In order to counteract some of the weird feelings elicited by the picture of my hopeful mother that now has pride of place in my living room, I decided to wield the drill this morning and stick some more pictures up.
I’ve put up lots of pics on theatre sets, but few in my own home. I’ve drilled into the walls of The Finborough more than my own bedroom, and that’s despite doing nothing there for more than ten years.
I have two portraits of my face. I’ve never really known what to do with them. I remember both of them being painted.
Summer 1980’s, Douglas Isle of Man and I’m eight or nine. I’m playing in the garden. Most likely I’m blowing bubbles and then shooting them with a water pistol. That’s hours of fun right there, and with stories attached “The alien disease is launching, I am mind controlled, I have to help it disseminate. BUT THEY AREN’T COUNTING ON MY SECRET PISTOL WEAPON.” Repeat ad nauseam. (Water pistol always wins.) Mum finds me and makes me come in to talk to an artist. I have to sit in a chair inside on a nice day. He comments that I can’t sit still. Mum behaves like that’s a good thing. The artist catches my mischief. I don’t know his name. I barely remember him. It’s a sweet picture. I can’t believe I was ever that innocent.
Fifteen years later and I’m sitting on a flight of stairs in Fulham. My old school friend Tom is with me. He and I got into trouble for reviving a satirical magazine that had been part of the old school’s history for many years. It’s an entrenched school so even the means of protest are entrenched. We made both friends and enemies in the faculty by doing it, but some of the stuff we created was lovely. God rest JPRM. It was a clear example of the privilege one has at a private boarding school – we could make something that genuinely upset some of the establishment, using establishment facilities. Tom is and was an artist, and did some brilliant accurate witty caricatures whilst I wrote overblown guff. I’ve often wondered how we don’t spend more time together now. We had a generative partnership and a deep friendship. He painted this just after my first drama school audition, for Webber Douglas. It hadn’t gone well and I knew it. He catches that concern and determination.
I’ve stuck both of these pictures up on the wall because why not. Neither of them hurt me to look at. I’m neither of those people now but I remember being both. I’ve put them in the same corner as the papier-maché bust of Scrooge that was made last year for Christmas Carol – the one I use as a hat stand.
Three versions of me, decades apart. It’s nice to put them together. To remember that the distracted happy child, the haunted pressured youth and the odd man I am now – getting on with it and writing about it every day still hoping – we are all the same person, and we’ve all been on a long journey together.
Some of you that read this regularly first met me as that kid. Some as that tricky schoolboy. More know different varieties of the man I’ve been experimenting with since. I feel like I’m forever away from these two versions of me. But that kid and that youth – they’re still in me somewhere. It’s good to remember what made them tick. It’s good for all of us to occasionally connect with what we have been. The sharp uncompromised perception of that child. The deep unfocused ambition of that youth. They are both still there but honed. Honed doesn’t mean blunted. There is still much to do.