I just gave two children a dream. This is an example of the oral tradition still alive in modern society. Caxton rang the death knell. Berners-Lee compounded it. But dreams. Dudley used to give me dreams and they were good.

Party downstairs at Eyreton, the huge house I grew up in. My dad had a bar put in under the stairs. I was barman at his wake. But back when I was ten I was upstairs, in my little room, aware that the grown-ups had a whole different world of entertainment and were noisy. Even aged 6 I didn’t want to miss out on the party.

Dudley bridged that gap. He was the soul of the party. Vast, eccentric “cuddly Dudley”. He would come and give me a dream. He’d gather up the dream dust that had accumulated on me throughout the day and he’d make sure it was all shining in the palm of my hand. “Can you see it? I can see it.” I’d help him get bits he’d missed. Then he’d tell me how I had to go to sleep quickly so I could have the lovely dream that the dust wanted me to have. And so I would.

Dudley was my first friend to die. A different generation. Technically friend of my dad not mine, but he knew how to be friends with kids, and he understood imagination. A compulsive gambling bankrupt spendthrift madman, so of course he was friends with a kid. My buddy. Primarily because he was so careful and so specific in giving me my dreams, and because he listened to me rather than assuming he knew what I was going to say like most grown ups.

He didn’t make up the dream thing either – no way. He was an empath, but someone else had given him dreams like that as a kid, for sure. There’s a specificity in that sort of imaginary work, and a history. You can’t phone it. He’d stagger in to my restless room, full of whisky and charm, and twenty minutes later I’d fall asleep happy clutching the dream that he’d given me that was mine and mine and mine. I was already dreaming reasonably lucidly and he helped steer.

I don’t know how many hundreds of years that particular comforting ritual has been passed down through his family, but this evening – being the dissipated godfather at bedtime – I found myself offering dreams as a service. “I was taught this a very long time ago by a wonderful man called Dudley.” Not quite the same context. But as with any ritual it needs time. As a comforting sleep-aid it is extremely potent and it allowed me to get out and down and wind them down from getting excited. My presence was not helping those kids shut down. I’m generally willing to turn them upside down or get engaged in whatever ridiculous game is being improvised, and so I’m not much use at bedtime because I represent fun. So I thought I’d try Dudley’s dream technique. Nobody could give dreams like Dudley. I tried to homage the old guy.

He died when I was 12, I reckon. He still lives in me through that legacy. A kind, huge storyteller. I miss the dreams he gave me.

Meanwhile, you’re never too old to learn. “Snapdragon seed heads look like skulls,” says Hester – 7. She’s not wrong…



Back home today and looking ahead. I’ve had a figure for the damage I did in the car park and it’s under 2 grand. I reckon I’ll see about that much from this Cornish filming, so once again it bounces in and bounces out. Upsetting and yet is it a good thing that it leaves me without funds for a motorbike? Probably… I shall be testing the trains. But also testing the auction houses around me. There might be a way. I’m so privileged to have these options. I’m a lucky lucky boy.

I’m white, straight and have a roof over my head and I’m gainfully employed to do what I love. This world is getting nasty for people who can’t tick those boxes at the moment. It’s received wisdom that what is permissible at the top trickles down. And there’s some pretty unpleasant views being aired publicly at a high level right now, giving permission for people who are angry and feeling immune to consequence to strike out against humans who exist more as ideas than as reality. The idea of the outsider. The monster in the trees beyond the light of the campfire. The vampire who wants to steal your life. People put these ideas into people who are identifying differently from how they identify. As the potential for a global reach is more achievable, the ability we have to huddle together in tribes and wage war against the “different” is growing. All of us might go viral in someone else’s story, and if we do we will have no control over how.

Two women were beaten up on the night bus because four straight drunk kids noticed they were gay and didn’t have the empathy to frame women kissing in any other context but porn. When the women refused to conform to their young male gaze and kiss one another for their pleasure, they quickly resorted to violence. I can follow the thought process, flawed though it is. “Come on!You were kissing just now!” It’s about ownership, control and terrible empathy. I thought we were better empathetically educated these days. I hoped people were safer, particularly here in London, this somewhat permissive city. I’m upset.

Their story, and a picture of them surprised and bloodied, has been shared widely on social media to the extent that I know that Melania and Chris are their names even though I don’t know the name of whoever took the photo and used their profile to kick start it. “You’ll never believe what just happened guys!” They’re speaking well as the lens focuses on them for a bit before moving on as it will and does and must.

Meanwhile across the country someone I’ve met has had a rock thrown at them from a car whilst they were with their partner outside their place of work – almost certainly because of the work or the nature of their relationship. They’re involved in a piece of work that asks intelligent but challenging questions about gender and sexuality. They’re in a small town. Someone there had enough bile, and has enough societal permission, that they can get a rock and some mates, one with a car, and wait for the right moment to cause actual bodily harm remotely during an intimate moment. “Now mate, go on! Do it!”

Is this where we’ve come to after all these years? We need to try to understand more I guess. I need to understand how people can feel justified to behave violently to people who threaten their sense of status quo. And we need to find ways to engage people in dialogue and not attack them immediately. If you start to dismiss and use nasty names you just give people an opposing camp to belong to. Nobody believes that they are fundamentally wrong. So I’m a snowflake libtard or whatever for being an ally and I can throw things at the baddies who don’t think like I do? No!

But I’m so angry right now, from my happy safe liberal place making money from filming, executive lounge for three hours yesterday. Grr. It’s the job of the artist to speak out. But how? Like this I guess.


Executive Lounge

A grey evening full of rain. The sky is a billowing cloud, oppressive and low. Through the window I’ve got a panoramic view of the runway at Newquay airport. It’s a dead place. The rain doesn’t make it beautiful. Occasionally a plane manages to land and disgorges its haul of multicoloured humans, who run and curse their way into the shelter of this tiny uninspiring airport. Everybody looks a little bit pissed off in this weather – passengers and staff. And can you blame them? It’s relentless.

I’m in the executive lounge now. It’s a cupboard with a carpet but it’s relaxed and nobody is loudly crying. My flight is delayed by at least two hours and I get a limited number of lounge passes per annum. Six, I think. Through my bank account. I’ve used two, on the flight back from Spain for Mel and I. Now I’m using another. Three more for America, and they renew in October. Perks like this are worth finding out about and making use of in precisely this sort of circumstance.

This lounge is as shit as the weather is but it’s better than the main part of the airport, full of rage and expensive consumables. It’s definitely the right place for me to be in this grey mood. There’s a fridge full of free drinks and a table made up with free snacks. It’s pretty empty here too. Just the Ents. Two ancient stooped seven foot tall scotsmen watch tennis and exchange monosyllables. I’m in the corner with a cold can of Korev and a banana, watching the weather and the runway. This rain is ridiculous – constantly beating down. There’ll be floods tonight. Even the old men are talking about it in their Entish way. “Big rain.” “Aye.” “Bad.” “Aye it is. … Bad.” “Bad rain.” “Aye.”

It’s why I’m still in Cornwall, though. This bad rain. I’m here for bad weather contingency, and I’ve shot all but one of my scenes. I’ll be back briefly next week but I’m mostly done already. Nice to know I’ll get back as I very much like the team. It’s an enjoyable shoot full of personality. These Germans are efficient. They’ve been doing this for years. They know each other and they know the form. It’s a pleasure doing my thing for and with them, even if all my lovely nuanced vocal work will be immediately dubbed and exported. Frankly I’m just happy to be working. I always am, dammit. Nice to remember how it is on a set. To flex those muscles. To be good at it. It’s why I weather all the hard times, so I can slot into that machine and be unruffled and do the thing I do.

The Ents have gone to Manchester through the bad rain, packed in to this little plane that came in half an hour ago – two vast grey sardines in a little tin can.


I’m alone in this cupboard with a fridge full of free beer for at least another 90 minutes. I’ll only be in the air for 45. Am I really the only guy with free passes on their bank account? I doubt it. But I’m the only guy that thought to use them. Me and the Ents.

Sunset etc

A quiet day in Cornwall and I’m going to cap it with an early night. Two international old lags and perhaps a spot too much wine last night. These things have an aura of inevitability about them. Nice to see how the preoccupations and inner battles are the same for an actor in a thriving economy like Germany as they are for an actor here in this zombie movie where the shambling remains of the government are diligently but automatically stabbing themselves in the legs, eyes fixed on the horizon, mumbling “will of the people” as bits fall off the cardboard faces they’ve made to disguise the fact that they’re actually terrified selfish children.

Newquay is a good place to spend a few days. I’ve found a pirate themed restaurant today. I’m having steak in it while they play “yo ho ho and a bottle of rum”. All you need is a shedload of rope and a bit of canvas and you can make anything pirate themed. I like the table setting.


There’s love here, and the food is good. Captain Jack, it’s called. Feels like a family concern. If you’re in Newquay it’s an Al Barclay Thursday Recommendation. Which isn’t an actual thing. But should be.

“I think one of those bottles last night was bad” says my partner in crime just now on WhatsApp. Truth be told I felt like I’d been hit over the head with a sledgehammer this morning. But I don’t think we can blame the quality of the wine. I think it might be the tiny amount we had eaten vs the percentage ABV of the wine. Did we drink three bottles between the two of us? I actually can’t remember.

At about lunchtime the room service started to get anxious with me. They wanted to tick the room off their list. Maybe they were worried I was dead. I had been seen to haul myself into the restaurant grey and sweating at 9.30 for FREE BREAKFAST of instinctive smoked haddock which I subsequently hugely regretted, brushed my teeth twice to overcome, and put myself back into bed shivering. The whole time I’d had my haddocky breakfast expedition into reality I had only spoken in monosyllables, looked perpetually troubled confused and angry, and stared longingly over the vast Atlantic, spread out before me beckoning. “I could rent a wetsuit and surfboard if I get a day off.” That was me just a few days ago. This morning I just wanted to look at it and thank God there was glass between me and the reality.

Knowing how lovely it would be to get the room refreshed though, I finally threw some actual outdoor clothes on and staggered down to the beach so someone could spray essential oil on my pillow. I opened google maps to see how long it would take to walk to the Minnac. Impossible. Three hours by bus even. Pah.

Better by far to stumble randomly around Newquay and see what there is to see in this town. Apart from next week, I can’t imagine I’ll be back here anytime soon. Might as well try to see what’s here to be seen. Starting with a proper Atlantic sunset. It reminds me of Finisterra.


Still in Cornwall

20190606_005924 I’m still in Newquay sleeping here, although I could’ve flown home tonight. “If you fly me back tonight will you be able to cancel the hotel room?” “No it’ll just be empty.” “Well I’ll stay in it then. Fly me out tomorrow. The day’s blocked out in the diary anyway.”

I sat this morning downstairs in The Headlands hotel and began the long process of completing a working VISA application for the US. They want to know everything. I had no idea how old my parents would’ve been had they still been alive but the application form wants it so now I do. Turns out dad would’ve been in his nineties and mum in her early seventies. I have friends who are older than mum would’ve been now and we still do silly fun things together just for the sake of doing them. Then there’s the whole bit where they want exact dates of previous trips to the US. And digging out my Social Security number, which I had issued last time I came over.

With the Atlantic Ocean to my right hand, I sat and filled in forms for the whole morning and much of the afternoon. I THINK they’re all done now. I hope so. I’m sleeping in a beautiful hotel but they want your firstborn for a cup of coffee. A little part of me thought I’d go to the Minack and finally see this theatre carved into the cliff that I’ve turned down badly paid jobs at for decades. A friend of mine is doing one as the best part in a tricky play. I didn’t bring my driving licence and I fly early tomorrow…

No I don’t fly early tomorrow. Lies. 10pm Call from the unit mid blog. “Al, will you stay here? We need maybe to shoot the interior on Friday of the publisher office for the bad weather?” I’ll do what I’m told when I’m put up in such a glorious hotel room. So I’m staying here in Newquay. This also changes my chances of getting my ass to the Minack to see my friend working in a pretty place for magic beans. I will almost certainly be able to work out a way to see him earn those beans. I never want to pay the producer to see an actor working for less than what they should get. I’ve asked him what he’s paid and I’ll make my decision on his reply. I might lose some cover days by staying here, but I’ve had a glorious time, and met some excellent humans, and this job is not a job that cuts corners regarding actor’s pay.

I’ve spent the evening with the actor who’ll be my takeaway from this job so far. He’s got ten years on me. He’s a prettyboy dissolving into character after 20 years and trying to figure the change. I’ve always been the dissolve, never the pretty. The dissolve is my home. “You’re a character actor,” said the few of my parent’s friends who even engaged with my decision back when my parents were actually alive and I had their elsewise ambition for me to fight. I had to fuck three years at university despite a drama school place. Then the only actor they knew got wheeled out to discourage me. I’ve never thanked him for galvanising me as much as he did that night at the Chelsea Arts Club when he had been told to discourage me. I still don’t know if he meant to discourage or obliquely encourage. He did his best to balance humans. Jack Hedley and I should be friends. He probably feels he failed in his job to discourage. Mum was using every tool in her box to make me “get it out of my system”. I even got “You’re not even ugly enough” from one of my her many boyfriends/hangers on. All in a (maybe) careful attempt to discourage the idiot child from the stupid bad bad bad idea. But yes. I stuck with the idea because I’m an actor. Stet. And for the short term, it’s working.

There’s a fallow time ahead at some point inevitably. There always is. But thankfully not for many months. So meantime I’m finishing having a joyful rich time here in Cornwall, filling in VISA applications for my late summer. This is going to be an amazing few months.


Cornish shoot

First day on set today. I’ve done some unusual jobs over the years for certain. This is one of them.

Only three days on set in total, so a relatively short job. Just as you’re making the relationship with the other actors you’re pulled apart. But today I met some of the others and they were diamonds. They were all working in German, which is the predominant language on set. I’m on a German shoot, essentially.

I understand German fairly well even though I can barely speak a word. Dad was always in the Graubünden in Switzerland. I was frequently there too, as a child in the eighties, collecting discarded glass bottles and taking them to the supermarket because they had machines even then for recycling. These guys have a nuclear shelter in every household. In the event of a global nuclear apocalypse, the neutral Swiss will eventually come out on top and rebuild a civilisation where everything is on time but you can’t flush the loo after midnight and if you slam the car door you get a fine, but you know EXACTLY WHERE EVERYTHING IS.

It’s really odd contemplating Switzerland as an adult now, having spent so much time there as a child, then. They were recycling in the eighties and incentivising it well enough that little Al was washing muddy found bottles to take to the co-op every morning for a deposit that was worth the work. But they are also the country that gave us “exterminate exterminate exterminate” Nestle. (My quote not theirs. This blog is fiction. That’s the daleks. Nestlé aren’t the daleks.) But yeah, it’s Swiss that company that pipes your paid for tapwater, filters it a bit, shoves it into plastic and sells it back to you with a label on it. The company that created addictive baby milk substitute to sell to the poorest people on the planet. One of the companies that is ensuring the death of humanity by burning the lungs of the world to make “sustainable” Palm Oil plantations. (What does sustainable even mean in that context?) A vast implacable monster, so big it’s unstoppable in the capital driven context we use to establish merit. If I wasn’t just spinning words from a fictional character standpoint here I’d put all sorts of provisos in my blog to make sure their faceless evil lawyers wouldn’t stamp on my face as hard as they could if they found this and chose to.

I digress. Be mindful, dear readers. Please. But where was I?

Oh yes. German.

So. Eighteen people in a tiny farmhouse kitchen while it shits rain outside. Four actors. Every other actor is working in German and so is all the crew. I’m gonna be dubbed. I could just say “banana banana banana” but the director is kind enough to give me a performance note at one point to make me feel involved. The female lead starts to enjoy saying “banana banana banana” once I’ve made this observation but she only does it between takes in her charming way.

What an unusual job. All I have to do is look smart, move my mouth with sound, and listen closely enough that I know when it’s “my line” and – primarily – not get freaked out by being on a film set. My job is just to be present and unruffled. I’ve anticipated the German language I’ll be hearing and I’ve learnt how many thoughts my fellow actors have before I speak. As well as learning their content in English obviously. But when people ask me that excruciating “how do you learn all those lines?” question, I usually talk about learning thoughts. Thoughts first. Exact expression second. Then you will never go dead.

Here, with the Cornwallgermans, I get to be part of the tapestry. Strange to think I’ll be dubbed. How will I be dubbed even? It’s very very very weird. And very well paid.

Three beautiful humans in the light with me. Many more behind it. A Swiss, an Austrian, a German and Al Barclay walk into a farmhouse in Cornwall. Gesundheit. I’m happy here. How could I not be with this after dinner. Happy but alone. Often the case on a shoot, particularly with a mutt like me who appears super confident but is slow to make friends.


Cornwall Suddenly

As the sun sets I’m sitting by Fistral beach with a pint of German Pils. The receptionist in the hotel was German. I have already heard many conversations in German. I hadn’t realised the extent that one woman’s writing has affected the way in which people choose their destinations. Cornwall is a good choice though. It reminds me forcibly of Jersey. Similar landscape and seascape, but also customs and slang. (I’m a “grockle” here, a Cornishman is a grockle in Jersey.)

It’s peaceful here too, outside of the constant roaring of the waves – and it’s beautiful. Those waves are rolling in, rolling back, rolling in, dotted with surfers. I count 30 of them holding themselves in place waiting for the right moment. Occasionally one of them takes that moment and they’re up, cartwheeling their arms, trying to make it last, dancing impossibly on the water before absurdly sinking back down upright and then swimming back through the waves to do it all over again. Dozens of little black dots in the evening sea getting fit by mistake while having fun.


Nearer the shore, dogs play in the spume. The air is cleaner here. The smiles are more genuine. The waitress likes my suit. I’m in a selection of three pieces while I’m filming, on and off set. Good to look the part. My uncle Peter’s Gucci shoes could’ve had as much of an effect on my getting this part as my delivery of the lines in the audition did. They’ve made it into the costume which is unusual and amusing for filming at this level. I should probably get them polished. For however long I’m in Cornwall I’m dressed sharply. And why the hell not?

I’m here because of this German relationship with the crooked ancient leg of England. There’s a well trodden path from Germany to Cornwall now. Hence the fact I’m drinking “Schwaben Bräu” on the Fistral as I write this. My hotel room overlooks the sea from a headland. There’s a four poster bed, and a ghost maid who tucks you in when you’re sleeping. They left fudge for me on the bed, and nuts and water came from the production company, who had the perspicacity to empty the mini bar of all but water and juice before the actor hit the bedroom. I only checked out of curiosity honest guvnor.

Lots of lovely cards to say hello, some from the hotel some from the unit. I’d forgotten this, about filming. People can treat you so well.

Flying here was a strange luxury. We spent more time sitting delayed on the stand at Heathrow than we did in the air. There were only two people wearing hats on the plane and the other one sat next to me. She had a banjo. I knew she’d be something to do with the production but decided to fall asleep instead of making small talk so I said literally nothing to her but “punch me if I snore” and fell into happy sleep until I was surprised by the landing.

When I met my car the driver said “I hope you don’t mind. Max’s girlfriend is on the same flight.” Max is the male lead. “Yeah she’s in baggage reclaim with a Stetson,” I said. “She seems chilled. I slept next to her for the whole flight.”

Sure enough it was her. So we had the smalltalk in the car instead which was far less awkward. I thoroughly like her. But now I’m back on my own, doing that thing you do when filming of making sure you remain available and near unit base whilst also making sure you don’t get too bored. My pick up is 9.30 tomorrow which is very civilised. I’ve had cars at half five before. So maybe I’ll have another German Pils and give some money back to the economy that made this all possible. And then some FISH. omnomnom

Rounders phone

Halfway through a game of rounders, I get a call from Germany. It’s the unit base. Bad weather contingency filming. There’s been lots of bad weather in Cornwall. More bad weather even than they’d catered for. The downside of filming by the seaside. It must be the same in The Isle of Man. They need me on set on Tuesday so I’m flying to Newquay tomorrow. Flying. To Cornwall!! Indulgence. Joyful. I get to take a checked bag because they’ve asked me to bring the Gucci shoes I wore to audition. I’ll probably bring some even more bullshit shoes as an option. I have no idea how long I’ll be in Cornwall for. So I’ll just load up with pants and socks, and take a stack of smart clothes and the means to play music, the means to charge phones and the means to read books.

It’s worth mentioning that I’m better at rounders when I’m on the phone than I am when focusing on the rounders. Who knew? When I wasn’t in the middle of a work call, I missed the ball three times. When I was on a work call I tried to wait until the call was over before playing my turn. But I ended up having to play mid call with people shouting “What you doing on the phone?” loud enough that they definitely heard it. I had to tell them. “I’m playing rounders while we talk.” I informed them. Then successfully  whacked the ball and ran to second base while on the phone to the unit. They employed me for the truth of me. Why lie?

It appears I’ve agreed to fly to Newquay tomorrow afternoon. There is no return booked. We are a slave to the weather. They’ll do what’s possible when it’s possible and I’ll be on standby in my smart shoes. I’ll be part of a huge machine making it possible. I love filming for that aspect. So many people simultaneously specialising, using time in a very odd way, making stories in this clever disjointed beautiful community manner.

Glad I get a suitcase. But what to put in it? I’ll decide tomorrow morning.

My Sunday afternoon was a delight. Lots of very grounded people. No alcohol. I’m lucky to have influences like that in this somewhat unpredictable and haphazard existence. Especially considering what was to come, where a spontaneous decision to make sure I didn’t miss the party of a dear friend – who has always been there for me – spiraled into a potentially lethal situation with some of the most efficient party friends I’ve got. I somehow managed to call it at just 1am. I’m getting better at calling it. But going into this long run of work its a good practice.

This coming period is what I’ve been waiting for. What I’ve been working for. When I feel like my time is not my own I’ll be good to remember that. All the work I’ve done finding income streams that don’t tie me down in advance is validated at last. And looming large on the horizon is a period where I take the booze out of the equation in order to maximise my time and emotional availability because I’ll have to maximise it. This is the cusp of a great summer. Bring it on.



I went to Guildford. Dan and Jules are there . Dan is an old old friend. He’s making things with virtual reality. “How many times in your lifetime has there been a new storytelling medium?” he asks rhetorically.

Loads though. Loads. What a lifetime for storytelling change. Technology changes and storytelling changes with it. Text based Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Twin Kingdom Valley. Adventure and Raiders of the Lost Arc on Atari 2600. Pools of Radiance on PC. Eye of the Beholder on Amiga. DikuMUDs using early internet. I remember talking live to someone in America from Reading and having my mind blown about how it could be possible. And having to type “eat bread drink flask” in the middle of my conversation to stop my text avatar from being hungry and thirsty even if I was hungry and thirsty myself. Those MUDS are still extremely deep games. Some still exist. But we went to graphics.

Wolfenstein to Doom to Half Life to Garry’s Mod to Minecraft. Forward to backwards to forward. GTA 1 to Red Dead 2. Unrecognisable, but trackable. The capacity of computers has multiplied and multiplied in the time I have been alive. So has the money available. It might be that in retrospect we are at the peak of the golden age right now for computer games. We are building the pyramids out of slave labour. Human rights and regulation might make future Red Dead 2 type games impossible.

In the early nineties we all thought that the people with mobile phones were needy. “Oh come on. Like you need to be contactable at all times!” “What a tit. Like he can’t arrange the evening before it starts!”

Now we all feel anxiety if we are parted from it for a second. “Ok Google, where’s my phone?” It’s our placebo. Our database. Our external memory. Our knowledge base. Our crutch.

I’ve been flailing around at Dan’s on Oculus. It’s incredible. Less sickmaking than PlayStation as the frame rate is better. Your brain is less aware that it’s being lied to. The potential for this medium is limitless, as soon as the base tech becomes affordable. If there were demo points all over the place where you could sample it for free, people would be happier to stump up the cash for the initial outlay. But as it is it’s a huge outlay for something that failed to take off in the eighties. Like 3D film, it had failed once before. Despite people being quite evangelistic about it, it seems that 3D redux is still an expensive flash in the pan and now you can go see Avengers without having to pay 3 quid extra for shit glasses. VR though… It’s here to stay and it’s only going to get deeper. You can do so much with it. Brian bought Super Hot, which is unusual but a deep demonstration of the medium. This evening I’ve played Tsuro VR, which is Dan’s own creation – although not on PSVR yet. Beat Saber. Res. You can be transported in these pieces of work. It really is like plugging in to the matrix. Terrifying and brilliant at the same time. We will make a whole generation blind. We will destroy human contact and replace it with stories. And we will smile and say “This is good.”

I’ll keep making theatre. I’ll do random stories where you have to come to the room where the story is happening. Where the actors can see you.  I’ve enjoyed being a mischievous mini golf pro today for A Door in a Wall, fucking with strangers in real life for clues. And then I’ve spent the evening plugged in to a headset, flailing like I’m having a dementia nightmare, my brain thinking I’m the lightsaber wielding dancer. To the world outside looking like the spasmodic helpless gimp. Now my eyes can’t focus.

I got to ride in the front of an ambulance though. Result. They were on a call for my friend who had picked up a heatstroke alcoholic. I helped them find him and got a ride. The real world can be as random and interesting as games. And less curated. How many of you have ridden in the front of an ambulance. And it just … happened.


Damp Squib

Well so much for William. Antique identification is a lifetime of work and interest. Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted. But William didn’t seem to know much more than me really, despite him being close to me in age.

His interest was mostly in the stuff that I’d already identified as useful, although he did put his interest into one thing which I hadn’t rated so I’ll send that lot to him. As for my mum’s extensive and expensive porcelain habit, buffered for years by my dad’s auction addiction, he either couldn’t help me or didn’t fancy it. Maybe I didn’t help him too. I was deliberately downbeat about it all.  He’s probably used to people telling him “All these pieces are Ming dynasty, my granny told me.” I thought I’d go the other way for refreshment

Of some of the stuff I’ve saved from the smoke:

“These are probably good,” he says of troglodytic children proffering flowers that were covered in a membrane of tar until I sprayed them with bleach and chlorine, left them overnight in ammonia, went at them with oven cleaner and a wire brush and finally scraped the residue off with a tiny screwdriver. When they were smoked the contents of the trays looked like deadly mushrooms.


“They’re probably Derby by the patch marks.” I respond. “But they’re hideous. It’s like they’re trying to poison you.” His interest flicks away. It’s like I’m talking to a customer, not a potential ally, where I’m supposed to sell things. Come on mate. “What about these ones with the nodding heads? I haven’t cleaned them yet. They’re probably crap.”


His gaze passes them. Probably as I haven’t cleaned them but also as I suspect that they’re bad and he’s listening to me rather than using his gumption. Because he knows very little. Mum loved them though. I have to be careful not to be that guy who thinks his parents’ stuff is the best stuff in the world. Still, William doesn’t even lift them up to look for marks. Because he’s here to find the magical million pound piece. And this guy works for the bottom of the pile in my (maybe flawed) estimation of auction house ranking.

He picks up a platter. It’s very attractive. Mel picked it up too. It’s out because it’s interesting. I know it’s ribbonware. I think it might be German. “I like this,” he says. I say “Yes, me too. What is it?” He’s the expert. He turns it over to find the nothing useful that I found. *He keeps on doing this behaviour, as if I haven’t done the basics before calling him. Why would I call him if I hadn’t drawn a blank?* He draws a blank. “Well it’s ribbonware,” I prompt. “Any idea where it’s from though?” Nothing. Still. “Might be German?” He shrugs. He moves on.

“These pieces are definitely Nanking Cargo”, I say. “Some of them still have the Christies label from the original sale. Others I think are the same provenance but the label’s fallen off.”

He responds to the words “Nanking Cargo” with the silence of the person that doesn’t know about it, which is fine if you’re not “an expert” in porcelain, but shoddy if you are. I am deliberately vague about how many pieces there are. He shows no interest anyway. He’s losing points hand over fist now.

In 1752 the Dutch ship Geldermalsen sank with a consignment of porcelain from China, who had worked out how to make porcelain long long long before Europe did. The goods lay shipwrecked under the sea for over 200 years before Mike Hatcher found and salvaged the boat in 1986. It was a huge discovery, intact after all that time. Christie’s sold it all, broken up into lots. The pieces are valuable enough for their age, and more so for their provenance. Blank looks coming from our boy though. He’s overlooking things left right and centre. This is the wrong person and the wrong place to move this stuff. That much is clear.

“Seven years ago, we’d have taken all these boxes, organised them into lots, and sold them  all for you.” “But now?” “But now the market’s changed.” “So what are you going to take” “The things you already identified as valuable and told me were valuable. Those are the only things I want. Plus one surprise.” (Not his exact words but his content.) So he wants to cherry pick, and there is only one single item he has made me understand has value. Screw that. I’ll bring them the surprise item to sell because it surprised me. I’ll trade their 15% of that for his time – certainly not for his knowledge. He didn’t even want this cast iron clockdude.


Which is good as I love him. “He’s made of wood!” says William for a second, with a sneer, revealing the shape of  his expectation with this stuff. I almost wang him with it when he goes that far. In that moment I’m done with him. He’s an idiot. He’s a keen amateur, sent over when they can’t be bothered to send someone good. I hope that’s the case, because if that’s what passes for an expert I’m catching up with him after just three months of applied learning. He told me nothing new. But he missed a lot of stuff with value.

I stopped selling on eBay, which has been going very well, in order to make space for that doofus to come with his “big lot” potential. Seven years too late, he says. The bugger. He cost me a week of maximum one pound listings.