This morning I woke up in Lewes. Sober. Almost immediately I cracked my nose on the fridge door. Then I made a cup of tea only to find I'd used an Earl Grey teabag which I detest with all my heart and soul. It wouldn't have surprised me at this point to find the milk had gone sour. For the record, it was just about to turn. Milk which is just about to turn is akin to that moment spent on the cusp of failure in a dulled and fettered relationship. Neither person wants to admit it, but something's started to turn. Oh! Not long now til you're pouring putrid lumps of rancidity over your cornflakes in silence... yet still clinging on for dear life.
I don't miss that at all.
I'm blissfully happy to be single. For the time being, of course.
Picture in your minds eye a film of a man strolling happily through the fields of gold. He's totally free as the butterflies dance and the dragonflies dart around him. Jimi Hendrix is playing - in person - to provide an idyllic soundtrack while the sun beats down on the man's smiling face. Tis I. Single. I've spent so much of my adult life in relationships that it's actually quite pleasant to be alone at last.
I turned thirty-six the other day which staggers me when I think about it. My niece who shares my birthday but for twenty two years between us, is now well into her teenage years. She spends her life with an iPhone in her hand and I worry. I seem to use my phone every five minutes too when I think about it but I don't want her to end up like me, so disoriented and detached from living consciousness that she can't open the fridge door without injury before putting the wrong bag into the teacup. But what is she using her phone for all day long? Nothing educational, that's for sure. She thinks Mussolini is a type of pasta.
I'm here in Sussex because I'm performing at a festival. It's the first festival of the year for me. It's not an arts festival in the manner of the Edinburgh Fringe. It's a field festival, like Glastonbury. Except it's not Glastonbury. But it is the hippie-est festival of them all, which Glastonbury could lay claim to long ago when Michael Eavis had nowt but a full head of hair and a handful of cows to milk. This is getting quite pantomime-ish now. But festivals are quite pantomime-ish; people go all out for it, dressing up in outrageous costumes as they head to the ball, having left their jobs - and their inhibitions - behind them. The big difference between a panto and a festival is that at a festival there are no baddies to boo. Unless you count the drunk who trips over your tent-pegs and falls onto your tent. Or the folk who confiscate the bottles of booze in your backpack. But they can't be counted as baddies as they're only doing it because the bottles are made of glass and glass breaks. They're good baddies, they are. There are a few genuine witches that knock about at festivals too. I'm speaking of witches of the spells variety but also of the good witches who turn into bad ones once they've knocked back a few prosecco's. Music? Of course. Audience participation? Tons of it. And what of the pantomime cow? Plenty of those.
I've just had to mop up some marmalade from the keys of this laptop after writing that paragraph. So enthusiastic am I to work this morning that I'm trying to eat breakfast and write at the same time. It's a mystery, this sudden devotion.
I'm staying at a friend's place while they're off attending a wedding. Now there's a thing I can't stomach. Weddings. I prefer funerals. I feel there's much more love at a funeral than there is at a wedding. A funeral is a canvas where I can be truthful and sincere. At a wedding there's too much feigned happiness and smalltalk. I can't abide smalltalk. At a funeral I don't have to talk to anybody at all if I don't want to. Also, the food is better at a funeral. I don't know why this is. Probably because they've got one less mouth to feed: the budget goes a bit further. Yes, I like a decent funeral and god knows in my family we've seen enough of them. Looking through family photographs now is like watching an episode of Dad's Army. My relatives seem to drop like flies around me. Who's next? Will it be someone I can't stand? The mind can't help but wonder.
We really ought to have gone into the funeral trade. The money is fantastic and business of course is never quiet. My father's best friend from his RAF days - a lovely man named Bill who deserved a more imaginative epithet than Bill the Undertaker - had his own funeral business. Bill would come over after Sunday lunch sometimes and we'd go over to the pub where he'd sip half a pint of bitter and tell me some very entertaining stories about his customers. But who - I wonder as I write - is the customer? Is it the body in the coffin or the family who grieve? Either way, Bill told me that he'd had a man in his office once whose wife had just died and she needed transferring from the hospital in Liverpool down to Bournemouth where she was to be buried. He was asking for advice about whether or not it'd be OK to (put on a Scouse accent for this) "strap her into the passenger seat and drive her down meself."
I'm just onto my first proper cup of tea. The sun looks as if it's thinking about shining. I hope it does. Lewes feels great when the sun is out. Sunshine is - after all - perfect wedding weather. Perfect for festivals too. I'm a Taurus you know. A bull. I belong in a field.
Matt Roper performs at Adam Oliver's Wild Cabaret at the Wildheart Gathering, East Sussex, 24-27 May. Tickets: wildheartgathering.com