I have to give you some sombre news, today.
Many of you will have seen me, either live or on TV, wearing one of my favourite T-shirts: dark green with a sort of silhouette of a bear on it. I bought it for the last ever 24-hour show (unsanitary as it probably is, it was always a little superstition of mine to wear the same T-shirt throughout a marathon show) and it acquired a special place in my affections. I only have about four T-shirts I will wear to perform in. This is better than in some periods of my career (for a while it had to be a particular Super Furry Animals shirt, and then the yellow Socrates one, but the washing demands of a one-shirt-strategy were much too steep) but it is still a bit limited. So this bear T-shirt has cropped up quite a bit over the past months. At least two readers of this blog have a Facebook or Twitter photo which includes me wearing it.
Wouldn’t it be awful if something happened to that T-shirt?
So, last night as usual I was signing books after my show. But unlike usual, it was pissing down with rain - we’ve been remarkably lucky with weather this Fringe, until last night – and I had to conduct the signings in dusky half-light under a big umbrella, in a shadowy area of the courtyard. I could only just make out the people I was signing for, and failed to recognise two separate blog readers who are such loyal fans they have essentially become friends.
I had a glass of red wine, my favourite drink/thing, in front of me.
A girl called Charlotte turned up with some friends and they posed for a photo with me (it sounds pompous saying that, but, well, people do sometimes like to do this after shows, un-famous as I might be). Charlotte shares a room at uni with my sister Emma (not THAT Emma Watson, but you can imagine how much she loves people remarking on it). I initially failed to recognise Charlotte, because (a) it was dark (b) she was behind a camera, or at least her face was. Then she announced herself and I began to shake her hand, but it seemed a rather formal and distant gesture; I wanted to be more welcoming, especially given that I’d created some awkwardness by not immediately clocking her. So I initiated a hug. She leaned in to the hug, not seeing, in the shadows, the glass of wine on the table, which tipped over and spilled onto my BLOODY T-SHIRT and jeans.
All this was witnessed by a blog ‘lifer’, Zoe Fell, who was said afterwards to be too shocked to speak.
Of course, Charlotte was very apologetic, not least because I had another gig to go to – a fundraiser for Amnesty – and had to find another shirt from somewhere to avoid turning up looking and stinking like a boozehound (which I may well be, but I try not to make a feature of it at charity shows). This problem was easily solved at the gig, where I was given a fetching Amnesty T-shirt. But the main problem was, of course, not going away. My T-shirt was stained with a huge dark splotch of red wine, which – I know from years of experience – is the most unshiftable of substances.
To put it more brutally, the shirt was ruined.
I did try a bit with salt and white wine and I will put it through the wash, of course, but red wine on a garment is like snake venom in your leg: you have about 30 seconds to react before it kills.
So, a terrible day for all those who have been attached to that T-shirt, chiefly me. It wasn’t really Charlotte’s fault (although I am sueing her for £25,000) and it wasn’t really mine. But it happened. And we have to move on.
As we all know, this blog is all about optimism – when it’s not about many other things – and as we also all know, the Chinese have the same word for ‘crisis’ and ‘opportunity’ (‘crisitunity’, as Homer Simpson guesses in one episode). So, although the shirt may be gone, I pledge that I will find a replacement. I will wear the bear again. It was made by some people called Ames Bros. I will go on their website right after posting this. I say again: I WILL WEAR THE BEAR AGAIN.
Every end is a beginning. Every shirt with wine spilled on it is another shirt waiting to get close to my skin. Onwards and upwards!
Bit of a shame, though.