It’s been a strange year for a lot of reasons. Professionally for me, it’s been a very good year with lots of opportunities and reasons to get excited about the future, some of which I can’t reveal right now. But just a few months ago it looked very different.
I was reminded of this by the retirement of Nico Rosberg, the current formula one world champion. For those uninitiated with motor racing, he won the world championship after a thrilling duel with Lewis Hamilton, reckoned by many to be the best driver in the world today, then promptly announced his retirement. It was a brave and honest move.
This summer I performed at the Edinburgh Fringe. I was only there for a week, but the usual Fringe madness was endemic, the seemingly endless cycle of promoting and leafleting, flyering, talking, then putting on a show in front of three people at the most. I was getting audiences at least, but I was not having the best of times, in a noisy venue which was very supportive and friendly and yet wholly unsuited to my show, which demanded long periods of quiet. Consequently I did not enjoy the experience. However, I did appear at a few other shows, as a guest at Stand Up and Slam, which my poetry helped the Poet team to a resounding success, and at the Boomerang Club, where I headlined on the very last day of the fringe.
By this time I was feeling a little frazzled by the whole experience. I’d also had one or two problems, such as losing my passport, so while I should’ve been flyering and leafleting, I was making phone calls and stressing about the passport, because I had a trip to New York and it was looking like I wouldn’t have a passport in time to get there. I’d also had to move accommodation for the last day of my stay due to another procedural problem. So it was all quite stressful.
On the penultimate night I thought, hmmm, why don’t I give it all up? The possibility of a promotion had come up at work, and this would mean less spoken word, perhaps I ought to go for the promotion and not do any spoken word at all, become a professional and competent retail manager instead. And as the penultimate day wore on I thought more and more that this was the right decision.
So I planned the set for the Boomerang Club in the knowledge that this might be my last ever performance anywhere. And where better to do a last performance, but headlining in Edinburgh? It would be a great story. Something to remember for the rest of my life while ploughing ahead into the beauty of a career in retail.
On the way to the gig from my new lodgings, I walked along listening to music, walked past the Courtyard, and someone recognised me from the Stand Up and Slam event, they acted as if they’d just seen a celebrity. It made me feel good.
The show went well and I finished on my poem ‘Plop’, which I normally start routines with. I did this because it was a little symbol to myself, a little nod. The show went very quickly, and I sat down and thought, well, that’s done then. And now I’m a retail manager.
Getting home to Devon took about twelve hours and when I finally arrived my mind was blank. But then something weird happened the next morning. It was like my brain had been wiped, that the whole future of spoken word seemed a blank canvas on which I could completely start again.
And instead of retiring, I found myself acting as if I was a complete newcomer. I set in motion a system of rehearsing and concentrating on performance skills. I decided to try and learn all of my new material. And I decided to have fun. Why should I stop doing the only thing I’m halfway decent at?
And I decided not to go for the promotion.
It’s a gamble that has paid off. I’ve got a few opportunities and projects which are quite advantageous, financially, and I’m even considering reducing the number of hours I do in my day job to accommodate these. This whole half year has been a complete reinvention. And of course, I had a fantastic gig in New York, once I’d sorted my passport out, winning over a cabaret crowd in Greenwich Village right next door to the Stonewall Inn.
It’s been a weird year, and I’m so glad that I didn’t Do A Nico!