Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Gherkin, Caviar and a man playing snooker in his socks

It's been a funny old last seven days, that I think is probably best to recount as a "Dear Diary", if only so I do it in the right order. Prepare for a rollercoaster of extreme ups and downs, albeit in a rather typically provincial manner...

Wednesday March 23rd
Today was one of no little excitement. I was walking to the station in bright sunshine by 12.30pm as I was on my way to that bloody London. I had a 2pm appointment with a guy called Paul who organises events at The Relentless garage at Highbury Corner. I was there by 1.45pm. Train from Letchworth to Finsbury Park, tube one stop to Highbury & Islington and a quick half in "The Famous Cock" (A pub I hoped could have been named after me) was followed by an interesting chat in the small front bar of the venue. Paul and I agreed that it was a lovely little comedy room and I could envisage running a monthly Monday show there which may or may not begin in September - I'll let you know as soon as I do myself. Then I nipped over to Camden in search of some new Engineers Boots. My search was in vain - I did find one pair but the assistant said they only had them in a "Seven". Requiring a "Nine", I prevented myself from saying out loud that yes I would just take them and cut my toes off. I eventually setlled on a pair of bike boots (with free dubbin) that I wore in over the rest of the day, at all times feeling like I was in high heels. I met up briefly with punk rockers Johnny and Helen at their printing place and the former told me a story about losing a van that made my own recent car trouble seem a minor irritation. Then it was a case of getting to Liverpool Street for 6pm as I had arranged to be shown around The Gherkin by my friend who works there. It's amazing.

I have now been to the top of this and it's ace
We then headed off for a quick pint and then a meal in "L'entrecote" - a London offshoot of a famous French restaurant that only offers one menu - green sald with walnuts in a mustard sauce followed by two lots of steak and chips. It was delicious, the wine was terrific and on the journey home I mused on having had a far more expensive day than I could really afford in a city I know so little about, despite my proximity to it. I had a couple of drinks in La Concha (A funny little tapas place at Letchworth Station) when I got off the train and (after walking home) slept heavily.

Thursday March 24th
Today was more like the kind of day I normally have. My car wouldn't start so I dropped the keys down to the garage and asked them to fix it asap. They said they couldn't do anything before Monday. That is not asap. I walked back in resignation, noticing in the process that my feet hurt, obviously from the new bike boots. I don't know how you girls do it... I got the train later on to Hitchin to nip and see Felix the hairdresser before heading down to The Vic for "Pie Night" around 7pm. I sat at a table alone, ordered a pint of IPA and a steak & ale pie. It came to under a tenner all-in and was delicious. This is the kind of budget I can afford. Chats with a couple of mates were followed by a short walk to Club 85 where I was down to watch the "Rhythms Of The World" battle of the bands. A young beat combo called "Monaco Bears" won it, deservedly. Their competition was a load of middle-aged men doing "World Music" and a young guy rapping over backing tapes. The result came as little surprise to anyone, really. I had a quick chat with Nick (Father of The 'Bears bass player) about how Rhythms Of The World had never asked me to put any comedy on for them and decided it was because they never had any budget for "Local People" and that I quite clearly wouldn't work for nothing. I was on the train back to Letchworth and back in La Concha by 10.30pm, had another drink by myself and then hit The Tavern, where I bumped into the owner of La Concha (Who fancied a change of scenery) and we got battered on red wine in a remarkably short space of time. I wobbled home, collapsed in to bed and slept heavily.

Friday March 25th
All I had to do today was get to a gig in Bedford by 8pm. I'd had to borrow my mum's car for the weekend and unlike my own, it started first time. The gig was fine, I suppose. All the acts had OK times, the audience appeared to enjoy themselves and everything went without a hitch, really. It just wasn't memorable. I was in the car again by half eleven and on my way to Steve's pub in Luton for a few "late ones". I had pilfered several fondant fancies

Ria Lina (one of the acts) bit into one of these at the gig and put it down again , refusing to have it anywhere near her ever again. It was her first. It will be her last. "My God!" she said, "That's sweet". I pointed out to her that fondant fancies have more sugar in them than sugar.
And planned to give them out to the assorted ne'erdowells in the pub. There were only two, who left shortly after I arrived, one of whom curiously refused to eat his there, preferring to take it home, still wrapped up in the toilet roll I had brought it in. The wrapping of mini chocolate swiss rolls in toilet paper (there was nothing else to hand) was a mistake as unwrapping them did appear to be akin to handing over fresh poos to people. Down to three (Steve, myself and Lisa the bar queen), we drank socially and listened to music. I reminded them that I had been promised food. Lisa disappeared into the kitchen, emerging around hald an hour later with a delicious and simple pasta with garlic, parsley, chillies and... caviar! Not only was there caviar, there was also a little dollop of concentrated salmon roe placed delicately on top that looked a bit like marmalade. Washed down with raspberry shots and Guinness, this was possibly the most decadent thing occurring in a residential area of the rather run-down town at that time of the morning. The galoots in the street fighting over half-dropped kebabs would not have understood. I slept heavily, as did the cat on my chest.

Salmon roe - after exclaiming "Blimey that's salty!" through rapidly vanishing lips I was informed by Steve and Lisa that salmon roe has more salt in it than salt.

Saturday March 26th
I woke up around 1pm thinking my lungs had caved in, startling the cat in the process. I had a quick coffee with Steve and then was back on the road, this time an altogether longer journey to Lancaster via Blackpool as I was picking up my friend Mia in Cleveleys, a rather bizarre town between the latter and Fleetwood. I listened to England beat Wales in a European Championship qualifier on the way up in what I can only describe as a rather boring formality. Wales were rubbish, quite frankly, but England lost interest after half time and just cantered to an easy 2-0 win. My own journey was equally smooth until I reached Cleveleys and expertly overshot it, only realising what I had done when I saw the sign saying "Welcome To Lancashire" as I entered Fleetwood. When I did finally get to Mia's I asked her why the sign was there as I had been in Lancs for miles before that. She said simply "People in Fleetwood are simple - it reminds them where they are".

Mia has inherited two massive black dogs since I last saw her. One barks constantly at the slightest noise. The other tries to mount anything that moves and if it doesn't let it, has a go at the sofa instead. There is a third deadly assassin in this triumvirate in the shape of a little black cat called "Minicat". I made a mental note to keep my door shut later. I didn't want another near-death experience. We took the back road up to Lancaster, well, the A588, which has no right to be called an A road. It's older name is "Head Dyke Lane" and it goes through a place called "Scronkey". Why anyone could ever have named these two things in such a way is beyond me but if I lived there I fear I would be in a permanent state of chuckles. Fortunately so were the audience at the gig who laughed heartily throughout the most enjoyable set I've done in a while.

We drove back via everywhere in search of food, eventually setlling on a KFC back in Cleveleys, which we took home. Mia's flat mate Michelle was up when we got in, as were the three ninjas. They all took particular interest in my food and as the two dogs sat patiently with their heads inches from my plate and their eyes pleading "But we've never eaten before!", minicat came over my shoulder for a surprise assault and nicked a chip. I was impressed. Michelle dressed and drove us to The Royal. Now I've been in there before. It is a brilliantly unlikely pub full of mad people dancing to loud music, friendly (if rather hard looking) bar staff and on this occasion, a man playing snooker in his socks. Michelle asked me to go and find out why he was playing snooker in his socks. I explained that IF YOU WALK INTO A PUB LATE AT NIGHT AND THERE IS A FIGHT THREATENING TO BREAK OUT BY THE FRONT DOOR, A COUPLE PRACTICALLY HAVING SEX ON THE BAR AND A BAND WEARING BLACK MAKE UP DOING OASIS NUMBERS YOU DO NOT APPROACH A MAN PLAYING SNOOKER AND ASK HIM WHY HE IS NOT WEARING ANY SHOES. Reprimanded, she bit her lip and we carried on drinking. The animals were quiet when we got in, we drank a little more and then I went to bed, being careful to close the door behind me. I slept soundly.

Sunday March 27th
Census Day. I didn't get up until 2pm since the clocks had gone forward an hour in the night without telling me. Mia made me one of her famous BLTs for lunch which I ate with two dogs inches from it and a cat over my shoulder waiting to strike. It was nervy, but enjoyable. We set out for the real reason I was in the area about 3.30pm but you'll have to look here for that as I'm trying not to confuse my new "Unofficial Openings" blog with this one. It won't take long and is a lot shorter than what I get into on here. I got back to Letchworth around 8.30pm and did something I can't remember before dropping the car back at mum's. I went to bed early and read a book until I fell asleep in the early hours. I slept far more soundly than I intended to.

Monday March 28th
I didn't get around to going to the garage about my car until 4pm by which time they had fitted a new battery at my request. I picked up the keys, went to start it and it wouldn't. Clearly not the battery then. I left it with them and walked  back to the flat utterly demoralised and very stubbornly still demotorised. The news that I had got two Edinburgh shows this August had been compounded in that I needed to get their details into the Fringe Programme by Wednesday night to qualify for discount (the discounted price for two shows is £590 just to be listed which gives you some idea of how expensive Edinburgh can get). I gave myself Wednesday night to do it as I was still hoping to go to the Hampshire & Wiltshire Jesters, street entertainers and comedians late late Christmas Dinner at a golf centre between Southampton and Salisbury called Sandy Balls. I was sold on the name. I prayed for the car to be ready by Tuesday lunchtime. Tony and I made the latest edition of Punky! Radio and went to bed early to finish a particularly gory book I was reading called "Death's Head". I slept terribly and had dreams about former England Fly Half  Stuart Barnes taking the piss out of my guitar playing and Justin Lee Collins being assassinated by Libyan terrorists. Analyse that.

Tuesday March 29th
The garage called to say I wouldn't have my car back until Thursday. This put a right spanner in the works and also cancelled my Sandy Balls, more's the pity. I apologised to all concerned and remembered to do The Census form. I walked to the station, posted it and got the train to Hitchin to get a beard trim and do a bit of shopping. Fun with Felix ensued, as did a meeting up with The Rochforts who are continuing to produce stylish and excellent bags for the world's fashionistas.

These are the bags that have made Helen Rochfort famous in the fashion world. She is now doing a giant version of them. I asked her if it was for giant ladies to wear as they were photographed from a distance so they would look like normal sized people. She said "No it's so you can get more stuff in" 
I nipped in The Vic for a pint of some new excellent real ale they're hawking that I can't remember the name of, walked directly onto a train back home and was in by six to begin the Edinburgh Fringe applications that only took about 137 goes to get right. I don't expect this week to be any less eventful, but I'll try and keep it down to bite-sized pieces!

PS. Today (Wednesday) I can report that England v Ghana was great last night and Rhythms Of The World phoned me up this morning to ask me to put some comedy on for them this July for a total budget of 0p. I told them I would be in Spain that weekend.

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