January 1st 2022 – how the heck am I still alive? I don’t mean that in the angsty way I used to do as a fifteen-year-old proto-goth: “Ay me, I shall never outlive Pre-Raphaelite supermodel Lizzie Siddall…. I have foreseen…” No, I mean that recently things literally keep trying to do me in. Albeit slowly in some of the cases. Having survived Eric the baby-sized tumour, a few smashed bones, and like the rest of you a flipping global pandemic, I was wondering if this was all some elaborate hoax that some nutter mate is going to own up to when we’ve all emerged from the simulation. (Ah that’s why I’m growing a beard, because I’m supposed to be old Keanu!)
Anyway, having just seen the brilliantly droll Don’t Look Up, I think I may have a few personal comets headed my way, so rather than say “New year, new me etc. ” I’m all about “Let’s try not to hasten my demise this year, please.”
Some people had worse 2021s, but mine was definitely awful. 2021 was the year we lost my dad to COVID-19. We lost Storm Constantine, who was my favourite author, my boss, and my friend. Other friends are poorly and my head is full of fret for them, and as for us… well the ‘Rona has been fun hasn’t it?
It was during the final of the Masked Singer, where my husband Neil and best pal Emma (our bubble) were dressed up as our very fitting and not at all scary Masked Singer characters – Doctor Death (Neil), Dollface (Emma) and Nicholas Cage Nicholas Cage Nicholas Cage (Nicholas Cage in a Nicholas Cage cage – me) – that we realised our headaches and slightly raspy asthmatic breathing were beginning to feel a bit symptomy rather than just our middle-aged selves being unable to cope with drinking away our sadness. Emma was negative, but Neil and I had caught the ‘Rona. At first we thought it was mild but it got gradually worse, and as my dad’s funeral date was soon it was touch and go whether we would make it. We did not. I’d been trying to put a brave face on things (Nicholas Cage is the face of braveness), but having to watch my dad’s funeral on the TV while feeling very poorly might have broken me I think.
In fact the ‘Rona did break me quite a lot physically as well as mentally. After a few months of being barely able to function enough to work – I was so knackered all the time – I signed up to the Long COVID clinic, and the first thing they did was book me in to do a blood test. I know I’m really lucky here. A few of us comedians who had Long COVID formed a little support group, and I rather suspect some of my friends had the sort of Long-COVID that is similar to kind of encephalitis. Mine was a lot easier to identify and treat: I join the ranks of new thyroid conditions that have emerged as a result of catching this virus. Almost five months later, I’m coping much better with my hypothyroidism, although there have been setbacks: the test tube shortage this year stopped me getting my meds adjusted in a timely fashion, meaning I was operating at 9.5 TSH as late as November (which is baaaad); not knowing what to eat and reading the levothyroxine packet to my GP to hear him say, “Oh, well, I didn’t know that. Okay, you’re probably doing all the right things then”, that was fun; overdosing for 6 days a fortnight ago because I take my meds in the dark at 5am and hadn’t realised the pharmacist had given me different strength pills (sometimes 25mcg is tiny, sometimes it is not), boy that was super fun (no sleep, very sweaty – I can think of more fun ways of achieving this state of affairs); oh and ticking, which happens still if I am tired or stressed so I have to avoid those. But I got a nutritionist like a Chelsea mum or something (she was free, through work) and she was brill. I got lots of good advice (basically, eat good stuff, don’t consume anything after 8pm and stop calorie counting – in the run up to Christmas I managed just one of these, guess which!). I’m hoping by the time my meds are settled a lot of these side symptoms of hypo will be more manageable. Especially the weight because I am mahoosive. I’ve gained about 2 stone, and the fat has basically filled the gap left by Eric, which makes me look a bit tumescent again. And I can’t get into half my clothes. Hence this is my new uniform…
I feel like I have really grown as a comedian this past year (ha ha, I know I’m fatter), but I have a better chance of progressing in 2022 than I did in 2021. My journey has had a few holes in it for several reasons, but my brain is too sparky and sparkly not to do comedy. I have to be constantly doing stuff, I want that stuff to be stuff I like, and I want to get to be the best I can be at doing it. But also, money and recognition by my peers, please.
Whilst I don’t think I have a super huge list of achievements in comedy from the past year, I have been getting more of those sweet paid opener and headliner offers, and I contributed some noises to this multiple-award-winning cartoon. I organised a couple of gigs in my hometown and want to do a bit more of that next year too if I can. Also I thought it high time I set up a Facebook page where I do gig diaries. I seem to be getting a few people following me from gig to gig locally and they don’t seem to be weirdos so that’s nice. Also pretty pleased that I wrote a festive joke every day of Advent, which you can also see there as well as on my Twitter. So this year, the first big thing I have on my planner is performing at Leicester Comedy Festival where I have my own show: Weird Sense of Tumour at Manhattan 34 on Tuesday 8th February at 9pm. Whilst I have not done any previews yet, I’ve had some fun trying bits of the show out at gigs, and people seem really keen to come and chat to me after the gig and offer their own crazy health stories. Some are definitely going in the show! I hope you can make it! I think it’s probably going to be the weirdest thing on at the LCF, and I am bonkers pleased with it. I am so happy with the show I have even made myself a hoodie with the poster on… not quite merch, more a drunken idea and I now have another top that barely fits me. Yay!
I’m yet to reboot The Lemonade Budget for Champagne Social Butterflies, but it will happen. I have not done an episode since July when it became clear that I was too affected by COVID-19 to continue it for the time-being, though I did record about 4 episodes that I decided not to release. It was still miraculously in the Apple Stand-up Comedy charts until last week though!
Writing and Editing
Not a lot of publishing credits this year, but I have had paid comedy writing for a prisons project – and I also edited three books for prisons – Toolboxes Red, Blue and Green. I just got the proofs yesterday and they look great! I also had a story published by PS Publishing in the anthology No More Heroes which is my story based on Chris Cornell: “Siren Song”. Newcon Press published Best of British Science Fiction 2020, which has been getting some great reviews by readers as well as SF Crowsnest. There will be another BOBSF next year as well as Friends of the Arts Lab antho Super World Unknown.
2021 saw the release of Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins’ film The Show, starring Tom Burke, Siobhan Hewlett and for about 3 seconds – me. Had great fun watching first the streamed premiere with Pete Teckman, his wife Minnie and daughter Scarlett – who plays Maxine in the film, plus Neil and some of her mates. Then I got to go to the local cast screening at The Northampton Filmhouse which was amazing. We had sweets, and a cheeky wine to watch the film with. I also did some filming for a pop video with That Joe Payne which I expect will be out later this year, and I was part of Fish’s global screening last month commenting on his rather smashing gig at Leamington Spa in November. Still the thing people stop me to ask about in the street is when I was on The Chase in 2016.
My first convention of the year was Eastercon, all online. A strange experience but I enjoyed using Gather to access it, and it was kind of funny that I did a lot of hanging round in the dealers room to natter with my publisher friends. I was on a panel with Ian Whates, Liz Williams and Ian Watson to remember Storm Constantine.
Getting back to Real Life conventions was fantastic though – and I thoroughly enjoyed Fantasycon in Birmingham in September. I didn’t do any panels, but I handed out an award at the British Fantasy Awards, and got to explore Brum again which was great.
This year I am already booked to do Chillercon and SciFi Weekender.
First gig of 2021 was Billy Lockett in the garden of the Black Prince after venues were allowed to open again, followed by Empyre at the same place in June. After things opened up, my next gig was Janus Stark, in the back room in August, and then there was a whole festival of music at Kaya on the bank holiday weekend where I headlined the comedy/spoken word tent on Saturday. Terry Hall DJ’d there which I was pretty excited about. Then came Space at the Picturedrome in November, Fish in Leamington Spa, Blancmange at the Roadmender and Sunset Ryders/The Big Dirty at the Black Prince at the end of November (replacement gig for The Happy Mondays/James that we couldn’t get to because of cancelled trains), then Ned’s Atomic Dustbin in Stourbridge in December. Big gigs planned for 2022 – fingers crossed they happen as Faith No More have already cancelled. But should be seeing Pearl Jam, The Pixies, the Foo Fighters, Ugly Kid Joe, Skid Row and The Darkness.
Book – Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley
Short – Down and Out Under the Tannhauser Gate by Dave Gullen – Parsec #1
Film – Last Night in Soho
TV – Ghosts
Noise – short- Drowning in a Sea of Bastards by 72%
Noise – album – Le fantastique envol de Dieter Böhm – Lazuli / Connectivity – Grace Petrie
Human – Neil Bond
Happy New Year everyone!