Thursday, 27 June 2019

That Day is Done.

Perhaps the most touching moment at my dad's funeral yesterday was when a member of his art club gave me this sketch of him she drew in the late 90s and had kept hold of all these years. Seeing his face when I opened the folder made me cry, predictably. 

I know it's an obvious thing to say in the circumstances and being given the drawing underlined it, but I want him back. The last few years were overwhelmed by his illness and robbed us of time, both during and after it. The breaks in the clouds were few and far between and, while we did all we could to steer him through what we could control, we were ultimately defeated, which is a shit way to end the story, but then that's life. And now I'm trapped in a situation I know would have upset him deeply that I have to navigate in his memory and could do without the pressure on top of the grief. But that's a story for another time.

There was a lot to treasure yesterday, despite the difficultness. Firstly, the church was packed. In the last few days, I received numerous emails from his friends and colleagues, many of whom were shocked to hear the news and planned to be there. Two guys he worked with when he briefly disappeared to Scotland to test the telecommunications on a Navy destroyer (as you do) drove all the way from Bristol to attend. In the pub afterwards, I chatted to everyone from a man who used to get on the back of his motorbike with him when they were teenagers to a few of the mates we went on holiday with when I was younger, and everyone only had good words to say. This kindness helped. 

My main focus until I reached it was to deliver a eulogy that would do him justice and make him proud, and I'd like to think I did that. It was a performance to him, really, as I knew he'd be on my side. He'd given me so much encouragement after comedy gigs through the years, so I knew he would have appreciated and enjoyed it. Once I got past it, the enormity of the occasion began to seep through, but this was only natural. Losing your dad isn't easy; especially one as supportive as mine.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Little Acts of Kindness.

Perhaps the nicest moment at Thursday's Hitchin Mostly Comedy - aside from the round of applause when I dedicated the show to my dad - was when a woman in the audience stopped me as I sneaked in at the back mid-show to ask if she could give me a hug.

It was a decidedly un-British thing to do, but the thought didn't go unappreciated and the conversation that followed was very nice. As well as saying kind, supportive things about losing my dad, she told me she'd been coming to the club since 2008 (so from the very beginning) and how much she loves it. She said her friends even have a Mostly Comedy WhatsApp group, which they use to discuss what shows they'd like to attend and who's paying for it. The fact people take the time to do this amazes me and reminds me our punters are a lovely bunch.

I know losing a parent is such a commonality in life that being in my position isn't exactly special or unusual, but the combination of it, my Edinburgh situation and my more recent honesty about my mental health (and my battle to have my Personal Independence Payment reinstated) seem to have created a perfect storm of sympathy that I really appreciate. The number of people who've donated to my JustGiving page and amount already given is a symbol of the care being levelled in my direction, which I'm trying to use as a cushion to get me through my problems. Of course, it doesn't take them away - and I'm currently embroiled in a crisis interlinked with everything that threatens to overwhelm my grief - but the best thing I can do is see the good that comes from all these acts of kindness, and use my awareness of this to give me strength.

Yesterday, I sketched out the eulogy I intend to give at my dad's funeral next week and, while I feel it's what I'd like to express and what he'd appreciate, I'm worried I'll suddenly be faced with the enormity of losing him when I start speaking. The best way to protect myself is to know it's my duty to do his love and support justice. This is hard when it's so easy for little triggers to set me off. For example, the other day my wife sent me a photograph she'd taken of one of his paintings, to be included in his order of service. Of all my dad's work, it's the one I associate with him the most. A version of it was up in my childhood home and this one's up in his house, in the room he died in.

Seeing it made me burst into tears. God, I miss him.

Watercolour by Barry Ephgrave.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Mostly Civic Halls.

The first Mostly Comedy since losing my dad went by without a hitch, though there was a strange sense of unreality and disconnect to the whole thing.
Backstage with Hal Cruttenden and Simon Brodkin.

The day itself was stressful, mainly because everything I had to do before I could leave for the Town Hall seemed to take forever, and the fact it was a Glynless show at a new venue meant I wanted to be there early enough to not be backfooted by life. That said, stress and Mostly Comedy go hand in hand, so it wouldn't have been right if I wasn't wound up. It's a good job our new sound guy Billy is so on-the-ball though as, when I arrived over an hour late, he was pretty much already set up.

The holdup was partly due to a conflict between a sudden burst of inspiration for some topical material about the terrible state of UK politics and a laptop that wouldn't unfreeze for long enough for me to put a slideshow together; perhaps this was a case of art mirroring life. I'd actually taken a lot of files off of my computer the day before in the hope it was speed things up but this was evidently to no avail. I also had some banking to do before I got to the Town Hall, so by the time I arrived, I was suitably frazzled, though it didn't take long for things to calm down.

Setup was stupidly easy and a world of difference from how things were at The Sun. It was lovely to arrive to see all the seats out, the PA set up and the bar a hive of activity. All I had to do was connect my laptop to the rigged projector that was already set up and switch it on; it was the theatrical get-in dreams are made of with the added bonus of Nick, Gemma, Sam and Billy just getting on with what needed to be done.

Inevitably, the echoey beast of a room was a setback, but Billy's so good at what he does that he soon had control of it. Consequently, at time of writing, there have been no complaints about sound, which is the opposite of how things were for last year's Harry Hill gig. The atmosphere during the show itself was great, which only goes to show how well people could hear what was going on.

The atmosphere in the room was great for the show, with long laughs throughout. It helped that the line-up of Simon Brodkin and Hal Cruttenden are so nice and easy to get on with, and they spoke highly of the new venue, which was a step for the positive. I dedicated the night to my dad at the top of the show as images of us together came up on the screen, which resulted in an impromptu round of applause, which was lovely. My material got some good feedback too, so all-in-all it was a good one; not a bad way to kick things off at the Town Hall properly.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

No Peace for the Wicked.

It's no surprise I'd sooner not have a Mostly Comedy to contend with tomorrow - least of all one at a new venue without Glyn - but it is what it is.

Part of the problem is I have no time to focus on what I'd like to be doing at the moment, but I never get around to it. Today was a case in point: I managed to fit a lot in, but barely started on the work that was important to me. Sadly, time spent thinking about being funny is almost nonexistent, which isn't helping things; In fact, I'm pretty sure I spent most of today staring at my laptop screen as I tried to make it work.

At least Glyn and I managed to drop off most of our equipment at the Town Hall today for tomorrow, which was a preemptive strike. I'm hoping tomorrow will be as easy as possible as I can't fit much more into my head; I'm sure things will fall into place, but I just don't want it all to get out-of-hand; I could just do with a little space to breathe and think.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Too much?

My mood's not particularly bright at the moment, which is not surprising considering what's been happening in my life recently.

I'm feeling pretty defeated; there's so much to do and I don't want to do any of it. This isn't helped by the underlying sense of failure that goes with losing my dad, despite everything we did to try and keep him safe. I know there was no happy ending in store, though he might have still been here if we'd managed to get him to eat and drink or get out of bed; I know this was his responsibility too, but it's hard to keep sight of that when I was so instrumental in his care.

On top of this, I'm finding it hard to get my head around Edinburgh. The financial situation's tough, though the crowdfunding's proving fruitful - as we speak, £1505 has been raised - but there's still far to go (as with Thursday's child). And the cost is just a fraction of the bigger picture when a show has to be written, rehearsed and run-in, while also getting my head around the usual logistics. This year, I have the added challenge of getting my dog to Scotland too. When I saw my PR yesterday, he assured me taking him on the train won't be a problem - he's a dog-owner too, so does the same every year - though it's worth remembering that in certain circles, my dog qualifies as a horse. Yesterday, I booked the journey there, opting for First Class to create some space, but at time-of-writing, the cheapest ticket back is £250 and that's without the option of reserving a seat (though I believe they'll release them in the coming weeks). I also don't like the idea of taking him up alone in case he morphs into Cujo in transit.

The alternative is finding a company that transports pets to take him for me, though this won't be cheap (insert budgie joke here). That said, it might be preferable, provided they're reputable and he's comfortable, as it would alleviate some stress. On top of delivering dogs, I've got to ship my equipment up too, plus I may have to buy a new back-projectable screen, as this year's show will have a much tighter get-in (fifteen minutes instead of the hour I spoilt with last year), so I won't have time to set up my projector up out-front without causing enough accidents to seriously impact my public liability insurance.

The biggest issue ahead is perhaps the most essential; somehow, I need to find the energy to be funny, which requires some semblance of an empty diary to write (or compile some old material at least). Yesterday, I emailed a few venues to try and get some previews booked - of which, a couple which will probably come good - but that's just another thing to administrate, and outside of my PR, I have no real help with this; all of the above must essentially be overseen by me, and right now, I career between wanting to do nothing and wanting to get on the outside of an entire packet of biscuits. It's not that I want to stop everything as that doesn't do me any good, though a little middle ground would be nice.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Ebony and Ivy.

This afternoon I met with my lovely PR, Paul Sullivan, at The Ivy, ostensibly to discuss plans for pushing this year's Edinburgh show, but more than anything, to have a bit of a catch-up.

Inevitably, much of the conversation centred on the loss of my dad and everything that's gone with it, to which Paul offered some sound advice. I'd like to be in a situation where it didn't dominate everything I do, though it's inevitable what with it being so recent. I just try to embrace it, particularly when I'm with someone who really gets it, as Paul does.

While we didn't talk about the show massively - there's not much to talk about yet, to be honest - seeing him gave me a little burst of confidence about what lies ahead. I told him how I knew full well it won't be as well-rounded as last year's show, which I was quite proud of, but that doesn't mean it can't still be enjoyable if I keep it simple. I'll just call on some of the set pieces that worked best from the last four shows and keep my head down, so I can come back in 2020 (Christ) with something new and more substantial; I look forward to that.

Having a Grand Time.

This evening, an email went out to our Mostly Comedy mailing list to plug my crowdfunding for Edinburgh situation, and within half an hour, we'd broken the £1000 barrier.

I have to say this is pretty mindblowing and deeply encouraging, though of course there's still a long way to go. The response though has been so heartening; to think people care enough about my predicament to not only leave me words of encouragement - which is lovely - but to even dip into their pockets is quite something. I always assume much of the Mostly Comedy audience are only interested in seeing big names these days, but to throw a little kindness my way so willingly paints our audience base in such a good light; it restores my faith in humanity, which let's face it, was pretty non-existent prior to all of this.

One thing I will do when I have a bit more time is to answer all the lovely messages people have posted when donating. Taking a solo show to Edinburgh is pretty isolating at the best of times, but if I make it there this year, all these people will be standing by me; it makes all the organising you do on your own a little more bearable.

By far my favourite message of support posted on the fundraising wall in relation to EdinburghGagGate is this. I think it's a stroke of genius and I'm sure my dad would have laughed too.