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Thursday 10th July 2008

I choked.
I don't quite believe it, but right at the end of the gig, as I discussed my dad, my voice started breaking up and going all high and strained and I had to stop and check myself to carry on.
It wasn't even particularly emotive stuff, I was just saying how whenever I meet someone from school their first question is not about anything I might have done, it's always, "How's your dad getting on?" He is clearly remembered with great affection by his ex-pupils, so any unpopularity that I had (either real or imagined) at school, must have been down to me being an idiot and not him. There was a spontaneous cheer of agreement as I stuttered about how respected he was in the community. And I just about managed to get out the conclusion that in Cheddar at least I will always be, and am proud to be, the headmaster's son, before making a hasty exit to try and pull myself together.
It was of course, rather a magical ending to an interesting show, and the audience loved it. I hadn't really thought it would get to me quite like that, but it was a strange experience to have to do this show about me and my dad, in front of my mum and dad. I really must try and fake this breakdown at the end of every show. It's theatrical dynamite!
It had been, as I imagined, a slightly surreal and mildly terrifying experience to do this show to an audience who personally knew everyone I mentioned. I was in the tiny, but impressively kitted out Wedmore Village Hall, where the Opera Society actually puts on operas on a miniscule stage, with if what was there tonight is anything to go by, exquisite and ingenuous sets. The 130 capacity crowd had been drifting in and I had been peeking at them from behind the curtain and was slightly worried by the number of respectable looking 70 year old women, with coiffured white hair and tartan blankets who were shuffling in. How would they like my jokes about a sky writing, farting Jesus or wanking off paedophiles?
But I have learned neither to compromise, or patronise. I owed it to the audience to give them the full and proper show. And I had two halves and so could try out absolutely everything - probably managing about 100 minutes of material, which is both great and slightly worrying. How will I get it down to 60 for Edinburgh?
Things went pretty well on the whole though. I could sense a few sour faces and some slightly shocked reactions to some of the material, but would then get a laugh by commenting that Wedmore wasn't ready for such jokes yet. Or saying that I had always dreamed of playing this village hall, four miles away from where I had grown up and how it had only taken me 20 years to manage it.
I had been round the corner to the George pub before the gig for a pint, because I had realised it was the place that I had had my first pub based pint of beer, back in about 1981 when I was 14, at a George disco. As documented in "Richard Herring is All Man" I had nervously asked for a pint of beer and the barman had then asked "Lager or Bitter" and I hadn't known what I was meant to ask for, so requested whichever was cheapest. I think this might have been a clue to the fact that I was possibly not old enough to be drinking in pubs, but the yeoman let it pass and handed me my first glass of foul tasting filth.
I had a Cheddar beer called Pot-holer tonight, which was rather pleasant, although the bar did smell rather badly of human faeces, which curtailed my enjoyment. I mentioned this fact in the gig and got a knowing laugh of agreement. Pubs smelling of stale farts is just another consequence of the smoking ban.
At the interval I retired to my dressing room, aptly enough (if you've seen the wanking paedophiles routine) divided from the hall to the toilets by a curtain. I heard a very posh old ladies voice, politely saying, presumably to an organiser, "Thank you so much for having me along, but I don't think I will stay for the second half. Thank you, but I think I'd better go." Never has someone been so gracious in their decision to leave one of my shows. Fair enough, I had anticipated that it might prove too much for some of the Wedmore inhabitants. Even though I had apolgised and said there was loads of sweet and heartwarming stuff in the second half.
But two worlds had collided and those opera loving ladies should probably have got to the end of their lives without having to see my filth.
Luckily nearly everyone stayed for the second section and they seemed as touched by the material as I was tonight and I stumbled through my half learned stories to warm laughter.
Then I only went and nearly cried.
Lovely idiot.
I met a few old school chums and acquaintances after the show, one of whom I had been only reading about having a brief snog with in my diary that afternoon (I found a couple of extra ridiculous entries that have entered the show already). I don't know if she remembered that. Probably not. I said I'd been reading about her and she seemed pleased to have made it into my mental and strange teenage diaries. Now she's in my mental and strange mid-life one.
My trumpet teacher, Anne Higgs was also there. I hadn't really enjoyed playing the trumpet at school and nor had I been very good, thus had slightly dreaded my lessons. But it was lovely to see her again, a terrifying quarter of a century on. She had kindly furnished me with a trumpet, which will now be making an appearance in the show, after I've done a bit of practice. Miss Higgs had been my first contact in the world of show business, as she played in bands at theatres and gigs and so had met some actual, factual stars. She'd clearly enjoyed my show too and I was glad that I too had made my way in the business, though thankfully for everyone, not playing the trumpet.
After the show in which I had revealed some childhood crimes, that I think they were aware of my parents came up to the table where I was signing autographs and my dad sternly said, "And I'll talk to you when you get home." Everyone laughed. My dad is quite funny. On very limited occasions.
It must have been strange for mum and dad as it was for me and I think they were maybe a little perturbed that people had left in the interval and worried about how their friends would feel about it. But I think they enjoyed it.
I'm not sure. But I think they did.
Dad didn't say anything about my emotional denouement. Nothing really needed to be said. Fathers and sons must keep these feelings hidden from view, but I guess we all know how we feel about each other.

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