Comedians getting Christmas Lattes (series two)
Originally not aired on 17/12/2019
Tell Tiny Tim to get a big Turkey, tell Bob Geldof to remind Africa, and tell all your friends to get excited, because Christmas is here and we all know that means a brand-new series of the unrecorded podcast, “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Gingerbread Lattes”.
Also, while we’re telling people things, can you tell Josh Harris he’s an absolute bellend for acting like he’s my best mate, but then still going out with Jody Cartwright in year 9 despite the fact he knew I fancied her. The rat.
Anyway, back to the show…
Some would call it a Christmas miracle, some would call it one man’s attempt to overcome his seasonal depression (a seasonal depression that covers all 4 seasons, to be honest), but one thing we can all agree on is that there’s only one written podcast on the planet that people should be tuning into over the next week, and that’s this one. This is the podcast that doesn’t mind if you’ve been naughty OR nice – as long as you have basic literacy skills, you can enjoy it.
And who better to join me for the series premiere than Birmingham’s own Richard Dadd?
A better comic with a bigger profile, you say? Maybe. But what Richard lacks in talent and fame, he more than makes up for in living geographically close to me. From Birmingham’s Yardley area, it took Richard just 20 mins to get to the Costa in Kings Heath where this podcast wasn’t recorded.
“Thanks for coming, Richard. That was impressively quick.”
“Thanks for asking me, Eric. I’m really excited to do it.”
I burst out laughing. For some context, Richard is a character comic, which means instead of nurturing his own personality into something that’s interesting and funny, he takes what some would call a short-cut by putting on a silly outfit and pretending to be someone else. When he said, “I’m really excited to do it,” I already knew I was falling victim to another one of his little character skits.
“Hahaha, great stuff, Richard.”
“What do you mean?”
Trying to resist playing into his hands, I moved swiftly on. I had an interview to do, after all.
Richard has recently shot to midlands fame with his latest character, “The Reverend”, a Vicar that details the ways in which God used his omnipotence to create comedy. Fittingly, it’s a character that kills harder than the Romans who brutally murdered our saviour Jesus Christ all those years ago.
“I’m still gutted about that, you know, Richard.”
Not knowing how to respond, Richard sat there in solemn silence.
“Anyway,” I said. “We’re here to celebrate the birth rather than the death of Jesus. How do you think his 33 years on this planet changed comedy?”
“Well, I mean… what kind of question is that?”
I sighed. I was sick of all these characters Richard was playing. First it was Guy Who Says He’s Really Excited To Be On The Show, then it was Guy Who Says ‘What Do You Mean?’ and now it was Guy Who Questions The Unrecorded Podcast Host’s Interview Technique. When was it gonna end?
“Can you just be yourself for a second, Richard? I’m trying to do an interview here.”
“I am being myself, Eric.”
“Oh, here we go again,” I said, raising my eyebrows.
“I guess what I wanted to talk to you about is how much comedy has been helping me recently.”
“Okay go on then,” I said, tiring of this charade. “How has comedy been helping you?”
“Well,” he said, “last year I was living in London, and to be quite honest, I felt isolated and pretty depressed.”
I sat up. I wasn’t sure what he was doing with this latest character, but he’d got my interest.
“Then I moved back to Birmingham,” he continued, “and I started doing comedy, and well, it’s… it’s been transformative.”
“In what way?”
“The depression went away. When I started gigging, it was like a cloud had lifted. I felt part of something, maybe for the first time in my life… and… and…”
He started to well up.
“Sorry, Eric, I’m getting emotional.”
“It’s okay, Richard. You’ve made me realise something today.”
As he dried his tears with one of Costa’s 100% recyclable napkins, I thought to myself: what a performance. This might be my favourite character Richard’s ever done. Sure, it would’ve been nice to have met the real Richard, but what he said resonated with me. I felt the same as the fictional entity in front of me: before doing comedy, I was pretty lonely, but then all of a sudden I was in a community of like-minded people, and I was creating art that meant something to me.
And when you think about it, if it gets the message across, what’s wrong with Richard playing a character. Do we not all play characters to some extent? Are we not all wearing silly outfits and pretending to be someone else? The answer to these questions is no. But it works for Richard, and his characters have taught me a lot about myself.
I finished my delicious gingerbread latter and stood up.
“Thank you, Richard” I said, shaking his hand. “I’d love to talk to you for real sometime.”
Tune in tomorrow!
Originally not aired on 18/12/2019
What is Christmas even about?
Is it about giving? Is it about eating? Is it about someone dying on Eastenders?
I’ve never really figured that out. When I was younger, Christmas was just about me getting the latest version of FIFA, so I could play online with my mate Josh Harris. He’d get the game in October when it came out, which was annoying. I’d have to go round his house to play, and he was a terrible host. He’d always say, “Do you want a cup of tea, mate?” and I’d say, “Yes, please,” then he’d say “Cool story, bro” and not make me one. Looking back, it was just his way of getting me riled up before we played. And it worked. I’d be more rattled than a pair of maracas during a music lesson at a poorly-funded primary school.
Then Christmas Day came around and I’d get my own copy of the game, and I’d be as happy as Larry (Larry is another mate of mine, who also had to wait until Christmas to get FIFA). I’d sit there marvelling at the TV screen, as players moved around slightly more realistically than they did in the previous year’s version. It was great.
But now I’m grown up, FIFA doesn’t mean as much to me. Life had clarity when I was a kid; now it seems like the world is constantly changing and it’s confusing and scary. As each year passes, the person I thought I was changes. FIFA might become more realistic each year, but my goals and ambitions seem to become more unrealistic.
I know it’s a bit of a cliché story: boy grows up, enters the real world, starts an unrecorded podcast, feels lost. But it’s just how I feel; and if I can’t express how I feel on my own unrecorded podcast, then where can I express it?
One person who knows all about expressing herself is today’s guest on Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Chai Lattes, Tal Davies. With a joke about how her face looks like a potato, Tal is one of the most exciting new comedians on the Midlands circuit. Having only started doing comedy in April, she has already worked her way onto some extremely low-level pro gigs and her rapid development has taken everyone by surprise. The last time she burst onto a scene this spectacularly was during her primary school Nativity, when she interrupted the birth of Jesus to ask Mary if she had any swaps for the Pokemon Charizard.
“I was playing Balthazar, the Wise Man,” Tal said, explaining the incident, “and I was trying to get Pikachu off of King Herod and basically he wanted Charizard and it was a bit of a mess.”
“Did Mary have Charizard?”
“Yeah, but she wouldn’t give him to me,” she said. “I think she was still pretty pissed off about the myrhh, to be honest.
20 years after that Nativity, at the age of 28, Tal took to the stage again.
“What made you start doing comedy?” I asked.
“The memory of that Nativity, funnily enough.”
“Explain…” I said, not finding her response funny enough OR informative enough.
“Well, I’ve never really felt like I’ve been centre-stage in life. I had a minor role in the Nativity, but I also had a minor role in friendship groups and jobs. Instead of being the hero of my own story, I’ve spent my life feeling like I’m playing a supporting role in the lives of others. I was always someone on the side-lines.”
I could see where she was coming from. Even in this podcast she hasn’t been the main focus. A large section at the start was devoted to FIFA. That’s gotta hurt. She continued:
“But then, one day, about a year ago, I had a flashback to the Nativity. I remembered what it felt like when I stumbled on midway through Mary’s labour. Everyone looking at me. I wasn’t as invisible as I’d imagined. I felt alive.”
“But weren’t they looking at you for the wrong reasons? You were ruining it.”
“It doesn’t matter. It was just that feeling of being noticed. I started doing comedy to get that feeling back, and it’s worked. Even if it doesn’t go well, I’m still so happy that I’m not on the side-lines anymore.”
She seemed so sincere. She was opening up like a box of Lynx Africa on Christmas Day. But much like a Lynx Africa set, I’m not sure if I really appreciated it. I was still thinking about how lost I was in life, how every day I feel more scared about the future. But then she said something else:
“We’re lucky, you know, Eric.”
“We’re lucky? How?”
“Because we have a passion,” she said. “And it guides us. No matter how confusing life is, anyone who has a passion always has a direction. That passion is like the star in the Nativity, we’ve just gotta follow it.”
“Wow, you’ve really taken a lot from this Nativity story, Tal.”
I dunno how it happened, but Tal was starting to take centre-stage. Somehow the tables had turned in this interview, both metaphorically and literally.
“Where do we follow it to?” I said, as I finished rotating the table. “Where’s it taking us?”
“Somewhere very special. That’s what I believe.”
“And what do we do when we get there?”
“Just enjoy it. And make sure you don’t offer anyone myrhh.”
I laughed. I took one last sip of my latte and felt inspired to go back out into the world. To follow my star. I got up from my seat and shook Tal’s hand.
“You’re a wise man, Tal Davies.”
“Thank you, Eric.”
Tune in next time!
Originally not aired on 20/12/2019
I did it. I had my first mince pie of the year.
For some it signifies the start of Christmas when they first chow down on that spicy-fruity concoction again, but for me it signifies the dashing of hope.
The thing is, I hate mince pies. Like, properly hate them. They taste awful. I don’t like the mixture of flavours, and I can only imagine that the person who invented mince pies thought to themselves, “How do I ruin pies, spices and fruit all at once?”
They’re so sticky and dry -- I found last week’s election result easier to swallow than a mince pie. As much as I hate Boris, at least he’s not pretending to be a tasty pie; and when the NHS gets dismantled, it means I’ll die quicker when I choke on one of the horrible things. It’ll all work out. And also, my Facebook is full of people who have the same view as me on the Tories, but when it comes to mince pies, even my echo chamber disagrees with me. Everyone loves them.
So every year, I try one again, thinking that maybe my tastes will have changed. That’s the hope. Because I want to fit in. I like the idea of mince pies, or I guess, more precisely, I like the idea of being someone who likes mince pies. But my tastes don’t change, and I’m stuck being the same old me.
One thing I didn’t like the idea of, however, was chatting to today’s guest on the unrecorded podcast “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Gingerbread Lattes”, Sachin Kumarendran. Delightfully dour and magnificently monotone, Sachin is one of my favourite comedians around at the moment. With tight punchlines, and routines carved out finer than your mum’s Christmas Turkey, Sachin is certainly one to watch. But is he one to talk to?
“How’s it going, Sachin?” I asked, as I took the first tentative sip of my gingerbread latte.
“Yeah, alright,” he said, “considering existence is bounded by death and that malevolence lurks around every corner.”
“Right, okay,” I said. This is what I was worried about. “So I guess you’re just as dour in real life?”
“Is that a question,” he replied, showing no emotion whatsoever in his face. “Or is it a statement? A pathetic, asinine statement that only highlights your inadequacy as an interviewer.”
Given Sachin’s emo-ness, it might surprise you to learn that away from comedy he works as Santa Claus in Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre.
“I can’t imagine you as Santa, Sachin,” I said. “Do you have to pretend to be more enthusiastic?”
“Nope. The kids ask me what they’re getting for Christmas, and I’m honest with them.”
“What do you say?”
“I tell them they’re getting indoctrinated by a culture that values material possessions over anything else; that they’re childhood years are first and foremost a training camp, where they’re stripped of their humanity and turned into consumers that are
easily controlled by elites. I tell them to resist, to not become attached to things, because sooner or later those things will be gone. Everything comes to an end, including childhood.”
I laughed, awkwardly. There was no indication that what he said was a joke, but I didn’t know how to respond.
“Do you not worry you’ll get fired?” I asked.
“Not really. I came close once when a kid pulled my beard off.”
“He screamed, ‘You’re not Santa!’ I told him he was correct, but that I was just the first of many people in his life that he would discover to be an imposter. In future, he shouldn’t be so naïve and trusting, or the uncaring universe will trample all over him.”
I have no idea how Sachin’s managed to hold onto his job, but he was certainly holding onto my attention. He seemed totally at ease, never wavering in his depressive demeanour, always maintaining eye contact, just comfortable in his own skin. I kinda fancied him. He was almost aggressively authentic.
“Have you always been like this, Sachin?”
He took a quick sip of his gingerbread latte, seemingly uninterested by its flavour.
“I used to be much more fake,” he said. “Especially at university. I used to go to parties, pretend to enjoy them. I’d be upbeat around my friends because I worried they wouldn’t accept me otherwise.”
“And why did you change?”
“Because being like that felt wrong. I felt fake. It was acting; it was a lie. It took too much effort to live a lie; I had to be conscious of how I was coming across all the time. I had to remember all my previous interactions with people, so I could ensure I was keeping up the same character they wanted from me.”
“Yeah, I suppose that can get a bit draining.”
“It’s like the old saying,” he said. “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. It’s the same with living your truth. All I know is that, since I’ve embraced being miserable, I’ve been much happier.”
With that, I wrapped up the interview.
My conversation with Sachin had given me a lot to think about. I got home, went into the kitchen and saw the remaining 5 of the 6 pack of mince pies I’d opened earlier sitting on the counter. I picked up the pack and threw it into the bin.
All I want for Christmas is to be myself.
Tune in next time!
Originally not aired on 22/12/2019
What makes someone do comedy?
It’s an absolute grind, especially in the first few years. You travel hundreds of miles for gigs, multiple times a week, for 10 minutes of stage time, and – if you’re lucky – a bit of petrol money. You get home late and rise early the next day to go to work at your full-time job, where you’ll spend the day barely able to function due to lack of sleep, walking around like a zombie. Not so much burning the candle at both ends, as sticking the lit-candle into your eyeballs and burning out your retina just to snap you out of your comatose state.
Then there’s the emotional toll it takes on you. You can smash it one night and feel like you’re in touching distance of Live At The Apollo, then the next night you can die on your arse and feel worthless, like you’re the worst person ever to have stood in front of an audience, and that includes Hitler and Stalin – at least they knew how to work a crowd.
And then on top of all the gigging and holding down a job and worrying you’re worse than the 20th century’s most evil totalitarian dictators, comedians now have to be entrepreneurs with social-media and public-relations expertise. They have to spend what spare time remains carefully cultivating an online brand. Some even release their own unrecorded podcast that takes them hours to write every day, just to increase their reach.
How is this a thing that people go into? But even more bizarrely, you won’t meet many comedians who view it in these terms. Most comedians I speak to are just focused on getting more gigs and improving. They all seem so determined and hard working. Why?
One person who has a theory as to why people do comedy is today’s guest, Hannah Weetman. 23 and less violent than she looks, Hannah is gaining a reputation on the circuit for her prickly punchlines and say-it-how-it-is persona. Hannah has eight months experience in comedy, which is a massive achievement for someone who started in April, and she told me that’s she’s never been happier.
“I love it,” she said. “Getting up on stage is so addictive.”
“What about it?” I asked.
“But why’s that good?”
“Because it makes people happy.”
I sighed, not quite happy with her response. Most of Hannah’s stand-up set is about how her face looks like the moon (it really really does), and with her bland, clichéd responses I was beginning to worry that she too was made out of cheese.
“No, but seriously, Hannah, why do people do comedy? I can’t figure it out.”
“Well, if I’m honest, Eric,” she said. “I think every comedian has something horrifically wrong with them. And the reason they do comedy is to make up for it.”
Now we were getting somewhere. Her giant moonface was causing the tides of the conversation to change.
“And what’s the thing that’s wrong with you?” I asked.
“Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”
“What’s funny?” she said.
“Oh, I thought it was a joke.”
“No, it really does cause me a lot of grief. I honestly think it has a massive influence over what type of person I am.”
“I suppose I can’t argue with that,” I said. “Is there anything else that you think has driven you down this path?”
“My brother. Definitely.”
“He was better than me,” she said. “Well, still is. He’s smarter, more athletic, better looking. He’s the golden child of the family.”
“So you almost feel like you have to compensate with comedy?” I asked.
“At first it was like that,” she said. “It was about trying to show my parents that I have worth too. But now it’s about embracing being shit. In comedy, if your life is shit and you’ve had a bad day, then you can talk about it and everyone laughs. You just go up on stage and say ‘I’ve had a right palaver today’ and everyone laughs.”
It was an interesting point. Maybe comedy is a way of inverting the normal hierarchies. The socially awkward, the spotty, the unwashed, the people who look like the moon – suddenly on stage these people are more interesting than life’s traditional winners. The biggest losers become the biggest winners. People who have no right to have anything to shout about become heroes. Maybe that’s what makes people sacrifice so much to pursue it. I like this way of viewing it.
When I think about my own story, it’s not so different from Hannah’s. At school, my best mate Josh was much cooler than me. He was better with girls, better with boys, and Sports Day might as well have been renamed Josh Day the amount of cheap Wilko-bought 1st place medals he’d have round his neck by the end of it.
But I was funny. I made self-deprecating jokes and people liked it. In fact, I suspect some people found themselves more drawn to me than Josh. Good looking, gladiator types can be intimidating. There’s something endearing about someone saying they’ve had a rubbish day and they’ve got Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I certainly felt drawn to Hannah and not just because of the gravitational pull of her moonface. I just felt comfortable around someone who’s willing to make light of their flaws. Maybe this is why people sacrifice so much for comedy, because of the way it can turn weakness into strength like no other profession I know of.
“What if our lives become too good, Hannah? What if we become successful and cool”
As she was about to respond, I went to take a sip of my gingerbread latte but completely missed my mouth, causing the delicious beverage to spill all down my jumper.
“I don’t think that’s gonna happen, Eric.”
Tune in next time!
Originally not aired on 23/12/2019
Okay, I admit. I hold my hands up and I admit that it’s not been good enough. So far this series of the podcast has been very people-heavy, and I as the host have a responsibility to ensure there’s more diversity.
But what can I do? Everyone in comedy seems to be a person; it’s completely flooded with them. There’s gotta be ways of redressing the balance, but quotas seem patronising and problematic, and also if I choose to have a non-person on over a more deserving and hardworking person, then isn’t that unfair?
I was really stressing about it the other day, when my intern Pablo received an email from a certain canine.
“What do you think of this, Eric?”
I looked at the name. I gulped.
“Do you really think this is a good idea, Pablo?”
“It’s worth a try.”
So it’s with trepidation that I introduce today’s guest on the unrecorded podcast “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Gingerbread Lattes”, the highly controversial Douglas Trev. Half Poodle and half right-wing extremist, Douglas is a crossbreed, and the thing he seems most cross about in his sets is immigration.
“Douglas, before we move on, we need to address what happened on Russell Howard.”
“Fine with me, Eric,” he said, sniffing his gingerbread latte. “By the way, just call me Doug. There’s no need to be so formal.”
Now attempting to make a comeback, Doug attracted controversy in 2016 after his appearance on Russell Howard’s Stand Up Central, where he went on what the Guardian described as a “racist tirade.” With a joke about how “Shih Tzus need to go back to their own country and get eaten” many saw his routine as a dog whistle for people or animals with similar bigoted views. Unfortunately for anyone wanting to see for themselves what happened, Comedy Central have made sure the clip has been wiped from the face of the Earth.
“I think it was all blown out of proportion, Eric,” he said. “Firstly, it was a joke. Secondly, I was trying to make a wider point about immigration. It can be difficult if you’re from a small village like I am, and you start to see the population around you changing rapidly. Dogs from Korea, Dogs from China, Dogs from Scotland. You start thinking to yourself, ‘Is someone gonna get a leash on this situation?’”
Doug was immediately dropped from his agency Woof Woof Talent (an agency that looks after a plethora of canine celebrities, such as the dog from the Churchill adverts, and Marley, from Marley & Me) and he was left to rebuild his career alone. Now three years on from the incident, Doug’s comedy has recently taken a progressive turn, a move seen by some as a cynical attempt to capitalise on woke culture.
“So, are you woke now, Doug?”
Doug laughed, then took a lick of his drink, possibly to buy himself some thinking time.
“Listen, Eric,” he said. “That whole Russell Howard thing changed me. The way everyone piled on me afterwards. The way I went from man’s best friend, to suddenly a dog that no one wanted to take for a walk. But you know who didn’t give up on me? Other dogs. Through all the hate, they stood by me, on all four legs. They asked me if I was okay, they sniffed my bum, they cared. That’s when I realised, I shouldn’t be criticising other dogs, no matter where they come from. It’s people that are the problem.”
As he was saying this, his tail began to wag. I felt we were getting to somewhere interesting.
“What’s wrong with people?” I asked.
“Nothing on the individual level, but culturally attitudes need to change. As dogs, people are holding us back, and not just when they have us on leashes. Everything we do is judged by how it affects humans. If they like what we do, we get a treat, if they don’t, we get taken off the telly. We’re taught we need to please people, but really we should empower ourselves.”
“Yeah but haven’t you got a pretty sweet deal?” I said, trying to counter his point. “Especially in 2019. Most of you dogs don’t have to work. You’re fed, groomed. Everything’s done for you and you get to stay at home.”
His tail stopped wagging. I could tell he wasn’t pleased with what I said.
“Put it this way,” he said. “How would you feel if no one took you seriously. I’m supposed to be cute; I’m not allowed to have ideas for myself. And when I do use my brain then I’m scrutinised like no person would be. Do you really think the blowback would’ve been the same if a human said what I said on Russell Howard?”
He makes a good point. I’ve seen people make jokes on the circuit about dogs with impunity. But as soon as it’s a dog criticising another group of dogs, it’s much more of an issue.
“So how are you going change attitudes?”
“Well, hopefully through my comedy,” he said. “I wanna talk about serious issues, such as domestic pet violence, but I wanna make it funny at the same time. I want to be a role model for other dogs who feel oppressed by a society dominated by humans. When I was starting in comedy, I had Dogs to look up to, like Santa’s Little Helper from The Simpsons, and Brian from Family Guy. If I can be that inspiration for other Dogs, then I’ll be very happy.”
His tail was wagging and his tongue was out. I looked at him and smiled. I could feel his genuine passion, and I could see for myself that anyone criticising Doug must’ve got the wrong dog.
“Doug,” I said. “I don’t know if this is patronising, but you’ve really inspired me today, and I’d like to stroke you.”
As I said this, he ran under the table, over to my side and jumped on my lap. I laughed and he licked my face.
“Thank you for coming on the show. You’re a very good boy, Douglas Trev.”
“Hey, you too, Eric,” he said. “Humans aren’t all bad.”
Doug’s new special “Dougie Style” premieres on Netflix UK & Ireland January 7th before streaming globally on January 10th. Make sure to check it out!
Tune in next time!
Originally not aired on 24/12/2019
That’s it. The build-up is over, Christmas is tomorrow and – unless you’re a bloody bloke – you’ve done your shopping and you’ve wrapped your presents. Now it’s just time to sit back and relax, unless of course you’re one of the unlucky few that has to work tonight. I think we should all take a moment to appreciate those who don’t stop at Christmas, who provide a much-needed service regardless of what day it is. I’m talking doctors; I’m talking nurses; and I’m talking the girls on Babestation who still have a nightshift to get through. God bless them all.
One thing that does still need to be wrapped up though, is another successful series of the festive unrecorded podcast “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Gingerbread Lattes.” If you’re one of the lads from East-17, then don’t worry, because we are staying for another day, but then THAT’S IT you needy pricks.
I’m back in my hometown of Stone, Staffordshire today, and I went to Costa earlier to finish this thing. I didn’t have a guest lined-up; I was just gonna have a coffee with my intern Pablo (he’s spending Christmas with me) and write a round-up of the series. The plan was to write about my highlights of the year and then end on an overly sentimental message that blurs the line between sincerity and irony – what my fans refer to as “classic Eric Rushton”.
But then someone came over.
“Eric,” he said, “long time, no see.”
I looked up. “Long time, no see” turned into “now time, yes see.”
“Josh! Oh wow.”
Stood in front of me was my old friend Josh Harris. And by old friend, I don’t mean like “ooh my good old mate Josh” I mean like we used to be friends but we’re definitely not anymore. I haven’t spoken to him in 5 or 6 years, since school.
“How’s it going?” He said. “Do you mind if I grab a seat?”
“Well, I mean…”
He sat down.
“How’ve you been?” He said.
“Yeah good. How are you?”
The conversation was extremely stilted. Ironically, when we were younger, we used to play on actual stilts quite a lot, and back then the conversation couldn’t have flowed any better.
“Josh,” I said, “I don’t think we should pretend like nothing’s happened.”
“Well, I feel like you’ve got some explaining to do.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve been writing about me.”
If you’ve been following this series, you’ll have noticed that several times I’ve alluded to my broken friendship with Josh. I definitely didn’t know it then, but it seems to have foreshadowed this meeting and has given the series the illusion of having a narrative arc rather than being just a collection of standalone episodes. Nice one.
“To be honest, I didn’t think you’d read them. You haven’t spoken to me for years.”
“You haven’t spoken to me, either.”
I looked down. I felt uncomfortable. This is the exact thing I hate about returning to my hometown at Christmas: seeing people from the past. They’re everywhere – on the highstreet, in Wetherspoons, and now in my favourite coffee-joint, Costa.
“Listen, Josh, I don’t really wanna do this right now.”
“Is this still about Jody Cartwright? Get over it.”
As my latte was beginning to cool, I felt my own temperature rising.
“You knew I liked her, Josh. You knew it!”
“Yeah, and you also said it would be okay if I went for it with her.”
“Well what was I supposed to say?” I said, flinging my arms out in exasperation. “And anyway, it’s not about just that. It’s about you always getting everything. Everyone loved you, and you’d rub it in my face. You’re better looking, better at sports, you even did Medicine at Oxford for Christ’s sake.”
‘Is that really how you see it?” He said.
“You know, Eric, it hurt me when we stopped speaking. I reached out and you ignored my messages.”
“You were at Oxford with the posh boys, I’m sure you were doing just fine.”
He laughed. Not like a laugh someone does when they find something funny, more like one of those laughs that means “Is this guy for real?”
“You have no idea what it was like. Have you ever thought that maybe I needed a friend too?”
I sighed. There was a lot of sighing going on in this exchange. I guess it’s just the perfect way of indicating that something serious is about to be said.
“I wanted a fresh start,” I said, sighing yet again. “I thought I could reinvent myself when I left home. Be cool, be liked. I just hate coming back here to be honest.”
“What are you talking about? Everyone loved you. You were always making people laugh at school. And since you’ve been doing the comedy, everyone here is so proud of you man.”
I looked at Josh’s face and I suddenly felt transported back to the past. I didn’t see the person I’ve grown bitter about anymore. I saw the two of us in year 8, making jokes at the back of Mr. Taylor’s English lessons. I saw us playing FIFA. I saw getting drunk for the first time at Westbridge Park. I saw us at Prom together. These all memories that I’d tried to bury, because I didn’t want to feel the pain I’d associated with our friendship. But now there didn’t seem to be any pain, or inadequacy, the passage of time had fixed all that. Maybe what I was burying them under was just snow, and now it was beginning to melt.
“I’m sorry, man,” I said.
“Me too, Eric. Me too.”
It made me think, at this time of year we often look to the future and our goals for the new year. But I guess Christmas is also about confronting the past, and coming to terms with it. I’m home for Christmas, and I want to make the most of it.
“Are you gonna go to Wetherspoons’ tonight, Josh?” I asked.
“Nah, I’m working unfortunately.”
“Oh of course, at the hospital?”
“No, I actually dropped out of medicine. I’m a cameraman for Babestation.”
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!