Reflection

I’m with Mel, who caught up with me on Camino by bike. We’ve been talking about that whole walking experience. I’ve not really thought about it since. The two of us threw some theatrish stuff together afterwards, unrelated. Neither of us stopped to blink about Camino. But I underwent a profound internal change. And then went back to old habits for ease while thinking about it.

I learnt so much on Camino. And then I immediately slammed myself back into London existence. Brian quite rightly noticed that I didn’t let the lessons of the path drop in right away. He didn’t phrase it that way. But he made me realise that I walked 700 miles and then immediately slotted into an existence that didn’t take that into account. But I suppose those lessons take time. I’m better placed now to establish what that walk brought me than I was when I arrived home tired and seeking home comforts and wanting the happy old shit.

God, Camino was powerful, taking that time and making that commitment. Rising long before dawn every day and wondering why other people weren’t doing the same when you were on top of a hill alone with l’aube astonished by beauty. My headline photo was set up by walking away from a dawn and propping my camera on a rock with a timer. It is both sincere and insincere. Sincere because, if you look the other way it is a glorious dawn that I wanted to be recorded, and I wanted it to be a picture about rebirth through work. Insincere in that I set my camera to a timer and walked away from it three times before I was happy enough. Curated truth.

Camino was ace as it’s lovely to know what you have to do every day, occasionally. That’s the thing I don’t usually have in my life and – frankly – don’t usually want. I don’t miss knowing my every day. It would definitely kill me to be trapped in an office. But for a little bit I merely had to walk every day. That was all. And it was fine. I’m really not used to jobs that last more than 3 months. I’m fine with this.

Camino.

Get up. Pack efficiently. Walk fifteen miles alongside lovely humans many of whom believe in that patriarchal God. Start looking for a place to sleep. Rely on the infrastructure. Meet lovely humans, eat far too well for the money, go to sleep in a farting room full of bunk beds, wake up when the old guy’s alarm goes off at full volume at 5am, do it again.

That’s part of Camino. And you meet people on the way, even if – like I was -you’re actively trying to be solo. I’m only now taking stock. I think it takes that long to sink in. Good to think back though.

I’d advise it to anyone. I saw some huge beauty, challenged my fears about my capacity, and deepened my spiritual sense. A better use of my time than sitting in an art installation in Smithfield…

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Train and park

It’s a long time in the train from Cornwall to London. By the time I got back into town I really needed to move my body. I walked home from Paddington.

Despite the schizophrenic and entirely unpredictable weather, it mostly was a lovely day. Only about an hour to walk from Paddington and it took me through Hyde Park. On a weekday the park is reasonably empty, although still filled with that modern phenomenon – lines of young men and women sitting beside one another on sunny benches smiling at the things they are individually consuming through their phones. I consciously only took the thing out for photos. For 4 hours on the train I just let my face get sucked into the glowing rectangle.

The squirrels are loading up with nuts, busy and reasonably fearless. Nature knows it’s summer even if the weather hasn’t calibrated it yet… I found the illusion of solitude for a moment, there in that green spot in the middle of the thronging metropolis. London town. Good to be back. Very different from Newquay in feeling.

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“I’ve got to get out of Newquay,” says my cab driver this morning. He’s earning £50 to take me to the station. “It’s alright in the summer, but there’s fuck all in winter.” I ask him about the crack-heads. The whole main street is pulsing with crack heads, aimlessly wandering through the crowds asking for money like you’re at the outdoor bars in Soho in high summer. “Who can blame them?” He says. “There’s no work. They’ve probably never worked a day in their life. They don’t know what it IS to work.”

He came from South Africa to London. Then he moved from London to Newquay chasing change and a good life. “I dunno mate. There was this poster near my work every day. Had a picture of Newquay, telling us to come to Newquay. Looked great. So I needed a change. Get out the city. Shows there’s a difference between pictures and reality. I gotta get back to the city. I can’t do most of the work here either, I’m too old.” It’s interesting how many times I had variants of that conversation down there. People telling me Newquay was dead in winter. It’s pretty there though, make no mistake. I enjoyed exploring. But it feels right to be back here in this strange and busy city where there’s always something going on and you’ve always got somewhere to go to if you can afford the tube fare. Or the time to walk. A couple of little rain squalls, but I got home mostly dry. Much to do now in terms of stuff-logistics. Not my strong point so I’m having to gee myself up for it. But I’m off in a few weeks for a busy busy time, and there is no way in hell I’m leaving things even slightly like this. If I’m really organised I can get things so good that someone can use my room while I’m gone. But that feels like an impossible dream right now in the land of boxes…

Wrap

And it’s a wrap.

I thought I’d write a sober blog. I’ve been a bit drunk and moany recently. I guess we all have phases. But it’s odd. I think I’m pretty happy, but then I wake up and notice that a sleepy version of me felt like ranting about some poor maitre d’hotel. There there darling, you’ll feel better in the morning. Perhaps I need to stick that on my bedroom ceiling.

It’s sweet how they clap you off after your last scene, even for a small part. It’s a lovely bunch, here in Cornwall. And filming is such … unusual work.

Today I had just seven words. So many people working to make them ping. Let me take you through the mystery…

I am picked up from the hotel in a black BMW and driven to a remote farmhouse. Someone in hi vis tells us where to park. They’re connected by earpiece to the walkie talkies. They know things we cannot see. People are driving trailers with expressions of fierce concentration. Others are carrying bits of kit. Reflectors, booms, tripods. I get out of the car and a man in a hat tells me exactly where everything is located even though I’ve been here before. I grab a coffee from the machine on the trailer. Two people are diligently preparing lunches listening to obscure nineties albums. Rhythm and Stealth! “Your costume isn’t here yet. Go straight to makeup.” So I go to makeup. I check I haven’t missed anything shaving now the light is bright in the mirror. “Make me look beautiful.” My face is brushed with base, my hair is combed with comb. “I said make me look beautiful!” “It’s the best we can do”. I am helped into costume. It’s arrived, pristine. Someone is adjusting my starched cuffs, moving my braces an inch to the left, wiping a speck from my shoe as I put in my cufflinks. Before I’ve even had time to get my jacket on someone else is taping wires to the back of my shirt and fixing a mic in my tie, popping the pack down my newly ironed trousers. I walk towards set but stop at the boundary instinctively. It’s raining. Actors in film literally cannot touch rain unless it’s for the scene. We dissolve.

Someone appears wordlessly with overshoes moments after I stop, because the ground is muddy. They even put them on for me. Someone else appears with an umbrella. They hold it over me. I walk through the mud in overshoes, pulling up my trouser legs, selecting each footfall, flanked by a careful umbrella, wary of mudsplash. Then I’m in a barn. Umbrella is down. I take off my own overshoes. “Are you okay doing that yourself?” asks the person whose job it is to do that. “Sorry. Yes?”

There are lots of very clever very quiet people and thousands and thousands of pounds worth of equipment, and everybody has a very specific remit. “We’re going for a rehearsal, they say in German and then in English.” Two people speak quietly for a bit in German. I listen at a door. Someone stands behind me, umbrella open almost vertical against the wind, making sure no rain comes close to me from the squall outside. Someone else stands unnaturally close to me just … flickering a light switch on and off.

Then I call out three words in English, Max jumps onto a crash mat and … Scene.

Everybody talks about things very seriously for a while. People put bits of stuff on the floor so we know where to stop walking. How to act in film? “Hit your mark. Find your light. Know your lines. Don’t be a c*nt.” Simple. It’s a lovely medium to work in.

We do it again with small adjustments. “Ok we go for a take.” The familiar calls, interestingly in English despite German crew. “Camera rolling.” “Speed!” … ! … “Action.” We all keep doing it until everybody seems happy. Then they move things around a bit. “How long have you been acting?” “Twenty years mate. How long have you been flickering light switches?” “Four weeks.” “Enjoying it?” “Loving it.”

Then we do it again only now the clever quiet people are standing in a different place. Occasionally someone appears and puts powder on my face, or brushes dust from my lapel. I say the four words I have left and actively listen to someone speak German for a bit. And then it’s a wrap. It’s my wrap from the job. People clap. It’s a tradition. I’m not quite done though as sound requests a wild track. My last bit of work for the day, after all the other actors have been sent off and I’ve had my wrapclap, is to take five steps and rustle a newspaper in a room where twenty fully grown adults are being so quiet it’s literally like they’re holding their breath. In fact, some of them probably are.

As I am about to turn around to wade back to the barn the first AD shakes my hand. “You make a very convincing sleazeball.” he offers. I laugh. “Yes I do.” And I know it.

Back in the trailer I hang up my costume and get dressed. Lots of people hug me. I grab another coffee, but I’m wrapped before lunchtime. Shame. It looks good. Someone drives me back to the lovely hotel.

Showbusiness, baby. There are far worse ways to earn a living, and I’ve done many of them. More like this thankyouplease.

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Newquay

This morning I woke up in my hot water free tower room that I love. I struggled myself downstairs and immediately was in conflict with Mister No. There’s a big event on. I’ve left it to the last minute. An overanxious man is managing floor. He’s one of the neurotics you don’t want as a manager, managing. There’s an event coming. It’s a big deal for him. “Fuck the guests. MY EVENT.”

I just want sustenance. I’ve done his job, this primped up twot, and at a high level. I know event catering inside out and back to front. He does too, certainly, but he sets his boundaries way too hard for my taste. He’s what I would call “a neurotic authoritarian”. And he was in full Franco mode when I met him. I know too much about the bullshit for him to win. With miniature dictators you can roll them over by completely disregarding the world they create. I wanted breakfast so I had no choice but to disregard his world and look at the reality.

There were people still eating. The buffet was still out. He literally couldn’t process the fact that I was in my dressing gown. That was the problem. All I needed was a quick change. But really, mate?

That’s his beef though the poor nasty darling. It made his dear slow tiny brain explode. I went back up and changed and down in less than 2 minutes and then I went in before his negativity could find me. He still tried to attach it to me.

“It’s unbelievable,” says a co-guest stranger, sideways, who had watched me jousting about whether I’m allowed to actually eat food. “We were here yesterday and there was none of his stressfulness, he’s being really annoying, really full on.” she continues. “I know,” I tell her. “I was here last week. This guy needs to get over himself.” I make a pair of allies out of her and her husband which is nice. And through not allowing this very skilled but negative manager to forget I’m a human, I persuasively get breakfast. Helped hugely by an unexpected coffee from one of his staff who is just doing her job beautifully despite this asshat manager. PRIVILEGE. PRIVILEGE. I HEAR MYSELF SCREAMING AT MYSELF AS I THINK THESE THOUGHTS

Theres some sort of a conference today at the hotel. Hundreds of gits. Celebrating their own significance. Nonsense clownpeople being self important. Like me! But there’s nowhere I can sit at the hotel, because my room has someone trying to remove the airlock from the pipes, and every downstairs room is being used for “the logistics need to be sustainably acclimatised within a business profit framework.” I don’t want to be in the world with these people anyway. I go walking down the coast.

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Here’s a Huer’s hut. Someone would watch for shoals of fish here. When one came in they’d raise the hue and cry and direct the fishing boats that responded via semaphore in order to get the best haul for the most people. I went up the slightly tricky steps and was utterly thrilled that nobody has condemned them for being dangerous. It’s only a matter of time. I sat and chanted at the Atlantic. This job is glorious, and I’m feeling so fortunate regarding what is to come. NMHRK.

Add to that, the guy fixed the pipes in the morning. I’ve got hot water. Now I’m in heaven. My needs are simple…

Headland heat

I’m back in The Headland Hotel in Newquay. It’s a big chunk of a building, squaring off against the Atlantic wind, custom built as a hotel in 1900. The interior brings incredible panoramic views of the ocean where you can sip your eight pound glass of wine in peace as the sun sets over the ocean. The bedrooms are well appointed. Last week I had a pretend four poster bed with no curtains or runners for curtains, located on the ground floor. Old couples in the car park were likely delighted and astonished as I proudly threw open the curtains in the morning wearing the clothes I was born in. Perhaps for that reason this week I’m in a turret room at the very top. I’m happiest here, in the wind overlooking the sea.

Nothing is ever simple though. They ask me for a £150 deposit when I check in, and right now there isn’t a single one of my cards that can take that much. They don’t seem to understand that truth, considering the price of my room. Eventually they overlook it, but as soon as I put a glass of red wine on the room they’re phoning up and panicking. “I’ll pay it when I go. I just can’t do the whole deposit!” I assure them. Thankfully the duty manager trusts that I’m worth my word. So I wander up to my room at the top of the house, I put on my gown and slippers, and I switch on the hot water to enjoy my long undeserved luxurious bath with my hard won glass of red wine.

*plip* *plip* *plip*

Nothing. Nothing at all from the tap. A whole extraordinary pile of nothing. Bugger. I’m not filming tomorrow, so grooming isn’t quite as crucial as it might be normally. But the production company have definitely paid for hot water.

The thinking behind booking us into these extraordinary places is so that we look and feel our best on set. Filming is about illusion, but there’s only so much you can do. Tweezers in the face and pain completes illusion. I had brought up all sorts of instruments with me. I was going to craft something of myself for Trinny and Susannah to retire over weeping. I had a whole day and in my familiar partitiony way tomorrow was earmarked for making myself feel and look great.

I’m not doing a porn shoot by the way. Nobody is going to see my topiary apart from Pickle. Cold water is helpful with grooming, I guess. Etc. But no. I WANT HOT WATER TOO! I might look like a caveman sometimes but I’m not. It’s just nice to feel good. For me. And to take this opportunity in a lovely hotel with a spa.

If someone hits on me in a bar tomorrow and I fancy them I’m still going to find the first exit from the conversation I can and then run until I get to John O’Groats and only then throw my clothes aside to reveal my magnificent caveman pelt as I swiftly dance into the waves like a seal and swim and swim and swim until I know she’s lost the thread.

Maybe the hotel has done me a favour by making it impossible for me to wash and groom in my own room. But fucking hell, Headland Hotel! I know how much the production company have spent on this room with no hot water because the receptionist that wanted the £150 tried to hit me for it and I was almost sick. I love this place too. I thought I was going to be writing a happy blog because it’s great here. But it changes live, this blog, cos I’m writing a bit – living a bit – writing a bit.

Meanwhile I’ll go tell reception to make sure there’s a note of it, as the night porter is mostly busy moving fake walls and I don’t want them to look at me blankly tomorrow. I’ll shower downstairs in the spa. There’s a spa. Oh yes. There’s a spa. Maybe I should leave hairs all over it out of spite.

If I could get into the spa with my key. Which I can’t. Even though apparently I should be able to…

Right. The night porter is a dude. Solutions over problems. He can’t fix the water. He can’t move my room. But he’s thinking. He opens a room downstairs for me to wash in, right at the top of the service elevator, almost certainly where all the staff wash if they must. It’s about the same size as my room but with a better view. “Mate, if you could just move me here?” “No, they’d kill me.”

Ach. So I can’t leave it full of hairs. I splosh about carefully in the bath, an impostor in an empty room. Nobody will sleep in these sheets. Absurd. Although Geoff from maintenance might show up at 6 am with “I’ve had literally no sleep cos fucking hell what a night and suddenly some bastard needs that hot water pump fixed again and I’m still up sweating pigs help me out here I need a shower in the emergency room by the service elevator…”

I slink back up, still pelted and proud, into my tower room with no hot water that isn’t quite so special anymore. But hell – It’s brilliant this job. This crew. This momentary existence. Hot water or no hot water.

I’m thrilled with my wonderful agent, and all the connections and moments through my life that have made this sort of workthing possible for me after nearly 20 years at the grindstone. No hot water in the posh hotel? Bah. I remember when there were three of us sharing a double bed for two weeks and I was happy as a clam.

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RAC so so slow

At 12.45 I rang the RAC. Time to revive the Jaguar. First of all I wanted to find a local garage that could take it. They’re reasonably local these guys, jaguar specialists, seem very personable, have the space for it and – crucially – are “too busy to look at it immediately so it may be some time.” Perfect. I can try to put some money aside before they start giving me numbers.

The battery has run out, and I need to get the sound system from Christmas Carol out of the boot. It’s been in there since the show as I was transporting it back from Sheffield when the car all but died. I limped it here to Sussex where I realised it had no more distance in it. The battery died in my friend’s driveway. This causes a problem. There is literally no way of opening the boot other than by pushing an electric button. No mechanical means. No battery means no boot access. I’m hoping the RAC triage guy will be able to jump it when/if he eventually shows up so I can get it open. But it’s gone half five and there’s no sign of him yet. It took 3 and a half hours from my initial call before they even had the courtesy to ring and tell me I’m on the list. The RAC is clearly in no hurry whatsover. The people I’ve spoken to on the phone so far when trying to persuade them to take me off the bottom of the list – they give literally 0 fucks. It’s like the NHS. You have to go in screaming, even if it’s just minor. Or someone else will go in screaming for something minor and you’ll get bumped. Squeaky wheel gets the grease.

I call the garage I’m planning on towing it to after 4 hours of waiting. Maybe there’s a trick to opening the boot.”Oh yeah, I remember that about the X-Type,” says the guy at the garage. “Sometimes the electrics lose connection from front to back on that model. I had a guy, taxi driver, had a passenger’s case in the boot when that happened. The boot’s enclosed as well. Had to take the back seats off and cut a hole into it. Then had to make the hole bigger to get the bloody case out. It’s a design flaw.”

Shit. My train to Cornwall is at 4 tomorrow. No more planes in this shitty weather. I need to drop this sound system off at 3. Am I going to have to take an arc welder to the car?

Miraculously, as the shifts change from day to night, someone who actually isn’t a complete bastard takes over on the RAC line. He is acting upset that I’ve had to wait so long just like the previous person appeared to be trying to make me wait as long as possible out of spite. He gets someone sent out to me almost immediately. But the person is just the person whose job it is to say “Nothing we can do here mate.” It’s a two stage process, getting the RAC to move a breakdown. Brian says “Nothing we can do here mate,” but thankfully gives me enough power to open the boot. Sound system: achieved.  But the garage is closed now until tomorrow. He books me in. “Sorry you’ve had to wait so long,” he volunteers even though I haven’t mentioned it to him. It’s in his system. “That’s ridiculous. I’ve just come on shift. This is going to be a busy night.”

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Thankfully I can stay another night here. Phew. Tomorrow I can rush home carrying a massive sound system on my shoulder, pack a bag, rush to Kings Cross, with said bag and system, drop off the system and then get on a long train to Cornwall with bag. So long as the RAC don’t decide to screw me over again now that the tow truck is booked…

Grr. That’s one day I’ll never get back. I’m hoping not to lose a second to being actively deprioritised. Time to join the AA.

Still, nice to be here again. I sang my godson to sleep, poor sod.

 

Dreams

I just gave two children a dream. This is an example of the oral tradition still alive in modern society. Caxton rang the death knell. Berners-Lee compounded it. But dreams. Dudley used to give me dreams and they were good.

Party downstairs at Eyreton, the huge house I grew up in. My dad had a bar put in under the stairs. I was barman at his wake. But back when I was ten I was upstairs, in my little room, aware that the grown-ups had a whole different world of entertainment and were noisy. Even aged 6 I didn’t want to miss out on the party.

Dudley bridged that gap. He was the soul of the party. Vast, eccentric “cuddly Dudley”. He would come and give me a dream. He’d gather up the dream dust that had accumulated on me throughout the day and he’d make sure it was all shining in the palm of my hand. “Can you see it? I can see it.” I’d help him get bits he’d missed. Then he’d tell me how I had to go to sleep quickly so I could have the lovely dream that the dust wanted me to have. And so I would.

Dudley was my first friend to die. A different generation. Technically friend of my dad not mine, but he knew how to be friends with kids, and he understood imagination. A compulsive gambling bankrupt spendthrift madman, so of course he was friends with a kid. My buddy. Primarily because he was so careful and so specific in giving me my dreams, and because he listened to me rather than assuming he knew what I was going to say like most grown ups.

He didn’t make up the dream thing either – no way. He was an empath, but someone else had given him dreams like that as a kid, for sure. There’s a specificity in that sort of imaginary work, and a history. You can’t phone it. He’d stagger in to my restless room, full of whisky and charm, and twenty minutes later I’d fall asleep happy clutching the dream that he’d given me that was mine and mine and mine. I was already dreaming reasonably lucidly and he helped steer.

I don’t know how many hundreds of years that particular comforting ritual has been passed down through his family, but this evening – being the dissipated godfather at bedtime – I found myself offering dreams as a service. “I was taught this a very long time ago by a wonderful man called Dudley.” Not quite the same context. But as with any ritual it needs time. As a comforting sleep-aid it is extremely potent and it allowed me to get out and down and wind them down from getting excited. My presence was not helping those kids shut down. I’m generally willing to turn them upside down or get engaged in whatever ridiculous game is being improvised, and so I’m not much use at bedtime because I represent fun. So I thought I’d try Dudley’s dream technique. Nobody could give dreams like Dudley. I tried to homage the old guy.

He died when I was 12, I reckon. He still lives in me through that legacy. A kind, huge storyteller. I miss the dreams he gave me.

Meanwhile, you’re never too old to learn. “Snapdragon seed heads look like skulls,” says Hester – 7. She’s not wrong…

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