I think we all have a proclivity to feeling despondent. Everything being relative and all that. It might even be essential from time to time because it spurs us on to even greater heights?
Certainly, I am guilty of excessive worrying and anxiety. Always have been and even being aware of this ‘failing’ I have never managed to properly counter it.
I say this in context of it being late January and still heading in to a new year with hopes and verve. My anxiety of late has been heightened because I have just shelled out for our accommodation in Edinburgh for this year’s festival. Naturally, this creates genuine pressures. That I don’t have a venue yet? I have applied and I am waiting. What time slot? How big a venue and not to mention, what will I say for an hour and will it make people laugh? Not-to-mention, assuming there will be people in the audience at all…
But at least, these are genuine concerns and only heightened by the lack of circuit gigs and stage time to hone my comedy muscles and air new gear. On Thursday night then, after a five-hour drive, I opened a show in an Oakham pub. Not an easy slot but I took to the stage knowing that I needed to leap in to the unknown with new material. And then on to my next gig twenty miles further north in Grantham. In the car, I congratulated myself on the previous gig. Not as funny as I have been or can be – but I did not bail. I made a quick mental note on which bits worked, which bits needed work and how this would inform my next gig in 40 minutes time. Only I didn’t make it. The A1 was shut and I found myself in diversion hell. Driving on roads that were practically dirt tracks praying that the little triangles would come through for me. They didn’t and I had to turn around and head home to London – utterly desolate.
The next day (Friday), I got up late but still hadn’t recovered. An after-dinner speech beckoned in Swansea – a client who has booked me twice already in the last 12 months and any flattery in this is always outweighed by the anxiety in knowing that not everyone will be pleased to see me again.
I looked at the map and just couldn’t face the drive. It was Friday. No one can drive 200 miles anywhere on a Friday without losing their mind.
So, at Paddington Station with my ticket in hand I boarded a train that might has well have been the 4.40 out of New Delhi. You know the trains where people are hanging off the sides and sitting on the roof? An earlier cancellation meant that there were twice as many people as there were seats and my mood darkened.
I tried to soothe myself with wave upon wave of self-pity. A full ‘Why me?’ sorry fest. How could they shut the A1? It’s as if they knew that I needed that the Grantham gig, not for the paltry fee but for the half hour on stage. The bastards. So, unfair. And here I am, pulling in to Swindon and I might as well be a sardine…
But then I got the required punch on my nose.
An email from Debra to pass on some news of James Dunn. For those of you not familiar with my blog or THE BROTHERS TRUST, James is a young man suffering with the pernicious disease, EB. James was on TV with Tom recently in his quest to raise funds. The email explained that James’ skin cancer has returned and as result James has had his left arm removed at the elbow.
It was a chastening email. There is so much to admire about James but his fortitude and sunny demeanour stand out the most and are a lesson to us all.
This is a difficult post to write because I know that James will read it.
I know this because as well as updating me on his condition, the email also explained that my flurry of blog posts from America had kept James entertained (and distracted from his constant EB pain) – and this so heartening for me to know and reason enough to keep writing them. Thank you, James.
On reflection, as I have said before, it is completely normal to feel melancholic. That lows are necessary as a contrast to our highs. Indeed, without them, we wouldn’t be able to recognise and enjoy our highs?
But also keep in mind our tendency to wallow and keep self-pity at bay.
A challenge for us all but one worth winning.
The Brothers Trust is a great thing to have launched, so thank you to the people who have supported it thus far.
In the meantime, James’ campaign continues and people wishing to learn more can do so at www.debra.org.uk