One way ticket to Thetford… and back on the National Express

I am going break the traditional structure of this blog of starting with something about comedy and then throwing in some real-life at the end, because that would then put my weekend out of context due to my real-life event being on the Saturday and my comedy gig being on the Sunday.

On Saturday, I travelled to Thetford in Norfolk to see one of my favourite bands ever, The Darkness, perform in a forest. When I booked the ticket up a few months back, I didn’t think how I would get there and back. At the time, I wasn’t even sure if I would still be living in London when the gig came around.

However many months later, and I booked a single train ticket to Thetford, with the intention of getting the National Express back and returning to London for 3.30am; and realistically not getting back to my house until 5am.

The only other band I would make such a ridiculous journey for is Queen, with its original line-up. But unfortunately, this will never happen unless they invent time-travel in my lifetime. This could theoretically also be invented outside my lifetime and they could travel backwards in time to find me, obviously as a result of stumbling across this historically credible source of words.

As with most of my adventures, I expected there to be some sort of hitch. And this hitch was found when I underestimated how far away the train station was from the venue. On Google Maps, it looked about a kilometre, but it was probably closer to two a miles. I found myself walking along the grass verge next a busy B-road with cars whizzing past me, while trying to navigate my way around tree branches and drainage trenches. As I was in Norfolk, I felt more than slightly Alan Partridge-esque and as no-one was around I did sing a few lines from Goldfinger.

With no sign of the forest coming up any time soon, I was starting to realise just how bad my map estimating skills were. Or re-realise this.

And then, out of nowhere a red van stopped behind me and offered me a lift. I don’t know who this man was, perhaps he was the time traveller who had read this blog in the future and realised that he had to be there on the B1107 near Thetford golf club at 7.53pm on 14 July 2012 to help me on my way in order to stop the universe from imploding. There, I have just created a time paradox.

And once I had reached the forest, there was another very long walk to get to where the stage was. I was in luck when another kind motorist, also going to the gig, helped me on my way. I just got there in time to see the last two songs of Black Stone Cherry. They looked very good, so I was slightly disappointed to have missed the majority of their set. But never mind; I was in Norfolk for one reason, so see a band I discovered almost ten years ago and for a few years, I didn’t know if I’d see again.

And they were very good. They played a fair amount of new stuff, some of which is very good, other bits will take a few more listens. It certainly made the old classics from their Permission to Land album stand out all the more. I didn’t expect them to play Hazel Eyes or Planning Permission, or Justin to walk through the crowd on the shoulders of a roadie in the finale. And all three happened.  I had visions of it being a mud bath because of all the rain there has been, but fortunately it held off until about three songs before the end and even that shower wasn’t that bad.

Eight years ago, I made another long journey to see this same band in Paris. And similar to Saturday, I was wondering during my trip exactly why I was doing this. Then the band came on stage and fired up their guitars it all made sense. It was all rock n roll… and lycra.

Following the gig, I had to work out a way to get back into Thetford in order to catch my National Express. Looking at the time, I had about 45 minutes to get there. On foot, there would have been no way I could have made it. So I resorted to using my outstretched left thumb on the passing cars of Darkness fans leaving the forest. Several dozen ignored me, and my feet were getting wetter. Just as I was thinking about what I would do if I missed by bus, a car stopped and offered me another lift. I surely used up several years of luck on this night.

I got to the station in time and boarded my bus and four hours later, I was back in London. It took another night-bus journey for me to arrive home and I went to bed shortly after 5am.

The next day, I had to be in Brighton for 1pm and I woke up in a panic, thinking I’d turned my alarm off and saw it was 11.38am and I only had 40 minutes to get to London Bridge for my train. I then grabbed my watch, only to see that it was actually 7.38am and my eyes had just been playing tricks on me.

A few hours later, I properly woke up and headed for Brighton. When I was approaching my destination, I received a call from Paul to say that some clown had called our preview venue a few days previously and said that we wanted to change the date to Wednesday. We don’t know who this person is and can’t rule out an evil traveller in time, or just an arse-candle with too much time on their hands. Possibly both. Either way, if someone does feel the need to try and sabotage our comedy careers, then we obviously mean something to someone. We appreciate your dedication.

There were only two posters up in the venue with the date scribbled out, so the sabotage attempt had little effect.

We did about three hours of flyering and our efforts were rewarded with seven audience. Then in the collection bucket, we made a grand total of £5.06 and 2 euros.

This might seem slightly demoralising for so much effort, but this is what can be expected in Edinburgh, so it’s good preparation. Even so, it was a decent show and the audience all seemed to enjoy themselves, with one punter coming up afterwards and asking where our venue was in Edinburgh as she would like to come and see it again up there.

So it was a busy weekend and I am still in need of sleep.


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