It’s 1997

On Sunday evening, I went to the Offshore Cafe to participate in the first edition of Fergus Mitchell‘s brilliant spoken word night where the speakers read entries from their real teenage diaries. Since my solo show is already based around being a diarist and since the idea of ‘shame’ is rapidly becoming an alien concept to me, I went armed with my 1997 diary and some loosly prepared banter.

1997 was significant because it was the year in which I started taking a proper interest in hanky-panky. It was the year in which the anatomically correct dinosaur posters in my bedroom were replaced with Radio Times articles about Red Dwarf and with centrefold-style posters of the various Star Trek babes. It was the year of the horny nerd.

En route to the venue, I mused over what would happen if I were to get run over by a truck. The paramedics or professional guts shovellers would find the diary among my remains. Since the diary came to an abrupt end on November 28th 1997, they might conclude that I had stepped through a time vortex and into the face of that truck.

“He was from 1997,” they would mourn, “he couldn’t have understood that the truck wouldn’t slow down. They didn’t have trucks in his time”.

And then Sting and Elton John would release a ‘candle in the wind’-style CD single to help raise national awareness of displaced time travellers from 1997.

Thankfully this didn’t happen. I made it to the venue unscathed and in time.

I had selected in advance the entries I wanted to read so that I wouldn’t have to go riffling through the pages while on stage. Since I was reading from pieces of note paper tacked into the inside cover, there wasn’t really a need to have taken the actual diary along at all but I felt that people would question the authenticity of the entries if they couldn’t see the actual book.

Having the diary out of the house left me slightly anxious: I was worried about losing it but most of all I was worried that some joker would snatch it from my hands and read aloud from a random page. Even though I was going to be discussing some of my most vulnerable moments in front of a cafe filled with friends and strangers, I would have found such an unauthorised reading humiliating. But everyone was very restrained and nice. I did a couple of “requests” in the form of sharing what happened to me on people’s birthdays but that was as far from the plan as I felt like deviating.

In particular, Anneliese Mackintosh wondered what happened on her birthday. Here’s what: “Before we went home, I went back to a shop that we saw yesterday that sells sci-fi stuff. I bought 4 postcards and mum bought me a nice t-shirt. We had a nice time in Blackpool”.

This is the sort of entry I deliberately didn’t read on stage! Can’t have people thinking I was a nice kid. Instead, I only read the stuff that made me sound unhinged.

The show got off to an amazing start when I told the audience that I used to be a paedophile! I don’t think they had come for this sort of comedy. Which is why I did it. There was something of an awed hush, one guy made an “oooh” noise and apparently there was a walk-out (though I didn’t notice this at the time). I’ve never had an awed hush or a walk-out. Today, at last, I am a man.

The point of the joke is, of course, that most people used to be paedophiles. I was talking about my fourteen-year-old self. When I was 14, my girlfriend was 13. Making me a paedophile. I am not a paedophile any more. Time is a great healer, my friends. So if you know any paedophiles, don’t tell the police: just take them into outer space and drop them into a chronosynclastic infundibulum.

Thankfully, the audience were quickly back on my side after some bankers about youthful indiscression. They also enjoyed the later risque stuff including a brush with homosexuality, the remarkably early discovery of the clitoris and a joke about the death of Princess Diana.

When people find out that I do spoken-word and standup they usually ask if I get nervous. The answer is yes. But only for two or three minutes. The ideal situation for me would be to perform for five minutes, to go away and to come back again later. This, of course, never happens. But here it did! Three short sets with other readers in between (including the rather spiffing Paul Puppett).

It was a very good night. My only regret was “confessing” to being gay in order to soften the blow of a rather rude punchline. I’m not gay! I’m annoyed with myself. If anything it was patronising to the audience. I’ll write about this in my personal diary tonight and maybe read it on stage in ten years time. How postmodern.

Alas, I won’t be sharing my actual reading with you, my virtual chum. I might want to do this again and I don’t want to spoil any surprises for people. Besides, a joke born in captivity seldom survives when released into the wild.

(Thanks to Fergus Mitchell and Neil Scott for the photographs. See also Neil’s review).

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