I woke up this morning, got in the van, programmed the postcode into “Fiona” – (Google maps) – and drove to Somerstown – to a very odd estate where we once watched someone trying to kill someone else from the top floor window of a pub while one of us rang the cops.
“You have reached your destination,” said Fiona, cheerful as ever at the death-corridor, but I smelt a rat. “I’m not picking up theatre costume from here,” I thought. “It’s meant to be closer to Brent Cross.” There’s beautiful theatre that is made exactly where Fiona took me, but it’s made by brilliant kids from this difficult area, supported by the charity – Scene and Heard – : Donate and see a show – it’s the biggest ticket in town and it always sells out.
No pretending to be a pretzel this morning though. I trusted Fiona but she took me wrong. I thought she was being clever. No. Dammit. Human error. Fi is nothing but obedient. She leaves the discretion to the humans. I’d given her the wrong postcode. NW1. It was supposed to be on the same grid for NW2. Bugger.
25 minutes later and it still makes no sense to me. I’m in the right place, because I’ve been given the name and that name is written on all the huge trucks, plus the trucks are branded telling us they’re for the entertainment industry. The shutters are down, police cars are everywhere because it’s a trading estate, and there’s one dude with gloves on slowly tinkering with electronics on one of the vans.
I’m in my cashmere greatcoat with two scarves and nice shoes. He’s covered in grease and didn’t expect any jumped up strangers interrupting his engineering. He initially makes out like he has no idea why I’m there. Admittedly I’d been expecting to find a little building called “reception” at the front, full of useless well spoken graduates in suits with bullshit smiles and immature prejudices and utterly continuously generationally no fucking clue despite their enviable wage which they think of as nothing.
Thankfully I deal with a skilled human instead. He can fix hydraulics and he doesn’t need me to know who his daddy was. I tell him I’m utterly stuck. I show him the following which is, apart from the company name and address, the entirety of the information I’ve been given for this job:
“…in addition to the costume we are going to need the show laptop so that R can run sound in rehearsals it is in a green box with a black lid near the doors of the truck and is labelled ‘fragile, do not stack’. There is a rucksack inside and that is what we need from that box.”
That’s the full extent of my knowledge for this pick up. I know no truck. I extrapolate from the message that I’m supposed to get costume. I thankfully make friends with this solid engineer. I tell him my truth; “I haven’t a clue what I’m picking up, or where I’m picking it up from. But this is the right company.” Thankfully he likes me. He calls the head office.
Ten minutes later I’m getting stuff out of the back of an articulated lorry. He is helping me. While we do it, another guy comes up and tries to persuade him, in a Slavic dialect that I’m not 100% following, that I should be paying him for his help. My smart clothes are part of his argument. God it’s interesting, dressing in a suit.
My engineer friend ignores the provocation of his friend quite actively and asks for nothing. He even discreetly dresses the guy down for suggesting screwing me over. And he helps me get the clothes rail out of the van…
Then I went to IKEA and got stuff. I did this job for free for friends. It’s part of the borrowing deal with the van. It cost me charges plus petrol and most of the day but it kept me moving. Which probably works out the same cost as parking in visitor’s bays. With a rental letter the van would be manageable on resident parking terms, but since my rental agreement ran out it’s £40 a day and I have to move it every 4 hours and the guys at Chelsea town hall will be obstructive if I come back with another agreement. So I spend most of my life sitting in the cab. It’s virtually impossible. Tomorrow I’ll have to pointlessly burn diesel at half 8 just to move. I wish it was gone back up north, or that I had a new written agreement, but I frankly can’t afford what RBKC think parking the thing is worth if it’s not owned by me. My own van is the only way forward. And there’s no point of that when I’m looking at a big pile of acting work coming up.