Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Blackwood - Bath - Bristol - Bath - Brrrrmmmmmm!

Very few comedians can say they've played Blackwood in South Wales three times. Even fewer of them can say that in addition to that, they have drunk vodka out of a bush. I think if you totted up all the comedians who had ever played Blackwood in South Wales three times and ticked them off against all the comedians who have ever drunk vodka out of a bush you would be left with a list of one. I would be on it.

My return trip to the gig at the Maes Manor Hotel was a joy. The albeit long drive there was relatively painless and I arrived in under four hours (including a lengthy stop at Leigh Delamere services). It also included two separate phone calls asking me to do additional gigs to the ones I had planned (I was in Bath the next night) to the effect that I would now be doubling the Bath gig with one in Bristol and also hanging around an extra day to do the other gig in Bath on the Sunday. I was happy with the extra work and more importantly, the extra cash.

My fun began on check in. The receptionist simply handed me a key and said "Up the stairs - it is room ten it is" in that peculiar way of talking the people of the valleys have (I love it by the way). I was refreshed, downstairs and on the Caffreys by 7.30pm, sound checked and awaiting the arrival of the other comics. I told Steve the DJ of my plans to visit Caerphilly Castle the following day and he gave me a painstaking and detailed map, roundabout by roundabout, of how to get there, which I was very thankful for. All the acts did well and I befriended an all girl 30th birthday party (My favourite kind) who were effectively my drinking buddies for the night.

At the end of the show a young drunkard approached me outside and said to me "Right - be a man and come and drink some vodka with me" before dragging me over to a bush opposite the hotel entrance. He dropped to his knees and began ferreting around the foliage rather clumsily in front of a number of amused onlookers. He pulled out a bottle of spirit from its depths and said

"Aha! Here we go! Ah - no - wrong bottle"

and returned said flagon to its leafy depths. Further probing revealed the bottle he was after (Christ knows how many other people had secreted their illicit booze in the privet) and he withdrew a half bottle of Smirnoff that was quickly drawn into a couple of glasses, one of which was handed to me with the simple demand "neck it". Not one to turn down a free drink, even if it had come out of a bush, I did just that.

I awoke the next morning relatively early and vaguely aware of where I was (No small relief after recent wakings-up) and was out of the hotel by half eleven, map in hand and with an appointment with Blackwood Asda as the extra day in the area meant I would have to buy pants and socks (i'm not a complete animal). Pants and socks procured I set off for Caerphilly with the map by my side. On arrival in Pontypool I began to doubt Steve the DJ's abilities as a cartographer. I stopped in a pub called The Unicorn where lo and behold there was a girl from the birthday party the night before who agreed to be my guide (She had a couple of hours to kill) and so we back tracked through Blackwood and completely the other way to reach Caerphilly not much before 2pm. For what I got up to there, have a look at this. I cannot emphasise enough how completely terrible DJ Steve's directions had been.

Then it was just the small matter of an hour's drive to Bath (Stopping only to take a photo of some balloonists or whatever they're called)

Ballooning is the pastime of the rich and celebratory. Taking photos of it is the pastime of people driving along the A4 between Bristol & Bath who have got time on their hands and a flagrant disregard for their own safety or that of other motorists
To get parked up in The Charlotte Street (long stay) car park and drop down the short walk to Komedia (Best comedy venue in the West & Wales, 2010). I was a little nervous about running times as I knew things would be tight getting to Bristol but everything went to plan, the gig was again lovely and I was in the car by just after half nine, getting to Jesters (One of my favourite gigs in the world) by just before ten. they had started at nine and there had already been a lengthy break. Dave the boss wanted me to sound check quickly but I couldn't as I needed to go to the toilet. He said he couldn't wait (well neither could I) and sound checked my guitar himself as I went about my (much needed) business. I'd had a lamb & squash curry in Bath and. well, it had gone straight through me.

The gig was horrible.

I walked on stage to muted applause, the audience angry that the break had been so long and blaming me for it. The guitar didn't work at first, then when it did, it sounded terrible (dave had unwittingly changed every single available setting on it). Those who were paying attention winced, those who weren't carried on their loud conversations almost oblivious to my presence. A horrible old man at a stag do on the front table told me that I "wasn't funny". I had been on stage less than sixty seconds. I somehow got through the best part of twenty minutes before walking off to the similar muted applause I had walked on to. I got my money and got out of there, shame faced, abashed, broken and feeling very alone - particularly as when I walked out a bloke from another stag do at the back told me to "f*** off". Most of the time comedy is a joy but every once in a while you get a show like that and it makes you think about going back on the bins.

It could have been me.
 I got in the car and looked to the heavens. The moon was HUGE. I know a lot of people hold no truck with the concept of "Full moon fever" but trust me - the people of Bristol were clearly buying into it big style.

I headed back to the unexpected safety of Bath, knocked a couple of drinks back and retired to the flat the other comedians were staying in, except they weren't. They had all got last trains home to London so I finished my book about Corsican international drug smuggglers and fell into a fitful sleep.

Sunday arrived and I enjoyed a late lunch in River Cottage Canteen - Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Bath outlet and a damn fine place for roast lamb with vegetables I've never heard of  (I know I had lamb the night before but hey - I'm a mutton for punishment). The Bristol nightmare the previous evening had left me drenched in sweat and I couldn't really justify wearing my shirt again so I went in search of another one, eventually tracking down a rather garish yellow Hawaiian number in a sale in BHS for four quid. I also bought a winter hat with ear flaps in the same sale for £3. Add this to the five pairs of socks and three pairs of pants I had got the day before (for a total of £13) and twenty quid had got me a pretty nifty new outfit. I strolled around the city centre enjoying the wonderful architecture and bizarre street entertainment and returned to RCC to kidnap a couple of the bar/waiting staff as I had another "unofficial opening" to do. That idea is really proving to have legs and I'll have more about it in future weeks as plans are afoot for some pretty ridiculous things...

This is a photograph of people in Bath watching an old man on a tightrope play violin. At one point he did it on one leg but got a bit shaky so went back to two - bloody amateur.

Ah Bath - the home of delightful ancient architecture... And the hot sausage company!
I killed time until 7pm, listened to England get thrashed by The Irish at Rugby (yet still win the Six Nations championship because everyone else had been more dreadful more often) and headed up to Porter's Cellar bar for the evening gig. What can I say? Lovely audience, nice bill, lovely acts, lovely atmosphere and I was out of there just after 11pm, home and hosed by 1.30am and in bed half an hour later. My car had been returned to me by the garage I'd put it in to last Wednesday (There was something wrong with it again) and they had very kindly parked it in the wrong allocated space and left me without any keys. That'll come back to bite me.

And finally, one for the ladies...

My twenty quid outfit. Pants & socks of Asda. Shirt and hat of BHS. Baseball boots bought today for £8 in LIDL (They were between the guavas and the unicycles)


  1. Will you be opening the NABD rally PB?

  2. I'm not there, mate. I'm doing a couple of other ones though and I may have ribbon...

  3. Very entertaining post. I was waiting for the sex scene that never came. Feeling a bit cheated.

  4. Sorry about that, Erica. No, really - I'm sorry about that. I just wish there had been one to report...


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