Dying on Its Arse
It was gearing up to be the worst gig I’d ever had. Already running late, I decided for some reason that I needed a shower before I went on. Running into the shower area still hopeful of being on time and wearing just a towel, I was met by dozens of quite rightly indignant women telling me, well shouting really, that I was quite possibly in the wrong place. Beating a hasty retreat, but leaving my clothes behind, I had no time for the shower. The next thing I remember is being dressed in ‘you forgot your own PE kit, so had to make do with lost and found stuff’ and was rushing towards the stage wearing a muscle T-shirt, long Hawaiian shorts and grubby espadrilles. It was too late for me to start the gig but I did so anyway, five minutes is better than nothing, so I pulled the mic from the stand, dislodging the cable as I did so, heard my ‘dad’ shout ‘burn’ from the back, and watch people start to walk out and then, behind me, The Vienna Boys Choir started up with a spirited, if hurtfully targeted, version of The Who’s ‘5.15’.
I woke up in a cold-sweat, looked at the clock which said, spookily, 5.15, vividly recalled everything from the dream, sat up and started laughing like a fool.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a pre-gig dream like that. I’ve been nervous loads of times. I still get nervous now, 20 years in. It keeps you honest, they say. ‘It means you care,’ my dad says, though that was before he was telling me to burn. So why now? Why this one? It’s simple really. The longer you do something you’re good at, the longer you want to keep it. I’m very good at what I do, though it took me far too long to realise it, and though I also recognise that I have a shelf-life on the comedy circuit, I’ll do my utmost to defend it, like some old Silverback Gorilla fending of the youth. The thing about Silverbacks though is they sit around picking their arse all day and having the pick of the ‘good gigs’. Whereas I, proving again that I am no Silverback leader, decided I needed to get out of my comfort zone. Bloody idiot.
Comfort zones are our basic identity. The go-to shorthand for who we are and what we do. Possibly more so in politics than anything else, where reliability, dogma and a steady hand are seen as plusses as opposed to flexibility, bravado or derring-do. Brexiteers, for example, have spent a lifetime on the fringes, cat-calling from the side-lines with no direct responsibility to anything other than their own beliefs, and promising to lead their followers to the sunlit uplands. It was a game they played. Predictable responses to any given question; their own lucrative, unshakeable comfort zone. Now they are the leaders though, now they have to show the Xanadu they promised. And they are floundering as a result. They promised, repetitively, the undeliverable and now they’re backed into a corner screaming betrayal and treachery.
Everything is so entrenched now, on all sides. Everybody has been so deep in their convictions for so long that arguing with them is like playing tennis against a brick wall, it’s fun for a while but you can’t win. Everybody avoids the bigger issues, Ireland, Security, borders as they have always done, kicking the can down the road as they say, concentrating instead on soundbite; headline sniping to win a short rally. The Leavers had a doozy when The Guardian announced that Brexit was leading to a shortage of Au Pairs, conjuring up tragic images of the upper middles classes facing ruin as Tarquin was forced to miss his squash match with Rodger as he had to take Jemima to Clarinet practise HIMSELF. ‘There you go,’ mocked the Russian-backed Brexit-funding Billionaires, ‘People in the North East are literally having to eat their own shoes and you’re decrying a famine in foreign nannying services?’ It feeds into Labour’s new strategy as well though helpfully, that is that the only people still complaining about Brexit are the middle classes, not real people. ‘It’s about the working classes!’ they say. That’s who we should be fighting for, the poor, the sick, the hungry. And they do so via a cult-led Arts Festival featuring beat poets in a field in North London.
The whole affair, in government and opposition, has been boiled down to a game of Call My Bluff. Definitions of abstract things that distract from the main issue of ‘they don’t have a fucking clue, do they?’ Backstops, for instance, or what does the word ‘Meaningful?’ actually mean? ‘Brexit Dividends’ go up against a ‘Jobs First Brexit’, in the same way Godzilla took on Mothra, a battle with no roots in reality whatsoever.
I’m so tired of it. So tired of the stagnation, so bored of the big questions being ignored because they’re just too complicated to deal with right now. So fucking sick of the dogma of both the Conservatives and Labour who, let’s face it are both still squabbling over only half of the electoral cake. There’s only so far they can both take this. At some point, probably in the autumn, real, grown up decisions will have to be made. Proper consequences of their games will come back to bite them. When their posturing finally hits home and flesh must be put on the shabby, meagre bones of their tedious ideology. Maybe the sleepless nights are coming for them too, the nightmares as reality catches up them. Yeah, but you know what? I really doubt it.
This blog has been read by hundreds of thousands since it first started. It’s the story of my attempt to gain French nationality while covering the madness, as I see it, of post-referendum politics.
Our retirement plan Chambres d’hôtes, that’s B&B to you, will open sometime in the autumn, have a look, come and stay… La Pause – Val de Loire