Happy birthday Perdi

I think it was over ten years ago this happened. I was at Latitude Festival. “Hi, Al, we’re doing a Shakespeare workshop up at Ripley Castle. The kids know you from your work at Sprite. It starts on Monday. We need two leaders and we’ve just lost one. Can you come do it?” I had my car. I also was supposed to be driving Melissa back to London from latitude. But I’m me and it’s a job. “Yep. I’m there. Hang on what’s the money? … Great. Fine. I’m in.” And on Sunday evening, late, I left an angry Melissa stuck in a field and drove through the night to Yorkshire. Thankfully she and I are still friends.

I arrived in Yorkshire at 4am at a gargantuan house after an epic night drive. I collapsed into a randomly selected bed in a huge house. The next morning myself and Tom awoke at 7, had breakfast in this cavernous empty house, and Tom told me his workshop plan. He had a plan! Phew. “That sounds great,” I said. And in we went.

Tom and I worked with a load of young people, using Dream as text, but pulling in work by Keith Johnstone. As is often the case with work with young people, it was a confidence workshop with Shakespeare as the frame. He did the text. I did the confidence. One girl, India, ended up walking down a tree root as Titania, and 8 years later she designed and operated Christmas Carol at The Arts for two years. That’s a win. She’s a good friend and artistic collaborator now.

In the evenings, though, Tom and I ended up in a huge house, all alone. What to do? We played fucking Hide and Seek and it was EPIC. I’ve never laughed so much. By the end of the second day we were having so much fun he was able to overlook my hideous attempt at thickening a carbonara sauce by just adding unbelievable amounts of cheese. Use flour, kids. Cheese didn’t do the trick… It made us FAT. Happy. But fat. But he sought to employ me as Scrooge as a result of that fun.

The reason I remember this all is because I had a beer with Tom tonight. He’s in London now and killing it. We still collaborate, but his work has taken him somewhere brilliant. He has directed Christmas Carol and used me for years now but he’ll be too busy to do it this Christmas. Thankfully if it’s Jack and I he’ll let it go ahead as his.

Who would’ve known that a game of Hide and Seek and a terrible cheesy carbonara would lead to years of glorious work. But I guess that’s the thing. We make stuff with people we like making stuff with. I’m sitting antisocially in a restaurant with Tristan and his brother and sister. It’s his sister’s birthday and I want to celebrate it with her. But I’m aware that it’s likely the celebration will obviate the possibility of me writing coherently because it’s her 25th birthday. But here I am with Tristan, who I know I can work with beautifully, Lyndon his brother who was my constant companion and wingman in that very changing time I had in L.A, and Perdi their youngest sister. I’m surrounded by my people. I haven’t worked with Perdi yet but I definitely will in time and I look forward to finding out in what context. Meantime, happy birthday. I’m back to the party. The first year I did Christmas Carol I drove to Wales for Christmas. It was a long long drive from York, there and back.. Their dad, Terry, was the founder of the feast. “Look after my kids,” he told me with great attack. “That’s all I care about.”

Considering they’re looking after me so well, I can only try. As it happens I’m pretty fond of the buggers.

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Weather manipulation?

“This is what we get for them fucking with the weather for the Royal Wedding,” says my friend. We’re sitting in Phat Phuc. There’s a little bit of canvas between us and a torrential downpour. We have been catching up over spicy noodles. He lives in Dubai and the comics I was sorting through were bought by him.

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“In Dubai we talk about weather manipulation all the time. They seed the clouds to restore the water tables. There’s always nature’s revenge afterwards.” I have a few friends that state things as facts that I would frame as speculation. Their certainty always surprises me. (“Oh yes, but he’s possessed by the devil.” – that sort of thing.) I usually play the baffled gentleman card and get more clarity, while examining their opinion through the prism of my knowledge of their experiential history. Occasionally I wonder if there’s something to it.

Conspiracy theories are as seductive and fascinating as obscure religions. Everyone wants to feel like they are in possession of secret knowledge. You feel special. Lucky. Different. Better. It helps you heal. People with damage are more attracted to this than those unfortunate/fortunates who haven’t seen the cracks yet. You can tell other people, with solid eyes, slightly nodding to yourself “Ahh but I can talk with angels.” I’ve done it before, relaying things I have learnt in my spiritual dabblings. You’ve probably done it too. We all have our own reality and perception. It’s ours and we live in it. It’s familiar and normal. I sat in a stone circle on top of a hill on Friday afternoon, hands planted in the ground, asking the rain not to fall. The rain didn’t fall. I might decide that those two things are connected in some way. I might then tell you “I’m a geomancer.” It would be it utter bullshit to you, but if I believed it it would be true for me and might be comforting. There’s always an excuse if it doesn’t work the next time. “I’d eaten Macdonalds, so I was resonating on a low level.” That sort of thing. It can be fun. It can be self-comforting. Telling me I wasn’t a geomancer would serve no purpose other than for you to stroke your own ego at the expense of my comfort. (I don’t think I’m a geomancer. But hey – it didn’t rain. Maybe I have secret power!)

I find myself seduced by my friend’s thinking. I keep asking him about it.

Two people got married publicly, and lots of other ordinary people who needed cheering up invested themselves in the idea that it was a happy occasion. Good weather meant they could get out and travel, throng the beer gardens, put money into the economy while happily celebrating this rather pedestrian occurrence. I quite like the monarchy for the fact that they are arbitrarily selected through a quirk of birth. We need to have people we can frame as special. Why not do it by lottery rather than sheer fucking arrogance and entitlement. Imagine if May was on our coins, and Boris was sizing it up. It was good for the mood of a populace who have been smashed down recently by austerity, greed and manipulation by those monsters in parliament and the corporations that own them. If it’s possible to do things to the atmosphere that stop it from raining, that wedding would’ve been a prime candidate for doing those things. Gawd bless ’em. We had such an unusually beautiful week in May. Then unprecedented lightning storms and torrential downpours a week later.

Although maybe it’s because the royal family is chosen and blessed by the skybeard!!??

There’s just so much we don’t understand, won’t understand, can’t understand. I like any and all attempts to make sense of it. It’s all bollocks and it’s all true. In the early days, spirits and magic and gods were doing it. Now we’ve got so secular that we put these gods into men. “The illuminati are preventing me” is just as seductive now as “I’ve angered Apollo.” Men in Black with forgetting machines have replaced nymphs and dryads with songs.

But whichever idiot pissed off Thor, can they get back in their invisible aeroplane and seed chemtrails with fairy dust so his wrath is appeased and I can go out without a brolly?

 

Coming back

On the first day of the festival I was given a sachet of what I assumed was moisturiser. “That’ll be lovely after a heavy night dancing,” said the smiling man. This morning I rose from my hot tent, staggered into the sunshine, and found the packet in my pocket. “Perfect,” I thought, as I squeezed the lot into my hand and spread it generously all over my tired face. ALWAYS READ THE LABEL. Yes, it would have been lovely after a heavy night’s dancing, had it been moisturiser. It was bloody deep heat. The girls were rubbing it into their legs. In the heat of the morning sun I was crying, laughing and wet wiping my poor burning leaking face. Good God. Deep heat hungover face rub fun. I’m not sure if I recommend it. But it definitely woke me up. After the revelation and expectation shift I grew used to the pain. After about ten minutes Mike asked “Would you do it again?” “Yes, on balance, I think I would. It’s quite pleasant now.” “But that’s because you forget about pain as soon as it’s stopped,” says Tristan.

And that’s what I’ve been doing. Forgetting about pain. I’m coming back to the world on a train now. I have a new hat and a new skin. I feel totally refreshed, filthy, and in need of a good scraping, a square meal and a proper night’s sleep. I’ll probably fit them all in this evening.

I’ve learnt a lot about funky dirty bass and break beat this weekend in a field. It wouldn’t be my specialist subject on mastermind. But it would be Tanya’s and Louise’s, and we were slaves to their passion. I never even looked at a program. They had it all planned out and we mostly just followed them into various tents and danced until the music stopped, with occasional breaks for fresh air and water.

I now have a fairly good idea of what I like and what I don’t from the options presented to me. Opiuo did a fantastic set on Saturday night. It was so good I completely overheated and had to go outside and find water. But we were dancing right at the front, surrounded by teenagers, in the mosh pit. Krafty Kuts were also superb, as were the Stanton Warriors and JFB. I know nothing about this so I’m only noting the DJs that forced my tired body to dance and smile. I tend to listen to more contemplative lyrical music by habit so whenever I step into that world I feel underqualified. But there is definitely an undeniable skill in making a huge party out of remixing and recontexting other people’s music. I used to poo-poo the whole enterprise of remixing. “Make something new!” But then think of Hallelujah. Leonard’s original is not a pleasant listen. Lyrically fantastical as always. Musically less so. I prefer both the Jeff Buckley version and the KD Lang. And this weekend I’ve heard a few songs I adore turned into really big happy dance numbers. It’s joyful. Like seeing a very dear friend suddenly showing up dressed as a fairy in a tutu, and forcing you to dance.

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Shindig

This morning I’m lying in a boiling hot tent and I don’t want to move. Everyone else in here is fast asleep. There are two alarms going off simultaneously, and nobody is stirring but me. The heat woke me and the fact that I only scheduled two blogs ahead of time had grounded me to the reality that I’ll have to write things that actually happened this time. So I thought I’d get it done now.

These gatherings are some people’s idea of hell. I worked at Latitude one time with actors who genuinely couldn’t compute the lack of hot running water. They did an uncomfortable reading, terrified of spiders, and then got a taxi out at the first opportunity, swearing about mud.

Festivals have become strangely integral to how I work-through my life. I can usually manage to find something to do at a couple of them per year. These miniature communities of littering vegans that spring up from this time of year until the end of August, early September. There are often interesting odd performative jobs going. And for many years my alter-ego has been Captain-Odd-performative-job.

Sometimes it’s good to just go and live in a field for a few days though with no pressure, knowing you’ve got a comfortable home to go back to. I haven’t really slept very much even though I’ve been here two nights. None of us have. But we’ve relaxed. The weight has dropped off.

I had a shiatsu massage yesterday morning, and danced long hours in the afternoon and evening and dawn. Dancing like a maniac certainly burns some calories and I’d always take that over going for a run. Although I might be missing the point. But this tent is a revelation.

Tanya and Lou have never done a festival before. They haven’t got their own tent or camping gear. So they sank £200 to rent a bell tent. “Glamping”. The guys in the one next door to us were talking about their investment portfolio yesterday morning. We are in a field surrounded my about £40k worth of bell tent rental, not to mention the teepees and airstreams. It’s comparatively luxurious here. My squeamish friends from that Latitude might have been happier here. Even if there are still spiders. The showers run copious hot running water. It’s hard to like the loos, but at least they are compost rather than chemical. Wooden long drops. Not such a long drop now it’s day three.

Shindig is pretty small for a festival. It used to be the kick-off party for the regular festival workers. No main stage acts. Just a load of funk and dance. Considering we were promised flashfloods, we’ve come through it very well indeed although everybody is caked in mud. One torrential momentary downpour on the evening of the second day, but for the majority of the time it’s been sunshine and a cooling wind. I’ve got my usual festival tan. And honestly I’m thrilled I made this impulsive decision. This job, and the expectations and collapses that can come with it, can get all consuming sometimes. I was beginning to feel a fraying on the edge of my kindness towards myself. It feels like I’ve put all the pieces back in the box now, and I can come back to London and find out the thing that’s been waiting.IMG-20180527-WA0002

Festival Day 2

Today I awoke with the dawn, fresh and refreshed. Last night after twenty seven cans of red bull and a bottle of vodka I ran into a benevolent fawn that offered to scream away all my rage and frustration with me. He took me on to the tightrope and we stood there and looked at the sleeping cows. We screamed. It was amazing. Screaming is the best way to get some of the horror out of ourselves. The cows didn’t even flinch. They just went on sleeping. All of them but one, that is. One “cow”… I saw it raise its head. Oh no. Jupitus. He had heard my scream. I saw his tooth glint as he smiled.

I returned to the festival, but now I had to confront him. I had no choice. The Blitzburgers were playing their difficult second album and Toby was in the comedy tent talking about sardines. It was a good time to die. I had to confront Phill. As is traditional I removed all of my clothes and painted the word “Catshit” all over myself in ogham. Then I carefully inserted a walnut into my left nostril, and marched towards the field chanting the lyrics to Abba’s breakthrough hit “Waterloo”. The fawn was back on the tightrope, screaming.

“My my
At Waterloo Napoleon did surrender
Oh yeah
And I have met my destiny in quite a similar way”

My voice was cracking with fear as I tried to maintain the steady drone. All on one note. B-flat. It’s the only chance I would have to weaken him. Below me one of the cows separated from the herd, its flank shuddering. Jupitus. The Ogham on my body started to glow, the heat of it burning into the glue on the sanatogen still gaffered to my leg.

“The history book on the shelf
Is always repeating itself

Waterloo I was defeated, you won the war
Waterloo promise to love you for ever more
Waterloo couldn’t escape if I wanted to.”

In the dark, the form of the cow was melting, shifting, changing. I reached into my pack for the bionic arm. The walnut felt heavy in my nostril. I was going to sneeze.
“Waterloo knowing my fate is to be with you
Waterloo finally facing my Waterloo”

And he came at me. 3 tonnes of howling Jupitus rage. The tightrope fawn was screaming behind me to the indifferent world. On the wind I caught a snatch of Toby’s voice, talking about kale. And he was on me. I tried to hold him back but he was stronger. “Oh yeah” he snorted as his weight winded me and the bionic arm snapped. I realised that my only chance was giving up the fight. I went limp and collapsed under his weight. All the breath was knocked out of me. It was going dark. I could feel the call to oblivion as Jupitus’ hands scrabbled for purchase on my throat. And then the gaffer snapped. The sanatogen junior vitamins pinged into Jupitus, one by one, full of goodness as I slipped in and out of consciousness and suddenly volcanically sneezed. The built up hayfever snot behind the walnut gave it the power of a cannonball. Right on the head! Jupitus went still, knocked out, the vitamins working in his bloodstream, his tongue lolling, his cowsuit shredded. A momentary pause.

I was trapped beneath him though. Behind me the fawn was still screaming out all my rage and frustration. Toby had stopped talking. Perhaps he was having a meal. I took stock. Beneath an unconscious Jupitus full of vitamins, I looked at the stars in the night sky. Maybe everything was going to be alright after all. “I feel like I win when I lose.”

But I was tired. The ogham was smudged now. Cat sit, it now said reminding me that I hadn’t organised anyone to look after Pickle while I was here in a field in Smurgleburg under Phill Jupitus. The stars winked at me. Jupitus shifted. His eyes shot open. He winked at me too. The vitamins gave his eyes a shine. “Brother!” he howled, the tears flowing freely, and he kissed me on the mouth. “I’m sorry I didn’t laugh in Edinburgh!” I panted, trying to get my arm out from under him so I could wipe off the spit. “I was hungover and you were being too dominant. You annoyed me.” We hugged. “Let’s get some beers off my rider,” said Phill. We danced the night away. Eventually, exhausted, we said farewell and I went to my tent. As I went to sleep I could hear Toby talking about saveloys. Back on the tightrope, the fawn stopped screaming abruptly. Someone had cut the tightrope.

And I woke up fine. Phill and I are now good friends. He’s given up the cow impersonation. I still think he has an eye on my Woolworth’s fish finger sandwich. If I pretend I havent heard him when he says he loves me, the friendship works really well. But sometimes he says it three times in a row.

What will happen tomorrow? Has Al scheduled another one of these? Who cares? I’m off to dance to the Crafty Spuds. They’re teaming up with Norman Blitz.

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Festival Day 1

Right. I had some shitty news. So I have gone off grid for a few days. I’m at a festival. I don’t even know the name of the festival. It begins with an S. It’s in Somerset. Shindig? That sounds right… *google*

Yep. It might look like this. A friend of mine had a spare ticket.

© Sarah Koury  www.kouryvindaloo.comI wanted there to be lots of cows. That guy on the wire has to stay there for three whole days. The line-up is hilarious. I honestly don’t give a monkey’s about anyone who is playing except for maybe Correspondents. I don’t know who most of them are. And those I do know – Phill Jupitus…? In massive letters? I’ll probably choke to death on hayfever or freeze in my sleeping bag. But I need a change of scene so I am getting one. This blog is being written in advance. The facts contained herein may be different from the reality as it manifests. But if I don’t do this I will arrive there, realise there’s no reception, spend most of the first night looking for a way not to break the blog-chain which has reached the figure 497 with this post, and end up not relaxing and chilling out which is the reason I came here.

So here is what might have happened to me on the first day. And this gives me a blog-break in real time as I’m banking 2 days the evening before I leave…


I first noticed him following me when I got off the train at Somerset Piccadilly Station. He was trying to blend in with his surroundings, shifting with the light, moving from cover to cover. Phill Jupitus. But what did he want with me? I kept my head down. Behaved as if everything was normal. Walked past the orgy of bald men in their fifties shouting “TAXI”. Joined a queue at the bus stop. In front of me was a tall skinny boy talking animatedly with his friend about crabsticks. Jupitus was in a field, flanking me, dressed as a cow. He thought I wasn’t wise to him, but he hadn’t been working on his moo. And he kept mooing over the other cows when they tried to moo. Textbook Jupitus. Even the pigeons knew he was a fake cow.

The bus arrived and I kept an eye on him, galumphing along behind it with his big legs at supernatural speed, cow suit flailing with his rolling gate, hiding huffing like a train fuelled with lager and rage, never more than ten foot behind the bus. I could see the madness in his eyes. A damp picture of my face clutched in his hand. I racked my brain. What could I have done? I only saw him once at that panel show in Edinburgh. The bus stopped at Nother Chostberry. Twelve old ladies disembarked, before one of them got back on. “Mine’s the next one,” she laughed. It wasn’t funny but we all chuckled obediently, automatically. My mind was on Jupitus. He was pretending to be a cow again while we stopped. The boy, whose name was Toby, was still on the bus, talking about mandarins.

Seventeen stops later we arrived at Blimpington which is where the Shnurrrdog Festival is definitely taking place. Keeping Toby between myself and Jupitus I hauled my bag from the bus. He was talking about chipotle oblivious that he was my human shield.

I had packed in a rush. I had a bionic arm, seven tubs of sprouts and a fish finger sandwich from Woolworth’s that I had kept from childhood. It’s the only time I ever saw them selling food. It’s worth a lot of money. I tried not to look at Jupitus but I could sense he was there, still on me, inevitable, powerful, terrible. Could it be the sandwich? I had other things to think about though. The War-Child volunteer was trying to make jokes as he fished in my bag and fingered my sprouts. “You know you can’t take any vitamins onto the site,” he said. “I have none”, I assured him, feeling the guilty pain of the sanatogen gaffered to my inner thigh. Shit. I had been distracted. Where was Jupitus? I’d lost him.

I walked into the festival site. I could hear the Mumpflunkers playing on main stage. Behind me, a shadow flickered and was still. On the wind came the unmistakable “tsccch” of a ringpull. Was that him? Was he in? Had I lost him? How had he got past the War Child volunteer? What does he want with me? Is it safe to relax?

Find out tomorrow as this tale reaches its thrilling conclusion.

Pre-blender

The ticket says “May Cause Acute Death.” I’ve never met anyone who has told me they’ve seen this show. I have a friend in it and the ticket is in her name, so it can’t be traced back to me. I’m somewhere off the Goswell Road and its sweltering.

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Looking closer at the ticket I can see that they’ll confiscate all my technology and my coat at the door. They recommend we wear pyjamas. They also say “No alcohol beforehand”. I’m having a pint. Rebel.

I’m going to get put into a gigantic blender.

I was almost involved with this lot creatively. They came to see Christmas Carol. They were very bouncy and positive. We spoke animatedly about gender and identity. “If you want some extra heads on the making side, that’s what Mel and I do.” The old guy gave his card to Mel but I think it was less about work than we thought it was at the time because he never returned our calls regarding collaboration. The old guy was very genial, rich as cake and drunker than I was last night when I spontaneously agreed to go to a festival tomorrow. What? Yes. Yep. Three nights in a field. Although I needn’t worry about it as I’m going to have everything confiscated in a warehouse off the Goswell Road and then I’m going to get put in a giant blender as punishment for this hair of the dog I’m absorbing through my tongue as I write.

And I’m still leaking out of every orifice and hacking like a riding school pony. Just as well I’m going in the blender. Three nights without proper food or sleep in a cold tent surrounded by grass will kill me as surely as this blender. I thought I was getting better at derailing my inability to say “No” to anything. Clearly I’ve got a long way to go in that regard.

Just an hour left before the door opens. I wonder what sort of sauce they’ll make of me.

The show is called “Somnai.” I think it’s about dreams. I dream lucid so dreams are usually terrific fun. I’m hoping that this will be too. I’m more interested in the shape of it than the material. They have lots of money, lots of tech and no experience making immersive or interactive work, or making theatre in general. If I had access to that budget and that tech I can dream of all sorts of things I’d be able to create. I suspect this will be unusual. Odd. Splintered. They are using Virtual Reality headsets. I think we get to walk around with heavy heads. That’s how they’ll get us into the blender. I’m curious if it’s augmented reality or a prerecorded virtual world. I’m curious to see if they use touch and smell and taste. A VR headset is an unusual mix of sensory deprivation and over-stimulation. It’s like sticking your head in a bucket when the bucket is Narnia. They’re pretty heavy on your face, and this show has been running a while in this weather so I suspect they’ll be damp too.

I might go for a little walk now I’ve written this and had this pint. I need to see if I can find a power-block for my phone. There might not be reception at this festival tomorrow… What have I agreed to? Never mind. Blender.