He told me then: “I do all the barging. I do all the cooking. And you just sit on your computer and you blog. I’ll be telling you stories. But also you’ll be sailing at six miles an hour – roughly two miles an hour faster than walking speed – which is very good for contemplation and creativity. What a brilliant idea that is.”
Last night he told me:
“I looked into it. Hiring a barge is prohibitively expensive. But you could sit on your sofa in your living room at home in Borehamwood and I will get you a roller…”
“The car?” I asked.
“Not the car,” said Martin. “A roller like they used in the old silent movies. I paint lots of country scenery on this roller and it moves along behind your sofa so it feels to you like you are travelling along at six miles an hour. And I do everything else. I do all the work. You just sit there…”
“You do all what work?” I asked.
“Like cooking,” said Martin. “Cooking, cleaning and rollering and the scenery goes past you like in the middle distance at a perfect speed for cogitation and imaginative thought.”
“What about the lack of water?” I asked.
“Well,” said Martin, “you’ll have your computer with you, so you can’t risk having any water around. You would have been OK on a barge with a computer, but that’s prohibitively expensive and camping on riverbanks is too extreme for you.”
“Camping on riverbanks is too extreme for me?” I asked.
“Too extreme for you,” said Martin.
“I don’t mind extreme,” I said, slightly miffed.
“I know a trip down the River Wye…” continued Martin.
“Why?” I asked.
“Wye,” repeated Martin wearily. “And you can do a three day trip down and it only costs you £150 to hire the canoe and you can…”
“Did you say canoe?” I asked, slightly worried.
“Canoe,” confirmed Martin.
“That sounds a bit extreme for me,” I said.
“It’s an absolute genius holiday,” Martin emphasised.
“Is a canoe like a barge?” I queried.
“Nothing like a barge,” said Martin, “but the same rules apply. If it’s raining, that’s tough but – you know – it’s always raining. It’s amazing. When you’re outside in Britain 24 hours a day, it is amazing how much rain there is out there. You would say it hadn’t rained today, wouldn’t you?”
“It hasn’t rained today,” I said, trying to be helpful.
“It has rained three times,” said Martin.
“Where?” I asked.
“Here, there and everywhere,” replied Martin. “Believe me. I speak the truth. It always does.”
“It does in Edinburgh, that’s for sure,” I said. “Why aren’t you performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year?”
“I can’t say why,” explained Martin, “because it would go in your blog and people would know about it. And it’s not going to be ready until next year.”
“You don’t have to mention that,” I reassured him, “You only have to say why you’re not going up this year.”
“I’m working on my Edinburgh show for next year… That’s why I’m not going up to Edinburgh this August,” laughed Martin. “I’ve got to a stage of maturity within my showbiz career when I realise it’s pointless.”
“Me going up to Edinburgh this year. I don’t have the show. Next year, I will have the show. I’m starting work on it now and I don’t want to be rushed into it or cobble things together. Last year’s show was so rushed I didn’t think it through.”
“The exploding maraca man – What a gag – But it was dropped on Day One, because I just had the costume in shreds without the exploded maraca… and no explosion… All these things are fairly essential to make the gag work.”
“You had the maraca?” I asked.
“I had the maraca,” Martin confirmed.
“You had to be there, I guess,” I said.
“Not really,” said Martin.
“But no Edinburgh Fringe show for The Greatest Show on Legs this year,” I checked.
“No,” confirmed Martin.
“Though you might,” I said hopefully, “come up to perform on the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on the final Friday night?”
“I’m certainly coming up for that,” said Martin.
“Are you sleeping on my floor on the Friday night?” I asked.
“No,” said Martin. “I’m sleeping in your bed. You’re sleeping on the floor.”
“Mr Methane might have a prior booking on the bed,” I warned him.
“Is he doing the Malcolm Hardee show?” asked Martin.
“Yes,” I said, “unless he gets a call from Spielberg or Las Vegas. He’s done it before. Last time, he did it as a return trip – he just blew in and blew out.”
Martin looked at me and said nothing.