Lewisham Nights

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 5 October 2008

It's a perfect day for staying in and reading the papers, doing the ironing in front of the radio, watching telly and sleeping in my own bed.

The rain is lashing down. It's driving in from the South, on a slant, battering the clematis on the cottage wall.

The Virginia Creeper on the spruce tree in the garden is clinging on for dear life.

The heatings on.

My feet are freezing, I've left my red wooly socks downstairs, and my belly is rumbling.

It's gone 11.00 and I havn't been downstairs yet.

When I woke up this morning I remembered I had done an 'Audience With...' which meant a real day of rest, no worrying, no panic, no flutterings, just a day of reading, eating, watching and probably a long hot bath.

Friday was, as the Parisians used to say back in 1968, the first day of the rest of my life.

For 40 years I had been nagging on about doing a one woman show. To be more accurate several people I had worked with had pushed, prodded, suggested and cajoled me into doing a one woman show but I'd always been reticent.

The critics, the baby, the peer group, the 'oosbind, the audience, the noisy chattering demons inside my own head, the gross National product of Chad - you name it I found an excuse for not doing it..

But when Rob called me 6 months ago and said did I want to do it, I didn't really have a choice. After his nagging and my prevaricating eventually I said yes, that kind of challenge had to be met.

I awoke on Friday morning and meditated.

I packed a big Burberry patterned bag, put all my bits from lenses to goodluck charms in a bandbox, gathered together everything I needed for LBC, had a shower, washed my hair and left for work.

The journey in was easy and I arrived in time to meet NIGEL SMITH in reception. I was pre-recoding an interview with him about his book THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME. Went stright to the studio and sat down with one of the most inspirational people I have ever met.

After a brain lesion, the consultant looking at the x-ray asked to see the corpse. The corpse was still alive although barely moving. Nigel records in his book his struggle form living cadaver to walking, talking, superman - in fact Christopher Reeves is HIS hero.

I blubbed at the end of the interview so happy was I that he was alive to tell the tale. But it was a sobering moment. That I could even have one hint of nerves. Next to Nigel the performance seemed trite, utterly inappropriate, standing alone on stage in Lewisham felt piffling compared to his lonely journey from pipes, tubes and MRSA back into a real life.

The LBC three hours was strong and I was foccussed, I had to be, otherwise I would have fallen apart.

We concluded Fridays show with an interview with LORNA BYRNE - and her book ANGELS IN MY HAIR- her account of seeing angels from birth until today.

Whilst a few of you thought she was off the wall most of you thought the content of her chat was inspirational, which I think she is....

As the clock hit 4.00 I ran out of the studio into Rob, my beautiful agent and his bags, my props and a copy of the London A to Z.

We dashed down from the 3rd floor, out of the door into the car-park to set off to SE London.

Rob had captained yachts for years so he talked me through the route. We had only one row on The Old Kent Road when I thought he wanted to turn right instead of left. When he navigated us through the back sreets of Catford I laughed so much, the wind was in our hair we could have been circumnavigating the Cape of Good Hope for all it mattered. We arrived at 5.45. with 15 minutes to spare.

As we ploughed round the South Circular, our sails billowing The Old Git, like the great Albatross leading the Ancient Mariner through the snowy-fog into harbour, waved us home. Ali Day, my stage manager directed us into the parking place and we dropped anchor.

The Old Git, had stood by me for the whole of this process. Working with me, talking with me, changing bits, recording bits, cooking, cleaning, shouting and screaming. Nothing would have happend without his brilliant input.

Rob Common, the agent that every girl needs, was on the case spitting Anglo Saxon at the House of Guerlaine to blag me three bottles of perfume.

Dan, my beautiful nephew who called me every day, twice a day, just to make sure I was okay.

Lyn Bairstow, my oldest friend, along with all my other girl guides, guiding me through the days and endless nights of insecurity, negativity and excuses for cancelling.

Ali Day, my stage manager came on board just at the perfect moment. Cool, calm and collecting up all the props, including her wonderful wooden easel, literally made the whole show possible.

Lorraine Flaherty, my make-up artist and waitress for cosmic-ordering turned up with her box of magic and a pack of heated rollers. I would not have looked like an aging Melinda Messinger without her.

Tricia Lichfield and her camera crew. Tricia with an iron will, heart of gold and steel bumper that got rammed on my behalf has just become my new oldest friend.

Shakeel, the most extrordinary of men who made me two outfits in four days. Red sequins and shiny dungarees. Chains and buttons, The dearest designer who turned this old shank of mutton into the best-dressed lamb. He taught me that the Urdu for 'blinding' is Chaka Chond, which he most definitely is.

Monica Jonsson, my acupuncturist who pricked me with her needles in the hope that I would turn into a calm, clear, pin cushion,. She delivered.

There are so many people who have listened and helped, supported and cried with me.

By the time it got to 8.0'clock I was ready.

Crimped and curled, scented and buffed, relaxed and excited, impatient and edgy - come on I needed to be on the stage - when the first piece of music was played I couldn't wait to get out there.

For years I have watched stand-ups waiting in the wings. Alone. Lone figures hiding in the curtains, head bowed, going through their schtick. For years I have been secretly jealous of that moment of solo-power. The Broadway Theatre - studio - holds upwards of 120. Inevitably we were sold out. I couldn't fill the main house with 800 - not yet - so lots of you were turned away...for that I'm really sorry - but there I was about to stand up in front of a live theatre audience, it had been many years.

But the crowd were all mine. Family. Family friends. Friends, Jenny and Michael Ayres who had driven up from East Sussex. Marmite who had driven across from Wales, Mrs. A who had driven down from Worcester. Adrian who had trekked from somewhere in the outskirts of the big smoke. It was so humbling to see faces who had bothered to come.

Now I had to deliver.

The show started. 45 minutes later the first half ended. The second half began. 45 minutes later it ended. It felt too short for me, and the audience, I am told.

But I had fulfilled my brief to the letter. Next gig I will stretch it a bit further. Its like making a recipe for the first time, do it exactly as the chef wants it. Second time change little bits of it. Third time make it your own. I remember the laughter, and the delicious sound of applause. But most of it was a complete blur. I'm told it's because I was 'In the Zone'

Perhaps the title of my next project will be THE CRONE ZONE.

I drove back to the flat on auto-pilot. Bee, Nathan, Zoe, Corin, Maia, Jim and Giles were there. I arrived with a pantechnican of champagne, crisps and chocolate bars. Bee ordered us a curry.

At 3.30 a.m.I was still wired.

After two hours sleep I got up it felt like the day after your wedding. Cleaning up was blissful displaying the flowers and cards from people.

And finally I arrived home. 12 hours later at 3.30pm yesterday. I am still smelling of the scent that Rob gave me and still high from the experience.

Now I am thinking about the Radlett gig on November 29th.

I have a lot to do, to change, to write, to experiment with, but I've broken the back of a life-times fear of being criticised.

If you can do it before 60 I urge you to face your fears.

If I had done this years earlier I would have had more celebrations and less thunder.

The lamb shank is nearly cooked and I want to watch 'Strictly Come Dancing'. I like the sparkle, but then you knew that.

Have a nice Sunday night and


Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes


1. At October 5, 2008 9:42 PM Adrian Appley wrote:

As I have already said,it was a lovely evening full of good humour and banter. The audience were obviously there to make it a good show with their excellent participation.
Have you worked out what the special present is ? I reckon you have sussed it by now but if not I will try to find one of your subjects tomorrow to phone in and talk about.
Stay happy,

2. At October 5, 2008 10:23 PM June wrote:

Hi Jeni
Well done you.
I can't wait for the 29th (I couldn't make Catford, daughter's birthday).
I'm so pleased you faced your fears Jeni, I believe we are all capable of far more than we think we are, we just don't realise it.
Love June
PS Lovely to hear from Kirsten

3. At October 6, 2008 8:39 AM colin Jennings wrote:


congratulations, from Africa, on what sounds to have been a resounding success and may you enjoy many more.

4. At October 6, 2008 8:55 AM chrissie wrote:

I am not going to advertise the Radlett show. That way I might stand a better chance of getting a ticket:-)You go girl!!

Love Chrissie x x x

5. At October 6, 2008 1:08 PM Marmite wrote:

Hey Jeni
Huge Congrats my lovely,
don't know what you were worried about at all, it was "bleepin" brilliant, inspiring, touching, and most of all very, very funny, my cheeks have only just stopped aching, felt like a Disney tour guide for days.
Can't wait til the next one
Lots of love
Marmite xx

6. At October 7, 2008 11:14 AM Hymie wrote:

Congratulations Jenni, although I couldn't make the London show it sounds like it was a great success, I'm so pleased for you. Hopefully you might perform in Manchester in the future?
Well done! Hymie x

7. At October 7, 2008 5:18 PM rhianon wrote:

Sounds like everything went absolutely right! Well done. Well done. I wish I could go to one of the shows. Maybe one day the telly will screen one? Or you could release them on dvd for those of us unable to attend in person.
I'm sure the shows will charge on from success to success. Everyone there will be in the audience because they love you and the way you've touched their lives. It's a joyous thing and I thank you for letting us in on the high!
Maybe when my family are fitter and stronger, and maybe if you do another round of one woman shows I'll catch them in person, until then always remember we are now, as we always have been, utterly on your side.
Loves best wishes to you Jen,

8. At October 7, 2008 8:43 PM chrissie wrote:

Rhianon says it so well. There are lots of people who are not "fans" but admire you and value you for your very real qualities. Those qualities have only a little to do with celebrity. You are great at what you do but you are fabulous at who you are.


Copyright 2007, Jeni Barnett. Website produced by Chopstix.