Friday, 12 October 2018

More Travels in Showbiz

I'm on holiday this week! In true frugal fashion, we've made it a bit of a working holiday and taken in a couple of gigs round the country. Very utilitarian! If it was work, work, proper work though, it wouldn't work. That is, we'd be bankrupt as with the money earned these gigs wouldn't even cover the cost of travel. Hence making them a 'holiday' has given me the opportunity to do these things I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise, but also made the holiday recoup some of its own costs. Mad, crazy...

It sort of works for me anyway.

On Tuesday, I had a gig in Oakengates in Shropshire. Nice little town, surrounded by lovely countryside. Isn't all countryside lovely? I don't know, some of it is quite dull, isn't it? Anyway, this trip gave me the chance to go and visit my sister at her new house in Baschurch, which was fab, as I don't think I have seen her in a year. 

Lovely gig for Roger Swift with Alex Hylton, Dan Collins, Kevin Hudson, Tom Little and Chris Phillips. I had a couple of very nice ciders at the Crown, which I think  may have been slightly strong, but I swear I didn't have any before my set, though Dan told the crowd I was on drugs. Alex did a run through of his Edinburgh show 'Everybody's Different And I'm The Same', which was really good!

The next day took us traveling proper. Kahn Johnson invited me to Treehouse Comedy at the Walnut Tree Shades in Norwich. I prepared for the journey with a picnic of blueberry muffins, squash, and chicken legs, which we were very glad of when traffic crawled to a halt. A lovely traffic jam picnic! I generally try to take my own food and drink on these journeys as it saves money. We were also entertained on our journey by an audio book from the library of Christopher Brookmyre's Bedlam, which was funny and highly entertaining. The jam meant we didn't have very long to do much in Norwich before dinner, but we  saw the Royal Arcade and 'Children's Doctor Tim' from MasterChef's shop!


Dinner was in Jamie's Italian, taking advantage of the early bird special and the vintage crappers (oh my life, you need to see the loos!!!). Might as well, eh? The real extravagance of our holiday (and still pretty cheap). I had truffle tagliatelle to start and smoked salmon cassarece -- both beautiful pasta dishes -- and my husband had the pate followed by tagliatelle carbonara. Yum!

Thence to the Walnut Tree Shades. This is another lovely gig, and I opened for John Mann with -- as Kahn described -- a million comics in the middle as he'd overbooked. I'm afraid I didn't grab everyone's names and have tried retro-searching to no avail, but I met Olly Neve, Susanna Jones, Martin Westgate, and others including a Laurence, but they were all very good. There were a couple only on gig # 2, and they were both very promising. Great storytelling and callbacks. 

As soon as we arrived in the pub, it seemed the local 'character' found us and told my husband he was going to show the comedians he was funnier than any of them. He was inebriated and possibly a little challenged in other ways, but others at the bar said he was "NFN", which apparently means "normal for Norfolk". The pub filled up with loads of people for the comedy, but as Kahn began compering this fella's voice was heard rising above everybody and everything with nuggets like "There are 80,000 pigs in Norfolk" and he not only resisted any attempts to be shushed, he took up the invitation that was issued generally to the more behaved non-seated members of the crowd and went and plonked himself in an empty seat in the front row. I crossed myself, I was up next!

Anyway, I dealt with him, no problem and after my set he tried to shake my hand and tell me I was "going places", but what actually happened was that I stayed there and he was the one that slunk off, and thus I was carried somewhat metaphorically on the shoulders of the newer comedians for a moment as he wasn't going to bother them. Huzzah!

I'd booked a hotel for the night in town, so me and Neil lingered a while after the other comics had gone. Neil has recently learned he is allergic to spirits, but they were doing a scratch card promo with Jack Daniels to try to win a guitar that at the very least meant you got a free plectrum, so he diced with his health and got a couple of plectrums. On the way back to the hotel, we took in the sights of the posh shops, the resplendent Ivy Restaurant, all the jewellery shops with their displays of gold and diamonds removed for the night, except for this...

Normal for Norfolk?


Our hotel was on what locals called 'the food mile', not quite as posh as the Ivy. More the chips and cheese joints next to the nightclubs, strip joints and massage parlours. Our hotel was somewhat conveniently located and priced for its surrounds. We had a perfectly nice stay, though wished we had realised the window was open a bit earlier. Raucous! We thought the biscuits on the tea and coffee making facilities were a nice touch, but there was no way we were actually making a cup of tea. 

With a bit of time to explore Norwich before we left in the morning, we climbed up to the castle. I was hoping to show Neil the Victorian mourning jewellery full of dead people's hair that I remembered from my last visit in 1992, but at £9.75 each to go in, we decided against going in.

Instead we ventured back down the hill, our eye caught by St George's Tombland church just before we got to the cathedral. The vergers inside seemed delighted to have visitors, and we got the amazing whistle-stop tour. I was a bit hesitant to go in, I must admit, as the "art project" Jesus visible from the doorway was a bit creepy, but it really is a fascinating building if you go in, and the people there know so much about it. In fact it was a lucky day as with the bright sunshine, they were able to point out bits of the d├ęcor to each other that weren't normally visible, so it was like everyone was learning something. Fans of Pre-Raphaelites should goin and see the Burne-Jones designed window. And fans of comedy should go and see the figure of St George on the font, which due to a choirboy/football mishap is killing the dragon with a No. 8 knitting needle.

Then we went on to the cathedral, stopping in the crypt to the side to see a fascinating art exhibition about Charles Bonnet Syndrome (it's a proper surreal hallucinatory condition affecting people whose eyesight is failing). The cathedral is of course a very beautiful Romanesque/Gothic building, and has a cloisters that reminds me of Hogwarts. We had a proper explore, climbing up to the reliquary, and having a gander at all the tombs. Anyway, Google has helpfully made this lovely video of our time in Norwich with all that in.