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The Secret Diary Of A Mediocre Artist

The ‘Lost Alice’ tour finished at the weekend and we make a return to the studio for a bit of a play before Christmas. One thing we have done over the years is kept a diary, very much in the Adrian Mole sense of the word so I thought as a special treat today I would read you an entry from November 8th, 2010.

We pick up the story on a Saturday night after an appearance in Manchester as we are travelling to our next destination…

We ‘enjoyed’ a nightmarish drive in pitch black heavy rain against the heavy traffic from the Manchester United football match mixed with heavy traffic wanting to witness the last weekend of Blackpool’s illuminations. Nice. So two and a half hours later at 8:30pm I regretted my decision to drive up the night before as we found ourselves catapulting along a country lane scattered with Badger warning signs (why are they going to nick my car?) and hitting unseen puddles of water about the size of Windermere to end up at a hotel festooned with Christmas trees and a nice black tie dinner event in one of the function rooms. So picture this, a hotel that was very British in it’s attitude with a dress code for the dining room, a black tie dinner, a bar full of well to do people all elegantly dressed when suddenly at 8:30pm a half frazzled couple of people (us) roll through the door looking like we have been hired as novelty strippers. Striding through reception, skulls on the front of my jacket, a pair of pointy shoes that have a cloven hoof heel and Jayne following carrying, neigh, brandishing a large ‘Calm Down and Have a Cup Cake’ picture. We both felt very rakish in our behaviour and could only hint at gasps we got as the night manager fluffed himself up ready to turf us out for the night and an old gentlemen at the bar blustered a quick ‘well, I say old boy’. I sensed we had made a dramatic entrance.

1All was well though, the hotel was lovely and I was pleased to find out that on March 29th in 1888 Colonel Cody (Buffalo Bill) stood in the same spot as me to sign the register (they still have it at the hotel, the register that is not Buffalo Bill). Things puzzle me though as I explored the room, you may recognise a few of these…

I always fail to understand this, ‘Tastes Like Fresh Milk’, what does? Look underneath, it’s long life skimmed milk and the ‘freshness’ is added through the use of non-milk fat. In other words lard. Yuk!3

Trouser presses are my favourite things though, you see them in nearly every hotel and Mr Corby must have made a fortune and ever since Alan Partridge dismantled one in his hotel room I was itching to have a go myself. The instructions are ridiculously poor though and the individual on the instructions is only suffering from a small amount of trouser depression causing creases behind his knees (aren’t they meant to be there?) but I soldiered on.

Everything pulled out easily and I got the thing in the correct position, turning the timer on though I didn’t realise that also initiated the heat and after playing with the pull out mystery knob on the left I decided to press something. Rooting through the room I came across a towel and decided to give it a freshen up and de-crease it. The press fought back as it was not used to such a thick ‘trouser’ to handle but at the point of breaking it snapped shut, it was now under tension like a bear trap and I had to set it off with the hotel pencil before I could get out the smoking towel. Jayne made me use this flat scorched towel on purpose I’m sure as it’s drying properties had mysteriously vanished. I skilfully hid it on departure.


Curiouser and curiouser, I had to phone down to reception to find out what this ring was. It was in the bathroom and opposite the toilet. It had the words ‘SafeRing’ on it and I sat there contemplating what kind of toilet this was that required a nice large hook in the wall and instructions for attaching a rope. Even more unnerving was the answer.

‘Hello, I wondered if you can help me, I have a small hook in the bathroom can you tell me what it is please?’ I asked not unreasonably. ‘It’s for the toilet paper sir’ came the droll reply.

‘No, not that one, it’s in front of the toilet, you know the one that has SafeRing’ on it?’, ‘No Sir, I will send someone up to see you’. Damn I thought, I have only been here ten minutes and already I have nearly set a towel on fire and now I’m about to find out what this hooks for and I don’t think I’m going to like it. If the person that comes to the door answers to the name of ‘Gimp’ and is carrying even a hint of a billiard ball I’m so out of here. Anyway it turns out it was even more scary than I had imagine as my new guest called Alex explained that because of the location of the room if there was a fire I would be cut off from the rest of the hotel, not only that but the fire team could not get to this side from the outside due to the large and noisy river beneath the window. The hook worked with the rope in the wardrobe and in an emergency I had to abseil out of the bathroom window to safety (my death more like in the raging torrent below) trying to avoid crushing my naked nether regions below in my rush to escape being burnt to a crisp. Headline ‘Naked Smiths Crisp Found Dangling From Rope – Bizarre Artist Last Bid At Fame’

With this sobering thought we retired to bed in our room fit for a mountaineer.

10:45pm. Wide awake and aware of a noise from above. Footsteps, I could hear footsteps. Not unreasonable I know but then it changed to a dragging noise, then more footsteps. I hate noise in the night and for the next hour I listened to ‘them upstairs’ gleefully rearrange their entire hotel room through the medium of dragging with occasional lifting and dropping. Only towards twelve did it start to abate as first one flop hit the bed then another weighty flop as the noise of the bedsprings compressing vibrated the roof. My eyes twitched and closed again.


The door to the room next to us slammed shut and the slapping of hands on the wall echoed around the room as two very merry individuals patted their way into an unfamiliar bedroom. ‘Whaahtya sayyy?’ slurred a male voice sounding uncannily like the deep booming voice of the ‘Walrus of Love’ himself Barry White. Hattie Jacques replied. ‘You naughty boy, com’ere’. The sound of the bed virtually exploding as they landed on it in unison I will never forget, even the wall vibrated as the headboard hit the wall like cricket ball. Wow! I thought, I hope that I don’t get to hear *everything*.

A pinging and groaning told me that Barry had got off the bed and paddled his way to the toilet unleashing a torrent bigger than Niagara Falls which he dutifully finished with an almighty breaking of wind that would part your hair from twenty feet. Hattie Jacques then got the giggles and kept me awake for another hour practising burps and asking Barry to repeat his triumphant trump until they both found the mini-bar and drank themselves into oblivion. The walls were very thin indeed, I shall need to be careful…

As you can see I write everything down, reading back through the days it’s like an accident book…spitting in Cardiff, naked men in toilets…you know, the usual stuff and if you are really good I may even stop publishing more.

I’m off to fill today’s entry in ‘Dear diary, today I fell over a stuffed fox and hit a felt badger…’, yes, it did really happen!

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