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Wednesday, October 31

The Day After

The day after my working from home day and there was a lot to do. There were various meetings and catchings up to be had. This was, in some ways, the aftermath of being out of the office for a bit. Then I had to make my way to the hotel where the following day's out of office event was to be staged, in order to prepare the room for what we would be doing.

I had to be home in order to meet a decorator to get a quote. Then, in a change to the advertised schedule, I headed off to meet a friend who was going to be meeting me at my house, but then ended up working too late to be able to come without basically saying hello and then leaving again.

I am not so quick to run out of steam on a night out and basically had to be thrown out, rather than leave of my own accord. Such is my "I find it hard to say goodbye" nature. Still, I think it was a good evening.

Tuesday, October 30

The Goods Cometh

I went into the office for an 8am meeting, stayed until about 10.30am and then returned home to work from home. In some cases, "working from home" is a euphemism, for slacking off. In this case, though, it was a definite matter of freeing myself from distractions and habits which form at my desk in the workplace.

I had to drop off my visiting friend, after her efforts of the previous evening - the painting - and also after she managed to single-handedly receive all deliveries imaginable in my absence. Then I set to.

I waded through email after email and sorted stuff out. It was a glorious experience. I even managed to arrange, in a spare moment, for a tiler to give me a quote for the work I needed doing.

The tiler visited later that day, gave me a quote and some information about what I needed to do, and my plan for the future of my kitchen evolved further.

Then I drove to a gig. It proved to be a non-starter. The acts turned out in infinite ratio to the audience. Ooops. I went back home again. Such is life. Not a bad day in total.

Monday, October 29

A Night Of Joyous Painting

Work happened. I was up early for some reason. I think I had a conference call or something like that.

Note: sorry - this is a late entry and I'm just noting down the essentials.

Then I went home and started preparing for a night's painting. This was going to be legendary. We were going to put a coat of paint on the bathroom (taking it up to one coat of bathroom paint) and prime the entirety of the kitchen. I got a call when my friend was nearing the station and I went to get her.

What unfolded was a bloody long night's work, which was followed by a cold night in a sleeping bag in an unheated room for me, while my friend got the comfort of the one working bedroom in the house. She bloody deserved the bed, too. She slogged on my behalf, for which I'm truly grateful.

We got food from M&S in the station and I bought fruit, using my special mantra - "buy fruit, eat fruit, feel good". So we had Jazz, paint and grapes, with the occasional plum, for company.

To describe the process of painting would be dull, much more dull than the results - a lot of very white things. I slept happy that the house was progressing. It was inspiring. A bit of help goes a long way.

Sunday, October 28

Delays Delays Delays

It's Sunday evening at 9.15pm. I'm on a train which was due to depart at 8.15pm and which, unsurprisingly to the reader of the title, has been delayed. I have, therefore, decided to pay for the on train broadband. This has enabled me to read some facebook messages and maybe even will allow me the chance to play some of my facebook scrabble moves. I'm on MSN with my sister and I could, conceivably buy some books, which I've been meaning to do.

Sending the 22 or so emails I wrote on the train on Friday night won't be possible... not yet... not easily, at least. It's something of a challenge to send emails from "anywhere" using standard internet connections and Microsoft Outlook. If anyone would like to enter a techie debate on this, then read the following bit in italics. Otherwise, skip it, it's not worth it.

Essentially, my Outlook is set to use the POP3 account provided by the ISP I use to host my core domain. However, for sending mails from Outlook, I need an SMTP server. The ISP doesn't provide me with an SMTP server, requiring me (as do most ISPs) to use the SMTP of my local provider. If the GNER wifi service has an SMTP server in it, I don't know the address and can't be bothered to reconfigure outlook anyway. My broadband provider at home, whose SMTP server I normally use, won't accept a connection to it from off their network. This is normal. I don't have an SMTP server I can use over a VPN connection, or a secured server, I could use with username/password. I have tried local SMTP server software, but I've found it rather flaky. I've meant to write something myself, or maybe adapt something open source, but I simply can't be arsed. There!

The internet access on the train is remarkably slow at the moment. I assume that this will be something to do with the fact that quite a few people are using it... this should be good as it means that there's a chance that it will speed up, once they get bored and their half and hour's access is up. Alternatively, it may simply be a load of crap. We'll see.

So far, not so good. That's £10 I'll not be getting back. In fact, I might, since I can, apparently, claim most of my ticket fare back as a result of the more than one hour delay. Yay. I'll have to do that. Having said that, my life is so chaotically busy that the chances of finding the time to write such a letter to organise it are very low. I've already received a stern email from someone as a result of something work-related that I didn't manage to do, so doing something non-work related in the maelstrom that is my day-to-day existence is quite unlikely.

Maybe I'll make the time.

The weekend has been a load of fun. I'll detail some memories. Why? Because it's what I do, apparently.

Friday
I arrived at the station about on time and took a taxi to a good pub where you can get food. We got food. We got beer. We stayed with good chat and company until the pub closed. Then we got a taxi back and some sleep was had.

Saturday
We got up in time for some sort of breakfast and then headed over to my friend's house to contemplate how to go about sorting out some sort of damp problem. We discussed enough of the strategy to fill the time, and cleared some obstacles. In truth, we didn't get very far. I had to get changed and head over to my grandparents not long after we started. In addition, I had a work conference call to do at 2pm.

So I did my conference call while walking for about 40 minutes. Most of the time I was just listening. I piped up with some facts and thoughts from time to time. I think listening was the best move, though. It is important that this particular project works out and I've been very engaged with it.

I won't blog my thoughts about the outcome/nature of the call. It's not appropriate to say so. I will, however, comment that I walked quite hard and the call went on for a good hour. By the time it was over, I was rather sweaty and I had managed to get myself into my grandparents' place. It had been a good walk.

I spent time with the grandfolks and then returned to the DIYing. This was a more extreme version of the morning moving things around and accidentally knocking things over. In this case, we used some hardcore tools and made lots of dust and played with bricks and cement and everything. There was some use of the "Martin" and we didn't use the "MacGonagal tip". If anyone know what these are, then they are in a minority of two.

After the work, we homed, showered, and then went out to a cracking Thai restaurant, followed by a cracking pub (apparently owned by the people who owned the previous evening's pub). We chatted to the barmaid about musicals, so I was happy.

Sunday
A late wake-up. Something to do with too much organic cider the previous evening, including some of my friend's dad's home-brewed cider, which was very dry and an instant hit.

Then breakfast and a trip to the house where we did some carpentry to stop joists from bouncing. I don't like bouncy joists.

A trip out of the house enabled us to buy some fresh mortar mix and get some lunch. The day hadn't really gotten going very well. However, lunch was exhilaratingly lovely and set us up for an afternoon's grafting.

We sorted out the necessary brickwork. When I say we, I mean my friend did it and I made silly comments and did occasionally useful supplementary tasks.

After that it was time to get back, get ready for the train and be delivered to the railway station. The weekend had involved the use of a number of exceedingly dangerous power tools. I had managed not to injure myself. So, I had to go and crack my head on the latch of my friend's car boot as I loaded it with my bags. Ouch. Me and my head injuries. I should really wear my cycle helmet at all times until I've learned to be careful. What a wally!

So, I'm here on the train with very very slow internet access providing me something of a line to the outside world, but only enough to play occasional scrabble moves on Facebook and MSN people.

That is all.

As you were.

Friday, October 26

Planning

I heard recently that my builder is moving out of the area in December. This explains his recent extreme interest in getting my house completed, putting extra work in himself (at a cost, of course) if necessary. I like the fact that he's putting pressure on me to complete the house. Given that I'm getting a flat mate who would probably prefer somewhere nice to live, it's good to think that the lion's share of the work will definitely be complete by the mid-to-end of December. How the hell this is going to fit around my own inability to put time in, I don't know.

I'm definitely overbooked. It's not just stand-up, though stand-up has definitely been a large part of it. Work is demanding and I'm socialising a fair bit during weekends. This is what weekends are for.

In the spirit of reducing the impact of the bottleneck, I'm doing this to make life better. I'm trying to rally the various tradesmen in such a way that I get the work that needs doing actually done. I'm also organising a decorator to do some of the jobs which I can't do, either well, or in the time. This will ease the bottleneck.

Also, just for fun, I've organised a pairing DIY session on Monday. A friend of mine is coming over to help with the painting and rollering. This will either improve my efficiency by confirming my expectation that, in short bursts, two people can achieve more work than one person twice... or... I'll waste loads of time being all sociable, hosty and generally anxious about the way it's done, and reduce our throughput to less than that of one person.

Time will tell.

I recently described my house as a failing project. That sounds quite unkind. It's true, though. I expected a different deadline. There have been latencies and delays which I caused, and I've not been reality checking the progress against a plan/budget/expectation. As a result, it's October and the house has a high dusty-incompleteness to happy-and-done ratio.

However, I feel like the corner is in sight and we're about to turn it. The kitchen electrical equipment arrives on Tuesday. The kitchen itself is an off-the-shelf package which can come whenever. The tiling will get done. There will need to be more radiators on the wall asap. There will be painting done. I will have my studio by the end of the year.

The studio bribe, by the way, is this. I've promised myself that, if I can get it plastered and painted, I can temporarily have the smallest room in the house as a studio. This will be for sound equipment and perhaps I'll move my computer up there too. It will make me prioritise the painting of a room that doesn't really need painting as soon, but it's a small room, and I'll paint it alongside a room that does need painting that soon, so it should be ok. Plus, I'll have somewhere to live that has a studio in it and I'll allow myself the purchase of a cheap electronic drum kit... as an incentive...

Arguably, bribing myself with something that will take me away from the work that I'm trying to encourage myself to do is not the best of ideas, but I'm the guy who thought my house would be ready by May, so what do I know!?

Next year will be better than this year. Of that, there's no doubt. Now I need to plan my way through a rather tricky few weeks and bloody well get there!

Mobile Office

Following last night's conference call on the move, I've just spent quite a productive couple of hours on a train with my laptop. It's odd. I'm going to try pushing myself by working from home on Tuesday of next week. This basically pushes my office into my home environment, and environment in which I never have time to do my home-related (and stand-up related) emailings. Now, I've just pushed my home email environment to somewhere else. I'm on a train and now I can do my emails.

I think there must be something of a novelty effect taking hold here. It's also, possibly, that there's bugger all else to do on a long train journey, so that's why I'm prepared to read emails dating back to August to see what I should be remembering to sort out.

Alternatively, this might just be a sorting out time of the month for me. Even today at the office I managed to do some useful things which have been lurking. I haven't claimed my expenses back yet, which is a bugger, but I have managed to tell the tax man some important things and I've also managed to pay a bill which was lurking on my desk wanted to be paid, willing to be paid and waiting to be paid.

Anyone who just thought "My Fair Lady", please take 10 points. If anyone thought "Pygmalion", you may have 10 and a half points.

So, here is a good way to spend a couple of hours. An mp3 player in the ears, some M&S food - many fruit and yoghurt - and lots and lots of tlc for the inbox. I feel like the 22 messages I've queued to send, when I'm next online somewhere home-shaped will really help me out.

A Highlight

Last night's gig:

Guy in audience: I wish I was fat.
Me: Why? It's a pain in the arse.
Guy: No. It's not. It's different.
Me: If by "different", you mean "sweaty and awkward", then yes. Is that what you want?
Guy: Yeah. Great.
Me: We should have sex. That too would be sweaty and awkward.

Oh, the hilarity.

Amazing

I would buy many of these books if it wasn't just a pastiche website.

Thursday, October 25

The Square Peg in the Round Hell

Actually, the title doesn't work here. The gig tonight was at the Square Pig, there was no round hole. The "hell" wasn't that rounded either. It was a tricky gig, though. Following my on-bike conference call and a train journey where I was standing on my mobile outside of the quiet carriage out of some bizarre acceptance of the idea that a carriage full of screaming brats should, somehow, not have me chatting quietly on a mobile phone in it, I cycled to the gig in Holborn. I nearly didn't find it... but a little use of the map I printed out (and didn't lose to the wind like last time) helped me.

I had originally been booked as the opening act, but I had latterly agreed to MC the gig. Then I found out that I was doing the door. When I arrived, I realised that I was also moving the furniture and generally running the whole show. There nearly wasn't a show. Audience numbers were very slack to start with, and trying to encourage people from the upstair bar to come down was really a shot to nothing.

However, people did come. Not many, but enough to have a gig. I'm glad we had the gig.

My MCing was a bit hit and miss. Generally, I knew when to cut my losses on a routine, which was nice... it was just after the laugh and just before the bit where it could go either way. I worked the crowd mainly with banter and brought some acts on. I suspect that I didn't quite manage to get the room perfectly staged for the start of the show.

However, the night went along ok at first and then pretty well. The closing act had a good time. Though her every minute on stage after 11pm was committing me to a progressively later bedtime, I didn't resent it. At the end of the day, I'd set out to organise a gig (for someone else) and it was going well enough to run on past closing.

I didn't cycle the most effective route back from the gig to the railway station, but it didn't matter. I like cycling in London and I was getting some reasonable bicycular (is that a word?) exercise. That's how it should be.

I got to bed late, but happy. Admittedly, all these late nights are difficult for catching up on life - all I can manage to catch up on these days are one or two emails and my Facebook/Scrabulous moves. I would like to go back to reading all the blogs I used to read on a daily basis, but work is too busy for that and my home life is either non existent or entirely DIY based.

Times will change, no doubt. For now, I'll enjoy the ride.

Remote Working

Work makes its demands and I'm actually quite interested in trying to satisfy them. I know that sounds a bit grudging, but it's not meant to. The idea of an environment which puts pressure on is one which filled me with a certain amount of trepidation before I got into it, and then filled me with a lot of stress when I got into it. Now, I think things are managed better than ever (and part of that is the fact that I've adjusted to it and been more proactive). The result is that there are jobs to be done and I find it rewarding to be involved in the getting done. It's a bit tense, but the rush of a successful completion is much more than in a lower-pressure just-ticking-along environment.

Anyway, I have work/life balance to maintain and I'm convinced that one must do that. So, when a morning meeting agreed to reconvene at 5.30, when I had to get myself off to London, I decided I'd simply teleconference in at that time. I'm still involved in the meeting, but I don't have to be present. I'm just multitasking.

And so it was that I found myself talking, slightly out of breath, during a meeting yesterday evening, from the comfort of my bicycle seat as I headed to the station. The impediment of my lack of breath and the wind rushing into the handsfree kit was a small concern, but I feel like I actually managed to contribute something useful to the meeting. I hope I did. I quite like this project.

I've been conveying some of the pressures onto my team. This has been for the benefit of the project. It's also been (with a little coaching and explaining WHY it's important, which I don't think they so much need, but I need to share it) a positive experience for them. They've not been crushed into banging stuff out. Instead, they've joined a race to achieve a goal. Days pass quickly this way and the regular achievement of a success is really enjoyable.

Apparently hairdressers are among the most satisfied of workers, since they effectively complete something ever 20-30 minutes and get an approval from their customer each time. So, I hope that I've been giving my team something useful to do and rewarding them for their results. That's fun - either side of the thank you.

Wednesday, October 24

Slicker

Following last night's somewhat harried teching of the sketch show, tonight was a corker. In fact, I used my special technique of packing too much into an evening and bloody well got away with it. I know. How the hell did that happen!? Here's the evening.

I finished work at 6ish and drove back to Reading in thickish traffic. I changed, packed my rucksack and cycled over to a friend's house. She was coming along to the sketch show with me. However, I then proceeded to leave my bike at hers, get driven into town and go for dinner at Nandos. We entered Nandos around 7pm. The show was at 9.30pm in London. I had to be there for 9.

After some succulent chicken, we headed to the station, took a train, got slightly delayed, didn't care, walked to the venue and arrived relaxed, in plenty of time to do the show.

The show then took place and, with a few changes given to me by email and just plonked into my memory, I teched it to the best of my ability. I felt the show went well. My friend enjoyed it. It all fell to hand and I think the performers did very well indeed. I'm proud, as always to be associated with them.

Then straight back on the transport network, with a few dietary no-nos committed, taxi back to my friend's place and then the bike home. A busy night all in. A cracking night.

A series of discrete tasks, completed under some pressure, but achievable, that's what today was about. The success was palpable.

Tuesday, October 23

If Mohammed Won't Come To The Mountain

Some supplementary comments made on the subject of Tuesday with the benefit of hindsight

It was quite exciting, at the end of the working day today, to get in my car and drive to a meeting out of the office. I know. It shouldn't be. A meeting is just a meeting right? But it was fun. It's nice to be in a fresh environment. In addition, when you deal with someone and hear about their work colleagues, it's just not the same as when you've see the people in question and understood how it's all actually done. Now I can picture how it all works.

After the meeting, in which I drew on a whiteboard, made a spreadsheet, wrote an email, decided I should send it, regardless of the fact that it made some strong demands, and then sent it, I went home.

I needed to test that my work laptop, which was coming with me for the evening (the first time it's left the office with me) would work at home. I want to do some working from home in a week's time, and I wanted to make sure that I wouldn't get hit with network problems from the moment I started. It's only reasonable to test this. It worked. Sorted. I will get a quality day of working done while I wait for my fridge to be delivered. Fair deal in my view.

I had to be in London for a show that started at 7.30. I was teching it, and so had to be there early enough to try out all the sound cues and generally geek it up. It wasn't far from the railway station to the venue, but I had my bike to take and take it I would. I cycled down to the railway station in Reading, trained it to Paddington and then hurried my way to the venue. I even managed to chain my bike up in a new an interesting manner on the inside of some railings that were themselves chained up outside the pub, lifting the bike over them and chaining it from my side. I had dressed in my "England" Rugby shirt, which wasn't an official purchase, bought for a few quid from a motorway service station. However, I'd like to think I cut a rugged form in my rugger shirt and shorts, fresh with red face from the cycling. Who knows!? I probably looked a right nana, though I wasn't in my "great big hobnail boots". Anyone who knows what I'm going on about can keep it to themselves.

The show was a success and seemed to last all of 90 seconds - the pace being a little quick, and the unfamiliarity of the equipment making me stumble a little hither and thither.

After arriving back in Reading, my stomach empty, I hurried to Tesco to find things to fill it with. While I was in Tesco I rang my parents who were asking when they might next see me. I hadn't told them about my forthcoming holiday in New York. I told them that this might get in the way of my having spare time in which to see them. Then they told me that they were due in New York next month. When? Overlapping dates. Amazing! So, I'm going to meet them for lunch in New York. That's how it goes.

The coincidences surrounding the New York trip don't quite stop there, though. I had been worried about the fact that I'd have to leave work early in order to make it to the plane on time for the trip. I had warned my employer of this, but there was always the possibility that something would crop up, requiring me to be doing work-related things that might jeopardise my timely arrival at Heathrow airport. One worries about these things. Today I found out that I have a meeting on the afternoon of the day I'm due to be flying out. The meeting is 2pm to 4pm, out of the office. Yikes. It's at Heathrow airport. Bingo Bango Bongo! Ridiculously convenient. Thanks employer! Thank you to the gods of coincidences.

Note. There are no such things as coincidences. Nor gods. Just in case this was getting a bit "believery".

Later That Night

Back on the train with the laptop out. Like a rebel, I'm using a computer and a personal stereo in the quiet coach, as I did also on the journey to London. Quick reality check. I was on the first train at 17.58. It's now 20.58. I've had less than three hours in London. During this time, I've cycled to my destination, been hooted at, chained my bike, done a quick tech rehearsal, teched a show and then cycled back. I cycled back the long way, which meant a mile's detour. I know it was a mile because I have a new cycle computer which told me.

I'm cold, but my rugby shirt - cheap from the motorway services - has kept the worst of the cold away.

Good times.

Catching Up

I'm presently on a train with the possibility of watchful eyes peering over my shoulder at what can only be described as a pointless daily journal/insight into the trivia of my life. Given that this will be on the internet in a few hours, it's probably not important, though it would be amusing if someone were actually reading this word for word as it appeared.

I love to play to an audience - so it would appear, at least.

Anyway, today is a day for catching up. I've let the blog slip, so some of the entries that appear before this one in the chronological order will be entered retrospectively. There's nothing like an immediate account of what's happened within hours, while the feelings and details are still clear, but that's not always possible. This will have to do.

In parallel with this, I've been trying to catch up at work today. There's nothing like doing a job when it's given to you, so you can deliver it on time with a clear memory of why it was given to you and what was required. In the absence of being able to do that, catching up is the best you can manage. It's clearly the day for it.

The people in HR laughed at my apparent lack of organisation today. One of them had summoned me to a meeting in order to go through some CVs, to decide whether to interview some possible future team members. To them, it was poor organisation that meant I hadn't reviewed those CVs. To them, it was amusing that they could schedule a meeting with me in order to go through them "together" and that would make it happen. To me, it was also amusing. However, it was also a good technique. The reason hasn't so much been that I needed nannying through the process. It's more that I needed some uninterrupted time in which to deal with it. At my desk, even on "catch up time", I wasn't ever going to have it at the top of my priority list, when compared with the myriad things happening around me.

And so it was that at 9am (well, a late 9am) I sat in a boardroom and decided to interview some candidates. Simple really.

Later on there was a catch up session with some colleagues, one of whom works off site and was too busy to come to a meeting to arrange the remaining work on the project into a list. I couldn't do it over the phone. I need it drawn on a piece of paper. I have a visual/spatial view of abstract problems. I need to lay them out. I need to see it. So, if Mohammed won't come to the mountain... I arranged to have a catch up session at the end of the day, along with another nearby colleague, at this fellow's office.

First, though, there was the training session that I'd planned to run. I had originally intended it as a workshop, but the lack of response made me turn it into a lecture instead. It seems that people were more likely to turn up to something self-contained that they could do over a lunchtime. I had made extensive notes to ensure that I knew what I'd be covering, the small detail and that, in short, I didn't waste their time with vagueness. I hope that the preparation and enthusiasm I have for the subject rubbed off on the attendees.

I also bribed them with sweets.

I also had the most ridiculous of nightmares getting a meeting room for the session. My first room booking disappeared, along with my copy of the appointment for the session. The second room booking appeared to be a double-booking, with the person in there adamant that they'd confirmed. My third attempt, made on my behalf by someone, turned out to have been made in the past. Weird. Anyway, the session (a talk on Design Patterns with reference to a real world example, for those of you who care) felt like it was a success. I saw some eyes closing, but I'm not sure if that was sleepiness, or the sort of "eyes closed with immersion" that I've seen people do in jazz clubs, and when I say I've seen it, I mean I've imagined it.

Anyway, after doing lots of bitty jobs, a lot of which revolved around deleting emails, having done what was asked on them, I decided to try out the idea of doing a work-from-home day. I'll go to the office first thing in the day, in order to avoid falling into the trap of not being awake in time to work for the day. Then, I'll go back home and try out the work-from-home thing. If it works, then I'll do it occasionally and see if I can get some catching up done every few days.

I'm on the train now, having scooted home to get changed and ready for some biking, and then having gone to the station. Simple really. You need station attendance to get the train. That's how it works.

I'm in the lighting/sound box tonight. I've got a sketch show to tech. I'm looking forward to it. I prepared my stuff last night, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the show/performances have progressed since I last teched for the people who do it. My mood is many many several times better than it was last time I did their show, so I'll probably enjoy it more than I did then.

I've not quite caught up on this year yet. The house is behind, the job is awash with loose ends, life in general needs a lot doing to it to fix it. However, I'm on the up. Or at least, it seems like I'm on the up, which is good enough for now.

Monday, October 22

Back On The Mainland

The trip to the Isle of Wight seemed exceedingly distant as I hauled myself out of my bed this morning. I had had the benefit of getting some sleep, which was nice. However, the reality of getting into the car and getting to work was enough to remind me that the holiday weekend (as in a weekend where I have a holiday, rather than an extended weekend) was over with.

I entered the office environment feeling positive and had a generally positive day. Lunchtime was spent in the barber's shop where I asked him to cut so close that it's no surprise that he put a huge amount of pressure on my face with his clippers. He went so close I nearly got a vasectomy. Badum tish. I didn't. He didn't even go as low as my chest. However, he did give me a couple of shaving grazes. I'll heal, I'm sure.

It was cheap.

Lunch was nice and healthy. This healthiness may be a case of too little too late, since I weighed in heavier than I'd hoped when I got weighed later in the day. I've put a bit of weight on. I'll have to be careful over the next week. It's probably the excesses of the weekend and perhaps the previous week too. Weird. It might just be a temporary aberration. I don't know. Never mind. I'm still basically on the wagon, so it can't be the end of the world.

I got home with a DIY plan. I had to finish the jobs I'd started the previous week. I had the benefit of the screws I bought in the hardware shop on the Island. I'd also had the benefit of some thinking I'd done over the weekend. I quickly attached my shelf to its brackets (Spax 12.5mm screws - genius) and then set myself onto the task of completing the plasterboard boxing around my pipes. This involved attaching a cross piece near the base of the boxing into which I'll be screwing the new section of skirting board that will ultimately adorn (or should that be festoon) it. Then I screwed the plasterboard on with a bunch of the drywall screws I'd bought. I had radio 4 playing and life was good.

Then the hard bit. I had to remove the ceiling paper from the ceiling (obviously). I had some blade scrapers, I had the entire evening. Surely this would be easy. After a lot of scraping, I was starting to feel like I should just pay the plasterer to reboard the ceiling. Then I hit on the idea of using the steamer as well as the blade scraper. Bingo. The sharp blade and the steam worked well in unison. I was up a ladder for quite some time and it was effort, but it all came off. I was ready for the plasterer to come and do his thing. Finally.

Well... nearly...

I had also to tidy up the site so that he wouldn't trip over rubble, wallpaper crap and so on. However, that could wait.

At this point I got weighed. I didn't care. I deserved a subway. I got a subway.

Then I went home, tidied the site up, got a lot of acrid dust in my nose, wished I'd worn my mask, and then I got washed. I washed the dust out of my hair. Well, I had no hair - I'd been shorn to within inches of my fertility, remember? But I washed the hair off too. There were bits of hair on my head, clinging on for dear life. The hairs which continue to grow are definitely survivors of the folicle holocaust which is progressing over my scalp, making me a balding coot. So, the hairs which remain are the heroes - and I had them massacred by a man with some shears and then I washed them down the shower. We never know how to treat our heroes!

Clean, I went and sat with my computer. I didn't use the opportunity to catch up on emails or do anything vaguely useful regarding my finances. The nearest I got was internet bank transferring some money so I could pay the builder the following day. I came home to find some new doors sitting in the house. These doors will be fitted over the course of the next few days and they need paying for. Of course they do. Everything needs paying for.

Anyway, I sat and worked on the CD and sound cues for the show which I am teching this week. I had been concerned that this hadn't been sorted out the previous afternoon, but it's not a huge amount of work, and I had the salient points in my notes. Once I had the cues all burned to disc I could relax. I would have read a book, but it was later than book reading time and I had the builder due first thing. I also had a 9am meeting in the office to get to.

Mondays can be a bad start to the week. It was ok today.

Sunday, October 21

Doing It All

I don't think I could have done more today unless I'd crammed in some DIY too. I did it all. I woke up on the Isle of Wight - there's a pretty major start to any day. Not only that, but I woke up early on the Isle of Wight. My alarm had gone and I'd been worried about missing it - we had an early ferry to get back to the mainland and I didn't want the hassle of nearly missing it which had dogged my journey to the Island.

It was lucky that I did wake up early as I was soon the recipient of a friendly emergency call. That's a call, which suggests a friend has an emergency, rather than a call suggesting there's a fire somewhere and it's cooked burgers for everyone and would I like to drop over. The caller had an urgent need to make me a coffee and I had no reason to deny them the chance of doing so, once I was near enough to drink it.

And so, I took my Isle of Wight host to the ferry and we sailed away to the mainland. It was a much quieter ferry journey than the outward one, and I even got some toast. I couldn't face the cooked breakfast, believing that perhaps I'd already exceeded my calorific intake for the weekend with the previous evening's eating.

On the mainland, I dropped off my passenger and hurried to see the other friend. Look at me, flitting between friends. I remembered to thank my host for the hospitality of the weekend. It had been a joyous weekend, indeed it may even have been the weekend of joy we'd planned it to be. We'd certainly painted various towns various shades of various colours.

My trip to my other friend was a quick one. This was due to the fact that I was due at a technical rehearsal in London during the afternoon. I had to learn the changes to the show which I had last teched a few weeks back. In addition, some of the sound effects needed changing. They had 3 hours in the theatre in which to go through these changes. I knew they didn't need me for the start. I also knew I couldn't just drop in for the last ten minutes.

Curtailing a trip to see a friend is never fun, but I had to leave when I did... I also had to hurry. I couldn't speed on the motorway - my licence won't take that. I cursed the speed limits, the distances and my own stupidity for not taking my laptop with me to the Isle of Wight, just in case... I had to go to London from Southampton, via Reading. This isn't the most efficient route. Still, I always plan when in a spot of bother and I asked another friend if they could run me to the station when I arrived in Reading.

Note: there are a lot of friends in this story. I must have friends. That's good.

Arriving in Reading I had time to pack some stuff I needed to pack and then I got a lift. Foolishly I forgot to change my jumper for something more convenient for gigging in. Oh, I forgot to mention I had a gig in London that night. I ended up lugging my guitar, my bag of tricks for rigging up guitars and technical things, and my laptop bag. Getting to London I hurried to the venue and was at the perfect moment to involve myself in the preparations. My friendly emergency hadn't cost my commitment to the show.

After we'd done our preparing, I went for a coffee with one of the people from the show. We chatted pleasantly and then returned to Paddington station, from where I needed to head to my evening's gig. I had told my coffee companion that the gig might be cancelled and that I wouldn't mind if it was. If it went ahead, I'd enjoy it. If it didn't, I'd get to go home. That's kind of how it can go with gigs in London and I'm ok with that.

As it was, I had a bitch of a job getting to the gig. Some of the tube system was closed, which required some clever line changing and jiggery pokery. Not that clever, but cleverer than I'd like to normally use. Anyway, I got to the gig. I had plenty of time to make some phone calls. I had time to buy seedless grapes from the grocer's. I had time to discover my seedless grapes had been mislabeled. I had time to invent a special de-pipping system, involving spitting into an empty bottle of ribena I'd just emptied.

The gig was cancelled as only three people turned up - someone's facebook friends. Someone should have had more facebook friends, methinks.

I cheerfully went back to the railway station via about 95 tube stations and called my lift-giving friend, who gave me a lift back home from the other end, via a co-op where calorific rewards (low calorific, mind) were purchased. We went back to my house where I showed off the DIY... the absence of much progress was visible to my friend where I had thought that it would seem more progressed. D'oh!

I slept feeling like I'd had a go at loads over the course of the day and that it had been a day where friendship meant something.

Saturday, October 20

Venting

A late wake up after the night before. We first went out for a walk around Ventnor. This culminated in lunch at a nearby tavern. Lunch was lovely. Our table had a compass in it. Neat. We took desert by the sea with ice cream. This is not a bad way to spend the day.

Then we drove into Newport, where I found a WHSmith and was excited to find the publication that I'd contributed to back in August. Seeing my name in the contributor section, with the words I'd so hurriedly whacked together in various Starbuckses, in a magazine on a rack in the Isle of Wight, was a bit surreal. Still, I bought it.

Then, in the spirit of entertainment, we went into a hardware shop and I was lost in the world of possibilities that surround the purchase of some good woodscrews. I chose my screws based on the fact that I genuinely needed to complete some projects I started a couple of days previous, and the fact that I love Spax screws. Mmm Spax.

The weekend promised to be a weekend of joy with this Isle of Wight based friend of mine. Buying the right screws in a hardware shop was most definitely joyous.

Then we went back to hers and started writing a comedy song together. How much more joyous do you need!?

After some song writing, we went out for dinner - chinese food - I like chinese food - and coffee at a cafe/bar. Some friends of my friend were standing outside the window randomly and were soon beckoned in to join us. With our minds on the clock, and the 10.30 ferry we were booked on for the following morning, we scooted at around closing time.

Back at the house, we holed ourselves up in the conservatory and recorded the song we'd written. The conservatory wasn't the best room for the acoustics, but it was the most remote room in the house and we didn't want to wake people up. Arguably, spending the wee hours recording a song, rather than sleeping, was probably not the most perfect way of waking up for the ferry we'd scooted off home to make ourselves able to wake up for, but we were young (well, she was) and enamoured of our song-writing prowess. And it was homework.

I went to bed listening to my newish mp3 player. It had been a good day.

Friday, October 19

Fried

There just aren't enough hours in the day. That's the Friday feeling. It really can't be put any other way. I thought I was on top of the day, but I nearly wasn't. Nearly. Nearly. But not quite.

I had empty spaces in my calendar, but I was busy over the day. I managed to get lunch - a sort of working lunch, though. It was with an ex-colleague, who reads this blog - hello ex-colleague.

In the spirit of multi-tasking, having met with my builder in the morning to discuss various things he'll be doing in the house, and having discovered that my choice of fridge is simply too big for my kitchen, I managed, somehow, to cancel the fridge order, scoot over to Comet on the way to lunch, choose another fridge in a 5 minute trolley-dash-style affair, and get the new fridge ordered for delivery with the other white goods I've ordered.

The day seemed to be going well. I had the 8pm ferry booked and I reckoned I could get to Southampton in a couple of hours from the office.

I hadn't thought it through properly. I hadn't reckoned on the fact that I should aim to arrive at the ferry 30 minutes before it sailed. This would enable me to actually get on the ferry and get my ticket. I also hadn't reckoned on Friday night M3 traffic, which is weird, because I've been frustrated by it before and I know how bloody awful it can be. In short, I was the sort of idiot who should have set off a lot sooner than I did.

However, following the cheery exit from the office, I did have the not-so-cheery journey to my ferry. Why the ferry? Well, I was going to the Isle of Wight in order to do a gig and then spend the weekend with a friend of mine who both lives there and had organised the gig she'd invited me to close. Simple really. At least, it would have been simple had I not been a bit of lame-ass-dumb-ass and left my office at what can only be described as "ferry missing time".

Anyway, I didn't give up. I was in the car in lots of traffic. I contact people. I contacted the ferry people and got a clue about how late I could and couldn't be for the ferry. I contacted my friend and asked about how well things would go if I arrived at the gig an hour later - not well. I generally sat there feeling stressed. It was not the time to be told that the arts centre, where the gig was being held, was now sold out - 100 people waiting for a gig that I'd be closing.

To be honest with you, I've got to the stage where 100 people in an audience is actually less stressful than travelling somewhere where I'm supposed to perform. On time.

I didn't think I make it to the ferry. I turned on a more assertive form of driving, using some of the skills honed during the karting earlier in the week, and did my very very best to get to the ferry.

I had loads of time.

Well, I had 7 minutes, but that was enough.

From the feeling of utter despair and desperation that was establishing itself in me as I became certain that the ferry was long-since-missed, I found myself in the car on the ferry. I texted my friend. She found a similar (if not greater) relief too.

The ferry journey was amusing enough. I changed, got a coffee, had a cheeky flapjack, played the quiz machine, looked at a very fat baby and then got off at the Isle of Wight. Simple really.

I sat-naved my way to the arts centre - apparently sat-navs work on the island, and arrived inside in time to see my friend hold a room of 100 islanders in the palm of her hand. She did a corking gig. Then a friend of hers followed her and stormed the room into even more laughter. Tough acts to follow indeed.

Normally I'd feel insecure about following such well-received performances, but I knew I was among friends and so I just concentrated on getting ready to do my thing. No compromising, just go out there and see what happens.

I'll be honest, it wasn't my finest hour. I had work on my hands to keep this room interested. A lot of them had come to see my friend perform and had peaked. It was also getting late. However, I had a lot of fun with the crowd and found myself saying and singing all sorts of unexpectednesses. That's the fun in live stand-up.

It was a filthier performance than I expected to give, but I did what I thought would work best with the crowd. Even though my friend's parents were around and may have thought a few times about whether they wanted this "foul mouthed troubadour" to stay in their nice clean bed, I did what I felt was funny under the circumstances, and I think I won friends in the process.

After the gig we went to a local venue and danced. I know. Me. Dancing. Sober. I was driving, so I had to be. Ridiculous. Ridiculously good fun. I think I won some facebook friends in the process.

The weekend had truly begun.

Thursday, October 18

Hung, Drawn and Quoted

Unsurprisingly, I woke up with something of a sore head. It wasn't the stinking hangover I might have expected, but it wasn't entirely pleasant either. I didn't want to miss a lift back to the office from the hotel, so efficiently provided by my employer, so I sorted myself out and went to breakfast. I breakfasted for a while with various colleagues. I was on the fruit and toast. I needed to regain my system, but I didn't want to touch the fried breakfast.

After a time we headed back to the office and got ready for the presentation that we were due to make that lunchtime. It was a "lunch and learn" session. Lunch was pizza and the learning was a lecture on a particular project we're working on. It can be hard doing public speaking - even harder when you're hung over.

I think the session was a success. My co-presenting colleagues thanked me for my involvement and I made the mistake of taking the compliment, rather than, perhaps, thanking them in return. I think I did thank them, but perhaps I just automatically went into more self-interested graciousness, rather than more proactive encouragement of them for their efforts.

I don't know. Maybe I overthink things.

I overthink things.

I ended up eating a lot of the pizza from the lunch provided. The main reason for this was because I had to sort out my deficit of brain and constitution. Alcohol I can cope with, but I need the help of food. I proved that the previous day.

My day finished in time for me to head home to meet the plasterer - I got a subway sandwich too (such was my need for calories and substance in my stomach). The plasterer said something like "Yes, I can plaster this. Why don't you box those pipes in with plasterboard and I'll plaster over them." and "I'll replaster that thing which has been bothering you". All of this was good and, as the plasterer left, with an hour before B&Q shut, I zoomed over to B&Q to pick up what I needed.

I should point out that, while waiting for the plasterer to arrive, I had started another DIY project. I'd started taking up the floorboards in my kitchen so that I could take any nails out of them and then put them back down again with screws so they could be tiled over. I also needed to scrape off some surplus lino from them.

At B&Q I bought timber, not wood, no, timber. I also bought some plasterboard. I bought a shelf, some brackets, various screws and some roller refils - the painting wasn't for now. The plan was to go home and tackle three DIY projects simultaneously - the simultaneous aspect was a way of enabling the drill to recharge in between times. The projects were:
  • Finish the floorboard removal and re-fixing
  • Install the shelf in my bedroom
  • Build the boxing around the pipes for the plasterer to plaster over
I worked until 1am. I completed all three projects with the exception of attaching a couple of pieces of plasterboard, which I had cut accurately enough, as I'd run out of screws, and attaching the shelve to the brackets it was sitting on, as I didn't have the right screws. But for screws, my 3 projects had been completed. Luckily, I'd had plenty of the screws to screw down the floorboards, or I'd still have a hole in my floor.

Extreme DIY adventure. Not bad at the end of a day which started with a headache in a remote hotel room.

Wednesday, October 17

Letting Off Steam

I was right. People at work do read this blog. I may not even be trying to be critical and someone who recognises themselves, or thinks they do, will find reason to take it personally. Even now, I'm aware that people I've discussed this blog with may now be reading this, thinking "he's having a go at me again, now". No. Stop. This blog was never about you. It's about how I interact with the world and how I see the world. So, maybe I mention you, and maybe you think you recognise yourself and suddenly go - "shit, I'm on the world wide interweb". That's probably a problem. I'm probably going to try to do it less, but don't worry so much that you're being made a fool of. It's not like that.

Maybe I should write this stuff down privately? Nah... that would never work.

Ok, maybe I should criticise people less? Maybe. Maybe I don't always write the full picture. I don't write about the background level of respect or confidence I have in people, just the peaks and troughs.

Anyway, this comes to mind again as, while we were waiting for our planned afternoon of Karting to begin, someone made a specific reference, by date, to something they'd read on my blog about themselves. The thing is, I barely remember the comment, which suggests that their part in that blog entry was a very small part of the point I was trying to make. Still, if someone reacts in a way I didn't intend, that's still my problem. I think I smoothed things over, though the last few paragraphs could easily have stuffed them up again. Who knows!?

The purpose of standing outside a karting venue in Camberley was to involve ourselves in a departmental event. It was a celebration. It was a reward. It was in the category of "enforced jollity" which I generally abhor. However, I bought into the idea and went along hoping it would be a good time to be had by all involved. There was to be karting in the afternoon, then a trip to a local hotel where we would be doing some drinking and dining. We'd stay the night there. All on the company. That's not bad at all.

I've been karting once before. This was when I worked at my first job. We had a team building sort of an event on the company. All I remember is that I was too fat for the boiler suit and so did it in my jeans and got very dirty. I also remember being good on corners and shit on the straights.

This time round I was still good on corners and shit on straights, but I did fit the boiler suit. I also felt good and had a good time. The only small problem was lunch. The karting centre only provided junk-food and I really didn't want to eat junk food. I reckoned I'd be better off not bothering.

Later on, in the hotel, as I finished the nth glass of wine, I think I regretted that choice.

Back to the event though, we went onto the hotel and I freshened up. I found the iron and my evening was complete. I re-ironed my shirt and felt ready for anything. I spoke with friends on the phone and chilled out. Then we had the drinks.

Guinness on an empty stomach. Not the ideal drink, but it does you good, so fair enoughski.

Hotel restaurant food on an empty stomach - would be a good idea, but they weren't incredibly generous with the portions and I wasn't incredibly keen on judging my wine intake fairly.

Returning to the table empty handed having been told to go away get a guitar and entertain the room... was a bit weird. I think I told a joke and then descended into a general "I love you all, you're my best mates" kind of a speech.... that was a fine moment.

This account gets vague. I remember all the key bits, but I'm not sure I want to recount much more. I'll say that I remember the moment when I knew I'd drunk way too much and so took myself to bed. I also remember the effect of alcohol on a nearly empty stomach and the colour of the vomit I made. I also remember a calm sense of self-supervision as I took myself through the process of being ill and then going off to bed. I looked on myself, as I do on this blog, with a sense of detachment and absurdity. My life is weird. Life is probably weird in general. That's that.

From lunchtime until the evening we were karting on work time. That means I was a professional driver for a few hours... probly.

Although I may have eschewed enforced jollity in the past, I came away from the event with a sense that I knew people around me a bit better and with a sense that a lot of steam had been let off and that the ice had been broken. I hope that's not just a convenient illusion.

Tuesday, October 16

You Should Read This

It's always the way when you write something publicly. Someone will look at it and think - "mmm, should he be writing that? what if so and so saw it?". To be honest with you, I'm foolish to write so much down and foolisher still to share it with the world. I have my methods of keeping it less personal and trying to be vague, but they don't necessarily work, sometimes even backfiring and making things seem more opinionated and worse.

Ah well... ho hum... I have to write something down. It's what I am. It's what I do.

Sorry.

I'll not say too much about work today. I will say that there were some moments of revelation and also that the emotional temperature was higher for me than normal. A little lack of sleep can exaggerate one's mood. Generally, I was feeling either a slight degree of being rushed, or, from time to time, the flush of excitement at a possible moment of success.

I feel like I'm contributing something useful, but time will, of course tell.

Today was nominated as a "valve day". This is a term I've invented and even used in a meeting today. I've hitherto used it to describe my extra-curricular activity planning, rather than work planning. As far as I'm concerned the valve-day began when I left the office.

The idea is straightforward. I hurry myself through life so fast that I build up various pressures. A valve day is a planned day of doing nothing in which I'll actually relieve some pressure or other. Today's valve day was spent ironing and moving clothes between my room and where the washing is done. As an encore I bought about £2000 worth of white goods online so that my washing (cooking and refrigeration) needs will be even better provided for in the near future.

I even managed to watch a DVD... well some of one. Not bad.

Tomorrow night I think I'd rather be home doing more valving... but we have a works night of enforced jollity instead. I'm perverse - when jollity is handed to me on a plate I'm all precious about it, but when I have to travel hundreds of miles to get a thin slice of it, then I'm happy as Larry.

Who is Larry? Does he want to swap?

Monday, October 15

Back and Forth

Back to work. Back to discussing problems which have troubled me. Back to my original thoughts on those problems. However, things are swinging. It looks like things are getting back on track. That's good. Positive attitude can help make a problem look like it's solvable (Soluble? No... unless the problem is how to dissolve something).

We had a workshop on presentation skills. I was "volunteered" to present. Surprisingly I gave a presentation which was generally quite engaging and entertaining making good use of vocal range, eye contact, making people laugh and structuring a presentation. Apparently I tap my foot as I do it. I also stepped on a few laughs (mainly because I found it a bit awkward to be looking for laughs in the office, but couldn't help it... oh and because I do sometimes step on laughs in "new material"). I didn't have the heart to tell the trainer that I've done just shy of 500 performances as a stand-up comedian and actually had more to lose by not being able to do a simple 2 minute speech, than I had to gain by being told I needed to learn more about public speaking.

Still, a gig's a gig.

Talking of gigs, I had to scoot from the office for a 4 hour dash to Leeds. I had a gig there. It's almost too far to drive. It feels even more ludicrous when you set off to go to a city that's 220 miles away when you only left that city about 20 hours previously to come 220 miles to where you're now returning to it from... with the promise of another late night drive back. Yaaaagh!

The gig was in an oddly shaped room with an odd-mooded audience, who were nice and giving and yet also awkward and restless. Such is the way gigs can go. I had a nice time, pissed about a bit, indulged myself, showed off to my friends (who had travelled less than 220 miles to come and see me, but perhaps had made a larger gesture by doing so than I did by attending myself) and then packed my sweaty self back into the car for the long drive home.

It was a tiring night but I enjoyed it.

I can't do too many of those nights in a given month. I was reaching breaking point, but there was a "valve day" ahead.

Sunday, October 14

A Weekend Of Jollity

Saturday I woke up later than planned, but rested enough to conduct the rest of the weekend. I had various things to sort out before leaving Reading, one of which was picking up the MP3 player that I'd bought rashly online.

Then I was on the road to Reading's partner in the Leeds-Reading festival. Leeds. Obviously. I would be in Leeds a few times over the next few days. This is the city of my birth, so it's normal to end up back there... still... it's a bit excessive to be back there too much. It's ok. I'd be back there again in another 12 or so days!

Anyway, I picked up my friend from Leeds, we went to see his house, which is progressing, and then we headed to Newcastle. My ex-adopted-home-town.

The plan was straightforward: improvise a good night out on Saturday and then, on Sunday, improvise a good day out. I won't go into details of either day except to say that it was a case of job done. I think we managed to see the sea of drunkenness in Newcastle and then successfully avoid it, finding a more intimate bar in which to get so drunk that a local charver commented "Eeeeh - heee's morrrtal". Of course in Newcastle, many people are immortal.

Anyway, Sunday's fun had the interesting side effect of furnishing me with 12 pairs of cheap and lovely 100% cotton socks. The sort of socks I used to buy when I lived in Newcastle... except they closed the market that sold them. And I've found where they went. Yay. Bless their little cotton so... you get the idea.

Sunday evening was a drive back from Newcastle to Leeds and then a long-haul from Leeds to Reading. I'd be back in Leeds the following night, so I didn't need to get too misty eyed about leaving the place.

If I learned one thing about the weekend, I learned that Newcastle ROCKS and I miss it.

Friday, October 12

Attending Gigs

I often feel the way my friend felt on Friday night. He was doing a music gig in London and I went along, taking a friend of mine with me too. He had invited his girlfriend and some other friends to come along. When we all got there, we discovered that our table formed a large part of the audience. It's easy to feel somehow embarrassed in this situation. It's easy to think that you've put your friends through something awful as the acts before (and after) you go up and strut their stuff - whether it's flawed or excellent (you see the flaws). It's easy to think of the whole thing as an ego trip that you're asking your friends to somehow underwrite.

Except...

Well, myself and my companion had a lovely evening at the gig. Sure, there were some moments that were awful, but they were delightfully so. Sometimes you just have to trust the show and let it be what it's going to be. It was fun.

I'd had to reorganise the weekend, which meant I attended Friday night's gig when I didn't expect to, rather than do an easier one on Sunday. I'm glad things worked out the way they did.

Thursday, October 11

A Dream

I met a friend today after work. I drove to Winchester to meet her so that we could go and see a play - a surreal interpretation of a Midsummer Night's Dream. In order to get there in time I rushed in my car, changing my clothes while in stopped traffic. There's something very wrong about taking off your trousers in traffic. Very wrong indeed. Not naughty... just wrong.

The play was entertaining, the company delightful, the post-play meal less than perfectly healthy, but I'm sure I didn't overdo it. All in all, the night was a good distraction from the week.

On the way home I chatted to a friend and planned a weekend the likes of which I hadn't been expecting. This is the benefit of planning as you go. I ended up at another friend's house, organising accommodation for the weekend that I hadn't realised I was about to have.

Wednesday, October 10

Knight in Shining Vectra

I had a gig in Brummie land tonight. I got there in time to do my thing. I even managed to get there in time DESPITE taking a stupid 30 minute detour because I can't pay attention to my sat nav when I'm on a stupid roundabout and my "drive me home" instinct kicks in and I take a STUPID exit that there's no easy way back from. D'oh!

Anyway, the gig was fun and the audience were up for it. The acts got progressively better and I'd already agreed to go on last, so I had to watch the show and do my usual trick of worrying if the audience would enjoy me. If the acts before are too good then either they'll make me look crap, because they're better than me, or they'll make the audience give all their energy to laughing and leave nothing but tired people for me to work.

I should point out that I like it when other comedians rip a room. I like it when audiences have a good time, and I don't need to be the best comedian on the bill. I just worry about being capable of making the audience laugh.

I needn't have worried. This audience were lovely. They were totally up for it and I managed to give a nicely self-indulgent but largely focused performance for them. It was fun to do and that's why I do stand-up comedy. I've also learned a lot about how to make gigs fun for me, even though it's often the same-old same-old, and I got to use those tricks and that confidence in profusion tonight.

I hurried back to the car with the aim of getting home in reasonable time. I was also arranging a holiday with a friend over the phone. The sat nav said I'd be home between one and two.

Then I got the call. A friend of mine had missed her train from London. With late night links she'd have a long wait and a long bus journey and not be home until way after 4. My "lone female" instincts kicked in. It's like a "spider sense" with me. I couldn't leave her. I worked out the best place to meet her in her natural journeying onwards, and programmed the sat nav. I'd get there within minutes of her arrival.

Now, this could look like some sort of noble rescue, or like I was trying to prove a point or get something back from it, or even like I could give myself a good story to tell on this blog, or to people I want to impress. I think the "hey aren't I a good guy" bit flashed across my head, but I'm too lazy to be motivated by that. In the end, I genuinely think I was motivated by the fact that I saw it as a shared problem. I like my friends to be safe and well. This friend was facing the uncertainty of a ridiculously late lone-journey and that affected me. So, I joined in the solution.

I arrived at the station and there was no sign of my friend. I rang her. She was somewhere else in the station. We worked out that there was an underpass linking us. I talked to her as she crossed it. I heard her footsteps, I replied with a little tap dance so she could hear that it was me. Apparently she still thinks that's funny. If she knew how bad my tap dancing actually is, she'd find it even funnier.

Then we got in the car and headed a long way away. I dropped her off and headed another long way. There's nothing more to it than that. I'm basically everyone's dad. It's ace.

It's nice to look after someone. It's nice to have company on a late night drive. It's nice to have the ability and freedom to do good things. Not everyone could have done that. Not everyone could have gotten a little sleep after a long night's driving and then gone back to work and functioned well enough to be useful. I knew I could. And I did.

So... not a knight, just me.

Tuesday, October 9

Home Where The Hate Is

In summary of tonight: I went home. I did some extreme wallpaper stripping - you know, the sort where huge lumps of plaster come off... then more... then you end up looking at bricks.

Then, tired and sweaty, I showered and headed out to my gig in Reading. It's my home town. It's the town, at least, where my current primary residence is. I should have gotten there easily.

I think I had the singularly most difficult last 300 yards of any gig I've been to in the last 3 years. Even with a sat nav, the last 300 yards can be the trickiest bit of the journey. Getting from the vicinity of the venue to being actually at it can be a bugger, especially when this venue is a glorified pool hall, hidden behind some other buildings on a road with no name.

I got there, I watched a lot of acts do their thing. Some were new. Some were experienced. Some were funnier and some were more interesting.

When I took to the stage, the night had already run its course. The audience didn't give a toss. I can't say that I was on top form either. In the end, having made some laughter, I cut my losses.

It was a gig in my home town for charity. I learned very little, but I lost nothing. I think we raised some money or something.

Result.

Monday, October 8

Highlight

I went back to Edinburgh this weekend. It was the first time I'd been back to the place following the silly season that is the Fringe. Every year I go there knowing how the Fringe will turn me into an excitable buffoon, and every year I know that there'll be a post-Fringe come-down. Despite knowing this, every year it happens without fail and every year has a weird September as I readjust to life without the joys of August in Edinburgh.

Even though I live far too far away from this city of love, I went back to the scene of the crime only a few weeks after I was last there. It was good to wander around the place, rediscovering all the Fringe haunts as they now look, with the seasonal nonsense removed from them, and the more permanent Edinburgh, which sits underneath its annual summer costume, revealed. Edinburgh can tolerate such silliness, because it is old, wise and fun loving. Edinburgh is common sense and the silly season passes without tipping it into the insanity which I seem to throw myself into annually.

So, I feel more sane. It was good to pound the streets, full of the joy of being somewhere I like being, and see normality returned.

Having read a book recently in which the narrator climbed Arthur's Seat, I had decided that I'd like to do the same. My journey was accompanied by two lovely friends who live in Edinburgh year round and we reached the top without too much effort - on my part at least. The new-found healthiness means that I can scale minor hills without worrying too much. We got to the top, we saw the stunning view, we headed back down. At some point we found a big grassy bank and the girls decided to roll down it. I watched, my 33 years weighing me down as the sensible soul among these 25 year olds. Then one of them, suggested that she could take the coats and bags and that I should have a go.

I haven't laughed like that in ages. The sort of laughter that comes from the absurdity of doing something that makes you dizzy... for no reason at all. Highly restorative. Of spirits, at least. My hair ain't comin' back. No way. No how. No chance.

A gig in Glasgow on Saturday night to 12 people was another step along the route of the weekend. I decided to go predatory-flirty-camp and somehow confused even myself about how successful a strategy this was. Thankfully, I finished the show, packed my stuff and got out the place before making eye contact with the lady in question. I can do silly flirting in front of an audience for laughs, but quite frankly, when real people are involved, it's far too complicated.

Still, in my head now, I've turned the corner from minging to gorgeous.

This is not true.

Thursday, October 4

What A Swell Party

After a couple of false trips to London to attend gigs that never were this week, it was very lovely to take a very lovely friend to a very lovely gig where some very lovely friends were present to watch a very lovely headline act. Yes. I'm speaking in the positive for a change.

The whole of the evening's loveliness was set against a day which had its ups and downs, but didn't give me much more than a hurried toilet break and very little in terms of time to get appropriate nutrition. I was running below even "running on empty". I was very stressed and tired and not really jaunty, until the gig.

On the up side from the day there were highlights, including one interview I conducted which made me almost want to sing with pleasure. That's a good thing. I think it's most unprofessional of me to describe an interviewee as "he's a dude" but he was... a dude...

Anyway, a good post-work night out is pretty restorative. Shame, that the next day's work has to come around so soon. Still, the weekend is nearly upon us, and by us, I mean me.


Wednesday, October 3

There's Always One

I contemplated my saintliness as I stood on the railway platform after work today. I was about to take the train with my bike in tow. I was using public transport AND I was going to be using my own efforts to convey myself between the station at the other end and the gig I was heading for. So, green and exercising. I must be very good indeed.

Then I saw the man walking towards me on the platform. He had very well defined calf muscled in his slender tanned legs. He was carrying a backpack. I noticed the legs above all else, though, because they were poking out of shorts (as were mine, but his shorts were shorter) and because he had bare feet. Yes, not only was this man taking public transport, but he was on foot. Literally. He'd totally eschewed shoes. This was a man who felt the ground beneath his feet and who was greener and healthier than I.

I tried to mock him in my mind, but I was too impressed. He was a man among men, a stout walker among cyclists and motorists. In short, he was a weirdo.

I sat on the train reading my book, with my bike safely stowed in the bike racks at the rear. At the far end, I picked up my bike, jumped on it, and then headed out of Paddington towards my gig. I was pushing myself and my bike. I was alive. I even stopped to pick up a newspaper from a free newspaper seller, who offered it to me as I sat at the lights and then couldn't believe that I was going to accept it. I quickly stashed it in my bag. I could use the paper for the topical material bit of the gig. I was on form. I was being green and healthy and... what was that snapping feeling and noise?

A few hundred yards from Paddington and my bike was grinding to a halt. Something had fallen off it. I bent over to pick up the piece and my newspaper fell out of my bag. I picked up the pair of them and got off the road. The bike was, in short, fucked. I played around with the chain, which had one link bent out of shape, and I looked at the fallen off piece - the derailleur - I knew what to do with that. Slowly and carefully I walked the bike to the nearest bin and binned the bit that had come off. I wouldn't be needing that again. The chain had been loosened enough that the bike would wheel without the rear wheel locking. Essentially, though, it was no longer viable as a means of transport.

I wheeled it back to Paddington and walked past the man with no shoes. He seemed even more saintly, like a cross between Jesus and an Open University lecturer. I thought I might have a tantrum about this turn of events - my race to the gig by bike converted into a broken bike and a change of plan. My inner child wasn't stamping its feet, though. I was instilled with a zen-like calm. To be honest, I know nothing of zen, I just like it as a word for scrabble. I had an alternative plan forming and so I just followed it. It was simple.

Step 1 - park the bike. A quick enquiry at the information desk and the Paddington bike racks were found.

Step 2 - clean up and get some food. I'd not eaten since breakfast and my cycling on empty was clearly not going to continue. I always thought I'd break before the bike, but clearly not. So, I went to the Sainsbury's within the station and bought some baby wipes and some sushi.

Step 3 - Get the tube. It was on the tube that I started turning my oily hands into cleaner hands which smelled a little of Aloe Vera.

Step 4 - Get off the tube, fed and ready to walk the last few hundred yards to the gig. Self explanatory.

Unfortunately, there was Step 5 - discover the absence of audience and Step 6 - dismiss the comedians with many apologies for wasting their time. I gave the headline act a contribution towards his expenses from my own pocket. I've had various comedic ventures thrusting money I don't need into my hands of late, and I would rather give that to someone for whom comedy is their livelihood, than sit on it and grow avaricious and evil.

Thus my night unfolded as a poor impresssion of the plan. I ended up back in Reading with a broken bike, getting a lift to the bike shop from my friend. I chained the bike up, threw the key and a note through their letterbox and will leave the rest up to them and the local criminals - depending on who gets to the bike first.

Today left me in reasonable spirits. Bizarrely, the misfortune of the bike and the gig were probably good things. Over the course of the working day there were various not-so-good things to do, along with a couple of really positive things, which I enjoyed achieving - a small workshop I ran being one of them. I hope that I imparted what little I know in a constructive manner. However, work has that name for a reason and I needed to unwind. It was the bad stuff happening this evening - pulled gig, knackered bike - which kind of helped.

I like laughing at misfortune, even if it's my own. It helps if it's minor misfortune. Irritation and inconvenience are easily laughed off. Fundamental biggies, like life, love, home, work, are harder to laugh off. A silly bike breaking is actually a hoot. I chatted to a friend during the train journey home and managed to wind myself up into a near hysteria of giggling. This was caused, in part, by the ability to release the day's tensions with silliness, and it was compounded by the fact that I knew I had a guy eavesdropping on my conversation and occasionally giggling away himself at some of the funnier turns of phrase I came out with. Consequently, I did my best to make it funny for me, my friend on the phone, and the eavesdropper.

I'll admit. I lost it. I got hot, sweaty, giggly and unable to speak through the laughs at points. This broke many of the moods I've been feeling concurrently over the day.

Don't worry though. The dark clouds haven't lifted or disappeared over the horizon. They'll be raining on me again tomorrow. Life doesn't just heal. However a good bit of laughing can cover a multitude of bad patches.

Tuesday, October 2

Have You Come Far?

After a day's waddling around the office like a duck about to lay a golden egg containing thoughts and stress - yes, this similie makes no sense - I got into my car and headed to Londinium. I was due to do a gig. In Latin. Not in Latin, that's just my lickle attempt at a joke.

I had agreed with the promoter that I could arrive at the venue at 8 and I'd established that I could possibly even arrive later, as I wouldn't be going on first. So, there shouldn't have been much stress for the car journey. A windscreen full of people's tail lights told me that I'd be waiting quite some time before I arrived, but I had my CD for company. On the CD were 7 tracks, all of which I'd recorded with my equipment and some of my instruments. A couple of the tracks largely featured my sometime-co-writer, with me on the bass in one case, and responsible for the lyrics in the other. The remainder of the tracks had me on vocals, piano, guitar... indeed, whatever else I chose to add to the track.

As usual, I was unimpressed by my own contribution to the recordings. After a while I turned off the CD and drove in silence. Then I put the radio on a bit... in short, I was bored of my own company. I'm getting a bit repetitive these days. The same thoughts over and over again, like a 7 track CD stuck on repeat, where nothing on there seems quite what I should have called a complete job.

Anyway, I got to London, and decided, stuck in traffic, with Radio 2 playing some Eric Coates music, to get changed in the car. This involved taking my shoes and trousers off and replacing them with trainers and jeans. I felt really weird taking off my trousers in traffic. I'd say "try it", but don't. It's weird. I also felt weird getting my jeans on in traffic.

Luckily, my body has dropped in size, so there was wriggle room in the clothes and I was probably more supple for squeezing around the steering wheel. It's all very glamorous in Showbiz. I could be the next Russell Brand. In point of fact, I couldn't.

Anyway, I hopped on the tube, with guitar and guitar amp in tow, and then popped out at the other end. My forgetfulness on leaving the office at top speed, meant I didn't have a printout of my destination with me. However, I had my blackberry for accessing the email with the address in it, and I had my mobile phone with Google Maps for looking the address up in easy to follow format. I also had a definite case of being a fucking nerd to handle. Russell Brand would probably just have hailed a taxi in this situation.

I also had a text from the promoter saying something about the lack of audience. I thought I'd go to the venue to find out what was going on.

I arrived at the venue, cursing the Subway en route for being closed. I discovered a pulled gig. "Have you come far?" the promoter asked feeling guilty. I answered that I'd not and that I'd largely come on expenses and so he wasn't to worry. I then turned tail and left, finding the Subway to be open after all.

Another night on the town. Second night this week that I was due to go to London. Just got to do Wednesday and Thursday. Then I won't be going to London again this week... oh no... Edinburgh - city of love - city of illusions - city of joy...

I feel like I've got a lot of travelling to do at the moment.

Monday, October 1

Tell Me Why

I got into work early so that I would be able to leave earlier. I ran around all day in a series of meetings. I don't get the time to go to the toilet at work, there are so many meetings, many of which run into each other. I considered going to get some lunch at some point, but then couldn't be bothered. I was feeling low and I was feeling harrassed and I just got through the day.

At a designated moment, I left the office. I'd managed to get a banana in me from the fruit bowl which I instituted on our bank of desks. I must restock the fruit bowl sometime soon.

I drove home, quickly changed into biking gear, cycled to the station and found myself on a train in short order. I was feeling quite tense and tired. I then listened to the recording I'd made of last night's gig. This had the effect of cheering me up quite a bit. The bit in the set where I broke the audience down and the set became a lot more relaxed was about the point when even I, listening to myself do material I know rather well, recorded on a crappy recording device, found myself chuckling a little.

Note: at a moment of extreme tension, a very silly image or joke can actually turn the day around. This happened with my yoghurty Darth Vader at the hairdressers the previous week, and it could happen again.

I finished chuckling on the train and even wished I had more time to listen to the rest of the set, but I had to get my bike back and head off to the theatre in which I was due to do some sound/lighting things.

I jumped on the bike and channelled all my frustrations and other negative energies into my legs. I know that I'm probably losing weight because some of these cycle rides on an empty stomach, are burning off my reserves. I know this is not a healthy approach. I don't care. I burned some rubber and battled my way to Highbury and Islington tube, where the theatre is located.

I had to learn some changes to the running order and cues. I also wanted to test the CD. I didn't mention it to the cast, but the CD they gave me actually didn't work. I ran it through my computer (which I brought "just in case") and made a copy of it which then did work. I didn't worry them because I had it under control. I also made a CD of some music I quite fancied listening to on a big PA system. They then told me not to play that stuff because it was a bit downbeat.

It was their show and I played what they wanted.

They did the show and I teched. I think I did a reasonably good job. Their show went well. They even got forced into an additional curtain call.

I was proud of them. In fact, I love being their techie. For the duration of doing for them what they want me to do, I am spirited away from my own problems and put in a world where things are funny and I can at least help a little.

I scooted from the venue back to the railway station and then straight onto a train back to Reading. Still hadn't eaten. So, I went to Tesco. The sandwiches and salads section was totally empty. I believe I swore. I did find some food though, including some apples and a big smoothie. I like smoothies.

When I'd finished eating my stomach felt very full. I don't know if I ate too much too quickly, or simply whether my stomach is no longer my own. I used to be able to eat loads. Now, I barely can eat "much". Plus, my job means that I seldom have time to take a shit, and then, when I do, there's bugger all that comes out. I mean. What's the point? Being fat, at least you get to make a meal of a poo.

Not literally.

I was in bed early enough to read. Then I stopped reading.

What a day!

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