Friday 17th May 2013
A day off from touring in Cheddar today, though I ran round the reservoir, made some progress with my new comedy drama treatment and recorded another (and probably final) Talking Cock podcast.
Every four years I come to Cheddar to conduct an auction where people pay over the odds for a punnet of eggs - I first did it in 2005, then again in 2009 and now it's 2013 and I am duty-bound to return again. This event is like the Cheddar Olympics and people would be furious if I didn't turn up. I may have been in 2001 as well, I don't know. I didn't do Warming Up then. I thought I'd only done this once before, but this computer memory bank proves me wrong.
I had agreed to do this event some time ago as it fit rather neatly into a day off whilst I was in the area. And it's all for a charity that my dad is heavily involved in called the Cheddar Youth Trust. It is good to support my family and the town I grew up in as I owe them both so much. But I was put in a difficult position a few weeks ago as I was offered a high-paying awards ceremony gig in London on the same night. I rarely got offered such jobs and had really enjoyed hosting the London Film Critic Awards (for free) in January and I was told that if I could impress the people running this latest event then they ran about 50 such nights a year. It could be just the kind of lucrative sideline that could fund my ambitious attempts to make my own comedy. But then again I had promised my dad that I'd auction some eggs for him.
It was an interesting moral dilemma and one that would have made a great Moral Maze if we were still doing AIOTM. I didn't think the people of Cheddar would mind very much if I didn't do the auction, especially if I donated a chunk of my fee, but my dad is an honourable man and I knew he'd expect me to the right thing. By which I mean the wrong thing, the thing that nobody else would even contemplate: turning down the money and the future work.
I made the worst choice of all which was to grudgingly and grumpily turn down the opportunity to (potentially) earn hundreds of thousands of pounds over the next few years and fulfill my prior commitment. Had I done this without letting anyone know and without slightly sulking about it then I would have been a saint secretly taking the moral high ground. But I had blabbed about it and blubbed about it and was also failing to get any of the lovely money. It was the worst possible outcome. I had neither integrity, nor dignity, nor money.
I suspect those ambitious for success and wealth would not have thought twice about this and the decision to auction some eggs rather than do a corporate gig might be why my career never takes off in the way that some other people's do. But I think at the heart of it I knew that getting into this corporate world is a slippery slope. And I feel happier being in Cheddar Church hall with 95 people who aren't particularly delighted to be watching me than a few hundred pissed up people on a jolly. I might get the opportunity to do more awards ceremonies in the future (I did a good job at the last one) but I might not. And something perverse within me finds it amusing that I turned down this opportunity (eventually, after getting over the shock of realising what I had done).
I hadn't wanted my dad to tell anyone about the choice I'd made, mainly to be honest because I thought they'd all think I was an idiot (I don't think many other people would have done what I'd done and I think that probably makes me stupid rather than noble). But he mentioned it at the start (as well as the ridiculous fee that I'd been offered) and it did at least give me a nice running joke about where I could have been and what I had given up and how I was really pleased that I had made this choice.
And auctioning off passes to the swimming pool and one ticket to Longleat was a world away from what I was doing in the alternate universe where I had correctly told my dad to go fuck himself and was now at the awards ceremony. But I think I am pleased to be the Richard Herring in this universe who made this illogical and odd decision. I bet the other job wouldn't have been as much fun or as daft. And I enjoyed taking the piss out of myself and the people bidding and the prizes. One was tickets for two adults and four children to the Bishops Palace in Wells and I remarked that I wouldn't risk taking my kids to a Bishops Palace. Another was a ride in a 1971 Bentley and I tried to bite my tongue and not make a Jimmy Savile joke, but the people seemed to want it and I was only human. If I was in London I wouldn't have had my mum in the audience, making a disapproving face and telling me off when I made a joke about someone's gran dying.
I had done something for my dad. It was pointless and self-defeating and career damaging, but I had possibly made him proud. Though I later overheard him saying that I hadn't spoken very clearly and had failed to keep the level of chat in the hall down. So maybe I hadn't even done that. Dads are quite hard to please, aren't they? At least I had managed to sell some eggs at more than their market value. So hopefully the young people of Cheddar will thank me.
And we drank Cheddar Ale and Giles bought some eggs with some novelty egg covers and my wife was given some flowers and we walked back home through familiar streets where the ghosts of my life hung at every corner. Sometimes making the fucked up wrong decision is the right one. I reckon I did a good enough job to be asked back in 2017.
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