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Saturday 23rd February 2008

Days Without Alcohol – 55.

As usual whoever books my tour hates me. I was in Reading last night and am in Bristol tomorrow night, both conveniently located along the M4 motorway, but tonight I was in Durham, which is a slight detour. It wasn’t a gig I was going to drive home from. But I think I am safe to say that the car is fine after my recent scrape, which is an excellent way of ensuring that I break down on the drive back tomorrow.
The woman at the reception of my hotel told me that the theatre was only a short walk away, so I attempted to carry all my stuff there. What she didn’t tell me was that I was going to have to go up a hill and I struggled to manage with a box full or programmes, a bucket full of programmes, a bag full of T-shirts and DVDs and that awkward to carry skate-board. I thought I was likely to have to go back and get more programmes as I had sold a lot of tickets again (hopefully this will continue) and should probably not have tried to carry so much on the first run, but I suppose I was hoping that I might have everything I needed.
The people of Durham were heading out for their Saturday night fun and everyone was dressed up in their smartest pulling gear and despite the cold weather, stereotypically for the North-East, there were lots of bare legs and arms on display. People are tough up here. As I was approaching the top of the hill, sweating and red-faced and having to stop to rearrange my load, a heavily made-up, brassy lady with a small tea-towel covering her not insubstantial body said, “Is that heavy love?”, laughing as she went on her way. I could have said something impolite, but just told her that it was. She didn’t offer to help me though and I carried on alone. Do you think Jethro has to carry his own programmes to the gig? Do you think Ricky Gervais would be able to walk the streets unnoticed by the populace, carrying his own props to the theatre? I am in a strange hinterland as always.
I tried to use the skateboard to carry the programmes for a while, pulling them along on the ground, but it kept veering off like a broken shopping trolley and getting in people’s way, so I just picked everything up again. By the time I got there I was flustered and tired and I’d slightly pulled something in my back. But on the plus side I discovered that over 300 tickets had been sold, which is phenomenal for a town that I haven’t played before. Numbers are definitely moving upwards and it’s satisfying to know that the hard work over the last three or four years is starting to pay off.
It did mean I had to go back for more programmes though. At least I was getting some exercise. Though according to Fitday driving burns up a calorie a minute (which means I had done a reasonable session just getting up here) and I am wondering if being on stage counts as good exercise as I am not taking that into account in my calorific calculations and yet this week I have lost an almost frightening amount of weight (approaching two kilos in about five days). I am pacing around on stage for maybe 100 minutes a night and I guess the adrenalin rush is burning up fat. I certainly perspire a little under the lights. Touring has always been a time when I have put on weight, but that is due to getting pissed every night and having two dinners and eating hotel breakfasts and sweets and crisps and Ginsters pasties on the drive there and back. Without all that perhaps touring is the ultimate diet workout.
The gig was terrific, which was a relief after Reading. It was a big theatre with a proper stage and even someone on a follow-spot covering me at all times (I joked that I was going to move around a lot more than usual just to keep this person employed, though perhaps it might have been funnier to never move, or at least to try and trick them into thinking I was going one way, then dodge back quickly the other). It is such fun to be able to ride the laughs when there is a big crowd and inevitably the atmosphere carries one along and the performance improves. I have really enjoyed playing little rooms above pubs, but doing a gig like this makes me hungry to play to the bigger rooms. I have always thought that it would be great just to play to 200 people everywhere I went, but having done a couple of bigger gigs this week I am starting to feel that it would be cool to have audiences of 500. Or 1000. Or 10,000. I probably wouldn’t be able to carry my own programmes to the venue then though. So maybe I should just stick where I am
After the gig and signing a few autographs I headed back to the hotel, with a lighter load (though annoyingly more programmes than I had brought in the second trip). A drunken man approached me and asked if he could have a go on my skateboard. I said he couldn’t and luckily, though a bit put out, he didn’t respond by punching me in the face. But I wasn’t in the mood to stop and I couldn’t really chase after him if he decided to just steal it. “Maybe next time!” he said. To which I said “OK” as it seemed unlikely that there would be a next time.
Not drinking on tour is the best thing. Last year I would have had two or three glasses of wine at the venue and then be in the mood for more, but most likely have to head back to the hotel alone. Tonight it felt great to be heading back there sober and I wound down not by boozing, but by watching a DVD (“Waiting for Guffman” with Christopher Guest, which I found a bit insubstantial and disappointing, but then “Spinal Tap” did set the bar high. Amateur theatre is not such a rich subject for satire, because it is obviously a bit crap and it seems a little cruel to mock the aspirations of such people, whilst a crap heavy metal band still has an arrogance that it is fun to laugh at). I was, for once, staying in a really nice hotel rather than a cold Travelodge, which would have been perfect for a romantic sojourn. But perversely it felt even more decadent to be here alone and I was so tired that the big comfy bed, festooned with pillows and one of those ones that is half of a four poster (ie has two posts at one end, but no canopy, as a kind of middle ground of romance, presumably good if you’re in a relationship that you’re not sure about and don’t want to totally commit to) was only ever going to be used for sleeping. How odd for the general mood on tour to be one of contentment. Something is terribly wrong.

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