Remember back in May, when I attended a weekend comedy course? Since then, I have been writing and rehearsing material in order to build up to a ten minute set . I’ve also been checking out the open mic venues in Bath & Bristol to get an idea of what to expect. Finally on August 13th I performed my first ever gig at The Smoke & Mirrors theatre bar in Bristol- at a new material night called ‘A bunch of Japes’. Most of the other comics, except the headliner , a fab Romanian guy who’d travelled up from London, were local to Bristol, mainly students.
I , on the other hand, a 41 year old mum from Shepton Mallet, had set off at 2.30pm. My husband, had to bundle the kids in the car and drive me to Wells bus station, to catch the 376. He was then in sole charge of the boys all night - and had to book time off from his handyman business in order to look after them till I returned the next day. Meanwhile I made the long journey to Bristol ( long if you have claustrophobia, and don't like public transport) booked into a crowded youth hostel, rehearsed in a communal kitchen, walked in on my lovely muslim dorm-mate praying, and spilt my take-away goat curry on her pillow! Later, I vomited with nerves, before setting out to the venue. '
A friend from my comedy course met me, she was also doing her first ever gig. We confessed we were both ‘bricking it’ and felt a bit better. Five minutes before I went on, I almost had a full blown panic attack- but somehow I made it on the stage, and amazingly did a fantastic set! The laughs came thick and fast, I felt like I nailed it.
My second gig couldn’t have been more different, an empty room on the lower deck of a barge. My third, went ok - a monthly student gig with some seasoned regular comics, I felt a bit of an outsider. I have loads more lined up, and even the ‘not so good’ gigs I can learn from. You’ll be excited to hear there will be some brilliant comedy acts heading to Shepton Mallet next year - I can’t say more now. But watch this space! Also, when Shepton Mallet Community Radio is up and running later this year, I hope to podcast some pre-recorded and live comedy events, plus interviews with local comedians ( there are more than you may think)
For now, I shall keep on writing and keep on gigging, hopefully with less vomiting, and curry spilling. A big thank you to my husband Wayne aka My Big Handyman and my mum- who have been supporting me while I “Go off galavanting to fulfill some kind of mid life crisis fuelled delusional dream” ( I imagine they’re thinking) Nothing like pressure to succeed ! You can watch my first ever gig on Youtube here.....
When both boys declared they'd had the 'best day ever'- I got such a buzz. Total parenting win! Then my husband said he hadn't felt this happy since he was running dog sled races in Swedish Lapland. I was gobsmacked. I too felt satisfied, and very very tired..but happy tired! It had truly been an epic day out.
So where on earth had we gone, to make us feel so amazing? The Somerset Boat Centre, and it does so much more than it says on the tin! Let me elaborate.
Just a few weeks ago, this new business launched on the banks of the Bridwater & Taunton Canal near West Lyng. There are Kayaks, Canoes, Narrowboats and motorised day boats which can all be hired out from an hour to a full day. It doesn't matter if you have no experience whatsoever, the team at 'SBC' will get you trained up and out on the water in no time. The canal itself is not too deep anyway, so it's much safer than going out on a large lake or river.
We arrived at 10am with a pre-packed picnic lunch, and spare set on trousers ready for everyone. I knew we'd get a bit damp- so its a good idea to bring a spare set of clothes.
If you don't want to bring a picninc - one can be arranged by the company, or you could stop at a nearby canalside cafe for lunch.
I adored the scandinavian style wooden boat centre come hire venue with its clean and spacious meeting space, kitchen / lounge area. it would be ideal to hire put for a work team building day, seminar, or school trip. Alongside the pretty landscaped garden and reception area runs a jetty with seating. Moored up next to a pontoon were 2 x 2 seater sea kayaks, a 3 seater canoe , 3 x 4 person motorised day boats and some narrowboats.
After a safety briefing and demonstration, wen donned our lifejackets then myself and Rowan - Harry and Wayne slid into the kayaks. Despite Rowan having autism- he was really calm and wasn't scared at all. Maybe it was the instructor Ryan, or maybe it was the water itself. I also surprised myself, as I thought my anxiety would take over- and I wouldnt want to stay in the kayak. After a few minutes however, I felt calm and in control as we smoothly paddled down the waterway. Big blue dragonflies flew past, and water boatmen scuttled across the water. We went quite far up and down the canal, and under a bridge. Time just flew by, and my anxiety melted away. The boys couldn't stop chatting and giggling as we had races, and splashed each other with the paddles. Next, the boys and Wayne went on the canoe, and they kids helped paddle and steer the boat - into some reeds ! I took photos of the boat centre, and ofcourse did a suitably smug instagram story #familygoals lol
We took a toilet break, then excitedly crowded round the motor boat as Ryan explained to Wayne how to start the engine, clear weeds from the motor, and showed us all where the first aid kit was.
After the talk, we were off on our own. The instructor sent us upstream towards the cafe , and our very first 'lock' to navigate- he followed in another boat. And we all met up at the lock - for a very special demonstration of how to open and close lock gates.
We drew quite a crowd of families who were walking along the tow path. Even my youngest, Harry, aged 6 was able to help push the lock gates open- due to their clever 200 year old design. We wound the lock handles and hopped back onboard, into the lock, as the water then began to gush out--and our little boat went down slowly like we were in some kind of ancient aquatic lift!
It was so exciting, and everyone waved and cheered as we exited the lock to continue our boating adventure alone.
Twenty minutes upstream we moored up by a swing bridge and a field of grazing cows.
Everyone grabbed a cushion , and we got cosy to tuck into our picnic. It was so tranquil and calm. Just the odd kingfished swooping down to catch a fish, a cyclist or dog walker passing by, and the munching of crisps ( boys) and chewing of grass ( cows). I felt sleepy and happy, It really was the perfect family outing. Rowan even agreed "It's better than going on the ipad". And Harry decided boats were his favourite transport now.
Eventually, we realised it was timeto head back. On our return , both boys took turns to be 'skipper' and sreet the boat..I even took the wheel for a while. We navigated the lock once again, to the pleasure of yet more onlookers. One of the children on the canalside even helped this time.
Back at the boat centre we couldn't thank Ryan enough, and vowed to come back again soon.
We cannot wait for all the themed narrowboat cruises he has planned. There will be a spooky halloween one, a christmas santa cruise and ofcourse a romantic valentine's one ( we won't bring the kids for that!)
Ryan told us he is meeting with a wedding planner to arrange a quirky 'waterway wedding package', he also said they will be hiring out the luxurious 12 person barges for hen & stag parties, birthdays and all kinds of groups. I said I'd love to do a gig on a boat too- so watch out for 'Comedy On The Canal' . Nearby there is glamping and B&B accomodation, so you could spend longer than a day if you wanted- and you will want to !
Check out the website www.somersetboatcentre.co.uk and 'like' them on facebook for latest offers and prices.
There are still five glorious weeks left of the school summer holidays, here are my top tips to survive them! I just hope I can take my own advice. Firstly, you are only human. All the glossy brochures sent home in your kids backpack, showing mum, dad and two smiling clean children enjoying a stress free day at a busy
theme park – are set up! Those people are models, I bet they aren't even married and those certainly aren't their kids. A realistic pic would be one worn down and frazzled parent desperately clinging on to his or her sanity, kids dirty and crying from too many 'bribe' sweets – the other parent isn't in the photo as they took the snap. Who hands their smart phone to a stranger these days!? Be kind to yourself, don't put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect, just be good enough. Don't get into debt paying for expensive garden toys, video games or 'special days out'.
Longleat, Wookey Hole and other zoos or theme parks can be over crowded, over priced and stressful. It could set a family of four well over a hundred quid for a traumatic day out. Kids enjoy family picnics in the local park, messy play in the garden or rainy day trips to affordable soft play centres just as much in my experience. Maybe I'm just being a cheapskate!
In Shepton Mallet, Hullabaloo play centre is offering unlimited entry for the whole summer hols for just £15 per child – what a bargain. Collett Park has free events on throughout the holidays. Grab 'The Fairy Trail' map from TIC or Fairy Godmother sweet shop to give your visit a whole new magical dimension. We have a refurbished skate park and BMX track for older kids up by the football club, and don't forget our outdoor pool. Shepton Mallet Lido is very popular in the hot weather, but they operate a band system so swimmers are guaranteed at least two hours in the pool once you've paid.
I'm most excited about Shepton's very own Caribbean Carnival Fun Day & BBQ organised by Jamrock Caribbean Takeaway on 12thAugust. There will be delicious food, face painting, football, kids games and activities. Ska, Reggae and dance hall music with performances by carnival acts and dancers. Back to my list of survival tips, I never go anywhere without a pack of baby wipes in my bag – I know they are controversial, and I'm sure there are similar sustainable alternatives, but my boys cannot eat a burger with sauce or a Mr.Whippy without making a right mess. I also try to take cash with me, especially to small local events. I also decided to set slightly later, but still consistent bedtimes over the holidays for my boys. Weekends I am more relaxed, but it's reading in bed or playtime upstairs after 8pm and lights out at 9pm in our household. It means everyone gets a bit of quiet time. Self care is my ultimate survival essential!
I'm a 43 year old, mum of two little boys- currently living in Shepton Mallet in Somerset. I'm the Founder and Creative Director of Radio Shepton, a Stand up and comedian and spoken word performer, and write a regular column for The Wells and Shepton Mallet Journal. Which is the basis for my blog usually. I lived in Swedish Lapland for 7 years until 2014 where my boys were born. My partner and I ran a husky dog sledding business. Before that I was a poet, radio presenter, media lecturer, writer, TV producer, actress and burlesque performer ! I never want my life to be boring :)