Tag Archives: bicycle

Comic Sarah Hendrickx on cycling 520 miles, burning 6,000-7,000 calories a day and eating 75 pain au chocolats

Suntanned Sarah Hendrickx yesterday on Skype

A sun-tanned Sarah Hendrickx yesterday on Skype

“I’ve got a terrible cold, so I’m going to cough and splutter and sniffle through this” I said when I started talking to Sarah Hendrickx on Skype last night. “But now you’ve cycled all those hundreds of miles, you must be very healthy.”

“Oh, not healthy,” replied Sarah. “My knees. They were bad before I went and they’re no better.”

“And your bum?”

“My bum’s recovered now,” said Sarah. “Thanks for asking.”

“You bicycled back yesterday evening?” I said.

“No,” said Sarah. “A British Airways flight from Barcelona.”

“How many miles did you do eventually?”

“I cycled 520 and I caught a train for 200 or so in the middle, because I wouldn’t have had time to finish.”

The last time comedian Sarah Hendrickx was heard of in this blog, she was on an 800 mile cycle ride to Barcelona having only previously ever cycled for 38 miles. For her, the journey was “a personal, physical and mental challenge” because, years ago, she “got stuck up the Sagrada Família in Barcelona and ended up going a bit mental and getting agoraphobia. So this is me going back to sort it all out and become a brave person.”

It was also research for her upcoming Edinburgh Fringe show Time Traveller.

“You triumphantly cycled into Barcelona?” I asked her yesterday.

The second victim of bike-killer Sarah Hendrickx

The second sad victim of the European bike-killing comedian

“No,” admitted Sarah. “I conked out 60 miles outside… Eleven spokes broke on my wheel, due to weight and general abuse, just treating it really badly. I was going off-road; I was trolling around like a lunatic. I just busted it, basically. I probably had about 120 kilos on it what with my weight and the tools and the clothes and camping gear. I had racks on the back with saddlebags over the top like an old donkey.”

“But you enjoyed it?” I asked.

“I did,” enthused Sarah. “I absolutely loved it. The cycling and being out on your own day after day in the sun was fantastic.”

“You said before you went,” I reminded her, “that you’d never really been on your own for three weeks. Didn’t the loneliness drive you up the wall?”

“During the day when I was biking it was fine,” Sarah explained. “In the evenings, I didn’t know what to do with myself really. But I was exhausted, so I mostly slept early. Sitting in too many restaurants on your own is a little bit bleak.”

“Last time we talked,” I said, “you had encountered a Norman Bates type psycho hotelier. Did you meet any others en route?”

“No, but I met a couple of very keen Belgian cyclists. I was older than them and cycling faster than them. A lot of the road cyclists in France and Spain were wearing all their gear – the Lycra and stuff – and they would clap and cheer me when I went past. There were a few other people touring round on holidays on bikes, but no other women on their own.”

“You were really going to Barcelona to exorcise your personal demons, weren’t you?” I asked.

Sarah outside Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Sarah outside Sagrada Família in Barcelona, where she was exorcising personal demons

“That was the point. Absolutely.”

“So what happened?” I asked.

“That’s in my show,” laughed Sarah, “so you can piss off. Come and see the show.”

“Is it going to have an uplifting ending?” I asked.

“Of course it’s going to be uplifting,” replied Sarah. “It’s going to be fabulous! There’s going to be singing. It’s gonna be great!”

“You’re going to be singing?”

“Yeah. Yeah. I’ve got lots of good things to talk about, but I’d have done the trip without the show. In your life, you end up thinking this sort of ‘different stuff’ is difficult to do, but you just have to take that one first small step. Once you’re in it, it’s easy: you’re just getting on with it. But it’s that’s the first transition bit people struggle with.”

“So what are you doing next year?” I asked. “Cycling up Everest?”

“I thought Afghanistan might be a nice little cycle route,” laughed Sarah. “There’s nothing like a few landmines to keep you on your toes.”

“Could you write a book about this last trip?” I asked.

“I don’t think there’s anything interesting enough for me to fill a whole book, but there might be something about the concept of having little adventures. Anybody can have an adventure, regardless of their budget or physicality. There are things that anybody can do.”

“So no concrete plans for next year?” I persisted.

“Well,” said Sarah, “I’ve been talking to my other half about cycling from the Spanish border to the Italian border right across France… or across the Pyrenees.”

“Is your other half proud of you?” I asked.

“Very proud of me,” said Sarah. “I think most people thought I wouldn’t do it. They were surprised I stuck it out, didn’t get fed up, didn’t just sit in a corner and cry. They were like: Bloody hell… She’s still going! Her bike’s broke and it’s pissing with rain and she’s still going.

“You managed to destroy two bikes, didn’t you?” I asked.

“I did,” said Sarah. “I got caught in a number of thunderstorms. I got stuck up a mountain in a thunderstorm with a broken bike that I had to push up the mountain. That was fairly bleak. But it was all character-building stuff.”

“So you’ve undergone a sea change?” I asked.

“No,” laughed Sarah. “I’m still an anxiety-ridden, panic-attacked person. That hasn’t changed in the slightest. I’m just a bit browner-skinned and capable of riding 500 miles I didn’t know I could do before. And I don’t want to go to work ever again. Cycling round France for a living would be absolutely marvellous. I think you should go somewhere yourself, John, and have a little adventure.”

“It smacks of doing healthy things,” I said. “If I eat healthy food, I come out in a rash.”

PainAuChocolat_LucViatour_Wikipedia

She didn’t just have a sweet roll, she ate her own body weight

“Well,” Sarah said, “despite cycling for six or seven hours every day and burning 6,000 or 7,000 calories a day, I did manage to put on weight. I have eaten my own body weight in pain au chocolat and Orangina on the basis of thinking: I’m burning calories – I need to eat! I need to eat!

“I was eating eight pain au chocolats a day for snacks. I think I was mainlining pain au chocolats. It was an excuse to eat as much as I liked and not get markedly fatter. So the Hendrickx Diet you mentioned last time we talked is not a goer or, if it is, I’m not the poster girl for it.

“But it was fantastic. You could pretty much eat what you liked and nothing really atrocious would happen because you were exercising so hard.”

“And now,” I said, “you have to get back to doing boring administrative things for your Edinburgh Fringe show?”

“I think it’s mostly there,” said Sarah. “It’s in the Programme. I’m one above Sarah Millican, so I’m hoping for some of her cast-offs or people who get confused by the whole bulk of the Fringe brochure.”

The two Sarahs vie for attention in the Fringe Programme

The two Sarahs vie for attention in the Fringe Programme

“You wrote your blurb for the show several months ago,” I said. “So what are the selling points you only now know you have?”

“At the moment,” replied Sarah, “I’m trying to write a sub-line for the poster, which will be something like One Woman – 800 Miles – Two Bicycles – 75 Pain Au Chocolats. I suppose it’s about looking for your lost courage, looking for your nerve because we all get a bit safe and dull in our lives and want to know Have I still got it?”

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UK comic Sarah Hendrickx in French psycho hotel horror and buttock hell

Sarah and Gerard One boarding the ferry to France

Sarah & Gerard One boarding cross-Channel ferry to France

“How are your buttocks?” I asked comedian Sarah Hendrickx last night.

As mentioned in a previous blog, she set off a week ago on an 800 mile cycle ride to Barcelona having only previously ever cycled for 38 miles. I talked to her yesterday, via a Viber line of what was called ‘average’ quality.

“My buttocks are not good, to be honest,” Sarah told me. “I’ve been cycling up to 100 kilometres a day, but it’s been exhausting. It’s been too much, really, so I’ve been having a rest today… My bum has been having a rest day as much as anything… I have special cream.”

“How is your dodgy French getting on?” I asked. “Are you making yourself understood in the villages you pass through?”

“I am just passing,” said Sarah. “I’m not stopping to meet random rural people. The main conversations I’ve had have been with French bicycle mechanics. My aged bicycle Gerard One broke down on Day Two, so I spent two days with various French bicycle mechanics. The second mechanic declared Gerard One entirely dead. It was the back wheel. It was an old bike and new back wheels are a different size. My bike was declared morts.”

“Morts? Merde!” I said. “So you had to buy a second bike? That’s terrible, though it could be worse. I half expected to hear a news item about a British bicyclist being found dead and decapitated in the mountains.”

“It’s been very flat and monotonous so far,” said Sarah, “with long, straight roads stretching ahead of me. But the mountains are still to come, so you may yet not be disappointed.”

“I never thought about the monotony,” I told her. “Have you got an MP3 player to music it up?”

“Have you been following my Tweets?” asked Sarah. “@sarah_hendrickx.”

“I still haven’t got my head round using Twitter while retaining a life,” I admitted.

By this point in the conversation, the ‘average’ Viber connection was playing up quite badly and Sarah was starting to sound like she was talking to me through the overflow pipe of a bath.

“It’s so hot and sweaty and horrible, it doesn’t feel safe,” I think Sarah told me, though I missed the context.

Sarah’s Edinburgh Fringe poster worryingly says I would pay to see the free show

Sarah’s Edinburgh Fringe poster worryingly says I would pay to see her free show

“So do you think there’s an Edinburgh Fringe show in it?” I asked.

“This is only one small part of my Fringe show,” Sarah’s multiple voices reminded me through her apparent bath overflow pipe, “but I’ve got loads of material out of it already… I had a kind of breakdown the other day. I went a bit mad sitting in my tent in a camp by myself and left my tent behind and ran across the road to stay in a B&B which was run by the sort of man you find in an American horror film. I spent the night wondering if this man was going to come and hack me to pieces.”

“That would have made a good blog,” I said, brightening up. “What you should do is fake your own death then reappear just before the Fringe starts.”

“That would be a bit of a desperate way to get an audience,” said Sarah.

“You’re a comedian, so you’re desperate already,” I suggested.

The Viber line then started to deteriorate even more. After a fair bit of metallic-sounding abstract sounds, I heard Sarah say:

“It’s a bit lonely, cycling across France on your own. No-one to share the experience with. It’s a bit crap.”

I think that’s what she said.

“Have you met any other Brits?” I asked.

“Not many,” her multiple voices told me, “but they tend to be intrigued by my journey. The adventure.”

“What’s the reaction when you tell people why you’re doing it?” I asked.

“I haven’t been telling them about the comedy show,” she explained. “I’ve just told them I’m having a mid-life crisis or I’m having a little adventure. That’s all. It’s too complicated to mention the comedy show.”

“Are you glad you’ve done it?” I asked.

“I’m only halfway through, John!” she laughed. “I’m nowhere near Barcelona. I’m in Poitiers in the middle of France!”

“Are you on schedule?” I asked.

Sarah’s tent - temporarily abandoned, it seems

Sarah’s tent – temporarily abandoned for psycho hotel & train

“I’m going to have to slightly cheat and catch a train,” Sarah admitted, “otherwise I’m not going to finish in time. The road network out here is either dual carriageways or farm tracks. It’s very remote and I’ve realised since being here that, at a certain level it’s just not safe. I’ve been on motorways and scared the shit out of myself. The ring road in Le Mans is no place for a person to be. So I’m going to catch a train, then carry on a bit further south. One hundred kilometres a day is too much, really, for my little untrained physical self.”

At this point, the Viber connection went abstract.

“Hoping… weight… become this bronze goddess…That’s probably not going to happen… burning off so many calories… shovelling down my neck… time just for a mid-morning snack… hungry so much… it’s amazing… I can eat, basically, whatever I like… diet… a new diet.”

The Hendrickx Diet has got a certain ring to it,” I said. “You could become a millionairess by next year.”

Is this the next Keep Fit millionairess?

The originator of the next trendy diet plan?

“I think so,” laughed Sarah, her voice temporarily clearing. “But you wouldn’t have a job, a family or a social life because you’d spend most of your life dieting… But it’ll save you a lot of money and, yeah, it’ll…”

“It’s going to be a joy to see if I can transcribe any of this,” I said. “Can you hear my voice OK?”

“Yes,” said Sarah. “Very clearly.”

“Viber says this is average quality,” I told her, “but you’re echoing like you’re in a metal tube.”

“No,” said Sarah, “I’m just in some cheap hotel room.”

“But without some psycho owner,” I said.

“I hope so,” said Sarah. “I hope so.”

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UK comedian Sarah Hendrickx setting off on a 800 mile cycle ride having only previously ever cycled for 38 miles

SarahHendrickxBlog

Sarah in Spain 12 years ago, when it all went wrong for her

“So just to check,” I said to comedian Sarah Hendrickx on Skype yesterday. “You’ve gone mad. On Monday, you’re going to start cycling 800 miles to Barcelona and you’ve never done anything like this before. You could go by train but, no, you’re going to cycle.”

“That wouldn’t be quite such an adventure,” Sarah explained. “That’s not so much of a personal, physical and mental challenge.”

“So remind me why you’re going…?”

“It was about the terrible thing that you blogged about,” said Sarah, “when I got stuck up the Sagrada Família in Barcelona and ended up going a bit mental and getting agoraphobia. So this is me going back to sort it all out and become a brave person.”

“And you’ve never done anything like this cycling before?” I asked Sarah.

“Oh, absolutely not,” she said. “I’ve never even slept in a tent before. I put the tent up in my back garden to try it out a few weeks ago, but I was too frightened to sleep in it.”

“This was in your back garden in Worthing?” I checked.

“Yes,” confirmed Sarah. “Ten yards from my own back door. The trip to Barcelona is going to be quite a challenge.”

“Have you been testing your legs,” I asked, “so you’re sure you really can cycle for 800 miles?”

“Noooo!” said Sarah. “I’ve been extraordinarily lazy… The weather’s been crappy and… no… I… erm… I’ve been working away from home a lot and the weather’s been shit and I’ve been lazy and… No…Not in any way or shape or form have I prepared for this. I went out once for a bike ride… Oh! And I also cycled to the beach, about a mile away from my home and had a cup of coffee and a cake.”

“So what’s the furthest you’ve ever ridden?” I asked.

“38 miles,” replied Sarah. “Once. In Oxfordshire. It was very sunny. And flat.”

“How much do you intend to ride every day?” I asked.

“I’ll have to do at least 50 miles a day for at least 16 days,” explained Sarah, “so, by Day Three, there are going to be children in campsites going: Maman! What is zee matter with zat lady? She appears to be paralysed from head to toe and unable to put her tent away!

“The main question,” I said to Sarah. “My main question is: Why? Just Why?

Sarah Hendrickx ponders her cycle of life on Skype yesterday

Sarah Hendrickx ponders her cycle of life on Skype yesterday

“Last year,” explained Sarah, “I went to this thing called The Adventure Travel Film Festival and there were all these absolute nutcases who had canoed down the Congo and suchlike on their own.

“None of yer Bear Grylles support vehicles. Just individual people who had headed off alone to do this mental stuff. And I was inspired by this. But I’m not brave enough to go down the Congo in a boat.

“So my slightly more sedate adventure is to cycle across France back to this place in Barcelona where things all went a bit wrong for me 12 years ago.”

“So the furthest you’ve ever cycled,” I re-checked, “was 38 miles in…”

“In Oxfordshire,” Sarah interrupted. “It was very flat. I’m allergic to hills. I don’t think there are any in France, so I think it’s going to be fine. And it’s all downhill to the Mediterranean, surely?”

“Do the words Pyrenees Mountains mean anything to you?” I asked.

“I think I might go round the edge of them,” Sarah told me.

“Can you?” I asked. “You can out-flank them?”

“I don’t know!” laughed Sarah. “By the time I get that far, I’ll either be dead or I won’t care! “

“When are you back in the UK?” I asked.

“I’ve got a flight booked home from Barcelona on Sunday the 16th of June.”

“So how long are you going to be in hospital in Barcelona?” I asked.

“The food’s gotta be better than it will be on the trip,” laughed Sarah. “Though I have been thinking of just hiding in my house for three weeks and randomly sending Tweets as if from France and Spain.”

“You’ll be doing things on your Twitter @sarah_hendrickx?”

“Possibly. And I’ve been doing a few little blog posts in preparation for it.”

“What’s your blog called?”

A Bird on a Bike.”

“Fair enough,” I said. “Are you raising money on this? You should be doing a charity thing.”

“No,” said Sarah. “If people want to give money to charity, they can just do that anyway without the excuse of me having to go and half-kill myself.”

Sarah preparing for her Edinburgh Fringe show

Sarah preparing for Edinburgh Fringe show Time Traveller

“But,” I asked, “ultimately all this is going to end up in your jaw-dropping and jolly jape-filled Edinburgh Fringe show Time Traveller in August?”

“It will,” said Sarah.

“Does your Edinburgh venue have wheelchair access in case anything goes wrong?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

“What do your two children think about it?”

“They’re both grown up. They’re not worried about the physical challenge. It’s more my mental well-being: the fear that mother will go even more mad. I think the fact I can’t cycle that far is almost a done deal. They’re more worried by Do you think she’ll be OK out there on her own?

“I’ve never been anywhere for three weeks on my own. I think most people haven’t. Not without anybody. No structure. No plan apart from just to keep going. No-one to talk to. No-one there. That’s something I’ve never experienced for that length of time.”

“Can you speak French or Spanish?” I asked.

“I can speak a bit of French, though probably not the kind of French vocabulary I will need, which involves punctures and mental illness.”

“What happens if you really don’t make it? If you get stuck halfway?”

“I don’t mind. It’s the sense of adventure and what happens along the way that’s the point of it, really. If it becomes completely undo-able – physically or because it pisses with rain – I shall just dump the bike in a hedge and get a train and that will then be part of what the Edinburgh show’s about. It’s not about me finishing. It’s about me going for it and having a crack. People don’t push themselves out of their comfort zone. I want to. What could possibly go wrong?”

“Have the two words Cannibal Frenchmen ever crossed your mind?” I asked.

“A tough old bird like me?” said Sarah, “Anyway, I’ll be road kill by the time I meet any.”

“Are you going to be sending me regular updates?”

“Certainly,” said Sarah.

“You can Skype me,” I said.

“Then you’ll be able to see me crying in real time,” said Sarah. “I have a solar-powered phone charger. I’m hoping for some sunshine.”

“Normally,” I told Sarah, “I would say Break a leg, but that’s probably not a good thing to say. Lots of people do far more adventurous things than this, but they’re probably a bit more prepared. If Ranulph Fiennes were to do this, it would not be very impressive. But, if you do it, it’s bloody impressive because your adventure threshold starting point is lower.”

Sarah Hendrickx is not sad any more

Sarah Hendrickx has a message for you

“I have prepared a little,” said Sarah. “I’ve been reading this morning about how long your pubic hair should be to avoid pulling, chaffing and all sorts of unpleasantness. There’s all sorts of medical things you need to know if your backside is going to be on a saddle for 800 miles over 16 days. There’s all sorts of things you really wouldn’t want to know about, John.”

“The pubic hair detail is already more than I wanted to know,” I told her.

“Well,’ said Sarah proudly, “that’s the sort of preparation I HAVE been doing instead of going cycling.”

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Comedian Martin Soan breaks a rib in bicycle accident and loses his main act

Martin Soan yesterday with unexplained moustache

Martin Soan yesterday with moustache

Yesterday, my eternally-un-named friend and I went to spend Boxing Day at Martin & Vivienne Soan’s home. They run their Pull The Other One comedy club at two venues every month in South London.

I did not know that, four days before, Martin had broken a rib in a bicycle accident and also had a broken leg.

The broken leg was the leg of his spectacles.

The rib was his own. He was in a lot of pain and, since the accident, he has had to sleep overnight sitting upright in a chair because he cannot lie flat on a bed.

He also wore an unexplained false moustache.

“Have you had an X-ray?” I asked.

“No,” he replied.

“Why?” I asked.

“I will have one when I feel better,” he replied.

“Don’t you think there’s a logical flaw in that reasoning?” I asked.

“No,” he told me.

“But you have a broken rib,” I said.

“I know,” he replied.

“How did it happen?” I asked.

“I went arse-over-tit over the handlebars,” Martin explained. “I was on a lovely bike and was drifting from lane to lane at three o’clock in the morning, coming down to the north west corner of Peckham Rye Park.”

“You were coming down a steep road,” said Vivienne, “and I bet you had not had to push a pedal. I reckon you went down the hill and, because there was no traffic, you had a straight run and you would’ve been seeing how far you could get without pushing a pedal”

“Probably,” said Martin, “I went up a couple of pavements, just because I wanted to glide, and I went up this one and it had a nobbled surface for blind people…”

“And that’s what caused it?” I asked.

“No,” said Martin.

“There was a blind person and you ran over the blind person?” I asked.

“No,” said Martin. “I just carried straight on, but they had nobbled the piece of kerb. And they’d also cut into the kerb to give access for wheelchairs. The edge of the other kerb was about six inches straight up vertically. I went into it. Didn’t even see it. I went straight off. Projectile. The bike stayed where it was. I went straight over the handlebars. I landed on my front with the side of my head on the ground and I must have been knocked-out for a little bit.

“I was in a big puffer jacket and there was no-one else about and I could hear myself going: Ah! No no no no! Alright. OK OK. Aaaaaahhh! No. I remember doing all that nutty trauma talk. You’re gonna be alright. You’re gonna be alright. You’re gonna be alright. Breathe breathe breathe. Where’s the cameras? Why am I talking about cameras? Help me help me help me.

“I managed to roll over and there were some railings. I pulled myself up and banged the side of my face. I had landed on my rib cage. I could hear myself say: I’m standing. I’m standing. The bike’s there. The bike’s there. You’re gonna be alright. But it’s going to be tough,” said Martin, “because I can’t do any lifting.”

“And you’ve got a Pull The Other One show this Friday…” I said.

“Me and Vivienne,” said Martin, “decided we’d spend these two days not talking about it.”

I looked on the wall where future Pull The Other One shows and acts were listed on a whiteboard.

“Oh,” I said. “Well, at least you’ve got Aaaaa Bbbbb on 11th January . He’s good.”

“He’s let us down,” Martin said.

“We don’t normally book people through agents,” explained Vivienne. “We do it through our contacts. But, after Eddie Izzard performed at Pull The Other One, we suddenly got loads of e-mails from agents saying Oooh! Maybe you’d like to book this comic or that comic. So we booked Ccccc Ddddd through an agent and he let us down after we’d done all the publicity.”

“Ccccc Ddddd let us down,” said Martin. “But who did we get to fill-in for him at the last moment? Omid Djalili. And he filled the whole club on word-of-mouth.”

“So that was great,” said Vivienne. “We got Omid. But Ccccc Ddddd letting us down was not funny, really. We managed to get Omid on the printed bill, but this time with Aaaaa Bbbbb it’s too close. The second time we booked a comedian through an agent was Aaaaa Bbbbb who has now let us down and we’re desperately looking round for somebody who can fill the club on a word-of-mouth on 11th January. We haven’t got the money to spend on reprinting the posters and flyers because we’ve already spent it on printing the posters and flyers which are now wrong.

“How can we ever trust an agent?” she continued. “If you go to an agent – as we did – and you say Here’s the publicity. Are there any glaring mistakes here before we go to print? and they say No, absolutely perfect. And we send another e-mail saying So Aaaaa Bbbbb is definitely booked for 11th January? And they tell us Yes. And then you send one more e-mail saying Are you sure? Because rumour has it he’s booked for another comedy gig…? And they reply No, no. He’s definitely on at your club. And then, because we do not want to be left at the last, last minute, we say Actually, we know he’s doing a specific gig we know about and the agent goes Oops! Yes. Sorry. So that’s an agent. So what’s the point? Aaaaa Bbbbb blames his agent; his agent blames him.”

“What can you expect?” said Martin. “The word ‘agent’ is a derogatory term – estate agent, publicity agent. Then there’s…”

“What about that story you refused to tell me a couple of weeks ago?” I asked Martin. “The one about the NHS. The Social Structure is Alive and Well in the NHS.”

“You’re never going to get it,” Martin said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because you’re recording me. I won’t get it perfect if you record me and there’s no point if I don’t get it perfect.”

“It was about exploratory anal surgery, wasn’t it?” I asked.

“How is your moustache held on under your nose?” my eternally-un-named friend asked Martin. “Is it with Sellotape?”

“Double-sided tape,” he told her.

“So why won’t you tell me?” I asked Martin.

“Because being recorded is…” he said, “If I say it and it’s recorded, it’ll sound like I’ve made it up. But it’s true… It actually happened to me.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“You’re recording it…” said Martin.

“I was creasing up this morning,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “at John’s blog about how he likes to be depressed at Christmas and…”

“A mis-representation,” I interrupted.

“…then he turns his iPhone on because I’m laughing my head off at it…”

“It wasn’t meant to be funny!” I pleaded.

“…and then,” my eternally-un-named friend continued, “I couldn’t quite laugh as naturally as…”

“You were laughing like a comedy drain,” I told her.

“So what was your…” my eternally-un-named friend asked Martin. “I’ve forgotten what it was… It was a National Health story?”

“I was in a situation,” said Martin, “where they had to put us out. A general anaesthetic. You were taken off to the theatre and knocked out and came to and…”

“So how could you remember anything that happened,” asked my eternally-un-named friend, “if you were unconscious?”

“No,” said Martin, “it happened before.”

“What? What?” urged my eternally-un-named friend.

“There were three guys in there,” Martin explained. “One was a Jamaican. One was me. And the third one was a rather suave and well-to-do man… We were all in cubicles and had surgical gowns on…”

“And?” I asked.

“And I’m not going to tell you,” said Martin. “I am not going to tell you.”

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Three things I cut out of my blogs: Apple computers, racism and bankers

Cutting edge blogging?

Occasionally, there are little bits that I do not include in my blogs which I think are interesting but which just don’t fit that particular blog. Here are three of them:

APPLE COMPUTERS AND THE NUMBER 42

I mentioned to a friend that I had once interviewed Douglas Adams, who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, in which the answer to everything is 42.

“Oh,” she said, “I have a friend who is a big fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide. He works for Apple computers in California. He has to alter things and, whenever he comes to some situation where he is not certain of the amount to alter it by then, if it’s vaguely sensible, he puts in the number 42. Obviously, if it should be nearer to five billion, then he doesn’t. But, if it’s a change that might have a numerical value between 1 and 100 then, if he’s not sure, he just puts in 42.”

“Does it usually work?” I asked.

“It does,” my friend told me.

THE BBC AND POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD

When I was talking to violinist Bobby Valentino recently about his surreally low payments for the worldwide hit song Young at Heart, he told me:

“A few years ago, when I was with Los Pistoleros, I was at a festival up at Newcastle for the Tall Ships Race and the BBC were hosting the website for the festival and we said we were the best honky tonk band in the land and they censored the word ‘honky’. They put five asterisks instead of the word honky. They said it was racist.”

I asked Bobby: “Did the word ‘honky’ as in ‘honky tonk’ ever have a racist meaning?”

“No,” he said, “The poor white folks in the Southern states of America were called honkies because they went to honky tonks. Honky tonk is the origin of the word ‘honky’ but a honky tonk is basically a working men’s club down South. It wasn’t a formal club, just a bar.

“There are loads of songs with the words ‘honky tonk’ in them. The BBC play the Rolling Stones’ Honky Tonk Women without any problem, but they thought the phrase the best honky tonk band in the land was racist!”

COMEDY CLUB OWNER NOEL FAULKNER ON BANKERS

When I recently chatted to London Comedy Cafe owner Noel Faulkner about the state of British comedy, we started by talking about Las Vegas.

“The one time I went to Vegas,” I told him, “I decided not to gamble at all, but I went into this massive room with rows and rows of one-armed bandits and a blind Chinese woman was led in to play on the machines. I would have thought the whole point of one-armed bandits is that they’re visual: you see the images on the wheels rotate and you see them either line up or not line up. This woman was blind. I suppose she heard the sound and that was the atmosphere she got from it. But it was bizarre. A blind woman pulling the handle on a one-armed bandit in Vegas.”

“Las Vegas to me,” said Noel, “is all these machines and they’re saying Yeah, just put yer money in here. It’s Amusement! Certainly it’s fucking amusing. To the casino owners. But the banks are a bigger racket than Vegas. At least when you go to Vegas, you know you’re being fucked. Vegas is for the damned.

“You go to Vegas; you get fucked.

“You open a bank account, you don’t expect to get fucked, but you really get it up the ass.

“At least in Vegas you get to pull a handle a few times. When you get involved with the banks, you get to pull your own dick, that’s all, because you feel like a wanker after they’ve fucked with you.

“All these Boris bicycles around London,” Noel said, “are sponsored by Barclays and they have the name painted on them but, instead of RCLAY, I want to go round painting STARD on them.”

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London’s naked bike riders exposed to heavy traffic yesterday (& Prince Philip)

Peter Stanford holding a bag of small genitals

(Versions of this blog were also published in the Huffington Post and on the Indian news website WeSpeakNews)

While the supposedly trend-setting Edinburgh Fringe gets more-and-more Puritan, edging ever closer to insisting that all female performers wear burkas… and this year – in a new move – censoring words like C*ck and Pr*ck from their listings because “our Programme is read by families”, London yesterday paraded up to a thousand real-life cocks, tits and ladies’ pudenda unimagined by the Fringe around the main streets of a sunny capital city thronged with children, tourists, persons of a nervous disposition and, in Piccadilly, three nuns.

It was the annual Naked Bike Ride.

I first met actor Peter Stanford at a Mensa meeting in a basement in Holborn, London. He was working as Henry VIII at Hampton Court and the Tower of London at the time, but had just dipped his toe into comedy – He had rushed on-stage at a comedy club in Kingston, done five minutes on why he hated Agatha Christie and rushed off again without saying hello, goodbye or telling the audience what his name was.

Yesterday afternoon, I met him again in central London, just behind Buckingham Palace, at the Wellington Arch, where Piccadilly meets Park Lane and Hyde Park Corner. Peter was naked and was wearing a crown; he was carrying a small canvas bag which had printed on it The Three Pintos.

Starkers starters with a prophetic message

“Why are you wearing a crown?” I asked.

“Because I’m Henry the Eighth,” he replied.

“Next week,” he told me, “I should be performing at the National Theatre in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, but they’ve cancelled it again, so it’s going to be September now. I’m going to be Lord Hatamkhan in a play by the wildly famous Azerbaijani playwright Mizra Fatali Akhundov – it’s his bicentenary.

“I did a play written by the current Deputy Minister of Azerbaijan. He booked a whole theatre for his bodyguards and people, just in case there was a coup or someone threw a bomb at him.

“Apparantly I’m reading Dickens to an Azerbaijani audience in a couple of weeks. I saw my name advertised and contacted the director who said he was going to tell me soon.

“As an actor in Britain, I’m mostly type-cast as doctors these days. I was an evil doctor in March and I had these genuine metal obstetric forceps and I strangled our heroine with them. That was in an opera.”

“And how long have you been doing the Naked Bike Ride?” I asked.

“I think it’s my fifth or sixth year. Just for fun. No reason. You shouldn’t have reasons for these things.”

“How did you hear about it?” I asked.

“Somebody said Why aren’t you doing it? So I did the next year. And, of course, I have been naked on Page Three of the Sun and also ‘Image of the Day’ in the Guardian.”

“Of course you have,” I said. “You have? Page Three?”

“It was a mass naked event by Spencer Tunick,” Peter explained.

“How many of you were there?”

“I think about 1,500. It was in Newcastle. During the Mensa Weekend in Newcastle. The one day I was in Newcastle, so I thought These things are meant.”

“And the Guardian?”

“It was the ‘Image of the Day’ – they have a double-page spread. They had a picture of the Naked Bike Ride but I’m right in the front. I thought People who read the Guardian are very good at re-cycling so, on re-cycling day, I crawled round all the bins in my neighbourhood and got ten copies.”

The Duke of Edinburgh, on his bike yesterday

At this point, a naked man with a Prince Philip mask walked past us, dressed only in bow tie and white cuffs.

“You don’t mind being naked?” I asked Peter.

“There’s a great difference,” he explained, “between one person on their own being naked among lots of clothed people and 1,500 people being naked.”

“What if it rains?” I asked.

“You get wet,” Peter replied.

“Human skin is waterproof,” a passer-by chipped in.

“Exhibitionism?” I suggested.

“Mmmm… possibly,” Peter admitted. “All us actors are naked on stage, you know,” he laughed.

“Have you done nudity on stage?”

“No,”

“This could be your calling card.”

“You get more money if you’re naked on stage,” Peter told me. “There are special Equity rates.”

“You have nude roles planned in the near future?” I asked.

“No,” said Peter. “I’m doing the Dickens bicentenary at the Poetry Cafe and I’ve got a one-man show as James Robertson Justice. I’m still fixing that because the hip young dudes who do comedy have never heard of him and the old folk who liked him don’t go to comedy clubs.”

“You look like him.” I said. “You should think about staging it at the Edinburgh Fringe next year, if the Fringe haven’t banned acting by then. People think James Robertson Justice is Scottish and anything Scots gets bums-on-seats. My mother met him when she was in the RAF during the War. She didn’t like him. He acted like a star and didn’t pay his bills.”

“Yes,” said Peter, “the more I find out about him, the less I like him.”

“Why are you holding a bag which says The Three Pintos?” I asked.

Riders were exposed to the heavy traffic in London’s West End

“It’s an opera by Weber,” Peter said, “but someone told me that apparently, somewhere in South America, ‘pinto’ is slang for ‘small genitals’. I’ve asked all the South Americans I know, but none of them could confirm it.”

“You are under-selling yourself,” I said.

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True tales from the Comedians’ Cricket Match?

Apparently, during filming of the new movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, author John Le Carré was phoned up and a key line was added. It was during a scene in which new information was assessed and the line was:

“Patently a fabrication from beginning to end. Just could be the real thing.”

I have found that the more unlikely a story, the more likely it is to be true. When comedian say something likely, it is often made up; when they say something too OTT to be true… it is often a toning-down of a far more OTT truth.

Yesterday, I was at the comedians’ annual cricket match against the locals at Staplefield in West Sussex. It seems to be held every six months.

Cricket is possibly the dullest game ever invented. But you certainly meet some interesting people and hear some interesting stories at the comedians’ cricket match.

While theoretically watching, I got talking to a retired fireman who used to work in Slough. He told me that, occasionally, he would cycle into work to Slough from Staplefield, a journey of 54 miles. It would take him three hours but keep him fit. And he once cycled from Slough to Northampton and back – a 140 mile round trip – to see a girlfriend.

Clearly Staplefield harbours some hardy people.

One comedian at the match told me about not appearing on the Sky TV talent show Don’t Stop Me Now in which contestants are ejected in various odd ways including being jerked up into the air by a rope or wire or dropped through a trapdoor.

The comic in question was told he could not use the word “Nazis” in his routine because “people might be offended”. Not offended by the routine or the gag, which was inoffensive, but by any use of the word “Nazis” in any sentence. Another problem was that he turned out to be too heavy for either the rope or the trapdoor. Sky did not use him on the show.

Another comic (and it is fairly obvious to other comics who this is) told me that, in horse racing, there had been a fad a few years ago – if a fellow jockey was asleep – to drop either snot or sperm onto the unconscious person’s closed eyes.

“Snot and sperm,” I was told, “are both at body temperature, so the person doesn’t wake up. But, when they do, they find their eyelids are stuck together for a little bit and they think they are blind… How we used to laugh!”

This story vies with another for most bizarre story of yesterday.

I heard the other story at local pub the Victory Inn from a guy of about 30 who claimed he had been in the Army and had been in Afghanistan. His tour over there is not actually relevant, but I mentioned to him the story I have blogged about before of the Irish Republican sympathiser who was put unconscious on a plane to New York.

The story I was told yesterday was a tale of a personal dispute between a couple of Army men and a non-Army person who had screwed them out of money. When the money could not be recovered, they removed him from his house one night, drugged him so he was unconscious, put him in a container lorry, drove it to the Balkans to a place they knew in a forest on a remote hillside miles from any town or village. They stripped him, gave him a tab of LSD and left him there on the hillside, naked and presuming he was still in the UK.

“What happened to him?” I asked.

“I’ve got no idea,” the man in the pub told me. “Not interested.”

He shrugged his shoulders.

The story seems unlikely but, perhaps because of that, it has the ring of truth about it.

Who can tell betwixt reality and fantasy, especially if you find yourself naked and alone on a hillside where any locals you meet will be speaking in an unknown language.

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