Dawn on day 44 found me dancing free in a sea of laughter. Last night was one of those nights where the party kept working. At the centre of it all was Miranda, British, about my age and the designer of it, orchestrating it live. I think possibly she was also married to the CEO of Absolut who was delightfully working the room whilst being off his box. We spent ages talking about this town, and how it is for her bringing up American kids. She used to live with Winona Ryder so I get the skinny on one of my childhood crushes. I have many very involved very earnest somewhat ridiculous conversations. Oddly i am the only fully bearded guy here. It reminds me of ten years ago, before all the jamjars vinyl and waistcoats. 

The music has to stop eventually, and a smiling Lyndon and I walk through the dawning streets buzzing inwardly as my phone buzzes with text messages from my new army of drunk friends. I suspect the rest of my time in this city will involve a lot more dancing since that was pretty much what I did all night, and how I made friends… It was a good clean dirty night. I eventually went to bed with a smile on my face.

Stark contrast to how I felt a few hours later dragging myself howling into hungover reality. My first thought is “Shit, my car.” That’s before even “Christ, my head,” which follows hard upon. My car had been left in the parking lot of 7-11, peppered with cheerful signs saying “cars left overnight will be towed at the owners expense.” Staggering into my clothes I get an uber pool. (No matter how much time pressure I’m under some habits are hard to break and pool is so cheap over here.) I am remembering how expensive it was the last time my car got towed. I’m hoping it’s not so bad in America. Typically the driver picks up two people after me and drops them all off before me. By the time we get to 7-11 I’m chewing my own arm off, but the car is there, safe and sound, untowed. Mark, my flatmate, later says he thought there was a 95% chance it had gone. Phew. I’m grateful to my guardian angel.


Considering I’ve been lucky with the car, and had such a good night, I suggest to Lyndon that we go to Café Gratitude. This is a vegan cafe that I’ve been told a lot about but have so far avoided. I am certain it would annoy me if I was in the wrong mood. This morning, with the pair of us staggering around like the walking dead, it’s the best chance I’ve got of responding well to the place. 


Café Gratitude is very LA. They want their customers to be grateful. When they take our order they ask a question of the day. It’s always something to make you think about how lucky you are. Today it’s “What are you looking forward to?” We are tired and suggestible enough to burble things to one another that we are looking forward to. While we are so occupied, the waiter soft sells us a flight of shots. These shots all have ridiculously enthusiastic names. We are going to be Recovering! Then we are going to get Invigorated! And finally Enlivened! When they arrive they don’t smell at all appealing. We take them like medicine. The first one is Burdock, Lemon, Ginger and Carpet. Then it’s something that tastes like camphor and eucalyptus with algae. And finally it’s an unexpected shot of vinegar. Last time I drank vinegar on a hangover the intention was very different. Thankfully I don’t need a bucket this time. And perhaps it’s the power of suggestion but I do start to feel better almost immediately. Our earnest harmless and yet secretly steely waiter then provides us with a mixture of good healthy food and saccharine sentiment. We both decide that neither of us would want to be his friend, but we appreciate his effort. I feel noticeably better as I leave the café. If a little lighter in the wallet.

 As we leave there are signs asking “What are you grateful for?” I’m grateful for so much. That I can be out here, that I have a good friend out here, that I have all the good fortune I never had to work for to live where I do. So many things. But this morning, primarily,  I’m grateful that the human liver can regenerate itself.

Oscar the grouch

Day 43 and it’s Oscar night, which is the peak of the season here. I’ve got an invite to an Oscar Party in the Hollywood Hills in a custom party house owned by the CEO of Absolute Vodka. There’s a registration at the bottom of the hill and if you pass muster they send you up in a shuttle to a house with a marquee and screens all over the place. It’s black tie, but I have my three piece, which seems to do the trick. As I walk towards the registration I make a new friend. He is evidently of South American origin, probably Mexican. I mention this because it is a little at odds with what follows. He has a megaphone and a moustache, and he really really doesn’t like me. As I pass him he shouts in my ear through the megaphone. He could’ve been shouting anything. “I love elephants!”. As it happens it was something Trumpish, which becomes apparent. My instant reaction is to put my hand between my ear and the megaphone and push the damn thing down a bit. “Dude you don’t need the megaphone I’m right here. Are you okay?” This is enough to have him on me like a tick, howling nonsensical vitriol at me at close range as I attempt to walk down a crowded street. I realise I am surrounded by people chanting “Trump Trump Trump”. One of them is saying “Do you want our Christian boys to die in your wars.” There’s some serious mental mismanagement here. None of them are thinking straight. They don’t know who I am or what I stand for, but they take it as enough that one of them doesn’t like me and I have a beard and am dressed smartly for them to pour their vitriol on me. Lyndon says “come on let’s go” but I’m curious now. He has his cellphone in my face and is still hiding behind his megaphone. I ask him “Why are you so angry?” but this is not a dialogue. This is a lot of people shouting slogans. There is literally no sense in this. I leave the interaction feeling battered. I am followed out by a cameraman and a journalist. Who knows what their agenda is but they want to know more. The cameraman says “I got it all.” He appears to be shooting on an old 33 millimetre. The journalist asks my name. I only give my first name. I go to a bar where I play it back in my mind in order to assess what happened. The worst thing I did was say “I wish you all the best.” I don’t think it was overly passive aggressive. It wasn’t intended to be. I was just trying to dig my way out of the vitriol especially since it made no sense. 

But then these people are here to protest the liberal elite. And here I am, working as an actor, about to go up the hill in a shuttle and drink free vodka and eat free food while watching people in my industry accept glamorous awards in a setting that drips money. Tonight I am all the people he hates. 

We all want our work to be recognised. I’ve been working hard at this for years now and I have to make peace with the fact that usually I can barely afford to pay my electricity bill. But at least I have an electricity bill to pay. I bet he has been working harder, with nothing to show. I have no idea what the situation of people in the poorer parts of this nation is, but I suspect it can get pretty bleak. When you’re down you want to believe that someone in power cares about you. It’s a hell of a trick that this billionaire has pulled. In the process of servicing his own greed and ego, he has persuaded the most dispossessed people in this country that he speaks for them. I’m worried because I think he doesn’t. I think he speaks for himself alone. I would love to be persuaded otherwise. For as long as he is the naked emperor, and as long as we caricature him as a shouting toddler, so he will caricature the “liberal elite” as the enemy of the working man because they are HIS enemy. Trump is a word that is synonymous with “me”. When they shout Trump, they shout “me”. Whole unthinking rallies of people shouting “me, me, me!” Because they have mistook his passion for himself as passion connected to his false promises. Some people don’t have the luxury of time to listen to press conferences in their entirety. Some people have not had the fortune to be able to convert their hardship into a finely tuned ability to read between the lines when someone speaks in public or when someone puts a lie about NHS money on the side of a bus. Life is hard and this man says he will make it better for me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me.


But this evening I can see why it is so easy for artists and thinkers to be made the enemy. Here we all are in our sequins and our bow ties, drinking freebies and watching ourselves on big screens. Maybe Lala Land, which is lovely but a profound love song about the privileged elite in Hollywood, will win best picture. That story is not going to connect to someone who has been manually working hand to mouth for years. It’s going to alienate them as they dance and prat about in their beautiful clothes. I wonder many people here at this party have ever worked in soup kitchens in their spare time? Does having the spare time to work in a soup kitchen automatically invalidate our politics if we do? Is it a patronising thing to do? 


The hate I experienced from a man who knew nothing about me but how I looked – it has me worried. This immigrant nation has come so far so fast, but it feels like there is a chance it will turn on itself now. We cannot dismiss Trump voters as stupid. They’re desperate. It’s a riot. Tear this shit down and start again.


I have no solutions here. I wish I did. I want to be able to have a discussion with that guy, but the gap between my education and his desperation is too far for him to bridge while he is angry. And he has no interest in trying to unpick what I represent to him. I am the enemy. Pure and simple. And it feels like if we don’t like Trump we don’t like the people that voted for him. Because Trump and “me” are synonymous. Pity is too patrician. Hate is too aggressive. How, across the west, can we start to make sure that the arts and the liberals speak for the people that don’t have 50 pounds for a theatre ticket…? The angry dispossessed like my Mexican friend who might well have spent all his spare cash on that expensive phone and that top quality megaphone.


I honestly don’t know. I’m just going to tether my iPad to my smartphone and post this on my blog before going back to see who wins the next Oscar…


Day 42, the number given by Douglas Adams as “The answer to the question of Life the Universe and Everything.” This and the fact it’s a Saturday provide enough justification to say “yes” when someone asks me if I’d like a little bit of interesting mushroom at lunchtime.  

The rain seems to have finally run out and we are looking to a week of warmth and vitamin D. Lyndon and I head for Griffith Park, but this time with the planetarium in mind. As a child I used to love the London Planetarium, no doubt to the endless amusement of my parents. “He really does have his head in the clouds.” I had a phase of a few years when I really wanted to be an astronaut. That was around the period that everyone thought space exploration was the future. Not the future future future, which it still might be, but the immediate future future, which is now the past, and wasn’t. If you’re still with me. It’s the mushrooms. But I had loads of books about nebulae and I asked for a Mattel replica of a space shuttle for Christmas. For a while I was serious about it. But there were no classes in being an astronaut.


I haven’t been to a planetarium as an adult. My lack of a good understanding of constellations outside of Orion and The Plough does make me want to bed in some better knowledge rather than risk possible future dad-fails. Somehow I believe that it’s a dad’s job to be able to recognise stars (and trees?!). Although nowadays I expect it’s less of an issue. “Daddy, what star is that?” “Why don’t we go on google together and then you can find out?” taptaptaptapswipe “You see, darling. It’s Ursa Major. I knew that all along.” “You know everything, dad.” “Yes darling. Yes I do. Now get back in the space shuttle. We have to be in Beta Tau by Moonrise.”


I’m in no state to remember specific things by the time I get to the planetarium. But hoo-ah I am ready to go to Mars. Lyndon is hungover and it’s toasty warm so we recline on big chairs and zone out. Charmingly the show is live delivered by an actress working in tandem with the visions, rather than the deep recorded stentorian British voice I thoughtlessly expect after my childhood visits to the one in Baker Street. She has a very mellow delivery, and before long the pair of us are absorbed, flying through the constellations. The actress has built a call and response into the act, occasionally we have to shout out the answers to her questions. Again I like it, and it validates employing a live performer. Jobs for the boys (and girls). “Can you see Mars?” Everybody else seems to be a little shy but “yes…” “Do you want to go to Mars?” I’m not shy about this “YES”. I mean I’d sooner go check out one of those three planets they found this week that might support life. But for now it’ll have to be that dusty rock. And off we go.


There can’t be many screens like this in the world. You need such a huge great big domed roof for a start. Nobody has one in the living room. So where do you get the footage? Much of this video seems to have been custom made for this Observatory in that it involves shots of the building itself, but it’s intercut with images I think I remember from my childhood. Cartoony overlays of Orion with a club, a bear with an absurdly long tail, crap bulls etc. There must only be a limited amount of film material available for this sort of a screen as there can’t be much of a market for it. 


They’ve made a show about water. It’s called “Water is Life”. It’s a basic frame for a journey around the solar system, and I wonder if they have four shows and they rotate them based on which sign is dominant. Right now we are in Aquarius so a water show makes sense. I suspect they must have a fire show, an earth show and an air show. I kind of want to go back and see through the seasons. But that’s the old childhood addiction to planetariums rearing its head. That and the mild enhancement.


I leave thinking I’ve had a lovely time. Lyndon slept through it but seems happy with that outcome. I know how to locate the North Star now, which I didn’t beforehand. Although I refuse to call the signpost the “Big Dipper.” My dad taught me it’s “The Plough” and dads know everything about stars.


I want to get out on a clear warm night and lie on my back and look up and put what I’ve learnt to practical use before my brain files it as unnecessary information to make room for more Shakespeare.


I took this photo in the planetarium before the show started. It’s the only photo I took all day. If you look closely you might notice I’ve adjusted it slightly.


41 days out and my last day housesitting in the boondocks. I’m writing this while slow cooking a bolognese and thinking about friendship. I knew coming out to this city that I had very few people that were actual friends here. Since I lost my parents I have always valued my friends extremely highly. I cleave quickly to people and tend to be way too honest right off the bat. But that helps me isolate the keepers. I’ve definitely missed my close friends, the people who have a context on me, with whom I share experience, who can say hard things. I’ve made lots of new friends in this city, and some of them are keepers. And I have made better friends with myself which is a pleasant surprise. But part of me is looking forward to getting back to my home and seeing people I’ve known for ages. Maybe I should have a party. In fact, yeah, stuff it. Why not? I land on the 18th March. Let’s have a jet lag party on the 19th starting at 11 in the morning round my flat until late. Nothing mental, kids in the daytime, but then I can see whoever is free that Sunday and STAY AWAKE. I’ll cook something easy and drink lots of coffee. There’s something to be said for Facebook in that you know what people are doing, but how much lovelier to be able to see them in person? “I have jet lag” Al may not thank “I had to put the wine in the bolognese glug glug” Al for this decision, but before long I guarantee he’ll be on the same page as me. 

I’m cooking this bolognese for Jake and his family whose house I’ve been looking after. Jake was in my year at Guildhall, and came out here a few years after we left. Those three years training together forge a deep bond, and one that is not easy to shake off. I’ve barely seen him since leaving but he has blessed my trip by giving me this quiet thoughtful place to exist in, to write and think. It’s lovely to discover that there’s an understanding still between us that has leapt over the barrier of the time we have been out of touch. Important to remember that. I’ve not been great at staying in touch with the guys from my year at college. Jake and I formed a fleeting Blues Brother’s tribute band and played some pubs around the City of London. I’d almost completely forgotten that until I came here and spent time in his space. It was so much fun. Having not wanted to look at the past too closely, now I find I am able to without danger of spinning out.


From tomorrow I’ll be back in the thick of the city, and there are still loads of things I want to do while I’m here. There are still loads of people I want to see. I had no idea when I started this blog that it would lead to people recommending me to their friends out here, but I’ve had such a lot of adventures already through friends of friends, and met some very deep seated genuine people. I think I would’ve given up on this blog ages ago if I hadn’t seen people from all sides of my life clicking the old mundane “like” button, and knowing that in some way I am in touch with you all through this shared experience.

It has been quite solitary in this house, especially now that Charlie has been passed to Jake’s father in law. I’m looking forward to getting back to Mark and Laural, their three bonkers dogs, a yoga studio next door, and easy quick access to stuff and to people. Just shy of a month to go. I’ve recharged with sunlight today, sitting in a chair by the pool. Bring on the next week! After Oscars weekend.

Solar guy’s dad

40 days. My morning is shattered. Mid meditation the door bangs. I’m expecting a film crew, and they’re early, I think. But no it’s a guy who wants to cut the electricity off for the whole day in order to adjust the solar panels on the roof. My first thought is that he is selling something. He feels incredibly needy. I tell him I can’t make decisions on the electricity as it’s not my house, and close the door. He knocks again. “My dad… I mean Mike from the company cleared it with the owner, he left a message.” There’s a film crew coming to the house. I suspect they’ll be a little nonplussed if the power is cut off and tell him so. “I would certainly have heard something if I was to expect you.” His voice goes up about an octave. “But my dad … we left a message.” “Do you know if the owner of the house listened to your message? He’s in Mexico.” He phones his dad, who confirms that there was a message. He then comes back to me as if I can’t hear phone conversations and says “That was Mike from the office. There was definitely a message.” The message is not a lie. He looks at me with little puppy dog eyes. “There must be some mistake.” I say. “You’re going to have to make a new appointment”. I ring Jake in Mexico. He’s probably chilling by the pool with a paella and 12 glasses of morning gin. He answers, and I put him on to Solarpuppyman. 

Rather than make a new appointment the guy is immediately back to pleadingly insisting to Jake that a message was left. He’s here and he needs to do the work because… because he’s here. I guiltily pity the guy. He’s hapless. Jake speaks to him and confirms what I’ve said. “I heard no message. You can’t work today. I have gin to drink.” As soon as the call is done puppyman is back to looking at me expectantly. Having been dogsitting for a few days, I know that look too well. He wants me to say “Ahh what the hell, you’ve come all this way. Let’s bypass common sense and the owner of the property. Let’s run a suicide cable and cut off the power. The film crew can rig all their kit to the cable. It’ll be fine. Nothing will explode. Have a cookie. Good boy.” I could ignore endless “What the hell are you doing” calls from my friend. I could ignore the line producer going nuts about logistics, calling looking for a different location on spec, treating me like I’m a total nutjob. Hell, I could just leave the house, go and get a milkshake and let solar guy’s dad deal with it!


I don’t do any of these things, of course, nor do they cross my mind. I close the door on his poor wee begging face. As it’s closing he tries one more thing. “Do YOU want to talk to my dad?” I don’t respond.


Do I want to talk to your dad? Christ no. Seriously, no. Never. I never ever want to talk to your dad ever. I will flee your dad. Your dad is a monster. He’s clearly saying “Go on son, if you can’t get in there you’re not trying hard enough. I could get in there easy. If I was there there’d be no problem. What’s wrong with you?” The guy is panicking because he doesn’t want to let this godawful dadcreature down because he’s been trained to think that that means letting himself down or some bollocks. But the way he is letting himself down is in his pleading manner, in his lack of impetus, in his need to run everything by the dadmonster before making a decision. He needs someone else to fix this problem. He tries his dad, me, Jake, time. He doesn’t try himself. It’s fixable to an extent even if he can’t do the work today. He can at least come back with a new appointment made. He even speaks to the homeowner on the phone which is ample opportunity. But he can’t see beyond the expectation he has, which is to do the job now. And his father is infallible in his eyes.
It’s nice for us for our children to be obedient and submissive while they are young so that we can have an easy life. But obedient submissive kids make obedient submissive adults if we aren’t careful. We frequently see adults looking to other people to fix problems they could fix themselves. From the minor “oh my god there’s a spider in the room get it out” to the mid “He’s not making any effort to fix this relationship.” to the major “I don’t know how to exercise for my heart, when they tell me I should exercise why don’t they tell me how?”


I let my own inherited problems accumulate over years until recently because on some level or other I expected super dad, who died before I was an adult, to appear out of nowhere and fix that shit. He won’t because I have to be super dad to myself and I didn’t properly know it. I only recently did. Now I am gradually wading through a sea of accumulated crap that would’ve been a lot easier 15 years ago. But I know it has to be me. So now with the vigour of a recently reformed smoker I find it frustrating when I see people still waiting for someone else to fix it. We are that someone else.


Once I let the film crew in I drove to a load of rocks and sat on them for a few hours in the sun writing and trying to make a plan of attack for the next few weeks here and before coming back to the uk. I just blew all my money on bills in London. Two people sent me links to gofundme pages for “spiritual journeys” this morning. One of them is getting relentlessly trolled in the comments. But I can see the motivation. It’s all the same. “Daddy help me”. 

40 days and 40 nights. I’m not eating locusts and honey yet. I can stretch what I have left to the end of this journey and learn something about making halfarsed trips to the other side of the world in order to sort my shit out. And I can find ways of making money through my writing, perhaps, while I’m here. People say they enjoy reading it, and I enjoy writing it, even if it sometimes devolves into a rant about daddy issues and determinism through the prism of an unfortunate solar panel guy.

Meanwhile it’s gorgeous over here again.


Day 39 and it’s my first red carpet in America, so I bust out the electric blue three piece which I’ve worn twice a week as I only packed a tiny bag. This is the Toscars. It’s a big night for the Brits in LA community. This will be the tenth year that the event has run, and it’s fiercely competitive. I’ve got a nomination for best scribbler, which is a pleasant acknowledgement of the time I took over my first ever screenplay. I arrive on time and blag a ticket for Lyndon. There’s a free bar which is a damn shame as I have to drive back to The Valley tonight. And there are a load of 5 minute spoofs of the Oscar Nominees on show. What have we got? Moolight, Whacksaw Fridge, Hidden Spaces, Lionel, The Pences, A Right Fool, Hell or Hot Sauce, and Manchester by the Canal. 

The event takes place in The Renberg Theatre, which is a central screening venue for the LGBT community, and not a Theatre, which is something that’ll take me a while to get used to. It’s a cinema, not a theatre. It’s just called a theatre.  

The whole process of this Toscars reminded me of the 24 hour film festival with Johnny Oddball many years ago. That time I didn’t sleep at all, whereas this time we all just tried to hack something together around all the other things that we were doing over a couple of weeks. It was clear that everyone was in the same boat. They were a mixed bag, but what was most enjoyable across the board was the sheer attack. People were genuinely throwing themselves in. One of the guys presenting the awards said “What is it with you Brits, you just come over here once and then you stay?” I know what he’s getting at. It’s lovely to so easily find a community of people who are just happy to make a load of films without trying to get them perfect, and then celebrate each other’s work so roundly. Everyone was dressed up, everyone was smiling. There were a bunch of in jokes, but that’s inevitable with a community that’s been around for ten years. I liked everyone I spoke to.


Apparently one of the stars of one of the shorts is a famous porn star. He is known as “the hedgehog”, and they’d got him to play Noel Gallagher in Manchester by the Canal. Mother, I’ve arrived. We also had Britt Ekland, who was in The Man with the Golden Gun, and married Peter Sellars. She’s well into her seventies by now but still looking sharp. Towards the end of the evening one of the presenters, evidently enjoying very much the fact that she was in the spotlight, decided to ramble for ages making incomprehensible jokes and references before concluding with a rare access of clarity “you’re all fake”. I didn’t agree with her. I met some lovely people in that room, and worked with more.


The award itself is a golden clenched fist. It would’ve been fun to take one home but it goes elsewhere. It’s not about the winning etc. Someone asks why it’s a clenched fist. It’s because the whole event revolves around masturbation. Tossers/oscars. Although I reckon they tell the press it’s Yorkshire accent. T’Oscars.


(Hearty apologies for the rushed blog. I took ages to drive home and all I wanna do is sleep. I’ll try to structure some thoughts next time rather than just ramble until I see 500 pop up. Thanks for sticking with me.)

Garages and geeks

Day 38. As I wander the streets of Chatsworth alternately towing and being towed by a small dog and listening to tales of the treatment of slaves in Antonine Rome, my eyes pass over the many low rise American houses. They are so familiar from all the American TV I’ve watched. There are some things that seem to be universal. If you have a house in this city, you’ve probably got a lawn and a garage.  

The lawns are not what we call a lawn in the UK. They’re tame. A shallow tightly cropped rectangle of turf, laid across the pipes and sprays of integrated sprinkler systems. They mark the soft boundary of the private property. A place to send your husband to do some work outdoors when he’s getting underfoot. Stuck into the lawn will always be one of a number of different signs, or sometimes more. The most frequent is “Warning, armed response.” With a picture of a gun. If you stand on my lawn we can shoot you. We have burglar alarms all over the place. Big men in vans will teleport to this location and put a cap in your ass if you so much as bend a blade of grass.


The next most frequent sign has a picture of a coyote on it. “There’s a coyote in the area. It wants to eat your dog and your children. Fear it.” And a blurry cctv image of the offending animal, in case you want the boys to teleport over their van and put a cap in it’s coyote ugly ass for daring to come over to your lawn eating your dogs. Darn coyotes.


The other sign is infrequent and less relevant now. It’s on dead lawns. It’s smug. “Thank you for letting your lawn die. We appreciate that you are helping the environment. Water is precious.” Hooray for you, subtext hooray for me because not only did I do that months ago but I made these little signs to patronise the people who got there after me. Less relevant now as it has been raining non stop for weeks. But we have just come out of a catastrophic drought. To the extent that some people have dispensed with their lawns altogether and made a sort of zen gravel rockery type thing.


Then there are garages. Garages are also a whole different kettle of fish. The guy in the house next door to me has a corvette in the driveway. A highly tuned, high end sports car. It’s been raining for weeks and the corvette is lying getting wet outside. Why? Because in his retirement, he is constructing an extremely intricate model village in his garage. Every day he sits with the door open tinkering with detail in his magnum opus. It would probably never occur to him to put the car in there. “Garages ain’t for cars round these parts. Garages are for men. Men who do important construction works on small scale towns.” Yep, they’re the American equivalent of the garden shed. I shot a short in a garage that had a load of disco lights, two damp guitars, an ailing drum kit and some enthusiastic paintings. In Larchmont the garage has music kit and weights. You can train and jam simultaneously. In the house I’m looking after?


It’s remarkable and wonderful, this garage. Plus a little bit terrifying. A few blogs ago I mentioned that I am more of a geek than I let on. So I recognise some of this stuff. But this is row upon row of beautifully arranged, beautifully painted Warhammer 40k miniatures, organised according to faction on specially made shelves. It’s a proper collection, with the hallmarks of hours of work. These things take time and precision to paint. 

Space Marines, Eldar, Necrons, Tyranids… It’s a branch of geekdom I passed up on as a teenager as being too involved. It’s an amazing sight the garage. But it renders the garage the province of one man, as it is all very fragile and precious. There’s a film crew coming here in a day or so and I have been told to pass on to them that it is out of bounds.

I find myself wondering what gets made in garages across the states. What mad follies never see the light of day but endlessly occupy a retired chartered accountant until he goes gaga and forgets about it? What vast precious collections of books, cards, figures, consoles etc end up in an estate agent’s skip or a yard sale for tuppence? Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.
I wonder what I’d put in my garage. I wonder what you’d put in yours.

Beef feet

37 days in and it’s another day of work. There’s much to be said for living in the middle of nowhere. I have barely spoken a single word to another human being this whole day. I’ve spoken volumes to the dog, and more to the ether. I exchanged pleasantries with the woman on the till when I bought some food. 

The local supermarket is in equal parts brilliant and bizarre. It sells bits of cow that I can’t imagine ever knowing what to do with. Beef feet, all vacuum packed and stamped. Four to a packet. Beef brains. Beef marrow guts. “What’s for dinner daddy?” “Foot, brain and honeycombed lung casserole with toasted sweetbreads and chicken gut, darling.” “When does mummy come back? I hate you daddy.”


The place has a great range of fresh vegetable produce too. Heads of broccoli that make sense of why they’re called heads. Plenty of speciality ingredients. Really cheap wagyu mince. Teriyaki everything. I’m genuinely tempted to come back here on the last day and load my bag up with a freezer full of cheap meat. There are loads of Japanese accents among the people shopping, and I begin to notice that this is, essentially, a Japanese supermarket. It’s really cheap. I buy 4 fillet steaks in one packet (you cannot buy fewer) for 10 bucks. This puts paid to the “no meat” plan, but I’ll eat for days. I get the means to cheaply make strange curry sauces and unfamiliar marinades. If I was here for longer I’d get a crazy deep Japanese cookbook and properly make sense of this stuff but for now I’m sticking to the reasonably familiar. I’ve got work to do. Here’s my office:

I’m not used to silence. In this house, if the boiler isn’t blazing, you can hear the clocks ticking. Right now I can hear the dog licking her own mouth. In my London flat I can barely hear my own tinnitus. I am so accustomed to the white noise of the traffic that poor Alexa gets a workout too. I’m beginning to plumb the limits of her musical knowledge. She persistently refuses to understand the word “Elbow”. She has virtually no Michael Jackson. And yet she has the whole of the obscure nineties album Gordon by The Barenaked Ladies. She probably hates me by now as I’m constantly putting her through her paces. I should probably just play Rihanna and Bieber and have done with it. But I’d sooner die.


By the evening I am craving a human voice, so prior to walking the dog I get a free trial of Audible. Everyone in the UK is asleep so there’s no point chattering to a friend on whatsapp, so I get an audiobook. I’ve never read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and as part of my trial I get two credits. It only costs one of them to download the whole bloody thing read by some delightful stentorian old duffer. As Charlie the dog and I walk the night time streets of America, I learn all about Trajan and Hadrian, the makeup of a Roman Legion, their arms. It’s going to be interesting to hear about how a once all encompassing power fell apart, through decadence and complaceny, undermined from within.


Now I’m home I think I’ll post this, have a steak and watch The Daily Show to see what Trump has been up to.


Day 36 and it’s louring again. I don’t want to drive 8 hours in a half dead Chevy to see a tree in the rain. Besides, it’s 36 minutes to Malibu, and I haven’t been there yet. A chance to test this car on a mid length journey before a dawn marathon. There’s still not much I can say for certain about my old Chevy. It definitely has an engine. I can hear it. Plus there’s a handy engine shaped light on the dashboard to remind me. The tires are skiddy, the brakes are slow, the suspension is nonexistent and the electrics are electrified. 

I make it to Malibu without needing horses. We go to a beach cafe that charges five bucks for a coffee, and sit looking at the ocean for a while. It’s amazing how quickly you can get from the city to these gorgeous beaches. There’s loads of littoral wildlife. I am amused and smitten with an army of minuscule birds that ceaselessly fight with the spindrift in a pack seeking whatever food might be turned up with the sand. Hit by waves they are sent panic-flapping in the spume before it releases them and they immediately get back to their hunt. I find myself longing for a good camera. They are tiny, and too skittish to let us close, so I can’t snap them properly. But I want to try and get better photographs for this blog going forwards. It’s always an afterthought, or even if I think about it I just snap without thought.


There’s this seagull, but he didn’t stick around for long. I liked him. He was trying not to be noticed so he could nick people’s food. There were pelicans and egrets too but I got the one that occurs in London. I must be homesick.

Lyndon and I walk down the brightening shoreline and simultaneously admire and covet the beach houses. We casually greet Christopher Nolan, sunbathe when the sun comes, paddle, and check out the surfers. Surfing is great. Hours of work for seconds of rush. It’s a bit like theatre. When we are beached out we find a Sunday Farmer’s Market and I end up with a huge bratwurst for a fiver.

LA is remarkable in many ways, and as someone who has never been able to live far from water it’s another recommending factor that there’s so much sea. It’s so accessible. It feels unfamiliar to have a metropolis so close to swimmable water. I kind of wish I had a wetsuit and a surfboard so I could go out and make a fool of myself. The Thames is just never going to cut it.


Tired and happy we drive back to the valley and then I have to take Lyndon back to Hollywood. Driving that car tired in the dark is not going to be fun. Thankfully I get him home, and get back to my friend’s lovely home safely. But I’m glad that the lady I rented the car from said that she’d probably be able to swap it with a better one mid week next week.


Tomorrow it’s back to the grind, emails and writing and agents oh my. I’ve got a load of work before I can afford that beach house in Malibu.

The Cave of Munits

Day 35. The grey clouds are still threatening. Cars have been driving into sinkholes. The roads are almost all flooded. The storm drains are raging torrents. The firefighters have been very busy. People have been stranded, flooded out, killed by power lines. The guy next door had branches fall and damage his roof. He was up there getting them off in the downpour. The interstate is likely a death trap. 

But I have a geriatric Chevy. And it’s a weekend.


I manage to find somewhere that looks like it might be interesting and free without needing the interstate. Lyndon and I jump in the Chevy and limp bang pop squeak limp bang pop squeak crunch to The Cave of Munits. An odd name for a cave, I think, but it’s a Chumash name. The Chumash roamed in this area before we came. They were hard as nails, although neither gun proof nor immune to disease. They could hunt WHALES in canoes, and with typical practicality, used every inch of the things. And their understanding of astrology and plant medicine was huge. Munits was a shaman, and he lived in the cave. Until he came to a sticky end after murdering the son of a chief, which I can’t help thinking might have been something he did for the good of the tribe. You’d know the consequences of such an action. But I haven’t been able to raise the full story online. 


I am very pleased that the cave is still named for Munits, whatever he did, rather than one of the early settlers, as with Bryce Canyon in Utah. The cave itself requires a bit of a climb. On the way we encounter someone going the other way. He says “You won’t get up there dressed like that,” which is red rag to a bull. I might be wearing a collared white shirt and cords but that won’t stop me getting covered in mud and breaking my ankles dammit.


There are many opportunities to do both. Before we’re even close to the bottom of the trail, I’ve dumped Lyndon in a stream – “Jump across, I’ll catch you. Come on it’s fine, trust me.” Splat. “Sorry.” Oh how we laugh. On the way up, it occurs to me that there might be a mudslide. There are little rivulets cutting deep through the soil everywhere. I try and work out where I’d run to if I saw a huge chunk of it come off above us, and conclude that I wouldn’t have time. I don’t mention it to Lyndon. We tread carefully and make it to the outside of the cave. To get in we then have to scale up the slick walls, but mercifully not for a long way. And it’s worth it. 

The interior is beautiful with many light shafts striking through. If I were a teenager here, on a dry summer night I’d want to go there with my mates, have a fire under the stars, talk big thoughts and have confusing interactions with girls. Then I’d punch whichever idiot sprayed crap graffiti around the place. It’s lovely despite this. And I’m glad conditions are so atrocious as we have the place to ourselves. We clamber up a shaft and out the top of the cave. There’s a striking view. On one side, the sprawl of the valley. On the other side the remains of rolling hills that once would’ve rolled all the way to the ocean. “Humanity is a disease,” I find myself thinking.


This city never ceases to surprise me. There is so much to find. I’m glad I’ve got this deathtrap vehicle, even if the engine light is constantly on and it rattles and bangs alarmingly when you top sixty mph. It’ll make things far more accessible, even if it’s going to make things financially tricky. Tomorrow I think I’ll give it a proper workout and go to sequoia national park. So I’ll probably end up stranded the desert somewhere… At least it’ll make a good story.