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Thursday 12th March 2009

First of all I just have to say that I can not believe that Muntadar al-Zaidi has been given three years for his shoe throwing antics. I could joke that maybe he would have got less if he'd actually hit Bush in the face, but this would be to trivialise something that is massively unjust and ridiculous and must surely be overturned. This was a protest and one that whilst maybe was not in keeping with traditional ideas of democratic dissent, was surely never going to cause more harm than a bruised lip and a bruised ego. This man, as I have stated before is a hero whether you agree with his views or not and has found a compelling middle ground between passive resistance and violence. No one was killed. A point was made in a humorous and harmless way. This man should not have spent a single day in prison. If anyone knows of any way I can speed along what must be his inevitable (I would hope) release then please let me know. I hope when he is out of prison he will get the recognition and remuneration he deserves. Even Bush seemed to treat the whole thing as a joke. Three years in prison? In a fucking Iraqi prison at that. Can we please all make sure we overturn this ridiculous decision.
If that means us invading Iraq all over again, then so be it. But this time let's have an army of liberals chucking their shoes.

So the tour continues and I find myself in a strange hinterland, because after plodding along for a few years, putting in my time, doing the gigs to sometimes small, but usually appreciative audiences, doing shows that I think are good and building support, I seem to have suddenly have a success on my hands.
But the way the tour is organised is still based on the old days where audiences were smaller, money was tighter and there was no guarantee that two months slogging round the country would raise a crowd or any revenue.
So although with hindsight I could probably have afforded to have a tour manager, I am still a one man band - driving myself to gigs, booking my own hotels, lugging my own stuff around, trying to cut financial corners.
The last few times I've played the Junction in Cambridge and not driven home I've stayed at the relatively swanky University Arms. But there's a Travelodge right opposite the theatre and this year I thought, for convenience and economy's sake I might as well stay in there. After all I just need a bed for the night.
And though it was amazingly handy to be able to carry my stuff from the hotel car park to the venue, I should maybe have splashed out on something a little less depressing.
A morose young woman checked me into the hotel and I headed up to my room. It was basic, if a little cold and seemed to have everything I needed. But when I was on the loo I happened to look to my left at the shower curtain and saw a small to medium sized bogey smeared across it. I had only just entered the room and had not sneezed or even sniffed and I knew that this was not my bogey. Faintly disgusted but slightly amused I thought about going downstairs to complain, but could not face rousing the receptionist from her sulk, nor even moving my minimal amount of baggage to another room, that might equally have human effluent smeared in a less obvious place. Some people would say that I had got an unexpected extra. I had just paid for a normal room and yet I had one with added bogey. I decided to just draw the curtain back away from the shower and never touch it again. Which means when I have my shower in the morning that the floor will get wet. I'd feel sorrier for the cleaners if they hadn't left a human bogey on display in my bathroom.,
Should I check my sheets to see if they were clean? Or should I just leave it and not think too much about it? I decided to check. They seemed clean. I don't require much. I am not a lovey. But rule one of the hotelier code must surely be "Don't have bogies smeared anywhere that can be seen in the room you are renting out."
Maybe there are a few bodily excretions that are worse. But the bogey is somehow insidious and secretive. Most of the others give themselves away through smell. Who knows how many other bogies are smeared around the room by the previous snot-filled inhabitant. And what if the bogey doesn't belong to the last person who was here? What if it's been there for months?
Can Travelodge sue me for telling the truth about their room? I was going to take a photo to prove it, but that seems a step too far.
At least the venue was close.
I walked over with my bucket of programmes and my trumpet and props, to perform in front of another sell out crowd. It was a great show. Backstage I was alone and there was a big space as big as the stage behind the curtain where no one could see me and I performed an amazing, vigourous dance to "High Fidelity" which no one got to see. It was like I was in Fame. I really went for it, hoping there was no security camera or member of staff who had quietly entered to see this ludicrous, yet weirdly impressive (I imagined) sight. I felt happy and healthy and good. But maybe I was just pleased to be out of the same room as another man's snot (the way it's smeared I am sure it is a man's - how rude not to at least use a tissue or to flick it down the loo. This was no accident!)
It was a great show and dozens of people queued up afterward to get my autograph and to say hello. There was a real buzz of excitement and I was on a high from a fun performance (and that was just the Fame dance that no one saw). People were actually nervous to meet me. It's something that I have experienced occasionally in the past or when I meet a long term fan, but there were quite a few breathless and excited people who looked like they couldn't quite believe I was amongst them. Having been at this venue with pretty much all my tour shows they should have been used to it, but something has changed. One girl asked to have her photo taken with me and when I put my arm around her shoulder I could feel her heart beating so rapidly that you would think she was the one who had just come off stage. It was the heartbeat of a terrified tiny animal. I was inspiring fear.
I say all this not out of any sense of arrogance, just disbelief. What has suddenly changed? I think this show is very personal and affecting and gets to people and everyone was very polite and lovely.
The suddenly after all the excitement and adrenalin everyone had gone. And I found myself heading back to the Travelodge alone. The bubble of faux showbiz glamour had quickly burst and I was slammed back into snot-smeared reality. I was just a 41 year old man shambling around with some bags and buckets. Like the Kids from Fame I was facing the harsh realities of real life.
I didn't feel like heading back to my room to stare at another man's nasal excretions, but due to my stupid choice of hotel I was also trapped in a strange little entertainment complex on the edge of town, where there was only chain restaurants that were about to close and a cinema and bowlarama. My audience had disappeared into the night as if they were merely the ghosts of all the lonely punters who have seen me perform on other tours.
I headed up the road to see if I could find a pub but the only one I saw had a couple arguing in the carpark and a bar with two middle aged men sitting supping beer and not talking to each other, so I headed back from whence I had came.
I was resisting going for a drink in the Travelodge, but only the bowling place seemed to be open any more. I wondered if it was sadder to drink alone in the bar of a snot encrusted hotel or to go bowling on my own. I decided the latter was the sadder option and bought myself a Peroni from a less grumpy Travelodge employee and sat and Twittered on my own.
Two years ago, when my menage a un tour was aptly named and I was in a lonely and unhappy place, this experience would have been overwhelmingly depressing. And though it was an odd contrast and such a rapid change from one state to the other that I was in danger of getting the Bends, I felt calm and amused by it all, enjoying the stark shift from laughter and applause to tragi-comic solitude. Showbiz and success and failure are just illusions and the gawdy baubles of even the greatest night fade very quickly.
I don't need to be in the Travelodge financially any more and I don't need to be alone, but I wondered if actually I was better off here. Staying in a swanky hotel might have made me miss the fact that the person I'd like to share it with isn't here and unless you're lucky being with a tour manager that you don't really know or like and drinking in a bar can be more depressing than being on your own.
I had had an amazing show in the middle of what could turn out to be my most enjoyable tour and hundreds of people had gone away happy. And the fact that they had all fucked off afterwards proved that they were probably all really cool people. It's the ones that hang around that you (sometimes) have to worry about. They had been polite enough to get their autographs and leave me to my life.
I decided to come upstairs and write my blog rather than go bowling or drinking any more. I got to my room and some anonymous fan had left me a note at reception which had been pushed under my door by some Travelodge employee with a ten pound note to buy M&S fruit and some oatmilk for the next podcast. I had mentioned on Twitter and in the show that I was in bogey smeared room at this particular hostelry. It made me smile. While there's a few people out there whose attentions can sometimes make me feel threatened or uncomfortable at least, most people, like this nameless stranger (hopefully) clearly appreciate what I am doing.
I am very lucky, not just to have people paying to come and see me (and giving me gifts) but also to have had all the years of grafting and the ups and downs which give me a sense of perspective that possibly some of the more overnight successes in my business don't always have. It means I can see the good side of all the things that have happened today that I might once have seen as bad.
I may be alone in a snot smeared budget hotel room, but I feel like a king.
But next tour I am hiring a lacky and staying in a 5 star hotel. For the moment though maybe things are as perfect as they could be. One day I will look back on all this and wish I was back in this very room.
Whichever way my career goes!
This is what it's like on tour.

Oh and before I get too cocky about being a hit... I'm in Uppingham tomorrow, which might bring me back down to earth. That one is not selling so well. So come along if you live near there. Wherever it is.

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