Sun

This is perfect weather. Everyone is full of vitamin D. They’re striding around the pavements and parks, full of confidence, full of power. Just don’t let them get behind the wheel of a car. The roads today are full of little pocket Genghis Khans. One guy blankly waited for 4 vehicles to reverse in order for him to continue, when all he needed to do was pull in himself for a while. I called him “Your majesty” as he went through. Little arse.

I’ve worked a pretty long shift. I thought I was getting a lunch break but I ended up driving to Camden with a hot toasted sandwich in the glove compartment. Then I sat in the parking lot at Morrison’s eating it cold, constantly expecting the call to leave, for way too long. Then it was a late trip to Heathrow that turned out stressful. But more on that anon. First the weather.

I’ll go right out there and say it: with all this summer going on I’m finding it impossible not to have my head turned by the constant parade of beauty on the streets. Everyone looks great at the moment, especially you dear reader. Here am I with my pale and bleeding legs under the first shorts of the year and whatever T-shirt was on the top of the pile, and I’m walking past women of my age who probably have two kids and still almost make me go slam into a lamp post. Immaculate summer dresses and all that work in the gym plus vitamin D. I’ve got a six pack under here somewhere… I just need six months to find it. I’ve got to get back to that shit. Speaking objectively, it works.

But summer doesn’t just bring beauty. It brings rage. I picked up someone from Heathrow who had a shitload of camera equipment. “You better have a big vehicle,” she tells me as she comes through with a tank sized trolley of camera-boxes. “It’s an SUV” I reply. She goes silent. “We should be fine,” I venture, keeping the doubt from my voice.

While I’m trying to load it, she isn’t helping at all. Instead she’s taking endless photographs and repeating: “Call the production office. This is ridiculous. This always happens.” Personally I think that if she were to help and stop moaning, with goodwill and a bit of squishing we’d get it all in, and her too. But she wants this to fail because she has a point to make. I try my usual attitude of “Yes it’s not ideal but we can make it work.” But the problem is that, unlike me, she was expecting this to happen. And she wants to make a point so it doesn’t happen again. She ain’t gonna help. She’ll just take photos of me struggling. So I slice up my legs on her blimming cases, get it all in on her personal youtube Laurel and Hardy show, and put her trolley and some bags on the passenger seat. She’s making sure I know she’s tired. I take her downstairs and put her in a black cab. She inexplicably high fives me as she gets in the back. I return to the car and crawl back to London with too much kit. She’s probably right. I can’t see her fitting in this car as well. But I don’t like giving up. It’s not in my nature. And she gave up before we started which made it impossible.

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The only photo I took today. At Biggin Hill at 9.15am. Before the day even started. No reason for it to be there. But it’s just shy of 3am now. I’m turning in.

Moons and mooning

Just to clarify, the Orwellian dystopia I described yesterday with the Perivale Police Pound – we were not getting back a bike that had been wrongly parked or left untaxed. We were getting back a bike that had been stolen, and recovered by the police. Hooray for the police for finding it. But the problem is, once you’re in that desperate shithole, all the staff immediately assume you have transgressed. And even a minor transgression that has cost you a large amount of money – that’s enough for all the people that work there to scale you down in status to the lowest possible tier of humanity. I wouldn’t write so baldly about it if it had been my bike, or my money. I’d worry that my perspective was being skewed by my personal discomfort or financial loss. But because I was just there as a friend and observer I felt the full brunt of the bad thinking here. There is no kindness or humour in that place towards the people that come in from outside, no matter their circumstances, no matter why their vehicle ended up there. It’s a hard unkind place. They could go about it differently.

And they are printing money there. Every few minutes another tow truck goes in with another vehicle. Minimum £130. Likely much more. And lots and lots of lovely tasty tears : “mmmmm yes cry little hewmann cry. We likey taste of hewmann crytears.” We watched the trucks coming in and out for hours ferrying misery. Dark dark place.

Whoever had taken Brian’s bike had jammed a screwdriver into the ignition, and completely fucked it so we ran the gauntlet of recovery vultures that sit already engorged but greedy at the gate (£130 to get it back to Chelsea ha ha ha). We ended up down the road and I rang the RAC. Membership is on my bank account. It’s free but very very slow. We got there before 7. It was after midnight by the time we got home, and the foul energy of that place is still clinging to me now.

I’ve been sad all day. For absolutely no reason. Occasionally tearful. God, I’m way too sensitive. I eventually sat in the car and chanted for ages, which took the edge off and means the car is resonating nicely now. I’m partly blaming the pound, partly blaming the full moon. They always pull at me for crazy or for sad.

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Now I’m home and I’m already in my dressing gown. I just played Moby’s album “Everything is Wrong”, which I haven’t even thought of since I was an angsty 20. This evening you’re getting the emo version of me. But that emo version of me is about to watch the football…

Oops and there’s Phil on a Volkswagen advert. Part of me is thrown off kilter because yesterday I turned down the first audition I’ve ever turned down in favour of a dayjob. Just an oil commercial. But after years of bloodshed I don’t like that the focus has temporarily shifted to guaranteed money over rolling the dice for my vocation. I did just do some lovely fringey work with The Factory so maybe it’s okay to chase Mammon. I’m going to spend some of my earnings on a stunt horse riding course, and some more on workshops. I might even have enough to suck it up and do something interesting and low budget on the fringe for a bit and remind people I exist. Work breeds work etc, even if you’re usually unwilling to work for peanuts.

Or maybe it’s time to make something mine that I give a shit about and that speaks to my ideals, smash the crap out of it, and have to change my Facebook profile name to stop the endless job offers and marriage proposals…

Police Pound

It’s too fucking hot to be in a vehicle pound filling in forms. Way too hot. Don’t worry, I didn’t get towed. We are getting Brian’s bike back. It’s a bureaucratic nightmare in a horrible place that smells like feet. Nothing is working with his insurance documents. The guy in the window is treating him like a criminal.

First we had to drive up the westway in horrendous traffic. Some fuckwit inevitably back-bumpered me in his Range Rover and then drove off. I got his numberplate because he was just ahead of us in traffic for ages. No visible damage but while I was still fretting about it I ran a red light so it might turn out to be an expensive journey.

Now the guy in the pound is a horrorshow of a human being. Just down the corridor, another unfortunate is getting the fourth degree from another window person. They hang out behind glass being obstructive and contextually powerful. There’s noa culture of self-importance. Perivale Police Pound, aka The seventh circle of hell. It’s vile here. Unutterably dank. Grey walls and the buzzing of bad neon lights. People pretending not to shout at each other through windows. The polite power game. “I have you by the balls, sir, and I’m going to make your life as shitty as I can. But you have to be nice and call me sir and yes sir no sir three bags full sir me or I’ll just tighten this little thing here … aaahhh.” These people are monsters. They are The Demon Headmaster. Like the bike thieves they trade on misery, but this misery is government sanctioned.

Brian has moved to another window. Windowlady is using all her obstructive ingenuity now. She wants the receipt for his purchase of the bike. She is trying everything in her power to make this a wasted trip. She’s such a villain I’m going back to where I left the car to make sure what looks like a parking slot is not in fact a honey trap designed to lure the unwary and refill the pound so every time someone picks up a vehicle their friend’s vehicle goes in. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if, once Brian has successfully jumped through all the flaming hoops, they look at the clock and say “oh sorry sir. It’s too late to release your vehicle now. You’ll have to come back tomorrow.” And then slam the shutters down, kill a virgin goat and dance in its blood like they do in the hospitals, and laugh their way back to Gibboleth and the banquet of souls.

Now they’ve shut the door to stop me giving Brian his helmet. So they can say “Oh we can’t release the bike to someone with no helmet.” I hate them. I hate red tape generally. But this place. These people. These are the enemy.

The bike eventually comes out in the sunset. I take some great photos but here, in this little palace of evil, they do not allow such things. Twice I am told I can’t take photos. They make me delete them. Do I? Or do I just pretend to delete them? The guys waiting outside shout “You can’t stop him”. But I’m not posting anything I might not have deleted on social media. I know I wouldn’t be breaking the law. But these people in this pound? Of course they don’t want their photo displayed. And they are capable of making my life hell with the sheer depth of their spite. They’ve bypassed their misery receptors. I’m not risking it. I wait until nobody is in shot except for Brian.

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The bike doesn’t start.

This is going to be a long night.

 

Dachshund

There are a few jobs where you probably have to be a sociopath to be able to sustain doing it really well. Traffic Warden is in that list. This wasn’t even my money in the long run and it’s eminently contestable. But the events company were almost like “nah it’s not worth the hassle, we’ll just pay the fine.”

We all went to Hyde Park. IT WAS WORK. I was sitting with the car when I got a call. I needed to go and look after Booboo, the needy dachshund. Booboo was in the park. I needed to leave the car and put some money in the meter.

So I went to work out the system with the parking machine. You put in the last few digits of your numberplate. Then you insert a card. Then you wait. Then you wait. Then you wait. Eventually the machine behaves as if it has done its job, and no ticket comes out. So you do it again. This time it tells you you have been declined. Then you check your Monzo account to find that both transactions have come out of your balance. So you leave a note on your car saying “I have already paid twice and the machine is broken. The money has been debited from my account.” And you get into the park because there is a dachshund that needs you. At that stage you are willing to give a fiver to Royal Parks for nothing so you aren’t that bothered about paying twice. They help maintain beautiful places.

But then some illiterate clodhopper slaps a ticket on you despite the note and despite you having paid twice. And your old friend RAGE comes in. My biggest rage instigator comes when I get punished for something that I didn’t do. I used to frequently nightmare that I was being wrongly executed. Maybe a past life. Who knows. Anyway, it pisses me off. So RAGE. And I go looking for the attendant, who thankfully for both of us is nowhere to be seen. Chump.

Irrespective of whose pocket it’s coming out of, I was willing to go to Birmingham with a mob of chanting villagers carrying torches and pull out all the people at Royal Parks head office to tar and feather them while chanting “I paid twice. I paid twice.” But Kester just calmly says “Don’t worry. Just imagine that Royal Parks makes you pay £40 to park, but they don’t announce it. You just find out later. We’ve budgeted loads of money for parking. We can pay it.” YES BUT THAT IS NOT THE POINT. I PAID. TWICE! Why should the production company pay a fine? Or anyone? I would sooner contest that fine, make sure the attendant doesn’t get his bastard commission, and then donate 40 quid to Royal Parks.

So many fines are issued in this city in the full knowledge that they are wrongly issued, knowing that people will take the path of least resistance and just pay the reduced rate rather than paying double. Contest them! Back when I first moved here I paid hundreds of pounds in fines before I became a ninja at getting off wrongly issued ones. This is one of those. But I don’t work in the office, I work on the road for this gig. Although I think Steve in the office has caught on that this is retrievable, as he asked me to send the photos. He should go for the extra fiver as well. I’ll have words with him tomorrow. I went off fully intending to fight it, and telling Kester I would pay if I lost. Steve, out of the blue, asked me to send the details. It’s their credit card, so that makes more sense…

Anyway I was paid today to sit by the Serpentine with a dog. The dog needed constant hands on comfort because she could see her sitter on the water and she wanted to try to swim past all the pedalos and join him. She was a needy doggy. With her little fat legs she wouldn’t swim ten foot, but she was willing to try it anyway. Nothing if not ambitious, this hound. I approve of the ambition if not so much the neediness. Still I was willing to roll around with her a bit while we waited. Especially on such a glorious day. Long may this heatwave continue. Particularly since I have a fridge on the fire escape and need to work out how the hell to get it into my flat before it rains. The fire escape door proved too narrow and Brian and I have been too busy since I got it up there with Jitz the Romanian…

Anywhere. Here’s the dog. She’s got the title. False advertising. She might as well get the photo too.

Percy Pig

Thankfully the people I work with on this show are very used to traveling. At the International Arrivals area of Heathrow Terminal 5, hordes of disconsolate men stand in lines, brandishing hopeful name-boards at anyone who might be the right gender. When I got here I felt I had to step up, so I improvised with my iPad, and held it for all of five minutes before the passenger I’m meeting rang me. She has a working phone. She knows my number. Fucking great. I can sit down.

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It’s about two hours since I got to the airport, now. I only just got there in time for the landing after a pile-up on the M4 forced me to Waze my way through Chiswick. Then I stood, shiny with my iPad board until some geezer glanced over to me and said “Don’t sweat it. It’s about two and a half hours wait.” Shit. I’m meeting someone with an American passport, coming in from Switzerland. Thank God she has a phone that works.

I’ve been watching all the meetings. Arrivals is definitely a more pleasant place to wait than departures. People emerging to tears of joy and long happy hugs while the people next to them resent their blocking the gangway as they hit this city with determination. Lovers and families reunited. Strangers meeting in circles around people with boards, awkwardly introducing themselves like the first day of a conference, forcing laughter.

Also there’s a Marks and Spencer’s, which temptingly sells beer – no thanks. There’s already been one pile-up on the M4 today. More pertinently it sells buttered flapjacks, chocolate cornflake clusters, and Percy Pig and Pals. Yeah so she’s been round the world 31 times or something. But I reckon I might be able to feed her a Percy Pig. Are they vegan? I was told they’re vegan. Her number registers as Los Angeles so I’d better check. The pig thing implies they aren’t. Hmmm. Maybe best find out the dietaries first. West Coast Americans in media are a hard lot to snack.

It’s twenty to ten at night. My first pickup was at 8 in the morning. Compared to the time when I sat on my ass on the sofa all day until they delivered the car, I’ve definitely earned my daily rate. I’m hungry. I might eat all the Percy Pigs. It says they’re suitable for vegetarians though. Maybe I’ll leave her some nome nom nom nom oink

I spent this morning at a tiny airfield out near Slough, watching 50 year old white males jacking up their helicopters, fiddling with their propellers, comparing flaps. Now I’m at this much bigger airport, and the world is pushing past. Orthodox Jews with their families next to a guy with a T-Shirt saying “Power Bottom for Jesus.” Young and old and sick and well. Dressed for sun or rain or fighting or wearing a suit because they have to. And here she comes.


Two and a half hours wait… At least it gave the M4 the time to clear. And we came out to a glorious sunset as she gomped through the remaining Percy Pigs.

“They should export these gummies.” Word. But then there’s fewer for us.

Protectors in the chaff

I hadn’t noticed the police with semi-automatic rifles lumbering around outside TK Maxx on High Street Kensington before. I don’t know if they make me feel safer. I was just ambling to Argos to buy some wastepaper baskets and we crossed the road alongside each other. They were sporting huge great bulletproof vests and directional cameras on their helmets. Inevitable sunglasses to satisfy the childhood dreams instigated by Americana – the shiny TV shows that led to this being what they do on a working day. Trained to kill remotely with a ballistic tool made of metal, secretly hoping they just get to plod around and stop for chicken, wishing that cronuts would finally cross the ocean.

They wandered down a cobbled street marked with a “school” sign, scratching their arse. Like so many menacing things they were oblivious to their own menace. I took a photo when it occurred to me to do so. By that time they were miles away.

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I’m on call now for an events company. I’ve got that great big Honda. This morning I burnt up to Heathrow and picked up a producer. He’s been in Uganda. It seems no matter how many times he travels round the world he still finds surprise in the little things. “No way. Internet works on my phone!” “What the heck? Oh yeah you guys drive on the left. God save the Queen.”

Those tooled up coppers wouldn’t even register with him. In Uganda they get a guy with an AK assigned to their crew. “He offered to help me get people to sign the release forms. I figured that might send the wrong message. He was about 7 foot tall. I paid him with a big bag of money. He said he’d disseminate it.”

I’m glad to be working on this show. It’s going to be interesting. It’s also going to be pretty difficult to blog because I’ve signed a comprehensive Non Disclosure Agreement. So I’ll stick with stuff I’ve noticed on the street today. Which brings me to the woman on the Santander Cycle riding down the embankment just now. Earphones in. Back of neck at 45°. Phone in hand. Staring, clocking traffic only in her peripheral vision. She didn’t have a clue where she was. But it didn’t bother her. And I thought back to those two human tanks in High Street Kensington, walking slowly surrounded by people like that – hand in front, head down. A strange new zombie plague. And here I am, head 45°, swiping words with my thumb. And here you are, head 45° unless you’re in bed, on your phone. And no, I know you’re not on a phone, smuggyface. You’re bolt upright at your geriatric PC and good on you. But I reckon most of us are thoughtlessly sinking into these things more and more, the more that people around us give us permission by doing so too. And they suck our cash in tiny amounts repeated over ages. Drip drip drip. The Matrix again. We are batteries. Just not quite in the way it was envisaged. But perhaps we need these big burly guys because if there was a Tyrranosaur attack nobody would notice but them.

Or perhaps we need to think. To look around more. To know where the edges are and not walk off. To stop the kids who are running around in the field. To remind ourselves and each other what the sky looks like today. How lucky we are despite all the outrage that’s peddled to us daily.

I’m going to leave you with Holden. Don’t kill any musicians.

Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around–nobody big, I mean–except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.

Cars and flats.

I spent a large amount of time today just waiting for Enterprise to deliver a car to me. It felt like their office was on fire. Occasionally someone would ring me up and panic on the phone a bit and then hang up. I was expecting it in the morning. Eventually as evening fell, someone arrived in a Nissan X-Trail. It seats seven midgets. It’s black. It has lots of toys. My favourite toy is that you can Bluetooth connect it to your phone. I set it up so I can say “Ok Google, call Alexa” and it does it all automatically making me feel like an executive in some American movie. They wasted my whole day screwing me around. But they finally came up with what they were supposed to come up with. Bloody idiots. Five minutes after drop off they rang again freaking out and asking me for payment details. I told them that the events company was paying. They kept talking. I told them they’d work it out. No way they’re getting my card details.

I took the thing up to North London, playing with the toys as I went. My good friend is in New Orleans playing Lady Macbeth, and she has rented her Hampstead flat out on Airbnb. The guest arrives tomorrow. I might not be able to let her in because of unpredictable working hours so I got myself up there to hide the key somewhere in case I ended up stuck in Knightsbridge.

I did a quick hoover and dust. I got some milk and bread in, some orange juice and a bottle of red wine. Then I removed the rancid pack of Singapore noodles from the fridge and checked the bathroom. I left the noodles by the sink for a second, checked a few more bits and bobs – (I had a list that I had stuck on the fridge for future me. Clever. If a slightly odd list.)

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Then I plumped the pillows, switched off all the lights – (things I never do in my own home) – and walked out leaving the bloody rancid noodles by the bathroom sink… hopefully I’ll be able to get off work in time to let her in and dispose of the noodles. Otherwise that’ll be an odd review. Oops.

There’s an old fan she gave me in spring which I thought might be useful on a day like this, so I took it back with me. Tom, who is staying at the moment, is mortally afraid of flies so he closes the windows all the time. This way we get moving air. But my friend neglected to tell me the reason she gave me the fan. It makes a noise like a dying seagull. I eventually fixed it by jamming my Google Home device underneath the mechanism to support it. Millions of dollars in research. Not only can it talk to your phone, tv and fridge, but also it jams into your fan to stop it making a horrible noise. Now I’m about to cook steak before an early bed. I have to meet an early morning flight tomorrow coming in from Johannesburg. It’s 40 minutes late. I’m hoping they don’t make back the time…