Lovely Saturday show

I’m home in London with Pickle. I’ve come like Santa with Lily’s Kitchen cat food and extra litter in case she’s running low. It’s hard not seeing her in the week. Louis, one of the cats at my digs, will stand outside my room and yowl like hell at 2am, but if I let him in he doesn’t know how to curl up with me like Picks does. He’ll paw me and eventually leave again when he gets no attention. I’m looking forward to a snuggle with Pickle tonight. I rushed home to her after the show.

I lucked into a lift back home with Prospero and Ferdinand. Simon who plays Prospero drives right past my home heading to his. Perfect. I get right to my door. It’s my day off tomorrow and then for a week I’ll be in the rhythm of the showday. In an ideal world I’ll do a bit of Oxford tourism in the daytime week whilst working around thinking of things I can add or subtract from my scene, plus learning my lines for Twelfth Night. I want to embrace this week in Oxford, although it’s slightly dependent on Brian as I’ll commute if Pickle needs it, and I need to be home Wednesday daytime as I’m experimenting with having a cleaner but day one she’ll need me there to help her choose her battles, otherwise she’ll never return.

I’m looking forward to more thinking time now I know how audiences can be like under my willow tree. More time will bring more detail as it always does.

We had a beautiful night tonight. Compared to last night when they were all wet and drunk it was as different as night and day. I’m hoping we might have had our hardest show first.

Tonight ten very different groups of people who were having fun wandered round and witnessed ten very different scenes. I remember individuals from all of them. They had so much play in them. As I wrote a few weeks ago with Dead Man’s Hand, the weather changes everything. Wet people don’t like to play. Tonight everyone was playful and listening. So I played with them.

I had my Knight of the Ivy Garter, and my Knight of the Farty Bum. I had one group so hysterical it was hard work to suckerpunch them into my sadness. I had a man who regretted something deeply, and that scene weirdly felt like mutual group therapy for us both. Such a varied night. People bring what they bring, and whatever it is it’s something. Last night was fine for me, but hard work as the playfulness had been washed out of the audience by dark and rain. Tonight shows me what this can be. With good weather, this can be a true joy, and a powerful way to experience Shakespeare’s final, most experimental, most versically unusual tempestuous magical play. His longform retirement letter: “This rough magic / I here abjure …I‘ll break my staff, / Bury it certain fathoms in the earth, / And deeper than did ever plummet sound / I’ll drown my book.” He’s leaving work and potentially life. He already knows it. He’s using his unique wisdom to frame his farewell to his friends, without understanding how it might be dissected by generations of academics. It’s a play all about storms and regrets and ooze and mud and endings and new things replacing us.

For us, essentially there’s one big scene and then the audience is splintered by the shipwreck into ten groups of up to fourteen. They go on an adventure that I’m part of and then return for a full cast finish.

The scenes are extremely varied. Some of them are treasure hunts, some are scenes in odd places, some are puzzles, some are weird experiences or soundscapes. Mostly I’m just bipolar under a tree, although I do get to do a spot of finding my light in a big room while speaking chunks of verse, which I suppose we can call trad theatre.

In unrelated news, Oxford is mad on a Saturday. It’s like a zombie movie, but the zombies are less dynamic.



Rainy show madness

I’m hunkered down in a patch of muddy ground underneath a willow tree, occasionally swearing. It’s half five on a Friday and the Oxford commuters are whizzing home on bicycles behind me. I’m not thinking about them right now though. I’m too busy stuffing a muddy sandbag into a suitcase, insulting the case for not closing and, once it’s finally shut, tying it about with multiple filthy leaking fishermen’s knots so it can’t slip out of the rope. I wouldn’t want to lose the suitcase in the mud if the handle came off, as I’ll likely end up leaping in after it before I consider the consequences. Wet king. Dry cleaning bill.

It’s only as I finish making the prop, and I swing the heavy bastard into the river that I realise how this might look to anyone that isn’t part of the show. I turn around and sure enough some guy has got his eye on me – this shadowy mumbler surreptitiously disposing of something in the water. SPLASH. As I turn he jumps, and scurries away in his hoodie. I momentarily consider running after him in the rain. “It’s a prop! For a play! No no come back. I haven’t got a weapon. Stop! Why are you screaming?”

Hopefully he won’t come back later and fuck my knots in exchange for a disappointing sandbag as he goes about his guilty panting hunt for body parts, fairy gold, the murder weapon, drugs, Jimmy Hoffa or whatever his imagination goes to. If he does, the scene can survive without the case but it’ll be annoying. I really don’t want to have to haul back a heavy soaking filthy suitcase to the venue every day in my damaged dinner jacket. Nor do I really want to have to re-square it off with knots daily and to get my hands filthy every night. It’s a long walk to the venue from the tree where the bulk of my work takes place.

Right now I’ve got to get into costume for the first – rainy – shownight.

Which I did. The show was lovely. But tough in the rain. I entirely hulked my dinner jacket, which I didn’t feel bad about as I’d been clear with wardrobe last night, and there were threads from previous actorhulk repair in the tear so I knew it was only going to get worse. I know how little rips can escalate and every moment I wore it and moved I could feel the damage grow, so I thrice asked for a small tear from last night to be shored up and eventually got an “It’s on a list,” which is code for “It’s not getting fixed anytime soon”. Everybody has too much to think about right now. I wish I knew how to operate a sewing machine as I felt like a costume Cassandra. I discovered this evening that other actors who know the deal had brought spare shirts etc. I know the deal now. I’m bringing shirts and cummerbunds and jackets. Maybe even a waistcoat. I’d have been more prepared had I had more notice. Last time I worked here it was with The Factory so we use our own clothes as a company ethos. Now I know the score regarding this I’m getting some spare stuff from my costume wardrobe on the weekend.

I tried to be gentle with that fucked dinner jacket, dammit. I’d already decided I’d take it off for the final scene to minimise risk as that was when it took the initial split-hit yesterday, but about halfway through this wet slippery night under the dark willow, when the poor damaged thing was soaking wet and clinging to my back, thus bereft of all flex, it literally split in half in front of an audience while I was just picking something up from the floor. Fine for the scene as I could style it out. But it’s so frustrating when you call something and it happens.

Tomorrow, the king will likely be “dressed down” in his shirt. I’m going to have to make him the chilled king. I think I might even wear my walking boots and make it all feel intended by going full hippy…

I’m loving this job btw. This is all just detail. I always wish that everybody was as bonkers as me.



I’m sitting in a huge conference hall. The floor is littered with torn bits of muslin, sticks, confetti and power tools. Two people are sewing, another is ironing tablecloths, another is stapling muslin to the underside of a trolley that I’ll be standing on in a few hours. Fans in the walls and ceilings do little to cut through the oppressive humidity. I’m dressed in a dinner jacket. Actors walk around in various states of undress. “You look so smart,” says Taz. “You look fucking cool,” I respond. She does.

We don’t have a dressing room as such, but we do have a room with chairs in it. It’s hot there as well. Everyone is borrowing things from Paul who has come prepared. I’m covered in his deodorant. Costumes are often left a few days without washing on jobs like this. I’d sooner not put on a damp shirt tomorrow.

It’s only a dress run but we have an audience and they’ll go through the show with us starting in about forty minutes. There’s that all too familiar frisson of nervousness in the room. None of us know what’s going to happen. We can only control what is controllable. There’s a lot that’s out of our hands.

I put my contact lenses in the wrong eyes and wondered for ages why they weren’t working. That’s an improvement on yesterday when I lost one round the back of my eye just as I was due to go on stage to rehearse, and had my lines read in for me while I was trying not to yak into the sink as I dug around for the thing.

“People have started to arrive,” says one of the interns nervously. Ryan can’t find his trousers. People compliment each other on their hair. Other Ryan paints Annabelle’s’s fringe. Chris takes my mugshot. Simon is playing the ceilidh on his accordion and I drop this to join him for a moment. Two of the producers dance in a corner, but other Ryan pulls Simon from practice to paint his face. I don’t get make-up. Only the magic people get make-up. I do have to take my trousers off though but just temporarily.

“How long does the show last,” the caretaker asks Taz and I. He is clearing up glasses from a conference while we stroll around in our pants. He’s trying to normalise. Neither of us have the slightest clue. The guy is confused. “You don’t know how long it is and you open tomorrow?”

We have started to huddle together now in a small area in the middle of this hall. Nobody knows where the audience maps are. Maddy has started saying “fripperies” out loud to herself. Simon shows me how sweaty his shirt is before he’s even done any acting. Kevin sings the opening bars of “Uptown funk” and Ryan has found his trousers. Ten minutes to go time. Suddenly there are three small children in the warehouse looking with wonder at all these colourful busy people. “There’s nowhere good to stand in this place,” says Charlie as she sorts out lanyards. I’m going to take a leaf out of Maddy’s book and start saying things like fripperies to myself somewhere. No I’m not. Zoe has called us in for a brief.

Here we go…

And this is just the dress rehearsal…


Creation Theatre

I just won a week. A whole extra week. I didn’t do anything to deserve it either. I just got it as a reward for being an idiot.

Here I am opening a show the day after tomorrow. Today I found a bit of text from the original Shakespeare play that obviously says my inner life better than my own words, so I learnt it and added it to my mix. I’m on my own with whoever comes to my bit mostly, so as long as it’s clear I know what I’m doing I can actively play with the humans that gather. Everybody plays differently. I want to try to get them to connect, listen, play a bit and then move on. I’ll be dealing with ten groups a night over about 80 minutes, with group scenes before and after. It’s a logistical nightmare that people better then me can sort. It’s selling out hard to local people who already know it’ll be big fat craic. It’s hard to get tickets for my friends already. I think I can say that this will be the funnest Shakespeare I’ve ever been involved in, and it’ll be sold out. It’s gonna be supermaximum craic. But … hang on, you’re wondering about the week I won. I forgot. It’s easy to get swept up.

Fool that I am I had it in my head I’d start rehearsing for Twelfth Night on Monday. I have been worried for days that I wouldn’t have the headspace around opening this show. I was galvanising myself for the overlap… Turns out there’s an extra week of existence which I hadn’t accounted for. I don’t start rehearsal for a week longer. Hell yes! More time for fun in Oxford and maybe I can get on the bike?!

I’m having a ball right now. This is precisely what I signed up for, and it’s why I do all the random dayjobs. A group of unusual emotionally connected humans telling a story together. Being part of something that might make less emotionally connected humans feel something. I’m loving this. I’m really happy right now guys.

Creation Theatre have existed for years in Oxford, with no specific venue, telling stories in unusual places. They make theatre that responds to whichever place they’ve got. They are brilliant enough and established enough in the community now that they can access really interesting places and also, crucially, find an audience. They don’t shy away from unusual things. They’re good at being unusual. It’s why we align so well. I’ve been trying to get back to Oxford to work with them for years, and they’ve been trying to get me too. It has finally worked out. Thank God . This is gonna be epic.

Their work fills that crying gap for a summer Shakespeare left by Sprite Productions ending. Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone? I miss Sprite. It really isn’t a summer for me without being swept up in some sort of joyful Shakespearean carnage that’s rightheadedly executed by humans who actually know what they’re doing. But this is the first company that’s felt like a Sprite company since those heady days in Yorkshire. There’s nowt like a rightheaded summer Shakespeare. Here some of us are. Hanging out photogenically by a pylon. Bring on this show.. Bring it. It’s gonna be amazing. Book now or they’re all gone.



The problem with predicting the apocalypse is if you’re correct then nobody can reward you and if you’re wrong you look silly. So far everybody who has ever predicted the apocalypse has (thankfully) been wrong, or they were vague enough about the date to make it roll over a few times. But in these divided times it is tempting to have a pop at the old “End of the world is nigh” business. Nowadays we’ve got the internet so we don’t have to carry heavy placards and bells around, although I’d take my tinfoil hat off to anyone who felt like giving it a go.

They’re throwing the adjectives and details around with this moon, those internet people. It’s a half blood thunder moon eclipse at midnight over Jerusalem. Oh lordy. “Rapture experts” reckon it’s a good target for the old apocalypse signal. I’m scheduling this blog for 6am tomorrow morning but maybe there’s no point. Damn.

Imagine being a rapture expert. “I’m just an apprentice. This is Bill. He’s the expert in Raptures.” “Hi Bill, how many Raptures have you experienced?” “Well, none. But I’ve read a lot of articles and I’m extremely opinionated without being curious. I just … take an idea and roll and roll and roll with it. Give me money.”

Ok, pros and cons to the apocalypse. Pro: I won’t have to tidy my bedroom. Con: I won’t get to do this crazybeautiful Tempest. Pro: We won’t have to worry about Brexit anymore. Con: We will never go back to that restaurant where we had that amazing meal. Pro: Those nasty people I don’t like will be reduced to ashes or vanished or whatever. Con: So will the nice people who I do like.

On balance I’d prefer not to explode tonight. I’ve gone to all the effort to write this for fuck’s sake. I’ve even learnt some Shakespeare.

We all imagine a big old meteor or a firestorm or zombies or Farage or Ebola. But we haven’t experienced the end of the world yet, or spoken to anyone that has. We think we are important and that our existence has significance, and we’ve consumed enough story to make us expect fireworks when we bow out as a species. Hmm. I wouldn’t be surprised if it came in the form of an algae or a creeping mold, like the jellyfish taking over the oceans. Something damp and slow and inevitable and undramatic and alien.

It’s all breaking down anyway. We are too arrogant to accept our culpability and too soft to give up our luxuries. I’m writing this on my Galaxy S9+. It’s a piece of technology I could only have dreamed of as a kid. Now we are all sucked into these screens. I often wonder if it will always be like this now until we burn, that friendship groups sit together in parks each of them separately lost in their portable screen.

So. The apocalypse. Can this privileged hippy put an order in? Can it be a massive love-in where everybody realises it’s just fear that makes them hate people they frame as different and we can all have a nice sing song and then this big old Rapture takes loads of people and nature takes over and anybody that didn’t get a ticket to the Rapture gets to hang out with nature?

I literally just saw a BADGER as I wrote the last sentence. I’ve been walkwriting through the dark park using my smartphone full of child-mined cobalt. Outside of roadkill I’ve never seen a badger. It ran away pretty quickly but it was about the size of Pickle and had a bright stripy head. We had a moment together, badger and I, before it sacked me off. My first wild badger sighting ticked off, maybe just before the Rapture. I can burn happy now, or vanish to ether or turn into a zombie or remain on this plane with Cernunnos and the badgers or whatever might be on the menu.

Meanwhile I’ll keep thinking about this show, just in case the apocalypse doesn’t quite come through this time. Maybe see you tomorrow. Maybe not.



This is such a lovely gig. Bunch of ridiculous humans. Incredible text. Solid well established company. Here’s some of them.


I’ve got my T-Shirt from back in the day, when The Factory built The Odyssey whilst doing Hamlet in the evening in Oxford funded by Creation. It all happened before I started writing stuff down every day. But for that gig I kind of wish I had been doing it. The Odyssey was a hugely changing show for me. James Oxley was a big part of the squad and he helped me understand that I had a useful singing voice, which had gone for utterly nothing at Guildhall, to the extent that I honestly thought I was no good because I wasn’t a tenor. I was cast as non singing Seymour Fleming in the third year Musical despite being one of the more musically adept members of the year.

James and The Odyssey helped me learn to be the tench in group singing – the bottom of the bottom, providing a solid base. And over the course of the run I had a number of musicians come up afterwards and privately acknowledge a skill that I would hitherto have never understood. I was told I was an “untrained profundo,” and if I had the money, time or inclination I might pursue it. As it is, fuck it. I can keep a harmony without worry or thought, and I can hit the lowest note loud if you need it. No not that one, an octave down.

I’d love to have had some better singing training at Guildhall, as I think about wasted time and money, but it was all done through part time tutors and mine could make no sense of my voice at all but that’s ok as the faculty and the school in general were amazing. She, though, just got me singing “Luck be a Lady”. Badly. Rather then “Old Man River” properly. Catastrophically unhelpful. Helen something, but a singer not yet wide enough on her own craft to be able to help people so different from her. Learning is so dependent on the teacher. James Oxley’s imagination was fired up by witnessing me announce that I couldn’t sing and wanting to show me how wrong I was. He helped me overcome an unnecessary insecurity given to me by my otherwise remarkably nurturing drama school about my musicality.

Now I’m trying to learn to read music on the Accordion, and – being entirely self taught – have been given some very positive feedback from someone who knows how the fucking thing works. Up until that I’ve just been banging the thing around until it makes the right noise, and then remembering the pattern. Simon occasionally shouts out letters of the alphabet. Some of them actually mean something to me now at last. The bulk of my left hand playing is pattern dependent. But why not. I’ve been noodling this instrument for over a decade. Let’s make sense of it…


This was yesterday. The guy in front of me was a regular. Tense shift.

“Box of tiger prawns,” he utters in very uncertain English. I’m in a fishmonger cash and carry. They usually cater to restaurants but they’re open to the public. He pays £30 for his box. I tell him I’m going to get the same. He validates it. I’m up next. “Box of tiger prawns,” I ape. The shop guy hesitates for a second. They prefer it if punters get the prawns on display fir punters. But he gets me one. I want the polystyrene box so it can travel. “Eight scallops,” I continue, indicating the display. Huge great big queenies, roe attached. He gets them for me. He’s still with me even though I’m bluffing. But then “And four of these octopus.” “They’re cuttlefish.” Oops “I meant these octopus.” “They’re squid.” “Um… These ones?” “There’s only one left.” … “AND I SHALL PURCHASE IT.”

It didn’t matter that I was clueless. I still bought a huge amount of marvellous seafood. I brought it round to Tristan’s today. If anyone knows what to do with luxury ingredients it’s him. And it’s the cricket world cup final. I’ve watched a lot of cricket with Tristan over the years, and eaten good food into the bargain. Today the plan is to do both.

We are going to have a barbeque of sorts, but we got distracted. England won the Cricket World Cup but it was such a horribly close thing. Tanya was disinterested most of the day but suddenly, in the last few overs, she joined us watching as anybody would have. “And they say cricket is boring,” she says, knowing what is at stake and what is possible. Good God, what a final. What an incredibly tight game.

I remember watching the Superbowl with people who understood the game in LA, and starting to enjoy American football because of watching Tom Brady come back from too far behind by sheer force of will and unbelievable skill, which I only understood through the people I was with. This reminded me of that.

Watching Ben Stokes holding on by the skin of his teeth, so exhausted, so determined. Watching him take his helmet off when he thought he was caught and then readorn when it turned out to be a six as the fielder had stumbled into the boundary marker. Seeing him so apologetic when he got an accidental crucial 4 extra from a fielder throwing the ball into his bat and it rebounding to the boundary. All of this is jargon. But Stokes was indomitable. He wept off the pitch when it went to super overs. He actually was full on crying. He came back on, despite exhaustion, for that one last “penalty shootout” super over and he ran himself into the ground for the team and we won.


I watched a game of cricket today that anybody, if watching with people who could explain the details, would’ve appreciated deeply. I’m glad I made the effort to come to Richmond for it (with prawns.) Perhaps I wouldn’t have had this shared experience if I hadn’t bought the seafood. I felt terrible this morning but I had fifty quid of seafood in my fridge so no matter how tired I was on this, my only day off for a while, I wanted to go where the cricket was because there was also the incredible chef friend of mine who understands a box of tiger prawns. When it gets close, I love how there is no way to run down the timer like they do in timed games. You HAVE to bowl that ball. And they did. What a wonderful wonderful hard game to watch.

Lunch was scallops with concasse tomato, seeded rye wafers with a piquant drizzle of sage, roe and caper butter, served with wedges of lemon. Lunch was Tristan spending half an hour in the kitchen with a bunch of stuff. Both of the last two sentences are true. Supper will involve shrimps on the barbeque. Appropriate after watching us scrape that win against New Zealand after just … yes. Just the sort of match that makes us know why we love live sports. That’s why we create a game we can win or lose with The Factory. Because without the knife edge the stakes get lost…


Weekend at home

We finished rehearsal at 1pm and decanted straight to The Punter, waiting for lovely Simon who was driving home to Lewisham after doing some carpentry. He’s playing Prospero and also building bits of the set. They cast their actors wisely at Creation. I was thrilled. He told me his route, and he was going right past my front door. He picked three half-cut actors up from the lunchtime pub, and he ferried us all home for the weekend. Right to my doorstep. Amazing.

I walked into my flat but I’d missed Brian. Pickle was there so we had a moment. I’ve been gone for less than a week but it feels so much longer. The Tempest company – I can’t fully comprehend that I’ve known them for only six days. We’ve bonded. Next week is going to be epic. But a little bit of away time is good, to recharge. I dropped my stuff off, turned around and went straight back out again. There’s always something on in London and I wanted to catch Scene and Heard while I was down. It’s their first course – playmaking 1. I’ve blogged about them before but they’re a charity working with kids from the Somerstown estate in Mornington Crescent. They’ve been doing it brilliantly for twenty years. The kids write plays.

This evening was as rich as it always is. It’s one of the best nights at the theatre in London. I watched Steve, the English Channel as he learnt life lessons from a lettuce. A robin met some sushi. A sarcosuchus helped the spirit of a dead Kukui tree to find peace. A panda was fed poisoned ice cream by liquid nitrogen. A balloon pump and a horse were definitely just friends and sang a song about it to make sure. An ancient shield teamed up with all four members of a very successful modern rock band, played by a single actress. We had diamonds and a Kraken and the rarest quail in the world and a bike with the soul of Albert Einstein.

Everything is done by volunteers. The costumes are incredible. The props as well. It’s all custom made for that particular show. The Kraken had a police badge hidden inside its tentacles. The diamond was so glittery. The English Channel was really detailed, with lighthouses and landmarks and a white cliffs of Dover hat. And all the performances were committed, specific and spot on.

It’s always packed in the theatre, with a party atmosphere. A lovely thing to come back to London to, these complicated yet innocent stories told verbatim by ten year olds with extremely difficult circumstances, through the skills and attack of so many adults. Not least the people who work full time, the makers and the technical crew, the composers, the dramaturgs, the directors… I tried dramaturging once but you have to have a predictable existence to be consistent for the kids, as you see them every week for a few months. I can’t do that predictable thing, much as I’d love to. I rarely know where I’ll be in a month. I was sad to leave for a job when I left though, as the kids are ace.


There’s a matinee tomorrow. If you’re near Camden catch a chance. It’s free – but with donations. 

Making my den

I’m back in the park. The sun is close to setting and I’m thinking I might want to get a few cheap blankets if I’m going to be out here for a few hours every night but I’ll probably be ok with adrenaline etc. If I need some solar festoons they’re pretty easy to find at this time of year. I’ve got the beginnings of a beautiful den though and I’m comfortable here.

I’m under a willow tree. Appropriate considering The Factory are making a short lived Anthony and Cleopatra to be performed in a living willow tree in Wales and this is the reason I can’t play with them. It’s lovely there. I want to make things as lovely as I can in my little Shakespeare willow.

I haven’t got any wind chimes yet, but being me I’ll be looking to add them next week. Or I’ll be hanging shells up. Shells fit the world. Unlike incense, but I’m discreetly burning ylang-ylang from the covered market so it smells nice and brings in the sense of smell. The more senses the better really. I can’t think of anything story appropriate that I can feed the audience with. I mean, oysters… But no.

To my left there’s a slow flowing stream. To my right the setting sun. Birds and evening play from grown ups and children in the park are the sounds that carry to me here in my verdant den right now. And occasional planes.

There’s a test audience on the way. They might be half an hour yet but they’re coming. I’m going to get them to pull a wet sandbag out of the water and then talk to them for a bit in verse. I can’t remember all the lines yet so I’ll make some of them up. Then I’ll get them to sing with me. The usual stuff. And a lovely place for it. I’ll probably find something better than a sandbag eventually, or find a way to make a sandbag work.


The Germans paid me today for the Newquay filming so I reflexively sent my lovely agent a Magnum of Bollinger. Always give presents you’d like to receive. And sadly it looks like the bike, in the short term, is going out the window (not literally though.) That’ll work out a lot cheaper, a lot less fun and a little less certain on the commute, but means that I’m probably not outlaying on a big bike so I can afford to be extravagant with presents. And they’ve been brilliant. Plaudits and joy to my excellent agents at Esta Charkham Associates – find your actors there!

Joy to everybody else who helped me towards this delightful and well paid summer and autumn of work! We are nothing without other people. In this business it’s as much about the artist as it is about the support network. I’ve been blessed over the last few years, and it’s only getting lovelier.

This summer, apart from a two week headfuck overlap, I’m looking golden. The overlap sans bike won’t kill me either. It’s manageable. I’m likely going to get the train pass organised in the next few days and then just splash out on Ubers from Paddington late at night. Not what I wanted. But if I can’t get my test in time to upgrade to a big bike, I’m not squealing up to Oxford on a little bike every day. Ironically a little bike is infinitely more dangerous for a journey like that.

Dark Park

To get to where I’m staying from the town centre I have to walk through a park. In London if the parks don’t have ghostly fluorescent lights every few paces then they instead have twelve foot fences and bored people in hats called Norbert who are supposed to be there to stop you taking crack or murdering the crack addicts or mugging the people who are murdering the crack addicts or displaying public nudity to affront the muggers of the would-be crack addict murderers. The few entry points that can’t be blocked entirely are instead festooned with warnings: “This place is seething with evil naked crack besotted murdering muggers who hate everything you stand for.” In reality, Norbert saw a dying fox last June and had to help that drunk teenager find the gate once a few years ago, remember?

But having lived in London I paused before the big dark Oxford park. On the one side, no fantastical warning signs. On the other, no Norbert.

Norbert won’t keep anyone safe, torch or no, apart from the verges and the annual safety assessment. Screw Norbert. I went for a dark walk.

It was properly pitch black at points, when the trees were low. The moon was bright though, and a clear sky was throwing up many stars, interrupted by scales of reflective cloud. It was a peaceful warm summer night. I thought about my concerns.

A person can only see so much. What you can see is dictated by light. All humans have a similar capacity to turn light into shapes. If you have no portable light source you can see no more than all humans can see, unless those humans have a portable light source in which case you’ll see them first, their better vision is directional, and their night vision is impaired by their light source. The playing field is as level as it is by day. Just because I’m impaired, it’s easy to forget that everybody else is too.

And If I’m walking alone through a park, the only thing to be afraid of is people. If I remember that my night vision is no better or worse than anyone else’s then I can shut down any worried voices.

Apart from those about fiends, of course. I did only turn round once. Because the pricking on the back of the neck is a real thing. Don’t turn more than once. You don’t want to see it. I still love this bit from Coleridge, who was my teenage jam.

“Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.”

Frightful fiends aside I reckon I’ll be good to stroll through that park every night without fear of public nudity, fly tipping, unregulated discharge of a blunderbuss, naughtiness etc etc.

On my late night perambulation tonight I even passed by the tree where I’ll be blithering about sons and waves and loss and whatever else occurs to me to blither. I took a photo of the sky, and it made me sad because the sky was astonishing and there was no means whatsover to convey that with the camera on my smartphone. But here is the attempt. A useful illustration of the difference between creative intention and bland reality.