Tag Archives: Shoreditch

The Comedy Cafe re-opens in London and Oslo but not yet on a Greek yacht

Yesterday, I talked to comedy club owner Noel Faulkner via FaceTime. It was raining heavily. He couldn’t be bothered to go out. I did not blame him. I was getting drenched coming back from Iceland. The supermarket, not the country.

Noel ran the Comedy Cafe club in London’s Shoreditch for 27 years. It closed in January this year but, next Saturday (16th September) it re-opens in Shoreditch in a different location.

“We talked to a lot of venues,” Noel told me, “but most of them didn’t understand what the fuck it was we wanted to do. Most of them wanted hundreds of pounds in rent every night. They just didn’t understand that comedy is not the big money it used to be.”

“But now you have,” I said, “found somewhere.”

The new Comedy Cafe – at the Miranda Room in Shoreditch

“Yes. The Ace Hotel in Shoreditch High Street – in the Miranda Room, a nightclub basement room with a nice atmosphere for comedy – it’s a lovely room. Holds 100 people. Lovely restaurant upstairs; great food.”

“Are you going to make money on it?” I asked.

“We’re not going to make any money,” said Noel. “We just want to keep it going because we enjoy what we do. And I have a really good promoter working with me. His name is Steve McCann. Us Irish have to stick together.”

“What have you been doing in your time off?” I asked. “Writing your book?”

Shake, Rattle n Noel? The famous book I’ve been writing for twenty years? I’ve done 40,000 words so far.”

Noel Faulkner’s 2016 Christmas present brought consolation

“So what were you doing?” I persisted.

“I’ve been sailing on a chartered yacht in the Greek islands.”

“You could be the L.Ron Hubbard of your era.”

“More like the Howard Hughes of comedy. I spend all my time on my yacht and in my penthouse with the curtains drawn. That’s the image I want.”

“So did you miss comedy?” I asked.

Noel laughed.

“I can’t tell you the truth coz you’d fuckin’ print it!”

The bar at the new Comedy Cafe in Ace Hotel, Shoreditch

“Can I print that?”

“You can print that.”

“Did you miss comedians?” I asked.

“Yeah. Like the time I had fuckin’ herpes.”

“Do you want to re-phrase that?”

“I missed comedians like I miss haemorrhoids”

“I will,” I told him, “add in that you were laughing when you say that.”

And he was.

“But I can tell you,” he continued, “and you can put this in too – that I WAS very impressed by the amount of serious and good comics who called me up or came up and talked to me and asked me if everything was OK and how I was doing.

Posters at the old Comedy Cafe, including one for Noel Faulkner’s autobiographical show

“The opposite side of that is, since we said we were opening again, I’ve been getting hundreds of Facebook requests. To me, Facebook is for friends. Becoming my ‘Friend’ on Facebook will certainly not guarantee you a gig at the Comedy Cafe. There’s a lot of shallow people in the business, like all businesses.

“But a lot of people have been very good and kind to me and very concerned, like Alan Davies and Ed Byrne. Alan Davies is kicking off the new Comedy Cafe on opening night. With Jimmy James Jones and Lauren Pattison – and Greg Faulkner is MCing.

“Is Ed Byrne playing the Cafe soon too?” I asked.

“He wants to, but he’s a bit busy at the moment. He asked me before I asked him.”

“Are the shows going to be monthly or weekly?”

“Weekly. Saturdays and Tuesdays, at first… Tuesday is the ‘new act’ night. We used to have the best new act night in the country.”

“Why was that?”

“Because we always had 100 people in the room. You didn’t have to bring a friend and you didn’t have to buy two drinks if you were a comic. We really had the best new act night in the country and nobody ever gave us that recognition.”

“So,” I said, “a new start in Shoreditch.”

Comedy Cafè opening night in Oslo – (L-R) Greg Faulkner, John Fothergill, Bjørn Daniel Tørum, Jimmy James Jones

“We have also opened a Comedy Cafè in Oslo,” Noel told me.,“in Norway. Same logo and everything.”

“Really?”

“Yes, Last week was the first one. We were approached by Bjorn-Daniel Torum. It’s once a month right now, so we can see how it goes.”

The Facebook announcement of the new club read: “One of London’s most iconic standupklubber through 27 years is coming to Oslo.”

Noel is clearly the unsinkable King of Standupklubbers, which made me think…

“You should,” I suggested, “open a comedy club on a yacht sailing the Greek islands. You would have the best of both worlds.”

“I thought about that when I was out there,” said Noel. “There was fuck all to do in the evenings.”

“I’m going to send you a decent picture,” Noel said. “You always take shit pictures of me.” This is his.

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Noel Faulkner closes the Comedy Cafe. He’s not on drugs. He’s got Tourette’s.

Say goodbye to the logo after 26 years...

Say goodbye to the laughter after 26 years.

I got a message late last night from Noel Faulkner: “I will call you tomorrow to talk about losing the club.”

London’s Comedy Cafe is closing at the end of this month, after 26 years.

“We have been negotiating this for the last fucking year,” he told me. “I thought the comedy could stay, but the guy is a prick.”

“So why is it?” I asked. “The lease has ended on the building?”

“Yeah. They bid £80,000 more than we did and we can’t meet those figures, because comedy is not doing that well, you know?”

“So when exactly,” I asked, “does the Comedy Cafe close?”

“New Years Eve.”

“With a big party?” I asked.

“There will be a party on Tuesday 3rd January?”

“Where?”

“In the Comedy Cafe, because we have nine days to pull out all the equipment.”

“You have,” I asked, “been looking round for other places?”

“Yeah, well yes. But you might as well be looking up your own fucking asshole. Everyone is a fucking idiot – except me, of course.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Well, people go: Oh yeah, yeah, great. And they want to rent me rooms. And I tell them: Comedy costs me £600 a night to put on, not counting PR. I can’t afford the rent. You are going to take the bar money. But they don’t understand it and Shoreditch is up its own ass.”

“You would prefer to stay in Shoreditch?” I asked.

“Well, that’s where we are known. I can’t move to fucking Tierra del Fuego, you know? You need to stay around where people know you cos, y’know, 26 fucking years.”

“And the landlord,” I said, “is just interested in the money – obviously.”

“Of course!” said Noel. “What do you think he’s interested in? Comedy?”

“And the new leaseholder?” I asked.

Noel Faulkner - sharp suited

Noel – smiling in the face of adversity

“The new owner wants me to stay in, because he can’t get people in his bar early – he owns 10 pubs in Shoreditch. But he doesn’t want to pay us anything for the fixtures and fittings. We re-wired the building. We put in new floors and toilets And he has already gazumped us, so I’m not going to turn round and say: Oh! I’m going to help you do good business now, even though you fucked me over and given me nothing for goodwill. So it doesn’t look like it could work with him.”

“Is there,” I asked, “a slight possibility it might?”

“It doesn’t look good. He hasn’t got back to me in two weeks. So it’s probably the end of the Comedy Cafe, unless I can find something else. I can’t really talk about this. I’m so fucking wound up, John. It’s so really annoying. The whole thing is fucking annoying. It’s 26 years. Boom! Whoom! Bang! Nothing I could do. We never made the big money. Big names play your club once and then, after that, they’re too busy to come back to you.

“There’s very little support in the comedy business. A bunch of cunts. No better than the fucking City Boys, to be honest. An awful lot of wankers in the business.”

I laughed.

“But there are,” Noel re-emphasised. “Like (he named a promoter). And the other fuckers. They’re just fucking horrible people.”

“Why are they horrible?” I asked. “They’re just trying to make a living.”

“Well,” suggested Noel, “it’s screwing comics out of their fees to make a living. Is that OK? That’s a ridiculous statement, John. The judge asks: Why did you rob a bank? – Oh, I’m just trying to make a living, yer honour! – Oh, OK. No problem there! So, no, that’s a terrible argument, John.”


NOEL HAS POSTED A NEW MUSIC VIDEO ON YOUTUBE:

 

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Clinically depressed comedian starts monthly two-hour Happy Hour club

Juliette does not feel blue - she feels yellow

Juliette does not feel blue – she feels yellow

“The branding of the venue is yellow. The posters are yellow. So today, when I knew I was meeting you,” Juliette Burton told me yesterday, ‘I put on a yellow top. Maybe I over-think things a little bit.”

When I talked to Juliette back in February, she told me she was starting a new monthly comedy club in April – the first Tuesday of every month. Well, it is now April and the club starts this Tuesday.

She told me back in February that it is called Juliette Burton’s Happy Hour despite the fact each show will run for about two hours and is hosted by someone with clinical depression.

“It is,” she told me yesterday, “false advertising all the way.”

“How much does it cost to get in?” I asked.

“It’s pay-as-you-feel,” said Juliette, “and we hope people will feel generous. It’s a guaranteed uplifting night.”

Indeed, the posters proclaim:

HAPPINESS GUARANTEED OR YOUR MONEY BACK

Pleasant juliette at the Pleasance, London, yesterday

Juliette preparing a two-hour Hour yesterday

‘You are not really a stand-up comedian,” I said to Juliette. “You’re a performer of hour-long, highly-researched, documentary comedy shows with lots of facts. Why are you doing these shows?”

“Because,” she told me, I will be compering and I can try out material for my future docu-comedy shows. But also it will let me do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time – muck about on stage and be more myself. With my docu-comedy, there’s so much research packed in that I have to be really tight on the time and there’s very little chance for me to improvise anything.

“I’m going to be trying out some new material I’m quite nervous about at the Happy Hour. I’m going to be most open about my darkest mental health problems. But it will be upliftingly dark stuff.”

“And you are having guests?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Juliette. “This Tuesday, there’s comedy mind-reader Doug Segal, Eleanor Conway is bringing all the breasts – she has lovely bosoms – and then there is James Hamilton who will provide darkness. I want the audience to leave feeling uplifted, so he is going to come along and do some comedy which will make them feel sad. He’s usually part of sketch group Casual Violence but he’s testing solo stuff out on Tuesday.’

“Is he being sad?” I asked. “Or is he being just plain weird, which is what Casual Violence is.”

“Casual Violence,” said Juliette, “is very weird and twisted and dark and wonderful and so full of pathos. When I see their shows, I always end up crying in at least one sketch. So it will be interesting to see what James does on his own.

“And we also have Matt Francis who does ‘proper’ stand-up comedy. Very bright and uplifting. He was recommended to me by Patrick Monahan.”

“Did Patrick Monahan hug you?” I asked.

“Of course he did,” said Juliette. “He is Patrick Monahan.”

“One day,” I said, “I may meet someone he has not hugged. But it could take a long time. Anyway, this new club night is at a new venue.”

The first Happy Hour guests, clockwise from top left) Doug Segal, Eleanor Conway, Matt Francis, James Hamilton

The first Happy Hour guests (clockwise from the top left) Doug Segal, Eleanor Conway, Matt Francis, James Hamilton

“Yes, The Canvas in Shoreditch. It’s London’s first Happy Cafe, which is nothing to do with drugs. They have a programme of events that actively encourage happiness, including things like free massages, which they had the other day when I went for a rehearsal. Not dodgy massages. Proper massages. The Happy Cafe is run by the same woman who is charge of Body Gossip, the charity for body confidence and body image.

“They are the reason we are able to make it a free night. It’s pay-as-you-feel. If everyone pays £5, that will hopefully cover the costs to the venue – they have to have staff in – and then we will split any profit between the charity and hopefully the costs of the acts.”

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Outspoken comedy club owner Noel Faulkner on Jongleurs, Yuppies, Jarvis Cocker and his new career as a rapper

Noel in Rivington Street, home to the Comedy Cafe

Noel Faulkner in Rivington Street, Shoreditch this week – home to his Comedy Cafe Theatre

Before I interrupted myself in yesterday’s blog, I was about to say that I had a chat over a meal with Noel Faulkner near his Comedy Cafe Theatre in Shoreditch. It becomes relevant, in a moment, that Noel is Irish, so bear this in mind.

“How is Shoreditch?” I asked him.

“More twats,” Noel told me. “More 5-star restaurants. How far can people go up their own asses? I don’t know. It’s not what it was 24 years ago when I started the Comedy Cafe.”

“What was it like then?”

“It was full of thieves and printers. One half stealing money; the other half printing money. It was all printing presses around here. I don’t know why. Before that, it was cabinet makers. I don’t know why.”

“So you are feeling pissed-off?” I said.

“No. I’m very happy.”

“You are???”

“I have three meals a day, my house is comfortable and it keeps going up £100,000 a week in value. I moved to Hackney 13 years ago because I liked the vibe and now all the Yuppies want to be in Hackney. I thought I could live in a neighbourhood where I wouldn’t see pompous assholes but now the only thing my neighbours talk about is the value of their property and how they’re doing an extension and ripping the whole house out.

“I told my neighbours: My house is worth more than yours.

“They said: Oh no no no. Ours has got a garage.

“I told them: Yes, but I don’t have any Irish people living next door to me.”

The successfully diversified yet slightly grumpy Noel Faulkner

The successfully diversified yet slightly grumpy Noel Faulkner

“Where did you live before Hackney?” I asked.

“I was sleeping above the Comedy Cafe with a gun that held blanks to keep the thieves out.”

“Seriously?”

“Yep. The police had a word: We know it’s not you, Noel, but somebody’s got a gun poppin’ off.

I blew my nose.

“What’s your blood group?” Noel asked me.

“O-Rhesus something,” I said. “A dead common one.”

“Stay off wheat,” advised Noel. “It’ll help your allergies.”

“I think it’s just a tiny bit of hay fever,” I said. “I think I got it in China.”

“You know what they say about dogs in China?” Noel asked. “A dog is not just for Christmas. If you’re lucky, there will still be some left over for Boxing Day.”

“So,” I asked, “at what point did you decide you didn’t care?”

“I never cared what people thought of me… If we can’t be racist, what can we be? The lovely thing about getting older is I really don’t give a fuck. Not one iota. I am thinking of writing my own blog.”

“Bastard,” I said.

“I am going to call it Angry Man On The Roof.”

“Why?”

Noel in his office last year

Noel in his Shoreditch office last year – a man who likes yachts

“I’ve always liked roofs because no-one can catch me there. As a kid, when there was snow, I would convince my mother I was sick and then I’d go up on top of the roof and make loads of snowballs and, when all the kids were getting off the bus, I would pelt them with snowballs.”

“And,” I said, “you’ve been pelting people with snowballs ever since.”

“Yep.”

“Why do you want to do a blog?”

“Because people are insisting I should get my wonderful calm persona out there like the Dalai Lama – just give people hope that there is peace on Earth and tell everybody who’s a cunt that they are a cunt, because nobody else seems to want to tell them. Have you heard Jarvis Cocker’s song Cunts Are Still Running The World?

“Yes,” I said. “Yes. It’s strangely gentle.”

It is on YouTube.

“Any new business plans?” I asked Noel.

“I’m taking on Jongleurs’ format for comedy,” he told me. “I’m going to open sixty clubs throughout Britain. Any cunt who drinks and pisses and shits can come into the club and make as much noise as they like. I’ll provide lots of work for lots of comics, but I’m not going to pay any of them. I think it’s a great business plan.

Noel this week, paying the bill for our meal

Noel this week, paying the bill for our meal

“If comics had any bottle, they would go on strike and say Nobody works for Jongleurs and, the next day, Jongleurs would pay every comic they owe money to. But each comic is thinking: Oh, I’ll keep my head down and I might get some more Christmas gigs off them. The comics are actually helping the dragon devour the babies.”

“But any real plans?” I asked.

“I’m working on a rap song.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously. We’re just putting the music down. It will be a video. It’s called The Comfort Zone.”

Noel started rapping:

Got me a pad I call a home
I got a big TV, Twitter on ma phone
I watch the president killin’ people with his drone
But it don’t bother me
Cos I’m in the Comfort Zone

“So you’re going to re-invent yourself as a rap artist?” I asked.

Noel started rapping another song:

Fukushima Fukushima I wonder why
There is that great big cloud in the sky
No fish in the ocean but look at the glow
Radiation sure gives you a great light show

“Are you going to perform on stage?” I asked.

Jimmy James Jones performs at the Comedy Cafe last night

Jimmy James Jones performing at the Comedy Cafe Theatre

“I’ll be the oldest Irish rapper. I’m going to do a video with me and comedian Jimmy James Jones on YouTube. I’m in my suit; he’s in his hip hop gear. He’ll push me out of the way; I’ll push him out of the way and then, in the last scene, he’s in my suit and hat and I’m in his gear and baseball hat.”

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A semi-naked man poses an old LSD riddle to comics in trendy Shoreditch

Two days ago, the London Evening Standard ran a double-page spread about someone they called THE NAKED COMMUTER.

In fact, the story was less spectacular: the pictures showed a man in perfectly-respectable boxer shorts and the sub-heading said: When he stripped off in protest at the sweltering Tube, he was hailed as a hero.

Today’s blog is not about the semi-naked man nor about his exploits, but keep them in mind.

Yesterday, I went to Rivington Street in Shoreditch to chat to Comedy Cafe Theatre owner Noel Faulkner about his future plans. Noel is always outspoken and, at the Chortle Comedy Conference last Friday, launched into a spectacular verbal attack on Jongleurs’ boss Marios Lourides for not paying several comedians for months – Marios claimed the apparently financially frail Jongleurs chain paid £2.5 million yearly to comedians and the backlog owed to comedians was “only” £60,000.

But this blog is not about that.

The final version of The Tunnel screened in Shoreditch last night

The Tunnel screened at the East End Film Festival last night

After our chat, Noel and I went to the Red Gallery (also in Rivington Street) for a screening to a very full venue of what is claimed to be the final version of The Tunnel documentary about the late Malcolm Hardee’s iconic and infamous comedy club. It was screened as part of the East End Film Festival.

Following the screening, there was what turned out to be a humdinger of a live comedy show but, in the interval between the two events, I went outside for a chat because I bumped into Miss Behave who had, earlier in the day, lost her appointments diary. I share her pain. It once happened to me and I virtually needed psychological counselling until a man found it in a gutter outside a Chinese takeaway, phoned me and I got it back.

Miss Behave thought we would have a chat

Miss Behave thought we could have a nice quiet alley chat

Miss Behave had to rush off and so we went outside to talk about her plans and her compering of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

But we never managed to do that.

Stick with me, dear reader.

“So you lost your diary today…” I started.

“It’s like I’ve lost my brain,” said Miss Behave.

“I have to take a photo of this man,” I said.

There was a man standing on the other side of the road, naked apart from a pair of underpants, putting on a leather vest. It was the man mentioned in the Evening Standard.

“He looks like one of your acts,” I told Miss Behave.

At this point, Noel Faulkner emerged from the Red Gallery.

“This is why the comedy clubs are in a mess,” I told Noel, “because people are doing their acts out on the streets.”

“He’s a local lad,” said Noel. “He may be on Ecstasy.”

The man came across to talk to us.

“Have you seen a pair of glasses lying on the floor anywhere?” he mumbled at us.

“They’re on top of your head,” Miss Behave and I said simultaneously, like a Greek chorus.

“The reason I couldn’t find them is because I never put them there,” said the man.

“Someone else put them there?” I asked.

Charlie Dinkin tries to mimic Gareth Ellis’ hay-fevered state

Charlie Dinkin tries to mimic Gareth Ellis’ hay-fevered state

At this point, Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Gareth Ellis emerged from the Red Gallery.

He looked at the man with spectacles on his head and said to me: “You always make the best friends.”

I raised my camera. “Don’t take a picture of me right now,” said Gareth. “I’ve got hay fever and my eyes are all puffy.”

“Do you remember pounds, shillings and pence?” the semi-naked man no longer with spectacles on his head but on his nose asked Noel Faulkner.

“Of course I can,” Noel told him.

“Did you hear what he said?” the man said to me in a throaty voice. “He said he can remember pounds, shillings and pence with confidence.”

“I think you’ve taken some,” said Noel.

The man looked at him.

“LSD,” said Noel.

“You can remember pounds, shillings and pence?” the man persisted.

“Yes,” said Noel. LSD. Where are your fucking trousers?”

“In 1963,” said the man, “someone walks into a bank and says: Here’s a pound note. Kindly change it into twenty pieces of silver. And the bank teller says: Certainly, Mr Jones, because she knew him. And the man says: But I want those twenty pieces of silver to be made up of half crowns, sixpences and two bob bits. What quantity of each coin did the bank teller give him that equals twenty pieces of silver and adds up to a pound?”

“Our chat is going well,” I told Miss Behave.

“Absolutely,” she agreed.

As Noel and the man discussed the mathematics of 1963 coinage, Miss Behave and I arranged to meet again at the Pull The Other One comedy club on Saturday.

“We could try not talking to each other there as well,” suggested Miss Behave.

David Mills (right) with Gareth Ellis

David Mills (right) being unusually reticent with Gareth Ellis

At this point, American comic David Mills came out of the Red Gallery.

“Great to see you,” he said to Miss Behave and kissed her on the cheek.

“Are you on the turn?” I asked him.

“I’ve got to run,” said Miss Behave. “I wasn’t supposed to have to run, but all this happened.”

I took a photo of David and Gareth.

“I’ll take another one,” I said. “Gareth had his eyes closed.”

“I’m keeping them closed,” he said, “because they’re all red from the hay fever.”

“Not on a computer! Not on a mobile phone!” Mungo 2 was saying.

A 1963 UK shilling, as in Mungo 2’s riddle

A 1963 UK shilling, as in Mungo 2’s riddle

“Listen,” said Miss Behave. “I’m doing something new, but I haven’t figured it out yet.”

“It’s probably in your diary,” I said, trying to be helpful.

“You didn’t listen,” the semi-naked man told me.

“I didn’t listen,” I admitted. “What was the answer?”

“Oh,” said the semi-naked man, “I couldn’t give you the answer. I’d have to give you the challenge.”

“I’m not a challenge sort of man,” I said.

“But you are challenged,” said Miss Behave.

“I am Scottish,” I tried. “I don’t care about your English money.”

“See,” said the semi-naked man, “this is where you walk into a pile of computers. I’m a Border Reiver.”

Painting of the infamous Scottish Reiver Auld Wat of Harden

Painting of the infamous Scottish Reiver Auld Wat of Harden

“You are?” I asked. “Cows? You’ve stolen cows?”

“Carlisle,” he said.

“Oh,” I said. “Carlisle and Berwick-upon-Tweed should clearly be in Scotland. Clearly Scottish cities.”

“Is your history between Scotland and England any good?” asked the semi-naked man.

“I’ll see you on Saturday,” said Miss Behave, wisely deciding to leave.

“I’ll leave you two to…” said the semi-naked man, starting to say something, then turning away and leaving himself.

“Play your cards right and you’re in there tonight,” I told Miss Behave.

She set off towards Old Street station, following the semi-naked man at a distance.

“He’s been round here for about a year,” an unknown and unseen voice said, like unto the Voice of God in the wilderness.

“I used to work down the road. I came out of work one night at eleven o’clock at night and he had a deckchair. You know those deckchairs that have got a beer holder in the arm? He was just in his pants in a deckchair, just berating people as they passed by.”

“It seemed strange,” Gareth told me, “that he could afford hair dye but not trousers.”

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A cage fight, a slap on the buttocks, a silent woman and a trip to Guatemala

Dan March at his Mad Hatter party

Sober Dan March at his party

Last night, I had the choice of paying £35 for a VIP ticket or £25 for a standard ticket to see a cage fight arranged by self-proclaimed ex-gangster Dodgy Dave Courtney in his back garden in South East London or go to comic performer Dan March’s 40th birthday party at the Looking Glass Cocktail Club near trendy Shoreditch (£8 for a double vodka and orange).

It was a tough call but I am glad I went to Shoreditch, though I was unclear if getting into the back room through the looking glass door always entailed getting your buttock slapped with a riding crop or if this was a special addition for the occasion.

Lheila Oberman could not talk to me last night

Lheila Oberman could not talk to me last night

I am glad I went because I bumped into comedy performer Lheila Oberman whom I have not seen in years. She used to perform as 50% of the late and very-much-lamented Aliens Ate My Schnitzel duo.

Alas she could not tell me about this nor anything else much, because she had totally lost her voice. When I asked how long she had lost her voice, I think she told me it was two weeks because she held two fingers up. We partly conversed through her friend Tim Eagle, a very successful clown, who looked a lot like Jerry Springer and told me people kept saying he looked very like the recently deceased Lou Reed.

I returned home later to a message from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith, who is currently working in a Vancouver bookshop. In its entirety, her email read:

Anna Smith in her Vancouver hospital

Anna Smith in Vancouver has an untold story of Guatemala

My sister went to Guatemala. The result was three children (now grown) and then she became an Anglican priest !

I asked for more details.

This morning, I awoke to emails with more details, but of Vancouver not Guatemala. The multiple emails read:

A guy who was in the bookshop two weeks ago strode in, eyes gleaming. He asked: “Has that chunky guy been round here much?” I had no idea who he meant.

On sale in a bookshop in Vancouver

Literary culture in a bookshop in Vancouver (Photograph by Anna Smith)

They’re making a movie at Macleods Books, down the street. Jenn, who usually works inside Macleods, was standing at the corner, eyes on the door. Her job was to extract the book hounds who wandered into the store oblivious of it being used for a film set, despite the grips rushing about taking measurements and the ladders and floodlights everywhere.

I had sold a couple of architecture books to the movie’s art director a few days earlier and witnessed my boss dismiss a location scout from a different film, possibly Fifty Shades of Grey. My boss was annoyed:

“Are you holding a contest?” he asked. “Because I don’t want my store involved in one of your contests.”

Marble Arch Hotel undercover in Vancouver

Marble Arch Hotel undercover in Vancouver (Photograph by Anna Smith)

“But it’s my job” said the location scout. We have to go to several potential sites, take photos and let the director choose. It’s not my decision.“

“No, I don’t want you people in here,” said my boss. “You leave a mess.”

A short, slight man rushed in and proffered a shopping bag with a thin wooden box inside. “Are you looking for some gold flatware?” he asked. I told him, “No,” and he immediately hurried out.

Across the street, the Marble Arch Hotel is clad in scaffolding and blue veiling. Three mentally ill drug addicts (two men and a woman) have been living there but are now locked out of the building. Yesterday, they pounded on the temporary plywood door and shouted in all directions, indignant and plaintive: “Would someone unlock the door to our OWN home !!!”

Workman

Chunky workmen seen from the bookshop (Photograph by Anna Smith)

A tall, good looking young construction worker walked into the shop today. He told me they are stripping the lead paint from the Marble Arch building. I must have looked alarmed, because he added: “Don’t worry, it’s not the bad kind of lead”. He asked for a book from the window display – How To Pick Up Women.

I still know no more about why Anna’s sister’s visit to Guatemala resulted in three children and her becoming an Anglican priest.

I live in hope of more details and that Lheila Oberman will speak to me again.

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Shoreditch dreams – Satanic stand-up comedy and Lycra-clad policemen

Perhaps it was the fact I only had two hours sleep the previous night.

But what is it with Shoreditch in London?

It seems to have aspirations to be trendy Islington but its pockets of aspiring Yuppieness have been dropped down into what, at night, seems like a set from a Jack The Ripper film – jet-black stone streets with added 21st century traffic. It’s like King’s Cross but darker and with less investment.

Shoreditch is a dark night-time nether corner of schizophrenic Hackney, where partly-trendy-yet-immensely-downmarket Hoxton meets a corner of Hackney proper and the world that was the Kray TwinsBethnal Green, which now has 1950s Brits intermingled with penniless immigrants who have nothing but hope in two generations time.

And round the corner from all this sit the glass towers and stone solidity of the City of London.

Shoreditch is a very strange place.

The area is like some darkly surreal imagining on the thin border where a dream may or may not turn into a nightmare.

So, a couple of nights ago, I went to Shoreditch after only a couple of hours sleep the previous night with these thoughts in my mind and comedy in my heart.

Yes, I have no fear of bad writing.

I went to see the weekly Cantaloopy Comedy show run by Miss D aka the interesting part-comedian, part serious journalist that is Daphna Baram.

Last time I went, the Cantaloupe pub cat stole the show, meandering across the stage and occasionally finding high points from which to look down disdainfully at the performing comedians.

This time, sadly for me, there was no cat but also, sadly, no headliner Arthur Smith, whose mother had had a bad fall. Daphna reckons I am bad luck when I go to one of her gigs. She may be right.

But the Cantaloopy bill was so choc-a-bloc, the lack of the two main attractions did not damage the show.

One highlight for me was Janet Bettesworth, who is just plain weird and I cannot for the life of me figure out why.  It had nothing to do with my lack of sleep. It has something to do with her Joanna Lumley voice, the dry sometimes almost literary delivery, the unexpected shock of red hair and her extraordinary transformation late in the act into a comedy ventriloquist with Hammer Horror hints. It was like watching a refined relative talk sweetly to you but with a whiff of the Satanic and dark deeds behind the curtains of Middle England wafting from the stage. I began, at one point, to think I must be hallucinating.

Highly entertained and utterly fascinated… but hallucinating.

This can’t be happening, I thought.

Yet it was and I was pleased it was.

I knew it wasn’t my lack of sleep. I had seen Janet Bettesworth before and was equally mesmerised before.

I had never seen David Mills before despite the fact he was recently crowned New Act of the Year – the highly prestigious award formerly known as the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year and proof that something good can occasionally come out of Hackney.

But I was amazed how a totally top-notch professional camp American of this quality had  escaped my radar. Especially as he has apparently lived in the UK for a decade. Much like Maureen Younger being a new act for me at a Pull The Other One gig a couple of weeks ago.

Curiouser and curiouser.

A few weeks ago, someone mistook me for Antipodean intellectual Clive James. At Cantaloopy, David Mills said I reminded him of Shrek. I know which I prefer. But alas I know which is more realistic.

Altogether an unusual night in Shoreditch especially when, on my walk back to the car, I bumped into Noel Faulkner just leaving his Comedy Cafe venue and, after crossing Shoreditch High Street, he became fascinated by the sight of two police cars pursuing a man on a skateboard.

“The guy should just keep going,” Noel said to me. “Police cars will never catch a skateboard.”

When I reached my own car I saw, up an adjacent side street, two policemen and a policewoman milling around in the middle of the road while another two policemen were climbing up on a wall to look over railings into a graveyard.

I wondered what the man had done. Perhaps we are on the cusp of a spate of major skateboard robberies which will be countered by Scotland Yard establishing a Skateboard Squad of Lycra-clad coppers.

Or perhaps I just need more sleep.

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