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I’m back from my summer holidays

August 16th, 2014

I’m back from my summer holidays, it was beautiful but too expensive and I’m not keen on the direction Dubrovnik is heading, lots of laminated menus and people badgering you to come in for lunch at 11 am – just fuck off, I’ve only just eaten my stunningly overpriced breakfast.

On the plus side, its still the cleanest city I have ever visited, and they’ve got a new cable car and I do love a cable car and you can still get a cheap ferry over to Lopud, where they take you to the sandy beach on a golf cart. There you go, three of my favourite methods of transport in one week! Plus our hotel transported you to the main town by speedboat, only they went really slowly – tut.






I am not brown, all my holiday photos show that the palms of my hands are dark orange, but that’s the Clarins fake tan for you, it’s still coming off, and do you know? I’ve grown quite fond of orange sheets.

Summer is horribly slow – work wise (good job I’ve got a book to write) and I keep my eye on all the Ed fest reviews and wish I was up there doing something exciting, but if I was, I’d only be as mental and complaining as many of my comedy mates, most of whom are pretty transparent about what kind of festival they’re having on twitter. In fact I’ve unfollowed a couple for being so moany – pot calling, I know!

My Dad was 90 a few weeks ago, we all went up and his nursing home were incredibly kind and let us all pile into his room and provided glasses and cake plates and my mum took us all out for dinner and I think she was glad to see us come but relieved when we’d all buggered off, my brother is louder than I am and he’s 6 foot 4 and there were dogs, so it was a bit mad. My dad wore his parachute regiment tie.

My radio series LISTEN AGAIN HERE ‘Little Lifetimes’ a series of fifteen minute monologues set in real time, has been ticking over at 11.15 on radio 4 every Wednesday night for the past three weeks. Still three to go, I’m enormously proud of them, all the actresses are completely brilliant and I’m v chuffed with the reviews and reaction. See what you think if you have access to an iplayer they’re stashed for a week after every broadcast.

Back in blighty, the week was rocked by the news of Robin William’s death, depression and comics, is perceived to be ‘thing’ by many- Im not sure we can lay claim to bagsying any illness, I don’t think depression chooses its victims by career choice, but some statistics do suggest there is a link between comedy and mental chaos, anyway I wrote this.

ROBIN WILLIAMS DEPRESSION AND COMEDY

Despite being in comedy for over thirty years, I’m not a comedy nut, I can’t quote great chunks of sketch shows, I don’t watch other stand up’s D.V.D’s for pleasure, (they make me feel feel panicky) and I cant say that I’m familiar with every bit of Robin William’s oeuvre, but like most people with a heart beat I was shocked by his suicide. In amongst the outpourings of 140 character twitter eulogies (oh listen, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t), the one thing that struck me was that people nowadays seem to have a much better handle on the realities of mental illness. No-one on my time line is saying ‘Why, how could a rich man with a fancy lifestyle and a glittering career, do this to himself and his family?’ I think we’ve all moved away from the idea that suicide is selfish, it’s not selfish, its sad.

Sad is a very small world but it wields a lot of power and for some people depression makes them too sad to live. With the death of a comic, the ‘tears of a clown’ thing will inevitably rear its head, now I’m not convinced that comedians are more neurologically predisposed to depression than say lawyers or teachers but in my own experience, a lot of my colleagues are a bit ‘messed up’. And I say that as a compliment, there is a degree of heroic abnormality about going into stand up, it might be a lot more homogenized and degree orientated these days, but certainly when I started out, it was a haven for the odd ball and the theatrically eccentric, for people who didn’t fit neatly into the more conventional strata of show business. Here, at last was a home for people who wanted to knock nails into their noses, insert fireworks up their bums and put a pair of glasses on their penis to imitate General De Gaul, (Malcolm Hardee by the way, not me).

And everyone drank and everyone smoked and everyone generally behaved badly, but I’m going back to the 80’s when you could afford to be alternative without a trust fund and there just didn’t seem to be any limits, it was all very exciting. That said, I was scared stiff for the first fifteen years of my career, stand up felt like walking a tightrope, I lived in fear of falling, which I did many times and I still do and I still suffer from appalling anxiety, anxiety that has occasionally slipped out of hand.

Ten years ago performing at the Edinburgh festival, the entire stage seemed to slide, I felt like I was on a boat, sweating and swallowing back nausea for the rest of the show, I was diagnosed as having a panic attack and given valium in case it happened again. And it has happened since, I always know when an attack is on its way, I get a metallic taste in my mouth and I have to hold onto furniture, it’s a bore but its infrequent and at least I know I’m not having a heart attack.

The one thing all comics know is that sometimes the only thing you have to hold your hand on stage is adrenalin and adrenalin or epinephrine is a very strong hormone that acts like a drug. Basically adrenaline gives you a high, it can make you unable to sleep until you’ve drunk a bottle of red wine, it can make your heart palpitate, it can make you think you’re going to pass out, it can make you easy pickings for the other stuff, the booze and the coke, the upper and the downers.

There was a time in the late 80’s when the London comedy scene was awash with coke, I was fortunate enough to get pregnant in 1989 and in a wave of maternal righteousness was able to flush my very last stash down the toilet. I‘m incredibly grateful for the timing of my pregnancy, a few more years and I’m sure I’d have had as big a problem as others who can’t be named, some of whom are still in the business, some of whom are dead and some who just fell by the wayside, because they lost their work ethic, cocaine gives a false sense of comedy confidence and eventually it trips you up. But I remember how omnipotent it made me feel, I know why people miss it and I also think many of us can sympathize with the dangers of drinking, there are thousands of us who are borderline problem drinkers, reaching for that massive glass of chardonnay at the end of a shitty day. Addiction comes in all shapes and sizes and a lot of comics don’t have to get up in the morning. For many there’s plenty of time to sleep it off, before repeating the process over and over again, creating a groove for yourself that its hard to get out of, the daily mental dance of, ‘I love myself, I hate myself, I love myself, I hate myself.’

Of course Robin Williams demons went way beyond all this and only he and his family can possibly know how badly he struggled and I have no idea if there is a chicken and egg thing with comedy and mental chaos, although there is a recent report from the Institute of Psychiatry suggesting that comedians possess higher levels of psychotic characteristics than those not in the business, (but my old man could have told you that). What I do know, is that around around thirty five years ago I sat bolt upright on the sofa when Mork and Mindy first hit our screens, I remember thinking, now this is something properly funny, this is something new, this is resetting the bar, so how very sad that it should all end like this.

Shazbat.

Finally, THIS MONTH I HAVE READ
‘The Shock of The Fall’ good, slightly self conscious, but I can see why it’s popular, easy short chapters, good for tube journeys.
‘All Change’ the last of The Cazalets series by Elizabeth Jane Howard, a great big nursery book for grown ups, comforting as toast.
‘The Paying Guests’ by Sara Waters – this was a preview copy and was everything we expect from Waters, lesbians, intrigue and some real nail biting suspense, fans will love it. Her period detail is really fabulous.

Ok, back to writing my book… laters

Well the Grumpy tour bus has ground to a halt for now

June 26th, 2014

Well the Grumpy tour bus has ground to a halt for now but fingers crossed there might be another outing next year, its been one of the nicest tours I’ve ever done, poss because the show was a dream to perform and the reaction was so positive. There are still some tweaks to be made but by the time the show was up and running, there weren’t many moments when I had the re-write bell ringing in my head.

Highlights included my mum coming to The Blackpool Grand which I’d never played before, ditto Leeds Grand, both beautiful theatres – as you can see:


BLACKPOOL GRAND


LEEDS GRAND

In most theatres the backstage areas are a bit shit but quite often there are some great vintage photos and posters from ‘back in the day’, here are some classics from Blackpool and Croydon:


BACKSTAGE BLACKPOOL


BACKSTAGE CROYDON

Over the weeks there were loads of highlights, lots of treats, many glasses of wine and jaunts into town – Norwich wins best city for buskers and market stalls btw!



On the whole, bar the odd tired tiff and tantrum, it was really good fun, but in the end our costumes and the set were falling apart at the seams, so it was time to call it a day, lets face it 8,000 miles in 8 weeks is enough for anyone – particularly our driver.

Anyway back to real life and having to think about what to buy for supper – instead of digging into the rider every night, still nice to be back in my own bed, even if it is lumpy of mattress and grubby of sheet.

I think the old man is pleased to see me as he’s been a tour widower for months and is rather fat from eating rubbish in my absence – so as soon as Id finished recording a series of six radio 4 monologues called ‘Little Lifetimes’ we decided to treat ourselves to a holiday.

Huzzah what great weather to sneak off for four nights – we headed for Cornwall via Exeter and basically spent four nights in two of my favourite hotels in the Uk. The Magdalen Chapter Exeter used to be an old eye hospital, but is now a really gorgeous hotel, with old bits and new bits and a swimming pool that is both in and outdoors (tiny but rather great).


Exeter is rather nice, the cathedral is stunning and there’s a lot going on – its one of those places where you start noseying in Estate Agents windows!


From Exeter we drove through Dartmoor and yes we saw ponies, apart from wild ponies, we saw ponies at the miniature horse centre which is truly lovely and has pigs and mice and guinea-pigs and other farm yardy stuff as well as little horses and I just fucking loved the place- as you can see (dreadful panini’s mind you!).



Eventually we got to Fowey in Cornwall, where we had three sumptuous nights at the really lovely Fowey Hall hotel, commonly thought to be the inspiration behind Toad Hall, Fowey Hall, is both cosy and posh, it has a slightly frayed elegance mixed with cutting edge modern design, it really is beautifully done – not cheap mind, but the views are stunning and the service is impeccable


Whilst we were in Cornwall we did lots of Cornish things, sunny days at the beach, river trips and a St Ives jaunt on the most breathtaking of beautiful summer days


In St Ives we went to the Tate which had an ace show on and ate at my most favourite beach side café in the world, The Porthmeor Beach café, where I had the prawns.

Anyway, we had to come home because I had a slightly odd gig booked in an inflatable tent in the shape of a bowler hat bang slap outside St Pauls in the city – I forgot I didn’t do tents, the sound is always rubbish as you’re up against the generator – hey ho, great idea in principle, the tent looked great but acoustically was a pig to play – possibly I have finally learnt my lesson – I don’t do tents and it was raining!

THIS MONTH I HAVE

READ Elizabeth is Missing – recommended – easy read, tricky concept, nicely pulled off, great narrative voice, really liked it.

SEEN The Ben and Winifred Nicholls at Dulwich Art Gallery – a really great exhibition, I love it when Duwich gets it right – this is full of delights.

Hello, hello (waves frantically from the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser)

May 8th, 2014

We Grumpies are on tour and since I last wrote this blog, we’ve been in rehearsal and then on the road. Anyway I’m relieved to report things are going well and that after a few technical hitches, we are in fine fettle and still speaking to each other!

We are also eating a great deal, the worst thing about being on tour is the post show Chardonnay which leads to post show evil crisp hand, which leads to bulging out of our knickers.

Anyway…. So far, top accommodation points to The Lazy Cow Salisbury, a gastro pub with nice rooms just a spit away from the Cathedral.

Nil point to The Green Dagon in Hereford which is dreadful and serves the worst breakfast in the country – tinned fruit – its 2014 for heavens sake and a surly old bat in charge of the dining room, making for a mass Grumpy exodus to a café round the corner.
The Hotel Du Vin in Cheltenham scores v highly on rooms and breakfast but we have to take points off for post show v bad bar sandwiches – however, they are forgiven because everyone was incredibly nice, ditto our hotel in Basingstoke, where we each had a mini stable yard cottage at The Oakley hall hotel, and they served my scrambled egg and smoked salmon breakfast, like this:

So far best hotel treat has been the appearance on our pillows of mini pork pies, now this is a back ref to a joke in the show and I can’t tell you how delicious it was and yes I ate it even though it was midnight and I wasn’t really hungry.

Surprise best gigs so far have included, Worthing, Milton Keynes and Dorking, some nights things really take off and by the time you get to the curtain call you’ve got hairs sticking up on the back of your neck, but none have been a disaster and we’re incredibly grateful to anyone who comes along – so cheers if that includes you.

Telly wise I was asked onto Spring Kitchen with Tom Kerridge and did some filming in Maison Berthoux with Nigel Slater, both top men and most excellent chefs. Radio wise apart from lots of regionals, we Grumpies were invited in to chat with Graham Norton – and took the opportunity of showing him our specially adapted to carry a microphone pack pants, made by Susie Blakes own fair hand:

So, we got a lovely 4 star review in The Times and another rave in The Stage. The show isn’t for everyone, but it certainly strikes a chord with the people we wrote it for – mostly women of a certain age, but we’re finding middle-aged gay men are really going for it too, in fact its taking lots of people who didn’t expect to like it (young people and husbands mostly) by surprise – which is great as you can see them visibly relax in their seats!!

Anyway, I’m so pleased to be doing it and I know that I’m very lucky – so thanks if you’ve bought a ticket and if you’re thinking of buying a ticket, get on with it.

So – culture catch up (v remiss this month I’m afraid)
Since I last blogged I have started:
READING – The Luminaries, big fat old book, slightly too heavy for touring, may go on the back burner.
SEEN – The Phylida Barlow installation at Tate Britain – great fun:

Also, Birdland at The Royal Court, courtesy of the daughter who works there – I found this intriguing, compelling and beautiful to watch – hats off to Andrew Scott for a snakey performance.
Finally, Accident – a great film directed by Joseph Losey – starring the great Dirk Bogarde.

I am also continuing to knit!!!!!

Laters……

Yes, I know, I’ve not updated this for ages…

March 25th, 2014

Yes, I know, I’ve not updated this for ages, but I didn’t seem to be doing anything particularly exciting, unless you count the addition of the ‘foam roller’ into my pilates class, so I decided not to bother you with just piffle and waffle.

Anyway its been over six weeks and finally I’ve got exciting tales -

I did my Splash heat and came second to bottom, which was a relief as it meant I didn’t have to dive again – but I made an ok job of my pike dive from the 5 metre board and nothing fell out on the way down which was the main thing.

Since then I’ve been back on the road with my rolling stand up show ‘Eclairious’, I cant tell you how much I enjoyed packing the old tour bag again, me and my tour manager Chris George hit the road for three days and I did a venue I’d not done before – a rarity after thirty odd years of gigging. This was in Barnard Castle, where once upon a time back in the 60’s my army Dad was based – so I ended up in school there (for less than a year), it was a really tough school on Catterick Camp, full of rock hard squaddies kids, and me and my sister had come in from a mega progressive international school in Berlin, where we had napkins on the dinner tables, so it was all rather a shock and probably didn’t do us any harm, but I fucking hated it. So it was lovely to be back in Barney and find that the place is really rather idyllic and full of nice places to eat and drink, I think maybe the school was knocked down, I hope so.

The girl turned 25 in Feb – which is kind of unbelievable especially as I have a photograph of her opening her presents and she could easily pass for twelve. Anyway we went out for a really nice meal and no one said the wrong thing and it was lovely and I’m so pleased for her because she’s signed with a really good literary agent, and her script writing work is going from strength to strength even though she has to juggle it on top of a proper full time job and anyway it’s a relief when your children find their niche but I’ll stop banging on about it, before I jinx anything. In some respects I wish she wanted to be in any other business but deep down I’m gladder than anything.

Anyway, I had a birthday too, but before that – me and the old man went on the Emirates cable car across the river and it’s mega lols – I promise, it’s a real hoot and has just enough James Bond about it, to make it a little bit thrilling.

So I turned 54 – which really is no big deal as birthdays go – but by coincidence we’d booked to go to Budapest for three nights on the day after – so it seemed like an extra birthday treat – which I didn’t really need as I got lots of lovely presents including a bottle of hugely expensive Frederic Malle perfume, Portrait of a Lady – (which obv, I’m not..) a scent I had been craving since I smelt it on another woman’s neck, months ago.

So anyway BUDAPEST – its quite mad – couple of hours flying time from Heathrow – all v easy and the city nice and close to their airport – so we’d arrived by lunch time – starving obv. Anyway, we’d booked into this fabulous place in an old Hungarian mansion, all peeling plaster, massive marble staircases and dilapidated grandeur, but it was a B and B, so no lunch or dinner. Brody House has only eight rooms, its glorious, but don’t expect frills like room service etc. Anyway we trotted off to the food market in search of sustenance but all the locals were shoving pike and grubby looking sausages into their faces and Ive never craved a Pret so much in my life – so we turned tail and flagged a rip off cab to one of the oldest café’s in town. The New York Café is all gold and chandaliers and bending over waiters – well here’s a photo.

The food was ok, but nothing to take an Instagram of, however the café is in all the guide books, so that was one sight ticked off, Im a bit competitive when it comes to ticking off sights.

Next we headed for the Gellert Hotel where there is the most amazing baths complex. Budapest is famous for its thermal springs and I’d have dived right in had I got my costume (and hat, they’re v keen on covering your hair in the public pools) so decided to do swimming thing the next day.

Anyway pop into the Gellert whether you want to swim or not, because its like a massive whack around the head back in time.

Instead of swimming, we climbed Gellert hill and popped into a church set into some rocks and got brave with trams then flopped back into Brody House where our room which cost a £100 per night inc breakfast for two – looked like this

Most cool of cools, the bed was vast, the duvet giant sized, it was a struggle to leave it and go out for dinner.

But obv we are very greedy so we took a booked cab – which is the only way to not get robbed blind by the cab drivers up to the magical castle district. I can’t tell you how stunning this area is, you can take a bus, or a cab or a funicular up to it and just wander around going ‘Ooh, look!’ And taking photos.

Couple of restaurant recommendations for you up there, are Pierrot and Restaurant 21.

Now just a word of warning about Hungarian food, its days since we got back and I’m still full, its exceptionally rich and heavy, expect a lot of pork, duck and sausage, I have no idea what a vegetarian would do, though I did have quite a nice beetroot risotto one night, just to take a break from the meat. Even though we walked the entire city and I swam outdoors in the Szechenyi thermal complex – which was utterly glorious, we both came back with massive meat guts.

The swimming was glorious, I am a huge fan of being able to swim outdoors in March in warm water, google these baths, they are mind blowing and right next door to the zoo, which we didn’t visit but we did admire the entrance – look at the polar bears.

While I swam Geof saw some art, next time I will tackle the museums and galleries, because I will go back, it’s a fascinating place, half Austrian/Hungarian Empire foll di roll and half Eastern Bloc grey concrete ugliness – the metro system is simple and you can buy a daily travel card which covers all forms of transport – in the three days we were there we used the metro, tram, bus and cog wheel train – so really useful. What Budapest has not got however, is decent shopping, this is a horrible thing to say but fashion and clothes aren’t v high on their agenda, they are a very conservatively dressed people and some of them are fantastically rude, which is obviously hilarious for me, because I’m good in a rude off.

Seriously the people were either utterly charming or a bit devious and sly! I’ve never been so ripped off in a cab in my entire life, but it was worth it – if you want a more fancy pants hotel poss try the Gresham Palace – where we flopped out on the sofas and lowered the tone for an hour with a cup of afternoon tea and don’t forget to have a drink in a ruin bar which are dotted around the city, we found two

Anyway, its great, the weather was lovely and apparently it gets really hot in the summer – and lastly and don’t tell anyone, it’s a lot cheaper than most European cities, like about a third less.

Ok that’s your lot, ive got jobs to do, and knitting to knit and stuff – laters…..

SINCE LAST TIME I HAVE
READ – The Goldfinch by Donna Tart which I utterly loved and The Tell Tale Heart by Jill Dawson which isn’t on the same massive scale, but is nonetheless a really lovely read, which takes you in all sorts of unexpected directions whilst remaining quite simple – a much cleverer book than I first thought.

SEEN – The Cement Garden at The Waterloo Vaults, easily one of London’s grooviest theatrical venues – keep your eye out for anything they stage down in this tunnel – it’s a great night out and I really liked the production though Chris George thought it overlong but that is poss because we were sitting on benches with pillows tied round them!
The Hockney at Dulwich picture gallery, just lovely and life affirming – basically a knock out show. Also popped into the Serpentine where the latest exhib is not worth mentioning so I wont, but I will give a shout out to the Martin Creed at The Haywood which is enormous fun.

Here comes February, soon it will be March

February 5th, 2014

Here comes February, soon it will be March and we’ve booked a mini break to Budapest, yes, fuck it, got to have treats haven’t you? I’ve worked quite hard this year already what with the last minute panto understudy gig and Splash.

Have to say the oddest jobs that come totally out of the blue can be the most fun, despite having barely any rehearsal, I loved standing in for Jo Band at The New Wimbledon Theatre, I got to wear an ace outfit and a good particularly good Genie of the Ring hat – and I sang (sort of).

Splash had its ups and down, I did come a cropper during a training session just ten days before the telly record and really bashed my thighs.

But with tons of arnica plus a bit of make up on the night you could barely see the bruising. Anyway, when push came to shove, I went in headfirst from the 5 metre and I had a right old laugh and I didn’t embarrass myself – so good result all round, have to say, not having to go any further and do anything scarier was a bonus.

Now those two big jobs are done and dusted, its back to writing, I’ve got some re-writes on the Grumpy show to finish off this month and I need to complete the monologues for Radio 4. I also need to crack on with a fourth novel, oh dear.

Weirdly enough, whilst we are touring the UK with new Grumpy show ’50 Shades of Beige’ this Spring, it will simultaneously be touring New Zealand with a Kiwi cast! I’d love to be able to go and see this, but funds and my own gigging schedule wont allow. Still it’s nice to think of the brand having global appeal, since we first put Grumpy 1 on the road almost ten years ago, the shows have appeared all over the place from the West End to Oz, Finland, Ireland, Iceland and now New Zealand. What’s uncanny about the kiwi casting is how they’ve managed to find someone who looks spookily like me!

Anyway, back to basics – you’ll be pleased to hear that I have learnt to moss stitch – yes more blankets are on their way.

I can also rib stitch and I am going to learn to do more fancy things and you will all be AMAZED!

In other creative and cultural news, I finished Capital by John Lanchester and really enjoyed it, I am now utterly in love with Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’, – when this woman writes, she really writes, its incredibly easy to read but so brilliantly dense with language and pictures, I cant tell you how impressed I am… So far!

Theatre wise saw Mojo at the Harold pinter, I enjoyed it but its been overhyped and the cast was uneven with Daniel Mayes and Ben Wishaw acting most of the others off the stage. Consequently there was a lack of menace, Rupert Grint also sounded like his voice was hanging by a thread – mind you he’d already done a matinee that day and its quite a shouty part – so all sympathies, I am vocally paranoid when I’m gigging and I use a mic. Supper at Byron after – always nice but they’d run out of coleslaw!!!!!!!! I know, get me, the ‘slaw diva.

More exciting to watch for me personally was the daughter’s latest work in progress which previewed as part of theatre 503’s Futures night. Basically four young playwrights that the theatre are keeping an eye on, got to showcase some new writing and it was all pretty impressive stuff. Phoebe’s latest play to be is called ‘Wink’ and she, her director, movement director and actors did such a knock out job that I didn’t know whether to cry, laugh or cheer, so I kind of did all three and felt like I might choke with pride.

Art wise, we’ve seen the Jake and Dinos Chapman at the Sackler, which is barmy and shocking and not for little kids, but very much for teenagers, as its both distressing and hilarious in turn.

Less well reviewed (The Times hated it) is Martin Creed’s show at The Hayward, now most of this (apart from the pooing and puking vids) is very family friendly and lots of people were grinning as they made their way round swinging neon signs, a room of balloons and a remote control car (on the roof). I found lots in it to make me smile, but is he an artist? Not really, but he’s entertaining and there are many worse ways of spending a sunny Sunday afternoon than mooching around the Southbank.

Ok blogsters, that’s your lot for this month, laters…

Don’t forget to check the Grumpy website to see if your town is due a visit www.grumpyoldwomenlive.com.