Glasgow is famous for its great audiences, and this week’s were every bit as lively and demonstrative as any of us could have hoped for. This was made even more astonishing given the temperature level in the King’s Theatre. Those high up in the gallery, and, it must be said, those on stage under the lights, had to contend with almost unbearable heat: the weather outside and the lack of air-conditioning (which they say is on its way: fingers crossed for next year) in this beautiful theatre made for a sweltering experience for many. At least on stage I was focussed on performing the show: those fanning themselves upstairs could only sit and sweat. So a double thank you to all those who came, and triple thankings if you sat upstairs. For me, my dressing room was no respite either. Ugh. I entered it at each interval and after each show, absolutely sodden, to get changed in a similar temperature. The very lovely staff found me a couple of fans (the air-cooling kind, not devotees of the show) which did help a bit.

On top of this, I was suffering from that run-down, coldy, coughy, fatigue which teachers get at the end of terms and performers on tour get when they know they have a break coming up. It’s as if the body senses it can stop holding everything together for a bit and let go. So during the days I was like a zombie: slumped in my hotel room, staring at the wall, trying to sleep, devoid of energy, eating brains. Although there were moments during the day when I doubted if I could manage the show, there is something (camply referred to as Doctor Theatre) hugely restoring about performing, and in fact I looked forward to the show in the way one might look forward to the company of a friend when one feels low. It’s pure adrenalin: once on stage with a show to do, the mind is distracted and the body given new fuel: aside from a shortness of breath and a concomitant light-headeness, I did fine and the shows were all good ones.

I did, however, have to refrain from coming out to sign. Apologies to any of you who were hoping to see me. And again, if someone comes to the stage door and says I’m unable to come out and sign, please don’t waste your time waiting around.

I am now home, to rest and paint a little and then head off to Italy if the airlines allow it. Speak to you in two weeks or so, when it’s back up to Carlisle. And hopefully this time the weather will be cold and miserable.

Stoke-On-Trent and into Glasgow

A move this year from the Victoria Halls to the Kings Theatre, and it has to be said that the latter is a more suitable theatrical venue for the show. The Regent – an odd, huge, plain, orange cube in the middle of an unhappy part of town – is glorious inside, and boasts a delightful in-house crew (many of whom we knew from the Victoria Halls). The shows were good fun, Tuesday’s being probably the best; audiences were lively and delightful. Repeated disruption on one night from some strange and intoxicated character in the stalls, but he eventually stopped after a telling-off. Wednesday brought a wonderful respite: I spent the day sat in the lovely grounds of our hotel, reading and relaxing. Bliss.

Thursday morning was an early start to Glasgow. Somehow that early start, the drive, Glasgow’s beautiful but sweltering Kings Theatre, last night’s show and concomitant late night have left me with a bad throat this morning. This is always a worry: I have taken the appropriate medication but will have to bow out of signings again until it gets better. I hope any of you coming will understand. Luckily, I have a little sunny break coming up which will, I hope, sort me out.

For any of you wondering, the final DB Investigates doc does not indeed air not this Monday as you might have had every reason to expect, but in fact the following Monday, due, I understand, to a clash with the football on the other side and a live Davina extravaganza being aired on 4. This is not a bad thing: it extends an otherwise very short series, and might fool you into thinking that there were more than three episodes. (The docs have been made in my ‘spare’ time over the last eighteen months, hence there only being three. Hopefully, I will do more, and we’ll schedule time for a full series of six. Or ‘a thousand’ has a nice ring to it).

Ah, Jeff Buckley’s recording of Allelujah has just started playing in this bar. A great version. As is Rufus Wainwright’s, sadly only available on the Shrek album, but whaddyagonnado.

Last night here was a terrific Glasgow crowd, always a huge treat. It’s VERY hot in there. Hotter than the sweat-box in the Pasedena County Women’s Prison. Backstage too: my dressing room is as roasting and airless as the auditorium. Of course, it’s twice as hot on stage under the lights, though I don’t get a chance to notice it. But be warned: dress skimpily.




Tucked up on a train to Stoke. Wimbledon was a lovely week. The first couple of days suffered (in terms of numbers) from last year’s London run, so the place was not as packed as the other venues. Monday offered a quiet, older audience and, Tuesday a younger, livelier bunch.

Wednesday was our first filming day. It was the best first filming day so far: normally I get a bit disgraced by the cameras and mess things up. As it was, it was a good night. Thursday, our second filming night, was terrific. The crowd was on its feet way before the end and such a joy. Thank you everyone. Friday and Saturday were a delight too: Friday I had family in to see the show, which always makes it a proper treat. The show looked its finest too, as the lighting had been ramped up to its glamorous, previous West End state. Even the nice floor was re-instated. All in all a good week for the show. The TV production team were great, despite a broken generator. When you watch the show (it’s not as good on TV, and we’ll only be able to include about 70 mins of a 150 minute show) please note the plaster on the ring finger of my left hand. I managed to RIP MY NAIL OFF the night before filming. IT STILL HURTS.

In the few afternoons I had free, I worked on a new picture of Rufus Wainwright. This one has taken some wrangling to get right, and now I must leave it alone for a while to continue with the show. But it’s a relief to leave it in a presentable form. It’s at least better than the old one, which I painted before I knew him well.

Those who know the previous work will see a move towards less caricatured images. I’m rather enjoying that. After a break of eighteen months, this is a new direction. I am getting asked how long these take: the best answer is ‘a few days’. I have to do the piecemeal at the moment as I have so little time to dedicate to them. But it’s such a pleasure. I listen to Rufus constantly when painting anyway: I switched back and forth to Richard Strauss, which I think he would like. The new album has hints of Debussy, so he has too been included: some varied sounds have wafted from my studio this last week.

Tonight brings episode 2 of Derren Brown Is Kind Enough To Spend A Few Moments Of His Valuable Time Taking A Jolly Good Look At This And That. I do hope you enjoy. If not, your bum stinks.


What a beautiful place. I’d never walked around it before, but this time I had a great stroll around. And if you’re looking for somewhere to stay, there’s nowhere other than the Captain’s Club Hotel: amazing food and the friendliest, most attentive, spoil-you-rotten service.

The BIC is a great barn of a venue to play. The audiences were lovely, but the acoustics are rotten for any performer. From the stage you can only hear the front row’s responses, so it took some assurance from Jonas, our sound guy, that the audience was responding with more than the slow, single trickling hand-clap that was reaching my ears. Equally, those of you at the back were VERY far away – I hope you could make everything out that you were supposed to.

It was one of those few venues where we have to build everything – the stage, everything, from scratch, so our dedicated assembly team, and the in-house crew were just amazing. Thank you everyone, it is always a mammoth task.

I had a few days off, and spent them painting a picture of Rufus Wainwright. Miserably, it wasn’t working, so I am going to ditch it and start again: annoyingly, it made me come  back to the tour feeling unhappy and unsettled. But sitting by the river here reading Proust and tucking into amazing seafood has perked me up suitably, and the ordering of the iPad (wifi-3G of course) has provided an exciting punctuation point at the end of this little jaunt. Tonight you’ll be aware, UNLESS YOU’VE BEEN LIVING IN A CAVE FOR THE PAST THREE WEEKS, a series of documentaries starts about modern-day troglodytes and their habitation patterns. Following that, your blogger goes about looking at paranormal things. There are but three of these docs, so make sure you catch them. They’ve been great fun – and sometimes gruelling – to do, and I hope to make some more if people like them. I’ve really approached the subjects ready to be convinced and with an open mind (open, but not so open that my brain falls out).

Hope you enjoy them – thank you Bournemouth: must dash now to Wimbledon, there are others that need me.


PS ‘Blue Movie’ – yes, I know. Long story.

Curing the gays

We’ve been getting a few emails concerned about Conservative candidate Philippa Stroud and her religious inclination to ‘cure’ those who prefer a bit of healthy man-on-man, or gal-on-gal action to the other mixed-sex variants once popular in the nineties. A Guardian article outlining the story is here.

I’m not interested in politics, and don’t wish to comment on this as a political issue. I have, however, attended these sorts of church sessions and even courses which set about healing the ‘brokenness’ of homosexuality. Their premise is that we should be straight, as intended by God, but that when our early relationships with same-sex parents are unfulfilled, we develop an unmet need for identification and closeness from our same sex which is then eroticised during adolescence. Make of that what you will: certainly it’s not uncommon for  us whoopsies to have struggled a bit with parents of our gender, but whether that’s a cause of sexuality, or a result of it, or not at all related, is a different issue. Offering counselling, holding courses, and authoring various books on the subject are a number of people once gay, but claiming to have turned straight through the Grace of God, and through healing those broken relationships. When these people are questioned closely, they do not so much as talk about a full ‘conversion’ of sexuality, more that they have learnt to not respond to their homosexual urge (and which they still acknowledge from time to time) and that they have found a place in their lives for a straight relationship. Again, make of that what you will. Certainly it seems to me that if you’re offering the promise of change to people who may (for whatever reason) desperately want it, it’s important to come up with the goods. I don’t believe that it does really come up with the goods, which will come as no suprise, I’m sure. So a word of warning to anyone unhappy in their sexuality who is considering this route. It’s more likely to cause further depression than stop it.

At the time I was fascinated by its claims, and like many people wishing their sexuality would pass or change, hoping it would be effective. Looking back on it, it is of course simply misguided and damaging. A good friend of mine was very active in the movement for years, eventually realised he was not changing, and is now very happy in a  gay relationship, having dealt with the ‘guilt and embarrassment’ of ‘failing’, as it inevitably seemed to him.  For all that, he has become a firmer Christian, so I wouldn’t presume to say that he regrets his experience of it all. Faith is a funny thing.

I share the distaste that many feel for this. Regardless of how ridiculous (and offensive, if you take offense at such things) it may sound to ‘cure’ gay people, there are plenty of unhappy people – especially, I would imagine, those holding a religious belief – who would welcome the idea of an easy change to being straight. It would be lovely to think that a church at least in part devoted to peace on earth and making people happier would turn their efforts towards the far more helpful cause of educating people to accept  (through whatever complex play of nature and/or nurture) how they or others have turned out in life. I’m sure plenty of Christians – even Tories – find such ‘therapy’ quite distasteful, however confusedly well-meaning it might be within the world of the gross religious presumptions it inhabits. I hope that both groups have the sense to publicly distance themselves from this confused and probably quite harmful practice. I read of such things now and shiver.