Last night I went to see a friend of mine perform his first acoustic gig in London. I think it was also the first time he'd really set out to perform his own material live and alone. "Live and Alone", now that's a good name for a live album. Anyway, though I know it can be better to break yourself in in some obscure venue with nobody you know in the audience, it can also be good to get a bit of moral support. Given that I've seen Chris performing under a variety of situations, some of them with me, and given that I've seen him performing songs he's not yet written, I don't think he had any worries that my opinion of his abilities might be in any way influenced by the events in the Dragon's Head pub in Croydon.
After work, I plugged the coordinates into my sat nav, told it to avoid the M25 and headed off to Croydon. Despite the fact that I wasn't performing, I still had some of the stomach-tingling sensation of pre-gig anticipation. I think this was because, but for the fact that I wasn't going to appear on the stage, the journey to the gig was an identical experience to that of journeying to any gig. The destination was some random pub. I was in my car, alone. I had my sat nav showing me where to go, and I had my guitar in the boot (happenstance). I could just as easily have gotten onto the stage and done what I do, though the organisers might have been somewhat unimpressed.
During the journey I self-indulgently listened again to the gig I did last Friday. I wanted to hear it in the colder light of day and I also wanted to see how well I'd performed. I'm planning to send that recording to a friend to listen to, so I also wanted to check to see whether it was a good representative of what I do. And I am narcissistic. I know that. I'm pleased to say that I spotted various holes in my performance and commented out loud when I was starting to lose the audience. I rushed bits of it and it was largely down to the good nature of the audience that this didn't seem to matter in the end. Perhaps I was going with the flow and running with a rapid audience, or maybe they were just working to keep up. I don't know.
Anyway, after my own crap comedy, I switched over to Radio 4 for some more crap comedy. Normally, their 6.30 spot is very good. However, I'm not a huge fan of "The Party Line", a topical sit-com which is recorded on a Sunday evening, following a hectic couple of days' writing and rehearsing. It's trying to do for radio comedy what "Drop The Dead Donkey" did for channel 4 a few years ago. It's ok, but nothing special. I was not totally engrossed in it, which is probably for the best.
I swung off a roundabout and headed up the road I was on. This is my right as a driver. I believe it's called the "right of way". A long straight road off a roundabout, with no cars ahead, is definitely the right of way of the person on it and heading up it. There was a "keep clear" box on the road, whose purpose is not to be swerved around, but more to be not parked in when there's a queue of traffic. The reason for the keep clear box is to facilitate cars turning into or out of the side street on the big long road I was on. The oncoming traffic had a queue and was stopped around this keep clear box. I was looking up the road to my horizon. Then I noticed the car pulling out of the side street. The driver was looking at the queuing traffic and not at her oncoming traffic (me). She pulled out, across the keep clear box, and into my oncoming traffic. I, as her oncoming traffic, would have smashed into her. However, I had started to predict this incident from the moment I saw her head looking in the wrong direction as she moved. I slammed on the brakes and came to a stop, nearly inside, but not actually in the keep clear box (phew, it was clear!). As she decided that she wasn't going to hit the traffic in my oncoming lane her head turned towards me and she noticed that she'd just pulled into the path of an oncoming vehicle. She braked too, ending up about halfway inside the keep clear box. Naughty lady. She didn't keep clear.
We didn't just have a road accident. I'm rather pleased about that. I don't like head-on collisions, whether they're my fault or not (in this case, it wouldn't have been!). So, avoiding one was a triumph. When I had an accident back in January, I had a moment of anger at the accident, but, shock aside, managed to be quite pleasant about it all. In this case, I had more reason to be pleasant and I wasn't about to get all beastly with someone who had managed to avoid me, and whom I'd managed to avoid. I let her out into the traffic. Or, put differently, I stayed in my position, and didn't act angrily while she moved her car onwards and off into the sunset. I smiled slightly at her, as if to say "phew, we avoided that one, didn't we". She turned her face to me and gave me a murderous look.
You have to wonder what exactly went through her head. I had had the benefit of seeing the whole incident, since I'd been looking where I was going and knew that I was in my right of way, but that sometimes you have to deal with people's lapses of attention on the road. So, I'd stopped and didn't even screech my tyres. She, on the other hand, had been driving with such single-mindedness, that she'd not looked at the lane of traffic she needed to cross through before setting off. So, her first introduction to my presence, was the sight of me coming to a halt to avoid hitting her. She looked at me as though I'd done something wrong. What was she thinking? Here's my version:
"How dare you!? How dare you suddenly appear out of nowhere and not hit me. The very least you could do is crash into the side of my car. Maybe injur us both slightly. I've worked hard to be this incompetent behind the wheel and the least I deserve is a proper accident, not a near miss. Nobody's sympathetic about a near miss. You can't get compensation for not hitting someone. Jesus, you're so selfish."
That's what I think she meant when she gave me her murderous look.
I laughed very hard as I drove away from the non-incident. I laughed to purge myself of the adrenaline-injection my body had just given me as something reasonably dangerous unfolded. The car is a dangerous machine when thumped into something. Perhaps my own single-mindedness sometimes leads me into moments of near-peril, and maybe every driver in this country needs to review their attitude to the vehicle. If we used our cars and roads less selfishly, there would be fewer accidents and less congestion. Still, I believe that any journey you can walk away from is a good one.
Thank goodness I was actually paying attention. There are so many gadgets and flashing lights at my disposal in the car that I could easily not have been...
I only wish I had access to a blog like this, but written by the woman I'm writing about here. I'd love to know what she really thought.
Arriving at the venue, my own tunnel vision set in, and I had to get some change for the parking meter. Nothing else mattered. I even interrupted my friend's soundcheck to see if I could beg some coins from him. I think I was still a bit shaken up by the events of the journey. I was acting a bit of an arse. Eventually, I got coins, put money in the machine for an evening ticket and got into the bar for some pre-gig relaxing.
My friend was the fourth on the bill of 5. Each performer had about 30 minutes in which to do their thing. This is a long time. Maybe for music it's not that long, but as a comedian, my early spots (and even a few too many recent ones) were 5 or 10 minutes in length. 30 minutes is an age on stage. Well, it's about 7 songs! Especially when it's the sort of 30 minutes that really 25 with changeover time thrown in.
I recorded my friend's performance after we'd first sat through a bunch of other performances. Some of these were good, some of these were not so good. There were three other performers:
- Small girl who could sing passionately and play in the key of G only (and she had trouble with the B minor chord)
- The Scottish guy whose songs and performance were good, whose inter song banter was amusing and charming, but who lost commitment in the song a split second before it ended. He was good, though
- The girl who did finger picking for every song and sang in a semi-operatic, but non-vibrato open voice. With her almost raucous tones, she was impressive of finger, but I had to excuse myself when she sang in long notes "I live in a forest" - it was go to the toilet or piss myself laughing.
I did some audience watching and they generally liked what they saw.
Once my friend had been on, I pretty much packed up and headed home. Via the gift of sat nav, I avoided the M25 and came back via plenty of London places... I'm not sure that was ideal!