One of my books is called Little Lemur Laughing, and I carry with me a lemur plushy when I do performance. Normally the lemur just kind of sits there on stage, not doing very much. However, at one of the schools I visited I decided the throw the lemur across the stage, to see if I could get it in the basketball hoop (we were in a school gym). To the delighted squeals of the children I managed to lob the lemur into the hoop, where it proceeded to get stuck. I then spent a minute or so chucking balls at it, in the hope of getting it down, which I did eventually. One of my favourite parts of performing is being spontaneous and weird, which is not really socially acceptable offstage. This is a perfect example of the quirkiness I try to inject into every performance I give.
My parents' dog Winston (or Wini-Wooshus-Magooshus for short) features in every show I do. I show the audience a picture of him, and explain that he is a Lhasa Apso, which is Tibetan for 'hairy Tibetan Barking Dog' (absolutely true). I always ask the audience to guess his breed, and very rarely has anyone even heard of a Lhasa Apso. However, in Scotland I met several Lhasa owners, including one girl who came up to me after a show and angrily told me that her family had a dog and it was in fact a 'Lhapso Apso'. I told her she was wrong in her pronunciation, and we proceeded to have a semi-serious argument about it until she was whisked away by her teacher. If the girl is reading this: I am right and you are wrong. Ner ner ner ner ner.
Prior to the trip Holly informed me that I would be collected from the airport in a specially painted van. I assumed this was a joke until I was duly collected from Glasgow airport in a vehicle adorned with animal pictures, drawn by the super talented Sarah McIntyre. I spent the whole week being transported from place to place in what was effectively a work of art on wheels. I smile when I think of what other road users made of a van with a picture of a cartoon badger, sheep and ox on the side of it.
From Sunday to Friday, we stayed in a different hotel every night. The downside of this was not really being able to unpack, and living out of a suitcase; the upside of it was, well, staying in a different hotel every night. Some of the hotels were better than others, but all were completely adequate, with one or two a great deal more than so. When one opens up the door to a hotel room for the first time, there is a palpable frisson of excitement. This pang of anticipation was replicated five times during the course of the tour, for which I am grateful. Hell, one of the hotels even had one of them big circular baths.
Scots are not known for their healthy food. On the second day of the trip I happened upon something I hadn't heard of before, called an 'Empire Biscuit'. For those poor, benighted creatures amongst you who do not know what these are, allow me to elucidate. Start by procuring a slab of shortbread. Spread a thick layer of jam on top, then apply another slab of shortbread. On top of the tower, add a massively thick layer of icing, and a tokenistic cherry. Reader: I bought and ate that biscuit. And it took so much out of me, physically, mentally and spiritually, that I had to have a nap afterwards. It was worth it though.
Every day, I was whisked to a special location to shoot a series of 'top poetry tips'. I got to go to some awe-inspiring places, such as Cumbernauld City Centre, which won a Carbuncle Cup award in 2001 and 2005 for its stupendously crap architecture. I did actually think twice before mentioning this in my video, but I was reliably informed that Cumbernauldians are in fact quite proud of their hometown's notoriety. Here, then, are the little videos I shot during the tour:
Day 1: Whitelee Windfarm (UK's biggest onshore windfarm. Whoop whoop!)
Day 2: Bothwell Castle (a big ole pile of ruins)
Day 4: Cumbernauld City Centre!