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Wednesday, February 28

Wake Up And Smell The Fraud

I got paid today. I haven't seen my credit card bill yet, so I rang up to find out what the balance was. £4000!? Ouch! That's not right. So, I logged into BarclayCard's website to see what had cost me £4000. I had been a bit worried about the fact that I'd used the local petrol station, a petrol station that has a reputation for credit card fraud. I'd reasoned that they would surely have been sorted out by now, but perhaps they'd managed to clone my card in the few seconds they had it, right under my nose, the other day.

I read through my credit card transactions. I've actually been quite good with my credit card of late. I've been paying off the balance in full and I've been spending a little more wisely than I was. So why were there three payments for over £500 through PayPal? I haven't been buying expensive crap online have I? No. I only buy cheap crap online. This jogged my memory, though. I remember seeing three PayPal emails the other day. They were telling me about PayPal transactions pending. They were for big sums and I reasoned that these were phishing attacks. Phishing is where you socially engineer someone to divulge their personal identity information. One way of doing this is to direct them to a copy of a well-known website and get them to log-in there. Once they're logged in, you've got their login details to the real website. 1-2-3 sorted!

I'd deleted these emails relating to fictional PayPal transactions. I didn't check PayPal.

This morning I checked PayPal and found 4 fraudulent transactions from the last 2 days, amounting to approximately £2000 worth. The other £2000 on my credit card bill represents last month's transactions and the bathroom I bought in the last few days. So, I've had to go online with PayPal and dispute the transactions (one of which was automatically reversed) and then ring BarclayCard and dispute the transactions with them too. I will not be paying for this. Nor will I pay interest.

I have been very quick to point out holes in other people's online security practices - use of insecure Wireless networks, for instance. Yet, it would appear that whatever I do to protect myself from online fraud hasn't quite been enough. I'm not sure how my PayPal account has been hacked. Maybe it's an exploit with PayPal, or maybe someone's managed to either crack or intercept my PayPal password. Either way, I've changed it, and I hope that this is not a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

I will be reading my online statements even more carefully over the next few months.

Tuesday, February 27

MyTech - Night of The Geeks

I do technical things for a sketch show called MySketch. Of all of the things I've gotten involved with over the years, this is rapidly becoming a favourite. I get all the pleasure of putting on a show without any of the real effort. My commitment would appear to be a meeting a few days before the show and then turning up on the night and running a quick technical rehearsal before then running the show. As a result of this, I get to steer the cast through their sketches, running the sound and the lights to keep the show flowing, and I get treated like I'm somehow doing a smashing job, when in truth, I'm just pushing a few buttons and moving some sliders, with occasional slips here and there (which maybe only I really notice).

Last night's show was the second and it was reasonably well-attended. It went pretty well too, though, as is probably the case with most sketch shows, some sketches went better than others. We overran by a bit, and we'd already started late, but nobody noticeably minded, which was nice. I'd taken along a microphone so I could do some announcements from the technical box. In addition, I was able to use it to run the technical rehearsal - announcing very clearly what all the cues meant and which bit of the action I needed to see in order to get them right. It was fun.

I like playing with faders and buttons.

I also like meeting new people, people who are a creative mind-pool of talent. That's right, a mind-pool.

I travelled to the show last night by train. I'm getting over-familiar with the Farnborough-Waterloo trip. I had my laptop with me, which was brilliant. I spent the journey writing emails. I couldn't send them, since there was no internet connection, but they sat in a queue ready for sending when I got home. I've this on trains before and it really passes the time. I wish I could gig by train more. Maybe I will. It just takes planning. So many possibilities.

Arriving in London in plenty of time, I went to the bar I was supposed to be meeting some of the show-folk in. It turned out to be where I thought it was, but with a different name than the one I'd been given. I needed the toilet so desperately that I went into this bar to use the toilet and ask where the bar I was told to go to was. That's when I discovered I was in the right place, but with the wrong name, and got myself a drink, and sat down with my laptop to kill some more time.

I ended up editing a script I'd recently received comments on and then re-reading the follow-up script I'd written in the same "series". I laughed out-loud on a couple of occasions reading this second script. I didn't remember it being all that funny. This has encouraged me to consider doing more work on it. If I had any time I probably would.

In fact, I now have time. I'm doing nothing until a week today (excepting DIY, and seeing a friend this weekend, but he's coming to me). So, maybe I'll do some more writing. I hope so. Just writing this blog is good, but it's not the only thing I want to do.

When one of the MySketch people turned up at the pub I had already gone through the script for the night's show and marked on all the cues. We went through it all and I realised that I'd made an error compiling the CD of cues, which I'd done the previous night. This wasn't a problem. I'd anticipated a need for remaking the CD and had brought some blanks. It took all of 5 minutes and I had a new CD. I am suspicious of CDs that only take 5 minutes to burn, despite having 40 minutes of music on. I'm suspicious of dodgy CD players too. This disc, played a bloody treat in the CD player in the theatre. I'm very happy. This is why you should have a nice new laptop and Sony CD-Rs to burn in it.

So, we did the show. Then I went home. It was late.

As I got to Waterloo, I realised I couldn't find my return journey ticket home. So, I did the honourable thing and bought a single (about 30p cheaper than the original return). Then I reasoned that my return ticket must have been with my credit card and if I'd lost the one, I'd lost the other. Worried about the loss of a credit card, I opened my wallet again, and found the credit card with the return ticket sitting right behind it. D'oh!. I explained this to the man at the ticket desk and he refunded me for the single right away. Very good. I don't know if this is policy, but I was polite to him and he responded in kind. It was a good exchange.

I was very hungry and contemplated getting something unhealthy to eat. There was a train leaving right away for Farnborough (well, Southampton) and the next one wasn't for quite some time. I decided to park my hunger and rush for the train. The train was running about 10 minutes late, but this was really in my favour as I managed to board it in the bizarre limbo between its allotted departure time and its actual departure.

The guard never even checked my ticket.

The laptop's battery was too low to bother turning it on.

So I listened to my MP3 player. I have a new favourite album - Twelve Stops and Home by The Feeling. It's cheesy and it's got a few surprisingly good songs on it. A bit of a softcore version Queen/Beatles/Cliff Richard (I know, Cliff!?, but not as lame as Sir Virgin, so I'm going to say that it's what Cliff should have been if he wasn't such a knob). There's no real edge to the album, but sometimes you want to have the musical equivalent of a duvet day.

Stopping only to recommend some books to someone who was reading a Kathy Reichs novel, I lstened to my MP3 player until I got off the train where I got into my car and put the same CD on my car stereo - where it's been since I got it.

Then home, via somewhere that sells late-night-sandwiches. I bought a reasonably healthy wrap and no high-calorie treats. Good me.

Monday, February 26

Gig 387

I read a blog by another comedian, who is prone to putting his gig number in the header of the post about the performance. I don't quite count which gig I'm on, as simply mark the number occasionally in my performing diary, which I've kept online pretty much since I started. I think it's helpful to measure your performing career in both years and also numbers of performances. In a week during the Fringe, in Edinburgh, I can do 20 odd performances and learn a hell of a lot about the craft of stand-up - much more so than in a week of doing a few gigs around the day job.

Last night's gig was close to home. It was in Reading. I was so close to home that I was even able to hang around after the gig had finished, chatting... on a Sunday... near midnight... and still not fear for my bedtime.

At the start of the night I was asked if I wanted to open or close. Without missing a beat, I opted to close. I felt a bit of a prima donna doing this, but I guess I was playing the odds fairly. I was probably the most experienced act and could, therefore, roll with the punches better regardless of how the audience were going. Opening, I might have a difficult job warming the room up, but I wouldn't necessarily be helping the rest of the night... plus there was a likelihood that a number of the audience would have left by the end of the night (which they did). So I opted to close. I don't regret it. The promoter left a message on Chortle saying that she was glad I chose this.

I still think it's a bit presumptuous to declare yourself the headline act.

Never mind.

It was a new material night. Free entry. No fee (not complaining - it was local). We were in a side of a pub - not a separate room, just a separate area. There were noise-distractions from the rest of the place and there was a fairly small audience, many of whom were acts.

The gig radar had predicted smaller numbers and a more quiet night. In addition, some of the murmurings from the young churchgoers at the back of the room had even made me fear that the audience would tail off quite drastically after the first section of the show. As it was, there was an attrition rate, but it wasn't too bad.

When I took to the stage at the end, I had dithered over what I would do and I even took a notepad with a vague running order on it. I mixed stuff about a bit and did my Britney Spears song, the one I'd forgotten the other day. It's amazing how a bit of time to internalise a song, coupled with some rehearsal (I've rescued a guitar to have in my bedroom) can really improve your chances of performing a song without screwing it up. It wasn't incredibly funny, but I've yet to learn how to make it so.

I had a really good time and by combining three things I think I made a good gig of it. It went well enough that people who had been ignoring the comedy came from other parts of the bar to see what was happening and then they laughed along too. That's good. The three things were:
  1. Seeding amusement by faking merriment
  2. Throwing myself totally into the performing of the material (I did that more so than usual, though not consistently)
  3. Remembering to enjoy it when it was genuinely going well, thus building a momentum of enjoyment, requiring less faking
Simple really. The end result was that we all had a good time. Plus, I was feeling funny.

I think that my previous night watching Bill Bailey give a cracker of a gig that he enjoyed doing had reminded me that part of the secret of comedy is finding funny and enjoying it.

I did about 32 minutes. It's the longest set I've done this year. I've done longer sets and I can't remember for the life of me what I could possibly have included in those sets that I didn't include last night (AND last night I had two new songs!). I probably need to go back over some old recordings and find out what material I've forgotten.

I recorded this gig, as I do with most gigs these days. I listened to it this morning and the recording didn't sound like it was going as well as I remember it going at the time. I guess you had to be there. :)

Turning 33

I hit my 33rd birthday on Saturday. Hit is probably the right word for it. It slapped me in the face like an annual review of where the hell my life is going. It was a confusing day. I didn't know whether to be up or down. I steered myself through the day with determination, but it's very hard to feel a combination of melancholy, excitement, optimism and disappointment concurrently. I managed it.

On the up side, I spent time with family and friends this weekend. On Friday night I had a meal with my sister and my parents (not to mention my brother-in-law and niece, well, I just did). I think that I realise, at my age, the importance of family, though the price of family is sensitivity to their needs. The advantage of family is a wider context in which to set your life. I think that's a fair appraisal.

The exact counterpart of this is relationships. The advantage of a relationship with a partner is a sense of company and a wider purpose than just pleasing yourself. Yet, the cost of a relationship can be a loss of autonomy on things which you need to feel control over. The cost of a relationship can be to make yourself vulnerable. I would always recommend doing that, the benefit of having strength through a relationship should surely outweigh the risks. Yet, a failed relationship is always going to hurt.

On Saturday I had a couple of objectives. I had my parents due to visit the house on Sunday, so I wanted to make sure it was at least vaguely habitable. The toilet was broken, so I set about fixing it. This ultimately resulted in two trips to B&Q and my discovery that it was totally broken and my attempts to "improve" it had ultimately resulted in making it slightly worse, and no longer able to be repaired. So, I decommissioned the cistern and installed the bucket-flushing mechanism. I realised that any more attempts to fix it would end up in "shaving a yak". So I stopped. I guess that was wise. A bit of a waste of time.

I swept up a bit, made the house a bit more presentable, then I got into a smart shirt and went to get a shower before going to Watford for a concert. This was my birthday treat to myself. I was going to see Bill Bailey doing his "Cosmic Shindig", a special event combining Bill and the BBC Concert Orchestra. I was excited at the idea of seeing Bill live, but combining him with the BBC Concert Orchestra seemed like a masterstroke.

Exciting then... except it was tinged with a bit of self-pity. I'd originally planned to go with someone else. My ex-girlfriend. This was planned when we were no longer together, so it wasn't like I expected her to go as my girlfriend. It was also planned when she hadn't started her job, so we didn't figure that her shift pattern would make her unavailable. So, I suddenly ended up with one ticket more than I needed, and on my birthday. You can't just ask any old person to join you on your birthday for a gig - it looks a bit needy. I toyed with various permutations of gaining company to, at least, avoid the seat. I decided not to ask around more than one close friend, who was busy (more on that later).

I didn't ask around the office - too weird.

I did put a couple of offers for the ticket online. I got a couple of potential takers via MySpace and I seriously considered offering the ticket to a student who MySpace contacted me after I did a gig at his uni. I had considered how weird it would be for a 33 year old man to take a 20 year old male student for a night out in Watford. I'd feel like a gay paedophile. But, then I'm neither and Bill Bailey would probably have eclipsed the event. I thought about my own sense of desperation at what I'd become - a man desperate enough for company that he'd court the company of strangers rather than be alone on his birthday. Then I realised that I wasn't that desperate and that I was perfectly capable of going on my own and probably too proud to invite a member of my family, thus clearly intending to be a loner on the matter. Then I thought again. Here's me with a ticket for a great gig and there's a poor student who loves Bill Bailey, unable to see the gig because of money and because it's a sell out. How could I deprive the lad?

In the end, I looked at the practicalities of the matter. I decided that it was simply too much of a faff to arrange to meet this student somewhere, get to the gig in time and then drop them somewhere suitable after getting back into London, where I had a party to get to. Such a shame that some gorgeous woman didn't get in touch for the ticket - she could have come to the party with me. Oh dear.

So, I put on my party shirt and went to the gig alone. I pleased myself. I didn't notice the empty seat next to me. Before the show started, I had a pleasant chat with some people who were waiting for the doors to open. When the doors opened, I left them behind and sat on my own and watched the show. It made me very happy. I didn't have time to contemplate whether it mattered being there alone.

After the gig I went to the party and ended up playing piano late into the night. I didn't get to bed until the small hours (about 3). I was up the following morning for my family's visit.

If I didn't have so much to do around the house I would probably have a long time available for contemplation and disappointment with things. As it is, I have occasional glimpses of things I wish were going better, but my self-preservation/entertainment instincts kick in and I get on with it. It's not easy being a third of the way to 100, but I think I can manage it.

What The Hell?

If anyone involved is reading this, don't worry, I'm not angry, I'm just impressed at the sheer scale of circumstances. I mentioned, at the end of last week, that two of my three tenants in Newcastle had decided on the same day to announce that March would be their last month of tenancy. That's their choice and tenancy contracts provide for this sort of thing. It provides a couple of problems. The first of these is a loss of income on a property which I have not been running at a profit for the last year. The second problem relates to what I was trying to do with the house, which was run it remotely by using the presence of tenants whom I know as a way of having some influence on the way it is run. With people I know there, whose behaviour is a certain sort of way, I can reasonably predict how the house will run, make requests here and there and have a good working relationship with the place.

I anticipated that people would leave and I envisaged that I'd replace tenants one by one, the other two people conveying the way things are done to the new third. Over time, all tenants would be replaced, but the ethos of the place would stay pretty much the same because they would all have a sense of how things are meant to be done. That was the original plan. To be honest with you, it was optimistic.

When the third tenant, quite reasonably, decided that living with two strangers might not be in his best interests, I found myself in a position this weekend, where suddenly a house that's a few hundred miles away from me, starts to need more of my attention than I was planning to give it at this point in the year. And money. Always with the money.

So, I guess I'll be working on keeping two houses from falling into the ground and taking my bank balance with it.

If you know anyone in Newcastle who's house hunting, now would be a good time to get in touch.

Hard Disks

The story of the external hard disks from eBay continued today when the enclosures arrived to join the disks on my desk. I hadn't got a screwdriver with me and I was expecting to have to wait until I brought it in before I could assemble these devices. For the purpose of experimentation I opened up a box and discovered that no tools were required - save for a paperclip to release a catch. Brilliant.

I assembled and got the first drive working in about 3 minutes. I did the same with the second. Sadly, the third drive doesn't work, so now I have to go to the trouble of returning the drive for replacement before I can think about selling them back on eBay at profit. When I say profit, I, of course, mean "a slight loss". Brilliant!

Friday, February 23

The Lonely Walk Of Shame

You know, it's hard to be a comedian. Your success depends on whether people like you. You have to be either specifically liked or specifically disliked by the audience for it to work. Plus you have to gain the respect of your peers and the promoters in order to gain the sense of validation that you need to keep doing it, and, more critically, to get better gigs.

I played the Comedy Store in London about 15 months ago. I got audience laughter and made my set work with enough confidence to come off stage buzzing. Sadly, I was not seen as a seriously good act by the owner of the club. This is for various reasons. It doesn't matter. Although, at the time, I took it on the chin, because I almost expected it, it still bothers me to this day. Maybe one day I'll be in the place where either it doesn't bother me, or I can get a second opinion from the same person on the act that one day I will be doing.

What I'm getting at, is that walking away from a gig where either you've died, or you've been treated like a no-hoper is very difficult. It's hard to go on stage with the required swagger of a stand-up if you've got a real grasp of how poor you're either about to be, or you've been considered to be in the past. That's why the stand-up comedian is a lonely fellow, both on stage, with all eyes on the mic, or off stage, on the lonely trip home.

Last night, I watched a fellow act begin his walk of shame and, to be honest, I wasn't wholly sympathetic towards him. Perhaps now, I remember why it's so lonely. Perhaps everyone has to face the loneliness themselves, and maybe getting enthusiastic encouragement from your friends is no help. At the end of the day, it's about what you do when you're trapped in the spotlight, and what people make of that.

I've had a couple of gigs recently that I've walk-of-shame-d away from. I've also had a few which have been absolute crackers. That's the gamble, and like any gambler, I'm addicted.

Unpretty

I have a theory.

My theory is that people, whose name means "beautiful", seldom are.

Here's a good list of examples.

The Firecracker

Another 200ish word short story. For why? For the hell of it.

It started when he was a teenager. He was always impressed by the twin trails of fire that were left behind the DeLorean in the Back To The Future movies. He used to watch the scene over and over, just to see the fire running down the street. He experimented with different ways of making his own version of it, like a hot version of the domino rallies that his friends would make. Petroleum jelly, despite its name, and the easy of spreading it along a straight line, simply didn’t burn. Rubbing alcohol evaporating too quickly, and he was too young to be able to buy petrol.

Obsessions stay with you as your circumstances change around you.

His family would have been more surprised than the psychologists who later evaluated him to find him in the science lab of his old school at midnight on his 32nd birthday, with a petrol can and the gas taps already connected to a Bunsen burner. This was going to be it. He had a line of petrol run along each bench and he was going to race them. It would be brilliant. It would be bright. It would look impressive. He was even going to video it on his phone.

When they arrested him, the phone was burned into a small plastic doughball, and was stuck to his hand, the one which had lit the match, the one which had gotten too close to the petrol. It was also the same hand that had first activated the motion sensor of the school’s alarm system. Although he hadn’t planned to be arrested, he hadn’t planned on needing to call the ambulance with a burned hand and phone. The arrival of the police probably saved his arm.

He’s still obsessed with the twin trails, but they don’t let him watch DVDs at the moment.

Labels:


7 Day Forecast

Given that I now, apparently, have a secretary, here's the 7 day diary forecast so that he can answer questions on my behalf.

Friday 23rd - going to my sister's house for dinner after work
Saturday 24th - a sleep in, a day of DIY and then off to see Bill Bailey in the evening (if you're a Bill Bailey fan, then get in touch - I have a spare ticket), then I'm going to a party in London after.
Sunday 25th - receiving my family at my house - maybe it will be vaguely clean and/or heated, then a gig in the evening
Monday 26th - techying for a sketch show in London
Tuesday 27th -
Wednesday 28th -
Thursday 1st -
Friday 2nd -

Yes! 4 days of nothing planned. This means I'll be doing DIY - probably fitting skirting boards or something like that. Maybe some plaster patching.

Not Quite According To Plan

The plan for last night didn't tally with the reality. However, plans and realities seldom tally, which is probably why I'm still in the planning stage of what I'm presently working on, rather than in the making-it-reality stage; every time I get close to declaring the beginning of a new view of reality, the goalposts move. Though it would be great to drive a stake into the ground (or at least into something), and work from that, I can roll with it for the time being, or, at least, I'm going to have to.

So, planning a night out is more the sort of thing I wanted to focus on. In this case, it wasn't a heavy night's drinking or a night of debauchery. Here's what I thought would happen:
  • I'd finish work
  • I'd make my way into London and meet at a pub at 6pm
  • The sketch group I tech for would do a run through, which I would follow on the script, marking on the sound and lighting cues
  • We'd finish and I would head over to the Comedy Store
  • At the store I would meet up with a comedy buddy and a couple of his friends (girls)
  • We'd hang out until later on when he would be involved in the late show and I would make my excuses and get the train back
  • I would have to try very hard to force myself to leave, rather than miss the already late train back
It wasn't a bad plan and it involved girls. It had a few points of failure and I certainly hadn't considered exactly what would be going on at the Comedy Store on a Thursday night, which is odd, since I've done a 5 minute open spot in that situation and know exactly what goes on there.

Anyway, very little went exactly as envisaged. The train ride to London was good. I read the Return Of The Timewaster Letters on the train and it made me laugh like a girl. Again, I was reduced to a giggling heap by this guy's writing. Brilliant. It turns out that one of the members of the sketch group I met with later on used to date him. It's a small world.

Arriving in London, the plan was already going wrong. The meeting had been rescheduled for 7pm. I went, instead, to meet with two of the group at one of their houses, somewhere I'd been before but couldn't quite remember the way to. After going a little wrong with the walking, I called up and got better directions. There was some sitting around chatting, which was nice, some confusing conversations, which was also nice, and then a dialogue which went a bit like this:

Her: Oh, my moods, sometimes I'm up, sometimes I'm down.
Me: Oh dear, maybe you're a bit bi-polar.
Her: I am, actually.
Me: Oh great, wrong time for me to make a flippant remark about mental health, then.
Her: It's fine so long as you take the medication. I'm on loads.
Me: Good. Good. Erm... I know a bi-polar person too. Erm. Yeah.

That could have been more awkward than it reads. It was fine. Nice people.

Anyway, we went to the pub, sat around a table, and a committee instantly formed. I stayed out of it, noting down some sound cues. In fact, there was no read through. They discussed a running order. It was fine. The people involved seem very nice and very clued up. I am glad not to have to contribute more than an offer to fade the lights up or down slowly or quickly.

The meeting ended around 9ish and I headed back into town. I reached the Comedy Store to find that my friend was alone - no ladies with him at all. Not a surprise, really. I also wasn't surprised to find that there was a show running, rather than him just chilling out at the bar. It's Thursday in London's West End, there's bound to be a show. I got "guested" in and watched the second half. The headline act, Marcus Brigstock, was a bloomin' joy to watch. A true hero. Brilliant. My friend did an open five minute spot in between acts and he got some laughs. I've got a recording of it.

The initial plan had assumed that I'd be forced into staying later in London than I intended, and then would have to hot-foot it to the station at the last minute to get back to my car. In truth, I was back on the train home at 11, which is a bit late for a school night, but not that late. Perhaps in this case, the reality was better than the plan. Though the sketch group met later and didn't do a read through, I was able to get to the Comedy Store in time. Even if they'd met earlier, the read through would have delayed me. Likewise, though the meeting at the Comedy Store was meant to be a mixed-gender more social thing, the simple case of sitting on the back row watching half a night's comedy for free, including a cracking headliner, was probably preferable.

Indeed, had the reality not deviated from the plan, I wouldn't have met my train-companion on the return journey. So, who needs plans? Plans are a waste of time, work around reality, replanning as you go.

The train-companion was a fairly drunk woman, who was sitting next to me on the train (across an aisle, which I find very good for conversation) eating some pizza. She was the worse for wear and opened our conversation by asking whether I was going to be sick on her. That is a bloody humdinger of a conversation opener. No, I wasn't going to be sick on her. Why? Apparently the woman who had recently vacated my seat looked like she was going to be.

The conversation went from there, really. I was lucid and cheery, and the woman, Katja, was not entirely in control of what she was saying and kept forgetting answers I'd given to previous questions. It took her three times of asking before I stopped pretending that I wasn't a stand-up comedian. Usually, I'm quick to claim that I am, but for some reason it made more sense to me in this instance to assert that I wasn't, but that some of my friends are. There are some people in comedy who would nod their heads in agreement to this statement, but those people can go stick their heads in a pig.

I was keen to admit that I work in IT and she told me that she was a barrister. In this short exchange of jobs, we each established, in the other's mind, that we were probably reasonable earners. I say that, but perhaps it's only me that thinks like that. When people over the age of 27 get together and talk about what they do, I'm pretty sure they size each other up as socially/financially compatible. That's my guess. Again, it may be cynical.

She did a lot of talking and I happily let her, asking occasional questions. It was pleasant enough. She was very drunk. I don't really drink, though I explained quickly that it wasn't on some bizarre moral grounds, I just don't happen to be able to fit it into my life very often. Occasionally, I do. Often I don't. Simple.

She turned out to be French, which her accent didn't really give away, and 39, which her face didn't really give away, even on closer inspection. I jokingly asked her secret of long-youth and she explained that it was a cocktail of drink and drugs. She may as well have stood up and said the following:

Hi, I'm too old, too exotic, too much of a high-achiever, and suffering with too many substance misuse problems for you, Mr Geeky Bloggery Man

As it happens, I've pretty much decided my policy on the whole people-you-meet-on-trains thing. People you meet on trains are, by definition, people you'll probably never see again. So, don't get attached and spoil it. Equally, don't worry about what you say to them, just be whoever you want to be.

It turns out that I want to be me, which is nice, and that the me I want to be is quite a sympathetic male figure that the likes of the drunk lawyer types want to give a hug and a kiss (on the cheek, well, neck, but I think she missed) goodbye to. Impassively, I allowed it. She suggested that she thought it would be nice if we should have a drink sometime, I responded by giving her my number and suggesting we do that... only kidding... I, in fact, responded by enigmatically saying something like "maybe one day we will" - woooo. She left the train thinking one of three things:
  • Oooh, maybe fate will bring me back in touch with that nice man
  • Shit, he wasn't interested in me, was it maybe the bit where I described my cocaine use?
  • or (more likely), now, how do I get home? what just happened? was I just on a train now? where am I? (etc)
There's meeting and flirting with strangers on a train, and then there's predatory behaviour which probably ends up with nudity in the train toilet. I think I'll stick to the one which involves words only. Thank you very much.

I returned to my car, and returned home listening to Guys and Dolls. The plumbing in my house is nearly finished, but my toilet has stopped flushing - the valve which releases the water from the cistern is no longer working. D'oh!

If everything went to plan, then only the act of planning would be any fun, as everything else would have an unsatisfactory sense of inevitability about it. As it is, most of the rich experiences I've had in my life have occurred within the framework of a plan, but usually off a tangent from the expected. I prefer it that way.

Right, back to the pointless planning.

Thursday, February 22

Why Won't You Behave?

It's one of my bug-bears, the way people conduct themselves in theatres. If you've paid £50 or £60 pounds for a theatre ticket, and you have to these days sometimes, then each song costs about £3 to hear. That's more expensive than iTunes. As a result, I like to hear it all. I like to watch it all. I don't like the people around me to be talking or otherwise spoiling it. I like the live audience, and an audience that reacts to what's happening on stage, as a group, sincerely, is a great thing to be a part of.

I absolutely hate the British tradition of talking over the overture. Hello!? £3 worth of entertainment just ruined.

I also hate it when people giggle at a stage gunshot. Idiots!

Last night's show was not ruined. It was, however, detracted from by the following:
  • Some talking over the entr'acte (the cast have ways of starting the show to avoid the overture being spoken over)
  • Talking at the end of act one, though I think that was between a couple, complaining of:
  • Someone bloody singing along - slightly out of time, not very loudly, but providing a definite local-echo of what was happening on stage!
  • Exaggerated reactions to what was happening on stage - simpering, sighing, excitable giggling and other childish behaviour
Now... actually... I think it's nice that people love the show enough to be totally overwhelmed by it. I can even understand why someone might involuntarily sing along a bit - even mouth the words along a bit - I was running the songs through in my head concurrently with watching them. However, to be a constant source of disruption to those around you is selfish and ignorant.

Still, the show was so good, I was only slightly irritated. I was very busy with enjoying the way that the show has been written and orchestrated, making excellent use of the band and ensemble. You're not going to get to enjoy such examples of unison singing, belting, whispering and the splits in any other package as neatly as in Chicago.

Pomposity In The Extreme

Having read about this on another blog, I thought I'd post a link too. A victim of the London Tornado (2006) has a certain way with words.

Wa-Wah Whoah

Chicago last night was a lot of fun. I had never been sure whether the staging of it on the tour, which I saw in Newcastle a while back (2003, I think), was a cut down version or whether it was like that on the West End stage. Well, I can confirm that it's staged identically. The band are on-stage the whole time and the action happens downstage of them. It's generally quite minimal staging and it fills the theatre delightfully. Plus, when some of the big jazz instrumental numbers get going, the band really SWING! It's a joy to watch.

Oh, and the stage is full of scantily clad women.

And men.

But mainly women.

I was a little dubious about the various reality-TV-talent-quest stars in the show - an X Factor contestant and a "How Do you Solve A Problem Like Maria" Maria. In fairness to all concerned, it was a really good rendition of the show, and I enjoyed Tony Hadley in the role of Billy Flynn - although he swallowed some of his dialogue, his delivery of the songs was great. Perhaps he could consider losing a bit of weight, it would bring him back some extra lung capacity and reduce the amount of sweating.

Note to self: I should do that too.

Was it weird going to the theatre with my ex-girlfriend, her parents, and her brothers (and their girlfriends), to the very theatre that almost exactly two years previously we'd visited on our first date? No, of course not. Who would ask such a question?

Wednesday, February 21

What's Keeping Me Awake?

It's definitely not the scintillation of a busy day in the office. I'm in a holding pattern until more meetings can happen to describe what I'm supposed to be doing next. As a result, I'm changing a document here, reading a document there, pondering the wheres and whys and generally keeping myself from dropping off. Yet, I feel reasonably alert. How can that be?

I remember previous years where my diary had become as full as it has been this month, and where I was up in Scotland a lot, spending late nights with a certain promoter, whose acquaintance was renewed last night. I remember being in the office and being knackered in between. Maybe it was the late night drive back from Scotland that tired me out. Maybe it was those first-thing-in-the-morning wake ups to get a train ride back to Newcastle. It always amused me that I got into work early if I was commuting from Edinburgh then 3 miles away.

I think, however, that I'm less tired now because there's better coffee in the office. They have a proper espresso machine in our office cafe, and they have some nice coffee to go in it. As a result, I get a really strong hit from the caffeinated substance and I feel more alert. Having said that, I'm pretty sure I used to OD on Costa coffee on my rail-journeys back from Edinburgh. I don't know. Maybe I'm actually exhausted and not realising it. Maybe I'm actually asleep and dreaming all of this. What a dull, uninspiring dream. I'm dreaming that I'm sitting at a desk typing. Duller than dishwater.

What if dishwater became interesting? That would be weird. There might be a series of TV programmes on it. Hell, there might even be a specialist Cable/Satellite channel for it. The dishwater channel. With programmes such as "Changing Dishwater", "Dishwater Swap" and, of course, "Top of the Slops".

I am overtired.

Still, at least I've got my Amazon order. Delivered this morning. A mixed bag of nuts.

Quick aside: caffeine, when used as an additive, is in fact the actual caffeine that's been taken out of coffee during decaffeination. So someone in one factory is holier-than-thou-ly making "healthy" decaf, while people in another factory are taking that factory and whacking it into Red Bull, or whatever. Brilliant! Recycling in action!

Anyone Give A Damn?

In case anyone is wondering about the story of my central heating, here it is. There are some floorboards up around the house, there are many old ripped-out-pipes. There are some newly installed pipes. My guess is that they're probably going to have to fix a pipe under a new bit of floorboard, but I'm waiting to see what happens with that. The boiler is attached to a wall. The cylinder looks nice. There's no hole in the roof yet for the flue, so there'll be no gas burning yet. The roofer can't get on the roof with his ladders owing to the overly ornate ridge tiles. As a result, there's scaffolding to go up. Hopefully today.

My middle-floor hall light isn't working.

My carpets are suffering.

My electric heater still does a cracking job overnight.

I'm not really in the house more than 7 hours a day, in most of which I'm sleeping.

Allegedly we're on course for getting heating this week. That would be good. I like the heating people, they're pleasant, polite and seem to know what they're doing.

Exceptional

A friend of mine noticed a sign in Reading over a pub. We trekked across Reading to see it and it was well worth it. It's pictured here. It's a classic error on the lines of "except" and "accept". Usually, the error is made with "effect" and "affect", but I think it's in the same family. Just to clarify the definitions:

Except - means "everything but".
Accept - means to receive something willingly.

Effect - is a noun, meaning the result of an action. It can, occasionally be a verb, meaning to make something (this is so rare you may as well not use it).
Affect - to do something which has an impact on something else.

So, the sign above the pub is actually saying that, when it comes to means of payment, the credit card is the one thing they simply do not accept, when what they actually mean is that they do. What prats.

Still, sometimes saying something that's the opposite is a good way of making a point. Perhaps the sign is sarcastic.

Last night's gig was a partial success from a performing point of view. I was confident and delivered a reasonable performance, until a combination of forgetting a new song (I can't get the bugger out of my head now) and being phased by an annoying, non-funny, persistent, unfrightened heckler, put me off my stride for a minute or so. However, from an audience reaction point of view, it was bloody awful. I managed to hold the room, but making them laugh was tricky. The performance was self-contained enough that they could just leave me to it. It was a little frustrating, but I made the most of it.

I have some of it recorded and in the recording, which I reviewed in the car on the way home to see how some new stuff went (variably), there's a moment where the compere, during a dry spell in terms of audience reaction, moved to a pillar opposite the stage. I asked him whether he was signalling me "time's up" or whether it was just a better view he wanted. He chose the latter.

"Ah, so you want to see how it's done, eh?" I asked, which is actually quite funny, given that it was really going poorly. I followed it with - "This audience is laughing so hard, they're silent." which I also find funny. I think I was being funny at that point in time. I was stating the opposite... but, maybe that makes me someone who's "acceptional"?

(No, acceptional isn't a word, but it sort of wraps together these two, otherwise unrelated, strands.)

Tuesday, February 20

At The End Of The Day

"At the end of the day she is nothing but trouble" sing the cast of Les Miserables about one of their co-workers in a factory (which is definitely a factory and not a circus). Such was the attitude displayed towards a woman who was mooching around the parked cars at a petrol station I was at tonight on the way back from my gig. I clocked her quickly as a beggar and one who'd been in the wars. Thin, possible substance abuse, missing teeth - just asking people for change, but in a way that involved wandering between parked cars and looking in the windows. People were getting very antsy about it.

After I'd finished buying the sandwich I approached her and gave her some money, after she'd told me her made-up story about needing it. Am I generous? Possibly? Possibly gullible. Or, more likely, just trying to abate a stressful situation. In truth, I smiled at her, explained that she was making people nervous about their cars and asked that, if I gave her some money, she'd leave the forecourt - for both her own good and everyone else's. She understood, took the money, got into a car, driven by someone else, and they sped off.

Thing is, I just paid her off. Maybe that was her intention. The fact that she had someone driving her about... maybe the just go around the garages begging/harrassing. Or, maybe this was someone with a genuine case of need and no easy way to express it. Either way, the problem left my immediate sphere and I guess I can't have done her any harm by being pleasant and honest with her.

The gig was middling. The new song about Libraries was funny. The new song about Britney Spears totally left my head the moment I tried to start it (I'd only written it on arrival at the venue and I've a long history of losing songs between writing them and first performing them). I need to rehearse more! I should have a guitar in bed. Not in the biblical sense - they didn't have guitars in the bible anyway.

If I were to write today's horoscope with amazing prescience, it would be as follows (I'm writing it retrospectively, so it's right, albeit cryptically so).

Family is important today as is contact with old acquaintances. You will recognise important changes in your life and where things have moved on and where some things haven't changed at all. Confidence is something you know how to muster, but need to feel more honestly. Opportunities abound, but can you take all of them?
Oooooh. Spooky... that's so right... oooh!

Ooooh!

And.

Woooh!

Ten Reasons Why I Might Love The Subway Girl

This is an academic exercise, concerning why a person such as me could so easily have fallen for the girl in Subway, who proved to have such strong religious beliefs that a deep-seated incompatibility was discovered. But, had she not, and had she, perhaps, been a bit older, and had she, perhaps, had some personality traits that were compatible with my own, then here are the reasons that a man like me MIGHT have fallen head over heels:
  1. She works in Subway... STAFF DISCOUNT!
  2. She knows how to make a really nice sandwich
  3. She is good with numbers, able as she is, to manipulate the till to make exactly the same sandwich cost less if you use the right offers
  4. She agrees with me that an Oatmeal and Raisin cookie is pretty much health food
  5. She is always pleasant and polite
  6. She's always washed to at least food-hygiene standards
  7. She remembers my favourite sort of bread - I love it when girls remember breads
  8. She's a dab-hand with a sauce bottle
  9. She can wield a knife near me and I'm not scared
  10. She feeds me when I'm hungry
  11. I only have to pay £3.49 per time I see her
  12. She knows how to handle my 12" - she puts it in the toaster
This got well and truly silly, and went way beyond the 10. It turns out that I'm scraping the barrel before I've even started.

So, it's obvious.

I must actually love the woman in B&Q who sells me power tools.

The Details

I don't know who first coined the phrase "the devil's in the details", but it's apt. Today has been a day of details threatening to get the better of me. I went to the dentist to have my mouth cleaned out of plaque around the gums. As a result of this, the hygienist did her usual trick of hurting me. It's such a small area she cleaned, but it hurt a great deal. However, the fact that I've done some better brushing since last time and the fact that it hadn't been years between hygienist visits meant it didn't quite hurt as much. Yay.

This is the dentist who don't have appointments over lunchtime because they want to have a lunch break without patients. Erm... aren't people who work in the local offices going to want to come over lunchtime? Couldn't you maybe stagger your lunches to keep the place running? No? Oh dear, another detail. Still, they were much nicer to me today, when I attended my appointment, than yesterday when I dropped in to arrange an appointment, given that I'd lost their number and they'd not been given my change of address. I think they just didn't like being invaded by a recipient of their service unannounced. Weird!

More details threatened to spoil the day. There were questions on the exact location of the pipes being run in my house. I answered and then discovered that my exact answer came with a practical problem, but one which had already been solved when they rang to explain that they'd ignored me... but their answer is just as good. Still, it required me to think and be involved in the decision making process.

However, the big detail relates to the roofing. The simple fact is that my roof is not practical for a roof ladder to go on. As a result, my roofer is going to have to get scaffolding. In addition, the piece of slate they were going to put around the new flue is not the right pitch for the job, so they're going to have to get another. So the flue hasn't been put in today. This may be a big deal, or it may not. I guess I'll have to find out. Without a flue, there's no heating, but there wasn't going to be a working system today anyway. Hopefully it will all be resolved this week.

In typical busy-Ashley-fashion, my week has now been totally booked up. Here's the plan:

Monday (gone already) - DIY
Tuesday (today) - Gig in Deptford, SE London
Wednesday - Watching Chicago in West End of London
Thursday - meeting, in London, to do with a sketch night
Friday - go to North London to have dinner with my family
Saturday - a day of DIY followed by going to Watford to see Bill Bailey - anyone fancy coming?
Sunday - my family come to see my house, followed by me doing a gig in Reading
Monday - go to London to do the sketch night lighting and sound

So, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Monday are all in London. That's not a small number of visits.

Should be fun, though.

So the house will sort of be left to its own devices... or at least those of the plumbers.

Oh, and the stuff I'm working on at work is all right, except for the details... which are the most of it!

Travis-ty

I'm presently listening to the first Travis album - "Good Feeling". Despite having a go at Travis during my set, I actually quite like them. In truth, I'm having a go at the idea of whingey music, rather than any specific band. Okay, so maybe I'm having a go at Coldplay - the excesses of their over emotional garbage... but that's not the point. Travis are quite a good band and their acoustic version of the Britney classic "Hit Me Baby One More Time" was probably one of the most useful things I ever learned to play on guitar. If only that weren't true.

For some reason they've decided to sing a song on the subject of not going of not going out with underage girls. Their U16 Girls song has all the sound moral arguments that were displayed in Gary Puckett's "Young Girl". I think in both cases you have to wonder what sort of a person dates a child and DOESN'T NOTICE!

Come on.

I know that when I was about 14, a 15 year old girl seemed like a whole world of maturity, but come on. It's pretty obvious when a child's a child, right?

"So, where would you like to go out tonight? A Tweenies concert? Ok, I'm a bit concerned that you might be underage. What do you mean you've lost your Fimbles doll."

My guess is that both Travis and Gary Puckett were snatching themselves back, at the last minute, from doing something that they always knew was wrong, but had hitherto been kidding themselves was probably going to work out well. But was it the moral implications that stopped them? Or was it the sure-fire knowledge that their younger girlfriend would eventually grow out of them, and that, by the time this happened, a few years would have elapsed and they'd feel too old to be going out looking for a new girlfriend.

Early To Bed, Early To Rise

I was in bed early. Well, in the early hours. Does that count? The alarm started screeching this morning at 7.20 and I ignored it until about 7.50. Then I was up, and I was dressed, and I was downstairs before the plumbers let themselves in. I don't like the idea of having workmen working in the house while I'm lying in bed sleeping. So, I forced myself to get up. I had a quick word with the plumbers and then got on the road. It's not me to be in work before 9am, but there I was. The day will feel weird as a result.

On the up side, the concept of having heating seems a good one. Last night I had to iron my shirts at my previous residence, where they get washed. While I have an ironing board and iron at my house, I can't do my ironing since the steamed clothes would just stay damp with no heating. In a few short days I will be able to bring my shirts home and iron them. "The ironing is delicious" (definition 1). This is good. I ironed 9 shirts last night using a "guest iron" and board, and quite frankly it was depressing. A bad iron and a bad board make for a bloody awful ironing experience. If you don't enjoy ironing because it's a lot of back-breaking pressing, go out and buy a good board and a new steam iron. Suddenly, the ironing starts to do itself. Genius!

Not A Businessman

I'm not sure where I get the idea that I can generate money through selling things that I've bought at retail prices and still make money. Who thinks that that sounds possible? Ah, but what if you factor in some sort of value-add? Like buying two things, assembling them into a single thing, testing it, and selling it as a complete item? Surely that would be worthy of some consumer paying more than the component price for? No?

I don't want to make a living from selling stuff on eBay. However, I do have a theory, which is this. I can somehow subsidise my expensive toys and DVD habits by selling items. For instance, when I bought my Bill Bailey Box set for £10, I went ahead and sold two of my Bill Bailey DVDs for about £8. So, the "extra disk" in the box set essentially cost me £2. That's a fair way of doing it. Likewise, when I bought another box-set of musicals, it enabled me to sell the two I already had in order to pay for the third, which I didn't (at least it will once I reclaim those particular disks from Newcastle).

So, yesterday, full of the confidence of my convictions, I bought three large capacity hard drives and some USB external mounting units for them. I want one of these drives for myself. My plan was to assemble three and try to diminish the cost of my one by selling the other two. As with my clever trick of buying a rail ticket in sections, this was better in theory than in practice.

I think I'll break even...

...and have the fun of making three external hard drives...

...and the fun of posting them...

Fun February

This month, my gig diary went from no gigs to nine. That's one hell of a full-on return to stand-up. In fact, I've not had a 9 gig month since August, and even that doesn't count, because it was Fringe-like gigs. Before that, the last month I did 9 gigs in was November 2005, when I was living alone and managed to clock up 14 gigs alongside weekend trips to see my girlfriend.

What do we learn from this? When I live alone, I gig like a mo' fo' - it's been said before, and I guess it's true.

I can't remember the limit, and there is one, at which I lose my mind through too much gigging. It might be 14. In fact, I remember November 2005 as being a curious month - I quit my job in a haze of negativity. Maybe it was the gigging? or maybe it was the job.

Anyhoo, I'm in the saddle and I'm riding high.

Plus, on top of the gigs, there are other trips to take to do things. I've got one or two appointments in London relating to the sketch night I help out with (doing sound and lights). So February is busier than just the gigs. Plus I'm going to see Bill Bailey on my birthday. Sadly my "date" has pulled out, so I'm going to see Bill Bailey on my birthday alone, with a spare seat next to me. Yay! Extra roomey!

Good Gig
I had a couple of good gigs over the weekend. On Friday I did an arts centre and really enjoyed the small but perfectly formed audience. They needed working, but I worked them and felt like it went well. The headline act was especially worth watching, and I'd originally intended to go along just to watch. However, I found out that the opening act had pulled out and so volunteered myself into the empty spot. It was fun.

On Sunday night I did another small crowd, this time in London. I had a reasonable time, though the day's drinking affected my performance. I wasn't especially drunk, but I wasn't on the ball as much as I could be. I managed to offend a family who had brought their 16 year old GCSE-studying daughter into the basement of a pub to watch stand-up comedy. So, perhaps they didn't want to hear a song about anal sex, but it had a very moral spin to it (i.e. don't do it) and so I felt perfectly comfortable singing a bunch of euphemisms and medical terms. In fact, I enjoyed it. Anyway, the family, clearly not in their natural habitat, left.

It was pointed out to me that I have a few "adult" songs in my repertoire and yet seem capable of writing a perfectly non-adult lyric. The promoter suggested that I think about other subjects for new material. "Maybe write a song about a library" he suggested.

So I have.

I think it might even be funny.

I'll try it tomorrow.

Oh, and some people came to see me perform, but they read this blog, so there's no point in playing up to them. Thanks for coming if you came and thanks for not coming if you didn't. It's all good.

Monday, February 19

A Night At The Home

I went back home after work today. This is the first time I've done that in what seems like ages. I actually made time to do some household tasks. I messed about with some electrics, re-doing a job I'll have to re-do again, since the way I re-did it wasn't good enough for me. D'oh! I took of some wallpaper and took some wall with it. D'oh! I ripped off some tiles where the boiler's going to go and that went ok. Good.

The heating engineers have started by ripping out some of the heating equipment that was already there. That's fair enough, given that you can't put a second lot in with the first lot in the way. Still, it feels like I'm moving further away from having heating, even though I know it's a case of it having to get worse before it gets better.

On the subject of it getting worse before it gets better, my attempts at staying on the dieting wagon today were dashed by a packet of yoghurt-covered banana chips and, after I had a reasonably healthy Subway sandwich, some free Pizza from Pizza Express. This is not quite what I'd planned, and now my mouth tastes all garlicky.

The weekend's excesses were so excessive that I really feel the need to be abstemious this week, lest I roll back into the bad habits which pile on the flab.

I continued my chatting up of the Subway girl tonight only to discover that she's a Mormon and, though I'm sure Mormons are good people, her entire religious outlook sounds, to my cynical ears, like a pile of made-up nonsense. Though chatting up a vaguely pretty student, who sells me sandwiches, is a pastime that I enjoy for its own sake, with no illusions that it should proceed to anything outside of the shop, I find myself deeply put off by the person who won't drink tea or coffee on religious grounds (grounds, geddit?).

Hang on. I'm a religiously tolerant person, aren't I? Yes. So? So, I'll just start going to the nearer Subway when it opens and, in the meantime, steer the subject away from the book of Mormon, which describe's Jesus' visit to America (eh?). Ok.

I did some paperwork in the house. Well, I moved some paperwork about a bit, which felt like progress. I paid a bill, but it was only £2.62, so it's hardly a big weight off my mind, or bank balance.

I put a DVD on eBay today too.

1500 Posts Old

I'll post something properly in a minute. Just a quick note to say that this is the 1500th post on my blog. The blog has been going since October 2001, when it started out as a way of passing links to other sites, or content I'd made myself. It started to become more of a diary in May 2002, and really got full-on around 2004.

To those who read, thanks. To myself, for writing all this crap, get a life!

Surfeit

So much has happened this weekend, it's been great. Among that which has happened has been the discussion of vocabulary. A bit of vocab never did noone no harm. "Surfeit" is my word of the day, since it describes my weekend's activities pretty well. It means:

To feed or supply to excess, satiety, or disgust.

I think I managed to do things to the level of excess which I think my addictive personality desired. Just as an aside, as a way of satiating my lust for vocabulary, I have managed to resolve the question of the difference between a vestibule and an atrium. Both are a sort of hall, but a vestibule is smaller and an atrium is more of a central room with a skylight. One day I'd like a house with an atrium. I always wanted to build one with such an architectural feature. It's a classic.

Anyway, this weekend has been awash with everything except DIY (well, not everything, but a lot of things). I had a gig on Friday night. On Saturday morning I got up early enough to go and see my family in London. On Saturday evening, there was a movie which made me holler with laughter. On Sunday, I slept to excess, then had an afternoon's company with a friend, including some alcohol consumption. Then on Sunday evening, I did another gig, with various other friends and people I know present. More alcohol was consumed, and I still managed to get to bed by a "reasonable" (in gig terms) time. I ate unhealthily far too much and generally pleased myself ("pleasing yourself" is acceptable, but "pleasuring yourself" is frowned upon).

A good weekend. I'll probably go into specific stories from it in separate posts, but I thought I wouldn't turn this one into a marathon. I'm increasingly aware that people do read this, so I will try to be a little less excessive in presentation, to facilitate skim reading. Skim reading is something you might choose to do if I ever discuss plastering. See what I did there? No? [tap tap] Is this thing on?

Today the heating engineers started work. Apparently there was a plumbing supplies person ringing my doorbell at around 7. It didn't work, which let me off the hook, since I would have slept through it anyway! The delivery guy also didn't try the other doorbell, which does work. So it's his fault. Ha ha! However, I was up at 8 and helped him in with the stuff. Actually, I helped him in with one item and watched him bring the rest of it in himself. After all, it's his job to be a delivery driver and I don't expect him to come to my desk and help me write this blog or whatever it is I do of a day. I think the main reason for my not helping him was that I was too knackered and had only just woke up.

The heating people came a bit after 8 and I showed them round the house and explained what needed doing. They seem sorted enough and I'm happy to leave them to it. I have been quite specific with my list of requirements, but I think I'm generally focusing on the "what" I want, rather than making too many requirements on the "how". So long as you get that balance right, people shouldn't feel like you're telling them their job. By which I mean, I hope they won't, rather than "they'd better not".

So, there's a risk that there may actually be warmth generated in the house by this time next week (or soon after). The guy estimated 3 days, but I've no idea if that's real. Having hot water and working radiators would be a real boon. Plus, I will be able to start putting the two big downstairs rooms right once this work is complete, since there's little chance that someone will come along and need to take up floorboards again.

Apart from the electrician.

Sigh.

Friday, February 16

Self Referential

Self-referential is the best sort of referential, as I always say... still, I think it's okay to be self-referential, provided you're not also self-reverential. Useless wordplay aside, I do occasionally go back and read bits of my own blog. I'm interested in seeing whether particular times of year come with similar experiences for me. I'm having a good month, considering, and so I read back a couple of years to see how the month went. I found the following quote:

If I lose the ability to laugh or make others laugh then I'll have had all my allotted time.

This was from a post in which I was partially celebrating what looked like the start of a beautiful friendship. Indeed, it proved to be a two-year-long relationship. So, I was bound to be in a good mood. I was also in a period of working out where I stood with the world. I'm back into such a vibe, it must be said. I am pleased to say that my 30 (nearly 31) year old self was at least as wise on that subject as my 32 (nearly 33) year old self. So, either I found an immutable truth back then, or I've learned nothing in the last 2 years.

Sandy and the Otter

This is the first of my "Friday 200" posts. Inspired by a suggestion from here, this is a challenge to write around 200 words on a random subject for the sake of writing. It's meaningless drivel, but it's MY meaningless drivel.

Why would anyone want to smuggle an otter to Spain? It seems the most ridiculous of things to do, yet apparently it was all that Sandy could think about. She’d found an injured otter in the stream at the bottom of her garden and, given that it was her barbed wire fence that had injured it, she felt responsible for its well-being. So, she paid the vet to heal the creature, which was odd, since Vets aren’t supposed to charge for healing. Then, she kept the animal, in its weakened state, in a sort of aquarium in her home. It wasn’t an aquarium, it was her bath. She was relegated to showers only, but she didn’t mind, because she had a new friend. A friend she could take to Spain if only she could think of a way of getting it safely on the flight.

Nobody thought to question her motives for wanting to give a holiday to a wild animal. Nobody thought to question how lonely someone might be to get to that stage of obsession. They just concerned themselves with the legality of the mission, the safety of the animal, and the practicalities of sorting it all out. Two things were certain: even asking the authorities was a guaranteed way of having it stopped before it began, and even contemplating Sandy’s deteriorating mental health was a trip to a bad place.

One night, the otter escaped from Sandy, and neither problem had to be solved.

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Last Night I Was Funny

At least, I was funnier than the night before. I had a good gig in Manchester, where the audience started out slightly cool with me, but warmed through fairly easily and consistently through the set. It was fun. Two notable things happened over the course of the trip. Firstly there was a car on fire on the hard shoulder on the way there. It was a Range Rover, with big flames licking out of its bonnet. I guess that's why they call them Range Rovers. No? Secondly, I was propositioned at the bar. It was by a man, but it still counts. I declined. I was like "you want to see my penis? Really? Well that's very kind of you, but no thanks". Just because I'm not gay, it doesn't mean I should forget my manners.

Thursday, February 15

Movies To Buy

  • Sunset Boulevard - the original
  • The Sky's The Limit - in which Fred Astaire does a dance that involves kicking glasses on a bar

Campers

When I posted the photo the other day, I put a file on my computer's desktop called "Camper". This has served as a reminder to write another reminiscence (can you remind a reminiscence?) from my days of summer camp leading.

I worked at a summer camp in the summers of 1991-1993 inclusive. In the first year we were stationed in a boarding school in Brecon, Wales. In the second and third years we were in a different boarding school somewhere near Banbury. In fact, I later met someone who had worked at that school, which has no relevance to the story, but shows how apparently random things can link people to each other.

Anyway. I learned a lesson from the story I'm about to tell you. I think it probably happened in the 3rd and final year that I did summer camping. Before I tell you the story, I'll tell you the lesson. I think you can see the same lesson in a Mel Brooks movie - possibly High Anxiety. The lesson is this. People don't notice something you want to conceal if you make something else more conspicuous. For example, once I was worried about how out of place I looked, gatecrashing someone's restaurant visit, when I was really in need of some drinks and not in need of some food, so I did something much more memorable than the gatecrashing.

So, bear this in mind. If you feel like you're about to be embarrassed by something, try to upstage that embarrassment with something different.

This story begins at about 11 o'clock at night. I was trying to get to sleep in the "house" where we slept a bunch of 10-13 year old boys. They were a spirited lot, and had decided not to behave. I heard a disruption and so had to go and sort it out. I discovered that I was the only member of the staff in the place. The "staff room" was in the adjacent building, and I was loathe to go over and ask for help right away. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, I was in my pyjamas and dressing gown. Secondly, in my view, asking for help quieting down a few excitable kids shouldn't have been necessary.

So, I went upstairs and started quieting down the kids. I got the disruptive room sorted, then the next room set themselves off. I went and sorted them out, but the first room got going again. As I returned to that room, the second started up, then a third. To be perfectly honest, it was snowballing and it needed a gang of adults to come along and shout a bit and stop it. I was smart enough to realise that I wasn't enough of an influence to fix the problem. So, I had to go and get help. I also didn't have time to get dressed. This was a source of embarrassment to me. I couldn't delay. I had to go and get help. However, there were girls in the staff room. Yes, I was still at an awkward stage in my relationship with women (things are so much better now... excepting the broken relationships and general geekiness).

Frankly, the thought of wandering up the stairs to the staff room in my pyjamas to say (imagine I had a nasal twang for this) "Er, excuse me, could I have some help please? the kids are bullying me" seemed like too shameful a thing to do. So, how do I fix this. I used my general purpose upstaging-the-embarrassment trick. I climbed up the fire escape in my slippers and PJs. By which I mean the fire escape of the building where the staff room was located, rather than there being a fire escape in my clothing. I know now that it was a silly thing to do, to climb up a fire escape ladder wearing only slippers - this would not pass a health and safety exam on the subject of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). However, I was young and quite capable of pulling this off without injury. Then I walked across the flat roof of the building and knocked on the window of the room in which my co-staff-members were sitting drinking and smoking - two things I didn't do. Ah, the gulf between me and the cool kids.

It got a laugh. People might remember "that time Ashley came in through the window". Maybe they won't. Maybe only I remember it. I certainly don't think they even noticed that I was in my PJs. Job done.

I left via the window aswell. It would have been inappropriate otherwise.

The minor incident in the house was sorted out and everything was fine with the world again.

And that's the story. I remember very little else from the summer camp, except the night we got pissed on chocolate milk.

Ah you want to hear (read) that one? Ok. It was after everyone had left the place. End of week 4. It was my job to put things back as we'd found them. Generally speaking this involved reversing the process of lugging beds about that I'd done 4 weeks previously and incrementally over the course of events. There were other things to return to their rightful places. I had a colleague to help me with the job. He was a school friend who had, coincidentally, joined the staff that year. We both lived in Leeds so had already returned to the city for a day - to get our A-Level results (I drove back so fast, I'd had to lie about the time we left, or it would have been obvious how much I'd been speeding). Anyway, these random facts aside, we had been left to lug stuff about. Once we were done, we got to go home. We'd been left with some money to go out and buy food, and a school full of random physical-labour jobs to do.

The day went quite well. At some point, the liaison officer with the school asked us how we were doing. Mike said to him, and I quote: "Not bad, though I'm having trouble with my libido". There was a pause. Then no reaction. Then we got on with our work. I was confused about what he meant. I was convinced there was something wrong with what he'd said, but I didn't know whether the word "libido" had a meaning other than "sex drive", so I assumed that Mike, a smart guy, wouldn't have made a mistake. The reaction from the liaison officer hadn't been shock, so I assumed it was some exchange between them that went over my head.

I later discovered that Mike meant "lumbago". It still makes me chuckle now.

Anyway, we laboured and laboured and pretty much finished. Then we went out for a pizza hut and pigged ourselves. We had a few jobs to do when we returned. We bought some celebratory chocolate milk for after we'd completed them. We slaved some more and then, tired but in good spirits, we sat down, cracked open the chocolate milk, and giddy with calories and exhaustion, we got giggly. All I remember is that I said something like "I think the way girls masturbate is absolutely SMASHING" and then a wave of utter drunken confusion hit us and we laughed so hard that it hurt. We may as well have been drunk. After all, we had our pints (of chocolate milk) and we were friends. And that was a good feeling.

Later, as a student, I would order chocolate milk and a pint glass to pour it into (I know the bar staff at my student union were deeply unimpressed with that), but it was never the same.

The Long Version

Last night was unusual for me. I think that I peaked too soon and turned into the more naggy, less hilarious version of my comic self. As a result I didn't really get that many laughs in the 8 or so minutes' stage time I'd travelled all the way to London to get. However, the experience wasn't entirely a negative one.

I left work at a reasonable hour (in other words, I'd been there for a reasonable amount of time). I got onto a train holding The Timewaster Letters, which I'd received in the post yesterday morning - better than any gosh-darned Valentine's day card in my opinion. To cut to the end of this story, I finished the book before the gig even started. Most of it was read on the train where I was laughing so much, generally silently, that people noticed the hilarity - almost to the point of being in pain - and asked me what the hell I was reading that was so good it could achieve such complete destruction of my senses. I guess I became a walking giggling advert for the book, which is very good.

Today I bought the follow up.

I arrived at the gig in plenty of time, so adjourned to a nearby cafe where I completed my book and had a nasty cup of coffee.

Then I went to the gig. I bantered with some comedians, I prepared what I thought might be a 10 minute set. I was later asked to make it a 5-10 minute spot, so I was prepared to stop at the best laugh around the 7 minute mark. I was put on later in the night than first expected, and then I hit the stage.

I never really got the audience on side. I delivered a rare combination of groaners and bad taste which didn't suit me or the room. As a result they were left with the distinct impression that I was trying out some sort of racist agenda on them. They were as wrong in that assumption as I was in my choice of material and delivery. I don't think I've fathomed bad taste out. I know it makes me laugh, but I don't know how to present it. As a result, I alienated the audience, and almost left the room in disgrace.

Almost.

Although the promoter got in touch today to demand exactly what I was trying to achieve, I can't be too dismayed at what transpired. I learned an important lesson. Don't do that sort of thing... at least not like that. It's very simple. Better I should learn that lesson like that than at a high profile gig where the prospect of "dying on stage" could be coupled with that of "being beaten up outside".

Thing is, I can envisage about 75% of what I did last night actually working if I practiced it, pared out some of the unnecessary stuff and took my time. Still, I'll probably do most of my gigs by relying on the usual musical stuff. However, the occasional slap across the face with stuff I'm not good at should be good for me. Assuming, I don't build up a name for myself for being something I'm not in the process.

Wednesday, February 14

Not Funny

Tonight I was not funny. It was fun anyway.

Camper Than Christmas, Are You?

The photos came back from Monday night's gig. Well, at least, some of them did. There was one notable photo (a photable?), which I have included with this post. I know exactly when I do this, but I never realised how camp it looks. Well, maybe I realised that it might look camp, but I've never seen it quite like this before. What I like about this photo, apart from its grainy black-and-whiteness, is the fact that I'm in a combination of a rock pose AND a camp pose. Brilliant.

I'm perhaps being a bit sarcastic and self-deprecating too.

Still, it's a mark of self-confidence that I can post an uncomplimentary photo of myself and not be in the least bit insecure about it. If nothing else, it's nice to have the first picture of the new shirt I bought especially for the gig.

DIY Activities

Last night I laboured in the house for a couple of hours. I think that two or so hours is about the right amount of time to dedicate to general-purpose DIY in a given evening. If there is a specific task that takes longer, then it can be laboured at indefinitely. However, if I'm doing a series of bitty tasks, then two hours is a reasonable attention span. As a result of yesterday's labourings, I achieved the following:
  • Bagging the remainder of the rubble from the bathroom (some of which I chipped away from the walls freshly)
  • Raising some floorboards to expose pipes and cabling - accidentally exposing some rotten floorboards that will have to be replaced
  • Installing the hall light for the downstairs hall ceiling
  • Applying plaster-patching to the remaining holes in the downstairs rooms, and repatching some bits that I'd not managed to patch properly the last time
  • Having a general-purpose sweep up around the place
Not bad for a couple of hours. Most notably, though, I made another schoolboy error. I failed to check how complicated the wiring was for the downstairs hall light. I assumed it would be another 12 wire job, in need of a junction box. It proved to be drastically simpler than that - 3 wires. No need to raise floorboards at all. However, the upshot of raising all of those floorboards was that I discovered some rot. I have sections of floor that need rebuilding anyway in the bathroom, and it won't harm the work of the heating people if there are some boards already up when they arrive.

There's not going to be an awfully large amount of time available for house things before the heating people come. Then, in the following week - their first week in the house - there's probably not going to be a great deal of time either. As a result of this, I need to focus on making the place as habitable as possible, in the occasional times I get to dabble with DIY in it, as I have my family coming round to have a look in a couple of weekends' time. Though they won't judge me badly if it's a mess (given that it's not going to be down to bad housekeeping), it would be nice if the place were at least slightly habitable, so we're not forced to keep our coats on and then adjourn elsewhere to spend time together. We'll see. It will go at its own pace.

I must, in fact, empty my car of crap and go to B&Q and buy my bathroom fittings. I know what I want. That's quite an important task to do. I don't know where I'm going to store the fittings, though. I have a few ideas. In fact, I even have a shopping list I wrote when I was writing a verbose letter to the person who's doing the work.

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I'm Having an Andrew Lloyd-Webber Day

And why not? Some people consider the man to be a pariah and a cynical plagiarising businessman. I am not convinced that these are fair criticisms. I can see how ALW has managed to buy up a lot of the West End and make good business out of it. I can also see that he makes shows which are at least a popular success. It doesn't necessarily mean that they're lowest common denominator shows. In fact, he's written some shows which are much more Fringe in their appeal. It's not necessarily the case that his lesser successes are a guarantee that he's made something that's a work of art that's not been appreciated. It doesn't matter. I like listening to his soundtracks with few exceptions (Joseph is one notable exception).

I was reading another blog and the blogger had posted a video of the love song from The Woman In White. I decided to listen to the original soundtrack of this show, and it's set me on an Lloyd-Webber kick. Today I shall listen to only Lloyd-Webber soundtracks. That's how I'll celebrate Valentine's day. With my love of Andrew Lloyd-Webber. And also my love of Roger Lloyd-Pack. Well, I can't let ALW have the sole place in my affections. Sole? Place? For want of the letter "I", this is all getting desperately fishy.

ALW is definitely a good parodist. He can ape musical styles very well, and I think he borrows and adapts where necessary. In some cases, he reuses his own tunes or phrases. In fact, he has a definite signature in his writing. As a result, listening to one ALW musical can leave you thinking of another. I left my sole visit to The Woman In White humming tunes from Whistle Down The Wind. I like it when a composer's touch is so obvious in their work. It makes their entire catalogue a thing in itself. There are a few composers that I notice this about. I can blend the whole Lerner and Loewe catalogue together, and Alan Menken's writing is always a joy.

I remain a fan... of what is almost immaterial.

This morning, I approached the letterbox with trepidation. Would something come for me? Yes!

I have my copy of The Timewaster Letters, which I shall read on the train journeys I take tonight, to and from my gig. There is a blog I read which is similar. It's called the Customer Service Blog.

So, the day is going well.

Tuesday, February 13

Who?

I don't know why, but I keep hearing the words "Keyser Soze" in my head. I should point out that I'm hearing it in my own internal monologue voice, rather than via auditory hallucination or "voices in my head" of any other sort. I didn't even know who or what this was. I first thought that it might be "Kaiser Sozer" - perhaps some sort of Germanic leader. I really had no clue whatsoever.

I eventually got around to Wikipedia-ing the phrase and it's apparently a character from The Usual Suspects. As a result of this name going round and round in my head, I've just gone online and bought the movie which Keyser Soze is from. With a bit of luck, having seen the film and put some sort of flesh to the bones of what is currently a recurrent sound in my head (like a catchy song, but without the music or any lyric beyond the two words), I will no longer be addicted to just the words. After all, I'll be able to consider the whole character and then forget about it.

That's the idea.

But how did it get there? Has this been some ploy by the makers of the movie to sell DVDs? They get people to suddenly obsessively think of the name of one of their characters so they have to buy the movie in order to exorcise it. I've no idea.

Let's hope I don't get a tune by the Kaiser Chiefs stuck in my head. If that happens, well, I don't know what to predict. A riot, perhaps.

More Memoirs

Casting one's mind back to the distant past is fun. It's amazing the things that you can and can't remember. Stories which haven't been told for a while need dusting off and telling.

For some reason I can't remember the name of the girl who was head-girl at LGHS in 1991. This is not important. All I know is that every time I try to think of her name it comes up as Maxine Carr, which is clearly not right.

Anyway, I was the geeky kid. My time at school was divided equally between lessons, the model railway club and the library - behind the desk, I wasn't doing schoolwork, I was being a librarian. God how sad does that sound?

Anyway, I have a bizarre memory which is really simple. Step 1, this girl turns up in the library and I have a brief chat with her and show her to the archives she'd come to research in. Step 2, I'm at some sort of sixth form disco, and I wander over to her to say hi, some rugby lads in the upper sixth, seeing the geeky kid talking to the pretty head girl, grab me by the shoulders and, kindly, but firmly, remove me. The message being something like "Sorry son, but you're simply not allowed to talk to her, you're the geeky kid and she's too hot".

It probably looked hilarious to onlookers. I was bundled in a non-bullying sort of way, away from this pretty girl, and left to contemplate the simple fact that she was not only out of my league, but I wasn't under school rules, even allowed to talk to her. I didn't mind. I was drunk. That was the school disco, held off site, where, if I remember correctly, I drank so much I was sick, and I asked the DJ for a request. The request was that I be allowed to sing the hymn Jerusalem. He let me (idiot!) and I'd brought a tuning fork especially for the occasion so I could get my key a capella. I think there was some subversive element to this cabaret, that it wasn't me just singing my favourite song unaware of how big a dick I looked. I think I put on a faux cabaret persona for the purpose.

I may be retrospectively misremembering it to make me look funnier than I am.

I don't remember the tail end of this story first hand. I'm going on what I was told. So, this next bit may or may not have happened. We were being given lifts home after the drunken night of debauchery that was this ball, held at the Astoria ballroom on the border of Harehills and Chapeltown (basically that's like saying it was no further than a stone's throw from the nearest prostitute/armed robber). Apparently I got into the back of the car, which was being driven by a friend's dad, and which would take me home. I forget exactly what the driver said that provoked the reaction I apparently gave. But let's imagine that it went something like this:

Driver: I hope you're not going to be sick in the back of my car.
Drunken Me: Shut up and drive. Cabbie!

What a dick!

Still, they were more innocent days, when a bottle of Holsten Pils could knock a man out.

Talking About Hoohahs

The BBC reported this story about how a Florida comedy theatre has renamed The Vagina Monologues as The Hoohah Monologues in order to avoid causing offence, after receiving a single complaint on the subject.

I was actually quite incensed by this needless censorship, so I sent an email to the theatre:

To: info@atlantictheatres.com
From: Ashley Frieze

Hi there,

The news of your renaming of "The Vagina Monologues" has gone global, reported in blogs around the world and even on the BBC News website here in the UK. I understand that you don't want to offend anyone, but I wonder what it means when you decide, on the basis of individual complaints (I read that it was a single complaint) that the medical term for the woman's reproductive organ is an offensive word. In fact, doesn't it defy the whole point of providing theatre space to a piece empowering women to talk about their bodies when you censor the title?

The word vagina is not rude and I would recommend that you stop pussyfooting around individuals, whose sensibilities cannot possibly be worth you abandoning logic for.

By the way, despite the androgynous name, I am a man. Even I can see this sort of censorship as
repression of female expression. Please don't allow the puritans to make a hoohah and determine your policy.

Good luck with your future productions.

Ashley Frieze
I'll admit that I couldn't quite resist a couple of puns in the letter, but I still meant what I wrote.

Use It Or Lose It

At my previous employer's, we had a system of holiday rollovers. This system was in place for a number of years before some canny HR person pointed out that it was a bloody stupid idea. As a result, the geekier members of the team, myself included, with perhaps less imagination concerning time off, managed to accrue many tens of spare days. In the last 3 years of my last job, I was able to take tons of time off and still have tons to spare. The more time I took off, the more holiday days I seemed to have left when I returned. I took an entire month in Edinburgh, during which time I gained another two days' holiday.

I eventually managed to run my time off down to 0, just in time to leave the place.

At this place, I started with a lower number of holiday days than I was used to. I used to have 25 per year. I started with 23. It will rise each year of service until 25 (I believe). Last year I used 20 and got to roll over 3. However, I can't just take 27 days this year. I have to take 3 of them before March 31st, or they disappear. I don't know how flexible that disappearance is (i.e. whether I can negotiate it) but let's imagine that I've set out to toe the line and not try to be a special case. It means that I have to get shot of these days in the next 6 weeks or so.

So far this year, I had a day off to move house. A day off. And I did it too. I remember when I bought my first house, I took weeks off. This time I was quicker - a day and that was that. In that day I managed to fill rubble sacks and get moved in, and even get my heating system condemned. I've also planned a half-day off for late March, when I shall go up to Scotland for a weekend. It's a bit of a con of a half-day off, since I'll spend it traveling, but that's the way these things go sometimes.

So, I have a day and a half to fill, lest I lose it.

What could I do in a day and half? My ex suggested I take a long weekend, maybe take a trip to Paris. Nice thinking. I'll just take myself, alone, to one of the world's most romantic cities. Maybe not.

So, any suggestions?

I suppose there's always the chance of a DIY emergency requiring me to labour intensively sometime in March for some reason.

The Shirt Was A Hit

I wrote my blog last night at about 12.30, aiming to get to sleep around 1. However, my ex-girlfriend was online and suggested that I might like to take her out to get some late night snacks. I'm nothing if not flexible, so I headed over. It turned out that I did like the idea of a late night visit to a petrol station. I'm an expert on late night petrol station visiting.

Thus, I had the opportunity to demonstrate the shirt I was wearing - the first I'd bought without assistance in a year or so. As you can guess from the title of this piece, the boy done good. Now, technically it's nothing to do with my ex what shirts I wear. However, I think it's nice to respect someone else's opinion, especially since a number of garments I now wear (as a result of her influence) and wouldn't have thought to wear before (like the very jumper I've got on now) have been widely regarded as suiting me.

Having said that, many of my favourite clothes were chosen by me, and only a certain percentage of them were chosen on the basis of size alone.

Note To Self

Listen to the entirety of the Tedstock Concert. Why worry about missing a gig when you can hear it online a few days later!?

Flying High

Tonight I was a comedian.

I don't know exactly what spurred me into such a good frame of mind. I think it was a combination of things. I was recently put in touch with someone I used to know when I was a kid, and I think that some of what we got into discussing - the whys and wherefores of what we do (what a lot of w's) reminded me of why I go out of my way to put myself in front of an audience. I think also the surprise of being in touch with someone I didn't expect to be in touch with was a real boost to my feelings of wellbeing.

Life can be a good thing.

This lunchtime I went for a haircut, but emerged from the hairdresser having been texted with the offer of a last-minute gig, which I immediately accepted (I already posted that). What happened between accepting the gig and me sitting here writing this was a journey. I organised myself around the gig. I had work to do, and the gig wasn't going to interrupt that one bit. However, I had a jumper on, and gigs and jumpers don't mix. This is not an image thing; it's a sweat thing.

So, at my designated departure time from the office, I headed to a Tesco and bought a shirt. I don't know if I would have bought this particular shirt on one of the myriad visits to Tesco with my ex-girlfriend/style-guru in tow, but this was no time for Trinny and Susannah. I needed a cotton shirt and I needed it FAST. The size nazis were not in force. I found a shirt I liked, and it was on sale, and it was cotton and a nice feel.

I sat in my car ripped off my coat and jumper and put on the new shirt. Then I drove to the gig. I was even early. Ready, able and early. Brilliant.

In the car I'd been daring myself to do some new material surrounding something I'd seen on TV before Christmas. My comedy instincts was that it was funny, but couldn't necessarily be written down. At the gig, I sort of wrote some notes ordering this new material and weaving it into some existing material. I was going to try to do a bookended set of music opening and closing with some spoken material in between. I felt that I had the right to play with the set, since I wasn't being paid and it was an easy going crowd and room.

I never once felt uncomfortable on the stage. I never once resorted to regurgitating the script. I was in the moment the whole time. When it came to the bits I'd barely constructed into material, I just improvised my way through it, making what I wish I had the ability to just sit down and write. It was a moment of "being funny".

Don't assume that I'm sitting here smugly bigging myself up (as the kids might say), content in a job well-done. It's far from that. It's good compared to myself. I went out there with confidence, good humour and a sense of spontaneity, and that's something that's been desperately missing from the other two performances I've given this month. As a result, the audience responded and I felt like a comedian, which is something I've had serious doubts about.

I'm glad I took the gig. I'm also keen to start working on new material. If I put the hours in I may have a non-musical set, or at least a set which I can look at and say "this is nowhere near as lame as once it was" (and that's the sort of flowery language I'd use). I also think I know some of the "comic voice" that comedians refer to having to find in themselves.

All I have to do is keep doing what I love doing.

Simple.

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