It’s unlikely I’m going to get up early enough in the morning to walk myself to Bond Street for Joy Bomb. Today I certainly didn’t. I had to take the tube. It’s a strange world, the underground right now. Adverts for summer festivals vie for attention with dystopic police state notices enforcing behaviours. A couple of institutions have added colour with Christmas ads. They bring a kind of relief. It’s a dark place in those tunnels.
In a normal winter, other Londoners detest you for existing. This winter it’s okay to show it. I walked into the Circle Line carriage and looked at an empty seat. The woman three seats down from the one I looked at hit me with such a palpable stare of distaste that I remained standing. It was only two stops to the change. I walked through those subterranean corridors barely approaching another soul. On the opposing downward elevator to the jubilee line, a woman with immaculate makeup and beanie hat was diligently and fastidiously sanitising her hands the whole way down. A few stops on a strangely empty train to Bond Street and oh, is that a sign saying “Please carry water with you in hot weather.”
It’s two degrees out there. It’s a long time until hot weather. Still, I should’ve carried water with me today. Not for the heat. It was cold. Just for the fact I was dancing all day. It’ll be good for me, this job.
I’m dancing in a window again for art. We had a pile of people come and take photos. Some big names in fashion magazines. And a constant trickle of constant trickles. “Influencers,” they call themselves, and it would be ungrateful to call the lot of them personality vacuums.
Marie and I just danced, and squealed, and jumped up and down, and yowled. My Fitbit recorded over 20k paces without my moving. My heart rate was in Fat burn for most of 9 hours, so I’ll be in good shape for Christmas.
Another 8 hours tomorrow. It’s past eleven and Lou is here. I’m exhausted. I even had time to hurriedly plan Christmas in my lunch break. Christmassy Christmas. Joy to the world.
Yesterday one of the tyres on the Audi burst. It was completely flat by the time I got to the storage with the auctioneer guy, but there was a placeholder in the back. Max was with me, so once he was done telling me what was what we jacked it up and switched it over. The little placeholder is not particularly robust and it has no grip. “No faster than 50mph,” it says. It’s pouring with rain. I was going to go to Brighton tonight in a storm.
“I don’t trust you not to get carried away and drive over fifty,” says Lou, who has driven extensively with me. She might be right. I like the roar of that Audi. Max is in on it too. They don’t even know each other so I can’t think they’re colluding. “I’m worried about that wheel long distance in the rain,” says Max. Me? I hadn’t even thought about it. I was just going to bimble down to the coast and back. Maybe see the sea, maybe get killed, maybe get some fresh air. I just wanted to see Lou.
She’s right though, and Max too. If I’m not going to look after my own safety, it’s nice occasionally to notice other people doing it. I shouldn’t be throwing the car around until I’ve put a decent wheel on. SensibAL. So I stayed at home and looked into a box of my mother’s dolls…
It is SO WEIRD to experience the toys of your deceased mother for the first time. Little word games on pieces of paper and sweet unusual dolls in dresses and ones that have eyes that open and close and … eew
I got a really clear picture of the child that owned those dolls, and I’m trying to work how that child became the woman that I said “I’m a grown up now mum gurrrr stop treating me like a child” to. There’s a Sindy doll there that was manufactured six years before she got married to dad. There’s a hedgehog smoking underneath a lamppost in a fur coat. Steiff 1960’s apparently. I asked the internet.
I had to put it all away before long. Information overload. I haven’t triggered like that for a while with this stuff.
Grief goes round and round. It retreats and then it surges like the tide.
Instead of going to Brighton I’m here again in the flat she was once in, still sleeping in the dining room instead of her bedroom. What’s that about? It’s fifteen years and more. It’s old now, and I know its name.
I guess I’m just tired so it’s easy to be sad. It’s also fine to be sad. Feeling and expressing is the best way of avoiding build-up.
I miss her, the lovely sensitive mother who was once the child of my grandparents and had a hedgehog streetwalker and a load of German dollies.
We were back Joybombing today – being happy and energetic in a window to give people a moment of odd colour. I got over 10k paces on my Fitbit without leaving the room. I’m pooped.
I ate nothing all day and then I had a whole fish pie in under 90 seconds and now I feel sick. The reason I consider this worth sharing is that my Facebook feed is finally fixed – (I think) – about seven months after I somehow broke it. If my calculations are correct this will actually show up on my bullshit Facebook “promote me” page. I thought it would be useful to remind prospective readers here of the depth of banality we’re dealing with on a day to day basis.
To all those people who ask me why I stopped blogging: I didn’t. I do like people to come here and hopefully leave with something even if it’s just a smile. But I suffer from being uncomfortable about promoting myself, so the very fact I write this at is therapeutically helpful in terms of putting myself out there – it’s turning into a very powerful personal discipline in general, the writing and sharing process. So fixing the nuts and bolts of Facebook was a long way down the list over just getting something written that’s acceptable. I’m my own editor. My editor is a fussy bastard – I wish he’d kept on drinking as back then I could write any old shit and he’d let it past.
Recently my editor has started thinking about trying to promote my scribblings a bit. Hopefully he’ll get round to something before long.
Let’s do statistics! Everybody loves statistics.
One thousand four hundred and twenty consecutive days I’ve hurled my moments in your faces. A little under 900,000 words. Good God. Not far from a million. You poor poor people.
It’s extremely helpful with my tax return, knowing roughly what I was doing every day for nearly four years. There’s an unexpected benefit.
And never fear, oh returning reader. My life appears to work a bit like The Archers. You can drop in after months and pick up the thread easily.
There’s a person who appears to like cuddling me. That’s new since May. I’ll likely be evasive about details on purpose. She’s off on Vipassana for two weeks anyway very soon. You’ll start to think I’ve made her up.
I’m off the booze, but that’s always been up and down like a yoyo. It’s comparatively solid this time though. It’ll be like this for a while.
It’s December and I’m not playing Scrooge, but that’s because of a global pandemic and it’s only to be expected.
The rest is pretty consistent with what was going on in May when the feed broke after an ill advised boozy rant.
I’m still wondering about where the next dollar might manifest so rants like that aren’t helpful.
I’m still surrounded by a vast collection of unusual items from all sorts of different places and eras too.
I still occasionally geek out into astrology or games or sport or literature. Rants still take place – as how could they not? Baths still feature heavily. I’m just as useless at remembering to take a photograph as I always have been. I have a bedroom full of owls.
And I still feel sick from my fish pie. So I’m going to have a bath.
There we go. That’s a blog, from beginning to end, right there, above these words. I didn’t tell you anything about the people from Rosebery’s auction house who came over to look at stuff here and in storage. All sorts of things happened today and none of it made the blog. Selective with the truth, that Al Barclay. Can he be trusted? Maybe he’s the true cause of Covid? I always knew he was a wrong’un.
Happy lockdown end, UK bunnies. I expect you’re all running around licking each other right now. I’m going to scrub.
My dishwasher is one of my most loved luxuries. It’s weird. If I’m round somebody else’s house I quite frequently find myself working through a pile of washing up in the sink just by way of contributing. But when I’m at home I’m not going near the washing up – it goes in the machine. Maybe I think of washing up as a holiday…
It’s very useful though, the machine, for my purposes. As I discovered in summer, you can dismantle, wash and rebuild chandelier crystals in a dishwasher much more efficiently and quickly than any other means of cleaning the damn things. I’m pretty good at getting the right wash for the right item as well. I’ve washed some extremely precious things over time without affecting them. Lots of them have subsequently fetched good prices at auction. You don’t have to tell people how you cleaned them, and the things sell better when they’re shiny.
Problem with a dishwasher habit is you get through those little tabs at an alarming rate, and because a dishwasher is a luxury, the tabs are marked up. I’m running out. I ordered some more online. But rather than just mindlessly buying the branded ones from the quickest delivery place, I went to an ethical online superstore. I bought these tabs that are probably made of camel dung and orange peel, but they’ll do the trick and they might not kill the planet so much. But they’re taking forever to arrive in the post and I’m having to manage my entitlement.
We are so conditioned to having everything immediately we notice when we have to wait three days. It’s harder to sell things on eBay even these days because it doesn’t always arrive the second you win the bid. I’m going through correspondence written in the early 1900’s at the moment, and back then, people knew they’d have to wait. Now it’s a different world, where I can pull something out of my head at random and set a stopwatch and find it. I’m going to do it now. I’m alone so I have to say a random feasible thing to myself. A CLOCKWORK LLAMA. GO.
Yep. 27 seconds later and I have multiple options for something I wasn’t even sure existed less than a minute ago. Including these two on Amazon which, if I wanted them, would be with me on Saturday for less than a tenner.
Before Covid they would have been with me tomorrow. Amazon was the third hit on my search – there are two independent companies who have paid Google to try and get their hits up and pull some business away from the megalithic all consuming monobrand. But a lot of people would ignore the independents and just click on Amazon instead – perhaps because at some point they’ve been suckered into paying for Prime, perhaps just because I WANT IT NOW MUMMY NOW!
Lots of us have turned into absolute bastards because of the internet. We’ve forgotten how to wait.
Seriously, if you want clockwork llamas, go to The Gift and Gadget Store, or to Funtime Gifts. They want your business. They probably pay tax. They aren’t trying to remove all competition and – eventually – have a monopoly on everything where they can charge what they like and run the world. And if the website is annoying because it doesn’t already know everything about you and have a one-touch link to your PayPal, and if it takes a day or so more for your llamas to arrive, just think how much harder it would have been thirty years ago to convert the idea of a clockwork llama into the reality of a pair of them that you can race on the weekend. Just think for a second before throwing more money into the big bald moneysink.
Convenience is a killer. It makes us lazy and impatient, and brings us one step closer to being batteries. Sure, in its place, it’s amazing. Brian got a Victorian nightgown for Scrooge this time a few years ago in time for the first show, when we discovered the existing one was torn right up the side. It was an actual Victorian actual nightie. With frilly tassles. Overnight. From Amazon. Humbug. But yes, in its place the speed is great.
But not for literally everything. Not for dishwasher tablets made of happy algae and fairydust. I can wait for them, and get my hands wet in my own sink for a day or so until they arrive.
If you’ve got the habit, try and restrain yourself just once, next time. Look around and maybe pay a few pence more for something that goes into a better pocket than the black hole of Bezos. And if you’re going to be a tributary to the Amazon, at least be aware of how incredibly fortunate we all are right now not only to have this convenience, but also to still have competition – just about.
So maybe, now lockdown is ending, maybe go outside, walk into a shop – ding-a-ling. Buy from the ailing High Street before there’s nothing left but coffee shops and pubs…
I’m as bad as anyone. I’m saying this all to myself as much as you. Happy end of another lockdown. Don’t die out there.
Every surface. Every inch of floor. Every bit of shelf space. Covered. In. Junk. This time, nobody lives with me – unlike that hot sunny day where the bath was full of busts and Kitcat got home unexpectedly.
But I live with me, and I can’t cook if there are plates on the hob. There’s a corridor carved through the piles from my bedroom to the bathroom in one direction. The bathroom door is held open by a picture of the conquistadors by an early Peruvian artist. The bathroom itself is a haven. Just a cupboard full of empty boxes, but the only room I haven’t filled with things.
There’s a corridor from the bedroom to the kitchen in the other direction. Hex sits proudly on the left atop his box of old music hall scores. He’s been curious about all the movement. Likely he wants to curl up in the boxes.
At the top of the stairs it’s old linen and hats, with pictures lined up all the way down the stairwell and ceramics on every shelf. The block caretaker literally held his hands to his head in mock despair as I arrived once again with four boxes full of God alone knows what.
I’ve got nine boxes of plates selling as a single lot at Tennant’s, because even though there are some good ones and we are locked down, they clearly couldn’t face having to sort them into lots. I’m ok with it though. Nor could I. It makes it easier for me to cheat on them with a London auction house that may or may not behave like William from Chiswick did. I’m hoping they won’t as there’s furniture that needs a van and Yorkshire is a long way. But there’s plenty of junk here too. I don’t want to put them off. There are plates I really shouldn’t have taken to Tennant’s at all, but I didn’t have the space or time to sort them, and I’m sure that their presence helped whoever was sorting them to justify just jobbing them into one huge lazy lot of “dinner wear” (SIC).
I’m learning slowly that plates aren’t as good as people want them to be anyway. Does anybody under the age of 65 have plates on their wall at home? Does anybody over the age of 65 not? It’ll take a generation for them to come back round again into fashion. In 100 years those Victorian plates I sent to Tennants might be worth a wee bit more – but I haven’t got 100 years. And I haven’t got the room to store them for even a week. They might come back to me though, as the sheer size of the lot might put off prospective buyers…
These plates I have here are much worse too. They really are bollocks. The auction guy won’t want to sell them. I’ll have to downplay them when he comes round. Realistically I could be the guest of honour at a Greek wedding.
“Real Old Willow,” some of them proudly proclaim. Because actual real old willow pattern was one of the first regular exports from China back before the Germans worked out how to make porcelain. That stuff is old, and precious. The fact this stuff tries to tell you it’s real just shows it has something to prove – look at the outgoing President’s Twitter handle… And those plates had “old” written on them right off the production line. They should say “fake modern willow”. But at least they’re pretty. Which is more than you can say for the President. But I don’t want to keep them any more than I want to keep him.
It’s half midnight. I’ve eaten nothing but toast all day. My head hurts. But we got things done, Max and I. In the middle of it all, I rushed home, got onto zoom, and did a fifteen minute lecture on the life of Nichiren Daishonin to a bunch of Buddhists in my local area. That was my dinner time. The Tatsunokochi Persecution. No time for eating. Talky talky, listeny listeny, wavey wavey, fuckoffbacktostorage-y.
It’s not done yet, but the end of the storage is in sight!! Good God. The day will come…
That’s because EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD IS IN MY FLAT.
So next I need to be shifting things hand over fist. All I sold today is a cushion and some Doll’s House accessories. Better than nothing, I guess…
Steamed vegetables that were close to going off but still ok. With a bit of salt. On a plate. That was my supper tonight. I need to get better at recipes that don’t involve a big chunk of meat.
This time last lockdown I was into my second bottle of wine and wondering which side of me was the front. I probably had steak hanging out of the corner of my mouth and chips up my nose.
I am coming up to 4 months sober. Running alongside this is a mostly healthy diet with no caffeine and only a little meat. My dad was faddy in the extreme with his diet, so my brother rolls his eyes at me for this. But I’ve got to look at what needs to be done. Much as I’m good at forgetting this, I’m not 20 anymore. The pace at which I was going wouldn’t have been sustainable, especially considering the congenital weak liver I’ve almost certainly inherited along with all these boxes of weird stuff. Also I literally can’t afford to get myself drunk on top of all the bills and day to day expenses. In terms of Corona budgeting, it’s the right one to drop, the booze. Maybe with better use in kinder times. Maybe.
Now I’m clear headed I’ll be ready to do whatever creative interesting madness I find myself immersed in next. I’m also glad of the pause for home reshuffling, as I suspect that without it Max and I could’ve ended up shelling out for storage until it defaulted.
Sobriety gives me the morning back properly, and that’s crucial at this time of year. Last push before Solstice, people. Only three more weeks when the days get shorter. We are almost over the hill, and Jupiter is just about to block Saturn in Aquarius which, as with all astrology, can mean pretty much whatever you want it to mean but I choose for it to mean positive change because that’s always the best interpretation of anything.
I hate it when it feels like the afternoon and I’m full of vim and I look out the window and it’s already dark. It could be worse, it could be pouring with rain as well. But this quarter of the year is my least favourite, and this year hasn’t been a favourite year for anyone that doesn’t know one of the Tory Cabinet personally. I like the light, the heat, the breeze, the colour. These flat grey skies ceding to cold dark nights – there can be beauty. But it’s not for me. I bought lottery tickets last night to no avail. All these cheap flights because airlines are desperate for custom and nobody wants to travel – I’d take a punt on a week in the sun if I was sleeping in a bath full of money. I might still do it. But Christmas is coming up now and there’s stuff to arrange. I still don’t know what will be possible. But something. Something will be…
The war on stuff continues. Max and I got another six boxes out of storage and now they’ve all been emptied into my flat. All those boxes reduce to very little stuff. If I lived in Jersey I’d have strong words with the people who packed this stuff up for my uncle and my mum. Bloody crooks. One of the huge boxes contained a crap stool, a plastic draining board and a coal scuttle full of fir cones. And VAST quantities of packing paper. It’s reasonably common to come upon that sort of thing in this lot – entire boxes given over to items that are barely worth wrapping. “Well they didn’t tell us NOT to pack the sticky plastic draining board. Here, Joe, wrap that in enough paper that it fills up half the box. Marco – grab that shitty stool and we’ll bulk up with it. Let’s get as much storage as we can out of these idiots.” It’s such a scam. I’m glad we’re finally getting this gubbins out, and not a moment too soon.
Meanwhile, on the internet: “Does anybody in London have a chaiselongue I can have – ideally it should be ruined already as I’m going to be ruining it.”
I’m a member of a few creative groups on Facebook. They help me tick over. I happened to see the post above and took it as a sign.
“I’ve got a fucked chaiselounge in my attic,” I reply. Because I do. It’s been there for years and my awareness is with it as it’s one of the only things left up there since I’ve started this purge. I don’t like it. It connects to unhappy memories when mum was sad and on a downward spiral. Then it was used at The Finborough decades ago in the play where I learnt never to do a part you don’t believe in. Nasty sticky memories all over that chaise. Time to move it on.
This person I’ve never met before called Nuha sent a van to pick it up. I flogged her a couple of jugs as well to go with it. Only a few bob but it keeps things turning over. Every day I’m a little closer to Delboy, it seems. Now I just need David Jason’s career. The lads came to take away a load of stuff while Max and I were taking in a load of different stuff.
So, things come in with one hand even as they go out with the other. I’m still very much an item conduit. This whole process would be easier if I didn’t live up four flights of stairs, but hell, at least it’s keeping me fit in lockdown.
I’m lying in bed now with a slightly emptier attic and a slightly fuller living room, and good mileage on my Fitbit. Apart from the draining board and the crap stool and towels there were some attractive trinket boxes, some decent oak stools, a bit of half decent glassware, a bunch of knives (hooray I’m short of knives) and nine prints showing pictures of French ports. There was also a little clockwork tortoise that my mother hilariously bought me for when I was circumcised aged eight. “It sticks its little head out!” Yeah, thanks mum…
Tomorrow I’ll organise the items that came in today, I’ll write a presentation about Nichiren Buddha, and I’ll think about how to organise the contents of this flat to best show all the saleable things to the auctioneer coming on the first. I think he knows it’s more about quantity than quality. I hope so. The last one, smug William from Chiswick Auctions, could be described as a useless sack of shite. I’m not going to get my hopes up about this guy after that experience, but even if they send a literal actual donkey to assess my Antiques it’ll be a more positive experience than William.
The freezing fog was down this morning, closing in on me as I looked out the window. The London fog. A pea-souper, as it might have been called in Victorian times. Today last year I put my nightgown on and humbugged to a crowd in Mayfair as part of a Christmas light turning on ceremony, so it’s appropriate that there’s something Dickensian going on in my life, even if it’s only fog.
I stayed in, walled into the flat by the implacable cold, the fog creeping through the gaps in my window, burning too much power in order to run the radiators and keep myself warm. I made some progress though. Better than yesterday.
This ongoing stuff-moving process has many angles. The best one is “Good lord, this thing I don’t like is actually worth money.” Then there’s “Might get a bob or two on eBay, I guess.” Then there’s “Ooh I like this so much I’m keeping it no matter what it’s worth.” But the final category is the hardest one. “This is worth nothing and I don’t like it, but somebody I love once treasured it.” They’re the hard ones to move along. I’m getting better at it though. I might take a box or two to The Battersea Car Boot Sale and flog it all there because this stuff is either too awkward to post or not worth enough for people to pay the postage on top of the item. So long as there’s enough to easily cover the £30 registration fee, and so long as it actually opens through the Covid fun at some point, I’m gonna spend a morning as a barrow boy and hopefully come back a great deal lighter and with a small amount of Christmas money to make up for the fact I’m not on my usual weekly Christmas Scroogegold.
Like leaving the fields to lie fallow, I think it’s going to be an advantage having this time to reflect and to properly look at all this stuff at last. Grief really is a slow process. I can’t quite believe how long it’s been but it seems I’m finally able to look at these things consistently and deal with them without the pain becoming unbearable. By Christmastime this flat will be lovely again, and hopefully sooner – maybe even with carpets and paint. But I’ve got this time to take things slowly and dwell in the happy bits of their memory as I shift and sift the possessions.
One of my many little day jobs has woken up a little bit. On and off for years now I’ve been invigilating exams at a nearby college. It’s reasonably undemanding work so I could do the Christmas season and then do a show in the evening. They’ve moved everything online for now. I’m having to train up, as it’s a very different fish.
Now, instead of keeping an eye out for somebody sweating profusely whilst furtively examining their wrist, we are watching and comparing flows of data generated as they go through their exam process. We are parsing it and keeping an eye out for anomalies. It’s thrilling stuff. A bit less of a workout than the old model of running around a big hall for ten minutes giving out pencils and fixing wobbly desks before sitting watching people write for the best part of two hours before running around again gathering up papers and counting them. But likely to be even less stimulating. I might start to regret having given up coffee.
I’m really starting to notice the lack of Christmas Carol now. Sometimes when I look on Facebook I see back to back adverts for other people’s Christmas Carols and it feels like I’m the only person who isn’t doing one this year. Six months of my life, that show, stretched over six years. I’ve made some wonderful friendships through it. Not this year, Ebenezer.
Time for something new. Something which hopefully involves a little bit more fun than just parsing data from exams I could never answer. Well – that and prancing around in a window with silly heads on to cheer up the Christmas shoppers at the behest of a kooky artist. That’ll be back again at least and should be fun and tiring enough to balance out the parsing. But yeah, I’m excited to see what strange delights the coming year will bring.
It’s kind of nice, meanwhile, to get really good at another piece of software. I’ve always been a secret geek. I used to build my own computers, and in the early days I could even code a bit. I let that slip but I always like having to dig into new technology, and lift the lid off. The downside is the capacity for those screens to suck the time away. You plug your face into one of those little shiny rectangles, something takes your interest, and the next thing you know it’s dark outside. They really do eat time.
I haven’t left the house all day and it’s bedtime. I had some Thanksgiving apple pie, in solidarity with our American brothers and sisters who too are teetering on the edge of total societal collapse. I’m full and I’m warm and I’m lucky to have something for December. The light is still on the wane and we are all getting frightened about money. Here’s to a lovely fortunate Christmas, and to all of us getting a break of some sort on the way.
The winter is still mild enough for walks in the park. That makes life a bit more bearable. Lou and I scrambled amongst the squirrels as I tried to take the time off from going down the burgeoning list of things I have to do.
The spare room is getting closer to paintable, and I’ve had the gobsmackingly obvious idea of replacing the cheapest bed on the internet with the ornate one we’ve been paying to store for however long it’s been now. My guests will have a solid wooden bed with brass fittings and it’s another thing out of the storage. Since I have no real choice but to embrace the vintage theme here, I’m going to go all out with it. It’s a pity there’s not room for the matching wardrobe to go with it. I’ve booked another auction man, this time from Rosebery’s. I’m hoping I’ll get some clarity about what’s left. The thing with antiques, I’ve had to learn, is that they are simply just worth what somebody will pay for them. It’s a guessing game, helped by looking up recent similar sales. I reckon this guy will be more experienced at guessing than I am, and hopefully Max and I will be happy enough to dismiss the things that he dismisses, keep the things that mean something to us and move on move on move on from the rest and the sheer expense of clinging to it.
I dropped everything for the day and went frolicking in the park with Lou.
It’s a hugely powerful thing, to live directly opposite the peace pagoda. We went and walked on it and looked across to the windows from which I look across to it. I’m usually aware of the drumming in the morning as somebody chants in the dawn over the river. They’ve done that since it was my mother that slept in that room where her mother’s bed is soon to be installed … there’s a strange continuity. All that good energy resonating my way can only be helpful as I try to finish this tricky transition.
The evening brought a Christmassy playtest from friends and makers who have clearly been busy over the last few months. I got an email with a link. You click the link and it takes you to a sort of online festive escape room adventure type thing.
It involved Tristan and I saving Christmas on two screens and a WhatsApp call. The software worked remarkably well and we muddled through the puzzles. Code cracking, maths, logic problems. Somehow, with both of us sober, we did it. We have officially saved Christmas. Hooray.
The puzzles took us bloody ages though so I’m writing this at half midnight, hence the stream of consciousness. You want structure? Can’t help there, sorry. I can give you words, tonight. And that’s enough of them.