Bank what? Oh yeah.

Slowly, over the course of the bank holiday Sunday, I’ve come to learn the extent to which people are willing to spend money on bollocks. I’ve been smashing round London, seeing friends, seeing family, working and playing. But meanwhile, on eBay, a bunch of unusual collectors have been fighting with each other about mugs that I would happily have thrown in the bin. This eBay thing is turning into a very valid cottage industry.

Meantime I went to see Max my brother, and his family. I just dumped a load of cash into his account from mutually owned stuff that I’ve sold. I’m happy to do the work. It’s the perfect actor’s day job. I can always prioritise an audition over sorting random stuff.

The last few years I’ve been the Easter bunny on this powerful day for my family. Max is almost apologetic when he tells me the kids are aware that the bunny is a fiction. It’s odd to contemplate that boundary. Which is the first to go? Tooth Fairy? Or Easter Bunny? I asked Santa about it and he said it was the tooth fairy that went first for him.

The actual genuine Easter bunny showed up, and hid a load of eggs and then we encouraged the kids to find them. It was a big part of my upbringing, the egg hunt, so it’s always lovely to make a similar hunt for Max’s kids. There’s always one egg that they can’t find.

It was joyful watching the kids do something largely pointless. I hid one huge egg, and was surprised that the laid back older sibling found it more than halfway through the hunt – I thought it would go to the motivated younger one. There’s a satisfaction in watching kids do pointless things that you’ve set up. Although these people aren’t kids any more. Nick is already taller than me. Catherine decided to make money selling things, much as I’ve been doing recently. She has brought a lizard into Max’s house as a result. She’s been reselling things at school to the extent she managed to get enough cash to buy a lizard from a guy who couldn’t move it with him to his new council house. He put it on the internet and she bought it. He had no idea that his lizard – “Bob” – was being bought by – basically – a child. But there’s Bob now in pride of place, in her bedroom, fed with live locusts, as adored as he is unusual. It’s brilliant she did that. Her dad talks about it with marvel in his demeanour.

Meantime I got to hang out with Nick, my excellent tall nephew. He has a remarkable grasp on the fundaments of story. He is a highly intelligent young man who automatically breaks stories into their component parts. He’s a massive fanboy, but sees how commercial stories are built, despite his fandom. I had a good few hours forensically breaking down stories I know very well indeed, with his head. He is currently less able to understand how the things we love can be made by people like us. But he’ll get there.

Meanwhile I’m hanging out with Emma. Who is a fucking legend. Friends… I love my friends. It’s all good.

Here we IS. Can you be as glam as us? Answers on a postcard.

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eBay spring

A beautiful spring day. Brian made bread and I tried to list as much as I could on eBay. It’s mostly mugs and weird bits of China right now – things that stand alone and that I can see no use for in theatre. I know more about maker’s marks on china than I ever thought I’d know. I honestly don’t give a fuck about porcelain. I don’t like it when people know that sort of thing. “This is a valuable plate!” No. It’s not. It’s just a plate. Hundreds of years ago, one among many skilled craftsmen was friends with the right people. His work was forefronted by his friends with ancestral money. A consensus was arrived at that his work was the one to be coveted, causing the broke aspirational people to prize said work. He employed a load of other people and churned out as much as possible with his name attached whilst his star was in the ascendant. Those pieces have value purely because they’ve always had value. I find some of them attractive. I find some of them vile. Consensus beats taste and logic. There are too many people who don’t feel they’re allowed to have an opinion in matters of art. People with spending power have intimidated them with jargon. “What do I know about art?” “EVERYTHING YOU KNOW EVERYTHING BECAUSE THAT’S YOUR OPINION AND YOU’RE ALIVE! SCHOOL ME!”

After a morning of eBay it was off to pretend to be a golfer again for a few hours at Smithfield. The blossom is just about holding, but also it is scattering all over the little lawn I’m working on. Someone has attached a little knitted pouch to the branch of the tree that I work beside. It’s beautiful. I took a photo. That’s a piece of expression that has given me joy. And it was never meant to be observed and recorded, which makes me like it even more.

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I put a bunch of treasure hunters through their paces today, including one team full of asshat grownups who have forgotten how to “play”, or never knew how in the first place.

Then I went home where I clicked the eBay machine back into motion. I’ve scheduled a whole heck of a lot of listings for tomorrow. If my van was empty I’d likely have gone to my storage and emptied it so I can sort the rest. But it’s full of somebody else’s fucking wood. It goes out on Tuesday.

I’m booked until Thursday next week, so Thursday will be the time to carry boxes. Fuck knows how I’ll keep the van parked meanwhile. The permit ran out days ago but I’ve been lucky so far. I would’ve emptied it today but I can’t really get in it for all the damn timber. I might try and rearrange contents tomorrow so I can move around a bit more. Ideally I wanna get myself to Cambridge and pick up all the junk I dropped out when I loaded the Rotterdam set. I’ve got a trip to the dump planned on Tuesday. If you’re throwing stuff out it’s worth mentioning it to me. I’m a van so they charge by the weight. But I’m already taking loads of weight, so a bit more is likely not to make a difference. Just don’t load me up with lead and asbestos.

Weekendish

And here comes summer again, although my city is full of people calmly gluing themselves to things in order to remind us that the climate isn’t really doing what it should and that it’s entirely our fault. I’ve been getting on with the business of listing things on eBay – (better for the world having a second hand mug than s new one!) Firstly I had to try to make some sort of order out of the chaos. I have more boxes I’m going to have to bring into the house and I’ve not been very ordered yet with the ones that are already here.

The current plan is to consign silverware and the endless busts – oh there are so many busts – to the attic until porcelain is done. It’s easier to clean smoke damage from porcelain for starters, and I had to choose a category. Here are some of the mugs, on the table, ready for listing. I couldn’t have a dinner party right now but I could manage one hell of a tea party if there was anywhere to stand.

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I had no idea it was a bank holiday until Brian didn’t go to work. I thought maybe he was sick. Then another friend of mine who is about to launch a multi million pound start up showed up for lunch and I realised when we got to pop-Brixton that there was definitely something bank-holiday-ish going on when it was completely rammerjammered and loads of people were having lunchtime beers. I had a mini raclette and moaned about the fact the post office was closed. Then he showed me his amazing new pad with a view of Buckingham Palace. He’s killing it right now.

Work today, such as it is, was walking around Battersea Park with a statuesque Welsh beauty, repeatedly talking through the same three short scenes from Shakespeare, occasionally swearing and occasionally laughing. We will have to perform the scenes at 8 in the morning on Tuesday to a load of hungover delegates, so it’s good to get them drilled. Hungover delegates can smell hesitation. You can’t drop the ball. It was a lovely few hours, and I’m feeling more confident about it all now. The two of us have worked together so much on random things like this that we’ve refined a kind of shorthand. But we both know that these new scenes are harder to retain than the usual fayre – and one of them is in French…

I got back home anxious to get some decent box arrangement done before it got too late, only to find a triumphant Brian having built the flatpack IKEA television stand we bought last week and have been procrastinating about ever since. It took three days for me to get it up from the van, and it’s been halfway up the stairwell since then. Now at last the thing is complete, and we no longer have a television balanced on a pair of chairs! No time to watch tv though.

After sorting through impossible quantities of plates I settled down to photographing tons of minute little pieces of vintage crested china by WH Goss – made to be collectible. There are some pretty bits. But there’s SO MUCH stuff in my flat. It is all going on eBay. I just need to get more efficient at listing…

Writing and ULEZ

It’s five to eleven. I’ve stopped on the way home, to see a friend. It’s the first stop I’ve had for 48 hours. Every second of every day has been accounted for, dictated by a checklist. It did have “phone calls and gather energy” written in for 9.30am today, which is barely work. But mostly my list has been a hard taskmaster.

I’ve basically written a phrasebook in two days, whilst hauling around a load of props and wood and cramming Shakespeare learning in any (too few) gaps. I submitted the completed piece half an hour ago, from Holloway Road. The van is heavy with timber that Lyndon hasn’t thought about where to put. Now I’ve stopped for a second I’ve sent him a message telling him I can’t keep his timber indefinitely. It’s not going to be my van much longer. Anyway I’m going to have a healing non alcoholic beer with a dear friend.

Tomorrow the plan was to go to Cambridge, grab a load of rubbish, go to the dump, and get the van empty in time for storage evacuation. Now the van is full of Lyndon’s sodding wood. I haven’t the space in my head to think about logistics right now. “Hugh Hefner had his horse here? How horrible.” That’s my head right now. Ridiculous phrases examining different aspects of the Standard English accent. For accent softening purposes. Here’s my friend and her brilliant dyslexic notes scattered on tracing paper as we worked this evening on piecing everything together into something that could be recorded.

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That was my final part of the list. “18:10 – back to S. Work until ???! then drive home knackered.”

Around the world, frowning in concentration, perhaps unaware of how ridiculous it is, men and women who want to be better understood in business will be saying things like “I am renowned for shouting at clowns,” and “I can scarcely bear to pay the fare to go to Zaire by air.” Obviously there’s plenty about “bad banking practice” and “monitoring profit and loss” but I had to keep myself entertained. It’s a relief though, having that particular thought distraction locked down and finished. I’ve got so much to do back in eBay land, corporate Kingdom, audition city and camp tidyflat. But it was very useful to see how I could activate even the five minute wait between arriving on a job and starting the load to get some writing done.


I’m home now, glad to be back. The drive was considerably longer than I’m used to for the distance. The ULEZ means you pay £14.50 to drive through the congestion charge zone even at night. I was driving from Camden to Chelsea which is normally pretty swift through town at this time. Not anymore unless you’re made of money. To save myself a few quid and God knows how long inputting data on my phone to pay it, I chose to go all the way round the edge, blowing a good five quid in extra diesel and adding about 25 minutes to the drive. Still, that’s a reasonable enough hourly rate in savings, but I feel conflicted about it. We all hate paying for what used to be free. I might have to get used to ULEZ eventually though, as I have sympathy for the cause in the name of which this new tax was raised. But not tonight. Tonight I was like “screw you Saddiq, you’ve made me use more fuel to save money.” I might have to start budgeting for the extra cash in future, as the world is dying. But at least it’s only occasionally that I have that conflict. Uber drivers must be getting squeezed hard with their crap enough hourly rates…

Hermes the messenger

“Ow, I just got cactus in my thumb,” says Madge at half past ten at night in a car park in Peckham. She’s been designing a music video that shot today. I like that people are still shooting music videos. It’s comforting.

This morning I dropped all their stuff off. The director showed up in a brand new shiny white (Enterprise?) Nissan as I was unloading. He was wearing a Hermes scarf on his head. “Is that Hermes?” I asked, flaunting my new found knowledge, but choosing Greek God pronunciation. “I’m sorry?” He responded, despite hearing me clearly. “Is that Hermes?” I ask, this time pretending it’s French. “Ah. Yes,” he says, very slightly posing before his eyes slide off me. Thankfully all I’m doing is dropping off and picking up. The other guys will have to work with this plum all day.

I drove home to write more accent softening phrases. I have to keep restraining myself from writing sweary ones. I’ve pretty much done the lot now.  Many hours, and not particularly fun, but you get your kicks where you can. I got mine by going to Gatsby with an old friend. He’s a theatre producer, and used to run a pub space in Kentish town. I did my last ever ridiculously low paid acting work there – well over a decade ago. That was the job where I finally quit smoking forever, because I was about to spend my last cash on fags instead of on three days worth of food.

It’s also the job where I swore off working for fuck all, or “experience” or any of those shenanigans. I used to have romantic notions about “Apprentice, Journeyman, Master” in terms of craft building and progression, but in reality you’re better off walking into a room chin first and announcing how amazing you are with no basis at all than you are than trying to persuade most of the people holding the purse strings to come and see you in a restoration comedy above a pub. “Oh God no he’s a free actor,” I once heard someone say about a guy I knew who was slogging his guts for the price of a beer in some forsaken church hall in the precise hopes that that precise person would consider him for the precise job they’d just dismissed him for.

So yeah, I stopped that shit. But had I never done it I wouldn’t know George. And now, years later, he might be building something interesting in outdoor spaces for actual money. I wanted him to see Gatsby because it’s my jam and my people. It just gets better and better, and he was using the word immersive. I loved it tonight. It’s still growing, three years into the run. No stagnation with this sort of work. Years of “You know that moment… There’s something not quite landing. How about if we try x” and it’s really showing.  It’s a beautiful strange web, skillfully played and controlled by a surprisingly small group of actors. The only downside is, I bet they’re completely exhausted when it comes down. Hard to activate your daytime when you’re expending that much energy every night. I applaud them though. It just flies out.

I didn’t get to see the end. The call came and I had to get back in the van to pack up at the end of the shoot. Shame. I’d have liked to see how they handle it when the darkness falls, and heard them all sing together.

I got back to Greenwich.

“How was the director?” I asked Madge.

No surprises there.

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Cutting out the unhelpful bit

I intend to be in bed by ten. I got home, cracked open a beer, took three sips, felt dizzy and put it down. Right there, that’s my liver telling me enough is enough. Plus I’m just exhausted.

I’ve been beating myself up a bit recently. They say astrologically that six months after your birthday is the worst bit of the year. It certainly feels like I can agree with that. I’ve got all the parent death memories indelibly wound into early spring and Easter, so the world is full of triggers. Plus I’m brilliantly horribly annoyingly wonderfully busy doing gainful things that are not acting. I have had to write a plan for the last two days before I go to bed, hour by hour, and then try to stick to it, and today was successful in that all the things on the list got done in order. But I was wobbly when I got home. Wobbly from not stopping. I’m treating myself to an early bed, shitloads of water to drink and a hot water bottle. But despite the fact I’m trying to relax I keep making work for myself. I’ve just gone down to the van in my dressing gown to make sure it’s properly locked because its full of somebody else’s stuff tonight and I got worried. It was locked. I didn’t need to check.

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I took the entire contents of the van up the stairs to my flat this morning, box by heavy box before breakfast. I’m very aware that the boxes are where I left them, unsorted as I had to go off and do ten other things instead.

But I did the things. Just as many things to do tomorrow though, plus finishing the doggerell. But I’m on it. It can all work. And to make bloody certain it does, I’m taking an extreme step. I’m taking booze out of the equation. There’s too much to do. I woke up this morning from nothing to full consciousness, almost as if I’d been dead. I didn’t know who I was for a moment, or where.  An unknown voice was talking outside my third floor window about how bad the bricks are. What need alarm clocks when you can have builders? Disorienting though. I don’t need to be shocked into wakefulness, I don’t need to stagger swearing into the world, and stink so much after lifting boxes that I have to wash myself and change all my clothes before going out. I’ve got lots of shit to do, and the end goal is clear. Headspace and more money. Cutting away the unhelpful chains of the past.

Brian reminded me of what a stubborn bastard I can be. He gave me some much needed perspective on myself. He lives with me every day, and knows better than anyone how much I can put away when I’m dedicated to it. That’s not a nice glass of wine with lunch quantity. That’s “Who the fuck let that guy in here?” quantity.

There’s a lot to do. Lent is almost over. Perfect time for a contrarian to start a lentish type thing… And desire for a nice glass of wine will likely motivate me to crack on with the sorting. And now I’ve written it here…

 

Bloggity bloggity woggety gog.

“A little bit of writing.”

That’s what she called, it, my dear old friend from drama school.

18 modules. Translating the contents of her head. “Now we need sentences with the Eeyore sound.” “Eh?” “You know – like fjord. Kia-Ora.” Ok so she didn’t use that one. But she basically needs me to write a book of exercises in less than a week. It all makes sense in her head. But other people have different heads. Even old friends.

She rang me up last night for some help. I didn’t really have the time, what with all the stuff I still have to sort. But she’s a good friend and I’m always there if I can be, particularly at short notice. Plus she was paying. So I did a day. The time flew by. But it was hard to make sense of what she needed from me. And we definitely didn’t have the time. We were halfway through the third module when I said “If there are eight of these we might need another day.” “Eight? There are eighteen.”

About then is when I freaked out.

I don’t like doing things badly. I’d sooner not do it than do it slipshod. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But maybe it’s useful for me to learn to shortcut, otherwise I put off starting things forever because I don’t trust I have time to do them well. After all, I frequently write crap blogs if I’m exhausted. It’s actually good practice for me to let go like this, having to do one every day no matter what. “Oh fuck it that’ll do” is a reasonably unusual pattern of thinking to me. So I keep churning out minimum 500 words a day.

Now I’m going home with a list of vowels and dipthongs, and while I’m sorting porcelain on the floor of my hall I’ll be writing lines utilising my mind and time. All those bloody pat sentences, but new ones. The burglar was searching through Murphy’s dirty shirts when he was disturbed by the girls. The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain. How now brown cow. Air Hair Lair!! Helpfully – (not helpfully) – she likes to give them a little poem to practice with at the end of the session using all the sounds. Sergeant Marwood charmed the clerk to teach dressage in Richmond Park. George Warne sorts porn, his daughter caught him, he’s forlorn. Doggerell.

I’ve got about twenty boxes of porcelain to sort, a van to plan to return, three weird scenes to glean, better then ten letters to send, an urn of kernels to burn for the colonel, a cargo of yaargh to aargh gaaargh aaaaaaa fllargh and I’m on a mission to smash an audition. Every second I work for someone else right now is disrespectful of my own needs and desires. I’ve been doing that for so long my stuff is backed up to the point that it has to be looked at now so I can return resurgent in a few months uncluttered by the weight of the years of delaying. My focus right now shouldn’t be someone else’s needs, but mine. But there’s a deadline looming, this is work I’m good at, and my friend needs me – (and she’s paying). So now I’m suddenly Doctor fucking Suess without a story. She’s paying ok for the weight of the cake. But it’s too much to do and my time should be prime. Aargh.

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