Friday, 14 September 2012

Dying with dignity

I'm sitting in Pret A Manger on The Strand writing this before I attempt a lunchtime show on the cobbles of Covent Garden. I'm looking over at a man using a band new macbook air. He doesn't look like your typical Mac user and I'm heartened by this. Oh no, hang on a minute, there's that inevitable air of smugness as he eyes my newly refurbished 10 year old concrete slab of a computer made by German Industry Computers. I wonder if the company are aware that they were buying into the British Sun readers stereotype with the anacronym GERICOM, but I digress. It's not that I'm jeaulous, well actually I am. I'm jealous not because I could never afford a Mac in a million years, but it's mainly because he won't have to incur osteopath bills that I will just by carrying the thing around. Oh god, now there's an iphone user next to me. I'm proudly placing my Samsung on the table as if we're playing some bizarre game of smartphone poker. I'll see your iphone 4 and raise you a Galaxy Android. Yes, I long for my light and sleek Windows workbook. As someone in the arts and entertainment I know I'm supposed to have a Macbook but I confess that I've never bought into the whole Mac are the best thing since the wheel thing. There is no logic to this extreme position, it's just that I'm bloody minded and so stick to PCs and Android phones, even though it means hours spent doing software installations  followed by even more hours trying get rid of it all when the machine slows down to a snails pace. No, I've always done it this way, so that's how it's going to be. I've inherited this from my dad as well as the clunky old laptop.

An informal business meeting has just broken up on my other side. I always find it strange when I see such things in coffee bars, I mean, it's such a public place, isn't it all a bit too casual for such important decisions? I'm always tempted to barge in and say, "Can I join in. I turned up at the right place on time didn't I?", but I don't. Grisel and I have a habit of bursting into spontaneous production meetings for howhow in our Kitchen, or when lying in bed so I guess there's no difference really. We had one such impromptu meeting last night at the dinner table, which, on refection, was a bit inappropriate because we did have guests. To be honest it was more me than Grisel, in fact she was trying to steer the conversation away from our business, but I was having non of it. I hadn't had the opportunity to hold court like this for a while so I took the opportunity with relish. She puts up with a lot.

Truth is I needed a drink. I was getting quite a head of steam yesterday afternoon putting all sorts of fun buttons and widgets on my website but had to tear myself away to go to do an evening show in Covent Garden. It was so bad that I didn't even finish the show and the five bemused non English speaking onlookers didn't seem to care on way or the other. I was annoyed more than anything that I'd wasted my time coming in in the first place, but I managed to die with dignity. It reminded me of just how hard busking can be. It can bring out the best and the worst in a performer. It's a game of extremes, and it shapes our psyche to a certain degree. It either humbles you, or makes you think the world owes you something. As I witnessed the act before me, who had every juggling prop in the business, two tall unicycles and an arsenal of funny lines, go through half a dozen audiences in the space of half an hour I knew that I was on a hiding to nothing. One of the performers did manage to complain that they didn't get any folding money in the hat. As I looked out over the piazza, the solitude broken only by three groups of bored teenagers on day trips I wondered what sort of contract he'd signed. Me, I was just going to ask for donations. Yes, it's tough. Eddie Izzard once famously said that stand up was easy in comparison to hitting the cobble stones with a bag of props. It's certainly easier to write this. Oh, I say, two community policemen have just stormed into the cafe to make an arrest, how exciting. Oh no... hang on... they're just chatting to friends. Oh well The Piazza awaits.

Mike Raffone is the co founder of the production company howhow along with his fiancĂ© Grisel Tarifa. They hope to open a new performance club The Royal National Theatre of Fools in Peckham in the winter.  It will be dedicated to the clown, the absurd and the eccentric. Mike is also busy writing his one man show, Clowns, Coulrophobia and Me for the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe. Go to for more info.

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