Day jobby

Most actors have day jobs. Without them it can be hard to weather the gaps. I have found some great ones over time. My major criterion is that they should have nothing to do with my primary job. I don’t want to be surrounded by actors.

This week I’ve been invigilating exams for Imperial College.

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I’ve been working with Brenda, Chris and Jacqui. It’s delightful to hit a break and not have to listen to some actor moaning about how they can’t get seen for whatever job they’re fixated on being seen for, and “why not this and why not that and why not the other and this person and that person and aaaaa”!? I know my job is hard, and arbitrary. That’s the rules. I don’t need to vanish down the arsehole of that unpleasantness while I’m not directly tackling it.

Brenda was a holiday rep, and then a trolley dolly. Now she’s retired. She’s entirely disciplined, as you’d have to be if you’re working for BA. She’s also liberal to her very core. She was doing this before any of us, and her positive energy helps make the gaps between exams pleasant. She’s an expert at passing the time, although prefers to be able to speak. She’s done this for years, and I’m sure that it’s her consistent instinctive kindness that means we aren’t expected to burn students at the stake if they have their mobile phone on their desk at the start of the exam. Allegedly things are much more fundamentalist elsewhere.

Jacqui programmed COBOL for years. She kept doing it in different countries before finally realising that it wasn’t where she was that she didn’t like, it was what she was doing. That’s an important and difficult realisation. Many people sit on it their whole lives. She’s lived on her own terms since then.

Then there’s Chris. He’s a thoughtful and creative man – a painter. He has a huge body of work, but he has never let go of a single original painting, despite struggling for money. He has all the originals and just sells prints on his website.  He hasn’t sold many though – “actually I’m about two grand down.” – but he makes no effort to market these prints. He’s spent more on building the site than he’s made selling prints from it. He doesn’t even know the IP address – he insists it’s .com where I’ve already ascertained it’s .co.uk.

He only told me about his Parkinson’s today. As soon as he told me, I noticed, but not before. He deals with it by being very physically contained. He told me today that every lunchtime, his father counted how many baked beans were on the plate. He also told me about his dad taking him outside, and pointing at the sky. “You see that? It looks like it goes on forever, doesn’t it, son? Well it doesn’t. If you go far enough – *bang* – you’ll hit something.” He’s not let himself hit anything.

“As soon as my hand is holding a paintbrush, my brain knows what to do,” he told me. I mentioned that my brother had had Parkinson’s, and then immediately regretted it. Chris is older now than Jamie was at the end. “How’s he getting on?” he asked. Fuck it, I wish we knew more about the brain. I wasn’t going to lie, although I made much of the fact he had MRSA. Which is irresponsible of me because we’ll all die from MRSA or its more aggressive followers, no matter what we’re admitted to hospital for, and it won’t be on any of our death certificates, so as to keep the stats down.

Bleh. I’ve been thinking too much today. I hung out with Brian in the evening which helped decompress. But it’s taken me until 2.40 to get today’s blog down. If I had another half an hour I’d try to wind into some sort of conclusion. As it is, death is shit. Life is great. Live life, avoid death, don’t sabotage yourself. Be like Brenda.

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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