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Monday 11th June 2007

Ah Liverpool, how I love thee.
Liverpudlians, I have been to your fair city three times in the last three years and on two occasions my might has ended up with police involvement and to be fair last year I was in and out of town very rapidly so didnÂ’t really have the chance for misadventure. Two years ago, you may remember I stood on a pub table as an arrest was made, and this year I was involved in an actual factual fight, which left me with my garments rent and my testes aching. It was a fitting end to the tour.
So the show itself had gone well. I had been initially disconcerted to find that according to the official programme I was only down to do an hour. As it was the last show of the tour I had wanted to do the whole thing and was aware that if I was limited to sixty minutes I wouldnÂ’t get the chance to do the old people on the bonfire and thus I would never get a chance to say goodbye to them before they hurtled into oblivion. My contract had said I was meant to do 2 x 45 minutes, but the theatre people said they couldnÂ’t cope with an interval and I was a little bit put out that I was going to have to edit the show down with so little warning. Luckily though the staff worked very hard to sort out the time issue and we compromised by saying that I would be a 90 minute set with no interval, which meant I could do nearly everything, though perhaps not at as much length as usual.
So it was all OK and things progressed nicely. I canÂ’t be entirely sure, but I think that I have added to the legion of celebrity fans of my work (which as you know include Archie from Balamory and Preston from Big Brother) as it seemed that one of the girls from Hollyoaks was in the front row at the stage left side (itÂ’s the one who had the baby and whose dad didnÂ’t like her having a boyfriend). I decided not to pick on her, which was unusually gallant of me, but I rightly considered that I didnÂ’t have time to get into my whole Hollyoaks fixation tonight.
After it was over I went to the bar and chatted with the audience and then headed on to a bar round the corner with a few of them. It was a relief that I didnÂ’t end the tour just heading back to my hotel bar to drink alone and balefully look at drunk businessmen and we ended up having a pleasant and light-hearted time.
We were sitting on some big sofas in the basement of the bar and one side of our table was free and after about an hour, a group of harmless enough looking people arrived and sat there. They were pretty geeky, wearing glasses, looking like mathematics students. I wouldnÂ’t have anticipated any trouble. One slightly cooler looking one (and that was only in relation to his rather more nerdy friends) sat on the arm of the chair opposite me which was occupied by a young woman who had seen my show. The man rather brazenly struck up a conversation with her and her mate. I was actually quite impressed by his confidence and observed his attempted chat up with the girl who was sitting next to me. It didnÂ’t look to be going too well for him. Although the girls were chatting along with him the body language suggested that they were not too comfortable with what was happening. As the man leaned in, the girl leaned away at a perfectly parallel angle (which maybe the maths students appreciated). Despite this poor start I jokingly argued to the girl beside me that I thought the manÂ’s persistence would pay off and I was prepared to bet that he would end up bedding both girls by the end of the night. This seemed fittingly ironic that after my failed attempts to get a threesome on this tour, that some complete stranger should manage it right in front of me, with two of my audience.
I was only messing around. The man was too drunk and a little bit too annoying, but I was quite surprised that the girls did give him the time of day at least, which just shows that confidence is maybe 80% of any seduction technique. His nerdy friends, like me too shy to talk to strangers in bars would definitely be going home alone.
The parallel girl tired of the attention and came to sit on our side of the table, but one of the girls stayed chatting to the man and I was suitably impressed that from such inauspicious beginnings he had managed to engineer at least a 30 minute conversation. I quite liked him at this point. But he was clearly getting a bit more boisterous and drunk (and I suspect it had been drunkenness rather than natural cunning that had made him launch into a chat with strangers). He handed over his card to the girl he was talking to and she accepted it – again much further than I thought he’d get. She passed it across to the girl I had been talking to, who was less impressed with the man. Somewhat provocatively she started tearing bits off the card and flicking them across the table. Soon the businesscard was destroyed. The drunk man looked crest-fallen.
Suddenly all the charm that he has been exhibiting dissipated. I couldn’t quite hear everything he was saying, but he as being quite viciously rude to the girl he hadn’t been talking to, repeatedly calling her “a moron”. Still seeing him as little more than a harmless nerd I let this pass, but the barrage of insults continued as he kept on with his tirade.
The girl then (annoyingly from my point of view) told the man that I was a celebrity (which clearly I am not) and that meant he wasn’t as good as me. “I am not nothing,” he responded, spitting flecks of saliva over the table, “You’re nothing, you moron. He’s not better than me.”
It was really taking a nasty turn now and the rejection of the manÂ’s sexual overtures had now been completed
“What’s wrong with you, you moron?” he ungallantly enquired of the girl.
“I’m a racist” said the girl, a little from nowhere, but she was quite drunk too and we had been discussing the element of my show where I discussed racism and I think she was trying to join in the joke. She definitely wasn’t racist and had just been saying to me how she thought the whole notion of hating someone for their race was ridiculous enough to be funny. I had known what she meant, but had told her that it was still a serious subject, even if racists were ridiculous for their unfounded prejudices.
The man was earnest and full of drunken indignation and couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “That’s right, I’m racist” said the girl. To any sensible person it was clearly a nonsensical thing to say, perhaps a bit stupid, but not worth getting cross about. But this man, perhaps smarting from the disrespect his card had been given would not let it go. He was getting visibly angry with the girl (that to be fair he had been pretty unpleasant to for no real good reason), “How dare you say that? My wife is black! You moron!”
Now I am not sure why his wife being black gave this man any more particular reason to be infuriated by racism than any other white person. I donÂ’t like racism and I am not even married. But in his crapulousness he had decided that he had personally been insulted and was getting edgier and ruder and there looked like there would be trouble.
I decided it was time to interject. “Calm down mate,” I told him, “She is just joking and there is no excuse for being so rude to her and calling her a moron.”
“She is a moron,” he replied, standing up and looking like he was going to hit someone. I stood up too, because I couldn’t let him hit a woman, even if she had said she was a racist.
“Listen mate,” I told him, “I don’t think you have any right to start insulting people when you have just forced your way into a conversation with people you don’t even know. And if you have a wife, maybe you shouldn’t be trying to chat up young women in a bar.”
“I wasn’t chatting them up,” he lied, but his fury was palpable now. His nerdy friends were holding him back, whilst the other girls attempted to explain that their friend had only been joking. He kept pushing his way towards us, trying to square up to me (and I was a totally innocent party in this dispute) and then he aimed a flailing kick at the 21 year old girl who had insulted him. However wronged he was this seemed an appalling action. I moved in the way to protect the strangers that I had come for a drink with and told his friends to get him out of the pub right now. Luckily there were enough of them to coral the furious nerd up the stairs, though he did make a couple of attempts to return.
I felt like I had done quite a good thing. I had stepped in to protect the honour of an admittedly bit silly and drunk woman and had been prepared to risk a fight in order to sort things out. It was a stupid argument and caused by drink and wounded pride and libido, but hopefully it was all sorted now. I was surprised how prepared I had been to stand up to this man. Adrenaline was racing through my body and I had been ready to fight. Even though he was probably half a foot taller than me I had stood up to him when he looked like he wanted things to kick off.
The girls were a little shaken and surprised. “He’s a trainee lecturer at Liverpool University” one of them told me with incredulity. It was indeed a surprise to see an academic trying to start a fight and attempting to kick a woman, especially as he and his group of friends had been the most unthreatening bunch of people you could hope to meet. Maybe it's a good job his businesscard got ripped up. Certainly there would be groups of men in Liverpool that I would be much more intimidated by and unless a troop of cubs had come into the bar it would have been hard to find anyone less intimidating.
As they were leaving one of the very pleasant and embarrassed nerdy friends apologised for what had happened.
But the incident had pretty much pricked the balloon of fun that the night had been and then the barman came down to tell us they were closing the basement, so it seemed like the time to break things up.
But when we got outside the man and his friends were waiting and though they tried to hold him back, he started snarling at the girl and insulting her further and calling me a cunt. Now, I think you will agree that I had done nothing at all to deserve this. I hadnÂ’t really even interacted with the man at all until he started getting abusive, but he had taken umbrage. He swung his fist and hit me in the side of the head. It was a weak and useless punch, but I couldnÂ’t believe that he had done that to me with so little provocation. In all the time I have been doing this tour I have been anticipating the night when some aggrieved audience member decides to have a swing at me, yet ironically the one fight I was going to get into in the whole tour was with someone who had no idea who I was, hadnÂ’t seen the show and who I genuinely hadnÂ’t done anything to offend.
Now I am a lover, not a fighter. And I am not even a very good lover. I have had very few fights in my adult life. Stew and me once pushed each other around in our office over some trivial spat (and we worked in close proximity for over ten years, so that’s not too bad a record) and in Edinburgh in about 1995 a drunk “fan” had poured water over my head and I had weakly punched him a bit in response. Before that I had again been the totally innocent victim of an assault when I had been laughing at a joke and accidentally caught the eye of a man who had just punched his friend. But I haven’t had a fight in probably twelve years and now I was being hit by a trainee lecturer outside a Liverpool pub. It was somewhat surreal.
Even though the punch had bounced off me and caused no harm I was still furious with this idiot. His friends again tried to hold him back, but I wasnÂ’t going to let this pass. I had to at least return the favour. When ine Rome....
So I dropped my bag and my SCOPE collection bucket (how unlikely is all this?) approached the tall skinny drunk academic and tried to hit him in the head. I have no idea how to punch someone and although I made connection with him a little, I might as well have been patting him on the face, but now we found ourselves in the middle of a streetfight. I canÂ’t really remember too much of what happened. It was a pathetic, middle-class scuffle between two men who I would think have little to no experience of pugilism. Early on I did manage one quite satisfying punch to his ear, which might have stung as much as a slap from a small girl. But that was my one high point. I have to admit it did feel pretty good punching someone in the face though. Pretty quickly we were huddled and pushing and finding myself overwhelmed by his height advantage I found myself instinctively resorting to punching him in the genitals. Queensbury Rules it was not and I am not proud of my behaviour, but something primeval within me was now in control and testicle punching seemed my most efficient way to proceed.
I don’t know how long the “fight” lasted, but I finally found myself in a headlock, with the sound of ripping cloth and at some point a kick was directed quite successfully towards my own gonads (though again the weakness of the assault meant my testicular area was going to dully ache for the next couple of hours – had the opposing party had any strength or technique I should have been hospitalised). Finally I found myself being pulled away by a gigantic bouncer from the pub who was telling me to calm down and I think it was him who inadvertently administered my only genuine injuries of a slightly cut inner lip and a small red scratch on my collar-bone.
My T shirt however had been ripped rather badly, exposing my chest like I was some kind of rubbish Incredible Hulk who got angry, didnÂ’t change at all, tried to punch a university lecturer in the testicles and then calmed down again. I was glad I hadnÂ’t been fighting the bouncers who had muscles on their muscles and who told me that as the fight had happened outside the pub they didnÂ’t have to intervene. But I presume they had been so shamed by the poor quality of the girly punching that they had felt they had to stop it.
My nemesis had disappeared into the night. His friends finally managed to extract him from the situation.
I was left feeling stupid and humiliated by my own actions, even though I hadnÂ’t really done anything wrong. Perhaps I should have just let a bloke hit me in the head for no reason and turned the other cheek, but he was being such a prick and the Kraken inside me had awoken and there was little I could do to stop the inevitable. But it was embarrassing being out in the street with my chest on display and my balls aching and I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. If I had been a real man one punch would have dispatched this rude and unpleasant interloper, but I am quite glad I am not a real man. What if I had smacked him one and he had fallen and smashed his head on a paving slab? Suddenly I would have been a murderer. Even though I was blameless up to that point and provoked into my actions. Thank God for giving me such weak and flailing arms.
The girls were still there, a little freaked out and hysterical, but very apologetic that this had happened.
Two young policemen arrived saying that they had heard there was a fight, but they were almost laughing when they saw me, a podgy nearly 40 year old in a ripped T-shirt that should really have been being worn by a 25 year old. I explained that it wasnÂ’t a big deal and that the guy had punched me and I had responded to protect myself. One of the girls was trying to tell the policeman that I was famous, which was not only untrue, but not helpful or relevant.
“Do you want to press charges?” asked the smiling policeman, who must be used to seeing some proper fights on the streets of his Mersey beat, with teeth and blood in the gutter and knife wounds in the stomach (now that would be an ironic way for me to have gone at the end of the tour – you’ll know what I mean if you have seen the show).
“No, no it’s fine,” I laughed. I was already finding this whole pathetic incident amusing, but was keen to get on my way.
I got in a cab and said goodbye to the women whose honours I had protected and headed for the hotel. The cab driver had seen the whole thing.
“That was the funniest fight I have ever seen” he laughed.
Good to know that even off stage and in the middle of potentially life threatening situations I am amusing. I am even more inept as a fighter than a lover and I suppose I should maybe be proud of that. Not my ineptitude as a lover, but my ineptitude as a boxer.
What a stupid and apt and embarrassing and hilarious end to the tour. I had hoped that someone might rip off my clothes and go for my genitals at some point over the last two months and finally it had happened.
But on the positive side I have decided that my torn T shirt should form part of the prize for whoever donates the most money to my just giving page programme fund. There will be other stuff too (I am thinking of giving away the trainers I have worn all the way through the tour and also in You Can Choose Your Friends, though not sure if this is a bit horrible rather than exciting and there will be something better than that as well), but hopefully this ruined garment will take on an historical significance similar to that of the Turin Shroud and be displayed in a special museum set up in testament to my fighting skill. Thanks to all those of you who have donated already and please do spare a little something for this good cause if you can. ThereÂ’s still a couple of weeks to donate, but give early to ensure that place in the programme. You have seen the kind of man I am. And if you donÂ’t donate I might come around to your house and try and smack you in the genitalia. And not in a good way.

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