Thoughts of the next move

I’ve been needing to go to Jersey for over a year now, but this whole situation has made it impossible. After the 26th there might be a window of opportunity before more shit hits the fan. A chance to do the things I need to do before everything probably stops again. I’ve been making a few calls and touching base with people I know out there in advance. It’s not so far away but it’s surrounded by water and these times make it hard for anybody to go anywhere. Jersey has always been pretty insular, and right now that tendency has been amped up as we are all encouraged to sneak deeper into our little boxes. If I go, people will glare at me for my English car and my grockley ways, coming over and breathing their air and probably giving everybody that dirty Covid thing from filthy London town.

I never plan anything this far ahead. I usually don’t really know where I’ll be going in twenty four hours and then I suddenly find out it’s Bognor. With The Cove in the equation everything has to be put into place so early. I have to be much more organised than I like to be. Booking travel, working out what I’ll have to do, contingency planning…

I’ll even have to find somebody who’s happy to take custody of the friendly snake and of our glorious fluffy communist leader. He’s camped out on the freshly made bed at my feet, snoring like my dad. All he’s done all day is sleep. He’s an easy thing to look after for a week or two. You watch him sleep, then you have an intensive evening snuggle and groom, then more sleep. I’d take him in the car on the ferry as he’s extremely mild and unfazed, but he’s just settling here now and a new human will be enough disruption despite his nature. If I took him I’d have to take the snake and the fishies too. Rather than turn into Doctor Doolittle I’ll stay here. Animals make a home. They also bind you to that home.

I had a good potter to the Chelsea Physic Garden, enjoying the spring blossoms. The café is open again and as a result everybody was just sitting there. I could walk around relatively uncrowded avenues. I don’t quite get that. Surrounded by all these beautiful organisms in this fertile protected soil near the river, with the bulbs yielding up their tulips to the kiss of the sun in cold air, people sit under a plastic awning sipping expensive tea and talking about how cold they are. I guess it’s the novelty of it now. We haven’t been able to do it for months. If I was drinking it would’ve been a different matter I guess. I’d have seen the opportunity and would now be writing this to you a good fifteen pounds poorer and half cut.

I hope you’re enjoying the things you missed that you can do again. I’m sure I’ll find those pleasures again in time, but at the moment I’m happy to stay in semi torpor like all the animals in my home.

But not going out

It’s me and the cat and a chamomile tea again. If you came here for the ill advised pissed up ranting, you’re way out of date. It’s been a long time since I’ve had three bottles of wine and drooled out my insecurities for all to marvel at. I’ve done so well in the past at being drunk angry blogman. I’ve got some people who got insulted by drunk Al in print once upon a time and are generally ill disposed to me as a result. The problem with this momentary thought is that you can Google it a year from now. On the whole it’s no big deal. But this record long outlasts the moment in which it was written. I frequently have to remind myself of that.

The paradigm is shifting so fast in times of COVID that it’s impossible to keep up. All the opposing theories and judgements are running up against each other and suddenly we are allowed to go to the pub so long as the wind is southerly and there are three people whose name begins with a vowel in your group. “Pubs and streets here are overflowing,” says Lou. They’re all out – all the people. Some clueless blonde moptop stuck a pin in the calendar and that’s going to protect us all from invisible pathogens or lizards or whatever the fuck you’re going to tell me is going on right now.

Everybody went to the shop in order to pretend they were normal and the last year didn’t happen. They bought pants.

I went for an exploratory stroll around my local streets, expecting to find at least one pub overspilling with laughing grown ups drinking sugary fun. This part of town is still pretty buttoned up though. A few small tables outside Gordon Ramsey, having their steak and wine despite the bitter cold that gives the lie to the spring. Everything else still boarded. Not yet for Chelsea it seems. Not yet.

So I went home and bought a Tiffany uplighter on eBay, and a cat scratching board that I’m hoping will draw the attention of Mao before he gets through the rest of my furniture. I’m not holding out much hope. I treated him to some gourmet cat food, and he responded by ignoring it and puking in the doorway. I got him a can of tuna and he was immediately happy again. He’s a temperamental creature. Good for the stroking. Generally affectionate. Leaves hair everywhere.

We had a half hour long hairball removal session just now and he’s patient and eloquent with the process. He wants them out as much as I do and he’s willing to work with me on it. I’ve never come across such a stoic little beast. As different from Pickle as night from day, but still undeniably a cat.

So here we are, having not gone out to welcome another attempt to bring back the familiar. I’ll get around to it. For now I’m gonna sleep and dream just as soon as I’ve finished this two litre pot of chamomile.

A bit too much time to think on a Sunday

I’m sad, despite having a very affectionate fluff dispenser. It comes in waves, doesn’t it? As we endlessly wait for nothing to happen it’s easy to start to hear the inside of our head screaming at us that something is wrong. Because something is wrong.

From the earliest times, we have gathered together in groups. We have shared the invisible comforts of touch and breath. Mao will frequently come up to me and put his catface in my face. I will feel his little huffy breaths on my stubble, he will filter my big sighs through his whiskers. It’s an instinctive connection thing for him, breathing on his friend. He does it without thought and it’s a moment of connection on a different level from the more obvious dynamic of “You stroke me and I purr”. Because it’s important. We need to be close to others, to share their germs as well as their pheromones. Midwives know this and advocate skin to skin contact as soon as possible. The more we retreat from each other, the less we share, the weaker we become. We need to be in touch. To touch. To be close to each other.

How can it have been a year and more? This hiatus. A pause on life. I’m like a teenager again. I had a Sunday lie in until noon and then I stroked a cat, cooked a steak and fannied about. At one point I moved the pheasant that is still hanging on the fire escape. I was momentarily worried when I opened the door because the sun looked bright until I realised it was basically sub-zero out there. Still, it’s in a shadier spot. Despite Tristan’s reservations, I think I’m going to get away with hanging the thing outside if the weather stays unseasonably cold like this. I hope so, as I’ll be going to all the bother of plucking the poor thing and if it’s no good when I’m done it’ll be a huge load of bother and mess for no reward but the learning and the feathers.

I want very much to be surrounded by people again. I want to be in a rehearsal room or on a set where you always end up so close to each other – even if you’ve just met. The beginning of summer is coming at the end of this natural pheasant-hanging week of cold. Normally there’d be a superabundance of parties and fun and humans and laughter. Nope. Just us in whatever home environment we’ve cooked up for ourselves. I like my home very much thankfully. And there’s still loads to do in here. I’m comfortable and happy and warm here, and it’s mine, unlike Hampstead with the six months notice and the acrimony and the huge amounts of rent spent over decades heading towards a dead stop.

There are some things that will change for the better, and some for the worse. We’ve already become so conditioned to distance – to the policing of touch. I wonder when we’ll be able to put a hand on a stranger’s shoulder to gently let them know we’re behind them with a full pint. Sure we will be able to have meetings without leaving the house. But the less we move the smaller our frame becomes, the narrower and bitterer and less kind we get. Travel broadens the mind. Community blunts the ego. We have to go places and see things or we turn into little selfish piggies who think we are oh so very clever. I don’t want any more piggies. This place was full of them before Covexit. It’s getting unmanageable…

Getting lost and dead birds.

I have become so reliant on the bad aspects of technology that I totally fell foul of my own complacency. “Navigate me to Cambridge Park Sport and Bowls Club,” I told my Google assistant thing. It’s the nearest landmark to Tristan and Tanya’s place. It’s very frequently asked for in my Google. Much as I hate it, I know that Google is storing information about me. My assumption is that it will hear my garbled words whilst I’m driving, check what it hears against my frequent destinations and choose the one that makes the most sense. Nope. Unbeknownst to me, it decides I want to go to Boughton Golf Club, down near The Isle of Sheppey. It doesn’t check. It just sets the route. I have my satnav set to avoid motorways. Off I go. No radio today, I’m in my head instead. “Ooh that’s a nice pub,” “what a pretty tree.” Am I looking at the road signs? Nope. No I’m not. Oh no I’m not. It’s only when I’m fifteen minutes from my destination that it occurs to me that something just might be wrong. Yep. Over an hour and a half in completely the wrong direction.

Another two hours later I’m at Tristan and Tanya’s. Why? Well this habit of driving on A roads sometimes bears fruit. The first time I saw a pheasant getting hit by a car I stopped to pick it up and realised it was still alive. I carried it to the side of the road and gave it water and two hours later it was lively and running around again. This time it was gone when I got to it. Tristan has a garden shed. I thought it might be the best place to hang it in the absence of a downstairs pantry. He was in a foul mood though so after all that I didn’t need to have navigated to the sport and bowls club after all. “Take me home,” I could have asked Google. Then I’d have wound up in Frome, but at least the people are friendly in Somerset.

I’ve hooked the pheasant to a trellis on the fire escape that was incomprehensibly left there when they took all the lovely big plant pots because of health and safety. It’s dangling wrapped in an apron for flies, and I’m hoping it’ll be cold for a few more days. I’m going to give it two days – maybe three. I’ll end up having to follow some ghastly YouTube tutorial to prepare the poor thing. It’s going to be mucky and long work. But considering the other option was to let it be pounded into the tarmac, it seems the right thing to do, and I’ve got no qualms about learning another skill. I saw one of my acting tutors once, in a play, butchering a rabbit. They had taught themselves well, but they held it at arms length, betraying a sensitivity a butcher wouldn’t have and giving the lie to the whole business of learning how to do it for the part instead of tricking it.

That stretch of road is lethal. When I stopped to pick it up, there too were the remains of a deer, just mouldering. I’ve been lucky to have only once been slammed once and by a relatively small bird, part of a murmuration that dropped too close to the road. I still remember the thunk as fate selected it as the only animal in that vast dark cloud of beings that was unable to avoid the glass of my windshield. I’ve never hit a deer or a pheasant or anything larger than that starling. Touch wood I never will. It must be hell of a shock.

I made it home and found an expectant cat who is now beside me once more, all fur and purr, happy to have company once more. He was curious about the bird. I am too. This’ll either be a messy disaster or the beginning of a terrible urge to veer towards and not away from the animal. (Don’t worry. I’m way too into things like totems to do it on purpose.)

Bognor and a public mourning

I’ve got got 3 radio channels set to buttons in my car and they’re all BBC. Adverts get very wearing on long drives. The BBC has no adverts. I found myself regretting only having those three options today as I drove to Bognor Regis in the morning.

“Bugger Bognor”. Those are often claimed as the last two words spoken by King George V as he was put down. There were very few people present at the time, so we can’t be sure. I expect there are extant theses arguing both that he did and that he didn’t die cursing that little seaside town. I expect the bulk of the ones arguing he didn’t originate from near the place itself.

We don’t know what the Duke of Edinburgh said as he shuffled off his mortal coil today. The BBC coverage on Radio 4 this morning was in many ways exhaustive, but it didn’t stretch to circumstances of death and last words. That’s ok. It’s hard to shake those images of the final state. They burn over some of the happy memories. Best to keep us remembering the public persona and let his passing remain intimate.

“We are abandoning all programming to bring you this special report into the life and etc etc” I listened for a good hour, negotiating my way out of London, as they picked through his life minute by minute. “And it was on the fifteenth of June 1987 that Beryl Stourbridge noticed the Duke, or somebody that looked like him, walking down the high street in Carnarvon”.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when they did the beeps into a news report, I shifted in my seat looking forward to hearing something else – anything else. It’s an incomprehensibly vast world out there… It was the only story on the news. It was everything I had just listened to but shorter. I think Johnson spoke well. But I don’t want to have to listen to him.

I changed channel to Radio 3. Perhaps some soothing and obscure choral music as I slammed south to the coast? No. The same. Radio 2 hoping for some overenthusiastic jerk playing tunes I didn’t like first thing around? No. More of the same. There’s a whole department whose job it is to prepare these days of mourning. They had pictures of him on the bus stops for crying out loud. I switched it off and I could still see it out the window. They probably had his head on the side of the Good Year blimp.

His death, like any death, is sad – of course. He was 99 – just missed the telegram. I worry for her majesty now. Like it or not they’re in the public eye so these thoughts happen. It must be terrible to lose your partner. And I’m the guy in my peer group that kind of likes the monarchy. Still, I didn’t want it anymore. Click. Off.

I relied on the inside of my head instead. It’s busy, but at least it’s not excruciatingly repetitive and dull. I put the windows down and blitzed my way to Bognor. People pulled every trick in the book to get me to hit their cars, jolting across lanes and slamming on brakes and ramming through roundabouts. I made it unscathed but it’s like everybody had a day of driving like him in solidarity.

Job half done. A bunch of things picked up in the car and they’ll go to Brixton on Monday. I’m basically uber without the app – well I’ve got the Audi. Might as well use it.

Tomorrow more driving. Hopefully a wider range of programming to keep me company. Sure, they had this stuff queued up for years as they knew it was going to happen. But nobody stopped to ask if it was what people would want to listen to.

Hey ho. God rest his soul. There are too many people going these days, known and unknown. The finality of death. Ugh. Bugger Bognor.

Picture: Cowdray Park Polo Club, near Bognor

Animals

My insomnia has kicked in with a vengeance which is just as well considering I’ve let it get to 1am without writing this. I forgot. I’ve been too busy stroking the cat, and no that isn’t a euphemism.

Now the little beast is asleep to my left, lying on his back with his paws in the air, snoring. He has no trouble sleeping, this cat. He trips over in his sleep though, just like we do. That sudden jolt when your dream throws a ball at your head and you start awake into a totally different reality and try to establish which was the real one again. It’s funny to see a cat do it, so familiar and yet so animal. He is immediately on all fours looking around. What do cats dream of?

I thought I’d give the snake a bit of quality time, as Mao can be very demanding of my attention. I spent a few hours with a Hex necklace this morning. I’ve been wondering when he’d get round to doing a skinshed and a poo as he’s had two mice without a sign of it. He’d clearly been storing it up for me, but it’s quite remarkable the amount of mouse that gets converted into raw snake on the way through that mobile aesophagus. There was virtually nothing to clear up but the old skin, and he felt new and fresh. It’s quite a thing to be able to do, to just turn yourself inside out and have a whole new layer exposed to the air, fresh and clean and just a little bit bigger.

Mao is completely indifferent to the snake – I think it’s so far from his frame of reference that he still thinks it’s a scarf. They both leave large unwanted portions of themselves lying around for me to clear up. They are both very different but very simple creatures. Are they natural enemies? Maybe so, but not in this flat. They’re both pretty blind and neither of them have a very well developed frame of reference. Mao is friendly but very limited. His ambitions don’t really range beyond the next stroke, and whatever he’s freaking out about in his dreams, it isn’t ophidian. It’s probably just a big clumsy dreamfoot walking where he’s lying.

Hex and I hung out celebrating what must be pushing being the anniversary of his starring role in The Tempest. My happy little menagerie, sheltering from the horrors in a nice warm flat. I wonder what sort of animal will come into here next… Somebody is gonna ask me to look after their okapi. I can feel it.

A day. Just a day.

How are we doing out there?

I haven’t been paying much attention to the news of late but it’s only a few days before a limited number of us are permitted to enter into a building together, I think. Who would have believed it would get to this? A year of this madness and more. This gradual drip of happiness and money away from most of us. I need a throng. I love a big stupid group hug where nobody has an agenda. I want to be in a massive dumb crowd. I want to be crammed into a tube carriage with my face in somebody’s arse and their knees in my ear. I want to have to play Twister in order to order a bag of nuts at the interval bar for some play where I’m watching actors roll around in each other’s sweat and spit on each other. I want to be that actor, sweating and firing out actorplasm. “Projection, darling. Not projectiles.”

“I’m fed up of this.” We hear that a lot. And God yes we have cause to be.

So … it’s back to trying to have social lives again, although there’ll always be the holdouts. Like the Kuril Islands, there’ll be places where the war never ends. There’ll be a flat in Dalston where a thirty five year old masked one lives for another twenty years in a perspex box, with both vaccines in their system, hissing at delivery people. In a decade, somebody will sneeze on a train and an indignant masked individual will lecture them at great length with the air of somebody being reasonable but a tone dripping with suppressed rage.

My evicted friend has now got six months to get home and get her stuff. That’s definitely better than “as soon as possible,” but the longer she leaves it the less closure she’ll get. And she’s been paying for the place for the last fifteen months without using it. If I can get my shit together I’ll Airbnb my room, go live there with the cat and split the profits. Hampstead is a lovely place to be at this time of year. Although I’ve got so much to do. My ideal situation would be to go to Jersey, make things happen, and not leave until they have. For that I’ll need a catsitter but maybe that’s the best thing to sort. I just need somewhere to stay in Jersey for two weeks broke. Anyone in Jersey want a temporary house swap?

Nice to have balls in the air I guess. Things will go somewhere and thank God for them doing it.

I finished listing books today. 45 Royal Cruising Club Journals from 1897 to 1957 at £9.99 starting each. I’ve noticed they sell so I thought it worth taking the time to schedule them all to go live tomorrow afternoon with ten days until Sunday. Hopefully an idle cruiser waiting patiently for a good time to go off on another adventure will see this collection – come to me through my grandfather from Lord Stanley of Alderley – and say “that’s just the thing for the library in my superyacht!” It was only a few hours work, so anything is gravy really and it’s another lovely thing saved from the bin.

And so to bed before another thrilling day of many things tomorrow. I’m ready to get on with it now thank you…

Mao vs chaise

I have a confession to make.

It was me. I tore a chunk out of the side of the chaiselongue. I did it when I was sleeping. When I woke and saw the destruction I foolishly tried to blame somebody else. Perhaps the snake? But no. He’s in semi permanent torpor under a rock, and he can’t get out of his box anyway. The fish? Too weak. Too aquatic. Too distracted.

Maybe somebody broke in in the middle of the night, tore a chunk out of the chaise and vanished? Too far fetched. The cleaning lady has a key… Perhaps she got drunk and came here by mistake and tore apart the place without waking me. But I’m a light sleeper. I’d have awoken. It was me. It had to be me. I have to face the hard truth.

The cat is mildly disapproving of my bad behaviour. That precise bit of the chaise is his favourite place for sharpening his claws when I’m not watching. Now that I’ve ruined it he’ll have to find somewhere else. It wasn’t the cat though, in case you dare to think such things. Let’s be very clear about this. Mao and his representatives have made it boundlessly clear that neither he nor the party had anything to do with it. He was nowhere near the incident at the time and the chaiselongue was destroyed by none other than that fiend of the bourgeoisie who is only tolerated because he’s good at getting those tricky hairballs out.

Here he is. Our glorious leader. Surveying the damage from his velvet throne. Accusing.

I’m not sure how to fix the bit back on. However I do it, it’ll have to be strong as Mao hangs his whole bodyweight on the velvet there through his claws. It’s a miracle he didn’t pull it off instead of me. Sleep-walking. Sharpening my nails. Any suggestions on reattachment very welcome. There’s wood on the other side and somehow it was stapled before the material went on.

Perhaps it’s time to get him a stropping post.

This evening he was bolder than usual, now he knows he has the upper hand because I broke his chaise. He strolled into the living room where I was taking photographs of editions of The Royal Cruising Club Journal from the collection of Lord Stanley of Alderley. He was trying to get as much hair as he could on the books I was trying to list until he finally properly spotted the fish. I’ve switched off their night light now. He became immediately transfixed by Maureen. Maybe tonight, in my sleep, I’m going to hook some of the fish out of the tank and play with them as they die on the carpet. And then eat their heads.

Perhaps I should invest in some sort of secure tank lid in order to prevent myself from perpetrating such a wanton act of destruction.

NocturnAl

I’ve become more or less nocturnal by mistake over the last few days. I’ve synchronised with the cat. It’s been a lifelong struggle getting to sleep anyway. How many of us get jolted from doze by the weirdest things? Memories of words badly spoken twenty years ago. Things we didn’t do. Things we did. Flashes of the past…

The future doesn’t keep me up at night but the past can and occasionally does. So can the present, when the cat puts his tail in my mouth, which is his favourite trick. Last night I didn’t get down until past three, around about when Lou was waking up in Brighton. I was plagued by thoughts about things that honestly I have no business worrying about anymore. And then Mao came and sat on my face. Tonight it’s almost two and I’m only just writing this, so I’ve got a screen in front of me which will likely mean another half three head down. I have had a swimming pool full of chamomile tea. And I’m thinking about the passage of time once more.

Time is going insanely fast again. What happened to this day?! I looked up this morning and it was evening. Hours and hours just fell into a hole and I honestly can’t account for it. It’ll be Christmas soon. It really will be. Easter is gone so it’s next in the calendar. Expect Santa in the next few weeks guys. Sleigh bells. Ugh.

Today I recorded myself playing a friendly vampire. Appropriate considering my nocturnal ways. The teeth are a bastard to keep in, but they were the cheapest ones on the internet. I figured it’d be worth a small outlay to get myself into contention for a fun part. In the absence of a decent vampiric cape, I pressed my father’s green kilt cape into service and it did the trick swimmingly even if it was a bit Sherlock-vampire.

I have no idea what the takes are going to be like as they aren’t due until tomorrow afternoon at four and I don’t want to edit and select them tonight. They’d better be of use because I’m not sticking the teeth back in unless you pay me. The fangs themselves are an optimistic few shades whiter than the things they are attached to. I need a dentist. I’ll get my PA to add “Dentist” to the list of expensive things I need which I can’t afford.

Last time I played a vampire was in a perspex box full of blood for a celebrity birthday party. One of the recognisable guests handed me a bomb of MDMA wrapped in a rizla – “You look like you’re having fun mate. Try this”. That was me in bloodsoaked dungarees and full beard – more of a Blade vibe – hence the gift of narcotics I suppose. I think if I’d swallowed it time would have gone by at about the rate it’s going by right now without any of that nasty help. That world was only two years ago – possibly even to the day. What’s happened? It’s nuts how we’ve acclimatised to this bollocks. I need more variation than this. We all do. I haven’t listened to the news for a few days now as it’s always full of yuk.

Time to try to sleep. To foie-gras the rest of this chamomile, belch heartily and get a mouth full of cat hair. He’s sitting on the chaise looking all innocent and sharpening his bum…

Easter with family

My grandparent’s blue velvet chaiselongue now belongs to the cat. We are sitting together. I’m here on sufferance and only in exchange for work. I’m getting braver as I get to know him and I’ve realised that he’s ok with me really working on the clumps of hair he has in his belly so that’s what he’s been making me do. We’ve broken the back of the worst one this evening, but now he’s a bit freaked out by noise so we are having a rest.

Below us, the Chelsea Spring evening is shattered by the banging and spluttering and whizzing and screeching of tyres from morons with maseratis. Thumping grindhouse is pumping out of the top end stereos in their shiny sportscars, huge bangs come from the exhaust along with all sorts of other weird deliberate noises, shouts in languages familiar and unfamiliar on the night air. It’s ten to twelve. It’s all carrying up through the window and into the pussycat’s ears. Usually they do this shit later in the year, on the truly balmy nights. The crap male children of the generationally rich congregate around Chelsea Bridge and do donuts and be ostentatious in their egregious unearned sports cars. For some reason the boys have come out for Easter. The cat and I both rather wish they hadn’t.

I went out for Easter in my Audi though, ragging the low end acceleration with the vim of somebody that knows it’s the last diesel engine he’ll ever own. I spent time with Max and the family. His eighteen year old appears to be gravitating towards media. “It’s not a career,” was the received wisdom at my school, but that’s because they all ended up as estate agents. If I’m going to lie to people I’d much prefer to do it while telling them a story than while selling them a house. He’ll do well in media I reckon, and he’ll find his way. He’s incomprehensible to his parents, but just very young to my eyes and like some of my friends were at his age. Awkward but charming. He’s only eighteen, and he’s sheltered. Much as I try to wear a hat that makes me look like I’m worldly nowadays, I was probably more of a gimp at eighteen. I literally didn’t have a fucking clue and thought I knew it all twice.

I’ve dropped off the box of coppers with his daughter. She bought a lizard by running a racket in the playground where she flogged interesting coins to other kids for a bit more than they were worth. You can tell from that sentence how she’s related both to the entomologist and the grifter actor type fellow you’re consuming with your morning kippers. She’s going to sort them, give me 90% of the value and then flog them. Maybe she’ll end up with another lizard.

Happy Easter darlings. I’m gonna get back to my duties with the cat. He’s just started mangling the chaiselongue again.