Test run from the Freemasons Arms

I really ought to get better at sending invoices. I’m owed quite a lot of money now and yet if I were a cartoon character, moths would fly out of my wallet when I open it.

I drove back from Chinley today and stopped just in time to play “yacht guy” for a friend over zoom. “I’m assuming this is gratis,” I said to him, off the cuff. This is for friends who make things. They’ve been instrumental to good times for me financially. They recently overpaid me for nothing so I’m happy to give a bit back. Quid pro quo. It’s gratis and that is ok considering it took me all of twenty minutes and I could do it whilst sitting in Bergman. But I’m aware of what I might be able to a charge for an hour of my time had I followed the parental advice. And I genuinely think that my expertise in my field matches all these twots in different sectors who insist they’ve retired now and they’re consultants. Plus I’m not on fire from my own arsehole, and the stuff I have to say is not just my own ego massage.

Meh

We tested the route. Hampstead Ghost fun. Making sure I don’t lose people. Real ghosts vying with made up ghosts. Once more it is going to be a lovely evening. Once more I’m not sure how it will all fit together. I have to make a coherent experience for them based on what everybody else is offering, and I have to give them time…

I’m enjoying being a bit too busy. I’m starting something tomorrow which will burn my days into madness. All of this might shift if the right job goes ping, but I just told my agent I’m going to Uruguay on the 10th November and she understood. I’ve got involved with an international event that is sustainable and gender balanced and forward thinking in so many ways. You’d have to be mad to ignore that opportunity. If it was just a race it would be a waste of my life. It’s not. It’s an attempt at culture shift. And I’m right behind it.

Up in the Peaks

Charlotte gave me her bed, and she’s on the sofa. I’m thrilled about it. It’s really comfy. I get it too – I like to give people my bed so I have the run of the flat.

I’m writing to you from this comfy peaceful bed. I have chamomile tea and I’m warm from a hot shower. She’s washed my clothes and she just asked me if I want a hot water bottle. The answer is always yes. She washed my clothes because, as you are all very much aware, I’m an idiot. I grabbed a change of clothes and a washbag and left it on my sofa. You would think, considering my lifestyle and the infrequency with which I sleep in my own bed that I would be able to autopilot that sort of thing. Not so. It isn’t helped by my complete lack of neurosis and thus the fact that I’m okay in the same socks as yesterday. I wasn’t too bothered when I realised, but Charlotte offered to wash them for me. Now I’ll get nice clean socks and pants tomorrow. An excellent result all round.

I’m here to deliver a painting. I’m here for a catch-up. Charlotte is my cousin outlaw. She has caught on through diligent observation of my daily words that I frequently drive things all over the place for financial remuneration, and that I do it in a big car. It’s an alignment of her needs and my habits and availability.

Dawson’s Auction House is out in Maidenhead. That’s where I had to pick it up. It’s a big painting. I went there armed with bubble wrap. Just as I was approaching I recognised the road I was on. It’s just round the corner from Taplow Court, the UK headquarters of the Sgi – the Nichiren Buddhists. I pulled off the main road thinking I would have a little chant to set me up for the day. They’ve got this beautiful country house, with horse mushrooms in the lawns at this time of year. But the whole place is STILL closed for Covid. No chanting for me, so I did it in my car through the gate.

Then I grabbed the picture, covered it in bubble wrap, and wound my way up here to the peaks. It’s now leaning against the stairwell, still wrapped for protection. Mission accomplished.

This evening we walked up Eccles Pike, just as the sun was setting. A few dogwalkers, but mostly just owls and sheep. The half moon was bright, catching the falling sun and remembering it for us, occasionally mobbed by clouds. We leapt over fences and charged through sheepshit. Various ungulates scrutinised us as we covered the ground. The farmer has a pit where he gathers his horseshit and lets the locals take it away for free as manure.

The air is better up here. I’m happy to be out of London even if just for a night. Good to catch up with Charlotte and now I’m gonna sleep like a log, snuggled up with my hot water bottle and the peace and quiet up here.

Lovely chilled Sunday

Up in the morning and out into Gipsy Hill. It’s way out. You might as well be living in Kurgistan, but to soften the blow they have filled it with craft beer and independent coffee shops, as if it’s ok to live in foreverland as long as the hipsters still have a place to congregate. Still, I asked for a Flat White and I got the thing I wanted. I tend to get a latte from hipster places these days as they appear to believe that a Flat White is a double Cortado. I’m fussy about my coffee.

Mel woke up and we joined a day of tasty consumption. We went to The Magdala for Sunday lunch. The Magdala is at the bottom of Parliament Hill, where Mel lived and I house sat over lockdown. It was a perfect and beautiful place to be. I’m still sad at the short sighted landlady. We had a good meal though, ahead of me introducing her to the walk humans. I’m committed to a Hampstead spooky walk, but I need swing. I can’t be certain I won’t be busy being generally sought after in TV / Film. Lots of the things I’ve been putting in place have started to yield. Despite my love of being under the radar, there’s stuff in the pipeline which could lead to stuff that could lead to stuff that might be the stuffthingness. Even if it isn’t, I’m willing to throw work at a friend and see them getting on well with other friends. Mel would be just as weird as I am at the front of our peculiar walk. She’s shorter than me but no less odd. We solve things in a similar manner. Having her as an option massively puts my mind at rest. Who knows what’s in the pipeline. If the big gig lands though, I gotta be free.

I’m home now, just for a flash, sleeping on the sofa. No time to send invoices and I’m getting to the stage that I have to be organised about that stuff.

Today though was just rest and fun and a bit of walk planning. Excellent roast lamb at the Magdala.

Brilliant company. A walk through the dark. Even in these early stages, when we are plotting the route and walking as friends, it is clear that we are just loving the whole process of making it and walking it. If you want to come, you must. We are already three quarters sold. Haunted Hampstead. Peculiar London. You know you want to. X

Late for Scene and Heard

The days are getting colder. I don’t like it. I woke up in Brighton and I’ll be sleeping in Gipsy Hill. Today was mostly about the train strike. A slow wake-up and then a long drive that really ought not to have been anything like as long. I wanted to get to Mornington Crescent for 3pm to see Scene and Heard. I had helped one of the child playwrights to make their piece. I wanted to see it borne out and I was very happy to see how well they dealt with it – the playwright is 14 now – this is towards the end of her programme – and she was so much better dressed than me. I showed up on a hoodie covered in cat fur, and my grandfather’s flannel trousers. She was in an excellent suit, looking very natty. From our conversations it is likely to have been from her grandma, much like my flannel trousers. We spoke about death a fair amount. Her grandma sounded like a formidable woman. She is a formidable woman in her own right now. Wonderful to see she joined the program at 8.

I didn’t get there for the 3pm start though. The roads from London to Brighton were awash with rage and traffic. Coming to think of it, staying in Gipsy Hill this evening was a stupid idea because tomorrow is the London Marathon and it whole city will be even more shut to traffic. I won’t be able to get home. Nevertheless there’s a bed here for me and I’m already in it. And I’m tired. I got my friend home and just didn’t want to do driving anymore. So … I’m here. I had a battered sausage and chips. I’m knackered.

But yeah, I arrived at Scene and Heard about halfway through the show. I was lucky as my playwright’s piece was right at the end so I got to see it, but missed out on some of the earlier ones that I would love to have seen. It was all written in response to The Wellcome Collection. It was a lovely hour of theatre I have no doubt.

We wrestled the heating on. I threw a load of linen onto a bed. I’m going to sleep like a log I hope. Dreams have been busy recently – Lou and I simultaneously woke up from dreams of travel last night. The dreamscape is getting active. Things are afoot in dreamland…

I’m so sleepy I’m making little rational sense. Dream positive my friends. X

Woods

It was four years ago that I suddenly decided I was just going to start walking the Camino instead of staying in Lourdes for a night. I just felt like starting a day before I was ready. It was 850km walking towards myself and I’m glad I did it. Maybe I’ll do another route some day. It’s about the path not the destination, and it was costly to take the month off like that. It was worth every painful step.

Get up every day and walk. That’s the lesson of the Camino. Simple. One foot in front of the other and time does what work can’t. So I’ve been back since and we lost two years to Covid and it came at just the right time. I can’t quite believe it was four years because we all experienced this group hallucination and found ourselves two years older.

Thankfully part of my hallucination involved meeting Lou. We knew a storm was coming so we went early to Stanmer, to hang with the ancient cedars and to look for chicken of the woods, which are late this year and popping up now. No luck with the fungus but the trees are a constant, and autumn is bringing such colour to the woods. The storm didn’t come when predicted. Nobody seems to be able to predict the coming storm with any degree of accuracy. It’s like the weatherman is just making it up as he goes along.

The yew trees are brimming with red berries. Mushrooms are extruding all over the place and plants are all pushing out fruit in abundance after the stress of the drought. This week ahead of what might well be a very very cold and sad winter in this country we have a profusion of colour. I found shaggy inkcaps, a good month late. Didn’t pick them though as you have to cook them fast. There’ll be more tomorrow I’m sure. Wind and rain aplenty.

The wind. It is whistling hard against the windows right now. Banging. Whistling. Terrifying the cat. Maybe it’s finally the storm. The last legs of the terrifyingly named hurricane Ian, perhaps, rolling over us, rushing up the stairwell. The rain will be good for nature, good for the water tables, cleansing.

I spoke to Jethro from my phone in the woods at Stanmer and his phone was up at the Willow Globe. I hope this autumnal weathery madness doesn’t wash them out. I bet it’s gorgeous up there. Even more colour than here.

Glad to catch the woods while we could.

Never trust a dad with a thing

It was never going to work. Never.

I was taking a full load, including this bike, from London to Colchester. I wheeled the bike out first, and opened the boot. My friend’s father ran out: “No no, you should pack that last!” “It’s awkward shaped. Everything else is easy. I’ll get it in the boot and then pack around it.” “No, pack it last. You attach it to the back of the car.” “Really?” “Yes, really. I have a thing.” “I’m not sure, you know. Can I see it?” “Yes, but we will pack first.”

I should have stuck to my instincts.

We packed. We could have got it all in with the bike, but not now. I closed the boot and here comes dad with his contraption. It is well used … It is doomed.

He hooks it under a bit of faring. I don’t get a look in here, he’s a dad with a gadget. He doesn’t like my car though. “It is easier on a normal car,” he accuses me. He eventually arrives at something he is happy with. I’m skeptical but … I’m willing to give it a go. I set my route to avoid motorways though. I don’t trust this thing.

I’m right not to trust it. Bastard of a thing. Five minutes of driving, and the bike goes dunk and something has happened but I’m not sure what but there’s a huge great van behind me. The bike is still attached but barely. I almost immediately luck into a huge loading bay on the red route. The sign tells me I’ve got twenty minutes. There are people everywhere and a lot of police and warden activity. This is East London.

That stupid contraption ripped up a bit of faring and the bike scratched Bergies back. I take the damned thing off. I try to reattach it in a way that won’t pull any more bits off my car, but it’s not designed for my damn car. It needs to be a car with metal to hook into. It’s only going to further hurt Bergman if I try again. What to do?

I don’t know if it took twenty minutes or more. I kinda hope my friend doesn’t read my blog. Swearing like an absolute trooper and sweating like a piggy I pulled everything out of the boot and wrestled the damned bike into the empty boot. This is what I should have done in the first place. I knew it too.

It worked but I had time pressure. Cameras and a warden on me. I repacked carefully so as not to put pressure on the bike. It all got in. I really hope my friend never sees this photo.

I was drenched by the time it was all done. Adrenaline and rage. Thankfully driving calms me so I switched off avoid motorways and screamed up fast roads until I had to empty the lot while half parked on a buslane pavement in Essex.

Lesson 365573: Always trust your instinct over the certainty of the dad who has the thing. Should’ve learnt that one a long time ago.

Now I’m in Brighton. Lou and I snatching some time. We went to a Greek restaurant to remember the lovely week in Kefalonia, and now a remarkably early bed.

Things crumbling

Christ, I’ve just watched the documentary about Woodstock ’99 on Netflix.

Fascinating to see the organisers still trying to control the narrative despite the evidence of history. What a disaster. As someone who works in events this was more of a horror than the Fyre Fest doc. It also just helps illustrate how quickly things can get out of hand. This was my age group, this would have been my Woodstock. The marketing had found me. I was at Guildhall at the time. I remember hearing about it but immediately dismissing the whole thing because of the lineup being uninteresting to me. It would have to have been Leonard Cohen for me back then to justify a transatlantic flight. Not these aggro rockers.

A good watch though, and a good end to one of the last relaxed days I’m gonna have for a while. I’ll take my weekend where I can. It’s rarely on the actual weekend.

Golfo has gone back to Liverpool leaving a hole on the far side of my sofa where we have companionably snuffled and sleeptalked to one another amidst the sea of gubbins. I’m feeling the cold here now but not yet enough to put the heating on – how long can I avoid that? In the current environment, as long as possible. The Russian propaganda machines are hastening the demise of an already unpopular governmental choice. Fiddy Cent has renamed himself Pound. We need to rally or we will get buried. The online narrative is controlled and amplified by those huge propaganda factories in St Petersburg, so now more than forever we have to employ our own checks and considerations on any piece of information we receive online. Who is disseminating this? What is their angle? Why have I received it? Why has it been written? Etc. Critical thinking, the very skill that is under fire from the fundamentalists, like because it’s better to just have faith? Without critical thinking we are doomed to become sock puppets. Some of my friends already have. Their mouth moves and other people’s words come out.

Like those young men burning stuff at Woodstock, we all feel pretty angry right now. It all was messy and narcissistic and pointless then, and it probably will be again, but I’m aware that I’m disillusioned enough to be one of the tiny voices crying for change. But I’m maybe too disillusioned by this messy selfish species. We fish until there are no fish even though we know that stopping for a bit will help the stocks recover. We burn until there’s nothing left to burn. We consume consume consume. We are a flash in the pan and have likely already sewn the seeds of our own destruction, but the world will continue and maybe we will too in some more humble form, but this nonsense is not sustainable. Disease greed and warfare. Maybe we will just make our own atmosphere poison to us. Some of us might adapt quickly enough to survive in some small capacity as the jellyfish have a few hundred thousand years and then woodlice. Intelligence is overrated, as you all know based on how incredibly useless the person you know who identifies as “highly intelligent” is.

All that said I’ve had a lovely few days with happy friends doing unimportant things, consuming. I’m feeling pretty good right now despite the narrative trying to be that the UK is on fire. Think though about who controls the narrative and why. I’m no Tory. But if I was an outside agent trying to bury an economy that has been funding a war against me, I would be looking to destabilise, particularly if that was my particular speciality. Annexation soon. All hell is about to break loose, my darlings. I know where my iodine is. PLANTS!

Lovely day with my entourage

“I’ll be bringing my entourage,” I told Amy today, half in jest, half in earnest.

Golfo is staying. She looks fabulous and is entirely practical and together. She’s only in town two nights. I am so rarely in Liverpool that I’m making sure I see as much of her as possible while she’s in London. She’s here, my guest, and Mel of the Hampstead flat is around too. None of us have seen very many people over the last few years. We decided to spend the day together no matter what, the three of us. All three of us have our own particular style.

We went to meet Amy. She’s an artist I’m collaborating with. “You know the way our gut biome has lots of different needs in it and lots of different forces and actions on it to make it healthy? Our social biome needs a whole selection of different influences and interactions as well to stay healthy, and many of us have had it really badly damaged by the pandemic.”

She’s so right. I can think of friends who have retreated into themselves, and others who have vanished into somebody else’s idea. Neither is healthy. We need conflicting voices. We need to be stuck in conversations we don’t want to be in. Everything like that helps us widen. We can always learn from each other if we let ourselves.

My entourage and I agreed that the project she has in mind is going up be excellent and delightfully challenging on the basis she’s talking about. We can do something weird and helpful and beautiful with strangers. It’ll keep me very very busy in October and oh fuck I’m just gonna have no spare time. Mel was lined up as my cover – the filming is landing right now. Long may it continue.

Post artist, we zipped up to Camden where Mel and I helped out as emergency cover with a Scene and Heard dramaturgy class with very young men and women from Somerstown. Lovely work and a great young man to work with. We generated things.

Then Mel and I bundled back into the car, drove to Chelsea for a pint and then all bundled into my autumn flat where Tristan showed up and four old friends who have been separated for years just got to talk about things and laugh and remember and be stupid.

Everybody has gone now but for Golfo and I who are keyed into David Attenborough on the big screen and will shortly be snoring companionably from our opposite sides of the sofa.

Oh and we went to Chelsea Physic Garden and it was wonderful

Stand in

The thing is, Giles’ lady might have had a baby today. She was due.

He was due to do this:

Studio work. Presentation. Autocue.

Look into the camera and read the flickery words.

I woke up and rose at bastard o’clock. The bakery wouldn’t serve us coffee when we left Kemptown. We hit the road and drove through the gloaming. Lou had a train at 9.10. I had to be at NYT for 9.45. To do what?

The roads were clear until we got to Kingston and from there every fucker that could fuck fuckery was fucking it. Speedlimit 20 drivers competed with can’t turn righters to create a monstrous stressbag of nonsense compounded fully when a white van chose to drive into a Volvo to gain three metres of road, in front of us, before a right turn. It takes two idiots to make a crash. There they were. Meaningless. You can be in a hurry, you can drive positively, but you HAVE to constantly guage the other drivers. I like people, but driving brings out the stupid. I even tend to like people who might be mistaken for stupid by the morons who support the nonsense IQ benchmark via Mensa tests etc. I have often said in the past that the true intelligence test regarding Mensa is when they tell you that because you matched the boxes you can buy a subscription to the clever people newsletter. If you buy it, you’ve lost. “I’m a member of Mensa” is the first clear poker-tell that you’re dealing with a cabbage. You can also spot them on the road. We found our way through them, Lou got her train and I got to the shoot in time.

Giles. If anyone I know is clever enough to absolutely excoriate the whole concept of Mensa, it’s Giles. His wife had no babies today thankfully. So he just used his vast humble intellect and cheerful clear ability, and he knocked a training video out of the park, unruffled and slick in a benign but slightly baffled young room full of media types.

I was paid to sit in the studio with him and watch him be wonderful on the offchance his wife went into labour. Watching him I honestly thought that there was no way in hell I could’ve done what he did today. I’d have done something, sure, and the thing I did would have been great. But the whole damn result would have been utterly different. And his technical nous saved hours. The right man for for the job. Open, full of kindness, full front attack, unbruisable. I know why I was in reserve, but I’m glad it was him in the line of fire.

As soon as it ended I shot down south and watched Black Crowes at the Brixton Academy. I’m embarrassingly unattached to their music, but they put on a good show. ‘Papa was a rolling stone,” they covered, and it really helped me crystallise their influences. A great birthday present after a strange day of doing my craft but not…

I’m happy at the moment. Very happy. I really like doing my thing…

Back in the world

Pretty roads all the way to Brighton and now once more I must remember what it means to live in the real world. No longer will my bed be turned over and my room sprayed with freshener when I go out onto set to have smoke blown up my arse. No longer will people cook food for me overlooking the Kernow Atlantic Coast – crab and potatoes and Romanian Pinot Noir. My wardrobe won’t be selected and pressed and hung for me in a little heated trailer. I won’t be asked my welfare constantly by porters and assistant directors. I won’t be driven even short distances by talkative intelligent strange men.

Things could’ve gone south. My car key wasn’t in my pocket when it came to check out time. It wasn’t in any of my pockets. It wasn’t on the floor of my room or under the bed or in the ignition. I was politely searching around a lady sitting where I had been sitting the night before when the concierge at The Headland approached me with the damn thing in an envelope. It had been handed in the night before. He had been trying to help me out by lightening the mood ” I’ve got a spare key in London, but I don’t know where it is.” “London? Nobody knows where that is.” I’m glad of his help frankly as I had been gradually getting myself into a funk and thinking I’d have to call the production company and look in my trailer, or get the train to London and back to dig up my spare. Phew.

So now I’m in Brighton and Lou fed me healthy lentil soup and chamomile tea and friendly cat stroking and a hot bath. Bed soon as I’m up at arsehole in order to get Lou to London and then myself across town to be emergency pregnant cover on an event in the morning early. Alarm is set for half five. Oh the horror the horror. I somehow escaped early call to set for most of the filming. Tomorrow, into the no longer luxurious darkness, I’m gonna drive up to London and into what is starting to look like a brainflood pair of months before Christmas descends like a familiar grumpy snowflake.

Motivation time. Much to do much to do. It’ll keep me warm in the winter…

For now an early bed.