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Dreadful Nonsense

"I've read your blog. it's really funny. you should write a column." - Jon Ronson


29 August 2007


Serious question needing serious responses. My current next ill advised and badly thought through tattoo will be a sentence. I have narrowed it down (at the moment) to two choices (unless I find something else).

Do I go with:

(a) Níl sa saol ach gaoth agus toit (In life there is only wind and smoke)


(b) Ar scáth a chéile a mhairimid (We all exist in each others' shadow)


(Or leave a comment. Whatevs)

(Please note - for the sarcastic ones out there - hello Edel, hello Louise - I will not be getting the translations in brackets tatted beside the tatt. Many thanks in advance for your kind cooperation.)


27 August 2007
I am, again, on a train, this time travelling back from Edinburgh. There are more screaming children in my carriage than I know what to do with, I can barely hear the death metal I'm trying to pump through my iPod to drown them out, there's not enough room to have my laptop fully open and type properly and what's worst is I'm travelling backwards. I have a sleep deficit of about two weeks, no money at all, I'm less cultured than I was five days ago, and I both regret wholeheartedly ever going and wish I could have stayed up there for the rest of my life. All at the same time. It's difficult to be me.

I will spill all of my adventures over the next few days, and keep some of them secret until my dying day, and possibly beyond. BUT! The most excited I got all weekend was when, on the first evening, I spotted noted Guardian journalist and man-who-uses-metaphors-in-which-he-vomits-out-of-his-own-ears-far-too-often, Charlie Brooker, in a queue. I swore at the moment that I would get drunk enough at some point during the weekend to actually go up to him and speak to him, possibly telling him something about how much I admire his work and career, how I'm particularly taken with his television columns and that I love his television show on BBC4 so much that sometimes just the knowledge that it exists is enough to make me smile. But I'd probably more likely slur something about being one of his myspace friends and something about Nathan Barley and then go red, apologise and walk away while he sat and looked embarrassed.

Probably best, then, that we never found ourselves in the same room as each other. In fact, I only saw him again one other time, and then he was crossing the road outside of Teviot.

Importantly, I took a photo:

What do you mean, you can't see him? It's perfectly obvious that Charlie Brooker is the one with the black suit and black runners with the white soles, walking very quickly away from me (that's just a coincidence) to the extreme left of that photo. Yes. That's Charlie Brooker.

I'm close to all the stars, me.

On The Train

23 August 2007
In the middle of the quiet chatter as everyone tried to move around the carriage, get their baggage on board, find their seat numbers, avoid each other’s toes and pay attention to the burbled announcements that keep coming over the PA system to make sure they’re on the 10.30am to Edinburgh and won’t accidentally end up in Wales, a young girl in a small pink top and hair pulled back so tightly over her scalp it looked like it was causing actual physical pain suddenly screamed at the top of her voice in response to a direction that no one had given her, “I’M GETTING TO MAE FUCKING SEAT! I’D BE THERE NOO IF EVERYONE WASNAE SHOVING!”

Boarding the train this morning was no easy task. For a start, all seats on the train were reserved, and despite the constant background noise of the train conductor advising people without seat reservations to wait for the 11.00am train, people were still trying to find seats without reservation tickets on them. Of which there were none. At all. And yet they still boarded the train with their massive bags and unsteady feet and they tried, and blocked the aisles doing so. My own particular problem was the fact that I was designated a seat on Coach F. Coach F did not exist. It was the gap that didn’t appear between Coach E and Coach G. I pondered this for a moment with glee, and then decided to ask someone in uniform, who politely checked a paper napkin she was carrying and told me my particular Coach F seat was to be found in Coach B at the front of the train. I trekked onward.

It seems that, when the GNER people discovered that Coach F wasn’t going to be travelling with them to Edinburgh today, they allocated all the Coach F orphans different seats up and down the train. Happily, there were only three or four members of GNER staff to be found that could re-direct the 70-something of us without an actual carriage to go to, and three of them weren’t making themselves readily available.

I eventually found my seat – I’m sitting, travelling backwards, at the very front seat you can get on the train which, you’ll already know if, like me, you’ve followed the dubious safety record of GNER, is one of the most dangerous places to be when the train derails (apart from in the buffet carriage). However, I’m not thinking about that. I’m more concerned about how the hell I’m going to get all my bags off the train when we get to Waverley, as this train doesn’t terminate there, but instead rumbles on all the way to Aberdeen, and I don’t want my beautiful black shoes to be going there without me.

I’m on my way to Edinburgh, peeps. The most stressful parts of the journey are, fingers crossed, already behind me. Good, good, good.

One of these things is shorter than the other

21 August 2007
A couple of weeks ago, I went to see a podiatrist about some pain in my feet I have been recently experiencing./ I had originally been referred to him some six months previously, when the foot pain was an every day occurrence and something that was increasingly worrying to me, what with the history of osteo-arthritis in my family. The last thing I needed, I reasoned to myself, is bone degeneration in the one part of the body they don’t do replacements for, particularly given my aversion to dairy products and therefore my inability to grow bones properly in the first place.

The nice podiatrist put my mind at ease when he proclaimed, after about 20 minutes of various different examinations and questions that I didn’t really understand the relevance of. He didn’t, in his expert opinion, think that the pain in my feet was caused by arthritis. Sure, I did have arthritis in my feet, particularly in the big toes and particularly in the big toe on my right foot, but that didn’t account for the pain that I was experiencing. No, he had a different explanation for that. Two different explanations, in fact.

1. The pains in my feet are being caused by my back problems.

I had always thought that sciatic pain was confined to moving down your legs, sometimes as far down as your knees, sometimes slightly further. I never imagined for one moment that the pain caused by my back could bypass my legs altogether and just strike straight there at my feet. It just didn’t seem likely. The nice podiatrist explained to me, using charts, how that was in fact possible. The best news in relation to this is the fact that this now means that a fourth disc has joined in the prolapsed bunch sitting in my back. I can now confidently tell anyone who asks – and some people who don’t – that I have FOUR prolapsed discs in my lower back. Four. That’s got to be some kind of world record.

2. The pains in my feet are being caused by the fact that I have one leg shorter than the other.

I’ve been on this earth for 30 years now. Over 30 years, in fact. Nearly 31 years, if you’re going to be difficult. And if you’re counting the 9 months I was in my mother’s womb, even longer than that. In all that time, particularly the time I’ve spent as an adult (which I would estimate to be about five years now), I have never noticed that one of my legs is shorter than the other. None of the physiotherapists (5 at the last count), the specialists (3), the GPs (7) or any of the other people helping me with my back issues (4) have noticed that one of my legs is shorter than the other. No one has ever said this to me before. No one.

I’m not sure it’s true, ladies and gents. But I’m not going to argue with this gentleman, who seemed to be very confident about what he was telling me.

He’s now given me two pieces of advice: I must always wear sensible shoes, shoes with laces and proper support that fit properly, and are flat, and are as ugly as possible (he didn’t say that last bit). Secondly, he gave me a bit of thing that I have put to into all of my shoes, and wear without fail, that will help to balance me out and stop my short leg (the left one, fact fans) making me all lopsided.

With that all in mind, I bought these shoes this weekend:

Your map just touched my face

15 August 2007
I spent the full week getting up for work feeling like I hadn’t been to bed, working through the day with a brain that felt like a person that hadn’t showered for two weeks, work up around 6pm on the Northern Line grasping my fourth coffee of the day and feeling normal for the first time, arriving at the theatre to see how many tickets had already sold that night, watched He Who Only… and his boyfriend stride up and down the stage, setting up props and laying out their prison bunks, bucket and stool, baseball glove and ball, half empty crisp packet, straw hat, sunglasses and suitcase, along with the essential lion bar prop that was abandoned after the first night. Then we’d open the doors, I’d count the audience trouping up the stairs, check the final head count with the guy manning the door, close the doors, alert the boys that their showing off was about to begin, alert Mark that the boys were about to start showing off, and then slip in to sit at the back and watch the show. A joy. I love the theatre life.

Having run lines with He Who Only… the preceding week, I pretty much knew the show off by heart before the run began, apart from a few final cuts and additions that were made at the last minute. The best thing about watching a run of shows is that you get to see each night what works and what doesn’t, which parts run smoothly, if the line that worked last night will work just as well the following night, what could be done differently, if another delivery of a line would change the tone and therefore heighten the laugh? Is it too soon to mention Chris Langham? Should the sign be held straight up, or slowly twirled around?

This is an area of comedy I was never privy to when I was merely reviewing shows. I would sit in the safety of the dark room and the surrounding audience and pick holes in what I thought didn’t work and shine light on what I thought did. On the basis of one viewing, I would make my decision and deliver my verdict in the form of one to five stars and then walk away, not thinking about the months of agonies that had been put into the development of the show I had just given three stars to and called mediocre.

The joy of being at this end of the show is that I get to see the placing of the pieces that build up to the complete show. I get to see, each night, which parts work and which parts don’t. I get to join in the agonising and post-mortem after each performance trying to work out why, why in the hell didn’t that big get a bigger response? And why did that bit get such a huge laugh today, when it didn’t raise a titter yesterday? What isn’t working about that moment? Why is that bit guaranteed to go down well, when it’s not even supposed to be a joke but just a way of getting from A to B.

I could happily spend the rest of my life trying to work out why some things are funny and why some things aren’t, and why one audience will fall head over heels for one scene that the audience either side of that night won’t join in at all, but I would never be any the wiser. As He Who Only… so astutely advised me at the end of the second night, it’s best not to try and work it out, because to do so takes away the sparkle. It is what it is. And what it was, for me, was a great, if utterly exhausting, week. And all I was doing was counting heads.

Evidence Required

13 August 2007
Sorry for lack of posts.

I am currently attempting to write up the experiment I ran during the OU Summer School last month. I just left myself the following note in capital letters, in bold and in square brackets, to be filled in at a later date:


That really bodes well.

(This, number fans, is apparently my blog post number 1,111)

Fringe Schminge

06 August 2007
You will have gathered from the post below, and from the fact that I'm still in London and will remain so for the majority of this month that I am, once again and for the third year in a row, missing out on the Edinburgh Festival. This pleases me and pains me in very rapid succession.

I really wish I was there, because I adore the madness and exhaustion of it all - getting up at 1pm every day; eating only one meal a day (and that's usually chips); drinking beer with lemonade tops because "it keeps up your blood sugar" and "it's less alcoholic that way"; going to bed at 8am with earplugs, eye masks and random comedians; writing reviews at 5 in the morning and being completely unable to (a) remember the show you're reviewing and (b) spell; having conversations with people that you absolutely adore who are off of the telly or the cinema and who you would usually not have a hope in hell of meeting, let alone sharing a cup of tea with at 4.30am.

I'm really glad I'm not there because I'm now 30 and far too old for all that shit - feeling nauseous, properly nauseous, not just "a little bit sickly" for at least half of the day, every day, for a month; having an almost constant headache and not being able to be outdoors in daylight, like some kind of vampire; loosing all sense of the outside world and forgetting what it's like to form an opinion about something without referring to stars; becoming obsessed to the point of actual furious anger if someone else's opinion on something does not correlate with yours; pissing off everyone you know who is not in Edinburgh and who is not attending the Festival by ignoring them for a month; losing all of your money; losing your job.

The Fabulous Chris Neil (I believe that's his official title) has also blogged about this very topic today, and I'll leave you to go and read his much more eloquent words on the topic. You'll also note he's taking part in the same Not The Edinburgh Festival Fringe But The Camden Fringe Instead, Which Is Much Better, Actually as m'boyfriend. That is just a coincidence.

Nice Mum Are Banged In The Slammer

05 August 2007
For the past week or so, me and He Who Only... have spent our evenings together indulging in a past time that, I have to confess, I have never done with anyone else before. And it has been a tremendous pleasure, at least for me. I'm not sure he's deriving the same joy from it as I am, but you've got to get your jollies from wherever you can find them, that's what I think.

Every evening, we'll have our dinner together, sit down with a drink in hand, and then I'll start the pestering. I'll ask him over and over again, can we do it tonight? Can we? Tonight? It doesn't even have to be for very long - let's just start it, and see where it leads. And every evening, he will eventually give in, and we'll start.

We've been rehearsing for his show, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I take the part of "Kris", and he takes the part of "Dave" and we run through the show, with me occasionnaly unable to speak because I will find something in the script, or something that He Who Only... has added to the script, so unbearably funny that we have to stop and I have to have a quick sip of my drink and re-compose myself. I don't think Kris is in any danger from me taking his place in the show, although I have made it clear to all involved that, if something were to happen to Kris (and I'm not saying that anything would) then I would be very happy to be his understudy. I think I've almost got the accent right, at least.

So, please, gents and ladies, if you're in London town this next week, please join us in the Etc Theatre in Camden. Details below, and follow this link to see the campest photo of He Who Only... that ever existed.

"Nice Mum Are Banged In The Slammer"

As part of The Camden Fringe, Nice Mum present a brand new show about a comedy double-act who get locked in the same prison cell. Surreal, silly, whimsical and frankly obscene, it’s the story of what happens when two young men spend far too much time together.

Expect ruminations on the very nature of freedom and death, expect a ridiculously ambitious escape attempt, expect a whole serious of bad puns about food and expect the cheeky, natural on stage chemistry of Kris Dyer and Dave Marks that has wowed audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe and around the London Circuit for the past five years.

Show Details:

  • Dates: 7th - 11th August
  • Time: 7:30 - 8:30pm
  • Tithe: £7.50/£6
    (...time and tithe wait for no man)
  • Venue:
    Etc. Theatre
    Above the Oxford Arms pub
    265 Camden High Street
    London, NW1 7BU
  • Box Office: 020 7482 4857
  • Tube: Camden Town

A Really Gud Thing

04 August 2007
A really rather very nice man has just sent me this image, and I'm so excited about it, I wanted to share it with the world, on the off chance that one other person in the world might find it as interesting as I have.

It's drawn by the genius that is Paul McDermott, formally of the Doug Anthony All Stars and currently (as far as I know) of Gud and someone I once touched on his arm at 2 in the morning and held his cigarette and that was the high point of my life to date (recorded for posterity here. Jesus, that was four years ago.) He drew it back stage at a venue in Australia in 2002. I love that he's put so much effort into something that won't be seen by many people at all. It's entitled "The Fractured Dream of Herman Pym".

Anyway. That's made my day.

(Here it is on its side - the reason I'm including this is because, by turning it the right way up, I've managed to shrink it. But to see it in better detail, click on this picture and you'll see it all massive and in detail. God, I love that man.)

Go on, go on, go on

02 August 2007
Last week, during my recuperation, we decided a good thing would be to place ourselves into the hands of some people who know how to cope with difficult situations. We needed some people who had the experience and the knowledge, not mention the actual Know How, to deal with anything that might have raised its head during this stressful time of our lives. We also needed people who would advise us as to health bedtimes, restful evening periods and the value of square meals and taking off our shoes while inside to the house so as to spare the carpets – in short, dear readers, we needed someone’s PARENTS.

Since my parents are cruel enough to be located in a different country to me, it was down to He Who Only…’s to step into that breach and do the job of clutching me to their collective bosom and metaphorically healing my shattered wounds. Did they do the job? By jiminy, they did, and then some.

Me, HWO... and HWO...'s mum enjoy our 5th cup of tea of the day

Firstly, the thing I’m now getting used to is the fact that The English Solve All Of Their Problems Through Drinking Tea. Don’t feel well? Have a cup of tea. Bit tired and emotional? Have a cup of tea. Been made redundant? Have a cup of tea. Your wife just left you, and then came back to you, but then died? Have a cup of tea. We had many cups of tea that weekend, so of which I even got down to the bottom of before the next round of tea was poured. But only some. I’m a slow tea drinker. I can’t be held responsible for that. I’m Irish, after all.

We also took the time to gad about some local ruins, staring at the one remaining wall of the grand castle that used to stand in Newark, where He Who Only… went to school. [Interesting aside: Newark is the only English town which is an anagram of “wanker”. I’m ever so pleased to know that.]

It’s so strange that you spend the last ten years of your childhood battling against the influence of the adults in your life, and then the next 30 years desperately trying to re-acquire the comfort and reassurance that comes from being in the presence of grown ups, and knowing that someone is taking charge of the situation. I don’t know about you, but I find that the feeling that everything is going to be okay is unshakeable when someone’s parents are in the same room.