Ryanair

There is nothing so absurd as the queue for an aeroplane. There are no seats at the gate so I end up standing in it too like a beast for the slaughter. Normally I sit and watch until they’ve all packed in, and then saunter up to the front alongside a few other like minded individuals and fall into the plane.

Some suckers have paid for priority boarding and they’re cramming in early. We can see them through the window, flaunting their idiocy. All of us have allocated seats these days on Ryanair, to make it easier for them to match our corpses with our dental records. It’s not the Black Friday free-for-all it used to be. When you board is completely irrelevant so long as you get on the plane. But still, people are anxious. The women in front of me are deep in intense conversation. They’ve left a gap in the queue in front of them, where exceptionally excited cattle have started to sandwich themselves against the closed barrier and kettle one other. I’m in no rush so I just wait for them to notice. The woman behind me though – she’s immediately anxious. Nature abhors a vacuum. She sees an empty space and despite the fact the barrier is shut she wants to go in it. She can’t understand why I’m not moving and seeks to solve it by tutting and huffing. I ask her if she wants to go in front of me and she immediately does so, frog mouthed, and then stands there for five minutes with me looking at the back of her neck. Eventually she turns round and says to me “I could see people boarding the plane through the window,” by way of explanation. “We’ll all get on eventually.” I reply. “Or at least I hope we do.” She ignores my attempt at a joke. I might be a lunatic. It was just politeness anyway, but she’s done enough by acknowledging, with her comment, that she’s a dick. She can go back to pursing her lips until we have boarded.

And we do board eventually. We all get shoved into this streamlined flying can and we sit in our allocated seats pretending to be separate entities and flying through the air at speeds they used to think would liquify our brains. 520mph. To France, Ho!

By all accounts the head honcho at Ryanair is a poisonous little shit but for my purposes at least he’s a Catholic. £18 single to Lourdes cannot be overlooked. We are about to hurl ourselves south in this impossible contraption. The captain tells us it’s “good flying conditions.” It’s definitely a beautiful day.

And we’re off. Just over an hour in the air so they have to start selling stuff quickly. They’re immediately on the microphone pretending they want us to enjoy our flight and perhaps we’ll enjoy it more if we buy hot drinks or tax free addictives. We’ve already had to walk the undignified duty free temptation slalom through row after row of polished packages attended by bored underpaid women who have been told by the manager to stand there and look welcoming. We all have a feeling that the tax is different and therefore somehow we have to buy things. We are now stuck in this tin can trying not to spend the money they desperately want. We’re a captive audience. I guess that’s how they make up for the excellent ticket price. I’m fine thanks. I’ve eaten. I’ll just sit and write and have coffee when we land in France. The passenger on my right though – they spend €4.50 on a cup of tea and a Kinder Bueno. They manage to resist the temptation of a scratchcard despite the attendant saying “You could win a million dollars” just like they rehearsed on that desperately boring training day. And no sooner have they peddled scratchcards but one of the poor buggers has to walk down the aisle with an open duty free catalogue. “Summer Deals” it trumpets, and I can only thank God it doesn’t say “Christmas” yet. That’s next week.20180929_100817

Plopsy the driver

Late night Al. You absolute bastard.

Knowing that this goes out at 6am, and knowing my inability to get up early, the late night version of me set the early morning version a challenge in order to make damn certain I wouldn’t miss this coach. I didn’t write my blog last night, knowing I’d have to do it now. But I didn’t think it through, as the coach leaves at 6am on the dot – publish time.

Now I’m on the coach. We’re headed off to Stansted, almost. Right now though I’m waiting for the driver to get over himself. I’ll call him Plopsy. He’s very alpha male, is Plopsy. He keeps stopping people from getting on his coach. He’s doing lots of loud articulate explaining to lots of upset people. He won’t accept a screenshot of the email. He’ll only accept the actual email. He has lots of stops. If he accepts these people what happens if the bus fills? It hasn’t affected me other than that I’ve watched him delay departure in order to satisfy his OCD. When I show him my valid email I casually ask “Does this bus usually fill up?” “No sir,” he says and I raise my eyebrows and gesture to my right where there are lots of upset tourists with no data. “I’m happy to buy another ticket, I just need to get on this coach.” one of them says, using his reasoning with a madman voice. Plopsy isn’t listening because Plopsy doesn’t care. If you want a new ticket you have to go to the booth. The bus is due to depart. Anyone buying a new ticket will have to wait for the next bus. Ahh London, London. “Visit London – We even fuck you when you try to leave.” I immediately and completely dislike this human being. He’s making people’s life a misery, for the rules, but he throws my bag in the back like he actively doesn’t give a fuck about anything but himself. “That guy’s a problem, right?” I say to the first people I meet eyes with as I board the coach. They both nod wryly. It’s not just me.

Now he’s walking up the aisle, this little dictator, checking everyone’s bags, telling them where to put them and insisting they put their seatbelts on. I’m the last. When he comes to me I smile with my belt on and my bag stowed. I’m still the naughty kid at the back. “You’ve already made us late, mate. This is making us later.” I say, sunny-smiling. His hesitation is momentary. He doesn’t engage. Good. He’s got driving to do.

And we’re off, Plopsy and I, before the dawn properly breaks, hammering this almost empty coach into sleepy London. Me and my little weird rucksack of things, alongside some relieved tourists who are getting out of this hellhole too.

I have packed very little. The basics. There’ll be things I regret not having, and maybe things I regret taking. I might jettison stuff like spare trousers once I’ve worked out the shape of it. Mum’s holy water is the heaviest and unwieldiest thing I’ve got. I’d love to dedicate it to the Virgin in Lourdes somehow and just get rid of the fucking thing, but I suspect that’s not how I’ll let it work. I’m walking that flask all the way to Spain no matter what I want. It’s not about easy.

My boots are springy and squeaky. Most of my stuff is brand new. Some things still have a label attached. When I hit the road I’ll be shiny and bright eyed. In a month I’ll be dusty and tired, minimal and hopefully a little wiser. Meanwhile, behind me, this dogshit human being will still be driving the National Express to Stansted. The unfortunate people with no data did get on in the end thankfully. Someone else who outranks came along in a red jacket and pantomimed for him. Go Go Plopsy. I’m glad to be leaving this town and your like for a while you unbelievable hidebound prat.

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Battersea stroll

I’m fortunate to live by Battersea Park.

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It’s great. There are fountains that they switch on rather than ignore. There are unusual distractions that were built in Victorian times and are loosely looked after. There’s a tropical garden, a Buddhist pagoda on a peace mile, and various little hidden bits all over the place. It’s a good place to spend a few hours and that’s what I did today. I wanted to walk in my new boots but I also didn’t want to stray too far from home. Lucy my lodger is showing up around 4pm tomorrow and I can’t let her walk into post party pre packing bachelor pad. I’d like her to immediately know that she’ll be at home in my flat.

I had a plumber round in the morning to fix the boiler. It’s that time of year again. I don’t want central heating but the heating dial didn’t work and you can guarantee that there’ll be a cold snap as soon as I leave someone else in my room. Now it’s all fixed. It’s almost time for me to jettison all of this domestic shit and get on the road.

I’ve been trying to work out to what extent I’m going to be an aesthete. I’m bringing no books, as I want to write plus they weigh a ton. I’m bringing no music as I want to listen. I’m not going to ban use of my phone, especially as it’s my writing tool of choice now. I’ll limit games mostly on it though. Don’t want to be sitting in a place I’ll never see again killing aliens I could kill at Green Park Underground. I’m walking through some of the best wine regions in the world, so I’ll limit myself to one (large) glass a day. I think the most unusual thing I’ll be imposing on myself from my perspective is a regular sleeping and waking pattern, a necessity to wash my socks and pants at least once every three days, and walking regular hours. I want to strike out in the morning at 8 come rain or shine. And I’ll be on a strict budget. The money I get for renting my room- that’ll be my trail money. So I’ll need to get smart with food, sleep in all the bedbug alberges from hell and I’ll probably lose a load of weight by mistake which is no bad thing because I’m comparatively Hulk right now and I expect my blessed agent will be glad to see me a little lither. She is patiently observing this behaviour with the beatific “It’ll make you a better actor in the long run.” I fucking love them, and I honestly never thought I’d be able to say that about my agent. It’s not about the quality of the jobs I’ve landed since I’ve been with them, it’s about the extent to which I know they understand me. It’s second to none.

So a little walk in the park. Five miles on the Fitbit. I’m in for a shock…

Chicken dinner

I’m lying on the sofa with Brian and Mel. Tristan and I just cooked a half arsed roast chicken with some of the trimmings. We are talking about Santa Claus. It’s times like these that I take stock. Things are pretty damn good in my life.

Some of my friends clubbed together to get me boots that won’t eat my feet. The internet boots that I was trying to persuade myself were okay, they were super sweaty. I was worried sick about them over 600 miles. Now I’ve been bought boots that you can’t fuck with. Tomorrow I’ll try and strike out somewhere in them for a tester. But I reckon they won’t sweatily erode my toes. Even on a short wear, I’m sold. I’m just going to have to get very good at laundry on the road as I’m deliberately only bringing three pairs of socks

How do I write 500 words about today? I’ve done very little of consequence. This week, I’ve deliberately kept out of all of my dayjobs. I’ve earmarked the time for preparation. I got those boots thanks to my ridiculously generous friends. And also a fleecy top and a walking pole. And I went on Amazon and bought some nappy pins, a clothes line and a sink stopper. But you can get endlessly sucked in by the internet about stuff you need. For me, the key is to bring as little as I can get away with. If the internet is to be believed, everyone will steal all my things immediately, I’ll be drained of all my fluid by bed bugs, snoring people will destroy all my sleep and the path will deliberately break my ankle when I’m trying to evade the blister monster. Bollocks. It’s Daily Mail style sensationalism. I hope and trust.

Honestly. It’s not that far, surely? All this concern about distance and bedbugs and all that… It smells of nothing. I’m walking a bit. That’s all. Walking. Literally the least I could do. I might end up eating my words here, but I get the sense that the majority of people worrying about this shit are basically just batteries with legs.

I use my body as a matter of course. It’s my job. My body is still weird and a bit broken but I understand it. The people who are worried about all these little tiny bullshit details of movement… It’s maybe because they’ve been slotted into their socket for so long they’ve just become habitual batteries powering someone else’s bank. Unmoving passive little lumps generating power until they’re spent.

I’ll try and make sure I’m never walking for reasons I don’t get. It’s the very least I can do. I’ll walk knowingly and I really hope I don’t validate all the internet horror I’ve been reading, about blisters that want to eat your children and potholes that have deliberately dug themselves in order to trap unwary hikers and break their shitty pilgrim ankles.

Meantime tonight it’s lovely to lie here while people I care about dream all sorts of bonkers stuff and make it into reality. This is what keeps me alive in this city. These people, and their ilk. “Look like you did something filthy and you’re not sure how you feel about it.”

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Al-sitting

“I did some work here once,” I tell Ethan. “It was weird. People had to steal a briefcase from me. They weren’t even sure they had the right person. But they did it anyway because they had group consensus and they could frame it as a game. Then I spoke to them about how their transgressive action was arguably no different to the actions taken by people who crash the economy in that building just over there.” I point to the London Stock Exchange. “I ended up in the Evening Standard.”

Ethan thinks for a while before he responds. “CAR,” he posits in response. He’s two. He hasn’t quite sorted out differential vehicular recognition and his conversational engagement is even worse than mine. “Well, Ethan, it’s not so much a car as a cement mixer. I used to call them cemiximentors though. But I don’t want to confuse you so we should go with truck?” “CAR!” he insists.  The lights are changing. Fuck it. Car will do. One day he’ll be capable of beating the crap out of me. The cemiximentor drives off but Ethan has a new thesis that he wants to share with me. “PLANE!” he suggests, pointing to what is, indeed, a very plane. We revel in delight at this marvel of engineering as it crosses our field of vision. His grandpa was a pilot after all. We admire this triumph of man over nature and grandma comes back from the loo.

I’ve been sitting. I’m not sure if I’m babysitting or mothersitting. I’m sort of doing both, while sitting myself as well. He wants cars and planes. She wants wine. I can strike a balance here. But oh hell I’m hungover. Maybe they’re actually sitting me?! Three equally incompetent human beings, three generations, combining forces like some sort of godawful Power Rangers spin off. “I’ll have the Cote du Rhone.”

I was supposed to be there at 12, but that was when I woke up. Last night went big, you see. I threw myself into the nearest clothes to my bed and then into an Uber when I noticed the time. Waking to front door slam more or less exactly 3 minutes. Michael the driver and I made it as far as Green Park, ever northerning in the quest to avoid traffic, before we both gave it up as a bad idea and I ran onto the tube instead to hustle to St Paul’s underground that way.

The conversation goes elsewhere as Ethan has had enough of my blithering. He falls asleep in some form of protest after no aeroplanes fly over for at least 5 minutes. His grandmother and I talk about healthcare and childcare in France, pilgrims and families and all sorts. I’m quite sad to see her go when my mate returns from his meeting. But I’m glad I’ve been able to help in some way and it’s got me out of a bed I might have just languished in all day after last night’s revelry.

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Birthday

My poor mother divested herself of this particular fleshburden on this day, far too many years ago, in the sleepy Bailiwick of Jersey. I gradually expanded from being a good meal for one to being a veritable feast, free range, for a whole happy Christmas family. But in my adulthood I contaminated myself with all sorts of vicious chemicals and seditious opinions so now you wouldn’t like the taste of me at all. So, useless for the table, I have existed, tolerated by society, ever since – harmlessly perpetrating sedition through a blog that merely shouts to an echo chamber. And today is that special day when Facebook prompts everyone to wish a happy clickday, and it’s a Monday for once. Monday is the actor’s day off. We play when you work and we work when you play. So I’ve been rolling into lovely food and already having too much alcohol despite the sun being very present in the sky.

So I thought I’d make words now. Because words later will be largely unconnected from meaning. Not that I’m particularly connected already.

So. Hello. You mad fool. You’ve got this far. What were you expecting? Keep reading to the end. You’ll never believe what happens in the last sentence. And so on.

What happened today then? I was picked up by Tristan and Tanya and they took me to Maze Grill and fed me a tomahawk steak and lots of wine before 3pm. Now I’m back at home with a bag full of prosecco and reasonable red wines and God knows what else. l suspect that some of the people who work normal hours will start to appear in my flat soon but in the interests of sanity I’m only mentioning to people if I hear from them that I’m having friends round. I’d just as soon play computer games in my pants.

People have started giving me presents though. This is great. It’s like being a fatter less self absorbed version of teenage me. But rather than cake I’m getting socks, maps of Portugal, blister plasters and sunscreen. Apparently a conglomerate of people have offered to improve my boots, which is amazing because I was going to go with my £30 internet boots, which leave my feet soaking wet after 8 hours of normal use in London. I would’ve just pushed on past dissolving feet, as is my habit. But to have feet that work in boots I don’t hate – that’s going to be a luxury that means my walk will be about more than managing discomfort. Until my teeth fall apart or something equally shit but unexpected.

I’m giving the last fifty words of my blog to a random guest because I’m already too drunk to be any help to you. This is the bit you had to read till the end for: Hello, the aforementioned Tristan here. Now. The Barclay. Hasn’t he done well. 29 again and looking ever better. Full set of gnashers, spanking three piece, (I like to think I inspired in him the love of that all weather armour), admirable hair considering he keeps on selling strands of it to gullible farmer’s sons as “magic threads” , (you can’t move for illicitly procured cattle in his flat). He’s yomping across the Pyrenees soon into Spain and possibly Portugal as he does have a map. I’m exceptionally pleased for him and I want to take this opportunity to say that I love him and I know you do too. Let’s all wish him the happiest of birthdays and send him fulsome fervent well wishes for his pilgrimage.

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Arcola night

These tiny little dressing rooms… How many actors did we have tonight? About twelve. One of us a reasonably eminent comedian. All crammed into a tiny tiny room.

One rehearsal. One show. We were all there to support friends. And we all jammed into this mad tiny wardrobe to change. I just showed up at the theatre in costume because my costume is a variant on normal human clothes, but some of us didn’t have the luxury. Then there’s props and consumables. For me the biggest issue was fitting my wig. Mel had lent me a big long women’s wig that was roughly my colour. It’s a plot point so it needs to be vaguely believable. But with no budget you go with what you’re given, so I had to ponytail it and stick in an army of hairclips. None of these things are particularly familiar to me, although I did have a ponytail as a young man, knowing what male patterns lay in store for me. I incompetently stuck in a load of hairclips, got someone else’s makeup all over my ass, wiped it off, and then sat next to a 23 year old woman in school uniform while an old friend helped fix my hair styling incompetence and other people focused their gaze into empty corners and mumbled. Then we did a show. And of course we smashed it.

Sold out means very little when it’s one night only, but I’m glad there weren’t seats for us in the second half. I enjoyed it very much in the end, for the spirit and for the game of it. We played good theatre this evening. A reminder, as if we needed it, that there’s a huge amount of excellent talent out there wondering where the next job is coming from while three people play everybody.

I love The Arcola. The first time I worked there was on Victor’s Life some 15 years ago by this wonderful bonkers playwright Sibylle Berg. I puppeted and voiced a Tapir made by one of the guys that went on to make War Horse, alongside an equally eloquent deer puppet. The play was set in a future long after humanity was extinct and the ungulates ran the world. They had paid God and the Devil for a show about what humans were like.

A few months later I couldn’t make an initial R&D at BAC “exploring horses”. I was busy doing some sort of low paid / unpaid schmurtz. That workshop went on to be Joey and lots of actors of my type working ensemble in a game changing show that totally reassessed the viability of puppets in commercial theatre. Fuck it.

And so the opportunities sail by, but fuck I’ve learnt my craft while I’ve been missing those little ticks on the CV. And now I’m going for a long walk which will definitely help my craft again but won’t go on the old CV. But fuck the CV, he says with the conviction of someone who has said that too long while chasing some strange nebulous dragon of his own devising.

I’ll just keep playing weird people and watching them when I’m not playing them, and being one in the interim and feeling and stretching and crying and wishing and seeking. And looking like a tit in a ponytail… It was nice to have hair for a change. I’d like to have had more hair.

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