Saturday, October 10, 2015

I still have a daddy

There can’t be many milestones in life other than getting married, having a baby and putting your dad into an old folk’s home.

I have now done all three.

The first two were easier than the last one.

For those who follow me on facebook and twitter you will already be aware of my dad’s slow slide into dementia.
Dad has lived alone for seven years since my step mum succumbed to cancer.

I have heard him having a stroke whilst we were chatting on the phone when I was in Los Angeles and managed to get him swift care. Since then the sly sneaking horrible bastard that is dementia has been crawling around his brain looking for wee spaces to hide in and reveal itself whilst he was at his most vulnerable.

Nothing is more soul wrenching than watching your dad feel terrified that he is a factory and nobody will help him get out.

We tried being with him everyday in his own home and the social care from Glasgow NHS and Glasgow council has been utterly brilliant the NHS mental health people are fabulous. Dad’s care worker Mark even counselled me when I sat in floods of tears outside my venue at Edinburgh Fringe. Dad had a bad day and called me hysterical. Mark called me and reassured me I was doing the best I can.

Dad was escaping his house and upsetting the neighbours with his constant vulnerability. My dad has great neighbours and they have all grown up together so it was hard for them to see the wee proud private man look confused outside their door.

I got emergency respite in a care home 66 steps from my front door. I can see him 5 times a day or more if I please. He looks peaceful and feels secure and now when he gets a dementia ‘attack’ the staff and I are usually there to reassure him.

Tonight I went to see him before I went onstage. He was lying on his bed listening to his radio; he smiled when I came into his room. I slipped my shoes off dropped off my jacket and climbed up beside him and he shuffled over. He hugged me and we listened to Dr Hook and Eagles songs.  I nearly feel asleep!
 “Janey you need to get to work” he said.

He seems ok. I feel ok. I still have my daddy.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Dementia Sucks

It’s 7am the phone rings. My husband immediately sits up and answers the phone. He is quiet, I can hear my dad shouting down the line and husband says “look, am on my way calm down”.

My husband has his clothes and shoes on the floor, ready to run like a criminal on the lam. He is dressed in seconds, his hair stands on end, he doesn’t brush his teeth and he belts out the door. He is going to sit with my dad who is convinced that today he is in a factory and is being held hostage. I have to get ready for a radio comedy show. I can’t go with him; I have to be funny in a wee while.

My dad has dementia. The smart wee Glasgow man who has blue twinkly eyes, who could build a radio from scratch when he was eight years old, who raised four kids and built a skateboard for me in 1967, was slowly having his memory and cognitive abilities eaten by a rabid shitty greedy thing called dementia.

The man who carried me over puddles, who explained sea weed couldn’t eat me despite my big brothers telling me it could, the man who tried to make sense of my mum being murdered in the early 80s and his second wife dying from cancer six years ago….this wee working class man who achieved 34 years of sobriety was crumbling in front of me. My heart is breaking.

It’s been two years of a quick sand effect of watching him struggle with the world interspersed with him locking eyes with me telling me how much he loves me and how proud he is of me. I still climb halfway onto his knee and let him rest his soft warm palm on my cheek as he sings “My wee Janey Paney” to me. He is still my dad.

Today we had to organise emergency care respite as he has been wandering outside and making everyone panic. Despite alarms and constant care attending, the minute he is alone he is out that door. He will soon move to a full time care home.

My heart hurts. Go fuck yourself dementia.

Monday, August 31, 2015


I recall standing outside the Pleasance Dome flyering my show a few years ago.

I was exhausted and knew I had to fill a big room and faced losing cash so I was anxious and desperate to make sure people came to see me. 

I had rented a good flat and paid for amazing posters and had what I believed to be a fabulous show.
Then I spotted a couple of people who had seen me at a showcase show and had taken my flyer after the gig as they liked my stuff. I brightened up and as I approached them I watched a comedy promoter hand them two free tickets to his latest newly signed act's show. 

They took them. They were FREE.

He had a HUGE wad of free tickets and was giving them to people all around the Pleasance Dome. I lost the sale. I watched and my heart sank as people didn't give a fuck how funny I had been at the 1pm showcase show. 

They had free tickets.

Free shows are part of the fringe and belong in the free venues.

No doubt this year the BIG Four will release the BEST EVER SALES AT THE FRINGE and sit back as they manipulate the figures and the PR will spin it good. It was a fair year I think but it wasn't a bumper.

I know that the figures aren't always true, for ONE BIG SELL OUT there are hundreds of smaller shows underwriting them in the big venues and those comics were doing it on their own cash in the hope of a crowd.

They go home skint, owing money and artistically broken.
I have no issue wth the big paid venues, I just see issues that the Free Festival can resolve.

On the last weekend of the fringe I watched BIG NAMED ACTS give away TWO for ONES on the last Thursday and Friday. That's not a great financial sign and was I aggressively flyered for a comic whose face graces the BILLBOARDS to buy tickets for his 'EXTRA SOLD OUT SHOW' which is a weird oxymoron. It can't be sold out and still have tickets to sell. 

People were so scared of losing face.

I was glad I chose to take part in Alex Petty's Free Festival at The Counting House. I considered it last year and checked out the venues and looked at all the options.

Me and Ashley had a BUMPER run and played to full rooms every day. I had people sitting on the floor of the ballroom and Ashley had people standing in her wee room. 

They put cash in the buckets. We left with a profit, a very good profit if truth be told. We also told the crowds if they donated silver and bronze coins we gave that to the homeless and later on we dished it out fairly round the city's street collectors.

The Counting House had its own set of challenges but were daily overcome by Big Brian and the staff. Me, Ashley and my own front of house staff Andrew and Helen ushered, crowd controlled and helped other acts audiences get into shows. We self managed. We directed people, we unblocked toilets, we mopped up spilt beer, we lifted up posters and flyers, we collected glasses and we even served beer when it got busy. We were a team.

I encouraged comics and acts to get up and pitch their shows to my big comedy loving crowd. I tweeted about other comics gigs and helped flyer for other shows. It felt like THE FRINGE.
We hung out in the independent comic book shop DeadHead Comics next door to Counting House. WE periscoped and tweeted and showed them how to manage their social media.

They gave us a set of keys and we ended up weeping buckets as we exchanged gifts and hugs when we left them to head home.

We had a fringe family.

The people who came to the shows were brilliant.

Ashley loved her first hour and she was also in a big musical event show at the Assembly that ran for two weeks. So she was on the Free Festival and the Big Venue festival at the same time.
 A great experience for her. She also did some BBC radio Four Extra live work and I did Just a Minute for BBC Radio Four. It was brilliant.

Dealing with hard cash was weird. I felt like a mid price hooker, I haven't had that much money in my bag in years. We generally don't carry much cash as a society now. It reminded me of when I owned a pub and used to count the takings.

People no longer see the Free Festival shows as 'well it's free it must be shit' and I don't believe they ever did. This is a nice neat rumour and label put on it by the same people who resent the free shows but have no issue giving out free tickets at a paid venue for a show that can't shift a ticket.

Tax was a well worn phrase when talking about the free venues.

"Yes, but do the free festival comics declare their takings?" one comedy promoter asked me.
I don't think anybody has the right to assume anyone is fucking their taxes based on a dislike of their business model. If you have an issue with people not paying their due tax please go check Gary Barlow, Michelle Mone and some Tory peers before you nitpick at comics you avaricious cunts. While you are at it please make sure the big venues who boast "BEST YEAR EVER" are not putting their profits into an offshore account to avoid taxes in UK.

I pay my tax.

I love the fringe and this year I loved it more. It felt like the old days. It felt good and it felt fair.
I encouraged the people who were skint and living under austerity to come see our shows for free. I also encouraged people who saw the show to take money OUT OF THE BUCKET if they needed some cash. 

Poverty isn't shameful.

Comedy rocks.

Thanks everyone.