#92: Stand up/ open mic

I have been avoiding this for some time. There are a few challenges that I have substituted from the original list, mainly because of timing and opportunity issues, but I knew if I took this one off it would be pure chickening out. So it had to be done.

Having left it to the last minute, I did not have a massive choice of open mic nights. But I found one advertised in a pub in Torquay, which is comfortably far from home, and also very convenient from Dave’s mum’s house, and therefore a highly amenable babysitting opportunity. Dave was persuaded to join me, on the clear understanding that he would not be required to perform. Thus it was planned.

My actual act was a matter of some consternation. The pub’s website suggested they welcomed ‘acoustic, electric, comedy and poetry’. The first two sounded a little too musical. I rang the pub landlord to enquire further. ‘Do people do comedy, then?’ I queried. ‘Well. We’ve certainly had a few monologues’ he answered unconvincingly. ‘Do I need to book a slot?’ ‘No, no, just come along. And they’ll probably persuade you to pick up a guitar’. Well, whatever, I thought. It’ll work somehow.

My comedy routine has eluded me for some months now, which is why I have not ticked it off before now. And the ‘monologue’ comment made me fear that incompetent comedy might be rather tiresome for all concerned. But the poetry idea had taken root. Now I am not a gifted poet, but if there is one thing I flatter myself I can do rather well, it is crafting a smutty limerick.

So I spent the whole day scribbling rhyming filth. And sniggering aloud at my own great wit. I quickly generated 10 verses, about people I had met from various towns in Devon, and their appalling sexual practices. I could scarcely wait to share them with the world. They were, in my eyes, works of absolute brilliance.

It is odd how desensitized one becomes to the actual content, when you spend so long on the technical craft of making lines rhyme and scan correctly. When I read my works aloud to Dave he almost choked. I fear with horror rather than mirth. But I was undeterred. The people of Torquay could take it, I was sure.

I was still giggling all the way to the pub in the car. And still at our table, as we sat with our drinks. But as we observed the pub, and the clientele, and the general set up, I began to giggle slightly less.

There was no sign of any mic, open or otherwise. The dirty old men who I confidently imagined would love my wit, all left. In one corner of the really quite small pub, was a table of folk with guitars, all strumming, and singing folk songs, looking rather absorbed in themselves and their music. 2 old men sat at the bar. Me and Dave lurked in our corner. And that was it. There were no ‘acts’ as such. Just a bunch of musicians, sharing their craft.

It was quite literally unthinkable, that I should go up to the table, and ask them to pause in their music-making to listen to my catalogue of obscene limericks. There was no reason to imagine they would be interested, for example, in the gentleman from Ashburton, who expended himself into a curtain.

My anticipation faded. What to do? Could it be, at number 92 of the 100 – a failure??? There were no more open mic nights available before the big birthday. (And in any case, I would have to rewrite all the smut for a different geographic location.)

The only way to save it, then, was to join in with the musicians. And praise the Lord that a) they were a welcoming bunch after all; and b) one of them had a spare guitar.

So I joined the table. I strummed, haphazardly. A slightly drunk, slightly simple-seeming man was happy to help me by shouting out chords as they all sang along. (Thankfully I know how to form about 5 chords already, due to my endeavours with #93: learn a musical instrument. Transferring from one chord to the next in the time available was another matter, but there were enough folk playing to drown me out.)

‘How long have you been playing?’ asked one of my new friends. ‘Oooh, about three weeks’, I replied, for all the world like a serious musician. ‘Brilliant!’ they all cried. And we all played on. I must have been with them for about an hour!

Around the table everyone was taking a turn to suggest a song and lead in the playing of it. The inevitable happened. The faces turned to me. In truth there is only one song that I have been learning, and I can only play that very slowly, with the music in front of me, in the privacy of my own home. Without any music to refer to, it went very badly indeed. It was possibly the worst rendition of Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful tonight’ that has ever been given. Thankfully Dave was too absorbed in nursing his bleeding eardrums to film it. You will have to trust the still photograph. It did happen, and it was dreadful.
open mic
But it means I have done an open mic night! Of sorts!

(If anyone would like a copy of the Hilarious Limericks I would be delighted to email them to you. Just ask! It does seem a travesty that they will not reach the audience they deserve.)

#91: Light a fire and cook my dinner on it

This was entirely brilliant. We were on the south coast of Cornwall, on a totally beautiful and empty beach, ready to bivvy for the night after an afternoon’s boating, and my task was to make fire, and cook dinner. (Luckily we had anticipated failing to catch any fish, and packed some ingredients from the cupboards at home).

So, entirely unilaterally, I foraged for wood, built my fire, lit it, and tended it into a roaring toasty blaze. I prepared my ingredients and brewed up a remarkable pasta /pesto extravaganza, with mushrooms and chorizo. The fire blazed. The waves crashed. The sun was setting. All was right with the world.
cooking on fire

As I tended my quite brilliant fire, I realised I was indeed, doing everything entirely myself. And I wondered how on earth it could be, that Dave could bring himself to leave the fire making to someone else. (For that is why it is on the list: I have become so accustomed to him taking over all such endeavours, that I rarely have any need to test my own survival skills.)
dinner from fire
But now, I have done it, and no doubt you’ll agree that I am clearly gifted at outdoor living. I will probably be asked to do a TV show soon, a kind of female Ray Mears. Such were the happy thoughts going round in my head as I assembled the meal. But when I looked around to summons David for his tea, I realised why I had been allowed to proceed unbothered. For he had been building his own fire, except he had built a fire that he could charge his mobile phone on. I am not joking.
davids fire
Still. No one likes a smart arse.

#90: Attempt kayak surfing

Over the bank holiday Dave and I had a free pass, to go sea kayaking around the coast of Cornwall. Which was absolutely lush. I have failed absolutely to master the eskimo rolling which was supposed to be one of my challenges, but I guess you have to take opportunities as they present themselves. The sea was too rough for an effective lesson on rolling, but conditions were totally ideal for learning to surf the waves in a boat.

Basically you paddle in front of the wave, the wave lifts you, you put in a stern rudder, then you either power into the shore like a legend or you spin round 90 degrees and come off the wave, then paddle back out to sea and start again.

Or, as I discovered, there is a third way. The wave takes you, you stick the paddle somewhere at random, whereupon you are unceremoniously deposited on the bottom of the ocean. You exit the boat, cursing as cold water penetrates your clothing from every angle, hopefully retrieve paddle and kayak, and retreat to dry land to rectify matters.

This was my preferred method on most attempts. The first day I caught a couple of waves without mishap. But for most of the time, I was upside down. It begins well:
kayak surf 1
It continues well…
kayak surf 2
And then, ah yes – over I go.
kayak surf 3
Ah well. There is some value I suppose, in that it takes the fear out of capsizing. Once I had been in once it didn’t matter if it happened again, and again! So we had a thoroughly enjoyable morning of it!