My Stand-up & gigs
The Coding Craftsman
An Open Letter To HSBC
Pay What Now?
Hearing the music
When to quit
I am not as other men
Tonight I was funny
Attack of the Drones
Notes on your set
Why Pissing off a Fellow Comedian was Fun
Continuing the Cure
Friday night, pretty bad. Sunday night, very good.
This is how a weekend can cure you. I think that a key turning point was, on Saturday night, arranging to go to see a comedy friend's gig, along with a mutual friend. This basically gave a climax to the weekend, which had promised/threatened to be fairly freeform and shapeless and, well, lifeless. Add to that the late night MSN chatting which amused and entertained and I slept on Saturday night, eventually, a cheerier chap.
Sunday morning, waking later than planned, but late enough to be rested, I set about more of the rubble rousing. I like the term rubble rousing and will be using it a little more. I had Radio 2 playing, as is my way. As I was clearing up some rubble and creating some more, I noticed a figure move past the window. I opened the door to find the washing machine, which I'd left out there, a few feet down the drive and a man out there, trying to take it. Without missing a beat he said "I'm trying to take your washing machine, will you move your car?". Slightly stunned, I thought it over for a second and said - "Yes. I'll just get the keys". As I returned with the keys I pointed out to him that he was welcome to the machine, but he should, perhaps, have asked, rather than just take it. I don't know when the kitchen sink went missing, but it wasn't there this morning.
Still, I was in reasonably good spirits and was hopping up and down ladders, getting the job done. I was getting to the stage where I was going to screw some Spax screws into some ceiling joists - I'm only saying that for Ol, since I know he'll be pleased - when I heard the section of the Elaine Paige show, on Radio 2, where she does the competition. She was annoucing the results of last week's question which was "Who wrote the lyrics for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat". I remembered that, for the first time ever, I'd entered this competition, hearing the question as I was near my computer and being so incensed by how simple it was that I'd replied:
It's Tim Rice.
Anyway, as I put my foot on the bottom rung of the ladder, I said to myself "I entered that last week and had the right answer. I bet I won it." Now, I would have probably said that anyway, despite the fact that, on this occasion, I had actually won. As a result, therefore, I was actually quite elated when Ms Elaine Paige, she of Cats, Evita, Chess, Anything Goes, The Drowsy Chaperone and a whole bunch of other things that I probably don't know about, said my name. Oh yeah. That's the prize. I've no idea what I actually won, but Elaine Paige said my name on the radio and I didn't need the ladder no more. I flew up to the ceiling, like Mary Poppins' and Peter Pan's lovechild might in some bizarre hybrid musical.
I really don't remember what the prize was, but they have my address, so I guess I'll find out.
I remained in a chipper mood for the remainder of the brief DIY-age, and then got showered and went to Basingstoke to pick up my co-show-watcher. A quick coffee there and we headed to Portsmouth.
Walking along the promenade was nice. The ice-cream was cold but our hearts were warm (I'm about to go into a Carousel lyric here if I'm not careful). We went to get Chinese food and it was reasonably crap, despite the fact that a guy in the toilet said it was the best Chinese restaurant in town. It was certainly the one with the least well-behaved clientele. Ah well, that and the £10 minimum per-head cover charge didn't fill us with delight. Never mind.
The gig itself was great fun with each act doing their thing. The climax, for me, was the fabulous Chris Lynam, who, as a finale, strips naked and puts a firework up his bottom. That's never not going to be funny.
A cracking night.
Though totally exhausted, I got home a cheerier person. Now, all I need a week at work to make me miserable again and I can look forward to having that fixed by next weekend.
Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now
Turns out, I cheered up a bit. After my last blog entry, I went out, bought some fruit juice, drove aimlessly, came back, mooched around on the computer and then eventually got working again.
A bit more rubble rousing, listening to a documentary about Morrissey and I don't feel so bad. I do feel hungry, though. I'd go out, but I'm doing MSN chats...
People often ask me how I manage to do all the things I seem to pack into life. There are two answers to this. Firstly, if you set your sights on doing all of these things and get used to the constant task switching involved, it starts to become pretty normal. In fact, the more you do, the more you feel you can do. Perhaps some of the quality of each individual thing you do can get lost. For instance, the quality and regularity of my housework, when I lived in Newcastle, was fairly low.
The second and most important reason I can do it all is my enthusiasm. If I'm really into the idea of doing something, then I'll just go for it. I'm generally a big cheerful sod, who will just go for lots of things with a general sense of carefree optimism.
Yet this week, I've lost it. I've run out of optimism. I've run out of my will to get on with stuff. I have, as a reaction to this, had a run of very good nights out (with one exception I'll come to in a moment), but that hasn't actually motivated me or removed the combination of misery and ennui that's bringing me close to hiding under the bedclothes for a month, pretending to be ill.
This sort of misery is probably good fuel to the comic mind - comedy comes out of a resistance to bad things in the world. Well, some does. In fact, the sort of stuff I'm trying without the guitar at the moment seems to be fuelled more by bad feeling than by the love of life. On the other hand, when I was in the honeymoon period of my last relationship, I did seem to get more audience enjoyment as I was clearly broadcasting good cheer on a stadium-sized scale. Still, I could build up a lot of hate and try that instead... just who to hate though? I don't know. At the tail end of my last job, I could have named names. In this job, which is definitely a huge component of what's bringing me down, I can't so readily point a finger at anyone. It's circumstances that are the problem, and though I could rationalise the what and the why of where we are, I can't actually break through into a feeling that anything will ever be ok ever again...
So, it's probably irrational depression type feelings, rather than logical judgment operating at the moment.
Generally, the nights out have been great. Last night was just another nail in a miserable coffin, I'm afraid. It should have worked out well, but sadly, it failed to hit the spot. We went to see Count Arthur Strong and, though I enjoyed some of what the guy was trying to do, and felt like it was a show packed with comedic detail, something didn't really work for me. I couldn't blame the audience - some of them were laughing heartily before the show even started. A lot of them were clearly aware of what they were there for and why there were there. They'd paid their money, they knew that you have to laugh to enjoy it and they looked for the funny.
Maybe I was a little restrained in my enjoyment by the absence of an interval and the sudden realisation that I needed the toilet, after all. This, when sustained over a 70-minute-long show, can be slightly stressful. However, I think the real problem was the lack of progression within the show itself. There was a definite sense of it not really going anywhere. It just stopped at some point after an amusing, but not entirely climactic Eminem spoof. That was that.
The person I was with didn't really enjoy it that much, either, despite being something of a fan of the act in question. The idea that seeing this person live was a lesser experience than hearing him on the radio, edited and sanitised, was perhaps a depressing one. However, people have off nights and maybe the timing was all to pot at this particular stage in this particular tour. I don't know.
My co-show-watcher was an ex-work-colleague, so maybe it didn't help get into the mood for comedy to discuss the various stresses that still exist around the work place and to discuss how those stresses can be alleviated by no longer working there. It can't be that simple. It never is. I'm committed to a certain life-plan at the moment, and, to be honest, I'm not sure that the end result will be particularly enjoyable. There's got to be something wrong with that, especially if the journey to that destination doesn't seem to be much fun either. D'oh!
The work thing is the front problem. The house, and the effort and money required to keep it moving, is an issue too, but the work is problem number one. I pretty much left the office in disgust last night, having suddenly reached the limit of my patience. I went to B&Q for some DIY supplies, trotted around some shops nearby, went to the nearest Starbucks for some sustainance and then sat in my car at the venue for 40 minutes listening to the radio before it was time to go in. I still had 20 minutes or so to sit and try to write some stand-up material, so I did that too. Essentially, my post-work life had turned into time-killing, it was a sad reflection of how I feel my in-work life can be.
Post performance, I headed back home, via my ex-girlfriend's place where I picked up the laundry that had been done for me (that truly is a good deal) and then gave up being around people. I went home and watched 3 episodes of the Vic and Bob series of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). This is not very good, to be honest, though Emilia Fox is very lovely and Tom Baker probably excites me just as much (though not, necessarily in the same way). What works quite well, though, is the pacing of the script and the use of a brilliant supporting cast, including the likes of current Doctor Who - David Tennant, Peter Bowles, Hugh Laurie, Charles Dance and so on. The script is passable, written by Charlie Higson, with some good lines in it and a lot of pedestrian ones. However, the real make-or-break on the show is the performances by Vic and Bob. Occasionally, they work, but occasionally, the combination of poor direction, poor rehearsal and, which could fix it, poor editing, makes the show jitter along, rather than flow.
But, for mind-clearing, I'd have to say that I made a good choice. I watched without pause and without losing enthusiasm for watching the next episode. Eventually it was late and I was tired.
I wanted to get up this morning, but I needed to sleep. I slept in. I had lunch soon after waking - for it was that late. Then I ripped out the kitchen sink. Everything around that was basically chipping stuff off walls, or putting stuff in rubble sacks. I really need to do some more of that. Perhaps tomorrow I'll go and design the kitchen in terms of which units will be in it.
My heart's really not in it at the moment. I feel tired and down.
Sorry to be a miseryguts online... again!
I live in a town called Reading, but this is a blog entry about the process of taking words in through the eyes.
I realise from the lack of bookmark action in my home since moving in in January, that I don't actually read books at the moment. I like reading and I wonder whether I've deserted this pastime. In fact, I haven't. I take in a huge quantity of words every day. However, I'm taking them in from a screen. I read blogs. Now, given that you're reading this, the chances are that you read blogs, but how many do you read? is it just mine? Why do you read them?
I thought I would recommend to you a few blogs that I have the pleasure of reading:
Simple things can lift you:
He didn’t remember exactly when things had changed. At some point, all his doubts about his self-worth had been put aside and all of his worries about whether he’d die alone had stopped. It seemed almost like someone had flicked a switch and life had suddenly become the way he’d wished. He didn’t remember the moment of transformation, but he knew who to thank for it. He knew why he was walking home, feeling lighter, taller and more free than he ever remembered being. He knew why he was looking up at the tops of the buildings, rather than down at his feet.
The person to either blame or thank for this euphoria was Katie. She had fixed him. She saw in him what he wanted someone to see in him. The fact that a living breathing human being could do that, the very idea that he didn’t have to rely on his own hopes alone, was almost too much for his mind to take. The sense of happiness felt physical.
He stepped across the street, feeling like he was superman, taking it in a single bound. The cars that went past seemed to somehow melt around him. The drivers, in their stuffy little boxes, were oblivious of his joy and he was only vaguely aware of them.
It had been a good first date.
Very poor contribution to the blog yesterday. I was really not in the mood for saying anything and my day was divided between the meeting in which I came across as a discontented complainer and the grind of trying to motivate a team to do seven shades of not very much with a vague brief. If you know you're going to fail, it is hard to get motivated to get cracking. Life doesn't have to be like that and I'm still optimistic about there being a solution. To be honest, when I last quit a job in software I felt a similar lack of clear direction from above, but it doesn't quite bother me now as it did back then. I think now I know It's a biproduct of a very difficult problem, where then it was because the blind were leading the blind motivated by the deluded and fuelled by the stupid. Luckily the people who rode out the storm at my last company are in none of those categories. But I digress.
So I don't want to do a bad job or let people down. This is definitely the wrong week for caring, though. Outside of work I've been very busy. That has helped, though I've needed a come down to get into the evening out. Monday was the sketch show. Tuesday I had a gig which really built my confidence. Wednesday I went out for beer food and admiring of girls, though only respectfully. Tonight I'm out watching comedy, though it is too early to write about that. Last night was another night out with a friend eating drinking and chatting. I like spending time with people. People are good. Especially good people. That's positive, then.
To be honest, this is not the most interesting of weeks. Reading back to 2005 or 2004, I was learning and doing a lot more. I might have had house developments to discuss on here, but nothing much has happened in the place this week. Next week it all kicks off again. I think this weekend is where I have to get ready for that. So seeing Porgy and Bess before it closes might be out.
There's certainly something amiss at the moment. It might be something to do with the season, or maybe It's my age. I'm not feeling like I'm on top of things or cheerful, except when in the company of good people outside of work. Still there's all to play for as we go into May.
Things I Would Rather Be Doing Right Now
- Playing my piano
- Going for a walk by the coast
- Applying some emulsion paint
- Watching a funny movie
- Having a pint
- Not being in the office
Basically, just not being in the office. That would be good right now.
This Is An Anagram of Shit
I'm not happy. Not in the least bit happy today. Yesterday I was fairly miserable too. It's the combined weight of work stress and house stress, coupled with a sense of bleakness about my personal life. Burning the candle at several ends can leave you like this, and it doesn't help that several things need sorting out concurrently and I'm not feeling like my heart's in any of them.
I had a brief respite when I went to the gig in Coventry last night. It was a last minute booking and I'd sort of dared myself to go and do a 20 minute stand-up set without the guitar. This is not outside of my capabilities. I've done it before and I'll do it again. The problem is that it's not really within my comfort zone, either, and most of the material I would do in this situation is still in the embryonic stages, so I'm not entirely sure which bits will get a laugh.
It's good to push yourself.
It's good to rehearse and rewrite in the car on the way to the gig.
Some of what I did - maybe 70% - worked quite well. A lot of that was stuff which I'd done in some shape or form before, so it wasn't entirely surprising.
I enjoyed the gig and, though I could make a big deal of what I thought of what I saw outside of my own set, there's not a great deal of point. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion about what makes good stand-up, and what's funny, and what's a cliche. It was weird for me to be told that this performance, the third someone had seen of me, was considered to be the best they'd seen. It was weird, because the previous two performances will have been with me and my guitar, where I believe I'm stronger. I guess genre is a deciding factor sometimes.
The long drive home wasn't too long and I listened to my performance, realising that I didn't drop my stage presence, but I did drop the "being funny" a few times and, not in the least bit surprisingly, the audience didn't laugh in those sections. I could probably rewrite most of what went wrong and make the core jokes work. In fact, I might.
Yet, real life isn't very funny at the moment. I'm just not feeling it. It's the post-honeymoon-period with the house now, and I'm in the post-relationship-break-up period with my personal life. I know what lies ahead, and, quite frankly, it doesn't seem like much fun. With work, I have a team of people relying on me for the next thing to do and it's only reminding me how uncertain I was about what needed to be done when I was working on the problem alone.
It's not that I feel like everything's against me, so much as nothing's particularly for me at the moment. Even having pointless arguments on Chortle isn't making me feel better. If anything, it's making me feel worse. Even if I am right.
Tonight I'm meeting a friend after work for a bite to eat. That's something to look forward to. I just booked a ticket to see Evita next month - before it closes. That too is something to look forward to. I even had the confidence to book one ticket, rather than scratch around looking for someone to accompany me.
I'd like to see Porgy and Bess before it closes, but unless I'm prepared to pay £60, or rush to London first thing on Saturday to try to grab a cheap matinee ticket, I think I've missed the boat (dats leavin' soon for New York). Maybe I'll just listen to the Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald recording I've got of it and be done with it.
If the world had a pause button, I think I would press it now. I would grab a coffee first, then I would pause the world, get a good book and maybe have a couple of days of doing nothing. As it is, my current plan is to have the evening out, then go home and do some more clearing up of rubble before the return of the electrician in the morning. Tomorrow evening I have a plasterer visiting as well.
Sorry. Not an uplifting post, I'm afraid.
Finally A Good One
I've co-conducted so many interviews over the last year or so, and with rare exceptions they've been awful. On the one previous occasion when the candidate was actually very good, the interview itself still didn't have the flow and chemistry of a good interview.
Today, this duck was finally broken. From the off, the candidate was clearly smart, clued up, and capable. That was that. I only asked questions to prove what I already knew, that the candidate could answer them.
During the interview, the manager, presiding over proceedings, had forgotten his sheet of company facts. I offered to make some up. At the end of the briefing about the company I offered that our CEO has the world's largest collection of dolls. "Is that true?" I was asked. "No." I stated confidently. Good times.
I even managed to follow up a good interview with a good lunch. Though I'm sure it wasn't the healthiest of options, the beef looked good and I've not had a hot meal since Saturday, and even that was fairly cold after I'd chatted over it, rather than eat it. Prior to that, I can't remember the last hot meal. So, I have no regrets.
I'm feeling thin today anyway.
For no reason.
This is turning into Bridget Jones's diary, so I'd better say something manly. Whoar, look at the, erm, joists on the sprocket wing-nuts on that beauty. Yeah, I wouldn't mind applying WD-40 to the thread on that. And cranking the living, hoodoo, out of the old, wotsit, doodah, nut-handle.
Yep. I still got it.
I arrived at the office today with only £1.20 in cash. I really need a trip to the bank and cash machine. I had to revise my usual breakfast order. It got healthier. I had some fruit and a smaller version of the coffee I normally have. It's okay, though. I have cash in the bank, somewhere, and recent calculations this weekend show that I have some reserves of wealth which could be plundered if necessary, though I'm more likely to plunder them in order to buy vital works for the house than coffee.
Not poor was my exit from the house this morning, which was just in time to arrive at work at the desired time, and managed to include a quick chat with the roofer who has worked so hard on the property over the last month. Sadly, he's had to work hard because there has been a lot to do, which can only make me poorer, but it will make the property better, so I guess that's the trade off. Bit of advice, though, don't have just any old idiot do your roofing - it's more expensive to put stuff right than to get it done properly in the first place. I didn't make that mistake, but I'm paying for whoever did.
Moving back in time to the bit before I showered last night, I actually motivated myself to do some work in the house. This was quite encouraging. I spent maybe an hour in the kitchen ripping plaster off the walls, nails out of the ceiling joists and chipping at the occasional tile. Rubble sacks were filled. It was a bit dark. Really, the job can't proceed until I've cut off the sink and valved off the pipes for it. The cost of failure with that job is that I have to keep the entire water supply for the house off, so I want to do it when I've time to solve any problems which might arise. So I didn't do it last night.
As a narrative device, I've decided to tell this story backwards.
As another narrative device, I've decided to tell you what my narrative device is. Honesty is definitely the best policy. In fact, being single, I can be as honest as I like. In fact, I think I was largely very honest in my last relationship, so being single might not have much to do with it. Though there are still thoughts which cross my mind which I won't write down... though there are some thoughts that cross my mind that I can only write down. Like on Sunday night. I was sitting at the gig next to a pretty young woman, who is also a stand-up comedian. She was waiting to go on. She was ripping a beer mat to shreds. I commented that she must be frustrated. She said she was and that she was also sexually frustrated. When an attractive women tells you she's sexually frustrated AND you're already gearing your brain up for a gig, you can't help but make a joke. I wrote it down and showed it to her. I hadn't said it, and I think showing it on a piece of paper, in the manner of passing notes in school, is sufficiently indirect for me not to look like a sleaze. I hope so. The joke read. "She said she was sexually frustrated while tearing up a beer mat. I said, well, if you want something better to do with your hands...". Very poor.
As a narrative device, I went off on a tangent just now. Back to the story of last night.
Prior to the DIY hour-a-thon (is that a word?) I had actually spent the night out. So, doing any DIY at all is to be applauded. I would have expected myself to just go to bed. However, I arrived home at about 10.30, having spent from about 9pm traveling via train and car from London, via where I work, to my home. Inspired by the watching of "War of the Worlds" on Friday, I'd listened to the original recording of this masterpiece that I have on my mp3 player. Then, curious about what I think of it this month, and with an H.G. Wells theme going on, I listened to the musical adaptation that CP and I did of "The Time Machine". Some of it I really enjoyed, and I sang along a fair bit in the car on the way home. Some of it I didn't mind. One or two bits made me feel a little derisory. That's not a bad balance.
Why was I in London? I was running the technical shebang for the sketch show I run technical shebangs for. Overall, I think it was a successful exercise. Having said that, it was a show we'd done the most preparation for, and I think that the preparation had been equalled with the number of last-minute changes that were made. However, perhaps without the preparation these last-minute changes, which were undoubtedly for the benefit of the show, would not have been considered.
I like the technical doings that I do for the show. It requires a certain amount of preparation from me away from the cast. I usually do about two hours of checking and re-checking all the cues to compile the sound effects onto CD and create any tracks that they can't give me, mark up the script etc.
Once we get into the venue, I bark orders through an hour-long-ish technical rehearsal where I demonstrate all the cues and check that I know how to synchronise them with the action.
Last night I made 3 minor errors. I think I got away with them.
Prior to heading to London, I was a day in the office. I agreed to do a gig for tonight, which means another night away from the DIY, which is probably why I ended up doing an hour last night. However, I can't say no. So, so long as we're clear on that, there's no harm in saying yes.
So, tonight I'm off to Coventry for probably no money. I've done gigs in the Coventry area twice before. Neither went particularly well. Tonight is a new material night. As a result, I'm going to concentrate on stuff I'm not very good at... so we'll see what happens with it. It may be very poor.
And that's my title repeated enough.
Hunger All Through The Night
I'm not entirely capable of staying on the wagon with my eating, but I think I can safely say that I've not had a particularly binge-ridden weekend. I could quite easily have grabbed a bite to eat tonight, but managed to steer myself directly to home, do not pass jail, do not collect a takeaway or 200 lbs of flab.
Good work, though my stomach will demand breakfast in the morning.
The weekend has been, indeed, multi-faceted. On Friday night I did some DIY and foolishly managed to swamp the house with tons of dust. This was very very foolish. There's dust on everything and that can only mean that all the effort I put into putting sheeting in the doorway of the room I was ripping plaster off, last weekend, was a waste of time, if I'm going to work unprotected.
Indeed, I was working without protection. It's because I started off just intending to take the nails out of the ceiling joists. Then I started messing with some bits of wall and it sort of snowballed. I wasn't wearing my mask or gloves. I started wearing the mask when I felt like I could taste the dust. I put the gloves on after a bit of razor sharp tile dropped on my hand, despite the fact that I was levering it off the wall with a long crowbar and felt like my hands were out of the way - somehow these falling objects can fly.
So, I have a small nick out of a very convenient place in my hand (if such a thing can exist - well, a non-inconvenient place) and a lesson learned the hard way.
I got to the point, on Friday night, of pondering how I feel about life at the moment. In many ways, I'm not really all that happy about things. I'm in the middle of a long and arduous house-redevelopment that my heart is sometimes in, and sometimes not. It will be brilliant when done, but budgets are getting scary and I think I'd rather be doing something else. I'm only ever really on the brink of feeling like I'm making a rousing success of my work life, and the gigging side of things could be better... though it could so easily be a lot worse.
Essentially, though not quite miserable, I felt rather unimpressed with life on Friday night. So I downed tools, in a sudden fit of no-longer-caring, and went upstairs to watch Jeff Wayne's musical version of the War of the Worlds, as performed live. I so wish I'd been to see it. I was very impressed. It didn't cure me, but it made me excited to watch. So that was nice.
I also had a phone call (well, calls) from a friend, who I think is in a similar place in life to me in many ways. He seemed equally downhearted. I think it's something in the air. There have been quite a few shootings and hostage situations recently, so maybe this time of year sets people off. I don't know.
After a bit of thinking, I came to the conclusion that I might have to just write this year off to experience. Assuming all goes to plan with the house, then my prize is to share it with a bunch of strangers, which is bound to make me want to move out, but I won't be able to move out, since I'll be all spent up from the whole redevelopment. D'oh! Still, things may seem different later in the year, when all my stuff is in this one room and I'm out every night NOT doing DIY!
Maybe I'll move into the garage.
Not the most positive of outlooks on Friday night, then.Saturday
Saturday was better. I woke up with the resolve to go bathroom suite shopping. This proved to be a bit of a disappointment. Bathroom suites are rubbish. I don't like them. Even when I found ones I thought were okay, the prices were nasty. The only shop that looked promising had no showroom, so gave me a catalogue to take home and study, with reference to the internet.
I was, again, a little downhearted, but optimistic, as I had a couple of things to do in London that afternoon.
I ran myself home, grabbed my laptop, walked to the railway station, got my train - standing all the way, then took a tube to the Hyde Park area, and had a nice sit down in the spare 10 or so minutes before I was due to meet someone for lunch.
Lunch then occurred and was very pleasant. It was good to catch up with someone I'd not seen in a few years and put the world to rights.
But I don't get to do just one thing in a day. I had to be shown the way to my next appointment, where I was due to use the laptop to work out what was needed for the next sketch show. With several screens of script/cues/sound effects, I kept track of proceedings and I think I have an idea of how the show will run tomorrow. I've been wrong before, though.
Then, back to Hyde Park for some rehearsing. I was in the role of giving suggestions and feedback. Fun.
Train, home, subway sandwich, bed.Sunday
I woke up late and decided to write the day off. I had a gig in the evening and I just couldn't bring myself to do any physical labour. Not as such. I went to get a late breakfast and a tank full of fuel from the petrol station. Then I spent about 2 hours doing all my ironing. I thought that I could go to Tesco for some supplies for my marathon paperwork session, but I had to go via my ex-girfriend's house, where I could borrow a charger for my mobile phone, which had run flat over two days!
Leaving the phone charging, I went to Tesco and bought stationery, lunch, and an electric toothbrush. I would later discover that my shaver socket adapter thing doesn't work, which is probably why another device I have also doesn't appear to work. I will have to wait for the use of this super-duper toothbrush.
I hoped to get some help with my kitchen design at homebase. Instead, I accidentally bought a bathroom suite. Impulse decisions. Brilliant.
Back at the ex-girlfriend's house, I played with the guinea pigs. They've grown up into quite pleasant creatures and I rarely spend time with them. Now I sound like a divorced dad. Don't worry. There was no custody battle.
Back home and an afternoon of paperwork, punctuated with cleaning my shower-room, followed by going to the gig.
The gig was fun with a drunken heckler nearly ruining the night... and then I got some material out of it, which I can never do again, since, well, you had to be there, and we were, so we could enjoy it, but nobody else would care. Shame. Still, it was a laugh, which is really the point of the whole comedy thing.
So, ups and downs. Mainly ups, but I still feel a bit melancholic. I guess there's a long road ahead and I'm not a big fan of hard work. Still, I know the journey will be interesting and the end worthwhile. Hopefully, next week will start well and get better.
At least the "L" key has started working again on my aptop - just a joke: laptop. So, if there are any Welsh place names to write about, I'll be able to do it with vigour. It turns out that a house full of dust and debris might have something in it which could get underneath a key and stop it working.
A little consideration before the event and I have a small vignette to show for it...
The phone rang. She turned it off, rather than answer it. They’d make her turn it off in a minute anyway. A moment later, a box appeared on her screen. “You there?” it read. It sat there, provocatively, next to the Outlook reminder box showing “Wedding anniversary, do something”.
She’d done something. This was why she was in the airport. She’d called in sick from work and said she’d try to get those reports done from home. Then she’d thrown a couple of days’ worth of clothes into her laptop bag and jumped on the airport express train. Modern technology being what it is, she’d managed to book herself a discounted last minute ticket from the train and pretend to be working at the same time. Her work colleagues would probably take until Monday to realise that she wasn’t coming back.
Her husband on the other hand, had a habit of checking up on her. It wasn’t concern, it was control. He couldn’t even give her the full question. “You there?” – it was like a caveman just mastering basic speech. “Where woman? She no working. She no home. You there?”.
She didn’t want a relationship with a Neanderthal anymore. She didn’t remember why she ever wanted a relationship with him. Escape was imminent, though. Cavemen don’t fly.
They called her flight and she turned off the laptop. It would be useful when she got to the other side.
It's Just Another Case Of History Repeating
I went out to see some comedy last night. Like I don't see enough comedy. In fact, I don't think I do see enough good comedy. I rarely play the larger clubs where the larger names play. Although I have the pleasure of seeing a few headline acts, I seldom see a bill full of professional comedians doing their thing. I seldom see an audience over 60 in number. In other words, my comedy outlook is really on the small-fry end of the scale.
Sometimes, you just have to see how the other half lives.
So we went to Jongleurs Reading last night. It's a whole different way of staging comedy, and it's a whole different way of enjoying it. I wouldn't go to Jongleurs expecting a good night on principle. I would, however, go to a Jongleurs if there were acts on the bill whom I wanted to see. In this case, the headliner was an act I really enjoy and have seen a few times before. I have his CD. I'm a bit of a fan.
I was pleased to be there and I was amused as the Jongleurs style show-intro started. It was different to what I'm used to from my own comedy career (though I have played on a Jongleurs stage a couple of times) and yet familiar and fairly obvious.
The compere came out and did a good job of taming the room and getting them focused for the first act. Had I been the compere and used the techniques I used the previous night in a small gig in Fleet, I would have died a horrible death. This particular guy knew how to play this sort of room and did it with great confidence and apparent inner calm. It was a useful thing to see. I need to think about developing myself to that point.
The first act was someone I'd wanted to see for a while. He's a blind comedian, which you'd think would make him a novelty act in some way, but he quickly got the audience over this particular aspect of himself and then went into a set that was rather geeky and linguistic. He was interested in words, and crosswords, and wordplay. You needed intelligence to get his stuff. He was so genuine and warm in his intro, that the audience worked hard to understand his stuff. I say they worked hard, because I'm arrogantly assuming that a certain quantity of them were thick... or alcohol addled. I got where he was coming from and I was thrilled that he was in front of a lowest-common-denominator crowd doing a smarter set than they might more easily be assumed to enjoy.
He did very well.
Second act did well too, though what he had in style he lacked in substance. Indeed, if I could simply have deleted his entire set from the hard disk of life, I think I would have done. Waste of hot air, I'm afraid.
The closing act was good. He got the laughs. He is a funny comedian. However, I've heard most of this material before on his CD. I've heard how he sounds when his heart's in it. I've heard him with excitement in his voice. I've heard him milking the minor punchlines as well as the major ones. I know when a comedian is doing a readthrough of his set and when he's actually "in the moment". He varied. Sometimes he was rocking with the set. Sometimes he was just doing it. The audience laughed regardless.
What I saw was a great comedian, who made me laugh a great deal, actually give a fairly restrained and disinterested performance. This could be for any number of reasons. I think he looked a bit shaken up. He's recently been the victim of on-stage violence. I don't think I'd feel that happy about going up there and doing my schtick if I thought I could rekindle some hatred towards me. Maybe he was tired. Maybe he'd had a bit too much to drink before going on, though he didn't look drunk. Maybe it was a random off-night.
I suppose, this is one of the problems of the seasoned performer. How can you make it fresh and interesting to you every night. You could swap something reliable for something fresh and untested. But what if that new bit doesn't work? Then you have to recover. You have to recover, using the stuff you're bored with, because it has the properties of being some special incantation which makes the laughter.
I wasn't disappointed in the performance last night, but I felt a bit of empathy for the guy in question. It must have been a less-than-enjoyable experience for him doing that gig. However, I have the immortalised recording of him going on stage in a club where they loved him, were clinging onto his every word, and he knew it. That's gotta be good. And if it means that you sometimes have to go through the motions between those gigs, and just reel off a bunch of stuff which made some people laugh last time, then maybe it's not a bad gig, after all.
I suppose, though, if your material has made someone act violently towards you, it may feel like that special incantation isn't as worth repeating as you would have wished.
Here's a little photo story from the gig on Tuesday night. Thanks to Rids for the photos.The VenueClearly a long-serving part of the local community - so old, in fact, that I don't think it was electrically safe. Earthing hums and crackles over the speakers abounded, and I was due to have the microphone in my pocket, conducting through sweaty shirt to skin... straight into the heartPre-Gig NervesSmile through the apprehensionWhere's the audience?This is my favourite photo - it looks like there's noone there at all... though I cropped it for that effect. No front row, certainly.Still hiding In the first shot, the audience are, in fact, hiding behind the North West point of the photo. In the second, there's some of my "front row" including the promoter's mother, too pissed to realise that she was making things hard for the gig by talking over some of it.
These photos give the clue about the pocket-based microphone, but don't show the true horror of it... but I don't care. I remember this gig fondly.
About Last Night
Every time I do a gig, that's one fewer left to do in the diary. Yesterday's gig didn't actually make it into the diary before I did it. I got booked on Tuesday for a Wednesday gig, and didn't have any time with my computer between being booked and going along. As a comedian, who wants to keep busy, I need a one-in-one-out system to keep the diary stoked. Yesterday I took a booking for another gig too, so I'm definitely keeping the diary up to speed.
A friend of mine used to aim to have about 50 bookings in hand. As of today, I have between 20 and 25. This does not include the gigs I'll be doing in Edinburgh. That's not bad, but it's still slacker than I want. Note to self - book more.
I'll be honest, I wasn't really in the mood for another gig last night. I love doing stand-up and I'm really keen to push myself out of the easy mould of guitar act that I've fallen into. MCing a gig, which is what I was down to do, is something which can be truly character building. No guitar for safety, and it's not a good idea to lose the room, or appear to have done so. So you have to be on the ball and keep the showbiz pretence up.
I wasn't feeling particularly showbiz. I felt like a wet towel. The exhaustion of the previous evening's exertions plus a day in the office left me in a mood where my brain was not functioning at its best and I wasn't feeling very cheery. I needed some fixing and I had about 2 and half hours to kill from leaving the office to the official start of the gig.
I started off by trying retail therapy in Asda. The only thing I bought was the 50p parking ticket. There were some nice shirts at £3, but the size nazis had been in, so my XL wasn't there for the buying. Then I progressed to Tesco where I didn't even have to pay to park. I bought a paper. A red top. The Sun. I'm not proud. I was just looking for material. I got two jokes - one about Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty, which was news I already had heard - and another, which I didn't tell on stage, about the page 3 girl. I didn't tell it, because it wasn't that funny. The page 3 girl was one of the contenders for the current ITV reality show to find a star for the musical Grease. She was on page 3. Topless. My joke was an old engineering joke, which seemed apposite for the situation. Problem is that I couldn't find an easy and concise way to get to the punchline "grease nipples". At the end of the day, if there's no neat way there, it's probably not going to get a laugh... leaving me showing pictures of topless teenagers (well, a 19 year old) to an audience... and that's not right.
So I didn't do it.
I went into Aldershot and read through the whole of The Sun (as opposed to the "whole of the moon") over a Subway. Nothing much in there.
Then I listened to the recording of the gig I did in Bradford. I was on for about 30 minutes, so listening to it was an opportunity to relive the highs, lows, and also kill some time. I was asked on the journey home to rate my performance between 1 and 10. I gave myself eight and half. I've now downgraded this to a seven and a half. I was ok. I got away with loads. There were some flashes of inspiration, but it could so easily have gotten out of control. But it didn't and it's in the past... and there are some moments that I'll treasure.
I went into the gig in a slightly better mood than I'd been at work. My energy levels were still quite low, though. In fact, the empty venue only made me feel even lower, as the manager told me how the gig had been going not so well and how attendance at the venue was also quite poor at the moment.
Great. Now be funny fat boy.
Still, I wasn't going to bemoan anything. I had managed to arrive the same time as another act and we swapped battle stories. He's great and I had confidence that he'd do well. The headline act was someone I wanted to see.
To challenge my potential for improved mood, there was a call from my roofer - it went to answer phone. Essentially, my chimney is knackered. The news made my wallet cringe.
Still, people were arriving at the venue and the headliner arrived, nice and early, and we were in the mood to get going.
I bumbled onto the stage, compered with a combination of skill and clumsiness that somehow they managed to let me get away with, bantered with the audience well enough (hack, but effective) to get them to like me, and then brought on the first act. He did well and I was happy that the combination of our efforts (probably more his than mine - he knows how to relax and play it for what it is) was a good start to the night.
The headliner, a charismatic mature comedian, who knows his showbiz, was very complimentary of my skills. I appreciate feedback, positive and negative, but I won't let myself believe anything too good too much - that way complacency lies. The manager has also commented, each time I've played there, that my compering tends to be in the rare category for that venue of making the audience laugh. I think it was just a case of the gig being due for a good one. The numbers were good. The people who might just happen to be there and disrupt the show, were few in number, and I think the change in season has settled down a bit, and people are more likely to know how they feel about life, which makes for a more settled audience.
So, it turned into a good night. I used my new technique of "being very nice to the audience", which is naturally what I want to do anyway. As a result, they were increasingly good-natured and the night built nicely. I did material in the middle section, around the middle act. The headliner got his introduction and back announcement. The audience loved him. Me and the middle act (the opener had left) loved him. I laughed very hard in lots of different ways.
That, my dear reader, is what a comedy night should be like.
I drove home in a good mood and feeling a bit hungry. The fact that I'd only just written about my intention to stay on the eating wagon meant that I couldn't even allow myself some convenience/takeaway food on the way home, since I'd have to come here and confess it. Even my Subway previously had been devoid of much in the way of cheese/fat.
Today I set out to get myself a roast lunch and found myself loading a plate with salad. The wagon is under me today, whether I like it or not.
The gig last night had been a real pick-me-up, but I was really exhausted when I got home. I slept. I overslept, in fact, but I managed to get to work on time. Once at work, the call from the roofer, which arrived over my coffee, made me late in arriving to my desk. It also added a month's salary to my roofing bill. Yuck.
I'm feeling optimistic, though. Comedy is working out for me at the moment and I know the house will be great when it's finished.
Roofer has just been in touch. The chimney is severely in need of work. It's plain to see that whoever last worked on it had no concept of waterproofing.
I guess I'll have to pay the extra to get it fixed. I don't fancy it as a DIY project
Play The Game
I have a light above my desk which casts a glare over my eyes and screen. I complained and was told that there's an edict, or was it a dictum? a diktum? maybe a diktat? or possibly a dickhead. Either way, apparently all lights must always be on. So the one that's shining down into my eyes and making them cloud over is not to be deactivated. Apparently "it's a health and safety"
which is a way of saying "I'm an officious twat with no concept of reality"
However, maybe it's actually a misunderstanding. Maybe the reason for the mandate is to meet some rule or other that's imposed for the common good. How can you beat such a ruling? With other rulings.
Cue the "workplace health and safety display screen equipment survey". Yes, DSE. Display screen equipment. Also known as "a monitor". My survey asked me to explain why I'm comfortable at my desk. I wrote that I had a problem with glare owing to the light. Now I'm working with the system from within. Now, I've registered that I'm getting headaches from using my DSE because of the G.L.A.R.E. and maybe they can D.O. something about it.
Or maybe it'll be filed for the inquest into my sudden blindness.
So long as I can still smell the petrol, I should be able to find my car. Maybe I should put those bullbars
A Pox On You
Some people I know write a blog. They also do a podcast. Now there's a book
. I'd recommend it, but I've not read it. I've bought it because I'm a sucker. I've read the blog and it's made me smile some. So hopefully their book won't be money poorly spent. I'll find out at some point.
These days, anyone can be a published author. You just need a word document and one paying punter!
I read back to last year's blog from this time of the year and I was food obsessed. I'm feeling a bit fat today, so I'm getting food obsessed again. I had a healthy salad for lunch, and have snacked on some fruit and some low-calorie snack food... which maybe evades the point of trying to lose weight, where you don't necessarily snack at all. The problem is that I'm also in a state where I need to do something to keep myself perked up. I have a gig tonight to do - a compereing spot. I don't want to mess it up. I'll have to stay energetic enough to keep the show going along until the headliner comes on. Then I can relax and watch him.
So, what I really wanna do, is go out for a big fat pizza and wash it down with coke and chocolate.
I think I can avoid that.
Honestly, I think I can.
But I'm so tired, and I've gotten to the point where coffee is just clouding my mind, rather than making my body wake up.
The gig starts in just under 3 hours. I've finished with the work I'm going to get done today, home is too far to make it worth going back then only to return to almost where I started to attend the gig.
So I have to keep myself awake, not OD on coffee, not binge on calories and get ready for a gig in 3 hours' time. How?
If I were a drinker and not a driver, then I would probably end up under a table in a pub in a misguided attempt to make myself awake. Luckily, I'm not.
Now I could really use a little play with that electric cable at home which randomly appears to be live and makes your fingers tingle through gloves. Maybe I shouldn't have admitted that.
Anyway, I have a plan. I'll head to Aldershot. Maybe I'll go via the big Asda in Farnborough to look for some shirts. Maybe I'll go to the big Tesco in Aldershot and look for clothes there, though I've seen Tesco's current range and I don't see the point. Maybe I'll get food at Tesco, though most probably I'll just grab a Subway.
I should, if I play my cards right, be able to listen to something funny on Radio 4. I'll just check what's on. Mmm - it sounds not very good. Maybe I won't listen. Maybe I will. I just don't know.
I'll definitely listen to the gig I did last night. It should put me in a mood - hopefully a funny one.
I'll probably also read a paper.
And not have a Kit Kat.
Bad man even to think of the chocolatey wafery goodness.
So, buy a paper and don't buy a Kit Kat. Right. I can do that. Really I can.
I keep forgetting all the bad things I've eaten and remember all the good ones. In my head I've been doing well this week. Yet, in reality...
Damned weight problems.
If only I could just go home, get into bed and wait until morning. Sleeping. That would be an answer.
Bring It On
No, I'm not talking about the cheerleader with Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku playing the role of hot cheerleaders. In many ways, I'm starting to wonder why I don't own a copy of this movie, which has to be a classic. In fact, I'm almost tempted to write at great length about my admiration for Mses Dunst and Dushku, especially in their cheerleader roles. I'm tempted, but that would be sad. Plus, though Kirsten Dunst is a pretty woman, I have to say she often looks a bit too wan and maybe a bit too flimsy.
But let's give a quick moment of reflection to the cheerleaders of movies. They're always worth a moment's reflection.
That's another of my non-offensive euphemisms for thinking about ladies. "ooh - she's worth a moment's reflection". Oh dear.
Anyways. The "bring it on" of the title refers to my relentless approach to life at the moment. It's definitely a case of the more I do, the merrier. I'm quite tired today as a result of last night's bring-it-on-ery, but I'm feeling satisfied in the outcome of my efforts, so that's a good way to be. Yesterday was a long day, which ended in me showering and getting scant hours' sleep before returning to work. The bit from leaving work to getting to bed was in various stages.Leaving Work
I'd planned to leave work at around 4. It turned out that my travelling companion - a fellow comedian - was running an hour late, so I didn't have to rush out of the office. However, I'd sort of gotten myself built up to the point where I couldn't stay any longer. I was in pre-gig rev-up and sitting around waiting for it to happen wasn't doing me any good.
I drove to the station at a leisurely pace. I programmed my sat-nav with the directions and sat for about half an hour waiting for the train, hoping my late-running colleague would be on it. When you're travelling long distances starting between 4pm and 7pm, every minute counts. I know the roads between Farnborough and the North and I know where all the traffic jams are likely to be. They worsen by the minute. Setting off at 5 was going to cost a lot of time. There was no point in doing anything to get worked up about it.
So, I sat in my car and tried to write three comedy songs. I think one of them might be usable - the simplest. I wish I could make either of the other two funny, but perhaps they're not funny enough sources for humour.
My travelling companion arrived and we set off.The Long Drive
I've gigged with this particular travelling companion before and knew them well enough to say hello to. Indeed, she booked me for an ill-fated performance (my fault) at her club. A four and a half hour car journey can really force you to get to know someone, whether you like them or not. Luckily, I think we hit it off and had a variety of silly and serious conversations on a range of subjects. Any of the bad vibes from that ill-fated gig and some inappropriate comments on this blog afterwards were discussed and laid to rest, which was a bonus.
The time during the journey pretty much flew by with a stop for coffee and plumbing/comfort a way in.
The gig was due to start at 8.30 and I hoped to be on stage around 10.30. I was worried about arriving too close to 10, since I would have to rush myself through sound checks and would have missed the rest of the gig, and not gotten a measure of the audience.Arriving At The Gig
I arrived at the gig to find that things weren't as I was hoping, but they also were in my favour. We got to the venue at about 9.40pm. Once in the room, we saw the first act, using no microphone (warning bells were ringing in my head), playing to a room that wasn't rammed, but was densely populated with people where people were sitting - despite a good solid bank of empty chairs at the front. We discovered that the gig had started late and the PA system was missing some key leads to connect the speakers.
I had my bag of tricks with me and was slightly hopeful that I might be able to fix the PA system. If not, then I'd have to do my set acoustically, which can be a real strain.
I found my friends - three of the lads from Leeds, who had come to see what I do. I quite like it that they only really see me performing in random and not incredibly complimentary circumstances. If they came and saw me storming it at Jongleurs, they might get the impression that I had a cushy life as a comedian. Coming along to a dingy underground half-empty room in Bradford where there's no PA system, and I've driven four and half hours to be there with the threat of another 4 hours home, well, it's a good way to show them the reality of what I do with my time. I would have been happy for them to watch me struggle - it would have been less show-offy than the fictitious Jongleurs gig I described.
Anyway, the first act did a cracking job and was followed by another. At this point I was running through options for getting the PA system to work. I chatted to the guy running the venue and thought I might be able to get the PA system working. I just needed a break in which to have a crack.The Unsound Sound Check
The break came. I raced to the PA system. I realised I didn't have the lead. I was starting to get a bit despairing of getting any sound and then I heard it. Music. Coming from some speakers somewhere. Where was the music coming from? Could I use that PA system? There was a DJ deck at the back of the room. All you needed was a mixer to hook into it instead of the CD and you'd have sound.
Did I have a mixer with me?
Of course I did.
I rigged up my mixer. I couldn't get power into it. I unplugged the CD player and powered my mixer. I tried to get a microphone from their stash of microphones, but both of them looked knackered. Sod it. I should use my own.
Did I have my microphone with me?
I rigged up the microphone. It worked. We got a cheer. We had a PA system. It's unusual for the headline act to come along and rig up a makeshift PA system, but it's a crowd pleaser to do it.
I did a levels check for my guitar and that was working well enough.
Right, now we need a microphone stand.
Was there a microphone stand?
Did I have my microphone stand with me?
There's no point in having an amplified guitar without an amplified voice. As the middle section played out, I hoped for a microphone stand to be found. Then I pondered my alternatives. Then I was forced into my alternatives as they discovered that the nearest they had was a guitar stand.
Plan A: Use another microphone I had with me - it's a tie-clip microphone, requiring the 48v power from the desk and also requiring me to plug in a new mic, sitting in my top pocket, with lead running to my back pocket.
Plan B: stick the normal mike into my top pocket and hope it doesn't fall out.
Plan C: do it acoustically.
I ran to the desk in the second interval to remember that it doesn't have 48v phantom power, which was probably for the best as I wasn't sure I wanted a 48v powered microphone sitting in my sweaty top pocket.
After all that, I was down to either trying to make my top pocket into a microphone stand, or reducing the gig down to acoustic again.
I reckoned I could turn the adversity my way, but I had to see. First I tuned my guitar, which was still possible, despite the fact that I'd dropped my guitar tuner on the floor while doing some heel-click-jaunty-jumps to get myself in the mood.
I swapped jaunty jumps for a soulful rendition of "The More I see You" into my mp3 recorder as I waited to go on.The Performance
I went on, stuck the microphone in my top pocket and spent the next 20-25 minutes balancing it there, via a series of "rock poses". I did my stuff, I did the louder version of it too, to make sure the audience could hear. They played along. I enjoyed it. I bantered a little, though not too much. I threw some jokes out there which I'd never heard before. I even came up with a witty retort for something which I'm suprised at.
What had been trepidation and worry about making a single laugh in a room with a tired audience and a makeshift PA turned quickly into genuine enjoyment of a good night. Oh, did I mention that I took to the stage at about 11.20pm? Yep. Running late. Still, I'd gone all that way, I may as well make a meal of it.
I engineered an encore, so it doesn't count. However, the audience were actually up for bringing me back on, doing the music venue chant of "one more tune", which I've never actually had before, so I was in a great mood.
I did the dangerous finale, but the room played along. I must never do the dangerous finale again (unless I'm drunk and it's absolutely necessary).
The thing about the dangerous finale is that, if the room get it (and this was a good room) it's actually quite safe AND the audience have to sing along. In fact, I can get them to do the work and I just orchestrate it like some weird holiday camp redcoat in a sea of wrongness. As they were singing my chorus at me, I dropped my singing out, looked across at my friends and tried to signal with the occasional glance here and there "Look what I made these people do". That's part of why I have loved doing that song... though I won't do it no more. Honest.
Then I did the hack finale.
Then I left the stage and had a shit load of stuff to remember to pack up, having used about 5 leads a microphone a mixer and other fripperies. I think I got it all.
I had been standing in a strange pose with a microphone in my sweaty pocket and I was all bent out of shape. What better way to relax those muscles than a long car journey!?The Long Drive Home
It's a long way home when you're tired, even when the company is good. I was energetic for the first 20 minutes, but then I got very tired. We stopped for coffee, which was a big bonus. I had been fading. I got to the point where I couldn't multi-task so well. I could talk and drive, but only be able to drive in my part of the road and not observe the other side of the motorway, or think too carefully about routes. Or I could stop talking, and do something else, but my brain was in "safe mode".
We got home safely, though. Good conversation and no road incidents to speak of.To Sleep Perchance To Sleep Longer
My comedy colleague became my house guest. She got my room, I got a shower and then my sleeping bag on the spare room floor. I slept well.Morning
I could easily have slept so much more. The conversation went like this:House Guest:
Ashley! Wake up! It's time to go.Me:
I'm busy.House Guest:
[mumbling] Yeah, I'm busy snoozing.House Guest:
Wake up. You're not making any sense.Me:
[internal monologue] I'm making jokes and I'm still asleep. Beauty. One for me there.
Then getting dressed, dropping guest off at station and going to work, where the coffee is strong, but not quite strong enough.
Rubble Rubble Rubble Rubble Ah ah ah ah ah ah
Last night was a night in with the rubble. I got home, after eating, at around 7pm and rubbled until after the Radcliffe and Maconie show on Radio 2, which ended 10pm. In that time I inspected the work of the electrician who'd been there that day, and did a large amount of what could be described as smashing things with a hammer and putting them in rubble sacks.
I filled about a dozen rubble sacks last night. By far the most amusing moment was when I took a heated towel rail off the wall and pondered whether I could use it as bull bars for my car.
That's about it. In anticipation of a house guest tonight, I hoovered around a bit and then I went to bed. YouTube is a great thief of time.
The Hard Labour
I worked very hard on my kitchen/bathroom this Saturday. I had a hard hat a ladder, a breathing mask, a wrecking bar and a lot of energy to expel. The day started with a proper builder's sandwich at Homebase, where I had to buy some caps to cap off the slightly leaking water pipes, that were the result of poor valves leading to the disconnected washing machine.
I proceeded to cap off a few watery things, and then, when that didn't go wrong, I started pulling down the ceiling. It's all down, pretty much.
Ceiling down, I was able to survey the wall to the bathroom. The wall wasn't holding up the room, so I started to take it down.Divided it stood
After some consultation with a friend of mine, we decided that even the lintel, crossing from the interior wall to the exterior wall couldn't be held responsible for holding up the roof. So it came down, then the internal wall, pretty much, came down. A lot of smashing with hammers and throwing around of bricks. The result was quite a difference.Undivided it fell
I made a lot of rubble. A lot of rubble indeed.A multitude of rubble
Periodically I'd do some clearing up, which wasn't especially fun. Around lunchtime I had to go out for some rubble sacks. I bought 30. I've used 25 of them already and there are more to use tonight. I went to a nearby garden centre for the rubble sacks. I asked a small boy - he worked there, so it means I'm getting old, rather than that he was young - for rubble sacks. He misunderstood me and started trying to sell me some small rocks. I've got enough rubble. I don't need more. Eventually we sorted that misunderstanding out. I think the clue for him was when I said "they're like black bags, only heavy duty" - he eventually got it.
With the clearing up complete, I had a lot of rubble sacks sitting in my drive - they probably want to go to the tip - or at least they should consider going into the garage:All neatly in sacks
I was a bit over the top with my brick-chucking around and one landed on my sweeping brush. The brush handle didn't like that. It was a metal handle and it kinked. Later, it snapped. I stopped work when my brush stopped working (that was Sunday).
Most of what's left is the tidy up operation and the removal of tiles in the ex-bathroom (soon to be the L of my kitchen). That's tonight's job. The builder starts in a couple of weeks and the electrician should have created the necessary wiring infrastructure by the close of play today.
It's moving at a pace.
I'm sort of the potential bottleneck.
Steering Clear Of Danger
I know that I'm incapable of sticking to a weightloss programme. However, I also know that I just spent money on trousers that are a few sizes larger than I'd like to be wearing. Well, let's say two sizes. Maybe 3. I also know that these trousers will need a little wearing in. Though I could fit myself into the trousers a size lower, it doesn't mean anything. Some sizes are cut more generously. Thus I'm actually, probably a size larger than the label on my jeans tells me I am. I don't want to be a big fatty struggling about the place with legs tightly clad in denim. Eugh. Sweaty.
I want to lose some more weight. I want to be able to run around doing household tasks and running up and down ladders like I'm as young as I am, rather than feeling like a sweating, puffing, overweight old man.
I'm not saying I do feel like I'm incapable of doing what I need to do at the moment. I think my weekend of swinging around a lump hammer for hours showed me that I have a certain amount of vitality. Though motivating myself to do more clearing up after I've gotten home from a full day's work will be a challenge.
I think I've got some diet instinct at the moment, though I can lapse easily. Yesterday, I had a reasonably healthy wrap for lunch, but accidentally added a mini panettone to it. Ah Caffe Nero. Naughty but nice. The late afternoon meal was also unhealthy, fried food, but in small quantity - apparently that's what you get. I even remembered ordering the larger version of the dish I was served, and I couldn't be bothered to complain. Yet, on the way home after the gig, my stomach telling me it was hungry, I managed to drive past all sources of food and just take myself off to bed. Wow. I was convinced I'd be getting a takeaway. Apparently not.
This lunchtime, I couldn't be bothered to get anything except a nice healthy salad.
Subway for dinner, but I suspect it will be one of their less unhealthy options.
I've even been told that my on-the-road eating tomorrow will be homemade sandwiches from the person I'm sharing the journey with. When I say sharing the journey, we'll be sharing the car. I plan to pay for the petrol and do all the driving. Sharing can be about something other than wealth.
Share and enjoy. That's what I say.
Unless we're talking about pies. Then I should probably not share and just leave it to someone else.
Be Nice To People
I've been playing with fire in the stand-up comedy, of late, but last night I was MCing and so I had to be certain not to alienate the room, lest it put a shadow over the whole night. The audience were so nice, that I think it would have been hard to put a foot wrong with them, yet still I think I managed to do an appealing version of myself and my set. I even edited out a couple of harsher lines, at the expense of a laugh, so as to keep things pleasant with the audience. This was great fun to do. Given that someone had a go at me for a song about special needs that I did recently, there was a lovely bit of karmic balance when I bantered with a couple. An edited version goes like this:Me:
What do you do sir?Him:
I'm a civil engineer.Me:
Is that like a normal engineer, but just more polite?Audience
[to his wife] And what do you do?Her:
I'm a teacher.Me:
And what do you teach? [to audience] Little, bastards!Her:
Actually, it's a special needs school.Me:
[totally unfazed] So, you're looking after kids with learning disabilities?Her:
[looking worried about the next line] Er. Yes.
Now, some comedians might have made a joke at this point... but there was no tension in the air, because I'd already explained that I was just saying hello to people and getting to know them. I'd said that nobody would get picked on, and I wasn't about to start making sick jokes about special needs children. I said something about how that was a worthwhile thing for someone to do and welcomed her to the audience. See. I'm not a bastard. A joke will happen when it wants to. You don't have to take the piss out of special kids to look like the big man.
I even did the majority of the material which got me into trouble on Feb 14th at that ill-fated gig. I did the majority of it, but I did it in a form which explained where the joke was, and wasn't gratuitous. I let the intelligent and pleasant audience do the hard work and I rewarded them. In fact, I think I was a bit too much of a sympathetic character for them. There is a section I do, which is laced with pathos and self-ridicule and it created more "aaahs" than laughs... but that still counts, because it's made up. Ha!
So, be nice to an audience as well as trying to make them laugh. That's a good tip. I think that to be nice to an audience you HAVE to be in the moment, so maybe that's why it's a good tip.
I'm looking at one of my main comedy heroes - Bill Bailey - and I'm asking myself why he doesn't need to resort to cheap jokes about sex or other offensive subjects. Why is he able to appeal to a family audience? Because he's good and because there's more to talk about than the base/offensive/dark stuff.
It's an important lesson to learn. One can expose the ridiculous in anything.
Like that bit I did about the feeling of piercing a jar of coffee.
I'm feeling good about stand-up today.
Neil Hannon, of the Divine Comedy, is a songwriter I admire greatly. I know this because I listen to his music and enjoy it, and because I forgive him for some transgressions against pure rhyme that, in lesser songwriters, I'd probably make a massive stand against. The thing he does, and it's quite common, is rhyme on the long vowel and the combination of letters on the end of the word, but not necessarily keep the integrity of the sound after the vowel. The classic example of this is in the song "Songs of Love":"Pale, pubescent beasts,
roam through the streets"
So, there's the "eeee" sound and the "sts", but the word "streets" has a sort of sibilant ending, but it's different. The pure rhyme for "beasts" might be "yeasts" or "feasts". Yet, I don't seem to mind. In the song "Come Home Billy Bird", there's a load of these misformed rhymes, until the very denouement of the song, where the rhymes go pure. I don't know if Mr Hannon intentionally sets his lyrics against the grain of the perfect rhyme in some places, maybe in "Come Home..." he's doing it to represent the stress of the "international business traveller". Maybe not.
Anyway, I like The Divine Comedy, and anyone who doesn't is wrong.
Things Of Note Late Sunday Night
I hate the fact that the "L" key on my new laptop's keyboard is still stuck. It's a total bitch. It started with the "minus" key going wrong. Then the "delete" key. They miraculously fixed themselves, but the "L" requires careful monitoring and hitting for it to make the letter it was put on the keyboard to produce. Damn De.. for their ineptitude.
Today has been a good day. From the point of view of the DIY it has been a bit lax, but from the point of view of getting myself all cheerful and ready for the week ahead, my biggest stress is definitely this bloody key on my keyboard.
I woke up late, convincing myself with "morning logic" that I could afford "just another 10 minutes' sleep" and that it was "too eary to get up" for about 2 hours after my alarm went off. Still, I got some work done in the kitchen. I'll write more about the whole kitchen project later on.
I was due to meet a friend before tonight's gig, so I decided to grab an early shower and go and do some shopping before the meeting up. As the gig was in Southampton and there's an outlet shopping centre in Portsmouth where I can find clothes that fit, I set off from home about 1.30pm for the shopping. So, I didn't get much done.
However, the morning had seen me fill my 25th rubble sack of the weekend, and had also seen me playing with bricks and listening to radio 2.
The car journey had plenty of songs from musicals playing and I was in a good mood as I mooched around the shops in Portsmouth.
The meeting a friend bit was good too and there was chat and food. Good things.
Then the gig went really well. I was MCing it, which was a nice chance to roll out some material I seldom do, and a good chance to try out some stuff which had occurred to me recently. Some jokes were so fresh that they were thought up in the venue. Broadly speaking, it worked, so I'm happy. The audience filled in the gaps, mainly with laughter.
There was a very pretty girl in the audience and she accosted me, which made my night. She complimented me on my shirt, which was nice, and she called me "mister", which I found sweet. It was like she was trying to say "hey mate" and "alright fella" but ended up with "mister". Like a Dickensian urchin. So sweet. So pretty. So delightful, that I totally forgot to hit on her. D'oh!
Anyway, after I'd done my pathos-laced love-letter, I think everyone will have been put off from romantic involvement with such a loser. I'd made the love-letter up.
The electrician comes in the morning. I've a list for him.
Am I Delusional?
I believe I can fly. I believe I can touch the sky. In fact, I can barely touch my toes, and they're a lot lower than the sky. I believe I can be the big hot-shot property tycoon, when in fact my money is running out and I have two houses and one tenant between them. I believe I can be a big comedian, when I still can listen to my own set and barely even crack a smile.
However, the above paragraph actually proves that I'm not delusional, since I know the limitations and fight them.
But there are some who are so blinded by their own dreams, that they superimpose their dreams over reality and assume it will comply. In some cases, they drift along, and noone has the heart to put them right, and the result is the success that they crave, if not deserve. However, in some cases, people are acting like they're about to get the next big break, when the reality couldn't be further from the truth.
Hey everyone, let's spend a fortune on this because it's an amazing opportunity that will springboard us into the future. No. Let's not. Because the reality is that you can't make a huge leap forward in your life just by turning up to something.
Who or what I'm talking about will remain a matter for me to worry about. Needless to say, I'll keep checking my own reality gap to make sure that I'm clear on why things probably won't work out, while remaining optimistic that I might be able to swing some sort of success out of them anyway.
On The Verge
I wasn't sure what this was about until I'd written it.
The car raced around the corner, its occupants cheering. Behind them, a cyclist skidded to a halt, dismounted and threw his bike to the ground. A moment later, he was on his knees, head tilted back, arms raised as though in triumph, with a face that told the opposite story.
“The little bastards,” he cried to noone in particular. “The little, sodding, bastards.”
As the tail lights of the car became ever smaller, the road was lit by nothing other than the wimpish bicycle lights, muted by the grass they were nestling in. The cyclist’s rage turned to self-pity and he slumped back on his heels. The front wheel of his bicycle had been turning since the time when it left the road and was coming to a standstill, the result of poorly oiled bearings on a bike he couldn’t afford to maintain properly.
People were so cruel to him. This wasn’t the random behaviour of random people. In this village, everyone knew who he was. That made it all the more personal. That made it hurt all the more.
Reaching down, he turned off the bike lights. He couldn’t afford new batteries very often and he wasn’t going to be going any further tonight.
Oh What A Feeling
Oh what a feeling, when you're pulling down the ceiling...
I went out this lunchtime and bought a wrecking bar. I shall attempt to pull large chunks of plasterboard down this weekend. I'll also attempt to pull down some masonry.
I bought a hard hat too.
And a respirator mask.
Here is an excerpt from an email that just came around:
I have had it brought to my attention that a number of you are unsure as to the Facilities structure moving forward following the Burnley Office moving in.
I'll admit that it's not the "Burnley" office, but I've renamed it to avoid being too specific. Anyway, look at that sentence. What the hell does it mean? I think it means:
Apparently some of you don't know who's running the building.
It's clouded in mystery, though. Here are the key phrases of mystery:
- I have had it brought to my attention - someone told me
- a number of you - everyone
- unsure as to the - erm, I don't know what "as to the" is supposed to mean - perhaps it means "about"
- Facilities structure - why the capital F? what structure? The building? The organisation? In fact, it means "who's in charge" - my guess is that the lunatics are running the asylum
- moving forward - the only people who are in charge, moving forward, are bus drivers (unless reversing). Perhaps "from now" is what was meant.
Why can't people use plain English? Or, put less plainly: I've had the issue raised that, moving forwards, as to the usage of the language of English, the Plainness Factor is significantly under the targets a number of people find Preferable
Is there a school you can go to to learn how to speak in such an officious and irritating way?
I raced out of work last night at 5.30pm. I had a meeting to go to in London. I ended up on a train back to Farnborough at 9.12pm. I was in Tesco at 10.45pm, in bed at 11.30pm or so. This morning I woke up at about 8, feeling quite refreshed. I had time for a morning shower, which truly rocks.
Despite the apparently action-packed nature of the evening, rushing to and from London, and the fact that I managed to do a little bit of wood filling when I got home, though nothing too impressive - slowly, slowly, filly, monkey, I feel like I had a relaxing time last night. I'm certainly feeling recharged enough to consider a massive project for this weekend - the tearing down of a ceiling. I was going to tell my electrician not to come on Monday morning, but I'm now thinking that perhaps he should. Let's get the wiring done!
Let me put a bit more meat on the bones of last night's jaunt. Or should that be joint? No, it was a jaunt. I didn't cook a joint. Had I cooked a joint, then I would have expected plenty of meat on the bones. However, I don't have a kitchen at the moment, so it ain't gonna happen. Get over it!
I was off to London for a pre-Edinburgh meeting for MySketch. I'm helping them in the first two weeks of their Edinburgh Fringe run (of 3 weeks) doing technical things for them. I'd like to be there for the whole three weeks, but that ain't gonna happen, for one reason or another. I think that the main reason it won't happen is that I haven't got the spare holiday time. Another good reason is that it's twice as much effort to do 3 weeks as it is two. Anyhoo, I was there for them at the meeting and I'll be there for the first two weeks. My role is that of chief techie. I'll run their lighting and sound for them and train an apprentice to do it for week 3. It should be a lot of fun.
I'll end up seeing the same show 14 times, but it'll be a good show.
To be honest with you, the idea of going to Edinburgh as a performer used to be a real goal, now it's just a habit. I've taken to wanting to go to Edinburgh and do other things. I've wanted to tech a Fringe show for a while, so this will be my chance to do that. I did a small amount of lighting and sound in a Fringe show in 2004, but I'm not counting that. So there. One day I want to go as a reviewer. Then, perhaps I'll run a venue. Better still, I should buy a flat and rent it there... that's where the profit is.
I was on the train for a good 50 minutes or so. I had a script to read, which amused me. It was a script that might be involved in a show I might be doing, More on that if it starts to look like it's going to happen. I then turned on the mp3 player and listened to Morecambe and Wise while trying not to be noticed in my occasional "checking out" of the girl sitting opposite. It's spring and I make no apologies for having my eye drawn to curvy fleshy things that are visible to the naked eye. I'm sorry that my genetic programming forces my eye like this, but I'm not apologising to noone. Not even her boyfriend.
Eric, Ernie and boobs. A good rail journey. I was in high spirits.
Off the train, onto a couple of tubes. No boobs on the tubes. Shame.
Then I ended up in the makeshift meeting room, which was a pub in Holborn. I hadn't had chance to get to a cash machine, so I didn't buy a drink. I had offered to buy a round for everyone present (about 7 of us) on my credit card, but people accused me of not being able to afford to do it, and I didn't want to start posturing about salaries or, more realistically, the fact that a round of drinks was a mere drop in the ocean, compared to the amount of money that's seeping out of my bank account in the same manner that the sea seeps into the cliffs. I just didn't get a drink in the end, it was simpler.
We met, we talked, cups were tapped for attention, it was fun. I like the people involved. It's chaotic and anarchic and self-organising and it seems to make itself work. Common goals are a great way to get people to make it work.
Then back on tubes and trains, listening to Alan Partridge this time. Then Tesco, where I totally failed to be inspired to buy more than a few snacks - albeit of the healthy variety. I wanted a couple of new shirts, but found the shirt range to be depressing. I should have bought a new toothbrush, but forgot.
Back home I watched the tail-end of the Mitchell and Webb DVD I got the the other day. I love Mitchell and Webb, but their live DVD is not their finest hour. Still, a lot of it was fun and I would have enjoyed it live. I'm a harsher critic than I used to be, so to have enjoyed it at all is a good thing.
So, I ended up in bed and ready to sleep on the same day I awoke and I gave myself to the land of nod. It was a busy night, but not as demanding as other nights. As a result I shall tackle today with alacrity.
Aldershot Pointless Carparking Signs Part 2
When I first commented on the signage
in the carpark I use in Aldershot. I assumed we had a case of the patronising laminated sign - a sign that's put up because one person was an idiot once and now everyone needs telling not to be an idiot. However, from the looks of things, it's not the users of the car park who are the imbeciles: it's the people who work there. They clearly want to be heard. They clearly want to express themselves, but the best they can manage is this. Chalked on two blackboards - lest you don't notice one in the middle of the two lanes you come in on, there are three things deeply wrong with the sign.
1. Its very existence. The fact that areas are taped off is apparent when you get to such an area. And find it taped off.
2. Off! Not of! Twats!
3. Even without the typo, this sign doesn't actually make sense. "Various areas taped off thanks". What? What are we supposed to do with this? Where's the verb? What's the point? What does this sign tell you? It tells me that some people are too thick to operate chalk. Maybe they mean "Some areas can't be used, sorry about that" or "Leave our tape alone" or "Thank you for your patience while we paint".
I suggest a new sign:
"Things may exist."
To go with the general purpose laminated sign:
"Don't be a twat."
Things Not To Say Part 78
Things not to say in the works canteen when ordering some fruit:"Fruit me up, bitch."
Eclectic Taste In Music
When I was younger I had a very limited view on what was music. As old as 11 or 12, I was dead against anything with "loud guitars" and thought that classical music and The Beatles (I had a Vinyl of Help and Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band to listen to on an ancient record player - some components of which I still have somewhere, having cannibalised it before throwing it away).
I liked Bohemian Rhapsody, but I thought Queen was a bit crap.
I was a narrow minded fool.
I don't recall having anything resembling a sensible taste in music until the death of Freddie Mercury in 1991, when I borrowed some Queen sheet music, played it through, borrowed some Queen albums, listened to them through and realised that, actually, I liked Queen. In fact, if I liked that band, which I had dismissed as noisy guitar stuff, maybe I'd like other stuff.
In 1992, aged 18, I started a crusade to buy more different styles of music. My CD collection was in the 10's when I went to university. On my computer, which does not contain the superset of all my music collection, there would appear to be approximately 800 CDs' worth of music, containing over 11,000 tracks.
It started with Queen, but then I tried to get into Jazz. It started simply enough with a bit of Louis Armstrong, and it's never gone that extreme, but I've thickened out my appreciation of music. In fact, a motivating force was the musical taste of a friend of mine. If there was something which I thought he might like, then I had to wonder whether I couldn't compete with him and like it better. Or at least, like something first. That was it. I wanted to be the first to find THE track - the one which was totally brilliant and he would enjoy. So, my guess of what this friend would like got me into various artists, including Frank Sinatra, which I assumed he'd really agree with.
This weekend, he told me that he didn't actually rate Sinatra that much. Does that make me like Frank any less? No. In fact, I was plumbing my own tastes, after all, not his. I just needed a catalyst.
And I still reckon that the Frank Sinatra sings Antonio Carlos Jobim album is excellent. So, there is no winner. Except the appreciation of music.
My collection of tracks has many musicals in there, something I got into really for my own purposes, various soundtracks - a shared interest with another friend, but, again, my own pursuit, Rock and Pop (my general purpose category), some Ska (well, Madness, but that counts), some classical music, and, of course, The Beatles, who are, by definition, exceedingly good.
And I sit at work and listen, on my reasonable Sennheiser headphones, to all of this. Music recorded over a 60 year period, some of which was composed much longer before, and I enjoy it all.
Nat King Cole is singing something cloying and soppy in my ear. I appreciate not being deaf.
May You Live In Interesting Times
The title of this post is an old curse. I suppose that living in "interesting" times is probably a bad thing, since "interesting" could be a euphemism for "the sort of stuff that makes the news", i.e. some bad shit. In my case, I like to live in interesting times. I like there to be many things on my plate, many plates spinning and many balls to keep in the air. That's why I'm going to work as a fat clown in a circus. Nope. That's just the natural extension of metaphors going wrong. I love metaphors. I'd make a shit autistic.
I do feel somewhat oppressed by the sheer number of conflicting priorities I have at the moment. I'm increasingly aware, now, of how much I managed to neglect basic responsibilities while I was living the latter days of my life in Newcastle. I did no maintenance of the house, though this weekend put a lot of things right, and I did scant cleaning. Now, with money flowing through me like sick through a whole in a paper bag, and so many things to do to keep the house moving quickly enough that the basic level of money flow doesn't end up eclipsing the project money, I'm quite amazed at how productive I need to be all the time in order to stay sane.
I need downtime.
I haven't time for downtime.
In truth, I ran aground last night. I did a couple of hours and then got overfaced by the sheer quantity of things I could do, that I just called it a day. I published the photos of the weekend, which wasn't a quick task. There are several other "not quick" tasks I'd like to do on my computer too, like break up a long recording into tracks, or write some comedy... but there's no time.
So, I watched half of the Mitchell and Webb Live DVD that arrived yesterday. I was falling asleep, so I stopped it and slept. I overslept in fact. I woke early enough to get to work on time, provided the traffic wasn't too bad. The traffic was bad. D'oh!
Last night, I did manage to put a new wooden support in for one of my floorboard. I screwed it in with some beauty screws that a friend of mine gave me on the weekend - the screws knew the score, they just went into the wood and held tight. Totally brilliant.
I also did some wood filling in the bathroom. I need to do some sanding in there, but I don't want to mess up the floor, so I'll delay the sanding until all the filling is done and then I'll lay a great big dust sheet down and hope for the best. I've noticed that the one majorly wonky tile is annoying me less at the moment.
Other than bathroom filling and that floorboard fix, I didn't do very much of use in the house. I cleaned some paint-brushes, which is one job I truly despise, but the brushes are so good that they're worth cleaning.
Oh, and I found the screwdriver head attachment for my drill, which I thought I'd lost. That's good.
One problem with all these busy times is that they can make for the most interesting writing, or at least the sort of journal writing that I might like to look back on, yet they make me too busy to make time for writing about them. Since work is currently busier than normal at the moment, and my lunchbreaks have been seconded for B&Q trips or the like, it's hard to find time to write on here. I don't want to lose track of what's been going on. So, I'll try to write something.
Even if it's a disconnected series of thoughts, rather than a coherent story.
Even if it's not proof that I'm living in "interesting times".
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