The Bubble (2): Lincolnshire life
Sunday, 21 February 2010
So: life in the house. Living without news, mobile phones or the internet was strange yet relaxing - I’ve written about that in my column this week.
There isn’t very much to say about the day-to-day goings on, it was really just quite quiet and peaceful. I slept a lot, and read Martin Amis’s new book The Pregnant Widow (though, being a very slow reader, I read it for 3-4 hours a day all week and I’m not even halfway through). I played lots of snooker and cribbage with Frank Skinner; I’ve become quite enthusiastic about snooker. Frank is an excellent teacher. On day one, I couldn’t hit the white ball far enough across the giant table to connect with anything, but by the end I was managing some reasonably good shots. I even won a frame! The final tally of matches was 6-1 to Frank (but I won all the cribbage). Now I need a snooker table in my house. For which I’ll need a much bigger house. When I win the WSOP, that’ll be top of the list, for purely snooker reasons.
Since the broadcast, lots of people have asked whether there was a “special chemistry” between me and Reginald D Hunter. I think that’s based mainly on the fact that I was leaning towards him in my chair. I’ll be honest: that’s because if I leaned the other way, you could see my zip. It’s a weird dress in that respect. Reg is nice and very funny, but he kept to himself quite a lot in the house: he was catching up on The West Wing on a dvd player in his room. We all had meals together, and there was a fun night of karaoke (Frank Skinner was the main entertainer there; Reg is too cool to sing, and I’m too tuneless) but mostly I was either snoozing and reading, or playing games with Frank.
I’m a huge fan of Frank Skinner in lots of ways. He’s always made me laugh immoderately as a performer, his two autobiographies are really great books, and he’s an incredibly nice guy. The other thing that I thought a lot about, in the house, is that Frank Does Life Right. He really seems to have the balance. He works hard (he timed his days well in the house, doing a disciplined few hours every morning on a script he’s writing, earning his snooker time in the afternoons) but also finds a lot of time to do interesting things and discover the world. He goes to art galleries and museums, practises a faith, learns languages, plays musical instruments, reads widely and travels to interesting places. This makes for great conversation - he has a huge frame of reference and great experiences to draw from. During a conversation about fear of heights, for example, Frank’s contribution began, “The only time I’ve ever felt vertigo was on a mosaicist’s balcony at Westminster Cathedral…”
He told another story about learning to ride a horse in order to go on a cowboy holiday in the American midwest. I think this may be why his comedy and his writing (and his general chat) remain as funny and fresh as they always were: if you keep feeding in new information, you never get old. He is a properly impressive, inspiring man. It made me think [shiver] that I ought to play less poker. Maybe if I fitted my work into better-scheduled hours, spent fewer days and nights lost at the card table or online, I would make the space to go out into the world and see new things, learn more skills, develop my brain and become more interesting.
That didn’t last, obviously. I came out of the house and went straight to the Vic.