Saturday, 22 September 2012

Michael Macintyre's Roadshow!

This was the first song I recorded for my latest CD "Songs In The Key Of Death". It was produced, mastered and MASTERMINDED by Chris Hollis at SoundArc studios. When it came to make a video for it, he was the obvious man to go back to and the fact that he offered to do it was at the very least, bitehandoffable. I would love to say it could help my "career" but frankly it's not going to get me any closer to the fame and fortune and I obviously crave...


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Oslo progress, a very handy Andy and another exercise in living cheaply in the most expensive country in Europe.

This blog starts and ends with food. Last Wednesday night I enjoyed Kangaroo steak and chips. My friend Jo (Who I was supposed to be sharing the 'Roo with) was concerned that the marsupial had not been locally sourced. Of course it was - I bought it in Lidl - it's only down the road.

Kangaroo steak, chips, peas, tomatoes and green chili relish.  It might not look that appealing but it was  a veritable ripper.
Jo's non-attendance (as a result of a dubious gardening emergency) left me a steak heavy but I was feeling resourceful so I cooked it anyway, thinly sliced it and made sandwiches out of it (with mustard) which I enjoyed on the 5.18am bus to Stansted. This bus is typical of my year. I've been to Oslo on several occasions over the last few months and each time the travel to the airport (plus parking) has cost twice as much as the flight itself. Only now, three quarters of the way through the year, do I discover that there is a "Unobus" that goes from the stop you can see from my flat window direct to the airport door. It is £6.60. That is roughly £70 cheaper than the petrol  + parking scenario I have been dealing with up to now. I could already have saved hundreds of pounds this year. HUNDREDS.

Never mind, the ticket was procured and the sandwiches were excellent. When I got to Stansted I had a little wander through "Duty Free" and a couple of bargains were too exceptional to turn down, namely - two bottles of 50% Smirnoff Export vodka for £24 and four hundred B&H cigarettes for sixty quid.  The only problem of course was that this was precisely double my allowance into Norway. I decided to risk it. Fortune favours the brave and I bumped into my mate in departures. He was also going to Norway for reasons I can't discuss but had not bought any duty free so he became my "Mule" for the journey. We had our photo taken on arrival at Oslo Rygge because I was so happy.

My mysterious mule.
Contraband in hand, I boarded the "Unibus" to Oslo. It is not lost on me that either a. This bus nearly has the same name as the one I caught from my flat or b. It is nearly three times the price at £16. The bus took about an hour. I slept soundly and didn't notice it. Disembarking bleary eyed into the lunchtime Oslo sunshine, I did the usual, missed my tram stop and alighted at National Theatre. It's nice there and anyway, the Oslo mass transit system is basically free when you need it to be. Ticket buying appears to be the preserve of the socially terrified. I am not socially terrified. The first thing to do was give Troy (The landlord of the venue I was going to be gigging at) my gift of two bottles of 50% Smirnoff Export vodka. The second was to gratefully accept his offer of free beer for a couple of days. What a coincidence that we should both have wanted to give each other such lovely presents...

Troy. That's not Helen behind him by the way. It's  a Norwegian girl called "B". She has a scouse accent. I've left the red eyes undoctored. If you know the man and you have any knowledge of Doctor Who you will understand it when I say that booze can switch him in a similar way to The Ood.
The rest of the day was spent chilling out with a few different people and waiting for the other acts at the show to arrive. They didn't materialise until around midnight and only then did the drinking really begin. We finished up around 4am and retired to the two-bedroom flat that was the home to seven men over the weekend. I was on a blow-up mattress between the sofa and the kitchen wall. There was a little tent attached to the mattress over the head end. It meant I could have a camping holiday from the neck up. My surfeit of cigarettes was greeted warmly by the other guys in the apartment and I generously exchanged them for food and beer tokens. Weren't we all lucky to have such good friends!

The gig itself on the Saturday was lovely, sold out and I had my best pay day to date in the country. Afterwards I persuaded the double act (Le 122), "B" and Simon the compere/organiser to recreate the video of Bohemian Rhapsody. All these gifts were going down rather well and despite them being a little bit too well lit, I think they made a fist of it

"Queen" 2012, pictured clockwise from left: B, Steph, Simon and  (holding the lighter), Ceri. Ceri likes to tell fibs and is a Welsh Nationalist. Steph likes to look like Jackie Chan in publicity photos.
On Saturday I met up with my mate Tom and we bar hopped across the Norwegian capital looking at potential places to put on stand up comedy shows. We didn't find any but we did find some great bars. Later on Simon and I had some roast chicken and dauphinoise potatoes from a department store up the road from our venue. It's the cheapest dinner you can have in Oslo that isn't fried. it's 35 NOK (About four quid) and we go there once every trip. The Fall were playing that night in a venue across town but tickets were 350 NOK and I wasn't paying that. I told Tom that if any of his mates had any going spare I would buy one for 200 NOK. I knew several of them were going begging and brinkmanship won out in the end. I got a text at 8pm offering me the deal I required so I caught the free tram to the wrong stop, called Tom, met up with him, went back to this other guy's flat, had some red wine and sausages and walked to the gig. The Fall didn't come on until almost eleven  O'clock and did barely an hour. They did however close the set with "Container Drivers" which is my favourite song, so I left happy. Oh and at one stage I was fairly close to their legendary front man, Mark E. Smith. My ex-wife saw The Fall once and said "What's Gollum doing fronting a band?".

The Precious.
The rest of the night is a little hazy but involved a missed tram, quite a long walk and an eventual return to the venue for some more of my liquid presents. Sunday proved interesting. I slept very late and then walked up to  a really nice cafe bar called Fru Hagen. Darren (One of the lads in the flat) is the head chef there and had offered to throw me a free lunch. I eventually took him up on the offer about 5pm after getting completely lost and almost ending up at Bislett Athletics Stadium, a good two miles from where I was supposed to be. It was worth the wait though - quite possibly the best chicken sandwich I've ever had. Darren has just relaunched the restaurant's menu and his descriptions of the meals are great. He accuses his fish dish of being stupid, declares his love for sheep (in keeping with being Welsh) and at one point describes a burger as being so nice "it will make your nipples hard". He is also an angry little cook and I entered the bar to witness him hacking away at lumps of meat with a cleaver and shouting to himself "Who the f**k is allergic to bread? BREAD!" Apparently two people in a row had asked for salad instead of bread because of allergies. When my sandwich arrived I explained I was allergic to bread. He only just realised I was joking in time for me to avoid a cleaving.

Darren the chef, calming himself sauce-tasting after the "Day Of The Dough".
All that was left to do was say my goodbyes, get the bus back to the airport, get my flight delayed so late I couldn't get my cheap bus back and have to travel in and out of London to get home at enormous expense and then get stung "Double Time" on a taxi because it was after midnight. Wellll... It couldn't all go well, could it?