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Take That China!
The Continuous Descent Into Madness
You've Been Cancelled
Sort Yourself Out eBayers
The Art of Not Writing
Give Me Your Voice
Not Another Virtual Choir
Demented Reality
My Way of Losing My Mind is Quite Constructive
I'm A Cilla Black Fan On Bike

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Sunday, September 30

Here Comes The Sunday

Today was not guaranteed to be an easy day. I had places to go, people to meet. I had to be reintroduced to friends who used to see me differently. Now, apparently, I'm a long streak of piss. Thanks. I look different and I guess I am different. This year constantly changes me and I'm not sure I like all of the changes.

I shouldn't complain about losing weight. Really, it's a good thing. I just don't fit myself at the moment, so it's kind of unsettling. A lot of things don't fit. I'm not entirely comfortable with the things that weigh on my mind. It's like having a tune you don't particularly like running around your head, like the Birdie Song or Agadoo. Why should I have to have a mind full of things I don't like? There should be nice things in there, like love, and flowers, and friendship and smiles. Instead, there can be frustration, jealousy, confusion, a sense of inadequacy, and loss. The loss of youth, innocence, times past and optimisms misplaced.

I don't like this year.

Still, today was the last day of the 3rd quarter of the year and it was time to try to draw a line under the tricky three quarters of a year that have preceded it. The line drawing didn't happen too literally, but there was some time with friends and lunch and jazz and news and strawberries. I had strawberries... no cream... just the strawberries - might as well at least pretend to have the healthy version of the roast lunch with dessert.

Pre-gig rev up involved playing cards, some games I either never knew, or barely knew. I certainly needed the rules teaching to me. It was fun. Fun is good.

All of a sudden, we were at the gig. The gig was very long and I was on very late. I had to watch the acts before me make the audience into who they would be when I got on stage, and shift my on-stage arrival time to when it would be when I got to go on. As always, I worried about material overlapping mine and I worried about the audience's mood and energy levels when I should hit the stage.

The pressure, coupled with the trials of the week preceding this gig, was getting to me. I took myself to the loo, looked myself in the mirror and sang "Smile". I did this part seriously, part forlornly, part sarcastically, and with a sense of the absurdity that surrounds singing to your own reflection in a pub toilet while there's a gig going on. I think I understood what I was trying to tell myself.

The compere introduced me. I went onstage. I got no response to my hello, so I countered with a joke, and the set proceeded from there. Lots of moments occurred that were off script and I had some genuine fun with the audience. For the duration of my 35 minutes or so with the audience, I was someone else. I was Ashley Frieze, the comedian. I wasn't the neurotic, small-spirited whimpering version of myself. I was a man using his cheer and wits to play with a crowd. That is what I wish I could be like more... it's an act I can put on... and it becomes real for the time it's on. I got to the point where I was genuinely laughing on stage.

If you were there and saw me laughing at any time other than during my spontaneous quiz, then I'm sorry to confess that they were scripted laughs - maybe once I did them for real, but now they're canned. The bit where my spontaneous quiz took a very old piece of material in a new direction, well, that did cause me to laugh, though it was the comedian part of me, laughing, rather than the inner core of me, which was, of course, hiding somewhere, hoping to be liked, but too frightened to speak.

Sorry - too much metaphoric self-analysis going on here and I'm not sure what use it could possibly be.

The good news is that my friends in the audience saw me do a good gig, which is better than having them attend a figurative funeral for me. I was pleased with that. If you can make your friends laugh then you've done something more than a comedian necessarily needs to do. If you can make an audience laugh and your friends are in it, then you have the best of both worlds.

I drove home with a dull ache in my soul - the post-gig come down is never easy.

I had survived the day and indeed the first three quarters of the year. Only three more goddamn hellish months to go. Bring them on!

Saturday, September 29

Where the Wind Comes Sweeping

Went to see Oklahoma. It was a good production. The leading man was delightfully camp, making it more of an Oklahomo. I know. Cheap joke. At the end of the day, his cowboy was a bit more Brokeback mountain than Rodgers and Hammerstein. However, for an amateur production, playing to a half capacity crowd, they did a sterling job and fair play to them.

Afterwards, I went back to my friend's place and did some ironing while we watched Pixar's "Cars". It was ok. I got a bit misty eyed at one bit, but I'm an emotional wreck anyway, so it probably don't count.

Lazy Saturday

I couldn't get up. I tried. I failed.

When I did get up, I could only manage a couple of hours of DIY.

Then I sat here and wrote some backdated blog entries. It's cathartic, but not productive.

Soon, I will go out and leave this house to itself for a while. Until I get a number of project sorted out, my builder, who has installed the bath in my new bathroom, will not be able to return. There's a load to do, then. I can't begin to do it. I can see the enormity of what there is to do, and it's overpowering me a little. Small discrete tasks is what I need to focus on.

I managed some tasks. I removed the rubble I'd generated in a previous exercise from the upstairs of my house. I had the "hilarious" event of a rubble sack splitting on me as I picked it up, depositing all of its contents on the floor. I replaced the sack with a new one, which promptly did the same bottom-falling-out-hilarious-trick. The third bag didn't split, which is good as I was on the brink of having another tantrum/hissy fit.

I also managed to finally disconnect the last of the awful woodpanelling that someone deemed a good idea to attach to the walls of my upstairs bedrooms. To finish the bedrooms and prepare them for replastering will take some wood-panel ejection (basically about 30 trips up and down my stairs with wooden panels). Then I'll have to do some rubble clearing of the bits of wall which need total replastering. Finally there's the wallpaper steaming/stripping, which will take a few hours in two of the rooms and a few minutes in one of them. Then the plasterer can come.

Is this a higher priority than tiling the downstairs floor? I'm not sure. I really need to think about this.

I won't think about it right away. I'm going out.

Friday, September 28

Crossing Over

Another busy day in the office, which started with a bloody awful incident, sending my mood dropping into my boots into a sort of half-panic, half-depression. After 3 hours of struggling with a problem with no hint of resolution, we stopped what we were doing, decided a new way forward and I got to have lunch.

At lunch I went for a haircut, which depressingly involved an hour's wait in the barber's. It may just be worth it, though, since they do a good job and are priced well. Anyway, at some point, some young lad had a hair treatment which looked like it involved yoghurt and a hair dryer - the sort that you expect old ladies to sit in. Except the hair-dryer was black, so he looked like a yoghurty Darth Vader. I started to giggle. My mood broke so resolutely, that I was almost weeping with supressed giggles at this point. It made the rest of the day work out better.

After lunch there were various bits of stuff to do and my aim to leave a little early was banjaxed by a last minute request for some help - on a subject I couldn't really help with. In the end, I got home, got changed, grabbed my guitar and walked to the station for a London gig I had to attend in Earl's Court. I was worried about being late and aimed to be there between 7.30pm and 8pm. Traffic home had been bad, the train got delayed, the tubes were slow and there was a walk to the venue, whose location I was uncertain of.

I got there at just before 8pm. I didn't get a sound check in the end. I didn't hit the stage until 11.25pm! Had I arrived at 11pm, tuned my guitar and just gone straight on, the promoter wouldn't have had too much cause to complain. As it was, I got the first 3 hours of the show before I got to go on.

This was a music gig, with elements of other stuff thrown in. It's part of a low-priority crossover I'm making into the music scene. In other words, I can do slightly different stuff and get away with it in the music scene... and the gigs can be fun. So, I crossed over.

The good thing about waiting to go on is that you get to enjoy the other acts... this is particularly good if they're of a different genre to you entirely, as you don't even get to have professional jealousy.

I warmed up quite emphatically, tired and hungry though I was. An incident in Reading train station had kept me on the wagon. I had asked the cafe for a cappuccino, and was going to add a muffin to my order when I was told that they'd turned the machine off. Well, they could fuck off then, I reasoned, and aborted my offer. A cafe with no coffee machine - that's like a dog with no blood! Ridiculous and not very good company.

I did my gig and got the laughs I wanted. I also instinctively played it big to the big room. This was good. I needed to vent, and showing off to a crowd is one outlet for such a thing.

Then I had to race away from the gig to try to catch various trains and tubes home. I ended up arriving at my house in a taxi at about 1am. Foolishly I called a friend and we went out for late night supplies. This took my bedtime to such a late hour that my plan to get up in time to return to London in the morning was a no-go. Still, the night hadn't been too bad, and I'd managed to avoid the post-gig crash-down being too painful.

The gigs are going better at the moment, which is in stark contrast to the days which are almost entirely shit. Tuesday night was the worst night and it feels like there'll be a long slow recovery ahead. But there will be a recovery. I'm having fewer tantrums and I'm not listening so closely to my darker thoughts.

I feel weaker and less resolute than I want to, though. Nobody wants to be weak.

Still, my life continues to offer me unusual experiences and little highs here and there... sometimes you have to acknowledge that some of your sporadic highs are pretty special, even if they are set against a backwash of shit. Of course, I probably have it so much easier than a huge majority of the population... I'm just not able to see that or draw any comfort at all from it.

I'll tell you this. A few quid extra in a paycheck mean jack shit if it's making you unhappy.

Thursday, September 27


I have arranged some training with a colleague at work. We're supposed to be sharing the sessions, but he's just gone off on paternity leave to have a baby daughter and I already think he's checking his email too much in his absence, so I'd really rather he didn't zoom back and run the first training session in the series of courses we'd planned.

So, I wrote some notes for the 30 minute session we'd promised the team and I went to the assigned meeting room to prepare some flip chart pages before the session started. At some point, I turned round to discover that the room had filled with people while I'd been engrossed. Generally, people don't come to meetings on time, and I'd already broken the trend by going to the meeting room early in order to prepare. My "students" had also broken the trend by attending on the dot and were even being very respectful and not disturbing me with jibber jabber or chitter chatter.

I did about 37 minutes of my 30 minute course, because I can't stop talking. I think people understood and I think it wasn't either too patronising or over their heads. I hope they appreciated it. I hope they can come to use what I showed them.

I left the office on the dot in order to go to a gig that I'd had booked for a few months. The gig was in Wivenhoe, which is basically near Colchester. I had to go around the M25 to the opposite clock point of London from Reading before then being able to reach the gig. I couldn't speed, but the traffic wouldn't have allowed that anyway. I had to relax and wait for my arrival time to come when it came. I reckoned that I'd arrive at the gig by 8 and that that would be ok.

As it happens, I arrived pretty much when I planned to and I even discovered that I was early for my slot - in the middle section. I managed to spook the promoter when she texted me with "how are you doing?" and I replied "who is this?", not recognising her number. She quickly told me who she was and of her sincere hope that I was on my way... worried, no doubt that my lack of knowledge of who she was might be a sign that I'd forgotten her, the gig and my sense of responsibility. I replied that I was near and all was well.

Excitingly - can this be exciting? - I had an experience with a Magic Roundabout. I'd heard of "The Magic Roundabout", which apparently is in Swindon, but this one is a similar thing, and it's in Colchester. My sat-nav was showing me a roundabout shaped thing which it was also directing me to go around anti-clockwise. This freaked me out, then I arrived at the roundabout to find a mini-roundabout between me and it. You slingshot around the mini roundabout, go on the main body of the roundabout in the lefthand lane (the main body is two lane) and then slingshot off it at the next mini roundabout. It did my head in, but I liked it.

My mood was better than previous days, but not brilliant. I managed to keep myself occupied during the journey with the radio, the Kaiser Chiefs and Gilbert and SUllivan. At the gig I was fairly non-plussed until just before I went on, when I turned on the funny and had a cracker of a gig. I told the audience that they were cheering me up, which they were, had some more of a cracker, felt physically more attractive, came off stage and immediately started the gig come-down.

In fairness to myself, the gig comedown was not just about feelings. It was also an energy thing. I'd not eaten too much at lunch and it was getting late. After being given some money which came with an apology for its low-value, and which I later discovered to be of higher value than I expected, I left and went to get some food from Tesco. I then went home and got to bed at a vaguely reasonable time.

The apology for the money thing was odd. It's not the first time there's been a random incident involving money this week, though. Someone was giving me some money the other day and they got down to adding up the last few pounds in silver. They didn't have a ten pence piece to go from 90 pence to one pound, so they stuck a twenty pence on and said, magnanimously, that they didn't mind overpaying me by ten pence. I, not actually expecting or needing this payment, didn't have the heart to point out that they'd miscalculated the figure by a pound and were in fact giving me 90 pence less, not 10 pence more. I didn't care. It was better to leave them thinking they'd done me a favour.

Today wasn't easy and it was hard changing gear from lecturing work colleagues to amusing an audience. I did it, but it was hard. The post-work dash to the road system and the gig wasn't much fun either. Even the late night drive home was dogged with a massive standstill as someone had managed to turn their car around and onto its side... at least the standstill was for a reason.

In short, the gig was a beacon of amusement in a difficult week.

Wednesday, September 26

Nice Day Dear?

Following the day in the office, I sped off home. That's going at the legal speed, not speeding per se, and then quickly changed into my cycling clothes - my actual size now, not the oversized bags I've been wearing - and headed to the railway station. My ultimate destination was my sister's house, where I'd be having a big family meal. The knowledge of this forthcoming feast had been coupled with my desire to stay in control of my weight and also my general sense of misery. As a result, "the voice" was back.

I've mentioned voices before, and I'm just going to take a small moment to acknowledge, that a self-destructive voice in my head, telling me to do things I don't like, is not a good thing. However, it's not quite like multiple personality disorder. It's my voice I hear. I assume that everyone hears their thoughts as a monologue, or sometimes a faux dialogue in their head. I'm also assuming that some moods can change the tone of voice of this particular imaginary voice. Well, I have different sorts of tones of voices I use in my head. Sometimes, when I'm in a particularly bothered state, there are two voices - "little me", the frightened child that sits inside me all the time, and "twisting the knife me", the voice which picks away at things that bothers me, tries to anger me, and generally suggests that I just fuck off. I suspect these "voices" are figuratively representing my conflicted feelings. Other voices I think I bring along, dependent on time include "rational me" - a calm explaining type of myself, "selfish me" - a self-explanatory and entirely conscienceless being, and "the distracter" - probably my stand-up comedian nature - the sort who says "Hey everyone - let's go play on our bikes for a bit". Again, these aren't characters, or individual personalities, they're more like instincts I have in various situations.

The various situations recently have involved lots of arguments between the lost boy inside me and the knife twister. This week may have been the singularly most shit week I've had all year, indeed, probably in the last 5 years... maybe even longer. What bizarrely makes it worse is the weightloss - I can't even rely on my body to be stable. What I really needed was the distracter to say "Hey, let's go play on our bikes".

As a result, having allowed my darker thoughts at lunchtime to restrict me to a very lean intake of food, in anticipation of the meal ahead and also to piss myself off, I set off on my bike from Paddington station with about 8 miles of uphill London cycling ahead of me. If there's something I know about cycling, it's this. You can really take out any stresses, upsets and frustrations on the pedals. It's even good doing it in London because you need to use self-preservation instincts too, which really take your mind off things. The lightweight mp3 player I ordered would have also taken my mind off things, but it still hasn't arrived. Damn - there's a helmet for it to be mounted to an everything!

Anyway, the route started in traffic, progressed through no traffic, but long hills and then had a final slog on the very busy North Circular. This is a journey which takes your energy away. It also feels a bit like a rite of passage.

I arrived, humbled by the experience, at my sisters, to a round of applause from those present, who had been waiting for my arrival before starting the evening meal. I had said I'd be there at 8.30. I had hoped it would be 8 at first, but work had demanded my additional attendance and I couldn't walk out of the meeting I was in.

I was hasted to the shower after those present, a lot of whom last saw me two stones in weight ago, had cooed over my physical changes. At least the weightloss and exhaustion were more of a distraction than my general sense of mood. Indeed, I soon managed to blend in at the dinner table, making the occasional laconic quip and, only once, losing myself to genuine feelings when the subject of dogmatic religious observance came up and quickly sliced open a wound I'd been trying to heal since May/June. Luckily, it was only a minor tear and I got it plastered up pretty quickly. These are metaphors. I'd make shit Asperger's Syndrome sufferer.

At some stage during the evening, having taken in a fair amount of food and noticed that I probably couldn't have eaten much more, despite the fact that I used to be able to eat more, since my stomach felt full... although the darker voice had been chastising me for wanting to even think about eating more, I set back off on my bike and headed home.

It was downhill all the way to the station - well, most of the way. I even had a race with a motorist who told me I was speeding. I felt free of the law. They can't put points on me for cycling too fast.

I got to bed. To sleep, perchance to wake up in a better mood. I'd largely managed to avoid questions relating to how well life was really going. Result!

Tuesday, September 25


After the day I'd had in the office, indeed, the week that preceded it as well, it was no surprise that I came home low. It's also in keeping with the way that I was feeling that I ended up being bullied. I was bullied by myself. I'm not going to claim that I was entirely in total control of my faculties during this time, but there's no doubt about it. I pushed myself around Tesco, forcing myself to buy one thing, refusing myself the purchase of others, forcing decisions over toiletries with criteria like "Buy the cheapest" or "Choose the one which you least like". Overall, I had a bloody miserable time - by my own hand.

After a conversation in my head which basically involved telling myself to fuck off using the two "voices" which had been battling it out all night, I returned home, even more drained, and tried to sleep. I couldn't sleep. It wasn't the interruptions caused by phone calls and texts from friends, friends who seemed to notice that someone had taken my personality and sucked it away, to replace it with a poor simulacrum. I was just totally keyed up, stressed out, and miserable.

Apart from the shopping, the only other thing I achieved all evening was changing the bed and delivering my laundry to be done. I was a wreck.

On the up side, I did have clothes enough to wear for cycling the following day.

Monday, September 24

Today Has Been Shit

Today has been remarkably shit. In fact, there may not even be the words to describe how shit today has been. I'm not sure if I've had shittier days than this, and my school friends, and I emphasise that these were friends, once decided to have a "be a bastard to Ashley day", which was probably, looking back on it, better than today.

There has been one beacon of not-being-shittiness in this mire of manure, and that was the section of my life which began with getting on my bike in Reading to go to London, doing what I had to do in London, and then getting as far as Paddington station on the way home. Some tosser of a station attendant whinging at me to get off my bike (in a deserted station!) soon knocked the shine off the fun I'd had in London and put the shit firmly in the centre of my life which today had been excelling at achieving previously and, indeed, afterwards.

The day kicked off to a weird start where I appeared to lose an hour during my waking up phase. I was convinced it had just been 7am, and then my clock was telling me it was 8.30. Turns out, my clock was wrong. It was an hour fast. I was confused. I listened to the blaring of the radio and the newsreader was saying it was before 8. I looked at my mobile phone and it read before 8. What had happened? I concluded that the clocks had gone back and my phone had automatically adjusted.

This theory was blown out of the water when I got to work and was told that the clocks change in October.

There's no answer - except that I probably just changed the time by accident myself.

The day has been a catalogue of running between meetings, feeling like life should have something more in it, feeling like I've lost something rather important and there's no getting it back, and feeling like my body is not my own.

A later weight check suggested that 6 missing pounds of weight might be the problem. I don't know whether to believe the scales. I'll know more when I next get weighed. However, if I have shed the better part of half a stone this week, then that explains why my clothes don't fit, my body feels so worn out, and I'm not feeling myself.

What if it was all the fat that made me so jolly? What if, in fact, I'm powered on excess body mass? What would I rather be? Wiry and miserable, or short-lived, wobbly, but happy. Would I be prepared to sacrifice myself to the vagaries of diabetes, heart failure and cholesterol problems, just so I could be cheerful?

I've no idea.

What I do know is that today has been shit. Really really shit. If tomorrow wants to come and have a go if it thinks it's hard enough, it's going to have to go a long way to do better than today, which I have survived. Maybe tomorrow isn't as hard as today, but perhaps today has softened me up. Maybe I'll find tomorrow to be shitter than it really is as a direct result of having found today so shit. Or maybe I've been toughened up. Maybe it will take some pretty tough shit to get under my skin tomorrow.

I don't want shit under my skin. It's bad enough when it gets under your nails.

All I'm saying is. I didn't like today. There's a busy week ahead, with one valve-day (tomorrow) and, quite frankly, I'm dreading it. Thank you life. Thank you world. Sorry about the lack of jauntiness, but perhaps the belly full of Tesco I'm currently feeling overstuffed with, may bring me back along the belt enough to smile.

Not that my face is really built for frowning. Even when I try to look serious, the corners of my mouth face upwards. So cheerful, so jaunty, so shit.

Sunday, September 23

One For Me

I get thanks for some things I do. I get people's support when, perhaps, they should be worrying about their own lives and I shouldn't be leaning on them. I thank those people. Sometimes they don't seem to feel like I'm imposing - or at least act as though I'm not. In turn, I really don't mind doing the things I do which people thank me for - for the most part at least.

I have had the pleasure and the honour to be involved with a few sketch groups and a couple of different sketch shows over the course of this year. Today and yesterday I was in London doing things to support tonight's show - the first of a run of shows for a particular group. I got thanked for the various things I made happen and for the time I've supposed "given up" in order to do the show. I seem to be expected to acknowledge that there's some sacrifice on my part. Well, I say that, but perhaps that's not true. Perhaps there's an assumption that I'm doing things which I need thanking for, and the rest is extrapolation.

People thrive on thanks and it's important both to thank people who are doing work for you (whether they have to or not) and be able to receive thanks for the work you have done. As I do some work in the voluntary sector, it's imperative to reward with thanks. Even though I work in the commercial sector, I also make the effort to say thank you and perhaps elevate some acts above the status of "normal stuff" in order to make an extral special opportunity to say thanks.

As it is, I'm not good at being thanked myself. I usually do things for my own reasons. A benign selfishness, if you will. I do things because it pleases me to do them. It's good to do things. Not doing things is bad. You get the idea. Today I was thanked for my pre-show preparation (before I even arrived at the venue) by the director. I replied that "The joy is in the doing and the results.". I guess that's my answer to Sherlock Holmes's manifesto that his work was its own reward. I've quoted this Sherlock Holmes before. I don't know how many times I have, but the one which comes to mind happened on the upstairs of a bus, one time, in Hull.

Anyway, my own purposes led me to helping out with the sketch show today. Of course, my own purposes may not be enough to make the show happen, so I have to do what's required, whether it pleases me or not. It pleases me. Yesterday's preparation joined in with today's to make a good opening night. I'd cycled to London, to arrive in the neighbourhood of the venue at around 1.50. I had time for a quick bite to eat (and a change from my cycling clothes to more sociable clothes) and then I was into sound choosing and editing with the director.

It was good fun.

The show went so well that the cast had to return for further bows. Some of the stuff we recorded yesterday received an immense response... some less so. I guess it's just luck.

I spent the train journey home engaged in the painful process of doing some weeding of my mobile phone text messaging inbox. I ploughed through a load of old texts and deleted those that don't belong. It was exceedingly draining.

As James Blunt might say - "My Life Is Brilliant!".

The sketch show is a beacon of light which I'm happy to be drawn to.

Post DIY Drive

After I'd done my DIY last night, I decided to jump on my bike and cycle to the late night garage for drinks. I bought some drinks and some low-fat crisp-like things. My energy levels were low, but I made it there, made it back and didn't feel too guilty about the consumption of the 90 odd calories in my low-fat crisp-like things.

Once home I was then picked up by a bored friend, who proceeded to take me back to that garage and then out for a drive. At the garage, I bought some apples and some more drinks. Actually, my friend bought them. I just sat in the passenger's seat and ate them as she drove us around Ascot. Why? I don't know. It didn't matter. I got to blether, and I have a lot to blether about.

The bike is getting a bunch of action. I even cycled it around London today.

Last Night's DIY

Last night's DIY was a couple of hours of running up and down stairs in my house with bits of wood to throw away. I also bagged a bunch of rubble and scraped off a load of wallpaper - also bagged.

There's some wallpaper steaming to do in the room I was working in, but for the most part that's one of the three rooms, which I've got to get plastered, ready to go.

Saturday, September 22

Oh Good

Today had its moments. I liked the activity that I travelled to London to participate in. I was fighting the good fight with good people and we were 100% committed to making something good. That's worth travelling to London for. It's even worth getting up at 10am on a Saturday morning for. Bear in mind that I didn't get to sleep until about 3am.

Anyway, the bad things about today so far include:
  • That which ails me and won't go away
  • Trying to make my peace with things that bother me, and only stirring myself up some more
  • Parking in Lancaster Gate where neither pay and display machine worked, leaving a note offering to pay if they called me on my mobile, and not getting called... but getting a parking ticket - £40 (or £80 if left too long)
  • Getting home to find that someone's abused my email address to send spam, so I've got 420 bounced messages in my inbox
  • Having more tantrums and conversations with myself
  • Being in the sort of mood where listening to music is annoying
  • Being preoccupied and wondering when I get the chance to take a break from it
  • Going "out" for some food to realise that really I'm sitting in a Subway shop eating shit, my only meal of the day, while everyone else is preparing for a night out
  • Going home to a night in which feels, frankly, like too much hard work
So... it's all jolliness here at Ashley towers. Come and join me. I've got tools, we could really injure ourselves.

Oh My God I Can't Believe It

Well, here we are again. More words. Yesterday there wasn't much I could bring myself to say. I'll put yesterday into words now. I went to work in the morning. I was still working over lunchtime, so took a late lunch - about 4pm. I was still in the office at night. I left the work and couldn't bring myself to lift a finger at home. I bought some food and walked over to a friend's house where I proceeded to pick her up and take her walking. We walked. We got a coffee at a nice cafe, which belongs in Edinburgh, not Reading. Then I walked her home and walked myself home.

That was yesterday.

Today was an early morning wake up in order to be at the office early enough to pick up one of my team to take him to an event that was out of the office. Rather than describe the event properly, I'll simply call it the "Conference of the overwrought metaphor" and leave it at that. It was predictable really and I amused myself in part by thinking of deeply unrepeatable jokes and in other parts by thinking of things which upset me and getting upset by them.

A bit like the mental equivalent of picking at scabs, then.

After the conference sessions was lunch, but I didn't really fancy being the big guy in the scramble for the buffet. Point 1. And then point 2 was that, actually I'm not the big guy I'm used to being and I didn't want to lose my "not being the big guy" edge by eating the actual food, which, although it looked pleasant enough, looked remarkably like it had all, at some stage or other, been through a deep fat fryer. This was not my bag. I headed back to the office.

I did an afternoon in the office, which involved some discussion and some preparation of a meeting I'm having on Monday. The meeting on Tuesday has also been prepared, but it will involve a workshop setting up which I haven't prepared. Ah, the pleasure of meetings.

Anyway. I got a call offering me a gig in Birmingham tonight. I agreed to take it. My work ended at a suitable time to get home, get changed and get to the gig.

The drive to the gig was arduous. There were many reasons for this. A few of those reasons were down to my current emotional instability, which, in turn, is a product of various aftershocks of my trip to Edinburgh this year. Post Fringe blues will get you in the end, no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Add that to a year of massive upheaval and emotional flailing, and you're going to get a lot of emoting and not very much chance of containing it. So, mood all over the place. There's also work stress. That doesn't help. Then there was the traffic. The best bit is worth its own paragraph.

I was driving a car which, last night when I fuelled it, had done only 230 miles in its entire life. Somewhere around mile 300 tonight, something bounced along the motorway towards me and smashed into the bumper. It sounded damagey. It didn't smash into the windscreen and kill me, which was nice. It might have been something soft, though at 70 miles an hour, it would probably have been hard, regardless of its normal feel. However, the car has been damaged. Flipping marvellous. 3 days into me having a car to call my own and the bugger's damaged. What a wonderful thing to have happened!

The combination of all of these factors left me driving the last few miles of my journey in a near catatonic state of speechlessness and low-energy. I hadn't managed to eat anything proper over the course of the day, having had a coffee first thing, not taken any food or drink during the metaphoric conference, and then having partaken of a little fruit and a "go ahead" baked something or other bar from the cafe at work when I got back. I was on system shutdown.

Bizarrely, I had, during my rush between office and motorway, managed to write a new bit of material, type it up and print it out, ready to try at the gig. When I was booked, it seemed I was going to get 10 minutes with the audience. Driving 120 miles against a bunch of traffic to do 10 minutes with an audience shouldn't be worth it. As a comedian, though, it's what I have to do. If I'm not performing, I'm not a comedian.

Quick rundown now of the gigs I've done recently:

6th - Great
8th - Not good at all
11th - Deeply poor
16th - Rather awkward
21st - tonight... I needed to get something out of this gig. Otherwise, I'd be at over 2 weeks of poor gigs.

Arriving in a miserable mood, not feeling much at all, was a potential recipe for a bad gig. Checking the car to find it really was damaged was also bad. However, never underestimate the power of an audience to give laughter. The gig started well and I was on after the joke competition. The promoter/MC was happy for me to do as long as I wanted, so I aimed for a 20 minute set, with the idea of going 5 minutes either way, depending on audience reaction.

I opened with a comment about something in the room. This was, bizarrely, quite a risk - using a freshly made up joke which might bomb - and also quite a good move. From the get-go, I was off script, even though I knew pretty much what I was going to do. I had some aims, but I was also playing it by ear. I got some immediate reaction from the crowd and relaxed into the gig. I told the crowd snippets of my worries and why they were making me feel more cheerful - this had the desired effect of making them seem happier too. It was a gig I was doing for myself, and I brought the audience along with me, at least to the extent that I needed them to come along with me.

They gave me applause mid-song. They gave me laughter I hadn't heard in a while. They gave a lot. I gave as strong a performance as I could, and I made it fresh. I did it for US.

This may sound wanky to you and if so, then you don't get it. I was low, but the gig was picking me up, and I was giving it right back. So, doctor comedy stepped in and made things seem happier.

Now the sad part. I was singing my last song. I was holding the long note that I hold in a song which I love to sing and which I know my comedy and some non-comedy friends really like (this is it). As I was holding the note, I knew that I had been pasting a cheery old face on the gig and that, at some stage later on, the post-gig come down would happen, and all of this joy would be revealed to be temporary. I knew that my real mood was still quite low. As I held the note, my heart was actually singing "Smile". I'll put the lyrics for that below. I'm not being figurative here. I actually could hear the song inside me as I was singing another, completely different song to the audience. I almost felt like I might lose the note I was singing, as I've done before when I've been heckled with something funny during one of those long-note moments, and break down. Rather than break down with a giggle as has happened before, I pondered whether I was about to break down in tears...

I pondered it, but my performer side is more resilient than that, and I finished my set with gusto. I am also more resilient than to break down crying. I haven't cried since 2004 and the reason I cried then was pretty crap. I tried poking the crying instinct in the car tonight and nothing happened. I am a rock. Wrong song. It was "Smile". Anyway, there was a moment, on stage tonight, when the fact that I was just painting a jaunty face on my inner despair became apparent to me. The song "Smile" really summed it up. I'm not sure if I was singing it on the way into the gig (I think I might have done) but I certainly sang it a little on the way out of the gig.


Lyrics: John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons
Music: Charlie Chaplin

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying

Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

It's a beautiful lyric and has always said a lot to me. Tonight it was the song I should have sung. Luckily, a good audience and the gusto to use my comedic skills without reservation turned what might have been a lonely night in into a better night out.

I'm sorry to be all doom and gloom at the moment. I know that all this turmoil is no good to read and it's no good for the friends around me, on whom I'm leaning rather heavily right now. In some ways, the leaning on friends can make matters worse as my mood can become dependent on the availability to me of a given friend at a given time. This is not a good situation to be in. I can't change how I feel at the moment, but I can change how I act upon those feelings.

I'm going to have to do more of the smiling and the jauntiness and just ride this blip out.

My new material worked, by the way... might have been a one off. Still, there was a moment when it got the laugh and I was genuinely pleased.

Thursday, September 20

Now What?

That's all.

Wednesday, September 19

A Series Of Tantrums

I've had a series of tantrums today. You'd never notice them. It's like that time in Edinburgh this year when I lost my temper in a Subway. I was getting no help from the staff member in question. I'd asked for sweet chilli sauce on my sub and she was putting hot chilli on, not thinking to tell me that she'd made that decision for me because she didn't have sweet chilli sauce or hadn't understood the word "sweet" in my request. I went through a rapid thought process which hit anger and then decided that it didn't matter. My friend, witnessing my behaviour, realised that I'd lost my temper, but nobody else would have. My eyes flashed for a second and I was back in control.

Some would argue that that's keeping one's temper.

In the same way, some might argue that various "tantrums" I claim to have had recently are non existent. However, I know when my mind has just visualised a childish act of defiance or violence. I know when my instinct is to throw the thing in my hand at something, or smash my head against a wall. Today I had a few such moments. Frustration can be very emotive. I'm frustrated.

My biggest recent success had been reading an entire novel in an evening (last night). It was short. I was able to discuss the novel's contents with the friend that recommended it, which was nice.

In other ways, though, the day was a washout. I didn't actually destroy anything. I did have some moments of tension and some moments of utter despair at things which appear to be part of my world at the moment. I scheduled meetings around a planned earlier exit from the office, but then had such an important end-of-the-day meeting, that I couldn't go when planned. This was not good, but the meeting was good. I suspect, however, that the aftermath of the meeting may be somewhat tricky to live with.

I don't care about office politics. I care about finding solutions to problems. If that comes back to bite me, then so be it. Oh, and I care about making the people around me feel like they're getting their share of success. Even if that's measured in fruit, they should feel rewarded and valued.

After work, I raced home. The race home was slowed and slugged by traffic. Indeed, my earlier departure from home to get to the office earlier than usual, to get a head start on the day, was also dogged by traffic. So what's the fucking point!? I need some time to myself - to go on dates with myself (see yesterday) or whatever. If the only way to get an extra hour in the office, is to go in to get two extra hours, then there's something wrong. Build wider fucking roads!

Even cycling wouldn't have helped the trip to work.

However, I reckoned some bike time would help me purge myself of the troubles of the day and the calories of the previous evening's curry. I'd had to take over the MCing of the gig I run in Highgate, since the replacement MC (replacing me to allow me to do another commitment) had pulled out. So, I cancelled my other commitment, discovered I'll not get another slot with them until next year now (never mind, I'm not feelin all that funny anyway right now), and then stressed over getting to the gig on time.

Fast forward, Frieze.

I ended up on my bike with a clean set of clothes in my backpack, and clothes on which I didn't mind getting sweaty and rained on. I arrived at the station at 6.10. I was at the platform for the 6.15 train at 6.13. They wouldn't let me on. The 6.15 was leaving early. I exclaimed shock at this at the guard. He wouldn't let me on. He said another train was coming. I pointed out that the 6.15 train should leave at 6.15, not earlier. I also apologised for my outburst, but I was keyed up from running round meetings all day getting decisions made but not getting chance to do anything about those decisions, or even pass them on to someone to do something before the next meeting happened.

I phoned a friend. I got on the train and chatted to the friend for the journey. I felt better. A little better. But better.

At the other end, I took out my frustrations on the biking and made it from Paddington station to the gig in Highgate in 40 minutes. Not bad. There was some swearing at the London traffic and there was a lot of giving it welly going on.

At the gig I changed and we sat and waited for acts and audience to turn up. Of the 4 acts booked, 3 turned up. 2 of the gig "peeps" (staff) also were present, and an act brought a friend. Then 3 audience members turned up, one of whom was there to talk with me about a joint venture.

The gig was pulled and I stopped the closing act from even setting off from his location.

Worth rushing from the office at 5.23 to be commented upon "ooh, leaving early?" to drive home in 30 minutes to rush into clothing and rush to the station and rush to the gig to arrive at 7.30 only to pull the whole thing 90 minutes later. Was it worth it? Well, the cycling was good. The cycling was the best bit of the day.

Back in Reading, I went to Tesco for food and came home. I could have been in bed for midnight but for ablutions and blogging. It's good to blog.

Something is missing at the moment. Its absence is like an itch. I can feel it and I can irritate it by scratching it. It just sits there bothering me. I'm not sure what to do. Ignoring it and carrying on "business as usual" would be a good solution, but there is no "business as usual" anymore. Everything's different. Well, not everything. Some things are too much the same. However, there's not too much normality to cling to right now.

Last night's book could have been disturbing. Instead, I read blithely through it because it all made logical sense. The fact that it didn't bother me much was, in itself, a sort of a bother. There is no normality in my life right now, and I guess that's why I'm having tantrums and hissy fits. I guess it's why I'm sporadically funny, rather than in the comfortable centre of "the zone" as I was while in Edinburgh. In fact, if I could have any moment back to live in, it would be one of the moments of elation that happened back in August this year... when everything looked so goddamn promising.

That's the thing about holidays, they have an illusory quality, making everything seem happier and shinier than it necessarily is.

Back to work and the whole thing can come crashing down to earth.

So, this life isn't quite what I thought it was. Time to regroup, replan and revise... and rewind... and repeat... and replay some scrabble matches with my new found vocabulary.

I don't get to have everything I want. I don't even get to have proper tantrums, or losses of temper. Sometimes I think I want to wallow in self pity, and I sort of get to do that, but there's a limit. I'm a tough bit of meat...

...I'm not sure I even get to call myself fat at the moment... which is ridiculous. I just need tighter clothes.

Tuesday, September 18

Carry Me Home

Today I got my car. I was too busy to consider it more than an inconvenience that interrupted a meeting and caused me to have to pack up the contents of the car I'd borrowed and then have to throw those contents into the new car. It's a new car, but it's also the same sort of car that I was borrowing. This one's done 200 miles in its entire life. The other had 12000 miles. So that's something, I suppose.

I would have driven it home quickly, but my licence is in enough trouble. It would have been some sort of karmic balance to find my court summons on the mat when I got back, but this didn't happen. No news as yet. Now I have a car, though, surely the gods will send the driving ban. That's how life can work sometimes. You get some sort of good thing and then you have to learn how good it was by losing it.

Yeah. That is how life can be sometimes.

I had had a good reading experience last night. I finished Danny Wallace's "Yes Man", which is apparently being made into a film. It's a book about just going for opportunities, whether you think they're wise or not. Some excellent moments and some moments which evoked memories and wishes of my own, some of which were bittersweet. Can I follow Danny's example and just say yes to everything? NO. I can't. But then perhaps I say yes to as much as I possibly can, and seldom use fear to prevent me trying something...

...but then I'm too busy and too driving licence afeared to be able to enjoy the first car I've ever driven that's brand spanking new. At least, the first car that I've ever got to call "mine" that is... even though it belongs to the company whose work ethic will prevent me from seeing enough daylight to use it much.

Conversely, I did escape the office last night during daylight. I got home and started work on my exterior again. I managed to scrape some paint off, and then some woman started a conversation with me. She asked some "dating questions", though I suspect that was coincidence. She was clearly just taking an interest, and I didn't detect flirting in the air. Given that she was of a different generation to me, and given that I didn't like the look of her, it matters not either way. She asked whether I lived in the house, and whether it was alone. She asked my name. She asked what I was doing.

Eventually I bid her farewell and returned to my scraping. She didn't leave. I wished her a good evening and tried again. I tried "well... must get on" and then eventually ignored her presence as I scraped some more. She left of her own free will, though, in an act of friendliness, I did say she could maybe see how far I've got on her return... as though it was her leaving that became a challenge to spur me on... and it sort of did.

After the daylight failed me, I went inside to do some wood panel removal and wallpaper scraping. The wood panel removing turned out to reveal a whole section of alcove that was hitherto hidden. More cubic footage of room. The wallpaper scraping went extreme as I removed huge sections of rotten plaster. The bare chimney breast (back to the brick) is a testament to "extreme wallpaper removal".

After I'd got so dusty that I couldn't breathe, I considered food. I considered that I wanted a curry. I took myself over, on foot, to the good curry house. I ordered poppadoms. I ordered beers. I ordered a main course. I forgot my diet (to a point - I rationed some things). I read the next book on my reading list as I ate ("The Cement Garden", by Ian McEwan). At the end of the meal, my two beers were followed by a coffee and then I paid. The waiter, after I paid, offered me a "combemendry bhundi". I said I didn't know what that meant. He repeated it "Combimendery brhundi". I was still clueless. "Complimentary bhundi". I said I still wasn't sure what he was offering. He decided to just bring it. A complimentary brandy. It sat on a stand with a tea light under it. I let it warm and drank it.

Then I walked myself home.

I realised afterwards that I'd just taken myself out on a date. Not only that, but I totally ignored myself and had my head in a book all night. Then I walked myself home and didn't even say goodnight or get a goodnight kiss. Nothing.

I've become very rude and self absorbed.

Monday, September 17

Weighing Me Down

I'll be honest, I'm in a mood right now. I'm not happy at all. I need to unwind. I'll be better when I've unwound. I'm currently listening to a song I helped a friend record only 9 days ago. It seems forever ago. The last week has been so very long. Today has been so very very long.

I could complain about the trivial things like the fact that I asked for my tiles and skirting board to be sealed by my builder, which would solve two problems in one - the water-tightness of floor, and also the fact that I wasn't entirely careful while painting the skirting board, reasoning that the slight white line on the tile would be covered by the sealant. He used clear sealant. The mind would boggle if I could be bothered letting it boggle. It's boggling of its own accord, actually. Such is the day I've had.

Some more thoughts:

Spent the day on a training course which was poorly advertised to us as suitable and on which the trainer managed to be remarkably oddly behaved, slightly sexist, and generally woolly without substance enough to justify the time spent on the course. I suggested we gather feedback from the attendees. I suggested delegating that duty to someone... who delegated it right back at me the following day. I'd like to say that I'm happy with having completed the collation of the survey results, but the conclusion I've drawn after about half an hour of such collation is that the survey was poorly compiled and the responses were, for the most part, over enthusiastic, considering how little we actually gained.

The cycling didn't kill me. I got hom and then went out for food and a film. The food and the film didn't kill me. Perhaps too much ice cream was consumed... but you know, I'd been on my bike. Surely that wouldn't have an effect on my weight (see the fast-forward to Monday for the results).

A generally lazy morning, followed by a vaguely coherent running around trying to do things of an afternoon, followed by a late afternoon/early evening up a ladder. The exterior scraping complete, some interior scraping was tried and then abandoned. That's still to do.

Evening was spent sorting through paperwork and discovering how much money I've thrown into this money-pit of a house. I won't reveal the numbers except to say that it pretty much equates, after 9 months, to my entire gross annual salary from when I was in Newcastle. There's about 50% again to spend. Nice!

Woke up early enough to potter around the house not doing much of use. Then drove to Southampton and had a nice afternoon, follwed by a bloody awful gig in Brighton. I was fairly awful, the room was fairly awful, the combination, bloody awful. That's now the last 3 gigs which have, to put it simply, stunk. This could be the normal post-Edinburgh lull, the change of season, or just the effects of a day job turning me into a manager and, therefore, a total dicksplash/dick weed.

Woke up early enough to let in the heating engineer, then the kitchen guy, then the builder. Had chats with all. Asked the builder to do things. Some he did. Some he will do.

Then I went to work and spent the day running around between meetings where things were talked about. I didn't do much. I don't get the chance to do much.

Had it not been for a chat with a friend at around 5.30, for an hour or so, I would have had no downtime today. Even lunch, which was a free lunch with my team on the company, which ain't bad, felt more like work - especially with the threat of the next meeting coming up. I finished work at 8.30pm. That's too late. There's a thing called work/life balance, and I haven't struck it.

I also need to be in earlier than usual tomorrow.

That's not good.

In other news, the interview technique we tried today was a winner, the candidate didn't do so well. Such is the benefit of the technique... still cost me nearly an hour of my time in making the interview possible (at least from my side). Other people also lost their time. Bye bye time.

Full of frustration, I foolishly felt I could win on the weight front. Lots of cycling. Lots of fruit. Lots of abstinence. Today more than ever, I've felt miserable and stressed enough to feel like having a splurge on the calories. Stop eating salad and just have something meaty or fried or whatever. I've been good. My weight remains the same as it was last week. At least it hasn't gone up.

I took my Blackberry out of my pocket before the weigh in. It probably doesn't weigh enough to count, but it weighs heavy on me everytime it buzzes away in my pocket. During the writing of this post, it's been buzzing away on the edge of my bed, suggesting that maybe I should find out what's been happening in the office.

I wasn't the only person in the office at 8.30pm, and I was emailing and getting replies from other colleagues. This is probably not healthy for all concerned. It's good that people want to work hard and are prepared to sacrifice their home time for it. It's also not possible to get much good thinking time done if you only ever run yourself ragged.

I need some down time.


The idea of finishing the exterior house-scraping was abandoned. No daylight available after the time I left the office. Maybe tomorrow, eh?

The idea of doing any work inside the house was abandoned too. Abandon hope, all ye who enter. At least there wasn't a summons from the S. Yorkshire courts dealing with my driving offence. Not yet. It'll come.

I could do some ironing, but I've no energy. I need to just stop my brain for a bit. Some reading, perhaps, and then some sleep.

And I've been losing at my Scrabble games.

I feel like throwing a tantrum. This is not how I want my life to feel. I want things which I'm not getting/going to get right now. I don't want to have things stacking up on top of me in an insurmountable way. Whether you're looking at the house project, or whether you're looking about my interminably full work diary, there's something not giving me room to get things done right now. Perhaps this is Monday syndrome (is there such a thing?) because I felt like life was more manageable over the weekend. I don't know. What I do know is that I'm feeling like a failed dieter/comedian/worker/house-projecter right now and I don't like feeling like a failure. Let's not even start to think about my abortion of a love life.

Rant over?


Can I just say a big hello to everyone who knows me, and could we hear "Could it be magic?" by Take That.

Over and out.

Friday, September 14

The Cycle Of Life

The last couple of days have been quite bike oriented.

Last night I went to watch a gig in London. I took the bike from home to the station and from the station at the other end to the gig. I sort of knew the way, but I sort of regret dropping my map (accidentally) at a junction while trying to cram it back in my pocket after a hasty check of it. As a result of my loss, I ended up having to guess the route a little. I followed some signs, but it didn't really work out for me.

I was headed for Holborn, but when I reached the theatre district, I knew I'd gone a little off course. I also knew how to get back to the King's Cross area and try again. This was, I knew, the wrong way to go about it, but it's better to start from a known than guess at an unknown. As a result, I probably clocked up another 2 or 3 miles of London streets on top of the intended 3 mile or so journey to the gig from the station.

I had plenty of time, and I earned the sandwich I had between parking my bike and entering the gig. The gig itself was smashing and the front row, which I shouldn't really have occupied (forcing the MC to pretend not to know me in order to make jokes at my expense without it looking like a setup), was full of good company. If I can have an emphatic conversation with someone about musicals, then I'm happy. That happened.

The route back from the gig was much simpler, partly down to the fact that I'd done a subset of "the knowledge" in advance, and so knew a lot more of the territory... though I did lose my sense of direction for a bit.

I like cycling through London.

On the train back, I stood with my bike for much of the way. I was leaning on it at one stop and a guy got on the train and also started leaning on it. He was leaning on my saddle. I was briefly affronted and then I thought "nah - it's only a bike... think of something funny to say instead". He desisted for a bit and then, later, he returned to leaning on my saddle. I said "You can lean on that if you want, but it's had my arse on it". It's not worthy of Oscar Wilde, but it brings a smile to my lips.

Sadly, the exhaustion of the journey was enough to inspire musings and pinings and going through the texts on my phone for a bit. Note to self - don't.

Last night's cycling was a sort of dry run for today's "don't bring your car to work day". So, the success on the bike was going to dictate whether or not I decided to leave the car on the drive and cycle into work. It would take some organising. I'd have to take my work clothes in, shower in the office before commencing the workday, and then come back. I wasn't sure I could do it. I set my alarm for early just in case.

Despite a fashionably late wake up (at least by cycling-to-work standards), I decided to go for it. I wanted to show that I could adhere to a local initiative to try alternative transport. I wanted to show my team that I had the mettle to carry out my threat of cycling in. It's over 10 miles and there are some hills and some high speed roads, but I'd cycled the route once before, in about an hour, and I could do it again.

I hadn't quite factored the lack of breakfast and morning wooziness into the equation. However, I found myself with a rucksack and a bike and the road running underneath my wheels... and I bloody did it. It took just less than an hour and I had to count the rotations of the pedals for the last 100 or so strokes to get me up the last hill and to the office, but I made it.

Then I discovered the work car park was as busy as ever. There was barely room to park my bike. So, never mind. I had succeeded. Just the small question of getting home to deal with... but later on. First, I had to shower and get to my desk.

I'll be honest. Today wasn't in any way my finest hour. I may have been cranky from the lack of sleep, or the lack of energy, or the stress, or the constant meetings, or the sense of interruption of the things I was trying to tie up. I don't know. I wasn't quite as inspiring as I wanted to be today. I have much ground to make up to get on top of what I need to achieve. Some problems are harder than they seem and they already seem quite hard.

And so it was that I was back at my bike at 7.13 - some 11 hours after I first got on it to go to work. This is not exceedingly good. However, it was good that I hadn't given up on the day and the challenge of blasting some miles away. In fact, I was more determined than ever to call the day a cycling success, even if it wasn't a software engineering high point (though it wasn't the lowest point either in those terms - I am still feeling positive, just harried). Anyhoo. I had my moments on the trip home, including a bit where, after a hint that it might happen, and some shouting at myself to chivvy myself along, as well as some triumphant shouting at a sign, I made one of the "slow down, it's 30 miles an hour here" signs light up. That's right. I was pretty much speeding on my push bike, and they can't take no licence away from me for doing that, because you don't get a licence. Ha ha ha. I'm a maverick on 2 wheels. Eat my dust.

I got home, saddle sore, but contented. It seems to be less than an hour back home from the office. Various stresses were worked out of my system. Various fluids too.

I had a shower, went out for a meal, watched a movie, took in various forms of calories, without caring too much about it, and now it's late, I've played my Scrabble moves for the night and I'm off to sleep, perchance to wake up in the morning with aching limbs.

I'm taking the car into work on Monday!

Wednesday, September 12

The More I Do

It seems like the more I do, the more I'm expected to do. It also seems like the more I do, the more I can do. Let's put aside last night's stand-up debacle now, since I clearly wasn't in the zone for that. Instead, let's review the day. And when I say "let's", I mean "let me" (though there's no convenient abbreviation for that - "letm'"?).

Went to work. Worked hard. Went to meetings. Took notes. Went to more meetings. Eventually managed to cram in an hour-long one-to-one with a colleague on something which I thought might be useful for us to spend an hour on. Discovered that it was time for another meeting. Ran to get a quick lunch. Ate lunch expecting it to be interrupted by the meeting... which didn't happen...

...then I had another meeting...

...that meeting caused me to call a meeting... which we agreed to have another meeting on Friday...

Then I left the office. I spoke to a friend on the way home, via the gift of the headset robotic ear. During the conversation I resolved to do many of my DIY and home projects and so I did.

I attacked the outside of my house with a scraping knife and removed much of the paintwork (intentionally). Then, as the light faded, I set about bagging some long-unbagged rubble. Then I set about throwing stuff in the recycling. In a moment of clarity, I got rid of a brick which has been hanging around, in the way, in my hall for about 8 months (for no reason).

All this having been accomplished, I went to get some food. I ate the food. Then I returned home and did my ironing. After the ironing, I packed away the kit from my "home studio", since I need to start stripping out the room that the studio was occupying.

Then a shower.

Now a little scrabble.

Quite a tiring day all in.

Tuesday, September 11

Redefine Success

It's weird. I thought I was winning today. The hours zoomed by. We had some good meetings. We had some good emails. I discovered some important facts and joined up some loose ends (admittedly to make one longer looser end, but still, the joining was useful). Fruit was eaten. Plans were made.

Personally, I made some more plans (the diary fills). I organised some more work to be done on the house (the bank account empties). In the next couple of weeks, there are plasterers, builders, roofers, kitcheners (the people who make kitchens, not the members of the Kitchener family) and plumbers coming round. And when I use the plural, I mean the singular. I'm just being emphatic.

Things which I've left for ages, bothering me, now seem not to be a trouble.

Hell, I'm even seriously thinking about supporting a car-free day by cycling into the office. Friday. Maybe.

So, the day should have been a rousing success.

I drove to my gig and arrived in plenty of time. I was, however, tired. I was also hungry, having eaten some fruit and some salad today (but not fruit salad), but not having eaten much since the meagre lunch...

...ah, the excuses have begun. Gig excuses - the last refuge of the comedian that died. Ok. So the room was air-conditionedly cold, the audience were 12 in number, I was tired, my brain and mouth were not connected, the guitar was not amplified, I wasn't, in short, feeling funny... oh, and there was someone in the audience that I would very much preferred to see me do well (a booker for an important club).

So, in short, not doing incredibly well didn't please me a bit.

I'll live with it, shall I? Ok.

Then I got food, drove home, chatted to some friends on the way, discovered my drive was blocked by some selfish drive-blocking car drivers, found a massive space on the road my house is on and decided not to care about the roadblock at my actual house, and then got on with the important task of playing Scrabulous (Scrabble on Facebook).

At this point I should now admit that I'm playing a lot of Scrabble. I see notifications left, right and centre, that a load of my facebook chums are playing it too. Scrabble rocks.

At this point I should also admit that I'm feeling smug that I played three different 7 letter moves across three different games. It's largely luck. But it's my luck.

So, I don't know whether I've been successful. The house feels like it's coming together nicely, but then the comedy stuff is flopping, but then my Scrabble skills are coming on nicely.

Time to redefine success... and maybe get some sleep.

A Year On And I Still Agree

I wrote this about a year ago. It's a letter I still agree with the sentiment behind... I quite like some of the way I wrote it too!

Monday, September 10

Lest We Forget

me hugeI'll be honest. I've looked better than I did on this picture of me at a peak of my wobbliness. Perhaps it's a good thing that I'm remembering how bad it can get on the day I've noticed my weight at a new level of being under control.

The picture below is where the righthand image came from. I was significantly heavier and wider there than was practical or fragrant. Pity my long-suffering fiancee of the time. She had to share a life with THAT!. Ok. Stop pitying her now. Back to pitying me.

The photo was a proof photo of my place of employment, not evidence in some "who ate all the pies" court case.

A Wee Story

The following story came to mind recently and I thought I'd tell it on here.

I got involved performing in musicals around about 5 years ago. I was in the process of reinventing myself and decided that I wanted to be on stage (it turns out I did). I knew that a girl at work, whom I sort of fancied and sort of didn't, was in a group that did musicals, so I asked her how to join the group.

It wasn't my first attempt to get on a stage. I'd gotten in touch with a local theatre, which was largely about amateur productions, asking which groups they knew of that I might join. They ignored me. Brilliant work.

As it happens, though, the girl at work suggested a key show that I could get involved with. It was key because, as I recall, it lit various fuses in me at a time when I was ready to get into something new. As a result, I'm now musicals-obsessed Ashley.

The show was Chess.

The girl found herself not the sole focus of my attention during rehearsals. In fact, I largely didn't spend time with her. I was in the baritone/bass section and she was a soprano. It would never have worked. Actually, it was singing with her in the car a few times (I forget the circumstances) that demonstrated my vocal affinity with sopranos, but I digress.

So, I did the show and had a great time. There was a tradition to send people gifts and cards on the last night of the show. We followed this tradition. I remember the card I got from this particular work colleague. It, essentially, read - "Wow. Thank you for not using this musical malarkey as an excuse to try to sexually harrass me outside of work.". I say that, but I'm exaggerating for comedic effect. It actually said something about how impressed she was that I'd thrown myself into the show for itself and how she hadn't know my motives when I set out.

At the end of the day, she did have very big breasts, so she was right to be wary.

Well That's Interesting

I suppose one of the problems of being the diarist is that you're forever trying to find something interesting to talk about. At least, that's what you think you're doing. And by "you", I mean "me". What I want to believe is that I can make the daily happenings in my life seem interesting. If I were totally honest about some days, I think my entries might read:

Dear Diary. Not much happened to me today. In fact, I think I managed to go for an entire 24 hour period with nothing to show for it except the relentless onward progress towards my grave, or other means of body-disposal post-mortem. In fact, I totally wasted 24 of the last hours I'm ever going to have. Sorry.

I don't want entries that read like that, so I'll pretend that what I have to say is of some value and we'll leave it at that, eh?

As it happens, I have done a few things today, so I'll do the highlights and I can expound on three stories which come up. Today involved:
  • I went to work. Nope.
  • I did some work at work. Erm... still nope.
  • I mentioned Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle in a discussion. And? And nothing.
  • I went out at lunchtime for a haircut. Oooh - there's a story there.
  • I bought some fruit for the team from M&S. A fact, not a story.
  • I worked some more, came home and did some DIY, discovered some likely causes of wet plaster, then spoke with the plasterer. Ah, there's probably a story there too.
  • Then I got weighed and got food (and some spare trousers).
Right. I have a budget of three things to talk about. Here we go.

The Trousers
Having been weighed today, I can now divulge that my mass has reduced by a further 2 pounds getting me to the one stone mark. I have lost a stone in weight since 1st August, and I think I've not been this low in weight in a very long time. If I can lose another stone, then I'll be where I recall being in my second year at university (and no time since!) - so that would be a reversal of 14 years of poor nutrition.

After the weigh-in, I went to buy some food. I ended up at Tesco where I decided to buy a second pair of trousers, so I don't have to rush my current work trousers through the wash. I pondered whether I wanted to buy a second pair the same size as my current ones, or wait to see if I would drop a size first. Then the voice of reason in my head kicked in. This is the same voice that I've been using to deal with other of my unrealistic hopefulnesses of late. This voice has one duty alone - "It's not going to happen, deal with it".

Now, I hope to lose weight enough to drop a trouser size. Don't get me wrong. However, I shouldn't be counting any chickens. I'll have to work for it.

In other matters, my hopefulness is more hopeless, and there is no way of achieving the impossible I might wish for. So my voice of reason is quite an important voice at the moment. It's also figurative. There are no voices - just various flavours of me.

The Haircut
Getting a head shave and beard shave should be straightforward. My last attempt involved a woman who didn't seem to be reacting to the content of what I said, so much as using keywords I said in order to fuel her irrelevant comments. She also told me how cheap the head shave was, but then charged quite splendidly for applying the same clippers to the beard. I was confused.

Today, I went to a different barber's shop I noticed in Bracknell. The queue was so large, I decided to go back to the first shop. For some reason, the first shop wasn't where I expected it to be, so I went to a different place opposite.

They saw me without an appointment, which was nice, and I explained what I wanted. "I don't do beards" said one girl. I said that it was just the same as doing the top of my head, only lower down, and I reckoned she'd probably be able to do it. Another girl came out. She was equally wary of taking the head clippers below the level of my sideburns. Weird.

Eventually, she had a go, and with some coercion, she managed to trim most of the beard hair. It seemed a lot of effort. It was, however, cheaper than "the cheapest head shave in Bracknell". So that's something.

The House
I was going to angle grind some more paint on the exterior of my house, but I decided to give my scraper a go at it. I bought the scraper on Saturday before I zoomed off to Blackburn to be stared at by an audience - even when I was trampolining in front of them. Weird. Anyway, the scraper is a sharp blade on a handle. I used it to remove some paint that the angle grinder couldn't reach. Then, I used it to attack some paintwork that the angle grinder could reach.

Overall, I think the scraper may be slightly slower, but it's cheaper to run (blades are cheaper than the angle grinding plates), I have an easier supply of its consumables, it doesn't kick up nearly as much dust, and it doesn't kill the bricks. I also got the chance to really probe the "how much does my brickwork need repointing" issue.

So, I scraped away. I found that there was loose brickwork pretty close to where there had been a damp problem. The clue to the damp problem may be in that. I also found a definite need for further repointing near the other damp problem. Damp problem has been solved, I reckon!

The plasterer came round to have a look at what's gone wrong. He's agreed to replace or treat various sections of plaster and it will be completed this week. This is good.

The builder also started today. This is also good.

The heating people will be doing something soon, which will help.

Next job - get the kitchen ordered!

Actually, this has been quite a productive day. I'm exhausted.

Oh and I played some online scrabble.

Sunday, September 9


I was having a look through some photos from my phone today. These photos manage to show the progress of my house, where things have progressed, at least. To the left, here, we see the new back door for the house, from when it was first installed.

To the right here, there's the same door, after the 3 coats of varnishing (on each side). There's a difference in the rubble. There's also a difference in the window to the left of the door, which now has new obscured glass in it. You can even see the base of the new external light.

So, there has been some progress.

Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon

Despite the fact that I had to be up at what was a ridiculous time for a Sunday in order to be at my sister's house in time for breakfast, and despite the fact that I failed to arise at this time, though the time I did arise was still fairly ridiculous (in my book at least), and despite the fact that the gig which was my original reason for coming to London was cancelled, I've had a good day.

The journey to London involved running about 30 minutes later than the arbitrary arrival time I'd set. However, since I had to drive by the book, there was nothing I could do about this rush other than just accept that I would be late. Thusly, I relaxed. Simple.

Morning at my sister's involved coffee and woozy head. That's a potent mix.

Then my sister went out, leaving me in the company of a piano and a laptop. Not a bad combination. I pianoed and blogged.

I found it easy to get to the cinema where the afternoon film was being shown. In fact, it was two films, along with the opportunity to buy the new book from the collective pen of the League of Gentlemen.

We first had a brief intro from all four of the LoGs and then we watched their Christmas Special, which is a portmanteau horror compendium parody. After a break, we watched the Vincent Price movie - Theatre Of Blood - which made us laugh, mainly by its own design, but occasionally through the lapse of 35 or so years introducing some cultural irregularities. We're more cynical these days, so we laughed some stuff down.

Still, it was entertaining and illuminating. More so was the post-film Q&A session from the LoGs about their work, their influences and the new book, which is really about their influences. Then they did a book signing. I had my book signed, along with the programme from The Drowsy Chaperon, which Steve Pemberton was in. I got to tell him that I loved the show and felt it a shame that it ended so quickly. It was nice to get the opportunity to do that.

My phone rang a few times during the movie and I had to ignore it. One call was from the promoter pulling the evening's gig. So I grabbed a coffee at a friend's house - it was he who told me about the afternoon screening in the first place - and then returned to my sister's house where she achieved something I had failed to achieve by 6.30pm in a day, she fed me. Good work.


Last night was my 460th stand-up comedy performance. I was totally unaware of this at the time. It is incidental, after all. What's to say that the 460th performance is any more or less significant than the 459th or 473rd or whatever? Nothing. I only pointed it out because it happens to be a fact. There. That's that.

Yesterday had its ups and downs. A bit of a downer was waking up at the sort of time I'd wake up to go to work. On a weekend day. Boo. However, an immediate up was being able to collect my outstanding Amazon order from the post office (not outstanding in the sense of extremely good, but more in the sense of "I've been meaning to pick it up for a week") and then meeting a friend and going for breakfast at Starbucks.

This friend was the inspiration behind getting up at all in the first place. He was visiting Reading in order to spend the day making music with my help. In the end, we took a song of his devising, I suggested a one word alteration to a lyric and then hit the record button as he lay down various tracks. It is a fun process and I was glad to be involved. I also got to do a few things on my computer while he was doing the bits of the recording which didn't include a microphone - apparently it's not cool to have someone typing over your guitar track!

In the end, though I was happy just to be a tech for him, I laid down his bass track. For some reason (and I think it's just generosity of spirit) he thinks I play bass better than he does. The only thing, relating to the bass, that I think I do better than him, is own one. Anyway, I did a bass part, which he restrained a little, which was probably for the best.

After the recording session we went and bought some stationery. I know. Living the rock and roll dream. Then I dropped him off at the station.

Oh. I nearly forgot to mention. For the first time ever, I managed to catch the postman. It's not that my new healthy regime has made me fit enough to run after the chap. It's that, for the first time in ever, I happened to be in when he came around delivering stuff that doesn't fit in my letterbox. Amazing. I actually got my delivery. Included in this was my new "I am a robot" mobile phone headset thingy. As a result, I'm now in the bluetooth age with my mobile phonery. This will come into play shortly.

So, I dropped my friend off at the station, mid-afternoon, and then went around to look at someone's plumbing question. It's a "how do I cap off a pipe to enable me to remove a sink" type of question, and I've done quite a bit of that in recent months. I suggested an approach and headed to B&Q to buy the necessary bits, along with some stuff I'd planned to look for for myself.

On the way to B&Q I spoke to a promoter in the North West of the country. He'd texted me, asking whether I was in the North West that night. I rang him. He said that it might not be worth my expense in coming to the North West specifically. I pointed out that my fuel is free (to me, at least), which is one beauty of a benefit of my new job. We agreed that I'd do the gig.

So, what had been a possibly DIY intensive afternoon/early evening, followed by some languishing, turned into a race around B&Q, a rush home (to gather the tools of my stand-up comedy trade, and also to gather the tools I said I'd lend to the plumbing problem people - for delivery in the wee small hours after the gig) and then a race to get on the road.

My driving regime - 100% legal - means that the only racing I can do is outside of the car. So I was keen to get on the road as quickly as possible. I was also keen not to forget anything that I would come to need at the gig.

As it was, I sat in the car for about three and a half hours, headed to somewhere near Blackburn, using my new handsfree headset thingy to talk to various friends and family members. This was a nice way to occupy the early evening. I even managed to listen to a musical I've never listened to before.

Arriving at the gig about 10 minutes before it started, I had time for a sound check and to discover that I wouldn't be on stage for a fair old bit. So, I was able to relax and get ready for the performance. The audience were small in number, which, sadly, affects any fee in a door-split gig situation, but I'd been made aware of that before I had set off and still agreed to do the gig anyway. As a result of the audience being small in a room which can hold a lot more people, the atmosphere in there was odd.

I'll say one positive thing about this crowd. They had set out to have a good time, and that really counts for a lot. They did not know exactly what they wanted to make of the various acts who came before them. I think they saw through the fact that the other acts were character comedians who came on as one character, left the stage, and then returned later as someone else. They weren't entirely sure what they wanted to do with off-beat punchlines either. But, they made their fun where they could.

Bizarrely in this situation, it was a heckling paradise, which usually is easier when the venue is less of a theatre, and usually requires the audience to feel like they have a strength in numbers. I was surprised that the fourth wall was so easily breached with them in a bi-directional manner (yes, that last bit reads in a really wanky way). Anyway, at some point during the waiting to go on, I decided that I would make use of a trick I've used before, and I also decided I would make use of the trampoline that we found backstage.

The trick I've used before is to tell the story about Cole Porter once taking the challenge to write a song based on the next words heard in the room - a butler came in and said "Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today, Madam" and a song was written from those words. So, given that I was due to go on twice - either side of the interval - I decided to pose this challenge to myself via the audience, with only the time between re-appearing to use to write the song in.

The trampoline was just an idea. I thought it might be funny to be playing trampoline while playing guitar. I tried bouncing and strumming - hard to do - but apparently it looked funny (at least according to one of the other acts). I think it is a funny thing to be able to say I did once. I bounced up and down on a trampoline, trying to sing and play a song. To be honest, I wasn't entirely in control of the situation and that was a potentially funny thing too.

If I'm brutally honest about last night's gig, though, it wasn't my finest hour. I met various challenges that the audience posed, and I managed to workshop my way out of some of the really awkward dips and staring moments. In fact, I think I got some of the better laughs from shouting my mock-frustrations at the audience. However, they didn't really like me a great deal and didn't give me respect enough to make the pre-planned comedy stuff work. In some cases, I think they didn't get it. In other cases, I didn't take control enough for them to get it... it was a reflection on how well I dealt with their particular mood.

To get 30 odd people to laugh in a room that seats maybe 200 is hard work, and perhaps they enjoyed it more than they let on, but I didn't go home with any energy from them. I had relied on my reserves, and not having had an evening meal also took its toll on me.

I ended up getting some food, so I didn't lose energy and lose control of the car on the long journey home. Good! There was even a little conversation on the homeward leg, but not enough. Car journeys are longer when alone and when cruise controlled. So, I listened to some music and tried not to watch the clock too much.

Darwen, the venue of the gig, may not be the most advanced civilisation in the country, but perhaps they got the better of me a little. Perhaps I still had more of a night than I would have done hiding at home, though.

Friday, September 7

Packing Them In

If I produce an album of my comic songs, and I'm contemplating doing that at some stage. I think I might call it "Packing Them In". It seems to describe how I treat my life at the moment. I'm packing in as much as I can. I'm not necessarily giving everything the full attention it needs, but I'm cramming my hours as full as possible, so I guess, I'm still getting a lot out of life.

Maybe I'm wrong.

This is worth later discussion.

Anyway. Last night I had to work late. I don't know if the word "had" is quite the right word. I chose to. I found myself in the office doing things at 7.30pm. It had been a good day. We'd gotten fruit. I say "we". In fact, I had previously started the fruit buying and then a colleague did the next round, so I went to buy a bowl for keeping the fruit in. That was a lunchtime and a half. I bought a bowl for some fruit and also a huge piece of graph paper (a pad full of them in fact) in order to draw pictures on, illustrating how well we were achieving some goal we'd set for ourselves.

If you have a goal and it's measurable (especially if it's easy to measure) then measure it for a while, draw a graph, and see how you're doing. I should probably do that with weightloss. But I won't.

Anyway, it was 7.30pm and I had a gig in London. I finished my work, went to the car, and then I drove to the gig. I reckoned I'd be there for 9pm.

I was wrong.

I must stop listening to my sat nav's London directions. I should not have gone through Piccadilly or Haymarket. They were too busy. There was a roadblock outside Harrods, which only made matters worse. Why oh why oh why oh...

...never mind. I got to the gig for 9.30pm and I wasn't due on for another hour. I also kept the organiser informed, so it was no major trauma in the end.

I got to see the middle section of the show and the audience looked like fun. I discovered how much fun they were when I hit the stage. I was planning to do 15-20 minutes, but owing to some positive heckling, which is heckling with the subtext of "here's something for you - see if you can make funny with it" as opposed to "ah fuck off" or "here's something to make you look stupid", I ended up doing about 30 minutes. They forced me to reprise bits they liked and I got to make them laugh with random words.

I even used my gift joke. There's a line I use on an audience I've really come to enjoy playing to, which isn't even funny. However, with the right audience, I know they'll laugh immensely at it. It's a sign of having bonded.

So, knackered though I was, I left the gig happy. If that's a productive day professionally and comedically, then I can pack loads of them in.

Thursday, September 6

Higher Than High

Some people get high on exercise. I'm not sure that I'm one of them. Some people get high on comedy. I am one of them. Luckily, I had the opportunity to combine the pair of these, so I didn't have to choose between the two of these highs. There was a tube strike in London, I had a gig in Highgate to MC, and I had some family and friends coming to the gig. I didn't want to miss the gig or have to do something complex with transport, so my plan was fairly simple. I would go home from work, pick up my bike, cycle to the railway station, take a train to London and cycle from Paddington to the gig. It is about 2 miles (or less) to the railway station in Reading and was 5.4 miles (according to the Google route) from Paddington to the gig.

When I say simple, I guess I mean "not entirely too complex".

And so it was that I found myself cycling to the station while chatting to a friend on my handsfree mobile phone thingy. Well - you need some distraction from the effort of pedalling. Luckily, the Reading section of the journey was fairly low-effort.

After I learned about putting your bike in the bike bit of the train, I was on my way to Paddington, with a little more chat. Then at the other end, the chat over, it was time for the slog.

I couldn't have spoken to anyone during the ride to the gig - this was largely because I had to coordinate the bike, the map and my breathing. Largely, it wasn't a problem. The worst thing to happen was when I took a right, rather than a left and did about a three quarter mile detour. The final leg of the run - up the last hill - could have been a killer, especially since I hadn't eaten much all day. However, I didn't really hit the pain barrier and got to the gig only rather sweaty, rather than a total mass of water.

Luckily there was plenty of time to catch my breath and get some energy back. I probably should have eaten something. I didn't.

The gig happened. I MCed it. There were a few moments when I was just blethering stuff and making it funny. There were a few moments, when I was blethering and it wasn't making much sense. There were some bits of material which came out funny too. Not all 100%, but I was in the moment and making nice with the crowd and that's my job as MC.

The acts went down well. There were some key performances which stood out, but I'll only mentioned the headliner (rather than offend the one or two whom I don't mention from the rest of the line-up), who was as delightful as I had expected and hoped. It's great to book an act whose material is excellent, but whose persona and delivery make it seem all the more enjoyable. If you know the audience are going to love your closing act, you can relax.

I couldn't completely relax, though. I had a cycle ride home to worry about. I had to keep my energy levels up, which on diet coke isn't entirely feasible.

Still, I got back on the bike, revved it up, and myself, and then hit the hill. On the way there it had felt like some bits were down hill (much of the first section) and only the last bit was uphill. I knew the last hill would be dead easy to go back down, but wasn't sure if there'd be a long climb on the way back to the station - the long climb, followed by huge hill on the final leg of the way to the gig was fair enough, but to do another long climb on knackered legs, no food, and post-gig come down would be a big thing to ask.

As it happens, the journey back was really straightforward. I enjoyed it. The route was the hardest part, the one way system being against me as I retraced my steps. Note for next time: get a google set of directions to go the other way too!

I had a long train journey back, which I used to eat some food and stand with my bike. Then I cycled back to my house. Door to door, from gig to bed, was 2 hours. Not too bad.

A good inaugural gig for Highgate. Long may it continue. I may cycle some more!

Note: the tube strike, which I was trying to avoid by use of the bike, was called off. You can't rely on anything these days!

Tuesday, September 4

First Time For Everything

Belated fictional nonsense.

Sometimes things go to plan. After all the worry about what might go wrong and how to cope with what would happen to her if they did, Sarah had just walked through the door and started a new life. All that planning and all that worrying, and yet it had been as easy as walking through a door. Maybe without all of the planning and worrying she might have not felt capable of walking through that door. She didn’t know.

Sarah was not what you might call an attractive girl. She had been overweight for much of her life, not through any glandular disorder or other hocus pocus medically diagnosed malarkey. Sarah simply ate rubbish. She loved takeaway food. The unhealthier the better. Of course, this made you fat. It made your skin greasy. It gave you spots, chins, sweat patches and embarrassing smells. In short, the food wasn’t making her life any easier, yet she always felt better when she ate it, and couldn’t countenance eating anything else.

On the other side of the door, though, Sarah knew that everything she’d done in the past wasn’t going to matter anymore. She was on her first date – with a man. This man had, apparently, loved her for years, and she hadn’t realised. He had plucked up the courage to ask her out, and she had plucked up the courage to say yes. Now she was at a sea life centre, looking round the foyer for the figure that represented the start of something new.

She spotted him and he waved. In the distance, some children, celebrating a birthday party in the café, cheered.


Weight And See

I didn't get much sleep on Sunday night. I'd put a convector heating near the wall with the damp in, so it might get warm, excude some moisture, make the room more humid and, thus, give the dehumidifier a purpose in life - to, perhaps, take the humidity and turn it into water in a bucket. This is how I spend my weekends now is it? Thinking about humidity of plaster!? Brill!

Thing is. I had heard, from the guy who suggested I get the dehumidifier, that these things can pull many many litres of water out of the air. I'd seen nothing more than a piddle in a bucket, but perhaps the convector heater was going to unlock my moisture exuding dreams!? I was worried that I might come downstairs to a flooded kitchen.

I remember waking up in the middle of the night, worried that it may have overflowed, going downstairs to check, to find all of the things in the kitchen swept across the room by the deluge of water that had been drawn from the atmosphere. There was water everywhere. It had been of almost tidal proportions. I remembered that happening. As though it had happened. As though it hadn't just been the weird dreams of an overactive overwrought mind.

Nothing had gone wrong. Just a continued piddle. Actually, a piddle is about the only thing that was going wrong. Piddling has been a problem. Whether it's been the dehumidifier pulling a piddle of water from the plaster, or the fact that I've been suffering some sort of piddle infection, I've not been happy with the state of play on the piddling front. When I woke from my dream I was bothered by an overwhelming need to piddle - except I didn't need to go really; it was just my slight malady lying to me. Perhaps that was the real cause of the dream. Something's up with the water!

So, yesterday was a tiring day as a result of the lack of sleep, the going to work, the driving to the gig (I found a cracking route to the M40 which seems to be traffic free at gig times), the doing of the gig and the coming home. I managed to get some food into me on the return journey and that must have helped.

Food was, of course, on my mind. It's been on my mind a lot lately. Food and wee. Food, wee and DIY. Oh, and general other things which don't necessarily get described in full on here. They're bound to be irrelevant, though.

In Edinburgh, keeping healthy and losing weight is an easy thing to do. Loads of activity comes as part of the fun, and there's a ready supply of food which is healthy enough to have no long-lasting effect on the system when eaten. Don't get me wrong, there are chips enough to die for - literally. That sentence didn't make a huge amount of sense. You get the idea. I could have pigged out in Edinburgh, as I did in 2004, nearly poisoning myself completely in the process, or I could have, as I did the last two years, eaten quite pleasantly and come back at least as healthy as I went, if not healthier.

This year was probably my healthiest Fringe, with smoothies galore. Sure, I partook of one fried breakfast, on the last morning, and sure I didn't even enjoy it, but I came back from my Fringe festival participation some 9 pounds lighter than when I went. I have since upgraded that weightloss to 12 pounds. I was weighed today and have lost a pound since last week's loss of 2 pounds. Losing weight post-Fringe may be more difficult.

In Fringes 2005 and 2006, I had promised my girlfriend that I would eat healthily. To welch on that promise would have made me a bad boyfriend. I wasn't a bad boyfriend. Not in that respect, at least. This year I promised myself. I didn't let myself down.

Now I'm in the post-Fringe blues period. There are motorway service stations, work cafes and other influences that can divert me from healthiness. In addition, I have just managed to go out with different friends for meals some 4 nights out of the last 7!

Getting weighed today wasn't entirely a hopeful experience. On the postive front, I had done a reasonable amount of exercise over the course of the week, including my cycle ride to pick up my car, along with a few walks to and from the station. I think that perhaps I had lost more weight, but went to the scales with a heavy hearted feeling that might have added an extra pound or so on.

Still, the loss of a pound this week is a triumph.

I don't remember how low my weight got in 2003 when I hit my last low weight. I suspect that I weighed then what I weigh now. If I were to lose weight consistently for another month or so, I might even drop a trouser size.

I think I want to be slimmer and healthier. The effort of achieving it may prove too much. I'm running on empty a lot at the moment. Having said that, my appetite has also ebbed a fair bit. I suppose I'll find out. I've been here before and there are no guarantees of where you go next.

In other news, I got home, did some angle grinding to remove some paint from my exterior wall (and also to shape the bricks into nice shaved shapes), got a headache, showed the plumber the heating work I want him to do, and then got some food. An exciting night at Ashley Towers.

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