The friendly village of Downham Market

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

      It wasn’t meant to be much, just a Friday night gig in Hunstanton, about 120 miles from Dagenham. Driving to any out-of-town gig on a Friday in England involves sometimes leaving 4-5 hours to go 100 miles, as the motorways might still be clearing up an accident that happened, oh, Tuesday! Since only a small portion of my trip would involve motorways, I left Dagenham at 5:20, arrived at the venue exactly at 8:00, for an 8:30 start time.

        The booker had reminded me to bring my own guitar amp, since this being a first-time comedy night, better not to trust that their PA system would have adequate hook-ups for an electric guitar. No worries, I brought it, and when I was carrying it up the stairs to the showroom, for some dumbass reason, the handle on this amp I only bought six months ago BROKE! At least I was on flat surface when it happened, so it didn’t go tumbling back down the stairs. Tested it out, worked fine. 

         The booker, Clyde West, was also the emcee for the night, and he arrived shortly after I was done sound checking. Clyde went on only a couple minutes after the 8:30 start time, and I noticed something potentially awful: There was no microphone stand! No one from the venue had any clue about that, Clyde hadn’t mentioned it to them. The closing act tried to rig up a coat-hanger to wrap around my neck and twist around so that it might have functioned as a mike-holder, but not enough time to really construct it as such. I didn’t have time to grow a third hand that I could hold the mike with, so my “third hand” turned out to be Clyde, who stood there next to me for a half-hour, while I did my act. I’m not sure who felt more silly, but I would imagine it was him. Although he’s a true gentleman to do that for me, when I was prepared to just turn the guitar down and shout off mike, the fact that he stood there for 30 minutes, like a schoolboy who’s been told to stand in a corner holding books outstretched on each hand for punishment, and only spoke when I spoke to him (couldn’t ignore him, really), he probably deserved extra pay that night. Then again, the fuck-up was his, because you have to assume that at a community centre in a village like Hunstanton, they’re trusting that the booker has given them all the info they need. There have been several times before I bought that guitar amp that I wound up having to do a gig with no sound for the guitar, but no mike stand is a major first.

           The audience was nice and understanding, and it was only 9:30, but I was actually ready to drive back home. About 20 miles down the road, driving down the A10, I thought, hmm this road feels a bit bumpier than usual. Then the realization that it wasn’t the road at all! I’m driving through an area where there may be towns every 3-5 miles, but they’re usually towns that shut down at about 6 PM. I took a chance on the village of Downham Market, for they even had a sign indicating they had a petrol station. I never found it, but I found a well-lit open car park and decided I’d have to change the tyre myself. Just to complicate things, it was raining a bit, and I’d never used the jack on my little Kia before, so pieces were scattered throughout the car.

            Just as I’m thinking I’m going to be here for maybe hours and I might screw it up as well, a police car came by, just patrolling to make sure there was no incidents. Must be boring when you’re policing a town of under 10000, because the moment I signaled him and asked for help, his response was “give me two seconds.” Then he asked me how far I was going. I said Dagenham, Essex. My karma was working overtime here because he was RAISED in Dagenham, and even more impressed that a Californian would have wound up there. He did the entire changing of the tyre, and followed behind to make sure I got back to the A10 with no further problems.

            I’m under no delusions that big city policemen would have been quite as benevolent as this guy Steve was, but the fact that I got back to Dagenham before 1:00 when so much seemed to be working against me is an accomplishment in itself. The fact that the next day I got £5 off on an already cheap replacement tyre just by telling the guys at the tyre shop a joke, it all reminded me again why I can go through such a major pile of shit just to make a couple hundred every here and there, and still feel good about it all.

               Meanwhile, Downham Market (you’d NEVER find a US city with a name like that) holds a special place in my heart. 



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