I am not a charlatan, and yet, as I get older, I find myself behaving in ways that one would normally associate with charlatanism. A friend of mine deems this a sign of that heroic stance of individualism, eccentricity, but, for better or worse, I am no Quentin Crisp. My life isn’t led by a strong sense of my own underlying principles.
Instead, I am savagely collared and dragged through life by my hounding need to process and promote my every idea; hoping that in praxis, I will discover why I needed to explore that idea in the first place. Although, looking back, I don’t think I’ve ever had such revelation.
I have very few earthly possessions. I don’t own a house, I can’t drive, I have never contributed to a pension scheme or insurance fund, and at present, I owe more than I own. However, I’m a stickler for quality materials and I will spare no expense when it comes to items I use on a daily basis i.e. bed linen, make-up, notebooks, towels, tea-pots, talc. My belief being that if I have to look at it every day, it better be bloody nice.
Earlier this year, I chanced upon a Radio Comedy competition, and decided, having never written anything for radio before, to enter. So, I returned to bed that afternoon with a mug of sweet tea and my laptop, rattled off the first three comedy sketches that came into my head, and entered. I have found that by entering as many of these creative competitions as possible, I have stopped caring whether I get through or not, and most of the time I’m just happy that I was able to pull myself together and enter something which I believe to be of some seminal worth.
A week later I got my reply. They liked one of my ideas and wanted to send me on an all expenses paid trip to Edinburgh, where I would learn to develop my idea for a radio comedy before pitching it to a panel of executives from one of the most progressive radio stations in the UK. Good times? Absolutely.
So, I decided to do a little research on radio comedy and drama. Truth be known, I never ever listen to the radio, and I had never at that point heard any sort of radio fiction. I sped my way through snippets of Danny Robbins Investigates (brilliant), The League of Gentleman (genius) and a few Prunella Scales shows (hmmmm…), learning absolutely nothing in the process, and finding the whole experience of sitting down to actively listen to the radio, a really fidgety one which left me so restless I ended up doing house-work. There is clearly a good reason why I don’t listen to the radio.
A few days before I was due to leave for Edinburgh, I had the dual pleasure of both of my ex-girlfriends coming to stay with me in the one week. No, not at the same time, but oddly enough, there was a gap of four hours between the time the first one left and the second ex entered – roughly the length of time it took me to move from one to the other in the first place. I have remained close friends with both of my long-term ex’s. Has this something to do with the guilt I feel for hurting both of them? Possibly. But, nonetheless, both are still very much a part of my life, much to the disdain of each other. I’ve always gone for dominant women, women who like to take over everything and to be the centre of attention. Women who need so much from me, that I finally get a break from dealing with my own head, because I’m too busy dealing with theirs. And although I don’t see either of them as much now, when I’m in their company, they still have that deadlock vice grip on me, which means that by the time either of them leave, I’m a snivelling shell of my former self, who has to take to bed for a few days to recover. Having both of them visit me in the same week was a strange twist of fate, which meant that on the day I was due to arrive in Edinburgh to engage in the birth of my burgeoning career in radio comedy, I was laid up in bed with, what I can only describe as, absolute brain-drain.
Every hour that passed winded me like an unexpected punch to the gut, while I lay prostrate and ashen-faced in front of Richard & Judy’s sympathetic grins. Staring at the all-expenses-paid train ticket in my hand, I regressed to childlike self-pity, wondering whether exgirlfrienditis, the head-fuck flu or emotional exhaustion qualify as valid illnesses. I don’t see why not. We’re always so quick to dismiss illnesses of the mind, when most of the time, these are of the most painful and dangerous kind.
So, I conjured up a plan, which would involve pilfering through my reserve of little white lies – which I fastidiously try to use only in matters of emergency, in order to tell the organisers that I couldn’t make it because I had broken my elbow. Yes, you read it right. Like a hell-bent child who blames his imaginary friend for drawing satanic images on church pews, I lied about breaking my elbow. Justifying this little white lie in my head, I used the model of the time space continuum, where time and space blend into each other so gradually and seamlessly that it becomes impossible to say where one ends and the other begins, and harkened back to six months ago when I did, in fact, break my elbow, following a catastrophic trip to an ice-rink in Tralee. Therefore, in the grand scheme of things, I wasn’t exactly lying….was I? With the voices of sincere well wishers in Scotland ringing guiltily in my ears, I returned to my cave and bear-like, hibernated for the remainder of the week.
When I eventually woke up, I was surprised to find a voice message on my machine from the Radio Comedy producers who still really liked my idea and felt sorry that I had missed my opportunity because of circumstances beyond my control. Oh, the guilt. Therefore, they had arranged for me to pitch my idea in London the following week. Good times? Absolutely. But, then there was the matter of the broken elbow. The worst thing about a little white lie is that once you let it out of its cage, there’s no getting rid of it. So I did what any self-respecting opportunist would do, I purchased a roll of Plaster of Paris from the local chemist and spent the morning of my meeting applying layer after layer until my left arm was encased in rock hard white lies.
Not going to Edinburgh ended up being a blessing in disguise for me, because instead of having to suffer serious doubt-inducing analysis from professional comedy writers before nervously pitching my idea to a panel of five, I bypassed the intimidating scariness of the whole event and ended up having a one to one with the all-powerful Radio Station Controller, at the mothership, no less. Apparently, these meetings are few and far between, so that’s one up for the little white lie.
Trying to get the bloody thing off that night was another matter though, especially as I had neglected to leave any space between my skin and the plaster. And it wouldn’t have been so bad if my Gallic inheritance hadn’t left me with a shock of heavy-duty arm-hair.
My hairless left arm now looks so strange that I sometimes jump with fright when I look down to find a pale alien arm snaking its way across the things I hold near and dear; bed linen, make-up, notebooks, towels, tea-pots, talc…
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