Anniversary sleep

23rd March is the day my parent’s death sits heavily on my heart. Often it’s a tricky one.

Thankfully I had some work in the morning, helping a friend move a sofa around Hampshire with the van. I’m not advertising the van far and wide, but it’s heartening how many friends think of me when they have a little job to do. If I can find a way to get one that’s LEZ compliant, I’ll almost certainly get one for myself, although I’ll inevitably book a six month tour the day after my parking permit comes in. Meanwhile I’ve got the Soul Van for another week or two before I’ll have to give it back. And I can use it to help an old friend.

It’s another friend with kids. I’m beginning to feel slow on that whole front. I was doing the maths, and I’ll be lucky to see my kids get to my age if I had them right now, which isn’t likely, being commitedly single. My parents were both off before I hit thirty. It’s isolating, losing your parents young. I’d like to try to be there for any little humans I bring into this dying world. Right now my bedroom is full of boxes and unwashed clothes. Hardly the best advert for potential babyfather duties. Plus there’s no way in hell I’m giving up the acting as primary.

After a morning of driving and a great lunch I found myself having to fight exceptionally hard not to fall asleep at the wheel on the way home. Both windows open and radio on full. Droopy eyes. My body had decided to just shut down. I just made it home, went upstairs and fell asleep in a daytime puddle with Pickle.

Spring is hard, and the 23rd of March is the hardest bit. I’ve packaged the death of my parents better and the grief has a name. But it’s never going to stop the anniversary from being troublesome.

I slept until evening and then slouched around the flat watching documentaries while Brian fed me macaroni and I listed more random stuff in eBay, including the first wave of a huge number of 1950’s sewing patterns from the storage clearout, using my little LED photo box so I can take snaps no matter what the natural light is like.

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I’ve discovered that you can get odours out of clothes without washing them by putting them in the freezer. This is good considering I’m selling a large amount of clean clothes that have been sitting in a damp room for many years. I am less likely to start getting negative feedback from people who say I sold them a stinky pair of jeans if I bag them up and shove them in the freezer for an hour or two.

Now I’m trying to wind to sleep, despite having slept a large portion of the day. I want to wake up early enough to make a real dent into listing Peter’s shirts and crap on eBay. Tomorrow is the first legitimately free day I’ve had for a few weeks, which I’m thrilled about. Things slow down a bit in April, but it’s never too late for last minute change. The National must have my number saved wrong.

 

Too tired to make sense

I’ve been dayjobbing today with another actor. We both care very deeply about our dayjob when we do it – and anything we set our minds to really. We bonded over being told we care too much about things. But what is life if you don’t give your all? Even if it’s not your primary.

100% we both only do it because it pays and it’s flexible, and it’s short term enough that we can keep the acting as our primary focus. But I had lovely dayjobs pull back from me when I’ve made it clear they aren’t my primary focus. One time a dayjob went very sour indeed, for reasons I’ve attempted to hack together but never truly fathomed. There’s nowt so strange as folk.

I’m grateful to this workshop company, and to one individual in particular who juggles endlessly shifting needs and who knows she can call me the day before the work and rely on my full attention if there’s nothing else in the diary. She is a hero and makes things possible for many actors I know to tick over. I can take work with her knowing she’ll move mountains to make it possible for me to get to a casting. I had no idea I’d be busy yesterday morning. One of my mates booked an audition. I got a call last minute, and a rentacar sent to my flat.

I drove to Portsmouth last night and slept in a twin room in a Premier Inn with Tom, an actor of about my age who I’d somehow not met until yesterday. I checked in under the name of the absent guy. They didn’t want ID. But I was thrilled if was a Premier Inn.

I hate to have the nuance, whilst I’m sorting all my uncle’s bills from The Leading Hotels of the World (a book that was his travel Bible.) But hell – I’d sooner stay in a Premier Inn than the other two major chains because the mattresses aren’t made of toast and you get a solid breakfast. Our breakfast was laid on by Beefeater, who are big in Portsmouth, but who are too tight to lay on nice coffee. I wolfed down everyting they could lay on as it beats egg sandwiches and nescafe.

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But I’m back in town now and I’m signing off early as I’m thoroughly exhausted. Enough driving/sharing/teaching. I was in a twin room last night and that’s never a good sleep. I’m driving back to Portsmouth tomorrow, weirdly. It’s already too late. Bed. Bed . Bed.

Ephemera

And I’m back in Portsmouth, unexpectedly. Call for last minute work. “Can you drive to Portsmouth and do a thing tomorrow?” “Yes, yes I can…” It’s well paid, so fine. I was going to use tomorrow to sort ephemera.

I’ve been starting to list things on eBay. Gradually getting quicker at it. Growing more efficient at shutting down the little voice that says “But it’s nice, maybe you should just keep it.” None of this stuff is going to sell for much, and a lot of it won’t sell at all. Uncle Peter had a framed picture of Jesus with the caption “The Lord turned and looked upon Peter … and Peter remembered.” It sells for 30p online. I sent a picture to my mate, also called Peter, and it’s right up his street. Another weird thing sent to a good home. And I reckon I’ll get a pint out of it.

Beecroft, Herbert, 1864-1951; Christ

I invigilated a load of exams today and when it was peaceful I kept on reflexively listing things on eBay. I’m listing them at the bus stop, on the tube, in the loo. I go until I run out of photos and then when I’m home I have another little photo session. I’ve ordered an LED pop up photo booth on Amazon so I can be more efficient. I’m going to turn myself into an eBay demon. So long as I don’t fall in love with the things … but it’s hard. Thankfully his jackets are way too big for me, and I can usually derail myself when I think “I should get this hemmed.” He had a lot of shoes, all of which fit me and many of which are extremely expensive. I’ll make sure I sell the bulk of them, but keep a pair back for auditions.

Monday and Tuesday are going to be spent really categorising and sorting things so I can get faster and sell more items in bulk. I need space to do that but I think I’ve found a possible option for a day or two of peaceful sorting. In the meantime, I’m starting to get responses from various hobbyists who can give me an idea of the worth and provenance and age of things, although I’m still lost in ceramics.  But even though it’s been more lucrative to have the van empty and pay for storage for the unsorted ceramics and busts and ephemera, they need to be sorted and I want it done so I know what goes to Carol and what goes elsewhere. What I keep for theatre and what I send to auction or charity. Down the line I might have my own warehouse space, or empty flat that I can deliberately fill with random objets d’art. But at the moment I’ve just got too much interesting junk and nowhere to put it, so I’ll keep on listing it on eBay and seeing who bites until I’ve got enough space in my flat and in my mind to take on more.

Meanwhile early bed in another Premier Inn and another random day to follow…

 

Endless driving

Back from Jersey and immediately into driving again. I’m losing track of which vehicle I’m using. I tried to sleep on a recliner last night and kept on waking up with dead legs. Thankfully the sea was gentle so I slept a few hours, but today was mostly about coffee.

Portsmouth to my house, where Max was waiting to help unload all the boxes into mine for the next stage in the process. Now my bedroom is full of boxes. It’s not ideal but it’ll spur action. Once unloaded I took the car back to Enterprise.

In Jersey an old family friend told us how an ambulance took the side of his car off doing a night time pick up. There’s just no space on that island. “Poor bugger”, I thought. But I woke up with a dink. Just a dink, but Enterprise take the whole excess and then pay back what you don’t use, so suddenly I’m out of overdraft. Also the paperwork takes forever, but thankfully they drive me back home and I’m immediately in the Soul Van and driving with passengers up to Cambridge to get loads of stage flats. This is for the Rotterdam tour, coming soon to The Rose in Kingston and then onwards around the country. You should catch it. I’m not in it, just helping out. But it’s a lovely crowd to help out, and the play is beautiful. Still, it’s a big set. They’re programmed into some big venues. Next to the old Theatre 503 set, it was a lot of work, especially on not enough sleep and with the emotional baggage of dumping a grand into a bit of paintwork on a car that isn’t mine while the Jag sits.

We played Tetris and got it all in the van, but it was touch and go to get Ethan’s lovely steps back in at the end. And I’m going to have to go to Cambridge again pretty soon to get that filthy rocking horse and throw it away. There was nowhere else to put it so I had to leave it there

Once fully loaded, we had to schlep  the flats over to the workshop at Battersea Arts Centre and take them all out again to be touched up and made good before Rotterdam goes all around the country. There’s so much work behind the scenes of these live stories we tell on stage. Every time I help out on the back end I think about it more. It’s lovely to be under the lights being brilliant, but if nobody can see you or the set falls on your head or there’s nobody watching then it’s pointless

Now I’m home feeling shell shocked. I’m going to get the boxes off the bed, lie in a hot bath, and then sleep like a baby.

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Jersey, and Camino

Last time Max and I were together in Jersey it was springtime. We bought some daffodil bulbs, and then went for a walk on the beach. I found a scallop shell – a big one. I carried it with me as we drove up to mum’s grave. “It’ll do for a shovel.”

We planted the bulbs in the soft soil above mum’s grave. We carefully replaced the turf. Better than flowers that die, a planted bulb. I left the scallop shell there, propped up on the grave. At the time I didn’t have an inkling that I’d be going on Camino in the coming year, walking so long for mum and for Peter and for me. But returning there today, the shock of that shell went right through me. In Camino terms the scallop shell is the signal that you’re on the right path. And on Camino you get up every day and follow the path until you’re spent.

There it was, that shell, waiting for me after a year’s journey and a years progress. Maybe the seeds were sown with the bulbs. Often our unconscious knows more about the future than our conscious.

The bulbs we planted? They are turning into beautiful flowers. “Keep going.” “One step at a time.” “You’re on the right path.” A touching reminder of how wrapped up mum was in my whole walk, and delivered in a timely fashion just four days before the anniversary of her death, which can be a tough time.

My car is full of shirts though… Yay?

I have reached and exceeded my stuff capacity. If someone was to call up and say “Bring your van, The Queen is throwing away all her junk and she thought you might be able to use it in theatre,” I’d probably have to say “Thank you marm,” but take it to the dump and charge her for the rubbish weight. And gold is heavy.

Every spare moment now has got to be for sorting, categorising, jettisoning, donating, selling or repurposing. The hourly rate will be worth it if I can list a lot of things even if I only sell them for a tenner. But I’ll have to put the hours in. I’ll need to know what we have for plates for Carol. How many busts and of whom. What potential costume wonders… Done right it’s a very very big job indeed.

The Jersey hospice shop have the sorting thing sorted. It’s a wonder to behold, but they have an army of people volunteering and it is so well organised. I dropped off many loads there. You are met by efficient retired men and women, experts in their field. “Books over there clothes over here.” They take everything. I expect their grandchildren are round the back googling things. Surely some of it goes on eBay but enough of it goes out on the shop floor to lure people from all over the place to buy it. I used to love it as a kid. “Aladdin’s Cave” was always a phrase associated with it. It really is.

For the people on my end, you need to be in a particular headspace to go through everything as forensically as I just managed to do. The few items Peter had with some resale value – I found them. I might keep them, I might not, but I know what they are. His Gucci loafers. They’re in my shoe size. His trilby. I’m wearing it…

I don’t have an army of volunteers to sort the rest out, although Tristan and Jack have variously lent a hand already but with loading more than with triage. But as soon as this is written I’m going to break out my diary and start blocking in official units of time where I treat it as my job to sort and sort and sort and move and move and move. Once it’s done the pathways are in place for me to do the same with my mother’s stuff in the attic, my own stuff from childhood, my grandmother’s stuff, my father’s stuff in the Isle of Man… I’m not moving into a big house anytime soon that will need furnishing. All these things could be making money rather than taking up space or costing money. And if I ever feel the lack of stuff I can go to auctions. It’s all about the pathways. The first time you do something it’s hard. The next time less so. And every time after that it’s easier and easier until you wonder why you ever thought of it as hard in the first place.

I’m in the boat again, on the dark sea between Jersey and Guernsey. In an hour I’ll crash out on my expensive recliner and hopefully sleep a happy night before loads of driving tomorrow and carrying heavy things for fun and profit. Off again. I’ll be back in a month I reckon.

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Mansion Airbnb

Just after Tweedledee breathalysed me within five minutes of arriving home on the island with a visibly “not Jersey” car, I arrived at my Airbnb. I then drove around the block once because even though he tested me in the driveway of where I was heading, he told me “no it’s not here.” When you’re lost ask a copper? Ha. There’ll certainly be no pregnant women weeing in policemen’s hats with my guy. Although, out of context, Tweedledee was actually a very pleasant human. It was just his timing, five minutes after fifteen hours in a horribly rough ferry, and the extremely abrasive customs guy.

But dammit I wanted wine when I got in.

Justyn, who partly runs the place, was walking down the front stairs with a bag of packaging gubbins when I arrived. He had a face mask on, and looked preoccupied. He had dropped a load of polystyrene everywhere in the hallway, taking the opportunity to unpack some new equipment for his hairdressing business in the hallway while making a fish pie. He was apologising all over the place. “I just want wine,” I told him.  “Sorry for the state of the floor,” he attempted, surrounded by beautiful clean walls and high ceilings with comfortable shared rooms all around. “You should see my flat.” I finish. “I’ve got a bottle of wine.” “So have I.”.

We sat and had both. We got on very well. Too well. I’ve never landed so well in an Airbnb.

His brother’s in my industry, flying by all accounts. I think he might have directed a Star Wars. Justyn runs his Airbnb out of a typical Jersey stone mansion, right by The Savoy Hotel, great big beautiful well appointed rooms with high ceilings. Light and height, in the centre of town. Considering the lack of space in Jersey, there are lots of houses like this. Either Justyn or his partner has inherited this glorious place and has chosen to share it with people like us. It’ll keep the Aga warm and pay the heating bills, and it means that from time to time someone will come and have a night like we did, for better or for worse. It was a great tonic to my fraught arrival. Although the poor bugger had to cut hair for two clients in the morning, and I had to sort boxes full of rennies. “It’s your fault if I cut somebody’s ear off.” That was his parting shot to me. (He didn’t. He’s a pro.)

If I had my way, and my big property, I’d do something similar. There’s always someone on my sofa in London. If I had spare rooms they’d be full. “Just finding my feet in London.” That sort of thing. Big house, fill it with artists, make things possible for people, put a time limit on it being free to motivate resourcefulness, “leave a picture here”, “put a show on in the living room” “you need how much to make this short film?” Have a lovely life, make stuff with some of the people, cover your costs, die with a smile on your face and lovely things that were made because of and by you, that could last forever or just be written in air. Win. I just need to win the Euromillions or play the British Walter White or something. I’ll get there. 3 years. Bring it.

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Population density

This island is 46.14 square miles. The population comes in at 100,080. That’s 2,169 people living in every square mile. Compare that to The Isle of Man. 220.9 square miles, 84,287 people. Fewer people, well over four times the space. Ok, so the middle of the IOM is an almost uninhabited race track. Still only 381 people per square mile. That’s a hell of a difference. 5.6 times less dense in The Isle of Man. You can feel the space out there. It’s tight here. Although nothing compared to London.

Here, you go for a walk down the country lanes and to your right 20 people are pulling potatoes out of a field by hand. Six people walk past with dogs in half an hour and say hello. You stand aside for five cars and a tractor and wave at all the drivers. And you don’t really think about it. You just do it. Because everyone here is used to it. I took this photo to illustrate. It’s a normal sized two way road. They get much smaller than this, with much harder edges:

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And added to that, it hasn’t stopped everyone driving around in great big SUV’s, honking their horns as they go. It’s worse than Chelsea. One of my friends over here has it completely right, nipping around in a mini. Why would you choose something else, unless you were anticipating taking loads of stuff.

I’ve got an SUV. It’s going to be full of shirts, bags and jackets. My uncle had so many shirts. Terrifying. He used to get them posted to him by the dry cleaners and then collected. But he probably had one for every day of the year. I’ve given so many of them to the charity shop it felt like I’d devalue them if I dropped them all. They fit me. I’ve got about 4 boxes of nice shirts that I can guiltlessly wear once and then drop in the charity shop. I won’t have to steal Brian’s when I’ve got an audition. He was the same shoe size as me as well, so now I’ve got variety in my audition shoes and I can chuck out some of my existing crap pairs. I’ll have to be more ruthless with the jackets, depending on how much I manage to ferry through the narrow lanes to the hospice shop tomorrow. It’s closed on Tuesday.

And boy the roads are narrow. Every inch of space is colonised, and the residents build low hard granite walls to demarcate their property. My car has a lane assist. I switched it off immediately. Hyundai is getting us used to automatic cars. If you cross the centre line without indicating it tries to correct you, while making disapproving beeping noises. If you take your hands off the wheel it keeps you on the road, and shouts at you. Handy for long distance motorway driving. But in Jersey it’s often either drive over the centre line or take a chunk out of your car on the edge of someone’s property. They’ll probably charge you for the wall repair as well, and they’ll turn out to be a multimillionaire retired lawyer with time on their hands into the bargain.

The population density though – it’s why there’s so much theatre here compared to The Isle of Man. Unless it’s TT season over there you haven’t got the numbers to recoup the investment of getting everything over on the ferry with box office. Four Poofs and a Piano can just about get away with it in the IOM because they’re off of the tellybox, as I discovered only after meeting them briefly. But here in Jersey there are friends of mine who aren’t from the island but bring freeform slightly experimental Shakespeare plays over and sell tickets for them.

I dunno, maybe I’m an island boy at heart still. I had a walk on the beach this evening and I felt totally at home. Just like I did in The Isle of Man I thought “I could live here”. Here more so than there, frankly. 100,081? So long as I could afford the regular flights to London I’ll be that one… Just a bit more profile please. Gonna land one of those tellybox jobs…