Don Moses Comedy & Magic Blog - A light hearted look at life, comedy and magic.

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August 8th, 2008

Diet tip Number 2

Never miss a meal. 

If you keep missing meals your ”God made, on board computer” will think it is never going to see food again, and your body will go into starvation mode i.e. it will slow down your metabolism and so retain your fat reserves.

Small and often meals will trick the body into thinking food is always available and so avoid this perceived scarcity problem.

On this theme, it is best not to see too many shows at The Fringe in one go.  You can’t give a culunary review on food if you are already full, likewise,  it is hard to judge if a show is any good if you are comedied out.  Magic shows also fit in to this analogy, and so I have seen the magic shows I have reviewed on different days.  Here are my findings on the best magic shows at this year’s festival.

“Expert at the card table” Guy Hollingsworth

I love watching shows where I am comfortable with the performer on stage.  It is a bit like when they get the right James Bond for the films, and everyone goes “oh that was a good choice”.

The reason I mention this is because I have just reviewed “Expert at the card table” by the stylish and gentlemanly Guy Hollingsworth.  If anyone was suited to that type of show it was Guy.  Top marks.

Talking of being suited for a roll on stage, Pete Firman http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKiUkKkpo3A has another great show this year.

Other shows worthy of a mention and a visit are Ali Cook and Barry and Stuart.

August 3rd, 2008

Comedy clips and diet tips

First rule of Diet Club is….. No Bread; I lost 3 pounds in one week (fact). 

I’ll be honest with you, I am covering the Edinburgh Festival for a number of publications, and so the mention of diet tips in the title is really just to pull in a larger audience.  Gotcha.

However, having said, that I am infact working on getting in shape.  I have a number of after dinner performances coming up in the next few weeks and I don’t want to look a porker.

I have been at the festival for four nights now, and apart from the late nights all is going well.  It helps that my colleagues and friends are not big drinkers; which leads me on to diet tip number two – beer equals extra poundage.  Yes I do know it is just common sense.

I have just thought, to give the title some credibility, I suppose I could give diet advice every day and keep you informed of my progress on following my very own tips.  So watch out for more diet tips tomorrow, unless, of course, you don’t want perfect abs.

Anyway, these (links below) are the sort of comedy performances you are missing by not coming to the festival.  The internet is brilliant isn’t it.  Yes, by merely clicking on the links which follow you can experience the best of the festival in your virtual world (although, it is best to leave the house occasionally, well at least play Wii tennis with the patio doors open).  Here are the clips hope you enjoy them.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbUqhxPGFXY 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_8oaimyDpo

July 8th, 2008

Beijing got talent

Beijing got talent

For the last two years I have been trying out new material for my act.  I had the decency to do this professional evolving on new material evenings.  You may remember, a new material evening is where the audience is informed by the compere, that the comedians they are about to see, are experimenting  (i.e. Trying out new bits – yes, of course, sometimes comedians do panic and revert to the strongest parts of their set, but that is another issue).  See my media page video clip for an example of a new material evening .

I say decency, because it is rare for me to actually try out new stuff while performing my after dinner entertainment set.  Having said that, “riffing” with the audience at a corporate gig can lead to some great moments (I always intend to write these bits into my act, however, on the drive home I promptly forget them – damn that Barbara Streisand CD).

New material evenings are a great laugh; sometimes, as I am sure you can imagine, they are a laugh for the wrong reasons, as in, it can all go “tits up”.  Anyway,  on such evenings, you may occasionally see a comedian who takes a subject which is so obvious, and yet, he is able to make it work so well.  One such comedian Carl Hutchinson (he is up and coming, so watch out for him) does a bit about the TV programme X Factor and it’s associated sob stories which shamelessly tear jerk the TV audience into the shows week after week.  Carl’s “act outs” (set to music) are hilarious and priceless.

This made me think, as we approach the Olympics, I am certain the BBC will be working on their athlete back stories, to emotionally pull us in.  All the sentimental clips will come out;  the hardships, the battles against illness, the taking two jobs just to afford the steroids, that kind of thing.  But, I know what you are thinking, do we have to know?  Surely, a gold medal in the hop, skip and jump is proof we are the best country in the world.  Isn’t it enough, our guy can throw the long stick further than the German?  And surely, it is a group thing anyway; the Olympics is all about the coming together of all the countries in the world .  We are united for a month;  no space aliens would dare to take on earth this August. 

Years ago, Roger Bannister’s parents could actually have been bannisters, we would never have known.  Nowadays, we have to know everything, and we will not be cheering you on, unless you have a heart breaking story to tell.  So if you are an athlete and all you have is a troublesome Verruca story, now, would be a good time organise a spin doctor or PR guru (although I think Max Clifford maybe busy with Duane Chambers at the moment).

I mean, does the Olympics have to be this “dumbed down”, greeting card fest, can’t we just watch the Olympics for what it is – one long sports day.  Although to be fair, the last time I tried to watch a sports day I ended up behind the gym block with a 13 year old girl (oh, relax, I was a 13 year old boy at the time).

July 6th, 2008

Just say No

Recently, I saw that a theatre show, called “The show must go on” had been cancelled; now, that is irony.

It made me think about a story I had heard about Larry David.  Larry David is, of course, the co-writer of the hugely successful Seinfeld series and also a comedy actor in his own right (and in his own show “Curb Your Enthusiasm”).  Long before his successes he was like many other stand-up comedians, travelling the country playing to comedy club audiences, who were either drunk or very drunk. 

Apparently, one night he was booked to perform at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles.  The compere announced his name and Larry walked on stage, stood for a short time without saying anything and looked at the audience.  After this uncomfortable silence Larry simply said,“No, I don’t think so” and walked off the stage without delivering his set.

I don’t think I can admire that kind of behaviour, but, the thought of a comedian refusing to entertain an audience did make me laugh.  The only explanation could have been that he did not like the look of the audience, because, as a rule, all comedians want to do their set, if only to get paid.

I suppose, the best thing about the job of a comedian is travelling around making a room full of total strangers laugh.  Yet, if you told this fact to most people, they would say, that must be the worst thing about the job, surely?  But, audiences are not just strangers to the performer, they are also strangers to each other and very rarely do the “lunatics unite” to sabotage a gig.  Audiences contain mostly good people and a few bad, just like a cross section of life (unless you read the Daily Mail).

So, I worry less about audiences and more about the layout of the room.  Comedy club promoters, as a rule, have given a lot of thought to the conditions required; spotlights, good sight lines, excellent sound systems all enhance the gig greatly.   However, operatives at conferences in hotels are generally inexperienced at what works well for comedy.  Some rooms are so wrong you instinctively know you will have to be working like crazy to pull off the gig.

The other night the conditions were so bad, it was like a checklist of all the warning signals:-
-200 guests on a wooden floor with metal based chairs (think school class room with 200 children shuffling about).
-Massive table decorations causing bad sight lines, bad stage lighting.
-A microphone so bad that the audience just guessed when the comedian / compere was delivering his punch-lines (they gave him this respect because he had been on TV).

So, is it ever right to refuse a show because of the room?  The answer is obviously, no.  I am not travelling hundreds of miles not to get paid. 

They say that performing is like a drug, in that you have to keep going.  No wonder the “Just Say No” campaign didn’t work.

July 2nd, 2008

Subtitles to life

In the movie “Annie Hall”, Woody Allen has a flirtatious conversation with Diane Keaton.  While this is happening in the film, the real meaning of their conversation is played out in subtitles across the bottom of the screen.  The scene works because there is always this subtext to life, nothing is as it seems; we all have hidden thoughts and agendas. 

Annie Hall was made in 1977 and the subtitles are still funny, but, in a way they seem very tame by today’s standards.  It is frightening to think of how time has moved on, and how thoughts of, what is considered acceptable, have changed.  Now people can actually verbalise their real thoughts, just for the hell of it; bad language the lot – no one seems to be offended.  Maybe it started later that decade with Basil Fawlty and has now finally peaked with Jonathon Ross saying to Gwyneth Paltrow, on his TV programme, that “He would definitely shag her”.

The reason I mention this is that, one of the things I like about my job is the opportunity to meet with very nice people. These people, as a rule, have the decency to behave tactfully and not to say the first thing that comes into their heads.  I reciprocate these social rules. So, if I am performing close up magic at a function, I will not barge in with my own self important intro.  Instead I respect the group dynamics (listen to me, group dynamics, please! kick me in now). 

Anyway, instead of introducing myself by my job title, sometimes, I will start up a conversation (like a real human) in a “non-magicy” way.  I am never patronising, and may start with a genuine compliment.  For example, I may say “that is a great dress”.  I say this because: a) I like the dress and b) it is specific, and, I like to think it is non-threatening (I always wear my wedding ring when performing).

Now the usual reply to this is, “Thank you” or sometimes a thank you followed by a self deprecating “Primark’s best” or some other kind of “oh, this old thing” banter.

So, I was quite surprised when I said to a very attractive lady that I loved her dress.  She was a stunning lady who was using all of her “stunningess”.  I think what I am trying to say is, you don’t see many old non-wealthy men with such women.  Without missing a beat, she looked down to her chest area and said “I have had them done, you know”.  Only in the North of England could my subliminal subtitles be dragged out in public.  I must have noticed the gravity defying properties of her lady bumps and quickly filtered out a socially acceptable compliment to endorse my approval.  People in the North are so open; there is the North South divide right there.

But really, it is frightening to think where this will go in the future. Allowing for current trends, will I be allowed to “ice break” my way into a group of people with the opening line:-

“Wow, lady, have you had them done? Because I am sure you will agree with me gentlemen, they are spectacular!”

June 22nd, 2008

Sir Bobby

sir-bobby-and-don.jpg

I was away for quite a bit of June, however, I returned to the North East to meet up with Sir Bobby Robson at the Moneygate Annual function in Durham.

May 4th, 2008

Top man Niall

niall-and-me.jpg

 

On stage as compere interviewing Sunderland and Middlesbrough players.  Here I am doing the questions and answers part of the evening with top man Niall Quinn.

April 2nd, 2008

I’ve a mind to tell you (but why?)

Where do thoughts come from?  I mean why do I think, “God, I hope I don’t say to this lady, that is an ugly baby” or, when I am in church, why do I think “I hope I don’t shout out I object”?  Where do such thoughts come from?
How can I remember the Sunderland promotion winning team from the 1960’s – (it was Montgomery, Irwin, Ashurst, Harvey, Hurley, McNab, Usher, Herd, Sharkey, Crossan and Mulhall, if you are interested) and yet ironically, when the song “Memories” comes on the radio I can’t remember the second line of the lyrics.

As I mentioned in a recent blog, the brain has its’ own agenda on what it cares to remember, and what it will drip feed back to you immediately you put the phone down on a call that required an immediate answer.

Listing that Sunderland team, strangely enough, has brought back memories of how quite appalling, yet incredibly exciting, the football terraces were in the 1960’s.  As a youngster I would have to get to the ground two hours before kick off to get prime spot.  Prime spot was, of course, just in front of the crash barrier, half way up the Roker End (never behind the crash barrier, unless you were the undisputed “pile on” champion of the world).

I also had to arrive completely dehydrated, as once 52,000 people had filled the ground, the chances of toilet visits and safe returns were patchy (not the only thing patchy).  Some fans, who hadn’t planned as well as me, also avoided the toilet visit by rolling up a newspaper and using it as a personal funnel; yes, not the best day for your new suede Hush Puppies.  I was ok in the early days, as I was standing on a cracket *,  I am not sure my dad was as lucky with “the rivers of wee” (a lesser known speech by Enoch Powell).

I was hooked on live football those days.  I couldn’t get enough.  As soon as I was at the correct height for my cracket to allow me a clear view, I was starting to go to games with my friends.  We even went to away games (not Leeds or Millwall we weren’t mental).  We used to get lifts to away games from people we didn’t even know.  There was no cosseted parental behaviour in those days; we even had to ask them if they had any sweets.  They were innocent times, no puppies to see, we were off to the match.

My last full year of watching Sunderland was 1973.  I have been back, but never as regularly as that Cup winning year.  You wouldn’t have read this blog to this point if you did not know the outcome of the Sunderland Leeds game of 1973, so you will remember that little old Sunderland beat the mighty Leeds.  Leeds in the early 70’s were the best and yet most hated football team in the land.  They were a very good but also very dirty team (nothing to do with hotels and girls, innocent times remember).  Their reputation was not helped by Norman “bites your legs” Hunter (parents were very imaginative with middle names in those days). 

My brother (my hero) was at college and bet his whole football team, individually, that Sunderland would beat Leeds.  How clever was he?  Not that clever really, as they were all even bets, and clearly he would have done far better at the bookies, and he did crash my motorbike and then chose not to tell me, as I later found out about it.  No really!  Where are these thoughts coming from?

* Cracket: a Geordie word for a small miner’s stool, which would elevate a four foot two boy to the dizzy height of five foot five at a football match; annoyingly though, it was just short of an unobstructed view).

March 22nd, 2008

Enjoy the journey

I once got aroused while watching Carol Vorderman, which was great because usually I only get five letter words in Countdown.  Bad joke I know, but it did make me think about my last blog.  After reading the blog I suddenly had the thought, that I couldn’t do my sums because I am out of practise.  This is how bad I am; when I am around at my Mum’s house, I can’t even beat my Mum at the Countdown numbers game.  I never need to add things up in my daily routines, so I can’t expect to be the male Carol Vorderman.  And if my theory on learning is all to do with motivation, then I will never be a genius with numbers, as surely, the motivation to beat my Mum at Countdown is not enough, as secretly I like it that she wins.

Just looking back at that last blog, it is easy to see what can be done when we are motivated.  For example: I am still enjoying performing both close up magic and stage comedy and magic.  After years of working on my close up act, I can now just grab my bag and rush off to a gig, however, for a stage performance there is a lot of prep.

On the day of a stage gig, I like to get centred for about 2 hours before I set off.  These days, I don’t hold a hair brush to my mouth (microphone style) and pace around the hotel room.  However, I will see if I can list out, on a piece of paper, my running order for the evening.  And if I can’t remember the running order, I make sure I can remember it, by the time I go on stage.

 If I am performing at a company dinner and I need to write in some industry jokes, I will spend time making sure, that on the evening, the audience think this new material is all spontaneous.  I secretly like the fact that I prepare so thoroughly for my stage act.  It is as if this extra preparation justifies the higher fee I will be getting, simply by being on stage.  This homework also assuages the part of my brain which bangs on about old fashioned work ethics.

The motivation comes from, actually not wanting to be too comfortable.  I want to feel slightly nervous before going on stage; I think I would really miss that feeling.

I recently heard that all performers get greedy (not greedy for money, but certainly for career advancement).  For example, if a performer has played to 100 people, they then want to perform to 200.  Then they want to book an Edinburgh show, then want to be on TV. 

But surely, it is the constant journey we all enjoy, not the being on telly.  I mean Carol Vorderman must be itching to get back on the road, doing sums on stage to audiences that just want to drink heavily.  Yes, I wasn’t sure where that blog was going either.

March 19th, 2008

The Vorderman Challenge

The other day I was working (yes I do know it is not real work, thanks) as the compere at a corporate event in the glittering West End of London (the only part of London to glitter obviously) and I accidentally caught a glimpse of a piece of paper showing how much the band were getting paid.  Now, I am not usually bothered about how much people get paid; see my blog on it’s not about the money.

Anyway, I saw that it was £2,500.  Pretty good money I thought, but then I realised this money had to be split between the seven band members.  As the band started their set, I drank my ice cold water and challenged my mind to work out, how much each band member would be receiving that evening.  This will be a breeze I thought; my mind was quite relaxed as I had already prepared my next ten minutes on stage.  Now, before you eggheads shout out “you idiot, it is £357 and 14 pence each, with two lucky band members getting the extra pennies”, I should point out, I had done a lot of travelling that week so I could have been tired.  But Buddha on a bike, two songs in, and I still couldn’t work it out in my head, even an approximate figure.  The exact figure would have required paper, but surely I could come up with a rough split.  No, nothing; it was like one of those moments when you can’t spell a really simple word, (a word you have used a lot) no matter how hard you try.

This made me think, the brain is an incredible organ.   I mean, how can’t I divide 2500 by 7, and yet, I can remember everyone’s name at an event with 150 guests?  I still do not know how I do this; I just know it comes easily to me on the evenings of the functions.  My wife is very good with faces, I am good with names.  If we are at a party, she spots the face, I ask her where she has seen that person in the past, and I come up with the name; we are like buddy cops.

People often ask me how I can remember so many names.  The only answer I can give is, I want, so much, for the people to have a great time that my sub conscious mind obviously believes this personal touch will help, and so it frees up brain space.  So I guess I am somehow motivated to do it.

This made me think about motivation.  Years ago, I wrote a revision guide for college students.  When I finished it, I distinctly remember thinking it could all be summed up in six words – Just Believe You Can Do It.
My students often used to say, when I presented them with something difficult to study, “Sir (I miss being called Sir), I’ll never learn all that”.   I would say “Are you sure, what about, if I give you 1 million pounds?”  I stopped short of putting my little finger in the corner of my mouth Dr. Evil style, as I didn’t want humour to dilute my point.  They always gave the same reply – “well obviously I would learn it for a million pounds”.  To which I would reply, “So it is only the lack of financial incentives which is stopping you”.  They would say “Look, if you are not giving me a million pounds I am not doing it”.  I was a great teacher huh?

Anyway, the point I am making (in a very bad way) is, I was obviously not interested and therefore not motivated in working out the division of money between the band members, well either that, or I am a bit thick.

February 21st, 2008

Things I like at the moment

Well, yesterday’s blog was getting a bit heavy; finding those old notes brought back memories which I now want to forget if I am to stick with my “no looking back” policy.

Anyway, today I am going to do something different for you.

You know that point, where as a parent, you are too tired to read to your child, and you say “wouldn’t you like to watch Finding Nemo again”, and you put on the DVD?  Well this blog is the adult equivalent of that.  What I mean by that is, I would love to write a full blog of over 500 words, however, wouldn’t you just like to see some funny clips I have chosen from youtube?  Of course you would.

I realise that in the past my youtube links have not taken you to comedy clips; that is, unless you are so disrespectful of the King, that you laughed at Elvis’s karate moves – shame on you.

Anyway, here are the clips; I think you will find them very funny.  This first clip is from the hottest show at last year’s Edinburgh festival.  The big guy is called Greg Davies (he looks like a giant Rik Mayall).  Greg used to be a Drama teacher.  I guess there must be two types of Drama teacher; the ones that inhale for affect, and hold their faces and make expressions as if acting is really really difficult, and the other type, who are just mental like Greg.  Enjoy it anyway; they are called We are Klang.   Glad you liked it.

How about Jim Carrey at a dinner for Meryl Streep?  This clip gets a bit sycophantic at times but there is a bit in the middle where it is just pure “Pet Detective”.   Hope you like it, here is Jim Carrey

Now eat that ice cream and I’ll show you the mirror scene from the Marx Brothers.
Ok time for bed.

February 19th, 2008

Alpine Days

What could be more British than to talk about the weather – and to think, I have been wasting this material at bus stops for years when I could have been giving you the tedious details in word form in my blog.

So, here goes, there was a beautiful sunrise today apparently; my wife had run down to the beach to see it (well not for that reason).  Anyway, that is how great the weather is at the moment.  My wife is a full time athlete (not really but it seems that way – and no, I am not complaining) who is in training for another marathon.  You are right, there really is no need!

While I am on the subject, we are both still taking suggestions as to which charity we should adopt (my wife for her needless running and me for my pointless blog – I don’t think I am selling this as well as I could).  When we decide (hopefully with your help) I will put a link from my site to the chosen charity website.  That way, you can give to the charity directly, and then inform me of how much.  I in return, I will post your names on my website in a type face reflecting the donation e.g. £50 will be type size 28, £2 will be type size 12.  Not that that is the reason you give to charity, unless of course you are sanctimonious.  Which, if that is the case, that is fine too, I am sure the charity will be chuffed either way.

Anyway, back to the weather.  It has been like the South of France.  I was in London last week walking along the embankment and people were sitting on park benches enjoying the sun and very strong cider at 10a.m. – you can’t tell me that happens everyday.  I wonder if business men rushing to work (and their first heart attack) see these guys and think, “screw the Zurich deal I am taking a 3 hour lunch”.  In fact, today, on the radio a leading psychologist said that we are all working too hard and heading for disaster.  I know, I for one, am not taking that chance.

On Sunday we were out with friends in the alpine sunshine of the Tyne Valley.  You see that, putting the words, alpine and valley in the same sentence conjures up images of skiing and Wham videos.  Well, we walked along the River Tyne – oh! Not so glamorous now you think, but you are wrong; the North is great – well when the sun shines.

I even like those weather expressions which are specific only to Britain (I assume due to our prevailing south westerly winds).  Expressions such as:
Red sky at night: shepherd’s delight.
Red sky in the morning: Shepherd’s warning.
Black sky in the morning: Oh No, I have got up too early again.
Anyway, I haven’t got time to talk about the weather I have things to do; now where is that off license?

February 16th, 2008

Even Steven (part two)

So, if you remember from yesterday, I was in fear of my best laid plans being sabotaged.  Well, one London train had been cancelled and so now the passengers of two London trains had to fit onto my London train, with seat allocation no longer applying.  And more bad news, the train was only going to Darlington and then they are “laying on” coaches to take us to York.  But surely my plans (being meticulous) would obviously allow for this delay.  You see what I mean about pride before a fall?

The train was very crowded so I decide to stand, as it was only until Darlington and I had luggage.  You know that train announcement which says “Can you make sure you have all of your possessions with you” well I think this lady on the train had taken this literally and gone home to get everything she owned.  We all had to help her with her  stuff (I mean stuff not just suitcases) but we forgave her, as her babies were cute and well behaved. 

Some people overreacted to being inconvenienced but most were, as the youngsters say, cool with it (get your own words and hairstyles will you).  Some people had mentioned the words, nightmare and disaster on their mobiles, but come on, it wasn’t either of those– it just means we will be late, so what, there are loads of things worse than being late.

When we got to Darlington (and were standing on a ramp in an orderly queue) some people, realised they were going to miss their connections and so had started to complain to the officials, who were all doing their best and ushering us onto the coaches. 

Then, out of nowhere, appeared a very large lady.  She was walking up the other ramp away from us with her low slung jeans slipping down to her thighs and so exposing her bottom and her thong.  Let’s just say, the tail of the whale was well out of the water.  It was as if is someone was cramming two world globes into a very small bag.  I don’t know why it was such an amusing sight, but it was.  The people who were complaining to the officials actually saw this bizarre vision before everyone else and started to smile very broadly (they were English and so they stopped short of laughing).  We (the non-complainers, who were being nosey and were listening to and watching the complainers) could not understand why anyone complaining should start to smile mid-sentence, I mean it made no sense.  Then, of course, we spotted the slipping fashion faux pas.  We all started to smile.  I remember the officials looking at us all very strangely, half smiling themselves as if to say “What, have I got a bit of snot?”

Maybe the Middle East situation could be resolved with a little hilarity caused by something similar to the lady with slipping pants.  Although in hindsight (get it?) the Gaza strip is not as exciting as it sounds and the people there are not known for their love of expanses of flesh.

Then came the announcement that we could all get compensation as our train is going to be really late.  The announcement was as follows: “passengers who feel they have been inconvenienced by the delay in our service today, can claim by picking up a compensation form, unfortunately we have no forms left”.  Even the people who hadn’t smiled at the unfortunate lady smiled at that one.

February 12th, 2008

Even Steven

If you have read my latest news for February, on my home page, you will know about my “pride before a fall” fears.  I would even say that this applies to everyday stuff.  You know, the kind of things we try to plan for, but ultimately have no control over.  Take today for instance:

With my meticulous plans made, I set off for London, no need for a taxi I had checked the weather (told you they were meticulous); it is a very sunny (15 degrees) February day.  The walk to the station, of course, being part of my “built into life” fitness programme, I mentioned in an earlier blog.
I get to the metro station and buy a ticket as my train just comes into view.  I have the right money; no ticket machine malfunction.  Perfect, I step onto the train as if I had just ordered an over elaborate stretch yellow taxi.  I sit down right next to the place where luggage can be stored, how convenient is that?  The lad sitting next to me has an ipod, and how thoughtful is this? I can’t hear the buzzing noise from it, that is how good a day it is.  What could possibly go wrong?

The lad does have one of those Rod Stewart 1971 haircuts that seem to be all the rage with the modern teenagers.  Why they can’t get their own original haircuts, I mean!  I never had a Glenn Miller haircut in the 70’s, and that would have been the equivalent of a thirty year old, out of date, haircut then.

The train crosses the bridge and Newcastle looks brilliant – like a European capital, no, not because of the illiterate graffiti.  In fact, with the strong sunlight, you could be mistaken for being in Sydney, as Sydney’s landmark bridge was also made by Dorman Long, the company which built the Tyne Bridge.  And our new massive Sage music venue is not too dissimilar to their opera house.  Although, we in the North East, don’t have a drink culture and are never disrespectful of our women, so we win there obviously.

I pick up my luggage to prepare to leave the train at Central Station.  Now I have travelled the world and know that train etiquette is universal.  That is, train passengers on the train alight first, and then and only then, do platform passengers step onto the train.  So, I am about to step off, when three platform passengers try to push past me.  As a reminder of the system I deliberately walk into them.  I would just like to say in defence of all youngsters, that the people I carried on my elbows as I left the train were not teenagers but young men in their 20’s and 30’s.  I think the fact that I moved in silence must have been quite threatening, as no one said anything.  I resisted saying “Oh my God, doesn’t anyone have any manners” as I must have known it would sound like Frasier or Niles.

Was this a warning my ying was about to switch to my yang (it could be the other way round, I am not up on Buddhism).  Either way the answer was yes – see part two tomorrow.

February 5th, 2008

Super Tuesday – well, it was OK

So, it is Super Tuesday, or as they say in England, Pancake Tuesday.
The contrast could not be greater between Super Tuesday and Pancake Tuesday.
Super Tuesday is the great wasting of resources whereas Pancake Tuesday is all about running with frying pans, well that and frugality.   Super Tuesday is also when the race (without frying pans) for the White House becomes a bit more obvious, with many of the hopefuls deciding it is actually hopeless to keep on  pitch-forking millions of dollars on their slim chance of ultimate power (see Britain’s Davis Cup odds to make a comparison on chances).

I am not sure I get why, just because you are rich you would want to run for the Presidency of the USA?  If you think about it, apart from the front-runners, who are also rich (but obviously they were in with a shout right from the start) the others must have known their vanity projects would end prematurely.  When you get so rich, is this really the last piece of your ego jigsaw?  Has Doctor Evil (or the bloke who bought Newcastle Football Club) taught us nothing?

Anyway, the BBC are getting very excited over Super Tuesday.  Why?  I have no idea; I have been to America and they think Gordon Blair is in charge of the country Europe.  So why, in this country, do we need to know about all their build up (the whole thing is set to run for full year yet); can’t we just adopt the airline policy of “wake me up if you have something for me”?  So, enough already (I am not Jewish by the way – I just like the phrase) of candidates waving and spouting rhetoric.  And really Barick, the best slogan you could come up with is “Change” – that 50 million dollars you spent on marketing is really paying off, then?  Mind, having said that, McCain’s wife is really hot – so more pictures of her please.

That’s enough about America and Super Tuesday; let’s talk about what is happening in this country today on Pancake Day.  The logic (and tradition) is to use up everything we have in our larders (that word doesn’t get used enough).  And then of course to “go without something”, for 40 days.  So, as Christians, we are able to empathise more with Jesus’ suffering for his 40 days in the desert*.

Let me run that past you again – the idea is to give stuff up – not to buy new stuff.  Well the people in Asda were obviously not aware of their irony as they lined up to purchase “easy to use” pancake mix.  This was not a short queue , in fact, it was longer than a roll-over lottery one.  Judging by their trolleys of food they had all chosen to give up Broccoli.
*The 40 days time scale is used a lot in the Bible and apparently it was because many people 2,000 years ago could only count up to 40 – so when 40 is mentioned in the Bible it could have been even longer – who knows. 
 

January 20th, 2008

That bell rings for me, not for you

Ever since I started to work for myself I have hardly ever thought of my past career as a college teacher.  In fact, not looking back is just dandy, and I would recommend it to others wanting to move on in life.  In the early days of my leaving secured employment, people often asked if I missed teaching.  I found it hard to believe that they had even asked that question.  Stockholm syndrome is a real possibility in teaching, but surely they could see me running free. 

I mean, you wouldn’t ask an escaping prisoner, who had been tunnelling for 20 years, if he wished he could go back.  Anyway, the other day I found some notes which suggested I myself had been “tunnelling” for years in my attempt to escape. 

The notes were meant to be used as material on stage.  The handwritten notes were made when I was still teaching but obviously trying to get out, well subconsciously at least.  These were the days when I was teaching by day and performing by night in comedy clubs.  It sounds tiring, it never was.  The natural high from a great gig always takes ages to wear off, so driving home from Manchester was a breeze.  A few hours sleep and then the thought of doing it all again, well after a full day of teaching, was strangely refreshing and exciting.

Anyway, these notes I found, contained material, which as I mentioned, I had intended to use on stage in those early try out days.  I noticed that I had a page and a half of school based observations and jokes, and yet I never used any of this material on stage, ever.  I think the reason was I just felt I wanted to move on, and that meant forgetting the past.  I assume, it is a bit like, the writing of an angry letter to someone who has annoyed you, and then not posting it.  The actual writing (but not sending) process is meant to be very cathartic.  So, in a similar fashion, it must have worked for me because one year after writing those notes (yes the notes were dated in the corner – that OCD is useful after all) I was off “the lead” and pursuing my present passion (comedy and magic, come on keep up).

I have mentioned in previous blogs the great work done by teachers and I would never have a word said against them.  Trying to rationalise with children who arrive at school already high on drugs takes some patience and is deserving of really good pay.
And there were good times I suppose: the really good kids, the really good staff, the five a side games, the holidays obviously and the use of the long pole to open the top windows.

Oh, and the nicknames the kids gave the teachers.  One teacher called Bruce, used to give the punishment of writing out two sheets of A4 front and back.  His nickname was……….. Bruce Foursides.   Not bad, but I am still glad to be out.  Anyway, that is probably the reason I never used those notes, either that, or they were rubbish.


Don performs as a wedding magician, corporate entertainer, and after dinner speaker at events throughout the country. London Magician, Manchester Magician, Liverpool Magician, Birmingham Magician, Newcastle Upon Tyne Magician, Magician Surrey, Edinburgh Magician, Oxford Magician, Bristol Magician, Magician Milton Keynes, Leicester Magician, Leeds Magician, Magician Kent.