Tuesday, 6 December 2011

You just need the stones - oh and maybe a basic sense of direction

Being over halfway through my life and having spent the last twenty years visiting the nation by night, I've finally come round to the idea that when I'm doing gigs in places of interest I ought to actually hang about a bit and actually visit the places of interest. Hence a gig in Devizes on a Thursday night turned into a trip to Avebury on a Friday morning.

First of all - let me tell you about Devizes. The gig is in a pub called The Bell On The Green and is brilliant fun. They even booked me a B&B for £35 that was lovely. I had a really good night, a restful sleep and was allowed to lay in as late as I wanted and to help myself to breakfast. It was only a short drive to Avebury and I parked up in the official car park a shade before midday.

If you currently can't believe what you're reading - don't worry - there will be beer and carnage.

The village of Avebury dates back to the Bronze Age and its stone circle is the largest in the world, so large in fact that within it there is a pub and a chapel as well as, in typical English style, the A4361 Beckhampton to Swindon road. Here are a few photos with descriptions:

Some of the Avebury Stones. You get a better idea of the scale  of them in the next photo. 

An Avebury Stoner. This is one of the bigger rocks and is referred to (I think) as The Henge.

This is The Red Lion. It's a Greene King pub in the heart of the stone circle (And Wadworths country - feisty!).

I HAD to take a photo of this after its description in the brochure as "High Street".

The beautiful A4361 Swindon - Beckhampton road RUINED by one of Britain's most important archeological monuments. Tsk Tsk ancient druids! Did you have no idea that one day your largest stone circle in the world, inspired by ancient ley lines, pagan ritual and natural law would get in the way of a major trunk road?
The Avebury Mole Hills - dangerously close to a cricket pitch. Oh ancient druid moles! Did you have no idea that one day... you get the picture.
Anyway - I strongly recommend you visit this curious little part of England should you ever be anywhere near - it's fascinating, important and inspiring all at the same time. It's also a National trust site and other than the £2 parking fee is completely free.

And now - what happened after:

When I left Avebury I travelled to Cardiff to play their "Jongleurs" comedy club. Miraculously I got a parking space under the hotel I was booked in to (The Park Inn by Radisson) and went up to the venue early to sound check and eat before the show. The manager that night had a very relaxed attitude to the comedians drinking and effectively "Kept 'em coming" until after the show, by which time I had befriended a (largely female) birthday party from Bridgend. At one point one of my fellow comedians (Joseph Wilson) asked another (Will-E Robbo) if he had seen where I had gone. The reply was simple "Dude - I don't know where he's going but wherever it is he's carrying a full bottle of rosé wine and a large Jack Daniels". Post aforementioned large solo booze order things become a little hazy but come 5am I finally said my goodbyes to  our hotel night barman Tim, Joseph and a few of the birthday party who had come back with us from the club at Idon'tknowo'clock.

Saturday was unremarkable, other than a little drive out for a Macdonalds which ended up with me having to park in the shopping centre car park on the way back as my space had been snapped up in the hotel. I also got two separate phone calls from comedians warning me that the shows I was doing the next week in central Europe were not ones I would necessarily get paid for as the promoter was something of a charlatan. My bravado got the better of me and I said to them both "Oh I don't think I'll have any trouble".

The gig in the evening was ok and I left straight after I'd been on, hoping to get away early. I was out of the venue before ten, checked out by ten and then spent an hour walking around the shopping centre trying to find a way in. I kept walking past the same stag do who were all dressed as superheroes. The third time I did it one of them shouted (from the top of the human pyramid) "Mate - what are you doing?". I replied simply and in anguish "I don't know". Eventually I decided to play it old school and try the main doors to the shopping centre. They opened and I went in. Why it hadn't occurred to me to try the doors beforehand escapes me. Once within, I could only find lifts that went down (I needed to go up three floors). I eventually tried walking to the other end of the shopping centre where I found other lifts that went up. Then when I got in the car park I couldn't find my car. A quarter of an hour later I stumbled upon it as I walked away from where I thought it should have been to go and report it missing.

Oh and take a look here to see the harpies I'm up against once a week...

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A 20th Anniversary, banana spirit and an idiot.

On Saturday I got on stage for my twentieth anniversary gig. It's been a long time coming - twenty years to be precise. Over the last two decades I've played all over the world, performed at music festivals, comedy clubs, corporate gigs, private parties, birthdays, weddings, raves (One very bizarre lunchtime) and even the World Nettle Eating Competition. I've done pubs, nightclubs, working mens clubs, village halls, theatres, arts centres, even a couple of peoples houses (And in fact my own). I've found myself in Marquees, boats, the back of a truck, TV studios, radio stations, universities, colleges and one or two public schools. I've worked with pretty much every comic over the last decade who has become famous in the UK with varying degrees of success, from Harry Hill to Peter Kay to Ross Noble. I've supported Jack Dee, Lee Evans, Graham Norton, Jack Whitehall and been on the same bill as Jimmy Carr, Johnny Vegas, Jo Brand, Chris Addison and a whole host of other great comics who may or may not have graced your living rooms on a Saturday night. So how on Earth could I commemorate this achievement? Simple - I completely forgot about it and went on in the middle at The Frog & Bucket comedy club in Manchester with very little fuss at all.

it wasn't really even very good if truth be known. The audience were largely made up of birthdays, stag parties and hen parties. The compere spent most of the night asking them to be quiet and not to talk while the acts were on. The first act had a bit of trouble with a heckler but dealt with him very well. After the break I went on and banged out my latest set, unveiling a song especially written for the gig in Manchester a few months back (that I only learnt about fifteen minutes before going on stage). I was very well received and had a group of girls come up to me afterwards telling me I was "hilarious", "lovely" and "amazing". Do you know what I remember though? The drunk bloke on the balcony who three minutes before I finished my set decided, for absolutely no reason at all, to shout "F*%k off - you're a t%*t". No-one in the lower area of the room (the majority) heard him. A few people on the balcony laughed. Most looked round at him like he was weird. I just ignored him. I heard him though and if I could have wrapped my guitar round his neck there and then, I would have done. I'd told the audience about half way through that it was my twentieth anniversary on stage and they applauded - not because I was incredible, or brilliant or astounding - but because I opened my heart to them and carried on regardless. They won't remember me but they might remember having a good time with me. That's all I've ever wanted really - for every audience I ever get on stage in front of to have a laugh with me. One bloke didn't though and sadly - it's always that one bloke that you remember.

The money wasn't even very good.

The night before I had played the same venue and done OK before heading back to my mate Rick's as he had very kindly said I could stay over. Sat in his lounge after a long drive and a long night, I settled back to chat with him and his lovely girlfriend, Francesca. They'd been at the show, as had fellow buddy BJ (who I gave a lift home to). It's funny, but knowing they were there this weekend really meant something.

Anyway, that's enough of that - I want to talk about the drinking. I'd stayed sober until we got to Rick's (I was driving) but he did a very good job of helping me make up for lost time. First out came the white wine. That was followed by shot after shot of what I can only describe as "random booze of the world". The best was a green translucent liqueur that he brought out with the words "See if you know what flavour this is - every single person who has ever tasted it has got it wrong: They recognise it but can't picture it". I took a sip and said "Bananas".

It was. He called me a show off. There's no pleasing some people.

Oh and go and vote for me here - I'm fighting the housewives!

(I beat the housewives!)


Thursday, 17 November 2011

Nothing to do on a Tuesday night? Fly to Prague!

I had a quiet Tuesday in the diary this week so when I was offered a gig in Prague I jumped at the chance. I've been to Prague twice before and both times had a bit of a nightmare to be honest. It's a beautiful city but it has been known to bite me. In 1989 I visited (again for a day) as a particularly green nineteen year old boy. It was still part of The Eastern Bloc then and as we reached the border town of Gmund NÓ our train stopped and I was interrogated by Czechoslovakian border guards for four hours after being accused of cocaine smuggling. The second time I went was in 2005 with a group of friends. While the girls went shopping the blokes went for a drink. This turned into a wine tasting, a very cold stein of lager outside (it was late November) and then a bar that was so cheap we had steins of dark beer with bottles of red wine chasers each. This was topped off with shots just before the unsuspecting girls arrived back. Everyone had Slivovitza except for yours truly who was sneakily thrown an Absinthe. On their arrival I turned into a monster. The Green faerie tipped me over the edge and like a drunken idiot I told everyone I hated them and walked out into the snow, only to get lost. There is more to this story but suffice to say I was persona non grata for the rest of the trip. Surely nothing could go wrong again?

Having a morning flight and deciding against sleep, I played scrabble online until 5am, showered, shaved and got in the car to drive to Heathrow. I got to the long stay car park just after 7am and was in the terminal building by quarter past. I was too early to check in so bought a copy of the "I" for 20p, read it and then checked in my guitar the minute I was able to. A very friendly Frenchman on the desk said that he would personally make sure it got priority for the plane. Happy, I went to the nearest departure lounge bar for my traditional pre-flight Bloody Mary.

Here I am rather sadly taking a photo of myself drinking a fantastic Bloody Mary at around nine in the morning - ah - the perks of the sleepless international traveller...
I didn't see the other acts (Martin Davies and Andrew Watts) until I got on the plane. We were booked in next to each other and chewed the fat for the duration of the shortish flight to Prague airport, which landed, on time at 2pm. Sadly, my guitar didn't. When I got to the baggage carousel there was a message in big letters that said

"Edwards, P - go to lost luggage".

That wily Frenchman had failed to actually put the guitar on the plane at all. I suspect he is still seething over Agincourt. I told the lost luggage desk in no uncertain terms that a lot of people were going to be very upset if I didn't get to perform my fabulous act and they promised me it would arrive on the next flight at 7.30pm in the evening. Problem - I was supposed to be on stage at 8pm. Dominic, our guide (and compere) showed up around half past two and drove us to the hotel. By the time we got there it was an hour later and we only had two hours to kill before he would be picking us up again to take us to the gig. The boys opted for a couple of hours' kip  but I wanted to get some local currency and go for a beer. Just down the road from the hotel was a cashpoint. Not knowing the exchange rate (well done, Paul) I plumped for the third highest amount offered on the screen as was presented with a 2000 Koruna note. The nearest bar was only a few doors down. I ordered a Pilsner Urquell and drank it. It was 35 Koruna. They had to empty the till to give me my change. "Someone", I thought to myself, "Is going to be getting very drunk tonight".

Martin Davis (pictured left) and Andrew Watts (right). I was the cash monitor  and at the end of the night paid our bills in Koruna, agreeing that they would give me the equivalent in Sterling. Andrew had bought a diet coke, a coffee, a packet of fags, ten Starupramen lagers and a couple of shots. His bill? eighteen quid. Martin had been taking it easy. He had consumed five cokes, two coffees and two beers. His bill? £6.50. Sweet.
The show itself was the fifth one in a new series of gigs called "Crown Comedy". The venue was brilliant, the staff amazingly friendly and Dominic couldn't do enough for us. Miraculously, my guitar arrived before 7pm and it occurred to me that its revised arrival time had been lost in translation and it had actually got in at 17.30pm rather than 7.30pm. Sweet relief. The show began, Dominic went on and warmed up the crowd and the next thing I knew I was sat on a chair at the front of the audience holding a radio mic and trying to get a woman to tell me her age. I had asked her a quick off-the-cuff question as a way in to the joke and when she refused to tell me had decided to pursue it further. It was a minor mistake and soaked up valuable minutes of my set with only a modicum of laughs. I got back on stage, stopped mucking about, got the guitar on, rocked out and buggered off. it had all gone fine and I was pleased that sporadically I had got big laughs from the whole audience. This was no mean feat as they were made up of probably 70% English-speaking ex-pats and 30% young Czechs so I was happy enough to get them all laughing at the same things. All in all the show was a good one but the woman who I had questioned became something of a centre of attention. Dominic discovered her name to be Petra. Andrew also had a slightly difficult time with her but did well, regardless. Dominic then went on after the break and got her doing (along with a couple of other people) motorbike impressions. Martin (On last) featured her throughout his own performance. At the end of the night we all had to go on stage and take a slightly awkward bow. I took the opportunity to photograph the audience.

The audience. They all appear to be a little blurry. I have no idea if that has anything to do with my late-night camera-holding abilities or whether they were in fact all a bit out of focus in real life.
Petra then came over to tell us all what she thought of us and was rather forthright. I was surprised to discover that I had been her favourite. She could have let her face know while I'd been on.

Here's Andrew with Petra. She is terrifying
After that there was nothing for it than to get stuck in to some serious drinking until the bar had emptied out sufficiently for three Russian girls to take a minimalist shine to us old soaks. They didn't want to give us too much information about themselves as they were working in Prague illegally (Well - they certainly hinted as much). I suggested they look out for Petra who had also been rather unforthcoming and at one point I thought might have been a spy.

I can only remember the name of one of these girls and that's only  because she wrote it down so I could point them in the direction of this blog. Hello Russians! I must also at this point say hello to Yolanda and Martina, two of Dominic's colleagues whose space we had unceremoniously invaded at the end of the night. Well - you can't blame us. They were gorgeous. We had been drinking beer at a quid a glass. It was like a dream I tell you - a dream.
All that was left to do was to go back to the hotel. We got there around 2.30am, got three hours' sleep, got up again, didn't get the breakfast we had been promised (nobody's fault) and I went outside to take a photo of the front of the building. This is what a (very nice) hotel in Prague looks like around 6am in November.

I tried to take several shots of this but they all came out the same. It's called The Carlton Hotel and is really rather plush. My bed was so comfortable I could really have used more than three hours sleep in it
The trip back to the airport was painless. I took great steps to make sure my guitar would indeed travel with me on the same plane this time, landed back at Heathrow a shade after 10am and I was home by midday, guitar and all. What did you do on Tuesday?

Oh and vote for me via the lovely folks at lovelinks - lots of blogs by housewives, from what I can gather!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Abnormal service is resumed

The last thing I needed after five consecutive nights out (three of which were to London) was to have a night out in London but that's where Tuesday sent me and what a fantastic night! Under the (frankly spurious) auspices of being on official Punky! Radio business I had been invited/invited myself along to The Dark Shadows only London gig on their latest world tour. I've booked the band myself before and also played them on said podcast on many occasions. They have even collectively stayed in my flat before so it was a no-brainer to nip to Tufnell Park to see them at a venue I'd admittedly never been to before called The Hideaway. Add to this the fact that their main support on the night was coming from Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons. I again have seen them on several occasions, played them to death on Punky! and got to know them relatively well - so well in fact that after one particularly drunken night in Bristol I got dubbed "The Fifth Johnson". Add to this the fact that the opening band were called The Voronas (A band I have also often played on the show and whose bass player, Glen spent a week with me in Spain at The Psychobilly meeting a couple of years ago) and it would have been awry of me not to go.

I got the 7pm train from Letchworth to Kings Cross and nipped onto the Northern Line up to TP, arriving at the venue around eight. Walking into the front bar I could have been forgiven for thinking I was in the wrong place, but for the smattering of likely gig goers that were hanging around the bar. There was no sign of a stage, no sign of any bands and no information to suggest there was a gig going on anywhere in the building. There was Simon Nott though. Simon is a friend of mine, a friend of The Dark Shadows, a music writer (And racing expert). He explained the room where the gig was hadn't opened yet. Phew. We were quickly joined by Ant Thomas (Drummer from Demented Are Go) who explained that a. he was currently for hire and b. no-one would hire him because his drumming was so distinctive and no-one else sounded like him, due to his distinctive rhythm and lack of the use of a hi-hat. He moved along as Rob Tyler (Drummer form "Restless") showed up. I was expecting to see Rob but it did mean I was briefly standing between two of the finest drummers I have ever seen play. Simon and I had got into a round and the Guinness was flowing. I nipped outside and saw a couple of The Johnsons. Then I saw Pussycat herself. Then Ned from The Dark Shadows came over to say "Hi". Then Carly from the same band came over for a hug and I remarked on her hair looking beautiful (it did). She very sweetly said that she liked my "little quiff" as well. I melted a little but regained my composure as Glen from The Voronas appeared. Feeling pretty showbiz, I made my way downstairs to the gig. I got charged £7 to get in. Suddenly not feeling quite so showbiz any more I was cheered up by another Guinness winging its way via Simon.

The Voronas were brilliant.

The Voronas - at this point I still had my camera on the right setting.

Carolina the lead singer is an eccentric, statuesque, stick-thin mentalist who likes standing on a packing case, goose stepping into the crowd, playing maracas and hooting out bizarre lyrics, accompanied by the band who trot out some really fantastic (and catchy) songs that had all of us clapping and cheering at the end of each number. In the break I caught up with them. Rob and I both thought their drummer looked a bit like Kim Wilde. On the way up the stairs I walked past Ant and said to him "She drums just like you". What he called me was unrepeatable. I arranged to interview them in the next break. Guinness kept happening. I had a brief chat with Cavey Nik in the outside-bit-that-looks-like-the-inside. He's the mastermind behind the "Dead & Buried" goth/metal nights that are on the verge of moving to the Hideaway after a short hiatus. What a lovely bloke. The Johnsons went on and were fantastic.

Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons. Lead singer Puss appears to have dropped a contact lens. By now I have managed to change the setting on my camera without trying.

A characteristic of the gig was that a lot of the people there had maybe seen one band but not the other two. In typical circumstances this would lead to a room never being full as fans showed their support to only their chosen band. Not on this occasion. It remained full all night. I interviewed The Voronas (As promised) and they were as entertaining to talk to as they had been to watch. The Guinness kept coming. The Dark Shadows eventually kicked off and I couldn't get anywhere near the front to watch them so stood at the back behind very tall people.

Brigitte Handley (Dark Shadows). I couldn't get the whole band in because of the way they were positioned. It's like she knew I was taking this one though and almost wated to be in it!
A tap on the shoulder  later I was gassing away with Karen from Rattlin' Bone. They are yet another band we've played on the show. Now the Gunness was being accompanied by shots. Before I knew it rounds of shots were being consumed. The Dark Shadows finished to huge cheers and applause. We did more shots. I missed the last tube.

I always miss the last tube.

I said my goodbyes and began walking back to Kings Cross, thinking I'd pick up a cab at some point. All I achieved initially was to pick up a kebab. I sensibly asked for it to be "wrapped" so it wouldn't go cold. I was halfway back (A good mile) before I eventually hailed a taxi and (bless him) he dropped me off round the corner from the station for a mere fiver. Since I'd hemorrhaged cash up to that point buying rounds for skint musicians it was a minor result. The last train to Letchworth is the 1.06am and takes about an hour. It did. I needed that long. The kebab was huge. I'd asked for a "small doner" but the guy in the shop must have taken pity on my wallet because he'd loaded up the pitta bread so much with that classic combination of two-day-old lettuce, tomato, chilli sauce, chillis, onion, red cabbage and that non-specific greying meat that could only ever have sat on a pole that the bread itself had disintegrated under the pressure. I had to eat it hunched over my insufficient train seat table like a starving cave dweller that had found half a dog. It at least ensured me a seat to myself.

A few more photos to finish:

Carly from The Dark Shadows (proving I took photos of all of them)

...And Ned - completing the line up. She drums a bit like Ant Thomas from Demented Are  Go, you know.

Rob Tyler - good drummer, excellent drinker

This looks for all the world like "Dirty Jake Johnson" (pictured centre) has lobbed his beer over "Filfy Antz" Johnson and doesn't appear to care in the slightest. They are such a naughty band.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Well, there were certainly fireworks...

The thing is, it doesn't always go well. I did the comedy cafe last Thursday, or rather, the comedy cafe did me  - good and proper. It's a famous old venue that I generally enjoy playing and I've spoken about it in glowing terms previously in this blog. Noel the proprietor is a good friend of mine, a genuine eccentric and one of the people I think the world needs. What I didn't need was what happened on Thursday. I have to start by saying that I am about to give a list (as long as your arm) of excuses as to why I didn't do well on stage on Thursday and ultimately the buck stops with me. A section of the audience didn't like what I did and let me know in no uncertain terms. Could I have done different material? Yes. Could I have acted differently? Yes. If given another opportunity to play the same crowd could I have got them onside? Probably. I didn't though.

The compere set a particularly aggressive tone to the evening as he launched into several different "targets" at the top of the show. The first act was of a similarly aggressive nature and had also interacted a lot  with the crowd. End of part one and they had done well, to be fair and worked very hard. Start of part two - Paultime. Again, the compere did not hold back in berating sections of the crowd and again whipped them up into a not particularly nice state before bringing me on. I was tolerated for about ten minutes but it was always hard and I didn't want to further get involved in conversations with the crowd. I wanted to do my material. They, however, did not want me to do my material. Here's the big reveal: Sixty of them were from an insurance company. I don't know which one. I don't care. All I know is that one table of them decided to boo me. I know. It's 2011 and I was getting booed for doing nothing other than trying my best. It was hilarious, really. I tried reasoning with them to no avail and eventually vacated the stage to muted applause. I left shortly after with my tail between my legs.

This would have been easily get-over-able had it not happened again on Friday. This time round the subjects changed but the outcome was the same. The compere wound up the crowd, the first act demonstrated downright animosity towards them, I went on, tried to be friendly and a section of them hated me for it. I changed tack, did different material and really did give it my best shot. Another all-male table of drunks sat stage right in exactly the same spot as the insurance types had been the night before and started shouting things at me before I'd even begun. I had attempted to acknowledge them and got laughs for my responses to them but that wasn't enough for them. I had to stop the show and ask them to be quiet because everyone around them was getting pissed off. They took this very badly and just started talking very loudly to each other. Again, the whole right hand side of the room had stayed with me throughout and if you'd been at that end you could have thought I'd had a good gig. I hadn't. It had been another horror show. Again I left to muted applause.

Roll on Saturday, I thought to myself. Saturday is always the best night at the comedy cafe. The room is transformed from an audience full of drunk office workers and stags to couples and birthday crowds and no matter what's happened over the three days you normally end the weekend happy. I didn't get this chance because I was dropped entirely from the bill. An element of this was obviously the audience reaction of the previous two gigs. An added element was that they had messed up the booking and got three musical acts on the bill for the last night. The irony is that had I opened the show on Saturday the atmosphere would have been far nicer for the second act because there would only have been half as much audience bating at the start. It makes no difference. The decision was made, there were no hard feelings, I look forward to going back there in the New Year when I am booked myself to compere and the best bit of the whole thing was that it meant I effectively got paid to watch fireworks on a Saturday night!

...And what a display! Blueharts Hockey Club in Hitchin host an annual firework display on bonfire night. Other institutions will do their display on a weekend night to ensure a bigger crowd. The Blueharts display is always so brilliant that they couldn't get a bigger crowd. The place is always packed and it seems like half the town shows up for it. I certainly bumped into people I haven't seen in ages, lost the friends I went with within minutes of  getting there and by the time I finally fought my way into the clubhouse afterwards the last two nights had evaporated in a puff of barbecue smoke. I had been getting stuck into real ale (at three quid a pint - well done Blueharts!) and continued on the tradition as the night bore increasing fruit and then something happened to put everything into perspective. I bumped into the sister of my childhood sweetheart and she told me the sad news that her mother had passed away suddenly several months ago. I had had no idea. It stopped me dead in my tracks really. There was me bawling to anyone who'd listen about how my life was so hard and their family had dealt with all that? I had a fantastic drink with her dad (who was outside and who I had not seen for over a decade) and we reminisced about what on reflection were considerably happier times. Then I went down The Victoria (my default drinking hole), got absolutely banjaxed and woke up at 5pm on Sunday afternoon not knowing where the bloody hell I was. That was explained to me in no uncertain terms by a friend of mine who promptly turfed me out. I had an hour to get home, freshen up and get over to mother's for Sunday Dinner. That was heartily devoured (I hadn't eaten for a day) and then I was off back to London to do a gig at The Kings Head. I always saw that show as being a potential antidote to The Comedy Cafe and it proved to be exactly that. A lovely audience reminded me that I was indeed funny and that was repeated on Monday night at a fantastic gig in Northampton. I've now got a couple of days off before my own monthly shows this weekend and I'm spending tonight going to see three bands with female lead singers who all know me. I'll try and blog about that later in the week. Sorry about the lack of photos in this one, but I've spent the last few days with either a car steering wheel, a guitar or (most likely) a drink in my hand and no-one I was with appeared to be in the mood for taking snaps either. This will be rectified tonight. Honest, guv.

Oh I'm going to be involved in this link every week as well - it's a group of bloggers who are spreading their readerships and there might well be something of interest there for you, should you have the time...

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Barnstaple, Bill Bailey, Burgoyne School and banks

Just before we begin, please return to this link at the end as I'm involved in this blogswap thingy that's full of nice interesting people - have a look! Cheers and enjoy this week's rubbish...

This is another exercise in getting from Friday to Monday. It would make sense to start with Friday. It would have made sense to not have done what I did on Friday, namely - drive to Barnstaple. Barnstaple is a very long way from Letchworth, particularly on a Friday. The nine hour round trip was worth it though because the gig was so utterly fantastic. It's in a venue called Boston Tea Party and the organiser, Wendy can't do enough for you. She was a little worried about numbers on the night because Bill Bailey was playing in Ilfracombe. She needn't have worried. It was packed. I told her bearded musical comedy would never amount to anything. The audience were brilliant and included amongst them a stag do from Nottingham who had come down because I was on (Ha ha, Bill who?) and one of them had previously (at a gig in Nottingham) accused me of looking like the white Mr. T.

It would be fair to say I am not normally mistaken for this man
I got home around 3am, hitting the sack (finally) around five. Fortunately all I had to do on Saturday was pick up (Child friendly) Ian Cognito and drive him to a middle school in Bedfordshire where we were performing at a "fundraiser". I get asked to book the show every other year and the gig's always a pleasure BUT A NIGHTMARE TO FIND. How any child gets to finish that school astounds me. I can only imagine it's a little bit easier to locate in daylight. This was my fourth trip there and I was immediately lost on entering Potton (the town it is allegedly in). Unsurprisingly, (opening act) Simon Clayton got so lost I had to walk out of the venue to try and find him on foot (I didn't trust myself in the car). I followed the directions he was trying to give me so I could walk towards his location and then when he did eventually find me he drove up behind me. It was another excellent show (I've been a bit blessed with audiences this weekend) and we (Cognito and I*) were back at my flat and in a taxi to Hitchin before half eleven. I had two parties to attend, both birthdays, both across the road from each other and both (as it turned out) rather fabulous. Nick's was in "The Long Bar" - somewhere I have never previously frequented. It's great. It's above the Market Theatre (down Sun Street) and is relatively salubrious. It was a particularly well dressed party so I was pleased to be particularly well dressed that night, myself. It was already beginning to thin out a little when we arrived so after one drink I made my (temporary) excuses and nipped over the road to Bar Absolut to Debbie's party. The bar was beyond packed, Roch was DJ-ing and Debbie's little gathering had shrunk to a mere three of them. I suggested that we pool our party resources and, wishing for a change of scenery anyway, they agreed to bring  their party to Nick's party so I frogmarched them back over the road and the two parties collided in particularly happy fashion. Red wine started flowing well enough for me to then suggest Que Pasa. Que Pasa used to be The Corn Exchange. It was bad then. Now it's horrible. Packed, overpriced, full of idiots and just the most terrible music I think I have ever heard. I lasted one drink and then got the hell out of their, leaving the girls clearly enjoying themselves**

...And on Sunday I rested...

Because Monday was the day I was gearing up for - a night out at The Bloomsbury Lanes, just off Russell Square, for "Frankenbowl" a Hallowe'en party including live Misfits Karaoke and one of my favourite bands, Zombina & The Skeletones. Not wanting to drink too much, I didn't get the train until 8pm. While waiting on the platform, imagine my surprise to receive a call from my mate Limburn saying it was his 40th birthday on Tuesday and was I up for drinks. "Here we go again" I thought to myself.

I found The Lanes easily enough and headed to the bar where I was accosted by Kevin and Sara.

The quite excellent Kevin and Sara

I've never met Kevin and Sara. Kevin listens to Punky! Radio and was so enamoured with my descriptions on the show of my mate Felix and Farley's Hair Salon that he drove up to Hitchin to get his hair cut. Kevin works at The Natural History Museum where he has, for the last few years, been studying the DNA of various beetles. He's not over-keen on beetles and prefers weevils (He likes their noses). He has over fifteen thousand beetles in his allocated fridge. Zombina herself was located and interviewed (Should be aired on Punky! Radio in a couple of weeks)

When I dress for Hallowe'en I think it's the little accessories that make the outfit. This year's accessories were a skull necklace and the lead singer of a horrorspacedinosaurpoppunkgoodtimeband. Zombina herself has entitled this photograph "Me and the white Mr. T."

Kevin also knows how to buy a round, as does his girlfriend Sara and by the time Zombina took to the stage (An hour after they should have done) I was suitably relaxed. Relaxed enough in fact to (once again) miss every available train home and have to spend yet another night in South London.

Zombina & The Skeletones in action
Limburn's 40th (Tuesday) was a really good laugh and was in The Victoria Pub. I finally got Vic to acquiesce to my demands for Dolly's Barn Party (we've been having trouble getting dates we agree on for 2012) and also had a good catch up with my mate Buff. He and I put the world to rights and had two rival (but valid) ideas for ending the current banking crisis. He advocates a one-off "Patriot tax" for Britain's super-rich which he reckons could wipe out two thirds of the nation's debt in one easy payment. I prefer a rather more extreme idea that (I think) is brilliant in its simplicity - we get the whole world to tell the IMF they're skint and aren't going to repay them. The IMF then declares the whole world bankrupt, all debts are cleared and we all act a bit more responsibly in future. When our friend Laura came over to talk to us we asked her what she thought of our ideas. She said simply "I don't watch the news" and walked off again.

Finally, Mr. Limburn had just returned from a birthday weekend away in Ireland with about twenty mates. While he was there he somehow ended up sponsoring a horse race and on Saturday 29th October 2011 at 5pm at Naas racecourse the "Paul Limburn 40 With Friends (Pro/am) flat race" took place. It was a race for horses that had never won a race before. It was won by Cossack (the 2/1 favourite), ridden by Miss N Carberry. The programme described what would happen after the race brilliantly well. It said simply "Mr. Limburn will present the winning owner with a trophy of no intrinsic value".

*This would be a far scarier film than Withnail & I
**A couple of days later I got a text from Debbie saying that they had absolutely hated Que Pasa as well and only lasted about fifteen minutes longer than I had. 

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Banana cabaret, bananas behaviour and a bananas match

There aren't that many comedy gigs that you genuinely look forward to playing in London but The Bedford in Balham is one of them. It plays host to Banana Cabaret and I've mentioned the show, the pub and the area in several previous blogs so am not going to go into massive detail here. Suffice to say I was on with (in no particular order) Simon Evans, Tim Clark and Dave Johns. They are all consummate professionals, pretty much bald and if you add me into the occasion I reckon we had the most experienced (if follically challenged) line up in old London town. Our combined time in the business covers (I deduced with the lovely Mirian who curates the show) over ninety years and I don't think a comedy crowd could have been in safer hands. Both nights were a delight and I had the added bonus of being on first so I could scoot off early to hotfoot home on the 10.15pm Kings Lynn via Cambridge service, first stop - Letchworth. Sadly, I missed it by two minutes. This left me hanging around for the 10.36 service via Finsbury park and what appeared to be every town in the South East that wanted to move on its unwanted via rail.

A word about Dave Johns - He tried to convince me on Saturday night that the now World famous "Edwards chord", namely Emaj#9-ish, was in fact Eaug7. After research into Eaug7, I have corrected him via his facebook "fan" page. He might be a very funny man, but HE WILL NEVER TAKE MY CHORD!

Securing a whopper meal (with coffee - I'm classy) before boarding, I settled into a five seat scenario all to myself towards the front of the train and as the doors closed I thought "Maybe this won't be so bad". Wrong. As the train took off an enormous Indian guy slumped across the three seats opposite me, put his feet up on the seat next to me and essentially surrounded me, trapping me at the same time. Fortunately a friend of his got on at the first stop and sat in the seats behind me. This prompted massive Indian bloke to jump up, career towards him, give him some skin ghetto-style, sit down and fall asleep. I had my five seats to myself again and settled into my delicious haute cuisine. Whilst chomping, I began to hear the conversation of the three girls opposite. Well, to be fair, everyone did. They were slagging off their boyfriends and pretty much anyone they knew who wasn't present. It turns out Kim is the biggest slag in the world and Carl ain't wurf it, should you be interested. I wasn't.

These are not the girls in question, but you get the idea.

Everything changed when we went through a tunnel. The "thump" of the pressure change was sufficient to make massive Indian bloke wake up, sit bolt upright and projectile vomit all over the carriage floor. The Shakespearean three bitches upped sticks with a group "Oh that is dis-gus-ting". Pretty much the whole carriage emptied in fact. People moved away from the vomiting giant and the outcome was to leave me for the rest of the journey with ten seats to myself and my nose firmly stuck in my coffee cup. it had become unbearable by Hitchin and I was about to move to the carriage in front when I saw a girl throw up on the platform, smack her boyfriend round the face when he tried to help her and then get on said carriage herself. I decided to grin and bear what I had. Massive Indian had got off in (of course) Stevenage and at least his vomit had already dried up a bit and wasn't shouting at anyone.

On reaching Letchworth all I had to do was vault the technicolor yawn and negotiate the four extremely drunk, extremely posh young men by the door. Problem: The drunkest and poshest was at the front and was too inebriated to operate the door release. Time was of the essence (We had to get off before the train took off again) so I leaned through them and hit the thing myself. As the door opened he rounded on me and accused me of pushing him. I didn't have the time or the inclination to talk to him but even I surprised myself when I said to him

"Get off this train you f&$%£^g posh £$^t and get out of my f*%^&*g way while you're doing it"

It's safe to say he wasn't expecting that and, stunned, he moved aside. Feeling like a combination of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Vinnie Jones I strode purposefully to the Arena tavern, boldly retracing the steps that had led to my previous run in with young oafs. I was met by a smiling Bob the landlord and a pub full of middle aged men in denim waistcoats who were the detritus from a "Hamsters" gig at The Plinston Hall over the road. I quickly tired of hearing about ABVs of the perfect real ale and the merits and demerits of various obscure blues guitarists so walked home.

On Saturday the gig was great, I caught the 10.15pm and everything was all right.

...Oh and then I got a cab home before driving over to Steve's pub and stayed up drinking real ale with him and probably talking about obscure blues guitarists, among other things. My tooth fell out while I was there. it's been wonky for ages and I've been loosening it with my tongue for the last week. I tend to only lose teeth during important moments in my life. The first I lost the day after my wife and I split up. The second I lost two and a half years later on the day our Decree Nisi came through. The only thing of significance that's happened with this third one is that Manchester United lost to Manchester City 1-6 in Sunday's remarkable derby. I hope that's not it for this tooth. It's going to cheapen the stories surrounding the necklace I plan to make out of them.

I'm sure these little beauties will look every bit as attractive around my neck as they did in my mouth. The roots are at the bottom, by the way - I'm not a vampire - although saying that I do work similar hours.

I'm giving this a go so make sure you click it - It's a really friendly little blog community

Thursday, 20 October 2011

I didn't so much wake up and smell the roses, as the rosé

I'll try and be brief about last weekend because I want to get to Monday. Thursday saw me begin the monthly three day event called "my comedy gigs" at The Ashcroft Arms in Luton and it was, of course, messy. Landlord, bon viveur and general good egg Steve had amassed a large audience who laughed at pretty much everything myself and the other two acts (Martin Beaumont and Rudi Lickwood) said. No idea why, but I think the huge amounts of booze consumed by all had something to do with it. His latest barmaid acquisition is a girl called Riannon. I haven't seen her for eleven years. She is now twenty six years old and was formerly (aged fifteen) a kitchen hand in a pub he used to run around the corner. At that age she was ripe for me taking the mickey out of her and generally making her life a misery by pursuing her around the bar with various glasses of fluid threatening to throw them over her. She is now an exceptionally beautiful young woman. The mistake I made was to bring this up at the gig (approximately half way through the show) by saying "This is Rhiannon - I haven't chased her round a pub since she was a teenager".

Rudi Lickwood - Luton loves you!

Friday witnessed a packed house in Hitchin at my oldest (and frankly best) comedy show at Woodside Hall. Martin and Rudi were again brilliant and I suggested to the audience (in customary fashion) a drinking hole for us to attend afterwards. We picked on Bar 85. We were the only ones in there. We had one drink and made our way to The Vic. It was only open for another half hour after our arrival so we went to The Kings Arms. That only offered us forty minutes before it too shut. As it did I got a text from my friend Lizzie to say that she was in the newly refurbished Remix nightclub (now called something else). I didn't read it properly and took my remaining (small) gang to Bliss nightclub instead. We attempted to climb the stairs to it as the fight that had already occurred within it spilled past us. The door staff told everyone to leave. That was that then. needless to say, when we got in, I forgot I had put a pizza in the oven and only alerted myself to it when I said to Martin "Do you smell burning?". he said "Yes - it's the pizza you were cooking". I said "What pizza". he said "Exactly".

Martin Beaumont - An excellent comedian but a little too relaxed  around the smell of burning to suggest he would make much of a fireman

Saturday night brought us down to Letchworth Arts Centre for the conclusion of the trilogy. It was again busy (but not packed) and the audience were once again delighted by the show. Everyone really outdid themselves. The boys who had potentially been trouble the month before returned with more friends and were a delight - don't judge a book by its cover. We headed over to The Arena Tavern and stayed there with a good percentage of the audience until Sue the landlady had enough of all of us and called it a night. Martin left on Sunday before I got up. Well he'd have had to if he wanted to get where he was going before it got dark.

...And then Monday happened. Monday October 17th. Remember the date, because it marks the beginning of what may prove to be the best thing I've ever promoted but most likely will prove to be the most ridiculous waste of time of money I have ever got myself in to. Basically I've started promoting a gig in London, Highbury Corner to be precise, at a venue called "The (Relentless) Garage". Sponsorship from the Red Bull derivative does not however extend to my comedy show, which came out of my own pocket.

The Mini Bar. Sorry this stock photo is the only one I've got but I of course had forgotten my camera on the night

This was a shame as we only amassed three paying customers for the first night. The rest of the audience was made up of friends. other acts, hangers-on, dates and general London types who all blagged their way in for nothing somehow or other. I didn't care nearly enough after the weekend I'd just had. I put first act Craig Murray on and the most noticeable thing he did was alienate a woman he already knew by not recognising her and asking her questions about her other half. This was particularly odd as he also knew her other half. The interval came and went and she was placated with a pint of cider. The middle section featured three acts doing short sets. The first had tried to drop out at 5pm that day. I should have let him. The second was a brand new act I met in Edinburgh and had accused of being American all night despite her being Swiss-German. She went on stage in a very fetching white dress, did thirty seconds with it on, whipped it over her head and stood there in her pants and bra. Everyone's attention gained, she then sat on a stool, put her right foot behind her ear and spoke to the frankly nonplussed audience about why Vikram yoga was evil. She's probably going to be very famous very quickly. The last act went on and confused as much as he incited guffaws. it was supposed to be a competition with the winner getting twenty quid. I called it a draw and gave them a tenner each. After the second interval Rick Right came on and said "Look I can't really be bothered to do my act but I know every song ever written so just shout them out and I'll play them". The audience did. He did as well. It was very impressive. Everyone should have gone home happy at that point but we didn't. It being a Monday, we all stayed and got absolutely legless. The bar shut long after the tube system had and we were left to get taxis back. I got mine to Battersea with my friend Harriet, it being only exactly the wrong direction to Letchworth. We picked up a bottle of Rosé wine on the way home and sat on her back patio and drank it as the rain fell around us (We were under partial cover). She suggested I attend the sex addiction clinic she had been going to, despite not being in the least bit addicted to sex. My suggestion that I hadn't pulled in a while so it was probably a great idea as if you couldn't get casual sex there, where could you? did not get all the laughs I was expecting.

Monday, 10 October 2011

An odd situation by The Sea, a watch full of firemen and a final penny-dropping on Twitter

Every time I do someone a favour it seems to backfire in some way or other. I'm toying with the idea of becoming resolutely unfavoursome in the hope that my life gets a little less complicated. My latest instance of misplaced public spirit and resultant botheration came last Thursday in the shape of standing in last minute to take the place of goth/metal/geeky/confusomedian Andrew O'Neill at an outwardly lovely little gig in a sea-front hotel on the Kent coast. The money wasn't really good enough to get me there but I'd never worked for the promoter before and well, you never know, do you?

The gig was described as being in "A little place called Sandgate, near Folkestone". At first I thought they had said Sangatte and was a little worried about crossing the channel to play at a controversial refugee camp made up largely of Asylum seekers.

Not my first choice audience, to be brutally honest

When reassured that the show was in fact in a basement bar of a small and homely hotel I hopped into the ol' Mondeo and began a frankly hellish journey to the seaside. There were traffic jams, roadworks, road closures and tailbacks everywhere and a two-and-a-bit hour journey took four. Never mind - I'd left early and when I walked in to the show a shade before 8.30pm it looked to really be my sort of gig. The compere was not the one I was expecting and the support act had stood in for someone at a mere three hour's notice so the entire bill was not as advertised. No-one seemed to mind though and the organisers were very pleased that we had all come down. One woman in the audience wasn't, however. It became apparent within the first five minutes that she was drunk, a school teacher, out with her boyfriend on his birthday and going to be a problem. Well she ruined the first half with random acts of shouting nonsense that the rest of the audience were clearly getting increasingly angry about and was told by the organiser to shut up. The opening act than proceeded to start asking her questions and didn't even give up when her boyfriend reminded him that she had been told to be quiet. This only further alienated the audience who then began to feel a little sorry for the birthday date from hell. In the break I was asked if I wanted them out. I said that no, I didn't want to ruin his birthday any more than it had been already and that she would probably calm down after a bit of fresh air and be OK. WHY DO I DO THIS?

The second half began. So did her conversation. This time not with an act but with her boyfriend. They spoke in what they perceived to be hushed tones throughout my act and were clearly upsetting the people in front of them and and putting me off my stride. I had no choice but to stop what I was doing and ask them, as politely as possible, if they wouldn't be better off going upstairs into the bar as they clearly weren't listening to anything I was saying and were becoming rather rude. Other members of the audience (A group of "mature" women) decided enough was enough, apologised to me, and walked out. This encouraged another couple to up sticks and depart. The couple themselves then stood up and she told me I had been very rude, before staggering out into the bar as I had suggested. I offered the rest of the audience the opportunity to leave as well. They actually took a vote on it and decided to stay. Afterwards I sold a CD to a young bloke in the crowd and the organisers told me I had been "awesome". I cannot begin to think what the other gigs down there have been like. I can only say that if Andrew O'Neill had been there, I don't think it would have gone any better. Sangatte may indeed have been less odd.

The weekend itself was spent in Leeds at "Mr. Bens". It's a terrific little purpose-built comedy club on Albion Street smack in the middle of the city. I'd never played it before and agreed to compere it as I had a gap and they needed someone. The Friday night featured a particularly small crowd made up more precisely of a group of eleven fireman on a night out and a couple on their fifth date. The gig began trickily enough but I got everyone moved to the front two rows and we made a fist of it. As the show went on the laughs increased and by the end of it everyone had such a good time that I got the entire audience onto the stage for a shot of Sambuca and a group photograph

The only girl in the crowd is to my right (pictured left) front row.  Well I wasn't going to be pictured with just men, was I?
I was particularly impressed with the owner's (Ben) attitude to complimentary drinks for the compere and by the time I was picked up around 12.30am by my mate Silky (Who I was staying with) I was suitably relaxed. All in all, a great night. When we got back to his Chapel Allerton pied a terre I was greatly amused when he repeatedly told me to whisper as his common-law fiancee was asleep upstairs before retiring to bed and effectively coughing up a lung for two hours in her ear as he descended into the malaise of a particularly chesty cold.

The following lunchtime I was turfed out of my decidedly comfortable abode as it also doubled as girlfriend Jo's massage treatment room and she had an appointment booked. This left me in the lounge with said balding and talented comedy/musician and we got involved in a thing on twitter. I've never really got to grips with it but we got stuck into a hashtag thing that was trending (Yes I don't really know either) called #moviebands, described basically as film titles with the added name of a band in. Well we went a bit nuts and I did twenty five in about fifteen minutes, ten of which were eventually featured on the "trend". Here's a few of my favourites:

The Velvet Undergroundhog Day
Beyonce Upon A Time In America
Saving Private Ryan Adams
The Empire Strikes Bachman Turner Overdrive
 Abbapocalypse Now


 Men In Blacker Bilk

Well it kept me occupied. Anyway - I might go on twitter a bit more now because for the first time I did actually quite like being involved in it for a while. That night I found myself back at Mr. Bens for a really brilliant night in front of another small-ish crowd this time made up exclusively of couples, some of whom were from Middlesbrough. Now I know Teesside quite well and they were delighted when I confirmed their area as "The home of the parmo" and discussed its merits and demerits with them.

The Parmesan or "parmo". A huge slab of processed chicken covered in breadcrumbs and bechemel sauce, with a giant side order of chips. You can also order "Half a parmo" if you don't think you could get through one of these (No-one should be able to). To give you an idea of the Teesside mentality and attitude to this particular (And sensible) course of action, I will tell you simply that slang for this half-sized portion is a "Lady's parmo". You can laughably get salad with it as well. Finally, the first time I ordered a Lady's parmo I forgot hold the box flat and carried it home under my arm. When I got back I had half an empty box and an enormous squelchy mess. I still ate it, obviously.

One of the men in the group swore blind he had lost twenty quid. His girlfriend swore blind he had spent it on booze. He refused to believe her, thus pretty much confirming that she was right. His friend also claimed to have had twenty pounds removed from his pocket. He further went on to claim that the devilish thief had confused him by replacing the note with a sachet of Mayonnaise. I decided to leave it there. Finally, here's a rare photo of me just smiling happily. It was taken at some point on Saturday night and I'm glad it was. See - I can be nice...


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A bizarre absence of glitter and an auspicious TV appearance

The best thing about Saturday daytime was the simple fact that Nottingham Forest didn't play a game of football so I didn't have to get ridiculously angry and/or burst into tears at about ten to five. The second best thing (Also football related) was that East Fife were playing Forfar. Every football fan with a sense of mischief longs for the result East Five five Forfar four but it's obviously never happened. It normally doesn't even get close. It did on Saturday. It got to East Fife four Forfar three, which although not perfect, was close enough for legions of tweets (including my own) to bombard cyberspace. My one even got re-tweeted and that made me feel clever. There's something reassuring about getting re-tweeted. It means that a. at least someone out there is paying attention to you and b. they don't think that everything you're writing is utter dross. I am going to re-tweet more things now in an attempt to spread love and joy across the cyber cosmos, because as you know, I am an extreme hippy.

To be honest I really just dossed about on Saturday until about five o'clock when I booked a taxi to Hitchin and started getting ready to go to Dolly's Autumn Barn Party - the latest in a series of cabaret shows I organise that normally involve me being by far the most out-of-order man in the room and also getting covered in glitter. Not this time, sunshine, not this time. The honour of the former was reserved for my mate Felix who was celebrating his fortieth birthday. This had turned the gig into as much a celebration as a serious comedy and burlesque evening featuring two comedians, two burlesque acts and a comedy-magician. Oh who am I kidding? The capacity crowd didn't care - they had a ball. There were a few eyebrows raised when we didn't start on time but that was because the birthday boy was fashionably late to his own do. Bad form? Yes. Forgiven? Of course. He was too much fun while he was there for anyone to mind too much. The problem was that by making him the centre of atttention I had unwittingly set him a challenge. We're both a pair of show-offs and trying to out-show-off me at my own gig (even if it is also sort of your party) is foolhardy in the extreme but if there's one bloke who can do it, it's Felix. He did - spectacularly - but his mistake was to do it during our locally-famous drinking game "Roxanne". The basic premise of "Roxanne" is that every time Sting (Or The Police) say or sing the word "Roxanne", you have a sip of your drink. Over the three minutes of the song it is reasonably easy to drink an entire pint. In this time of austerity and global accusations of "Binge Britain" it is perhaps fitting that we still carry on like this regardless. We've been playing the game for a couple of years at these events and it's always a laugh, not least because there is a point half way through the song when you think that Sting (Or The Police) are going to say/sing "Roxanne"...

...But they don't.

Anyone caught  taking a sip of their drink at that point is honour bound to finish the rest of their drink off in one go. It's amazing how keen their mates are to grass them up. The mistake Felix made was to (when invited on stage to share the limelight with additional birthday girl Sophie) bring three pints of cider with him rather than the usual one pint of beer.

Official photography shows us on stage all drinking sensibly...

Guerilla photography from crowd reveals that Sophie and I have finished but oops! Felix is still working his way down his third pint! That might not be such a good idea.
Later on I tried to get him to stand on one leg with me to re-create the famous pose of fish-obsessed annoying prog rock flautist Ian Anderson but he actually couldn't without falling over which really annoyed me because I wanted a funny picture of us and it didn't happen and grr.

I didn't realise he was leathered. Five minutes after the show finished his wife very sensibly took him home. It was her birthday as well but she hadn't really made a big thing of it. The show itself was a little up and down but ended magnificently with Wayne The Weird offering some classic comedy magic (And anyone who knows me knows how hard it is for me to admit that) and Dolly Rose performing her classic "Weight Loss" burly turn. All that was left to do was to carry on drinking, so we did. When The Vic shut we were understandably not let in to The Croft (I rarely am) but did manage to get as far as The Kings Arms (known locally as "The Armpit") where apparently The Face Of Croatian Toni & Guy repeatedly shouted at me to get my attention but I was too busy looking at/talking to/leaning on anybody else.  I thought I'd talked about her before in these blogs but I obviously haven't and can't be bothered to explain. Look - she's called Emma and she works in Sainsburys. The rest of it is too involved to get in to. I got home at some point and judging by the detritus in the flat the next day, I may have had a burger and I may  have carried on drinking.

I took it easy on Sunday, nipped round my mum's for a cup of tea and then headed off to The Harlow Square to do a gig. It's a great venue, the crowd are always brilliant, the sound is fantastic and on this occasion I was also being interviewed for Harlow TV. That's right - there is actually a station called Harlow TV. I'll say it again Harlow TV. When I got there John the compere said "Ah I'm glad you're here - you can help my son Joss set up the Scalextric". I wasn't expecting that. Anyway, we couldn't get it to work so walked over to the garage for more batteries. On the way over there I asked him about a guitar chord that I play but can't find out what it's called. Joss is sixteen. I am forty one. I have been playing guitar for twenty six years. He is already teaching guitar.

I know.

The point is that this chord is an open "E" with an additional little finger on the third fret of the high E string (The G position). Joss scratched his head a little. I explained to him that I had gone through every photograph/ tab of E-chord variations on the net and couldn't find it anywhere. He asked me to repeat what it was that I was playing. I did. He said it was a sort of a major thing going on with a sharp ninth but it didn't really make any sense because it was a (And then my eyes glazed over). I said it had to have a name. He replied

"It has"

I said "Well what is it called then?"

He said

"A strange chord".

batteries procured, we walked back to the gig. I carried on with the line that it had to have a name but he was still non-committal. It was like hearing a scientist tell you he might have a cure for something terrible but didn't want to say he definitely had for fear of derision/failure/redundancy when he finally snapped at my constant bothering and said

"Well if I had to give it a label I'd call it E major sharp ninth ish)

So there you go. I play a chord in my set that is E major sharp ninth ish). This can be shortened to Emaj#9ish and obviously I'm now building a set around it. I was interviewed by Harlow TV's Clare (lovely and gorgeous) and I think it was all right. They also recorded a bit of my act. If it ever reaches the internet I'll let you know as I think it could be quite funny. She's ever so sweet. The scalextric was there to decide the running order of course and after a competition that all twelve of the crowd got to see from on stage, I went on in the middle.What can I say? What a terrific gig! I exploited Emaj#9ish throughout and dreamt one day that it might become known as "The Edwards Chord".

When I got home I had an email from Joss the guitar teaching sixteen year old Wunderkind. In it he offered the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hendrix_chord and I was momentarily crushed. On closer inspection of said article, however, there is no reference to the actual chord that I am currently playing in my excuse for an act. Maybe it is The Edwards Chord after all.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A thousand miles of good road and a slate cleared.

It's a long way to Tipperary. It's a longer way to Falmouth. Well, normally. I was out of the house before 11am and at Ash Vale station picking up comedian Jessica Fostekew dead on time off the 12.14pm train. Ash Vale is just off the M3. We were just off the M3 and on the A303 a mere twenty minutes later. I promised Jessica we would stop for lunch. She seemed a little over-familiar. It was only when I started talking about my other blog that she reminded me I had talked about it in Edinburgh. In Edinburgh? Apparently during the festival we were in The Library Bar for quite a while with a certain Mr. David Whitney. Apparently we had quite a long conversation and found out all about each other. Apparently I need to cut back on the red wine. Jess is a very entertaining woman and the time flew, so much so in fact that we hit Falmouth without a single stop not long after 5pm. There was minor consternation concerning the location of the hotel (And its lavatories) but we eventually found it, checked in and had time to go to Rick Stein's laughable over priced fish and chips restaurant before getting a cab up to the gig that night, at The University of Exeter (Falmouth Campus). Yes I don't understand that either. It's a good hundred miles from its parent university. Mind you, we do still lay claims to The Falklands, so what do I know?

Rick Stein's laughably overpriced Fish & Chips restaurant
I'm not going to deny the hake was exceptionally tasty, but the chips weren't anything special and at a tenner a plate for the basics I forewent the mushy peas. 
The gig was a challenge to say the least. The best part of two hundred (eighteen year old) "Freshers" with their lives ahead of them and their hopes and dreams yet to be dashed by the cruel world that awaits them. Obviously I closed the show with a bit of middle aged nihilism and via a very kind offer of a lift to the pub from the (stand in replacement understudy last minute person-instead-of Johnny-on-the-spot fifth attempt at getting someone in who could get himself there) compere it wasn't long before Jess and I were in a pub that used to be called The Pirate and isn't any more with a mature student called Terri who'd been at the show and Rich (the organiser of the event). We got pints of cloudy cider and went outside to drink them (it was a warm night). A security emo on the door said "Sorry no drinks outside after twelve thirty". I looked at my watch. It was midnight. I said "but it's only midnight". He said "Yes - the landlord has changed his mind". I couldn't handle this logic and gave up. It didn't look like anywhere in the town was open and I've been thrown out of enough bars recently to simply doff my cap, go back inside and order Jaegermeisters to compensate. It shut sooner than we expected, Jess and I returned to the hotel and I spent an hour failing to get online to check emails. Apparently she spent that time throwing up cloudy cider and Jaegermeister before enduring what my mother describes as "Whirlypits". I wouldn't know.

The minor heatwave the country enjoyed/endured on the weekend did not extend to Falmouth on Friday morning where a sea mist prevailed. Having witnessed this many times on the South West coast I decided to head inland to see my old mate Lee at The Market Inn in Holsworthy. It was an excellent decision.

Whilst the rest of the nation was melting in balmy morning sunshine, I got this.

I got there just after one o'clock, parked up, hoped he would be there and obviously bumped into him in the doorway. Whatever he had planned for the next hour was cancelled as he looked at me in astonishment and asked me what the *&^% I was doing there. Lunch was on the house (He's a legend) and I plumped for a rather tasty slice of chicken pie on the specials board. I figured I could forego the usual fish & chips that I have on Fridays (I'm a traditionalist) as I'd taken out a mortgage on Rick Stein's hake the night before. I explained to Lee my real reason for stopping off at the hotel - I was en route to Wiveliscombe to return the room key and pay the bar bill from the week before...

Lee Sycamore. Proprietor of  the fabulous Market Inn, Holsworthy.  His name  is easily changed around to  A More Syclee, which is what I normally am after drinking with him.

...And so it was that I hit the road again and what a road! The B3227! All the way across North Devon! to Wiveliscombe! It took absolutely ages as I rarely got above thirty miles an hour but it was well worth it - really beautiful. Sadly the events at the destination were rather anti-climactic. Simon (the boss of The White Hart Inn) wasn't there but they did at least thank me for returning the key and settling my fifteen quid. It was a shame that he was absent (He, like Lee, is rather entertaining) but I had felt guilty all week about not paying off that bad boy and I certainly felt like Karma would at least be coming back on side.

Backwards and downwards, then, with my last task of the day - namely, getting to Dorchester. That involved another brilliant drive and Corn Exchange located I waited patiently for an hour or two until getting on stage there to open what proved to be another excellent show. I was relieved to find that I was performing largely to adults. Another full crowd helped me have another really good time. I was out of there just after nine, home before midnight (Just another hundred and forty miles had stood between "Dorch" and home) and ready for a big day on Saturday, well, a big night anyway.

The Cornish Riviera during an Indian Summer. Typical.