Category Archives: Comedy

Bits and pieces

Just a couple of lines to finish off the car hire bit. Russell Howard was surprisingly brilliant, far more substantial in every way (biceps, satire and extraordinary creative energy) than the winsome West Country boy on the box. Highly recommended, if you get the chance to see him live. I took back the car the next day, driving through real snow, which I don’t like, on the country roads and handing over the keys with elated relief. I celebrated with a bowl of sludgy soup and the beginning of Rose Macaulay’s Letters to A Friend (why do I always type ‘fiend’ the first time?) and felt gloriously free. Going home on the bus, after bank & book things in Belfast, was sheer delight; so wonderful to have someone else doing the driving so the only tricky choice is between the book and the iPod.

Talking of books, I’ve just read a wonderful one: The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall. It was published last year, and is set around twenty years in the future, in a post-oil, post-economic collapse Britain. A thrilling story, a bit like a feminist John Wyndham, but very very terrifyingly plausible. Looking it up now, I see that it won several prizes, as did her earlier books. I don’t read very much contemporary writing; am a bit stuck in the middle of last century, but sometimes something gets up and kicks me into the present.

A bit like music, really; it wasn’t until I got the idea of going to Glastonbury next year that I thought I ought to listen to someone who isn’t dead yet. And so to many contented hours wandering around with the Kings of Convenience and Turin Brakes (though I do wish the silent bit in the middle of Rain City could be a bit shorter, it not doing much to while away the drizzling wait at the traffic lights).

Talking of which (quite a little babble of consciousness this morning) I wrote a long email to the entity called Roads Western last month to have a little moan about the woeful pedestrian crossings in Enniskillen. I got a reply the other day, in which they said that pedestrians never have to wait more than two minutes to cross. This may or may not be the case (I need to go out with a stopwatch) but two minutes of standing at the roadside in the pouring rain, watching the cars sweep through the puddles before you, can feel like quite some time. More on this to follow…

Finally, a joyful note. I went to the film club last night (Gerard Depardieu, Quand j’etais un chanteur – beautiful) and walked home by myself under a couple of stars and a space in the clouds with the moon shining through. No one was out, except for a trio of teenage boys, and even the barbed wire outside the Territorial Army was shining. You don’t get that in a car.

Tim Minchin

I didn’t know that much about him before the show: Australian, excitable hair, Not Perfect (bittersweet, moving), Taboo (v. funny with a narrow little sharp edge), that Rory had been a fan for a year or two and had a brief email correspondence with him…

Waiting for Tim to come on, we had the chance to survey the stage, like a version of Kim’s Game: three bottles of water, one boot, grand piano, electric fan and glass of red wine. Who lives in a house like this?

More or less what I’d expected, I think, a latter-day Tom Lehrer with perfectly crafted dark, funny and iconoclastic songs (and one poem) about Christian fundamentalism, statistics (“This isn’t a song about love; it’s a song about maths”), New Age wooliness, prejudice and breasts. The peak moment was perhaps at the crescendo of Canvas Bags (“take your … to the supermarket”), sung as a stadium rock anthem with unbuttoned shirt and hair streaming back in the wind (Ah, that was what the fan was for.) He’s a Dawkinsite, as came across quite clearly, but nowt much wrong with that, especially when it’s leavened with a little self-deprecating humour. I don’t mind at all hearing Christians criticised; usually we deserve it and if ever we don’t then it’s a chance for a Blessed-are-you moment (though usually, if we think about it again, we do deserve it after all). In any case, I’d rather live in a world run by Richard Dawkins than by Sarah Palin.

Afterwards Tim emerged from the backstage depths (appropriately the vestry of this converted Presbyterian church) and was remarkably perky and patient with requests for autographs, hugs and photographs. I didn’t ask for any of them, but hovered about and took a picture of him with Rory while he (TM) laughed at R’s hair. “Ha! The baby’s ginger too.” I’ll see if I can get it off Rory’s phone and put it up here.

Here it is.

… but I’m better now.

To continue. We got to the car hire desk at the airport early, unconscionably early, when it turned out that a blip in the system (or someone with an over-decimalized brain thinking that 16.30 was the same as 6.30pm) meant that they weren’t expecting us for another three and a half hours. So we sat and watched the airy-planes until they found us some variety of Renault – a Clio, I think it was. It had thoughtfully been parked at the end of the row, so it didn’t matter whether I set off in first gear or reverse, and the windscreen wipers were fairly intuitive – a good start.

After a certain amount of random driving around Belfast we found ourselves outside the Maths and Physics department of Queen’s University. Since the gig (Tim Minchin, in case I haven’t mentioned it) was part of the university Festival we decided that this was probably close enough, and as a group of astonishingly clean and unmistakably maths students decided to call it a Sunday afternoon, we gingerly (no pun intended, Rory) edged into their parking space.

After a pizza and water (see what depths this driving business plunges me to) we got to the venue at around six o’clock, with an hour to go before the doors opened. Keen as we were to get into the first few rows, this seemed somewhat obsessional, so we went for a token walk to pretend that we weren’t that bothered. It didn’t make much difference anyway, because we were still the only ones there when we got back again. By seven there was a respectable queue behind us, enough for a few gasps and murmurs as the man himself strode through our midst, rather taller and less diffident than we had expected, though that was probably a combination of the boots and an entirely understandable desire to get in out of the October chill.

Anyway, it was all decidedly worth it; Rory was the first through the door, so we got our front row seats, about four feet from the stage.