Quiet Friday

Nope Friday night. You can’t have me. Not this week. I’m out.

I drank all of it last night, and I’m up tomorrow morning early. I don’t need to drink any more this year really. Here’s me at the start of the night blithering about the show courtesy of Flavia. The draw of the bright lights and the cameras. Oh how they pull at me…

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Last night I even had a kebab on the way home – and probably shot my Uber rating out of whack by stinking the thing out as I clutched it in my sweaty hand and monologued to Farouk about theatre. Bless Farouk. He didn’t like me. I just checked. Rating took a tumble. Hey ho. My fault.

There have been many Friday nights over many years. Lots of them have been lovely, but only rarely has it devolved to the point of kebab. Brian left at the right time but he was going to Croydon. Even Tristan left early compared to me. I just walked back in and raised my right arm a bit more until I was so smashed I could barely remember my own name.

Recently lots of these nights have resulted in effusive or incomprehensible blogs, after my companions have been subjected to equally effusive equally incomprehensible conversations with no care for volume or repetition. This time I’m already in bed. The light will be off before the day changes. That’s a rarity in this household. I’m looking forward to it. Sleep. Sweet sleep. Ahhh yes.

Today was admin before the bank holiday. Trying to make sure things were done that had to be done. Paying various people after I got a stack of back pay from Imperial College for all the invigilating I’ve done this year. I’ve got the rest of May and most of June to get all the clutter decluttered and then it’s off to Oxford for the burning bit of summer. I also had to get a van booked for tomorrow. Typical. As soon as I don’t have the van anymore I get paid to rent one and drive it around. I’ve got to pick it up from Kentish Town early. I really need to find a way to get some sort of hybrid long wheel based low emission monster so I can while away the hours when I’m not working by lifting other people’s crap and moving it from one place to another. People always need things to be moved, particularly in this town where everyone has everything to do all the time and space is a rarity. And particularly in this industry where people are likely to end up with a drum kit, eighteen cheval mirrors and a cross trainer, with nowhere to put it. Although perhaps I’m about to hit that vein which makes all the dayjob juggling academic. We will see. Meantime, bank holiday weekend. Sun. Rest. Friends and joy. I can’t wait.

Amelie the Musical

Well that was timely. I’d forgotten, but I was booked to go and see Amelie the Musical at New Wimbledon Theatre. It’s a show that was created at the tiny Watermill theatre in Newbury. It’s a staged realisation of that Audrey Tatou film that was part of the movement in popular culture that inspired a generation of bookish single men into believing in the thing that we now call “manic pixie dream girl.” But the thing we might forget is that the film existed before the trope. The story is about stories. It’s a deep and familiar contemplation of how we wish we lived our lives. It’s beautiful. Forgetful. Whimsical.

It’s not necessarily an easy story to stage. Nothing life threatening happens. We’ve been conditioned to expect conflict. But seriously – we don’t need it We really really don’t. We don’t. More like this please. Stories don’t have to be about conflict for fuck’s sake, no matter what men wrote a thousand years ago.

I loved this story. This story is much better than conflict. It’s charming – particularly in these hands. It’s gentle. The ensemble is true. It’s a fine balanced group of actor/musicians, filed to an incredibly sharp point with Audrey Brisson. She’s electric. Perfectly cast, utterly poised. This is one of her moments, and she’s extraordinary in it. How rarely do these things come together? Every word is landed clean clean so clean. It’s not a musical about showtunes either. It’s not tits and teeth and absurd ideals. It’s about more than fifteen ridiculously talented humans showing us the colour of their individual hearts. It’s a work of human beauty, fronted by … a work of human beauty.

I am trying to imagine the process that made this show. Somewhere along the line things just went … right. I think it was an ensemble thing brought on by good production values. The director had faith in his actors, (and the casting was bang on). Turns out I’d run into directoryface before, when my bestie was up in Warwickshire. Nice fellow. Clearly knows his shit and I like him simply because he trusted his company – and his actors – and the tech team trusted him and them too. What a bunch. FTW.

Audrey is so physically adept and so on point that everyone – (and I mean stage management too) – seem comfortable bringing their bravest self in around her. She’s the perfect actor in the perfect part. All those shit questions that you’d expect: “She can’t be flown up repeatedly in the show it’ll injure her.” “She might fall off the piano.” “Why the figs?” – all the questions that come from a place of “no” – they somehow got disarmed. She flew right arm to left arm and was incredibly deft with whatever safety harness she probably had to click and unclick in the process. Her physical aptitude was just absurdly clear. There was no way she was going to fall off the piano. She’s an ultimate Pro. And the figs? Why the figs? The question is the answer. Why? Why not, if you can do it. Beautiful mad wonder. A delight. FIGS.

What a wonderful show Amelie the Musical is. What a strange delight. What an unexpected pleasure. What a night. Buy a ticket you fool. Buy it. But it now!

We all have a choice when we book our evening. Book this. That’s my advice. This is artistry. This is joy. Sure the creative team involve people I trust and love, and the producers are universally the best. So many beautiful humans before you even get to the cast. I have never admired the lighting design so deeply as I have this evening thanks to Elliot Griggs.

Wimbledon. Dublin. Exeter. High Wycombe. Oxford. Edinburgh. Bradford. Leicester. Bristol. Birmingham. Malvern. Manchester. Bournemouth. Glasgow. Woking. Eastbourne. Inverness. Southampton. Reading. Liverpool.

Then the world.

See this lovely show. You’ll smile for two hours. In the interval you’ll find yourself looking forward to the second half. And usually I don’t write about shows I watch at all. There’s plenty else to witter on about.

A WordPress guy messaged me this morning expressing their surprise that, given the proviso that this is fiction, it reads like fact. I told him that fiction is just fact plus opinion, and fact is just fiction plus perception. If I’m a pretend voice then go see Amelie. If I’m a real voice ditto. Maybe I’m cagey about if this is fact or fiction in order to to legally allow inconsistency, and pile into people about vans etc even when I’m wrong. Or maybe I’m cagey because I’m just making all this up as I go along based on fact but heavily skewed towards my own agenda.

Either way, Kate Moss has just shown up at my flat and asked me “Where have you been all my life?”. George Lucas is behind her literally screaming at me “ALL I NEEDED WAS SOME DECENT ACTORS!” And Zuckerberg is next to him trying to persuade me to filter out everything I don’t want to hear and he says he can do it for me in exchange for my transverse colon. Its very easy to say yes but I’m not sure… 

Meantime go and make yourselves happy by catching this gem of a musical. So gorgeous. So fun. A great night out and one you would be mad to miss. RASPBERRIES.

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Getting better

I had a beard for so long. “It’s quicker to shave it than to grow it,” I said. I look completely different clean shaven. I look much older with the beard. I don’t miss it really. Until my agent needs me to have one…

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I had to turn down a meeting because they wanted me hairy. It was only a money meeting but still. Big fat shiny gold coins. But just coins. Probably not worth hankering after the hair for coins. I like myself shorn, and its booking the jobs.

I’ve been taking some downtime the last few days. I’ve had some sort of throat illness for over a week. Lots of coughing. Lost my voice mostly for a day or two. Need for sleep. I haven’t been telegraphing it here as there’s been other stuff on my mind, but I’m relieved as it seems to be retreating now. Last time it was six weeks coughing, mostly only at night. Daytimes and acting I just sounded sexy. As soon as I was horizontal I started drowning.

My bronchial bits are unreliable. Everything shut down in that department when I was twelve. I lost a year of school to double pneumonia with lung collapse and buckets of phlegm. I learnt to get good use out of the bits of my lungs that worked, so now they’re pretty robust. I also had to get used to the sound and feel of hacking my guts up, and to stop caring if I had to make a horrendous noise.

As a result I can hold my breath longer than you can. That’s one of my takeaways. Obsessive breath training for years and a fine set of lungs. I can make myself heard in a storm every day for months.

But there’s damage in the engine room. If a bug gets in there, the pathways are well established for it. We learn our weaknesses as we learn our strengths, and my big voice is because I need to flex those muscles to keep it healthy.

Mel and I have cleaned every inch of my bedroom so the experience of not sleeping surrounded by dust is probably helping. But I’m still feeling off kilter, still coughing a bit – not quite right.

The last few weeks I’ve been very antisocial. Partly below par and partly busy, also feeling wedded to the van as I had to move it every four hours and either pay over the odds or sit in it. Friends have tried to haul me out of my solitude with varying degrees of success. I’ve been studiously avoiding large gatherings, and casually ducking away from meet-ups. Partly the cough, partly just where I am right now.

The next two weeks I want to get more sociable. They’re quieter than what is to come this summer. I’ll be in Oxford for July and the first half of August. I’ll be in Cornwall in June. I want to see my friends while I can before things get busier. Time to try to switch off the hermit. If I don’t have a long grey beard I shouldn’t behave like I do…

 

Van out

It’s unusual, not having the van anymore. I haven’t adjusted at all. Sure, the flat is full of boxes. But I woke up this morning worried. Usually in the mornings I have to either get into it and move it, or start paying RBKC their blood money. Suddenly that worry is gone, but I still wake up feeling like there’s something I have to attend to.

It hasn’t stopped me from going to the window when I hear a banging noise to check on it. Even though it sat there happily the whole time, without getting robbed. Sure we are in Chelsea but that’s still central London. As often as not I left the back unlocked. And you can’t lock the front so a dedicated wrong’un will always get in if they want to. And yet, in the same street where they steal motorbikes like actors grabbing press night bubbly, it was never broken into. I lost sleep over the possibility it would be. But keeping it looking scruffy, and parking it with the shutters out to the road … Perhaps this all contributed to the safety. It’s gone now, with a million records and some attractive bits of my mum’s stuff. I shot up some vintage brass lights after checking out an image of my friend’s vintage emporium in York. It’ll take me over a year to get round to them at the pace I’m going, so it’s better to throw them in the way of an expert. I have way too much to sort anyway, her stuff always triggers me a bit, and attic space is at a premium. The next month is about getting stuff out. Here’s a start. Out.

I spent time with a good friend in the evening, and it made me realise what an anchor that van has been, with me always having to be near it. I’ve probably been a crap friend to everybody but Pickle and the van. Now the van has gone I’ll need to remember what it means to be sociable again. Scaffolding is down, and as Phil took the van back up north last night, the Scorpio full moon looked in. Mum’s sign. It can’t be anything other than auspicious.

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Yesterday when I was in the street I spoke to an estate agent who told me how much it would cost to add 99 years to my 28 year remaining leasehold. It’s four times what I feared. An impossible sum. I’ll either have to get rich or move out quick. She presented the figure like it was a bargain. Worlds. I guess I’ll have to start thinking about what to do when I get old. I might have to move out of here before long to make sure I’m not shafted in the long term. Either that, win the lottery or get famous ..

Van unpack

I got to know all the people in my little crescent today. I’ve known many of them in passing, and a few of them more closely. I’m pretty well known in my block, but I’m there on top, frequently sorting things out, and having a personality. I’ve made friends over the years. They’ve all moved out. Nicky who hated the management, Andrew the angry scotsman, Jamila the fashion blogger. I helped her break in to her own flat once with an hour of very conspicuous trying and a coathanger. It was bank holiday. She’d locked herself out smoking. “As soon as this works I want a photo of you in a frame or somesuch so I’m not an accessory to robbery.” She had one, thankfully. Then Morris. Poor Morris. In his beautiful clothes, never with a penny to rub together, scavenging from all of our bins but never selling his findings. Proud but down. “Never get old,” he would shout. I helped him in a few times when he was the worse for wear. He’s been put in a home now by a family he detested. He’s far gone enough for them to dismiss his humanity in favour of his assets. We miss him. Just today a woman spoke of how she didn’t mind when she realised she had to pay for Morris buying a round of drinks. Another guy asked how he was. I’m sad about it – I’d like to visit. But because wherever he is he’s still swearing about his family, they don’t want us to see him. So “he’s on holiday in Croatia having a lovely time” while he dies in a grey room in Staines.

By unloading the van outside my block I’ve got to know my current neighbours better. None as glamorous as Jamila. None as angry as Nicky or Andrew. But some interesting allies and friends. A super solid chap convalescing from something. An estate agent I’d met in the pub before with fast eyes. A punctilious and ordered fellow who works in small spaces internationally and cares about detail. A ducker and diver, filled with charm, inscrutable. The epitome of glamour pulled by a black labrador. My Biarritz ex model friend in the flat below me, who was off for free champagne with the Queen at The Flower Show. My new neighbor, who talked me into taking a large box. And a tired exhibitor, back once again for the show, paying extra to get an Airbnb in my block five minutes from the venue. She went for a power nap while the road was getting shut down for the queen and got back into the fray three hours later for the free champagne. “I can sleep while all that royal stuff is going on. But I’ll be back for the booze.”

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I’ve been out the front of my house all day, you see, surrounded by books, records, scores and knick knacks. I’ve been emptying the van. It has finally gone back home. Phil has reclaimed it. Thank fuck. £30 a day parking. Done. I’m feeling both relieved and bereft. I’ve got work booked for most of June and July so it’s academic, but now I can no longer easily move large things. Also now the contents of my flat are static. I can add no more. I can only reduce things from now on. Considering my busy summer to come, this can only be a good thing. But now I have to ask myself if having a van is the thing I should do between jobs. It’s been extremely positive…

Cleaning day

A couple of hours of sweat with a screwdriver and my window opens again. Never underestimate the power of swearing. No way I’d have fixed it had I not been swearing like a trooper. Leverage with a screwdriver and sheer bloody mindedness helped, perhaps. But mostly it was the swearing. My sharp words shredded the paint. Hungover Al, banging a screwdriver through the side of the window, angry and inventive with invective. And suddenly, with a jolt, it snapped. Air in my room again. That moment when something stubborn breaks… It’s amazing. Like when the painkiller suddenly kicks in to the headache. Like when the spot bursts. Like when the sneeze finally comes. The window just gasped … moved. And immediately it was alright again. Parades of singing ten pound notes that were waving farewell in my imagination suddenly giggled and vanished into the air, no more than the bad expectations of someone who has occasionally been fucked over but has his own Goddamn flat in London full of Americans and light and life and warmth, and has nothing to complain about in the scheme of things. Nothing.

To celebrate, we cleaned and dusted and arranged every inch of my bedroom. Now I have a glorious fresh room with a window you can open and places for everything. Just as well really, as Phil is coming to get the van back tomorrow so I have to take everything else that is in it and get it up to my flat. Now I have places to put the boxes until I’ve made sense of the contents. Books mostly. I’ll want to keep them all. I won’t be able. I’m having to learn to be disciplined and discerning. Still, it’s likely that after a day of work making my room look nice we are going to have to spend another day filling it up with dusty boxes. Urgh. Still it was therapeutic to be so thorough. It’s a good starting point. And I might just have to make some quick decisions and take more stuff to the charity shop than I usually would allow myself to. At least I’ve had some company through this.

The flat’s full of Americans and Mel has been calling a lot of the shots today. I’m on the sofa again. Pickle is a bit pissed off as she can’t get into my room with Mel being allergic to cats. She hasn’t protest shat anywhere which might be progress. But Mel has been helping me work out the order in which to do stuff. Now everyone is in bed. Mel is locked into my clean bedroom, safe from the cat, free of the dust. Anna is in Brian’s room, kindly leaving the door open a crack in case Pickle wants to jump around on her while she’s sleeping. I’m about to turn in on the comfy sofa, sleepy and much more sober and better fed then I’d usually be on a Sunday evening thanks to Mel’s influence. Pickle is going to sleep directly on top of me again. Nothing I can do about that in here. She’s planning her route.

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Much to do next week. Brian’s back on Thursday and there’s no way I’ll let him walk in and find the place worse than it was when he went to Namibia.

 

Thieves and windows

So I let eBay guy get away with it. “Hello, you manipulative fucker,” I said. “You will get away with your shit for now, but later on The Eater of Souls will take your name, and she will gently lick all the colour from your life, like a teenager discovering adulthood.”

I didn’t say that. But I should’ve. Lots of people have been following the idea of my existence lately and have had different opinions. “Tell him to fuck off” I had from many. “Don’t let him win.” I really didn’t want to. But as a seller I actually can’t give him bad feedback. He wants a discount. I eventually tell him I won’t refund him until he gets his shit together.

But guys. Seriously. Let me write my blog earlier. I ask my friends and you either get it or you make it really hard for me like tonight. Tristan gets it. Lyndon always got it. It’s his birthday today and I missed it because he owes me, but he at least knows what it is to have stuff to do. We geeked out about responsibility in LA back then. While I write my daily words I’ll not forget those powerful days. He was amazing at allowing me space when I asked it.

Tonight though I’ve put Mel in my room and I’m on my own sofa, just to make things easier. The guys up the block have painted all my windows shut. Turns out they were doing two layers of paint. Great if they’d told me. Now there’s no scaffolding up the block. My windows are fucked. They were always shit anyway, the fucking unbelievably motherfucking bastard thieves. Bulfords, they were called. Of course they dissolved after the botch job on my block. But how, when I left the windows openable, did they miss breaking the paint? I’m stuck now.

Bulfords replaced my windows originally by telling me they were unsafe. Suddenly for health and safety I had to change all my perfectly good windows. They did it in order to steal my window-weights plus make a bit of money in the process by taking good windows and replacing them with fucking horrible plywood shit. I wish nothing but vomit on the CEO of Bulfords. His behaviour is not incompetent. His behaviour is not even quite manipulative. He’s a baddie. Through and through

Having been the victim of a scam like that it’s tough for me to pin people down when they put scaffolding up the block. But I’ll have to find out how much it costs to get an abseiler to open my windows. Or ideally to replace the Bulfords balsa with windows that make me not want to kill people. Brian’s window is ok as that’s how they were ferrying tea. The rest are painted shut solidly. Despite me leaving them mobile and unlocked.

At some point I’d like to replace all my windows, sure. Try to go back towards what I had before Bulfords ripped me off. But I’ll need money. I have no idea if I can get the value back.  Now, less than a decade later, I can’t open any of my windows because of paint. I’m almost past rage. But there’s no point being angry with Dave and his lot. They weren’t thieves. They did a good job when they weren’t painting my window shut.

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