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Dealing With Nerves Through Stephen Fry Wisdom

I'm sure a lot of people while they were students, particularly if you studied an arts degree, had multiple jobs. Or various projects where you're constantly running around in a tizzy trying to catch your tail. When you do find yourself with a 4 hour journey it's bliss for getting stuff written. I couldn't wait for my journey to Middlesbrough because for some reason I always end up writing quite painlessly on the train.

However, I hadn't factored in that travelling late on a Saturday night after work would obviously mean getting the drunk train, through York. If you’ve never been on the drunk train you really haven’t lived. I’m too young to have attended the Hacienda, but when I board that train I feel like I’m there. I am generally travelling alone, and for some bizarre reason I play this game (by myself) where I try to guess where people will be getting off.

It’s was a Saturday evening so naturally a few football fans are on board nicely sozzled. Stood in the aisles insulting each other, swaying their cans joyfully back and forth. Standard behaviour between best pals. A number of people look absolutely outraged at the disturbance. One woman is in danger of serious injury she’s tutting and tossing her head so violently. I surmise these passengers will be getting off at Manchester. Such severe reactions to such delicate behaviour is testament that they haven’t journeyed to the North East late before-they’d never survive anything north of Huddersfield. Football undesirable number 1 has spilled half a Carling on himself and fallen down the aisle. I notice a man who looks like a Daniel smile and look relieved at his surroundings, peaceful almost. Daniel, I suspect could be a participator for the full journey. He has a quiet confidence about him that makes me feel he’s done this before. It’s essential to reserve all your energy for the York connection. Everything before this is the warm up.

When you arrive in York, there are 39 minutes of a wait till the connecting train to Middlesbrough. Platform is a ghost town for the first thirty of these. The final nine is what can only be described as pure unbridled anarchy. Men supporting shoeless women wearing Burger King are appearing from every direction. Platoons of baby-faced lads are descending on the station at an alarming rate. All of them drinking cans of special brew, all of them absolutely mortal. The train to Newcastle arrives. A third of the mob boards. I pray silently they’ll remain there. Word breaks out that the train with Newcastle emblazoned on it is not the train to Middlesbrough. The mob disembarks. Looking around I’m the only person on this platform sporting neither can nor kebab. How could I be so stupid. So ill prepared for what lay ahead. The fury at my own stupidity burns even brighter when I think back to the gin cans I had almost picked up in Sainsbury’s. Instead, I opted for a chicken sandwich. A sandwich won’t save me now. Nothing will. The train arrives, but stops at the other end of the station. 500 people that have been drinking in York since 10 that morning all begin to run. Scenes from Saving Private Ryan were less savage.

This is as far detached from a ‘women and children first’ scenario you can get. I look around wildly for a safer route but see only a blur of colour. I’m not moving my legs but seem to be travelling further down the platform. I wonder for a moment if I’ve been shot. Breathing suddenly seems a highly unrealistic ambition. I remember back to a documentary I saw about how the body reacts to trauma. I realise I am in trauma. Fight or flight mode has been activated. I can’t opt for flight, this is the last train. It’s then I realise that I’m probably going to die.

And then I see it. A movement that seems to have purpose. A walk instead of a waver. A dash instead of a dither. It’s Daniel. Daniel has broken out from the crowd and is heading for carriage C. His stride has the conviction of someone who knows what they’re doing. A glimmer of hope begins to manifest. Fast forward 15 minutes and I seem to be leading a chorus of Goldigger with 3 middle aged men and 2 teenagers. I’ve never seen so many bottles in my entire life. And it’s worth noting I’ve worked in coops warehouse for two years. To my right, a young woman is on her third cigarette and already loading up a fourth. To my left, a man in tears because he had to stand. He rues the day he agreed to day drinking with the boys in York. Not a boy with him to be seen. I can’t say I blame them, he wouldn’t be my first choice for a party either. So much dancing and singing. So many tales to regail from the battle of York mere hours ago. I hope the journey never ends.

Not too long after, the police arrive. A joyous chorus of Karma Chameleon starts up. The spirit of the people cannot be broken! The right to travel, unfortunately can. Just as I get to my stop, there is a platform of policemen waiting. I pray they’ll go easy on my spirit brothers and sisters.

So, needless to say, writing on the train was a bit of a flop. And I'm trying to justify that to myself. HOWEVER, I have slightly overcome my problem with nerves. This week when the usual nausea began I thought back to last weekend. I remembered how well I had coped in the face of death. It suddenly didn’t seem so daunting by comparison. The fact that I do not have a solid routine prepared is still a little bit unsettling. I keep thinking of funny incidents that have happened but not bothering to write it down because I just think well, yeah that time in Glasgow was a funny 10 seconds but where do you go from there? However. This week I did a masterclass with Stephen Fry at university. He said how important it was to write, even just for your own pleasure. And to continue even if It isn't going your way. “If you come to a block carry on writing, even if it is absolute shit and makes no sense. Keep going till you have streams and streams of it. Then you’ve got your jagged outline. Even if it’s nonsense, you’ve got something you can work on. You slowly take control of it and it starts to come to life, but you get nowhere if you keep starting and stopping." As you can see I’ve taken his advice to write streams and streams of shit quite literally. But if Stephen Fry told me to take a rowing boat out to the Wirral and to write only when wearing orange clothing, sat on a bench in Birkenhead, I’d do it. So the exercise for this week was to write something from beginning to end and not throw it away out of frustration. I’ve done it! An actual task has been completed from beginning to end. Next week is our final workshop before the performance so I’ll write about how that goes next week. It will hopefully have significantly more relevance to the course than this did. (There are only so many times you can write about being nervous in front of a group of people)

As always Mum and Dad, Thanks for reading to the end x

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