Sunday, 27 February 2011

These things do actually only happen to me - I'm sure of it..

I did a gig in  Lutterworth last night because I am very famous and in demand.. I've never been to Lutterworth. It's a small town in Leicestershire. Here is the titbit of fame that the town claims and also its (particualrly British) attitiude towards it (As quoted from Wikipedia)

"Lutterworth's other claim to fame is that Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine, developed some of the world's first jet engines at the British Thomson-Houston works in Lutterworth, and in nearby Rugby, during the late 1930s and the 1940s. The engine for the UK's first jet aeroplane, the Gloster E.28/39, was produced in Lutterworth. A statue of the plane stands in the middle of a roundabout just south of the town as a memorial. For many years there was a pub on Leicester Road called "The Frank Whittle". It was demolished in the 1990s and replaced with a car show room."

It's got a monthly comedy club in a refurbished sports centre bar at the top of a flight of stairs at the back of a car park not far off junction 20 of the M1. It's amazing. The guys who run it have done a fabulous job of making something out of nothing and a well-dressed audience of around two hundred people were sat at circular tables in a long room with a "surround sound" PA system and a bar to the rear. There is a sound man right by the stage (where they should be), decent facilities and a good bar. The audience get treated to "Grazing boards" of continental meats and cheeses, dips and breadsticks etc. You couldn't ask for a better looking room and a nicer looking audience and theoretically you'd be hard pushed to find a better infrastructure for a gig. The staff are friendly and it all looked geared up to be a great night.

Unfortunately the audience are not all facing the stage (because of the round tables) and so are prone to breaking out into little pockets of chat while the show is on, the volume controls for the sound are behind the bar (rather than in the sound booth) so the acts have to relay information to the back to "turn this up, please", the lighting is rather specific (you can't really move around or you are plunged into darkness) and  the money spent on the grazing boards would be better spent on maintenance of the "surround sound" PA system as the back speakers don't actually work and there was a loud buzz reverberating around the gig for its duration. A waitress asked the acts if we would also like a "grazing board" and we said yes we would. It clearly was only an enquiry though, as said platter of treats never materialised. I asked the guy running the gig how previous shows had gone and he said "oh we've only had one act die - he was a musical act as well".

Anyway all the acts made a fist of the gig and although it didn't set the world on fire, it actually went all right and most people seemed happy enough with the outcome. I got a few "Well done mate" remarks as I left and a woman from Hemel Hempstead actually hugged me, which was nice.

That's not what I want to talk about, though. On arrival I chatted with the compere, Joe, who asked me if I was going to be doing The Edinburgh Festival this August. I recounted my story of how I had been really lucky to get The Speakeasy venue in Cabaret Voltaire, in a perfect spot between The Royal Mile and the Pleasance which was absolutely the perfect spot for me to take a free "Paul B. Edwards + guests" daily show for the duration of the festival. It was a fantastic time slot (7.30pm) and I really felt for once that I had landed on my feet. I'd gone to a lot of work to get it and had been looking forward to making some money for once (you pass a bucket around at the end of the shows like a sort of indoor-busking gig and it can be very lucrative). Sadly last week I found out that the venue was under new management and was no longer involved in the free fringe. Cursing my luck I resigned myself to ending up in a far inferior venue, or not going at all. Joe asked me what The Speakeasy was like. I said I thought it was a perfect comedy room in a great spot and anyone with a decent time slot would clean up in there. He thanked me, phoned his agent and confirmed the 7.30pm gig he had been offered in The Speakeasy, Cabaret Voltaire, for the duration of The Edinburgh Festival. There were three of us on at the gig out of the literally thousands of comics that permeate The British Isles. There are thousands of comedy shows at Edinburgh every year in over a hundred different venues. Shows run throughout the day from 10am to 2am throughout the city. I was in Lutterworth on a Saturday night and was talking to the man who was about to take the very room at the very time that I had worked so hard to get. It was through no fault of his own and he cannot in any way be held responsible for my own predicament. He hasn't usurped me - it's just been a bizarre chain of events. Joe asked Andrew (The other comedian) if he was doing Edinburgh this year. I beseeched of Andrew "Don't answer him, you'll probably find out he's nicked your flat!".

At the end of his first week in Cabaret Voltaire, Joe will do a gig on a Sunday night between 7.30pm and 8.30pm. At the end of the show as he thanks his audience and takes his bow, accepting the acclaim of the crowd, the plaudits of his critics and the respect of his peers, I am going to emerge from the shadows, shout out "This is for Sir Frank Whittle!" and shoot him in the face with an elephant gun.

Friday, 25 February 2011

A tale of three beards, "Not you again?", Oh and Jack Whitehall...

Just a quicky...

On Wednesday I went down to see Mr. Felix to get my hair cut & dyed, my beard shaped & dyed and a cup of tea - because I'm worth it. We managed not to get too homo-erotic during the beard trimming although I had ramped things up by purchasing a (resealable) bag of mini chocolate fingers. I asked him to shape it a little more angular than it had been previously and we have christened it "The Pointy B". He was quite pleased that my beard had its own name, The beard dye at one point didn't look like it was going to do what it said on the tin...

Hmm - I don't remember asking for a camo beard...
...but it all worked out in the end. I went round to my folks house later on and my dad didn't take the mickey. I think he was relieved that I looked younger than him again - this is the beard untinted:

My unadulterated beard, making me look particularly ancient next to the eternally youthful Chris Black (At least thirty years my senior)
So all in all it appeared to have been a success. I did a gig at The Waterfront in Brentwood last night (Thursday) and had an excellent time. This was a threefold relief. The booker of the gig has a lot of shows and hadn't seen me in a while, the drummer of the band who asked me to write the sleeve notes for their new CD was there oh and Jack Whitehall was on after me. Jack is now very famous and nearly eight years old. He's also a very accomplished stand up. There is, however, something of the humble open spot about him that remains, rather sweetly. I spied him in the restaurant at the gig, queueing up for a five quid carvery without any airs or graces. He is a down-to earth human being and several others in his position would do well to follow his example. When I later saw him upstairs I asked him how he enjoyed his dinner:

"I paid for it - I didn't get it for nothing!"

He exclaimed, as if feeling he genuinely had no rights to get it buck shee. I laughed and a hundred precious acts roared into my head, moaning that their complimentary food was cold or their drink hadn't arrived yet - I've done it myself - I really was quite moved. Anyway - the curiously-shaped compere did a decent enough job and I had a really lovely time. "Follow THAT, Whitehall!" I thought to myself as I walked off. He did.

I nipped round the corner then to The Barhouse to try and catch the end of Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons set as (by happy accident) they were continuing their tour within two minutes drive of my gig. I didn't, but I did see them all out the back and a bizarre conversation ensued where I offered a humble apology for screaming at them the week before in Bristol and they assured me it had been great, at one point they referred to me as "The fifth member of the band" (For any Americans reading this, I refuse to be known as "The Fifth Johnson") and the whole thing was recorded and the only reaction you could hear at the end of each song was me screaming "Yeeeeeaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!!" and then just saying, rather sternly, "Daddy Long Legs". They complimented me on my freshly-dyed beard, saying it took years off me. Mike the bass player came up with the line of the night when he said "I don't know why you bleached it white in the first place".

I replied "I'm just glad it washed out".

Sunday, 20 February 2011

A lost key, the best way to get barred and a sanctification.

Steve confirmed on Wednesday night at about a quarter to eleven that we were indeed going to Bristol the next day to see Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons at his mate Chris's venue, The Fleece. I got over to his place for 3pm the next day for what he called a 140 mile trip to see a band and what I called "New ways to kill Paul in a motor vehicle". He's not a bad driver. I'm a bad passenger and our differing driving styles leave me in a constant state of near panic whenever I climb in next to him, to the point where if there are more than two of us I volunteer to get in the back. Mercifully it was an easy run and he maintained what he called his "Bubble" for most of the way - namely - an area to his front and back with no cars in it so he didn't have to make snap decisions. We had minor consternation finding the venue (I'm sure they moved it from when I was last there) but a quick call to Chris had us parked up right outside by around six. I had a quick chat with the band (Who were sat hanging around waiting to sound check) and then we buggered off to check in to The Lanes "Rock & Bowl Motel" where we got a twin room for the remarkable price of £25.20.

A good place to not remember being in
Our receptionist was bit of a dullard and had major problems with calculating that the £40.20 I gave him meant that (with a key deposit of £5) he needed to give me £10 change. It left him so confused that he forgot to give us any bedding and told us the wrong directions for our room. We walked in to find two mattresses with coverless pillows and not a lot else. We agreed that £25.20 (Plus £5 deposit) was actually a little steep. I left the key-code slip he gave us for the internal door to our corridor in the room so when we left I had to ask him for another one, thinking to myself that he had recovered and won a small moral victory. Never mind, I thought to myself - I'll retake the high ground when he gives me my key deposit back in the morning.

We headed back out into the night and by about quarter to eight had scoffed three pints in three very different pubs en route back to the venue. It was shut. Clearly, it didn't open officially until 8pm so we went next door to The Seven Stars. WHAT A DECISION THAT WAS! The pub is fantastic. It has excellent real ales and what appeared to be a clientele exclusively of old men with beards, so we fitted in perfectly. A pint in and Steve spied the "real cider" menu. I was so excited I ordered a pickled egg (40p - bargain). He ordered something I'd never heard of and I attempted to order a pint of "Famous Fieldmouse" which is very strong indeed. Unfortunately the barrel ran dry as it was being poured so the (excellent) barman gave me the two thirds of a pint for nothing and I had a half of Fiery something to go with it, which was basically, a clear cider with chillies in it. We left when we could feel our eyes clouding over in a big apple-type fug. It was gone nine.

The first band on in the venue were a three-piece surf band from London who were really ace and Steve and I spoke to them in the break. I can't really say a lot more than that because by the time we'd had a couple of Guinnesses each I was starting to lose it. I gathered Puss et al in the hallway and did an interview with them while I could still speak. I think it went all right but haven't checked yet. Next thing I knew they were on stage and rocking out to a (sadly) pathetically small crowd. Unperturbed, they carried on like they were playing Wembley and I casually walked to the front where for the next forty minutes or so I (apparently) berated them between songs and repeatedly asked for a number they weren't going to do called "Daddy Long Legs".

Paulyb & Pussycat - As taken by Steve

They tolerated me. With hindsight I was no better than the Penguin Woman from the week before but anyway - you can't have everything. That's it really. When they finished we settled back at the bar and Chris started throwing shots at us, we left at some point and went for some food. Neither Steve or I can remember the walk back to The Lanes or what food we ate. The only proof we had that we did eat was some staining under the fingernails, suggesting kebabs. Well I hope that's what it was. I don't like him like that.

When we woke up in the morning and realised where we were we couldn't find the key. We had successfully negotiated getting back, getting in to the hotel and indeed getting in to our room, so we must have had it, but it was nowhere to be found. Thankfully, neither was the dullard on reception, who had been replaced by a young lady from somewhere foreign who just laughed when I said "Look we've lost the key to the room, in the room, we have got no idea how we got back last night but it must be around here somewhere - keep the fiver anyway". We hung about waking up correctly with fruit smoothies and espresso, picked the car up and he drove back like the impatient road devil he is, cursing other motorists, disregarding other motorway users, nearly ramming into the back of cars in queues, lighting fags through roadwork chicanes and generally terrfiying me to the point where I had to resort to just looking out of the passenger window and pretending I was back in Kansas. It was the perfect end to an excellent twenty four hours.

On Friday night I was off so I went down The Arena Tavern in Letchworth. Standing outside I fell into a conversation with a guy holding a pint who said he had been barred. Now I expect people to be barred for fighting, abusive behaviour, vomiting - that sort of thing. His story was somewhat different but I shall gentrify his language in its re-telling. An hour or so earlier he had been making love to a delightful young local wench in an alleyway yonder. On completion he told her in no uncertain terms to depart and he returned to the pub. Needing to use the tavern's conveniences, he retired to his cubicle of choice where he dropped his trousers, to discover gentleman's relish all over his boxers. Not wanting to walk about in his own man fat, he jettisoned said boxer shorts in the bin. For a reason I can't fathom, a female member of staff then went in to the gents toilets where she espied said soiled garment and threw him out for masturbating on the premises. I don't care how much of the story was inaccurate, only that I walked back in to the pub telling him he'd made my night and giggling. Big Howard showed up later on (fresh from a gig in Harpenden) and we had some whiskeys that a day later he would blame for a hangover on a drive North. He's a one.

...And finally...

On Saturday night I had a right laugh doing a gig at The Kings Head in Crouch End. It's London's oldest comedy club (in its original venue), it was sold out and it was fabulous. I was out of there by ten and hot-footing it home as I had been invited to my mate Sam's birthday party in his house round the corner. I nipped back to the flat, had a cup-a-soup (I was a little peckish), picked up some white wine and a few cans of John Smith's and legged it round there. As I got to the back of his house I heard heightened conversation and on arrival at the back door was greeted by a throng op people hanging about by it, several of which were leaving. They stopped dead at seeing me and one said "Hey, Paulyb!". rather embarrassingly they all appeared to know me but I could hardly place any of them. Another pronounced "Ha ha! Everyone here knows you". I replied "Well I am a local celebrity" to which another retorted "That's pushing it a bit far" so I conceded "Well, I'm local anyway". I went in, got a bit settled and then the vast majority of them left (I don't think it was something I said). I headed for the back door. As I approached it, the toilet door opened and a not unattractive and quite statuesque brunette walked out. She smiled. I smiled. She said "I'd leave that a minute - I've just done quite a bad poo" and then looked remarkably embarrassed as I said "Oh really?" and carried on into the back yard. She scurried off. seconds later, as I stood out looking at the night sky I heard a loud exclamation of  "Oh my God!". Someone else clearly hadn't been given the information. Towards the end of the night someone spied a "Padre Pio" fridge magnet and burst out laughing, pointing at it and then me in turn. On closer inspection, I don't think I have a particular resemblance to the saintly Italian Franciscan...

Padre Pio or Pauly Bio?

...but if I really do look like him, then I also look like Obi Wan Kenobi, which until writing this blog, I had never realised had a very rude word within it. I got home shortly before 6am and tried to read, waking up seven hours later with a vodka-espresso memory and a book on the floor.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Cartoon kids, dancing with dogs and a bike crisis.

Last weekend was the latest monthly installment in my attempt to kill myself with real ale whilst at the same time entertaining the North Hertfordshire masses. I had Bob Mills & Sally-Anne Hayward for company on Friday at my show in Hitchin, it was sold out and they were both fabulous. I consumed a steady stream of IPA from the keg and Eammon the landlord was sufficiently pleased with his takings to throw me a whiskey or two at the end as well. This was the Dutch courage required to hot foot it to the Victoria pub for some more of that delicious blue vodka stuff Vic plied me with the other night and then move on to The Croft for vodka & sodas until I reached kebab mode. Remembering in the nick of time that I don't really like kebabs I instead ordered a burger for a very reasonable £3.80. It was tasty, but I suspected I could do better.

Saturday's show in Letchworth had sold out in advance and I was organised enough to take my stuff down there in the afternoon (Guitar, cash box etc.) so that I would be able to walk down later on rather than have to drive. For the second time in the last year I walked confidently up the several flights of stairs in the arts centre and straight into the middle of a polenastics class, made up almost exclusively of chubby girls in leotards. There is only one letter separating the word "leotard" from "leopard" but trust me, these girls were a lot closer to Cougars with nougat. I don't normally withdraw at speed from rooms full of semi naked women but there were one too many of them mentally undressing me as I mentally dressed them for me to hang around.

The gig was great and we had an additional guest in the shape of Howard Read, trying out some of his new Big Howard little Howard show for Edinburgh this year. He matched Bob & Sally in general excellence and the gig went swimmingly well, until the very end of the night, when a lady in the audience started screaming at me to sing my hilarious song about a penguin. Egged on, the rest of the (already spoiled) audience started shouting for it as well. I pointed out that I didn't have my guitar with me, couldn't remember the words anyway and had actually never  performed the song live. They didn't believe me, she started shouting "Please, please, please, please, please!" ad infinitum but I would not crack. It was the end of the show, and they could all be quiet. Chastened, they left quietly. Howard met me at The Arena Tavern and we drank whiskey and real ale. He left early to stuff a cabbage. I didn't pry.

Big Howard and Little Howard before they had to go home and stuff cabbage (My apologies for the slightly dim shot - my camera was particularly rubbish that night).

Sunday saw Forest go down to ten men and still get a point away from home against top of the table QPR. This is our best chance of a return to the premiership in years but we have a habit of falling at the last. Keep your fingers crossed for us, unless of course you're a Derby fan - you'd better keep them crossed for your free falling selves (I couldn't resist that). At 4pm I journeyed to Stevenage Leisure Park to celebrate my mum's birthday a day early in "Frankie & Benny's". We go there on her birthday because my brother's kids like it. I hate it - the service is poor, it's over-priced, there are pre-teen birthday parties everywhere and once every twenty minutes we get Stevie Wonder singing "Happy Birthday to ya" and someone gets to dance with a waitress in a dog costume or a waiter dressed as a giant gangster rat. It being the day before Valentine's, I held a glimmer of hope that it might be a little different.

It wasn't. Our surly waitress knocked off before we got our mains and was replaced by the local idiot. My Philly Cheese Stack burger, although tasty, wasn't £16.95 worth off tasty (And certainly wasn't four times as good as the one in the kebab shop on Friday) and after ten minutes of being there this appalling smell wafted directly under my nose. We were near the kitchens and I asked my brother if he thought someone had opened a cupboard and found something dead in it. He motioned towards my nephew and suggested his particular brand of flatulence may be to blame. Over the next hour the smell reccurred at regular intervals, each pungent air biscuit accompanied by a cheeky grin from the little fella to my left. I deduced where the dead thing was - and it wasn't in a cupboard.

The table behind me was made up of a dozen or so eleven year old girls whose parents had either left them there or were in another part of the "restaurant". I expected the odd squeal and some laughter but by the time the screeching reached noise-limiter shut off proportions I was at breaking point. I walked round to the end of the table where mother was, apologised for not being able to stay until she got to dance with a giant rat and left with her final words ringing in my ears (along with the screaming). She said simply

"Don't worry son, I'm hating it too".

Yesterday morning I got a call from the company that "manage" my flats informing me that there had been "complaints" from residents that my bike had been left out on the landing. I pointed out that there were no racks within the complex for bikes and I had to keep it somewhere. I also pointed out that there was only one resident who could have complained about the bike and that was David in the flat above me, who would have asked me first before going to them. The adjunct on the other end of the phone cracked, admitted that the complaint had come from the cleaner and it was down to the mess that had been left in the downstairs hallway over the preceding year by the troublesome oafs we had had on the ground floor for a while. I have now put the bike in my own hallway. I could not bring myself to argue about this. If I live in a situation where the cleaner dictates to the residents via a third party, it's too late to argue anyway. I might as well wait until 3am in a pub in Luton and (fuelled with Guinness and a variety of shots and girded with pork scratchings) try and convince my mate Steve that the Tory party demonstrated hypcrisy when they told us we all had to cut back to save £6bn but declined to collect  the £8bn that Vodafone and Phillip Green owed in tax between them last year, but that's another story.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The Last Day Of Paulmas

I woke up not knowing where I was - that's nothing new. Not knowing who I was however, was new.

It only took a second or two to remember my raison d'etre and I looked at my phone to see that I had beaten the alarm I didn't remember setting by a good half an hour. This was a minor miracle - I was going to vacate the Menzies Prince regent Hotel, Woodford Bridge, Essex before midday. I scrubbed myself down, pilfered every toiletry I could find, made a cup of tea and got out of there haste post haste, only stopping at reception to tell lovely Kate working on the desk (Not Gibson, the other one) that I had had a rather disturbing dream about her shaving my beard off and drawing it back on again in eyeliner. I've had better dreams. Judging by her response, she's had better compliments.

I've never gone home the same way twice from the hotel but today really took the mick. I started off well enough, re-tracing my steps North and West from the night before but then missed a left turn, took the next one, that took me over the previous one, doubled back on itself, sent me Southbound without realising it and then as I got more and more disoriented with every hopeful adjustment to my route, I eventually, a good twenty minutes later, found myself a good mile further South than when I had begun and heading East on The North Circular. Rather than make any attempt to get back on my ideal route, I instead just turned round at the first opportunity, went back the other (and correct) way on The North Circular until I picked up the A10, branched left on the A111 to Potters Bar (thinking it wasn't far away) and had a particularly tedious and arduous drive through Palmers green, Oakwood and Cockfosters before finally getting back on the A1(M) North and towards home about an hour after I should have done.

That night I went down to The Vic for a birthday meal with nine close(ish) friends by way of celebrating The last Day Of Paulmas. They do excellent cheap food on a Monday night and two courses with wine came to about fifteen quid each (I opted for a mussel pot with thai noodles and the cheeseboard. Vic (Serving) brought us extra mussels). During the meal I received a couple of late birthday cards and a little gift from my mates Limburn and Georgie who bought me some comedy pants. Not wanting to appear rude, I put them on immediately and wore them for the rest of the evening

I'm a bit of an animal
I stayed behind after everyone else left and had a couple of late ones with Vic the lovely landlady and her excellent barman, Nathan. Then it was off into the night to reflect, rather drunkenly, on five successive nights of middle-class carnage. 2012 is Olympic year - I'm going to have to pull out all the stops to make Paulmas a big enough event to do it justice.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Paul B-oxing Day

Sunday February 6th - Paul B-oxing Day

By now you should be aware that I tend to get stuck in on my birthday and Paul B-oxing Day (The day after the event, Jesus-style) would prove to be no exception.

I arose, magnificently, around 1pm, to find Steve departed. I noticed he had not taken his stools. Some random had washed up a number of pots etc. and actually nothing looked too bad.

This is what's known as "Making light work of a huge amount of booze"

Lucy Longlegs and Crazy Simon were still asleep in the spare room/office/her dressing room. I made them a bacon sandwich, had a quick wash, dropped them off at the station just after their train had left and legged it round to my Mum's for lunch with her, Dad, my brother, his wife and their three children. It was delicious and I had a right laugh with the kids. At one point Matthew (the four year old) turned to his mother and said "Mummy - is Uncle Paul mental?".
I got home about half three and as if to prove little Matthew correct, began tidying up my flat. It was miraculously pain-free, considering the goings-on of the night before and a couple of sweeps round with the hoover, some glass washing and the filling up of bin liners with detritus had it back looking relatively ship shape. There's something beautiful about the aftermath of a party. Every stubbed out fag tells a story, every empty bottle a joke shared, every minor stain a major incident at the time.

I didn't have time for all this nonsense though - I had another gig to go to - this time the last of my festive run, in Chigwell. Only in its third show and struggling a little for numbers, I didn't want to further compound Stuart the owner's chagrin by being late. I was late. It didn't matter. He'd got 130 people booked in and it looked like being a cracker. Rob Heeney was on with me (Again) this time joined by the excellent Nick Wilty. I arrived about ten to eight with assistant manager Matt immediately dispatched to bring me Worthingtons or Caffreys. I'm afraid I don't know which way round but they appeared to alternate throughout the evening. Stuart asked me why I was wearing a silly hat. I told him it was because it hid my silly head. He didn't have an answer for that. It had however had an additional function - to detract his attention away from my new beard., which everyone else instead decided to notice, ignoring the hat. The beautiful receptionists were out in force but I had to settle for the ample charms of Kate & Sam (Trust me, it was no chore) for company as Katie Gibson (previous object of my dsesire) had been forced by evil Stuart to work on reception until 11pm. HE KNEW WHAT HE WAS DOING.

Both comics arrived pretty much dead on showtime (8.30pm) but I never start until 8.45pm anyway so there was no problem. One problem was when the show DID start, I went on to compere and forgot all of my jokes. All of them. I also forgot to do the joke competition that I had in my pocket which was a guaranteed half-a-dozen laughs. I asked if there was anyone there from Chigwell. No-one answered. Odd, seeing as there were 130 people in the room and it was in Chigwell. Never mind I thought to myself (And said out loud) "We're in Essex - no-one admits to anything here". I struggled through ten minutes or so of incredulity and put Nick on. He fared far better - he'd remembered all of his jokes and everything.

The break came along and there were no fights over chicken dippers. This is always a relief.

Starting the second half was a breeze. I remembered all my jokes, remembered to do the joke competition and had a really good laugh with everyone. Rob went on and did a sterling job. He's been a great success all weekend and has been a good laugh off-stage to boot. We got a few more subscribers to the email list (no mean feat considering most of them won't even tell you where they live) and everyone left happy.

I have to say that the audience here are incredibly nice - quite possibly the best in Essex and that this has been achieved within three shows is nothing short of remarkable, really. I do have to thank everyone at the hotel for making this gig possible - with the exception of Leon the tedious French Chef however, who repeatedly challenges you to speak in French and then when you try it, tells you off for not being good enough. THIS IS IN ESSEX! He is very good at directions though - far better than Elaine the entertainments manager, who at the end of the night took me to the wrong floor to find my room.

This wasn't before Katie Gibson had shown up (albeit briefly) to tease and delight, the other Kate (very beautiful in her own right) had been challenged to flash her vagina (and failed) and the lovely Sam had been remarkably impressed that I remembered where she was from. I know I'm now forty one (or thirty eleven as I'm calling it this year) but I do have a few brain cells left.

Saying that, by the time I got to my room I'd got rid of a few more. There was absolutely nothing to watch on the TV but I fell asleep with it on, anyway.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Paulmas Day

Saturday February 5th - Paulmas Day

I haven't had a party on my actual birthday for years and so the opportunity to go for it properly for once was a bit too tempting to turn down. The reason for me being free on a Saturday night was fairly straightforward - I had planned to relaunch my burlesque/cabaret show "Dollyremixture" at Bliss nightclub in Hitchin but at a few week's notice they had emailed me to tell me that they didn't want the show after all. This was annoying, to say the least, since they had approached me in the first place with a view to doing it. Seeing as I had already booked the acts for it and had failed to find another venue in time, I decided, rather boldly, to do it anyway, but do it in my flat.

Thus began my logistical nightmare. I needed to find a way of paying for everything, offering value for money and also making sure that everyone who came along had a terrific time. I eventually settled on a limit of 25 people (Down from an original 30 when I realised my lounge was simply not big enough) and a ticket price of £20 each. This included the cost of all the acts and all the booze. See the previous blog for the list of beverages I had accrued numerous bags of crisps and nuts over the previous few weeks so included them in the price because I am so magnanimous and excellent.

That achieved, I had to plan the room to provide ample seating and a sufficient stage area. A combination of two leather sofas, four dining chairs and a couple of pouffs accounted for the invited girls, with a plan to stand the guys in two rows along the back wall. Additional instructions to the invited guests included "Don't wear big frocks and underskirts" which wasn't a lecherous request but an appeal for minimal dress so as to maximise room, honest. I had a ready-made accomplice to run the bar in my mate Steve and had placed him in the kitchenette that opens onto the room itself. He was charged with keeping everyone's glasses full rather than having general scrums into the fridge etc. The eureka moment of plugging a microphone into my stereo solved any p.a. related issues and I used the desk lamp out of my office as a spotlight. The office itself was doubling as the dressing room for the acts and being an ensuite two-bedroom, two bathroom flat, the abode was equipped with a "ladies" and a "gents". The smoking area was out of my bedroom window and I was doubling that room as an impromptu cloak room.

Setting all that up on Saturday afternoon took ages, particularly as I was being constantly updated about the afternoon's football via Sky Sports. By the time Forest had successfully beaten Watford 1 - 0 and gone second in the Championship, my mother had been round and helped me put shimmer curtains up over the lounge door to create an air of mystery and glamour (in my head) and had also insisted on re-vacuuming the floors I had already hoovered earlier.

Steve arrived around 6.15pm. Lucy and Scarlett the burlesque dancers were here by 7pm, as was Owen Niblock (one of the comedians). The other comedian, Rob (for his third day on the trot with me) arrived around 8pm via Hitchin station and a three mile bike ride to add to the tennis match he had lost in the afternoon. He's the yin to my yang. By then everyone bar one (ex) couple (but arriving together) were there and sat down. Steve had brought over four bar stools and my friends Limburn & Georgie had provided two gas-lift retro bar stools fresh from B&Q which meant now only six people had to stand.

Logistics over, here's what I remember about the show:

I drank John Smiths (Smooth) at an alarming rate. Everyone else drank everything else at a more alarming rate. All the girls looked sexy (And sexier as the night went on). All the boys looked smart (And nothing - all right?). Owen was fabulous and everybody laughed.

Owen Niblock - very funny and not at all geeky
Scarlette O Harlette came out with an unnervingly realistic toy cat and did a routine based around stroking her pussy. We had a break and everyone went to the toilet, drank and smoked. I started the second section. I told Rob he would die on his arse. He went on and did fabulously well. He over-ran by five minutes like the typical show-stealer he is. 

Rob Heeney over-running like the unprofessional shmuck he is - harumph  (I'm joking, Rob).
I let it go because I am magnanimous and I realised it didn't matter - it was a gig in my flat for crying out loud, not The Comedy Store. Lucy Longlegs appeared in full belly dancing gear and finished without any of it on. There was another break. Things started to get a bit out of hand. I came back on. We played "Roxanne" and one girl got it wrong and downed a full glass of wine - good effort. We played a game of "Heads & Tails" to win an excellent prize that I had donated myself called "Nunchucker"* which was basically a catapult that fired tiny spreadeagled nuns a good twenty feet (they were plastic - it's fine). 

The game of Heads and Tails - an excuse for women to push their chests out and put their hands on their bottoms.
I pulled my trousers down to reveal a rather nifty pair of shiny gold leopard print boxer shorts. Scarlett came back on with a birthday hat made of candles that spanked of "Fire risk". 

Scarlett with my cake on her head.
There was another break. Steve warned me that the booze was going to run out. 


I spent £200 on it - how could it be running out? 

I suspect this was why the booze ran out - Steve let Carla, Sulu and Debbie in the kitchen when no-one was looking
His explanation was: "Everyone has been drinking like monkeys". I surveyed the scene. Everyone had indeed been drinking like monkeys. It was chaos. Noisy, fabulous, excitable chaos. One person had got so confused with it all that they thought they were actually out in a venue and informed me, the "venue manager", that "A man has just gone in the ladies". Scarlett got a lift back to the station with the one sober man in the room, Kris, who would prove to be even more invaluable later. Dave the upstairs neighbour showed up. I had invited him for socio-political reasons. He's a nice guy and I didn't want him complaining about the noise.

I know that this was before the end of the night and after the start of it because Dave the upstairs neighbour is in the picture.
We started the last bit. Owen was again fabulous. Lucy reappeared with an act that involves her roasting a pretend baby. She had asked me if I could hang about near the front to be used as a stooge. She explained that all I would have to do was lie on the floor when asked and she would pour a small amount of white wine into my mouth before pulling out a bust up red pepper from my pocket to suggest ripping out my heart. I explained to her that it was my lounge and nothing was far from the front and also that what she suggested was perfectly reasonable. 

It was only when said semi-naked 6"2' burlesque dancer had me lying on the floor with her foot in my mouth, surrounded by the stockinged legs of the girls on the front row and feeling the stinging sensation of a full glass of wine thrown into my eyes that it occurred to me that it might be as close as I would ever get to a "George Best" moment.

"So George - Where did it all go wrong?"
Dave the upstars neighbour disappeared, clearly terrified by all he had witnessed. Steve claimed we had now run out of booze. I pointed out that there were the six ridiculously cheap bottles of red wine still there. I was informed that they were that crappy half-the-alcohol booze that overpowers you with its budget nature whilst hiding your own folly in the small print. There was nothing left for it - we'd have to phone the pub. Kris (now returned) again stepped up to the plate and rang the Arena Tavern. I returned to the microphone to get landlady Sue a cheer when she said we were all welcome. We drank up and pretty much all set off for town.

Things I know about the rest of the night:

Sue's husband (landlord) Bob bought me a large Jack Daniels. Lucy and her crazy boyfriend Simon said they were going to Hitchin with Carla, Kaddar and Carissma to see Lemar doing a personal appearance at Bliss nightclub in Hitchin (So That's why they pulled our gig - they bumped us for bloody Lemar!) because she felt like she was on the set of The League Of Gentlemen. 

Lemar - I should thank him really - it's thanks to a ruthless nightclub owner booking him in favour of me that this whole shebang occurred. I still think he's a tit though.
The rest of us stayed until the pub shut and then walked home again. Something happened about 4am but I can't remember what. We listened to The Clash. We drank white wine out of the bottles because bizarrely hardly anyone had touched it all night and we'd run out of glasses. I went to sleep in my own room at some point with a few stragglers surviving beyond me. It was one of the best birthdays I have ever had. 

(Photos courtesy of Sharon K. Cooper and Carla-Jayne Mitchell)

*This had actually been a present from an ex girlfriend a couple of years before that I never got round to opening, to my shame - it has now gone to a very good home, so I have spread the love.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Paulmas Eve

Friday February 4th - Paulmas Eve

The day began with me beating Steve downstairs. Once I'd got the feeling back in my legs I dressed rather abruptly and descended into the bar to find the (frankly saintly) Lisa humping furniture. I made black coffee because there was more chance of David Cameron getting dressed up as a woman and sending us all fifty quid each than there was of there being any milk in the fridge. If this is the first one of my blog's you've ever read then I understand if you stop immediately, decry me as a malcontent and a wordy charlatan and shuffle back to the knitting and political blogs that abound.

Today was Paulmas Eve so obviously we had to go to Booker's Cash & Carry to spend a couple of hundred quid on booze. We didn't go until I felt safe to drive (Well as safe as you can feel in Luton) and I would suggest that was around 1.30pm but don't hold me to that. I have never been to a Booker's before. They are immense and I wouldn't have minded perusing the endless isles of bulk-buy bargains but we were on something of a mission so just headed straight for the booze. It all looked incredibly cheap but in fact wasn't. Everything was priced up excluding VAT and although there were one or two bargains (namely six bottles of white wine for twelve quid including VAT, I didn't feel that the rum, vodka, gin, disarronno, Baileys, Declans (A Budget Baileys derivative bought for comedy value), said wine, a couple of bags of ice, two bottles of Rose and other oddments were particularly cheap for the hundred quid they cost me. I'm just glad we didn't fall for the red wine offer - it was six bottles for nine pounds but on (thankfully) Steve's closer inspection it was that 5% pretend wine that only idiots fall for by steamrolling the apparent bargain over the small print and getting home to be disappointed and embarrassed.

I dropped him off back at the pub (In time to open at 4pm - he's very civilised) and headed back to my flat. I carried out much needed ablutions and headed up to Sainsburys to get the booze I had turned down in Bookers. My trolley looked exceptionally impressive and (eventually) contained

30 bottles of French lager
12 cans of Guinness (original)
24 cans of John Smiths (Smooth)
An extra bottle of vodka (To be on the safe side)
6 bottles of red wine at an unbelievably bargain price that I could NOT turn down.
Various mixers including six litres of coke, two bottles of tonic water, eight litres of sparkling water and two litres of lemonade.

I unloaded it all in the flat and then got ready to go and do another gig with Rob and Sol, this time at the (slightly mental) every-other-month gig at The Ivy Leaf Club in Langford. Again - sorry - if you're reading this blog for the first time you are going to need to read the one before as it explains everything that I can't be bothered to in this one. It's here

It's only a short ride up the A1 to the gig and also involves one of my favourite road junctions in the world, called "Langford Turn". I have tried in vain to find a photo of it on the net. Sadly, however, if you type in "Langford Turn" to google images you get a couple of rubbish maps, Beth Langford in her 18th birthday sash, a marsh harrier in flight, a couple of headstones of dead people formerly called (Something) Langford, a gnome, a train and Bonnie Langford dressed as Peter Pan, presumably in panto somewhere. Here's Beth anyway

Beth Langford celebrating her 18th birthday on A level results day. She's smiling so they must have gone OK. Well done Beth! I don't actually know Beth Langford but I am genuinely pleased for her.

Negotiating Langford Turn was its usual joy and I got to the gig around 7.45pm delighted to find it already getting quite full and the women were once again massively outnumbering the men. The last two shows have been a little down on numbers and not even particularly well received frankly and, and, oh it doesn't matter look there were a load of people there who all had a throughly smashing time, Sol & Rob were both again on excellent form, I had one of those rare nights when people seemed to laugh at everything I said both on AND off stage and even the raffle was an overwhelming success, particularly the (donated) two free tickets to see (As Barry the gig organiser announced) The Beatles. I could have sworn they stopped performing live around 1965/6, disbanded completely around 1970 had suffered the sad losses of two key members and even if they did try and get back together it would effectively be as a drum & bass outfit yes Yes YES PUMPING OUT ELEANOR RIGBY TO THE JUNGLE MASSSSSSSSSSSSSSIVE. I suspect they were tickets to see a Beatles tribute act but hey - you never know in Langford.

I got home around eleven and was in my local pub by about quarter past where I met up with Mick who runs the finest chip shop in the area, his drinking buddy Paul and a third man who occasionally drives them to see Brentford. We drank pints of ale because we are men. We stood around talking about football and women because we are men. Mick left at just gone midnight because his wife rang him and started moaning about something. Paul said he couldn't handle two nights in a row any more and so was staying in on Saturday night so he could get up early on Sunday to do some D.I.Y. Bloke-whose-name-escapes-me discussed, in detail, a recipe for fish. We did all this because we are men. I scoffed a JD & coke at last orders because I'm like that and walked home in incredibly high winds. Letchworth is not the literal translation of Fuerteventura, but on Friday night, it might as well have been.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Five Days Of Paulmas

Thursday February 3rd - The Night Before Paulmas

My birthday weekend has become something of a major event in recent years as it always coincides with shows that I promote myself and this year was no exception. From last Thursday I've managed to have five consecutive nights of relative debauchery and I'm not going to fit them all into one blog post so I will instead do five shorter ones than usual, which I know is a bit of a cop out but some semblance of structure might actually jog my memory a bit more.

Thursday February 3rd - The Night Before Paulmas

I thought I'd kick off the festivities "quietly" so organised the latest in a series of occasional shows at my mate Steve's pub in Luton. They are always particularly random affairs and this month was no exception. I'd booked two of my favourite comics to work with: Rob Heeney (A Manx observationalist of no small amount of skill) and Sol Bernstein (An old Jewish man who dresses up as an older Jewish man to remarkable effect)

Rob Heeney - Cries off beer sessions to play tennis

Sol Bernstein - 107 years old and still swearing 

Steve had successfully shifted the best part of fifty tickets so we were good to go. There were a lot of ladies about -  far more than there were men. I'd go as far as to call the gig "Girl heavy". This would be a feature of the weekend. Both acts did ridiculously well, everyone had a great time, I only saw one guy mess up during "Roxanne" (See previous blogs if you don't know what this is, or do some research - I'm not your mother) and some people left very happy at the end of the show. The rest didn't. They just didn't leave. At least fifty per cent of them remained, stoically disregarding work on Friday like the drunken galoots they are. Rounds were bought, shots were consumed, pints were necked, love blossomed, marriages collapsed, old rivalries were settled, wars were won and lost, the answer to the meaning of life occurred to us over the clinking of glasses and was forgotten in the bottom of them. The last people to leave removed themselves about 5am, by which time we had played drunken poker (I came second and Steve won again), argued about sport (I was of course right), played several rounds of "spoof" (See previous comment about "Roxanne") and talked absolute rubbish. What was brilliant was that they only left under particular conditions - namely, when they had not only run out of cash but also Steve's goodwill towards them. Every man jack of them left with absolutely nothing in their pockets and I.O.Us on the bar. It's no wonder this country's in such a mess - some of these people are downright irresponsible.

I retired to my usual sofa in Steve's lounge and fell asleep on my front with the TV on, the crisps I had nicked from the bar unopened and still wearing most of my clothes. I woke up around eleven with a cat laying across the back of my legs. It felt for all the world like I had got them amputated from the knees down. I had a similar feeling from the neck up.

Paulmas had begun.