Tag Archives: Sarah Hendrickx

Comedians abroad, Archbishop Tutu & the “Britain’s Got Talent” egg-throwing

Last night at the London Palladium...

Last night on tour at the London Palladium

I never go anywhere. Nothing interesting ever happens to me.

Last night, I went to see John Cooper Clarke’s show at the London Palladium, courtesy of comic Matt Roper, who had tickets but then had to fly South Africa on Saturday to appear in the June/July comedy festival where, apparently, all proceeds go to the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation and, in Cape Town, Archbishop Desmond Tutu will be performing a stand-up comedy spot on the press night.

See what I mean?

I could say Whooo! I went to the London Palladium last night! But Matt Roper has trumped me by going to South Africa to (in a sense) perform comedy as his dribbling, lecherous alter-ego Wilfredo with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

And, while I was in a train on the way to London yesterday, comedy critic Kate Copstick was flying to Kenya for three weeks where she will be working for her Mama Biashara charity.

AND I got a text from comedian Sarah Hendrickx, cycling to Barcelona to better her soul and to collect material for her upcoming Edinburgh Fringe shows. Sarah has barely cycled any further than a local ice cream shop before this. Her text said:

“I covered 520 miles and could easily have done more so not too shabby.”

See? Sickening. All I’ve done is go to Oxford Circus in a train and a tube.

And then there is the extensive egg throwing.

Yesterday - an irresistible pun for the Sun

It was an irresistible pun for the Sun

Yesterday, the papers were full of the woman who threw eggs at Simon Cowell during the live televised final of Britain’s Got Talent.

This is good pre-publicity. The increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe in August will include the official Scottish national Russian Egg Roulette All-Comers Championship.

American comic Lewis Schaffer will be defending his 2012 title against the likes of comedian Richard Herring and aforementioned comedy critic Kate Copstick. The event – basically people smashing eggs on their foreheads for a laugh – will be supervised by Andy Dunlop, President of the World Egg Throwing Federation, who is travelling up to Edinburgh for the event.

But, again, Andy has trumped me and gone one – or several – better.

Organiser Andy Dunlop provides eggs for Russian Roulette

Andy at last year’s World Egg Throwing…

“August is going to be busy,” he told me yesterday. “We have the Australian Egg Throwing Championships early in the month, the Malcolm Hardee Show in Scotland on the 23rd and the Belgian Championships on the 31st.

“Meanwhile, we have a Japanese TV game show coming to Lincolnshire for the World Egg Throwing Championship on June 30th – they’ll be bringing four raw viewers with them to take part. And there is an Australian children’s TV show coming for some egg throwing here in September.

“I am already gut busted. I have just spent six days in hospital due complications with surgery to repair complications from surgery in May that followed a life saving op in October (that had complications).  That was because of complications from a life saving op to repair a bust gut 32 years ago, which was a complication from failure of my umbilical cord to wither correctly 55 years ago. Life is full of complications, as was the bag, attached to the tube that drains the wound in my belly, until it detached overnight……. twice.”

Ever-sympathetic, I asked him to send me a photo of himself in hospital for this blog.

Egg-throwing man Andy Dunlop in hospital

Andy Dunlop – ‘Mr Happy’ – in hospital…

“Here it is,” his e-mail said, a few minutes later. “The photo was taken last October by a ‘friend’ to show how cheerful I was following emergency surgery at 03.00am. Note the tubes (including auto morphine drive) inserted into various openings in me, not all natural. I am wearing a badge that says Mr Happy.

“I left hospital on that occasion after five days with an infection in my belly wound that required several months of treatment as it was 10cm deep and wider than a wide-mouth toad. There were daily visits by the local district nurse team to prod and re-stuff me with magic seaweed-based filler. I had four belly buttons along my rather impressive 10 inch scar

“The weakened area of belly then developed a rather cute little bulge (or, as my wife said, What on earth is that?, pointing to my nether regions) which was identified as an “incisional hernia” that required day case surgery to repair.  I had that on the 23rd of May and one of my four belly buttons was removed during this process.

“That led to an emergency re-admission and a rather grotesque distension of my belly, which was drained of two pints of red gunge last week during my last six-day stay. It is still draining. Another two pints since done. Still infected.

“I am still happy… and alive.”

Andy then added, as well he might:

“So it goes.”

Other people!

Their lives are too interesting.

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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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Filed under Bicycles, Comedy, France

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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Comic Sarah Hendrickx has a mid-life crisis & plans to ride Gérard Depardieu

(This was also published by the Indian news site WSN)

Sarah Hendrickx yesterday

Sarah Hendrickx yesterday – from dreadlock kid to Depardieu

Comedian Sarah Hendrickx is 45, twice divorced, a mum of two, grandmother of twins and an expert on autism – she has published five books on the subject (plus one on student cookery).

She trains professionals – care workers, doctors, psychiatrists, foster carers, teachers – who have to deal with autistic people.

“And when you were a kid?” I asked her yesterday.

“Council house kid,” she said. “Scholarship. Private school. Croydon. Left at 16. Went to live in squats. For years and years, I was a squatter. Squatting in London in the early 1980s, as soon as I left school. Dropped out completely. Punk. Got pregnant. Lived in a van with my daughter. Dreadlocks. Dog on string. Travelling around a bit. Moved to Devon. I’ve only looked sensible in the last ten years. I’m a bit of a late starter.”

“And you have Tourette’s Syndrome,” I said.

“Yes,” Sarah said. “Facial ticks. Eye ticks. I used to blink around 100 times per minute. Now I have Botox injections around the eyes on the NHS – I get free Botox, which is what every middle-aged woman wants, isn’t it? But it’s a horrible, horrible process.”

“And you’re an international expert on autism,” I said.

“Apparently so,” said Sarah.

“Because…?” I asked.

“Because I’ve written books, I guess,” she replied. “And because not that many people know that much about it.”

“You’re autistic yourself?” I asked.

“Yes. The only people who really understand it are people with it, because it’s about a different neurology. Even people who are married to it don’t really understand it, because it’s a whole different way of seeing the world. It’s all about cognitive processing. It’s much easier to have set rules about something. There’s no grey. Everything’s black and white, because that makes your life easier and calmer. The logic is not necessarily perfect logic, but it’s your own logic. There’s always a logic; it may be a flawed or a skewed logic, but it’s not random thinking. You can’t make judgments very well, because judgments are grey.”

“But isn’t the whole thing about performing comedy that you can suddenly take off on a flight of fantasy?” I asked.

“Not my comedy,” said Sarah. “Because I have no imagination. I don’t get the surreal humour. The Mighty Boosh. I don’t get that at all. Oh I have a fish and you have binoculars! Really? Why is that funny? My comedy is all true.”

Hans Asperger in Vienna c 1940

Hans Asperger working in Vienna, c 1940

Asperger’s Syndrome interests me,” I told her. “Robert White, who won the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award a couple of years ago, has it.”

“There was research on stand-up comics a few years ago,” Sarah told me, “which found many were quite unusual in standard personality-type profiles. They might be extrovert on the stage but, in their personal lives, they were socially awkward.”

“I’ve found with quite a few of the comedians I’ve tried to help,” I said, “that they’re extrovert on stage but do they want to publicise themselves? No they bleeding don’t. They want to hide in a cave rather than be interviewed.”

“Well,” said Sarah, “you stick me in a networking event or a party… I’ve been to autism events as a speaker and I’m the one out of 300 people who’s hiding round the corner because I just can’t bear to be visible.”

“So how can shy people who want to hide away be comedians?” I asked.

“Because,” explained Sarah, “they stand in front of people with a microphone, a script, a set period of time to talk and a plan of what they’re going to talk about and, when they’ve had enough, they get off. It’s not a two-way dialogue. It’s not socialising.

“My experience of the comedy circuit is it’s like a special interest group. Most people aren’t the traditional type of friends. We turn up and say Done any gigs lately? How you gettin’ on? What you doin’ next week? There’s very few other comedians, for example, who know the names of my children or what I do for a living or where I’m going on holiday – which is my understanding of what friendship is supposed to be about. But that suits me fine.

“I think the comedy circuit includes a whole bunch of people who don’t have many ordinary friendships – we are, after all, people who are happy to spend all their weekend evenings away from their loved ones, driving round the country by themselves. That totally fits autism or, at least, it’s a lifestyle that suits someone like me very well.

“To me,” Sarah continued, “comedy is a puzzle. It’s like a scientific experiment. These are the words. This is my material. Did it work? Feedback from the audience tells me whether it did or not. If it didn’t, I go away and try to work out why and try to fix it. To me it’s a system. Trying to write the perfect joke, the perfect set, trying to analyse it. It’s all about analysing it. I never go home and worry about having had a bad gig, because it’s nothing to do with ‘me’, it’s to do with ‘that’ which I’ve created. I am separate from ‘that’.”

“So,” I asked, “if you get a bad audience reaction, it’s not a personal rejection, it’s a rejection of the product you created?”

“Yes,” agreed Sarah, “it’s like baking a cake and it didn’t taste very nice. I don’t have any emotion in it at all.”

“So why did you want to be a comedian in the first place?”

“Oh,” said Sarah, “that’s a long story about wanting to be an actor as a child. I got pregnant at 18. I got a place to do Drama at Exeter. I got down there with my daughter aged three. I realised that drama courses and three year olds do not go together. I couldn’t do the course and that was the end of that.”

“So you were a frustrated performer?”

“Very much so. Now I’ve got a 25-year-old daughter and two grand-children and a 16-year-old son who lives at home. When my son got to the point where he was able to be left on his own, I took myself off and started doing a bit of comedy.”

“And now you’re preparing to do your first solo Edinburgh Fringe show in August,” I prompted.

“Yes. It’s called Time Traveller.”

“Why?”

Scene of horror - Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Scene of Sarah’s panic attack – Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

“It’s about going back into my own past to an event which happened to me about twelve years ago. It was a pretty unfortunate time of my life. I was camping in Spain with my now ex-husband and kids. My mum had just died. I went up the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, had a giant panic attack, got agoraphobia, got relatively disabled by that though not house-bound.

So it’s kind of going back through that and saying Well, I was always a bit of an anxious kid and a bit of an odd kid. This thing happened. It all got worse. Stuff about my marriage. Stuff about my kids. Then this moment of clarity where I decide what I need to do is go back to Barcelona and sort all this shit out. And then I decide to go by bicycle.”

“And you are actually doing that?”

“Yes. I’m going to cycle to Barcelona at the end of May.”

“How far is it?”

“800 miles.”

“Have you done something like that before?”

“No.”

“And you’ve decided to do it, because…”

“I’m having a mid-life crisis. I’m just scared of everything. That’s the general premise. I need an adventure. I bought my bicycle off eBay. It’s called Gérard, after Gérard Depardieu. And I’ve written a song for the show.”

“You can play the guitar?” I asked.

“No,” said Sarah. “Playing the guitar when you can’t play the guitar is quite liberating.”

“I would pay to see this free show,” I said. “Have you practised for the bicycle ride by putting a scouring pad under your bottom and rubbing it backwards and forwards?”

“No. I haven’t even been on my bicycle for four months or so. I keep looking at my bicycle and thinking Ooh. I really should have a little go on it.”

“Will you be stopping at hotels along the way?”

“No. Camping. On my own.”

“Where will your camping equipment be?”

“On panniers.”

“Mmm…” I said.

“I know,” said Sarah. “It’s mad. I’ve never been camping on my own. I’m terrified. I’m terrified of everything. I’m terrified of being on my own. I’m an absolute weed. This is for the Edinburgh Fringe show but it is also because… well, I have been a mum since I was 19, my kids are now grown-up. This is genuinely a mid-life crisis. It’s the first time I’ve had the chance to do anything like this in my life, really.”

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