On the last tour I ended up arriving in Bristol just as the curtain was going up
. This year I was five hours early for the gig, despite a leisurely drive up from my hotel near New Milton.
I decided to take my girlfriend on a trip down memory lane and we went for a walk around Bristol's main shopping centre. Back in the olden days this was the big city that we'd occasionally come up to for a big shopping trip and it seemed remarkably cosmopolitan and sophisticated to my youthful Cheddar eye.
But despite much regeneration in Bristol much of this shopping centre remains unchanged from the mid 1980s which was the last time I was here. I remembered the Sony Walkman I had bought in one of these shops with my first week's wages from my first job, picking mushrooms at the Axbridge Mushroom Farm. Whilst portable personal music systems have moved on somewhat from that device that was capable of playing one album at a time, as long as it was on a cassette tape (Cliff Richard's excitement at being "Wired For Sound" now seems laughable, though to be honest it did at the time as well - especially given he was going everywhere on roller skates at the time, the ridiculous old man), Bristol town centre looked oddly the same. There's a Starbucks now and some of the shops might be different, but for the most part it was a little time capsule of how high street shopping used to be.
It was mildly depressing to step back in time and now feel that this once sparkling jewel of excitement, seemed provincial and somewhat tragic to my jaded London eye. What I had once anticipated with such glee now seemed bleak and lifeless, but then it was really cold and I was a bit tired.
Luckily on turning a corner I discovered that a huge new monstrosity of a shopping complex has been built at one end, whilst still dwarfed by the Westfield, does at least bring Bristol into the late Twentieth Century.
I can't really win. I am depressed by change and I am depressed if things stay the same.
Annoyingly there was a lot of time to kill, but not so much that we could go to the cinema and we were getting colder by the minute so we just headed up towards the venue to have a coffee and some tapas.
Soon enough the gig came round and it was another sell out, with the additional excitement that a few of the people mentioned or referred to would be in the audience - not least of whom, my mum and dad. I was hoping I might get through it without blubbing like a school girl like I did in the preview in Wedmore that they also attended
, but knew there was a chance that I would choke again.
It was a lovely gig and a strong performance. I always love Bristol, but they went with the comedy, lapped up the edgier moments and were affected by the sweeter parts. But I could feel myself welling up long before I really got to the end, and though managed to pull back from the brink of waterworks a few times, finally succumbed in the last few seconds. The crowd all "ahhed" as I came to a halt, fighting back the rising emotional response that I could not control and even gave a little round of applause. It was intensely embarrassing for me, but makes for an excellent end and also prompted one what might be the most money raised by one audience for SCOPE. I have to try and fake this response in every performance. It amazes me how it got to me. I thought I was strong, but something subconscious takes over.
There were a few old pals from school in too and it was great to see them afterwards. I think they liked it. My parents seemed mainly proud, though my mother didn't enjoy the new references to her. She only gets a couple of mentions, but they are both jokily negative, whilst dad at least gets a little weepy poem of praise at the end. I don't know if he thinks I cry in every performance, but I have 100% of the times he's seen it and he's a mathematician so I suspect he assumes it is a part of the show.
But my mum is miles better than my dad and deserves her own show of praise. I just know she isn't so needy as to want one. She knows she's the best really. If a little over protective. Ha ha.
I met a man called Richard Herring after the show. He told me that when he books for a restaurant, they are disappointed when it isn't me when he shows up. Yet I have never experienced any restaurant that has been excited by my arrival. I assume they were disappointed because they'd been planning to give him the shittiest table and spunk in his food, and now have to change plans. But who knows.
Ah Bristol. Ooh aah.