A Chandelier Ready to Impale a Phantom

Robin Ince's Horizons Tour Blog

I try to refuse to wake up until 7am but my body clock has other ideas and chimes loudly every couple of hours from 10pm to 6am.

I decide to stare at the ceiling for another hour. 

GK Chesterton wrote that lying in bed would be perfect if only you had a coloured pencil that reached the ceiling. Having fail to pack one, I doodle on it from a distance and so incurring no extra room cleaning charges. When my son was younger, we used to lie in bed and draw on the ceiling with our fingers and try to guess what we had conjured out of the air, he was far better at guessing than me. Giraffes are easy, particle accelerators less so. 

Brian is in the room directly above me so I listen out for the light footfall of the heavier sleeper, but hear nothing. 

I read my George P Pelecanos novel, Shame the Devil, set in the Washington neighbourhoods that I will not see today. 

“But few talked about the real crime of this city, not anymore. American children were undernourished, criminally undereducated, and living in a viper’s nest of drugs, violence, and despair within a mile of the Capitol dome. It should have been a national disgrace. But hunger and poverty had never been tabloid sexy.” 

I remember that I meant to read an artist manifesto every morning from Why Are We Artists? 100 World Art Manifestos. Today, it is the manifesto of The Storm Society, a group of Chinese artists from the 1930s. 

“The air that surrounds us is too still as mediocrity and vulgarity continue to envelop us. Morons surround is and countless shallow minds are crying out”.

It is a call to rise up and create a world of “colour, line and form” 

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Today’s families are loud in hotel corridors, Everyone seems to be talking over a non-existent helicopter landing.

Having battled the dull headache that can come with too much recirculated air, Brian rises up at 11.30am.

We walk the straight, jogger heavy streets looking for a light lunch rather than “an angry fix”.

I order a salad and Brian orders tacos and charred sprouts. I risk eating a couple of them but go no further knowing we have a few hours in a confined space the next morning. I have my one coffee of the day, my current rule, on top of almost teetotalism that disintegrates only when Brian looks lonely as he drinks Champagne.

Throughout the day, I keep replaying the poem I have written for this tour in my head, fearful that jet lag may make me stumble over my words or rhythm. It is near the close of the show and now synced to images behind me, so there is no get out of jail card available if I cock it up.

The theatre is beautiful with the sort of chandelier ready to impale a phantom decorously and fatally.

It is three weeks since we last performed a version of the Horizons show. Brian twiddles with details and make notes on hotel pen with hotel paper. My wife has insisted that I do not take every pen I see on this tour as I did in 2019 – TOO MANY PENS, but none as high as a ceiling.


The audience are lovely and whoop joyously at the mention of The Infinite Monkey Cage. This is good as my existence in the show is very much a low footnote for the USA leg so people can be surprised when an old bearded man wanders on and spoils the view of the sartorially pleasing physicist.

It is a good first show, only slightly marred by Brian lacking his industrial strength laser pointer which is too powerful to sneak through customs. America is happier when laser sighted rifles for deer slaughter than laser pointers for cosmological education perhaps.

Mason is celebrating his 15th birthday in the audience and we wish him a happy birthday. His father tweeted to suggest that we could all sing happy birthday, but science audiences can be reticent when it comes to public displays of rhythm, so a round of applause must do.

We have a fine cheeseboard in the dressing room, but I skip the dairy fearing camembert caused colonic spasms on tomorrow’s car journey to Philadelphia, possibly accentuated by sprout action.

Robin Ince is a multi-award winning comedian, writer and broadcaster.  As well as spending decades as one the UK’s most respected stand-ups, Robin is perhaps best known for co-hosting The Infinite Monkey Cage radio show with Brian Cox.  For his work on projects like Cosmic Shambles he was made an Honorary Doctor of Science by Royal Holloway, University of London. His latest book, The Importance of Being Interested is out now.

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