Last Monday I drove home from Crowborough early. I was a little hungover. The night before, we’d made fire and the good whiskey had come out. My original plan to drive back on Sunday night and be ready for the week was totally scuppered by the size of James’s welcome. I got back just in time to meet with one of the local Buddhist leaders in my area in order to try and persuade him to do some paperwork for me. I ended up chanting with him while my phone started ringing off the hook. It was a load of last minute meetings coming through.
I spent a rushed fifteen minutes cursing as I speed-showered and selected appropriate clothing sets before hustling out of the door in a moth eaten tailcoat. Then a bolt hit me. This is what I’ve been wanting, I said to myself. For years. Rush or no rush God I’d much sooner be busy doing that stuff than recruiting kids for the army or telling people about being a civil servant or invigilating or tour guiding or managing waiters or chefs or exams or temping or driving as bikes etc etc etc
In the last two weeks, with no exaggeration, I’ve had more meetings than the previous two years. I suspect if I looked closely at the numbers I’d realise it was closer to five years but I don’t want to depress myself. You can’t get the jobs without the meetings. I get most of my work through recommendation or self submission. But it seems that it is also possible for a representative to get an actor meetings. I had heard of this, I’d seen it work for my friends, but rarely actually encountered it myself until now. I’m laying it squarely at the feet of Iona Maclean, my manager.
I was sent from The Isle of Man to Sussex aged 8, to board at a school called Ashdown House.
There were amazing facilities, including a theatre that was built when I was there. Damian Lewis was a couple of years above me. We were incredibly lucky. There was space for possibility. That’s what these places buy. I was homesick, but I acted. I sang in the chamber choir. I did carpentry, climbed trees, fired air rifles. I also had time, particularly on the weekend when the more local kids went home, to run around in the big garden. They called it the jungle.
In October 1987 there was a rare event in the UK, all too common elsewhere in the world. A hurricane. It made our weatherman Michael Fish infamous for poo-pooing the idea there’d be one on the BBC the night before. In one night, Sevenoaks became Singleoak. I was a kid sleeping away from home as the trees came down around me. It was brilliant and terrifying. And afterwards there were a lot of fallen trees in the jungle. One weekend shortly thereafter, I made a fire. I like fires. Then I forgot about the fire and got distracted by something else. The fire was “discovered” by a teacher and “contained” before it got out of control. My parents flew over from The Isle of Man and looked very stern. It was decided I would fit in better at another school where there wasn’t a garden to burn. And I was told I’d be leaving at the end of term. All very civilised.
My last duty was to sing a solo in the Christmas Concert at the local church. Yeah that sort of thing used to happen at my school. Now I’ve been into schools of all shapes and sizes and levels across the country. I can really see what we had by comparison. Back then I largely took it for granted. It’s hard to see beyond things we have always had.
The day of the concert I was so upset about leaving that I made myself sick and couldn’t sing. I’ve never encountered that sort of sad-sickness since. I sat on a bench at the back of the church crying and puking while I listened to someone else singing my solo. A small blonde girl held my hand the whole time. I was glad she was there. Decades later that same girl has come back into my life. We engaged professionally while I was in LA and now she’s back in London and going great guns over here as my manager. Thank God for her.
I booked both of the jobs I rushed out for that morning.