Adam Hills, King’s Theatre, 20th March 2016

So Glasgow has a comedy festival every year that I haven’t really ever taken advantage of. I watch stand-up shows a lot on tv, but haven’t really seen many live. Bill Bailey a good few years ago. Simon Amstell last year. I think that’s it.

I hadn’t actually looked into the programme this year, but I’ve been a fan of Adam Hills since I saw him on Mock the Week in about 2008 or 2009 I think, then followed his Last Leg programmes since the 2012 Paralympics. I didn’t even know he did much stand-up these days, but when I saw a Glasgow date as part of his tour / the Comedy Festival I thought it was about time I got out and experienced live comedy again.

The evening didn’t start well when I completely failed to find the car park nearest the theatre, ended up back on the motorway and had to wind my way back through A GAZILLION traffic lights to find another place to park, then leg it the whole way along Sauchiehall Street.  The ticket said it was a 7.30pm start, with a support act, so I figured it would be ok if I was a tiny bit late.  I got there bang on 7.30pm, rushed into my seat and Adam Hills appeared on the stage a moment later.  I thought he might be introducing the support, but it turned out there was no support and the show was starting.

Well I say the show was starting. I’m not sure the show ever started. Hills does a fair amount of audience interaction, invites contributions and plays around with that for a while at the beginning of his shows.  The Glasgow crowd were so involved, inspiring Hills to run away with himself and tell stories about previous visits to Glasgow, experiences of the Edinburgh festival, none of which seemed to be planned, but were hilarious none the less.  He kept saying, in fits of laughter, “the show hasn’t even started yet!” and trying to get going, but another comment would inspire another anecdote or story or joke and it would take off from there.

My favourite was the 71 year old lady in the front row, whose 67 year old self-proclaimed “toy boy” shared his home-made viagra alternative, to which she spryly started climbing on to the stage to whisper in Adam Hills ear, “and he’s a minister too!”. Hills almost ended himself, I thought he was going to hand her the mic to drop, and exit stage left as nothing could top that. She is my new hero, I want to be exactly her when I’m 71. Even better, I discovered afterwards they are both on Twitter. Heroes.

I’ve seen a few interviews with Adam Hills where they describe him as “the nicest man in comedy”. He can certainly claim that title based on last night, when he presented a group who had travelled all the way from Dingwall with a bottle of Prosecco for their efforts, checked that a couple who had tweeted about almost missing the show had actually made it, and checked that the wheelchair users in the restricted view area could see the screen before he played a video.  It was all sincere, genuine and somehow also funny. Especially him trying to establish where the hell Dingwall was and why for them it was a toss-up between his show and an open-top bus parade.

Crap photo but I didn’t want to hold my phone up during the show, tried to sneak a quick shot just as he returned after the interval

In the second half, after a good amount of time reading out audience tweets, which led to more stories, he was finally able to get on with the show proper.  That’s not to say all that preceded this wasn’t funny, it most definitely was. He is sharp and quick to respond to comments, is a natural story-teller, engages the audience even when addressing a particular person and he never let any of the contributors/hecklers dominate or take him off his topic too much. Each story was kind of related in a way that still made sense, or made a point. I genuinely smiled the whole way through, laughed out loud frequently and had tears running down my cheek on more than one occasion.

I hope he hadn’t prepared hours of scripted material because it seemed like he only got to perform a fraction of it, but what he did fit in was brilliant, well observed, energetic and at times edgy.

Anything that referenced The Last Leg got rapturous applause, I hadn’t realised it had gotten so mainstream. However we also managed to create a new catch-phrase, so that’s an acheivement.

At the end, which I won’t go into in case you see the show (and you should) he explained that at each show he collects for a local charity, and would be out in the foyer with a bucket in case anyone wanted to donate or say hello. Unfortunately the theatre staff tried to usher us all out the side exits, so a lot of people drifted away into the night without being able to donate. I sidled my way round the back, got shoved out a different side exit, but found a bunch of folk who were trying to get back in the front.  Turned out there was quite a crowd gathered trying to get back in, so I joined them.  It also turned out that Hills was meeting and greeting everyone, posing for photos etc.  So we waited patiently.


When it was my turn I asked him to sign my ticket (message is a reference to the finale of the show) and I managed to have a quick chat with him about disability jokes.  I explained where I worked (a university disability service, which he seemed genuinely interested in) and that were are being moved into an open-plan office with other teams, one of our first reactions was “shit, we won’t be able to make disability jokes any more!” Of course we don’t joke in a nasty way, but it’s that gallows humour thing, when you deal with a serious topic every day you have to have some kind of outlet. He said he understood, and that people would be shocked at some of the things they come out with in the Last Leg office. So I thanked him for making disability jokes ok.  He posed for a photo (again, the bathrobe  is due to the finale) and I shook his hand.  He thanked me for coming and waiting, I thought, no thank you for spending ages in a draughty foyer dressed only in a bathrobe, thousands of miles from home. He was so nice and sweet and awesome.

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I have GOT to get a better photo face

So it was a chaotic, crazy, hilarious night, I couldn’t even recount what half of the show was about, but if you get the chance to see him live, please do, it is bound to be an experience, and an extraordinarily good one at that.

Diet *shudder*

Ugh. I’m on some kind of diet. Not any specific, named, comes-with-its-own-book/meetings/products kind of diet. But I am trying to eat healthier with the aim of losing weight. Not a lot of weight, but a bit.  This displeases me.

I’ve never had to worry about my weight. Firstly, I’ve never really cared about the actual numerical value of my weight, nor have I ever desired to be model-thin.  Frankly I think I realised quite quickly the reality of my situation, given my natural born build and family traits I would have been sorely disappointed had I tried to get myself looking like Twiggy.  But having been brought up on a fairly healthy diet – home grown veg, home cooked meals etc – and having a life-long interest in physical activity and exercise, things kind of took care of themselves.  I was never skinny, but I always maintained a healthy weight and body shape without having to put much effort into it.

Then I got pregnant.  While the healthy eating continued, my main form of exercise had to stop.  Well, it is possible to continue to train in martial arts whilst pregnant, with modified techniques, but I chose not to.  I still walked a lot, partly for my work which involved visiting advocacy clients all over the Greater Glasgow area, partly for pleasure.  Of course I put on weight in pregnancy, but not excessively so, and it didn’t bother me.

When I was off on maternity leave I walked for miles, pushing the pram, carrying baby and shopping etc.  I had put on the best part of 4 stone while pregnant, and was soon left with only 1 extra stone.  Again, I wasn’t fussed, I figured I’d lose it eventually, I certainly didn’t want to put myself on any punishing regime so soon.  I’m going to be honest with the figures here, I don’t care – I had been 9 stone before, and was nearing 10 stone after.  OK, I’m around 5 ft 3in so I’m definitely happier around 9 stone, but 10 isn’t exactly obese.

So time went on and before I knew it I was back at work, a year has passed and I was rushing around working, looking after baby / toddler etc.  I saw that my weight had started to drop.  I didn’t monitor it particularly closely but I was happy enough. Then I lost my job, fortunately before too long I got another one, but the dual problem of a few weeks (months?) of comfort eating and consoling ourselves with cakes and biscuits while going through a redundancy process at work, then moving to a much more desk-based job and I found my trousers were getting a bit tighter. Craparoonie.

I have to face the truth, that without a concerted effort on my part my weight is in danger of creeping up above 10 stone, onwards to 11 stone and beyond.  That I am determined to avoid. Much as it pains me to say, I am going to have to go on a diet.

Never in my life have I gone on a diet.  I have scoffed at those who do, ridiculed people who try diet after fad after miracle cure only to punish themselves when they don’t see instant results.  I don’t want to be one of those people who refuses a biscuit when having a cup of tea with someone, uttering the abominable words, “oh, not for me, thanks, I’m on a diet”. I would sooner chop a limb off. Hey, there’s a solution.

But in all seriousness, I am still not bothered by the actual reading on the scales.  What I am bothered about is that I am a classic “apple” shape – my weight is concentrated around my middle, and not all of the fat is visible on the surface, lots of it is clinging around my vital organs. Visceral fat they call it, and it is just as pleasant as it sounds.  That is the kind of body type that is prone to all manner of diseases and internal problems.  So that is a major incentive to do something about shifting it.  That and not wanting to buy a whole new wardrobe of larger sized trousers.

So here goes, I’ll refuse the biscuits, make sure my office is full of fruit, use the child’s plate for portion control, try to squeeze in some exercise and all the while try to avoid actually using the d-word.

Sport vs Music

I’d been thinking about this for a while, triggered by watching the Olympics but a conversation with a friend today made me really want to get it out.

We’ve been following the Olympics religiously.  The fact that it is in our own country adds an element of extra interest, but I am interested every time, regardless of where it is held.

As we watched the various events, from gymnastics to weightlifting, I often remarked to my husband about how I had tried X sport, competed in Y sport and knew a fair about about Z sport.  It got me thinking to how lucky I had been to have the opportunity to try various sports but then I wondered why I had never pursued any to any significant level.

In Primary School I always enjoyed gym.  My friend and I came to a “keep fit” class in the evenings, a kind of 80s aerobics class.  Well it was the 80s so that isn’t an analogy.  Imagine a room full of people in fluorescent lycra and large sweatbands and you’ve got the picture.  The gym teacher started up a badminton club and a netball club.  I joined both.  But then I think I just liked joining things.  I also took up the recorder, then trumpet and joined the school band.  I even tried out for the school choir even though I’m a pretty terrible singer.  Despite our school being in the middle of a Dundee housing scheme, we had a debating team.  I joined that too.  Herein lies the root of my problem.  I have always been interested in everything, and had an insatiable thirst to try everything.

I stuck with the recorder and trumpet lessons, competed in a couple of debates, although always against Secondary Schools because no other Primary School in Dundee had a debate team. I don’t remember doing anything much with the badminton team, but the netball team was part of a city schools league, so every week we trooped out and were thrashed by school after school.  We were keen, but not very good.  I was a Goal Shooter because in the first practice session I scored 2 goals.  It stuck.  Looking back I don’t think our coach really had her heart in it.  A couple of times in the competitive matches I scored a goal (is that even the right term?  It’s been a long time.) and we celebrated like we’d won a championship.  We were bottom of the league every year.  But I enjoyed it, it was my first taste of the camaraderie of a team, the excitement before the match, I loved learning about tactics and stats.  I enjoyed practice and games, even when we lost.

On to secondary school and I continued to enjoy PE lessons. There were more clubs to join, I opted for gymnastics and volleyball.  I can’t remember what other options there were for girls, boys had football and rugby, there was definitely water polo but I could barely swim and that just sounded like torture.  I was rubbish at gymnastics.  I suffered from a terrible fear of things going wrong, so I held back and was reluctant to try the more advanced moves.  I did it for about a year though and enjoyed the training.  I think I enjoyed learning more about how the body works, how to have fine control of all your movements and about balance and poise.  The volleyball team was more my style, I took part in inter-school competitions, although bearing in mind it was a small school and a small club I don’t think there was much competition for places in the team.  We did ok as a team, and again I enjoyed the training and competitions, but began to lack enthusiasm for the actual sport.  I knew I was only doing volleyball because that was all that was on offer, but I would have much rather been doing something else.

I also carried on my musical interests to Secondary School, I continued the trumpet and took up drums and percussion.  No debate team here, but I did manage to sign up for the school show (Sweeny Todd), the Amnesty International group, the school newspaper and the student council at various points.  I just couldn’t stop joining things.

When the time came for athletics season in PE I was really looking forward to it.  We hadn’t done anything like this at Primary School and I loved watching athletics on tv so I threw myself into running and jumping with all my might.  Unfortunately my short stature (I’m 5ft 3in now, probably less then) meant that I was never destined for a future in jumping, despite the best efforts of one PE teacher who repeatedly made me attempt a high jump with me protesting that I was only going to run into the damn thing and knock it over again and again. Yep, still rankles.  But somewhat to my surprise I was good at running.  Only short distances, mind, 100m was my thing, but I did well enough in my school to compete a couple of times at the Dundee Schools meets. I didn’t win any of those races, but then again we turned up and found people who had proper kit.  We felt like the hillbillies from way out yonder.  We found out that other schools had organised extra training and had done fundraising for spikes and starters blocks.  We just turned up in our regular t-shirts and short and ran.  But those events were thrilling occasions, the sight of all these people warming up, running and jumping hither and thither, all the different team colours and the sound of the starters gun.  I was invited to train with the local athletics club, the Hawkhill Harriers but my mum said no.  Not sure why, maybe because she was already ferrying me to various band/orchestra rehearsals, maybe she anticipated more cost, maybe she thought it was going to be a passing fad, she mentioned something about the fact that I had asthma would mean that I couldn’t compete in sports, but that may have just been an excuse. She also said I couldn’t take up karate, but I think that was more out of fear of me breaking a limb.  Anyway, I was disappointed, but it wasn’t like I didn’t have enough other activities to keep me occupied.

So by the time I was in 3rd year at school, aged 14-15, PE was no longer compulsory.  I was trying to focus more on studying and something had to give.  It came down to a choice between sport and music.  I felt I could continue with the school paper etc because that was something I was genuinely interested in as a career.  Much as I loved sport I loved music more.  The music department had become like a 2nd home to me, whereas the PE dept wasn’t interested if I wasn’t going to study it as a subject.  I had also experienced some bullying and intimidation in the volleyball team, but the bands and orchestras were where I found my group of friends.  Added to that my sports teams were all segregated, but the band was mixed, so as a 14 year old this was a big factor.  However by this time I knew I was never going to make it as a sportsperson.  It’s not that I lacked the ambition or dedication, I could just never decide what to dedicate myself to.  I dabbled in a wide range of sports and moved from one to the other, never settling. When I did find a slight talent for sprinting I wasn’t permitted to take it to the next level.

So I focussed on music.  I eventually gave up the trumpet, but continued with drums and percussion and a bit of keyboard.  I studied music to Standard Grade and Higher level.  Our band did well, we won competitions and performed at various city events.  I was still active, I walked a lot and cycled everywhere as a means of transport.  I watched Athletics events on TV with some knowledge of the activities which added to my enjoyment.  And I watched the Olympics.

When I started uni the first thing I checked was what clubs I could join. Old habits die hard.   To my delight there was a range of martial arts on offer.  No mother to stop me here, I signed up for Shorinji Kempo.  Following tradition I also joined the Student Paper and the Amnesty group.  Oh and I studied some politics too. I thought about seeking out a band to join, but lacking my own instruments was a bit of a hindrance, and I was having too much fun rediscovering my love of sport.  Albeit a non-traditional sport.

So after 10 years of training in Shorinji Kempo, and some recreational cycling, a break to have a baby followed by 3 years of walking as my only exercise I find myself sitting in front of the telly watching hours of Olympic coverage and reminiscing about my time as a netball player, badminton player, gymnast, volleyball player, runner and martial artist.  I like the added insight it gives me into the sports. I feel some kind of connection with the competitors even though my involvement was little more that just above the basic entry level. I will always be interested in sport and watching others compete.  I realise I would never have made it as a professional, but I’m glad I had the chance to try and explore what was out there.  I undoubtedly learned skills that benefited me in numerous ways even after I stopped training.

I would never have made it as a professional musician either, but at least that is something I can keep as a hobby and dabble in now and again.  You can’t exactly just dabble in running 100m as fast as you can or volleying a ball now and then. However the whole Olympics thing is making me restless.  I want to do something more active than walking again.  I have very little time in which to do this, between working and raising a small child. I don’t want to go back to Kempo.  I don’t want to do any of the sports I previously did.  My inherently restless nature is urging me to try something new.  I would dearly love to take up a team sport again but couldn’t commit the time and there are few clubs out there desperate for a 33 year old short stalky woman.  I could dust off my old bike and get cycling again.  Or I might try swimming.  I was never that keen when I was younger, and my eczema really does prevent me sometimes, but occasionally when I was injured and unable to train in Kempo I would swim to aid recovery and ended up enjoying it.  However I never continued once I had recovered.  No equipment required.  Relatively cheap.  Easily accessible.  Available all weathers.  Yes, I’m going to be a swimmer next!