Uncle Banquo

Another crazy arts space in another railway arch. This time it’s called “Matchstick Pieshop”. They sell pies. They do cabaret. There’s weird stuff outside.

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It’s owned by a cat. Humans run around pretending it belongs to them. It really doesn’t.

Cats have always come to me. I must smell. The amount of times someone’s cat has jumped into my lap and their human has said “That’s weird, she never normally does that.” Now Pickle is in the equation too, so my shoes smell of cat. The owner of the arts space immediately came to sniff my shoes. He spent most of the show sleeping apart from a perfect slinky moment to end the first half of the show.

We were doing Macbeth again. It’s my old friends at The Factory. Our last show before a week’s residence at Theatre Clwyd in Wales. A lovely way to get into the groove before money comes into the equation and changes the air for everyone. It’s a playful company and it was a playful show. I had a great time and so did the audience. The company was bound together, listening, playing and challenging. Exactly the best atmosphere for an interesting show and I was pleased to be part of it. Unless something changes I ain’t going to Clwyd. So I’ll take my adrenaline hit where I can. Doing a Factory show is a very efficient way of mainlining adrenaline. You just don’t know what the fuck will happen, but you also know something will happen and I’ll be in front of a paying audience. We are hitting more than we are missing with Macbeth, and the room is very alive. I’m proud to be involved, and getting better at partitioning my time. Often in the past I haven’t been able to think of anything other than the show I’m doing. I’m getting much much better at compartmentalising. I did some driving for Tristan and Tanya. I’m doing a lot of driving for no profit at the moment, with my time on the van running to an end. They needed some stuff moved, I got lunch. It’s still a lunch I didn’t otherwise have and their stuff is moved now.

Then I went home, washed, made sure I had my keys, and put on my trainers with a suit so I could look sharp but still run around. Leaving the flat I realised my trainers were too far gone, turned around, quickly changed them, rushed back to get to the theatre on time and locked myself out of my flat. Fuck.

Brian is in America.

Thankfully Mel who goes out with Brian has spare keys. She’s out tonight, in Brixton, getting hammered with the girls and dancing. I persuade her to bring them in her clutch bag.

Having done two hours of Shakespeare, darling, I get an Uber across town to some underground cavern. It’s a birthday night. It’s all women. It’s throbbing. You have to show ID to get in. She’s there, having a ball, thrilled to see me. She introduces me to her friends and one of them almost reacts with dry heaves. I try to explain to her that I’m just collecting keys and I’m really good mates with Mel but she’s terrified to let me come within 3 foot of her. So I get Mel a beer to say thanks, and get distracted by something (the exit). Everyone is smashed here. I’ve got my keys. It’s a win.

Now I’m almost home.

Perfect to have a keyholder who is as unpredictable as I am. I’m glad she has a set. Most of my friends are kidded up now so they can’t take receipt of post show Al and help him home. It was hilarious being a momentary half welcome part of the Saturday night Brixton brigade even if I felt like my friend’s weird uncle…

Vicar

My old friend is a vicar. Well, many of my old friends are vicars, but I’m thinking of one in particular. You might not know this about me but I was a very strong Christian back when the world was easy. Lots of my friends from that period are vicars now. I don’t see them often as I feel I’m a patch of darkness. But I went to see this one. He lent Brian a thurible and returning it provided an excuse for us to catch up.

He’s an interesting soul. Excruciatingly intelligent but self deprecating. Loves his geekery. Cares about his ministry. If I’d followed that route I might have ended up very like him, engaged in pastoral care and resigned about bureaucracy in his institution. An empath in a structure designed to prefer the career-monsters who jump through the right hoops but at heart care for nothing but their own comfort. It’s a pattern I understand from various day jobs. It’s not enough to be good at something, you have to prove you’re good at something, and the criterion by which you have to prove you’re good at it are laid out by people who aren’t good at it and don’t understand what it takes to be good at it.

He’s good at it. We walk to the tube station. He greets his parishioners and gets a response. This is London, but he’s sunny and you can see he’s liked. We are talking, chewing the fat, looking over points of connection, establishing new lines of friendship as we bounce round sunny hellos. And suddenly there’s an ambulance.

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Immediately his demeanour changes. “I know them.” I refrain from saying “Of course you do.”

The door is open. I hang behind, but he stands attentive before it, a bloodhound at point. He is praying. We said grace before we ate lunch. Before he goes in the door, he is gathering his power. He’s interceding. Like Bruce Banner making himself angry, he’s making himself kind. He goes into the house. I wait. He is in there a while.

When he comes back he explains a little bit about the dynamic in the home. There is chronic illness there – people struck down with these desperate incurable painful conditions. As far as he can tell this is a minor complication – a blood pressure issue – and it’s being dealt with.

My whole time with him I’m aware of his generosity and kindness. He derails or questions any negative assumptions that he detects in my conversation. He monitors me for darkness, and tries to bring light. In the time we are together he never once raises the question of my faith. He says grace before I tuck into my chicken, but I’m not under pressure to say anything and he’s paying. So for me it really is a meal provided by divine providence. I say “amen”.

He has a home and a beautiful church. And his life has recently brought him great pain. He deals with it very well – he’s pastoring himself as best he can but it’s sharp and hard in his eyes, where he can’t hide it. It’s a pain I know well, his pain. I can help him know he’s not alone, so he can help his flock. We help each other a little bit for a few hours on a sunny day, each with our own brand of ministry.

This is a balanced, gentle, strong individual, and one I’m glad to reconnect with. Whatever you think of the things he must believe, on the ground level, he is a demonstration of how the church can be a wonderful thing. Hopefully I’ll see a lot more of him.

Assessment

I’ve been fortunate enough over the last three years to have been involved with one of the “magic circle” law firms for two days a year, helping them find young talent to have a week of work experience that frequently leads to a life changing job or a paid university place. It’s a hell of a thing to be involved with. These candidates are pooled as widely as you can imagine. The firm is actively trying to diversify. They aren’t just taking the best graded candidates. They’re acknowledging that straight C from a tough inner city state school is harder to achieve than straight A from a fee paying school. They’re looking at the individuals not the system.

I’m always a little winsome, as I won a place on one of these events when I was that age. I think it was at that very firm. I only remember it in a blur. I enjoyed the day and met people from utterly different backgrounds. I was offered a place on the initiative, and turned it down because I wanted to be an actor. My mum and I fought bitterly about it but I was adamant. One door closes… … … another … um …

It has been two very lovely days, in really diverse rooms. I remember having my mind blown by the difference in background and education on that day for me, and that was in the nineties. This firm is good at making opportunities, good at thinking outside the box. They are guaranteeing a continued future for themselves by employing deeply from all classes and backgrounds, while also seeking gender parity. If I could teleport into 17 year old me I’d still make the same decision, but it would be much harder knowing what I know now. Some of these young adults are going to have remarkable lives, catalysed and given direction by this day. There’s nothing I can do with my obsession. Its wired in my blood. I’ll be an actor until it kills me, and the opportunities will either catch up with my obsession or they won’t. I’m internally and externally ready for whatever. My craft is honed to a sharp point. But it takes two to tango. And one of my last conversations with dad was “I’ve got nobody in your industry. I can’t help you. Any other industry I can offer you something, but acting? I play golf with Sean Connery… But I don’t think he likes me much.”

Meantime, this evening I’m chilling with my best friend. She made a human so she’s busy. I just had to read a bedtime story to that small human. It was fun, but I think it got us both a bit too excited. So now I’m downstairs listening to my friend do top class bedtime mothering and reflecting on my day. Once the small one is sleeping, the mum and I will eat pizza, have a spot of red wine, and put the world to rights.

I didn’t check up on my hat at Kentish Town. Hopefully it’s not lost.

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(Details only obscured in the picture just in case, and out of habit.)

Mind the Hat

We were on holiday in Ibiza and my dad tried to fix the lights by the pool. He ended up ten foot behind himself, in the pool, thanking God he was still conscious.

In Thailand I got back to my shack and fumbled for the lightswitch to get blown backwards onto the bed. I woke up an hour or so later with bruised legs wondering how I got onto the bed. I flew!

As a kid, dad told me a story of an incident he had with an electric rail as a kid. He was stuck to it for a second and then blown off it way up into the air. He used it as an illustration of how you can become part of the circuit, be unable to disconnect yourself, and cook. “If I get connected, hit me with a piece of wood. Don’t grab me or you’ll get connected too.”

Thankfully when my hat blew suddenly onto the live rail at Kentish Town I managed to derail the instinct to go after it. I just looked at it disconsolately as it sat on the far side, on top of the live rail. Then I hit the button on the station platform.

2 minutes to the next train, and there’s a hat lying on the rail. No staff on the platform. I am a little worried. I’m running worst case scenarios.

Possibility 1: My hat has a metal wire. It somehow electrocutes everybody in the train as it comes in. I stand and watch them cook, looking around for bits of wood to hit them with. I find one, triumphantly whack someone, breaking their legs but failing to disconnect them from the circuit. CCTV goes viral: “Sick actor bashes dying woman with stick – Exclusive.”

Possibility 2: My hat suddenly catches fire. The fire spreads impossibly quickly. The whole tube network is destroyed for miles. London shuts down. It’s the final nail in the coffin for the British economy. We get bought by Trump and turned into a golf course. Nobody comes to play golf because the queues are too long at the border and there’s nothing to eat. One of the holes is dug so deep it springs a leak. We sink and are forgotten by history.

Possibility 3: A rat finds its way into the felt of my hat, and safely absorbs huge amounts of electricity becoming a foul decaying super-rat with magical powers. It goes on the rampage in London, killing the Prime Minister as well as some people of actual consequence like the folk who clean the loo at Kings Cross. The city is evacuated and the army is called in. They nuke the rat in Somerstown, taking out a huge portion of London and calling it a victory. A massive amount of money is raised online to rehouse the displaced people, and all of it is legally embezzled by the remains of the government who then build what they call a “learning resource centre” which is basically a library with no books where there are three bedrooms upstairs and no staff. They patronise everybody involved, say “The money has gone to the benefit of the people,” and go on holiday to Turks and Caicos. The seat of UK government moves to Reading from whence people can battle hordes of irradiated zombies lurching from the smoldering city, plus get cheap beer in pleasant surroundings from one of any number of centrally located pubs, and consult The Oracle for all their shipping needs.


I wait on the platform listening to the phone ringing. Nobody comes close to answering the emergency button in time before the first train comes in. Worth noting, that. The train rolls in. It rolls out again. Nobody dies. The hat is now lodged between the rail and the wall, tucked away a bit, filthy. Intact.

Someone redundantly answers the emergency button after about 4 minutes. I’m waiting politely by. By that time I could’ve been dragged into the train by my attackers, and the train long gone while I’m being punched to death after my last ditch attempt to get help. I tell the emergency operator that my concern is past – none of the scenarios appear to have taken place yet. She takes my name and number.

I go up and speak to Mo, who is standing in the assistance box artlessly oblivious to any buttons having been pushed anywhere, despite three people opposite him eating crisps in front of that packed room full of monitors, occasionally pushing the “See It, Say It, Sorted” button. Mo gets permission from his manager, comes down and has a look. He seems to be happy that the hat can stay there until the end of the day.l, but checks with his manager. His manager allows it. He asks for my number. I give it to him. He gives my number to his manager. I leave him with his manager. I wonder if my hat might have been cut in half by the time I head home.

If there’s a fire at Kentish Town, I’ve done all I can to prevent it. I’d like to get the hat back but can chalk it up to experience. Right now getting rid of stuff is more important than accumulating it.


23:16 and my hat is still present but bleeding.

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It has moved around a great deal but it’s still on the same platform. Here it is. It’ll definitely need a clean up. Bastards, for not just keeping an eye out and fishing it out when possible. I almost get it myself. The all powerful manager likely says “no” to anything other than procedure. But I know I could probably grab if without getting stuck and cooked. Probably not worth risking though.

Let’s see if, when the working day is over in about twenty minutes, they can be bothered to keep a hat for a random passenger. It’s definitely still there. I only didn’t fish it out because they’ve got my mobile number and they’d get overly exercised about a human in the track. Plus I could die. But not if I’m careful. I fished out a woman’s heel once in rush hour and was treated like Bin Laden…

Low

Fed up. It seems no matter what there’s always a parasite. Every time I think I’ve worked hard enough to dig up towards the light something comes with a plunger and shunks me back down. I’m getting there. But today I’m just feeling weak, shifted, dark and sad. We move forward, we move back. It’s tidal. But eventually the cliffs fall down, surely surely?

What’ve I done today? Posted stuff and felt sad. I walked a lot. I walked all over. There are lots of men about my age in Pikachu costumes stumbling around London hoping it’ll pay. At least I’m not doing that, I guess. Sometimes they stand there with their heads off, overheating, wondering, hoping, doing mathematics.

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I know from my stint as Pudsey that the hotter it is the harder it gets in those things and the last few days in London have been hot enough to make wandering round feeling sad into a thing. It’s hard to call it, weatherwise. Either Spring is here or it’s just more climate weirdness. To a large extent I think we’ve got ourselves beyond seasons as we traditionally know them. Although the rainy season is usually about to start, and I’d be happy not to have that too badly. Can’t walk round in circles happily if it’s pouring…

Sorting junk, not acting, driving vans, not acting, making phone calls, not acting. A bunch of guys from my old school went to The Globe on Sunday to celebrate the fact that Jeremy liked them when they were 14. He never liked me. Not acting. I haven’t even been on tour for years. Ok so I won’t work for shit money anymore. But there’s plenty of work out there…

I’ve got a lot to do though. I’ve only got the van for two more weeks, and that’s under sufferance. I screwed up and thought a two month contract was three months. I’ve predicated my existence towards having some time not acting in early April in order to clear out that storage and sort what’s there for friends/carol/Gatsby/eBay. I joined Amazon Selling but they’ve wasted my two days down with a glitch and some idiot going through a checklist in order to tell me what I already know. Apparently I’ve been “escalated” now and have had a computer generated email telling me how sorry it is for my inconvenience, but it won’t buy back the two clear days and tomorrow I’m back in the fray not acting for money.

It’s interesting all this “not acting”, but I’m fed up of it. I need to win the lottery or sort out a passive income stream that allows me to lie on chaiselongues with cigarette holders and announce that I’m “resting” without reflexively punching myself in the neck as soon as I utter the word.

All will be well. It’s just a funny time. It’s a change. I’m off to bed early, ahead of two high pressure days tomorrow at a law firm not acting. Then – who knows what fun is in store…

Woof

While parliament is imploding live about our future as a political entity, and I’m trying to work out how much I should sell a Hermes belt for, some guy living in an RV park has bought the dog hair clipper-set with VHS training video that I listed as an eBay practice for £18.00 of difficult to find money. I feel implicated even as I’m glad of the cash.

I’ve been watching the live stream in parliament. Letwin’s amendment is about to be voted on. There’s a good turnout in parliament considering the time of night. Lots of people brightly dressed, maybe lots of them having traveled a long way to be there and represent their constituents, coming from dinner. Even though there’s a wonky old shoebill crane running the show, surrounded by yarking little monster-chicks all hoping they’ll be next to mainline person-blood, it’s worth remembering that a lot of politicians actually care about their constituents. The ones at the top mostly don’t give a fuck about anything other than their bank balance and pride. But this evening all these brightly dressed people are potentially presiding over something unprecedented in UK politics and many of them have morality at the fore. They aren’t all monsters. Just the ones we see the most frequently.

Bercow is now managing terrific uproar as everyone recalibrates the meaning of what is going on. His huge voice is suffering.

I’m just going to keep listing things on eBay while everything explodes…

I worked in Dubrovnik two years ago. It was beautiful there and I was so happy. The referendum landed halfway through the job amid great consternation. The morning of the result was the launch of “British Week” in Dubrovnik, and we were asked to pose for the local paper with Union Flags. We all refused, not wanting to be in the most recently joining country, waving patriotic flags having just voted to depart. I’ve worked repeatedly in Amsterdam too, but not since the vote.

The easy work links with Europe have helped me in the past, both to get work and to tick over with it.

But I don’t understand the greater picture any more than you do. I trust that the same people who are now making the speeches of their lives at 11pm in Parliament will understand better than me, and I applaud their work ethic for getting stuck in like this.

I can barely remember when British politics wasn’t a complete shitshow. I’m sure there was a time when we weren’t a laughing stock. Ok fine so Trump has helped deflect some of the ridicule, and behind all of it Putin sweats a bit more into his guppy forehead, makes someone else quietly vanish, blows his nose and makes sure the world knows he definitely isn’t a dictator. But the West looks terrible at the moment, split down the middle on every issue.

I dunno… I’m just going to keep trying to be nice to people. I feel bad about the guy in the RV Park spending £20 on a clipper set for his dog. I’ll send him the static brush too, as nobody has bid on it and it makes a set. Then at least he’ll have a nice looking dog while the world goes to shit.

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Listing day

eBay listing has begun. Jumpers and shirts and belts and scarves and phones and radios and alarm clocks. I’m trying not to think too much about it, just list. I’m still pretty slow but I’m getting faster. Sometimes I struggle. About five minutes ago I found a reversible Hermes belt and realised it sells for more than most of the things I’ve listed so far. Immediately I started to think about keeping it for myself. “It’d be nice to have a reversible Hermes belt!” But I’ve never wanted a reversible Hermes belt before, and there are people out there who do want one. And I like being able to pay my bills more than the idea of having an H round my waist in brown or black. Still, I haven’t listed it yet. #tomorrow. Along with all the other irreplaceable but more valuable items… Maybe.

This is what I’ve been doing for years now. Keeping things I might use but don’t … just because. In a couple of weeks I’m doing one days work pretending to be a golfer. I’ve got a pair of Calloway golfing shoes. I’m going to wear them on the job and that’ll somehow justify my keeping them. Then they might sit in my hallway for twelve months gathering dust. “I’ll need them if that job comes up again…” Maybe I should just sell. Nobody will care or even notice that I’m wearing them apart from me.

Every time I list something I find it tricky, but every time feels slightly easier than the last time. There’s a lot of stuff bagged up and labelled now, ready to go next Sunday when it all sells. I’ve switched off offers as far as possible as I’m expecting millions of enquiries anyway and some dude repeatedly asking if I’ll sell it for a quid will just annoy me. I’m busy this week.

I found a photo I took as a young man of my mum and my grandparents and I’ve put it up in my untidy bedroom. It was a much less complicated time. I remember it fondly.

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Now I’ve got three pairs of eyes from the older generation scrutinising the state of my room and my behaviour in it. Right now I’m pleased to see them. I haven’t turned their face to the wall yet. Even though it’s Steptoe and Son in here.

I’ve got a fair amount more work to do before my room and my flat is in even halfway good nick. Junk has to go first. Then a refurbish. Then a regime of cleanliness.

The way I see it, I’ve been focusing on getting myself sorted internally. Now I can start to radiate outwards into my external presentation, which I’m taking steps towards. Then further, into my immediate surroundings, further still into my work and friendships and further still into the bigger picture. I’ve had to keep focus on my inner life for a while now as it was a confusing conflicting miasma, but it’s in a much better state now. I can look outwards a bit.

I can start to think about selling or hauling the things I’m not wearing to charity shops, and selling the little collectable nicknacks I’ve picked up to people that care about them and have both money and space for them. Rationalising my living space. Reaching out towards other humans. Winning. Slowly. But surely. But winning.