No change in status, a poem about Tokyo

No change in status

Midnight in Tokyo, the hotel reception
Too opulent for jet lagged eyes,
This fool holds breath as from speakers,
The Blue Nile’s Tinseltown in the Rain,
An unusual choice in this disjointed dance.
I’ve hardly seen the neon and it’s almost
Tomorrow and there’s a problem with my booking.

Which makes me wonder who I even am,
Because the computer does not recognise my
Existence, and the receptionist explains that
Luckily there’s a spare room on the 36th floor,
No longer quite so happy so lucky so chipper,
And I’m admitted entry but I must promise to pay,
Mister, Mister, Mister . . . Sorry,
What was your name again?

The following day I begin to disappear, which
Makes shaving quite difficult, and I slide
Through the lift doors down across the marble foyer,
Find an adjacent supermarket and buy
I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE HECK IT WAS
For breakfast but it comes with chopsticks and there’s
A boiled egg plonked in the middle.

Ghosting through the Ginza several months
Too early for cherry blossom, I forget my name
In the crowded lanes, become translucent like a
Discarded thought in front of a travel agent
Advertising holidays in FUCKING PAIGNTON I KID YOU NOT,
And then in this city of technology and robots to a
Tourist office on the 15th floor of a skyscraper
Run by a Nanna and Grandad who pass me a free map
As if it were a precious gift and I bow on receiving.

The coffee shop patrons are taken aback.
You can see the coffee and muffin pass right through me.
It’s impolite to stare and it really doesn’t help matters
That I keep humming Tinseltown in the Rain,
Even though there isn’t any tinsel
And it was perfectly dry though somewhat overcast.

The wind sighs, ‘Have you ever been?’,
And I reply, ‘I am being now’,
And the wind sighs, ‘Are you being now?’
And I reply, ‘Have I ever been?’
And the wind sighs, ‘That’s only for you to
Decide, oooooooohhhhhhhhh’, and I really get it
That people think there are other worlds.

Isn’t it the dream of every spirituality to become
Nothing but a thought?
I achieved it so well that they might think about
Dedicating a place of worship in my honour, except
By now I had no name and I’ve never been a big one
For shopping, or drinking, or sexual conquests, so
I wasn’t even just another geezer on the Ginza.

A certain stylised frisky-whispered kitty cat in a bow tie
Explained via speech bubbles that the building to my left
Escaped being bombed by the Americans.
That thing I had this morning with the boiled egg in it was
Actually quite nice, and I texted a friend back home and
He replied, ‘I can see right through you’.

I’d always wanted to be a nobody, but now I was a no body
And it was the most weight I’d ever lost in one go.
Maybe this whole thing would have been better if I’d shared it
With you. I’ve walked around so many cities solo, like
Prague, and Reykjavik, Singapore, Lancaster, and never
Once heard The Blue Nile played as if they were
Just like any other band, gotta hand it to them.

‘No change in status’, said the lady on reception,
By which time I must have been merely a
Distortion of reality, a blurring where my outline
Would have been, an opaque mistake, and I rode
The elevator to the 36th floor and someone was playing
Bagpipes and you know really it hadn’t been a bad day
With the exception of my gradual philosophical psychological
Complete super disappearance.

The Yay! Diaries

Yay! show diaries

4.5.20

Write down themes of poems due to go into the Yay collection and decide that most of them are about the sea or wildlife. Conscious that the theme has to be happiness. Decide to make it a love story on a trawler possibly breaking the fourth wall every now and then. Decide to include Seaside Serenade in the collection as it would fit well at the start of the show. Write out very rough approximation of the storyline. A quest to understand what happiness is. Decide against the love aspect.

5.5.20

Working on a possible poem to go at the end of the show, provisionally titled Often I Don’t Realise I’m Happy or Oh! Actually It Turns Out I’m Happy!
Read some Vanessa Kisuule and Shagufta Iqbal for inspiration but then decided it needed ‘Liv Torcing up a bit’. First draft of poem completed.

6.5.20

Finished and fiddled with Oh! It Turns Out I’m Happy! Had a tentative go at writing the first paragraph of the show. Also made a new version of the Yay book manuscript. Now wondering whether to include Seaside Soul as it fits nicely after Seaside Serenade.

7.5.20

Worked on the linking material before Seaside Soul, and between Seaside Soul and Sideburns. Pondered on adding The Lad on the Bus Watching Porn on his phone to the show. Seaside Soul is now a part of the show.

11.5.20

Worked on the linking material and the material for the trawler section. Added the Homecoming poem to the show. Also worked on the dead aunt section.

12.5.20

Continued working on linking material. Swapped running order of the poems in the middle.

13.5.20

Typed up the first few pages, changing and editing sentences, then worked on the Giant Octopus section hoping to make it a stand alone segment.

14.5.20

Typed up the rest of the existing material and rewrote the giant octopus scene.

16.5.20

Worked on coffee shop scene and linking material, worried that the show may be too long, also worried that it should end at the end of the Trawler section.

17.5.20

Completely scrapped yesterday’s writing and rewrote the end of the show keeping the action on the trawler. Ended the show with a sudden idea to incorporate the gay pride boat ride.

18.5.20

Typed up the new material and made a few cosmetic changes and loosened up some of the language. First draft of the show now complete. Put aside for a few days.

1.6.20

In preparation listened to Tina Sederholm’a podcast about writing shows. Pondered on removing Seaside Serenade as it shares too many similarities with other poems, and replacing it as the first poem with I See Me in the Future, which is only half written. Then rewrote and wrote new linking material for the first few minutes, setting the start of the show in Surrey instead of Devon. Then turned attention to Shakka Lakka Boom and thought of alternative words to make it more my own poem, including Plipperty Plopperty Ploom.

2.6.20

More work on the new beginning of the show and writing the new linking material. Added a couple of jokes, then typed up and worked on I See Me in the Future.

3.6.20

Put all of the show together and had a full read through, comes to 57 minutes but it’s over 8000 words. Made lots of notes. Rewrote the first verse of Shakka Lakka Boom. Decided to remove the Lighthouse poem and the lighthousekeeper section to free up time, and this would let me put Seaside Serenade back at the start. Started rewriting I See Me in the Future just on the off chance. Feel that Seaside Serenade would be a better opening poem.

4.6.20

Rewrote the script. Took out I see Me in the Future and added Seaside Serenade. Removed Lighthousekeeper and that whole section. Also removed I want to be a Submariner as it had the same themes as three other poems, wrote a new one based on a poem originally rejected for Spout, Dunker Dumper, which gives background to Stinky Pete’s malaise. Interestingly this poem was written in the Wetherspoons in Barnstaple during the Fringe there. Added Brandon to the end of the show. Rewrote the opening linking material to add more jokes and attitude. Word count now just over 7400.

5.6.20

Updated Yay collection to include new poems for the show, and new Shakka Lakka Boom.

10.6.20

Rewrote the Surrey linking material and also went through the show, reducing the word count and editing. Word count now 7300.

13.6.20

Rewrote the opening speech after Seaside Serenade, including some jokes that came to me and getting rid of the awkward book plug.

14.6.20

Sunrise rehearsal room, Brixham. Rewrote the end of the Skipper’s octopus story, adding a joke. After lunch did a full read through. Comes to just under 53 minutes now. Decided to lighten the poetry towards the end and looked at replacing the poem Yay, perhaps with I want to be a Submariner, or even a sequence of short silly poems from a pretend poetry workshop on board the vessel.

15.6.20

Started rewrite of the ‘poetry workshop’ section with a view to replacing the ‘Yay’ poem. Wrote rough notes and selected some previously written short, sharp poems for this section with punchlines.

16.6.20

Rewrote the poetry workshop section and put it in the script. Removed the Yay poem and the linking material leading to it. Net result, about a hundred words less. Current word count now just over 7100. Currently toying with the idea of the Dunker Dumper song being played on a mobile phone as a pretend voicemail message.

24.6.20

Rewriting odd bits of the script to add in more jokes (but not puns). Made Becky be on the rescue boat at the end. Rewrote the opening paragraph. Spent the afternoon watching YouTube videos about writing solo shows.

25.6.20

More work on adding humour to the script. Looked also at various aspects of the show, even the title. And should I perform the whole thing while ironing? And then struggling to put the ironing board away? Approaching it with a ‘nothing is sacred ‘ mentality!

26.6.20

Did some more micro-rewrites, trying to make individual sentences punchier and funnier. Then did a full table read of the show as it is now, it comes to 52 minutes. Made some notes. The idea persists of using an ironing board, it could be used as numerous props: boat, gangplank, a person, a surfboard, an ironing board, a table. Something to ponder on. Do I really need to lug an ironing board around? Spoke to Ian Beech about using one of his photos for the poster for the show and the cover for the book, and the idea had his blessing though he was worried that Burning Eye would alter his image. After dinner, started working on some different ‘workshop’ poems , the latest idea being to get audience members to read them out.

27.6.20

Finished rewriting the ‘poetry workshop’ short poems.

1.7.20

Chatting with Tina Sederholm about hiring her to do dramaturg work on the show script.

17.7.20

Printed off the script for Yay and put it in the same ring binder as used for Juicy, Yak, Spout, etc.

21.7.20

Re-begin line learning Seaside Serenade. Amazed at how much I remember.

8.9.20

Official announcement of the Yay show and book on the Burning Eye Twitter and social media account and on other various social media platforms.

15.9.20

Official announcement of the title of the book and show on the Burning Eye Twitter account and in various social media platforms.

1.11.20

Brixham: Full ‘table read’ of show and notes written. Current length 54 minutes. Is Queer Express necessary?

2.11.20

Spent the afternoon on rewrites based on yesterday’s table read. Replaced Queer Express with I Want to be a Submariner.

3.11.20

Spent the afternoon and evening on rewrites. Word count now under 7000. Pondering music for the poems, and a different voice for the mobile phone song in the middle. Just to give me a rest!

4.11.20

No election result. Started rehearsing, amazed to find I still knew most of Seaside Serenade. Went through the introduction and linking material.

5.11.20

Still no election results. Rehearsed Seaside Serenade and learned lines for the following linking material. Slight rewrites to first introduction.

6.11.20

Still no election results. Rehearsed Seaside Serenade and the following linking material. First seven minutes of the show now committed to memory. Decided against music.

9.11.20

Rehearsed the first seven minutes and began to rehearse Sideburns. Mark was bored so he came down and watched the first seven minutes.

10.11.20

Sideburns line learning.

11.11.20

Sideburns line learning.

12.11.20

Applied to PBH Free Fringe for the show for 2021. Line learning for Sideburns and re-run of first seven minutes.

13.11.20

Sideburns line learning.

14.11.20

Sideburns line learning during torrential rain storm.

15.11.20

More Sideburns line learning. More torrential rain, thunderstorm, hail. Started also on the linking material after Sideburns.

16.11.20

Rehearsing linking material.

17.11.20

Rehearsing linking material and Seaside Soul.

18.11.20

Seaside Soul line learning.

19.11.20

Did the first fifteen minutes or so of Yay and more Seaside Soul line learning.

20.11.20

A run through of Sideburns and Seaside Soul a few times to make sure they’d stuck.

24.11.20

Started work memorising linking material after Seaside Soul.

25.11.20

More work on memorising linking material. Ran through all the show so far from the beginning. Also pondering on light rewrites. A Brixham trawler sank over the weekend with two lives lost. I was asked to provide some words for the local news website. Decided that the script would need some revisions to make it less trawlercentric, in honour to the fishermen, one of whom is a friend of a friend, and the sacrifices those in the fishing industry make. Pondered on changing the location to a factory fishing ship.

26.11.20

Up early for rewrites. Research into factory fishing ships and had several ideas for jokes and funny lines. Rewrote two lots of linking material and made cosmetic changes to wording, very pleased with the results. Current word count 7043.

27.11.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral.

28.11.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral.

29.11.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral

30.11.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral

2.12.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral.

3.12.20

More line learning Instructions for my Funeral, followed by a complete run-through of everything learned so far. Memorised twenty minutes of material since the start of November. Therefore thinking logically that it will take two more months to memorise the rest of the show, though I wont have as much free time.

6.12.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral and then started learning the rehearsing the following linking material. Printed the updated script and put it in the folder. Rewrote the linking material as I went along. As I was rehearsing, (having moved the table and chairs from the bay window to create a stage), I saw a little aircraft spluttering, popping and banging as it flew over. Hopefully not an omen!

8.12.20

Line learning linking material.

9.12.20

Line learning linking material.

13.12.20

Complete run-through of the show so far. Then started the process of committing ‘Homecoming’ to memory.

14.12.20

Line learning Homecoming.

15.12.20

Debuted Seaside Soul at Big Poetry Goes Viral on Zoom. Accidentally missed out a verse.

16.12.20

Line learning Homecoming and rehearsing Seaside Soul, as I’ll be performing it tomorrow night at the Palace Theatre as part of an evening of culture in celebration of the theatre. They asked for a poem about Paignton. Funny you should ask, I replied, I’ve been working on one!

17.12.20

Debuted some linking material and Seaside Soul at Palace Avenue Theatre as part of their evening of culture.

18.12.20

Line learning Homecoming (while at work alone on the shop floor in the first, slow hour of the day).

19.12.20

Went for a walk in the bright sunshine down across Paignton Green to the harbour, line learning Homecoming. Stood on the concrete breakwater and recited the poem a few times. Later on, went through the show so far (excluding Seaside Serenade) just to make sure I could remember the poems.

21.12.20

Line learning Homecoming and the linking material which comes afterwards.

22.12.20

Line learning Homecoming.

23.12.20

Line learning linking material. Also went through all of the linking material of the show so far, (saying ‘fast forward’ once I’d got one verse into the actual poems).

26.12.20

In Brixham. Line learning linking material. Begun the process of learning Poet In Residence on a Fish Factory Ship. Rewrote the second verse using the old typewriter to type up the revisions. Only one of the crew will henceforth be known as ‘stinky’.

27.12.20

To the Sunrise Rehearsal Studio in Brixham to work on the Poet In Residence poem. Great progress rehearsing and line learning.

29.12.20

Line learning Poet In Residence. Also did a run-through of the first twenty five minutes of the show, completely error free for the first time. Felt like a big step!

1.1.21

Line learning Poet In Residence.

2.1.21

Line learning Poet In Residence.

3.1.21

Went to the sea front, prom and beach in bitterly cold winds and recorded myself underneath the pier performing Seaside Soul, to publicise the show and book. Spent the afternoon editing and re-dubbing the footage, shared to social media channels.

5.1.21

Another lockdown begins. Line learning Poet In Residence.

6.1.21

Line learning Poet In Residence and experimenting with an intro played on the melodica.

7.1.21

Line learning Poet In Residence. Then undertook a run-through of the show so far, 27 minutes. Followed this with line learning linking material.

8.1.21

Applied to Norwich Fringe and to the Guildford Fringe for 2021. Afternoon, line learning linking material and Shakka Lakka Boom.

9.1.21

Line learning Shakka Lakka Boom and linking material.

10.1.21

Line learning Shakka Lakka Boom and linking material.

11.1.21

Email from Guildford Fringe saying they’ll be in touch about dates for Yay. Spoke with Melanie Branton about providing a song via answer phone message for the ‘You Dunked a Muffin in your Cuppa’ section. Sang a version of it and sent it to her along with the lyrics. Line learning linking material. Also, performed Seaside Soul on the weekly Forsaking the Mic Zoom meeting and chatted about the show. Ran through the show so far for Mark.

12.1.21

Ran through the show so far again. 34 minutes. Pondering on what to remove if the running time is too long.

13.1.21

Did a ‘table read’ of the rest of the show to work out timings. Decided to remove two poems, ‘Moby Dick’, (which I stayed up late last night re-writing), and I Want To Be A Submariner. The Submariner poem needs rewrites in any case but I’ve never been totally happy with it and it seems superfluous to the plot. Moby Dick feels better now it’s rewritten, but it’s also superfluous to the plot. As a replacement I took the Sunrise poem from Squidbox and rewrote it, adding a final verse. This is a more contemplative piece and fits the mood nicely. This new poem will also be inserted into the Yay book in place of I Want to Be A Submariner. Hopefully, the running time will be around 55 minutes now.

15.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

16.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

18.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Went for a walk in the rain and dark to go over the lines in my head, the sea monster section).

19.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

21.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

22.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

23.1.21

Decided to carry on the Yay show into 2022 as well as 2021 and to make it as ‘robust’ as possible to last the distance. Had a great rehearsal, going through the whole of the learned show so far and concentrating on movement, and incorporating a chair, which may be the only piece of furniture or prop (except the phone). Then used voice changing software to record the poem / song ‘You Dunked a Muffin in your Cuppa’, adding some dialogue at the start and the end. Edited it all together to be used in the shows. Very happy with the progress today.

24.1.21

Line learning linking material.

25.1.21

Line learning linking material. Considering some music at the start of the show. Last night recorded some vocal ideas. Today pondered using a verse from the poem Happy.

26.1.21

In a light rain shower I went to the woods down the road and filmed myself performing Instructions for my Funeral. Then home and edited the footage. Ran through the linking material and the ‘Muffin’ / ‘Sea Monster’ sections, then rehearsed ‘Nathan went for a walk in the Rain’. Finally, rewrote linking material between ‘Nathan . .’, and ‘Sunrise’.

28.1.21

Line learning ‘Sunrise’.

29.1.21

Line learning Sunrise.

30.1.21

Line learning Sunrise. Made a video for the ‘Happy’ poem.

31.1.21

Ran through all of the memorised show so far, 45 minutes. Had a minor panic when I thought the timer said 55 minutes! Did some work with the chair just to play around during the show. Then spent some time line learning Sunrise.

1.2.21

Line learning Sunrise.

2.2.21

Line learning Sunrise.

3.2.21

Line learning linking material.

5.2.21

Line learning linking material. Also worked on the ‘poetry workshop’ scene and explored options of hearing or showcasing the poems. Thought about an audio section much like the ‘You Dunked Your Muffin . .’ Section where I say that I recorded the fishermen on my mobile phone. Decided to write the poems on paper and keep them folded in my pocket, (cleverly with the before and after lines written on the paper too!), thereby whizzing through a whole page of the script.

8.2.21

Rehearsed and went over last third of the show. Did a ‘table read’ of the final piece of long linking material, then re-wrote to shift the focus away from the Robert character ‘coming out’, and more to a confession of his love in keeping with the tone of the show. Tidied up and tightened the rest of the linking material which comes after the Sunrise poem.

9.2.21

Line learning linking material.

10.2.21

Chatted to film director John Tomkins about performing the show in Paignton to a select socially-distanced audience and him filming it and editing it professionally for streaming services and online fringe festivals. Also, line learning linking material.

11.2.21

Went out this morning in freezing wind with Mark to try and take some publicity photos for the show. Edited them. Spent the afternoon rehearsing and line learning. Just a couple of paragraphs to go!

12.2.21

Line learning linking material.

13.2.21

Line learning linking material.

14.2.21

Ran through almost the entire show from memory, with the exception of the last couple of minutes. Running time 55 minutes. Decided on a couple of ‘light’ rewrites.

15.2.21

Rewrote the last paragraph of linking material and more line learning.

16.2.21

Contacted Emily Appleton about taking some publicity photos for the show poster and to publicise the show and the book. Arranged for Sunday morning, weather permitting. Rewrote the last paragraph of linking material yet again! Line learning linking material.

17.2.21

Line learning Happy.

19.2.21

Line learning Happy.

20.2.21

Line learning Happy.

21.2.21

Looked at the end of the show, rewrote the last paragraph of linking material again. PThen looked at the last poem, wrote a new poem, ‘I Don’t Know Why I’m Happy’, and decided to make a medley with ‘Happy’ for the last words of the show, more fitting with the tone. The idea being I might put this poem on a postcard as an extra / bookmark for anyone who buys the book. Ran through sections of the show. Then off to Victoria Park skateboard ramps for a photo shoot with Emily Appleton for the show promotional material. Home, and re-worked the ‘You Dumped a Muffin in your Cuppa’ song, making it almost a minute shorter. Long day!

22.2.21

Line learning I Don’t Know Why I’m Happy.

23.2.21

Full show run through from memory, for the first time! 54 minutes. Decided to end the show after the final linking material but then carry on with I Don’t Know Why I’m So Happy / Happy afterwards. This gives the option of substituting another poem.

25.2.21

More subtle rewrites to the end of the final linking material to make it sound more like an ending.

27.2.21

Line learning I Don’t Know Why I’m So Happy.

28.2.21

Practising random parts of the show.

1.3.21

Full show run through, 53 minutes.

2.3.21

First real rehearsal session rather than line learning, played around with using a chair as a prop, marked up the scripts at moments where the chair will feature.

3.3.21

Exchanged emails with Paignton Palace Theatre about the possibility of using their black box space to film the Yay show without an audience for online fringe purposes. They emailed back to say yes, and free of charge!! (Well, they want some work off me in exchange).

4.3.21

Chatted to filmmaker John Tomkins about arrangements to film the show without an audience at the Palace Theatre and agreed terms, then chatted about the logistics. Next got in touch with the Palace Theatre and they said they could offer the actual theatre auditorium for filming purposes and let us use their sound / lighting engineer.

5.3.21

Worked on the publicity images sent by Emily Appleton to choose two or three as possible poster images for the show and images to send out with press releases. Then chatted to John Tomkins about the film version before listening to various bits of music as opening and closing music for the film version of the show. Had another rehearsal with the chair as a prop and also tried some choreography for the last poem, I Don’t Know Why I’m So Happy / Happy. Finally pondered on the idea of signing the ‘Becky’ poem myself and ran through it a couple of times.

6.3.21

Full run-through of the show singing the You Dunked a Muffin in your Cuppa song rather than playing the audio, and doing the whole show with movement, choreography and using the chair as a prop. Also chatted to Bryce Dumont about the possibility of using Croydon Tourist Office music for the start and end of the filmed version.

7.3.21

Spent some time making a first couple of designs for the possible publicity poster. Then worked on a song with a Croydon Tourist Office backing track for the film, which I called ‘So happy’.

8.3.21

Line learning You Dunked a Muffin in Your Cuppa.

9.3.21

Worked on the publicity poster design and then line learning You Dunked a Muffin in Your Cuppa.

10.3.21

Rehearsal using the chair.

13.3.21

Sunrise rehearsal room, Brixham. Went through the whole show, no movement.

14.3.21

Sunrise rehearsal room, Brixham. Went over the various bits that I struggled with yesterday.

15.3.21

Back in Paignton. Went over the last half of the show, typed up revisions, did some admin with Guildford Fringe.

16.3.21

Wrote a new poem to finish the show which draws together happiness and identity, ‘Be Yourself’, which also has an element of humour. In the evening, headlined at ‘Leadworks’, an online gig, and debuted some of the linking material from the show as well as performing three poems in the set, Shakka Lakka Boom, Homecoming and Seaside Soul.

17.3.21

Line learning Be Yourself.

18.3.21

Line learning Be Yourself.

19.3.21

Did a complete run through of the show, including the new Be Yourself poem at the end. Came to 55 minutes.

21.3.21

Spent the morning working on an interview with Heather Moulson and talked about the show and its premise. Then worked on a blog with the publicity pictures and the press ‘interview’ I did with myself, and unleashed it on the world on my website and social media, changing profile pictures to the show poster. Afternoon, worked on an audio recording of the show mainly to help myself stay fresh but also as a possible future project.

23.3.21

Tickets for the Yay show on sale on the Guildford Fringe website.

25.3.21

Did ‘Shakka Lakka Boom’ and ‘Seaside Soul’ plus linking material at WonderZoo, an online gig based in Plymouth.

27.3.21

Rehearsed last half hour of the show in the Sunrise Rehearsal Studio, Brixham.

30.3.21

Rehearsed last ten minutes of the show, back in Paignton.

7.4.21

Rehearsed whole show. Chatted to filmmaker John Tomkins about the logistics of filming the show in Paignton’s Palace Theatre next week. Evening, did ten minutes of poems and linking materials of the show at Word Mustard, an online gig based in Weston-super-Mare.

14.4.21

Filmed the show at Paignton’s Palace Theatre with John Tomkins, sound engineer Clive and Sarah from the theatre. Filmed for five hours, filming the show twice from several angles, and also footage for a trailer which involved different poses on stage. Then home for the last proof-read of the collection.

19.4.21

John Tomkins made the trailer for the recording of the solo show, and this was put online on my website and various social media channels.

21.4.21

Had a meeting online with Fay Roberts from PBH Free Fringe about entering the show into the online Edinburgh fringe, then a meeting with John Tomkins to show me some of the edits of the show so far.

23.4.21

John Tomkins sent me a first edit of the show, watched it and suggested a couple of minor revisions.

26.4.21

John Tomkins sent me the second edit of the show, watched it and approved it as the definitive edition.

27.4.21

A box of Yay books arrived!

28.4.21

Spoke with Ludlow Fringe about performing the show in the same week as the Guildford Fringe / Taunton Live.

2.5.21

Full run through of the show at the Sunrise Rehearsal Room, Brixham. It’s the first time I’ve done the show since filming at the theatre, relieved that it’s still in my head!

3.7.21

Full rehearsal at Sunrise, Brixham.

5.7.21

Full rehearsal at Paignton, Polsham Park.

10.7.21

Full rehearsal at Sunrise, Brixham.

13.7.21

First performance of show in front of audience, The Keep, Guildford Fringe. Pleased at reception though wondered about the last poem, Be Yourself. Back to hotel in Woking and worked on ideas for a possible replacement for Be Yourself, wondering whether to have a proper ‘banger’/ Garnhamesque poem as the last one.

14.7.21

Worked on a couple of possible replacements in Woking first at hotel, then at the Wetherspoons. Sat on the banks of the Basingstoke Canal and worked on a poem, ‘Happiness Is . . .’.

15.7.21

Paignton. Worked on Be Yourself replacement, Happiness Is . .

16.7.21

Worked on Happiness Is . .

17.7.21

To Brewhouse Theatre, Taunton, for a studio livestream, performed fifteen minutes from the show. Later performed in the Taunton Live Festival and included Be Yourself in the set. The reception to the poem was positive enough to think about leaving it in the show.

28.7.21

Yay show recording now made public on the PBH Edinburgh Free Fringe website for streaming. It’s on the first page of their website with a virtual venue of Banshee Labyrinth. Also uploaded to the Gumroad website but not yet made public.

29.7.21

Contract signed to perform Yay show at the Exeter Fringe in October.

10.8.21

Worked on publicity for Exeter Fringe. Then to Exeter Phoenix for a Scratch Night, did fifteen minutes of the show from Shakka Lakka Boom to Nathan, and it was received well.

1.9.21

Pictures and critique sheets back from the Exeter scratch night. Great advice and feedback from the audience. Though one person thought there was too much serious content and one thought there was too much comedy!

2.9.21

Show announced as part of the Exeter Fringe 2021.

8.9.21

Working on press for the Exeter Fringe show. Press release / photos to various local news outlets.

9.9.21

Worked on designing posters for Exeter Fringe.

15.9.21

Yay posters and flyers have arrived. I will be doing five minutes of the show in Exeter tonight where I’ll give out the flyers and distribute the posters.

18.9.21

Had a radio interview on BBC Radio Devon with Sarah Gosling to publicise the Yay show at the Exeter Fringe. Performed Seaside Soul and High Tea.

I am the Captain of This Good Ship, (Poem)

Poem

I am the captain of this good ship.
Seafaring is in my soul.
I spend my time in that bit at the front,
You know, at the top,
With the big windows,
What’s it called?
Where I steer it from.

I’m a very merry mariner
A merry mariner me.
I’m a very merry mariner
On a millpond mirror sea.
I’m the captain don’t you see
You can pipe me aboard any time.
Weeee-weeee, captain on bridge!
(Oh, that’s what it’s called,
The bridge!)

My crew noticed my tattoo,
They always point it out.
Whenever I pass near them,
‘Anchor’, is what they shout.
‘Such an anchor’.
‘Here comes the anchor’.
‘Oh my god it’s the anchor’.
My tattoo
Is of an anchor.

Seventy five percent of my office
And cabin
Have been taken over by cargo.
I suppose that’s why they call them
My quarters.
Next door is a room where I planted
Gorse, heather and wild grass
And let some sheep graze.
‘Why did you do that?’, my deputy asked.
I said, ‘It’s the staff common room’.

But I like being the captain
It’s the job I’ve always wanted to do.
They sent me to navel college.
I think it was the wrong one.
I know nothing about driving a ship
But I have an encyclopedic knowledge
Of belly buttons.

I run my fingers on the hull
And listen to the soft whispering of the ship.
‘Capital cities’, she says,
‘London, Paris, Rome,
Canberra, Delhi, Beijing’.
‘Oh my god’, my deputy said,
‘I think the ship is listing’.

I found a subordinate the other day
Piling plastic bottles on the deck,
Plastic bottles of French, Dijon, English,
Colmans and other brands
Of hot yellow sauce.
‘No, you idiot!’, I yelled,
‘I told you to make a
Muster station!’

But I’m the captain,
Whatever happens, I’m the captain,
I’m the tip top nautical fella on this
rusty ship with its big brass propeller,
I’m the order barker,
I’m the port-side parker,
I’m the first mate berater
I’m the seaman inspiration
I’m the radar operator
If we sink I’ll see ya later
I’m the ship steering quip-sneering
Anchor-dropping boat flip fearing
Keep myself in uniform so
Never wear an earring
I’m the poop deck slipper
I’m the mid storm kipper
I’m the radar flashing blipper
I’m in charge cos I’m the skipper
I’m the captain
I’m the captain
I’m the captain
Don’t you knowwwwwwwww.

The other day we found
Water in the cargo hold.
‘Do you think we’ll sink?’
Someone asked.
‘Maybe not’, I replied.
‘Capsize?’, they asked.
‘Extra large’, I replied.

On how I learned to love writing short stories again

On how I learned to love writing short stories again

The only thing I ever wanted to be was a writer. When I was a kid, I’d write all the time. For me, the most wonderful thing in the world was a new notebook with all of its blank pages and the limitless possibilities of the words that would fill it up. If there was one thing I really enjoyed, it was making people laugh because of what they were reading, knowing that it was my own words that had caused such merriment. I remember my English teacher, Mr. Smith, encouraging me to write, and I’d show him my stories and he’d sit and read them to himself and every now and then he would laugh. And I’d always ask him what it was that had made him laugh.

During my teenage years I discovered existentialism and I forgot all about wanting to make people laugh. I just wanted to be seen as a deep thinker, a modern Camus or Kafka astounding people with my weighty philosophic intellect. The only things missing were a beret, and a weighty philosophic intellect. This ‘phase’ took a few years to get over.

In my twenties, I moved to Devon and joined a writers’ circle, and for the first time I would be reading out my words to other people. And when they laughed, it was the most magical feeling in the world. I spent all my spare moments writing, in my first flat, which was on the third floor of a spooky gothic mansion, and I’d sit there all evening and write and write and write, endless short stories which I’d then immediately file away, and sometimes not even print off.

Education came late to me, and I spent seven years doing an undergraduate course, and then two years doing postgraduate, all by distance learning, so writing took a back seat but I’d still have a crack at it if I had a spare few moments, though I’d never look at what I’d written once it was done. And as soon as my education was over, I discovered comedy performance poetry and the deep joy of being on stage and making people laugh.

Of course, this was a pivotal moment, because now I was getting paid and travelling all over the UK, spreading comedy and joy and meeting wonderful people. Indeed, the last thirteen years have been a magical experience and I never thought that I’d be in such a position. The fact that I make strangers laugh and enjoy life, if only for a few minutes, makes me feel incredibly privileged.

A couple of years ago, I went back to writing short stories. The only difference now was that, thanks to this thing called the ‘internet’, which wasn’t around when I was younger, I could now submit the end results. And wow, the response has been amazing. I’ve had short stories published all over the place, from magazines such as Stand and Defenestration, to Ink, Sweat and Tears, Riggwelter and Jersey Devil. Indeed, I have even been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in the USA, which is where most of my work is published.

But the most amazing thing of all is that some of the stories I’ve had published were ones I’d written twenty five or thirty years ago. Stand, one of the most respected magazines in the UK, have agreed to publish a story of mine next year which I wrote one evening at that old gothic flat. Black Moon magazine have just published one which I remember reading to the writers’ circle all those years ago. I’m absolutely astounded that these old stories are finding a new lease of life, while at the same time a little sad that I wasn’t brave enough to send them off at the time, as a nerdy twenty something.

So what’s my point with this essay? I suppose it’s ‘never give up on your dreams’, or something trite like that. Or at the very least, ‘give it a go, because you never know’. I was deeply unsure of myself for most of my young adult life and this has continued to some extent. I certainly don’t feel like I have a sense of entitlement but I’m at least glad that I am now a little braver when it matters.

And writing? I still love it, as much as I did when I was a kid!

What is Happiness?

Since April last year I’ve been working on a show called Yay!: The Search for Happiness. Over this time I’ve written and rewritten the script and the various poems and I’ve gone through several different poems to end the show. This week, at the Guildford Fringe, I finally got to debut the show in front of an actual audience, and afterwards I felt happy, though I worried that the last poem of the show, called Be Yourself, wasn’t ‘Garnhamesque’ enough, and had none of the characteristics of a normal Robert Garnham poem.

‘Be Yourself’ is an earnest and heartfelt poem and I worried that it was a somewhat ‘limp’ finish to the show, ending with earnestness instead of humour. As an experiment I sat in my sister’s back garden in Woking and recorded myself performing the poem, which I then put on Facebook, and the comments were positive from those who watched it. I still didn’t feel comfortable with it, so the next morning, while sitting in my hotel and then on the banks of the Basingstoke Canal, I wrote a new poem called ‘What is Happiness?’

A couple of days later I performed at Taunton Live’s LGBT Pride event. During a set of upbeat comedy poems, I performed ‘Be Yourself’, and the response was amazing. Indeed, it got the biggest applause of my set and some encouraging remarks from those around me. I then decided that maybe I should leave ‘Be Yourself’ in the show after all.

So what of the new poem? Well, it might not ever make it into the show, but here it is:

Happiness is . . .

The Dalai Lama says,
The purpose of life is to be happy.
My friend Doug says
Happiness is a mighty meaty pepperoni pizza
And a dvd box set of Dallas.
If I could spend time with either,
Sure, there’s the pristine simplicity and
Purity of thought of the Dalai Lama,
But that mighty meaty pepperoni pizza sounds
Awfully tempting.

I googled happiness
And this is what the philosophers said:
Happiness is a smile from a friend.
Happiness is more than just doing fun things,
It’s doing them with loved ones.
Happiness is not out there, it’s within.
Happiness is being the reason for
Someone else’s laughter.
Happiness is a mighty meaty pepperoni pizza
And a dvd box set of Dallas.
(I don’t know how Doug ended up on there).

Happiness is a smorgasbord when you were just
Feeling peckish.
Happiness is a mallard duck in a cowboy hat.
Happiness is a man with boxers on his head
Dancing to Mambo Number 5.
If he gets out of breath, I guess he’ll be panting.
Happiness is realising there’s free coffee refills
When you were just thinking, hmmm,
I could do with another coffee.
That’s what happiness is.

Doug said to me,
Hey,
What’s happiness?
And I replied,
It’s a fluffy puffy feeling
It’s incredibly appealing
It’s like a lack of gravity
Which gets you on the ceiling.
It’s a flouncy bouncy skip and hop
Which makes your heart just flip and flop
It’s smooth as silk
And warm like tea
And sweeter than a lollipop l
Oh my,
Just listen to me!
And he replied,
Sorry, I didn’t catch any of that,
I was distracted by the man
With boxers on his head
Dancing to Mambo Number 5.

Happiness is fumbling for change at the car park
To find they don’t charge after six.
Happiness is how I feel when my nephew says
Mum, uncle Robert just said ‘bum’,
And my sister says
For goodness sake don’t be so easily shocked
You’re 24 years old.
Happiness is minusing one number from another
and knowing you made a difference.
Happiness is someone saying
‘You’re not that old, Robert’, and that split second of bliss
Even if it is followed by, ‘you only look it’.
Happiness is an unexpected wotsit
In a packet of Quavers.

Happiness is buying some wood and the carpenter asks,
How long do you want it?
And replying, to keep.
Happiness is when you can’t remember the name of
A railway line going through a hill, and a friend tells you,
And you say, thanks for that cutting remark.
Happiness is seeing a sign at the barbers,
Haircut £10, beard £6, and saying,
One beard please.
Happiness is other stuff as well.

Happiness is the encapsulation of positive ruminations,
The elevation of elation,
The promotion of unkempt emotion,
The teetering tottering tower of total delectation,
It’s free glee, it’s Albert Einstein going wheeee!,
It’s more for euphoria, it’s the treasure of pleasure,
It’s a mighty meaty utterly completey fizzing kiss of bliss,
And it sounds something like this,
That every day it gets in your way
And causes you to say,
Yay!

Yay Show Diaries 2020-2021

Yay! show diaries

4.5.20

Write down themes of poems due to go into the Yay collection and decide that most of them are about the sea or wildlife. Conscious that the theme has to be happiness. Decide to make it a love story on a trawler possibly breaking the fourth wall every now and then. Decide to include Seaside Serenade in the collection as it would fit well at the start of the show. Write out very rough approximation of the storyline. A quest to understand what happiness is. Decide against the love aspect.

5.5.20

Working on a possible poem to go at the end of the show, provisionally titled Often I Don’t Realise I’m Happy or Oh! Actually It Turns Out I’m Happy!
Read some Vanessa Kisuule and Shagufta Iqbal for inspiration but then decided it needed ‘Liv Torcing up a bit’. First draft of poem completed.

6.5.20

Finished and fiddled with Oh! It Turns Out I’m Happy! Had a tentative go at writing the first paragraph of the show. Also made a new version of the Yay book manuscript. Now wondering whether to include Seaside Soul as it fits nicely after Seaside Serenade.

7.5.20

Worked on the linking material before Seaside Soul, and between Seaside Soul and Sideburns. Pondered on adding The Lad on the Bus Watching Porn on his phone to the show. Seaside Soul is now a part of the show.

11.5.20

Worked on the linking material and the material for the trawler section. Added the Homecoming poem to the show. Also worked on the dead aunt section.

12.5.20

Continued working on linking material. Swapped running order of the poems in the middle.

13.5.20

Typed up the first few pages, changing and editing sentences, then worked on the Giant Octopus section hoping to make it a stand alone segment.

14.5.20

Typed up the rest of the existing material and rewrote the giant octopus scene.

16.5.20

Worked on coffee shop scene and linking material, worried that the show may be too long, also worried that it should end at the end of the Trawler section.

17.5.20

Completely scrapped yesterday’s writing and rewrote the end of the show keeping the action on the trawler. Ended the show with a sudden idea to incorporate the gay pride boat ride.

18.5.20

Typed up the new material and made a few cosmetic changes and loosened up some of the language. First draft of the show now complete. Put aside for a few days.

1.6.20

In preparation listened to Tina Sederholm’a podcast about writing shows. Pondered on removing Seaside Serenade as it shares too many similarities with other poems, and replacing it as the first poem with I See Me in the Future, which is only half written. Then rewrote and wrote new linking material for the first few minutes, setting the start of the show in Surrey instead of Devon. Then turned attention to Shakka Lakka Boom and thought of alternative words to make it more my own poem, including Plipperty Plopperty Ploom.

2.6.20

More work on the new beginning of the show and writing the new linking material. Added a couple of jokes, then typed up and worked on I See Me in the Future.

3.6.20

Put all of the show together and had a full read through, comes to 57 minutes but it’s over 8000 words. Made lots of notes. Rewrote the first verse of Shakka Lakka Boom. Decided to remove the Lighthouse poem and the lighthousekeeper section to free up time, and this would let me put Seaside Serenade back at the start. Started rewriting I See Me in the Future just on the off chance. Feel that Seaside Serenade would be a better opening poem.

4.6.20

Rewrote the script. Took out I see Me in the Future and added Seaside Serenade. Removed Lighthousekeeper and that whole section. Also removed I want to be a Submariner as it had the same themes as three other poems, wrote a new one based on a poem originally rejected for Spout, Dunker Dumper, which gives background to Stinky Pete’s malaise. Interestingly this poem was written in the Wetherspoons in Barnstaple during the Fringe there. Added Brandon to the end of the show. Rewrote the opening linking material to add more jokes and attitude. Word count now just over 7400.

5.6.20

Updated Yay collection to include new poems for the show, and new Shakka Lakka Boom.

10.6.20

Rewrote the Surrey linking material and also went through the show, reducing the word count and editing. Word count now 7300.

13.6.20

Rewrote the opening speech after Seaside Serenade, including some jokes that came to me and getting rid of the awkward book plug.

14.6.20

Sunrise rehearsal room, Brixham. Rewrote the end of the Skipper’s octopus story, adding a joke. After lunch did a full read through. Comes to just under 53 minutes now. Decided to lighten the poetry towards the end and looked at replacing the poem Yay, perhaps with I want to be a Submariner, or even a sequence of short silly poems from a pretend poetry workshop on board the vessel.

15.6.20

Started rewrite of the ‘poetry workshop’ section with a view to replacing the ‘Yay’ poem. Wrote rough notes and selected some previously written short, sharp poems for this section with punchlines.

16.6.20

Rewrote the poetry workshop section and put it in the script. Removed the Yay poem and the linking material leading to it. Net result, about a hundred words less. Current word count now just over 7100. Currently toying with the idea of the Dunker Dumper song being played on a mobile phone as a pretend voicemail message.

24.6.20

Rewriting odd bits of the script to add in more jokes (but not puns). Made Becky be on the rescue boat at the end. Rewrote the opening paragraph. Spent the afternoon watching YouTube videos about writing solo shows.

25.6.20

More work on adding humour to the script. Looked also at various aspects of the show, even the title. And should I perform the whole thing while ironing? And then struggling to put the ironing board away? Approaching it with a ‘nothing is sacred ‘ mentality!

26.6.20

Did some more micro-rewrites, trying to make individual sentences punchier and funnier. Then did a full table read of the show as it is now, it comes to 52 minutes. Made some notes. The idea persists of using an ironing board, it could be used as numerous props: boat, gangplank, a person, a surfboard, an ironing board, a table. Something to ponder on. Do I really need to lug an ironing board around? Spoke to Ian Beech about using one of his photos for the poster for the show and the cover for the book, and the idea had his blessing though he was worried that Burning Eye would alter his image. After dinner, started working on some different ‘workshop’ poems , the latest idea being to get audience members to read them out.

27.6.20

Finished rewriting the ‘poetry workshop’ short poems.

1.7.20

Chatting with Tina Sederholm about hiring her to do dramaturg work on the show script.

17.7.20

Printed off the script for Yay and put it in the same ring binder as used for Juicy, Yak, Spout, etc.

21.7.20

Re-begin line learning Seaside Serenade. Amazed at how much I remember.

8.9.20

Official announcement of the Yay show and book on the Burning Eye Twitter and social media account and on other various social media platforms.

15.9.20

Official announcement of the title of the book and show on the Burning Eye Twitter account and in various social media platforms.

1.11.20

Brixham: Full ‘table read’ of show and notes written. Current length 54 minutes. Is Queer Express necessary?

2.11.20

Spent the afternoon on rewrites based on yesterday’s table read. Replaced Queer Express with I Want to be a Submariner.

3.11.20

Spent the afternoon and evening on rewrites. Word count now under 7000. Pondering music for the poems, and a different voice for the mobile phone song in the middle. Just to give me a rest!

4.11.20

No election result. Started rehearsing, amazed to find I still knew most of Seaside Serenade. Went through the introduction and linking material.

5.11.20

Still no election results. Rehearsed Seaside Serenade and learned lines for the following linking material. Slight rewrites to first introduction.

6.11.20

Still no election results. Rehearsed Seaside Serenade and the following linking material. First seven minutes of the show now committed to memory. Decided against music.

9.11.20

Rehearsed the first seven minutes and began to rehearse Sideburns. Mark was bored so he came down and watched the first seven minutes.

10.11.20

Sideburns line learning.

11.11.20

Sideburns line learning.

12.11.20

Applied to PBH Free Fringe for the show for 2021. Line learning for Sideburns and re-run of first seven minutes.

13.11.20

Sideburns line learning.

14.11.20

Sideburns line learning during torrential rain storm.

15.11.20

More Sideburns line learning. More torrential rain, thunderstorm, hail. Started also on the linking material after Sideburns.

16.11.20

Rehearsing linking material.

17.11.20

Rehearsing linking material and Seaside Soul.

18.11.20

Seaside Soul line learning.

19.11.20

Did the first fifteen minutes or so of Yay and more Seaside Soul line learning.

20.11.20

A run through of Sideburns and Seaside Soul a few times to make sure they’d stuck.

24.11.20

Started work memorising linking material after Seaside Soul.

25.11.20

More work on memorising linking material. Ran through all the show so far from the beginning. Also pondering on light rewrites. A Brixham trawler sank over the weekend with two lives lost. I was asked to provide some words for the local news website. Decided that the script would need some revisions to make it less trawlercentric, in honour to the fishermen, one of whom is a friend of a friend, and the sacrifices those in the fishing industry make. Pondered on changing the location to a factory fishing ship.

26.11.20

Up early for rewrites. Research into factory fishing ships and had several ideas for jokes and funny lines. Rewrote two lots of linking material and made cosmetic changes to wording, very pleased with the results. Current word count 7043.

27.11.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral.

28.11.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral.

29.11.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral

30.11.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral

2.12.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral.

3.12.20

More line learning Instructions for my Funeral, followed by a complete run-through of everything learned so far. Memorised twenty minutes of material since the start of November. Therefore thinking logically that it will take two more months to memorise the rest of the show, though I wont have as much free time.

6.12.20

Line learning Instructions for my Funeral and then started learning the rehearsing the following linking material. Printed the updated script and put it in the folder. Rewrote the linking material as I went along. As I was rehearsing, (having moved the table and chairs from the bay window to create a stage), I saw a little aircraft spluttering, popping and banging as it flew over. Hopefully not an omen!

8.12.20

Line learning linking material.

9.12.20

Line learning linking material.

13.12.20

Complete run-through of the show so far. Then started the process of committing ‘Homecoming’ to memory.

14.12.20

Line learning Homecoming.

15.12.20

Debuted Seaside Soul at Big Poetry Goes Viral on Zoom. Accidentally missed out a verse.

16.12.20

Line learning Homecoming and rehearsing Seaside Soul, as I’ll be performing it tomorrow night at the Palace Theatre as part of an evening of culture in celebration of the theatre. They asked for a poem about Paignton. Funny you should ask, I replied, I’ve been working on one!

17.12.20

Debuted some linking material and Seaside Soul at Palace Avenue Theatre as part of their evening of culture.

18.12.20

Line learning Homecoming (while at work alone on the shop floor in the first, slow hour of the day).

19.12.20

Went for a walk in the bright sunshine down across Paignton Green to the harbour, line learning Homecoming. Stood on the concrete breakwater and recited the poem a few times. Later on, went through the show so far (excluding Seaside Serenade) just to make sure I could remember the poems.

21.12.20

Line learning Homecoming and the linking material which comes afterwards.

22.12.20

Line learning Homecoming.

23.12.20

Line learning linking material. Also went through all of the linking material of the show so far, (saying ‘fast forward’ once I’d got one verse into the actual poems).

26.12.20

In Brixham. Line learning linking material. Begun the process of learning Poet In Residence on a Fish Factory Ship. Rewrote the second verse using the old typewriter to type up the revisions. Only one of the crew will henceforth be known as ‘stinky’.

27.12.20

To the Sunrise Rehearsal Studio in Brixham to work on the Poet In Residence poem. Great progress rehearsing and line learning.

29.12.20

Line learning Poet In Residence. Also did a run-through of the first twenty five minutes of the show, completely error free for the first time. Felt like a big step!

1.1.21

Line learning Poet In Residence.

2.1.21

Line learning Poet In Residence.

3.1.21

Went to the sea front, prom and beach in bitterly cold winds and recorded myself underneath the pier performing Seaside Soul, to publicise the show and book. Spent the afternoon editing and re-dubbing the footage, shared to social media channels.

5.1.21

Another lockdown begins. Line learning Poet In Residence.

6.1.21

Line learning Poet In Residence and experimenting with an intro played on the melodica.

7.1.21

Line learning Poet In Residence. Then undertook a run-through of the show so far, 27 minutes. Followed this with line learning linking material.

8.1.21

Applied to Norwich Fringe and to the Guildford Fringe for 2021. Afternoon, line learning linking material and Shakka Lakka Boom.

9.1.21

Line learning Shakka Lakka Boom and linking material.

10.1.21

Line learning Shakka Lakka Boom and linking material.

11.1.21

Email from Guildford Fringe saying they’ll be in touch about dates for Yay. Spoke with Melanie Branton about providing a song via answer phone message for the ‘You Dunked a Muffin in your Cuppa’ section. Sang a version of it and sent it to her along with the lyrics. Line learning linking material. Also, performed Seaside Soul on the weekly Forsaking the Mic Zoom meeting and chatted about the show. Ran through the show so far for Mark.

12.1.21

Ran through the show so far again. 34 minutes. Pondering on what to remove if the running time is too long.

13.1.21

Did a ‘table read’ of the rest of the show to work out timings. Decided to remove two poems, ‘Moby Dick’, (which I stayed up late last night re-writing), and I Want To Be A Submariner. The Submariner poem needs rewrites in any case but I’ve never been totally happy with it and it seems superfluous to the plot. Moby Dick feels better now it’s rewritten, but it’s also superfluous to the plot. As a replacement I took the Sunrise poem from Squidbox and rewrote it, adding a final verse. This is a more contemplative piece and fits the mood nicely. This new poem will also be inserted into the Yay book in place of I Want to Be A Submariner. Hopefully, the running time will be around 55 minutes now.

15.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

16.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

18.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Went for a walk in the rain and dark to go over the lines in my head, the sea monster section).

19.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

21.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

22.1.21

Line learning linking material. (Sea monster section).

23.1.21

Decided to carry on the Yay show into 2022 as well as 2021 and to make it as ‘robust’ as possible to last the distance. Had a great rehearsal, going through the whole of the learned show so far and concentrating on movement, and incorporating a chair, which may be the only piece of furniture or prop (except the phone). Then used voice changing software to record the poem / song ‘You Dunked a Muffin in your Cuppa’, adding some dialogue at the start and the end. Edited it all together to be used in the shows. Very happy with the progress today.

24.1.21

Line learning linking material.

25.1.21

Line learning linking material. Considering some music at the start of the show. Last night recorded some vocal ideas. Today pondered using a verse from the poem Happy.

26.1.21

In a light rain shower I went to the woods down the road and filmed myself performing Instructions for my Funeral. Then home and edited the footage. Ran through the linking material and the ‘Muffin’ / ‘Sea Monster’ sections, then rehearsed ‘Nathan went for a walk in the Rain’. Finally, rewrote linking material between ‘Nathan . .’, and ‘Sunrise’.

28.1.21

Line learning ‘Sunrise’.

29.1.21

Line learning Sunrise.

30.1.21

Line learning Sunrise. Made a video for the ‘Happy’ poem.

31.1.21

Ran through all of the memorised show so far, 45 minutes. Had a minor panic when I thought the timer said 55 minutes! Did some work with the chair just to play around during the show. Then spent some time line learning Sunrise.

1.2.21

Line learning Sunrise.

2.2.21

Line learning Sunrise.

3.2.21

Line learning linking material.

5.2.21

Line learning linking material. Also worked on the ‘poetry workshop’ scene and explored options of hearing or showcasing the poems. Thought about an audio section much like the ‘You Dunked Your Muffin . .’ Section where I say that I recorded the fishermen on my mobile phone. Decided to write the poems on paper and keep them folded in my pocket, (cleverly with the before and after lines written on the paper too!), thereby whizzing through a whole page of the script.

8.2.21

Rehearsed and went over last third of the show. Did a ‘table read’ of the final piece of long linking material, then re-wrote to shift the focus away from the Robert character ‘coming out’, and more to a confession of his love in keeping with the tone of the show. Tidied up and tightened the rest of the linking material which comes after the Sunrise poem.

9.2.21

Line learning linking material.

10.2.21

Chatted to film director John Tomkins about performing the show in Paignton to a select socially-distanced audience and him filming it and editing it professionally for streaming services and online fringe festivals. Also, line learning linking material.

11.2.21

Went out this morning in freezing wind with Mark to try and take some publicity photos for the show. Edited them. Spent the afternoon rehearsing and line learning. Just a couple of paragraphs to go!

12.2.21

Line learning linking material.

13.2.21

Line learning linking material.

14.2.21

Ran through almost the entire show from memory, with the exception of the last couple of minutes. Running time 55 minutes. Decided on a couple of ‘light’ rewrites.

15.2.21

Rewrote the last paragraph of linking material and more line learning.

16.2.21

Contacted Emily Appleton about taking some publicity photos for the show poster and to publicise the show and the book. Arranged for Sunday morning, weather permitting. Rewrote the last paragraph of linking material yet again! Line learning linking material.

17.2.21

Line learning Happy.

19.2.21

Line learning Happy.

20.2.21

Line learning Happy.

21.2.21

Looked at the end of the show, rewrote the last paragraph of linking material again. PThen looked at the last poem, wrote a new poem, ‘I Don’t Know Why I’m Happy’, and decided to make a medley with ‘Happy’ for the last words of the show, more fitting with the tone. The idea being I might put this poem on a postcard as an extra / bookmark for anyone who buys the book. Ran through sections of the show. Then off to Victoria Park skateboard ramps for a photo shoot with Emily Appleton for the show promotional material. Home, and re-worked the ‘You Dumped a Muffin in your Cuppa’ song, making it almost a minute shorter. Long day!

22.2.21

Line learning I Don’t Know Why I’m Happy.

23.2.21

Full show run through from memory, for the first time! 54 minutes. Decided to end the show after the final linking material but then carry on with I Don’t Know Why I’m So Happy / Happy afterwards. This gives the option of substituting another poem.

25.2.21

More subtle rewrites to the end of the final linking material to make it sound more like an ending.

27.2.21

Line learning I Don’t Know Why I’m So Happy.

28.2.21

Practising random parts of the show.

1.3.21

Full show run through, 53 minutes.

2.3.21

First real rehearsal session rather than line learning, played around with using a chair as a prop, marked up the scripts at moments where the chair will feature.

3.3.21

Exchanged emails with Paignton Palace Theatre about the possibility of using their black box space to film the Yay show without an audience for online fringe purposes. They emailed back to say yes, and free of charge!! (Well, they want some work off me in exchange).

4.3.21

Chatted to filmmaker John Tomkins about arrangements to film the show without an audience at the Palace Theatre and agreed terms, then chatted about the logistics. Next got in touch with the Palace Theatre and they said they could offer the actual theatre auditorium for filming purposes and let us use their sound / lighting engineer.

5.3.21

Worked on the publicity images sent by Emily Appleton to choose two or three as possible poster images for the show and images to send out with press releases. Then chatted to John Tomkins about the film version before listening to various bits of music as opening and closing music for the film version of the show. Had another rehearsal with the chair as a prop and also tried some choreography for the last poem, I Don’t Know Why I’m So Happy / Happy. Finally pondered on the idea of signing the ‘Becky’ poem myself and ran through it a couple of times.

6.3.21

Full run-through of the show singing the You Dunked a Muffin in your Cuppa song rather than playing the audio, and doing the whole show with movement, choreography and using the chair as a prop. Also chatted to Bryce Dumont about the possibility of using Croydon Tourist Office music for the start and end of the filmed version.

7.3.21

Spent some time making a first couple of designs for the possible publicity poster. Then worked on a song with a Croydon Tourist Office backing track for the film, which I called ‘So happy’.

8.3.21

Line learning You Dunked a Muffin in Your Cuppa.

9.3.21

Worked on the publicity poster design and then line learning You Dunked a Muffin in Your Cuppa.

10.3.21

Rehearsal using the chair.

13.3.21

Sunrise rehearsal room, Brixham. Went through the whole show, no movement.

14.3.21

Sunrise rehearsal room, Brixham. Went over the various bits that I struggled with yesterday.

15.3.21

Back in Paignton. Went over the last half of the show, typed up revisions, did some admin with Guildford Fringe.

16.3.21

Wrote a new poem to finish the show which draws together happiness and identity, ‘Be Yourself’, which also has an element of humour. In the evening, headlined at ‘Leadworks’, an online gig, and debuted some of the linking material from the show as well as performing three poems in the set, Shakka Lakka Boom, Homecoming and Seaside Soul.

17.3.21

Line learning Be Yourself.

18.3.21

Line learning Be Yourself.

19.3.21

Did a complete run through of the show, including the new Be Yourself poem at the end. Came to 55 minutes.

21.3.21

Spent the morning working on an interview with Heather Moulson and talked about the show and its premise. Then worked on a blog with the publicity pictures and the press ‘interview’ I did with myself, and unleashed it on the world on my website and social media, changing profile pictures to the show poster. Afternoon, worked on an audio recording of the show mainly to help myself stay fresh but also as a possible future project.

23.3.21

Tickets for the Yay show on sale on the Guildford Fringe website.

25.3.21

Did ‘Shakka Lakka Boom’ and ‘Seaside Soul’ plus linking material at WonderZoo, an online gig based in Plymouth.

27.3.21

Rehearsed last half hour of the show in the Sunrise Rehearsal Studio, Brixham.

30.3.21

Rehearsed last ten minutes of the show, back in Paignton.

7.4.21

Rehearsed whole show. Chatted to filmmaker John Tomkins about the logistics of filming the show in Paignton’s Palace Theatre next week. Evening, did ten minutes of poems and linking materials of the show at Word Mustard, an online gig based in Weston-super-Mare.

14.4.21

Filmed the show at Paignton’s Palace Theatre with John Tomkins, sound engineer Clive and Sarah from the theatre. Filmed for five hours, filming the show twice from several angles, and also footage for a trailer which involved different poses on stage. Then home for the last proof-read of the collection.

19.4.21

John Tomkins made the trailer for the recording of the solo show, and this was put online on my website and various social media channels.

21.4.21

Had a meeting online with Fay Roberts from PBH Free Fringe about entering the show into the online Edinburgh fringe, then a meeting with John Tomkins to show me some of the edits of the show so far.

23.4.21

John Tomkins sent me a first edit of the show, watched it and suggested a couple of minor revisions.

26.4.21

John Tomkins sent me the second edit of the show, watched it and approved it as the definitive edition.

27.4.21

A box of Yay books arrived!

28.4.21

Spoke with Ludlow Fringe about performing the show in the same week as the Guildford Fringe / Taunton Live.

2.5.21

Full run through of the show at the Sunrise Rehearsal Room, Brixham. It’s the first time I’ve done the show since filming at the theatre, relieved that it’s still in my head!

I got your poem right here, pal. (A poem for New York)

From the Staten Island ferry

I got your poem right here, pal.
(A poem for New York)

The big pancake. The big muffin.
The big nausea. The big nothing.
The big fella. The smeller. The concrete devotional.
The cosmopolitan. The prostrate giant. Subway riders need sopial.
The metropolitan. The big breakfast.
The all-day lunch. You want fries with that?
The concrete funnel. The distorted mirror.
The seismic cherry. The licence to chill.
Everyone’s a comedian. The bright-lit scene.
The sidewalk dancers. The drama queens.
The big dodecahedron. The bastard. Tourists like sheep.
The bad boy. The stud. The lack of sleep.
Cavernous potholes so deep you’ll lose
Yourself for a week.
The big dependable. The three-way delicious.
The exuberant berry. The hungry papa.
The pumping beehive. The world’s biggest smurf.
The big glacial. The whole lotta crazy.
The big security. The big dependable.
The cuppa cappuccino. The big slice.
The clinging fire escapes. The big nice.
The big honker. The big foot long.
The oblong pretend. The same old song.
The big electric. Streets paved with bold.
The big eccentric. Do you what are told.
The rent controlled. The backstreet rats.
The big flapper. The cool cool cats.
The big big portion. The big punk.
The big leather. The big hunk.
Steam vent Charlie. The philosophic drunk.
The midnight caller. The big hallelujah.
The big quiche. The big what’s it to ya?
Shop awnings so coated in pigeon crap
It’s a wonder they don’t become fossilised.
The big apple. The big skyline.
The big apple. The big steaming.
The big apple. The big bouncy.
The big apple. The starstruck badger.
The big apple. The big deli counter queue.
The big apple. The human zoo.
The big apple. The big gold bit.
The big apple. Takes a bite of you
Before you can bite it.
The big apple. The big heat.
Sideswiped by a cyclist. My life is now complete.

Chorley Lodge and the 1984 Olympics

The other day I was in a second hand bookshop when I came across a Ladybird book of the 1984 Olympics, and all of a sudden I was transported back to a time when I was ten years old and a long, hot summer seemed to stretch ahead. My mother had bought me a copy of the same book, in which there was space to write in the winners of the various competitions. Now, you know me. I’m not exactly in to sports, and the idea of sitting there and watching the whole thing was not exciting, but I loved the idea of filling in these pages. But then with dread I realised that I would be away at Cub Camp for the first week of the Olympics and I would miss all the action. The joy of filling in all the blank pages would be denied and the book would never be complete.
I was not looking forward to Cub Camp. It would be the first time in my life that I would be away from home without my parents and I was sure that I’d be missing out on something, or that my family would be having loads of fun without me. Sure, I’d be with my friends, but I didn’t really know most of them, not really. They were just kids, and I tolerated them at the best of times. Indeed, being the 1980s, we all had the same bowl cut hairstyles and probably looked indistinguishable to the outside observer. But I much preferred being at home.
Now I say ‘Cub camp’, but we would actually be staying at a place called Chorley Lodge, which was a converted outbuilding on a former RAF World War Two airfield, on the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire. I hadn’t thought about this place for years, but the other night I watched a documentary about the natural history of the New Forest and I got to thinking about Chorley Lodge. I did a quick Google search and there it was, in all its glory. A plain concrete hut painted green with basic 1940s functional windows and probably enough asbestos to wipe out half the planet.
I remember hating it from the moment I arrived. We were looked after by a scout leader from a different troop to our own, who had this very weird idea that we should all go for a jog every morning before breakfast, but do so without our shirts, which in retrospect seems borderline dodgy. So we’d wake at sunrise from our austere bunks inside this palace of concrete blocks, and run through the adjacent pine trees which bordered what had once been the airfield, home to a hearty breakfast of puke inducing porridge.
The rest of the day would then be spent doing all sorts of wholesome blokey things. We would be split into groups of about four and assigned to some expert in their field who would do their best to teach us survival techniques or handy blokey pursuits. Orienteering was one of these, how to read a compass, how to pack a backpack, how to light a bonfire. But it always seemed that some other group would be doing an activity which was much more exciting. For example, a friend of mine had a brilliant young instructor who ran a half day practical workshop in building rockets, because apparently this is something that comes in handy if you’re ever caught in the wild. While my group had a half day workshop in Morse code. We’d be sat in a clearing dot dot dot and dash dash dashing while I could hear my friends out on the former runway launching rockets and whooping with excitement. ‘Robert, you really must concentrate. Now, what was the message I just sent you?’. Whoosh! Whoosh! Ha ha ha! ‘Erm . . Elephant knickerbocker dustbin Aunt?’ Whoosh! Kapowwww!
I think the whole week instilled in me several things which have lasted till this day. First, my hatred of communal sleeping arrangements probably stems from all thirty of us in one dorm and not feeling able to be myself. Secondly, my absolute revulsion at porridge. But thirdly, my love of forests, airfields and old buildings, even this weird cranky old concrete shack, which apparently has now been demolished, probably due to all that asbestos.
On the last day we all made wooden blocks with the name of the lodge and the date, and mine has been on the wall of my bedroom at my parents house for the last forty years. So that week at Chorley Lodge has remained in my memory, along with nighttime camp fire sing songs, outdoor eating and the vaguely kinky excitement of running semi naked through a forest.
But I never did get to complete that Ladybird Olympics 1984 book.

Seaside Serenade (Poem from my new solo show, filmed at Paignton’s Palace Theatre

Last month I was filmed by director John Tomkins, performing my new solo show Yay! : The Search For Happiness, at Paignton’s Palace Theatre.

Here’s an exclusive extract from the show! The poem is taken from my new book, Yay!, published by Burning Eye Books. You can order the book here: https://robertgarnham.bigcartel.com/product/yay-book

A sultry seaside serenade

It must be hot,
My mars bar’s turned to mush,
The smell of melting tarmac
In the late night hush.
Bread in the packet has already turned to toast,
My neighbours pet chicken is now a Sunday roast.
Now I don’t like to boast,
Because I’ve got Brandon, oooo, Brandon
Basking on my bed in his boxers,
Both of us pining for something fresh
Other than the obvious
Like the steering freeze of truth,
The cool, cool wash of contentment,
Or a vanilla ice cream.

We’re making our way through this
Seaside town now, me and Brandon,
He’s promised something hot and long and sticky
The moment we get back.
It’s been years since I had a kebab.
Past shop clad shutters and graffiti denouncing
Tracey as a slag,
To the neon buzz moth hub
Of the prom prom prom
Tiddly om Pom Pom
Last night in bed he said
It isn’t very long
Tiddly om Pom Pom
And it’s very limp.

And I said,
It’s seen a lot of tourists over the years
And it’s prone to erosion
And longshore drift.
Half of it was swept away
By a giant squid.

The rash on the side of my neck
Is caused by Brandon’s stubble as if scrapes
Sandpaper scrapey sprapey scrape
When he gets distracted by
The cricket results.

And now we’re walking next to the beach and his face is
Lit up like that of a cartoon ferret on a box of cheap own brand
Rice Krispie knock offs
The spoon filled with ricey goodness
Hovering inches from his cavernous gob

And the salt air late night sea breeze
Caresses our manly frames
Imbuing in us all kinds of nautical hi jinx
Naval seriousness, merry little frigates,
Dolphin blowholes, bottom feeding mullets,
Whales both humpback and sperm,
First mate officers, salty sea dogs,
Able bodied seamen, bow thrusters,
Butt blocks in the rigging, man the head,
Bump head gurnards and bottle nosed lumpsuckers.
And chub.

Do you see the ice cream van?
Do you see the ice cream van?
An oblong of light spilled out on the
Sand flecked concrete,
It’s refrigeration generator
Throbbing the sir with a sudden intensity,
Chugga chugga chugga
Do you feel it throbbing away there?
Chugga chugga chugga
Window stickers advertising all kinds
Of things to lick and nibble and crunch down on
Cool and ever so creamy.

The moon beams on high like someone from Dorset.
In the glow of it’s madness we dance.
Oh, Brandon, I want to do things
To certain bits of you
For most of the night,
Though I’m conscious you’ve got an early shift
At the Lady Remington Smooth N Silky
Cordless Rechargeable Hair Removal Facility factory
And the ice cream man,
Oh,
The ice cream man,
Did I mention he’s also a magician?
A sparkle in his eye,
He starts waving his magic wand at us, and

Poof!

All is gone.
The ice cream man is gone.
The ice cream van is gone.
The neon and the stats are gone.
And Brandon is gone.
None of them ever existed.
It’s just me, and the prom
On a sultry night in a sleepy coastal town,
And the kebab shop is closed,
And the rash on my neck
Is just a fungal infection
And Tracey is still a slag, apparently,
And I walk sadly home,
I walk sadly home.