Done in by the 24 hour clock, again

11 AM Sunday 25  March 2012 Nunhead

There are people who spill coffee on others and there are people who get coffee spilled on themselves, according to Leo Rosten of the Joy of Yiddish. I fit into both categories.

Having dumped an entire pot of cafe Americano on the nice people of Morpeth, Northumberland, Friday evening, I had to go back into the land Harry Potter and try again.

Alnwick is the home of the Duke of Northumberland and his Castle. Alnwick is just up the road from Morpeth. I’ve been told this was where major parts of Harry Potter were filmed.

Harry Potter, the character, is very un-English because Harry has to learn how to be a wizard and isn’t just born that way – at least that is what I think the books and the movies are about, having never read the books or seen the movies. The English way is “to the manor born” which is very, very, un-American. It is a bit distasteful here to actually really want to be anything, even a wizard or a Duke.

The Duke was born with the Castle and every Englishman is judged on whether he passes on to his son what he was given by his father. No Bill Gates or Andrew Carnegies giving their fortune away in England. By English standards, I’m set to be a success as I’m on track to die broke with a tax liability, just like my father.  Bernard Manning once sneered at me that I “was going to die broke” – but that is another story.

What makes England okay is that I can trash the place and the people the English people don’t give a toss, as they say. Half of England will agree with me and the other half will look down on me for not being an Englishman – or agree with me and look down on me.

Back to my point: Alnwick is pronounced like “panic”.  I know why. Last year I had a gig in the town and at 12 noon of the day I realised I couldn’t find my train ticket from London.  My choice: Buy a new one at a billion dollars, full fare, drive the 600 miles in my H Reg VW [new in 1991] with petrol prices sky high, or call in sick. Guess which one I did?

Last night a similar tragedy occurred. Those who know me know that I am not good with military time  – or as it is called “the 24-hour-clock”.  Real people don’t say “meet you at 8 PM” and neither should anyone else.

In 2010, I put the wrong show time in the Edinburgh Fringe program because I misread military time and said my show was at 17:30 instead of 7:30. People turned up for a show at 5:30 PM and I had no venue. I took my show into the street in front of the Central Mosque. I thought of it as “payback” time.

Yesterday, I so distraught over my debacle in Morpeth that I didn’t fully check train times.  I thought the gig arranger – John Monty Smith of Grinning Idiot – would arrange it. I call him “John Smith of Grinning Idiot” because he is named “John Smith”.  Half the country is named “John Smith”. What is the point of a name if every has the same one? What if they gave out the same phone numbers for everyone?

I thought the train was at 10:49 PM so I killed an hour-plus in Alnwick and then I took a cab to the station [10£] and waited on the desolate platform in Alnmouth in the freezing Harry Potter- type fog for a train that wasn’t coming. The train was due at 10:49 AM – the train schedule apps and sites leave off the AM and PMs so it wasn’t only my fault. Damn military time.  Why didn’t the cabbie tell me there was no train coming at that hour? Later I asked him, while searching for a cab to get out of there, and he told me saw me fiddling with my iPhone and thought I knew something he didn’t. That is the power of the iPhone.

Also on the platform was a Geordie man who missed his stop in Newcastle because he was in the train loo when the train entered the station. Obviously, he was an older man – my age – cause young men don’t take that long to pee. I know.

I find out Mr Pee Guy was on a man’s birthday bash bender in York: Ten English guys going to another town to get pissed on a Saturday night. What English men are allowed to do, and/or need to do, and/or just want to do, to get away from the missus is shocking for this New Yorker. On a Saturday night? Ten guys? Imagine ten New York dudes going to Philadelphia just to drink? I don’t even have five friends. Two friends. One? And to drink? And why Philadelphia?

After a desperate hour of begging for a cab we shared a 60£ [75$] ride into Newcastle and I connected with my ride home to Nunhead. The debacle cost me an extra 40£ plus 700 extra calories for the 12 inch meatball Subway I ate in Alnwick [£5] and the three hours of dead time in the cold of a late March in Northern England.

But it could have been worse. I could have spilled coffee on the good people of Alnwick as I did the night before in Morpeth. I didn’t. My gig at the lovely Alnwick Playhouse went well, befitting my title of the Best Comic in England.

Maybe I wasn’t punished that badly because of the time I drove up to Alnwich because had lost my train ticket?

Anyway, in a week, the coffee stains will have faded and I won’t remember that I should never, ever go back to Alnwick.

@lewisschaffer

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