Back to the beginning….

It’s been another difficult spell for me mentally, so a consequence of that is that I’ve withdrawn temporarily from the stand up comedy world. Not been in the best frame of mind. One gig had to be binned because I was struggling. Lockdown weariness I think it’s called.

But I thought it was time to return to the beginning, when I did my first live gig in January 2020. That night, I stood there as UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and it went really well.

I hadn’t done a complete impression set for a while so thought I would do so last night at another online gig where I made my debut just recently. I felt in the right frame of mind too, as a recent stressful event concluded to my satisfaction and I was ready to go.

I looked at the line up. I was on second to last. The standard was excellent as usual and I was a little nervous. I had the script and the Boris wig to hand, but…….

The MC, who did a superb job, caught me slightly unawares by cutting to me early. I was fiddling around getting my virtual background to work, when she said “Ian Fullbrook”. Aaaaargh. What a start. I got the background up, the wig on and the promoter then told me my sound was off. A fleeting thought that this will bomb horribly, but no.

After that slight problem, I settled in, the voice was good, the material was good and the laughter was sweet music once again. And boy did I need that pick me up. What did settle me down was the promoter involving me in his magic set at the start of the second half. He is a very accomplished magician and the banter between us had the audience in stitches….totally unplanned and unscripted but fantastic to be involved. His magic trick was a mind reading one and the end result had us all in raptures.

The after show saw some interesting discussion around mental health. I poured out my soul to the remaining audience about the problems I’ve been having. It was very therapeutic and good to get some kind and supportive words too.

This morning, the promoter got in touch and again, was very supportive and kind with his words about my set. Others have got in touch too and I feel lighter. The feeling when a stressful event ends is like nothing else. You feel so much better, as though you’re breathing in clean air. I have peace and quiet around me for the foreseeable future and I am so pleased.

So back on the comedy horse again and pleased to be doing so. Looking forward to performing live in front of an audience when these lockdown restrictions are further lifted here in the UK. Also the weather has been fabulous the last few days here in London so that is an enormous boost to the well being.

Take care.

Yours in comedy,

Ian L. Fullbrook

Who needs medication when you can have laughter?

It’s been a tough few months for me personally. The depths of winter, the cold, dark days and the continuation of Covid 19 lockdown here in London has led to a downturn in my well being. I was not communicating with friends, family or stand up comedy colleagues. I wanted to wallow and keep out of the way.

Even earlier this week, I felt pretty abject. But all of a sudden, like a switch being flicked, I feel better again. And so that leads onto the latest online stand up comedy gig that I did last night.

This particular night is regularly frequented by me, and I had a fresh lot of material to try out. During the day, the anxieties and the panic were overtaking me, and I was even considering withdrawing from the event. But in the end, I was glad I took part.

The audience was about 40 strong, and the other acts were enormously strong and enormously good. I had to match that quality…..and all the anxieties stopped once I began.

I was thrown a bit of a curve ball by the host! I wanted to do a Donald Trump impression right at the end of my set (topical, keep it fresh!) and I was all prepared for that, when suddenly, the host said that Trump was to open my set! Eeeeek!!! So I had to think quickly. The wig was more or less plonked on my head along with the Make America Great Again (some mistake surely?) baseball hat and I had to get into the impression quickly.

And with that improvisation, I was away. The audience were laughing away and I was eased into the set. The rest of the set were jokes, interspersed with the occasional bit of observation, and again, the audience were laughing away. I was even interacting with them, I felt that confident and that good.

Got a lot of excellent feedback and it’s always nice to get that validation off the other acts. One of the acts, an American lady who now lives in London, said that my Trump impersonation was spot on. Blimey! The adrenaline was running round me and the whole night was a tremendous buzz. Nothing can take away the sound of people laughing with me, rather than at me.

Took me a long while to get to sleep, and I feel very good this morning! As I’ve mentioned before, this stand up comedy was something I fell into by complete accident. Not a path I would ever have chosen. But how it’s kept me going through some very low moments these last 12 months.

Laughter is the best medicine.

Yours in comedy

Stay safe

Ian L. Fullbrook

Mental Health Awareness Week

This current week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the image above reflects the fact that not enough attention has been paid to the mental health of us all during these very tough times.

Certainly, I’ve been struggling over the last two months, with the correlation between mental and physical health never more striking. I’ve had copious amounts of headaches, an attack of vertigo at the weekend and more than a fair share of really gloomy days.

So we all need to seek help. The mental health system in the UK may well start to get overwhelmed with people wanting to express how they feel in this extraordinary situation. Now with the slight easing of restrictions, those of us who have been cooped up can now at least spend some longer time out of doors and the weather is staying remarkably good here in the UK too. So it might be some time to do a spot of sunbathing and to get some much needed fresh air.

Normally, I would be talking about the stand up comedy world but I’ve been out of action like most of my colleagues for the last two months. I’ve been occasionally impersonating the Prime Minister Boris Johnson on video and putting that online. I’m itching to get back on stage and try out a few more comedy ideas. Got some ideas lined up and I hope to inflict those on unsuspecting audiences when we return to action.

As ever, stay safe and get that help if you’re struggling.

Yours in comedy

Ian L. Fullbrook

Week catching up with me…

It’s been an interesting and varied week. I’ve done some volunteering with SANE, some Peer Support work and watched my home county, Essex, win at cricket, so I’ve been out every day virtually.

I think today was when it all caught up with me. I was at another mental health event with Thrive LDN this time, in the London Bridge area. I had to be out early because as is typical of weekend travel in London, several rail lines were having engineering work done so I had to find an alternative route. Not so bad though this morning, and the walk to the venue was pleasant enough on another lovely Autumn day.

The first half of the session today was good, and I was reasonably fresh and alert, but for the second half, a combination of a hearty lunch and the week’s activities saw my concentration levels drop in what we euphemistically call the “post lunch dip”. Not at my best there. But I met some good people and I enjoyed the day.

Getting home was a trickier business as it took nearly 100 minutes to do an hour’s journey. So I was a touch irritable when I finally made it home. Tomorrow is a day when I can recharge and sleep a bit longer!

So not a bad Saturday but tired.

A.S.D Brooks

That’s it, you’ve had your fun….back to reality

Friday 30th August. 6 am. Rise and shine. Time to pack the stuff, say goodbye to Portugal and set off for home.

It doesn’t get light until 7, so we wait in the foyer for the minibus. Dead on time, he arrives and collects one or two others from some other local hotels and then we hit the road. The sun is making it’s first glimpses and the roads are quiet as we scoot along the main road between Albufeira and the airport.

The check in hall is full of mainly British holidaymakers going back on the various flights. It takes us a fair few minutes to get through all the processes, and without any breakfast in the hotel (too early), we decide to grab some grub before the flight. Unfortunately a customer decides to buy every item on the menu and with hunger and impatience taking over, we decant to another and far better eaterie.

Flight dead on time. Stomach turning over. Nervous as always. The takeoff was not as powerful as normal but it was smooth. The flight was pretty good in the main, with scarcely a bump. The first officer had a reassuring Essex accent(!) that kept us all at our ease.

Then I lift the window blind as we start our descent. The coast of northern France is in view as we move up the Channel. My propensity for getting irritated (I must be near home) came to the fore again. There was a young family in the row in front of us, and with the cabin crew forbidding people to use the toilets as we approached Southend, the child decided to play up and wanted the loo. Of course, she didn’t, but irritated the mother to the point of totally losing it. Welcome back to England!

The approach was slightly windy, and quick, but ultimately smooth. It was a nice, warm afternoon as we touched down in Southend. The mother/child Mexican standoff continued as we waited to get off and all the way into the immigration hall. It was a relief when they disappeared into the distance.

Some immigration officials have a sense of humour bypass, but the lady in Southend we encountered was full of fun and good banter. She requested I take my hat and glasses off, to which I replied “I’m much better looking with them on!”. She laughed but of course I had to comply with the polite request. As I went through I said to her “Don’t let my mate through!” His reply was “I think he’s a bit grumpy from not having enough sleep”. All in fun.

The smooth process from leaving the plane, through immigration, baggage pickup and out was 25 minutes. Better than most of the bigger airports I’ve been to. Straight out of the airport onto the adjoining railway platform for the journey back to London. Some wistful memories came and went with the gentle summer breeze as the train approached.

A fabulous five days. Great company, great weather, great hotel, great place, great food. Now hoping that good feeling will continue as I settle back into London life……hmm, get back to you on that one.

I thoroughly recommend Albufeira as a holiday destination. Love Portugal as a country with it’s relaxed and friendly way of life, and it’s relatively cheap too. I shall return, for longer next time. Now on with the Autumn and Winter….joy.

A.S.D Brooks

Albufeira – something for most tastes….

Just to comment on what is on offer in Albufeira. If you’re between 18-30 (sadly not the case for me), there is a street of bars, nightclubs and thronging with people. It’s called The Strip.

Me and my mate had a walk down to this rather loud and colourful piece of Albufeira. It’s not for me, being of a more advanced age, I found it a bit claustrophobic and with loud and thudding dance music blaring out of most of the establishments, we decided to head back to the quieter part of town. I know, I’m a boring old fart. But having just turned 47, I don’t really care.

What we found rather odd about The Strip was a hotel right in the middle. How do the inhabitants sleep with that racket going on? A rhetorical question that had me thinking.

There is the main street in Albufeira, full of restaurants, (quieter) bars, ATM machines, pharmacists and supermarkets. As I said, something for everyone! If you’re short of a loaf of bread, cash or need some tablets for that holiday hazard, tummy ache, it’s all here.

And there is Albufeira old town, which would have catered for the older person like me. Full of cobbled streets, and with more bars and restaurants, that was on the hit list for the Thursday of the holiday, but we were a bit tired and fancied sitting round the pool. It’s a good hike away by taxi so we ditched that idea and decided on more suntan and a dip in the pool.

We have reached Thursday night. The flight back to Southend is at 10 am on Friday so we have to be up at 6 to get packed and ready for the minibus to pick us up. My stomach is already turning cartwheels as the flight back approaches. The five days is over. Great experience and a much needed deep balm to the mental wounds of 2019.

Flight day follows….

Abrigado

A.S.D Brooks

A second half turnaround…?

No, I’m not about to talk about football, but how this year is progressing for me.

As you are all no doubt aware, my year has been difficult, with unlimited stress and dark moments. But….but…is it all about to change around?

Could be. All of a sudden, I’ve been invited to various mental health events and today was a case in point. I attended one such meeting and felt at ease again, networking and connecting. To top it all, I bumped into an old school acquaintance who I haven’t seen for a few years. It was good to see him and hopefully we can reconnect. It’s been too long a gap between conversations.

I feel slightly different since returning from holiday. I don’t feel as anxious or weighed down with stuff. I’m sleeping better and I’m now looking forward to these upcoming events with some relish. A chance to rediscover some missing goodness and pleasure in life.

So, I hope this is the start of a good spell. I do have them, though this one and the previous one have been at a long interval. Time to fight back and show myself that I can enjoy life once again. A bit of positivity! It’s a while since I’ve been able to utter or write that phrase.

Connecting and networking – let’s go!

A.S.D Brooks

Birthday reflections…..

Evening. Today I advanced another year, to 47. Getting closer to that half century. Every birthday, I reflect on the year past.

Ever since late November/early December 2018, it’s been traumatic to say the least. Suffice it to say that my health, mental and physical, has not been good. Of course, there have been some brighter moments, but these have been few and far between. It’s been a constant battle to stay afloat.

Last November, I went through one of these government ordered Work Capability Assessments, and as usual, the whole experience was cold, demeaning and hugely humiliating. But more of that in a minute.

A few weeks later, I attended a Christmas party at SANE, the UK mental health charity that I volunteer for. The whole evening I found a struggle, I felt claustrophobic and succumbing to a panic attack, I headed for home.

Christmas wasn’t that inspiring and then the start of 2019 was desperate. The Work Capability Assessment found me fit to work and removed one of my financial lifelines, in a trice. That sent me into a mental tailspin and thought dark, sinister thoughts about what the future might hold for me.

I appealed this decision via something called a Mandatory Reconsideration. The reply was best described as arrogant nonsense, as though I’m making up all my issues and I know precious little. I had no money for 2 months or so, and the little money I had saved was dwindling. I decided to go to my doctors to get him to help. I was paid some backdated money while the appeal was being considered, and I was provided some help in going to a tribunal.

For the previous few months, my brother in law was ill with cancer. He seemed to be making good progress until he became very unwell in February. This was putting an enormous strain on me and my sister’s immediate family, and all thoughts were with brother in law as a rapid deterioration started to set in. I made it to the hospital to see him for one last time in late February and it wasn’t good. That’s how I don’t want to remember him. A very distressing time.

Come March, which should be a time for hope and optimism, my brother in law passed away. Even now as I type, I can’t quite believe it. My sister has borne the brunt of the strain for a while and is the strongest person I know or am likely to know.

The funeral was delayed while I, reluctantly, took a few days away to gather my thoughts. When I returned, the problems were still there. Three brown envelopes on the doormat – YOUR MONEY HAS BEEN STOPPED. Crushed, I had to carry on and try and be strong for the family. An awful time for all of us.

Then cricket season came along in April. Typically it was cold and dank, reflecting my mood. All of a sudden, I started to settle into scoring and some umpiring, albeit on a limited basis via my club. But if there wasn’t enough issues casting this dark cloud over me, another one cropped up where I felt unappreciated and undervalued. There were some brighter moments but overall, I’ve just run out of energy and enthusiasm. The cricket I’ve done recently has been sporadic and some of the fun has gone out of it, because that’s what some people actually want it seems. Not interested I’m afraid.

And then to the appeal tribunal last Friday. My sister came with me, and the wait to defend myself was like waiting to face a firing squad. It would have been more humane. Armed with a wad of papers as big as an encyclopaedia, I had some help from a local advocacy service. The lady dealing with my caseload has written a powerful and informed letter.

I sat down, terribly anxious as one might expect. I answered the questions as truthfully as I could muster, and before I could say any more, the presiding judge announced “YOU HAVE WON YOUR APPEAL”. The original and factually incorrect initial decision had been reversed. When those words were uttered I broke down, partly in relief, but partly of upset and anger about the distress that has been part of my life for the last year.

I still cannot bring myself to feel elated or joyous. I feel it’s vindication and a confirmation of what my issues are and how they dominate my life. I also feel it’s justice. My sister said the initial decision was wrong and we stuck with the whole process until the bitter end. I could have given up and there were times when that was the better option. But I have amazing support and the tribunal judge and doctor were utterly fair and impartial, asking me relevant questions, not a standard tick box exercise to satisfy quotas and ideology. That advocacy letter swayed their decision and the judge recommended that I have a two year moratorium from being assessed. I know that this will crop up again in the future but for now, justice has been done and seen to be done.

And I have faith in the UK judicial system too. And that’s the second time I’ve won an appeal. The last time was in 2012. The weight of evidence was not dismissed out of hand as historical and irrelevant (the State’s words, not mine). It was carefully considered and the right outcome has been achieved.

So here we are today. 12th August 2019. I’m 47 years old, hoping the next twelve months will be a lot better. They can’t be a lot worse. One thing hasn’t changed however, the weather is rubbish and it hasn’t stopped raining for two weeks. But on the day of the tribunal appeal, the sun shone briefly for A.S.D Brooks. Hoping for more sunshine in the next year.

Thanks for listening.

A.S.D Brooks

Typical isn’t it?

Yesterday I had no cricket due to extreme heat. Today I had no cricket due to……rain. Yep, that perennial enemy of all cricketers came to London and washed out my intended game.

Couldn’t sleep last night as it was so oppressive. Managed to squeeze in a few hours shuteye when I was woken by a loud clap of thunder around 9am. Then the rain started, in bucket loads. It did have the object of freshening up the air and making things a little more bearable after the last four days of insane heat.

My colleague picked me up and we made our way to the game. The rain was still chucking it down and I then said “I bet the game is off and no one has been told!” Correct answer. But this is where I get on my hobby horse of slapdash cricket administration. One of the teams had to come from the other end of the county, about 40 miles or an hour’s drive away. A few players turned up with their parents (it was a youth game) only to be told it was cancelled.

They were not informed before they left. Dreadful administration. Food had been brought, and a lot of organisation had been put in but no one had remembered to tell the travelling team and their entourage and the two umpires – us. Not pleased, even though our journey was relatively short. It seems that people lower down the pecking order are not informed when a game is likely to be abandoned, like umpires, scorers and other associated people. Not good enough, I’m afraid.

There was little prospect of play in any case as the playing area was under water and it was still raining hard. But what a wasted journey. Poor stuff all round.

So me and my colleague went for some lunch and that was rather nice, discussing future games, having a laugh and that helped to break up a largely forgettable and frustrating day thus far. Looks as though the heatwave has broken and the weekend’s weather prospects look rubbish. The air is cleaner, it’s less oppressive, though still warm, but at least nobody is sweating buckets and feeling as though they’ve run a marathon. Enjoyed the rain falling earlier.

And possibly….there may be a foreign holiday coming up! Watch this space, plans are in their infancy.

A.S.D Brooks

How are we all coping?

Morning. Well that was a great disappointment last night. Laid awake expecting lots of thunderstorms and rain, and we got precious little where I’m located. But that soda water and ice sent me to bed happy.

I’m in the SANE office today. Everybody is drained and complaining of the oppressive nature of this weather. But there is a silver lining around the cloud. Tomorrow I was due to be scoring in a cricket match, but because of the high possibility of the record temperature in the UK going tomorrow, the cricket has been cancelled, and in my opinion, very sensibly. I’ve not heard of cricket being cancelled because of extremely high temperatures before, but this is a common sense decision which I applaud.

As for me tomorrow, I’ll be having all windows open in the flat, electric fans on full blast and a store of soft drink in the fridge with copious amounts of ice. I’m very reluctant to step out of doors tomorrow into temperatures of over 100F. While everyone is pleased to see good summer weather, this is bordering on dangerously extreme. So I’m glad the cricket is off!

The above is my method of coping in the heat. What’s yours?

A.S.D Brooks