Thursday 19th January 2012
For the moment the novelty of touring is quite pleasurable. I slept in til 10 (though had woken up in one of my night panics at 5 - which kept me up for an hour) and then went for a wander around Bournemouth, bought some pants and socks and had my breakfast, delighted to see that Caffe Nero now do porridge (and it's made with real milk). I also searched out the Natwest, finding it even though my iPhone positioned it in totally the wrong place. Would they have a coin paying in machine? The tension is, I am sure, as unbearable for me as it is for you. But they did have one and I deposited the Bournemouth audience's £195.30 (just shy of £1 apiece) and collected 3 foreign coins from the reject hatch.
It's always useful to have folders on tour for receipts and venue info, but I always forget that until I am on the road so I popped into Smiths and bought some, plus a newspaper. I paid at the self-service tills. A woman in her 60s stopped and looked at me as if I was mad and because it was not London she then expressed her annoyance. "Tell me, why would anyone use those tills?"
It seemed an odd question. Although to begin with I had shared her suspicion of these new devices, didn't like the way that shop staff were forced to participate in assisting customers use these machines that would soon replace them and had quickly tired of stand ups saying "Unexpected item in the bagging area", I now use them if they're there. The reasons are pretty obvious - because you don't have to queue for them and if you don't join the regular queue then that means you won't hold up old ladies who are suspicious of technology. Likewise you don't get stuck behind an old lady who wants to have a conversation with the cashier. Everyone is happier. I mumbled something about it saving me have to queue, though looking at the tills I noticed there was no one there. I wish I'd said, "Because I hate humanity and it means I don't have to talk to anyone," which would have had a nice tinge of irony to it. But I didn't think of that until later.
But I loved the fact that this lady felt the need to question my actions. "I don't like those things, so you shouldn't either." In a sense that attitude is responsible for some of the worst things that human beings have done. And yet sometimes the bravery to speak out can change the course of history for the good. In this case though, it probably didn't make much difference. When I had left I thought of another good thing I could have said, "Why don't you fuck off and mind your own business." Too late. Ah, l'esprit d'escalier.
I drifted around town, trying to pass the time, guessing that there was more to occupy me in Bournemouth than in Monmouth. I had decided to stay in Cheltenham tonight - just an hour away from Monmouth and the location of my next gig, meaning I would get Friday in one place without having to travel, but this meant I had nowhere to go once I'd been kicked out of the Lennyhenryier Inn this morning.
I went to Debenhams to use their loo and then thought I'd sit in their cafe and write my blog. I wrote for ages, detailing a slight Twitter spat that I'd had the day before and just as I was nearing the end the fire alarm went off. As always when this happens people sat around smirking at each other, wondering if it was real or not. Which surely negates the whole point of having an alarm. Minutes are lost as people just shake their heads and look around and fear being the idiot who takes it seriously and leaves first. It's actually astonishing. Maybe they need to replace it with a voice shouting "This is real - get the fuck out of here". I didn't want to die in Debenhams in Bournemouth (and I hope I never do) so even though I did a modicum of looking around, I decided that I wasn't going to sit and wait for the flames to lap at my legs and burn my new pants before I left. So I packed up and headed for the stairs. The other sheepish Bournemouthians would have surely perished in the fire were it not for my example and slowly followed my lead.
I don't know if the shop burned down - I took it as a sign to head for my car and leave the town as it was engulfed by whatever deluge had been sent to this Godforsaken place. But I was glad it had happened because the blog I'd written had been over defensive and boring. It was good to get it out of my system, but I later edited most of it out. Hopefully the hotel I am in at the moment will now catch on fire to save you from this boring and over detailed piece of self-indulgence.
It was a long drive to Monmouth and my sat nav took me to the wrong place initially - an industrial estate outside of town - as it hadn't recognised the postcode I had initially put in and I had plumped for the first one on the list. I then put in Church St, Monmouth and it took me to a village six miles from town (I had realised I was going the wrong way, but ignored road signs because I trust machinery so much that I had to go to the suggested destination to be sure - that old lady in Smiths had been trying to warn me). The sat nav had no other option for me than to use it to head into town and hope that the theatre was sign posted. It was like going back to the days when people just had maps - and I didn't have a map. I was lost and a bit flustered, as I was meant to be dropping off my unsold copied of Bye Bye Balham with one of Chris Evans' (not that one) relatives. If past experience is anything to go by, during my confusion and haste I will have been snapped by a South Wales speed camera. I will be astonished if this did not happen.
But in the end I found where I was meant to be and everything was fine. The Savoy Theatre is one I haven't visited before, but it was a lovely looking old venue, staffed by friendly and helpful people and in the end a hundred or so people turned up. The show was fine, though a man kept talking in the front row at just too low a volume for me really to make a big deal of it, but loud enough to be annoying the people around him. Finally I found a gap where I could ask him what the problem was and his friend told me that the man needed to go to the toilet and was asking him if he should go. I managed to get a good few minutes out of the fact that most adults don't need to discuss that issue - you get to a certain age and you make that decision for yourself. In truth the men were perhaps a little too drunk to concentrate properly and I was glad to see that they didn't return for the second half.
There was no time to hang around and get drunk with the people of Monmouth, especially given that they are clearly incapable of going to a unilateral decision about micturation, but the drive to Cheltenham passed quickly and I was glad I had done it tonight, when the roads were empty, rather than wasting half of tomorrow getting through traffic. It was the correct decision from a professional point of view and as I have remarked and suspect I will continue to do so over the next few months, it's a welcome change to be viewing all of this with such pragmatic professionalism. Hopefully tomorrow I can get some exercise done (I broke my 11 day chain today - though did a lot of walking). So far, so good. Provided the night terrors don't become a regular occurrence.
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