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Saturday 26th March 2005

I last played Downstairs at the King's Head in Crouch End probably over 12 years ago, but I'd been there a few times in my first incarnation as a stand-up (my William Hartnell phase to be current) as there used to be a regular open spot night there (and there might well still be one). So it was an eerie feeling to be heading up there again (this time as Patrick Troughton or possibly Jon Pertwee depending on how many transitions you feel my career has taken. You might even argue I was Tom Baker, which I would have felt more comfortable with - though ironically Baker has had enough transitions in his own career to make him Sylvester Mccoy), and by exactly the same route as I used to take - tube to Finsbury Park, then a W7 bus up the hill to the pub. It was hard to believe so much time had elasped since I'd last made this journey, but it is at least a dozen years. Last time I was here the threatening youths who were parading the tunnels of the station would have been maybe 4, possibly less. Had they attempted to intimidate me by strutting past me then I would just have laughed at the foolish toddlers. But now they were almost men, but not men and all the more dangerous for it. So I didn't laugh at them. I just kept my eyes on the ground in front of me and tried to remember which exit would lead me to the W7 bus. I chose the wrong one.
I had an uncharacteristic and oddly Pavlovian sense of nervousness, which was no doubt the exact way I would have felt back in the early 90s, even though this was always one of the less nasty gigs to do. But I felt like that innocent abroad, in a time when I had no real mental map of how London fitted together, and when I would find myself on trains to St Margaret's or Strawberry Hill or buses to Crouch End and feel like I was entering alien or dangerous territory. And often I was and would return if not physically wounded, then psychologically scarred.
Like Dr Who I have travelled in time since then (just very slowly and inconveniently at the exact same pace as time, and always forward) and could almost point out Crouch End on a map for you.
But my psyche's fears based on bitter experience were ill-founded. It was good to be back in this great little club. Pete who runs it looked the same, except spookily aged by about a dozen years, a bit like a rubbish and low budget version of that bit at the end of the last Indiana Jones film, with the ageing was rapidly curtailed almost immediately. No doubt he had similar thoughts on seeing me (not the Indiana Jones bit, that would be weird, but I suspect I too look a bit different than he would recall me, if he remembered that unexceptional young comedian at all).
Despite being very tired I enjoyed the gig thoroughly and my love affair with this neglected art form continues to blossom. I hope I don't leave it so long to return again. And maybe next time I'll drive up there!

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My new stand up show, Lord of the Dance Settee will be on at the George Sq Theatre at 10.45pm every night of the Edinburgh Fringe Buy tickets here.
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