Impersonal services

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The Independent Culture
Our monthly series in which comedians reflect on funny moments in their lives sees Ian Stone taking a wry look at motorway service stations

Tuesday 1am, Newport Pagnell service station Met some other comics on the way back from a gig. They say comedy is the new rock and roll. Well, I don't see Jon Bon Jovi in Newport Pagnell services at one in the morning eating cream cakes. But maybe that's because rock and roll has been usurped by comedy. If you know what I mean. One of them had been attacked the last time he was here. Apparently, there was a big drunk and a little drunk, the big one got a bit irate. "I'll have that fat bastard," he kept saying. Then he threw a teapot at them. The little one said "What did you do that for?'" The big one said: "Cos he's fat. I want to hit him." And the little one said, "If you want to hit someone, hit me..." which I thought was very good of him.

I've worked out that at certain times, there are at least 40 comics on Britain's motorways. If there was a huge pile-up, just think of the comedy talent that would be lost. Of course, it would depend who was in the cars. Some would be mercy killings.

Saturday 12.25am, Leicester Forest East The food here is definitely sub-standard. We played "guess the soup". It wouldn't have been so bad if it just tasted horrible. Old socks or something. But it tasted of absolutely nothing. If you put salt on it, it tasted of salt. And it cost pounds 6.75.

Wednesday 1.15am, Corley They have "Sandwich of the Week" here. Not that I let that cloud my judgement. I wouldn't have cheese ploughman's even if it was Sandwich of the Year. Maybe they have a little ceremony. The regional manager of Welcome Break steps forward. "Ladies and gentlemen, Sandwich of the Week this week is... egg and cress." And the person who makes the egg-and-cress sandwiches says a few words about how they couldn't have done it without the chickens and the people who do the buttering.

Wednesday 1.35am, Watford Gap

I know I only stopped 20 minutes ago, but certain songs make me want to pee. There's a sign, "The toilets are checked every hour. If they're not spotless, you can complain to the centre management.' Obviously, spotless in a male toilet is a relative thing. Personally, I can take a bit of pee on the floor but I'd rather not see a 22-stone lorry driver having a full body wash.

Friday 7.30pm, Watford Gap (again)

It took me two hours to get here. Still, the toilets were spotless. I told the lady in the sweetshop and she gave me a bemused look. Well, I couldn't find anyone else and I don't see why they should just get bad news.

Friday 12.25am, Toddington

I just came out and I thought my car had been stolen. Turned out I'd walked the into the wrong bit of the carpark.

Saturday 12pm, Membury

Who are all these people? It's midnight and I'm in the queue with about 40 old ladies. I didn't realise old ladies were allowed out after 10 o'clock. I thought there was a curfew. They all seem a bit the worse for wear. From what I can hear, they've all been on a hen night complete with male strippers. I think their hormones have been reawakened. It's a bit scary being chatted up by someone's gran.

Tuesday 1.15am, Rothersthorpe

Sometimes, you're so alone. I am the only customer here. It's just me and the staff and I'm not sure who's more miserable. It's like one of those westerns when the baddies have just ridden in and everyone's hiding. I'm sure I saw a Mexican woman, all dressed in black, cross herself, run into a whitewashed building and slam the door.

Saturday 4.15am, South Mimms


Ian Stone appears at Jongleurs Battersea (0171-564 2500) tonight