Three weeks in a hot caravan telling Mandela stories to strangers is a holiday of sorts.
The Edinburgh Festival begins in a few weeks’ time. I will be performing there in a container that looks like a caravan – it’s called the Baby Grand. I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night having wishful nightmares about the experience: I hope no one comes to my show, I hope the caravan burns down or someone tows it away, I hope the festival gets cancelled and Edinburgh disappears because of global warming . . .
I should be excited, but I’m more concerned. I am worried that people will treat the caravan as a tent, and walk in by accident and start their own show. I’ve been to Edinburgh a few times and I know one thing for sure: I will definitely lose a stone from walking up and down all those stairs. Everything in Edinburgh is up at least three flights. My caravan is probably situated at the top of the Castle.
It’s a strange feeling being a comedian and not wanting anyone to see your show. It’s like being a singer, but never wanting anyone to hear you.
Comedy tends to attract all the waifs and strays from other areas of life. Edinburgh becomes full of them: wannabe comedians, wannabe critics, and gag hags (girls who just want to sleep with a comedian – though it never seems to work the other way round, and a word has not yet been invented for boys who want to sleep with any female comedian; I’m sure the word would just be “bloke”). It’s a very competitive time when a lot of money gets spent on PR, venues and alcohol. Apparently journalists write the best stuff when they have been force-fed free alcohol by aggressive PR women.
All I know is that it will all be over by 25 August and life will continue as normal afterwards.
I have been preparing for the festival by not thinking about it all and pretending that there’s a chance Steven Spielberg will call and I won’t have to go. So I eloped to Ireland this week. My lovely Irish friend Martina took me to a village in Cork where people live the idyllic, simple life.
There were six houses in this village, surrounded by fields and sheep. You could avoid seeing anyone for weeks if you wanted. I could go for a walk along the long country roads at midnight and not worry about being stalked. They have shops where they still use tills and calculators, and have brown paper bags to put your groceries in. Plastic carrier bags haven’t yet arrived here. They still have pump attendants at the petrol station. People talk to you at random in the street, and everyone wears wool and fleece. It’s like Emmerdale Farm ten years ago.
A woman called Ellen from next door asked me what I was reading. I said: “I’m just preparing my show for the Edinburgh Festival.” She said: “Oh, how exciting. What is your show about?” I said: “Oh, just random things like Oxfam, skiing and Nelson Mandela.” “Will Nelson be coming to watch it?” she asked. “No, I think he’s busy,” I replied. “He’s had enough stress in his life without having to come and see you taking the piss out of him in a comedy show,” she said, waving her finger in my face.
Her innocence was sweet and simple and totally uncluttered by the nature of a town person. I didn’t know how to tell her that not only would Nelson not be coming, but I was hoping that no one would come at all.
I am still writing my show. I will be writing it right up until my last performance. I will never be happy with it and I’ll keep changing it, but it will be brilliant by Edinburgh 2009.
If it all goes wrong, at least I will have spent three weeks in a hot, immobile caravan telling stories of Nelson to strangers, so it will have been a holiday of sorts. It’s always material for a later date.