The approach of William

A man called William is going to come to the flat tomorrow. He is laconic and spare on the phone. His tone is downbeat and deliberately faintly patronising. He’s already expecting a load of tut. He’s going to look at these naval placards and spitfire bits, these weird porcelain gewgaws, these shiny things from my uncle and my grandparents and my mum and my dad and the recent smokehouse clearance where I’m choosing what I keep as I reckon I’m living in a flat in London for another decade rather than a stately home. It has got to the point where I have to have someone else take stuff away as there is actively no room. I have a horrible feeling he’ll try and say “I’ll take it all for a fiver.” In which case I shall (carefully) hound him out of my property with a broom. Or I’ll set Pickle on him.

I’m off out in July. I may be some time. Oxford for two weeks. Insanity and motorbikes for two weeks. London for two weeks. All over the place for a month or two. Back blinking into Christmas Carol. January is a mountain waiting to be conquered. But I’ve already won the rest of this year.

When I’m gone I’ve got two choices. Either sublet my bedroom in my nice flat that isn’t full of antiques, or turn my bedroom into the terrifying antiquehole of doom and occasionally allow shivering friends to curl up alongside ancient relics and wonder why the cat still wants to sleep on top of them in this hellhole. I’d sooner option 1 if I can find the right tenant. And for Brian as well as for me I’ve got to get this shit solved. Plus there might be money at the end of it and I’m going to need to buy me a 650cc motorbike. All reasonable offers considered, although right at this moment I haven’t got the 1.5k I’m earmarking for it. I’d sooner not buy a shit motorbike like I do with cars. I can get away with driving shit cars because if my engine suddenly dies at 70mph I’m much less certain to die too. I’m spending if it’s two wheels. Four wheels good. Two wheels bar.

God I hope William isn’t as much of an asshole as he sounds. Maybe he can help pay for the bike. Maybe he can’t. Nothing is ever a solution to anything as life is constantly evolving. But even if I’m not looking for a quick fix, the current home situation is untenable. If I can find a system and put all but one box away then I could happily make this my secondary income stream for much of the rest of my life. Learning and selling. It’s joyful. There’s a load of stuff shared with Max that’s in storage. There’s similar stuff in the Isle of Man. Stuff in my attic. Stuff in the fecking living room and the damned corridor for goodness sake. It has to go. But William might not be the help I’m looking for. I have a feeling he’ll be a self righteous arsehole. He’s coming at ten tomorrow. I’ll know in seconds of meeting him how it’ll go… Right now I’m debating as to whether the best tactic to de-arsehole him is three-piece, tie and plums or if it’s slacks and “well I’ve got all this stuff mate.” They’re both authentic me but one of them will play better than the other. I have a feeling he’ll arrive in a shabby suit with polished shoes and long hair though, frankly. I can’t do the long hair but maybe that’s the costume…

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Returning

There is nothing like returning to the scene of a trauma.

A while ago I wrote a relatively emo blog. Disclosing very little. Upset and angry about a non-specific bad thing I had done.

Yeah so I got parked in a car park you should only use if you’re doing science things. I went in with the Soul Van for not specifically scientific reasons. It was after my resident’s permit expired, when I was paying £40 a day to park the thing, and having to move it every 4 hours. I made it possible through someone’s work. He did me a favour in exchange for picking up some stuff for him, and I was able to invigilate at Imperial – a day of work that would have been essentially pointless if I’d had to pay for parking.

Everything would’ve been fine if I hadn’t accidentally fucked up somebody’s lovely car.

“Hi I’ve punched a hole in somebody’s bonnet.” (Don’t ask)

“Which car is it?”

“That blue one.”

*Long sucked inhale* “That’s X person’s car…”

“Who’s that?”

“They’re in charge of the whole building.”

Twenty minutes later I walk out into the car park to hear loudly spoken indignance. I make myself known. They make the connection between me and the person who let me park there.

Apparently “thankfully we’ve got a lovely garage. They’re very fair. They will give a very reasonable quote.” To my ears that sounds like “Hello, *first name* lovely to see you *first name* we will make it as good as new for you don’t you worry, and we’ll do it at a knock down price as well, as you’re here so often, *first name*. Ok. Bye now *first name* LOVELY to see you again! Send my love to *other wallet* won’t you! Bye! Say goodbye Sam! Bye. … … Ok Sam – make a note to double whatever they quote for the touch up. We can make some money here.”

I still haven’t seen the quote. They asked for my email address yesterday so it’s coming. It’s gonna make my eyes water for sure. I’m hoping they really do have “a lovely garage” but whenever I hear that sort of line delivered in the accent it was delivered in, I think of the armies of “lovely” people who were constantly on standby waiting to scam my mother – “Just call whenever you need it Mrs B.”

I took a van into the same car park today. Different van. Loading and unloading some “Science” things. It’s not the first time. Won’t be the last. Good to have a reason to be there again as for a moment I found it emotionally quite tricky just to be present in that place. Even though I have no idea how much the “lovely garage” will be asking for.

It might well be fine. This person seems extremely competent and they run an important building very well. Maybe they’ve genuinely found a lovely honest garage despite this expensive accent. I don’t think they live in London, so the chances are higher that they have. But until I know if I’m going to get stung for tons I can’t and won’t stop worrying about it. Not budgeting, mind. I couldn’t do that if I tried. Worrying. I even told them at the time: “I’ll make this good. But it might take me some time.” Yes. But how much time? I guess I’ve got all that to look forward to. There’s always a loan… Hooray. etc

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Time to pull back

Just as the party is starting to get too much, the end of the party looms large. A phone call comes in today which might well result in me commuting to Oxford for two weeks, rehearsing in the daytime in London and performing in the evening in Oxford. My initial reaction is “of course I can do it. I’ll just have to stop drinking to maximise my headspace.” It might also prove valuable to get a motorbike. I can scream up to Oxford after rehearsal that way, be self determined, and never have to worry about leaves on the line. Just diesel on the road, and various eejits trying to murder me. It would be a hell of a warm-up for the show, an hour and a half howling down the M40 in leathers. It’ll make for an exhilirated performance, which is probably no bad thing. But it would mean no drinkies after the show. Also probably no bad thing. It’s good for me to have externally applied reasons to get off the juice. I’m always better at abstinence if I can sublimate the reason for doing it into doing it for somebody else’s benefit. And what a lovely problem to have, that every single one of the ducks went quack. Now I’ve just got to pluck them.

I’ll be glad of an enforced period of temperance. My liver won’t meet my eye when I look at it these days. It’s always quietly crying. “Remember when you used to look after me?” I’ve been look looking for an excuse to give it some TLC. This might be that excuse. A summer of Shakespeare.

The work will be lovely, if I can make it work. Lovely people in the room. Lovely places in the world to go to. I’m not going to allow myself to get excited until I’m certain I can do this. But seriously, the sober motorbike route sounds pretty good to me. It’s the right time of year for biking. I’ll get there sweating instead of freezing. But there ought to be less rain. And the drive up will be a very good space and time to change my head. I’ll be playing two parts that would’ve been played by the same guy in Shakespeare’s company, in two different shows written many years apart. If I can make it work. And I think I can. I’ve been experimenting this year with partitioning – with taking on more than I’d normally take on. I’ve discovered that I’m calmer now than I used to be. Multitasking comes easier now. And easier still if I take the old liquid forgetfulness out of the mix. There’s a little fire burning in my belly at the thought of what might be to come. But I’m so used to disappointment that I’m holding back on celebrating until I’m totally sure I won’t have to wave goodbye to it as it flies away.

Tonight though, one more party. I still haven’t been home. I’ll sleep there tonight though at last under my own sheets and Pickle. And I borrowed some socks and pants from Tristan so I don’t feel like a toxic liability anymore. It’s the little things.

Trisssday

Surprises can be exhausting. Not to mention the fact I had to obfuscate it in my blog.

I had a van parked outside Tristan’s. It had a brand new barbeque in it, plus loads of marinading meat and some booze. There was no way that could be successfully hidden any other way – particularly considering Tristan’s curiosity. He very nearly stumbled on the propane canister anyway, which would’ve been a dead giveaway. My WhatsApp was pinging off the scale with people Tanya had invited. I tried to add some people she’d forgotten, remembered some, forgot some, got it done as best I could. Sorry if I forgot you. I also had to get the van empty today and return it to Kentish Town. It’s not due back until 8am tomorrow but I don’t fancy my chances of waking up capable of driving tomorrow.

People came. That’s always the worry with a party, isn’t it? Will people come? There was enough food for everyone and only a little bit is left over. It’s 9pm and I’m chilling finally. It feels like we won. Everybody left is sitting around fire pits as the light dies. A good playlist. Spots of laughter. Hoovering up the leftovers.

First there were kids. We are all at that age now. “You were talking about LOVE,” says a six year old girl to me. “Yes we were.” “You were talking about love, and then you HUGGED.” “We did. People hug all the time. People talk about love all the time…” She sits with this information. Then she hugs both of us suddenly, to test the information. Then she parts, but fires a last volley. “You were talking about LOVE for AGES. And I was LISTENING.” She’ll be a reporter one day. If the profession still exists like that…

The kids have gone and it feels like the night shift is beginning. The theatre people have started to arrive. There’s not much food left but there’s a wide selection of drink. I’m very obvious, in the far corner of the garden, writing this into my phone. People come and sit with me from time to time. “Are you alright?” “Blog, mate.” Most of these people have featured at some point so they understand it is a part of my day now. If I don’t do it now it’ll just be 500 loosely connected words and repetition. I’ve done a few too many of those lately. I even fell asleep halfway through one last week. Looking back on it I made some decent sentences even in that. It’s very much time to use some of my downtime to make more considered structures out of words. To tell a story. If this  daily practice has taught me anything it’s that lots of little things over time add up to a big thing. Like friendships. It’s just about being there over time. The time and the repetition does as much work as anything.

Happy birthday you cantankerous beauty. I’m rejoning the throng.

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Petersham

I’m staying in The Petersham Hotel in Richmond tonight. It’s Tristan’s birthday. They’re in a suite, and rather than have dinner and then struggle home on the tube I took advantage of a cheap deal they had open to blow a day of van driving fee on a night of clean sheets and softly spoken young slavic men telling me the location of things and pointing with open hands. I’m in a single room in the bad bit. No river view for me. No cows. I’ve got a tree though. I’m thrilled to have a little impromptu holiday in Richmond. Why the hell not?

It all came in rather last minute. I thought I was going home last night until a sudden change of plan happened. I ended up carrying some stuff for Tanya before collapsing on a sofa wearing a “Ross Kemp on toast” T-Shirt and full of Riesling. I woke up with a cricked neck, an appetite for bacon and a craving for good coffee.

I haven’t got a change of clothes or a toothbrush which never makes one feel at ones best. But now I’m staying at The Petersham for this second night of stopout, and I feel a bit hairy – although I’m not expecting to run into the amazing woman I’ve been waiting for all my life so maybe I can be a bit loose and just vaguely whiffy. They’ll give me a toothbrush but they probably won’t give me clean underwear.

Everything is very clean and white here in my room, and warm despite the beige weather. Tristan being Tristan is bringing me some of his ridiculous clothes to wear for dinner – but not pants. “You can’t join us for dinner dressed like THAT.” – he  says with a twinkle. God knows what he’s got planned. I’ll probably have dinner looking like Ollie Reed.

It really is rather delightful here in an “ooh isn’t this nice, Nigel” way. Richard Harris kept a suite at The Savoy for years. This little room is a distance from that, but I’m not on untrodden ground here, in the charming disordered aristocartist stays in grand old building and simultaneously raises and lowers the tone of the place by his presence. I should probably have a Guinness in Harris’s honour, although at the rate things look like they’re going I think it’s more likely I’ll end up taking the highballs in the bar, and a bottle of champagne or two in the bedroom. I’m rather hoping Tristan brings me a pocket watch on a chain, a monocle and an ivory cane. If he does I’ll see how long I can sit on a chair in reception saying literally nothing but “Fwa fwa fwa” until they ask me politely to move along.

Seriously though, this is going to be lovely. What a treat. My room is peaceful and comfortable and I can hear birds in the tree. Mostly parakeets I think, squabbling bitterly for territory. I shouldn’t make a habit of this sort of expensive impulse, but honestly it’s far cheaper than it should be. I casually asked the receptionist how much a single room was when I was adding myself to the table for dinner. I had a figure in my head and decided that if it was lower I’d book the room. It was way lower, with breakfast included. They were running a deal. I impulsed it on the spot.

Ahh luxury. I just wish there was a shop that sells pants. I was messing with photos earlier from the balcony so that’s today’s offering.

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Better than the cat food yesterday, but I need to up my photo game…

Vandroid

I thought it would be easy. Nothing is ever easy.

Lack of van plus ability to confidently drive van plus friends who need things to be moved in van equals early morning arrival in Kentish Town at a place that has vans to rent. They have lots of vans. Because they’re closed on bank holiday we have to rent it for the whole weekend even though we only want it for Saturday. When I express annoyance they discount it by just £40. Better than a kick in the face I guess. I lower my usual fee to compensate for the fact they’re taking a whack on the rental. It’s good friends, and theatre friends. There was a time one summer a few years ago when I toured with them and they helped me get out of a money and sadness hole. I usually end up friends with people I tour with, but these guys know me well enough to be keepers. They’re ace. Most of my work for decades came through recommendation. And these humans – FanSHEN – have been a part of my friendship group and my mechanism for survival for decades. Theatre is a network. Sure there are neurotics and egomaniacs banging around too, although mostly they’re desperate to get into exclusively telly so they can leave us alone and focus on their makeup. Some of them do. Others don’t and get a job in the city. Those of us who are still left after over a decade start to cluster together for warmth.

I was on a schedule this morning, but thankfully the time pressure was off. I was supposed to be doing the mini golf job for another bunch of lovely humans. I thought it might be possible to’ve done both jobs. It would never have been possible. Never. No way. Thank God they found a replacement for me. I was still on the way to Reading when I would’ve been due to start work.

It was slow to get the van. The guy at the van hire was a smiling mist. He was all insincerity, teeth and vim – all efficiency and front – nothing whatsoever to do with human truth at any point I was with him. I didn’t ask him his favourite colour as it would’ve been too cruel to watch him fail to understand why I’d asked the question, and flounder before saying “White. Because the van you are renting is white.” And then tried to smileZING me away from how that’s just an arsebag response.

I attempted a number of other conversational gambits plunging for humanity but they were shot down by his avian demonstrations of efficiency. He might be an actual Android. Interesting place to trial one I guess, a van hire. Maybe someone made an AI that passes. It’s not great yet though. It’s slow.

Coming to the end of our transaction I give him a different card to the one I paid with. We are going from “Al Barclay” to “AHL Barclay”. For a moment his programming malfunctions. “What’s your middle name?” he asks. “Hugo,” I say. “Because your cards have different names on them…” He continues, as if he’s found the reason why I’m a baddie and must be stopped.

It’s the only moment I slip. “Oh, Jesus Christ!” I utter in frustration, quite loudly, and very directly at him. His boss pops up in the background. The Android looks momentarily floored. Focus is on me. I need this van quicker than he’s let me have it as he’s already delayed me with his “demonstration of efficiency” fuckery. I say, mildly and with absolute honesty: “You’re very efficient.” “Thank you,” says his automatic response mechanism. Because despite this, he isn’t an actual android. He’s a human with a very different value system, trying to be seen to do the best job he can bless him. I’ve run into this value conflict before. Demonstrable customer efficiency > actual customer experience. I hate it.

Then he took me round the vehicle with the same inhuman efficiency. I actually wanted to eat my own head by the time he was finished with me. It made me late starting. Late continuing. Late throughout the day. But I thankfully had no time pressure and I got to catch up with two dear theatre making friends and eat nice food. But FFS. Upgrade the software or allow it more freedom.

Now I’ve got the van until 8am Tuesday anyway.

I don’t want it that long.

But I’ve got it.

So I’ll fucking use it.

I stopped at a pet store and bought like six times more litter than we’d get at Tesco for less than what they charge. Ditto cat food. Bastards at Tesco. Supply and demand. Capitalism. I’m doing it on eBay.

Then I realised I was around the corner from a friend’s, so I’m writing this early. Then I get to have an undistracted evening with an old mate. Out.

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Quiet Friday

Nope Friday night. You can’t have me. Not this week. I’m out.

I drank all of it last night, and I’m up tomorrow morning early. I don’t need to drink any more this year really. Here’s me at the start of the night blithering about the show courtesy of Flavia. The draw of the bright lights and the cameras. Oh how they pull at me…

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Last night I even had a kebab on the way home – and probably shot my Uber rating out of whack by stinking the thing out as I clutched it in my sweaty hand and monologued to Farouk about theatre. Bless Farouk. He didn’t like me. I just checked. Rating took a tumble. Hey ho. My fault.

There have been many Friday nights over many years. Lots of them have been lovely, but only rarely has it devolved to the point of kebab. Brian left at the right time but he was going to Croydon. Even Tristan left early compared to me. I just walked back in and raised my right arm a bit more until I was so smashed I could barely remember my own name.

Recently lots of these nights have resulted in effusive or incomprehensible blogs, after my companions have been subjected to equally effusive equally incomprehensible conversations with no care for volume or repetition. This time I’m already in bed. The light will be off before the day changes. That’s a rarity in this household. I’m looking forward to it. Sleep. Sweet sleep. Ahhh yes.

Today was admin before the bank holiday. Trying to make sure things were done that had to be done. Paying various people after I got a stack of back pay from Imperial College for all the invigilating I’ve done this year. I’ve got the rest of May and most of June to get all the clutter decluttered and then it’s off to Oxford for the burning bit of summer. I also had to get a van booked for tomorrow. Typical. As soon as I don’t have the van anymore I get paid to rent one and drive it around. I’ve got to pick it up from Kentish Town early. I really need to find a way to get some sort of hybrid long wheel based low emission monster so I can while away the hours when I’m not working by lifting other people’s crap and moving it from one place to another. People always need things to be moved, particularly in this town where everyone has everything to do all the time and space is a rarity. And particularly in this industry where people are likely to end up with a drum kit, eighteen cheval mirrors and a cross trainer, with nowhere to put it. Although perhaps I’m about to hit that vein which makes all the dayjob juggling academic. We will see. Meantime, bank holiday weekend. Sun. Rest. Friends and joy. I can’t wait.