Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Springtime in Leamington and Lewes / Last Ever Gig at Joe's Comedy Madhouse

Springtime in Leamington and Lewes

Sunset in Leamington Spa, UKSpring has sprung! It is so wonderful, so beautiful - my favourite time of year.

Here in the Leamington Garret, we are the opposite the top branches of enormous beech trees. It is divine in the mornings and evenings. The sunsets from the roof terrace are extraordinary.

Despite this, it has been a mixed time for me. I have written some poetry, despite the pressures of the day-job and my endless quest for gainful employment closer to home. I have made massive efforts to move but they have come to nowt. Landing jobs is not my forte.

I have had four interviews so far this year for three jobs - and failed to secure a single job offer. Indeed only one interview could be said to be successful (in that it led to a second interview). The others were almost risibly disastrous.

Big Ken, the Leamington Spa town clocktower, UK I invested a vast amount of time and effort in one process and ended up being humiliatingly rejected. Moreover, I was absolutely furious to be given feedback from the headhunter that my Powerpoint presentation had not been colourful enough, by which she was being literal - she meant it had not contained enough coloured typefaces! (See: My Best (Wasn't Good Enough)). At time of writing, I am still waiting to receive my travel expenses!

The other two jobs I was not as keen on. All the same, I did not expect to end up so miserable as a result of going to the interviews. One I lost because I asked too many pertinent questions at the end.

At the other, the interview started with my interviewer, the organisation's chief executive, asking which job I was applying for. It ended, messily, with me determined to get out of the building as quickly as possible.

When he asked me if I had any questions, I heard myself saying: 'No, not really' and jumping to my feet. The big cheese looked like I had hit him with a wet fish. Once again the headhunters have since welched on their promise to pay my travel expenses.

View from the roof of the Leamington Garret, UK Why does it happen to me? I must have a built-in desire to fight the system which kicks in when I am nervous in interview scenarios. It is not surprisingly so few of my interviews have been successful, and I never seem to get the jobs I really want.

But enough of that! All I know is that applying for jobs makes me jaded and unhappy, but there is no other sensible option. I need to keep going...

Otherwise, life has been good. I have been out of roof in the early evenings when it has been hot, enjoying the beautiful and a glass of wine. Incidentally, after the tremendous bender I went on after failing to get the job I really wanted (I had a hangover for three days), I have successfully adopted a moderate drinking regime with the help of a Chinese herb called Jiawei Xiaoyao which removes the urge to drink too much.

geese landing in Jephson Gardens, UKJephson Gardens in Leamington look very attractive. It is lovely to walk around and see the denizens of Royal Leamington Spa taking the evening sun, geese landing in formation.

My flatmate Attila and I have been out playing Frisbee in the Pump Room Gardens, which fills up with young people, looking forward to a long, hot summer.

The council makes a huge effort with these parks. The flower beds are superb and they tended to perfection. It is a pity that so many of the locals soil them with litter.

Cherry blossom in Leamington Spa, UK We also went to the Evolve nightclub in Leamington one Thursday evening. It was a very good night - I love a bop, even though I am rather uncoordinated. The kids in there looked at me as if I were aged 95.

Clubs have changed so much over the years. Girls used to dance with blokes, and girls used to dance with each other. But you never used to get blokes dancing with blokes (well, not in straight clubs). Now the girls dance with the girls and the boys dance with the boys. Occasionally, a boy and girl will start dancing with each other, like a drunken accident, and become an item, snogging beside the maelstrom of frenzied movement.

There are two dance floors at Evolve: a little top one and a big one downstairs. By the end of the evening, the bottom one was a rave, and the top one playing punk records like John Peel's all-time favourite, Teenage Kicks by The Undertones. Fantastic! I would certainly recommend Evolve on a Thursday.

Lewes Garret garden, UK I have, however, spent much of my time in. Leamington is not a particularly sociable place in my experience and it is hard to build a social life here with Leamington born and bred people.

They tend to be very unreliable and prefer socialising with each other rather than in-comers! The computer has become my diversion; the internet my window to the world.

I always enjoy the last 20 miles of my 150 mile journey back to Lewes. The South Downs are so beautiful as the sun goes down and we have also enjoyed some amazing weather. It is lovely out in our long, thin garden below the garret, and also at the nearby Grange Gardens.

Springtime tulips at Monet's garden at Giverny, France

We popped over to France for a couple of days (it is only 15 minutes' drive to the ferry at Newhaven which takes in some comfort to Dieppe in under four hours). I took my Albert Camus case - I felt it was time it revisited France. On a baking hot Saturday, we visited the impressionist Claude Monet's restored garden at Giverny.

Bridge at Monet's famous garden at Giverny

It was well worth the drive. It must be one of the most spectacular gardens in France, probably better planted than when he lived there!

The only disappointment is that there are not more of Monet's original paintings in his house (the hung prints are of poor quality).

Scantily dressed sunbathers in Eastbourne, UKBack in East Sussex, we also had a great day out at Eastbourne where the heat was like an August Bank Holiday - and the visitors stripping off.

On the poetry front, I have been sprucing up Oliver's Poetry for its first birthday next month. I have received some wonderful first-birthday poems from poets, comedians and MySpace Friends.  

Grange Gardens, Lewes, UK
I also read a new poem Persian Sailing, as well as Women, Probably Not, and Hangover at Leamington's poetry club, PureAndGoodAndRight. Another fine evening. I was invited by the gang from Word in Leicester to do my stuff at their gaff on 2 May, and I have asked to recite some poems on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire radio on 25 June.

Finally, the Lewes Arms protesters have won their battle (see: Lewes Arms blog).

Business sense has finally prevailed at Greene King, and Harvey's bitter has been restored to this great pub.

Hope springs eternal!

Last Ever Gig at Joe's Comedy Madhouse (Flashback to Thursday, 3 November 2005)

A sad night for me - the very last gig ever at my comedy club, Joe's Comedy Madhouse.

The club started on 1 June 1997, launched by me and my potter friend Chris Bramble. He dropped out in the first year but I carried on, running it in total for eight-and-a-half years and 145 gigs, recently with the wacky character comedian Phil Zimmerman.

Joe's Comedy Madhouse act in cardboard It has been London's craziest gig. I specialised in putting on mad acts and, boy, they did not disappoint.

Tonight's final gig was typical. We had madness from Chocolate Sandwich - more a modern art installation than comedy act - and technical problems brilliantly overcome with the Upper Class Rapper Dominic Frisby performing to the beatbox of headliner Phil Nichol (because Dominic's CD would not play).

Jimbo was his usual extraordinary, wacky self and Dr Luther Coleman, who had been restrained by the entire audience after going berserk on his previous appearance several years before, made a long-awaited come-back.

Comedian Phil Nichol performing at the last ever gig at Joe's Comedy Madhouse, LondonThere were unexpected acts and those that were expected but did not show (the great Ivan Steward - one of favourites as the Comedy Referee - who was sick).

Comedian Brian Damage at Joe's Comedy Madhouse, London I compered with a nostalgic look back over 145 nights of madness. All the memories came back. The hilarious, unbelievable nights and the total and utter disasters. The time I doused a couple drunken hecklers, who had claimed to have bought the pub in which the club was being held, with the contents of a fire extinguisher. The occasion I was hit in the eye by a box of chocolates, or when a colleague from CNN turned up so drunk that he scared off the acts!

It is sad but the club has had its day. Time Out magazine, the Chortle comedy site and even the Comedy Store in London mourned its passing.

But I could not continue to run a comedy club in London while living in Lewes and Leamington. Words cannot really sum up the establishment once branded by a competitor: 'London's Worst Comedy Club'.

Madcap comedian Jimbo performing at Joe's Comedy Madhouse, London But I will sure as hell miss it.

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