Toad Lodge

This weekend I’m gigging in Bristol, and while I’m here I’m staying somewhere called Toad Lodge… no shit.

It’s lovely, cheap and completely infested with amphibian monuments, statues and images.

Also, there is an Italian style sink in the corner of a large, sparse, Victorian era room. Weirdness below.

Impotent Fury

It’s 2.38am and I’ve just driven back from gigging in Bath and Bristol. The Bath gig was lovely, but at the Bristol gig there were 3 stag parties, one of which had dressed as Smurfs, (blue paint & white curly wigs – technically inaccurate but visually arresting). The stag was dressed as Smurfette and handcuffed to a dwarf dressed as Papa Smurf. Yes, they’d hired the dwarf. He was being paid to spend the night topless, painted blue and chained to the leader of a cavalcade of cunts. I hope he was being paid a lot.

Even at the best of times, I find it difficult to tell jokes to stag and hen parties, as they rarely have the attention span or inclination for stories. Tonight I learnt that performing for men who have committed to body paint and the renting of tiny humans is not the best of times.

As soon as I was off-stage, I collected my cash, bolted to the car and began the 125 mile drive home that I new would be riddled with late night road-works and motorway closures. What I didn’t know about the drive, was that the closure of the M4 motorway would take me through Slough which was in the middle of what I could only describe as a stolen-car street-racing tournament.

The moment I was diverted off the motorway at the scheduled closure I was stopped at traffic lights between two, bright red hatchbacks that were revving furiously and bouncing on the road lines. Well before the lights even thought about changing, both cars took off through the intersection causing a semi-trailer to lock up and slide to avoid them. Within seconds, both cars were gone, the only evidence of their existence being the burn out marks near the lights and flashes in the sky a few blocks over where they were setting off speed cameras.

The diversion through the town was about 8 miles long and in that time I saw two more sets of cars, running lights and racing, as though Slough had officially declared it “drive like a fuck-monkey night”. Each time I saw a car do something illegal, I felt a growing fury at the audacity of the drivers, blasting through town with no regard for the laws of the road (or motor vehicle ownership).

The worst thing however was the fact that despite their driving style being highly illegal and incredibly dangerous, it looked like a lot of fun and that made me furious. I was angry that they were having fun when I was being a model citizen and having zero-fun. Not only was I having zero-fun, I wasn’t even having zero-fun on the motorway at 70mph because the fucking road was closed.

I normally like to wish the best for my fellow man and I don’t care if people do stuff that’s illegal – BUT if you’re risking the lives of other people just for fun, and those other people are having zero-fun thanks to road-works, road-closures and a stag party dressed as smurfs, then I hope you all get AIDS and crash.

Flying Solo

Last night, while sitting alone, eating a post-gig dinner, in a Bristol curry house I realised that there’s something wonderful about doing a normally-social activity on your own. Whether it’s going to the movies, eating at a restaurant or having sex, flying solo can be such a liberating experience. You’re suddenly in complete control of the event; free to watch that shitty sci-fi, order two desserts and dress up in a Batman suit while you give yourself a thorough seeing-to.

Despite being on my own for last night’s meal, when I first scanned the menu, the first thing I did was to find something that might reconcile my preference for spicy food with my fiancee Charly’s aversion to chilli. But then came the realisation that I was alone, and with it, a wave of emancipation as I was freed from the constraints of the social experience and could order whatever the hell I wanted. I went straight to the hot-as-buggery section, picked out a chicken jalfrezi that would never make it onto a social table – in the same way that Roxette is never allowed on the bedroom stereo – and sat down to enjoy my monstrously hot meal while I read the paper; a happy man with no friends.

Of course, there is a down-side to going it alone – when the wheels fall off, there is no one to help you out. I accidentally swallowed a whole chilli midway through an article about the Iliad; then had to flag down a waiter, use rudimentary semaphore to order a water and extinguish the fire that raged in my oesophagus, all without the assistance and sympathy that a companion might have afforded. Had Charly been there, the moment would have then become a joke, something shared, an intersection on the long, solitary paths that are our lives. But because I was alone, I just spluttered to myself and coughed spicy chicken onto my newspaper while the two waiters sniggered and pretended not to see.

I guess there’s a balance that must be struck between having the experience you want, and having someone to share it with. I got to eat what I wanted, but now the only way to share it is to bang away on the keyboard and float it out into the interwebs, in the vain hope that it finds another solo, curry eater. That’s almost as depressing as the realisation that this paragraph now sounds like the voiceover at the end of an episode of The Wonderyears.