Home from Edinburgh and a gig in Hampshire

I’m writing this in a chain pub in Woking, Surrey. The pub rhymes with never-vrooms, you know, like a car that’s just built for show. It’s been the weirdest three or four days.

On Saturday I did my last show at the Edinburgh fringe, and while it was not one of my best performances, some friends came along and we had a great time. Indeed, as I fed out into the Saturday night drizzle of Cowgate away from my venue, I felt a little sad. I also felt something else, because the venue has been plagued by drain problems all week and the pungent aroma kind of became second nature after a while. Indeed, while I was flyering outside I would worry that people thought it was me. And then even this worry dissipated, unlike the stench, which just kept on going.

On Sunday I caught a train to Devon. Yes, all the flipping way, changing at Manchester Piccadilly. The first leg of the journey was interesting because I was sitting in a seat that was sideways to the direction of travel, so the Scottish and English countryside was just a blur in front of me. Once we got to Preston, the train became very busy indeed. And when someone went to the toilet cubicle next to me and had a power dump, it took me right back to my venue on Cowgate.

Things got interesting just as pulled into Paignton. This was the moment that I discovered someone had absconded with my luggage. This was annoying more than anything else, because the suitcase contained a week’s worth of dirty laundry, but it was all of my usual every day clothing and a hell of a lot of pants. The only comfort was the idea that it would have been opened excitedly, the criminals wondering what kind of designer clothing might lurk within, only to find vintage Primark pants. Alas, though, the teapot hat was in the case. Yes, the hat which I wore during every performance this summer. The teapot hat, lovingly knitted by Bristol poet and artist Hazel Hammond, was no more. A victim of crime.

The effect of this was that it kind of ruined any sense of achievement in actually arriving home. Instead of relaxing and pondering on the week, I had to go on to websites and fill in description of the case and what was in it, knowing that it would probably never be seen again.

I spent one day in Devon, and then I was off on the road again. I arrived at my hotel last night here in Woking and the receptionist asked me if I had any form of ID. Passport? Drivers licence? Don’t worry, she said, we can take a provisional drivers licence, too. Alas, I had nothing like this, but then an idea struck me. ‘I’ve got my book’, I said, reaching in to my backpack and pulling out a copy of Nice. ‘That will do’, she said, smiling.

Last night I performed in Petersfield at an event called Write Angle. This was an event that I have wanted to get to ever since I took up spoken word ten years ago. I remember looking for videos online of my favourite performer, Rachel Pantechnicon, and the videos seemed all to have been filmed at Write Angle. I caught the train from Woking to Petersfield, a town I knew nothing about, and found the venue. The demographic was somewhat older than my usual audience, and that’s saying something, seeing as though I normally perform in Devon. ‘I thought you were much older’, the host said. I noticed that he had used a picture of me in a wig in the publicity material. ‘That’s because I was wearing a wig in your photos’, I pointed out. ‘Ah! Now, do you wear that so that you look like John Hegley?’, he asked.

The gig went well. I did the Spout show, hastily removing all of the more fruity, sexual poems, and I had no way of knowing if the audience liked it or not, as they were all very quiet and respectful, though at one moment there were four camera phones trained on me, which was a little weird. And I knew that nobody would tag me on social media later on because for some reason the host announced me as Mark Garnham.

Back at Petersfield station last night, I waited for the last train home to Woking. It was a warm night and the moon was riding high, and I felt that strangeness within of not really knowing where I was, geographically, and perhaps mentally, too. The whole week has been an odd blur. Two young ladies arrived with a blow-up inflatable man, which one of them had tucked under her arm. And when the train arrived, it was full of football fans. And yet, this being the Surrey Hants border, everyone was very quiet and respectful and for some reason, as the train approached Woking, the football fans replaced or covered up their football shirts, and gently wished each other a pleasant evening. I don’t know if this is just because people are more polite in these parts, or if their team had lost and they were all embarrassed. I might look up the result in a moment.

So yes, it’s morning now and I’m in the pub adjacent to the hotel. I shall be getting a train very shortly back down to Devon. I’m absolutely loving life as a spoken word artist at the moment, even if I did wake up this morning and not even remember which town I was in!

Author: Robert Garnham

Performance and spoken word artist.

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