Monday, 20 December 2010

The Highliners, mulled wine and some particularly unpleasant South African women

It has often been said that we make our own luck. I make my own colds. It has been below freezing all week and the snow has been horrendous but I refuse to let little things like the weather alter my plans. Hence I found myself last Thursday night on the (delayed) 6.05pm from Luton to St. Pancras International with my regular compadre Steve as we embarked on another drinkathon also known as The Highliners at The Gaff on Holloway Road. The Highliners are one of the most entertaining live acts out there and had a minor hit in the late 80s with a song called Henry The Wasp. Steve and I also have a personal relationship with a couple of the guys out of the band as we got them out of an (ahem) tricky situation involving mistaken nationality at last year's Psychobilly Meeting in Pineda De Mar. Anyway, the reason we were on a train this early was because we didn't want to miss the support band, Pussycat And The Dirty Johnsons who are also excellent. They were, on this occasion, also excellent at cancelling with less than a day's notice so, with time on our hands, We headed off to my favourite pub in North London, "Big Red" for a couple of pre-show ales.

There were loads of barmaids. Steve and I love barmaids. There was also a barmaid on her first ever shift. Steve and I love barmaids on their first ever shift. We drank Guinness and chased it off with shots, various shots, an unknown number of shots - my argument being that it was cold outside and we needed warming up. We left around 8.30pm, walked the two minutes over the road to The Gaff. ignored it, walked for another five minutes in arctic air and then realised that we had drunkenly missed an entire venue within ninety minutes of arriving in London. Oh well - in for a penny.

It was actually in for (the very reasonable) £7 and a further quid for the cloakroom. Overcoats dispatched, we again hit the Guinness, now joined by the 100% Psychobilly Darren AKA Burt Blood who will quite happily "Wreck 'em on the news so the whole world can see". I went up to the dressing room to interview Luke (Highliners Lead Singer) and somehow managed to accuse his lovely girlfriend Morag of looking like Cliff Richard in the process.

Myself, Luke and Sir Cliff
It was a good interview, actually and will feature on Punky! Radio in a couple of week's. By the time I got down again Darren appeared to be feeling the effects of the extended company of Steve. That he would (later on) prevent Steve from entering the wrecking pit at the front of the stage because he was convinced that Peter Andre was in there is neither here nor there.

Darren holds Steve back from a potential confrontation with a (typically enthusiastic) Peter Andre

The gig was brilliant, we all left extremely drunk and then walked back (in the freezing cold) to Holloway tube station. By the time we were at the bottom of the lift I had developed a serious bout of man flu, which remains as I write. We missed the train we wanted so had to hang about in the cold (Which didn't help) and then got to his South Bedfordshire pub in blizzard conditions that left us with no alternative but to get the ashes on and drink until 4am with the ever-understanding Lisa pouring the alcohol.

The real snow didn't land until Saturday. This (At least) meant that my Friday night comedy show in Hitchin wasn't decimated as it had been this time last year and we held on to a decent sized audience that greatly enjoyed the respective merits of Paddy Lennox and Brian Higgins in what was to be a trilogy of identical-line up gigs over the weekend. I headed for the safety of The Vic after the gig and enjoyed a couple of (medicinal) mulled wines before finally coming home with a kebab and falling asleep listening to a rapidly souring ashes test in far sunnier climes.

I spent most of Saturday afternoon sniffling through updates of the Forest v Palace clash at The City Ground (one of the few games to survive the weather) where the mighty reds won 3 - 0 and moved up to eighth in the table in the process. I was a little late to Letchworth Arts Centre for the gig that evening but not as late as the sound man, who didn't show up at all. Fortunately a member of the audience was something of a dab hand with a PA system and we got there in the end. Lighting was another matter and all I succeeded in doing in the first half was bathing the back half of the audience in glorious strip lighting whilst leaving myself and Paddy (the first act) in near-darkness. Brian (headlining) suggested turning the lights over the audience off and switching the lights over the stage on. He is a luminary genius. After the show we went to The Arena Tavern where I sneezed my way through a couple of "Rocking Rudolph" ales before cheekily hitting a few shots with my mate Sam as we pretended (to his preoccupied missus) that we were having difficulty getting served. Half an hour it took us - nearly as long as it took me to walk home through the deepening snow. We'd had about a foot. My mother had texted me to tell me she had got "Fourteen inches". That's not something you want to hear from your mother.

...And so to Sunday for the second show in Chigwell and a third night with the boys. For the first show, read here - it will give some background information. I set off ridiculously early - just after 4pm to make the (normally hour long) journey around the M25. I got there about a quarter to six which wasn't too bad considering the appalling driving conditions. These I additionally hindered by letting my screen wash thingy ice over so when I applied the wipers all they did was smear the grit and slush over the windscreen and reduce visibility to a matter of feet. Despite the weather, Stu and Matt at the hotel had done a great job of getting in a decent sized audience and the show was great...

Brian Higgins goes walkabout in Chigwell - It is every bit as daunting as anything Aboriginal adolescents have to contend with.
...There were no fights over chicken dippers and everyone left happy. I have a feeling I'm never going to just have a normal night at this gig though. On this occasion I:

Was accused of having small hands shortly after shaking the hand of an audience member with very small hands.

Was told I didn't have a manly handshake by a female member of staff who didn't have one either.

Was force-fed pints of Worthington throughout the gig.

Was told by one punter that I reminded him of Jean Reno in Leon.

Was dragged from the gig at the end of the night into a Christmas party disco by Matt who then left me with four of his beautiful receptionists who were having their own festive knees-up. Drinks were on the house and I kept being handed shots of Archers schnapps by these increasingly dizzy young women, one of which I obviously took the liberty of falling hopelessly in love with for at least three quarters of an hour.

Oooh Katie Gibson...

Then two of the receptionists had an argument with the DJ about I-know-not-what which led to him barking "You're immature - grow up!" at them before dashing back to his booth and putting on the Whigfield classic "Saturday Night" and jumping about like a toddler.

I really was having a good time and could finally relax after four nights of travelling, boozing and organising. That's when I caught the eye of the South African women. They had been tipped off that I was a comedian. Their opening gambit was (in those such lovely clipped tones of theirs) "Oh you are a comedian. Tell us a joke or you are not funny". They continued to badger and irritate me for a further half hour with other cliched idiot remarks until the (now less angry) DJ called time on what had been a nearly great night. By the end of it I wanted to punch them both clean out and retire to bed in the welcoming arms of a hotel receptionist, half my age and probably very adept with precisely the modern gadgets that drive me to distraction. I settled myself with finding my room (So far away from the reception where I belatedly picked up my key that it could barely have still been in Essex) and collapsing into snot-interrupted but badly-needed sleep.

In the morning I remembered to ask the hotel for a container of warm water to pour on my windscreen. Two of the lovely receptionists from the night before were miraculously working, the only tell tale sign that all was possibly not entirely well with them was the two enormous glasses of orange juice secreted just out of view of the general public. Finally, my annual festive wish: I hope you get what you deserve this Christmas.

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