Rituals. They make us who we are, they remind us that in a world where everything can change in a single second, and change back just as quickly that we're still who we think we are. From paying taxes (if you're self employed) through to Weddinbgs, Stag and Hen Parties, even through to your morning poo and a cup of coffee (not always in that order) They remind us that in the transience of life some things remain constant.
For me, first thing in the morning involves singing the Doctor Who Theme tune whilst doing an interpretive dance with jazz hands, getting a cup of tea, and a shower and then playing "Dance of the Knights" by Prokovief (AKA The Apprentice theme tune) as I sit down to my computer. It's at that point I know I'm ready to face the day.
You probably have a slightly different routine, maybe you have a wank to the Blake's 7 theme tune, I don't know, it's up to you you magnificent pervert you.
The paying tax thing is on my mind at the moment because it's that time of year. I got the best accountant in the world, she's called Ruth and we clicked because we're both similarly square pegs in round holes, the only difference being she's good at accountancy, and I'm terrible at it. It fills me with fear.
I'm good at the bit where I pick up my receipts, but that's about it. This was never more evident than about a month ago when we were scheduled to meet up to start this years ball rolling. When we first met she said that she wanted to do accounts for comedians and arty people because they're usually terrible at it, and that was her ideal client, "The sort who turns up crying holding a bin bag full of receipts" was her description.
At our meeting a month ago, I did just that. Thousands of the buggers, some I know that they're definitely business related, some I'm not so sure of. Turns out I take people too literally, and this afternoon I've got to go and get them back off her and sort them out into months.
But in spite of the fact that it fills me with dread looking at those piles of receipts, and makes me think "I'm going to have fucked up somewhere, and I'll owe loads of tax and someone will come round to the house and take everything off me and send me to prison." (which I think is a healthy reaction to my accounts) I like paying tax.
You heard. I like paying tax. Paying taxes, like Fez's are cool. Ian McMillan the poet was on Desert Island Discs the other week and he said something that I loved, and then my dad repeated it back to me a few days later on the phone, confirming once again that the things I like best about myself are the things that my parents instilled in me.
What McMillan said was this "They've convinced us we don't like paying tax. I do, it's what sets us apart from the animals."
And I think he's right. I think paying tax is a wonderful thing, and I hope some day to be in the highest tax band, and I hope when that day comes that it's increased so that I can give more and make this country even better than it already is.
I see paying tax as a way of looking after other people, we pay money, the government then goes "Right these people here need money to make their lives better, to make the roads cleaner and safer and better maintained, to keep the parks looking beautiful, to educate children, to give them access to sport and to all the opportunities that life can throw at them. To protect the old and the ill and the disabled, to give them the help and respect and the lifestyle they deserve."
And then that money goes to do that, and I firmly believe, firmly believe, that the measure of any society is how we treat the least within that society, and that we should give them every opportunity afforded to the most in that society. Because people in poverty and in a shitty situation aren't happy, and when they aren't happy and can't see a way out act out. I'd rather pay money in tax to make sure that people aren't in a hopeless situation and end up turning to drugs and then crime, leading to my house and car getting broken into, than pay that money in increased insurance, because the only people who benefit from that system are the insurance companies, and the two people who lose out most are myself, and those who've turned to crime.
When palaeontologists and palaeo-anthropologists, discovered Australopithecine skeletons in Africa which they believe to be some of the earliest humans, they found one in particular which shows the thing which marks the difference between humans and animals, there was a skeleton there that showed clear signs of advanced hypervitaminosis, a condition that you can get when you eat the liver of a carnivore (Though Hannibal Lecter didn't appear to be suffering from it, maybe Fava Beans or Chianti counter act it, or maybe the census taker was vegan. Who knows?) and there are two things that were learned from this, the earliest humans had broken away from the other great apes by eating meat, but also that this particular early human had advanced stages of this disease when she died, which showed that someone had looked after her.
It's what we do, we help each other up when we fall over or eat something that disagrees with us, it's what makes us human. I see paying taxes as the logical extension of that.
Tax is cool, remember that when they're trying to cut your local library, or help for the elderly or disabled, or your school sports programmes.
By the way Michael Gove is a massive prick isn't he? First adopting a model that didn't work in Sweden, that leaves the system open for religious fundamentalist nutters to start their own schools, giving all schools academy status, and basically privatising education in this country, the thing that was a direct result of the industrial revolution and one of the things that should be completely free of market forces, one of the most important things in the world and he's fucking it up.
Now taking away school sports programmes, which work, which work out at a cost of £10 per child who is now taking part in inter-school sporting activity, a programme which brought the number of children receiving the minimum 2 hours per week of exercise up from 25% to 95% and which is starting to have an effect on childhood obesity, obesity of course rapidly becoming the biggest health risk in the UK more dangerous than smoking and drinking. Of course I'm sure when McDonalds and Pepsi co. have finished working on health legislation we'l find that eating bread sugar and antibiotic leaden beef and washing it down with 3 times your RDA of sugar at each meal, is actually beneficial.
Essentially what I'm trying to say is that Michael Gove is the worst thing to happen to school kids since paedophilia. At least paedos only fuck a few kids, Gove appears to be trying to fuck an entire generation of them.
Back to rituals.
Part of the job that I do means that Friday and Saturday nights, more often than not I end up performing to Stag and Hen parties, most comedians with lofty ambitions hate this, my ambitions are still lofty, but I actually quite enjoy it. Partly because it reminds me that I'm not missing out on anything by staying sober and clean, but also because in spite of everything they're just a group of people who usually just want to have a good time. Occasionally though they'll throw you a curve ball.
A fortnight ago I was at a gig in Newcastle at Tiger Tiger, and nothing is more guaranteed to make you glad you don't drink or do drugs any more than standing on the corner of the Gate and the Bigg Market in Newcastle on a Saturday night.
It's like a Heironymous Bosch painting, the only thing missing from making this look like Danté's 7th circle of hell is Satan hovering in the sky chewing on the soul of Judas Escariot. However they'd not put the Christmas lights up when I was there, maybe that's what they've chosen this year. I think it'd be apt.
The first time I'd done that gig I was horrified. I'd arrived and parked up at about 7:10 in the evening, the gig started at 8pm so I was early enough. I'd got lost, even though the quickest route from my car to the gig was straight forward and turn left at the lights. In my defence I was distracted...
The first thing that I saw was a kid of about 21 staggering down the street shouting into a mobile phone, it was 7:15, but this was a 3:30am phone call. "I divvun't give a fuck aboot that, I'm gettin' a cab and comin' over. No! NO! NO! NO! Fuckin' NO! I divvun't care aboot what he said I fuckin' love you, I'm comin' over."
Wow, I've not seen that for years, not since I left Chorley. I took a wrong turn, and did a big loop to get back to where I was going, along the way I must have seen no less than 15 guys at different points coming out of side streets and zipping up their flies. They looked angry and had either been doing a fury-piss, or considering how many pubs and bars there are in the area where they could have had a wee, the only other thing could be a back street rape, or some sort of horrific combination of the two.
It was such a threatening and drunken atmosphere it was terrifying.
As I got round to the front of the club I saw Chris Brooker stood texting someone, and then out of the corner of my eye I saw two guys dragging a taxi driver out of his cab for a fight. I said "hi" to Chris, and we went to go inside and saw someone stood outside with a "Golf Sale" type sign that simply read: "Happy Hour 5-7 all drinks half price" and an arrow pointing inside.
It's safe to say that at this point I had a bad feeling about this.
As it turned out I needn't, once inside it was almost a different world. So I do like doing this particular gig, and two Saturdays ago there was a big stag party in. About 20 of them, and they went straight for the front two rows, which is always a bad sign, they're big in numbers and want to be part of the show, this could get rowdy. Other than them it was a pretty quiet gig, and stood at the back with Des Sharples and Tony Jameson we were looking at them and Des and Tony put bets on how long it would take before one of them would get up and stand behind the microphone and pretend to be a comic or sing, the industry standard for judging how big a disruption a certain party would be. Tony said Second break, Des said before the show started.
Des was right.
As it happened these guys were great fun, they were down from Edinburgh for the weekend, but the only really odd thing about them was that they had amongst them, a perfectly carved, life sized wooden penis.
I talked to them about it, the only use I could initially think for it would be useless, I mean, think of the splinters!
Then we got talking and I thought it's the perfect weapon to use. Seriously, who's going to go to the police with that?
"So what happened?"
"Well there was about 20 of them and they came at me and knocked me over the head with a piece of wood."
"Can you describe the weapon?"
"Well I thought it was about 6 and a half inches long, but they said it was 9 inches and it was shaped exactly like a penis."
No one's going to admit that they got beaten up using a wooden cock. Ahh the Wooden Cocks, the late night adult spin off from the Wooden Tops... I remember it well.
But even better is that if you went too far and killed someone with it would really fuck with forensics.
"Judging by the blood spatter, it's entirely analogous with blunt force trauma, and based on the indentations at the site of impact, the shape, the size, the imprint that looks like a vein in negative, I'd say we should have no problem finding this guy. We're looking for a sexually frustrated male, roughly 10 feet tall and circumcised."
I admired the honesty of this stag party, just 20 lads all out having a good time, they didn't want to annoy anyone else they just wanted a good time, and it was like they'd completely done away with subtlety or repression, and rather than deal with metaphors and subtext they'd gone: "What's a stag party about? Being male and manly, and what represents that? A cock. So let's take a cock with us and let the alpha male have it, and occasionally he might let us have it for a bit."
It was beautiful in its unashamed obviousness.
As I left I walked back out into the Bosch painting, Women dressed in rubber police outfits talking with real police men, girls with the gait of a giraffe on heels too steep for them waking down the street, and an Ogre with a cut to his head with blood pissing out of the gash. And when I say Ogre, this guy looked like what would happen if Lenny McLean ended up in Prison with Shrek and nine months later had a bum baby.
In the car on the way home on this particular evening with Des, though it might just have easily been any other comedian we did as people have always done since we first developed speech, since that Australopithecus who'd been taken care of had figured out how to ask for help, we did as humans have always done, we talked about the hunt, we chatted about what had happened, we told stories of past glories and failures, and about what we would do the next time.
Rituals. They make us who we are. They're important to us. In an every changing and volatile world they let us know that we're still who we think we are.