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Archive for August, 2021

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Gigging again

On Thursday, I performed a stand-up set at an actual physical comedy gig for the first time in ten months. And it was also back in Cirencester, where I had my vaccine and don’t know if I’ve mentioned it a lot on here, but it’s where I used to work as a reporter for the local paper.

It was only ten miles away, which is a real luxury for a comedy gig. Now, one of the things I detest about performing comedy is driving to the gigs. And there’s nothing that makes my heart sink more than road closures and diversions, which are especially stressful if you’re on your way to the gig. But it’s also infuriating on the drive back afterwards late at night, where you just want to get home as quickly as is physically possible.

Given that my gig on Thursday was only ten miles away, I never thought there would be any difficulties with this. But Highways England managed to find a way, by closing the main road I take into Cirencester. I would expect Tom Tom to be deceived, but I was surprised that Google Maps didn’t pick it up.

I had to take a detour through the narrow back roads, where there’s often only enough room for one car to pass. This meant waiting for what seemed like 20 cars all coming the other way.

I arrived at the gig way more stressed than I should have. But I thought I may be on later in the night as I lived so close by. However, I found out that I would be opening the show in 20 minutes. Cue one trip to the toilet. Then three minutes before the show began, I felt the need for a second visit. Or number two number two.

I felt a little rusty and my cursed throat also threatened to sabotage one or two punchlines at the vital moment. I’d planned to try out some new material in the middle of my set, which didn’t all work. But there was I could feel the new bits clicking into place on stage and even ad-libbed some callbacks to the new stuff later on. And the tried and tested stuff was well received.

It was a great gig. The lads at Barking Toad had packed the room out, with people resorting to watching the gig from outside of the room as there was no space inside.

For the drive home, I was at least prepared for the diversion. Then the next day, I woke up at just after 5am to let my dog in the garden. But I struggled to go back to sleep again. My brain was going over the gig and figuring out what worked, what didn’t, and what would work better.

Stand-up comedy is sort of like a cross between a drug, depression, and a life of crime. You can never truly leave it behind. It’s always there, gnawing away at you somewhere. And just when you think you’ve got out of it and are clean, it drags you back in again. While I was giving some serious consideration to quitting during the past year, I now want to do more gigs. Stand-up comedy has taken its grip on me again, but just for how long remains to be seen.

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In the diary

I have an actual comedy gig booked in this next week. Although after a ten-month absence from the stage, my admin skills are a little rusty. I was convinced it was on Tuesday, but it turns out that it’s on Thursday.

The extra couple of days will prove useful, as it gives me more time to turn my half-formed ideas into hopefully functional jokes. Then again, as I’ve written on here many times over, you never truly know if a joke works until you try it out on an audience at a comedy gig or two.

It remains to be seen how many of these half-formed ideas will turn into successful jokes, but that’s part of the excitement and I’m looking forward to getting back on the comedy stage that was the one constant in my life for ten years; before the dark times, before Covid-19.

These past couple of weeks marks the first in a while I have started missing being on stage. This is partly due to seeing crowds at the scaled-down version of Edinburgh Fringe that is taking place this year; particularly seeing that back room at the Kilderkin full with people standing at the back. It brought back fond memories of that phenomenal run I had there in 2015 when I didn’t realise how much possibility lay before me. It didn’t bring back fond memories of the 2018 stint I did there, as I don’t have any of that run – just pain and sadness.

Edinburgh Fringe has always been the one thing that has kept me doing comedy, throughout the tough times – even bizarrely enough through the tough times at the Fringe as there is nowhere to run and demons must be confronted.

When you take Edinburgh Fringe away, it takes away a lot of my focus and incentive for doing comedy. I am now looking forward to returning there next year in whatever form that may be, possibly even with some of the new jokes I may try on Thursday.

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So long, farewell

After 18 months, it was time to bid farewell to my Covid mullet that had been keeping me company throughout the lockdowns. I never planned to grow it this long, it just sort of happened. Then I planned to get a haircut once the pandemic ended, but this doesn’t look like it’ll happen any time soon. As I’ve had my two doses of the vaccine, I thought this would have to suffice.

I doubt I will ever grow my hair as long again because long hair is actually really annoying. It was getting trapped and pulled in various places, sticking to the wax earplugs I wear to sleep, and taking ages to dry after having a shower before bedtime.

To do the chopping honours, I thought I’d track down someone who cut my hair several times between 15 and 12 years ago. In fact, she has also cut the hair of various members of my family. The last time she cut my hair, I had not long finished working as a reporter for the local paper. And as quite a lot has changed in the past 12 years, I thought she may like to know what has happened. I mean, not enough to actively stay in touch; just to be sort of casually informed.

I didn’t know the hairdresser’s full name but remembered her first name and the name of her business. A quick Google later and I found her website, then sent her a message and booked an appointment.

As it would turn out, it wasn’t the same person at all. She just so happened to share the same first name, be based in Cheltenham, and have the same business name – which was actually just an extension of her first name and adding the word ‘hair’ somewhere in the mix.

I came out of the salon looking unexpectedly like a 37-year-old Jack Grealish, with some stray longer bits at the side that I had to remove myself back home. Other than that, it’s a solid haircut.

From my last haircut in Napier, New Zealand, to the most recent in Cheltenham. It’s goodbye, Covid mullet. Hello, cold neck central.

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A 12 year wait

I love the British and Irish Lions more than any other form of international rugby. There is something magical about bringing together often rival players from four nations and trying to turn them into a functioning team against southern hemisphere opposition within a matter of weeks. It shouldn’t work, but it does. And a Lions tour almost always feels special, unless Clive Woodward is in charge.

While there is a rugby World Cup every four years when the same teams compete against each other, the Lions only play each country every 12 years. So if they don’t win a series, then they will have to wait 12 years to redeem themselves.

The last time the Lions played South Africa was in 2009, I watched the first test back home. But when the second test came around the following week, I was following the game on the Guardian live blog on my phone while in the relatives’ room at Frenchay hospital after my dad had been taken ill and was in intensive care.

This time around, I had to get a Now TV sports pass for a month after I cancelled the Sky package a couple of years ago.

As a series, the 2021 tests were some of the slowest and tedious rugby matches I have ever seen. Almost every few minutes, the match would stop and the referee would want to check a potential infringement from several angles. Video replays certainly have their place in refereeing, but they really shouldn’t keep getting in the way of just letting them play rugby.

The third test was the most frustrating of the lot. The Lions really had the win there for the taking and blew at least 16 points that were there on the table. But they did look so much better going forward with Finn Russell at 10. He really should have been involved in one of the earlier tests.

And there was something cruel about the kick that won the game being scored by Morne Steyn, who kicked also kicked the winning goal in 2009. A lot was made about him getting on and approaching retirement. But I’ve just checked, and I’m a week older than him.

A crazy amount of things have happened within the last 12 years. But after everything that’s gone on, I almost dread to think what’s going to happen in the next 12 years. And the ridiculous thing is that the next time the Lions tour South Africa, I will be 49 years old. That still doesn’t seem physically possible.

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A brew day

I spent Friday in a brewery making ale. Unfortunately, this is not the start of a new career path. It was all part of a crowdfunder in March that saw me spend more than £1,000 on various rewards to help Stroud Brewery survive the pandemic, with all of these rewards being beer-related. And the most expensive reward I paid for was to brew an ale with a group of friends, and us each getting to keep about 30 pints each of the finished brew.

It was an early start, with us needing to be down there for 8.30am. We began by emptying sacks of wheat and malt into the tun for what is known as the mash in. This would form the base of our ale. We got to taste the very early brew that can be best described as tasting like Ovaltine.

Then we started weighing the hops and other ingredients for a process known as sparging the wort. That is not a euphemism. All the liquid from the first tank would then be filtered into a second tank, where it would then be heated to high temperatures. Once the liquid had all transferred, it was time to get a shovel and clear the first tank of the leftover malt in what is known as the mash out. I learned a lot of new terms.

I also learned that brewing is much more scientific than I thought, with measurements and temperatures having to be accurate, otherwise everything becomes messed up. I don’t know quite what I was expecting. In fairness, I hadn’t given it a huge amount of thought, preferring to focus on what goes in a pint glass instead of how it got there.

Anyway, it was a really fun day. Also, it was certainly the most talking and socialising I had done in about 18 months. And the ale that we brewed should actually be drinkable and go on sale within the next month or so.

We finished the day having several pints and talking nonsense, thus proving once and for all that I can organise a piss-up in a brewery.