Sunday, 27 October 2013

27th October 2013: Admitting Defeat - NO NOT THAT

On Thursday, I had to admit defeat.

Against my better judgement, against my intentions, I broke down. Like a car in the desert.

After my last blog I felt strengthened, confident even. All of the nonsense had been dealt with. I got it out there, some people even read it. But I was still broken.

So I put on facebook: I admit defeat.

My mum, and Jane, asked me what I'd admitted defeat to, worried about me. I told the truth. I couldn't go on anymore, so my body had broken down. I could hardly move that day. I spent most of it in a semi-conscious, self-recriminating state. Yeah, lots of fun there. Hardcore comedy.

I was supposed to have finished reading Das Schloss by Kafka and write a 3000 word essay on the horror of school in Buddenbrooks and Fruhlings Erwachen (don't come bitching at me about umlauts. I'm borrowing this laptop, which has got a UK keyboard, therefore being unable to do any language other than English. That's why I chose a US keyboard for my new laptop, with French/German/Spanish possibilities. But I digress). It wasn't mandatory, but something I chose to do. You know. Low stress. I could write that on Thursday if I went to school early and just bang it out. But there was no banging to be done on Thursday. Far from it.

So I sent an apologetic email to the lecturer of the German Lit course and typed the status into facebook when I could slightly move again.


I had to check, is he just being his horrific self, or was something more ugly -uglier than that- afoot. There wasn't anything. He was just being his horrific self. Fine. Go and see his stupid show if you're in the Manchester area. It's called House of Nostril, it's produced by the Lowry, it's got people in it who are good, there's a musician in it who's great, there's unity of time, place and action blablablabla reviews, blablabla Malcolm Hardee blabla Copstick bla.

You know the drill. Voyez-les-mecs!

So for two days I was basically immobile, watching Zelda videos on Youtube. Not fun.

Before that, I had a very enjoyable Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The Tuesday Stand-up Club was a lot of fun, but I had somehow overprepared and we ended up not being able to have everyone do a spot. I am very sorry about this. I, however, stayed too long, chatting and catching up with the comclub people and, after another overlong busride home, it was after midnight. The day after I kicked myself out of bed, I met up with a friend from Sussex, who’s now doing an MA at King’s. We had a wander and we had omelettes at a restaurant in Soho and drinks in King’s student union bar. I liked it, because there weren’t as many students there as there are constantly around UCL. He, unfortunately, couldn’t make the gig I was doing later. And good on him. I was tired. Just broken. And I forgot rule number one: Take Care Of Yourself. As I was coming back from the gig, I was thinking about why I died on my arse. It wasn’t about not caring about the gig, but about being too tired to care about the gig. I wasn’t even slightly nervous. Now, after doing comedy and theatre for YONKS, I’m never nervous to the degree I used to be. I used to be a barfer. I think, but only until I was 20. Now, I have a nice fidgety sense of nervousness throughout the day. When I’m walking about, thinking about the gig, I’m never happier. I get my best ideas when I’m in that nice state of self-consciousness and the awareness that everything was possible. Wednesday night, however, I was just tired. I wasn’t looking forward to the gig (which never happens either) and not feeling well AT ALL. Then I did the gig and hey presto! I was rubbish. I made the decision that night that I’m either going to do stand-up WELL or NOT AT ALL. Option 2 doesn’t work. Because. You know. I’ll be stuck. Stuck, being. Being me, I suppose. I love stand-up too much for that. And I dislike the idea of ‘just being a person’ too much. Well, not dislike. But it frightens me. I can never NOT do comedy, NOT take that back seat view and reflect on how life seems to work. Other comics have any idea about that? The comments box is yours.

Then Thursday happened. And, again. I need to learn how to take care of myself.

Yesterday, I was out in a Turkish coffee shop, where they specialised in Shisha. I like the smell, but I’m not a big fan of the tobacco-element. I would do petrol though. I love the smell of petrol. Don’t know what that means.
I finished listening to the BBC audiobook version of Ulysses, reading along on Project Gutenberg. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

For the first time in my life, I think, I wasn’t aware that the clocks were going to change. So I awoke pretty pleased with myself.Today, I set out doing the same thing I did yesterday: go out and read 61 pages of Kafka in German, whilst moving my mouth slightly and sometimes reading aloud the German so the rhythms would make sense. I found a place, but I only stayed there for a bit. Then moved on to what I think might be the poshest caff in Clapton, all white, the cash register was an iPad. Yeah, that kind of place. I found myself, very unhelpfully, working on a writing project that I am not going to tell you about yet. Because I’m coy like that.

I just wanted to find a place to read Kafka in where they wouldn’t think I was a mental.

Then, as I decided to go back home, I found a bookshop. Not just a bookshop. A proper one, with seats downstairs and a dog (who wasn’t there today but will be there in the future). This will be a hangout. If nothing else. I bought some books. I tried to argue back to myself how that would be a good thing, not a bad thing, since these were books I needed for my course anyway. Also, I smell books. Deal with it. MORE INFO: and especially: Somehow, old Penguin Pockets, the weather-beaten paperback ones, smell wonderfully. I picked up Lady Chatterley’s Lover, thought of Larkin, and inhaled.

I’m going to leave you with that image. Much love,

Saturday, 19 October 2013

19th October 2013 - Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Life, like all things in life, is a balancing act.

No, wait. I got that wrong.

Life, like all balancing acts, is really difficult.

There, that's what I basically mean to say. Now, if you care to read on, I'll be saying fundamentally the same thing. Be warned. I might remove this later on. It's a bit honest, and I don't want to endanger my position within UCL, UCLU or the comedy community by moaning about being... well, just read it.

The last time I blogged properly, I was in the Induction week. I went to a couple of induction events- for Master's students, for my own MA, gatecrashed one in the Dutch department. It's a blessing I don't drink, otherwise I might have been constantly -slightly sozzled-. It's difficult enough for me not to make a knob of myself when I'm sober.

On the level of Student Union things, I was successful to a degree that I didn't expected. I got into a Fresher's Play called Love and Money (reviewed for the UCL Union paper here:, I started working with UCLU Comedy Club, doing improv and, just once so far, Sketch. Auditions for the Fresher's Plays were on the Friday. I was at UCL anyway, so I chose to rock up. The recalls were on the Sunday. I spent a long time there, auditioning for different roles, with different people. But, having just moved into my more long-term accommodation (in Hackney. It's very nice, thank you very much), I wanted to spend as much time as I could actually doing stuff.

For the next bit of information to work, I have to explain something first. My laptop, trusty since January 2010, is at death's door. I can't use it for 5 minutes without it suddenly freezing, usually necessitating a reboot. This meant I was at a disadvantage with regards to choosing optional modules. I could only do it on Uni computers. I could only access those when I was there and I'd usually have to wait AGES for one to be free. This also meant convening with the MA conveners frequently. For instance, I found a course I really wanted to do. I went to the people involved and got it sorted. Then, the next day, I found out that the first seminar had been and gone on Monday afternoon. I don't know about you, but doing an 8000 pound MA, I refuse to miss a single session. So that one went. Additionally, I found out that the seminar I'd chosen for the second term was actually being taught in the first, luckily, on Friday. I was moved into the course, but only got a tentative OK, because I was actually one student too much for the course, officially. This had then also be taken care of, by me. Also, I had successfully auditioned for Love and Money. Myself and Annie Hawkins had a difficult duologue to do. My brain, unfortunately, was slightly buzzing with everything, so I lost quite some sleep over it, by learning, relearning and relearning it again when I messed up. Also, I had to register with a GP and a bank. The bank was all right, but despite repeated visits to the GP, they have refused to register me. I cannot register at the UCL GP, because I live too far out of the way. I initially couldn't register because I didn't have my NHS number to hand. I phoned the Sussex University Health Centre (where I was registered in 2010) who refused to give me my number unless I went to Brighton and show up with my passport otherwise they wouldn't give it. Now, I am yet to register proper after 3 visits and finding the practised closed on two separate occasions. I also had promised my friend Alexander Bennett that I'd come to see the first night of This Is Not A Cult, the new comedy night he's doing at the Camden Head. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but I was on edge and couldn't get to sleep afterwards. My first stand-up gig, at Pearshaped in Fitzrovia was scheduled the day after. I was inordinately stressed out over it. Even though I enjoyed it thoroughly, again, I barely slept. Also, the registering at UCL kept on throwing me curve balls, like the message that I was supposed to pay half of my tuition fees before the end of the month. Because my MA is funded by the Dutch government, I only get my tuition fee loan on a monthly basis. Result: all out panic. The next day I had a chat with someone from the Registry, we made an appointment about the paying of the tuition fee. The Dutch government itself, was being difficult and I needed to write them asap. The first week of term, therefore, was slightly manic. And when I say 'slightly', I mean massively. I was already tired from moving country, which is an intense thing in itself. I hadn't really recovered from Edinburgh, nor from the 3 weeks in Holland I spent trying to move country. Sigh.

And that was only the first week.

I enjoyed doing Love and Money, but I was stressed out to a ridiculous degree and it might have been better not to do it in the end. But I couldn't have foreseen this. I still have to buy a bicycle, because I spent 2 pounds 80 a day travelling by bus to and back from UCL, which is about 2,5 hrs on the whole. Usually there are problems with the bus or on the route, which means longer waiting times and additional walking to UCL from the middle of Camden or home from the middle of Stamford Hill. I can't relax on the bus, due to too many people crowding in and me being in general stressed out and therefore anxious of others. Which isn't fun.

The weeks after weren't much less stressful. In the second week of term I did a gig in Brighton with Nigel Lovell and Alex Kealy. The trip was fun, the gig was hard work. I met some friends who saw I was as stressed out as I was and rightly told me this was not the reason I moved to this country. It wasn't. Tuesday to Thursday I spent reading Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann. I thought by just reading a novel and staying inside, I'd be able to chill out a bit. No such luck. Although I did really enjoy the book, it was a weight on my shoulders. If I had known I'd be doing this module in the summer I could have read it then. Now I had 3 full days to read all 600 pages in one massive Mann-based binge. Good as it was, I got slight cabin fever, my brain fizzing constantly with the things I still needed to take care of.

On the whole, whenever I managed to take care of an issue, this didn't manage to reduce my stress levels about that issue. Everything that made me anxious and I couldn't deal with just became a heavier weight on my shoulders. I didn't feel relieved after those stressful aspects of life had been taken away. It just became worse.

What I then do, is knuckle down and do more. The only way to escape feeling anxious and stressed out is, essentially, doing more and finding more specific rest-moments. For instance, I learnt from the Love and Money-experience and didn't do the recall for a production of Woyzeck for this reason. On the Sunday, I met up with friends from Sussex in Soho. We had a nice chat over coffee and cake, after finding with difficulty the place where they were, after taking care of more uni-business at UCL. I felt anxious, and disappointed in the way I acted. I wasn't a dick to them, but I just didn't really feel like myself. That I'm sorry about. The day after, I had another gig, which was inordinately stressful. I tried to hide in the performance space before the lights were on and people came in. I was politely shown the door, until I could go back to do the gig. This was another comic-heavy gig, so people didn't really listen. Understandably, they had their own material to think of. The audience that was there preferred homophobic, racist and misogynist stuff anyway. So I didn't succeed, really.

The day after that, there was a change. I didn't have a 600-page novel to read, so the only way I could rage at myself is for sleeping too late, because I can't get to sleep at night, or for not eating enough. I am currently involved in running a stand-up comedy workshop with UCLU Comedy Club. It's a friendly, no-stress environment where students can come and try material out on a nice crowd. I enjoyed this a great deal and I'm looking forward to the next one. And every one in the near future. I find it difficult to try material in circuit gigs, since they tend to require punchy, jokey stuff straightaway. And I'm rambly at the best of times. When I'm tired it's even worse.

Thursday, my friend Jane, who had come down from Scotland, was in London. We met up at Goodge st. Station, in the middle of a teacher demonstration. I find it difficult when I really want to support something but can't -or won't. I'm not good with crowds. What I do is pat someone on the shoulder and tell them I support their cause. Yeah, I know. What a dick.

Then Jane came out of the station. We spent an hour sitting in an inner city garden talking about our lives since the Edinburgh Festival. We've both had a pretty rough time. She then proceeded to take me around London. In Soho, I somehow managed to get us really cheap tickets for Matilda, that night. We had a great lunch, a great dinner (all vegan. I feel bad about eating meat per sé, it's worse when I'm anxious like I am now) and some high quality convo. We've known each other for more than 4 years now, and we've remained friends ever since. After the show (which. Was. A. Mazing) we said our goodbyes and promised one another to take life at a more leisurely pace from now on.

Jane has a Poetry Pamphlet out. It's called Short Term Parking. Buy it. Watch her here:

After an enjoyable seminar, I attempted to buy a phone. I didn't succeed. This will be turned into a bit, because it's beyond Kafka.

In short: Life has been ultra-eventful. I, for my part, am broken. I need to find a way in which I don't hate myself for being lazy but also one in which I don't hate myself for doing to much (and failing). There is also the notion of not burning out, which I need to take seriously. As a result, I've taken today off. Tomorrow, I'm reading a book on Translation studies and doing a gig at Brand Spanking Comedy in Chelsea. I'll also try to add to the Gig list. I'm still looking for gigs. Preferably nice ones. In the next week, I will try to sort myself out, as my life (hopefully) becomes more and more sorted out too.

Life is a balancing act. The past three weeks have been among the most stressful I've had over the past couple of years. But I hope to one day find a golden median where I don't hate myself (as much) and I actually have the energy to enjoy a full life. I don't at the moment, but any kind of compromise feels like failure. Ah well. As Jane always says: Keep on keeping on. That's what I'll do then.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

28th September 2013 - HACKNEY - Done or suitable for doing by a drudge - UPDATED GIG LIST!


This is just to let you know that the gig list is updated. JUST LOOK AT IT! That's pretty healthy. If you want me to do your gig, let me know asap. Also: I'm in a play over the weekend called Love and Money. It's good. Come.
Now, I'm off to the library for some French literature and tonight I'll be seeing Alexander Bennett's THIS IS NOT A CULT- show. Please come too.

More info on the last couple of days when I have time and energy. x