A punch in the RIB

An old friend of my father and I today suggested on Facebook that I get “a full time job” for a few months, based on my recent public musings. Today was my last day on the dodgems. There are more days, but I am not going to do them. Two people came in to learn from me. My teachings were obscure and random, as is only right. It’s a facilitation job, but it’s performance related. I tried to encourage them that their instinct was the best thing to follow. They could try and copy-paste what I do, but then it wouldn’t be theirs. I only do what I do because before my first shift I asked everybody what they needed and none of them knew so I just DID SOMETHING. Then everyone took it as the standard, because I accidentally created the role.

I’ve done so many things for money over the years. I think there is no shame in an actor doing part time work outside of acting to pay the bills. Our job is to play people. How are we supposed to play people if we don’t hang out with people who aren’t actors? I have been told, with great enthusiasm :

“Gordon Twat has left the office – we have a full time place available. We’d love you to take it.”

“A full time position – no – no that’s no good for me – I’m good with part time work.”

“Yes, but this is full time! You’d join us in the office! *noises about bonuses and ladders etc*”

“Thanks – but honestly I can’t. It has to be part time. I’m here because you need me part time.”

“What do you mean? Don’t you care about Mumphit Mumphit Hasbox & Cock?”

“That’s not even a real question. I care about the fact that I work hard, and then there’s a cheque. I am very very happy to work hard in exchange for a cheque. As long as I can take time off for auditions.”

“Oh… Um… auditions um… But – our company values? Mumphit Mumphit Hasbox and Cock….?”

I’ve had variations of that conversation twice, and that’s effectively been the end of two lovely day-jobs. Because I prefer honesty to party line. I always make it clear that my acting is primary, from the outset. But people miss the point. I will work very hard for you. But I will always prioritise my craft. Some people get it, thank God. You’re getting a very highly skilled temporary worker.

And then there’s the boats. The happiest day job I ever had was working for a tour company on the Thames. Many of you would’ve heard me enthusing about the company constantly when I worked for them. They’re great. I loved it. It’s the best way to see the city, from an open top boat. There are only 12 people per boat. At this time of year it’s glorious. I was guiding people down the Thames, sharing my encyclopedic brain and my improvisation and facilitation skills. I utterly utterly loved it. I was one of the only guides that didn’t mysteriously become unavailable in the winter, so I worked all the hardest shifts through the ice and rain, cheerfully and joyfully. Then when summer came I went to my regular summer Shakespeare at Sprite and didn’t mind missing the warm toasty shifts. Unfortunately, I often fail to notice when people don’t like me. Particularly when I like them and they don’t reciprocate. I remember telling one of the guides as I went past my flat in Chelsea “I live there.” He responded “Why do you work here then?” As if having the post code also meant having the money. As if somehow if I lived in Chelsea everything was made out of gold.

The same guy eventually became “head guide”. First among equals, I thought. Until he almost immediately sacked me for a four star review on Tripadvisor which said that I had my lunch. Which I did. She was a regular customer who had always come on a different tide direction. She expected to be guided immediately, but the tide was the other way so I just did the safety brief and then said I’d have my lunch, knowing I would guide on the way home. That is standard. She wrote a hatchet job on her phone, while we fought the inward tide because she thought I was bunking off the guiding to have my lunch – (Once again I’m too honest – I told the boat I was having my lunch – I can’t deal with poisonous people. I constantly refuse to admit they exist.) Then when I guided on the inward tide (The engines don’t have to work as hard and we aren’t miked), she had ALREADY WRITTEN HER REVIEW and she appended a paragraph and changed the star rating to four. Reading it, and her previous reviews for the same company it’s really clear. And then reading her other reviews for other holidays it was clear that she is a monster – (I vanished down that “should” hole. Someone had to. Not that it made the blindest bit of difference to the guy.) He wasn’t interested in engaging with his staff member. He had his own opinions. And he spun it. Oh he spun it. He was looking for an excuse.

I have since been told by another guide it was because “I turned up drunk for work” (Another sacked guide, – not me. “Fake News”.) Also more recently because “I swore in front of children” (I described City Hall as a gonad in front of the same woman’s 12 year old, and she was looking for any crack she could for her review. I work with kids all the time. I have never sworn at the front of the boat, nor would I.) It’s all just guyface trying to make his distaste for me legitimate, and justify the fact he didn’t like me. He disliked the idea of me, for his own reasons, that I’ll never properly understand. I try to rationalise them, because I have always been deeply upset about what he took from me, so unexpectedly and perniciously. I foolishly liked him, as well. I cared a little bit about him. I was looking forward to years of joyful work, doing something I both loved and was good at. I thought he was part of my community. Pfft.

He never knew the me of me. But I have to make peace with this, and I have tried to, even if old pain comes out in this blog. It is old enough now that it is processed. It was so unexpected, unnecessary, unwarranted. His action, though – it’s human behaviour and I must remember that. If I don’t like someone it’s because they make me uncomfortable in some way. I’ll never know how I made him or the Skipper uncomfortable outside of having a flat in Chelsea they both knew about. I’m certain they have their reasons beyond that. If me having a flat in Chelsea was the reason it would be an absurdity, but I know they are both more evolved than that.

They gave me the only two panic attacks I’ve ever had, and taught me an important lesson. That how much you love something, and how good you are at it – neither of these things mean anything compared to people’s own shit towards themselves. I’d still go back  to work there like a shot. But that’ll never be possible while the guy is “First among equals”. Which is fine because these jobs are short term, and strangely I was loving it too much. Casting directors were asking “How are the boats.” I’m an actor, dammit. The boats are irrelevant.

I didn’t know where I was going tonight with this, as is often the case. I’ve laid a huge amount of pain open to you. Some of my friends will remember me in the wake of getting the almost ridiculously callous email sacking. Thank you to those friends of mine who helped stick me back together in that period – particularly my business partner Jack. And the guy… No. I have nothing to say to him. I hope he’s well.

Be kind, people.



Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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