545 per hour

I should’ve been a lawyer. Over 500 quid per hour, the one I’m talking to. I’ve been trying to make progress on something that has eluded me for over 15 years. My dad rather optimistically allowed himself to believe that everyone wouldn’t start dropping like flies when he died. When they all did, it left my brother Max and I in total confusion and grieving. It’s many years though now since the dominos started falling. I’m over it now mostly, even if this is a tricky week. But I still didn’t really know where to start untangling a mess that has lain dormant for so long.

So, after looking at it from all angles, I just … started somewhere. And after a while I engaged an expensive lawyer because there’s too much I don’t understand and it was her firm that my dad was working with. It’s a move which I’m hoping I don’t come to regret as it turns out she doesn’t understand either – or she’s pretending not to for profit. She just sent me a very expensive three page email. Her email asks all the questions I couldn’t answer that led to me engaging them in the first place. It ends with “our fees will be higher than we originally estimated.” And her original estimate blew the doors off so there goes my kidney. I’m hoping this doesn’t turn into Jarndyce Vs Jarndyce or I’m going to have to sell Pickle for glue.

When I was at school we did a workshop day for a major law firm. My team did really well and afterwards I was asked to an assessment day. I didn’t want to go. I knew back then I was an actor. So I refused the opportunity and didn’t tell my mum, knowing that she’d have forced me. So that door closed leaving me free to dream the impossible dream. I’m still okay with that, teenage Al. But £545 an hour, teenage Al??? Just to have specialist knowledge, dress up smart and invent problems? Easy life.

Tomorrow I’ll be helping run one of those assessment days – at a major law firm – for about a quarter of an hour’s worth of that fee for my whole day. It’ll be the third year I’ve been involved, and it’s always a lovely day. But by now I reckon the kids from the first year that did well will be earning more per annum than I’ve seen in a decade. Still, they don’t get to sleep at the top of Carnaby Street in a caravan…

I’m going to get an early bed. Yesterday’s malaise – it turns out I was getting sick. My unconscious was trying to tell my conscious that something was wrong. So it gave me the screaming habdabs all day and sent me to bed thinking to world was ending. I woke up coughing and howling and Brian brought me a lemsip. Then I dayjobbed the morning and passed out all afternoon. I was meant to be doing Macbeth rehearsals but my body just needed to sleep. Now it’s half eight, I just cooked a lovely aubergine and white fish madras. IMG_20180320_192641I’m going to drug myself to sleep so I’m fresh for the lawyers tomorrow.


I struggle with this time of year. My thoughts always get pulled to dark places. The winter tries to keep its claws in. My parent’s death is in my mind, and my own inability to find the chances I so yearn for in work and in life. Reading this every day you might start to think that I am satisfied in the chaos, or that my relentless cheer is rooted through me to the extent that I am oblivious to pain. In the cards I always identify with The Fool. I can find peace in a maelstrom, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the wind. Yes I will fall off a cliff and land in a pile of cushions. But as Alice’s card says: “The jester doffed his cap and bells, And stood the mocking court before; They could not see the bitter smile Behind the painted grin he wore. ” I’ll make you laugh. I’ll try to take away your cares. But that’s as much as anything else because I understand them.

There are gaping voids within all of us – and me as much as you. Thwarted hopes and missed expectations – for ourselves and for our friends. It’s about how we deal with them. I actively hate having to phone utility companies and beg forbearance every month, time after time – this juggling act I do before the bailiffs get instructions and I have to manage those obstructive and expensive humans too. But I am getting better at it through unhappy practice. Many of my friends fight tooth and nail to make rent, more have compromised into work they hate. I am surrounded by lovely people, despite not having that elusive partner in love – although admittedly I haven’t really been looking. And my beautiful talented friends – some are being bullied, some marginalised, some overworked, some undervalued and many are just as alone as I am if not much much more so. People with deep strange eloquent amazing voices are having those voices taken from them. Some of them are fighting tooth and nail. Others are resigning to it. I don’t know which upsets me more.

This time last year I felt I had turned a corner. To be honest, I had done. I had just got back from a changing time in America, and I felt the benefit of that change. I still feel it now. But damn it’s hard to hold the positive right now. Important to remember that tonight is the last night of the precedence of dark. On Tuesday the dark and the light are balanced evenly. And from then the days get longer than the nights. Too many of my friends are experiencing pain and obstruction today. It has been a long long winter and this cold is helping it linger in our hearts. But the light is coming. I suppose I need to think of this as the last tendrils of the darkness clinging to me as I wander aimlessly into whatever lighter place I find…






Hungover day, and the world is chilly again. My fixed boiler is chuntering away burning banknotes and making the flat feel like a cosy home. Last night drunk Al thought it clever to order late night pizza. Brian Mel and I waited an hour and a half as the guy tunneled through the snow with his overpriced dough. It eventually arrived so late and we all shoved it into our faces almost blindly. I didn’t get to pass out until 3, full of cheese, and at 5.15 my alarm went off and I blearily rang my friend in case she hadn’t set hers. She hadn’t. Once I was happy she was awake I crashed back down and stayed in bed all morning. She flew back to Poland from Stansted at something like half 8. With the amount we’d consumed it’s a miracle she even got to the bus stop.

I haven’t changed out of my dressing gown yet. I’m not going to.

Yesterday was lovely, but I spent too much money. I think I’ll have to drop the booze again. Things are too damn slow. I need to get new photos for my new agent so she can get me some meetings so I can get me some money to get new photos in the first place. How do people manage this crap with rent to pay too? No booze is the wisest move for now. And avoidance of takeaways.

Brian and I chose this snowy weekend to get two takeaways. The drunken pizza and then this evening’s epic curry which also took hours to come through as the delivery driver battled the snow. We both think of ourselves as pretty good cooks but you wouldn’t know it if you’d watched us today. We were hurling good money at people in exchange for overpriced food delivered so slowly that we could’ve grown it.

The three of us remained cocooned in the living room with Pickle and watched The Wolf of Wall Street. We just consumed stuff all day. Pizza, Movies, terrible reality TV, psychology experiments, brainless tat.


Tomorrow I’m at Imperial again and we start an intensive week building towards Macbeth showings at The Factory. It’s going to get busy again, so I’m glad to have had a few days down being indulgent even if I’ll regret it when I see my bank balance.

Right now though I’ve got a cup of licorice and peppermint tea and a good book. Brian has gone to do the get-out for Neverland and to tear down all the steel mezzanines we built a month ago. I was asked to, but couldn’t because of work next week. So I don’t have to take my dressing gown off. “Have fun!” I just shouted down. It’s past 9pm. He won’t be home until 2 at least. He’s off to work extremely hard in the cold, lugging heavy things around and pulling up nails. Poor Brian. I think I’ll have some more chocolate and stroke the cat a bit.

Generation Hope

Among the many belief structures and frames of thought that I consider to be beneficial to the thinker and to their environment, I rank Nichiren Buddhism very highly. It’s not the hierarchical Buddhism that can give rise to the genocide currently being perpetrated in Myanmar/Burma on the Rohingya. And it’s a long way from the teachings of the Nazarene prophet too, which were co-opted and twisted out of shape by Rome to the extent that they permit wholesale planet destruction. Monotheism was adopted by Rome as a better choice, because unlike pantheism – where there can be a god in everything and you must respect your environment – it describes a clear and limited chain of command. One God, one holy person, one holy ruler. Everyone else is down the chain of command and that is the outwardly imposed supernatural law. It happens to chime very well with the needs of an overextended empire that needed arbitrary laws and thought-control to even have a chance of uniting such a hugely disparate populace without the aid of TV. And even though the teachings at the heart of it are beautiful, humanist and important, the dissemination was to do with empire, and now we are entrenched as a society. We are either feeling very much like we are part of it and taking some notional moral high ground, or we are identifying against it and being smug in our majority informed oppositional conformity.

If it’s your opinion and you’ve won it by work, whichever corner of the theism question you stand in you’re very welcome and we will have a good conversation and both come out of it well. Parrots bore me utterly though. Generally. And particularly on this old grindstone.

And yet I’m happy to subscribe to a faith that, initially, asks people to chant “Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo” for ages without really even knowing what it means.

Today I helped organise a youth event in Hammersmith. 6000 people across the UK gathered in three cities to connect with Nichiren Buddhism. The guy was a monk who came 700 years after the Shakyamuni Buddha. His teachings have catalysed a movement that calls itself a society, not a religion. With no priesthood and no real hierarchy it is seeking to encourage people to be the best version of themselves, while making everyone else the best version of themselves too. It’s like a benevolent form of The Borg. And I’ve been assimilated. Because I see nothing bad in it.

I’ve had to do loads of admin though. The people who practice are divided up into districts. Any faith structure is going to draw people who are starved of community. So as a new person in my district, who has so much community already and doesn’t need more, I was not attending meetings. They asked me to be “District Champion” by way of giving me a job title and making me do a bit of work, connect to a sense of achievement and thereby feel more involved in the district. I knew this but I still did it. It’s good for me.

I did it, mummy. I did it etc etc…

The event was lovely and I WAS proud to be part of it. We flooded out Hammersmith Apollo. I’m glad it went so well.

And yes, I chant “Nam myo ho renge Kyo” daily. I know what it means. To me. It’s easy to get a notional understanding of what it means intellectually. But what it means to me personally is more important. Because that’s why I do it. It’s to do with resonance. Sound. Connection. The more people that are chanting the same mantra simultaneously, the greater the chance we will be vibrating together energetically afterwards. I love to swim in the sea because I feel connected to the whole world. I love to chant because I know I will be aligning with people across the globe.

I hope this event will bring more young people to this practice. Gods we are starved of spirituality. We need things beyond our ken. so we can get beyond our Barbie. The Tarot week just gone helped me see that. This has cemented it.



Friday write

Even as my ability to dump thoughts into words improves, so the technology I’m dumping into devolves. When I started this I was writing two handed into an iPad Air. Oh those heady days. The screen is long smashed, and until I can pay the absurd repair fee it’ll stay that way. I taught myself to dump into a mobile phone screen instead. I never thought it was possible to express complicated thoughts into a mobile. Turns out it is, to an extent, so long as you don’t need to edit, and you have Google keyboard swipe function.

Editing on my last mobile was extremely fiddly. If I’d made a typo or I wanted to rejig a sentence it took time and work.

Now I’m writing on a horrible horrible brick phone that barely has the memory to attach photographs and takes half an hour to do anything. It’s designed for hitting people over the head. It’s a paperweight with a screen. There’s no editing here, kids. Well, there’s some. But if you try to insert text the text after it turns to gobbledygook so I just have to keep rolling forwards and trust that the finished product will make sense.

If I hit the end of the day and then try to play catch-up after a few beers it’s a disaster. So I’m getting this done before I meet my friend Helen in case we think that wine is a good idea.

So –  constant reader (thank you so much you maniac) – you can understand why recently I’ve been putting up unedited stream of consciousness. First world problems, eh? You get this crap fresh minted.

(Literally as I write this standing on the street in Waterloo the unassuming man that just walked past me has started vomiting loudly and angrily onto the pavement, perhaps in response to what I just wrote. It’s alcohol spew I think, despite it not being 9pm yet on a Friday. It’s like he’s trying to shout the word “kayak” underwater. Nonetheless I’m going to get a drink. Friday night etc)

If I will seek a lifestyle where I can gladly take a week of reading tarot in a caravan in central London, and then impulse into a pub on my own, I can’t complain when I can’t afford to fix my iPad. Especially considering I’m lucky enough to have the bloody thing in the first place (thank you Fitzrovia Radio Hour).

I’ve been visiting lovely people all day. I started with a friend who has recently been on a three day retreat with some Amazonian plant medicine. It was great to see her afterwards, as it feels like she’s turned a corner, which is exactly what the medicine is supposed to do. We had expensive lunch in Soho (she’s still on a very prescriptive vegan ++ diet) and damn it was good. We were upstairs in Neal’s Yard.

Now I’m in a Friday night pub. Men are shouting. Really really shouting. It’s only twenty past nine on a Friday. So many people so desperate for it all to be over, their shit week, so they can obliterate themselves and shout and puke and smash things and then start all over again.

I just wish it was easier to sit in public in this town when it’s cold and not spend money. The Siberian wind is blowing in. That man’s vomit is probably going to freeze overnight. I’m going to regret leaving the house in my leather jacket only. But my friend has just messaged to say she’s coming in a sec. Roll on a better telephone. (June, or September if I’m jumping ship from Vodafone)

Meanwhile, two espresso martinis in The Young Vic. Boom.


Waterloo Millennium Green

It’s ten past four. I’m lying on my back on a bench in one of the many shit parks in London. People are walking past in all directions without really paying attention. Lots of them are plugged in to music. A man with a trolley is repeatedly shouting “Rasta Dog!” at a poodle while the owners politely giggle in the hopes he’ll go away. Another man lies on the floor, holding his hand out to indifferent pigeons. There is nothing in his hand. He seems sad. Earlier he was banging an empty beer can against the wall. Occasionally he sneezes, and all the pigeons startle for a moment, take flight, and settle again. He’s only about 15 foot away from me but we are in completely different worlds.


The sun is shining, and in my patch of light I feel warm. I’m willing to believe that the worst of the season is past now. I have the warmth on my face, and occasionally I stare at the sun with eyes closed and feel the light come into my breath.

Soon we we’ll be able to leave the house without coats. The heads of the daffodils are poking up, hesitant lest it snows again, but wanting their time in the light. The pigeons are gearing up for that month where the men all get drunk-bus-stop-weirdo and follow the women around for hours without understanding they aren’t welcome.

Today is my weekend. I’ve cemented a new skill in seven days. Basically I’ve been on a Tarot bootcamp. I didn’t cross out my availability in tagmin – my agent’s software – so I was just relying on providence not to provide auditions at inconvenient times. There were no auditions, but now the engine of Macbeth is stoking hard at The Factory and I have a strong sense we will suddenly do a show very soon.

Right now I don’t have to think about that. I can soak up the last rays of the sun. Maybe I’ll get a can of beer as well, like my sad neighbour.

These shit parks get a lot of use. A guy in a Prius just pulled up on the kerb with his hazards on, emptied a bag of rice into the flock of pigeons, and got straight back into the Prius and drove away. Almost immediately a small boy in red went running at the knot of feeding birds, laughing with wonder at his ability to directly affect the world as they leapt out of his flailing path. The mother held a pushchair on the path and laughed as well. She dropped a wrapper as she laughed, unthinking.

Come to think of it, the whole park is strewn with wrappers, labels, bottle tops, fag butts, plastic forks, stirrers, food containers, bottles. This will be our archaeological legacy. “Come on,” the mother shouts. “Do you want to go get a Macdonald’s?”

This park is no bigger than a football pitch, and at this time on a weekday there are 22 people I can see, with no group larger than 2. How many people there must be in this city, all with their own stories, all with their own needs, all wanting a slice of the pie, all thoughtlessly discarding tiny bits of crap that will lie here long after they are dust…

The breeze is picking up now, and the sun is falling behind Cubana bar. I’m going to the theatre tonight. I think I’ll get a coffee before it starts. Or a beer. Or both. But not a Macdonald’s.


Carnaby caravan

I woke up this morning on Carnaby Street. Right at the heart of London. In a caravan. Last night was surprisingly calm considering what I was expecting. The caravan hadn’t been there for long enough to be have become an unwanted thing in the very active community of homeless people that circulate that area. We’d largely made friends with the guys whose sleeping patch we were on. One of them got a reading yesterday. Another was too superstitious so he just had a Werther’s Original and encountered someone who treated him like a human being for a while.

People occasionally get worried about “JuJu”. We are such a superstitious species. I can understand why they did, to an extent. We both get theatre, Mel and I.  So we are both consciously wearing clothes that make us look unusual. Plus the caravan looks weird too. Plus what the hell is a caravan doing in Carnaby Street? JuJu!

I’ve been dressed in my green ringmaster coat and, for some reason I don’t fully understand, my grandfather’s bowler hat. I’m the front man in this operation. Familiar, but wrong era perhaps. Mel is all curtains shawls and veils and New Orleans and secrets, and you have to go through the caravan to get to her, so while she does secret readings for the shy, I’m doing performance tarot in the front for the extroverts.

As it happens Mel and I both have many years experience with other forms of Tarot, but that was a pure coincidence when we were booked for the job. The gig was just to work with these particular cards called “The Grandmother’s Tarot”, and get people to see them, connect with them and appreciate the artistry therein. Had I not already known Tarot I’d have felt a fraud doing that. I’d have gone in with both feet. But there have been lots of women who know it very well, and I’ve read for them. And thankfully it has been lovely.

People crave answers, and answers that come from somewhere outside of a mobile phone. This piece of art has made people drop their technology for a moment in a busy place, and made them think about their grandmothers. “What does grandmother want to teach you?”

My grandmother, Peggy, used to read fortunes too in her way. She had one of those plastic fish that respond to heat in the palm of your hand. It went with her wherever she went, and it would always come out after dinner. But mostly it would just tell us we were fickle.

I like to think they Peggy would appreciate what I’ve been doing. She really knew her way around stories. Her freedom within stories taught me to improvise, and her instinct helped me understand structure. She knew how to make it all about the person she was with. And she lived dreams, myths and symbols. I miss her. But that’s enough for me to know that Alice’s art is doing what it’s supposed to do. God bless peggy. I’m too tired and far gone for a photo right now. Zzz