The Unbearable Lightness Of Robert Garnham Series Two

Well I’ve had great fun this year working on some silly video diaries. I’ve been releasing one a week for the last seven weeks.

They really don’t take themselves too seriously.

You can watch all of them here at this link. And I hope you enjoy them!

Here’s a trailer, and the link to see the playlist is below.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLPOfqmiGH9pCLdENqiwXA6yb8vQCrmVNg

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Final thoughts from on the road

Well one more gig tonight and that’s my Hammer and Tongue tour done and dusted. It’s been an amazing couple of weeks, hard work and filled with the usual worries and paranoias of touring around and performing to new people in new places, but it’s been totally worth it and so, so much fun. I’m writing this in a coffee shop in Southampton. I can’t remember ever going to Southampton before, and after a while all these towns start to look the same, or at least, their high streets and shopping precincts. This morning I was in Reading, yesterday, Oxford. They all have Waterstones and Wetherspoons and most of them have still got HMVs. Travelodges and Ibises.

This morning in Reading I was walking to the station and I saw someone going around giving free henna tattoos to the homeless. I’m not sure what this achieves, and whether or not it helps the plight of those who are on the streets, but it’s something I applaud. I also saw a sign for a chiropodist which offers a walk in service. And on the train to Southampton I heard the gentleman behind me as the young lady with the coffee trolley of the train was anywhere near Bristol, yet. No, she replied.

I had a great gig in Oxford last night. There was a remarkable moment where I did a countdown to the beginning of a poem and right on cue, at the exact moment, a police siren blared outside. The audience thought it was hilarious. And what a remarkable audience it was, too. They were definitely up for a laugh and they seemed to like my own brand of whimsy. Steve Larkin is an amazing performer who certainly knows how to warm up an audience and I really enjoyed his set, filled with humour and energy, and I could easily have watched it for longer had I not been performs immediately after him.

One of the good things about this tour has been the chance to perform a lot, and to use this as an opportunity to try out new material. I have incorporated a couple of new poems into my sets this last week or so, one of which has been getting huge laughs every night and will be immediately promoted to the main set that I usually take around with me.

Indeed, I’ve been doing the same basic set for the last three years, and I’m looking forward changing it, adapting it, playing around with the format and the content, and incorporating lots of new material, but this is something which I’ll start work on once I’m back in Devon this weekend.

So that’s the tour almost done and dusted, then. And I’ve met such wonderful people on the way. I’ll have to remind myself that life won’t always be like this!

Postcript:

Well, I got to the gig, and it was the best one of the tour. The audience was totally amazing and definitely up for a laugh, I so wish that I’d recorded my set! There was a remarkable energy in the room and it was one of those gigs where two thirds of the way through my set I thought, well, this is one of my best ever gigs. I know that they’re not always like this and that it’s probably lulled me into a false sense of security, but last night when I came off the stage, soaked in sweat and totally knackered, I thought, well, I can conquer the world!

It’s a feeling which dies off, of course. There was much I could have done to make my set better. But wow, what an end to the tour!

The quietest foods.

Dear Aunt Milly,

I was having a conversation the other day with some friends about what might be the quietest food. This conversation came about because as you know, lately I’ve been watching a lot of television with Mum whenever I visit and, unlike a lot of older people, she’s got incredibly good hearing. I mean, seriously, you can’t get away with anything. If you’re running water while brushing your teeth, she knows. I’ve often sat in my room and read a book and she’s knocked on the door. ‘You’re reading again, aren’t you? I can hear the pages turning’. The upshot of this is that she has the sound on the television turned down quite low indeed, which means that you can’t hear a thing if you’re eating, for example, crisps. So you have to wait either for an advert break and down a whole packet as quickly as you can, or opt for a quieter food or snack.

(Seriously. Perhaps she thinks she’s saving electricity by having the sound turned down so low).

The general consensus had it that the quietest foods were probably egg mayonnaise sandwiches, bananas and marshmallows. Someone suggested ice cream and while this indeed may be one of the quieter food stuffs at is molecular level, those with sensitive teeth are prone to making ‘Hurrr . . .hurrrr’ noises. At, you might say, the molarCular level. Yogurt, too, got a favourable mention, though some brands lead to a certain slurping and a persistent scraping of the pot. And then the conversation moved on to noisy eaters, and this in turn led me to thinking about Stinker.

Stinker is a very loud eater. I don’t know if you ever met him, he kind of looks like a surprised ferret. A surprised ferret who’s also a bit constipated. No matter what Stinker sticks in his gob, everyone else gets to listen. Every motion of his mouth, every physical contortion necessary, every bite, chew, suck, nibble is loudly pronounced and weirdly amplified. There’s a constant ga-thluck ga-thluck ga-thluck, whether it’s a biscuit or a lamb chop. And if you’re really lucky, he will start talking while he’s eating and bits of the undigested food will come flying back out again. It’s really quite disgusting. It’s weird to think he used to be a nurse.

Though it’s hard to tell with Stinker. He’s told so many stories over the years which can’t all possibly be true, like meeting Freddie Mercury’s mother on a bus, or sharing a taxi with Phil Collins, that nobody knows whether he actually was a nurse or not. I remember the time he fainted in the library, only it was the most fake faint you’d ever seen. He went down so slowly that he even had time to tidy up as he did so, moving things out of the way, with a prolonged, ‘Ooooooooooooo-awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww’, which he didn’t stop until he knew that everyone was looking. I think he even found a 20p coin when he was finally on the floor.

So the other day I met him in the street and as usual he kind of grabbed me by the arm. There’s no escape when he does this. He’s probably so used to people running off halfway through one of his chit chats.
‘Ere! You wouldn’t believe what happened to me the other day’.
Uh-oh, I thought, here we go.
‘What’s that?’
‘I was almost abducted ‘.
‘Really?’
‘Yes, I was walking along the coast path between Paignton and Brixham. And as I was walking I was conscious of this strange man following me. And whenever I stopped, he stopped. And whenever I sped up, he sped up’.
‘That sounds very worrying ‘.
He was so close to me that I could smell his breath.
‘And I knew that he was just waiting for the opportunity to abduct me.’
‘To abduct you?’
‘Yes. For the ransom, you see. So that they could contact my family and demand two million pounds’.
‘Naturally’.
‘And you could just tell that he meant trouble. This strange man, I’d never seen him before in my life. He probably had a shooter. And I started to get really worried’.
‘How frightening for you’.
‘So anyway we came down off the headland to a small secluded beach. The kind of place where nobody would ever see us. And that’s when I saw a man on the beach with a power boat ‘.
‘Right . .’.
‘And he said, hey, that man over there is following you. And I said, yes, I’ve been walking faster to get away from him, but he kept increasing speed. He’s probably going to abduct me and demand a ransom of three million pounds. And the man with the speed boat agreed that this was a distinct possibility’.
‘Of course’.
‘And this man on the beach, the man with the boat, he said, hop in my boat, I’ll take you the rest of the way’.
‘I see’.

‘I clambered aboard, and off we went. And I turned and waved at the strange man, of course. Showing him that he couldn’t now get his hands on me, Ha ha.’

‘That showed him, didn’t it?’
‘So wasn’t that nice of the man with the boat? If it wasn’t for him, I’d have probably been abducted. Just goes to show how sensible I can be, getting myself out of a sticky situation like that’.

Well anyway, dearest Aunt Milly, I bid him good day and didn’t once question why he should be so concerned about the strange man following him, and not at all concerned about the strange man with the boat who actually whisked him away along the coast. I also didn’t question why Stinker thought that he was worth two or thre million in the first place. These things are probably left to someone with a greater understanding of the human mind than me.

Anyway, it was finally decided that the quietest food is probably margarine.

I’ll see you in two weeks for Derek’s anniversary,

All the best

Robert

More thoughts from on the road: The buffet breakfast

Dear Aunt Milly,

I was sitting in the hotel reception area this morning waiting for the man behind the desk to stop pretending to be busy. I knew that he was pretending to be busy because he was tapping away on a computer keyboard and huffing. And this is exactly what I do whenever I don’t want to be interrupted, or if I’m on a train and I don’t want anyone to sit next to me. He had very prominent eyebrows, in fact you might even call them eccentric. The left one looked like it knew what it was doing, the right one looked like it was doing something else, and the cumulative effect of this was somewhat abstract. You know, like when you open the fridge and a budgerigar flies out.

From where I was sitting I had a good view into the adjacent breakfast room. It was a buffet style breakfast and I could see other guests loading their plates and bowls and filling cups from a coffee machine. They’d tried to sell me a breakfast when I’d booked in, even though the room had already been paid for. They were quite insistent that I bought a breakfast but at nine pounds I thought it somewhat exorbitant.

Mum and dad always used to stay in places where you had a buffet breakfast. Dad would always eat too much but he would be too embarrassed to be seen going up and getting so much food, so he used to get my mother to pile extra food on her plate, too. Then they would get to their table and she would make a big pantomime of saying, ‘Oh, I’ve got far too much here, silly me, would you like some more, dear?’

A very middle class looking white couple come in with their son. They’re all smiley and looking well to do, all pastel clothing and beige chinos, while their son is an emo goth, looking very sullen, with his trendy long hair and glum expression. He lurks behind them, scowling, fed up with the world and he injustice of it all. Or maybe he was still seething over the price of the buffet breakfast. And I think, what have you possibly got to be miserable about? Your parents look nice and they’re wearing nice clothes. And the sun is shining. And you’re young and you’ve got the whole of the rest of your life in front of you. He stands behind them at the self service buffet, then gets to the front, fills up a bowl of cornflakes, goes to put milk on, and the canister has run out. And I thought, there, that’s given you something to be miserable about.

So I go to the desk to book out once Eyebrows has looked up from his keyboard and let out a sigh.
‘Room 111. It’s all paid for, I believe’.
‘Yes, it was prepaid’.
He takes my room card.
‘You haven’t paid for your breakfast’, he says.
‘But I haven’t had a breakfast’.
‘Yes, but you haven’t paid for it’.
‘I didn’t want a breakfast’.
‘My colleague has put you down for a breakfast’.
‘I said I would think about having a breakfast. And now I’ve thought about it, and I don’t want one’.
‘But you haven’t paid for if’.
‘Just as well, then’.
‘So you need to pay for the breakfast’.
‘But I haven’t had one, and I’m not having one’.
‘Anyway, you need to pay for it’.
‘Why should I pay for it when I didn’t ask for it and I didn’t want it?’
‘Because my colleague says that you wanted one’.
‘But I didn’t want one then, and I don’t want one now’.
‘So how are you going to pay for it?’
‘I’m not going to.’

I then look at him. And all of a sudden an unspoken agreement passes between us. As if the universe has suddenly revealed itself to be a very difficult place. Amidst the chaos and disorder of those rules to which we, in society, are bound, we had found a common kinship, and an acknowledgement that we were both trapped. He couldn’t help me, and I couldn’t help him. Like two people, drowning, unable to save each other.

‘Have a good day’, he says.
‘You too’, I reply. And there’s just a hint of a smile.
I leave the reception area and I go outside. And as the door closes behind me I suddenly think, hmmm, actually I do feel a bit peckish.

Anyway, hope that you’re not being bothered too much by your bunions.

Yours,
Robert.

Thoughts from on the road

So I’m on tour at the moment. It sounds very grand and I suppose in a way, it is. I’ve already had some amazing adventures, such as that whole episode in London where I suddenly became responsible for a whole office block. And I’ve met and listened to some amazing people.

Hackney was great. The audience was young, enthusiastic and energetic, and they seemed to love my set, laughing in all the right places. There was a DJ playing music for poets to come on to, and as I came on he played You Sexy Thing, so I danced as I came to the stage, which meant that people were already laughing. And one of the poems that I performed was my Titanic poem, which not only went down really well, but provoked another big laugh when the DJ played the Theme from the film Titanic as I left the stage.

The whole evening was a delight particularly the slammers, whose work was heartfelt and honest, funny, entertaining. It was great to catch up with Fran Isherwood, someone I’ve known on social media for quite some time without ever actually meeting.

And last night was Bristol. The best thing about Bristol is that I know so many people there, none more so than Melanie Branton, one of my best friends. I met her at the station, I stood among the rush hour commuters with her name on a sign waiting for her to appear from the turnstiles. We went for dinner in a very noisy pub and then made our way to the gig, and chatted, and caught up on all the latest spoken word gossip. I did a slightly different set in Bristol because I figured that people had seen me enough times, and it was greeted very well indeed.

Again, the slammers were amazing and it was a real treat to see Clive Oseman win. He’s such a well loved figure on the national scene and it was his first win at a Hammer and Tongue event, well deserved too, with a hilarious poem which had a touch of anger to it, too. And the other main support, Imogen, was absolutely astounding.

Melanie and I went to get a drink after the gig but amazingly, the pub we had chose was just about to close. However there were a table of young people in there who had just seen me, and they cheered and clapped in a most embarrassing manner.

So I’m on a train now to Brighton, and I’m looking forward to the next week or so of constant travelling. Hotels, trains, coaches. Everything has gone without a hitch and I think I’m really starting to get the hang of this, now!

On the road- and looking after an office block in London

So I’m on tour at the moment. I didn’t really think these things happened in spoken word, but indeed, I’m actually being paid to go around to six different cities and perform whimsy at people. And I’m having the most amazing time. The reason for this is that I’m seeing the whole thing as an adventure and really, that’s the best way. Because otherwise, it would be complete madness.

Last night was the first stop on the tour, Hackney, and I decided that I would stay somewhere a little different, and, it has to be said, cheap. Over the years I’ve had a habit of finding quirky accommodation, particularly in Edinburgh, but even the annual lottery of Edinburgh accommodation had nothing on the place I found to stay last night.

A bit of internet research led me to a phenomenon known as the pod hotels, where you basically get a bed and, if you’re lucky, a bedside table. I’d stayed in similar places before in New York, so I kind of knew what I was letting myself in for. I was also hoping that it would be the same as the Japanese pod hotels, where you get a tiny cabin and nothing else.

The hotel was on the first floor of a six storey office block. I arrived yesterday afternoon slightly early, my check in time being six PM. I was let in, and the lady on reception was whispering. And why was she whispering? Because the pod hotel during the day caters for tired Londoners who need a nap. It’s a nap pod hotel. And someone was still having a nap. ‘They’re due to wake up just before six’, she said. And sure enough, at six o clock the lights came on and the napper woke, thanked the receptionist, and off he went out into rush hour.

The receptionist showed me how to operate everything. The lights, the door, the shutters, and then she told me where to leave the keys, and that was it, she was off. I was given a tiny pod, with a bed in it and, indeed, a bedside table. And then I thought, hang on. I’m the only person here.

So now I started feeling somewhat anxious. I was due at a gig around seven. Should I put the shutters down? What if I put the shutters down and shut in other guests? What if they put the shutters down while I was at the gig and locked me out for the night? I texted the receptionist and she confirmed, amazingly, that I was the only guest.

And that’s when it struck me. I was now effectively in charge of a whole six storey office block in the middle of London!

I went to the gig and it went amazingly well, the audience were responsive, young, vibrant and up for a laugh, and I was very pleased indeed with my performance, but the whole time, at the back of my mind I was worried that something had happened to my office block. And even more scary, once I got back, let myself in, and pulled the shutters down behind me, I had trouble sleeping. The slightest noise got me jumping. Was someone trying to break in? Is there someone upstairs? Is that someone moving around that I can hear? And then I started to relax. Whatever happens, I told myself, this is just another crazy spoken word adventure.

So I’ve just booked out and nothing bad did happen, and the office block was unscathed. I did think about having a snoop around, (the receptionist said that there was a kitchen on the fourth floor that I was welcome to use), but I could imagine them reviewing their CCTV and seeing me dancing around the empty offices. Mind you, I did sit at the receptionist desk for a while, you know, just for something to do.

Anyway, next step is Bristol and as it’s a city I know really well, I’m not envisaging any more weird adventures. Unless, of course, they just happen . . .

The Ballad of Josh McGrew

The Ballad of Josh McGrew

When it’s forty below and the tent is so cold
And icicles cling in your beard.
Your sleeping bag barely is much of a comfort
And life is as bad as you feared.
The howl of a wolf in the lonely cold woods
Sends shudders of primordial guilt
And the hunger which pangs like the wolf’s wild fangs
Demolishes the life that you built.

The moon is aglow in a sky filled with stars
And the forest is ominously dead.
Your senses acute, the sole of a boot
You can hear with each rhythmical tread.
The great northern lights light up the night
Like fingers of phosphorus fire.
And if any damn fool say they don’t question it all
Then they would be surely a liar.

And if that’s not enough you’re feeling quite rough
And parts of you are starting to whiff.
You’re out of hair gel in your own private hell
And in the mornings you’re ever so stiff.
You watched as a bear ran off with your iPad
And an otter peed in your shoe.
And your beef flavoured Pringles had a bad best before date
And without Netflix there’s not much to do.

The endless Wild woods seem to go on forever
And the wifi signal is patchy.
You haven’t had a chance to do a good laundry
And your pants feel uncomfortably scratchy.
You let out a cuss word when you lost your password
While changing your status on Facebook.
You rolled over last night and had such a fright
When a pine needle stuck in your buttock.

The last time you went on a trek such as this
Was in Wetherspoons finding the loos.
And your Instagram post hasn’t had many likes
And your selfie was facebombed by a moose.
And there’s twigs in your hair and twigs in your socks
And there’s probably twigs up your bum
And there’s twigs in your crisps and twigs in your soup
And you hope it’s not the same twigs that have been up your bum.

The mountains loom like mountains tend to do
And loneliness points at your scowling.
And you feel sleep deprived and just half alive
Because the stupid wolves kept on howling.
And you feel with a quiver, if fortune were a giver
Then to you he’s been something of a miser.
You decide that next time you log on online
You’ll moan about it on Trip Adviser.