66. Ferrara, Piazza Castello, 12 July 2002

Next day, Kim is coming over from London, a last minute budget airline trip to make use of one of my spare tickets. We have a leisurely day eating, drinking and dodging in and out of air conditioned shops while exploring the streets, never venturing too far from the venue in case we miss something.

On a wide street in the middle of the afternoon, Clara spots the unlikely looking trio of Thom, Hilda and Big Colin walking down the street. They’re across the road from where we are. As this may be my only chance for an audience, I dash out narrowly avoiding knocking a cyclist off his bike. Attempting to regaining my casual summer holiday demeanour I say hello, then ask Thom what happened to the party last night. “Don’t worry,” he says, “We’ll have one for you tonight.”

They go on their way and we go on ours, I’m reassured now that my last night of the tour will be memorable.

The show is much like last night’s. Thom has on a sleeveless top – not his usual shirt – the heat is getting to him. I don’t have much left of this gig, my memory gets erased later on and I couldn’t see very well. They finished with Sit Down Stand Up followed by Karma Police which drains the last of my energy and leaves me dehydrated.

The aftershow is in a cordoned off restaurant which is behind the stage on the edge of the square. The band have taken over the whole place for the duration, and it’s being used for catering for everyone. It’s still warm, even now it has got dark, we sit outside around the tables. Hilda presides over bottles of Champagne, pouring a plastic cupful each for Clara and I. Sian, the girl we met last night, who is a little more goth than most Rh fans, is here and swaps indie war stories with Clara. Low’s keyboard player is sitting next to us eating gelato, she’s the last of their rather subdued entourage to be out this late.

There aren’t many people here, maybe this really is a party for my last night with the tour. Thom comes in and helps himself to a drink. I go over and say hello. He asks me if I’ve seen whatshername, a notorious fan who I’ve been warned about before. I try not to listen to people’s gossip and not to judge people until I’ve met them, but her reputation  – moving to Oxford, basically to camp out in his garden – goes before her. He makes a face and tells me that she’s here – perhaps this is why last night’s party was cancelled – he assumes I know of her exploits and doesn’t go into it.  I later piece together who he’s talking about and realise I’ve stood next to her at a show before.  I’m still complaining about the heat, as he asks me if his stage attire – the vest – looked perhaps a bit gay… he shows me that the sweatbands are covering a nobly ganglion on his wrist and I get a health run down.

I go back to the table and Hilda helps us to more bubbly. I’m in the middle of explaining that I missed watching the band at Glastonbury on TV because it clashed with one of my first stand up comedy performances. I took a workshop class in night school, having been dared by a friend to give it a try. For the last couple of months I’d been doing five minute sets to tiny audiences in pub basements. It was completely nerve wracking but I felt like, compared to some of my classmates, I was doing alright. I reach the point in my story where I describe my fellow comics – “It was like a Prozac support group…” when Thom joins us to sit down.
“What? You’re not on Prozac are you?!” he looks concerned.  I try to explain, but he’s already into a rant about “Big Pharma” and his feelings about antidepressants… Clara dives in with her opinions on the subject and the conversation has spiralled away from me towards the dangers of Seroxat. Thom has picked up C’s plastic cup of Champagne to drink from and her subsequent admonishment pulls his attention back on course. I describe my experience on stage, how terrifying it was seeing the small crowd in front of me.

“Stand up?” says Thom, picking up the thread of the conversation, “Well you always did have good timing!”

I realise I’m comparing stage technique, talking about seeing the whites of an audiences eyes, with Thom Yorke and want to laugh hysterically. He says, “It’s only a microphone!” and even if you can see the audience, they go all blurred from that far away, that’s the best bit…” (My notes stowed away in a little book I must have had on me are increasingly incoherent.) I bolt the rest of my drink and assure him again that I’m not on Prozac.
I ask him what the word is on the lighting rig readout. Turns out it says “FOREVER” “The most used word in both mine and Stanley’s sketchbooks.”

Hilda opens more Champagne, we’re onto the Veuve Cliquot – “More?” says Thom, “Do you know how much that stuff costs?!” She laughs and opens another bottle and it is possibly the most (least?) rock ‘n’ roll thing I’ve ever experienced at a Radiohead aftershow to date.

The time comes for the band to leave. Hilda is gathering up gifts left for the band and finds a large yellow floral oilcloth picnic tablecloth in her hands. She doesn’t seem to know what to do with it and gives it to me (My handbag is made from similar material).
Hilda writes her email address in my notebook so I can get in touch about the next lot of UK dates. I mention that Keiko wants to take Thom shopping in Tokyo next year.
After so much Champagne we have to find out way out. We still have our large cups in hand and top them up before leaving. Everything seems hilarious. I gather up my table cloth and a couple of the Champagne corks and we spill out the back door.

 

Before the show, the others made a vague plan to meet up in a little park they’d found a few streets from the venue. Zara, known for her cocktail making skills, instigated a party – we just have to find it.

We’re drunk. So very drunk. I realise I’ve not been to the toilet for some time and with no other options available, I nip behind a skip in a side street, the pride of the British abroad. We take turns holding the drinks and the precious picnic blanket, then eventually find our way to where the others are enjoying the warm night and making quite the party of it on a grassy bank. Like us, they are all locked out of the hostel.

We join them and sit down on our now suddenly useful picnic blanket. Zara has made cocktails with Amaretto. I try to decline but a cup is put in my hands. When I sat down I became aware of just how much Veuve Cliquot is in my system. I sip the Amaretto concoction and try to concentrate on what everyone is saying, stop the world from spinning. I lay back and felt the grass and the oilcloth, stared at the sky, took in how wonderful it was to be here on a warm night with all these people having a good time. To have talked about stage fright with my hero. To have drunk Champagne in the Italian night. To have been given a gift that had been given to the band.

I took it all in.

I took it all in and then I threw up.

I threw up on the picnic blanket.