Time to shut down

I’m running myself a bath. Tomorrow is my first actual day off for a couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to it very much. I’m home and fed before midnight, and I got it into my head to watch Chernobyl. But I’m not sure it’s the cheerful wind-down telly I need right now. So I paused it.

I’m sitting on the sofa with my constant mash potato dandruff and I realised that it’s as good an escape as any to pour myself into a screen for a while. There’s no booze in the house apart from spirits which aren’t my jam, so it’s time to find alternate windout mechanisms for the evening. I’m winding the whole fortnight out, and gearing up for the busiest week so far.

I do love this job. Tonight was rowdy and fun but also measured. We had a group of very drunk gobby naughty types and conversely four children under ten. The bawdiness changes on the fly, and Jack and I are always editing. I think we found the right balance of adult and kid friendly. But I’m so tired now. I’m not sure I can handle what feels like it’s going to be amazing but dark TV in Chernobyl. I’m more in the mood for something uncomplicated. Or just sleep and a book. This time last year I read a load of books. I think I might need a new one for the season, frankly.

“What’s my name?” someone asked me as I left the show and walked upstairs. I meet 50 audience members every night and remember their names. That part of my brain is flooded when the show is done and this guy is connected to Gatsby upstairs. I haven’t got space left. I remember a conversation last night post show where he told me we were in a circle of him telling me his name and me forgetting it. I remember promising I’d remember. I forgot again. Hey ho. There’s not much room in my head after a show, and particularly not after a week of them. I’m going to brain dump tomorrow. Maybe go for a walk. But mostly I just don’t want to talk or think or do. I just want to shut down and think about nothing. I might go visit my friend in hospital. She’s been moved to another ward now, apparently for infectious diseases. I’m wanting to be as present for her as possible even though it’s still strangely triggering for me to be in hospitals. But she’s going to be more weirded out than I am having to live there. She’s a never been anything but a positive force in my existence, and it’ll be nice to spend a bit of my day down with her.


And then a friend of mine shows up on Chernobyl in a sympathetic role. And suddenly I’m hooked. I haven’t got the awakening to binge it, but that’s some lovely nuanced work right there from Alex, and enough to make me stick with this despite difficult content. I’ll work through this over the next week. It’ll be my Christmas show. Hooray.

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Hospitality

Two hospital beds down from my friend, Joyce is in for her hip. She’s in a lot of pain, poor Joyce, but she’ll be home soon she keeps telling people hopefully. She’s 101 years old and lives at home with her son who was disabled in a car crash. She definitely is used to constant company. Sometimes as I sit with my friend I find I have to tune her calls out. “Nurse … Nurse … Nurse … Nurse … Nurse … Come to me … Nurse …” Her vowels are Northern, but she lives in Bloomsbury. “This was all night last night,” says my friend with an affectionate smile. She likes Joyce despite the constant cries. I do too. “Hospitals aren’t sleep friendly places,” she shrugs.

This is a bustling overspill ward in Euston at the UCL Hospital. The nurses are brilliant but their work is constant. When one of them can do so, they come to her. “Are you alright Joyce?” She’s not alright. She’s in pain and scared and not at home. But they’re doing everything they can, it’s clear. They just can’t sit with her. They are so patient and so compassionate. They’ll be changing a drip across the ward and will occasionally cheerily reply “I’ll be with you in a second Joyce!” And they will, but they can’t make everything better all at once. I wish they could, for my friend as well. They wish they could. Wonderful compassionate men and women.

She’s not in a good way, my friend. Her internal organs have taken some damage. They’re testing for all sorts of things, but more than anything they’re flushing her system. They’re not pulling their punches either when they talk to her. They drop the possibility of death onto the table quite casually in front of her mum. Her temperature is all over the place. Her blood pressure is really low. I don’t like seeing her like this. I think she’ll be okay. But I don’t like it. I mentioned yesterday that I’m allergic to hospitals. That’s part of it. I don’t want to think of her being in one, with Joyce. Although it’s perhaps helpful for me to be here. Like shutting yourself in the closet when you’re claustrophobic.

The woman in the bed between her and Joyce looks really fucking angry about life in general. She has something of the JK Rowling through a hedge backwards about her and she is definitely pissed off about being in hospital and doubly pissed off about being next to Joyce, who developed her tactics even over the hours I was there. “Nurse, it’s all gone wrong. I’ve pulled the catheter out. Nurse, I’ve done a motion in the bed!” “The catheter’s in fine, Joyce. There’s nothing there, you’re all clean.” So patient the nurses. And back to work. The inside of their heads must just be an ever growing expanding to do list with constantly shifting prioritising, all carried out peacefully and kindly.

I stay with my friend for as long as I can. Now I’m getting ready for a show. I’ll probably swing by again tomorrow…

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Medicine?

My friend is sick. Very sick. Norovirus we thought, but on someone who has literally no bodyweight. The way it’s been behaving it’s potentially something nastier. She’s been suffering at home for a few days, phoning 111 for advice and hoping it’ll pass. It hasn’t passed. It’s got worse. She ended up being taken to hospital at 3.30pm. She didn’t want to stay overnight – (who does?) – but they insisted. It might be something to do with her kidneys. It’s pretty scary, to be honest. I’ve been getting her news around prepping for the show.

I don’t know what time she arrived but she got a bed eight hours after I first heard her tell me she was there. It’s a bad time for space in hospitals. Central London. Christmas parties. The good news is that despite the wait she will still not have to sell everything in order to not die. Let’s see where that goes now the turkeys have voted for Christmas.

I’m going in to see her in the morning, early. I’m not looking forward to getting up, but it’s the right thing to do. She’s in the UCLH Euston. I went and saw my ex there a few years ago and despite it being extremely central it’s a pretty good hospital. The superbug chances are low. But I always worry. Mum was ok when she went in. Superbug. Jamie my half brother was overnighted just for testing, in Poitiers. He never came out. I caught him on his death bed after a crazy drive. Superbug. Fuck that.

Hospitals are death factories to my imagination. I fucking hate them. I’m sure they heal, but in my experience they kill.

I hate that she’s in one. I don’t like walking past the fucking places. Tomorrow I’ll be going in one, and then I’ll be going heavy on the hand cleansing gel, and hanging out with my friend, helping her out with stuff, getting her things from home, trying to make her stay as short and as comfortable as is humanly possible – all the while making sure that I don’t bring in or bring out anything horrible.

It’s already nearly 2am and I’m nowhere near sleep in my body. I’m thinking I might have to take some cough medicine just to send me down.

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I’m worrying about my friend. She’ll be fine though. The NHS is still just about working, despite the cuts, but that’s to do with the goodwill of the workforce – their sacrifice. I lived with nurses for too long not to understand how much work they choose to put in beyond what they must. They’re incredible. Surely this new government will provide more funding and not sell it off wholesale as we have been led to fear? Surely.

I’m going to try and get my head down. Get it down and switch it off. I’m pretty good at napping, and so I reckon tomorrow will be about that. There’s no Saturday matinee this week so I have more time than I’d usually have thank God. I was going to buy an oven. The best laid plans…

 

Election carol

A rainy and blustery evening in Chelsea. I diverted to the cricket pavilion on my way to work. It’s not the busiest polling station in the country, certainly not at 3.30pm. There was an old lady leaving as I arrived, and a brisk old fellow striding through the rain behind me as I came. I was only voter number 319. I made my cross in the box. Nobody exit polled me.

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Last election my constituency swung to Labour by a tiny increment – I think it was about 3 votes. It has always been thought of as a safe Tory seat, so it came as a surprise to me – and lots of other folks.

I have no idea what I expect from this election. I guess we will just have to wait and see. I’m glad I voted at least. I have a feeling there will be a strong turnout. People are extremely polarised and even among my friends there is quite an assortment of people making noises in both directions, and a few people making noises in third and fourth and fifth directions. I only had four candidates to choose from and went with the one I thought had policies that aligned best. What more can you do? I watched him in a political broadcast and thought he was an awkward enough man, but he’s not here to make videos. He can leave that to me if there’s funding.

Now I’m in the dressing room pre-show, suited and booted so I can hang out with my friends afterwards. I’m gonna warm up now. I snored all night in central heating last night so my voice is bloody.


Now I’m post show and feeling very very post show. We had some drinks and some revelations and frankly it all made me feel very small and very sick.

It’s interesting and annoying how quickly people can start to feel comparatively important. I think it’s at the heart of this election today, the human capacity for underserved self-importance. Boris thinks he’s deserving because he’s always been on that path, Jeremy thinks he’s deserving because he’s predicated his life to his personal form of morality. From the outside people warm to a sense of deserving. Confidence is easily mistaken for ability.

The electorate looks at one or two policies, or they think about what they love or what they hate. Mostly they are manipulated by the mainstream media and the people who shout the loudest because – (and I say this with a heavy heart) – because the bulk of people are too busy living their hard lives, and haven’t got time to find nuance in the arguments they hear. They do what they need and then realise territory has been grabbed by people with less to worry about. “Get it done” is a complete sentence in three syllables. Golden. “What are the ramifications?” is already way too long and you can’t get behind it in it same way. You can’t chant it.

I have no idea how it’ll fall tomorrow.

I’m just making a show with a friend. A good friend. Who won’t let me down.

The show I’m making is about togetherness. It’s about Christmas, and joy, and love and bringing disparate groups together for a meal. I’m so proud of it. You should come. And bring your family! No matter which way the vote goes tomorrow. Togetherness!

 

Park

Today I went for a walk in the park. Much better use of my time pre-show than getting prepped for an audition. I’ve been doing this shit for pushing 20 years. Some of my old mates are internationally famous. It’s weird.

I got asked if I could cope being in a scene with someone we’ve all heard of yesterday, and I guess it’s a legitimate concern and it makes sense to ask it.

The place where I auditioned had a poster up for a film I’d worked on many years ago. I’d forgotten it mostly, but it was a big learning job for me. Seeing the poster reminded me.

I was flown to Thailand for it. I encountered the evil “fraud prevention” woman at Thai Airlines check in Heathrow, who caused me to have to wake up the whole production crew in Bangkok in order to get the credit card details that the flight was booked on. She wouldn’t let me on the flight otherwise. Nowadays I’d have got my agent to sort it, but back then I tried to sort it myself which made it look like it was my fault.

I arrived in Thailand on the back foot and then was given no sides. I didn’t know who I’d be playing. I was working with a director I admired for his early work. He hadn’t told me who I was playing. He’d just booked me. The sides came under my door at 9pm the day before the shoot. Nowadays I think I’d have got onto the front foot, asked more questions, and got more of a sense of what the hell was going on. Back then I was perhaps even starstruck. It seems absurd now, knowing how the industry works. But I think I was.

I shot a flashback sequence where the two principal actors were cgi mapped with dots on their faces. The idea was that they would have their faces mapped into younger looking versions. When it came to the edit and the budget, the obvious money save was the cgi, so the whole sequence went out the window. I’ve still got the credit. But that’s it. Shame. The footage would’ve been golden for my showreel.

I got sent the footage of some German TV I did over the summer, which is lovely although I’m the only person speaking English. I’m feeling very ready to start cracking back into screen work in the New Year. I’ll go out in Germany at Christmas, but dubbed. The footage can help make a showreel that’s not as catastrophically out of date as my current one that still has a montage (Cardinal sin).

I’m trying not to think about the recent meeting. But I’m aware it would be a good continuation. Insh’Allah.

Walking in the park is a very good way of derailing noisy head. It’s also good for just moving the body and the mind. I don’t have dayjobs currently, so as long as I’m in Mayfair for 5pm I’ve got the rest of the day to explore the world sober. I’m still not adept at winding the show out without alcohol, but I’m open to daytime suggestions of pleasant things. Today was a lovely walk in Battersea Park…

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Heavy day

I woke up this morning, rolled over in bed and opened up my email to find out how long it would take to travel to my audition.

Panic!!!

This audition I’ve been building up to today, Tuesday afternoon … The email says it was on Monday afternoon.

I’ve missed the fucker. Cue a million misgivings and little insecurities about meetings missed and late for in the long distant past.

Cue arguments with myself about what might have been if I was more organised, old frustrations about my uncanny ability to self sabotage. “How could I have got it wrong?” I ask myself. On such an appropriate meeting for one of those jobs where even people in the industry have asked “how come you haven’t been in X ?” (Full disclosure – I didn’t get the time wrong. Stand down.)

Panic-Al is looking at options. Well, it’s at the production company offices rather than a rented space, I rationalise to myself. Someone’ll be there. The offers won’t be out yet.

I decide I’m just going to show up at the time I’ve got written down and try to charm my way into a meeting. If they haven’t got time to see me maybe I can still get away with going to Spotlight and paying them for fifteen minutes of self tape time, I decide. But still I’m disconsolate.

So I get up and mechanically shave my beard, wondering if there’s any reason to do so now. It’s cold…

I go back to bed a bit and lie there mumbling lines to myself. I haul myself up again and I select a suit and tie. Then back to bed where I brush up on my burr. I watch some videos in my little ball of misery. I prepare for war.

It doesn’t occur to me that the email I checked might have been an automatically generated one with an old time, which had been adjusted everywhere but there before my agent spoke to me. I’m running worst case scenarios in my head. I’m expecting to arrive and have the casting director actually set fire to me and throw me out the window. Then my agent, who has worked so hard to get this meeting for me, will release the wolves and I will have to flee.

Audition time.

No fire, no wolves.

In fact, nobody bats an eyelid at me arriving for my appointed time. I go in and do the tape. I’m sent away to return because they like me for another human-being in the story that, to my mind, might be even better casting for me.

I come back and the casting director takes her time with me and I leave happy after a respectful and enervating meeting that might lead to some changing work oh lord oh gods just bring it on nmhrk…

Then I preside over the IKEA Christmas party as Scrooge. Jack and I have the biggest and weirdest audience we’ve had in this venue. It’s entirely booked out by the one group. I make some reasonable jokes about flatpack furniture. I have a good chat with the IKEA sustainability manager who is glad we have a relationship with homeless charities. I notice that IKEA seems to be a good company with good ethics. I work harder than usual though, and now I’m in a bus trying to get home and spent spent spent so spent.

It’s been a good day, but a costly one. I was tired already. I’m more tired now. And this bus is determined to be as slow as possible…

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Bed

Oh God. An early bed tonight. In theory it was my day off but in practice I went to the London Welsh Centre and rolled around on the floor with likeminded people. It’s a research and development for a potentially hilarious gig, and as is often the case when it comes to making theatre, a large portion of the day was spent playing around. I think we had some discoveries. I’m feeling pretty stretched out physically though. I was tired going in. I’m more tired going out. And I’ve got a meeting tomorrow that I’ve got to be prepared for. And it’s late.

Yesterday I wrote about my breakfast drunk and late. Today I’m pretty much sober but it’s early. I’m in bed, on my back, having dosed up on Actifed for dry coughs. The fuse is lit. I’ll be sleeping like a baby in twenty minutes. No more.

I do love the randomness that fills so much of my ordinary daytime. The fact that today I was rolling around in my tracksuit, tomorrow I’ll be standing very still in a suit and then back to prancing around in my nightie.

Today I was in a room with people I haven’t been in a room with for years. It still felt like yesterday that we had played. The fellowship of the jobbiejobbie actortypes. We remember. Some of us will get to go to sexy places together in spring and do fun things. All of us will likely be in a room together one day. Lots of nice people being friendly. Fuck I’m tired.

Trying to write this in this state is a hiding to nothing. I need my beauty sleep. I’m even shaving my beard tomorrow. Commitment to looking clean and professional. I’d say I’ll miss it but the damn thing’ll be back in no time.

Goodnight darlings. Yes that’s a sporran on my bedroom door. You’ve got a sporran on your bedroom door too.

Humbug. Och.

Zzzz.

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