Bedrooms

I know that I deprioritise myself in favour of others. I’ve known it for ages. I’m trying to deal with it. Nevertheless I gave my bedroom to a friend who was in need. And another friend is on my sofa. Leaving me with nowhere to sleep despite having a bed and a sofa in a warm flat. Sometimes I honestly don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me. In most ancient civilisations I’d either be revered as a holy fool or I’d be long dead. As it is I’m still alive and have lots of amazing friends. I’m staying with one now. She’s awake when I arrive but she hasn’t slept for 48 hours because a party happened and then she had to go on a course. We eat some vegetables. She’s barely conscious but she munches them. Then she goes to bed, so I sit in the window and look out over London.

She lives on the ninth floor, overlooking a busy intersection. It’s high enough and glazed enough that the sound comes through the windows dampened. Nevertheless there are sirens and big engines – and there will be all night. Now she’s in bed I have a strange sensation as if I’m staying in an expensive hotel in an unfamiliar city. The muted sound of traffic through glazing, silence and darkness around me, a nocturnal cityscape laid out below me from an unfamiliar angle. Plus the knowledge that clean crisp white sheets wait for me in a bed I’ve never slept in with an ensuite bathroom. She’s a neater host than me. She keeps a beautiful home. It makes me realise that the next stage of sexy February has to be to clean up my living space. That and to stop being so amenable that I end up having to stay here in the first place.

A week off booze though, which feels like progress. Even if I’m still relying on prop beer like Becks Blue. Today I packed my home studio into my little travel bag and it fits perfectly, laptop and all! I took it to a house in Chiswick to do a little bit of voiceover for a friend. My expensive home studio. I carried it across London because my flat is so full I worried I couldn’t guarantee enough silence to record cleanly. It’s hard enough with just Pickle there. When you’re plugged in to a good microphone the world feels very different. You start to really notice if someone has a noisy coat. I had to wait ages for a helicopter that my friend couldn’t hear. We had to get a clock taken away because it was veritably screaming on the track. But we got it done and now I know my kit all fits in one travel bag. I arrived at my friend’s with said travel bag. “You’ve packed well,” she said. I’m here for two nights. I have 1 laptop, 1 microphone and stand, soundproofing, a pre-amp, the script of West Side Story, four unmatched socks and two pairs of pants. Bring it. Here’s the view. Doesn’t do it justice.

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Fronts

Behind a curtain in the Gatsby set there’s a room full to the brim with utterly random knick-knacks. Piles of wood, bolts of fabric, mannequins, dust, boxes full of junk, antique furniture, broken mirrors, empty boxes.

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I’ve been sexily sorting it out all day. Sexily because it is of course still sexy February. Heavy lifting and making money. Both sexy af.

As a child I used to be allowed in the staff area of The Kulm Hotel in St Moritz. My parents would be at The Sunny Bar, which was beautifully appointed and smelt of wood and glüwein. Max and I would play around the velvet curtains, and occasionally Erwin the head waiter would give us errands. “Go to the kitchen and ask Adolfo for more olives for the bar.” I would open a door dressed with velvet and panels and walk into a cracked unpainted corridor full of strange odours. The backstage area of the hotel. Piles of bin bags and buckets of spent oil and mops and cardboard boxes, just a thin wall away from where the Liechtenstein royal family were tucking into Eggs Bledisloe. Chefs shouting and laughing in the kitchen, working to feed terrifically wealthy men and women shouting and laughing just as loudly on the terrace.

The difference between a show and the working of a show is a fascinating space. We all inhabit it in some manner, those of us on social media. There’s Jack and I at the start of Carol tearing the lid off a beer carton to waft the smoke machine that I’m holding in my right hand and operating with my feet, with a remote control in my mouth and keeping a curtain closed with my knee while Jack rattles bolts and groans, and the audience goes “oooh” as if it’s a magic trick. There’s the Instagram “model” swaddled in makeup taking a thousand photos of themselves with a puppy over half an hour, before running one of them through so many filters their mother wouldn’t know them anymore, loading it up with hashtags and eventually captioning it something like “Quick snap of me and my puppy. Heart emoji. Puppy emoji.” There’s me writing this blog, and then reading over it, worrying and changing details, editing out content, adjusting phrases, tweaking, twerking, and finally scheduling it, manicured and pruned from the initial brain-dump. There’s social media: “Oh how wonderful our existence is!” That’s the show. The backstage area of each of our individual existences probably tells a different story.

I found out today that over 60 of my Facebook friends have accepted a friend request from a “catfish” that targets performers. Why have they accepted? Because her shopfront is immaculate and entirely credible, and the woman she’s using in her pictures has one of those “I think I’ve seen you before” faces. But put to the question, nobody recalls ever meeting her. She just… looks familiar – and shares lots of friends. She posts as a liberal creative woman with a brilliant existence, but she could be anyone, anywhere. It has been fascinating watching so many people realise she’s a massive catfish. Shows how easily we can be fooled by a good front.

Which is just as well considering I’m in theatre. Good on her whatever gender she really is, and whatever her reasons are for doing it. As long as she doesn’t steal anyone’s identity or do something craycray. I suspect she might just be lonely and living a lovely fantasy life with lots of glamorous virtual friends. If I can talk to a tennis ball in an entirely green studio, and the edit can show me anywhere you can imagine talking to anything or anyone, then she can put up a load of photos of someone else and write a happy hippy sunny existence with pictures of other people’s kids (until she got busted) then she’s good to dig into the profile of whoever accepts her friend request without checking. Caveat emptor. It works both ways.


This time last year it was the Superbowl

Pushbike

When I woke up this morning I honestly couldn’t have anticipated that dusk would find me pushing a motorbike three miles down the pavement. But Sexy February insists that motorbikes are sexy and so I had to push one for Day 4. The shop phoned me up. “We can’t store it here forever mate.” They wanted £45 which is lucky as that’s exactly how much I had left on my overdraft. “Hooray”, I said flatly as I watched the machine approve the transaction.

I’d definitely have preferred to ride it. But the entire back brake disc has been removed. And the guy who brought it out for me said “Don’t touch the front brake, it’ll seize. But I pumped the tyres up so you can push it ” So it’s a bike with great tyres and no brakes.

Pushing it up the bridge, I was admiring the encroaching dusk over the river. There was nobody on the pavement so once I reached the apex it made sense to sit on the the thing. Absently I sat down and took the handlebars. One foot off. Both feet off. As it gently gathered momentum down the slope towards the busy three lane road on the south side, my mind absently wandered to the words of the man in the bike shop. “Don’t touch the front brake … front brake … ake ake cake cake plum cake yum yum cake cake wake wake up Al no brake nooooo braaaaake.” Pigeons scattered in my brakeless wake as I screamed round the corner on an unstoppable heap of cobwebbed metal and finally brought the thing to a halt with ankles and shoerubber spread behind me.

I got back to pushing. Definitely the safer option, pushing. The good thing about bikes, I thought to myself, is that they’re heavy. Brian might disagree, since he’s still limping from a bike falling on his leg. And in that context I disagree too. But today was unforgivingly cold and I wasn’t dressed for the cold at all. I was in rehearsal clothes. Schrank wears a light leather jacket because he’s a badass and he wants to be able to mash your skull to a pulp nice and easily. Which is all very well for a messed up cop in springtime NYC. But London appears to have been visited by the arctic. It’s not warm here. Although it’s warm in my flat.

As I passed Battersea Power Station I stopped for a photograph.

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I kind of figured the blog would end up with the bike. Also I needed a rest. I’d given myself a nosebleed. But I got the bloody thing home and then went off to a Buddhist meeting feeling a little sexier. Sexy rehearsal. Sexy lunch. Sexy bike. Then a load of chanting.

Now I’m home. The flat is full. There’ll be two of us on the sofa today. Golfo came over – we are working together tomorrow. She likes the cat. So we’ll be on the sofa tonight with the cat, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Darts and friends and sofas

I’m off to see some sexy friends on this, the third day of Sexy February. I spent the morning learning how to resize and compress video files – I’m practicing with screen captures from a computer game. I don’t think that even I could sell that as sexy. But the results, down the line, might well be. I’ve got a couple of irons in the fire … a couple of plans cooking up… “This time next year, Rodney…” Playing my cards close to my chest? Sexy. Hell yeah.

I’m going to play darts. Darts is traditionally the domain of men that you can smell from around the corner, wearing “hilarious” stained T-shirts, beer in one hand, paunch in other, yet somehow, at the ocke, their weight, heft and breath send those little arrows unerringly on target. I haven’t arrived yet but I strongly suspect we will be doing “hipster darts” of some sort because it’s in Shoreditch. “All the fun of darts at twice the price!” Or somesuch. I’m not sure if it’s actually possible to play darts sober, but I’m willing to give it a go.

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We went to “Flight Club”, and actually I enjoyed it. It’s a surprisingly pleasant way of hanging out in a big group. We were celebrating a dear friend who has moved to America. What a bunch of beautiful legends our friends are. These are old friends now, mostly actors that trained around the same time as me, still digging with our hands and whatever tools we can find – and mostly for the sake of digging although occasionally we hit bags of money or cracked mirrors, bits of shit or beautiful complex artifacts. Everybody in that room has been digging for 15 years now since we trained. We’re carving a living in this shifting trade, which perhaps explains why we were all so bad at darts.

It’s a fellowship of persistent kind hearted geeks, riding the sine wave as if it were a bucking bronco. Up and down, up and down, get thrown off, get helped back on by someone at the bottom and up we go again, but now we know enough to expect the down and maybe even prepare mentally for it. One day I’ll prepare fiscally too. That’d be sexy.

By sheer chance, Katie and I turned out to win at killer. We looked harmless for so long we weren’t targeted, and then got lucky. Surfing my coincidental success, I swaggered into the bus home – which is considerably less lively than it was last night. I need to let a friend in who’s staying on the sofa tonight. We worked Ascot together, and were roommates at that bloody golf tournament where they threw me under a (metaphorical this time) bus. He’ll be at mine for a while – I’m not sure what’s going down at home but he asked and I like having guests. Now the heating works I can say “You’ve got a warm room to lay your head in for as long as you need.” Because I spent that money on the boiler. I was spitting about it at the time, but that thing where I traded fun for comfort… Maybe I need to make more trades like that going forward.


Year One – Fuel – (I can’t believe this one was a year ago…)

Sober night bus

Day 2 Sexy February. I finally had a go at this hedge on my face. By the time I was done the sink looked like I’d been skinning a lemur. But now I look a little bit less as if I’ve just been released from a hostage situation. It’s only day two and I really want a drink now please now please now. I’m not saying I mustn’t, but self control is sexy because I choose it to be. And last night I slept uninterrupted apart from by Pickle who seemed a little put out by the fact I wasn’t flat out like a plank of wood all night dead to the world. Perhaps she usually uses me as a climbing frame.

I’ll be honest, I’m wary of myself around hair clippers. It’s only a few years since I inadvertently shaved a bald strip up one side of my head, panicked, and rushed through our rooms in The Lighthouse in Poole to find Chris (who was playing an old saxophone) and ask him if it was salvageable. (It wasn’t. He laughed a lot.We took it all off.) With that memory still mocking, I probably kept more beard than I wanted to this time – just for safety. It’s cold outside. Nice to have some protection.

Newly neatened, I’m heading off for the sexiest thing yet. A Saturday night sober game of Scrabble. Hang onto your hats folks. This is going to get racy.


It seems that we are too sexy for Scrabble. Who knew? We had glorious food, and I had 6 Becks blue each time hoping the next one would be an accidental alcoholic one.

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ThenI was made gamesmaster. We played “the hat game” which basically involves lots of names in a hat and shouting. It’s been the centrepoint of many a drunken row on tour when a load of actors in a run down flat in Dublin or a villa in Milan or a flat in Putney get bitterly competitive over small details of arbitrage after 16 bottles of wine each. And it’s addictive as hell. My team had a secret weapon. I was sober. At the end when their motor skills had all but vanished and it was all over but the grunting, we stormed into the lead.

Now I’m at a bus stop on Putney Bridge, on my way home, waiting for the 22 surrounded by strangers. They’re all very excited. They thought they witnessed a stabbing in the club so one of them grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed everyone then ran away. I can believe it. His mates are pissed off because they all got kicked out. “But there was a stabbing – I saw it.” The high street is a carnage of chips, glass and vomit. Slack jawed men and women queue unfocused in the cold to get into heaving sweaty rooms full of noise and expensive booze. I’ve been in those queues. I will be again, I fear. But right now I’m punishingly sober and conscious of being in the minority.

The prevailing mood on this street is anger. The prevailing volume is loud. This is the nocturnal Saturday drunkparade and I’ve momentarily become an observer. Snippets fly by. “You don’t put your lips … on another person’s lips … unless they’re mine.” “She was sending me photos of my own child to get at me.” “Yes it’s horrid. You hate London, I love London .” And now an animated conversation in Russian, too loud for any other language to filter past.

This messy town. It’s my town now. Has been for years. But now I feel it. Taking the night bus sober makes me wonder what sort of fun I’ve missed (or provided) while taking it drunk.

Sexy February

Day 1: Being a sucker for trends and conformity, the whole global trend for “Sexy February” that everyone everywhere is constantly talking about has got me wrapped up. As we all know because it’s all over the internet, “Sexy February” starts on the 2nd February and goes until the 1st March. Coincidentally the second of February is the first time I had a drink last year. I had a glass of bourbon in a replica prohibition era whorehouse – obviously because it was the first day of Sexy February. Today I did the opposite. I didn’t have a glass of bourbon when I otherwise might have. I won’t have any bourbon for a bit. Because I get to choose what is and isn’t sexy, and right now I’m going with “sober is sexy” – certainly until I’ve sorted some of my shit out. What else is sexy? Not moaning about being broke when you live in Chelsea and eat with fucking silver cutlery. That’s actually one of the official rules of sexy February. There’s a whole subsection about that. Getting up in the morning and doing stuff no matter how you feel. That’s HOT. Exercise? Rrrawr. Tidying up? Stop it, baby. Going on a date? Ok maybe that’s pushing it. But you never know Sexy February. You never know.

Today I made myself a ravishing cup of coffee, made some crazily erotic phone calls about money, and sashayed into rehearsal where I ticced popped and swore like a hot version of Errol Flynn. Then I had sexy tea with Marie and a hot catch up with Ri. On the way home my footsteps were smoking. Doves came and landed as I passed. Men and women swooned as I tapped my oyster card. The bus driver proposed marriage to me. I had to insist that I pay for my food in Tesco. They just stared, slack-jawed as I counted out the change and left it on the counter. As I left the shop I saw them stir back into action, mildly shell-shocked. I went home and cooked my dinner by looking at it. Then I had apple crumble and custard. Oh yeah. You know it.


Obviously if you Google “Sexy February” you just come up with a load of adverts for T-Shirts that happen to have both words on them. Sexy February is too sexy for Google. Sexy February transcends the traditional internet.

I’m going to do at least one thing every day to make me feel more sexy, and so are you. We get to choose what that means to us. We get to originate sexiness. Sexy February hasn’t been co-opted by charities or people who want to sell stuff. It doesn’t alliterate. There are no pictures of models and outside of this there is no copy thrown at us online or on public transport asking us if we are doing it, berating us for not doing it, implying we should be doing it, telling us why we shouldn’t do it. If it’s sexy to be completely indifferent to something – THAT’S YOUR SEXY FEBRUARY, YOU GREAT BIG HOTTIE YOU.

Picture of apple crumble? Oh yeah, baby. Ohhhshitbags yeah.

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Food film awards

Right. Well that’s January out the way then. The month where you have to look forensically at the fiscal reality of the choices you’ve made. “Oh good. I’m below the threshold. Because I earnt so little. At my age. Hooray. I still can’t afford to pay my class four National Insurance towards a pension I’ll never have. But at least I earnt so little I don’t have to pay tax.”

Meanwhile some of my friends appear to be vegan Kung-Fu masters jetting off to work with Spielberg and the rest are angry, restless, distracted, hopeful, scared, wondering. It’s dark, and a year ago I was in Los Angeles breaking bad patterns and making contacts. Arguably going to bed sloshed every night for a fortnight despite atrocious cashflow is proof of how quickly they come back, those naughty naughty patterns.

I’m writing this in a pub waiting for a friend. I’ve also – just – had the idea of doing “Sexy February” which means I’ll have to write off the first and spill over to the first of March. “What’s Sexy February?” I hear you all cry. It’s a month where we make a conscious effort to feel sexier, every day. I need that month. I’m gonna take it. It’ll almost certainly involve less booze.

What do I find sexy? Focus. Fitness. Self control. Drive. Forward movement. Sexy February has no rules and doesn’t alliterate. It’s not for charity. It’s for us. And it starts tomorrow and ends after the first of March because I’ve just thought of it and I’ve already fucked today because I mostly felt sorry for myself and now I’m having beer and neither of those things are sexy. There’s probably going to be exercise. Exercise is sexy. Maybe there’ll be kissing (heaven forfend). There’ll be good food for cheap, optimism, ambition and fresh sheets. Mostly there’ll be me using the fact that this blog forces me to tell you what I’m doing, attempting to put out proof that I am getting sexier and sexier as February grows. And I will be. Oh yes.

This evening was the final day of the inaugural Food Film Festival. (Had it existed in the ’80s, 9 and a half Weeks would’ve smashed it.) I was at the awards gala downstairs at The Mondrian thanks to lovely Robin. They were awarding short films about food, and the winner was “Cooking with your Mouth”imag3045752264584.jpg. It’s a one trick pony of a film, but if you are weirded out by spit you might find it funny or something. The organisers are clearly lovely but seriously – for a couple of hundred quid and a piece of paper I’d have taken that microphone and made sure that people weren’t talking throughout their ceremony. They had a gong, which was initially helpful, but then they passed the microphone to a charisma vacuum. It was an active effort of will not to get bored by him -when you could even make out his words around his atrocious mic technique. That’s why you use professionals. I kept listening, but most people disconnected and the winner was announced to an indifferent room, which is perhaps for the best because the winning team hadn’t shown up anyway.

The cocktails were bangarang, and free. And they brought out a meatball pasta cake which was like a cold version of the sort of thing I’d have come up with after 12 pints when I was a student. Still, it was the right event for me, being fascinated by food theatre but with a grounding and history in film.

But all that bullshit aside, SEXY FEBRUARY. Who’s in? 🙂

Gatsby again

I’m home and warm, sitting on the sofa with Tom. Money is a real concern in this coming month, but I am allowing myself to feel sanguine that all will be well. And Tom, who is an occasional sofa visitor from Manchester, has just offered to pay 15 quid to a pizza franchise created by an anti-arbortionist nutbag, also called Tom. I’ll call him “Catholic Tom.” Catholic Tom is smart at business. Recently we’ve all learnt how people who are “good at business” can also be utterly hideous fucked up monstrous orange moronic twisted angry emotionally fucked ridiculous laughable racist misogynist parochial self obsessed abusive divisive unkind base humans. Catholic Tom still takes lots of money from people who should know better and funnels it into things like making sure people who are physically weaker and fiscally poorer than he is have even less chance to take control of their destiny. “Fuck ’em. They are so dumb they’ll shell out 15 pounds sterling for this bit of dough and a slap of processed meat.”

Anyway. For all that, I ate it. I have no problems with double standards…  Sadly. Before all the pizza, I had a great night contemplating Gatsby. Gatsby, a man who made the sort of money Catholic Tom made. But a man of principle, of kindness and ultimately of sacrifice. He was invented by the complicated dark beauty of F Scott Fitzgerald. What a glorious fiction we were given. Fitzgerald excelled at creating beautiful effortless loaded fuckwits. And the immersive Gatsby in London – I’ve been to that show so many times now I couldn’t tell you. Sometimes I’ve worked it, sometimes I’ve watched it. Jack and I saw the first ever show in a freezing pub in York. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the temperature. It’s a beautiful night, it really is, it always has been. And Fitzgerald has a special place in my heart. He wasn’t much older than me when he died. But he made his time count. And him and Jim Henson are the only two people I share a birthday with that I’ve ever given an active fuck about. As a fellow contrarian conflicted self doubting empath I hit on his excoriating semi-biographical book Tender is the Night at a privileged 19 and it blew the doors off completely. No wonder he died so young. He already had it all figured out. Nothing left to learn but the other country.

It’s worth seeing, that Gatsby show. It’s a party, and a story. And there are some lovely people making it. Obviously Brian produces it, but as well as him, much of the creative team is made of people who I’d definitely go back for in a burning building. Theatre rarely attracts arseholes and even more rarely let’s them thrive. This Gatsby is totally arsehole free and delightful for it. I was bawling my eyes out at the end. I mean, yeah I will burst out crying at the drop of a hat. But these human honest brave actors, working with a skillful frame in a beautiful venue – they were nailing it across the board.

Literally the only photo I took today is of the actress playing Daisy and a propane heater, just pre show. It tickled me because it reminded me of my pre carol. I don’t know her so I’m taking a liberty. Hopefully she won’t mind. She was ace.

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