Days of Understanding Muggeridge – Adrian Mole

I had 25 minutes yesterday to write some thoughts on Adrian Mole while backstage in Maidenhead. I have no idea if The Guardian published it. If not, here it is, slightly expanded. There is no great insight. It was hastily written to meet a sudden deadline and I did not have my copies of the books with me. 

Two books have made me snort milk out of my nose through apoplectic laughter, both are diaries of deluded, fictional males, and both still provide me with delight when I return to them decades on, The Diary of a Nobody and The Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 and 3/4. I no longer drink milk when reading, for health reasons. I was fortunate that my puberty began when the first Adrian Mole was published and The Smiths formed, here were two great self-regarding narrators that would help through those difficult years of penile panic, acne eruptions and romantic notions that were untroubled by real possibilities. Sue Townsend invaded the minds of teenage boys and revealed the terrors and desires that lay within with startling accuracy. 

At the time, in the midst of my own onslaught of hormonal confusion, I was too busy laughing to see the mirror in front of me. (similarly, we all liked to imagine we were Vyvian in The Young Ones when we more often Rik with a lentil smear of Neil). Sue Townsend carried off the trick of writing as a deluded lad who would never have the ability to be a writer, and did so with such wit and yet believability in her character’s frequent witlessness.

The teenager is frequently spoofed, but it takes great empathy to make such an anti-hero so loveable and real. “I saw Malcolm Muggeridge on the television last night, and I understood nearly every word. It all adds up. A bad home, poor diet, not liking punk. I think I will join the library and see what happens.” And so, Adrian declares himself an intellectual. We may all like to have imagined we were Holden Caulfield, but really we were Adrain Mole. I hope no one else tries to revive Adrian Mole, you might be able to hand Sherlock Holmes or James Bond to other authors, but Mole has more humanity than them, and it is a tribute to the humane vision of Sue Townsend that she could create such a character.

I am off touring as usual – Dublin, Newcastle, Leeds, Chorley, Belfast, Guildford, Horsham and on and on and on. I blame the desires of my teenage self for the lunatic path I now tread. Idiot he and idiot I. All tour details HERE

Latest DVD of three hours of gabbling, jumping and mime HERE

 

 

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I Resign

I have decided to stop typing up my opinions for a little while, it seems to have become habitual. As it has become habitual, so they have become repetitive, I don’t know how these newspaper columnists manage it.

I have found it an interesting exercise since September, and the feedback has been at times enlightening, occasionally infuriating, and sometimes enigmatic (by which I mean confusing).

My punctuation has failed to improve.

As I spent much of my working life alone, I find things like Twitter provide me with the chance for an egotistical conversation, I fear I need to lose that prop before I hit 75,000 tweets. I am not sure I will succeed, for each addiction I crush, booze and cigarettes being the pre-eminent ones, a couple more spring up. I should spend more time reading and less time telling people what I am reading. I may find the cold turkey too much. perhaps I’ll be back blogging again tomorrow, but I have the opportunity to vent for a couple of hours on a nearly daily basis from the stage, and I should focus on that area of showing off. I will not depart from Twitter instantaneously, but I will attempt to ration myself to 3 tweets a day. Goddammit, that 140 character world of fracas sucks you in. What madness is it to be lured into checking how many times a sentence you have hastily typed has been retweeted? I will incarcerate the majority of my ridiculousness in my mind.

The feeble roar continues in the flesh – from Salford to Maidenhead, Leeds to Glasgow via Newcastle and frequent London, Northampton and Brighton outings. It is more than likely I am coming to a town near you. Details HERE

My new 3 hour DVD which plays in a different order and with different intros on at least 8 outings is HERE

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Little lamb on Hassocks

In case you are new to these, I write them quickly. these blog posts are often questions, not opinions of certainty. You will find flaws in spelling, punctuation and reasoning. 

I have been following the religious slaughter debates, awakened to it by a Christina Odone piece that made the sound that I imagine the victim in Munch’s The Scream is perturbed by. I had one of those moments of being confused by what it is to be human when I heard that the reason animals can’t be anesthetized before slaughter in some Halal abattoirs is that it means they won’t hear the prayer. And thus I splutter like Oliver Hardy, or Eric Campbell being disturbed from his soup by Charlie Chaplin. There are times I attempt a leap to understand, but I fall into an apoplectic crevice. There is much I do not understand about physics, philosophy , near bloody everything, but that is due to being lazy and lack of diligence. However much I read, I fear I will never understand the necessity of a sheep to listen to prayers. I don’t even read my sheep a bedtime story, though I sometimes show them pop up books. They don’t like it.

 

I believe I am a ghastly liberal. Not quite ghastly enough to read The Guardian on a regular basis, but ghastly enough. I am not so sure though, as I have not yet seen 12 Years a Slave. Apparently, the act of not seeing 12 Years a Slave is tantamount to declaring you think slavery is good. I am told that you must go to see it, then feel rather bad and sad about it all, emotion being the equivalent of action, then get on with shopping and stuff, every now and again pausing to say to a friend that it was all so sad. I am writing this on an a macbook pro, unsure of just how bad the conditions of workers might be, but certain that this technological boon and it is dazzling, predominantly unused applications, are a necessity.

Another dent in my liberal aura is religion. I am not too bothered by liberal religious type, hey, some of my media acquaintances are Vicars and former Deans, but underneath it all, I am perplexed and my empathy runs thin. I cannot really make the leap of understanding as to how people well-read in science, informed by modernity, still find room for a traditional deity. This is not a dig at them, it is my own inability to comprehend. I understand that the idea that “this is all there is”, though I reckon it is a pretty good this even if it is annoyingly finite for us individually, may make people want something beyond the material. I certainly understand that death is a quandary, well more than a quandary, headfuck will do. Barely a day goes by without thinking, “hmmm, I am not sure I am going to ever be content that you get this one go, this hopefully 80 or more years of experiencing things and that is that” and my son has now reached an age where death troubles and upsets him. He does not wish to imagine a world without us (maybe we should start being nastier to him so we can put him off us), so I can see the desire for an afterlife.

But most of the religious people I know don’t seem to have a grand view of A Matter of a Life and Death style escalator to a hotel like heaven with tinges of cloudy edges and a beheaded aristocrats ruing the lack of technicolor. When I have done panels with religious people, I can happily chatter away, most are not homophobes or creationists or assassins of abortionists, it’s all just a little difference of opinion. It is when they get to the “sensation of the Holy spirit” that my mind judders and stalls. This is the bit where I go quiet and smile, but inside I think, “this is all a bit mad”.What allows their minds, and these are often people with far broader reading and deeper experience than I have, to keep thought space for something so far from materialistic experience?

It’s all very well Thomas Nagel saying we cannot know what it is like to be a bat, I can’t even know what it is like to be a Bishop. This is why so many of those debates between the faithful and faithless are a waste of time. They are not merely debating with an entirely different set of facts, they are speaking in a different language. They have experience that I cannot understand as experience, all calls to evidence and experimental results are pointless. I am intrigued to know about the differences in the brain. Is there such a thing as a religious brain that enhances mystical experience. We can’t even meaningful describe what we taste when we taste chocolate, how the hell will we put “the touch of the holy spirit” into meaningful words? I am not sure whether to be pessimistic about my inability to imagine a world without religion, but can I at least imagine a world without fundamentalist religion, with a dancing gang of liberal deities declaring, “hey, just get on with it and be kind” (time for another eulogy about the Quakers can go here).

Unfortunately, when things go tits up will dogmatism always be alluring. Is certainty, however blind and damaging, all part of evolution? What would change if the religious programming was not instilled so frequently before the child was seven? We are frequently told that there are ages when children are too young to be taught of procreation. Before then, they have usually learnt about 30 or 40 wars in history classes, with the brutality and agony of the casualties bowdlerised, so they all just become “events” on time chart. There are many things that children are too juvenile for, but they are quite grown up to be given a view of total explanation of the universe and existence from the position of mangled, ancient texts.

There is a sudden stop here, I got distracted by another thought. I will come back to it when I have worked it out.

My endless tour continues with a new show – off to Leeds, Chorley, Glasgow, Newcastle, Edinburgh Science festival, Laugharne Weekend, Swansea and a town near you. Details HERE
also continuing regular club nights in Brighton, Northampton and London. Mark Steel joins us at Comedy Cafe London this Tuesday.

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I Will Fondly Remember that Night when I was in Watford Junction for less time than I had Imagined

It is 1.25am.

Well, not where you are.

I mean it is 1.25am when I am writing this, please do not use this post as a timekeeping device, it is even less chance of being correct than a stopped clock.

The point is, it is 1.26am and I am not sitting in a waiting room at Watford Junction train station with an inebriated dribbling teen sleeping through the horrible rhythm of the music traveling from his headphones, and a tourist who has arrived 8 hours too early for the connecting train to the Harry Potter Studio tour.

This is a relief. Virgin Trains timed their lateness for my connection as perfectly as usual, the last few seconds of 12.58am. This usually means I can see the doors close on platform 4 and watch the suited drunks drift off to Leighton Buzzard, allowing me to let out the worst of expletives and nearly kick a solid metal thing before sharply arcing my foot to the right and turning it into a lazy ballet move or an outtake from Breakdance 2: Electric Boogaloo.

Sometimes the Virgin train sneakily nearly arrives on time, then stops 17 feet from the platform. This gives the added frisson of watching your train arrive and depart, while you scream at it through glass like the final frame of horror movie where you know the sole survivor will now be incarcerated in the mad scientist’s outback warehouse lair for the rest of eternity. But Branson, who I know has sent specific instructions to inconvenience me and only me (though this has had a knock on effect of inconveniencing everyone else everywhere on any Virgin train due to a poor business plan), didn’t count on London Midland running a tiny bit late. Ha ha, one in the eye to you Branson.

And the London Midland train had that entertaining sight of suited men making up alibis for clearly being very late home and all practising their illusion of sanity look. For some, it seems the illusion that Polo mints will magic away all traces of fags and booze will never go away.

So I am spending the entirety of this hour enjoying not being in a waiting room in Watford. Everything I do has the additional refrain of, “and I am not at Watford Junction watching drool ooze from the open mouth of the twitching teenager”. I just ate some Edam, and how delicious it tasted knowing that this was sating my hunger and whatsmore it was sating it not at Watford Junction.

In the background there is some programme about shopping or being drunk or what young people do on holiday, and I don’t mind, because I am not watching it at Watford Junction. Actually, I am not watching, it’s more a fleeting glance. (ah hah, and now I have found out that BBC4 is showing Ever Decreasing Circles, and so hurrah for Richard Briers). Tonight is a night I will always remember, because it is a night that had less time than I imagined in Watford Junction. Next time I am stuck at Watford Junction, I will fondly reminisce about that night, that very special night, when I wasn’t.

(As a footnote – thank you Birmingham audience. It might have been a lower number than I have played to for a while, but that means the showing off gets even more Shakespearian…or noisy.)

and so the tour goes on – Chorley, Maidenhead, Lowry Salford, Leeds City Varieties, London Bloomsbury, come along, I am having fun. Details HERE

plus regular club nights in London, Brighton and Northampton – Mark Steel is joining us at Comedy Cafe this tuesday. 

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Am I bipolar or am I just touring – It’s Over…no, it’s only just begun…no it’s over…

I am chaotic. I am messy. I am confused.

I have too many things in my pockets.

When we started using ink pens at school, I was soon banned because I made everything inky.

I like the idea of order, but I fail to create it.

My bedroom is a scrapyard of books, magazines, notes and and cultural ephemera, most of which I’ll probably fail to get through before I die, but which I still can’t permit to leave my floorboards. I am too impulsive.

A few years ago, on the way to the birthplace of Adam Smith, I saw my ticket sales for that night. Dismal. That was that I realised, it was time to stop, time to find a new occupation, maybe even produce the shows of the young bucks that had allure. I was spent as a force to be watched. I wrote a miserable blog post accepting defeat. Then the next day, after my 10 hour journey to Blackheath, with a busy and happy audience, I thought I would keep going.

My act of resignation was another fit of pique. Everything is very immediate, I find calm tricky.

The energy that creates my ridiculous shows at Hammersmith Apollo with astronauts and lazers, swearing one moment, on stage smiling and showing off the next, is the same that has me kicking plant pots and punching chests of drawers when I can’t find my laptop or my toothpaste or my mind.

As I approached Northampton for a lunch break on the way to Bromsgrove, I received an email telling me that I had low sales in Birmingham. So low they were below last year’s show in King’s Lynn (it is just the one king who has the lynn isn’t it? Or is it Kings’ Lynn, surely not Kings Lynn?).

The horror.

My first reaction was – “right, that’s it, I am never going to Birmingham again. To hell with that city. And if we ever do another uncaged monkeys tour, I’ll deliberately skip Birmingham. Sorry Birmingham, you couldn’t be bothered to turn up for me on my own, so I won’t let you see Professor Cox.” If you missed the tour, I would unveil Professor Cox like John Merrick, and the audience of doctors and surgeons and shopkeepers and stylists, would gasp as I pointed out his parts.
This is stage one – the obstreperous child smashes toys then gathers the splinters and blames the glue for not being able to put them back together.

My second reaction was – “oh well, that’s it. the bubble has burst. Despite healthy sales and sell outs in first month of the tour, now I am found out. What job can I do? How will I feed my family. That’s me fucked.” That reaction has taken longer to shift. I thought of canceling the gig, as that option was on the table, or possibly the chair, they were non-specific about the location of the option, but they knew they had it somewhere…

But then I thought, “to hell with you and your ego. They may not be many, but some might have even gone so far as to look forward to tomorrow’s show, so lose money and get on with it. This is SHOWBIZ ARCHIE RICE! Rise Up Calvero. Do you not see that plaque on your desk that says, “what would Bobby Davro do?” I remain wobbly and worried. I continue to be cross that my allure is so limited in some of the Midlands, but get on with it. And don’t blame the audience that are there, it’s the few million that haven’t turned up who are at fault. I will hire a jeep and drive around the suburbs of Birmingham at 5am, honking my horn and bellowing, “and where the fuck were you?”

Oh, and the answer to the title question is – I am touring. (Oddly or predictably, after writing this I had a funny old confused gig at Bromsgrove, well, at least the first half was. in the second half I broke out the chutzpah)

I am at the Glee in Birmingham on 27th March, then Leeds, Salford, Newcastle, Glasgow, Chorley, Horsham and a town near you – Details HERE

and Mark Steel is joining Michael Legge and me at the comedy cafe in london this Tuesday

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I, Idiot..again (madness and Madness)

To get over feeling cross with myself, I hastily scribbled in my A4 pad on the train, hoping that inky scrawls would be a good come down.

I still feel aggression in my guts and it’s aimed right at me.

A bruised feeling in my stomach.

A sensation in my throat as if I have forced myself to swallow a particularly large marble.

I have Cardiac Arrest by Madness looped in my head. 

 Acts of self stupidity make me want to stab myself in the thigh, and sometimes in the summit of my skull, with a cheap biro. I imagine the action will somehow the pus or gas bubbles that have built up inside me creating this unpleasant pressure that makes a sensation of static, fury fug. If I lifted one of my eyelids up high enough, there may be a sudden, violent release of the toxic fumes of self loathing.

Today was a grotesquely simple act of idiocy. In the act of posting a letter in the pillar box on Euston station forecourt, I got a paranoid sensation that my fingers had been holding something more than an envelope between my fingers as the mail dropped in. My mind leapt to the conclusion that I had somehow posted my rail ticket too.

You monumental moron.

There were a few minutes until departure, and I had to take this train as I had promised my son I’d be in home to read the next chapter of The Magic Faraway Tree. We were hoping Mr Whatizname might remember his name in the next few pages. Going through every pocket I found a museum of my previous week’s travel, right up to this Monday, but nothing with “25th March” printed on it. Another check. Still nothing. I had made a promise. No time for a third check. I tried not to grind my capped molar out of my mouth as I bought a new ticket. That expense was quite enough without excess dentistry and Ren and Stimpy style exposed nerves. My skull was filled with one hundred Mes, all waving placards declaring my stupidity and urging a putsch to usurp the current dunce in charge of my mind.

Once on my train, there it was, loudly and overtly screaming from my ticket wallet, “look at me, the 25th, I tried to call but you were too busy being tetchy and flinching and twitching”. I had not been so stupid to post my ticket, I’d been a different type of stupid. Such a minor thing of no real importance and not the greatest expense, but the gnawing remained persistent. half-witted personal failures always fester pointlessly. Not satisfied with one cock up, I then find I can’t concentrate on anything else. I could have just wasted a bit of money and a bit of time, but instead I stretch it out.

I can’t merely sigh, murmur (or sing if I was in a B*witched frame) C’est la vie. Rational me says, forget it. Id I wishes the ensuing hours to ache. You should have seen how I reacted to leaving my wallet in the back of a taxi. I think trepanning may have helped that night in Shoreham-by-Sea. I should go on a meditation course, though I’d probably end up leaving my phone charger or laptop on a higher plane and, finding myself back on a terrestrial plain, that toxic hate would bubble my eyelids all over again. I wonder what it is. What chemical release in the brain creates such a silly state of affairs? Oh well, writing it out helped.

Off to Bromsgrove, Birmingham, Leeds, Chorley, Glasgow, Northampton and on and on to a town near you. Details HERE

Also Mark Steel is joining Michael Legge and me at the Comedy Cafe this Tuesday.

 and Ben Target is joining us at our next Art Chaos night in London

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Plungers and Curiosity and Stoppages and Pulsars

I am struggling with writer’s block. For that reason I am just making myself write. I am trying to find the sewage that has clogged up my thoughts and flush it out. So I am just typing and typing, as if I was standing over a rank and rising toilet with a plunger, hoping my energetic arm action would eventually suck up the miscreant and let everything flow efficiently again. Not that my mind ever flows particularly efficiently. So count this blog post on curiosity as nothing but an exercise in plumbing.

I like to imagine that if humans can generate a question then there is some possibility of eventually coming up with an answer. When I read that Pope John Paul II, while accepting that the theory of evolution by natural selection now had enough evidence accrued that the vatican would accept it, but that the human mind was beyond the realm of science, I thought “why?”. Why should consciousness and all that self regarding hullabaloo remain too difficult? Given enough time, probably more time than we might have as a living species, couldn’t theory, experiment and observation eventually get us to, if not a conclusion, an effective working hypothesis.

Are we hindered by each generation reckoning it is some sort of pinnacle and, if it is unable to even imagine the tools required, then the answer is unreachable. Then, there is the “this question is beyond our understanding, therefore it must mean that the answer is something mythical”, though that doesn’t seem to work at all for me as, if it is meant to be beyond our understanding, how can we so easily understand it if we just call in something unobservable as the answer.

So many thinking games are just carousels for us to find away of dizzily coming up with the answer that fits our worldview. Accepting our shortcomings doesn’t mean we must immediately imagine some far greater beast did it all. Maybe we just aren’t equipped with the patience to wait and work towards too many answers about the cosmos, like the journalist who wrote, “if scientists are so good, how come they haven’t even worked out how the universe began?” Sometimes I wonder what is the use of being curious if it is for no other reason than its own sake.

Why do I have so many books on so many subjects? Why do I wish to confound myself each day and confront the inadequacy of my mind when it comes to mathematics, physics, philosophy, mending things, and cookery beyond an omelette (my risotto is also passable if I avoid sudden spasms of ludicrous experimentation). My curiousity is just a hobby. Others have football or battle re-enactment, I have my nose in a book.

I see people far smarter than I am, and they seem cocksure in their inquisitiveness. I wonder if my mind was just a little better I’d be over some horizon into a contented and confident book lined club where Will Self and AC Grayling are comfortably wise. I find myself floundering in a vale where the happily ignorant and opinionated dance and carouse to the left of me, and the intellectuals smoke their opium pipes and nibble on their canapes while dissecting the vowels of a sentence beyond my comprehension.

As my shows aim to become more celebratory and positive, I wonder if I have spent all my optimism in those two hours of hyperkinetic enthusiasm, leaving the solitary, offstage me shrugging and perplexed. Maybe I should make my shows coldly cynical, then this will be counterbalanced with a giddy offstage countenance?

Pragmatically, is there an advantage to non-professional curiosity? What are the benefits? Hopefully reading up on the human brain may help me understand my 6 year old son’s erratic judgement, the decision making of my enemies, the tantrums of my own mind. Maybe reading Pale Blue Dot and mulling over the possibly paucity of complex living organisms in the universe may aid my political decision making, as well as my decision making when it comes to both number of offspring and switching off the lights, though I might find myself handled powerful ammunition to judge others whilst never pointing the torpedoes at myself? All that reading about war and battle strategy that has occupied so many men’s time and, despite it all, it remains a messy business, even if the casualties have predominantly been swapped from soldiers to civilians.

Maybe curiosity, like philosophy, is just a way of preparing for death, of finding a meaning in this finite existence. Perhaps the benefits of my curiosity are slight, but it is something to do and it makes the brief experience of being alive more exciting, even fulfilling. Pondering the unlikelihood of existence, knowing that you have an ability to question why things are as they are, even though you know you’ll still die without the answers to most things, helps it all move along. Would you rather be a Lamprey, unaware of its existence, or all those other creatures that twitch and recoil and flutter their cilia before being digested in the gutter of a bigger and cleverer monster? Well if you would rather be that, then you’d rather not be at all.

off to Birmingham, Salford, Bromsgrove, London, Leeds and many more. Details HERE
also Mark Steel will be joining Michael Legge and I for our angry show at Comedy cafe on 1st April.

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