino's has a lot to answer for, including some Deee-licious pizza!

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