Alive n’ gigging

Oh, hi! I’m alive!! (I mean, I hope you didn’t assume I was dead because I haven’t written in this blog for five months, but… I have perhaps at a point in my not-so-distant past jumped to similarly insane conclusions. Or, in any case, really enjoyed insisting that I had. And that’s all I’ll say about that.)

I don’t even know where to begin.

New blog layout!

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So many Leslies! There won’t normally be that many Leslies! (Who am I kidding? Of course there will.)

Also, I have a computer again!!! I have since August. All the more reason why it’s ridiculous that it’s taken me this long to write here. But. Anyway. I am now. Leave me alooooone. (No. Don’t. I mean, if you want to, but without an audience this is… a bit depressing. With an audience it’s terrifying, but I’ve realised that I can handle terror. Crave it, even.)

Actually, I don’t know how many of you know that I obsessively keep a messy, tremendous Moleskine journal on me at all times so that I can write whatever feels relevant at the time. To Do lists. Rambling accounts of the last exciting thing that’s happened. Bullet-pointed standup comedy setlists. And often lyrics from whichever song I can’t get out of my head. Since this is in all likelihood the last blog post I’ll do this year (also my fourth blog post of 2015; see what I mean?), and since I’m terrible for procrastination and horrendously sentimental (mostly for these reasons), I’ve assembled a playlist of the songs that have been particularly significant to me this year, in order. Will this be interesting in the least to anyone else? No! But here it is anyway! And, now I have assembled said playlist, I wish I had for just about every previous year. This one’s been a doozy, though, so it’s only fitting.

The last time I posted I’d done seventeen standup sets. I’ve done thirty-one now, and thirty-two by the end of tomorrow. It’s not that impressive a number, really, particularly given the amount of time I’ve been going, but I’m still proud. As well I should be.

I mean, they’re just five minute sets. But. Still I am proud.

So. Let’s get you all caught up on what’s been going on with me.

Around the time of my seventeenth and eighteenth gigs, I found myself feeling a bit downtrodden. Sure, I had stunning new tattoos (still have ’em) and things were pretty good in almost every way, but my self-esteem, already floundering, took a pretty huge hit. It took a little while to recover. But London is not a city that allows me to dwell on sadness for any length of time, and a last-minute decision to attend a comedy show led to me becoming instant friends with one of the acts I admire most (an absolutely spectacular human being) and having a joyous late-night dinner with her; another genius comedian and glorious friend; & the latter’s terrific boyfriend. It felt like being part of something, which gave me exactly the boost I needed to get out of my slump.

I was further boosted later that week (same week as gig #19) when my friend Kate and I went to one of Lliana Bird‘s always-wondrous DJ sets at Camden Barfly and not only did we see Birdy (wonderful wonderful wonderful) but also the unbelievably, unbelievably excellent Alison Mosshart. I couldn’t have possibly ever anticipated the latter. I may have told her that I slightly (understaaaatement) worship her. She seemed much less terrified by that than she maybe should’ve. She was ridiculously sweet. She hugged us goodbye. It was all mindblowing and phenomenal. Good ol’ London.

So things were good again.

And even if they hadn’t been, they soon would be because then my Mom came to visit me!

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It was a quick visit, lasting only five days, but absolutely excellent. We did a combination of things: a day spent hanging around Knightsbridge and South Kensington, but plenty of time in Tufnell Park and Kentish Town and Camden. Plenty of drinks. Late-night wandering around Central London, solely because I was desperate to get an album on vinyl right then. We went to Old Rope, of course, and, unlike the previous two summers when my parents visited, we hung around for a drink afterwards. It was such an important thing for me to be able to share so much of my life here with my mother, and I’m really glad it happened. I’m also really glad that I was able to arrange it that my Mom was at my twentieth standup set, despite it being her first night here and her being absolutely exhausted. And of course it was hard to say goodbye when she left, but… you know. It always is. It always will be.

But, again, no time to dwell! About two weeks after Mom left, I was off to Edinburgh for five unbelievably excellent days of the Fringe. I wrote a whole blog post last year about my experiences in Edinburgh, and I had meant to do so again this year, but… I didn’t. And now it’s a few months later. If I thought that first year was unbelievable, though, then I couldn’t think of an adjective positive enough to describe this time around (really; I’m keeping a list of the adjectives I use so I don’t repeat myself, because I am too sunshiney, I am realising). It was freedom. I was busy constantly (I went to twenty-four shows over five days; I am very proud of myself), but it was somehow the most relaxed I’d felt in ages. I only managed to do one standup set when I was there (again at the behest of my lovely friend Stuart Black), and I do wish I had done more because there certainly were a lot of opportunities, but that’s what I get for wanting to see as many shows as I possibly could. Particularly joyous were the things I found to do late at night: the always-amazing Friday I’m In Love, and then Cray Cray Cabaret (an experience I wish I could’ve shared with everyone because it was the happiest and best thing of all time). I enjoyed nearly every minute, though; I get a lovely feeling living and working in the same area of London because I just sort of know all the locals, and being in Edinburgh felt a bit like that but over the space of an entire city. Pretty much no matter where I went I’d run into someone I know and admire, and it was the best.

And then I was back in London, but that’s not something I can ever complain about. I quite bafflingly got invited along to a focus group for Underground happening a few days after I returned home, and as thanks for we participants’ thoughts and opinions we were given free shoes. Free shoes. Mine are pointy silver brogues that look like they’re made from tinfoil. I love them so, so much.

And then I got back into gigging (have you worked out that thematically this blog post is about my life in order of the gigs I’ve done, otherwise known as… chronological order?), and I have very little record of gigs twenty-two and twenty-three, but I think they were pretty good.

Gig twenty-three happened right as a close friend of mine was having a very hard time, and the following night she and I went following hints that a secret show was happening in Camden. Not much was happening when we checked it out, though, so we went to a couple of bars instead. After a few drinks we parted ways and my friend when home to sleep. I was hyped up, though, and all the more so when I saw online that the secret show we’d gone to check out was happening and they were letting everyone in. It was the Libertines, who are almost definitely my favourite band, and whom I’ve loved intensely for over ten years now. It was one-something in the morning and I was able to walk twenty minutes and find myself in the tiny back room of a pub watching a band who were broken up for the majority of the time I’ve loved them. It was shambolic. It was perfect. I really still can’t believe it happened.

A few weeks later was one of the busiest weeks I’ve ever had in my life. I think I worked more days than normal, certainly only had one day off at a time, and had plans literally every single night. Mostly comedy shows. One film screening. One DJ set. And it was during this overwhelming week that I did my twenty-fourth gig.

My twenty-fourth gig was particularly noteworthy because it was hosted by Bec Hill, who is a friend of mine but also one of my very favourite comedians. She’s superb. When we met I told her I was new to doing comedy and we discussed how we both sometimes gigged at Freedom Fridge (Thursdays at Rose & Crown Kentish Town, one of my favourite gigs to do), but to have someone I admired so much actually see me do comedy was a ridiculous and terrifying concept.

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That was my best gig to that point.

So of course the next couple of gigs were pretty good – I’ve been feeling increasingly confident about what I’m doing, which (I suppose) is how it works. Gig #26 also took place during an overwhelmingly busy week (I swear my desire to do things all the time is going to kill me; I’ve had various incarnations of cold/flu symptoms since the week of gig #24), and the night after that one was my early birthday party!!!

This was my first attempt to celebrate my birthday properly since living here, and even still I left it too late to make any real go of it. My friend Kate and a couple of my lovely coworkers came for drinks at Aces & Eights, and then Kate and I rushed off (we did invite the others along) to the Phoenix for another edition of the aforementioned Friday I’m In Love. When we got there, my friend Ella who takes tickets on the door (seriously, I’ve run out of adjectives!!! there would be such a positive one for Ella because she deserves all things that are good!!!!) presented me with a glowing crown headband. I was wearing a corset (really), and looked fuckin’ good (really really), and once my friend Andrew (unexpectedly there to perform a song) helpfully tightened it to its correct point, I’d more or less lost the ability to breathe.

Now, imagine barely being able to breathe (but I looked divine) and then having this happen: I was sitting in Ella’s chair by the door when two men in suits walked in. I glanced at them, and I had a brief moment of trying to place where I knew one of them from when…

“Hello Carl,” I said to Carlos Barât. “I am a massive fan of yours.”
Remember that thing about how the Libertines are my favourite band ever?
Plus the thing I glazed over about two weeks earlier when I’d gone to a DJ set, and he was the one who was DJing?
Aaaaanyway.

He complimented my hair. His friend pointed my Bowie tattoo out to him. I guarded their beers (“with your life!” / “of course!”). Kate and I chatted with them out in the street for ages before heading home. Carl was admiring my Bowie tattoo again until he got distracted by my accent and asked me about myself. He wished me a happy early birthday. I told him I’d been at the secret late-night gig the previous month. Kate and I told him how much we love the new Libertines album, and he seemed taken aback. It was incomprehensible. It was perfect.

Oh, and he climbed up on a windowsill for my photo with him so he wouldn’t look short. And when we looked at the first one (feat.probably my most ridiculously authentic smile ever captured on camera) he didn’t like his face so he insisted we take another one.

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Sometimes people are even better than you hope they’ll be.

But. I mean. It’s not like I… ever… freak out about things.
Ever.
Nope.
Super cool always.

The next morning I flew to Vancouver to surprise-visit my brother Chris and my sister-in-law Jenny, and normal-visit Mom and Dad who were the only ones who they were expecting to have visit. This was orchestrated by Mom, who loves to do that (twice! twice she’s sprung surprise-visits on me!). I mean. They know how Mom works, plus Chris had seen my freaking out (shut up) about the previous night’s events on Facebook so knew I celebrated my birthday early, but. I don’t think they minded.

I got to Vancouver and took the Skytrain from the airport, then dragged my suitcase from the station. Mom and I had planned it so that once I was in the general vicinity I would phone her, and she’d come to meet me. The way it actually went was this: I got to the street where Chris and Jenny live. As I turned the corner I tried to phone Mom. No answer. I tried again. No answer. So then I had to try Chris and Jenny. I’m terrible at lying, but I figured I could frame it as phoning them because I knew they were all together. Once I managed to get through to them Mom quickly grabbed the phone and wandered off. I told her approximately where I was, and she proceeded to walk the wrong direction. I was trying to hide around the corner, but Chris, Jenny, and Dad walked out of the liquor store (a strangely fitting meeting spot) to try to find Mom, and Chris declared “There’s Leslie!” I saw him pointing at me and knew I’d been caught. So then we ran at each other in slow motion and hugged and it was stellar. There was a rainbow in the sky. (No, there actually was.)

And so the next week was spent around my entire family, all of us together in the same place for the first time since Mom arranged it so Chris and Jenny would surprise-visit on my first trip home in July 2013. It was the best. I turned 29 in Vancouver, on a quiet but lovely birthday (we looked at ducks n’ other water birds! we played with puppets! we drank beers! we took a water taxi! Jenny painted my nails for me!), and it was all really, really good.

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And of course it was hard to say goodbye at the end of our trip, because it always is. It always will be. I’m very fortunate to have the family I have, and I like that we’re all sort of doing our own thing and our reunions are always excellent.

So then I was back in London. Again, not complaining. Dream city. I spent the flight home watching Rocky Horror Picture Show (I mean, not the entire flight, but that was by far the best part) and planning out what to do with my hair. Y’know, like you do.

So then, a few days after getting back, I got it cut.

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Hello.

And I did a gig the night of the day when I got my hair cut, the day I dyed it, the day when I ended up taking an Uber to Dalston because my time management is never great and I really, really needed different-looking hair. (That was gig #27, for anyone keeping score.)

(That photo isn’t, though. That photo is from after gig #30.)

Then Halloween rolled around, and because I had to work I was up at 6 painting myself grey. I wanted to look like I was monochrome. It didn’t really work. Then in the evening Kate n’ I headed to Clacton, where my stupendous (ooh, that’s a good one!) friend Lisa lives, because it was her fancy dress (that’s what we say here) birthday party.

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Greyscale-ish.

Gigs #29 and #30 (the one that photo up there’s from directly after!) happened on the first and second weeks of November, and both were quite good.

And then.

And then my best friend came to visit!!!!!

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It was really, really, really good to have Nidal here for about eight days, and although I had to work four of those days I really couldn’t complain. She was here when I finished work. She came into my work to hang out. We drank lots of beers early in the week (less beers as the week advanced on and she caught a cold around the same time my consta-cold hit me hard again). We went to some amazing shows. It was all excellent, and unbelievably comforting to have someone around who’s so incredibly used to me. (I had moments, of course, of my weird oft-nagging worry about just how much I’ve changed since living here and the existential angst that the exceptional Alice in Wonderland exhibition dragged up to the surface didn’t really help much, but that was kind of cathartic, too. The grand majority of that was due to other problems that have since been addressed, anyway, so all is good. All is good, blog-reading folk!)

And there wasn’t any spare time left for me to do a gig when she was here. She’ll see me one day.

However, we did get a chance to go to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour and it was the greatest thing that’s ever existed or ever will.

… hyperbole? Nope.

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And hey, it’s almost Christmas so I’ll see Nidal again soon, and my parents, and so many others! 

Last Thursday I did my thirty-first gig (hosted, once again, by Bec), and it may have been my very best one yet. I spent about six-and-a-half hours the night before painting signs, and I don’t regret it for a second. Things are really starting to come together, I think. I’m very excited.

I set actual goals for myself, comedy-wise, when I was in Edinburgh in August. I want to have done over one hundred gigs by next time I visit Edinburgh (meaning August 2016), and I want to do a show (at least sharing an hour) by the following year (August 2017). This works out well anyway: I’m turning thirty next October, which is absolutely terrifying, so heck, why not jump straight in?

Let’s do this thing, dudes.

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