Monday, August 31, 2009
I still don't have an internet connection robust enough to allow me to upload photos so pics of yesterday's Human Sat Nav's and today's - the equally excellent Ivan - will have to wait. In the mean time, here's a map of today's route:
And here's the uppity-downity chart:
Tomorrow promises to be one of the toughest rides of the lot. Hope the rain rains itself out tonight...
Here's a map of today's ride:
And here's a graphic showing the breakdown of up and down hill:
There were some thigh burning climbs and some fabulously exciting descents also.
According to my Sat Nav I cycle 45.71 miles today although when I plugged it into mapmyride.com to generate these maps and charts it decided it was more like 43. I'm going to believe the Sat Nav. It also tells me that my maximum speed was 53.3 mph. I can't quite believe that one although like I say, some of the descents were fabulously exciting. Oh sod it, I am going to believe that too.
I'm glad I wasn't depending on my Sat Nav to actually show me the way because there were several times today when it dropped out of contact with the mothership and I would have been guessing. I had human Sat Navs called Richard and James guiding me and they did a fine, fine job. Actually, while the two of them guided me the whole way from Lizard Point to Grampound we were joined by a friend of theirs, Pete, for a good long chunk of the ride and then also Tom. They both peeled off at different points along the way but for a large part of the day we were a five strong group which made for lots of cheery chat. Given the weather, setting off alone would have been a bit of a bleak and demoralising experience this morning and that's not the way to start something like this. As it was It was they were thoroughly entertaining company and despite the many hills the ride was definitely more fun than anything else.
Yesterday, someone asked me on Twitter if I was planning a big send off or not. I found myself confused by the question. The start was always going to be a 38 year old man cycling uphill and I wouldn't know how to turn that into a big send off. But to my surprise a small number of strangers did gather in the cold and the drizzle to wave us off from Lizard Point. There may have been only four of them but it was really appreciated and it was another, lovely boost to my morale - so thanks for that.
I'm about to turn in for the night - after a lovely but exhausting first show. I tried to add a couple of photos - of Richard, James, Pete and Tom etc. but my internet connection is so scrawny it won't allow anything so large to pass through so they'll have to wait for another day.
Distance: 45.71 miles
Max speed: 53.3 mph
Weight at end of ride: 12 stone 7 and 3/4lb
Saturday, August 29, 2009
I've spent the day in Cornwall and it's fair to say that I'm nervous about what the next month holds.
I'm cycling between Britain's four corners. From the southernmost point of the mainland to the easternmost to the westernmost to the northernmost. If that wasn't hard enough I'm going to be doing a full on one man show each night. I can't help thinking that after 50 or 60 miles in the saddle I should be lying down in a darkened room with a drip feed of carbs and protein.
I've never done anything like this before. I have no idea whether I'm capable of cycling 1500+ miles or not. Trying to perform a full show each night while I'm doing it is bound to make it a whole lot harder. My mood has flipped between confidence and dread in the last few weeks but being down here now with my tour manager and all round good egg, Ed for company has meant I have nothing else to think about except what's about to happen.
The ride starts at Lizard Point - the most southerly point of the British mainland - so we went over there today for a bit of a look around. It's beautiful place. Not the tacky enterprise that so many people tell me Lands End - pretender to the southerly crown - has become.
We went for a longish walk to take in the spectacular views and drink in the atmosphere. It's inspiring and for the time we were there I reckon excitement overtook nervousness.
But as we drove away I was constantly looking at the roads and contemplating how much of it was up or downhill. And nervousness started to take over once more.
But there's no turning back now. Not right now anyway. And for me, waiting for things to start is often the worst part of it. I get nervous in the five minutes before I go on stage but the nerves evaporate the moment I actually walk on.
I hope the same is true with this. Even if it turns out to be a hellish experience I look forward to finding out. I just want to know what it is I'm actually dealing with. Not knowing is the worst part.
So... roll on 10am. That's the time I've arranged to meet the first of my human sat navs... that's the time that I'll start knowing, that I'll actually be doing it and not just waiting, contemplating and tying myself up in knots about it.
Please let the wind be at my back. For thirty two days. Is that too much to ask?
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I knew they were made by the Bicycle brand - quite possibly the only brand of playing card I could name - but it was only when I opened one of the decks today that I saw this card and realised quite how apt they were for the journey ahead of me.
I guess the likeness was better a year ago - I've lost a stone and a half since then - but even so...
I'm packing right now - I leave for Cornwall tomorrow so that I have a day of rest before the journey really begins on Sunday morning - and I'm going to stick this in the bag of show-stuff... and then stick it to the mirror of dressing rooms up and down (and across) the land as a good luck charm. Nice.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
... I don't hate Apple. I do however hate it when my computer (it's a desktop I was talking about not a laptop) dies at what is categorically the most inconvenient and expensive moment it could choose to do so.
And I obviously know in reality that it didn't actually choose to do so.
I thought these facts were obvious. But apparently some people need me to point them out and to only ever rant about things that are actually unfair and to never, ever, just be angry because a small slither of life went the wrong way costing me lots of actual spending money. Grrr at me for being grrrr at Apple.
The next time I see someone being angry at the side of the road because their car has broken down I will be sure to tell them not to be angry and that they are being irrational because their car has always been good to them. It's a nice car. Presumably.
Phew. I hope that's sorted that out.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Okay... so first things first... I'm very happy with how things went in Andover. It was a lovely, friendly venue, the shows went well... and I feel like we've timed things just right with enough previews to tighten all the screws on the material before starting the tour proper on Sunday. Gulp. Sunday. Yikes.
Of course I have to be in Lizard on Sunday morning so I'm actually leaving London on Friday which means I have just four days to make final arrangements, see the important people and do the boring paperwork that will enable my accountant to do the even-more boring paperwork required to keep the business of a self-employed comedian ticking over.
There's a lot to do. And most of the information I need to do the lot that there is to do is on my computer. And last night my computer - aged 4 and a bit - died. It's the logic board. It can be replaced. But not today. I could get it done in 4 or 5 days. Which wouldn't give me time to actually do any of the doing that I need to do.
The only answer has been to go into town and give Apple even more money to buy a new computer. Which is painful because I kind of hate them because of the way in which the last one just died. If it had died a month ago I could have had it fixed and carried on. It's almost like it waited to die when it did knowing that I would have to give its Mum and Dad even more money that way. I hate them.
I have a time capsule - which is basically a big external drive that is meant to automatically back up copies of what's on your computer. Hopefully all the information that was on my old dead computer will soon be on my new computer and I will have three and a half days left to do the things that were going to be a squeeze in only four days. I hate them.
I'm looking forward to Sunday. On Sunday, no matter what is happening here I will have no choice but to forget about it. Whatever problems I can't solve before then will have to wait til October. I will have the internet occasionally when I'm on tour. But I'm not going to check my e-mail... I reckon that'll be more trouble than it's worth.
Bring on the saddle, the stage and bed.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Of course the first show came not long after a 71 mile bike ride and the second came after a day of kicking myself for not being at my best the night before so that might be a factor. But I don't think it was tiredness that affected the first show... I think I was just concentrating too hard and as a result it felt a bit too much like the audience were watching someone work instead of watching someone have fun.
But I need to make sure so today, before the third Andover preview, I've been out for a training ride - just a 35 mile, made-up-as-I-went-along figure of eight loop from my temporary base in Longparish to Winchester, through Andover and back. (You can see an interactive version of the route here) Now I'm looking forward to tonight. And the tour.
Friday, August 21, 2009
This is the bicycle ride I completed today. I had a couple of hours recovery - eating and bathing - before it was time to head to the theatre and get ready for tonight's preview show. The good news is that even after the physical exertions of a day like that I can remember what I'm supposed to be saying. Well... most of it. I'm knackered now though. And I think the performance was a bit below par but not because of tiredness... I think after a few days off I expended so much energy remembering stuff that I wasn't quite as in-the-moment as I'd like.
Incidenatlly... a while back I wrote about seeing myself on google streetview - and many people accused me of making it up and simply refused to believe it was me. (Wouldn't that be an odd thing to invent?) Anyway... I saw another google streetview car today. I was on the A30, on the other side of Basingstoke and approaching the Kempshott roundabout. Maybe when this stretch of road is added you'll see me there, I'll be the cyclist in the red top and with pain etched across his digitally blurred face. Time to sleep.
Monday, August 17, 2009
We were based in Bridgend (at Hazelwood House - one of the loveliest, most welcoming guesthouses I've ever been to. When I checked out the owner gave me a card wishing me luck for the upcoming tour!)) and each day, I sat with a good friend and picked the last show apart, going through it making changes, cuts and improvements.
It got better each time but the really good news is that it started off being closer to the finished article than I expected it to so I feel slightly ahead of myself on that score. Of course that only means that the physical challenge of the tour now creeps back into my brain and becomes my main concern once more.
The next three previews are in Andover and I was expecting to spend the next couple of days preparing for them with yet more rewrites but as it is I'm going to spend the time finalising some of the cycling details. And instead of travelling to Andover in the passenger seat of a car or on the train with a notebook open on my lap I think I'll cycle there... I might as well find out what it's like trying to do a long show on stage at the end of a long day's ride sooner rather than later.
And while I'm feeling excited to be near the starting line of a new project this last few days also marked the finishing line for another. On Sunday I travelled from Bridgend to Bristol and then to Edinburgh where I was doing a reading as part of the Book Festival. I'm pretty sure it'll be the last reading I do for America Unchained. One ship sails out of port just as another docks. It took a bit of adjustment to get my head out of the stand-up mode and into the right shape for the reading but I really enjoyed it. Things came out in a not-quite-ideal-order but the questions were really interesting and the audience really engaging.
Visiting Edinburgh so briefly during the festival feels strange. I wish I had the time to spend a week or so up there taking in shows... there are so many things I want to see. It definitely wouldn't feel right seeing nothing at all so despite feeling wiped out by the shows, the work, the travel and the reading, I made sure I squeezed at least one show in.
It was Ali McGregor's Late Night Cabaret. I performed at one of Ali's nights back in London a while ago and loved it then and it didn't disappoint last night. She has different guests each night but with the Fringe in full flow there's not exactly a dearth of quality performers around and it's so classily put together that I can't imagine she'll be putting on a duff act any time soon. Camp, funny, silly, smart... I recommend it. It is the best show I saw at the Fringe in 2009 after all.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
I'm really enjoying my time in Porthcawl. It's exactly what I wanted it to be.
Doing gigs around town helps me to build up material and I've collected a lot of elements that I know work. Doing a few hour long sets has helped me stitch some of it together - in my memory as much as anything else - but it's only when you come to put it together as a full show that it starts to really take shape.
The point of this trip to Porthcawl - and next week's three day stint in Andover - is to have a sort of show bootcamp. To do the whole thing one night, then spend the next day refining it and see what effect the changes have on it that night and so on.
The first night went well. There were obvious flaws in it, some lulls and some bits misfiring - but the strengths outweighed the weaknesses. The important thing is that I knew after night one that the ingredients were all in place, I just needed to improve the recipe. I spent yesterday going through some notes with a friend and making chops and changes that I implemented last night. Every single alteration improved the end result which is hugely satisfying. No matter what you do for a living seeing the fruits of your labour is always satisfying.
There are more tweaks to make - there will always be more tweaks to make - and there are still a few moments where my memory fails me which is inevitable with a brand new show but it's snapped together a bit quicker than I thought it would and that's left me in a very upbeat mood. (I hope I don't end up eating these words at tonight's show.)
For me, this stage of the process is pretty much the most exciting. By the time you get to the biggest live gigs you've generally pretty much nailed the show... but it's at this stage - when you suddenly discover that changing the order of two routines makes them both funnier or that by cutting a joke out you can double the strength of the next laugh - that the work is most rewarding. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy this.
Having a great time at the seaside. Wish you were here.
PS: there's a nice article about the tour in The Times.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I've blogged at some length in the past in support of Simon Singh against the strangely litigious, not-as-cuddly-as-you'd-expect-and-not-exactly-happy-to-debate-the-issues British Chiropractic Association so I won't retread all the same ground here.
Suffice to say that my t-shirt, with an extended definition of the word, 'bogus' arrived today and if you're similarly inclined you can get one here.
If you're wondering what the hell it is I'm going on about... there's plenty more reading on the subject and Sense About Science is as good a place as any to start.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
That's now how I feel about the tour. About both the ride and the show. I'm doing other things but there's a mild panic in the background of my brain telling me that I might have forgotten this or that. Or the other. I will shortly be setting out on the most intense month of my life. The ride alone would be a challenge. 32 full gigs on the bounce would be a challenge. The two combined means there will be little or no respite. I'm looking forward to it. And then I'm not. And then I am. And so on.
This afternoon I bought a large amount of food and drink. Energy bars. Sports drinks. Drinks to load carbs, replace salts and, um, something else. Drinks for before, during and after. I've probably over done it. But it seemed better than under doing it.
(Hmmm... can't help thinking that this picture makes it look like I have some kind of sponsorship deal. I don't.)
Friday, August 7, 2009
When the camera was mounted on the handlebars there was way too much vibration. That's why I then tried mounting it on my helmet. That got rid of a lot of the vibration because the body automatically damps a lot of that stuff out as you ride. But in order to put a chunk of footage into manageable amounts I have to speed it up and any lateral movement of the head makes that really jerky and uneasy on the eye.
It was easy to edit out small amounts of it when it was just me cycling because I'd be looking straight ahead most of the time. But when I cycled in company - which I will be doing on the tour a lot of the time - I naturally spin round more to chat and to check on people and so on.
So now I've tried mounting it on the front fork. I can't see how it would have any less vibration than anywhere else on the bike itself but somehow the ever-present, spinning front wheel seems to make it feel steadier by remaining constant in relation to the frame of reference. Or something like that.
Anyway... it was a 20 minute ride, the video is just over a minute long and the music is by Grandmaster Gareth.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Don't feed the trolls. It's one of the mantra's of good internet use. I know it's good advice. It's advice I give easily. It's advice I take less easily. I am a foolish man.
It seems to me that it's really easy to work out whether online behaviour is acceptable or not. Imagine saying it in a bar. There are loads of musicians I like, loads I'm not so fussed about and some I really just don't get. That's true for all of us.
Imagine seeing a musician you're not really in to at a local bar. Would you approach them and - without even saying hello - say, "I thought your last album was shit."
Only a mannerless oaf would do so. And the musician would be well within their rights to tell them to sling their hook if it happened. But for some reason, people who in their day to day life manage to be courteous to others aren't always the same on the internet. Whether it's the inherent anonymity or the distance or something else I couldn't tell you. It's sort of like playing knock-and-run only it's played by grown ups. (Come to think of it, I was always too scared to play knock-and-run as a kid. That and I didn't really get the joke. (Ha ha ha... they opened their door! Huh?))
Anyway, when someone indulges in this behaviour, deep down they know they're being impolite and out of line and they want to provoke a reaction. The correct advice is always to ignore them. If it's on a service like Twitter, block them. You'd move to a different bar if it happened in real life, there's no rule that says you have to let just-anyone talk to you... so choose not to engage. In short; don't feed the trolls.
This morning I fed a troll. He sent me a message last night saying that something I'd done was shit. It's obviously not a nice thing to read but I'm thick skinned enough to not be upset by it... I'm more fascinated by the idea that someone is sitting somewhere thinking, "Oh look, it's that bloke I've never met. I'll send him an insult." I just don't quite get it.
But when I looked at his Twitter stream it became obvious that he'd spent quite a lot of time trolling other people in the same way. And at least one person had blocked him. That person was Paul Daniels. I know this because the troll was boasting about having been blocked by the 71 year old conjuror. From the trolls point of view it seemed as though being blocked was enough of a reaction. To him it was a sign of temper. I suspect in truth it was a sign of calm.
Somehow I decided for myself that simply blocking him would be in effect feeding this particular troll because he had taken it upon himself to celebrate such things. So instead, I decided to calmly point out his rudeness. I sent him a tweet that firstly corrected one of his factual errors, then accepted that he hadn't liked something but that others had and ended with the words, "long distance, internet heckling is for cocks." I know I shouldn't have done. But, well, it's not exactly hardcore abuse and it is really a comment on his impolite behaviour more than anything else. (It's also true.)
I shouldn't really have done that. And having done that I should have left it there. But he replied and I replied and I'm pretty sure the whole thing was pretty undignified. But along the way I thought a small victory was being won. Not me against him. I mean a small victory for politeness.
Because he started to reconfigure what he'd said. Suddenly, starting a conversation with "that series you did was shit" wasn't an insult at all. And actually he did like some of my other stuff he'd just tried to express an opinion about a show. And I had to learn to take stuff on the chin. Which was weird because I felt like that's exactly what I was doing. And then he asked if we could put it all behind us.
And I felt glad that he seemed to have accepted that while he was of course perfectly entitled to his opinion his lack of manners in expressing it was the issue. I should have put it all behind me. By just blocking him. Which I did. But because I was aware that a few people were now following the childish spat, I didn't just block him... I said so. Because I wanted those people to know that it was dealt with.
I also figured that he wouldn't really be able to boast about being blocked as he had done before because he'd just asked if we could put the matter behind us.
But I was wrong. Because a troll needs to feel victorious. Attention is what they crave. And I'd just given him a big dose. And instead of feeling contrite for having his rudeness pointed out to him (what was I thinking?) he decided that being blocked was a sign that I'd really taken the whole thing to heart. Silly, silly me. Why don't I just sit there and let a stranger insult me... have I no balls at all! Tsk!
Anyway... I know I did the wrong thing. If you were one of the people watching the thing pan out, I apologise for allowing myself to get dragged into something so childish.
Next time I'll block. And let whoever it is feel like they've got to me. Because the lesson is surely that they're going to decide to feel like that whether I block them or not.
And I knew that yesterday just as surely as I know it now. For a couple of minutes this morning I thought I'd tamed a troll. Lesson learned. There are many things that Paul Daniels does better than me. I didn't imagine that handling trolls was one of them. Darn.