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Tuesday, September 30

There's No Award For This

It looks like I've been trying to win something with my day's choice of activities.

I set out from home at 8 on my bike. I cycled 11.36 miles to my office, had a shower, popped in some contact lenses and did a day's work, punctuated by removing the contact lenses as I was finding them increasingly dry and hard to see through. I would have to say that being able to see is goal one with eyewear. Many would agree with me. Still, this is a contact lens trial and I think I'm discovering that they have benefits, but that I'm not quite getting the full potential from them yet.

I set off home on the bike at 6 and arrived at 7. I'd cycled about 22.5 miles over the two halves of the day. I had time for a quick bite to eat and then I was on the DIY trail.

Last night's cupboardy mess up was undone and restarted. I had already acquired the necessary skills I needed to do the job in the previous evening, so it was actually a breeze to re-cut the rails and have them perpendicular to the back wall, rather then parallel to it. In addition, good fortune had smiled upon me, and the existing internals of the cupboard were laid out favourably for this.

Then I repainted the radiator. It was the second coat of two. It should be ready to go on in a few days when it's totally dried.

I went upstairs and did a bunch more gloss painting, taking another room a fair old step forwards.

I would have done more, but I need to get ready for a busy tail end of this week. I've taken to keeping some Berocca in the office as a secret supply of vitamins for when I'm busy and haven't the time to take it on the way out of the house.

In an attempt to work out what the hell's going on in my life, I have a spreadsheet which can now predict when I should finish my house project. It has various ways of estimating this and it fluctuates a lot at the moment, as I've only just started gathering meaningful data and it's hard to get estimates from few data points. However, the current guess of February/March may not be far out. Now I can see my progress on a graph, I'm more inclined to game the statistics and try to get ahead of my ideal-work line. Given that I need to achieve 10 hours of work per week to do this, it's going to be tricky. However, if I work for 5 hours with a friend, then that's still 10 hours, so I can now blackmail people into helping me, because it will make my picture better. Right?

Ok, so I can't.

Nice idea.

Shall I go to sleep now? Or should I read for a bit? Given that I fell asleep last night before I'd finished going to bed, I think I know the answer.

Monday, September 29

Some Would Just Go To Bed

I couldn't wake up this morning. Not one bit. It took a lot of persuading for my brain to even function. Even then I couldn't move a muscle. Eventually, with a strange feeling of tiredness, I headed out of the door. Could it have been the two late nights on the weekend that caused my exhaustion? Well, they probably didn't help, though the early morning on Saturday was probably a part of the picture.

But I don't mind. Thing is, you've got to be living a full life to feel this knackered... either that or you've got to be really ill. Given that I'm living a full life, I'm going for the tiredness as a badge of honour - a reward to prove I'm not wasting my life in front of the TV. As it happens, my brain pretty much started functioning from the moment I got to my staircase, taking only a minor lunchbreak at, well, lunchtime.

A lunchtime, I felt like a military academy in that bits of me were passing out. This is a Douglas Adams joke and I like it. I think the natural order of things was tipped when one of the guys from work, who constantly cracks jokes, finally delivered a really good one:

Q: What drinks do they serve in a mexican prison?
A: Tequila slammer

It's a good joke. I'd tell it. I sort of just did. It's taken a long time to get to one of this quality, and it's well worth celebrating it.

It's also a celebration of a different sort today and I was inspired to Google for a recipe to try to make a seasonal treat. I found a recipe and went out to buy the necessary ingredients and cooking aparatus to make it. I'm nothing if not thorough. I bought three of everything. The plan was to make one for home, one for work and one for giving away. Now, some might assume that while you're making one, you can just multiply up and make three. In fact, it's not that simple. I ended up making each cake separately, though I was much more proficient by the third.

The afternoon progressed through the easy bit and into the meetings section. Oh dear. However, meetings were productive, enough.

Then home and onto the cookery. The cakes came out a treat and I even baked some bread - albeit with the bread maker, which produced the tallest loaf yet. Wow.

I set about some DIY and made some hanging rails for the wardobe cupboard in my 2nd bedroom. They came out pretty good. I should really have tested the cupboard before I made the rails. It turns out that the cupboard is not deep enough for hanging shirts. D'oh! After all that. Still, it was some fun DIY and I think I can reuse the rails for the new approach, which is hanging space that faces you, rather than goes across.

There was some wasted time, then, but I also got onto a job I've not been looking forward to. I sanded and then painted the radiator. The results were brilliant, so I'm glad I did it. The run up to doing this job has been long. I don't like radiators - they're yucky and dirty things. I've got plenty more to paint, though, so I'm glad I've now got a system for doing it. I put a second coat of paint on the window frames in the 2nd bedroom. It's nearly ready to be called finished in there now. This is most heartening.

What is somewhat heart sinking is the graph showing my progress. I'm looking at another 6 months of this tedium if I don't look sharp. I must work out how I can find time from somewhere. Answers on a postcard.

Still, I'm doing the do, and trying to get somewhere. Sure, the baking isn't on the plan, but life has to have its diversity. Plus, I was good and did the washing up and then even washed my paintbrushes.

A sensible person would be asleep by now. I have done enough to earn my sleep. I'm probably going to get some too, once I've had a nice long well-earned (soft) drink.

The Atheist Bus Campaign

A friend of mine has set up this facebook group to contribute some positive non-religious messages to the sides of buses. It launches in a few days, so get on over and sign yourself up for it.

And don't forget to sign up to my mailing list.

I Smells A Rat

If it smells like bullshit, then it is bullshit:

Christian Aid® Notice (CA241 G05)‏
From: Christian Aid® (info@christian-aid.org)
Sent: 28 September 2008 19:35:15
Reply-to: michaelboydd@googlemail.com
To: ME

Christian Aid®
PO Box 100 London
SE1 7RT

Dear Sir/Madam,
This is to notify you that you have been chosen by
The Board of Trustees of the Christian Aid (NGO UK) as One of the final Recipients of a Cash Grant/Donation Economic growth and a poverty alleviation scheme.
Christian Aid (U.K.) a Multi-Million Pounds NGO group was Established with the objective Of Human Growth, Educational and Community development.
In line with the 61st anniversary program, the
Christian Aid (U.K.) in conjunction with the European Council is giving out Eight Million Five Hundred Thousand Pounds Sterling as specific Donations/Grants to
10 lucky International recipients worldwide in different Categories for Business development and Social.
These funds are freely given to use for your business And educational development, charitable work and your Community development at large.
Visit: http://www.christianaidweek.org/more.do
Your Email was selected Based on an internet random Selection exercise,you therefore are confirmed one of The lucky recipients and are entitled To GBPЈ850,000 (EIGHT HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND POUNDS STERLING ) as charity donations/aid from the Christian Aid (UK).
You are required to Contact immediately the Christian Aid(UK) Secretary below:for Qualification documentations,
verification and Processing of your GBPЈ850,000 entitlement.
Endeavour to quote your Qualification Number: (CA241 G05)
Dr. Michael Boyd
Christian Aid (UK)
TEL:+44 7024039635
FAX:+ 44 7005938049
Email: michaelboydd@googlemail.com
With the following information;
Claims Requirements:
1.Name in full----------------------------------------------
2.Address---------------------------------------------------
3.Nationality-----------------------------------------------
4.Age-------------------------------------------------------
5.Occupation------------------------------------------------
6.Phone/Fax-------------------------------------------------
7.Present Country-------------------------------------------
8. Alternate Email Address----------------------------------
Please note that these donations/Grants are
Administered by a UK Bank and therefore subject to UK Banking Laws. You are by all means advised,
To keep this whole information confidential until you Have collected your grant, this is to avoid double And unqualified claim, due to beneficiaries informing Third parties on cash grant donation.
On behalf of the Board, kindly accept our warmest
Congratulations!

Yours faithfully,
Dr. Carober Daleep
Christian Aid Director.


People don't go round giving out money to strangers for no reason. If you believe this, then you're mistaken and gullible.

Sunday, September 28

Doubling Up With Laughter

Oho. After such quips as the above title, where will our sides be? Split with laughter? Is this because I did two comedy gigs tonight? Is it funny to write such titles? Should I admit to it? or should I remain "pun-onymous"? And so forth.

I drove to Lincoln today, expecting to arrive late, but arrived in time to be early instead. The plan was to do an opening set at the gig there, then during the middle section of that gig, drive across to Newark to close the show there. During this gig, the act who opened in Newark would be doing the opposite journey to Lincoln. That was the plan. That is, in fact, exactly what happened, so don't get all "ooh, something's going to go wrong" on my ass. Nothing much went wrong, unless you count my mp3 player refusing to record the second of my performances, which is a shame because it was the better of the two I did tonight.

Anyway, the end of the day sees me 360 miles of driving down, and 50 minutes of performance given.

The first gig started oddly, with the MC and middle act having to swap roles as the pair of them arrived late and the MC had to immediately go to the toilet to be ill, having had a migraine start on him on the way. When I hit the stage, there was also a general sense that the audience needed taming. I said some stuff... some of it was quite wrong. It made the audience laugh, though, so what is wrong.

At the second gig, I also started oddly, but a heckler, with her youth and short-brain-to-mouth-distance, pretty much gave me the room, and refreshed the room's energy whenever things got a bit quiet. I tried to hint at advising her not to heckle, but she needed it signposted. I seem to recall one exchange, after the audience had tired of her heckling, that went like this (we'll call her Fiona, as that's the name I made up for her when she refused to give me her real name - bizarrely, I came to assume that that's what she was called, and she answered to it when I spoke to her):

Me: I don't want to be horrible to you, because you're pretty.
Fiona: Yes, and you're ugly.
Audience: Ooooh.
Me: Now look. They're on my side. In fact, it looks like they'd rather believe that I'm attractive than you're right.

A very silly time was had.

I spent the the gigs tonight wearing contact lenses. This proved somewhat unsettling and had me literally climbing onto the sinks at the second venue when I had to get as close to the mirror as possible to work out how to get one of the little blighters out. I think that wearing lenses is a better look/convenience for me. I'm still unsure whether I can tolerate the effects of the eyes drying out, which makes vision next to impossible.

Time will tell. A short answer is that doubling up to do two gigs in one night is fun. Having double vision is not within my comfort zone.

Saturday, September 27

The Time Goes By

I was to spend the morning in Cheltenham, mooching about until the real fun could start in the afternoon. I assumed I'd get bored, so had a bag of tricks, including my laptop, a book, mp3 player, pretty much all I could bring with - ooh, a notepad too, with my new song written on it. Perhaps I'd write another? Perhaps I'd buy a newspaper and write some witty ditty on the subject of the credit crunch?

No, I went to Starbucks. I spent some time in Starbucks working on www.ashleyfrieze.co.uk and have added a mailing list to the front page - feel free to join it. I also made a song accessible that has been there a while, but I didn't have enough confidence in. I'm happy to have it public, given that I've performed it publicly a few times. It's not quite me, but I did a reasonable musical effort to make it.

After that I went out for a wander. I'm the sort of person, it seems, who can amiably wander round shops buying things I need/don't need/can make use of, and looking for stuff I know I should be looking for.

In the end, I bought 40 sheets of sandpaper, some batteries and some bedding. This is not surprising. I often buy random things. My favourite random purchase was 7 metres of velcro, but that was years ago. Over 4.

And so I managed to make my day into a lot of street walking, shop visiting and only two trips to coffee shops. Starbucks was breakfast and Costa was elevenses.

With my mobile phone and Orange providing me with effective and non-charged internet access, and with my laptop's new battery proving reliable enough for all my non-plugged-in-laptop-usage needs, I had a good experience in sorting things out online from wherever I happened to be. A morning like this can be very restorative. Shame I never get the chance to do this very often, and even if I did have no agenda of a Saturday morning, the chances are that I wouldn't be up before 7 and in town by 9.

Dancing to the beat of someone else's drum can lead you into some good places.

Friday, September 26

Friday Flim Flam

Today's been patchy so far. This evening promises to have moments of stress but hopefully they will end once I hit the train and get on my way.

I've been wandering between meetings and crises today. In my spare time I've wandered around shops and eaten cakes. I shouldn't. I'm bad. I can't help myself sometimes. I even discovered that there are things that I've written in the past which I don't recall writing. This gets pointed out to me when people ask me questions about details on my blog, or when I discovered my "favourite quotations" on facebook:


Favorite Quotations:"That'll be £1.80 please"
     "That'll be £1.79 please, it's penny off day"



Pointless.

I've also spent some of today being irritated by people who seem to think that it's acceptable to talk very loudly in an open plan office - especially while hovering around my desk on their mobile phones - get a bloody room!

Thursday, September 25

Huh? Everything?

A while ago, I tried to write a song that had everything. I liked the idea of a totally overproduced song which straddled different styles, but, more importantly, had a load of musical tricks in it This display of gluttony is very me. Indeed, I think I'm leading a very over-crowded life, a result of trying to pack everything in. And so, I find myself, sitting writing late at night, with a myriad of things I could possibly say and practically no time in which to say it.

I'll try to recount the course of today's events, but it's not going to make sense.

Firstly, I woke up to ring the Doctor to see if I could get an appointment with him for this morning. I was told that I couldn't. They don't allow advance bookings, so you have to ring in early to get an appointment, which is a bit of a lottery. I also had an appointment at the same venue, already booked, for an eye screening test. So, even though I couldn't have an appointment with the Doctor, I still got dressed and went to the surgery for an appointment for other purposes.

The eye screening is a side-effect of having been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This, in turn, is only an academic diagnosis. To the best of my knowledge, though I had a phase where I was deeply out of control of my blood sugar and cholesterol, I have since improved significantly, owing to a lot of weightloss. I've been pretty much the right side of problems for a few years, especially in the last year.

Anyway, the problem with the diabetic screening treatment in Berkshire (this already sounds like a big discussion) is how disjointed it is. I have to go to the hospital for a blood test, the results of which are sent to the GP. I have to go to the doctor's surgery for a retina photograph, the results of which are not even calculated until the laptop is returned to the hospital where someone decides whether I can see or not and, if I can't, contacts me urgently, where they leave it about 3 months if they're happy. For the general diabetic health check, I have to see the nurse at the GP's surgery. None of this joins up.

I didn't realise how lucky I was in Newcastle when I went to a clinic which saw me, did all the tests in one sequence, and could bloody well interpret the results of a photograph when it came on the screen. Well, really! It's stupid to have to go to the hospital for a blood test, too, when the nurse could take bloods and drop them off.

I've had better. That's all I'm saying. I don't think health care should be a safari.

Anyway, my experience in Newcastle had fogged my vision over what happens after eye drops. Oh the irony. The eye drops dilute the retina and last a couple of hours. Usually, I had the rest of the battery of tests to undertake before I was let out, so I didn't recall that it was unsafe to drive after the retina photo. I realised it today and had to walk to the bus and then take a bus and train to work, organising a lift for after work so I could pick up my car and drive to my gig this evening.

It was a bit of a to do, to be honest. However, I did get to listen to Amy Winehouse on my mp3 player as the train took me to work. I also got to find out what it would feel like to be old and long-sighted, as my close-up vision was totally fogged. I was also wearing my sunglasses to reduce eye strain.

After my vision cleared and I could stop squinting at the screen, the work day progressed apace and it was suddenly time for home. Then it was time for driving to the gig. I left the breadmaker with a payload of wholemeal bread to sort out for me.

I arrived at a student union in Northampton to be surrounded by kids. These people weren't all born in the 80's. In fact, some of them were born deeply into the 90's. That's just wrong. Plain wrong.

The gig was good fun, though. The audience were spirited and I did quite well with them for much of my set, though it started to get a bit patchy and low-energy towards the end. I overran too, and ended up finishing sooner than I would have liked. If I'd realised how close to finishing I was, I would have done something different to end on. Never mind. It was good fun.

Home involved another 90 minute drive along the A43 and M40 (I didn't mention the roads for the outward drive so as not to overexite you, dear reader). I chatted along the way. I had a whispered chat with my lady friend - she was whispering not to wake anyone up, I was whispering in sympathy. I also had a chat with a fellow comedy person about the possibility of a show we might write.

All was well.

So, quite an action packed day.

I arrived home to find my breadmaker had delivered the goods. That's what made me feel so much older than the students in the student union. I knew they were thinking about either going out to another night out, or possibly going back to their room, their laptop and their iPod. I knew I was going back home to my breadmaker and a fresh loaf. That's a big difference in outlook, really.

But I've not told you other comedy news today. It looks like the sketch show I worked with in Edinburgh will also be running in London in November. Adverts to follow.

Plus, my experience listening to Amy Winehouse on the train must have inspired me. I've written a song about her undocumented love of toast. It makes me laugh.

That's all for now.

Something of an everything day, I'm sure you'll agree.

Wednesday, September 24

Isn't it Ironing?

Plans go awry. My plan to get stuck into some DIY hit a practical problem. The problem was that I didn't think the DIY was the top priority. My bathroom needed cleaning and I had a large number of unironed items. So, I changed my plan. I spent the evening with my iron in my hand, or with a vacuum cleaner or cleaning cloth. While ironing, I had the Absolutely DVDVDVD to watch and I had a nice time.

I also sorted out some paperwork that needed sorting through. It proved to be a useful evening. When finished, I lay in bed and tried to watch the Absolutely DVD to its end. I ended up with such bleary eyes that I had to stop. I turned to fall asleep and remember nothing more. Obviously, I'm writing this retrospectively.

Sometimes a paintbrush isn't the answer. That's all I'm saying.

Tuesday, September 23

It's Not Friday

It felt like a Friday today. It really did. I can't understand why the weekend is so far away. Damn.

Nominated

If I'm not careful, this blog is going to fall into such disrepair that it will have to be nominated for the trash heap. I'm sorry that I've not written here for a while. I'm sorry about this not because of any delusions of a grand readership forlornly missing the every word of mine they used to cling to, but more because I'm failing to document the little details which are often so much fun to return to. As always, I reserve the right to retrospectively write some entries which may or may not make this apology seem out of place.

It is useful and fun to record the little things which make life more interesting. Tonight, for instance, I discovered that I had been nominated for an award. Two in fact. Owing to my performances at this year's Fringe. Now, I'm not going to say too much about the awards, or draw any more attention to them, except to say that they're from a small group who went to watch shows, enjoy themselves, and blog about their experiences. I am not a big self-publicist and perhaps I shouldn't use these awards to show off. Indeed, I'm the sort of comedian who drives about 2 hours to a London gig in order to discover that I'm closing the first third, there's no audience and the evening isn't really going to happen. This is not high-flying comedic stardom.

However, it's nice to get recognition and appreciation from any source, and I hope that the little awards ceremony that they're having in October, to which I don't feel I've been invited, will go well and amuse those present. This is what it's all about being amused. I think that nature has given the human creature the capacity to be amused at rather abstract things, and it's a big part of being human to use that particular trait to our advantage, especially once we've mechanised or delegated the important tasks like keeping fed, alive, clean and warm.

Ceremonies are fun. This weekend's trip to Newcastle gave a great opportunity to enjoy something with a bit of ceremony to it. Saturday night was a formal dinner in a hotel in Durham. I heard that the dress code was formal, though it suggested lounge suits might be as acceptable as black tie. I didn't want to stand out, but also fancied black tie as my dress code. So, I hired a suit and briefed the other member of my party that it was formal dress. I had simply to hope that I wouldn't be in the minority of well-dressed people.

In fact, I reckoned that it would be fine to be dressed up. The event was a celebration of the 100th year anniversary of the musical theatre society I did various shows with when I lived up north. If anyone's going to enjoy dressing up, it's a bunch of amdrams. Indeed, arriving at the venue, I discovered a rich seam of black-tie clad celebrants. This was a lovely evening. There was a chance to catch up with old friends and introduce them to the lady in my life as well as spend some time looking lovely together, which we did.

I don't think I've attended an event like this in quite a long time. I remember going to a couple of "hall balls" when I was at university, and I've been to a few weddings as an adult. The last time I wore black tie, though, was for a ball in My Fair Lady, and that wasn't even real. So, I think it was a very pleasant adult experience on Saturday night, one I was proud to enjoy.

Going back to my nominations feel, the mood on Saturday felt a little like it might turn into an awards ceremony. It never did, though. We all won.

Finally, I'd like to nominate myself for person whose day promised to go quite wrong all along, but somehow felt like a success by the end. Everything that could have gone right today felt like it was going off the rails. I had breadmaker timed to deliver a loaf to perfection this morning - I'd set it 50 minutes later than I could receive it. I had a morning meeting which I was slightly late for but then didn't happen, wasting my effort in rushing... I could have waited for the bread. We had a session on trying to fix a problem in Germany, for which I discovered the solution in a flash of inspiration which came coupled with the dread that this problem was waiting to happen simultaneously across all of Europe... any minute. I even had the gig that didn't happen.

Overall, the day should have been awful. As it happens, with the chance to share a laugh with people I care about, I find myself in a good mood as I pick over the remains of the day. I suppose it's a good award to receive. Consider the above my acceptance speech.

Monday, September 22

On The Road Again

There's always something to delay you at key moments. So it was that I didn't get out of work until later than planned which set my plans for the evening onto the back foot. I'm nothing if not flexible - of spirit, not body.

I whacked in my contact lenses and got onto my bicycle, ready for a meeting in London with the people I was doing a sketch show with in Edinburgh this year. Armed with a backpack containing a book, my mp3 player containing, well, mp3s, and my mobile phone, containing access to all maps I might need for the journey, I cycled to the station, took the train to Paddington and cycled to East Finchley in North London.

I arrived at the meeting about an hour late and my black coffee had been whitened. With milk. Luckily it was very nice.

We discussed several things, decided to do a reprise of the show, had a drink and then I cycled home. I arrived back at a reasonable time and had managed to cover about 20 miles en route. Not a bad effort.

Shame I can't control my eating! Yargh!

Sunday, September 21

Third Time Lucky

I've performed in York twice, prior to today. Both times had their ups and downs. Today was different. The visit had friends from Leeds due, it had myself and my good lady coming over from Newcastle, it had a Sunday afternoon feel to it and involved a version of me that does stand-up in a less needy way than before.

The social element of the afternoon was very enjoyable and the hanging around was restorative, rather than dull. There was good conversation and I was converted from a pale tired wreck into an enthusiastic energy ball. I retrospectively thought that my body was doing its usual trick of enforcing some relaxation on me, knowing there'd be a big gig and a long late night drive home.

I think the gig went well. I overran my spot a bit, but the promoter seemed happy. I will work on putting something a bit more edifying into my set at some point. The other act (it was 2 acts + MC tonight) showed me for what I am, an aimless cheerer-upper, with his set, which was a sweeping example of thoughtfulness, passion and philosophy. I was impressed and amused and in awe. As you can see from this description.

But I do have my own principles.

As we were leaving the venue I was approached by a woman asking for money. She didn't ask me for my number, so I felt I was probably in territory I'm familiar with (the latter confuses me). She gave a story about a hostel for the night and I provided her with a quid. I didn't really explore her story, nor feel like she needed to justify her request for a quid with anything more.

As I was doing this, one of the members of my party proceeded to argue that the quid should not be put in the hand of a person on the street, but should, instead be given to a homeless charity. Tactful. Especially as the recipient was still present. I can't remember if these comments were addressed to me, or just announced to the world. I can't remember if the begging individual asked my friend for money next, or simply questioned his outburst. What followed, though, was a cringeworthy head to head between the old-school-mate of mine and the girl who was trying to make her ends meet by street-begging.

His arguments: "How do I know what you're going to spend it on?" and "Shouldn't you go somewhere legitimate for support" were met with some low-key explanation from the girl and a lot of butt clenching from me. I tried to extricate him from the situation. Eventually, it ended and we walked away.

I'll write down now what I said to him and what I believe to be true in this situation. If a street beggar approaches you, you have two things you can make a choice over. You can choose whether to give them money. You can choose whether to listen to their story or interact with them socially. You do not get the choice over whether to give them a good telling off for their behaviour.

A bit of human respect and courtesy is not optional. A vulnerable individual, resorting to street begging, is not to be treated like that. Full stop.

Personally, when I've got a spare quid in my pocket, someone sitting begging may well find themselves a quid up. It's not a big deal to me, and may make a difference to them. It may keep them the right side of hungry. It may contribute towards hostel beds, which seldom come free. It may avoid them resorting to other methods for getting money, even if that money will be used to keep their withdrawal symptoms at bay. That's my choice.

Not a funny end to the evening.

I was shocked at the Dickensian attitude of someone I thought I knew. I hope this person never finds themselves at the bottom of a deep well of despair - if you get what you give in life, then it won't be fun for him down there.

Friday, September 19

The Long Haul

Lots to do today, including a lot of planning. I had planned the shape of the work of the team for the rest of the year and it was time to get into the detail. We made a mind-map on the whiteboard of the company boardroom, then we set about trying to break down the whole world into manageable chunks. How do you eat an Elephant? A bit at a time.

It was a laborious process.

Just as I was due to leave, the Munich problem happened. This kept me in the office until 6, which was later than planned. A lot later than planned. As it was a "no car day", or at least a "try and car share", I had a lift home arranged, the same person I'd lift-shared with on the way in. It's all very green. We went back to Reading and I was running very late.

I showered, packed the car and then headed over to meet my co-weekender. It was after 9pm when we headed up North to Newcastle. It's a long bloody way up there. Still, it was nice to get to the destination. A long journey makes you appreciate what you find at the other end all the more.

That's certainly true for Edinburgh. It's amazing what you can find there.

Saturday, September 13

I'm Beginning To See You In A Different... Way

Today I trialled my contact lenses for the first time. I was only allowed to wear them for 4 hours. I put them in in the morning, went out to town in them and saw the world differently. It was strange to be able to see things at a distance and touch my face to find no glasses on. Strange. But good.

In the evening, we went out for dinner and I was asked to practice not wearing glasses some more. I didn't have my lenses in at this stage, but I can actually see without corrected vision - just not as well.

As it happens, the company was very enjoyable and the conversations were more of the mind, than they were of the "look at that thing over there" nature. It's one of the first times I've come away from dinner with a book list. I shall do my research. It's nice to be interested in something.

Friday, September 12

Repent At Leisure

I got my new car today. I say "my" and "new" as though I go out buying things and get them to keep. In fact, I exchanged one company-provided car for another, since the one I was giving back was past its maximum mileage, and my next one was waiting.

Don't get me wrong - it's deeply excellent to get a car with 11 miles on the clock - it's just not something I can claim actual ownership of. It's only a car too. It's useful, but not something life should be centred around.

Anyway, I used the car to drive to Woking to pick up a friend. On this occasion, I didn't need to summon her to my location with tap dancing. We then headed to St Leonard's, near Hastings, where the gig was to be held. To be honest, this was a weird gig. It was fun, but it was weird.

I wasn't sure how playable the audience were going to be. Their demographic was unusual, not even eclectic, more of a cry for help. The room had a domestic kitchen in it and they were cooking during the show. The line up was too long and too varied...

... but a comedy friend of mine - LG - hit the stage and did well. I saw, from his response, how the room might work. He's done this before, taking on a seemingly unplayable room and making me see it differently. So, I went out there and did my thing. I had some good interactions with the audience, including the woman who shouted "Do you know who we are? Jan, tell him." prompting me to tell the story of Joel Douglas, Kirk Douglas's son. It got a laugh.

We left the gig, bound for home via Clackett Lane Services (where we confused the man at Costa with jauntiness) with the memory of laughter and job well done, a fight well fought. That's what happens when you gig in Hastings.

Wednesday, September 10

A Quick Audit

I thought it might be interesting for my own benefits, if not for anyone else's to note down what I did on stage on Monday night in approximately the order I did it. This will mean very little to the casual reader, but will show me what constituted a set in mid to late 2008.
  • The hilarious crap in bed song
  • The new erectile dysfunction joke
  • My stuck in the middle with you parody and the Cradley Heath story about pikeys after it
  • A bit of banter with some american girls who heckled
  • One way or another
  • The Lv Sng - text speak love song
  • Message to men
  • Old lady
  • Lower your standards
  • Baby one more time
  • Who Ate All The Pies
  • The Star Wars song
  • 30 seconds

I didn't do quite a few things, but the above was an account of myself which took 32 minutes. I also had a bit of random banter with audience members. I severely need to write some new material. It's hard to write new material, especially as a musical comedian. A lot of the ideas I have for material seem to be copies of other stuff, or too obvious to be funny. I shall have to discipline myself to write something better at some stage. There, I've said it.

Last night I managed to achieve a few tasks, including a full kitchen surface washdown, something to eat, some laundering, a laptop wireless installation, some chapters read of my book and an evening out. Not bad.

Tonight I'm on the DIY trail again, my previous plans having fallen through.

Here's to good times, being there for your friends, and having fun wherever possible.

Tuesday, September 9

Wear A Helmet

I think it's probably for the best that I wear a helmet while cycling. With the best will in the world, I can only describe my behaviour on the bicycle as that of a nutter. I get a bit reckless and consider the process of cycling through traffic as a fight which I'm not going to lose. To be honest, this is not a reasonable way to behave, since I'm only flesh and blood, and cycling is, when you think about it, not much different from going for a run among the cars, only sat down.

Anyway, I do wear a helment, which is my one concession to road safety. I don't wear reflective gear or make especial use of lights. Even my front reflector is somewhat broken, though I sought to replace it... so far unsuccessful. Last nights replacement of bicycle brakes was a bit ropey in my view, as the pads I put on seem quite different to the ones I took off, and were binding a bit, though I hope I wore off the bit of brake that was in slight contact at one end with the wheel. Perhaps I need to review that some more, though the bike stops very nicely at the moment.

This cycle-based recklessness got me into a couple of scrapes in Edinburgh. There was the day when I decided to zoom over to the Tesco in Costorphine, wondering why I felt so weak at the downhill bits, not being able to get that much speed up. It turned out, on the way back, that the landscape had been lying to me. In fact, a lot of the journey was uphill, but the road made it look like it was level or downhill a bit. It was certainly downhill on the way back. As a result, I came back at various shades of quickly.

As a cyclist, I tend to consider traffic lights to be optional. This isn't safe. At one stage, I was very confused about why I suddenly had to slam on the brakes to avoid collision with a van. I looked at the driver quizzically, rather than angrily, and he wound down his window and told me that I'd just shot a red light. This seemed a fair cop and I conceded that I had become a bit more road reckless than planned. No harm done, though.

Anyway, one of my favourite cycling mishaps (yes, you can have favourites if you get to come away unscathed) was on South Bridge in Edinburgh city centre. I was cycling from the playhouse area of town, probably in a rush as always. The buses don't always leave space to their left. Cycling, I prefer to stay moving, rather than stop and have to restart. So, if the buses are stopped, I'll go around their right and head up the road in the oncoming traffic bit of the road - bearing in mind that I'm cycle-widthed, so there's space.

In this particular instance, the traffic on the left had all stopped, as had the oncoming traffic. I knew I could risk going up the centre of the road for a few seconds, since everything would stay stopped. However, I was also out on a limb somewhat, given that, once it all started moving, I'd be in the midst of two lanes of heavy vehicles, moving in opposite directions. I had a plan, though. I would "put my foot down" as it were and get up some speed so I could then slip into any space that opened in the lefthand traffic as it started to move, which I intuited would be imminent.

As I put a bit of power into the bike, I spotted out of the corner of my eye that a pedestrian was coming across the road from behind the stopped bus on my right. I slammed on the brake. The front brake. The bike stopped and reared forward on its front wheel, the back wheel in mid-air. The pedestrian was faced with the sight of me suddenly looming over them, on a front-wheelie-ing bicycle. I kept my balance and the bike landed back on its rear wheel.

The pedestrian exclaimed something like "Oh sorry!!!". I said "What do you mean!? That was brilliant. I'm doing STUNTS now."

Good times.

Not Alone

It seems like I'm not alone in my post Fringe recovery. This article says a lot about how it's hard to adjust after the Edinburgh silly season. In the case of this particular year, I've had a rather optimistic looking life to return to, for once, and it's been a happy time after the Fringe, but I've still found an itchiness and a slump in my behaviour, which is now starting to leave me.

Experience can tell you to expect it and show you how to deal with it. It can't stop it from happening, though.

Monday, September 8

After Hours

Finally, a night that felt suitably weird. That's weird as is normal. What do I mean by this? Well, my life has various counterbalancing tensions in it. Life after Edinburgh involves creating new routines and getting into old ones. It involves gigging, but with a load more experience and ideas. It involves getting back into the swing of things.

Tonight I did a gig. I did it my way. I had a good time. I managed to get back into the sort of mood I need to be in to gig in the real world, or at least the version of the real world I inhabit while acting as oddly as I seem to.

I shall talk through the order of events. I left work at a normal time and drove home. At home, I collected my backpack guitar, replaced the brake pads on my bike, got changed into cycling gear and cycled to the station where I took a train while reading a book. The train arrived in London, where I used Google maps on my phone to provide me with step by step instructions for getting to the venue with the gig at it. The gig was 2 miles or so away. I did the gig and then got back on the bike. Google maps provided different instructions for home and I ignored some of them, creating a 1 mile or so detour. I had a coffee and muffin at the statio and got a stopping train back to Reading. When the train arrived at Twyford, mindful that my instincts were tending towards a chip shop for something to eat, I jumped off the train so I would have to cycle a few extra miles home, past an M&S simply food.

I bought some simply food and came home to eat it.

This is not normal. It's not normal to eat at 1.30am after a late night bike ride. It's not normal to be a gigging comedian.

I wouldn't want to be normal. Normal isn't always fun. Conversely, doing my version of weird is quite inspiring, making occasional normality seem like fun. I find toast racks to be deeply decadent things to enjoy these days. I haven't got one... but they're normal.

As for the gig, well, I won't wax lyrical about what I did, or how well it went as far as the audience were concerned. People laughed and I was happy that they did. I think I may also pick up other gigs on the back of it. However, from my own point of view, I was finally doing a gig where I felt like I was free of my own stiffness. I have been quite over-scripted and stiff at the last couple of gigs, feeling out of step with the performance, like I was DOING it, rather than BEING it. Tonight I used a lot more instinct and felt much more in touch with the audience. It was fun.

So, with my new MP3 player (why I need yet another MP3 data store to sync with the other 4 I don't know), I had cycling and laughter to fill my evening. Not a bad distraction from the stresses and strains of the real world.

It's late, though, and I should be finding myself some sleep.

Getting Back Into The Swing

It has been my intention to write more on this blog, which is fast heading into the "don't read this, it never gets updated" category. Just as an aside, I heartily recommend adding the Google Reader to your Google home page and using it to track any blogs you read, so you get the content delivered, rather than have to keep checking to see if the blog is updated. As a result, you won't lose interest in a blog that hasn't been properly updated for a few weeks, as this one has.

It's a shame. I was in the habit of writing something for every day this year. I had entries right up to nearly the end of July. That's plenty of words, describing the progress of my year in quite some detail. Then the Edinburgh Fringe comes along and bursts the bubble. There's no time to blog while there... well, there is time, but I chose to use it for other things, even though I had my computer on, many days of my trip. So, it's my fault, but it's also how the year works.

Getting back into the swing of things after the Fringe has been quite tricky this year. There are good reasons for this, as opposed to the bad reasons that I had last year when it took me a very long time to get through the post-Edinburgh seasonal affected disorder that I suffer (and I'm still, to some extent suffering). The good reasons are that I'm socially very busy. I'm in a good place in my life right now and I'm starting to look firmly forwards and feel motivated by what I perceive to be falling into line in my life.

Last year, I had a lot of question marks and there was also the death of a lot of over-optimism to face... it was, in itself, the aftershock of a series of very stressful events, which I had thought I was coping with as they came, but really wasn't. Having said that, there have hardly been any big catastrophic events in my life in the last few years. Life has been life, and you just have to get on with it. Big catastrophes would be awful, though dealing with them is perhaps more self explanatory, since they're big and obvious things. Maybe the subtle lost dreams are harder to cope with.

I don't know.

I'm straying from the present tense, which was not my intention. Today is the start of another busy week. I should be thinking about that.

Last night (which is near enough to reflect on) I did a gig in Poole. Was it any good? Well, I endorse it (in Dorset... geddit!?). It was still a very "post Edinburgh" performance, in that I felt like it didn't quite work because I am still not feeling "match fit". It comes from the fact that I, partly on purpose, had about a week off after the Fringe and then only did one gig in the following week. As a result, I've dropped out of the habit of "being in the zone".

Other things also affected the performance. I'm still finding my gigging guitar to be a bit heavier than I expect. This is largely because I got used to playing the disgustingly light backpack guitar which I played about 70 odd times in Edinburgh. In addition, I managed to lose a string on song 3 last night, which effectively stole about 25% of my concentration on everything I was doing. Not only did the guitar feel unfamiliar, but the missing string meant it really couldn't easily be played with feel. It sounded awful and I was thrown.

On top of all of this, I was opening the gig, which it's easy to forget how difficult it is. I also arrived a couple of minutes before going on, which meant I didn't really do much in the way of getting into the zone. Oh, and I was told that there's a definite case of opening act syndrome at that gig... but would I like to do longer than the originally booked slot? Why not, eh?

Actually, I think I did pretty ok for the opening spot. I made the audience laugh. I don't think they noticed the holes that I noticed. I also think it's good that I got plenty out of them but felt like I can do better. If I'm building my strength back up and can do a reasonable gig like that when I'm not quite in my natural rhythm, then I hope I will reach some sort of level in the next couple of weeks where I start really shining.

Edinburgh audiences are strange. You can play them in a way which doesn't necessarily work outside of the Fringe. There is a risk that some of what seemed to work well during the Fringe may have to be ditched in real comedy clubs. There's also a chance that I just have to relearn how to play it to more cynical, and larger rooms. Having said that, the pleasure of stand-up comes from the mixture of trying to make a joke work and knowing that there's a killer line around the corner.

In the middle 8 of my new song, there's one line which I know will make the whole song worthwhile... so, although I want it to be funny throughout, I know there's that one line. It's that mixture I just mentioned.

So, I'm getting back into the swing of things. I will be the king of the swingers, a bit like the monkey from The Jungle Book, which I watched last Tuesday night, the DVD having arrived a few days previously - I'm back into my Amazon buying rhythm. This film was watched at someone else's house, in the company of two kittens who watched the film very closely and made attacks on the snake. It was very amusing.

I like watching DVDs. I also enjoyed watching something on YouTube. It was the song "Mystery" by Hugh Laurie, which was mentioned to me by someone at the gig I was at last night.

It all links up.

Well, it doesn't.

I'm now going to do some being busy and see how that makes the day go by.

Wednesday, September 3

Trouble Adjusting

Well, the good news is that I'm happy. I'm in very high spirits and feel decidedly positive about the weeks to come. It is not bad news to admit that I'm suffering from the usual state of post-Fringe blues. This is just a fact of life. This year's fringe was probably the most busy yet, the only thing making it seem less busy being the avoidance of the huge hours of flyering the Fringe box office queue. I performed in several shows and zoomed all over the city doing loads of things. Coming back to real life after that is always going to seem like a big adjustment.

Last year's adjustment was hampered by a change in jobs and other lifestyle miseries. This year's adjustment is being assisted by good times spent with good people, along with the cultivation of a big "can do" attitude to the various things I need to do with my life to put it into some sort of shape.

That's not to say that I don't have my little huffs. I came back from a night out last night to find a car parked in such a way as to obstruct the entrances of both my drive and garage. This Peugeot 206 was parked between the two parked cars outside my house, which had left enough room for access to both the aforementioned car places. Rather than parallel park the car, the driver had decided to go in at 45 degrees to the pavement, thus leaving not so much a parked, but abandoned vehicle.

Had I found a roadside parking space, I might have left a note on the car with something like "Are you fucking kiddding?" or "What the fuck are you doing" or something equally f-wordy. I wasn't pleased with this "fuck you parking" one bit. Not only had they blocked my drive, but they couldn't even be bothered to park on the road properly. Too self-important, perhaps? I couldn't find a space, though, though there were various Peugeot 206 sized spaces on the road - my car is longer.

I tried to squeeze my car in the sort of gap between the rear of this car and the front of the car to my left... had the parked cars on the other side of the road not existed, I might have been just able to do some heroic shape shifting and do it. However, it just wasn't possible. In one of my moves of putting the car somewhere, getting out of it to do an external recce and then deciding how to proceed, I decided to throw caution to the wind. I was stopped behind this errant vehicle in direct line with it. I decided to see how good his handbrake was.

I drove forwards at almost impercpetible speed until my car was slowed by being in contact with the car in front. The car in front was now part of my car and I kept the power on, gradually nosing the car up the kerb and further onto the pavement. In so doing, I created a gap big enough to get my own car into my drive through.

I then went into the house and got out my whiteboard marker. Why leave a note when you can simply write on the car itself. That won't blow away. The final message read:
Do not park here again. (Dry wipe marker it will wipe off)

I like to avoid encouraging people to vandalise my car by applying wipe-off graffiti.

Perhaps I was being a bit too much of a dick there. Why should I act like I own the place? Oh yeah, the mortgage and the deeds etc etc. I hope that any future stupid parkers will use similarly light-coloured vehicles so that my marker pen shows up on their bonnets.

Or I could report them to the police for causing an obstruction.

My way is more fun.

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