Trail Blazer of the Bloody Obvious

I had a crafty Cadbury’s Crème Egg this week.

The trick with those wee lads is to not take too big a bite at first. Take too big a bite at first and the thing is half gone and you’ve only one good bite left, which is nowhere near enough. No. Take a little nibble off the top first. You get all the taste without expending too much of the product. That’s my tip for today. The rest of this post is filler.

No, wait, I’m kidding. It’s not filler, it’s top notch. Just wait and see.

Although you would be hard pressed to know at this juncture, this post is not really about Crème Eggs. In fact it’s about little discoveries I’m constantly making as I progress through my lift.

Little things that astound and amaze me. Little things that make me feel so smart and intuitive for having spotted them. Little things that everybody else completely knew about all along.

This week’s ‘little thing’ was about the Cadbury’s Crème Egg I inhaled earlier in the week. (No, I can’t take my own advice either). It’s a realisation I came to. It’s just this: The inside of a Cadbury’s Crème Egg tastes the same as the outside, it’s just a different texture. There, that’s it. I was chuffed at my discovery, my own personal uncovering of the truth, and then I realised that I’d just done it again. This is just obvious. Everybody knows this, Ken. At least everybody who cares enough to have ever actively thought about it. Which, frankly, reduced the initial number by quite a bit.

I get these little false epiphanies quite regularly. Like the time I was listening to the song ‘Lovely Day’ by Bill Withers on the radio one Saturday morning when, suddenly, out of nowhere, after listening to it on literally hundreds of occasions before, a blinding light dawned. The backing singers… they are singing the words ‘Lovely Day.’ I was amazed, stunned. I had always thought they were singing something like ‘Daad-ah-new, Daad-ah-new, Daad-ay-diddle and a daad ah new….’ I mean, how wrong can a person be? I ran out to inform the world but, guess what, the world already knew all about it.

Or there was ‘Jaws.’ One of my most favourite films in the whole wide world, seen when it first came out and when I was twelve. What years-of-age was I when I finally cottoned on to the fact that the white head that scarily pops out of the hole in the boat was actually Ben Gardner, the seasoned fisherman who had appeared in earlier dockside scenes? This particular case is especially notable because literally everybody who cared a whit knew this. Hell, in the movie, they even say, “That’s Ben Gardner’s boat,” but I still had to figure it out for myself, some years later, and be pleased at how observant I was.

Of course, I understand that many of you will read this (strike that, many of you won’t read this) and say to yourselves that you knew none of these things nor cared one whit about them. That last bit is the key. I cared about these things. Chocolate and Movies and Music are three of my big obsessions. Your thing might be Sports or Crufts or, I don’t know, Antiques Roadshow or something. Imagine something obvious in your favourite genre, something everyone knew, and then imagine yours truly coming along and figuring it out and being dead chuffed about it and telling everybody who would listen all about it. That’s what I’m talking about.

Some of the things I figure out all by myself are actually surprisingly good. Like how that King on St. Stephen’s Day did not, ‘last look out’ or how the ‘Immaculate Conception’ is probably not what you think it is (go ahead, look it up).

But mostly, as we know, I’m just a silly moo. Forgetting things, getting things wrong, generally messing up.

Truth be told, I kind of like it.

It’s fun.

Where's the Frequency, Kenneth?

How long is it since my car radio actually worked? I can’t really say. Mostly because I don’t know but, I must admit, even if I did know, I’d be embarrassed to say. It’s about eighteen months, something like that. There; I’ve said it and, yes, I’m embarrassed now.

It’s sort of wrong to say it doesn’t work. It works… after a fashion. But, again in fairness, it is a pretty goddamn useless fashion, the one my car radio works after.

If I sit in the car on my driveway, I can get one station on the radio. Lyric FM. Which is pretty okay because I enjoy a bit of Lyric FM. But, as soon as I start driving somewhere, this one signal starts to waver and fade until, quite quickly, there is nothing there at all.

Eighteen months without a car radio.

There are some entertainment options. The CD player works just fine so I run through my sizeable back catalogue of disks, endlessly replacing the wrong CD in the wrong case, and causing all kinds of confusion. The cable that connects my phone to the faulty radio also works and so I can have a podcast if I want. I generally save those for longer journeys because it’s hard to get into an intricate true-life murder when you’re only motoring down to Tesco. The podcast thing might sound like a saviour but it’s by no means perfect. The cable that links my phone to the radio is a dodgy enough yolk, or at least the connection to the phone is. It cuts in and out whenever you go over a bump in the road and has to be jiggled and generally encouraged with a combination of gentle exhortations and gratuitous swearing to get it back in action again.

This all begs a fairly obvious question.

Why don’t you get your car radio fixed, Ken or, indeed, why don’t you just get a new one?

There are three reasons for this. Two of them are reasonably straightforward and the third is not.



The first is that it is hard to find someone in my town to fix a car radio. Dave can do anything with a car and he does but he draws the line somewhere before in-car entertainment turns up. I’ve tried (a little… see Reason Three) to find someone who will take on the challenge but I haven’t succeeded and then, quite soon, I’ve given up.

Reason Two is that I secretly reckon that I will arrive at the solution to my car radio problem all by myself if I think about it for long enough. I have worked on it. I’ve taken out the unit and checked all the connections. Bear in mind it seems to work fine, it just won’t hold a radio signal. I’ve also replaced the aerial on the roof and I can tell you that I had high hopes that the solution lay there. But it didn’t. I’ve also tried to track the cabling from radio to aerial and that was a bloody waste of time as you can well imagine.

Reason Three is the doozy. I may have to lie on a couch to get into it. Notepad ready? Here goes.

I've figured this out over the years. I’m just not good at doing things for my own benefit. I put myself on the ‘long finger’ with practically everything. If I need a haircut, if there’s a film I would like to go and see, if there’s a pain in my head. I’ll get to it, all in good time, it’s just not a priority. There are other things to be seen-to, more important things to get done. The hair will just grow a bit longer, the movie will be on telly someday, the headache will wear off eventually. I prioritise others over myself and if that makes me sound like Saint Francis of Assisi or something, don’t worry, I’m not. I’m a regular git, just like you are, I’m just not my number one priority. There are reasons for this but, trust me, this couch ain’t big enough for all of that. Not right now anyway.

Besides, this is not such a bad thing in many ways. I’m a handy guy to know. I’ll help you out, if I can, or at least I’ll try to. Plus it’s a good feeling, prioritising other people. It’s not all bad.

But I do think I need to redress the balance a little. Towards myself. And this is not a new thought, not by any means. I’ve been grappling with this particular teddy-bear for years now. I think I’ve got better at it too. These days, I have some ability to say no to things that are asked of me, if I don’t feel I can manage them. That wasn’t always the case. But I’m not quite where I should be, I think. How do I know? Well, for starters, my car radio hasn’t worked right in a year-and-a-half. That says something, right?

And if it were just me, I wouldn’t mind so much. But sometimes my lovely family are in the front line of this too. I’m not saying I neglect them. Quite the opposite, I would do anything for them at any time and that’s a given.

But think about it, Ken, they don’t get to enjoy any radio in the car either.

You should do something about that.

Bump it up the list a bit, at least.

Two Nights with a Tenor

It takes a day or two to sink in. We’ve done it. We’re done. A tiny trace of sadness lurks around the garden door. I don’t have to be at a rehearsal, there are no lights and sound to arrange, I don’t have to find a couch.

We’ve done it. 

We’re done.

And what a week it’s been. All the prep, all the energy, culminating in two wonderful nights with the warm, packed Linenhall audiences laughing and clapping us along. It couldn’t have gone better, in my eyes, and I know the cast feel the same. The word of mouth from a home audience after a play is almost invariably kind, this is a given, but you come to know when someone is being diplomatic and thoughtful and when they really had an enjoyable time. The people at our play had a good time, I can tell, and that makes me happy.

I love the hour before the play goes on, particularly for the first time, as it did on Wednesday evening. For me, it’s like a big ship getting ready to cast off from a dock. There is a calm in the theatre, where everything is prepped and ready to go. At front of house, the first audience members are trickling in, sorting their tickets out at the box office, getting a pre-show glass of wine in the coffee shop. Meanwhile, in the Green Room, the energy is much higher. Lines are run, trousers are stepped in and out of immodestly. Quiet corners are sought and not found, to try to contemplate what is about to be done.

And me? I have a slight and wonderful sense of my own redundancy. I’ll be in the Control Room with Sean for the duration of the show, hitting the music cues and prodding Sean a little for the lighting cues (though he knows he’s got it all under control). All that is to come. But for this moment, as the front lobby swells to a full house, and the in-theatre staff sort out their priorities, and the cast prepare and prepare, I have nothing much to do but smile. I sit on the couch that is the central part of the set, try for an unsuccessful selfie, and look out at the empty seats. I listen to a song on the American Songbook pre-show playlist and hum along. At this very moment, I feel like the luckiest son-of a gun in the whole wide world. What did I do to deserve all this? Important, professional people, struggling to make sure they have learned every line I wrote, an entire theatre at my disposal.

Lucky duck.

I check the vacuum clearer once more, to make sure it will start up when required and then I wander up to the balcony above the main foyer to look down on the people below. I hear my name, someone is saying something about me, I hurry into the Control Room in case I hear something I don’t want to.

The play brings surprises as it runs. A supposed sure-fire gag doesn’t quite hit home, while some presumed innocuous piece of business brings the house down. A music cue stutters momentarily, causing near heart failure in the Control Room. Ronan sings through the glitch effortlessly and, checking afterwards, many audience members didn’t even notice it.

The audience know exactly when the play is over, which is always a good thing. Standing ovation, (thank you), extra curtain calls for the cast. I run from the control room and take the secret route to the Green Room so I can congratulate the cast without meeting a single audience member along the way. I know this theatre really well. It makes me feel a bit like the Phantom of the Opera sometimes, dashing around the less travelled ways, causing mischief wherever possible.

The cast are happy. I’m happy. We go out and chat to the members of the audience who want to wish us well and tell us how they enjoyed it. There is an extra buzz on account of the fact that so many of us have not been in a theatre in over two years. We see old friends and we catch up a little. It all adds to the specialness of the evening. And the play, which is light and airy and not-too-deep, seems pitched about right for this type of an evening. It ain’t Pinter, it ain’t Mamet, but it did what it said on the tin. We’ll take that.

Once more, may I thank Vivienne Lee, Donna Ruane, Ronan Egan, and Eamon Smith for giving so much time and energy to the piece and for making it such an exceptionally wonderful experience. Thanks to the Linenhall Arts Centre who made us welcome and never said ‘no’ to anything we needed. A special word for Sean, who is a diamond in the theatre. And my lovely family, Patricia, John, and Sam, all of whom came and one of whom made a big round trip just to be here for it.

We’ve done it.

We’re done.

But wait. Are we really done? We have a show, it went over really well. Why not go someplace else, do it again?

Why not do that?