Sometimes the only way to lift the gloom is to treat yourself, and the only thing I felt could clear my fug was one of those mini hand vacuum cleaners. I don’t know why, I just felt my life would be improved immeasurably by a portable domestic product. You can rail against the modern world all you like, and really I know, I do, but thanks to Amazon – and by the way, good luck Trump taking on Amazon. They may have an even shadier tax record than you have, but at least they deliver. Let’s face it, if they’d promised a wall on the Mexican border, it would have been up within a couple of days and we’d all be reviewing postage and package by now – anyway, thanks to Amazon I had a mini hoover ordered before my morning health yoghurt was finished.
I needed cheering up…
The previous week’s retail therapy purchase, a beautiful pair of now mud-clogged Bass Weejun loafers, were drying out on some newspaper. They looked like a classic car, unloved and abandoned to the elements in a junk yard. They spoke of neglect and mistreatment. Actually, what they spoke of was yet another monumentally poor travel decision on my part. How does the song go, ‘You Always Hurt the One You Love.’
This year’s round of spring strikes in France have hit hard and hit quick. One day Macron’s touring the world working hard to win the trade that Britain will lose when it’s no longer a Trojan Horse to the European market; the next, everybody’s downing tools at home because… well, it’s tradition isn’t it? The train drivers are on strike. And they’re on strike because they’re worried about the future of the SNCF train company. They fear a break-up of the company because it’s debt-ridden and must be de-regulated to comply with EU rules. The government have promised to de-regulate but only they’ll be allowed to buy the shares, which is sneaky and smart and exactly how the EU should be played, not in a foot-stomping tantrum, but with wily sleight of hand. Anyway, no-one’s trains are going anywhere, and as Macron fought a campaign on being the only one strong enough to stand up to the unions, they’re not likely to go anywhere for some time either.
Now, French train drivers have the best benefits of any worker in France. They have a guaranteed job for life, better social benefits than any workers even in the emergency services and can retire on full pay at 28 or something. They are cossetted in a way that simply no-one else in employment here is. So while they have gripes about modernity, it’s also difficult to see beyond the fact that they’re just looking after themselves. Like every union in the country, they recognise that things need to change if the economy and social infrastructure is to survive, but it’s everyone else that has to change, not them.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that it was 9am on a rainy Sunday morning, somewhere north-west of Paris and I was standing, inappropriately shod, in a cow field trying to find my car. Because of the strikes, I’d had to drive to Charles de Gaulle Airport, about four hours, the previous Thursday and now I was back. I’d done two shows in Manchester the night before, had no sleep, caught a dawn flight sat amongst a family who had brought their KFC bucket meal on to the plane with them, missed the shuttle bus to the car park and was now sinking my new loafers into cow dung. My traditional sympathy for the unions was sinking with them too. More so when I swung my suitcase into the car boot and slipped over onto my back.
I’ve got used to the travel over thirteen years of this commute, but rarely have I been as broken as when I got home fours later. I barely spoke to Natalie or the boys when I arrived. I just went to bed and I confess, I wept a little.
We all have our limits and over the last couple of years, just when I think I’ve reached mine, I manage to raise the bar a little and battle on some more. But this time, I may really have taken as much as I can. I woke up in the early evening and started preparing an Easter roast, and I also, as has become horribly habitual, checked social media. There’s a Sunday vanity about comedians on social media, we all check for messages fluffing our egos from the previous night’s performance. They’re little drops of encouragement, briefly nourishing and utterly self-absorbing. Anyway, I checked for mine. And there it was.
‘I was at Bath Komedia last night.’
Strange, I thought I was at the Manchester Comedy Store.
‘I had a problem with the food service and…’
Unbelievable. Ok, fair enough, that’s you price you pay for vanity and you’d be well within your rights to say I deserved it. But really? Somebody I don’t know contacts me to resolve a meal order at a club I wasn’t even working at! And even if I had been working there… what level of self-entitlement leads someone to do that? How puffed-up and pompous do you need to be? I’ve had a problem with Windows 10 recently, should I private message Bill Gates to see if he can do me a bloody favour? I once did a radio show with AP McCoy, I might have a moan at him if the going’s a bit soft at Kempton. I logged out of Facebook.
I really then, shouldn’t have gone on to Twitter.
I don’t like to just follow people with the same views as me, it’s unreal and no proper comfort at all. But my blood pressure was already rising to Yosemite Sam levels when I saw a whiny tweet asking why leaving the EU hasn’t solved the problems for things like Fishing and Housing, ‘things’ that we were told it would?
I’ll tell you what pal, maybe, just maybe, the EU wasn’t the fucking problem in the first place. Maybe, again, just maybe, you were suckered in. You fell for a con and you’re now too lacking in self-awareness to admit it, too worried you might look a bit dim. Nobody likes to admit being conned, nobody likes to admit they fell for something but I remember when Chemical Ali-style obstinacy in the face of overwhelming evidence was considered blinkered and amusing, not the bloody norm. And anyway, I thought Leavers all knew the consequences? That’s what we’re told now, in a shifty re-writing of the narrative. That you knew Project Fear was right all along, but there were more important things than economic stability, public-servant integrity and shameless xenophobia, there were blue passports, irregular shaped fruit and ‘By God, we’re British aren’t we?’
The upshot is I’ve reached the pants on my head, wibble claustrophobia. The world has gone mad, and finally I’ve realised that social media concentrates that madness and injects it into your eyeballs. So I’m taking a break, more than that, I’m taking a stand. In solidarity with my over-weening, equally self-indulgent comrades who drive French trains, I’m going to treat social media like they treat a day at the wheel. Until the foreseeable future, and until all my demands for the re-introduction of sanity are met, I’ll turn up when I want and then only if I need something.
This blog, read by hundreds of thousands since the day after the referendum, has gone bi-weekly because the insanity and complete lack of perspective is too much at times. Every so often, I have to ignore the news, don some headphones and whack out some showtunes.
Here are my two best-selling books from a more innocent time.