Saturday, 16 April 2011

Friday 15th April 2011: Another Twot on Twitter + Glasgow + Downstairs at the King's Head

Hello. This blog will be about my short trip to Scotland, a brilliant night at Downstairs at the King's Head but I'm starting with twitter.

As you can see, despite my promises, I am back to the once-a-week blogging thing I thought I was going to do a couple of months ago. Not really a problem. As by contrast, I have (stupidly) created a twitter-account. Basically you're reading the words of a man trying to come to terms with his own insatiable need to self-publicise on the one hand and personal tendency to avoid most human contact on the other. In short: a comic. When I announced on facebook that I would be joining twitter, my Dutch friends' reaction can be summed up by one word: NOOO!

I admit, the spelling's a bit off. But the intensity of the anti-twitter sentiment was indeed surprising. What do the Dutch have against twitter? Is it because politicians use it? Is it because it is some kind of final hurdle into total unfettered self-adulation? Possibly both. Please explain! It will make for an interesting discussion about the differences of opinion on egotistical social networking sites.

I felt a bit guilty afterwards. I was probably right to. Still. Not going to get rid of it though. I will use twitter for ever, even when I get back to Holland to finish my degree and this blog will be renamed Comic in Exile; in which I shall attempt to get political asylum in the UK. This tweet-negativity will only worsen your case, Holland!*

*only kidding, NL-people. I love you.

So! Back to the past then. On Thursday last week, I was finishing my packing. I was going up to Scotland for a 4-night stay in Glasgow with my friend and excellent poet and funny human being Jane. We originally met at the Edinburgh Fringe 2009, at a two-day comedy workshop. Since then we'd stayed in touch, writing things over the internet and seeing each other at the Fringe and in London. I was techie/slave/camera-holding layabout for her and her fellow poets' Fringe show last year (a job for which I've since been re-hired; Arguments and Nosebleeds 2, venue TBC, time TBC).

I woke up slightly too early, because of a weird dream I had. I knew I was in a room, and there was a dog with me. This dog had transparent skin, and looked like a collection of fungi and jellyfish stuck together, it's faintly glowing insides showing. I can remember it jumping me in the dream and I woke with a start. Now before we begin extensive analysis (and I know some of you think I really need it) I think I know exactly what this dream meant. After waking up, I realised I needed a wee really badly, so I got up, had the wee, and understood that my brain was merely giving me a kick in the cortex to wake me up. Eat that, C.G. Jung! You got nothing on me! You world-famous dead dream-interpreter you!

After I finished packing, the plumber I had been talking about in the last blog came round. That's one angry phone call I don't have to make, thankfully. I got my bags and left the house, pleased with myself, as I had said he could finish the leftover milk in the fridge I couldn't take with me. Who did I think I was? St. Francis of Asissi? A sissy more like (hey!).*

* This is a genuine transcript of how my brain works. Don't look at me like that! You could have easily worked that out by now. If you're a new reader (doubt it) then: Welcome! This is how my brain works! Good luck, I say!

On the bus to the station, I saw a poster for a Mystery Bus tour. You pay 16 pounds, you sit in a bus for 6 hours, you bring your own packed lunch and you've got no idea where you'll end up. Why, that's a family holiday, surely.*

* Note to self: remember that your mum reads this blog. And she is very good at reading maps and general sense of directions.**

** Meta-Note to self: remember that too much notes in a blog ruin the structural flow of it and generally any form of enjoyment that can be got from them.

So, train. Brighton to London was no problem. The weather was beautiful, the sun was out, I almost felt bad to leave this wonderful place with its glorious weather for somewhere on the same latitude as Novosibirsk. Look it up.

I walked from St. Pancras to Euston, in plenty of time for my train, so I got some food from M&S and a coffee to pass the 4½ hour train journey from Euston to Glasgow. It was all running perfectly smoothly. I wasn't even suspecting something might go wrong. That was how smoothly everything was going. I was travelling on a Virgin Train. Now, Virgin Trains don't have a very good reputation. There are reasons for that, which I shall not go in to, since I never experienced any of them myself. My problem, and therefore my reason to now Hate Richard Branson (don't mean to be a bandwagon-jumper, but apparently some beliefs can make a career. Yes, please!), was with the seating in Standard class. Having paid quite a lot of money for a ticket and being quite desperately in need of a seat (again for urinary reasons), I was looking round and plainly asking people whether I could sit on this or that seat. The answer would be no, since it was reserved. After that happened for about 10 times, I was annoyed with Richard Branson and his baffling seat-arranging ways and having gone through 4 wagons, I asked a lady in a wheelchair if I could just drop my bags next to her for a moment, in order to quickly go to the toilet. She very politely told me: "No, I'm sorry, I'm going to be sitting there." Then, for no reason at all, my brain went into self-destruct and I indignantly spouted the sentence: 'Ok! So I'll just get a standing spot then!' and sped off.

I know, they should have shot me on sight. After coming back from the toilets and finding a non-reserved seat (apparently there hangs a -reserved- sign above every one of 'em! Who knew?!) I was kind of waiting to be arrested by the politeness-police. Or some kind of stasi for the socially inept. Ouch.

The rest of the journey went smoothly enough. Around Wigan, I realised that for the entire journey, I had been sitting in front of a Tibetan monk. When he left the train, later on, I saw he had Scottish tartan lining in his coat. Bless.

I read Being Wrong, by Kathryn Schulz on the train up to Scotland, and am still doing so. It's very well researched, highly readable and as perceptive as any academic text on this ephemeral subject. Will certainly reference it often in life and art and academica. Buy it, it's ace.

Jane and I then met in the Starbucks I had been in, reading and drinking yet more coffee. We had some lovely food (we actually set off on a four-day binge of lovely Glaswegian restaurants, with La Vallée Blanche in the West End being the best of the four. Go there, absolutely go there. The blue cheese salad is amazing, and better than it sounds. Even though it's got wood panelling), and went to see Jeremy Hardy at the Citizens. I had never seen him live, and he sustained 2 full hours of polemic without ever being unfunny or uninteresting.
It often seemed to tip over into genuine intelligent left wing discourse; I told that to Jane and she said that comedy is the only place where these views are still heard. That's sad in way. but also brilliant for people who can do that sort of thing.

The next day I left to discover bits of Glasgow on my own, getting to the slighly baffling Nelson's Monument and the really baffling People's Palace. I was pulled in by the sight of a huge greenhouse, but this was a museum, talking about Glaswegian poverty throughout the ages. It was genuinely disconcerting in places, for instance showing pictures of children selling their belongings for cash on the street as late as the 1970s. I didn't really know how to deal with that place. Did it objectify poverty? Empower people? Or did it just sort of shout at us, trying to make us, me, outsiders, feel bad about themselves and their ignorance? I'm stil not quite sure. This is the link to the museum:

That night, we went to see Sean Hughes at the Citizens. Great comic, who was quite (willfully?) awkward with the audience at first, making for a complicated first half where the comic and the audience seemed to be sitting back, waiting for the other to respond. Odd. The second half went incredibly well. He talked about his father's recent death was beautiful, funny, and not once sentimental. He even did 15 minutes more than he was suppposed to. It's sometimes daunting to see comics be that good, even though they've been working for 25-30 years longer than you. It does show how professional and streamlined their performance needs to be, to be loose enough to engage with what's happening in the room at all times.

Only annoying thing at the Sean Hughes gig was an audience member, sitting two seats away from me, who clapped loudly after every punchline, or just after a sentence he happened to agree with. Not Sean Hughes' fault, of course. But it's people like that who unwittingly ruin gigs for other people. Or just pedants like me.

Over the weekend, Jane and I started writing on our (still) Ultra-Secret New Project. When there's news, I will inform you.

The weather also went all lovely, and I had the privilege to see Scottish men's faces turn crimson in the sun. Not that I was actively looking for them (of course not! What are you thinking?)  but they tended to be unavoidable. In short: Glasgow in the spring= v good.

Before I grow to tired to type, I will just inform you that the gig I had this Thursday night at Downstairs at the King's Head in Crouch End, London; was utterly amazing. Lovely crowd, only five minutes, but even managed to dick around a bit after I messed up a line and got a far bigger laugh for telling the audience what the structure of the joke would have been had I not fluffed the line and exactly how it would have been amusing to them. From then, the five minutes were a breeze (even though I might have ruined comedy for them for ever). Everything worked, even the small -barely- jokes I put in mostly for my own amusement. Gigs like that save one from the memory of opening at the Comedy Cooler in Hove. I also saw some great comics I'd never seen before. I would have loved to do ten there, so I'm hoping I can play DATKH before I leave (possibly not, though one can dream). Next gig: Southampton on Thursday!

Hopefully more blogging in following days. Now, sleep!

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