Hot April.

Right. Space to breathe. I feel like I’m coming up from underwater. On this perfect day I’ve been properly putting myself through the wringer. Pickle shat in my wardrobe last night, as I discovered when I went to get my jacket for this evening. It was a distraction from my nerves which were finely sharpened ahead of a nice meeting that definitely wasn’t happening at 3. Once the meeting that didn’t happen and that I’m not talking about had finished I walked to The Globe in the sun and put on my ringmaster’s jacket, faintly worrying that it might smell of catshit. I made a couple of phone calls to decompress and convert the audition nerves. That I didn’t have. Then I looked at the beautiful day and walked down the river.

I’m helping present the Women in Rail awards, as a sort of Shakespearean MC. It’s a bit bespoke, a bit ad-hoc, and super random. Still, someone just openly assumed I’ve been doing this for ages. Nope. Things like it. But this one is new. So far I haven’t insulted anyone or accidentally knocked Rachel Riley off the stage.

Apparently the last award ceremony that many of the same industry guests attended was fraught with disaster. There was a “James Bond swat team” that some people thought were real terrorists, and the comedian was riffing about buttplugs which people didn’t want with their dinner. The organisers are slightly on edge. I’m not. I’m in a strangely zen state about it all. My nerves are all spent. I did about 40 minutes of chanting this morning after I cleaned up the catshit and I’m just supremely peaceful that everything will be well.

It’s interesting to see how people respond to Rachel Riley. She’s off the telly, you see. Countdown. She’s pretty, kind, fiercely intelligent and had Manchester United as her special subject on Mastermind. I find myself getting her a glass of water and then kick myself for it. I’m a sucker for an attractive mathematician you see. She eats with the sponsors out front while I’m round the back in a room called Watkins 2 – a room where I’ve spent many hours with The Factory. It’s me, the son of the organiser, some of the event staff, and a mob of singing waiters practicing their choreography, and a bottle of wine open which I’d be breaking a lifelong rule if I touched. I want it though.

But I’m still working out what’s going to happen next. Redrafting on the fly. I’m also aware that it’s 9.20 already and I’ll be here for another two hours or more. I’m just going to have to introduce a couple more people, then announce the raffle winners and close the ceremony, using only Shakespearean language but I need to be on point for unexpected stuff. They’re running an hour behind with the food so brevity is the soul of wit and I probably have very little work left in the scheme of things. It’s all over but the waiting and an occasional frantic bout of activity.


The band had skipped the sound check at half five and then acted surprised when nothing worked. I had to fluff in verse for a while and do a bit of Prospero before they got it sorted. It was a chaotic night all said, and everyone in the venue was dying of heat exposure. We got it all out though, in roughly the right shape. And it’s probable that the guests only noticed the heat, which was undeniable. The rest of it was fun fluff.

I ended up in the photobooth with Rachel, who was tirelessly working the crowd while the band howled their covers into the mic.

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I tire rather more easily. I’m out. Waiting for a bus as the iron tongue of St. Paul’s tolls twelve. To bed. ’tis almost fairy time!

Pickle shat on my bed though. Thank the gods that Brian and Mel were there and noticed. They sent me before and after photos. About time I changed my sheets. I need to get these comics sorted fast or it’ll keep happening.

Haircut

What a day. Suddenly we have something that looks like summer. About bloody time too. I went for a haircut. It’s Spring. It’s time for a shearing. I don’t look much different with short hair. If I shave my beard it takes years off. But hair does nothing – I’m bald with it long or short. The only reason I’m not buzzcut is that it messes with my casting.

There’s a whole hell of a lot going on for me this springtime. My everything is filled with change and development. But I’m sitting on the sofa with Brian and I just said; “I honestly don’t know what the fuck to write this one about. The three biggest things going on in my life are X, Y and Z and I don’t feel like I can write about any of them at the moment because they’re all in suspension.” So that’s where I am. I don’t want to spurt enthusiasm for uncertainties, but there’s nothing I hate more than a person who is constantly “almost’. So this talking around it is the best you’ll get. Even if that’s annoying as hell too. Like those endless posts on Facebook “Good news coming but I can’t say what.” (Baby? Marriage? Actually from Krypton? Lottery win? Discovered the cheat code for existence? Started a business? Learnt not to post mysterious stuff because it’s really annoying? Got to level 10? New President of the United States? Did a poo poo?)

Anyway, today’s weather was bloody glorious. And yes I’m changing the subject. Go fish.

I went to Camden to get a haircut. No point going anywhere near my address. They charge three times the value. Even Peckham have priced themselves out. Isn’t it about time that hairdressers allowed a “balding discount?” Then you’d pay in pride but lose in money. I wish the back of my head wasn’t located on the back of my head. “I just haven’t got the mirrors, darling, that’s the problem. If I just had the mirrors I could cut my bald head however I chose and nobody could think it’s acceptable to charge 45 quid for that tiny amount of tuft.” Still, my guy in Camden did it for 15.

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I’m shorn now, and I do like that barber. He knows I’m easy and gets me in quick. He once told me a story about how he made friends over many years with an old couple who eventually unprompted signed him over some central London property, but the lawyer reverted it to the next of kin after they died. It was a strange story, and my loyalties were torn because you never know the details, but he told it with such detail, but resignation and lack of acquisitiveness that it stuck with me.

Anyway, big day tomorrow, he says vaguely. Nothing important happening at 3pm. Not doing anything unfamiliar and difficult in the evening. Just another normal happy Thursday. Yep. Nothing to see here. Move along. I have to go to sleep so I’m refreshed and ready for all the things that aren’t happening tomorrow that aren’t going to affect my sleep at all.

 

Busy

Oh Pickle.

I’ve been working threefold today, as I will be tomorrow. I’m sorting the comics whilst mumbling to myself. I’m learning lines for a meeting on Thursday and simultaneously brushing up my Shakespeare MC for the evening on the same day.

Pickle really doesn’t like the comics being sorted. I spread them all into piles of like on the living room floor. Then I add them all to the online catalogue, keeping an eye on their value as I do so. Then I put them into boxes, trying to keep them together. The main bulk of this stuff will be sold as a job lot so the easier I make it for the dealers, the better the price will be.

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But Pickle doesn’t like it. All these weird things on her floor. She hates walking on the plastic covers. She scratched me properly for the first time today, completely unprovoked apart from by comics. I’m keeping an eye on her now in case it’s something deeper but I genuinely think it’s the fact I’m busy all day and am moving around too much for her to get settled. Even cats get discombobulated when people don’t behave as they “should”. I reckon if I realise any money from these comics I’ll put some of it into a scratching post to thank her for her forbearance. After all, this is her flat. She’ll likely ignore a scratching post though. Like me she chooses hard. She’s not swayed by “cats love this.”

Anyway this evening I’m hitting my blog later than usual. I have a friend staying. I walked into my bedroom at midnight to start writing and immediately knew there was a special poo present. But where? Thank God not on the bed. She’d just protested in the corner.  Steve spotted it as I was looking in all the most horrible possible places. It was just in the corner. She was merciful. Retrospectively I wish I’d taken a photo. But the SMELL.

Steve is on the sofa tonight. I wanted to hang out with him because he’s a brilliant actor who is mostly writing these days. Even though I’m always going to be an actor who writes, I am starting to think about how to make a bit of money from the writing side of the seesaw. I figured his face would eject useful bits. It did.

Now I’m on my bed writing into my phone. Pickle is at my feet as if she hasn’t been carving me to pieces and shitting in my bedroom. All is right with the world. Although Steve is allergic to cats.

Thankfully she’s currently behaving as if it’s just another ordinary day. She’s chilling at my feet. Hopefully the comic protest is short lived. I really don’t want midnight poo in my bedroom every night. It’s not fun.

Still, I’ve taken myself off fun until after Thursday. Thursday is a double whammy of learning. That’s my focus. So anyone that expects to see me socially between now and then, you won’t. You’ll barely raise me. Too much to learn and process. And that involves going to bed now, angry cat or no. Goodnight. Meow.

Taking out the rubbish

I’m back in London already and feeling much lighter and clearer. A bit of sea air. A bit of physical labour.

My friends moved to Margate and bought themselves a beautiful property that was in total disrepair. They’ve been there since December and every day they’re working to improve the place. It’s a gigantic job. Great big property, used to have ten people living there. Every room has work to do. They don’t seem fazed. All you have to do with big problems is break them up into lots of little ones and then apply yourself. I’d do well to remember that. I’ve been meaning to go visit for a while, and finally had to for work reasons. Last night we did some dramaturgy. That was the draw. Then this morning we laboured. It was satisfying. I feel great for it.

There used to be a horrible plastic conservatory out back. Now there’s a concrete verandah and a huge pile of plastic where they tore it down. The job today was mostly carrying rubbish into the car until it was full, driving the full car to the dump, throwing everything into the compactor, going back to the house. Cup of tea. Repeat.

The Margate dump was thronged with cars today. I guess we’re in spring cleaning time. Everyone feels a bit of sun on their face and decides it’s time to go out with the old and in with the new. I was doing a bit of that internally.

I’d forgotten the extent to which good hard extended physical work helps you sort out the contents of your head. All the unexamined crap was coming out as I worked. “Oh that’s your name, pain. What am I doing hanging onto you still?” I chucked a lot of stuff into that compactor.

A proper rubbish compactor is a remarkable and somehow inevitable machine. Slow but certain. I watched it eat somebody’s bed in one relentless loud crunchy mouthful. We fed it full today. Tea never tasted so good. I was already feeling internally lighter as I made my way to the station to get back home, walking down the seafront. I was born and raised by the sea and need water in my life. My grandmother used to tell me that the sea is in our bones. It was good to reconnect, and to throw some residual bad energy out into the waves. I think I’ll be back before long. London can make you heavy after a while.

Feeling better, clearer and fresher I got in the train and unlike the horror of the day before it ran smooth. As inside, so outside. I even got a call from my agent the like of which I haven’t had for years. Nothing concrete but opportunity knocks.

Now I’m home, surprisingly tired for ten pm. Pickle and I are going to turn in and sleep like the dead. Spring. The sun is coming. Ceres is happy again. New opportunities. Good things. You heard it here first folks. Time to take the trash out.

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Margate

They don’t make it easy to get out of London. I left home at 10am. It’s 2pm and I’m still trying to get to Margate. It was fine as far as Sittingbourne but then I was decanted into a rail replacement bus full of very talkative racists with no teeth. In the course of a picturesque drive from Sittingbourne to Herne Bay via Whitstable, I heard a lot of opinions and also found out way too much about “that Ben Gibbins” who appears to be an object of contempt and fascination. He’s “snorting and snorting and smoking everything he can get but he’s a grass as well.” By the time we limped into Herne Bay I was longing for some peace. But the train hadn’t waited and it was 50 minutes until the next one.

I walked into town rather than remain on the platform finding out more about Ben and his habits, and how people who don’t look like them drive. I wandered through the Herne Bay memorial gardens. It’s that precious week when the magnolia is in bloom. I wandered smiling past the generic home counties graffiti. “Ban the burka”, shouted one wall. “No Sharia law in the UK”, observed another. There was heat in the air. “A bit of sun and we all come out,” said the geezer leaning on his Harley with an ice cream. He wasn’t wrong. There were loads of bikes. People thinking they should tick it over using the half decent weather to head to the beach. The seafront was packed with pasty skinned families with their skin out but looking like they’d just emerged from a cave. I tried two places for a coffee but they both stank of meat had huge queues and wanted £2.95 for a latte.

On my way back to the station I stumbled on an Alice in Wonderland themed tea room, which was sufficiently mad to take my fancy and charged a bit less than the seaside fat palaces.

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It was packed with families gorging themselves on immaculately presented teas. I had a coffee and got on this train.


The train finally took me to Margate. It probably shouldn’t have taken 4 and a half hours on a Sunday. “Hey kids let’s go to Dreamland… Ok we’re here. Now let’s go home immediately!!” But it means that now I get to sleep on an improvised bed in front of the fireplace. I’m glad to be out of London for a night.

I’m pretty tired. Ethan and I played “It’s a ball. Throw it I think.” for hours. Then we played “aaargh tickleninjjas” and then “Are you making ‘ubbles or is that the universe? Nevermind. ‘UBBLES.” These games don’t need rules to be fun. Ethan is nearly two. So we totally understand each other being similar mental ages.

But he’s been in bed for a while as has his mum and dad. It’s now approaching midnight. It’s time for me to enjoy this palette I’ve made for myself in front of a dying fire, accompanied by a grunting Siamese cat who I’ve slept alongside before when she was younger and healthier.

Surprise birthday parties

Minnie and Brian once laid on a surprise party for me. Minnie was my minder. She wanted to go to The Samuel Pepys pub. It’s a Riverside pub. It’s alright but it’s not all that. But she appeared to artlessly love this slightly generic riverside pub. “It’s so lovely here, let’s stay a bit longer,” she sold me, after multiple “Everyone is late” text messages. I wasn’t sure what was going on with her because she seemed sincere in her love for the pub, even if she kept checking her phone. She kept insisting she wanted to stay for longer in the pub. I thought she was avoiding something and was looking for ways to broach the subject. So I thought I’d roll with her whims even though it was my birthday. Eventually we moved somewhat arbitrarily to Camden. That’s where she suddenly wanted to go. “You remember that pub in Camden you said you loved?” I  didn’t smell the hint of a rat. She’s a consummate actress, of course. I continued to believe she was working through something weird right up until I walked into a room full of my friends. “Surprise!”

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This afternoon we were the surprise for Mel. Brian Mel and I spent a reasonably normal morning, although as we got closer to the deadline I got more and more anxious about cleaning. I got started: “I need a clean work surface to list these comics.” I knew I couldn’t hoover without giving the game away. Eventually Mel left with Brian and I got to work properly. Louis, Brian’s business partner, came round with the shopping list and we cooked the fuck out of two chickens and a load of potatoes and veg. We got working. A load of her friends appeared. We had to work out how to hide them. We managed to get Louis hidden under a pile of blankets, and Mickey under the table with random boxes and a towel obscuring her. I then had to awkward improvise crap Al giving her a belated present of a tiny cake and candle. And everyone jumped out with the happy birthday song.

It was delightful. It’s lovely how easily you can make someone happy if you surround them with people they already know and love. Everyone is now a few bottles of wine down, and my duties are over. I was the head chef, and the duty of carving fell to me, using my grandmother’s old horn handle carving set. 11 people is possible here in one sitting. 12 at a push. At Christmas I’ve managed more but that’s with cunning and compromise. Everyone ate. Then I relaxed.

In my relaxed state I ended up organising a competition with polystyrene gliders from Brian’s window. The ex-army dude won hands down. They were throwing into a strong wind. He threw it direct and slightly up. It went for miles. Both of the other teams turned and hit the house.

Now I’ve snuck into my bedroom to write because I know I’ll shortly be incapable of such things. Happy surprise birthday day. Let’s hope we don’t get nuked by Putin while we’re sleeping. Are we really engendering another cold war? Are our leaders so weak that they have to rely on fear of the other to keep us in check, knowing that under scrutiny they are nothing but naked howling children? God.

 

Comic value

Back in 1961, Joey Nuggenbauer was 17. He was a strange kid. A big kid. Very kind but with terrible acne. He was bullied. Kids used to call him “The Thing.” He didn’t really care, but that November he saw a comic. Fantastic Four #1. It was 10c. But there was a character in it called “The Thing.” Joey bought it.

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Elsewhere, Frances Cornblatt already knew she wanted to be a mechanic, but at 17 shes was wondering how she’d be noticed. Everybody kept telling her girls can’t be mechanics. But her mum and dad used to work in the garage all the time with her. She was definitely better at it than most people. But somehow her skill and her work ethic was constantly overlooked in favour of the less competent boys around her. It was like she was The Invisible Girl. She saw the comic, and saw that name on the cover. 10c. She bought it.

Brad Chadbad was quarterback for his college team. He was on fire, burning bright. Winning. HooAh, God is good. 10c is nothing to Brad. He’s gonna be rich. And there’s some dude called The Human Torch on the cover. “That’s me.”

And Ethan Fudge. Top of the class. Won the spelling bee. Well on the way to president. Absolutely no social skills. Ethan knows he’s “Mister Fantastic” because that’s what the imaginary women call him in his guilty bedroom escapades when mum’s out. He sees the comic. He purchases it in front of other kids, “not because I want it per-se but after all, I am Mister Fantastic. Ah-ha-ha.”

Time passes. Joey Nuggenbauer swaps his copy for a toad that Brent Goober found in his grandma’s yard. Brent Goober hides it in a hedge in a shoebox. Then he forgets about it. Seasons worth of rain destroy.

Frances keeps it in her bedroom until she leaves home. She doesn’t particularly care about it. The older and more confident she gets the more visible she feels. And she needs all her energy in order to be taken seriously in her field. Her aging grandmother is moved into the room when she moves downstate. All her things are thrown away by mum and dad, including the comic. Landfill.

Brad’s parents burn his copy. They make a bonfire. “Comic books are from the devil. You don’t want to go to hell now, do you? I want to put all those nasty ungodly comic books on the lovely fire your uncle made and we can all praise the lord and sing songs.” Brad is obedient. He will continue to be.

Ethan keeps his comic carefully, but only because he keeps everything carefully. But in 1965 at 21 he lands a big job in London. He packs all his necessaries. The comic goes into a box marked “Childhood books.” He thinks nothing of it and it ends up in a thrift store.

Sergio Cona, 30, buys a joblot of comics from that thrift store in 1966, including Ethan’s pristine issue. They let him take the box. He reads them all once. Then he carefully puts them back in the box they came from and puts it in the cupboard. His kids will like them when he finally has kids, he thinks. He never has kids.

Not much changes for twenty years. But the comic slowly creeps up in value as collectors get more and more engaged. In 1986 Sergio sells his copy to a specialist for thousands of dollars. People start noticing the numbers and raiding their collections. Joey, Frances, Brad and Ethan all realise it is lost. They tell their kids. “I had that number one comic and I lost it.” Number one comics therefore have value. Over time the comic companies catch on that an issue 1 will sell well. They start to mass produce issue 1. They print multiple covers and collectors buy them all. Kids buying the same thing, many times. The kids of our four original friends blow all their spare change, and as they start to earn more they spend more. As the eighties go into the nineties the kids have told their friends how they could’ve had a super valuable comic. Brent’s son dries the contents of the shoebox with a hairdryer and even in that state makes over a grand. Kids worldwide are buying comic after comic blazoned with “Collectors edition” “Special edition” “Alternate cover” almost as if nothing ever changes from the past. The print runs are running to millions.

Cut to 2018 and Al is sorting through comics that trumpeted their own value loudly and yet have depreciated. Much of it has been someone else’s collection that passed to me. But it’s not worth the hourly rate right now and nobody will buy bulk without a catalogue, which is what’s taking my time. Many of the shops say they won’t touch “Image” comics apart from “The Walking Dead” which, it appears, is literally the only Image comic my friend didn’t have. No wonder he didn’t seem to care about the collection.

Maybe there’s the equivalent of Fantastic Four #1 in the mix. Ethan’s would be worth hundreds of thousands now. But I’ve discovered that selling valuable comics is ridiculously involved. They are graded on a 98 point scale of condition, from 0.1 to 9.9. If I find anything worth over 100 bucks it’s probably worth sending it to America where you pay $20 bucks or so per issue for someone to seal it in a sleeve with a mark out of 100, and cranks up the value by about 30%.

It’s so involved. I’m just bulk listing and then I’ll take it to a dealer.

You never know though. I might suddenly hit on one… I doubt it.