Saturday, 25 June 2011

Oh shut up, Annabel! SHUT UP!

This is another departure from the usual travelblogues I dish out but I'd just like a brief word about commentators on women's tennis being the most patronising people on Earth. The first week of Wimbledon is reaching a close and I've enjoyed it immensely, bar the talking. I cannot imagine any other sport where the losers are treated so ridiculously by the people paid to talk about them. Match after match I have enjoyed despite the "experts" gushing over "amazing" and "terrific" winners whilst at the same time being quite so condescending to the defeated.

I really enjoyed the Sharapova v Robson encounter yesterday afternoon and was particularly impressed with the latter's forehands down the line which are as good as any I've seen at the tournament this year. That she should come off the court having been ahead 4-1 in the first set and then 4-2 in the tiebreak before eventually succumbing to a player seeded miles above her in the second set (although the passing shots continued) showed a growing maturity in a developing player who I genuinely believe is only a couple of years away from really doing something special and I come back again to that forehand: It's already a mighty weapon.

Laura Robson. This woman does not want your pity. She's just a bloody good tennis player.

Ha ha I said "Mighty weapon".

Sorry - Anyway to then hear the commentators call her performance "plucky" nearly made me kick the telly. They made out that she was lucky to be there, had given it her best shot, no-one really expected her to win and that she was just a pretty little English girl doing her best for Queen & Country. I'm currently watching a six stone Russian getting destroyed by Serena Williams. The commentators are only a nuance away from saying "Awwww... bless". The woman has qualified for Wimbledon. She is a professional tennis player. She's not fulfilling some finishing-school diploma requirement and I don't know her history but I imagine she has won a lot of matches to reach this point in her career. I'm sure she went into the game believing she could beat her opponent and did not consider herself there to make up the numbers.

Garry Richardson. This man fawns over female tennis players like they are his favourite little daughters on sports day. He is not alone. The rest of them are as bad. He's just the most punchable

Were the English football team given this kind of treatment when they were thrashed 4-1 by Germany in the 2010 World Cup? No they weren't. They were vilified for being useless, overpaid, clueless wastrels who weren't fit to wear the shirt and should be ashamed to be English. Were our 4x100 men's relay team forgiven when they dropped the baton in the Olympic Games? NO. They were destroyed by the commentary team for not practicing changeovers, not training hard enough and getting the rudiments of the event wrong. Were our cricketers "let off" The Ashes whitewash of 2006/7? NO! They were berated for laying down, rolling over and getting rear-ended by an Aussie team filled with passion, aggression and revenge on their minds. Steve Harmison's first ball of that series had the likes of Geoffrey Boycott calling for nothing less than the man's head on a platter.

To remind you of what I do for a living, when comedians die on stage they get booed off and they're not then  interviewed on the way out by some gushing, patronising former public schoolboy: The promoter throws their money at them with contempt, they suffer the Schadenfreude of the rest of the dressing room and they're unlikely to be ever booked back there again. Let's have a bit of reality in SW1, please.

Oh and Andy Murray had another great match last night as well and the British Number One will remain the nation's favourite until he loses, when he will revert back to being a moody little jumped-up Scot who hates the English and can't grow sideburns.

Andy Murray. Will this week's British hero become next week's  spider-cheeked Braveheart?

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Jetpacks, Jerks and Rip-off Merchants

It's time once again to describe yet another fine argument I've got myself into about war, the future and conspiracy theories. I don't relish these discussions but I do attack them with gusto when they arise. They normally happen over at Steve's pub and are normally fuelled by innocent drinking games, two much real ale and the imbibing of obscure shots known only previously to the proprietor. Last night was no exception. A perfectly lovely occasion (Shannon's 18th birthday) became a war of attrition around midnight when the all-too familiar discussion about all-modern-warfare-being-about-oil ensued.

I am of the opinion that an awful lot of wars are not exacerbated by the IMF and global industrialists wishing to cash in but by people having genuine grievances against the actions of the people that govern them. Often they are about one religion not liking another religion. Often they are about a nation fighting back against another nation's imperialist aggrandisement. When other nations join in (particuarly the US and UK) we are fed the same line that they have only got involved because of the presence of oil. The Falklands War - Oil. The Gulf War - Oil. The present horrors in Libya - Oil. The current train of thought suggests we are helping out The Libyan people because there is profit to be made by a positive outcome. This is the only reason we're there. Conspiracy theorists will maintain that we are not similarly helping the Syrians because there's no oil there. I happen to think we are not helping The Syrians because their government have been mad bastards for years and that delicately placed as it is, piling into Syria would quite possibly lead to a genuine world war and even we're not that daft as to be encouraging another one. The last World War (in Europe at least), I would argue, was against Nazism.

Nazism was a rather unpleasant thing and although its early doctrines may well have been based on equality, it was a particular brand of equality that only really included white people - and white Christians at that. Last night's argument was about the factual accuracy of six million Jews being slaughtered in the holocaust, who exactly had coined the phrase "holocaust" and further, what were their motives. I will simply say that my position was simple: regardless of precisely how many people were killed/supplanted/robbed by The Nazis, it was enough to warrant the allies trying to do something about it. Furthermore, whether you use the term "holocaust" or another word of your choosing to describe genocide , it was still exceptionally evil and I'm glad the right team won. To then berate the Israelis for the situation in Palestine is for me, churlish. It's another argument for another day and there is no more room for anti-Semitism than there is for anti-anything else, thank you very much.

This man looks like Blakey from "On The Buses", who was also a bit of a tool

Oil, it would seem, is the root of all evil so it would additionally seem sensible to stop being bothered about it. There are various organisations/pressure groups/cults that look for ways to live without the Black Gold. My own town of Letchworth is a "Transition Town". Their basic edict is for us all to become as self-sufficient as possible to ease the weight we place on the world's economy and thus ease its pressure. It's very sensible and although I occasional call "Transitioners" the rather less progressive "Bloody Do-Gooders", I know it has worth and take pains myself to be as globally aware as possible, sourcing foods locally and not using my car any more than I have to. Transition Town is looking for a solution to what will happen when "Peak Oil" occurs. "Peak Oil" is the point when we genuinely begin running out of Texas-T. We are not prepared for it, but there are those out there who have solutions. One such group are "The Venus Project". Their vision of a renewable-energy driven, Godless, greed-less and money-less future is fascinating and they themselves accept that it's not going to happen quickly. Their argument appears to be that we have to educate our youth NOW, so that they can educate their youth accordingly to finally reach a point where we all love each other and share our skills willingly on a non-profit basis. They also have a nice line in things like potato-fuelled jetpacks and the ocean's currents powering our iPhones. All of these things are freely available on the net and are food for thought. Take them with a pinch of salt though, like anything else. One man's conspiracy theory is another man's conspiracy.

One Man who cannot be accused of having his own stuff is the bloke I discovered this week to have nicked a song of mine and has possibly been using it in his act for over a decade without my knowledge. I'm not going to name and shame him. I'm not even going to say which song it was, just that I've been in touch with him after being alerted by a fellow comic and the situation appears to have been concluded with a "cease and desist" order. I hate to say "Watch This Space" but I have a feeling this is not the end of it. I mention my own issue because my friend Jim Tavare is currently involved in a far bigger issue for a comedian, that of identity theft. Someone has not only stolen his material but appears to have stolen his look, his act and even the design of his website.

Jim is left, the other fella is not right

My previous blog suggested that nineteen out of every twenty people are, ahem, not particularly nice. This is a big problem for Jim and I wish him the best of luck in his attempts to get the man stopped. The 19/20 theory is also a rather bigger problem for societies held hostage by their own leaders, nations being crushed under the weight of a global recession and victims of modern holocausts in places as far afield as East Africa and Tibet.

Whilst writing this blog, I have received a phone call from the local constabulary telling me that there is actually no cctv footage of me getting punched in the back of the head in an unprovoked attack a few weeks ago, after all. This means that it is unlikely to be pursued any further without something of a minor miracle. I think I saw my assailant in Letchworth Town Centre yesterday afternoon. He was on his bike. He is probably not more than seventeen years old. I think it very unlikely that he will ever teach his own spawn about the merits of recycling, the dangers posed to us by aggressive bigotry or "The Zeitgeist Addendum". He'll probably nick him a pimped-up Corsa for his fifteenth birthday and send him out tramp-burning.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Another week surviving modern Britain.

I had an appointment at the hospital on Friday. A routine eye check-up that I fortunately passed with flying colours (And they were vivid!). While I was there I had a prescription to pick up so I nipped down to the hospital pharmacy to get it. What followed was a brief conversation:

Me: "Hello, I'd like to pick this up please".
Pharmacist: "Well you can't - you need to go to a retail pharmacy for it"
Me: "Of course I can't get medication here - this is a hospital".

I understand that there have to be rules and regulations but I was under the impression that there was one health service in the UK, namely, the NHS. Apparently not.

The friendly and inviting QE2 hospital, Welwyn Garden City.

I spent the weekend at The Comedy Cafe. I've discussed the venue (And its owner) before here. This time round I drove to the gig all three nights and succeeded in getting the same parking space each time. Not unusual, I suppose, but on the last night I was prevented from getting out of it by an ambulance that had arrived a little up the street to deal with something or other. When it had gone, a throng remained, largely of people who looked like this

I know - really.
As I drove through the ignorant fools at approximately one mile an hour because they didn't seem to regard my car as a threat to them, a particularly unpleasant chav appeared and started banging on my window. I rolled it down enough to hear him. The following conversation followed:

Chav: "Oi! Are you a taxi?"
Me: "No"
Chav: "Why not?"

I wound my window back up and he kicked my car in disgust as I moved off.


Today I went to Stevenage on purpose. I wanted to buy a loud shirt for my impending holiday/deathride/sleepless week/debauched lunacy trip to Spain and, being the last of the big spenders, I took a trip to Matalan. Said shirt procured, I began walking to the tills. A woman pushed past me with an armful of clothes in her rush to get served. Nonplussed, I began the following conversation

Me: "Excuse me, I only have one item, could I maybe go in front of you?"
Woman: "No, I'm in a rush"
Me: "I see".

It took her a full ten minutes to get served. When I eventually reached the only register that was open the assistant asked me if I would like to keep the hanger. I replied to the negative. She took the shirt off the hanger, screwed it up and threw it into the bag. I didn't even bother to question her actions, paid her the money and left. I regularly despair of humankind but am currently resigned to believing what a friend of mine told me over twenty years ago when an idiot cut us up on the southbound M1. As I screamed in horror at our near-death experience he remained completely calm, turned to me and said

"What you've got to understand is, Paul - 95% of the population are c**ts".

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

All that glitters is not gold - some of it is me.

Well, it's been a while and I must apologise but I've been busy. I'm not going to be able to remember all the events of the last two weeks or so but I'll try and at least fill in some of the gaps.

Things all started to go awry on Thursday the second of June when I put on my latest comedy show in my mate Steve's pub. The gig itself was terrific fun and featured Tony Law (who both confused and delighted the rather "blue collar" audience that the venue attracts) and Silky who went on to enjoy the gig's first encore. The apres-show was the usual hedonistic disaster and at one point in the early hours I retreated to the gents' toilets to hide from a man who was boring the pants off me. it is only in the early hours of the morning in a pub in Luton that you would think to hide from a drunk man in the very room he is most likely to visit but it worked, miraculously. Said intoxicate was too distracted by the goings-on over the other side of the bar. An elfin little former barmaid was dancing on a large round table to terrifyingly bad eighties pop music that she had chosen herself as I had made my escape. What I didn't know was that she was replaced by a rather more statuesque blonde whose gyrations couldn't have done anything positive to said table's fixings because when she was finally replaced by a twenty stone, six and a half foot drunken lunatic the thing gave way, he fell backwards and knocked himself out on the stone floor. He was immediately surrounded by half a dozen well-meaning regulars all exacting death-accelerating procedures on the semi-conscious galoot as Lisa the barmaid (And qualified nurse) tutted to herself behind the counter as no-one thought to ask her advice. It was eventually decided that paramedics were required and on their arrival it took them twenty minutes to get the bewildered giant into the ambulance as he insisted he was fine. Bless him. I woke up at some point the next day and somehow managed to drive to Great Yarmouth, do a gig to eight of the loveliest people you could hope to meet, drive back and wake up on Saturday morning smelling of roses.

This was handy as Saturday the fourth of June was the day of "Dolly's Barn Party", a burlesque and comedy show I had arranged for The Victoria Pub in Hitchin. It was also the day of England's bizarre draw against The Swiss in a Euro 2012 qualifier. I went down to the pub early to watch the game, got stuck in to some really nice ale and by the time the show started at 8pm I had two burlesque dancers, three comics, fifty people in a room and absolutely no idea what I was doing any more. I was also on free drinks from the outside bar and very sensibly switched to rose wine, which I drank like it was pop. By the end of the night I was utterly disoriented, covered in glitter and crying out for more drink. Apparently everyone had a good time. My thanks to Lena Mae, Polly Goes Boom, Tim Roast, Jonny Williams and Kate Lucas for apparently all being fabulous. I wish I could tell you more about it but I really can't. After the show we went to The Kings Arms for exactly the late drinks I didn't need. I was stopped and searched by the doorman on the way in, who wanted to know what was in my bag. In my bag was a pair of faux-leopardskin brothel creepers, a tonic jacket, a necklace made entirely of plastic skulls and a bike horn. He let me in, ignoring both the glitter all over my face and the fact that I could hardly speak.

Why Sharon Cooper wanted to put her name to this particular photo is a little beyond me.

I spent most of Sunday in quiet contemplation.

On Monday afternoon I got a text from a beautiful Aussie rockstar called Brigitte Handley to let me know that she was in town for a couple of days and would I like to meet her for a beer in Camden. I suggested a little more (not like that), namely that I would also interview her for Punky! Radio. She said she'd let me know when she was on her way there. She then texted me at 6.30pm to tell me she was there. That left me rushing around getting ready for the 7.29pm to Finsbury Park that I was never going to catch. I didn't. With a good twenty minutes to kill I nipped over to The Hog's Head for a quick half. Feeling a little low on energy I also ordered a full-fat coke. I sat outside on one of the tables. The Hog's Head is not somewhere I would normally frequent, insomuch as most of the people that drink in there are not from Letchworth, but Mordor. A man was resting his head on the table beyond my own and moaning to himself. He looked up as I sat down and I realised I knew him. He's only recently moved to the town from the South West and it's fair to say is not really coping particularly well with either the transition or the mid-life crisis he is having which prompted the move, a nineteen year old girlfriend and a propensity to buy ketamin for a fiver off complete strangers in dodgy pubs in leafy suburbia on pleasant and deathly quiet Monday evenings. That is precisely what he had done. He had never taken the horse tranquiliser before and unaware of what symptoms to expect, was more than a little surprised that he "Had never felt worse" in his life. I suggested he drank some of my coke. He finished half a pint of it in one gulp, sat bolt upright, said "I feel better already!" and then lobbed his head back on to the table and started groaning again. A friendly enough drunkard came over and introduced himself as "Len". Mike said "I'm Mike". I was glad about the latter as I had completely forgotten his name. The drunk wandered off. I left Mike awaiting his girlfriend who had "gone off to buy fags" about half an hour previously and never returned. I decided to use an old showbiz trick of remembering people's names by attaching a piece of description or outstanding feature to them, for example : "Blue-eyed Joanie" or "Brown haired Becky". I now refer to him as "Ketamin Mike". I got the train, met up with Brigitte and fellow writer of sleeve notes and altogether good bloke, Simon Nott. Neither of them were drinking (She doesn't anyway and he had to drive) so I made up for the pair of them. She's delightful company and is very good at laughing at my jokes. She also fronts a really great band. I left her waiting for a bus to Stoke Newington as I had a train to catch. I'm a real gentleman.

This is a stock photo of Brigitte because despite having my camera with me I entirely forgot to have my photo taken with her. You may wonder how I remember to get up in the morning. To be honest, I often don't.

Last weekend (10th/11th) saw the return of my monthly comedy shows in Hitchin & Letchworth. The Hitchin show was memorable not least because I actually managed to persuade two women to leave before they'd ever come in to it. Long story. Comedians Bennett Arron and Ninia Benjamin were terrific both nights and on the Saturday she accompanied us to the after-show do at The Arena Tavern where drinking inspiration occurred. I noticed that they were selling shots of "Goat's Gash" for a pound. They've always done these shots for a pound, I've just never noticed before. Not wanting to break a tenner, I ordered ten shots for a pound. This idea was picked up by various other rowdies and shots started accumulating rapidly. Things became increasingly confusing. I was talking to my nineteen year old friend Rianna (No connection to Ketamin Mike) who introduced me to her thirty five year old auntie. Being six years older than her auntie was too much for me to take in so I kidnapped her, brought her back to my flat and made her listen to Adam Ant for an hour and a half until Rianna texted me asking if I could return her auntie. I replied "No" but in that time the resourceful woman called a taxi, which arrived promptly. I don't think I terrified her and judging by this picture which occurred at some point it was actually me who was a little concerned

Auntie in foreground - at this point with no idea what was to befall her. To her right, the face of Croatian Toni & Guy, to her rear, Sam the doppelganger. To her left, a "Goat's Gash" receptacle.
I've spent the last few days trying desperately hard to not write any of my Edinburgh show. More of that in future weeks but it means that. A. On Monday I played poker online from midnight until 7.30am leading me to do nothing  the next day other than going back to Steve's on Tuesday night to avoid the men coming to install new windows in my flat this morning. Steve informed me that the bloke who had been concussed table dancing (remember him? I don't think he does) had since managed to walk home from another night at the pub and fall down the grassy bank that leads up to his house, smashing his face to bits in the process. Shannon (a pub regular who calls me "Vicar" for no apparent reason) said "That poor bloke is so unlucky". I don't think luck has anything to do with it, really: Call me old-fashioned, but I think it's pints of Carling.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

A farewell to feet.

Well, I finally did it. I finally let go of my four favourite pairs of shoes. A friend of mine suggested I photograph them and write a blog about them as a fitting tribute. Here they are:

They've served me well. They've been to festivals, comedy gigs, foreign countries. They've got me heckled and congratulated in equal measure. They've cost me money and earned me plaudits but now I have ultimately had to accept that they are ex-shoes, no more, defunct, banjaxed, destroyed and retired. They are gone, but they will never be forgotten. Below are photos of them with lengthy descriptions. I will miss them all...

These were the first creepers I ever bought. They were procured specifically to wear on stage but I ended up sporting them socially as well. They survived countless gigs and never failed to draw the right kind of attention. They were £69 from Underground Shoes in Camden over a decade ago. Eventually the glue went on the soles. I tried to fix them but to no avail. I wore them to Leeds festival once and the front row shouted "BlackJack!" when I walked on stage. I had only considered the cards sewn into the tops to be "Pontoon". Sometimes I really am dim.
I bought these the same time (And for the same price) as the ones above. They were chosen by my ex-wife as a pair I could wear "For smart". The same thing happened to them as the "pontoon" ones - they just irreparably  came away from the crepe. The crepe soles themselves remained perfect. Idiots would shout "Don't you step on my blue suede shoes!" when they saw them. I didn't care - I loved them. These were my "Bagpuss" pair - baggy and a bit loose at the seams, but Pauly loved them...
Believe it or not I got these ones more recently (within the last six years or so) because I didn't have any "normal" shoes. I kicked my heel through the crepe the first time I wore them on stage, repeatedly stomping my foot into the stage whilst screaming a song about being beaten up by Swedish school children at Jesters Comedy Club in Bristol. Not long after the crepe soles split in several places and I put this down to the way I bent my feet to tie my laces. It didn't happen to the other pairs but it made sense. They were unsuccessfully glued by a cobbler in Letchworth. I wore them to my hearing at Stevenage Magistrates Court when I was banned from driving. Nobody said anything.
I got these half-price  (£45) with my birthday money (again) somewhere in Camden about a decade ago. They're the best pair of boots I've ever had and I wore them to death. They are the veterans of countless bike gigs, Reading, Leeds and Beautiful Days festivals and The Lord knows how many "Snow days". Officially titled "Engineers Boots" rather than bike boots or "Clash Boots", they now retail (new) at about £130. Spend the money if you get the chance - they're worth it.

...I couldn't even bring myself to throw them out personally. I put them in a bag and left them by the front door (in the hallway) while I decided what to do with them. I went away for the weekend and while I was gone my mum came round and quietly removed them. It felt like a bereavement. Mind you - it's not all bad, as the photo below explains...
Fortunately, I still have these. I am the Imelda Marcos of North Hertfordshire, but that's another story.
Before I posted this I did a spell check on it and noticed that I had written "soul" instead of "sole" in every instance. It's stupid that one should get so attached to what are essentially "things to keep your feet dry" but there you go. This hasn't been my normal blog I grant you, but I hope you'll excuse a sentimental old fool this one time. Back to tales of carousing in future (I'm sure) but for now, it's been emotional.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Linguistic variant, Eggplant, Adam Ant

I drove from Llangollen to Newcastle via Penrith, Barnard Castle and Hexham. This is not the most direct route but it proved to be an excellent one for my American travelling companion who is a huge fan of Withnail & I, waterfalls and old stuff. Getting parked in Penrith initially proved problematic as everywhere had signs up saying "Disc parking only". Since I didn't have a disc, I couldn't park. I circled the small (gridlocked) town for a good fifteen minutes before finally losing my rag and parking up opposite an electricians, in a "Disc-only" space. Leaving the septic to her own devices, I boldly strode into said sparky's and before I could finish the sentence "Excuse me, but I'm trying to find out information about disc parki..." I was handed a disc out of a cardboard box coupled with a verbal explanation of how to use it. At the end fo the exchange I asked if they would like me to bring the disc back in when I left. What the man said to me in his thickest of Cumbrian dialects I managed to translate into "Yes, if you are considerate enough to remember then it would be much appreciated if you returned the disc to our goodly shop". What he actually said was

"Aye, if ya think on, aye"

I walked out of the shop grinning from ear to ear and reciting "Here, hare here" repeatedly - one of my favourite lines from the Richard E. Grant / Paul McGann cinematic classic and then bought fish and chips from a chippy tagged with "National junior fryer award, 2010" and ate it contentedly in the car knowing it had almost certainly been fried by a very talented pre-teen. We look down our noses at the child labour and sweat shops of Asia yet triumph in putting our own youth to work in the unhealthiest of environments and for that, Great Britain, I salute you.

Next stop: Barnard Castle via a tank depot on the A66 and some gorgeous scenery. It's a really lovely place peopled by some of the most inbred-looking folk I have ever seen in my life. The American visibly winced when one pair of local unfortunates crossed the road in front of us. I'd never seen anything like it either but didn't want to let on that I was also terrified. The castle itself is fantastic and is one of a string of them in the area built to hold back the Scottish hordes.

Barnard Castle - it is a long way in the background. I am not actually a giant. I like the fact we built a park bench so the Picts had somewhere to sit.
We then threw caution to the wind and followed signs for Teesside High Force, a waterfall I admit I had never heard of. To find out what happened there, you'll have to go here, but suffice to say it was ace. Then a breathtaking ride over the North Pennines to Hexham via Alston (Look! There are sheep! In the goddam road!) took us onward to Newcastle and the offices of The Hyena Comedy Club to pick up the keys for their excellent flat. Pete Cain (Also on the bill) showed up at the same time and I gave him a lift up there, procuring my favourite back room (it's en suite in so much as the en suite doesn't really work very well but it's good for late-night toilet emergencies). Anthony King (Old friend of mine and the other guy on the bill) showed up later. The gig went fine despite there being a large number of stag dos in (it's always the way) and we had a few drinks after but nothing ridiculous. A relatively early night followed. Saturday came and I went to my favourite Chinese all-day buffet in The North East, not just because it's incredibly cheap (All you can eat for £6.50) but also because it's called

Ho Buffet! A Chines restaurant and NOT the smorgasbord of prostitutes I was hoping for
HO BUFFET! It turned out all the young lad on the table next to me could eat was prawn crackers and an orange. The American faired little better. I had hot & sour soup, prawn chop suey, chicken chow mein, beef in black bean sauce, egg fried rice, chinese chicken curry, stir-fried vegetables, oriental ribs, sweet & sour pork and pretty much anything else I could get in my mouth, all washed down with a copious amount of Chinese tea.

Perusing the menu of the Ho Buffet. Hmm... I'll have two Thais and a Chinese, please...
I only tell you all this because I don't normally eat particularly well when I'm in Newcastle as the required arrival at the gig prevents an evening meal and I normally end up having a pizza afterwards. We had a little look round the town and got home to see the first half of the Champions League final with Pete and a seemingly ever-increasing number of his Geordie mates, before heading down to the gig for what we suspected would be a far nicer night. It was full of women. That made it worse as it turned out and they were mostly rather annoying. Afterwards in the bar underneath our attention was drawn to two very tall women groping each other and giggling. Obviously I approached them to say that they had made my friends and I very happy (They were lined up on a couch laughing uproariously). The brunette of the two explained "Aye!" (here we go again) "...and we're twin sistas as well, like!". Of course they were. Newcastle is famous for several things, the intense cold not being bottom of the list, but the propensity of the local girls to a. wear very little and b. shamelessly exhibit is unmatched throughout the world.

On Sunday we met up in Wallsend with my mate Graeme and his wife Barbara for lunch. Graeme has an interesting enterprise delivering vegetable boxes to the chattering classes of Gosforth. Each box is accompanied by an A4 sheet depicting the herb/fruit of the week with a piece of creative writing to accompany it. Graeme has always been something of a poet and some of the write ups are brilliant (And very funny). Here's a sample box:

Look I'm not showing off but I got a butternut squash in my one as well...
The company, "Harvest 2 Home" only source from a reputable local market and deliver on Saturdays. That is the end of my advert for him. Anyway, we went up to Tynemouth for a roast dinner and an opportunity to see some more old stuff

Tynemouth Priory. Old stuff, officially

...And to hopefully track down a bit of Hadrian's Wall to complete the American's three-day review of our Northern and Western defences. We did but only on the way back to Wallsend (The clue is indeed in the name)

The last bit of Hadrians Wall. Also pictured - Hadrian's railings and some of Hadrian's temporary fencing.
We then went to look at The Angel Of The North, but it's back here for that one, returned to the flat and got ready to go and see possibly my ultimate hero, Adam Ant, at the o2 Academy. The American had now gone fully native and changed into very little so as to fit in. We bumped into John Scott (Excellent Scottish comedian - obviously the defences were down when he sallied South) and his girlfriend outside the gig, had a quick drink and joined the queue. John was very excited about an act called Jesse Rae being the support act. I was underwhelmed, despite his preposterous attire

Jesse Rae and his two comedy backing singers who Scottish danced and giggled their way through the entire thing. He kept his helmet on throughout.
He was followed by an unexpected (and terrible) second support act that I couldn't bring myself to photograph (they were so bad) so here's a photo of the stage just after they walked off

The second support band were so rubbish they made me properly angry

This all made me suspect The Ant was only going to do a shorter set. I needn't have worried. The backing band "The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse" arrived first and broke into the throbbing, pulsating intro of one of his oldest songs, "Plastic Surgery". The rest is a delicious two hours plus blur of mainly "early stuff" greatness, a real "Set for the fans" and a couple of lengthy encores that left a capacity crowd very happy indeed. My own highlight was "Kings Of The Wild Frontier" that I thought showed up very early in the set, really, particularly as it somehow sounded a little "bigger" than the rest of the gig. A fat girl with too much hair kept barging into me for no apparent reason. Eventually The American grabbed hold of her and said "F*** off, you obese cow". Stunned, she relented and we moved over to the bar a little later anyway.

Adam Ant - still looking - and sounding - incredible. If you don't believe me, bear in mind he is in his mid-50s. Do YOU know anybody approaching 60 years old who looks this good? I don't.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

A bricked surprise, a class A limerick and a reassurance that I am NOT the biggest nutter in the world.

After the previous week's travails in the beautiful Croatia, I was happy enough this week to find myself travelling around the North, gigging and sight-seeing like a slightly demented tourist and troubadour, beginning, last Wednesday evening, in Chester.

I've been to Chester a lot down the years as I have frequented Alexanders Jazz Theatre's comedy nights roughly Bi-annually since the mid-nineties (Well I wouldn't go there for the jazz) but I've never stopped and had a proper look round so had no idea about the extent of the City Walls. I just thought there was a small section close to the gig (It's address is 1, City Walls) and seeing as I had a day to kill I took a punt, walked up the steps onto the wall and proceeded to spend the best part of an hour circumnavigating the entire city. It was brilliant. The walls are punctuated with plaques offering information and I was left in no doubt that the walls had been built for one reason and one reason alone - to keep the bloody Welsh out! Here are a few views from the wall, as I wandered around

A typically spectacular Chester street
Sadly the Chester ring-road is not spectacular and I went through this bloody arch at least four times before I finally found the hotel car park.

These are the ruins of the Roman Gardens and NOT the remains of  Enforcement Droid 209  from Robocop

I can't remember why I took this picture

This is an impressive bit of the old castle, with added knocking-off workman

This is a clock. I said "clock"
Anyway the weather was useless (The Met office had issued their annual "Amber Warning") so I buggered off to Llangollen where I was doing a gig for my mate Silky. Llangollen is another beautiful place and is the unofficial gay capital of Wales. It is also capable of having utterly miserable weather. I met up with Silky for an early dinner (delicious) and then we walked up to the show in driving rain, before performing to a small (but perfectly formed) audience. During the performance I got a girl on stage to perform a limerick she had written whilst driving home from a night out snorting cocaine (Her words, not mine). I wish I could remember it - it was brilliant! I then went on to accuse the local vicar of looking like Dennis The Menace, told a lovely young kayak enthusiast that I intended to sleep with her mother and ended the show suggesting we all go back with the rhyming coke-head for a party. We didn't, but it was a good idea.

As usual I can't remember the name of the bar we went to after the gig because everything started getting a bit blurry and Silky then dropped the bombshell that he couldn't have a late one as he was getting the train to Poland the next day.

The train.

To Poland.

From Llangollen.

That's like going to the moon on a space hopper.

The next day I got a text from him to tell me that his train had been cancelled at Chester, which is approximately twenty miles from Llangollen and over eight hundred miles from Posnan. He didn't fancy his chances of making the Eurostar he was booked on to and held out slim hope of catching his connecting trains in Brussels and Berlin. I had explained to him about air travel the day before but hey - he's a comedian, not a travel agent.