Sunday, 19 September 2010

Kindly remove yourself and carry out your business.

The Hyena comedy club in Newcastle is one of the country's oldest provincial venues of mirth and this is something of a miracle, really, in that it has always been a disaster waiting to happen. That's not to say that the staff aren't ridiculously friendly, the bosses delightfully mad, the room potentially brilliant, the location perfect, the food good etc. etc. No - it has other issues.

There is ALWAYS a problem with the accommodation, normally one stag do too many, a P.A. issue, a spotlight not working, a broken chair, a woman giving birth in the ladies toilets, apparitions, unruly wizards or a power cut. It's also £95 return on the train from Hertfordshire or more than that in petrol so is not a particularly attractive financial proposition...

...And we begin on the train, last Thursday afternoon to be precise. I sometimes come up to Newcastle a day early. I really like the city and I also really like my mate Graeme who lives in a delightful little suburb of Wallsend called Battle Hill with his mental missus Barbara (pronounced BARBRA! at all times) who screeches at cats and makes delicious chilli without ever actually tasting it. He arranged to meet me at the station which was a relief because when I got there it was obviously chucking it down with the cold rain that only exists in the North East of this sceptred isle. Actually it was just a relief to get off the train - I had spent several hours being squashed against the fattest man in Christendom to ever book a seat next to anybody. He used me as an additional support and fell asleep within seconds of dropping his huge, wobbly, stinking torso upon me. He didn't even take his ridiculously massive puffa jacket off which just meant he slow-cooked as he slept and the putrid aroma worsened.

So it was a relief to have Graeme waiting for me in the most beaten-up sports car I have ever seen. Once he found a gear we coughed up to The Hyena so I could pick up my key to the world famous acts' flat, drop my stuff off and then hit "tha bevvies" with him. You will notice no small amount of Geordie vernacular in this essay - I got a book about it. All work achieved, we descended on Battle Hill (slowly, but without misfires), had said chilli, listened to BARBRA! screaming at a cat for a bit and all headed off to the pub. I can't remember its name but we had a couple of pints and half a bottle of red wine each and BARBRA! sipped delicately at a small glass of dry white and looked in vain for cats to screech at, before moving on to The Village hotel with a couple of Graeme's footballing mates, one of which had once won over four grand on a "wan poond bet" that someone would win 5 - 0 and Darren Peacock would score a goal. He told everyone.

A pint or two later and Graeme and BARBRA! were ready to "gan yem" as they had to be up at five in the morning because apparently some people have to be (And I suspect it's a very good time to screech at cats). I dropped them off at their house made of sweets and instructed my taxi driver to head "Fa tha toon". I had a date with triple whiskeys to fulfil.

"Madisons" is a subterranean post-comedy club drinking hole attached to the Hyena and on a Thursday night they do triple shots of any spirit for £2.95 ALL NIGHT. It is enough to make you screech at cats. I actually, physically cannot avoid this sort of thing so went in and had three in about an hour, got the toilet attendant to squirt me (Well I'd done a good enough job myself), promptly forgot everyone's names (I vaguely remember a bemused huddle at the bar) and careered in the approximation of said acts' flat. The next morning I woke up  (late), washed in ice-cold water (the boiler was of course not working and the place was freezing), dressed and nipped out to "Westgate Wines" to get milk so I could at least have a cup of tea. I also bought Cranberry juice, orange squash (With no added sugar) and a yoghurt. The reason I tell you this is because the young Asian shopkeeper (With a broad Geordie accent, which always tickles me) surprised me with the following statement when confronted with my goods:

"Well I never! All of your purchases are in liquid form!".

I didn't feel remotely guilty about ignoring solids.

Two cups of tea, a small glass of milk, a decent sized glass of cranberry juice, a huge glass of orange squash (With no added sugar) and a few dollops of yoghurt later I met up with a burlesque dancer called Bettina Spankenhaus and her little son Moss and we went to my favourite Chinese all-you-can-eat joint on Gallowgate, tremendously named "Ho Buffet" which always leaves me chuckling about smorgasbords of prostitutes. Both Bettina and her husband are redheads and I think they bred Moss as a pedigree. After the food we headed for the Discovery Museum so he could splash other children in the shipyard recreation and we could talk about exceptionally rude things in hushed tones and guffaw. Then I bought him a tank because I am worried he is a bit too camp for a four year old. I also bought a whimsical little booklet called "Larn Yersel' Geordie", hence the generous usage of said vernacular.

Back to the flat to be aware that there was another comedian in it. He didn't emerge from his room though so I could not be sure whether it was Geoff Boyz or Pete Johansen. I figured on the latter because the former is gregarious enough to not remain hidden for long. A couple of hours passed before he emerged, blinking and drenched from his room - I was correct in my assumption that it was Pete.

The Hyena had bitten again.

Whilst having his afternoon nap he had been rudely awakened by soapy water pouring through his light fitting. It would seem that the people in the flat above had left the bath running before flying to Brazil. I suggested he turned the light off (He had switched it on to find out where the water was coming from). I am no expert in these matters but am pretty sure that water pouring over electrics isn't that smart. He made phone calls and the venue agreed he could stay in a hotel instead. Flat 1 comedians 0. 

I got down to the gig around eight, sound checked (Surprisingly satisfactorily) and got re-acquainted with Mr. Boyz. We go back a long way and are relaxed in each others' company. The gig itself was relatively uneventful. Nice people, a relatively low audience (About a hundred) and a relatively early finish. We three amigos belted downstairs to Madisons and let people start buying us drinks. Not long in to the first I was approached by a younger version of me and his hot wife. He introduced himself as "Rastus", one of the regular listener/contributors to Punky! Radio (My podcast). We celebrated meeting each other by drinking heavily, I had an interesting chat with two girls outside who were smoking (But sadly I don't remember what about although it probably involved shoes), Pete retired to his hotel in Jesmond, Rastus + (delightful) 1 removed themselves and I apparently said to him as a parting shot that I was going to go "Doon tha toon" to find a woman to destroy. This isn't a turn of phrase I'm particularly happy with and certainly by that time, being already pretty much destroyed myself, I doubt I would have been in any fit state to carry out any such threat. Geoff and I instead travelled to a bar in "The Gate" where we drank some whiskey we didn't need and then took home a large kebab (him) and a half pound burger and chips (me) which we did manage to destroy. On the way home he gave a full packet of Rothmans to two blokes who appeared to be homeless and they then tried to give him half the packet back and pointed out that they were in fact just completely pissed and couldn't find Gateshead.

I think we went to bed about 4am but by that time Ice Station Zero was so cold I couldn't actually do anything other than hide and shiver under my duvet. It was so cold I was scared to roll over in case I chipped a nipple.

Morning came to consciousness of faint stale smells of beer and I made tea. Geoff got up and said he was hungry. It seemed sensible to go for lunch. We did and opted for fish and chips down the road and the fish was absolutely amazing and equal to the Newington Traditional Fish Bar in its greatness. That I was sat with the guy who does the best "De Niro" impression on the comedy circuit was not lost on me. I will now forever equate Robert De Niro with battered cod. For an explanation you'll have to go through my Edinburgh blogs, if you can be bothered. In the afternoon I watched England beat Australia in Athletics and a Michael Caine "Harry Palmer" film but I don't know which one as I kept missing the title in the breaks. Curse you Channel Five! It made me want to shout "Pint of lager - in a straight glass!" and click my fingers a la "Get Carter".

We managed to hang in there until nearly 8pm before we went down to the gig and discovered it was warmer outside than in the three-bedroomed freezer. I had earlier shaved by boiling a kettle, putting the water in a pan and putting the pan in the basin. One of the acts' flat's little foibles is that someone has mysteriously stolen all the plugs. I reckon there is probably a cub scout badge for surviving a couple of days in the flat.

Again, the gig was a pleasure and it was a little more full this time - probably closer to 150 and the extra energy was appreciated. Della (the manager) was incredibly helpful and just when we all fell in love with her (I always do when I go up there) David Hadingham showed up. He is a fine man, a very good comedian and sadly, her boyfriend.

Some hilariously large Jamesons appeared and then it was back down to Madisons for more ridiculousness. All working participants vacated and I was left to my own devices for a short while before being collared by a bloke from Scunthorpe, his girlfriend from Grimsby, a bloke from Stevenage, a bloke from Worksop and basically my past life. My eyes widened with every new recruit to this gang. It was as though they had been hand-picked to confuse me. I was in Newcastle after all.

I got a cab home because I couldn't see my feet and didn't trust them to do what I asked them after ending the night chatting with a couple of the barmaids about I know not what and drinking Mexican beer with fruit in the top of it like a bloody teenager. Newcastle had been its usual enigmatic self.

"Hadaway and shite".

PS. It takes a woman to solve the most basic of domestic issues. The combined talents of Geoff, Pete AND myself were not sufficient to get the boiler on at any point. Della went round to the flat in the interval on the Saturday night and switched it on. By the time I woke up this morning it was so hot my lips had dried up and stuck together and I was delerious with what appeared to be a fever. I'm never happy.

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