Last Wednesday I got the train down to Brixton Hill to go for dinner with my comedian friend Alex Marion and his freelance-photographer wife, Monika. The plan was for him to cook dinner while she did a promotional photo shoot with me. Happy accident led me to also be able to meet up with Mike Belgrave beforehand in the Half Moon Pub in Herne Hill so he could interview me for his excellent new video podcast about outsider music. He wanted me to talk about two bands - Alien Sex Fiend and The Cramps.
British Rail was unusually efficient and I got to the Half Moon ridiculously early so there was no option but to sit, wait and drink. By the time Mike arrived I'd already had a pint of Guinness and he had a sufficient thirst on for us to embark on a miniature session. Alex called to say he fancied a pint as well and within half an hour we were all sat outside said boozer quaffing Ale and recording. The whole business bit of the day took twenty minutes and the results will be posted soon, I'm sure. Mike buggered off up to Camden to carry on his video activities, Alex and I downed another pint each and then we walked through Brockwell park to get to his house. It was 7pm.
Brockwell park is locked up on the Brixton side around 7pm.
Hence within three hours of arriving in London I found myself and another forty year old man comically attempting, semi-pissed to straddle eight foot railings in full view of late commuter traffic, pedestrians and a full (stationary) bus of people trying desperately hard not to stare at us. Alex got over all right but I additionally had to semi-strip to do it as I was worried about my long coat snagging and suspending me in mid air. He stifled his guffaws as I dragged myself over them and jumped down. I could have sworn I heard applause from the bus.
Monika had already hit the booze as well and so we joined her in getting stuck in to pre-purchased Tanglefoots and Bishops Fingers before transferring to white wine when they ran out. Their friend John arrived, Alex finished cooking and we ate about 9pm. Monika said there was no way the photoshoot was happening. I think I might have said "What photoshoot?". She put her head on the table about half past nine and fell soundly asleep. We left her there for about fifteen minutes (We were in a heated discussion at that point) before Alex put her to bed. He checked on her about three quarters of an hour later and never re-emerged. This left John and I talking and drinking until around midnight before he left in a cab. I sat in the kitchen grumbling to myself for about twenty minutes and then collapsed into my room (the lounge). There was no duvet. It was cold. I cursed my hosts and tried in vain to go to sleep under my coat. Alex came in during the night and put a duvet on me (they had forgotten before). I didn't notice but did manage to kick it off. I woke up (freezing) about 6.30am and saw it in the corner of the room. I then cursed myself repeatedly. How could I have missed that when I walked in? I finally got a couple of hours restful kip and then they woke me up about eleven with a breakfast of egg, chips and salad.
Monika had what I can only describe as a considerable case of the shakes and made it quite clear that she would be unable to hold a camera for the foreseeable future. We decided to reconvene at a later date but I think we maybe ought to try and take the pictures before we drink the pitchers.
On Friday I was back down that way as I was performing at Banana Cabaret in Balham and it seemed only correct to place Alex and Monika on the guest list. The gig went great, the booze was again flowing and rather than go home (As planned) I ended up in Bar 61 with them in Streatham Hill until a. it had shut and b. we had sunk three bottles of white wine (Well they went so well with the olives) and a couple of "Knob Creeks". I slept on the couch, under a duvet. Progress.
The show had been a great relief as it was the first time I had performed since the previous Saturday when I had enjoyed a quite disastrous time in (D)unstable. Over the week I had actually suffered a minor crisis of confidence and really had needed "A good one" to blow the cobwebs away. It was worth celebrating. Here is the Bedford (Which plays host to Banana Cabaret) lit up in all its glory
The celebrations continued into Saturday as well, albeit in yesterday's clothes. I sat in my own dirt and watched Nottingham Forest lose to Portsmouth via "Final Score" before scoffing fish and chips and heading off back down to The Bedford. On a Saturday they have two shows in two different rooms that run concurrently. I opened the upstairs room and had another beautiful gig before heading downstairs to go on second. The first act was struggling with the audience and actually turned on them a bit, which didn't really warm them to him. He came off to weak applause and minor derision and I was sent out to face the middle-class lions myself. Situations like this go one of two ways - you either follow the previous performer down the chute or you rescue the gig and become a hero. Fortunately, I achieved the latter. Paul 3 Banana Cabaret 0 (The other comedian went straight upstairs and had a tremendous show - he is an excellent comic and must have just misjudged the downstairs room).
The sensible thing was obviously to go home, but no - I had to (nearly) get a third gig (in Clapham junction) to replace an act who was running late but he showed up in the nick of time so I wasn't required but the compere still made a point of calling me from onstage and getting the audience to cheer my offer to step in. This really was the icing on my performing cake and my ego was going through the roof. I'd managed to get a cheer (And applause) at a club I wasn't even at. (D)unstable's memory faded into obscurity and I visited the bars of Balham, got an extra-hour's drinking in when the clocks went back and woke up on the sofa again, relatively early on Sunday morning. Hallowe'en.
A rather more painstaking journey home via British Rail and a very slow train from Kings Cross that the driver kept switching the engine on and off at every station for no reason I could see was followed by a curious taxi back to mine. The driver was outrageously grumpy, very rude, terribly unhappy but principled and extremely generous. He refuses to charge the recognised "Time and a half" on a Sunday as he sees it unfair and chastises other drivers who don't opt to take this same course. This meant the trip came to less than four pounds but I'd have gladly paid the extra to SHUT HIM UP.
A short trip to the Supermarket became a long one as everyone in the entire world had decided to go at the same time and there were actually queues into the car park. I'm not used to going that early on a Sunday (Just after midday) but fancied a roast chicken. I also had to get my mate Limburn a birthday card as we were going out later to celebrate it a day early at the Hallowe'en party at The Victoria pub in Hitchin. To accompany the chicken I bought a carrot, a leek, a head of broccoli and... PURPLE MAJESTY potatoes. To say I was excited would be an understatement. I read about them a couple of weeks ago. They are the latest developed "Superspud" from Scotland and are, indeed, very purple. They also make a delicious fluffy and velvety mash that I made sure I made enough of to cover at least two dinners. I liked them so much I took a photo - here's lunch
After that glory I had a bit of a ponce about, lost another million poker chips on facebook (I'm on the verge of giving up, what with the luck I've been having) and then at 4.30pm made the Hallowe'en Punky! radio which was (I think) really good. It's posted now - have a listen for yourself if you have time. A quick shower and shave later and I was off down to Mr. Limburn's with a minimal fancy dress outfit of a black suit, black shirt, white tie worn backwards to suggest a dog collar, comedy teeth and a quite disturbing plastic mask. We drank some wine and walked down to The Vic.
What a marvelllous night! It was a little quieter than expected because of the phrase I hate more than any other ("It's a school night") but DJ Roch did a glorious job of adding a suitable soundtrack to our fun and it was nice to see another old friend, Buff who stayed the course with us as we quaffed Guinness, then Jack Daniels and diet coke and then, when the randoms had all departed and we were in to "Lock In" mode, a quite huge amount of Cava. Vic the landlady was on great form, quite a few of the regulars were dressed in astonishingly good outfits that led to us not recognising half of them (Limburn's girlfriend Georgie was particularly incognito) and by the time we got home (after 1am) everything was a little wobbly. I retired to an actual bed for the first time in a couple of days with the passing words of Limburn ringing in my ears;
"Get the car moved before 10am or you might get a parking ticket".
He woke me up at 10.34am to let me know that a warden hadn't arrived yet. We had a cup of tea and then the next thing I knew he was screaming out the window at a traffic warden who was putting a ticket on HIS car. This gave me time to say "Keep him talking" leg it downstairs, run past the warden (Who was now shouting back at Limburn that he was only doing his job and that as a resident, Limburn should have been aware of the parking restrictions on his own street), jump in my own car and drive off, shouting "Happy Birthday, mate" out of the window and also swearing at the traffic warden.
There is a bit more to this story but that's the gist of it. Limburn has already called North Herts County Council to inform them that there is a medical emergency and he has had to leave his car on the street outside his house and he hopes he doesn't get a ticket. They have assured him that should it get a ticket it will be noted and he won't have to pay a fine. That this phone call was made approximately 30 minutes after the ticket was issued has not apparently been logged. It is unlikely the two events would be linked by the authorities anyway, as Mr. Limburn is very well spoken on the telephone but for some reason when confronting traffic wardens in his dressing gown and slippers he screams obscenities in a bizarre cockney accent which I have never heard him use before.
Parking ticket (if paid within 14 days) £30.
Limburn's reaction to parking tickets being issued? priceless.
...And finally - more purple majesty, this time enjoyed with fried eggs, toast and a mug of tea a little bit before I wrote this. Please also note brown sauce and the comedy teeth I wore on Hallowe'en:
I'm away for a week now. Enjoy Guy Fawkes Night this Friday - a curious English tradition in which we celebrate the burning of Catholics with bonfire toffee, mini rockets and apple bobbing.