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Posts tagged ‘Edinburgh’

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Wellington

I checked out of my horrendous hostel on Monday and don’t think I’ve ever felt the same level of euphoria when I’ve left other places.

I booked into somewhere around the corner with similarly bad reviews. The main reason is that I have an ensuite and don’t have to share it with 30 other people.

It could easily pass for decent student digs. While it’s not exactly perfect and the kitchen between eight rooms doesn’t have any saucepans, it’s pretty much five-star compared with the last place.

Also on Monday, I went to a place called Zealandia. It’s a nature reserve covering 225 hectare of forest, all on the outskirts of Wellington.

They’re using it to increase populations of endangered birds and native trees. So it’s surrounded by a high perimeter fence to keep out rats, ferrets, cats and other mammals brought here from overseas that might be partial to eating a bird or two.

As a result of this high fence and all the greenery, it has a Jurassic Park feel to it. Thankfully, there’s nothing in there that eats people or anything that will spawn mediocre sequels.

I really enjoyed walking around there for most of the day and discovering stuff.

It was established in the early 1990s and despite this being my third visit to Wellington, I don’t know how I wasn’t aware of it previously. I’ve explored a lot more of Wellington than I have before this time. Staying in a horrible hostel was certainly motivation enough to get out and about, and it also helped that I’ve not been hungover all the time.

Bagpiper update. In my fifth separate city on this trip, I heard the bagpipes. This time, I tracked down the bagpiper. He claims he hasn’t been following me around on my trip, but I’m not sure I believe him.

I’m writing this on my phone as I hear his music. There is a something I find oddly soothing in bagpipes.

I suspect the Fringe Gods dispatched him here after I got my show application sorted for another Edinburgh. I did it in an internet cafe, using a customised version of Word that had been set up for Chinese speakers. Editing wasn’t the easiest thing to do when the computer kept wanting to add Chinese characters. But I eventually got it done.

Tomorrow I head to Invercargill for a night, then over to Stewart Island. It will be the furthest it’s possible to get from home, excluding Antarctica. 

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Napier

From having my own room and bathroom, I am now back to the world of hostels. Around me, I can see paint peeling off the ceilings, and tears in the wallpaper covered up with gaffer tape.

And it’s also back to questionable hygiene, with clumps of miscellaneous food clogging the kitchen sinks and dried poo smeared on the wall of toilet cubicles. In fairness, I’m glad it’s not the other way around.

Still, at least the owner doesn’t sit about four feet away to my right and talk at me as I’m trying eat the breakfast he’s cooked.

This is my first visit to Napier and it is now one of my favourite places in New Zealand.

The weather has been good and it’s right next to the beach, even if the currents are too dangerous to swim in most places. There are a couple of points where it is safe. Although Napier has pebble beaches, which I normally prefer to sand. But some of these pebbles are small and coarse and the rocks can be very sharp. I tried to go for a swim, cut my toe on a jagged rock, then had second thoughts.

It’s famous for its 1930s art deco architecture. But for me, there’s very much a 1950s feel about the place, with some cars from that era also driving around town.

If they wanted to remake Back to the Future, Napier would a make perfect Hill Valley. It’s even got two town squares to choose from.

Although they can’t remake Back to the Future as Bob Gale will stop anyone from doing so, and I think this is ultimately a good thing. That said, if Taika Waititi directed it and set it in Napier, I would certainly want to see it.

As for what I’ve been doing, I hired a bike on two occasions. One involved a 30km round trip down the coast to a couple of vineyards to try some red wine. As I was cycling, I handily sweat off the alcohol, so there were no safety issues with that at all.

The second bike ride involved going up the other side of the coast. I went through some wetlands, got slightly lost, then the chain on my bike fell off three times. I preferred the vineyard ride.

I have ridden a bike more in the last month than in the previous 15 years combined. I never intended to boycott bikes, let alone for this long. It wasn’t a case of forgetting how to ride one, more that I may have forgotten to ride one.

As I write this, I can also hear bagpipes being played. Because if they weren’t being played then I wouldn’t be able to hear them.

This is the fouth separate location on my trip I’ve heard the distinctive Scottish instrument. First in Perth then in Melbourne, next in Auckland, and now Napier. I’ve never managed to track down who’s playing them. I’m fairly sure they’re being played by different people, although it would both be funny and quite sinister if I was being stalked by a phantom bagpiper. Then there is also the possibility that – by doing Edinburgh Fringe so many times – when I’m tired, my brain makes me hear bagpipes. Sort of like a more pleasant form of tinnitus.

I’m getting a bus to Wellington in a couple of hours and my shows start again on Wednesday. 

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Perth Fringe 2020 – Shows eight and nine

Back to the shows, I had about 33 in for the penultimate night. And it was good, even if I didn’t feel entirely on top of my ad-libbing game.

The final show was the busiest by some way, almost doubling my largest audience with 68 people booking tickets in advance in a room that seats 70, although four people didn’t show up. I was expecting to sell at least a few on the door given the previous few days. Alas, it was not to be and that elusive sold-out status was agonisingly just out of reach.

I put the whiteboards and pens for the quiz under the seats before the show, as I do in Edinburgh. It was the first time in the run I’ve done this as I knew where people would be sitting due to the full room. Previously, I’d asked the show runner to hand them out during the show. However, this extra pre-show admin meant I had forgotten to put my essential prop of my facts bell on the stage, meaning I had to go off stage during the show to get it out of my bag.

This was after there was a cock-up with the radio mic, so the audience couldn’t hear my announcement to welcome me to the stage. I decided to go off stage and do it again. Admittedly, I’ve done slicker shows.

The audience were a lively bunch, bordering on rowdy at times. There was a persistent heckler in the second row who I had to take down and also deduct points from.

All in all, it’s been a decent run. The shows have all been fun and the people who came all seemed to enjoy it. But there’s been the nagging frustration of it being quieter than I’ve become used to.

That said, I shouldn’t complain too much. Many other shows have struggled this year and many of these have had to cancel performance due to no audience. I also didn’t really do as much to promote the show as I would normally do at a festival, mainly due to the heat and to avoid getting ill. I think ticket sales should have covered my flights and accommodation and should have a bit left after that.

I was planning on using the shows to come up with some new bits. However, life events got in the way, and I mostly ended up sticking with the tried and tested.

I’ve been asked a couple of times if I’d do the Perth festival again. And at the moment, I’m undecided. It’s a decent festival in a really nice city. If I’d sold-out every night and made a huge profit, I expect I would definitely come back. I’d also consider doing it if I was working through a new show for Edinburgh, so that by the start of February I would already have about ten previews under my belt.

Another factor is that I don’t actually know what I’m going to be doing or where I’m going to be post-Edinburgh. I am still expecting to have to start applying for full-time jobs again then.

I have another four nights in Perth. Tomorrow, I’m getting the ferry over to Rottnest to do some exploring, and possibly even some bike riding. I just hope it’s not as traumatic as what happened in Madeira.

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Perth Fringe 2020 – Show four

I thought last night was going to be quiet, but the discounts I set up for a certain number tickets have worked magically.

I ended up with 36 people, which is my largest crowd in Australia to date. It’s just under half of the largest audience the show has ever had, mind, but it is at least some progress in Perth.

The show was enjoyable and I am increasingly turning into more of an arsehole quizmaster with every show. It has always been a fun persona to play with, but seems to be amplified in Australia.

Tonight, I currently have ten people with tickets booked. When I first started doing the show in 2014, my main aim was to get at least double figure audiences every day during Edinburgh that year. So this is at least a success by those modest standards.

Another factor at play here is likely due to it begin Australia Day. So I expect that potential punters already have other plans. Probably something barbecue and beach-related if Aussie stereotypes are to be believed.

As always, it’s just a matter of waiting and seeing. I’m reluctant to spend too long out in the heat flyering, as it’ll just make me ill. And there’s me reverting to my national stereotype of being a whinging Pom. I make no apologies.

In itinerary news, I’ve now booked a five night trip to Sydney after Melbourne. Then, I’ll be heading to New Zealand slightly earlier than I originally planned. I’ve just booked a few nights stay in Auckland, which by some strange coincidence also coincides with the dates I arrived in 2007 as a clean shaven, 22-year-old idiot.

I’m also planning to get a bus to travel around the country. But unlike the bus I took in 2007, this one isn’t green and full of 18 year olds. I’m going to spend a few nights in places I haven’t been before as I make my way down to Wellington. The itinerary is all coming together.

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Perth Fringe 2020 – One show down

Last night was the first in my nine show run at Perth Fringe. With ticket numbers fairly low, I was pinning my hopes on a last-minute surge.

Because as I have learnt, you never really know how a show is going to go or how many people are will show up until it starts.

Unfortunately in this case, the pre-show report was pretty much bang on with the 16 people it listed. Although numbers were boosted by another two who bought tickets on the door, taking my grand total to 18.

I must admit that I expected sales to be slightly higher given how well the show has done in Edinburgh and New Zealand. Each festival is different and can take a few days or longer to figure out the best way to get people in. I’ve been handing out flyers, but current stats don’t look like this has had any effect so far.

And unlike Edinburgh in particular, there isn’t a daily influx of thousands of people to Perth who are in town specifically to see shows.

It’s also not the best time to be in Australia, given the environmental emergencies around the country. Some people have said that this may be having an effect on ticket sales, but who knows?

I honed the show playing to smaller crowds and my small shows in the Czech Republic were a handy reminder that I can never take ticket sales for granted. The show has no right to do well wherever it goes.

Nevertheless, it’s not the fault of the people who turn up for the empty seats around them. And I made sure that I gave them the show they paid for.

Pretty much, that is. As it was my first gig in almost three months, I felt quite rusty. A few things got a bit jumbled, mainly when I was ad-libbing, and I lost my train of thought a couple of times. There was also a lot more German speaking than usual, which was mainly from the audience.

But I felt the show went pretty well on the whole. It wasn’t perfect, but the audience laughed and got more into it as the hour progressed. I had a reviewer in, so I have no idea what he’ll write but I’m fairly sure I saw him laughing at least a few times.

Tonight is looking busier, but not by a huge amount. Then numbers drop again over the weekend, which is just bizarre as these days are normally reliably busy at festivals. I’ll just have to wait and see what unfolds, and look out for promo opportunities.

In other travel news, I’ve got the next part of my trip now planned. I head to Melbourne in a couple of weeks, where I’ll stay for at least a week. I’m looking at heading to Sydney afterwards, depending what the weather and fire situation is like then. It’s another case of wait and see.

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Unemployment and other forthcoming adventures

I have handed in my notice in my day job. I don’t have another job to go to and am not earning anywhere near enough from comedy to make a living, which currently shows no signs of changing in the near future.

You are probably now wondering just I’m playing at. Well, I will explain.

The end of January was eventful, to say the least. A colleague who sat at the desk behind me had a stroke in the office on the Thursday night and then died a couple of days later. I was waiting with him until the ambulance arrived.

Then the next day, I had the funeral of a school friend. He’d been living out in Australia and had just bought some land in Tasmania. When they showed drone footage he’d taken of his land during the service, I suddenly realised that I need to see more of the world.

And I can’t do this if I’m stuck behind a desk for eight hours a day, while driving all over the place in the evenings in a vain attempt to pursue my comedy dreams and just generally feeling exhausted. There was no pressure on me to leave my job, I just felt the time was right to do something else.

After Edinburgh, I’m going to move out of my flat in Manchester, pack up my rucksack and go travelling for a few months. It’s time to have some more adventures. I’ve saved up enough over the years to keep me going for a while. And my trip to New Zealand showed that gigs can cover travel costs, so that’s what I’m looking to do more of.

I made some enquiries about some festivals in America, but they didn’t really go anywhere.

My next idea was to do a gig in each of the other 27 EU member states before the current Brexit deadline on 31 October. However, this is proving difficult. The itinerary and getting around on a budget looks tricky, but not impossible. I could cover much of it on trains or ferries.

What’s proving the biggest stumbling block in all of this is actually getting a response from promoters. At the moment, it seems easier to book gigs in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand than countries that are about an hour or two away on the plane.

I’ve just realised that getting frustrated with Europe and instead favouring Singapore, Australia and New Zealand is very similar to what those hardline Brexit types are always on about. Plus, I also opted to leave something with nothing to go to. They say you become what you hate, I just didn’t realise it was so easy.

I potentially have four gigs so far in the EU27, just 23 to go. What I may do instead is just try and do as many gigs as I can around Europe and see a bit more of the countries I’m visiting while I’m still an EU citizen.

Then in March to April, I plan on going back to New Zealand and then to Australia. I’ve never actually spent more than a night in Australia, despite passing through it a few times over the years. Also, festivals there are much easier to book than those in countries ruled by unelected bureaucrats. There it is, slipping out again.

Once I’m done with that, there’ll be Edinburgh 2020 on the horizon. So I may end up having a year out from any full-time employment. I’ll be doing bits of freelance writing, so I will see how much that brings in before I decide my next move.

Are you looking for copywriters? If so, get in touch. As it says at the top of the page, I’m a trained journalist. But obviously don’t get in touch if you want me to write for free. I save that exclusively for this site.

And also get in touch if you live in one of the EU27 countries and want to book How To Win A Pub Quiz. I need the money.

After Edinburgh 2020, I’ll be looking to move either back to London, where I was based for six years; or to move to Bristol, where I was based for the first eight weeks of my life.

Or I could just quit comedy, accept defeat, get a full-time job and a mortgage, and try to become a normal person. Actually, maybe not.

For many people, uncertainty is a scary thing. For me in this instance, it is all quite exciting. I’m looking forward to having more time available to write and think up ideas, but probably also do a fair amount of procrastination.

Anyway, I should probably go buy some gammon and fantasise about how great things were before I was born.