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.

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