Don’t waste…

The tube is stopped at Aldgate. To my left a very big woman with a woolly jumper has her elbow firmly jammed into my nipple. She sat beside me and did it on purpose. It feels almost companionable, if a little aggressive. She’s definitely aware of it. Maybe she’s trying to actively combat “manspreading”.

Opposite us sits an old couple. He is thin. Too thin. A thin I’ve seen before. He must be 82. Cancer is eating him. “3,2,1 Go” he says to the train, to the air. It doesn’t go. He tries again. Nothing. His wife laughs. I laugh too, despite the elbow.

“It was worth a try,” I remark. He makes direct eye contact with me and keeps it. “I think this is where they change the drivers. It’s like Edgware Road – it’s the end of the line.” I say.

“End of the line? I know the feeling.” he replies. His wife snakes her hand into his. Touch. He says it again. “End of the line.” I look at him closer. He has chosen his clothes. He has life in his eyes even if his body looks like it’s hurting. “I dunno mate. You look like you’ve got some good time left in there.” “I hope so.” He says. “I really hope so.” His wife touches his hand again. There’s a pause. But the conversation is open now. It feels like I have to say something. “The rate I’m drinking, I reckon I’ll be off before you,” I say. Fuck knows where that comes from. It seems this is where we are with this exchange. The big woman to my left withdraws her elbow from my nipple. She’s odd. She send seems to like being antisocial. This companionable stuff has made her awkward. She’ll happily nipple jam someone who she thinks won’t call her on it. I have been considering patting her on the head with equal disregard for personal space. She senses this and she withdraws.

“What’s your tipple?” the old guy asks. I’m sort of in a character now, ticking over this interaction because it feels he wants it or needs it for some reason. “Wine.” I tell him. “Red wine.” It’s not strictly true. I don’t have a tipple. I just worry about alcohol. He’s happy with specific information though. He wants it. He thinks.

“I used to be fond of red wine, once.” he muses, still with hard eye contact. His eyes are haunted now though. Her hand goes for a touch again.

“It’s not helping.” I say. “I spend money. I forget. Then the next morning I remember even harder.” I’m trying to make it sound bad cos clearly he’s not allowed to drink and he misses it. Also that’s true.

The train is moving. We are almost at Liverpool Street. He’s thinking again. He speaks, moves and thinks with care. Eventually he says: “Oh yes, I used to like a glass of wine.” More thought. The train is pulling in. He leans in. This is important: “But don’t … waste your life … trying to find something … that you enjoy”. This is thought through, and finished with a Confucian flourish and the eyes widening. Clear pale blue. He’s happy with it. It’s wisdom.

“Thank you, my friend.” I say. “I’ll mull over that. And thank you.” I tell it to him hard because I want him to feel he’s impacted me. He’s in a place where he’s very aware of mortality. He leaves the train, supported by his loving and solicitous partner. Elbow touch. I hope he rallies. I suspect someone has given him a finite number of months.

I don’t really know what he meant though, in his parting shot. He wanted to impart wisdom. He was inevitably thinking about his impact and legacy which is why I thanked him so sincerely. I think it was personal to him and his past decisions, that advice. That’s what wisdom is. Going from personal to general. I’ll mull it, as I promised.

I’ve found something I enjoy but I’m maybe wasting a lot of my life trying to make it work. But it doesn’t feel like a waste. It feels like a delight mostly. But there it is, for you, from him. Make of it what you will. Here are the boys playing x-com. I’m gonna join in. Waste? Nah.

dav

Edinburgh van

At 8.45 I put my empty coffee cup on the sideboard, turned my van round on Sandie’s lawn in Easingwold and headed out into the torrential nationwide downpour. The good thing about the fact we now live in a cloud is that my phone doesn’t cook itself as it sits in the sunny sat-nav holder. The bad thing is that the world is a swimming pool and I’m driving through it at 95mph (Artistic license. Actually 70mph. I never break the law, and nor should you.)

It’s one o’clock and I’m exhausted. I got back to the place I started from at half midnight.  There’s a can of beer on the sideboard and you can’t stop me drinking it. I’ve barely stopped all day. Driving conditions have been truly shitawful, but at least my battery power stayed.

I already had a load of sewing machines packed in from Cambridge last night. And a huge cumbersome circular box thing they hadn’t bothered telling us about. This stuff is all going to Edinburgh. Evidently there’s a show about sewing. That was first in.

Then I grabbed a box for “Just Fucking Pay Me.” (I think that was the name). A show about strippers. Easy. Nicely packed. Gotta hand it to burlesque people. They know how to do a lot with a little. Maybe it’s not burlesque but that’s the vibe I got. I deliberately only asked each company one question.

Then I was off to Gatsby’s Drugstore. Months ago, Golfo, Josh and I measured up a load of astroturf and stored it in the roof, in an enlightened attempt to rationalise the storage space there for future us. We had some payback today in that we knew immediately where that fake grass was. Famous Five wants that fake grass. In it goes.

There was a cycle event today that destroyed almost every river crossing chance. I got to know the tunnels a bit better. I managed Rotherhithe, Blackwall and the Woolwich Ferry today.

Next up was Streatham, where my one question policy derailed itself in that the answer yielded no information. I got a lot of furniture from “Oh it’s an American company, they’ve done lots of stuff in the past.” Uh. Ok. Take what you want from that. Whatever the American company does it involves some lovely furniture that nobody could be bothered to bubble wrap. I’ve tried to be kind to it.

Then it was over to Woolwich, where I met a Frenchwoman in an uber. She was delightful. I was losing focus by now but if I recall its a show about translation, made out of large fragile pieces of paper. I liked her. I can’t plug her show.

Finally a dance piece made out of the cheapest plastic that exists, threaded through with extremely fragile circuitry, and with occasional heavy chunks of wood. This set isn’t made for travel, and it’s last in. I’m worried about it. The creators were ace if SLOW. I was over 2 hours driving the van from temporary park to temporary park while they bubble wrapped their balsawood set.

Then I drove back through the ocean to Yorkshire, where sleepy Phil and I loaded “just a few boxes” into the van. I discovered how the phrase “just a few boxes” means three humongous trunks and a load of random shit.

So there’s my week done at last. Edinburgh people, go see Famous Five, 9 foot women, just fucking pay me, “it’s an American company”, and something made out of paper about translation at 11am Assembly.

And me? I don’t have to drive tomorrow. Hooray. I’m putting my empty beer can on the sideboard. I think it might be bedtime. Zzz

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Beatrix Potter

I’m in an old library in Burgess Park. We drove behind this young lady to get in. This was the stage space. It’s pretty much the only photo I took today.

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The heat has eased a little with the rain. It’s the interval. One of the actresses is on her phone, catching up on her email while there’s time. She’s just out of drama school. “I’ve just had two rejections for parts I wanted” she says. We do the traditional long form swearing together. “Fuck fuckety fuck fuck”. “Does it get easier over time?” she asks the old lag. “Ha. No. Not really. But it’s what we signed up for. And there’s joy here.” She’s sad though. Shocked. She’s fresh out of drama school. The skin takes a while to thicken. She sits with it.

Five minutes later she’s playing guitar and singing, with a huge smile on her face, to the smallest house we’ve had yet. And she’s still smiling like she means it, because she does mean it. And I’m smiling with her, for her, and for the show. It’s the last show in the run. The last in this fellowship. The show might play again but it’s unlikely it’ll be the same configuration of players. They’re all giving it a celebration kick despite a small last house, playing for the material and each other, and taking care of the audience. It’s a show about Beatrix Potter, performed on her birthday anniversary today, with two men and two women. It’s musical, weird, silly and fun. It’s mostly for kids. Actors play well to kids because we’ve got ADHD in common. And it’s a lovely piece.

Knowing the voyage that the props have been on, it’s a joy to note that every single one of them is used. They aren’t just generic dressing. The van was worth it, to let them have the ease they have. It’s enough to be playing multiple instruments and characters outdoors in the wind and the potential rainstorms. At least they knew their props and didn’t discover too late that the trunk opens the wrong way or the bell doesn’t ring etc.

It’s almost 2 and I’m still up writing here in Easingwold while an old friend sleeps in my bed in London. I have a full-on day again driving around London tomorrow despite a massive cycle event that will inevitably cause me no end of hassle. And then I’ll sleep here tomorrow night. I reckon it’s a minimum twelve hours non stop driving.

We just raised a glass to a man who died yesterday, who set up a fantastic theatre in the north. My host knew him well, and used to cast his shows. I never met him, and would have liked to. He made lovely clear work, gained huge respect for his theatre and helped many of my friends at the start of their careers. It was pleasant to raise a glass to his memory. Even if I never directly benefited from his existence, and indeed sought to work with him to no avail, I still derived entertainment in his theatre, and he helped my friends. RIP Braham Murray. And for the rest of us, onwards!

Sarong

I don’t think we could’ve timed it worse if we’d tried. We were walking down the towpath from Hackney Wick when the rain we’ve all been waiting for came all at once all over us. All I have in my bag is a single dry sock, for some reason. By the time we got to the boat it was as if we’d been swimming fully clothed. Now I’m in a sarong and a very colourful woman’s blouse, with wet feet jammed into soaking trainers. I’ve gone for a little walk in the post storm calm, ostensibly to buy biscuits but actually because I need the loo and her mum is on the boat.

I first met her mum about an hour ago. I was howling loudly into the storm, utterly drenched to the bone, long past caring. She said “Mum!” and suddenly in a flash of lightning there was a woman with an umbrella. Since then we’ve dried out, and it’s the mum’s blouse I’m wearing. I think perhaps her mum is actually some sort of storm divinity. She came down in a deluge. She’ll likely leave in a whirlwind. I’m going to propitiate her with this offering of biscuits just as soon as I’ve gone to the loo.


I found a bar and wandered in in my sarong. One person said “good morning.” It’s 8pm. Everyone else smiled at me. Nobody seemed to mind that I just fluttered in, loo, didn’t buy anything and fluttered out again. The way I look I suspect they think I’m either selling mushrooms or I’m stuck in a time trap from the seventies. I feel pretty comfortable, floating around like this, even though my feet are soaking. We needed that rain. Maybe we didn’t need it all at once like that, but it’s still good to get some wet on the ground.

Sort of a day off today, although the morning was mostly about finding a place to put the van. The weekend is going to be busy, so I reckon I can put my feet up, eat some biscuits and enjoy the fact that now it’s rained out it’s gorgeous again.

dav

Blood moon tonight with mercury retrograde. That’s the sort of thing I should be concerned with, dressed like this. Not just biscuits. But I think I’ll get stuck into the biscuits with the rain god first. One of these days I’ll take my time and write a cogent argument here again. But clearly not today. Minor deities and biscuits again.

Shame really that the clouds chose to wait until today to cross over. I was looking forward to a bit of blood moon howling. My belly is rolling with swells of feeling right now. I don’t really know why but for the last few months I’ve felt like I’m in a boxing match. I think Wilderness Festival next weekend will help me find equilibrium. It’s become an annual safety valve for me. Not hard party like Shindig. More a chance to gather together the bits of me that I’ve spread thin over the year and put them all back into my heart in roughly the right order, in a place that I think of as being quite special, quite thin, and deeply webbed with happy memories. But that’s for next week.

Yoyo

It is important for me to know concretely that my acting is my priority. It’s also useful for my agent to know this. So even though it was just a commercial casting, I blew £112 on a day return from Sheffield to London today. Think of it as a statement of intent. If I turn it down citing “Too difficult” or “Too expensive” it’s another time I’ve let things get in the way of acting. If I say “Yes I will fucking make this work, practically and financially” then irrespective of the result of the audition I’m making that commitment to the universe that my career in all its forms is my top priority, whilst satisfying my lovely new agent that I’m not taking their agenty work for granted.

East Midlands trains are taking the piss charging £79 for this single ticket before 5pm from London back up north. But that’s the world. The grey people have the money. Spontaneity is expensive. We should all know exactly where we are all going to be, every day.

It’ll be worth much more than £112 if I get the job. It’s already worth it for me to tick over with that casting director, with whom I’ve come so close so many times, to vindicate my agent soliciting the meeting, and to remind myself that, even for an advert I care about being present. The director won’t only do adverts. The other actors won’t only do adverts. Work breeds work. Fingers crossed for Christmas Dad. Besides, commercials pay for creativity. I get this and I can do a month making something without having to scramble around like a maniac saying yes to random weird jobs. Although it’s so ingrained in me that I’ll likely still keep doing exactly that. Particularly as I enjoy the unpredictability.

I’m enjoying this little unexpected train journey. It’s a good view up through the fields. Everything is parched but beautiful.

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I bet the next stage of the year will be hurricanes, flooding and apocalyptic rainfall. Hopefully not when I’m at a festival, which looks like it’ll be twice in the coming month. Let’s see if this weather can hold until September, even in Brecon Beacons, where it is normally, in my experience, a total washout.

I think my tent is broken. I seem to remember one of the poles totally shredded from wind damage when I took it down last time. There might be some form of hideous zombie tent in that bag now. I would do well to replace it but this train is the same price as a good tent so perhaps sleeping in a zombie tent for two festivals is payback for getting to this casting today. I’ll bring some gaffer tape to shore up the holes. Gaffer tape solves everything. And I’ll arrive early enough in the day to improvise some kind of solution if the thing is impossibly fucked which I suspect it might be. Worth a try, I say. If it’s like this I can sleep outside.

I’m almost back to Sheffield, to pack the van in the evening sun and then mission it to London as the night falls. I’ll sleep in my own bed tonight. And have a territorial squabble with Pickle who always thinks she’s finally won the bed when I go away. And hopefully I’ll get a nice Christmas advert…

Sun in an amphitheatre

We might complain about the heat, in the way we like to complain about everything, but this summer is the stuff of memories. These long bright possible days. Perhaps it helps that I’m spending many of them outdoors, under the sky, soaking in the heat.

I’m lying on a bank in the shade. Off to my right the actors are working hard in relentless direct sunshine. There’s no shade for them or for the audience. I remember days like that with FanShen, touring a short physical show, coming off sweating and elated, voice parched, deep tanned, knowing we’d be doing it again in a couple of hours. I haven’t seen this show yet. I was going to catch it now. But it’s so unforgiving in that heat that I’d sooner be behind this tree writing to you lot while they all sweat. I’ll catch it on Saturday in London. If anyone likes whimsy and Beatrix Potter, there’ll be a lot of both of those things. Bonnets and songs and beards and fun. They play for donations. And they play hard for them.

This morning we unpacked their set onto the grass of an amphitheatre just above Sheffield station. Now they are pinging out their voices to a knot of kids dosed up on sugar from lollies, with their parents either engaging with the show or taking the chance to catch up with old friends on this perfect evening. In about twenty minutes everyone will clap and then I’ll drive this van into the middle of the stage and we’ll shove all the random crap in the back of it, drive two hours, have a beer and go again tomorrow.

Tomorrow, Thursday, 12pm and 6pm, Sheffield. Then two shows in Burgess Park near Camberwell, in an old library. I’ve got nothing riding on this other than that I’m driving for it and I love the company. It’s just a load of good hearts with talent making things because they love making things. What other reason is there? And for me it’s another memory for the bank. Another reminder that I’ve chosen a life where this sort of thing is normal. I’m lying on a bank in the sun in Sheffield and this is my job.

And they’re clapping. That last song must’ve been the final number. The sound of clapping on the summer evening wind. Ooh it teks me back to when I were oop in Ripley. I’m going to amble over and be present so I can gather when best to break the magic with my stonking great silver van.

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There’s something romantic about the whole process of breaking a set after the story is told and shoving it into the van. All these individual items on their own are unremarkable. But altogether, with the belief of the actors and the audience, they transform and take on significance way greater than their individual shape.

The actors have all gone to change in the back of my van because the kids don’t want to leave. I think it’ll be a while before I can load. I guess I’ll have to sit here in the beautiful sunshine waiting. After all, it’s my job…

Babymilk

“We are all weird. There is no such thing as the normal family. I wish someone had told me that when I was young.” That’s Sandie. She is sitting next to me in Easingwold. She’s not old but she’s older than I am. I’m writing on her iPad because my phone won’t take charge and my own iPad is on a Narrow Boat somewhere in Hackney Wick. But I have to write this somehow. “I hope it hasn’t become a burden on you,” she says. “No,” I reply, working it out as I speak. “I think I need it. It’s useful to have something I can sublimate as being a responsibility, every day, no matter what. Besides, I enjoy it. Fuck knows why. But I do.” “I see,” she replies. And a silence falls, punctuated by the tapping of  my fingers on the screen. Eventually … “I must go and feed the hedgehog.” And she is out through the French windows leaving me with the ticking of her crazy clock that chimes like it’s a meth addict every hour on the hour, superfast. Lucky hedgehog. I just had lasagne and a shitload of Picpoul, but it got cat biscuits and water which is probably the hedgehog equivalent.

I woke up in Catford on my best friend’s floor. She’s raising a baby and living her life at the same time, proving to us all that it’s can be done. But she needs more time to sit and write. I offered to take some of her hours and wander around trying not to lose the baby. She seemed okay with that, but told me she would need to “train me.” I’ll take a training. Kids are fucking hard work. I know the basics ten point baby list: 1: Do not drop the baby on the head even if wasps. 2: Do not forget you have the baby with you and become distracted by shiny things. 3: If the baby shouts, attempt to discover what is causing the shout. If it is a lack of attention lavish attention in the pathetic hope that the shouting stops. Realise this doesn’t work. Become more inventive. 4: The baby can derive no nutrition from Al nipples. Do not pander to its lippy insistence that this is not the case. 5: Baby. 6: Oh but the head smells like milk. 7: Baby. 8: Why is it shouting? Look at my funny glasses. Face! Weird finger things. Singing. Help? 9: Aaaargh 10: Baby.

They need some sort of stability, these babies. If you shift the routine they start shouting. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with a bit of shouting. But it’s noisy. So I guess I’ll have to make myself more familiar by spending more time with the milky little hedgehog. Then I can give Min some rest when I am not running around the country with a van full of trunks.

For now though it’s bedtime in the north again, and tomorrow to Sheffield. Then I actually have a day and a half of downtime on the payroll. My life is odd. It’s undeniable. But it’s glorious. I’m very happy with the weirdness, although I would warn you that you might struggle to communicate with me until I renew my phone contract (it is now up for renewal though. Finally.

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This is the clock. “It’s demented,” says Sandie. It’s 200 years old. Made in Leeds. Very very insistent. But keeps good time. It’s beautiful.