Still ill


It's fun to dip in to our friend Richard's diary of his Ed festival. That entry in particular is a bloody typical mix of the social energy you need, the strange feelings of isolation; crap food and exhilerating exhaustion of the festival. You end up being "on" for something like 18 hours a day if you're involved. God I miss it, but at the same time there's a large part of me that sighs in relif that I'm not burning the increasingly threadbare candle at both ends and the middle, and trudging home to a tenament block at 3am.  Rich used to be on what is commonly described as a "cult" TV show on BBC2. Since then he's been tinkering away at this, that and the other in TV and radio writing and performing but he's also been perfecting  his role as a stand up comedian. I've known  Rich longer than I've known many of my London based friends, but I didn't see his  early stand up stuff which ended just post-student. Presumably when he and the boys house shared in Acton.

His "apha male" genes tend to come out on stage, where in everyday life they have mellowed somewhat since his bullish twenties. At least, I say that but that's based on seeing him once last year, whilst pregnant, in a last ditch attempt to actually go out before the social exile of a newborn. There's a slight similarity in that respect to Phill Jupitus, who is a lovely person in every respect, but whose standup I never really appreciated - from out of nowhere he suddenly produced a slightly mean streak; bullish and even if provoked, nasty. It surprised and unsettled me.

Strange. I feel a hankering for comedy these days. It's in my blood. Shame I could never translate my cynicism to the page or in to any performance - ah, I say that, but I never tried, despite various people telling me I should (although they might have been being polite). But - and I'll tell you the problem I have with stand up, as a career. There's a particular chap, who shall remain nameless, who used to do comedy songs. A really, really nice person. Generous spirited, kind... a really good guy. His comedy songs were very average, but they'd raise a smile. A drunken laugh if done at Jongleurs with the office crowds in. When I knew him he was in his late thirties, I'd say. and what was his future? He had a talent, but it would not reach as far as TV, or serious moneymaking, so he was "condemned" to tread the boards forever, traipsing from one underpaid gig to the next. Doing gigs in front of businessmen or oh, god I don't know but this is what stopped me. knowing I'd never be Jo Brand, but a trudging, middle of the talent pool at best comedian, looking at a sea of gigs before me and a sea of exactly the same gigs behind - all at the same level, forever.

This is where Rich wins. He's no middle of the pile comedian. His reviews for this show are as fantastic as can be expected.

God. I have so many Edinburgh memories. Finding out that someone who shall remain nameless never clipped his gigantic toenails (totally out of proportion with the rest of him) when a crowd of us were kipping in a fantastic, Avalon-sourced tenement (of course I wasn't supposed to be there. I certainly wasn't paying for use of the sofa); tracking down some er, substances with the help of Jane Hardee and geting nicely geed up with some, er, other people who shall remain nameless. Going out and buying the Sunday papers, ending up with them spread endlessly all over a darkly painted, stone floored front room. Sally, Stu, Rich, Pete, Simon, Kevin, Danny, Dave, Jane, Malcolm, Stephen, Mackay, Ben, M&S, Emma who was still doing law (I think?) and was gradually being dragged back in. Ed, Becca... watching a Star Trek night in Stephen and Becca's flat; Danny with tears in his eyes, blusteringly justifying himself through a crucial clip of the "Lal" episode. The Marlborough women - perpetually carrying a packet of 10 Silk Cut with you, with 2 left in, such that you can swap for yet another packet of 20 to chainsmoke - sweet jesus I did more damage to my lungs in those years than I've ever done living in London. Losing my bag with my camera and filofax in the back of a cab, only to have the filofax delivered anonymously to the Pleasance after they read my plea in the front, because they worked out from the fliers where I'd be. Watching gig after gig after gig...

And meeting my husband. Ten years ago this week. The guys were doing Oblomov and I was running about trying to get it in the papers. I didn't do too badly, given my limited experience. I also kissed my husband for the first time. It was Mel's fault. She told me to quit being so flaky. She and Emma Williams. "Tonight!" they said. I'd been sitting, banging my head against a wooden table top in the Pleasance courtyard gnawing my fist and bemoaning my fate to several mates whose patience was beginning to wear thin. How could I possibly tell this person, who I knew but didn't know; who seemed very self assured and good christ, he was a good actor, about the oppressive, asthma enducing feelings that were beginning to reduce everyday conversation to monosyllabic idiocy. But, we were being drawn inexorably together; the long distance stare at each other without speaking in the Cafe Royal (? I think?) being the most obvious clue. So it came to pass. That night I kissed his thumb. And then some.

I had to go home a week early. He walked me to my train, and as I stood in the doorway of the Intercity at Waverley station, I said "I love you", and I knew it to be true. Mackay flushed momentarily, and said haltingly "...and you're very lovely too".

But, I knew.