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Archive for March, 2022

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The two-year mark

This week marked two years since I arrived back from New Zealand. I had been travelling for more than 30 hours, then passed through through an eerily quiet Paddington Station in country now in lockdown.

Seeing the train arrive at Stroud was a sight to behold for a weary, blurry-eyed traveller. I walked the two-ish miles home with this sun shining in a clear blue sky. Then I got home and received an amazing welcome from my dog, keen to make up for ten weeks we’d spent apart. I think the past two years have probably done that. Spending time with her has definitely been the best thing about living back home in times of Covid.

But obviously, the main reason I’m writing about the passing of a point in time is that not a lot else is going on at the moment, other than hops. And there has been a lot of growth in that area, but I have to ration these moderately interesting things by week.

Two years on, I’m much better off financially while being much worse off comedically. I’ve lost the drive to want to do gigs at the moment. And I don’t mean the car. Yep, I’ve still got it. The car, I mean.

At the moment, I am opting to not Fringe this year. Until I’m back in London, I probably won’t do many gigs. It’s partly due to laziness, and partly due to the petrol prices really not increasing the appeal of driving 30 miles to do ten minutes for no money. I mean, I obviously get offered loads of paid gigs but turn them down in favour of the prospect of being left out of pocket.

In a year’s time, I hope I’ll have something more interesting to write about than passing the three-year mark from getting back from my last trip to NZ.

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Hop to it

A few months ago, I moved my hops from the unexpectedly shady veg patch to the border at the front of the house.

They say that the first year for hops is normally pretty quiet, with better results in the subsequent years. And it’s looking like they might well be right, whoever ‘they’ are. They’re – as in the hops – already showing impressive signs of growth. In fact, they seem to have grown each time I check on them.

When I replanted them, I wasn’t sure if it would work. And when something started sprouting this past week, I thought it may be a stray sycamore sapling. It turns out that it was a hop.

I’ve been checking the dates. Last year, I only planted the hops on 12 March and nothing really happened for quite a few weeks. So, the hops are already doing much better.

Last year, it became a bit disheartening to see a neighbour’s flourishing hops spilling out over the top of his custom-built, three-metre-high wooden climbing frame. I’d ordered a two metre-tall metal obelisk that I had to assemble, then extended the height using bamboo canes, with garden twine deployed at various points.

Hops like to climb vertically immediately, whereas I spent a large amount of time and effort trying to encourage them to climb horizontally to get onto the make-shift climbing frame I’d assembled. Last year, the highest vine did reach almost three in the end, but it took a long time.

This year, things are much simpler and I’m using garden twine with then nails that are conveniently already in the wall. I can add more nails and twine as the growth progresses.

I am quietly confident that this year’s harvest will be better than last. I mean, I only had one and a half hops last year, so I should certainly hope so.

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To fringe or not to fringe?

A friend posted a picture of the proof for her Edinburgh show this week and it got me thinking about it. Do I want to go there? If I do, then I’m leaving it pretty late.

One thing many people don’t realise about Edinburgh Fringe is the sheer quantity of admin performers have to do before they’ve even arrived. There’s accommodation, travel, venues, brochure listings, posters and flyers. Oh, then there’s also the small matter of writing a show and doing enough previews before you get to the Scottish capital.

As things stand – no pun intended – I am not going up to Edinburgh Fringe to do the full run this year. Or even half a run, for that matter. This could change if I get an email asking me to. I’m kind of like a vampire in that I need to be invited. And some days, there is a possibility that I may also suck.

When I was doing my short-lived podcast in 2020, I wondered whether having a year or two off from doing Edinburgh Fringe is like stepping off a treadmill that you’ve just about managed to keep pace with despite the ridiculous speed setting. This is all while feeling physically and emotionally exhausted, with the only thing keeping you going some days is the thought of eating a macaroni pie.

Anyway, I stepped off the treadmill for 2020 and didn’t fancy getting back on in 2021. And now in 2022, the prospect seems even less appealing. Do I need to put myself through potential emotional turmoil for all of August?

I think the answer this year may well be a ‘no’. Maybe I just really don’t want to do all that admin. I do still quite fancy going up for a week or so, maybe as a tourist, or maybe just throwing some ideas at a wall and seeing what sticks. But what I really want is a macaroni pie.

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Unmasked

For the first time in almost two years, I ventured out of the house without my trusty face mask.

Actually, this is not strictly true. I don’t take it on my dog walks. And there was another time I went to the local brewery last year when I fogot my mask, so had to pull my t-shirt up over my face. Looking like one of the Bash Street Kids is not a sustainable look for prolonged periods.

Anyway, the simple reason is that I forgot it today. But the pack of three sanding masks I bought from a DIY shop in Christchurch, NZ, has served me well. I’ve had to replace the small elastic straps with two socks on either side, providing important levels of comfort and adjustability.

And the mask with the socks straps has attracted some recognition. At the dentist’s the other week, the dental nurse kept laughing at my practical genius and said the sock straps had made her day. In fairness, I don’t know how bad her day had been up until that point. And my appointment was over by 11am, so here day may yet had improved further.

I quite like wearing a mask. I never subscribed to the idea that wearing a face mask infringes on my civil liberties, or is even like trying to keep a fart in your trousers.

In fact, I always wanted to wear one on the tube when I lived in London and had to commute every day, squashed up next to dozens of sweaty strangers. But until a little thing called Covid-19 happened, it was considered socially unacceptable to wear a mask in public on any day that wasn’t 31 October.

But this is not the end for me and my sock-strapped masked. I will continue to wear one in particularly crowded places, or if it’s cold outside. Face masks are the most effective face warmers.

If I used £20 notes instead of socks, then I’d be cash-strapped. Thank you very much. I’ve still got it – comedic abilities, that is, not Covid. Although time will tell for both.