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Archive for December, 2017


Looking back at 2017

With a few hours left of 2017, I will now summarise what has occurred in the past 12 months.

There are no surprises to learn that the highlight of my 2017 was doing a sold-out full-run at Edinburgh Fringe. That this was also a year when many shows on the same side of town struggled for audience makes it all the more of an achievement. Being asked to do the show at Newcastle Stand was also a thrill, even if my journey there was an ordeal to say the least. Leicester Comedy Festival in February was another highlight of my year, and I really enjoyed my shows up in Glasgow.

I have also made the most money from comedy this year than possibly the previous six years combined. Outside of my hour show, I have done more gigs than last year and a decent amount of these were paid. But it still remains that How To Win A Pub Quiz is going substantially better than my progress on the main comedy circuit. This is partly because I’ve been doing the same material for so many years that I’ve become bored with it and also that I’ve not been booking up enough gigs in my diary. To rectify this, I am planning to do an hour of stand-up in Edinburgh next year without any quizzes, just me and a microphone. Hopefully I’ll have an audience as well. Forcing myself to do a totally new hour will give me a much-needed focus and motivation to write more, plus I’ll need to do more gigs to try stuff out. But do not dismay, quiz fans. I am also planning on doing a variant on How To Win A Pub Quiz in August. I don’t know what sort of state I’ll be in at the end of the month, but I’ll worry about it then.

It has been a good year for attending music gigs, as I’ve managed to see Guns and Roses once and Iron Maiden twice, plus Weezer, The Darkness and Jarvis Cocker. At the moment, 2018 is looking pretty empty on the music gig front.

In November, it was nice to do some reporting for the first time since 2009, when I was sent out to Finland to write a feature on an electric ferry as part of the day job, even if my shorthand turned out to be a little rusty. When I was a reporter in 2008, I was looking into last-minute trips to Scandinavia. I ended up buying a Playstation 3 and spent my holiday playing on it instead, which pretty much sums up what was the worst year of my life. While in Finland in 2017, I suffered from a severe bout of food poisoning, which is also a decent summary of my 2008.

Onto films, my favourite one of the year is probably Logan. I really enjoyed The Last Jedi as well, which has polarised opinions. I’m writing a more detailed assessment of this, so stay tuned. This should tie-in to my idea for a podcast, which I’m hoping to get up and running this year.

New Year’s resolutions: write more comedy, do more comedy admin, spend less time procrastinating on my phone. Every year, I also say that I’m going to learn a language. I’ve been learning Spanish for the past year on the Duolingo app and am going to be doing real language lessons next month.

I don’t know what the next 12 months will bring or where it’ll take me, but can at least be fairly certain that I’ll be writing a review of it in 364 days time.


Madeira, oh dear ah…

For the past few years, I have taken a tactical holiday in November or December to get some much-needed vitamin D in the winter months, when it’s also cheaper and not overwhelmingly hot.

I have been heading towards the equator where the temperatures are still decent, with Malta and Gran Canaria my previous two winter holiday destinations. Coincidentally, these also seem to be locations where old people go at the same time.

This year, I had a look at the map and chose to put a year of learning Spanish on Duolingo to good use by going to Madeira, where they don’t even speak Spanish. Fortunately, I was able to become 18% fluent in Portuguese before I went, at least according to official Duolingo records.

I signed up for a mountain bike trek. I hadn’t ridden a bike in 14 years, but you never forget. It’s like… something I can’t currently think of.

Most things I book through Expedia are full of pensioners, those are just the rules. On the plus side, it means I almost always have superior fitness levels to the rest of the group. So it was quite a shock to get in the van to go mountain biking and be surrounded by young Germans and Swedish people in professional cycling gear. Then there was me dressed in cotton shorts and a t-shirt, with old trainers.

But it surely didn’t matter, because I’d ridden a bike all throughout my youth, mainly at Center Parcs as I wasn’t allowed out to ride in the road where I lived until I was 12. And I should add that when I was 12, I had a mountain bike with five gears. Five entire gears.

It turns out that mountain biking had changed quite substantially in the 21 subsequent years and I didn’t even know how to use the gears on my bike. The guide quickly saw my ineptitude and prevented me from going on some of the trails.

Despite my legs seizing up with cramp at various points and other members of the group literally pushing me along at others, I somehow managed to complete the 40km trek. I was completely caked in mud, but I’d made it.

It turned out to be a perfect metaphor for Brexit negotiations. I signed up for something I thought would be easy, only to be find myself in an uphill struggle that was way beyond my ability, surrounded by much more experienced and knowledgeable European people who ended up taking pity on me.

The next day I was unable to walk properly, with my inner thighs red and swollen. I was also bruised from falling over a few times and am naturally pasty. So I was at least red, white and blue to embellish the Brexit metaphor further. There’s your patriotism.

I did at least get a couple of days of sun before the clouds took over towards the end of the week. Then I rounded my holiday off by getting a norovirus on my penultimate day.

No prizes for how I spent my final day. Of course, I went on a sightseeing trip of the island.

Okay, I didn’t. I signed up for a sightseeing trip, but after having spent the night vomiting at both ends, I thought it was probably best to change my scale down my sightseeing to the inside of a toilet bowl. I even saw some local wildlife in the ants that were living in my hotel bathroom. A norovirus did at least give an edge to the flight home, like Russian roulette of the arse. I can’t think why the woman sitting next to me moved seats.

I’m now planning next year’s holiday. This one is going to take some topping.