One of the nicer things about being on tour is that I sometimes bump into old friends on the road. In Leeds the other week I had a drink with Matthew, who unbelievably I haven’t seen for thirty years. We had worked on the same summer camp in the redwood forests of California on Camp America.
It was mildly terrifying to realise that I have ostensibly been an adult for three decades and time had taken its relentless toll on us both (my waistline has expanded, his hairline receded). But we slipped easily back into conversation and reminisced about the summer of 86.
Or we would have done if we could remember any of it. “Was there a fire on the last night or something?” Matthew asked. I was astonished by his uncertainty, as there had indeed been a huge conflagration that nearly wiped the lot of us out on our very final day (luckily after all the kids had gone home). As we slept an unattended cigarette had set fire to the wooden house we’d been partying in and then spread to the surrounding trees. We were dragged, still drunk from our beds at 5am, the fuel tanks on the hill exploding disintegrating a huge redwood tree in a single second. We were over 100 miles from the nearest fire station, so we had to fight the fire ourselves and somehow a ragbag of teenagers managed to get the blaze under control, without casualty. I played a minor role of loading huge cooking vats full of water on to the back of a truck, whilst whimpering and assuming my adolescent predictions of my premature death were about to come true. Had it not rained the night before for the first time all summer, or if a slight breeze had blown the inferno in our direction then I wouldn’t be here to tell you about it.
So yeah, Matthew there had been a fire on the last night.
After camp we’d travelled across America with another slightly older guy called Richard. He was driving a car from San Francisco to Miami for an owner who sensibly preferred to fly, so we only had to pay for petrol. We had a fortnight, but our driver was keen not to incur a fine for being late so we scarcely stopped to look at anything: we didn’t even take a minor detour to check out the Grand Canyon. We stayed in the cheapest motels, sharing one room to the obvious disgust of some of the proprietors. I remember walking across a car park that had a thick carpet of cockroaches covering it, so every footstep was accompanied by an unpleasant crunch. Although we’d arrived in Texas the day that the legal drinking limit raised from 18 to 21, we did manage to get some plastic cups of lager in the street when we got to New Orleans. But then Richard tapped his watch and we pressed onwards, delivering the car three days early. Seventy-two hours that we could have used creating some non-cockroach based memories.
The plan had been to drive another car to New York, but Richard changed his mind and decided to fly. I had less than a 100 dollars left, so didn’t have that option (I could barely afford the bus fare) and still had nine days before my flight home. To find out what I had to do to survive (and if it involved turning tricks behind the bus station for loose change) or if I starved to death on a Florida beach (spoiler alert – I didn’t), tune in next week…
My tour continues. Last weekend I was in Northampton and as our car pulled up at the gates a gaggle of female fans crowded around the vehicle like sex-starved zombies. It's one of the perils of being a superstar comedian.
Uncharitably (and not without jealousy) my tour manager Giles suggested they might have been fans of Shane from Westlife who was playing the bigger venue, unable to see me because our car had blacked out windows.
Sure Giles! And I suppose the bra left on the venue steps after the show was for him too? Well he wasn't around to collect it so it's mine now, whatever!