Back on the road (for three days at least) and had decided to do these few gigs on my own without a tour manager (Giles hadn't been available for the middle one anyway). I assumed I'd be OK given that it was only three gigs. But I was reminded of why I'd decided I didn't want to do this alone any more. The drive to Manchester took over five hours and I was pretty tired by the time I pulled up outside the sliding doors (do you remember that film?) of the Frog and Bucket garage.
Three years ago I had come a cropper driving through this gate and pranged my car.
I was concerned that this might happen again, though luckily my new car
has parking sensors which would make this more difficult. I waited
outside the gates for someone to come and let me in. It took a while but
finally the familiar face of Colin appeared. It was a bit off that he
had come out into the street and not through the gate I was waiting at,
but I assumed there was a side door. The gates stayed shut for a bit
longer than I'd have expected, but then opened up. I drove in and parked
up. When I was getting out of the car Colin arrived to tell me I'd
driven into the wrong garage. The other door that I had thought was the
right one had opened coincidentally. I was parked in a tight space and
had to execute a 34 point turn to get out of the space, but still didn't
bump anything. Am I doomed to do something stupid every time I arrive
at this club?
Then I got into the right garage and pulled up behind the back door of the club. There was another car in front of me, so I was slightly blocking some of the cars in the garage. But that seemed to be OK.
A few minutes later I was called back to the garage to move forwards a bit to let two of the cars out. That was all fine and once they were gone I took the opportunity to turn my car around so that I could drive straight out. I am not great at reversing, but also pretty poor at working in three dimensions inside my head. It took me a while to work out how to get the car around. My car goes in reverse, but my brain doesn't. All the time I was convinced I would hear the sound of grinding metal, but before long my car was in the right place and facing in the right direction.
But as I prepared for the show I was again asked to move the car as someone else was trying to get into the garage. I backed the car right up to the other car and there was plenty of room to get a car into the available space (though I wouldn't have liked to try and negotiate it). I went back to the dressing room and was againa disturbed to be told that the man who had been getting his car in had pranged it against the pillar. This was his fault, not mine as I'd left room, though I sympathised with him as I am a shit driver too. But they wanted me to move my car out of the garage so that he could extricate himself. So all my hard work had been for nothing and I now risked more damage to my car by having to so extra manoeuvres. I drove out easily enough and then waited for the car to move so I could get back in again. I waited for about ten minutes, with the man walking around his car and opening the boot. Finally he disappeared without moving his car. I had given up my excellent position for nothing and now (unless I wanted to reverse into the garage, which was not happening) was going to be back facing the wrong way with no room to turn.
Having been so happy with my work thus far it would be typical if I pranged the car as I got back into the garage, but luckily there would only be one accident tonight and I got in fine. It had been an unwelcome stress before the gig and I was already knackered from the drive.
Having done the show last week I hadn't run through any of it in my head and nearly forgot the first line, but aside from a few tired stumbles it was a good show. I have played the Frog and Bucket every year with my Fringe show (I think) since 2005. Eight years and nine shows since this day where I bumped into Chris Addison in the shopping centre. I've had more fun at this venue, both on stage and off than almost any other. One particular highlight was Jason Cook getting me drunk to perform at his late night gig. But things have changed since those heady naughty mid-noughty days and neither I nor the people working there were keen to make a night of it. I headed back to my hotel (relieved to have reversed out of the garage without incident). I think I might have been lucky. The men who arrived just after me were told that the room they had booked had been given to someone else, due to their late check in. They were understandably angry about that and the staff tried to find them alternative accommodation (though when I left it the best that was on offer was a hotel at the airport). I had a glass of wine in the bar on my own, feeling like a travelling salesman, which I realised I really am. Tours used to be as much about the Bacchanalian frenzy after the show, but now it's just about doing the job and then going to bed. That's not at all a bad thing in many ways, though the Me2 inside me lamented how things had changed. Me1 just missed his wife (and so did Me2 if he was honest) and wished he was at home.
I can't moan about my job (and I am not doing), because it was a great pleasure performing this show in one of the best clubs in the country to one of the most comedy literate crowds you can hope for and in many ways my life is much better for knowing this is a job and concentrating on what happens on stage rather than off it. But as I eventually sat alone in the empty bar I did raise a little toast to my lost youth. And I know I am happier now - that day I met Chris Addison I was in a state of mild despair and I can enjoy the solitude now when back then it would have filled me with dread. I guess I am just astonished by how quickly those years have passed and how the 38 year old me and the 46 year old me live on different continents. Neither of us would swap places with the other.