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Friday, July 30

Gordon's Alive
I spent much of last year learning to do a Brian Blessed impersonation. His trademark exclamation of "Gordon's Alive" is quite a good phrase to use about me at this moment in time. I'm very much alive... despite the events of the last few hours. I've just returned from a gig that didn't go as well as many of my others, and a car journey that was, possibly one of my worst.

I had 4 opportunities to die on the roads this afternoon/evening. Firstly, I found myself heading quite quickly into the back of the car in front on the A1 as I drove South. This was because he had suddenly decided to brake - himself unaware of the traffic in front. Always know your exits... in this case, I braked and worked out where I could escape to - I found a nifty bit of road, called the inside lane (perhaps where all the slower cars should have been in the first place) and got into it before impact. We had feet to spare. That was fine.

Then a car decided to pull out into me. I was overtaking - he had a blind spot - the blind spot being the entire right hand side of his head as far as I could tell. I pulled to the right and hooted my non-sounding horn (should have asked them to fix that last week) and survived.

Then, after surviving the gig, I managed to pull of the A38 into a services with no idea of exactly how sharp the turn was. The braking and steering set about something of a skid situation. Luckily, my training and experience were adequate to keep the car from hitting anything. The adrenalin of the drive was, possibly, more pleasurable than the calmness that hits me when I'm on stage - where others get the adrenalin buzz of being under pressure. As I came to a halt, an advertising sign in front of me came into view it said "Splat". There was also another billboard in the window of the petrol station - it was advertising ice cream with the bizarre slogan "time to put on the brakes". Weird.


How I might look in a car at night

More preparation
Help... preparation is underway, but I feel woefully unpreparated. Lots to do and I don't know when I'll be able to do it.

Zoiks!

Mentions
Hello to EW. There, a mention... and thanks for the company... perhaps texting while driving is also a little of a risk. Tonight I was invincible.


Tuesday, July 27

There simply aren't enough hours in the day
Edinburgh rapidly approaches and the list of things to do gets ever longer. Still, I'm feeling really up beat about the trials to come. I am going to have to look after myself and, to a lesser extent, my partner-in-crime. We're going to have to prepare for tough times as well as good times, but we'll be in Edinburgh doing all we're due to do in only a few short days. Yikes!

A trip to the doctor's
A routine check-up today and the doctor decided to offer me a special drug that you can use to lose weight. It stops the body absorbing fat. It sounds like a good idea. You can eat any fatty food you want and you can't absorb the fat. There's a problem, though. If you do eat food with fat, your body has to dispose of that fat somehow. The best-case scenario is "fatty stools" - which sound grim enough. The worst-case scenario is "seepage". Your bumhole leaks fat. As the doctor pointed out, you soon learn which foods are high in fat and bad for you... and you have a very good reason to eat sensibly. At the end of the day, when the skid marks become slurry, it's a good deterrent. I'll skip the chips without the pills, thanks.

Saturday, July 24

It's not tonsilities - just a little soreness at the back of my throat, a little redness... nothing to worry about. It's not like I'm about to embark on a month full of talking and singing. Ha!

Work on the show continues as ever and there's still a heck of a lot to do... and realistically there's only a week in which to do it. It will all come together. Chris and I have been spending time doing things that are not just run-throughs of the show. We watched a couple of movies the other day - which made us laugh and reminded us both how people can be made to laugh. Top Secret and South Park: The Movie (well, it was called something else, but I can't be bothered to remember it) were both good examples of concisely written scripts delivered beautifully.

In other news we're off to Edinburgh this afternoon for a recce of the venue and city. It's going to be over-familiar to us soon, but we still need to be prepared before we get started. Looks like it's time to hit the A roads again.

Thursday, July 22

A curious day, really. Lots of money flying back and forth and the opportunity for my car to cost me and it's decided it wants to be broken to the tune of less than £20's worth of repairs. Fair enough... though apparently it's harbouring something nasty - a squeaking sound coming from a bad place. I reckon that, if it goes wrong, the car will be permanently ruined. Nice!

Have I been having a confidence crisis?
It certainly looks like I might have been. At least, from the outside it could look that way. After all, I'm the guy who drove back from a successful pair of London shows in a dark mood. What was all that about?

In truth, I think I'm more concerned about the potential for a reality gap between my abilities and where I put myself. There's nothing worse than someone with the determination to succeed, but none of the ability... when they're unaware of the latter. I will not become a delusional performer. I want both my feet firmly on the ground (except when I'm dancing). Maybe the fact that I know that asking this question makes me unlikely to be delusional is itself a cover for a degree of delusion that I'm unaware of... or maybe this "be your own psychologist" game is never going to work.

I like to balance humility with excitement and ambition. Quite what that balance is is anyone's guess. Anyway, that's why I've not allowed myself to take the recent success to heart. At least a similar attitude might protect me from any possible failure. Equally, though, I have had some questions about my abilities on stage without the structure of The Musical! to protect me. It had been a while since I'd done stand up, and there is plenty of that to come in the Fringe and I have a couple of gigs before then too. I was concerned about my ability to find funny with an audience. Concerned that I'd not seen it recently and that it might be a bit rusty.

So, Chris and I went along to Edinburgh last night to a gig. I was MC - this can be an easy route to an audience's hearts and was certainly a great opportunity to plug our show to a room. I had to be funny and "in the zone" with an audience for an entire evening. I went in there and managed to avoid doing something I've been doing a lot recently - I managed to avoid trying too hard. The Edinburgh gig is one which I've done countless times (well, it's possible to count them, but I haven't the time) and felt really relaxed in. I went up there and did my thing and it was great fun.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I love comedy. I love performing and, if you are prepared to come along for the ride, it will be fun - there's some level of quality or other - I've no idea what it is, but what the hell! Entertainment is something I analyse when it's not happening, but when it's occurring, who needs to analyse it?

Have you seen The Musical!?


Wednesday, July 21

Any idiot can put on a show and get people to come along. It doesn't mean it's any good. All you need to do is:
  • Hire a small theatre/arts centre
  • Write and rehearse a show
  • Tell everyone you know to come along
  • Buy all the kit you need to make the show happen
  • Get or hire a van
  • Fill it with the stuff and drive to the theatre
  • Spend a few hours installing technical equipment and positioning props/scenery
  • Do a technical run through to make sure your technician knows what he's doing
  • You have to recruit the technician first
  • Get into your costume
  • Go out there and do your thing
  • and if they like you, they'll appreciate it... whether it's any good or not.

That's just fact. The question in my mind was how much of an achievement it was to stage the last 4 shows of The Musical! We left London on Sunday night (well, Monday morning) with the sound of an audience's laughter and applause still in our ears. But they were an audience composed of family, friends and well-wishers. How much had we actually achieved?

On a practical basis, the mechanics of staging the show and the administration required to put it all together has been an achievement on the grand scale. We had a van full of people and kit. There were mirror balls, spotlights, wires, home-made furniture, etc etc - a massive quantity of preparation.

On a personal basis, the teamwork required to stage the show was phenomenal - outside of the work that my co-writer and I have done, we had people giving their time to help recruit an audience, or provide technical assistance (our techie gave up a weekend to drive from Scotland to London to run the show for us). Also on a personal basis, the audience members put themselves forward to support the show.

On an artistic basis... well, I'm too close to the show to know.

So, actually, I had no reason to come away from Sunday night feeling let down or disappointed.

I didn't have an incredible buzz on the journey home, though. I was low. I was a fool. Self-praise breeds complacency, so perhaps I'm wise not to be too impressed at what we'd done, but there's a lot more to do. 23 shows in Edinburgh, for a start. We need to be so sharply honed and focused, that we can entertain audiences and impress critics alike. We need to be awe-inspiringly good. That's a hell of a thing to live up to.

Then I listened to one of my favourite bits of music - David Arnold's main title for "The Musketeer". It's a favourite because, from the first moment I heard it, I could hear the joy in its creation. It's over the top, it's silly and it's full of rousing energy. Despite having had about 3 hours' sleep on Monday and feeling like we had a month's work to do in the next 2 weeks to make the most of the show, I suddenly had my wind back. The Musical! will be the best it can possibly be. All it takes is inspiration and a bit more of the teamwork that's allowed us to put on 4 shows in 3 venues. We've assembled and disassembled the set 5 times in various venues. We've rehearsed and rehearsed and given our all to this project. There will be no last minute self-doubt to get in our way.

To that end, we re-wrote the start and end of the show... just a little. I'm excited about them.

We're on radio Newcastle in a couple of hours' time, talking about this exciting project... and you know what? it IS exciting. I don't know whether it's a work of art or not and it's too late to worry. I know that we've had audiences screaming with laughter. I know that we've had applause as a result of creating moments of genuine entertainment. This is what we set out to do. A little idea which grew from a momentary flash back on August 18th 2003, which turned into an email I sent to Chris two days later... that's what we're peddling and it's going to be peddled to the max.

If anyone looks at our efforts with disdain, then that's their problem - let them have a go at it, it's hardly an easy ride. Mind you, if it's a critic doing it, then perhaps it's going to be a little bit more of a problem... but critics... you know... they're bound to be critical!


Monday, July 19

Darling, you did it again!
 
We did London this weekend. I've had virtually no sleep and I think most of the liquid and salts within my body have passed through and into the myriad shirts I wore over the course of the weekend, one of which I bought on the day we got to the theatre - simply to have a dry garment to wear.
 
If I could summarise our experiences of the weekend, I'd say that I entered the total perspective vortex. Perhaps only a few people would understand what that means, but it's a pretty damned good description.
 
On the whole we received a shed load of support from friends, family and assorted well-wishers. If we forget how much support we received and how lucky we were to receive it, then we're a bunch of ungrateful imbeciles who deserve all the heartache we get.

Friday, July 16

We're now featured on the BBC... well, The Musical! is. See here.

Spent tonight finishing off the jingle for our show... it's sounding nice. That strange sounding rhythm instrument, it's a wobble board.


Thursday, July 15

The calm before the storm.

Tuesday
Up at the most crazy hour of 4.30am. The previous evening had seen one of those rehearsals - we've over-rehearsed and over-directed some bits. We've gone from slick to stiff. After a good chat to work out how to get the magic back into our on-stage partnership, I retired to my bed with the promise of a wake-up call from my co-star/co-writer/co-habiter (temporary). What a nice man - agreeing to get out of his bed for 5 minutes to kick me out of mine.

On the road a few minutes later, showered and on the outside of coffee and cornflakes, I headed down South to a meeting. I arrived in plenty of time and had a bit of time for quiet reflection and writing down of thoughts. When the meeting concluded, at lunchtime, I'd already done the equivalent of a day's work, and I had at least a four hour drive home - in rush hour. I had two choices - drive home up the middle and east of the the country, or go to Manchester on the western route. I had the same choice back in May and I chose the same option - Manchester.

I never thought the day would come that I would voluntarily head to Manchester in my spare time. Adding 40 miles or so to my return trip (40 miles whose petrol I would have to pay for, unlike the rest of the expenses-paid journey), I headed up the M5 and M6 in search of a good evening's comedy. XS Malarkey. My favourite gig. Watching or performing: it is a guarantee of a good time. What's more, the headliner was one Vladimir McTavish, whom I have seen about 8 million times and who still makes me laugh my head (and other parts of my body) off.

I had a good laugh and a good night at XS. It was one of the tougher moods for that audience - the acts had their work cut out for them. I told the headliner how much I'd enjoyed his set and he treated it with the same sort of polite thanks that I often treat people when they tell me I've done well. What I didn't say to him is that I enjoyed it, but I could see how hard he had to work for it. It was neither the time nor place to do my post-match analysis. Instead, he got the punchline - I enjoyed it. Maybe he assumed I was telling him he'd done well as people always do - regardless of how well the act has really done. I hope he believed me. I enjoyed his material, I enjoyed his performance, but more than that, I loved watching the room and seeing who was laughing and how they were laughing. Most of the jokes I knew a mile off (from having heard his routine before) and my glee was standing, waiting, knowing what was coming, in anticipation of the reaction it would get. Laughter is a wonderful thing to create and experience.

A great pianist can play the most complicated piece and make it sound deceptively easy. A great comedian can stand in front of a crowd that are not easy to make laugh and force them to laugh in every single place they're supposed to. Not only that, but the comedian must keep them laughing - even when their energy levels are dropping. He has to make it seem to the audience that it's entertaining and fun.

I'm not a great comedian. When it's going well, I appear to be very funny. When it's not going so well, I can seem to be desperately desperate and unfunny. I am learning. Watching great comedians is a damned good way to learn. Some of what I saw on Tuesday night wasn't just entertainment, it was artistry.

Oh... and on the way home, I got to pass under my favourite bridge on the M1:


A better picture of this needs taking - this one fails to capture its attractive jaunty angle.

Wednesday
Went to see Little Shop of Horrors, possibly my favourite musical ever, at The People's theatre in Newcastle. It was an amateur production.

Then we had a curry.

A brief rest from the trials ahead. From now on, it's all adventure time. Next Wednesday, we're going on BBC Radio Newcastle to talk about our show - by that time, the Fringe will seem very very imminent and we'll have doubled the number of performances we've done so far to a paying audience (from 2 to 4). My parents and sister will have seen the show... along with a lot of friends and well-wishers... we'll have travelled 600 miles to do the show and spent about 8 hours in the theatre doing something show-related. Not a bad progression for 6 days.

Monday, July 12

It's been a busy time recently. It always is. So what about highlights? Well...

My car is misbehaving
It started on Thursday - the windscreen washer started spraying of its own accord. This became irritating as there was water constantly hitting the windscreen - then the reservoir ran out. Then I pull over and disconnected the motor to avoid wearing it out and the annoying brrrrrrr noise it was making. I am the sort of person who will rewire his car during a long car journey. Sadly this approach didn't solve the problem entirely - the windscreen wipers have decided to come on of their own accord for no apparently good reason. Reconnecting the motor didn't help.

This scraping of windscreen wiper against glass became annoying. I stopped the car and pulled the fuse for the windscreen wipers. This stopped them. It also stopped the car from running. Don't ask - I assume we have some sort of "issues" with the electrics. Replacing the fuse got the car running again. Actually it would start without, but stalled if left to idle, which I didn't like.

Luckily, the fuse incident happened just before it started raining, so I had some scrape-noise-free-wiping for a bit. Then I discovered a special position of the stalk which is neither off nor on and stops the wipers dead in their tracks. I wedged the stalk in this position with my windscreen sponge.

Assuming that it was the switch to blame, I went to a scrap yard, having taking my steering column to pieces and removed the old one. Actually, I didn't so much assume that it was the switch as hope that it was - replacing a switch is within my capabilities - other investigation is somewhat beyond. At the scrap yard, it started raining. I found that the building in which some of the cars are housed was no protection from the rain - the roof not really being very present. It's weird watching it raining heavily indoors. Getting to the car, I connected the new stalk/switch. The wipers didn't run. Then they did - of their own accord. Frustrating... but at least it was raining. So the problem is unsolved.

The car is reassembled and the windscreen sponge is proving effective - I'll have to book it in to be sorted out properly. Grrr.

Gigs
Friday night was a night off. Saturday afternoon was a run through and a recording session. Saturday evening involved watching a gig - in Newcastle. I enjoyed that. Sunday was a trip to Scotland. One compereing duty and then one cancelled gig. Such is life. One day I'll drive to Peebles and actually perform there. So far I've been cancelled there twice and watched a gig there once. It will happen for me.

This week
A lot to do. Lots of driving and then The Musical! in London at the weekend. The stress/reality of the situation hasn't really kicked in yet. It will do on Wednesday.

Friday, July 9

Did a gig last night in Sheffield. Note to self - the opening 30 seconds of one's set are absolutely critical for giving the right impression to the audience. I'm terrible at opening my set - well, not terrible, but certainly need to work on it. It's not as important in a 20 minute set if it takes 5 minutes to get going, but it's pretty frustrating in a 10 minute set! Feedback last night from promoters was ok, but neither myself nor the audience were all that impressed with my performance. It was fun, but we'd all seen better.

However, all was not lost. I kept my confidence throughout and enjoyed a bit of banter with the more vocal members of the audience - some of the laughs were unscripted - always a nice feeling. In addition, I got to watch a phenomenally good headliner - Andrew Maxwell, who made me do every sort of laugh I do.

Thursday, July 8

Sitting on my arse all day, getting fatter and listening to musicals... typical!

At the moment, I'm listening to "Unexpected Song" from "Tell me on a Sunday". It's being sung by the surprisingly haunting Denise Van Outen. What's amusing me about this recording is that she's so close to the microphone that you can hear her tongue slopping around in her mouth in between syllables. It doesn't even spoil the song... aahhhh.

Just a quick thought. In this country we pay a TV license fee. This fee is used to fund one of the world's most innovative mass-media organisations. The BBC has been at the forefront of broadcasting excellence since time immemorial. Despite its image as stuffy and old-school, the BBC has kept at the cutting edge of new technology and moves very effectively with the times. If the BBC has made something, you know it will be better than the commercial alternative.

So what do we do as a country?

We moan about it.

Imbeciles!

Wednesday, July 7

Two additions to apostrophell this month. Wow... is my new camera phone giving me a new lease of life?

Some of my readers are more appreciative than others. I write this blog as though only I read it (well, okay, so I don't quite say everything on here and I try to avoid mentioning other people by name... and I don't mention the string of prostitutes I've been murdering in lay-bys... but apart from that, I'm pretty uncensored).

To some this blog looks like a self-indulgent self-aggrandising ego-trip. The hyphen-count alone is probably very self-indulgent. To others, this is a way of keeping tabs on me and/or getting to know me. I occasionally get myself into bother with what I write on here. There's no doubt that I write it as I see it.

And how do I see it? Well, I'm not actually trying to make myself look good. I'm simply an enthusiast - I'm doing what I'm enthusiastic about and I'm writing about it. One day I'll read this back and be pleased/disgusted/whatever about this period of my life. Following your dreams can be a nightmare, but it's better than sitting on your hands in the safety of one's own microcosm.

As I get more experienced in the world of performance, I find that I'm getting better at dealing with my own inadequacies and mediocrity. I don't believe that I storm on stage very often, but I don't count it a stormer unless I come off stage in a state of shock at how much I've gotten back from the room. If I don't manage to tear the roof off a gig, then I blame nobody but myself. The comedian's mantra - "If I'd been funnier, they'd have laughed harder".

I go around trying to make people like my good humour - I'm trying to make them laugh. I'll cheapen myself on stage if that's what it takes... it's an act. Outside of my act, I'm someone else. In much the same way, the "Ashley" I play in "The Musical!" is a caricature of the sort of person I am in real-life. I've been pretty harsh on myself in the script... this takes a great deal of confidence to pull off, since it's a lot easier to take one's ego seriously than it is to ridicule yourself in front of a paying audience.

I have my critics. So far, I've not met someone, whose opinion I value, whose criticism has hurt me. That's not to say that I value few people's opinions... just more that there are a few whose opinions count for jack. There are some people out there who have been honest with me about my inadequacies and I've learned well from them. Sadly some prefer to sit on the sidelines using their own low self-esteem and jealousy to fuel their frigid little brains in producing what they think of as cutting critique. I care. I care deeply about what I do - whatever its apparent value, but I've got the courage to face the small-minded critics down. The proof of the pudding...

When I've accidentally blown my ego up to immense proportions and gone "I am it" I've been proved wrong. I am not "it". I am just me. I can live with it, and I've got it 24/7.

Sometimes it's quite good fun.

There are not many people who have the drive to do what I'm attempting this year. I don't want a medal, but a bit of respect would be nice. Once September comes around, I should have a good idea of what the hell I want to do with the rest of this year and beyond. I want to be in another musical - one of the "greats" rather than something I've knocked up myself. I want to do more stand-up and I want to have fun and earn the respect of my peers. In general, I listen to the opinions of others. Then I make my own way. I need to learn to be a bit more respectful among the fragile egoes of the performing world - I only dish out what I can take, but not everyone is able to take criticism. The worst sort of criticism to face is that which you know to be true. It comes down to respect, though. I've made a few mistakes... so has everyone. I've even learned from them.

Bring it on!

Tuesday, July 6

An eventful few days? Well, yes and no. I've certainly been doing things. Let's see:

Friday
Went along to the Torphichen Inn to do a gig. This involved a great deal of driving and then some techie geekery so that I could record the gig, but not only record it, but record it well - I had a room mic and then direct feeds for the guitar and vocal microphone. I generally play well, live, so I thought it might be good to be able to do a proper mix of my playing in with the audience reaction - maybe have something to go on a comedy CD sometime...

... but no. The audience weren't playing ball. They gave very little in return. I have since reviewed my performance and, although it wasn't stunning, it was cheery and well executed. They just weren't up for that sort of thing. Fair enough. If I'd been funnier, they'd have laughed harder.

After the gig there was a late night drive back, with a bonus comedian, who slept at mine for a couple of hours and then enlisted me to take him to the railway station - this was as planned, so I'm not complaining. It's a pleasure to help a fellow act. It meant that I then went back to bed at about 8am and slept long into Saturday.

Saturday
The day lost most of itself to my long sleep, but I needed it. The stress of gigging and otherwise partying - well, it takes a lot from one.

We spent the early evening running through the spoken parts of the show - reworking bits and tightening up the performance. Finding what's funny about the script. A reasonable amount, actually. Then my partner-in-crime went out, leaving me home alone to do my thing. This involved watching Little Voice on DVD, sending a load of emails and going back to bed.

Sunday
This was our day in the recording studio. Primarily an excuse to re-learn the music from the show, we spent about half an hour on each song, playing them over and over and getting our technical skills back on them. We need to have the confidence to play them live at the correct tempo - this was our chance to work out what that meant. It was quite encouraging that we still laughed while listening back to the 30th takes of some of the songs. Either they're really funny, or we're easily pleased... or we're remembering how to make them funny... or... well, I hope audiences enjoy them too.

Monday
We did two full run throughs last night. The first one was virtually flawless, though we had a couple of stoppages and comments during the run - this was as planned. The second one was also pretty good - stoppage free and it ran to time. If we had to do the show tomorrow to an audience, we'd get it 90%+ right. That's great. We have plenty more rehearsal to do before London, so I'm quietly confident in our ability to pull the show off.

What's more concerning is ticket sales in London. If you're reading this and you're hoping to come to the London show, then please go and buy your tickets now! I don't want the London show to cost me (well, Incredible Productions). We have a high break-even (Lord 'elp us).

Lots more marketing to do, and I think I may even have to sacrifice myself to the gods of advertising and plug the show in printed publications. D'oh!

Oh, and I wrote a short sit-com last night. Very self-referential, but that's what I do.

Friday, July 2

Blackpool rocks.

ho ho ho ho

Actually, it was really good doing a gig there last night. It was a rather odd setup. The audience was intimate and the sound and lighting equipment wasn't functioning. We did it all "unplugged". But it was fun. It was just under two years ago, early August 2002, that I got into a taxi just outside Blackpool pleasure beach and said "You know 'Baby one more time'? that was originally recorded by George and Zippy." and then I came out with a "recreation" of that. It's on video somewhere. I didn't realise at the time that, some four months later, I'd be dying on my arse in my first comedy gig... and that, some 11 months later, in desperation, I'd be pulling that trick out at a gig to discover that it gets big laughs.

It made them laugh last night too. Good.

Thursday, July 1

Busy day then...

Today's musical of the day - Les Miserables

Still an amazing piece of writing - very compelling... very big... must go and see it again. Perhaps in late September - in its new Theatre... maybe a bit later in the year - coupled with a viewing of Lord Lloyd-Webber's new offering in Les Mis's old home.

Life is a series of engineering problems to me... or at least I'm comfortable when I'm solving a problem with an engineering point of view. I sometimes get distracted down engineering-style routes. So, in this Edinburgh show, I'm (co) performer, writer, musician, director as well as producer and press relations officer. With all of these roles, I'm still capable of finding a wee engineering problem to play with.

Last night, after rehearsals and rewrites were over, I had two missions (before then going on to work on publicising the show). I had to convert the ceiling mounted mirror ball motor into a bar-mounted motor and I had some broken guitar leads to fix. The latter was a case of soldering and wire stripping. It was the former which was more of a challenge.

The mirror ball motor is in a circular housing with three holes round its rim for the purposes of ceiling mounting. I'd also bought a lighting bar clamp with a nice long bolt protruding from its bottom. The mirror ball motor conveniently had a nice hole in its roof's centre, and the roof was detachable. The clamp's bolt was longer than the internal dimensions of the mirror ball motor, though. I had shown a colleague this in the office and we'd come to the conclusion that I'd either have to saw off some of the length of the shaft of the bolt, or somehow unweld it from the clamp and put the head of the bolt inside the motor, connecting to the clamp in the opposite direction. The solution came through lateral thinking - I was driving at the time. If there are two nuts on the shaft of a bolt (as there were, and a washer), you can position the first as a stop and the second, on the other side of that which needs bolting, as a fastener. You tighten the bolts against each other and the item in the middle is clamped solid. The washer in this case made this a very easy task.

So now I have a clamp mounted mirror ball motor and some new guitar leads... and updates to the website... and I'm up to the D's in sending round mail to Amateur Dramatics societies who probably comprise people who would love to see the show... and we have rewrites... and we've recorded one of the songs from the show on the new recorder... and I'm due in Blackpool for the evening, this evening.

If anyone has any advice on how to stay sane through all of this, then please sit on it for a bit - I suspect the answer is to cut down on the diversity of activities. Still, at least I'm pushing myself. You're a long time dead.

Sir Tim says no.

I'm currently listening to one of the most rousing pieces of music ever - the main titles to the film The Musketeer, composed by one of my favourites - David Arnold. I can't say that it's especially original - it's desperately close to the Superman theme - but it's hellishly catchy and very uplifting. If I ever become a superhero, I'd like that music played while I rescue people from collapsing bridges.

Yesterday I had fun in my favourite electronics shop. However, this particular fun was of the sarcastic kind - I had fun rather than actually enjoying the high calibre of service that I'd usually expect from the place. The excuse for the lack-lustre performance was that it's a newly re-opened store and a lot of the staff are new. The place was certainly busy, which is a good sign - perhaps the newly reopened shop was attracting a new clientele... or perhaps their incompetent staff were taking so long to serve that people were trapped in the shop for longer - causing a backlog.

Maybe this is a key to maximising impulse purchase? I know that I'm likely to spend more, the longer I hang around a shop which sells lots of things I might enjoy buying. Perhaps it's a good idea to provide staff that can't serve too quickly - it increases the customers' exposure to the shop and its ability to self-sell some of its products. Having said that, there's a law of diminishing returns here - if you're too incompetent, people might slam down their baskets and leave the shop in disgust. Or decide not to go back there again.

Yesterday I had two requirements which were almost entirely painful to receive service for. Question one - "how exactly do you solder to this plug?" - this warranted a painful slow-talking answer, which basically amounted to - "I've no idea, but if I open the packet and annoy you enough, you'll work it out for yourself and leave me alone". Then there was the "I'd like to buy a mirror ball" moment. I asked to see the mirror ball they had on a shelf, but I realised I wanted a bigger one. The guy didn't know how to use the computer to order me a larger one. He asked how big an area the mirror ball was to cover and then tried to tell me that the 9" ball would be enough (in my opinion, even the 12" one will be a bit small, but that's the biggest they do - however he wanted me to buy the one which was easiest for him to sell). I'm almost quoting perfectly here:

ShopMonkey This one should be fine. You see what happens, is that the light comes from here (indicating a light source), hits the ball here (indicating the ball) and then it's reflected and it travels along until it hits something. So it will go as far as you need it.
Me Thanks for explaining the basic laws of physics (smile to attenuate the harshness of the comment), but the size of the ball affects the density of the spots of light that come from it, and I want the bigger one.
ShopMonkey Thing is, I can order one, but it's in the lap of the gods - it's impossible to say when it might ever arrive.
Me That's not what I want to hear. It's hardly reliable.
ShopMonkey Well, I can tell you you'll have it next week, if that's what you want to hear, but I'll just be making it up.
Me Perhaps you give me a reasonable estimate based on how your deliveries work?

Later I was served by someone who wasn't ****ing useless and I will receive my correctly sized mirror ball on Monday. The lady in question knew more about my order than I did... thank goodness for experienced staff who have served you countless times and roll their eyes in reaction to the monkeys to show you that they feel your pain.

Time is tick tick ticking away.

I'm not sure what's worthy of note at the moment - everything's at the front of my brain. Oh, I did a new article for apostrophell, thanks to some honeymooning chums.

I'm working hard, preparing the London preview of The Musical... but that's not surprising. Rehearsals and administration - it's all about bums on seats and wires. Yikes!

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