High Variety.

Last night I hosted the first Six Presents High Variety show at The Alex in Southend. It was an evening of stand up comedy, songs, juggling, escapology and improvisation. It was absolutely fantastic. I can’t think of a time when I enjoyed being on stage so much. It was made all the better by the performers so before I get into the nuts and bolts of the thing I would like to thank Sam, Cat, Ben, Ross, Justin, Adam, Lance, Jack, Jamie and Luke for the parts they played in it being a success.

I find it incredible that I am surrounded by such talent, that within our little corner town there is such skill and magic, and that there is obviously an audience for it. Those who joined us last night were patient and true. When I tried to tell jokes or play the piano they stuck by it and saw the whole thing through.

I feel truly blessed for being a part of the show and the success I feel it to be.

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The Stamp Collective – an excerpt.

Last night the beautiful nun mums of Old Trunk hosted another of their brilliant Tales & Ales events at The Alex in Southend. They kindly asked if I would like to do a reading. The subject matter for this session was Tinkers, Scoundrels, Dunderheads & Pricks. Fortunately I had just the right piece, a section from my new novel The Stamp Collective.

The Stamp Collective is a tale of camaraderie, brotherhood, sex, death, Tom Jones and the Oedipus complex. In the following scene the Stamp brothers are at the wake of their mother who they lost to cancer.

Benny was stood at the buffet table. Despite his invested interest in the event, he had taken to the task of ‘putting on a good spread’ with professional aplomb and the delicate aperitifs had all been prepared by his hand. He had spent two days and nights up shaping, carving, scooping and seasoning in order to provide the kind of food his mother loved him for. Despite her constant claim she was on a diet, prior to the cancer of course, Mrs. Stamp had always been a fan of ‘picky bits’. This was in fact the exact phrase used in her will to describe her funeral arrangements.
Benny was also drunk. Nowhere near as far gone as either of his brothers but his constitution was legendary. He could drink an entire bottle of vodka before leaving the house for a night out. He did however have a tendency to get either a bit feely or a bit violent when the occasion and the drink took him.
‘This grub is a bit wanky’ said the gentleman to Benny’s left, throwing a stuffed plum tomato back onto the silver tray. ‘Where’s the fucking vol-au-vents?’
‘I’ll give you the fucking vol-au-vents!’ screamed Benny and grabbed the man’s head between his hands, twisting it until it was close to coming off before slamming it onto and through the table. Despite their pretty appearance, decorated with white lace table clothes, candles and flowers, the tables were essentially cheap chipboard affairs dressed up. The man hollered as he went through, the contents on either side of the split sliding in on him. Trays of profiteroles and filo pastry prawns collided as they met under gravity’s sweet gaze on and around him. The high pile of china plates intercut with red paper napkins flipped out across the floor.
Hearing the sound of smashing crockery acted like a summons for Frank and Rees. They knew straight away that there was only one person invited to the wake who had the capacity for such chaos if it were neither of them.
‘Benny!’
They ran to the scene of the crime, suddenly sobered by the materialisation of a family emergency. By this point the fallen man, Tony, had made it to his feet and was swinging a drumstick in their brother’s face. His cheek was already beginning to bruise from the impact with the falling trays, his shirt was soaked with fruit punch and chocolate fondant and the crotch of his trousers was splattered with a test batch of Benny’s homemade sauce.
‘Oi’ shouted Rees, ‘stop aiming that chicken leg at my brother!’
‘You!’ shouted Tony just as loudly, ‘you’re the one who has been hitting on my bird.’
‘Your bird?’
Rees automatically shot a look over to the table of women. One of them waved a monogrammed handkerchief at him in an act of confession.
‘She told me she was getting divorced.’
‘Yeah! And I’m her boyfriend.’
‘You’re not a boy though’ said Rees. ‘You’re a cunt!’
Before Tony could make any kind of move he let out a scream as Frank smashed a ramekin of Thousand Island sauce into the bridge of his nose. Frank watched as Tony fell to the floor, confused as to how his simple action could have had this equal and opposite reaction.
‘What did you do that for?’ asked Benny.
‘What?’ dribbled Frank, ‘I thought we were having a fight.’
‘Leg it!’ said Rees as they heard the approach of sirens.
The three brothers headed for the door but were caught by a sudden influx of policemen.
‘What the hell is going on in here!’ asked one of the uniformed constables. Nobody answered. The room was still. At the back of the long hall Tony let out a soft moan and blindly walked into the smashed half of a table before falling down once more.
‘Sorry, we were having a wake’ said Frank, sweeping his fringe which was soaked in gin back from his eyes. ‘Things got a little out of hand and we are sorry but we will be quieter. We buried Mother today you see.’
‘You’re just lucky we were passing. What happened to him?’
Frank, Benny and Rees turned to where the policeman was pointing. Tony was attempting to wipe his eyes clean of pink dressing and blood with the sleeve of his white shirt. He looked dizzy, even in his seated position and may well have been suffering from a concussion.
‘Oh don’t worry about him officer, he’s just had a little too much of the sauce.’

The Stamp Collective will be independently published in Spring 2014.

Edit: I wanted to thank the guy who bought a copy of my short stories. Very cool of you. Hope you enjoy it.

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Quantum Of Horrors.

Last night I headed out on the utter fool’s errand of shopping at Westfield Shopping Centre, Stratford City. A place so devoid of any of the warmth capable of a city that I feel it should be stripped of at least part of its name.
My issue isn’t wholly with Westfield Shopping Centre, Stratford City, it is partly with retail, partly with our consumerism and mostly within myself. There’s something terribly unnerving about Westfield Shopping Centre, Stratford City and I got thrown into the Sarlacc pit.

I don’t like shopping, in fact I would go further to say I don’t generally like large groups of people. Don’t get me wrong, people can do weird and wonderful things en masse, they can dance, they can riot, they can change the world. My issue is with the strip light nudity with which people choose to expose themselves in the eternal search for fulfilment.
This may all be getting a bit heavy from my starting point.

I struggle to understand what my issue is with the false-eyelashed, tangerine skinned who seem to frequent not just the stores as customers but also represent them behind the counters. I don’t know why I hate guys with douchey pencil beards and pseudo-ironic baseball caps on backwards. There is a part of me that is concerned it comes with my growing age. I’m getting ever distant from the coming of age tales I find myself exploring. I don’t like the overuse of the abbreviation, the selfie, the hashtag. I don’t even know what a Macklemore is. I find myself telling people music is not the same as was it in 2003. A Google search reveals the biggest songs of 2003 were The Ketchup Song (Las Ketchup), Dilemma (Nelly featuring Kelly Roland) and If You’re Not The One (Daniel Beddingfield) so what the fuck am I actually on about. I have to admit it. I am getting older.
This week I have been reading the brilliant and I am hoping post-modern novel Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis. In it he discusses his own heyday of the 1980’s when he was running around LA having sex with everyone and doing all the drugs. Now the eighties are viewed with the kind of nostalgic disdain that Student Union theme nights are built upon. It’s seen as being kitsch. Will there be an emerging theme of 00’s nights where Linkin Park, Papa Roach and Limp Bizkit are pumped into bleeding ear canals while everyone pretends they don’t still have Hybrid Theory, Infest and Chocolate Starfish on their iPod. Oh wait, that’s the Brush as it is now.

Back to shopping and I found myself in Primark, eager to step up my inward hatred. Stepping into that store is like falling into the primordial ooze, but the prices are good.
I found myself dodging around trolleys, dollies and buggies in search of the bargains of the day. It was only when I found myself staring down my own grey-faced reflection in the changing room mirror, a popper buttoned denim shirt clad over my skin that I realised something had gone horribly wrong.
In the queue for the tills (once I had picked up my uniform plain v-neck t-shirts (like a wayward, talented, thin, handsome Simon Cowell)) I watched the man in front of me feel his way through each upturned bucket of impulse buys stationed along the railed off holding pens. He kept going for hair scrunchies, placing two fingers into the coil before shaking his head and returning them to the box. I assumed he was looking for stylish discount cock rings.

In H&M I tried to indulge the till droog in conversation. There was a song playing in the store, a song he must have heard on a loop so many times that it had lost any kind of meaning it could have ever held.
Me: Do you know what song this is?
Till Droog: This particular song?
Me: Well yes.
Till Droog: No, but if you go on our Facebook page there is a link to our music we play in stores.
Me:Oh okay, so it isn’t from a particular album or anything?
Till Droog: This particular song?
Me: Yes, this particular song.
Till Droog: No.

I think my issues with the world are really that I don’t feel a part of it. I watch the eternally midday sun lit emporium of squalor and I don’t feel what any of the other people seen to be expressing. I’m not excited about it. It’s a thing I have to do, as quickly as possible, and then I want to get out.
I see the queues of girls getting French pedicures, the gangs of boys checking out said girls with their JD Sports bags swung in front of them. I see parents struggling with children and children struggling with parents and I wonder what the fuck it can all possibly mean, and if this is our intended purpose and why I can’t help but feel removed from it, as though I’m watching myself be disgusted by it all.

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Busy.

This week has been absolutely crazy. I don’t really know where my head is at. This is the first time I’ve been able to sit down and chill for a moment. There is a lot going on. 

Between family stuff, flat-purchasing stuff, music, writing and performance stuff including hosting a variety show at The Alex in two weeks I haven’t had much time to process all of the crazy things that go on in my little life. It’s quite overwhelming. 

I thought I would take this opportunity to drop a quick update on all of the things that are currently pending:

I have found a proof-reader for The Stamp Collective who is currently working her way through it with the finest of toothcombs to spot any accidental transatlanticals that may have snuck their way up in there. 
I have also confirmed with the great Adam Gardner (who designed the cover for Where Did All The Money Go? and co-curates Charlie’s Hand Movements) that I want him to design the cover of The Stamp Collective. 
I will then look to set a date to have a launch night for the book with some wine and some performances.
I’m really excited about getting it out to people. It will be my first novel and it means an awful lot to me. Things that have occurred in my personal life this week have amplified and magnified my thoughts on it and within it and I want people to get to grips with that. 
I’ve also got some great ideas for promotional materials. It’s one of the few books I can think of that has its own soundtrack (High Fidelity and Nick & Norah spring to mind though).
I’ve agreed to perform at the next Tales & Ales night for Old Trunk, and will be reading an extract from The Stamp Collective. 

In addition I have been hard at work for my performance for High Variety. There’s a mix of different things put on including music, comedy, juggling and escapology and I can’t wait to be a part of it. I’ve been working on some comedy songs which I’m trying to segue into the night as part of my hosting patter. I’m genuinely excited and nervous about it. 

I’ve also been redrafting my Sahara journal – Yallah! Again, I may have to bend Adam’s arm to design something for the cover and plan to then self-publish that even if it is solely for the reference of those I trekked the desert with. It was an incredible experience and one I am glad to have taken the time to document. 

Things are still going to plan with the flat, or as far as I know they are. I’m in a strange no-man’s-land where I am being promised things are being done and we are moving forwards but there is nothing specific in sight yet. 

Be safe.

Further evidence that my friends actually want me dead.

This week in the life of being me I became aware that something very wrong was occurring. As covered in my blog post where I went climbing and couldn’t stop thinking about Cyndi Lauper my friends seem to be on some kind of ridiculous loving life 2k14 health kick at the moment. I’m hoping it will subside in the very near future and we can just carry on being disgusting slobs. 

Their wild decisions have chosen to manifest themselves this week in signing up for a 10k Marine Commando Challenge. I know what you’re thinking, live and let live. Well, I tell you what, I used to say live and let live (you know I did, you know I did, you know I did) but then I discovered I was expected to be a part of this whole debacle. Somehow this team of insaniacs (which I think was coined by Peter Andre) need me along for the ride, and not even to hold their coats as they disappear into the clay pit. This is actually insane. We aren’t marines, we aren’t commandos. Perhaps on occasion we have gone commando but that won’t save you across six miles of liquid shit. 

The truth of the matter is this is going to be an amazing experience for all of us. Although we are all built like twiglets with googly eyes stuck on we have promised to take the threat of the 10K MARINE COMMANDO CHALLENGE as being real and threatening, because it is both of those things. We are all very competitive around each other, and in our own lives and I’m hoping that is reflected in our training in the coming months. I’ve already started following Craig David on Instagram so you know I’m taking this shit seriously. #eatcleantraindirty

It also means we get to do some good by raising money for charity.

Internet mating.

I feel I should start out by explaining that the title of this post is not about jamming your old chap into a USB drive but is instead about making friends over the Interwebz.
I feel I am now an expert at such things because last night I met up with someone I met on the line.
Woah Paul, you can’t fucking do that. What if she turned out to be a he?
Well, fictional pariah of my decision making skills you will be surprised to know that he was a man to begin with and I was entirely aware of this fact.
There seems to be a massive taboo around the idea of meeting up with people you know solely on the Internet and this is probably down to the fact that it is an excellent grooming tool for sex offenders. I say excellent because it probably is for them, the anonymity afforded by the Internet can make it a dangerous place. It’s something that every child should be taught about the dangers of. That’s why I made sure we met somewhere public, I told an adult where I was going to be and I took my old switchblade Stabby along just in case things got a bit hairy.

Before my tale is whisked off on a cloud of guy love however I would like to begin with how I met my mystery man. I haven’t discussed writing this blog post with him so I will just call him G for the time being, which is short from Graham.
G and I met through a girl in Ohio.
How could that possibly be the case Paul? You’ve never even been outside of Europe
That’s where you’re incorrect fictional usurper of my mind, for you see I have been out of Europe, I went to Africa, I walked the Sahara. I raised a lot of money for charity. I don’t like to talk about it. You’re however correct in your assessment that I have not been to Ohio. I’m not entirely sure where it is, somewhere out West? Is it near Denver? I’ve heard of Denver (Thanks Kerouac).
G and I met via a girl in Ohio through a social networking website. We were introduced by her as she twigged that we were both handsome, funny and British and would probably have a fair amount in common. As it turned out she was right and he is also originally from Essex. G and I got along like a house on fire(wire). Little tech joke there for you.
We decided that as we both worked in London it would make sense for us to go out for some brewskis. The issue with throwing your arms around the world via the Internet is that you meet some really fucking cool people but without an incredible amount of effort it is very unlikely that you will ever find yourself in the same pub as them. I feel like I know more about my friends in Ohio, Brooklyn, Warnambool, Oxford, Chicago, anywhere in (or outside) Albion, than I do about people I see every day. The Internet is a fantastic tool for taking the wheat from the chaff (or indeed the chav) and highlighting the kind of people we all really are. The me that I take to the Internet is about 37% funnier than the me who saunters into the office with a green tea in hand on a Monday morning dreaming about overthrowing capitalism. His selfies are better than my selfies. His take on life is more poignant, more spiritual, more observant and more sexy than my own. I admire him. I envy him.
What you highlight about yourself online tells people an awful lot about you and as a result G and I decided we should meet up after work and set the world to rights over some costly continental lagers.

Last night we did just that. We met in the rain-shabbled entrance of an underground station like star-cross’d lovers and headed to a pub round the corner. My biggest concern was how awkward it would be to hustle my way through conversations with a stranger but of course, we had a lot of stuff to talk about. We both find ourselves removed from the Essex boy mark-up, we have mutual interests in film, television, books. We are both in the kind of relationships that involve having to parry questions of marriage rearing their heads every other week. In a way it cut out the awkward getting to know you (getting to know all about you) bit of getting to know someone. We were already over several of those first hurdles. Once you get beyond the fact that the man sat opposite you explaining why kangaroos were not on the ark is someone you have only met in the last two hours you can actually have a really good time.
After university, or whatever level of full time education you reach, it becomes hard to make friends in a very real sense. A lot of the people you spend your time with are those you do so with as a result of circumstance. I am not belittling those I spend time with or what we share, after all, it would be a lot worse if we didn’t get along, but we only came into one another’s orbits as a result of circumstance. I am also not saying that I haven’t met some incredible friends since university, I am just saying it is harder in the outside world. To find someone online that you click with (in the least romantic sense possible) is an interesting experiment and experience.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that if you jump into that void you’ll be surprised what you find. Despite what they say in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts it is safe to go back in the water.

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