Sunday, 26 September 2010

A mountain pass, "The Thing From Tring" and three manky chickens.

I'm going to a secret music festival next week. I shouldn't have even told you that. It's somewhere in the Mediterranean and until Wednesday I didn't even know where I was staying. That's when I got a call from an Austrian bloke called Oliver. This is a transcript of our conversation:

Oliver: Hi Paul! It's Oliver!
Paul: Hello my friend!
O: So I have you guys with two Germans and a Norwegian
P: Good
O: Do you get in at 8pm?
P: Yes
O: And are you hiring a car?
P: Yes
O: OK - drive from the airport in a straight line for twenty minutes until you get to (place withheld)
P: Then what?
O: Then call me
P: Why?
O: because there is no signal on the mountain pass
P: What mountain pass?
O: The one you are taking to (place withheld)
P: We were going to take the coast road
O: NO! The coast road is too dangerous at night!
P: And the mountain pass is safer?
O: Much safer - there are no drivers on the mountain pass
P: OK - where are we staying?
O: I have told you where you are staying
P: No you haven't
O: Yes I have - (Place withheld)
P: Yes but where in (place withheld)?
O: There are only ten houses in (place withheld)
P: Yes but which one are we in?
O: The one by the pizzeria where you are going to meet me
P: What pizzeria?
O: The only pizzeria. You will recognise me - I have very long hair and an even longer beard. See you on Wednesday. Goodbye. 
(Phone goes dead)

I take it from that we are staying in the house by the pizzeria in (place withheld).

On Thursday I went to do a gig in Romsey. Romsey is a lovely little picturesque place and quite clearly the home of Lord Palmerston, my favourite ever Prime Minister (he was cited as the co-respondent in a divorce case when he was 84 years old), since there is a statue of him in the square. There is also an abbey. To the front of the abbey is an HSBC and a Lloyds bank. This combination of the ecclesiastical and the financial leads me to believe that it is only a matter of time before the abbey is rebranded the "Santander".

Friday saw me make the (far shorter) journey to Langford, to do a regular gig that normally fills me with joy. It's in a social club called The Ivy leaf and is always completely mental, largely because the guy who organises the show tends to get carried away and finds it hard not to join in with me. This month he got a little over-excited (even by his standards) and heckled not only myself but also the other performers, who all did a sterling job of repelling his noise. The problem was that this month he was really funny and helped things along so it was difficult to have a go at him at the end of the night, despite the fact it would be better all round if he just buttoned it really. It's hard to explain to him that by heckling the people he is paying he could potentially ruin his own gig and he has such a joyous lack of regard for them that it is always a humbling experience for us otherwise egocentric maniacs.

I had thought heckling was something of a dying art at the shows I get involved in myself. Down the years I have actively discouraged it but I fear it to be on the rise again. I wonder if we are living in such desperate times that people really are angrier and (just like in the 80s) are taking their anger out on the people they pay to watch. There's a lack of subtlety about it that I haven't seen for fifteen years. This was no clearer than on Saturday night when I did my semi-regular show at The Pad in Bedford. Bless The Pad and bless its owner, Kev, who loves the comedy shows and is the only real reason I keep going back there. The audience are up and down in both number and character. This show scraped about 35 of them and they were their usual mixture of both friendliness and intellect. Most interesting was a couple from Tring who had booked a hotel for the night (Why they wanted to come to Bedford remained unresolved). The guy was fine but the woman was leathered - properly leathered - and began heckling within minutes of the show starting. Shortly before the first act she asked me if she could ask a question. I innocently replied to the affirmative. The question she asked was

"Why do you buy your clothes in Oxfam?"

This threw me a little, but got a big laugh which I played with. She then asked if she could ask another. I explained that judging by the last one I was reluctant to hear it but the audience laughed loud enough at that for me to say "Yes". her next enquiry was a little more surreal:

"Why are you trying to look like someone from New Kids On The Block?"

More hilarity and disbelief. As a man of forty years old, greying, receding and frankly looking like I've seen better days (And in an outfit apparently bought from Oxfam), I was a little surprised to find out I was attempting to impersonate a member of a teeny bopper's boy band. Anyway we never got to the bottom of that so I put the first act on and he struggled a little which was unfair because he's good.

We had a short break and then played a drinking game called "Roxanne". It involves downing a pint, in stages, to the Police classic over its three and a half minute duration. I thought (mistakenly) that it would be a good idea to get the girl from Tring (Now re-branded "The Thing From Tring" by a well-wishing audience member) to join me on stage. She was furnished with a pint of lager (She wanted a pint of vodka and red bull) and no sooner had we explained the rules and started than she just opened her neck and downed it in one, demanded another and then retook her seat when the demand was rejected.

The game over, I congratulated her boyfriend on having a girlfriend who could effectively deepthroat a pint.

Today I did little else than play poker online and look for a CD. The former resulted in the loss of two million imaginary chips. The latter resulted in my hallway being covered in hundreds of other CDs, but not the one I was looking for (It's by a band called 'Raw Poo' and I wanted it for this week's Punky! Radio). I also watched "The Secret Garden" by accident which is as camp a film as you can make with children without being put on the sex offenders' list.

Then tonight I went to my friend Jo's house for dinner. She has bought three 'Rescue chickens" (Yes I didn't know they existed either) and when I arrived insisted on showing me them. They are released battery hens with all the horrors which that entails. They are 75% bald, terrified of everything. stupid, ugly, mentally challenged and ABSOLUTELY LOVING THEIR FREEDOM! By the time I left one of them had laid an egg on the lawnmower.

Now that is 'free range'.

PS. If you have any idea why a woman from Tring might think I am trying in vain to impersonate a member of NKOTB, please comment below. I'd appreciate the help...


  1. no idea, i've at one time fancied all of the attributing band but can't see a resembelance anywhere.. me thinks beer goggles.......

  2. Hmm - "Beer goggles" would suggest some attraction - I'm pretty sure the comment was made as an insult - mind you, I've never been particularly good at "reading the signals"...

  3. no not an insult at all - wouldn't touch any of the aforemention band with a barge pole these days.... soz you thought that...

  4. No not from you, you loonytoon! from the heckler! Thanks for the comment! Exclamation mark!

  5. before i dig myself into a big hole i'll go away :o)))..... have a good holiday..

  6. Well I'm glad we've got all that cleared up. Yes thanks - not sure how much of a holiday it will be though - it might be more of a challenge, quite frankly...


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