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Saturday, May 31

Play/Paint The Spot You Got

I had been worried about today's gig for quite some time. I have also been worrying about DIY in my house. The DIY is easy to explain - the house should have been done long-since. The worry about the gig will take a bit more explanation.

Basically, I rang up asking someone for a gig a few days ago. Discussing what he was looking for, I then suggested that he shouldn't book me for that spot and should, instead, maybe consider me for support slots in future. Then my "agent" rang him and got me booked in for the spot I thought I'd talked my way out of.

Now, surely you want a good spot? Well, yes... but... I would consider it disrespectful to blag my way up a bill beyond better and more experienced acts. It's disrespectful to the other guys who are better and more established. It's disrespectful to the promoter to suggest I'm better than I am, and it's likely to go wrong if the audience see that the final act isn't as good as those that preceeded him.

I've worried about these things for a few days. However, if you go on stage with the wrong attitude, you're guaranteed to fail. So, I decided to do today for myself. I put 4 hours into the house before leaving for Huddersfield where I was to play this gig. I put the second coat of paint on my upstairs two rooms. Progress. Whoop.

I was due to stay at my friend's house in Leeds after the gig, so I headed up North with a plan for the next few hours. I had a new CD - the soundtrack of Xanadu - and this amused me greatly. In fact, when the Electric Light Orchestra kicked in with the song "Alive", I couldn't wipe the grin from my face.

I went to Huddersfield and I got ready for my gig. I made some backstage comment or other about how I felt a little over-sold for my spot and then concentrated on being as good as I could for the room I was given.

I didn't die on stage. I had some moments of hilarity. I had to use a lot of compereing skills to keep the room under control and I found that my songs turned the audience off where banter and spoken material really worked better. I kept my cool, did a fairly long set, took the money and got out of the town.

On the way out, I bought some beers, which I then consumed with the lads in Leeds long into the night.

Some of what I'd done today had been a bit of a challenge, some of it I was proud of. I certainly grew as a performer today and also got my house another step forward.

Friday, May 30

A Filthy Mess

An interesting point on how this blog is produced (correction a point on how it's produced): I sometimes write what's happening on the day it happened (or at least the waking day). Sometimes it's written a week or even longer later. The available detail varies. Sometimes I start writing what's coming from my head as words and make a typo. Sometimes I reword the sentence around the word I accidentally typed, rather than fix it. This is how much I seem to care about getting the right words and right detail. The result is... well this.

I've not one clue why tonight's gig got its name - Filthy Mess. It was well organised, but it wasn't really well attended. I'll be honest, I've played less sparse rooms with more people in them. I've also played rooms that seem less sparse and yet have fewer people than those who attended. There were simply more seats than people in a big room. However, I wasn't going to let that get in the way of having some fun.

The night was just in progress as I arrived in Cambridge and walked to the venue, which was within the grounds of a hospital. It was a charity gig, so I had lowered my expectations for how forgiving the audience might be of my rather cheap brand of pseudo-intellectual pseudo-filth. I even decided I would, from my "headline" spot, have a crack at some newer jokes. Why not!? What's the worst that could happen?

As it was, the night was very well-natured and I had a really nice time on stage. I had a bit of banter with the audience, I had some nice laughter from the nice people of the crowd. It was pleasant and worthy of the trip. In fact, the momentary jumping around with excitement at pictures of my skip (one of the other performers is a skip fan) made the trip worthy in itself.

I drove home happy.

Thursday, May 29

Look On The Brighton Side

Always look on the Brighton side of life. That's what I'd say if I were a cheap, tupenny pun-merchant. I had a gig tonight in Brighton. I've never played the club in question and, to be honest, I didn't really hit the stage all guns blazing. As it was, I gave a moderate performance, with a few good moments, and a bit of hiding away from the audience, who were large in number and not too visible through the lights.

Gigs like this are ones you learn from. I didn't die horribly and gave a good enough account of myself to be able to talk to the other acts without embarrassment. However, it was a big reminder of how I've not be playing bigger rooms recently... or at least not done well on them. I've also been a few nights out of the circuit and perhaps haven't been keep entirely "match fit".

There are more gigs to follow this one, into the weekend, so this was the chance to get myself back into some sort of form, with Saturday night's hard closing spot to get totally comfortable for.

After I'd done my bit, at the start of the show, I got to relax with my friend, who'd come all the way to Brighton to see me (and the show) and watch the rest. We hooted with laughter in various places. Any insecurity I might have had about my own performance was soon washed away with laughing at the good night's comedy that followed.

This is why I like comedy.

Wednesday, May 28

Party On

What a rock and or roll lifestyle I lead. Today I got into the office in time to have meeting hell. This was punctuated by a two hour period in which there were no meetings. I tried to get myself sorted out for the tail end of the meeting hell, but ended up ordering some business cards online. They were, allegedly, free, but I suspect the shipping and handling fee were probably a way of paying for the manufacture too.

Yes. Business cards. How modern is that!?

Then more meetings. Then a conference call. And another meeting. And then a call on the way to the car.

Arriving home, I managed to motivate myself immediately into the painting. I painted the inside of the upstairs wardrobe/cupboard that I started painting yesterday. Then I went downstairs and painted the inside of the cupboard in the living room (I suspect this will become a book shelf for the books presently in Newcastle). I did a little filling of my bay windows and then retrieved a lot of paint from my garage. I'd bought plenty of paint yesterday in B&Q, and a lot of it was the same colours as that in my garage. The idea was to use the garaged stuff first, since it can't be taken back to B&Q and then use the new stuff if I needed it.

I headed up to my smallest room, which I'd decided to paint "Almost Oyster" a sort of pinky colour, which is warm but quite pale. I hoped to make the room seem no smaller, while avoiding it being a white box. The room has sloping ceilings, so I'd have to cut the colour into the white of the ceiling by some method. I'd bought masking tape, but I decided to do this task freehand, using a great big massive paintbrush.

This technique proved remarkably successful. It's a slow process, but after 90 minutes to two hours, I had a room which looked like it was one colour on its walls and another on its ceiling. I was so happy with the results as I was going along that I frequently exclaimed how good the results were as I was going along. There's nothing like a bit of positive reinforcement to keep you motivated.

The plan had been to use a colour called "Soft stone" in the slightly larger of the attic rooms. I've also used this colour before, and it's heading towards a brown, though it still has a light touch to it. I thought, perhaps, it would make the other room seem cosy, rather than small. However, I hit a quandary. Do I open a fresh pot of this new paint and then have to wash the brush and get a fresh roller? Or, do I acknowledge that I have a big big pot of "almost oyster" already on the go, from the garage (so it's already paid for) and just continue using the same tools.

On the basis of it being cheaper, easier and generally the right thing to do, I crossed the hall and did the opposite room. First coat.

If I'm honest, I got a bit tired, slapdash and generally less careful. There are some places in the other room where the accuracy suffered. However, both rooms look great. There's another coat to go on in both cases, but the transformation is amazing from rooms with a painted ceiling, but semi-transparent base-coat paint on the recently plastered walls, to where we are now.

When the painting is done in those rooms, I can fit new light switches, new light fittings and think about carpeting. The skirting boards and doors will be a big obstacle to the carpet, but the lighting will be a nice step forward too.

I'm hungry for the house to get to a more complete state... and soon. Then mabe my life will seem like it's more on an even keel.

Tuesday, May 27

Don't Stop Moving

After the success of the Bank Holiday in terms of getting household tasks done, I didn't want to lose momentum. As a result, I managed to motivate myself into ringing a local skip company, one of whose skips I'd noticed on the street where I live.

Quick musical aside: I have often walked, down the street before, but the pavement always seemed so incomplete before, now at last the trip, really is a pip, with a skip on the street where I live. Apologies to AJL.

I rang the skip hire firm as I travelled betwen offices this lunchtime (after I'd gotten a quick haircut) and arranged for it to be delivered same day. After my afternoon's work, I came home to discover the skip and, thankfully, that it was still empty. I changed, did a quick B&Q trip for paint, a shovel and a lampshade. Then I did a Morrison's trip for various supplies and returned home. Home at 7, it was time to tackle the skip loading.

As a quick bit of backplot, I should point out that my last attempt to rid myself of unnecessary debris was back at the end of July when I was between jobs and the world seemed full of excitement and promise. In a cost saving exercise, and with the help of my ex-girlfriend's dad, I hired a van and did several trips to the local tip. This involved a lot of sorting at the far end and was a total nuisance. However, a load of rubble sacks were removed and an entire garage was emptied of crap. What remained was a modest pile of shite outside my kitchen door.

Two things have happened since last July (actually, that's a lie - a lot of stuff has happened, but two of them are relevant). Firstly, there's been various bits of buiding work, which have resulted in things being added to the pile. Secondly, and this is the annoying bit, people have been seeing a dump outside a house and adding to it. We got a TV a few days ago... and it didn't even have Freeview.

I would have been rather peeved to come home to discover my skip already full of other people's crap. I will be even more annoyed if my drive becomes a dumping ground from here on in, since it is now totally clear of crap. In one sweaty 90 minute session I filled the skip. One two three, job's a good-un.

I came back into the house and had something to eat and then tried to motivate myself into doing something else useful. I decided to fit the new lampshade. This also involved refitting, so drilling and rewiring the ceiling light fitting. A simple job in the end and the jury is still out over whether the new lampshade is right for the job.

But there was more to do. I had another coat of PBW emulsion (that's pure brilliant white) to whack on the ceiling of my 2nd bedroom. It was the only ceiling which didn't get its second coat over the weekend - the paint supply running out. I set about the process of putting on this latter coat. I want a gorgeous finish. This involves edging with the paintbrush, then edging a second time with the roller, by hand up the ladder. Then comes the rolling by pole to join it all up. Bish bash bosh, job's a good 'un.

I was in the final straight of this task, with Elaine Paige playing on the Listen Again from Sunday (I missed much of it) and I noticed someone pushing a car along the street. I assumed they were trying to start it. It turned out that it had run out of fuel. I know this because I lumbered down to offer help. In the end, we pushed the car to a neighbouring street and parked it. Yes, after my night up and down ladders, following the heavy labouring and skip work, I was the motor in someone's vehicle. Brilliant.

I offered various extra bits of assistance, like transport to a petrol station or home or whatever. I was thanked, but the offer wasn't taken up. I think it's good when people help each other out. I'm not sure whether I was totally motivated by doing a good deed, or whether some of this was displacement activity to avoid the effort left back in the house.

Heavy with sweat, I returned to the house, completed the task and then did an encore by stripping out and painting the inside of a cupboard. I don't care too much how this looks, so long as it's basically clean.

And that was my evening. A lot of labour and a few moments of sweating so much that my glasses got streaks. The effect on my house is noticeable from the last few days. The living room is really coming on the outside is a new place. I've bought various colours of paint, since I can now start doing walls in some of the rooms. I'd like that.

I've one DIY night left this week and I'm not entirely sure how I'll spend it. However, there are plenty of things to paint and, with the exception of the colour for the walls of the front room, I have the paints I'm going to use. I have decided on colours and everything. Lovely.

Monday, May 26

More Of The Same

You never think you'll run out of 10 litres of paint. It turns out that you can use the stuff at quite a rate if you go round painting 3 rooms in two coats each. After the second coat of emulsion on my living room ceiling, it was clear I didn't have enough paint to put a second coat on my second bedroom. So, I set about the process of undercoating. This is a non-trivial task. As a result of the undercoating, the living room looks totally brilliant. I ended up working until around 11pm on it. I undercoated bay windows, skirting boards, doors - you name it, I undercoated it. I probably applied a litre of the stuff.

If the previous day hadn't given me painter's arm, today certainly did. I slept with much discomfort.

However, the bank holiday weekend had afforded me a lot of opportunity to progress the house and the effects are noticeable on every floor. Progress in 4 rooms, plus a little in the upstairs hall too. There's a lot to do to complete a room, but I feel like I've broken the inertia that has beset the house. This is good news.

Sunday, May 25

Another Slothful Morning

My body clock goes all out of whack over long weekends. So an even later than expected wake up, had me going out to B&Q at around lunchtime for some paint. I reckoned a single 10 litre bucket of pure brilliant white emulsion would see me through the tasks I was about to undertake. I also had a couple of litres of the stuff left in another pot.

When I returned home, I painted 4 ceilings. There's no easy way of putting it. That's what I did. It took a lot of effort. Then, I went back upstairs and painted the first two again.

As an encore I did some priming in my living room - the skirting board and bay window.

A day on my own painting. How could I follow that one up?

Saturday, May 24

Not Early To Bed

As a result of the previous night's exertions, I couldn't quite motivate myself out of bed. It wasn't my fault. I'd had a hard night. I managed to tumble out of bed in the end. Then I went around the house brandishing various sanding devices. I sanded until it hurt.

Eventually it was time to get showered and dressed and go out for the evening. I needed something of a night out. I went to see Indiana Jones with a friend, alongside of which we had something to eat. Very nice evening out. A rest.

I didn't come back and do DIY, that would have been crazy.

Friday, May 23

Toppling Over

I'll confess it. I had a lot of pizza tonight. I ordered Dominos online. However, I sort of earned it, though. I came home and started work on the painting. I had fresh plaster on my living room walls and unpainted, but not so fresh plaster on the ceiling of my 2nd bedroom. These need painting with a mixture of emulsion and water as a base coat for further painting.

I actually managed to do it. I motivated myself and transformed a long-ignored job into a done job and my front room into a palace of white. This was purely a way of getting ready for the decorating tasks ahead on the weekend. A starter as it were. Not like the starter than came from Domino's - yikes, that was deeply bad for you.

The hard work felt good.

Thursday, May 22

Never Forget

There's something odd about arriving at a venue to find a huge poster of yourself up. A big picture of my smiling face adorned a pub in Tewksbury as I arrived for my gig tonight. There were slightly more modest-sized versions of this poster, laminated... and then there was one in the back window of a car in the nearby car park... Weird.

In case you think I'm getting big headed, don't worry. I wouldn't mention it. I'm usually embarrassed more than ego-boosted by such things. Of course, it's worth mentioning owing to the clever comedy karma thing that goes on with this. They spelled my name incorrectly. Not my last name - Frieze - that would be easily misspelt. No no no. They got my first name wrong. They called me Ashely, which is what my grandmother might call me as a pet name. In fact she does.

Amusingly, they had been to my website to get the photos and quotes, so the fact that they got my name wrong suggests incompetence, spite, or that it simply isn't important. Let's go for the last one.

I could tell you tales of the heroics of the gig where it looked tough but I won the crowd over in the end. There's not a great deal of point. If I'm bigging myself up, then I'm a tosser. I don't need to do that. I'm already narcissistically talking about my every day on a website dedicated to myself. Let's just say that it could have gone either way and I actually had a good time with the crowd. "It's your sort of crowd" might be an insult when I hear it said to me... but it can be an asset to have a certain sort of crowd.

Anyway, it was nice to get back to Tewksbury and have a joke at the locals' expense.

Wednesday, May 21

I did it

I did do my ironing and watch The Raiders Of The Lost Ark last night. Doo dee dum dee, dum de dah.

Brilliant.

Tuesday, May 20

Inertia

It's the little things that can seem so hard to do. I really need to break the inertia which is holding me down a bit here. Today I managed to get myself booked for a dental appointment (well, two). I did it while getting lunch by simply steering myself into the dentist's. I needed to register and sort myself out, and the opportunity presented itself, so I just did it. That was easy.

There are a number of other little things I just can seem to get around to. I really want to tell everyone I know in Newcastle that I'm gigging at the Chillingham Arms on 5th June and that they should come. In some ways mentioning it on here is a start, but it's not a guarantee that the message will get across. I need to sit down at my home PC and send out some emails... maybe even a Facebook event.

So many other little things I can't quite do. I can talk big always, but I sometimes get stalled on a task I need to do. I'm sure I could leave my ironing undone for a few more days, but I think we're at fever pitch with it now. There is a lot of ironing to do. Hours of it.

I shall do some DIY tonight. I really shall. Then I will do some ironing. Perhaps I'll watch some Big Train, or maybe I'll iron my way through Raiders Of The Lost Ark. I might like that. Do dee do dooo, dum de doo.

Monday, May 19

Finally Some Progress

I managed to break various degrees of inertia and do something productive in the house tonight. After a fairly demanding day in the office, it seemed like the perfect end to the day was to nip to Tesco for some food, and then promise myself that I'd do about 3 hours of DIY before getting to eat it. I arrived home at 7ish, and after I'd prepared myself for the work ahead, it was 7.30.

Sign Here
I started out easy. I painted the board that I have attached to my garage with another coat of white paint. The purpose of this board is to be the backdrop to a sign that reads something like:

Stay away from my house you bastards


Though I suspect that I need to write something more friendly in order to encourage people to avoid parking across my drive and garage. I think that it can't be negative like:

Please don't block the drive


Negative doesn't really work. Though, I like the "please". The secret to these signs is simplicity. Never use the word "would". Example:

Would you please stop blocking my drive


It sounds like a school marm complaining that there's marmalade in her petticoats again. So, the key has to be something in the positive which hasn't got too many words and sounds friendly, direct, and gives the message that the drive and garage entrance should be kept clear.

Please stick your car up your arse


Possible... though I think it may be misunderstood and not adhered to. It also need to have few words, so it can be written in large without requiring the whole garage door in place of the nice 400 x 400 board I've got up there.

Please keep clear


Perhaps too short - and keep what clear?

Please keep entrance clear


Something like that. The jury is still out. Answers on a postcard to "Would you please think of a better sign you bastard. PO Boxed in by cars. Reading".

Patching
On a roll, like a nice slice of cheese, I then progressed to some light painting in the kitchen. This took only a few seconds in total. All I had to do was paint a small section of wall where the paint had started to bubble and put a little paint on a bit of a patch to the plastering which I'd needed to do after the radiator was fitted. There'll be a second coat to both of those required, but they already look a lot nicer.

This is what you need to do when you've got a massive job like "oh my god, the house is nowhere near done" - focus on manageable discrete and achievable tasks.

Filling
Then I went onto the "gun of the brown poo". This is the name I give to a special wood filler that I find very effective for... erm... filling wood. It's brown in colour, but don't be racist. Equipped with this, I went round making small patches to various bits of door frame and also the big framing that I've constructed upstairs to hide my central heating system.

Sanding
I'll be honest with you, I don't like sanding. I keep pretending that it's fun, especially with the various machines I've enlisted into the service of sanding. It's not. It's a pain in the arse. It creates lots of nasty dust. Doing it by hand is too much like hard work and ends up giving me rough skin. Doing it by machine is more effective, but noisy and tiresome, especially as one has to change the sheets. One day I'll invent something better.

Anyway, I've been realising that a lot of the work on progressing my house is contingent on completing sanding tasks. So, I set about the sanding in my second bedroom. I used my new random orbital sander, which is deeply effective and can strip wood down completely if given half the chance. I coupled this with another sander and a little action by hand. The process took long enough that I even ended up sanding some of the filling I'd done previously.

Other prep
In no particular order there was also the removal of about 3 inches of carpet around the border of the second bedroom, to allow access to the skirting board (the carpet is knackered, so it's no loss) and there was various bits of vacuuming - mainly to reduce dust levels and prepare for painting.

Primed and ready
Then there was the bit where I whacked some primer on bits of bare wood that I'd either gotten ready through sanding, or had accidentally laid bare through sanding. A certain amount of joy was derived from painting over the bits of door frame I'd filled. The architrave of the door had, in the past, been cut in various places to allow random bits of door furniture to be attached. I've painstakingly cut spare bits of architrave into the shape of the holes and glued them back into place to make the architrave continuous again - the result of painting it is that I can now appreciate how close to a good job that achieves. Not bad.

Food
I rewarded myself with some fat-reducing grilled food. Note to self, the underside metal bits get hot too. Still, I've managed to reduce some of the fat in one of my fingers, so that's nice.

Big Train
I finished watching series one of Big Train. I then proceeded to look at the DVD extras. With TV on demand, it looks like DVDs are starting to seem an unnecessary, but then the DVD extras will probably not be included in the on demand, so perhaps they are worth buying the disc for? Right?

Have you ever really enjoyed the DVD extras? Are they really worth it?

In the case of Big Train, I watched the deleted scenes, expecting to feel like it was a few minutes of my life I wouldn't get back. As it happens, what I effectively got was an episode's worth of sketches that were of a similar quality to those in the broadcast show. Some of the production was a little roug around the edges as they'd been cut and not quite finished. There was no laughter track. In some cases, the reason for the cut was that the sketch was just too damn dark for TV. Good. I like dark humour.

So, well worth watching if you're a fan.

Oh what a night
My first proper night in the house in a while and I did loads, then. I even managed to do some washing up and a couple of loads of laundry... ironing didn't happen. I had planned to write some music, but that didn't happen. There are only so many hours in the day, apparently.

Sunday, May 18

Back To Reality

After the excesses of last night, I woke up in something of a weakened state. This might make the casual reader imagine that I'd spent the night drinking and taking drugs. In fact, I had stayed completely sober, the only excess of intake being food-related and fat-containing. The excesses which most affected me, though, were the excess of cold (or maybe that's a paucity of heat?) and the general amount of standing around, or bouncing along to music that occurred.

As a result, when I woke up in my sleeping bag, fully clothed, in a caravan, on the second visit of the organiser of the gig, who was packing his stuff up to leave, at around 11.45am, I ached. I was a fair bit warmer than when I got to sleep, but the comfort of the caravan had been mainly in terms of a sofa to kip on. I had expected something more - like some sort of mobile hotel. No. An unheated space, be it a tent or a caravan, is a place to freeze your nuts off in the middle of the night.

I'm not being ungrateful. I had a hassle free "camping" experience and I was treated very well and had had a good gig the night before. It had been a cracker of a day all in. However, it was time to go back down south.

I limped (literally, my leg had seized up) to my car and headed to the nearest services on the A1 where I managed to find some coffee (not too hard) and respite from other requirements of the body. Then I continued my merry journey down south.

Of course there was the Elaine Paige musicals programme to listen to. There were also the CDs from the band that had headlined the night before. The process of sitting in a car for 5 hours to get home wasn't entirely painful. It's what I do.

Back home, I had time to get showered and re-dressed before I was then due to go into Reading for a meeting before the comedy night I was compereing. I decided to be healthy and cycle into town. This was a good move. What wasn't a good move, in hindsight, was the bit where I did a lap of honour of the little market square outside the pub where we do the comedy. It was a nice market square, and the lap of honour was fun. Picking up a puncture wasn't fun. I reckoned I'd just pump the tyre up at the end of the night and replace the inner tube later.

The comedy night went really well. A nice audience. One of the best we've had there in terms of mix of people and numbers. Conversely, they were a bit Sunday-night-sticky. They needed pushing into a laugh. Some of the acts self-destructed a bit. Still, that's new act/new material nights.

Afterwards, I discovered that the new pump for my bike has the wrong attachment for my valves.

I pushed the bike home, via the chip shop. Sod it.

At the chip shop I had a smileathon with a pretty girl who then disappeared into the night. Pointless. But then making a room full of strangers is similarly pointless... though I wouldn't trade it.

Saturday, May 17

RAWK!!!

I'm partially inspired by the work of Mr Danny Wallace. In his book "Yes Man", Danny basically agreed to every opportunity that came his way and observed the results on his life. Now, I'm not quite going that far - especially since Danny adopted a totally naive approach to what he accepted, probably to punish himself for wasting a few months on his sofa. In my case, I tend to say yes as often as I possibly can, usually as an attempt to push the envelope and keep myself out of my comfort zone.

And so it was that I agreed to MC (or maybe I offered) a rock gig called "Ramshaw Rocks". It was a fundraiser in aid of the Ramshaw Rescue centre in Bishop Auckland. The gig was run by a guy called John Grimshaw, who had arranged for a big tent to be set up in a field on the site of the rescue centre. There was a bonfire ready to be lit. There was space for camping, portaloos, a caravan for the acts to chill out in and a big stage, build out of plywood sat on logs.

Overall, this was a homegrown version of Glastonbury and it was lovingly put together.

My day started as I woke in Newcastle, got myself together and then headed to give the keys to my house to the Estate Agent so that they can sell it. Then I went to Newcastle Airport on a work commitment. Finally, I was free to go to the gig. I was due there for set up and sound checks around the middle of the day. This was in plenty of time.

The show started at about 6pm and went on until after 11pm. I had to choose how to MC it quite carefully. The audience were fairly small in number and it was much more of a family crowd than I felt fit my "singing filthy songs" persona. As a result, I played it friendly and enthusiastic, with occasional caustic lines. All with a smile.

To be honest, I didn't need to do any of my own material. I could have left the guitar at home and just MCed it straight. However, I had gone to the trouble of sound-checking and I felt like I wanted to do something, so I did a couple of songs. What looked to the audience like my hilarious "where are you from" banter was actually just a list of the official regional stereotypes, ever-so-slightly customised for the moment. Still, people had a giggle and the gig was great.

In typical "yes man" fashion, I bought the merchandise that was available to buy. In this case it was a "festival" T-Shirt and the CDs of the final band that played. This is one of my tricks for enjoying festivals. Where possible I will buy the CD. It's a little something you can listen back to as a memento of good times.

Though people were camping, I was given the use of the artistes' caravan, which turned out to be remarkably cold when I eventually chose to retire. Still, I wrapped myself up in my sleeping bag, fully clothed, and waited for the shivering to stop.

My life is so very rock and roll.

Friday, May 16

In Transit

I woke. I packed. I went to work. I drove. I listened to a lot of Radio 4. I arrived in Newcastle. I slept.

Thursday, May 15

I'm Ergonomically Correct

I was inspired by my work today. Just a little. It was a question of going to work in a different environment, which can definitely follow the "a change is as good as a rest axiom". Actually, it's probably not an axiom. It may be an aphorism or an adage. As always, I digress.

I went to work in a different office, dressed down for the occasion. Dressing down allows me to work better. That's my theory. There's no evidence for it. Also, a change of environment means I can do less of the sometimes bordeline OCD stuff I seem to do when I get too comfy in the same environment as I always work in.

At the end of the working day there was a gig to go to. Off I went to Wolverhampton, as is my way. I arrived in plenty of time, giving me the chance to get settled, talk to the other acts, do my sound check and generally get ready for what was to come. As always, I worried about whether I'd look a dick. The first two acts were also musical. This means that not only do I end up worrying about whether I look funny, but I also end up worrying about whether I look musical enough. Given that the last act also sings, I felt that I'd been assembled as part of a fairly musical bill and fair enough, eh?

I've played this room before and I know that the audience can have a lot of energy if hit right. All I had to do was go out there all guns blazing and I was certain we'd all have a loverley time.

The first act was dressed as a giant badger. As such he couldn't see, nor could he be heard as he had to stick the microphone into his badger head. It looked like there was a wild-animal fellating the sound equipment. I've no idea whether I would have enjoyed his set if it were not for these technical difficulties. Musically, he really managed to achieve an impressive feat, playing drums, tambourine and guitar. The thing you have to bear in mind, from a guitar point of view, is that he was wearing big fat badger hands. So, cleverly, he open-tuned his guitar and equipped his suit with a slide.

Big Badger playing slide guitar. Is it art? Maybe. It bemused and entertained in various measures. Laughter wasn't really forthcoming - at least not scripted laughs.

Second up was a female musical duo (with one song accompanied by a separate guitarist). They had long pieces with glorious harmonies, that required persistence and tenacity to be played to the exceedingly well-received conclusions. They were lovely, but quite short. I believe that was one of their points. Their McFly take-off/send-up left me with a song in my head, but prompted my own McFly material to come out.

My set went nicely - some stuff hit the roof, some stuff didn't. That's the nature of the cookie that crumbles.

A lecturer of most of the students present (I should have said, this was largely an audience composed of a drama course at Wolverhampton Uni) closed the second section and he was very enthralling to listen to.

In the closing section, the headliner, Mrs Barbara Nice, did a raffle and then a stage dive. It's hard to see why that's the behaviour of a national headline comedy act... it's hard to see when you read the words. Had you been there, you would have known. She is 100% A1 class. When I first saw her, she was introduced as a "show-stealing bitch" and though that sounds a little harsh, let's just say that I wouldn't want to compete with her in any way.

Luckily, you don't have to. In a bill like tonight's, you go, do your thing, get the laughs/stares, and then sit back and enjoy. That's how comedy should be.

Wednesday, May 14

Almost Wasted

Looking back over my diary, I've almost always got something to show for each day. I'm writing about this particular day retrospectively, and, to be honest, I can't find very much to say about it. I know that I went home after work and did sod all. I think I may have watched a couple of episodes of Big Train. I may have justified it by saying I was recovering from my cold. There feels like very little excuse for wasting time.

I recall doing some fat-free grilling. However, I was grilling something quite fat, so who is the real fatty? It's me isn't it?

The only achievement of note of today was a presentation I gave within the office. I think people left the presentation with a sense that they'd actually found something out. Feedback was really positive. I didn't give the presentation alone. The other person involved had the rather hard job of demonstrating the system, live.

I think as presentations/PR coups go, we can look back on today as a positive. I wish I'd gone home and done something productive, though.

Tuesday, May 13

You Should Do Something That Scares You

I firmly believe this. You should jump straight out of your comfort zone from time to time. Maybe this means you should have the sort of night out that you'd not normally have, or maybe you should try a new recipe, or reading something you wouldn't normally read. Alternatively, maybe you should challenge some principal assumptions about your life. Look at sentences that being, "but I have to" and then plan a way for that not to be true.

Note: this doesn't work with child care.

I've been confident in some things and utterly clueless in others in my life. Some of my confidence is deeply misplaced - in these cases, I've often been better off for my delusion. I firmly believe that the world is almost totally founded on degrees of effective delusions. This is the interesting thing, though. I also believe that some lack of confidence is, in itself, a form of delusion. In other words, you can have self-fulfilling delusions in both directions. Example: I lack confidence in passing people in tight corridors because I feel myself to be large and unweildy - as a result, I act awkwardly in corridors and it's awkward... Yes, if I were to believe that I were normal-sized and that other people were relatively abnormal, and if I were to believe that body-space and touching a stranger were no big deal, then I would find myself finding moving through corridors easier.

Note: I don't really have problems in tight corridors.

There are some people whose behaviour we look at in amazement. They just don't seem to give a toss, or maybe they don't know what they look like. Yet they have a good time. I don't know where delusion and confidence truly have a border.

This is why I believe you need to get out of the comfort zone. Doing something that you can't do unconsciously is a good way to try out other parts of your brain. Maybe some things just aren't you. Though I've considered, intellectually, the possibility of courting a same-sex sexual encounter, just to tick the box, I know in my heart of hearts, that I would actually be traumatised by it and would get nothing out of it. That, I think, is in the category of "not me". On the other hand, there are some things which I used to believe you couldn't do. I used to think you couldn't walk up to the prettiest girl in the pub and just say hi - out of the blue - a complete stranger. That's an incorrect assumption.

So, if there's any message from this blether, it's this. Find ways to get out of the comfort zone. Give it a shot. You may not have the technique or even the vocabulary to be capable of doing things you've never done before. That's ok. Just try. It's okay for things to go wrong. It's okay to try again. It took over 100 gigs for me to become even a vaguely competent stand-up and even then, I would say that I only get it right some of the time these days... it's at its best, though, when I'm out of my comfort zone and enjoying myself.

So I've proved my own point with reference to myself. That's the narcissism of blogging.


Things not to say to someone - Part #437 - To A Shakespeare Lover

Hey - did you hear Barry Chuckle's Soliloquy? - "To me, or not to me..."

Monday, May 12

Sweating It Out

Sometimes the best way to spend an evening is to do a little housework, get all hot and bothered and then sit, stewing in the heat of the evening, doing nothing of any great importance.

Thankfully there are always repeats of old panel quiz shows on "Dave" to help steal the time at the end of the non-busy evening. Down time. That's the cure to many ills.

I replaced cooking with eating cereal, thus optimising my time for doing less.

Sunday, May 11

Something's Gotta Give

I'm looking forward to August when I'll be mentally busy every day doing stand-up etc, but I won't be doing the long car journeys. It will be intense, but I know how to keep my energy up and how to be healthy while having the car-journey/work-free change which turns the stand-up from a part-time job into a full-time holiday.

Today, something had to give. As always, it was the healthy eating. I nearly managed a few days of healthy eating last week, but the weekend drew me toward the dark recesses of naughtiness.

Such are weekends.

A quick run down of today. Are you ready?

I woke up with a slight hangover from last night's debauchery. It was about 9.30. We had to leave at 10. In fact, we left late. I take the blame. I was too slow to get going and then had to sort out a few loose ends with the neighbour. So, it was 10.45 when, equipped with sandwiches from the co-op, we headed down south away from Newcastle.

My hangover had two dimensions. There was the general "being poisoned and dehydrated" aspect of it. There was also a distinct lack of hearing in my left ear. This was inconvenient as it was the ear next to my in-car companion, causing much repetition in his side of the conversation. The left ear was affected as I'd been sitting with the DJ to my left in the pub in which we ended up dancing late into the night. Though he was playing vinyl, which apparently sounds better, he was playing it loudly, which apparently destroys the ability for you to be able to tell, ever again.

I've blethered about hangovers in place of explaining what happened on the journey - we drove and stopped at services occasionally. Then we got to Reading. I took a quick rest break there and then drove to Southampton where I picked up two people for the gig in Newbury. Arriving at Newbury, we found out that an act was stranded back in Reading, so I went back to Reading to pick him up. Then back to Newbury. Then there was the gig, which was fun.

I closed the gig and then drove the two acts back to Southampton before returning to Reading where I, not unsensibly, became insensible with sleep and slept.

In between all the driving, snack food was purchased. One has to keep vaguely conscious during the long drives - injections of carbs, proteins and fats seem to do the trick.

I'll eat more fruit. I promise.

Saturday, May 10

That's Debatable

We woke up relatively early for a Saturday morning that had been preceded by a late night journey. I had to be up and about in order to receive a couple of visitors, both of whom were there to talk about the sale of my house in Newcastle. Though I'd happily keep that house forever if I could, visiting it as a bizarre city-based holiday home, the truth is that I can't afford such a luxury in my life, and I think it's time to move on. That is probably the sort of thing which could be argued in multiple directions, but a bit of thinking in the car on Thursday night, showed me that the right answer is to sell. The wheels are in motion (which is a metaphor for my life, I suppose).

After my visitors, I headed into town to meet up with my friend, who was having a long luxurious coffee in a coffee shop that I'd temporarily forgotten existed. It soon became as familiar as ever, and we sat, shooting the breeze, getting ready for the debating tournament ahead - the reason we'd gone to Newcastle in the first place. This event was a nice idea. It was a debate between present-day debating society students in Newcastle and "old boys", the alumni.

Now, before I go on to say how much fun the debating was, and how great an idea it was, I should point out that it turned out to be somewhat misnamed. In reality, though the debaters were definitely a mix of present students and alumni, and though the present students couldn't defined any other way, the element of alumni was rather subjective. Rather than being drawn from a pool of all those people who ever debated ever, it was more a particular group of ex-debaters, with whom I have links, and who were most active around 2003 - when I returned to actively debating for a bit, as part of my late-twenties self-reinvention.

So what, though? Maybe the word hadn't spread, but the people gathered for a common purpose and the prize was to be one's name engraved on a plate. A chance to enter the history books of a union with which I've had a very strong relationship over the years.

A quick fact. I was never that good at debating. I entered various competitions and I gave certain speeches that I could be proud of... indeed, I use some debating skills in preparing presentations, still. However, in competitive debating, I would always expect a place in the bottom third. The purpose of going, though, wasn't to win. It was to do something a bit out of the ordinary, and see some familiar and new faces.

The debate was in 3 round and a final and would be judged on individual speaker merits. Everyone got to do the three rounds, so you got to do a fair bit of debating. To my surprise, I scraped my way into the final. I've never been in a final before.

Then I won.

I've definitely not done that.

I didn't see that coming. I'm not sure I agreed with the decision. Too late to debate it, though. So, I'd just have to enjoy it.

After the debatnig was over, we skipped out of the student union, where they'd turfed one of the bars - yes, turf... weird. They'd put sand in the basement too. I nearly got to see that. Also weird. Apparently, though, hanging out with a bunch of beach-party-clad students wasn't on the agenda. So we went for a curry.

Curry turned to drinks, turned to dancing the night away in a late pub.

I remember the bit where we stood under a railway bridge singing a capella. Then a taxi home.

It had been a hell of a day and I'd done some things I'd either never done, or hadn't done in a long while. Very enjoyable.

Friday, May 9

How Did It Go?

Ah, the beauty of gigs. Each one's different:


From: A Punter
To: Ashley Frieze
Date: 9th May 2008 09.55

I saw you at the Frog & Bucket and thought, on the whole you were shit.



Regards,


It's nice that someone took the time out of their day...


From: Ashley Frieze
To: A Punter
Date: 9th May 2008 10.12

Hi

Thanks for getting in touch. With the deluges of fan mail I get, it's nice to have some balance.

To be honest with you, I thought I was shit last night too. That's how it goes sometimes, you can do the same stuff night after night and it can be received really well and people can think you're the funniest act they've ever seen, then some nights it just doesn't gel.

Mind you, as hecklers go, you're a bit late. The gig's over.

Maybe you'll get to see me at another gig where it goes better. You can find out where to come (or where to avoid) on www.ashleyfrieze.co.uk - you can also hear some of the material I did last night, recorded at one of the majority of gigs where it comes across as humourous.

Out of interest, what was your objective in contacting me today? Were you trying to rub it in? Were you looking for an apology? Did you just need some after-sales support?

Cheers

Ashley


It's Hamptons all over again.

Thursday, May 8

A Frog In My Throat

If I had thought it through, I would have not done tonight's gig. I had been recovering from my ill health and my energy levels and voice were not up to 100%. I also didn't help myself by doing conference calls en route, keeping my brain in work mode a bit longer than necessary.

Finally, there was the "hard thinking" which I did during the journey, inspired by a rather important letter regarding my mortgage in Newcastle that arrived in the morning.

As a result, I arrived in Manchester, a little later than comfortable, and not in the right mood or energy level to be funny. The excuses have now been made official.

As I wasn't feeling it, so neither did the audience. It was somewhat disheartening, and I got out of the place rather promptly. Luckily, the CDs I'd bought at lunchtime in Tesco were enough music-therapy to get me home in a cheerful frame of mind. You win some you lose some.

Wednesday, May 7

Brissel

Tonight's gig was in Bristol. I'd agreed to MC it. As I arrived, it became clear that it was a music venue. I also came to the conclusion that the night was eclectic enough for me to justify doing my MCing equipped with a guitar. So, I went out to the car, dodged the 10 microphones that had been set around the stage to do the sound for the sketch show who were on in the middle section, and I got set up.

Though I was still feeling fairly low on energy, the generosity of spirit of the organisers, and the general positive vibe in the room buoyed me, and I had a really nice gig.

Apart from the sketch group, who were also the organisers, I knew the other acts on the bill and one of them had been one of my Edinburgh show visits last Fringe. It was nice to see the new material and work-in-progress... I even spotted some details that I suspected were put in for the amusement of the writer, rather than for the audience to notice.

It was a cracking night and one of many good reasons to visit Bristol. I don't know what it is about Bristol... and Southampton.

Tuesday, May 6

Back To Front

As is always the way when I've been away from the blog for a few days, I blog from the present to the past. So this is today's ramblings, written today. It's a long time since the days when I'd write a rambling multi-day "this is what I did in the last week" essay. Nobody is seriously expected to be reading this on a daily basis, so if I batch post a few days' worth of entries, then they'll look the same to the occasional reader. It's probably best this way.

I'm hot. I don't mean sexy hot. I mean sweaty hot. And sweaty isn't sexy. I suppose it depends how you got sweaty. Generally, though, the line "my bollocks are baking" isn't used in the sweet art of generating that loving feeling. Nor is the word "generating" particularly romance-laden. I would even lay very little money on "engendering", "fostering" and "germinating". I digress.

I'm over temperature for myriad reasons. The change in the weather is one. The steady increase of my body fat is a second. Coming third, but with an honourable mention, there's the illness which has blighted me over the last week. I really need to get shot of this bug, since the week ahead has no gaps in it for relaxing in. I cancelled tonight's gig in order to create a gap, and even that has only had fringe benefits.

I think the cooking I did heated me up a bit, which isn't helping. The sunstroke from the weekend - she doesn't like that.

Who "she" is, is immaterial.

I had a tough day getting anything out of this tired and confused body today. I had a nice lunch, though. I also have resolved to somehow detox. I'm not quite sure how. I think I need to drink a few pints of water.

Tonight I could have done some work on the house, but I need to sleep. I'll catch up on the blog and other administrative duties and then it's time to rest.

Monday, May 5

Rules Is Rules

The rule is this. When you live in the south, Scotland is always further away than it bloody ought to be. I should have observed this rule more closely when I was so cavalier about expecting the weekend to be a wee jaunt. It was not a wee jaunt, it was a big-ass schlep. But it was big and rewarding.

I woke up before 8am. I know. It had to be done. Despite the previous two days' exertions, we did not have the time to be slacking. I'd set a lunchtime departure deadline, and there really wasn't room to hold back. I, the man who can't wake up, went and woke someone up. I was up earlier. I know. Ridiculous.

We hit the working soon after 8am. The day's task was to cut 28 decking boards exactly to size and attach them to the 9 joists on which they would rest. Each joint required 2 screws. Each screw, after a lot of jiggery pokery and back and forth between various shops, required a countersink before it could be inserted, in order to avoid wood splitting. We had a technique. A quick sum tells you that there would be 1008 operations of some sort of drill to get these screws in.

Each board was cut to the angle of the adjacent wall, which varied enough for us to cut each to size in place. Positioning was done via the aid of some "biscuits". These were, effectively, wafers of wood I'd cut to a pretty standard inter-board gap. I did it by eye, so why we were so precise about aligning the boards to the biscuits is anyone's guess.

It took until 3. My leader in all things DIY did all the precise cutting around the handrail posts at the other end, and I did a lot of kneeling and drilling. There exist time-lapse-stylee photographs of the deck appearing from the framework of the previous days. As we became more tired, so we also devised more techniques for optimising the process and became more resolved to complete before collapsing.

The decking was christened with a bloody good barbeque. Then I started the long journey home. There was about 8 hours of it in the end, including stops, where I stocked up on enough food to kill a lesser man, and traffic jams, where I used the aircon to nurse the newly acquired sunstroke - who would have thought that I'd need to strip down to just a t-shirt in the top section, while working outdoors in Scotland in early May?

It had been a roller-coaster of a weekend and I was knackered.

Sunday, May 4

Ooooh She Likes That

You would have thought that we'd somehow have beaten the system. That our early results - to go from scrap land to a deck-shaped framework - would somehow indicate an early end for this project. Perhaps it was complacent to wake up around lunchtime and only then get started. Either way, I wasn't convinced we'd be anything like done today.

Though we'd erected some joists, we had a lot of strengthening to do of the substructure before we were happy to put boards on. We had devised the necessary specification of the cross-members that would give this structure the necessary strength, and my chief architect was off buying the necessary materials to make this happen and to make the necessary tools to make it happen. I had some temporary supports to replace with the real thing.

Then we had the bizarre task of bolting two four-inch wide posts together. This involved various degrees of countersinking and hammering. "Oooh, she's in" and "Oooh, she likes that" somehow epitomised the process of getting a very long bolt through a very long hole.

After bolting came nogging. We nogged. We nogged until everyone was in the shower getting ready for our hosts' second attempt to bribe us with hospitality. Then we nogged faster and finished the substructure to a great deal of satisfaction.

Dinner was great - excellent pub food, good surroundings and good company. I stayed sober and was able to provide half the drive back in one of the two cars we took.

Back at the house, the demon drink took me a little, but more absorbing was a video from 2004 of various things which had happened. Reviewing our 30 year old selves was a lesson I found very interesting. I feel like I've changed a lot. One of the recordings was a gig I did in Leeds. I can see why some comedians really hated my stuff back then. I hated some of what I was choosing to do in the act of performance. I feel a lot more accomplished now.

Maybe it's the DIY that has given me an edge to my performance.

Saturday, May 3

An Epic Day

Waking up at 6.30am in your car at a service station isn't fun, especially when, rather than toasty warm in the cold of the morning, you feel sweaty and clammy in the fresh sun.

Still, I got changed out of my jimmy jams and back into clothes and set off from Lancaster services refreshed enough not to be too angry when, a few miles along the road, my rear tyre got a puncture and I had to empty the busy boot (a lot of which went onto the back seat) and then set about changing the wheel. The spare was not a functioning wheel, so I then had to set about getting a new tyre.

Kwik Fit in Carlisle was an answer. I was there before it opened at 8.30 and I made the manager laugh with my tales of skinned knuckles and nut covers that nearly wouldn't come off.

Still, I got through the trial and was soon in Scotland, where I arrived in time for some digging. I got into the appropriate attired and started digging. Then we did some raking and more digging. After much discussion surrounding how to construct a deck in thin air, an approach was struck. We did some fixing, and some more fixing and then we had the outside of the frame - cut to size, an "aesthetic" shape, and ready to be turned into a real structure, not just some smoke-and mirrors simulacrum.

The lads dug a lot of holes. This helped. Then I sawed through a lot of posts. This involved a lot of sawing. Then we had posts sitting on bricks in holes. The lads did the filling in of holes with concrete and all of a sudden there was an actual deck. Just there.

We'd worked nearly a 12 hour day with various breaks. I'd been absorbed more in the doing of the work than the taking of breaks and we really resisted the delicious soup that turned out to be an unmissable lunch. Exhaustion brought us in for a short snap, but then we were back out.

I can't really go into the details of the construction of the structure of the deck. I will say that it looked wrong from certain angles and perfect from the right angles. I'll also say that we started a process of over-engineering it so that it won't go anywhere.

Dinner was late, but we needed to get a certain amount done before we could stop. It was in a Chinese/Thai/Japanese restaurant that had never heard that Thai green curry is meant to be mild.

I had earned the sleep I plunged into.

Friday, May 2

Nope...

The gig was a bit of a wash out. Audience numbered 4.

Was it worth going to Romford for? Nope.

The drive to Scotland was longer than I thought it would be. Was it worth delaying for the gig? Nope.

The drive to Scotland was a very long way. Would I make it in one go?

Nope.

I stopped at Lancaster services, got into my PJs. Then I got into my sleeping bag. I was about 2.30 am. I tried to get to sleep. Did I get comfy and asleep across the back seat of my car quickly? Nope.

Did I manage to get to sleep enough to restore myself for the rest of the journey? Thankfully, yes.

Tonight

A gig in Romford and then a drive to a friend's house in Scotland. For reasons unexplained, I've even changed some money to Scottish notes.

A long drive?



Nuff said.

Thursday, May 1

A Little Better

I woke up feeling human. This was to give me false confidence about how well I actually was. It was only as I started to feel even heavier than the obvious weight gain I've accumulated, during my morning shower, that I realised that today wouldn't be much fun.

I had a job interview to conduct today, so lying in bed whimpering was simply not an option. I need to get someone in to help us on the project, so I went into the office and took one for the team. My first message of the day was something along the lines of "your job interview hasn't been cancelled but it's probably a waste of time". I correlated this message with a phone message from the candidate saying he wasn't coming. I realised that the email was telling me that he was coming despite the fact that he said he wasn't. Hmmm.

Somehow the time for the interview came quickly and the candidate did arrive. I set him on his test and returned to my desk to do something or other. I know that it involved some coding. Then I did the spoken part of the interview. Good candidate, possibly the wrong job.

Quite how the day passed, I can't be sure. I know that we were trying to solve some problems as a team and that these problems have, in fact, been solved. It's nice working as a team as you can claim an involvement in any triumph, even if you yourself didn't create the success single-handedly. That's my view. I know that we couldn't have gotten to the possible success point of this evening if it hadn't been for the efforts of everyone combined. I know that we had a brief low moment, but that there was a nice big hands-in-the-air success to celebrate before the day was out.

For my own part, I followed various theories through, writing code to do stuff. In all cases, I was writing code to avoid situations that we didn't think could or would arise, but if they did arise, then perhaps the code should avoid them. In one case, I had a bit of knowledge that something might be amiss with a bit of the code, and no evidence that this particular weakness would be probed by anything in real life. However, I did "reckon" that it might be possible for this weakness to be exploited in a situation that I had been told wasn't the case somewhere. The somewhere in question, however, seemed to have an impossible problem, so I implemented the fix that would solve the problem that couldn't happen, using a theory and a guess as to what it was.

If the Belgians are now working, as a result of the code I wrote today, I demand several pints of celebratory liquid.

As yesterday, I came home at a reasonable hour with the sole intent of getting as much sleep as possible. I need to shake off this cold. The weekend is not going away!

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