Culture Magazine

My Philosophy of Life and an Invitation to See Mountains of Bidets in Stoke

By Thejohnfleming @thejohnfleming
The Fringe has reduced comedian Lewis Schaffer to this

Lewis Schaffer, macho American comic and philosophy lover

Yesterday, American comedian Lewis Schaffer Tweeted:

Words to live by - @thejohnfleming’s greatest quote – “It’s better to do something than to try nothing”

I am grateful for the publicity and would reciprocate by going to see him perform at Vivienne & Martin Soan’s Pull The Other One comedy club tonight, where he is appearing with Brian Damage & Krysstal et al – bound to be a great night (even if I am blatantly plugging it) – but I am off on a train to the Leicester Comedy Festival today where I am on a panel tomorrow morning allegedly talking about what has happened to British comedy in the last twenty years.

I’m buggered if I know.

But Pull The Other One supremo Martin Soan has, I think, tried to hoist me with my own “It’s better to do something than to try nothing” petard.

Martin Soan performs at Pull The Other One

Martin Soan offers to take me up a canal

“You and I should go on a barging holiday for a week,” Martin told me yesterday.

“Why?” I asked.

“Well,” said Martin. “I do all the barging. I do all the cooking. And you just sit on your computer and you blog.”

“About what?” I asked. “About you barging?”

“Well,” said Martin. “I’ll be telling you stories. But also you’ll be sailing at six miles an hour – roughly two miles an hour faster than walking speed – which is very good for contemplation and creativity. So, yeah, what a brilliant idea that is, don’t you think?”

“Would I have an internet connection?” I asked.

“You wouldn’t need one, would you,” enthused Martin, “because you’d be writing it all.”

“But I would have to send out the blogs to my many millions of fascinated readers,” I said.

“They’ve got WiFi out in pubs now, man,” insisted Martin. “You couldn’t go anywhere. You couldn’t go to Soho or see any comedy shows.”

“What need have I of comedy shows if I have you as a bargee?” I observed.

“I tell you,” said Martin, “there’s lots of blogs. I know a bloke who almost killed himself on a barging holiday.”

“Is this a selling point?” I asked.

“It was a mate of mine who used to work in the wine trade,” continued Martin. “So he was a bit pissed, because they’d taken loads of bottles of wine and beer on this barge and they were all wine traders and this tunnel came up and he thought it would be really good to lie on top of the barge and watch the brickwork go past.

One of the Grand Union Canal's homicidal tunnels

One of the Grand Union Canal’s tunnels, deadly for pot bellies

“So he’s lying on the top and the tunnel came up and, after a few metres, he felt the first scrape on his rather extended pot belly, realised he could be in trouble, so dug his heels and fingernails in and managed to inch his way back and fell off into where the tiller is.

“Just imagine the indignity of your life, dying by being scraped to death on a barging holiday.”

“So,” I said, “ you are trying to persuade me to go on a barging holiday where it’s possible to die a terrible death?”

“No,” said Martin, “you’ll just sit down in the hold on your computer.”

“But I’ll hate the countryside,” I said. “It’ll be nothing but fish and wet things. Where would this barge go from and to?”

“The best one is the Grand Union Canal,” Martin told me. “It goes from just outside London to Birmingham, up though countryside.”

“Why would I want to go into countryside on a barge for a week? I hate the countryside. At night, you’re surrounding by animals ripping out each others throats in the dark.”

“It’s a perfect environment for you to do a blog,” said Martin.

“About you,” I said.

“About stories I’ve got to tell,” said Martin. “If you spent a week with me, then all the stories I’ve forgotten about would come out, wouldn’t they? Plus you’d be going through interesting places. Industrial heartlands like Birmingham or Stoke.”

“Stoke?” I asked. “I want to go to Stoke? I’ve been to Stoke. It was closed.”

“But Stoke,” said Martin, getting enthusiastic, “has bizarre, surreal countryside along the canal with all the Potteries. You get mountains of bidets.”

A bidet, of a type visible from Stoke canal

A bidet, of a type reportedly visible from a canal near Stoke

“Have you been on a barging holiday before?” I asked.

“Never,” he replied. “I’ve been canoeing and I’ve walked along loads of canals.”

“So,” I said, “you are trying to persuade me to go on a potentially fatal trip on a barge steered by a bloke who’s never been on one before.”

“It’s only fatal if you lie on the roof.”

“I have a pot belly. That’s the only detail I paid attention to,” I said. “Why do you want to go on this trip?”

“Because I’ve never done it. I’d love to go on a barging holiday. Canals through industrial areas are like rural motorways.”

“Why is Stoke surrounded by discarded bidets?” I asked.

“Because,” explained Martin, “when they cast every dozen bidets, one may be imperfect, so they put it outside. When I walked along the canal through Stoke, there were mountains of toilets and mountains of sinks. It looked bizarre.”

“You’ve got my interest,” I said, “but there’s still the problem that it’s the countryside. If I can’t go to a cornershop at 10.55 at night and get a bar of chocolate, I come out in hives.”


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