Sometimes the stars align. Certainly this week, circumstances conspired for us Hollands.
Harry’s short film completed and it appears, very successfully. Tom’s birthday. Being allowed to fly and visit Scotland. The British weather finally breaking and providing some much needed sunshine.
Gleneagles is a rather special place anyway. Voted the best hotel in the UK, the venue of the Ryder Cup in 2012 and now as the employer of a certain Sam Holland, it made our visit this week even more exciting.
I have been to Gleneagles before but never as a guest and never to play golf. My previous visits have been to work. And as most of you know, my work is unusual. I do not have a run of the mill job. I am paid to speak to people after their dinner and with a very specific intention of making them laugh. It doesn’t matter how I do this. I am not restricted by anything. I can wear a funny suit if I wish, even a red nose. I can say anything I like, just as long as I am funny and no one takes offence.
And this task comes with certain strains. I often hear, ‘your job is my worst nightmare’ and it certainly can be. But I am able enough and I have become accustomed to the demands. However, these strains are exacerbated by illustrious venues like Gleneagles. More pressure, somehow. It’s the same as The House of Commons where I have done gigs also. And this pressure means that I don’t get to enjoy the ambiance or facilities of a venue when I am required to be funny-on-demand. The gig and the gig going well takes complete precedence. Getting laughs is all that matters. Laughs in sufficient number and volume to justify my invoice. I enjoyed showing Nikki the ballroom here at Gleneagles where I have taken my chances. Now, it feels so quiet and calm. In stark contrast to how the place feels when filled with dinner suits, ballgowns and expectation.
So to arrive this week in Gleneagles with no such pressure is a real boon. Game of golf anyone? Sure, why not? And there is much else to do besides, including Falconry.
This photo of a Golden Eagle being the closest I got to an eagle and yet it was even more thrilling than the golfing variety. This bird is as remarkable as it is beautiful. It had been injured in the wild and would not have survived were it not rescued. A piece of good fortune because the life of a Golden Eagle is a challenge. Only one in four chicks survive to adulthood. Commanding a territory of up to 70 square miles, feeding on rabbits, squirrels and even small deer. An apex predator, its only enemy being wind farms and man of course, making the life of a Golden Eagle a hard and precarious one.
But not so this bird, living out its days at this 5 star resort and plenty of days ahead it seems. Currently 25 years old, it can be expect another 25 years at least. In the wild, these birds fly to hunt but such strenuous activity is not necessary when living at Gleneagles. Hunting replaced by room service. Up to 10 baby chicks and a single quail each and every day. No lean winters for this lucky bird, who goes by the rather triggering name of Fatty.
Our guide explains that Fatty is highly intelligent. Too right it is. Swapping the wild for a hotel. I even wonder if Fatty didn’t feign injury all those years ago, like a football player does to get awarded a penalty.
The name Fatty amuses me. Getting laughs nowadays without offending anyone is becoming ever more challenging and I suspect this might continue after lockdown. I’ve had few complaints in my career but one that sticks in my mind was for use of the word, wife.
“…the word is offensive.” A young woman barked at me after a show. “We are not owned by you men anymore.”
And with this, my mind creaks in to action again because last night was my first gig back – only my third gig in 15 months. It is said that comedy is a muscle, and if so, then mine must be flabby. After such a long break, it is like starting again.
I have some new ideas for funny and some old ones I can dust off. But my act is based on my life and my family, so “wife” is a difficult word to avoid. Life partner perhaps? But I certainly didn’t mention a bird I had met called Fatty. All hell would have broken loose. I wasn’t great at school but I am not stupid. And whilst I am still able to make people laugh, it will be nice if I am allowed to continue doing so.
I survived the gig btw – a blog on which might follow. I now have only six weeks to wait before my next baptism with fire.