Work is a Four Letter Word but, sorry Cilla, I like it

I am in a hurry. I am usually in a hurry, it seems to be my preferred method of being. It is not necessarily the one I prefer, but I find sauntering even more problematic. When I am busy, I like the idea of sitting down and idling, but when I do that, my fingers fidget and the guilt falls on me. I like what I do, hence it cannot be work. 

I define myself with a “work” schedule that others consider preposterous. If I take a holiday, it feels like something that should be kept secret. A hole in the tour diary must be hastily filled with some daft project or foolish errand. Each year, I say that the next year will see me slow down, but each blank day is a monstrous, goading thing. 

I like doing stuff, and I like talking about all the stuff I am doing. Not the minutiae of it, just the general sense of frenetic hubbub. I am not sure when it became a necessity, some time in the early 21st century. It was the shadow cast by a docile, drinking, “good ideas that came to nothing”, notes scrawled but script never written, 1990s. The sloppiness of my university days creeped into my adult existence. The moss formed around my sluggishness, but started to be peeled away in 1999 or so, I had to cease being Pond Thing before my humanity was gone. The 1990s was not helped by fear of telephoning. Gigs told me they would book me in and just to call them. Each morning, or nearest equivalent, I would wake up knowing today would be the day I would ring all those promoters’ numbers, each night my ear remained unwarmed by a receiver. 

It is peculiar what we find to define us. I wonder if I could go to Edinburgh Fringe and just do one show a day rather than four or more, and would there be a point in that. Just as my solo shows get faster and faster as they overrun each night until I crumple 45 minutes or so after the official end time, so a well-paced, well-rehearsed single Edinburgh show would seem not to fit the brief of being me. There is so much time easily wasted, better to get on with it. Why sit sipping soup and complaining about another act’s material filching or overly lucky breaks, when you can be showing off to a crowd?

I have finished my touring for the year, and my 2013 solo show is in its death throes. Just enough muscle twitching to perform it in Tunbridge Wells in January, then into the ground, or top drawer, or memory stick. Next year, I plan to tour five shows. I am working on tow of them now. One will be the most stand uppy one for some time, unhampered by theme or powerpoint, the other, on the human brain and perception. At this point, in a delusion and occasionally in a dream, I see the brain show being a neat 90 minutes, 45 minutes each side of the interval, the babysitters may trust you to be home when you say this time.

But can this ever be achieved? Even typing this I think, “who are you kidding?” It will be scrappy, fast, hyperventilating, passionate and sometimes confused, but with a show about the brain I should know about the mind I am contending with. Why aim for slick, you’ll only alienate them. You lost the audience that wanted slick a long time ago, maybe they never came. They are happy in an arena now.

Is my style an alibi, an escape from the neatness of a narrative arc and the showbiz schtick? I am still the boy that wasn’t allowed an ink pen in school because each essay became a multiple Rorschach Test. The one who tried to dampen his hair down to stop it springing up at some Three Stooges angle above his ear. I am the boy whose body physically rejected neatness however much his mind tried to embrace it (to be honest, it gave up pretty quickly. It liked it as an ideal, but threw its hands in the air when it realised the impracticality).

So now I am grown up, surrounded by books. It’s a siege situation of pencil marked paperbacks. The cheery and elaborate filthmonger Mike Wilmot laughs when he looks into my satchel and says, “hmmm, how many books today?”

The pencils are sharpened, the margins are getting hectic, somewhere in the thousands of authors’ words that are near me, are ideas that will be mixed up, fucked up, contorted and turned into two hours of energetic babbling and possible accidental obfuscation. There is no point in pretending, I know what I am and I do what I do.

(If I am on honest, when I went to bed a few hours ago, I realised I was fraying at the edges, and wished I could turn some of the work I offer myself for the sake of sanity, but that’s a less upbeat ending) See you in Norwich or Bristol or Nottingham, speeding up and flapping about and wondering who chainsawed my narrative arc this time.


I am off to lots of places from Leeds (twice), Hull, York, Cardiff, Sheffield and on and on, see me hurrying to and from trains in a town near you, receding hair still vertical, a pencil clenched in my teeth. dates HERE



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