It was an emotional last show, as well as being blisteringly hot. Maybe it's because I sold more tickets this year, or perhaps it was just the weather or maybe I am getting old, but I found the White Belly to be unpleasantly uncomfortable this year and a few audience members commented on this. It might be time to move to a more grown up venue. In fact tonight I had some walk outs, which I suspect might have been more to do with the conditions of the room, rather than any dissatisfaction with the show (it's impossible for me to know, but people who leave in a huff will usually do so after the contentious piece of material, rather than in the middle of something). I know it is hard to address these issues for the venue managers, but in a wet year the Underbelly becomes a bit fetid and unpleasant and punters do not seem keen to hang around for a drink. It may be my last year in this particular room, which is still a cause for slight sadness as the last three shows in there have been very important for me and the most enjoyable times I have had up here. This year, I think, more than any other.
At the end I felt drained and caught up in the emotion of the show and I suppose, of the fact that I had got through another year. Plus I knew I was about to pack up my car and get out of town and leave behind my friends, new and old. It's an immense investment of money and nervous energy and had I not been a stronger man I think I might have cried. Instead I just nearly cried. Making me a man of medium strength. I think I prefer the men who are weak enough to cry when they feel the need.
It's been an important year for me. I think it has made a difference, both to myself and how others perceive me. The hard work of the last four or five years is really starting to pay off and I am happier about both who I am and where I am - though not the where in a literal sense. I'd rather not be in a gigantic pig sty/sauna/ aircraft hangar for pigs, created by someone who thought that one day pigs might fly, so let's be prepared for when that happens, but in the meantime put on comedy in there, even if this means everyone in there having to endure possibly illegal levels of heat.
Someone I had just met this afternoon declared their love for me today too, which might have added to my heightened emotional state. Usually if someone tells you that they love you within two hours of meeting you it is a good idea to run as far as possible in the opposite direction, but I didn't mind this one at all. Because the person who loved me was the three year old son of one of my flat-mates. We'd had a lovely Sunday lunch in the flat and I'd spent most of my time playing with the boy and his sister, which had mostly been fun, though was less so when they decided to jump on my injured rib cage.
After chasing them round the house for a while and pretending to get angry with them when they knocked on my door when I was meant to be working and packing, they had to leave. "I love you," said my new friend, with the lack of self-consciousness that you have at three years old. "Oh, right," I said, "And I have some affection for you as well." Because at 41, it is less easy to express yourself and you are less prepared to open your heart to strangers, even if you know that in this case the words will only mean, "I had a right laugh arsing around with you today".
But it was still rather sweet and affecting to be told this. Kids see my as another kid. His six year old sister had believed me when I said I was 12. I suppose I might be, though she did then say you could tell that people were old because of their "scars", which could have been some beautiful poetic metaphor, but then she indicated that she was referring to frown lines and wrinkles, which made all us oldies laugh and slightly frown. Just adding to our problems. I said I had no frown lines, but she wasn't having that!
I drove into the night at about 10pm, and was in England before midnight, though annoyingly I missed the sign so was unable to celebrate my return to my homeland. I thought it would be easy to find a motorway Travelodge to stay in - who'd be spending the bank holiday weekend there? It turned out to be more difficult than I thought and I got down to within a few miles o Birmingham, before the receptionist at one budget motorway hotel rang round to a nearby member of his chain and found that they had a room. Which was lucky as I was getting to the point where I thought I might just try and do the whole drive in the night time, which might not have been a great idea. Still only two to three hours to go now and I jumped on my bed, and like Lenny Henry, who according to the adverts also stays in these hotels, said "That's what I'm talking about." Even though it wasn't.
My 17th Fringe is over. It's been my best. Thanks for coming along if you did. I am sure many more of you will get a chance to see me on tour.