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Tue, Mar 27th - 2:04PM

Women in Comedy festival Boston

Boston hosts an awesome women in comedy festival, now being a comedy festival veteran (14 one hour shows over ten years at Edinburgh Fringe) I was expecting a town under siege – much in the way Edinburgh gets every August but this one is very different.


Firstly it’s pretty small and I mean really small and secondly it is located in just a few venues in the Cambridge Area of Boston near the famous Harvard University. I suppose I was unprepared to just be doing odd slots of 7 to 14 minutes but I did get to attend and take part in their workshops and comedy panels. My favourite part was getting to meet loads of American women comics from all over the US and share our experiences, normally that is done in busy bars as comics come off a show and scream at each other over loud music and warm beer. This way was much nicer, also getting to see a variant of comedic styles, sketches, musical and dance comedy really made the festival an experience for me.


Women comics in one venue in a line up usually eye each other up like wary cats in an alley, or maybe am just used to dealing with lots of egos back stage in comedy gigs, but here the women were very supportive of each other. The organisers of the festival tried their best to include me in lots of the events and were generally well co ordinate and made sure I knew exactly where and when I should be. The upside is Boston is an amazing backdrop to a comedy festival, the city is just breathtakingly lovely and the people were so sweet and chatty.


We stayed in a stunning brownstone apartment/hotel which was so stocked with antiques and original fittings, I felt like I had broken into a museum, who gets to put their knickers in an armoire? I can’t describe how beautiful the place looked.


The downside was after the hot weather slid off to be replaced with a cold front we got mice running the floor and that made comedy seem that much more comedic and scary for me and my pal Shirley who came with me. The enduring memory of a mouse stuck to a sticky trap screaming for death at 5am will stay with me forever, but the hotel did discount us and were profusely apologetic. I have to say the place was stunning and very clean, it’s just old houses will get mice...I wish they had added to the charm and gave us a cat with the room. Then again a cat ripping mice apart might not be a nice memory either.


Luckily my daughter Ashley wasn’t with me on this tour as she would have rescued the mouse knitted it mittens and called it William Shatner.


I can’t say anything bad about this apartment it was just so welcoming, but am hoping when I head down to NZ in mid April for their comedy festival I don’t have to deal with mice.


Boston women in comedy festival will grow and develop nicely and I hope to make a return.

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Fri, Mar 2nd - 7:07AM

One night in prison

“They are not my guns” were the last words I heard myself say as the prison door slammed shut behind me. That slow realisation that this room with no windows and that smell coming from the ‘stainless’ yet somehow ‘stained’ steel toilet pan in the corner is ever present. What is that smell? I realised it was the mixture of bleach and shit -to be honest- the shit smell would have been fine but with a hint of bleach it somehow elevated the scent into a higher sense in my nose. My brain kept trying to make sense of what the conjoined smells were and that made it worse - bleach and shit were the two smells that remind me of that horrible night.


I stood in that small room that was painted a dirty mushroom colour; it had one shelf bed with a blue foam plastic mattress. The mattress when pressed emanated a new smell to the collage of stinks already in the room. I grabbed the grey crusty blanket and lay down. Then immediately sat up- how the fuck did I imagine I could lie down in this room and sleep like I was in some unusual hotel...I was in a police cell and I didn’t know when I was getting out.


I looked about and wondered how many people had slept there and if they had all managed a full piss into the mattress. I imagined men standing up and just pissing onto the bed with no care who may have to come after them. My fingers touched the rough blanket and I felt as though microscopic bugs were jumping onto my hand. I flinched and stared at the ceiling.


The looming sense of aloneness and my mild to middling claustrophobia made a sudden panic flutter in my chest as if a small, half dead bird was trapped inside my ribcage. I could feel my heart bang in my ears and my blood rushing through my veins, my gums tightened and my tongue tingled with the fear rising inside me. I almost screamed, but held back the panic as I knew my husband was in a cell near me and I didn’t want him worried about me.


“Excuse me, can I get a toothbrush in here” I shouted as I banged on the door. Eventually someone who genuinely looked like Les Dawson dressed as a woman came in through the door. I was surprised she wasn’t a police woman, why wasn’t she a police person?


 “A toothbrush? Where the fuck do you think you are? The Hilton?” she shouted, turned and slammed the door shut, I guessed she must have been some sort of police worker or someone who looks after female remand prisoners and I started giggling nervously as I recalled she really did look like a wee fat aproned woman from a 70s sitcom. Am sure she had a moustache and then I pondered what if she was a policeman who likes to dress as a wee fat woman at nights and I had disturbed him/her? Then I thought...maybe I should be worrying about this situation instead of finding something to giggle about. I was in a police cell for possessing guns and that was fact I had to face.


Yet weirdly all I could think about was “I really want to brush my teeth”.


I knew that my daughter Ashley was ok; I knew she was with family and I knew my husband was in a nearby cell as he was arrested with me. How could he not know his dead father had secreted weapons in his house the house we were living in whilst my own flat was being renovated. How could he not know this? I was so angry, and had to face it; of course he knew but didn’t bother to worry about it.


Circumstances and a woman scorned had lead me to that police cell, if my father in law hadn’t fucked some crazy bitch who after a long turbulent relationship with the family hadn’t showed the police a map of the back garden where she believed the guns to be.....I would be ok. But we weren’t ok. They found the guns.


In that cell for that whole night I still recall the feeling of horrible injustice. Those policemen knew those guns weren’t mine- yet they still locked me up overnight.


I lay awake on the smelly mattress with the scabby blanket and vowed to never take my liberty for granted ever again- after a sleepless night I was taken to the courts in Glasgow and released without charge. It was over.


It’s been years since all that happened and I have spoke about it in my comedy show and made funny jokes and stories surrounding the whole situation, yet it still haunts me.


The upshot of that experience back in 1994 is- I joined Amnesty International in an effort to help anyone who was dragged into a situation through others and innocently ended up in a cell.


I know I was guilty by association to the family, and my innocence wasn’t clear cut but many people are held against their will and don’t have proper representation or help so please join @amnestyuk on twitter and get involved with their projects.

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March 2012
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