2020 then…

It is fair to say that this year has been filled with things that I never envisaged 365 days ago. And I write this with a full-blown mullet, having today seen my credit in the local paper I last worked for in June 2009.

I will now attempt to summarise what has easily been the most ridiculous year in living memory. I have never known a year like it and hope I will never encounter such a year ever again.

For me, it started like almost any other with me waking up in my parents’ house with no hangover. My New Years Eves now consist entirely of staying in, comforting my dog who’s scared by the fireworks and desperately trying to avoid watching Jools Holland’s Hootananny.

In just under two weeks, I would be travelling to Australia to perform
shows in Perth for a couple of weeks. This was when the country was already besieged by bush fires, with the apocalyptic scenes very much
setting the tone for 2020.

Australia has always been on my list of places to travel to. But when I stopped watching Neighbours after a uni, a large part of the appeal for visiting the country had disappeared. I’d almost bypassed the country completely on my previous two trips to Australasia and gone straight to New Zealand. Anyway, 2020 would be the year I would finally go there.

I don’t know if I mentioned it much on here at the time, but it was really hot in Perth and I am unable to handle temperatures higher than about 30°C. A lot of people spend their time on the beach in Australia, whereas I was spending most of my time in the air-conditioned public library and the freezer aisle at the supermarkets.

I was also there to do shows and they weren’t quite as busy as I’d envisaged. My show was on at 9.30pm and I quickly learned that the centre of Perth pretty much empties of people before 9pm. Still, I managed to get an audience of at least 20 people every day and had larger audiences too. The shows were fun and covered the costs of my flights and accommodation.

The highlight of my time in Perth was a day trip to Rottnest Island. The sun was shining, the sands were white and the sea was clear. I rode it around on a bike probably would have got heat stroke had I not jumped fully clothed into the sea to cool off.

Next up, I went to Melbourne, which is a really cool city and somewhere I’d like to go back to at some point – probably in the Australian winter. From then, it was onto Sydney. I wasn’t a massive fan of the place. It was a bit too much of a generic city for me.

Then it was over to NZ. I did the Sky Jump off in Auckland again, 13 years after I did it the first time. When I did it in 2007, I’d never done anything like it before and got a massive buzz out of it. But having done several bungee jumps since then, being lowered from a platform 192m above the streets doesn’t get the blood pumping so much. Afterwards, I found a pub with numerous craft ales and proceeded to sample a number of them.

The main aim of my time in NZ was to visit places I’d not been to before. I went to Gisborne, which was okay but a bit boring apart from the local brewery. Next up, it was Napier. Apart from staying in a pretty horrible hostel, I really liked Napier. It’s got a totally different feel to any other place I’ve visited in NZ. The highlight was hiring a bike to ride to some vineyards.

Then it was off to Wellington to do shows at NZ Fringe. My hostel in
Wellington was horrendous. It stank, had no ventilation, and only three toilets for 30 rooms. Being hungover there was particularly torturous.

I had a great time at NZ Fringe with my two shows in 2019, so was back
for more of the same but doing four shows. They were great fun, but not quite as good as the previous year. I think people were starting to worry about the coronavirus, which ended up in the end of the festival being cancelled entirely.

I was also meant to be doing Dunedin Fringe, but my venue had fallen through in January and I couldn’t get a replacement sorted. As it turned out, the festival also ended up being pulled. Instead, I went down to Stewart Island and saw some kiwis in the wild.

By this point, the threat of Covid-19 was increasing by each day. Something that started out as a bit of a joke ended up turning into something that would take over the world. Amazingly, it didn’t really alter my trip. I would just fly home a day earlier than originally planned. But when I was in Christchurch, the flight board in my hostel just had multiple flights listed as cancelled. My flight went ahead and I got home without any problems or catching any viruses.

Since I arrived back home, my days have mostly been based around dog walking. I’ve watched all of Star Wars animation series Clone Wars and Rebels, as well as Umbrella Academy, Dark, The Boys, Watchmen, Better Call Saul, and most recently The Mandalorian.

For years, I had wanting to get into podcasting. Not because I really listened to many podcasts, but mainly as a potential revenue stream.

Anyway, I did it when I would have been performing in Edinburgh. I soon realised I didn’t like it. It was a lot of work for very little in return. I may do it again at some point, but only if I have a strong enough idea that excites me.

I’ve only done one gig since I finished my run in NZ. It was in October, I felt off the pace and didn’t really enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

Surprisingly, I haven’t really missed performing. It’s been a huge part of my life for ten years, yet I’ve actually enjoyed having a break from the stress of it all. I know the circuit will return at some point next year and I expect I’ll be performing again before too long, but some downtime has been welcome.

And next year, Ross Kemp: The Musical is coming. This has been the calm, that will be the the storm.

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