In this war zone everything was brown, even the white people.
Being Asian, I love doing overtime. I don’t feel human if I haven’t worked a 900-hour week and opened up a couple of new businesses.
This week was no different. On Saturday I was asked to perform at the opening of The O2, the old Millennium Dome, in Greenwich, at an event organised for O2 staff. I am so glad O2 has brought a sense of purpose to the most useless invention since Paris Hilton.
I performed in three consecutive variety shows, starting from 2pm in the venue’s more “intimate” 2,350-seater arena. I almost wet my pants as I stood backstage, thinking: could I warm up 2,350 people, make them laugh and then end on a high, all in five minutes? It’s amazing what you can produce under extremes of fear and pressure. I just ran out thinking I was Madonna at Wembley – blonde wig, pyramid cones, gold tooth and fearless determination.
The shows ended at 6pm and I drove to the Hackney Empire to perform my fourth show of the day. I was very excited, as Julian Clary was compèring and I had never met him before (even though we occupy the same page in the NS). I walked backstage and saw a very tall man wearing tight, crushed black-velvet trousers with the buttock area cut out.
“Wow,” I thought, “what’s that?” Julian turned round and said, “Hello, so nice to meet you.” I could hardly breathe. If I ever see another man’s bottom in my life, I think I’m going to be very disappointed. Later he invited me to his dressing room, which was a cross between the Taj Mahal and the make-up counter at Harrods.
I could very easily marry Julian. My mother has some wonderful saris and gold nose rings that he’d look great in, and my community would love him – apart from the fact he actually likes having sex with other men.
After this show ended at midnight, I picked up my brother and some friends and drove to Glastonbury, eventually arriving at 4am in what looked like a war zone. Everything was brown, even the white people.
My gig was on the Sunday afternoon in the Left Field tent (5,000 people) in a show called Get Up Stand Up – No To Trident! Every generation produces people who have enough courage to make a change and I had the privilege of performing alongside two of them. The first was the political legend Tony Benn and the second was Mark Thomas (another member of the NS alumni).
As Benn walked up to the stage, he received a rock-star welcome. I had never seen any politician greeted with screaming, cheering and applause without the aid of armed police and propaganda. Tony is clearly a man of the people, with too much integrity to enable him to run the country.
It was cold and wet, but I could feel sweat dripping off my shirt. I had never been so nervous, and the Hackney Empire seemed a million years ago. Also, my brother was in the audience and if I did badly he would tell my mum, who in true Asian mother fashion would ask me, “Why weren’t you the best?”
But the ever-supportive Thomas reassured me that everything would be OK and the audience’s response would probably be aided by narcotics. As I stepped out, all I could see was fear in the faces of the audience. The sound of laughter soothed me like a warm cup of camomile tea; it was an experience I enjoyed in hindsight.
I ended my Glastonbury experience watching another legend – Dame Shirley Bassey. She was a sparkling diamond in a damp and muddy swamp; as she stepped on stage in her pink gown and custom-made wellies, looking 45 years old and not 70, I wondered who her surgeon was. The 86-year-old man in front of me said, “She’s still got it, hasn’t she?” He wasn’t wrong.
I left looking like a grimy mudball, so I’m taking the next couple of weekends off to wash my clothes, but don’t tell my mum.