Dream stuff and ting

So now my living room has been turned into a really weird studio, with some lights on me and others dedicated to the wall behind me. I have no bedside lamp anymore because it’s needed in here for general wash, and even with it I have to take my dinner jacket off ASAP in the show or it gets computerised into part of the background as it’s black. I need to get some better lights. My mum had a halogen, but I think it’s gone to my sister in law sadly.

I did take delivery of a load of replacement overhead light fittings a couple of days ago as part of the problem is that all of my light fittings have dissolved.

I’ve never fitted such things before and I’m concerned it’ll involve dying, but I THINK I know how to shut the power off in my flat. I’m going to have a go tomorrow in the morning. I’ve been a bit scared of it. I’m either going to learn something or I’m going to blow myself up. But I connected the oven at Christmas and I’m still alive, so hopefully it’ll be a similar application of common sense.

I’m one of the 1% right now. I’m an actor gainfully employed to work in live art. It’s so lovely, but also so jolting. We are all in a room together, we are making together, vibing together, responding to each other. And then I click “leave meeting” and suddenly it’s just me in a silent room surrounded by lights, with a snake in a box and a load of random stuff. We are all teleporting in to do the show, and once it’s over we teleport out and look around and remember that actually we are all just at home surrounded by weird things.

The show itself is plagued by possible pitfalls. We all need to make sure we clear our buffers before starting. Yesterday it was me that got thrown out mid sentence. Today someone else. It’s not preventable. It’s part of the random. Part of the “live”. If one of us gets stuck out we can still make it play, and the creativity involved in covering for the vanish will be a potential source of joy. What we are making is fragile, but it isn’t precious. So if bits get chunked off, hopefully the centre will still hold.

I found it very emotional today, as we stress-tested it with a live audience. I was frequently worrying about props and light sources and Hex and angles, but as this becomes better trodden to me I will be able to observe the audience members who choose to make themselves observable, and that’s a delightful thing. We are all just stuck in our homes, and these people have come to play with us from their homes. We all share an illusion for a while, and then when the revels are ended we all go back to the baseless fabric of the vision, and not a wrack is left behind. We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

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Shopping and Kinging

“How are you getting from the supermarket to my house?” asks my new elderly friend. She needs more shopping. “I tried to use Waitrose online but the queue is days. I wanted some heavier things… Like wine.”

This is something I understand.

“Send me what you need. I’ll get a zipcar.”

There are no parking restrictions anywhere in London. I kind of wish I had a car of my own. I much prefer life with a car. But cars cost money. Even the zipcar ended up costing me about £20 as I had to add an extra half hour for over nine quid because of the queue at Waitrose and the amount of stuff she had ordered. Still, as I said to the woman at checkout when I bought the bags in a separate run : “When I get old I just hope someone does this shit for me. It must be hell, being old.” It cost me about £25 all told, but I think of it as charity plus learning.

Alongside the comestibles, she wants ten bottles of wine. She’s gearing in for the long haul. I buy one of each of her bottles for myself. She’s got a lifetime again on me. She’ll know her wine.

Her shopping is generally excellent in terms of food vs price and these are cheap old world wines from Waitrose I’m buying, that I’ve always looked past. Between five and six quid each. In Tesco I usually end up with nothing but highly traveled chemicaljuice at that price so it’s a useful learn. I’ve been taking notes. She cooks her own food. She’s careful. And she’s frugal. But she likes the finer things. Frugal finer things. That’s worth learning.

I dropped her shopping off just in time to start rehearsing.

Two runs back to back with discussion in between and I’m still floored by the diverse creativity in this mad group. It’s not Shakespeare for purists, oh no, oh goodness no, TC would be apoplectic. But it’s an exploration of form, and there are friends of mine in Texas and in Georgia and God knows where else who have thrown a spot of dollar our way to be with us as we experiment. It feels responsive to the situation. It feels like the weird and wonderful Tempest with zombies that we did last summer when we could all move from place to place. When I could be in a room with four other rehearsing actors lifting each other and breathing close to each other and then I could rush into a crowded tube from Brixton to Paddington and get a rush hour train so groups of twenty people could gather closely around me in my willow tree before we all went back to a big room and danced a touching ceilidh.

Creation Theatre and Big Telly. Both great names. Both wonderful focused creative practices. I feel so lifted knowing I can collaborate with both. At THIS time, where major players are still just rolling out their greatest hits on video, these maniacs are trying to make something that is deliberately live and NOW and giving employment not residuals.

God I wish I could see and touch and be. But this is at least a connection of sorts. With our shared history and our technology use it is very easy to forget that we are not in the same room with one another when it’s running. We are in fact very very distant but we feel together. We are performing from all over the place… It’s an astonishing hymn to creative use of tech in adversity. I just hope it works in the watching. 🙂

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People plus time

Scheduling idiocy meant that I published yesterday’s blog five hours late and likely all the autoshares failed. I was very quickly alerted to the major fail by a worried reader, but thank you to both the concerned people who thought I might have died. As I said to one of them, “If there’s no blog it’s either because I’ve messed up with scheduling or because I’m dead. Or the whole internet is down. But it’s always always worth messaging me because I fuck up the share all the time.

There was a period of about two months starting in December when autoshare broke to Facebook and loads of people just assumed I’d stopped writing and yet never messaged me. I even had people say to my face “Guess you got too busy for the daily blog thing then!” when they should’ve said “I am under the erroneous impression that you don’t see things through and I don’t know that your personal blog site is www.albarclay.blog so I rely on autoshare through other sites.”

Know this: I will not stop unannounced. No blog at 6am GMT means someone has dropped a piano on my head or I’ve fucked up the scheduling. In either instance it is better to message me than not to. If I’m dead I won’t get angry. And if I’m not I’ll want to know something’s gone wrong. If I’m on a ventilator I’ll still get some words out. I’ll just drop the minimum. Know that.

Zuckerberg is a cunt so he has been trying to monetise hits for ages on this on Facebook and restricting what I can share and to who without money changing hands. You Facebookers can help by making his machine go *ping* when you engage. Ditto Twitter. I’m so past caring about all that bollocks but if a tree falls etc. And they pick what they show. So yeah think of this sentence like the final few seconds of most YouTube videos, but apply it to different blogs that strike you rather than just this one that thinks about the nuts and bolts.

Here we all are, locked in our own homes, wondering what the fuck is going to be left when our catastrophe of a prime minister gets out of intensive care. The UK political opposition is all gearing up to disappear up its own arsehole again.

I hope he gets well. I’m sure he will. And all of us. I hope we all do.

Half of my friends are in lockdown. Half of my friends think lockdown is bollocks imposed by “them”. You can never prove prevention any more than you can prove “them”.

The bollocksycustard lot are either going to luck out and stay well – (statistically most likely) – at which point they’ll double down on their conspiracy nonsense, or they’ll actually get sick, at which point they’ll tell us all they were injected maliciously by government agents because of what they know, or it was in the water etc. And the vaccine, when it comes! Fuck me! It’ll be a mind control death serum that turns us all into zombies with AIDS. Like with smallpox. So many anti-vaxxers lost their children after successful campaigns to avoid vaccination. How quickly we forget. “Because history is a lie, man! etc etc”

Basically too many people have too much time on their hands.

I have had the luxury and time to overthink before. It really is a luxury and it really is no help. I’m done with it. It’s dangerous and serves nothing. But huge minds that have normally been turned to survival are now going to … well wherever they are guided at worst, wherever they are inclined at best.

The whole 5g Wuhan Spanish Flu scary music thing is compelling. But with my scientist brother and my childhood alongside him I’m too careful in my approach to stuff like that. I will never be won over by someone in a nicely done video showing me science and using an “important voice”. Max is better at science and I’m better at important voice.

We have so many sources of information. We should be suspicious of all of them. Including me.  It’s only right.

Stay safe. Don’t die of the fearthing or get killed for what you know depending on which side you wear your tinfoil.

Be happy.

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Technical rehearsal from the living room

Lucky me. I’m in rehearsal, somehow. We open on Saturday. I will be performing in my own living room, on my laptop, alongside some absolutely brilliant and completely bonkers human beings.

Last summer, before I went to America, I was in The Tempest in Oxford. It was a few calm funny weeks before everything exploded spectacularly for me and I ended up having to commute to Oxford by train every evening and back after the show to get stuck into full on rehearsals for the lovely Twelfth Night that was to follow. I loved the guys I was working with in Oxford though, which was a problem as I wanted to stay with them and celebrate after the shows but I couldn’t because back in London the cast was changing and insecurity was rampant to the extent that I ended up getting politicked out of going to the wedding of one of my best friends.

I am so thrilled to be back in the room with them, even if “the room” is all of our own individual living rooms. We were running tech. “It’s like running 9 different techs simultaneously,” says Zoe, the director. We were all in costume trying to work out what’s possible. And today I started to see it. To sense what it might be – what it can be… Time at the coalface, and we are learning the medium, such as it is. Sinead is basically liveauthoring the audience’s eye and we are all telling a crazy living room Tempest with whatever we can get our hands on in the places where we live. And it is shaping up into something interesting and worthwhile. I’m so proud to see the company evolve into the medium. To see how Zoe the director is learning how to direct this form as she goes. How all of us are upskilling ourselves technically in this process. There’s a huge amount left to chance here. But today through all the disruptions and mistakes as people left themselves on mute or “oh shit it’s my parents home with the shopping can we wait a bit before doing our scene while they take their boots and gloves and stuff off?” – through all the madness and the chance and the things forgotten and the things remembered I saw suddenly what this is and why it is like it is, because this is LIVE on screen and that’s what it’s trying to be. We can’t just be the millions of actors who are delivering “home Shakespeare”. That’s done, done quickly and done well. We are playing, and we are playing live, and God it’s funny to watch at times and lovely to be part of.

I have so much love and respect for Creation Theatre in Oxford, this team of shitkicking women making different work for playful joyful reasons, and making it with community and care at the fore. Even if I didn’t get to hang out properly in Oxford for the time I was there last summer, doing the commute of death, I get to celebrate the bond we made now instead over the internet, trying new mediums.

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Her Majesty

I haven’t switched on the telly for a few days but I was on the phone to a friend and she told me we were about to get Her Majesty with an official announcement. Worth a punt in these unusual times.

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She looks well which is good considering she’s older than God. She was consciously channeling Vera Lynn with her “We’ll meet again” stuff. Good to hear her still at work. She’s a force to be reckoned with that woman. Active shout out to the emergency services and a reminder to stay indoors. Who knows how it will pan out in terms of numbers in this country. If we prevent it then we will never know what we prevented. That’s the thing with prevention.

On the phone to my bro Rupert I said how everybody in London was walking around outside my flat, on the riverside. To illustrate it I went to the window and did a spot count. 25 people visible from the window in that moment. That never happens. Slouching along in their running gear, sitting drinking beer on the benches, strolling in pairs or in threes, some big groups, some solo. Mostly no mask but I get that they’re hard to come by. Who knows how much good they do anyway. Specific information about this outbreak is not too easy to find as it’s thoroughly swamped with disinformation. It’s probably the Russians again, taking the opportunity to further fuck with us, because why else would there be such an incredible mine of misleading science on social media? In our isolation we can’t even bounce information and sources so we all just go with the most compelling thing we’ve read. Which alternates between the voices telling us it’s bollocks and the voices telling us we are murderers if we open the window.

I appreciated seeing HRH in her natty green top sounding like she really does miss her friends. So do I. I did a WhatsApp hug with Minnie this evening and it was more comforting than it should have been. Her daughter has named my owl though. You’ve likely seen photographs of it. The hot water owl that has the privilege of me sprawling on top of it through the long hours is apparently called Ernestina. It’s a girl. So there we go. A three year old can still teach us things.

The telly going on for the Queen has started a chain reaction. I’ve kept it off for the last week entirely, but now it’s on I’m using it. I’m catching up with “Better Call Saul”. I won’t get through the lot, but I’m glad of it. The Breaking Bad guys, now with money and credibility, going towards long takes and thoughtful scenes with smart actors. Unlike a lot of the other stuff you can find, and a good watch for someone like me who would usually rather be reading a book.

It’s half ten. The bath is running but it takes 45 minutes. I’ll get through one more episode and then turn in. Look after each other. Stay well.

Interference

Hex the royal python has started to get involved with rewriting Shakespeare. He insisted on slithering all over the keyboard while we had a Google Doc version of the script open, so everybody would have seen his edits – at one point perhaps a string of “sss” – as they went live and then were deleted. You can’t train a snake. Or at least I can’t. I need a basket and a pipe but even with the paraphernalia I reckon he’d defy me. I had to muck him out today as well, which is not the most pleasant job although he doesn’t make much mess in the scheme of things.

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I had to wash out his claggy tank in my bath with him strung round my neck and pulsing. I could try to fool myself into thinking it’s an affectionate hug. He’s either after my warmth or he’s trying to work out if he’s strong enough to take me down. He isn’t, though. And he isn’t hungry either. He had no interest in the weekly mouse puppet show this evening.  He might take it when I’m not looking as I’ve left it with him overnight. If not that’s a waste of another good dead mouse. Another tiny life.

It’s the beginning of the weekend at home, and a warm day. I’ve literally never seen so many people walking up and down the Embankment and sitting on the benches down the sides of the river. I suppose normally they’d all be spread over London in various establishments – sporting grounds and pubs with beer gardens and so forth. Battersea Park was like a rugby scrum when I went last week so maybe the people who aren’t locking themselves in full time have decided, erroneously, that they’ll have a bit more room on the embankment. I went up on the roof.  Nobody up there but me, and I needed the air above me after way too long with a ceiling.

I love this time of year. The wind starting to blow warmer, the natural world waking up. All the blossom will be out on all the cherries and magnolias in London, and most of us are shut inside and can’t see it. Most of the conversations I’ve had with people involve us sharing our bewilderment with one another. A lot of people are sad. This lack of activity and sunlight can do that. Also the gradual drip of sad news. People’s dads suddenly dying, some of this virus, others of other things, but quite a few of them. Noticeably more than usual.

I’m trying to keep myself healthy spiritually and mentally within this, as I feel that if I can do that much then I can come out of it well. My instinctive disobedience has made me question the fact that everybody is doubling down on the navel gazing. But I guess this is an opportunity to hone a practice that is good for us, be it mindfulness, yoga, meditation or just writing 500 words every day and posting it. All these things are helpful…

Feet up

The timesoup is thickening and people are starting to go bonkers. Not being locked up with somebody else is a blessing and a curse. I can live according to my own timings but my timings are all over the place these days. I’ve achieved next to nothing all day and actually I’m perfectly happy with that. It’s not even the weekend. I feel bollocks anyway, and I slept long hours. Partly sickness, partly just indolence. I didn’t have a target today. Even the simple aim of a zoom rehearsal is a thing for which I have to wash myself and put clothes on and attach a smile. I’m still wearing the I slept in plus socks, and it’s 9.30 at night. I’m only tired because I’m supposed to be tired. It isn’t like I’ve done anything to warrant being tired. Friday night, ladies and gentlemen. Friday night. Usually that’s the night when I walk into the bar, get hit by desperate noise heat and sweat, and remark to my friend “Oh fuck is it Friday? Shall we just sack it off?”

Right about now I think I’d get stuck in. I could manage that, being part of that shouting mess of dumb bodies as you breathe each others sweat and have entire shouted conversations about nothing with someone’s shoulder jammed into your back and then the stressed out glass collector drops a tray of glasses and the whole room cheers spontaneously and then laughs at itself for cheering as if it was one huge heaving great stupid organism. Shit Friday London and coming now to the time of year where there aren’t so many coats and scarves to lose and you aren’t going to freeze to death waiting for a nightbus so you can have another one even though there’s work tomorrow morning because fuck it, it’s a Friday, right? Yeah!

Nuclear bolognese, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Judge Dredd the Megacollection. Today, Michael, I’m going to be a teenager. And nobody can tell me not to so nerrr.

Thankfully in keeping with the rules of being an actor – (ie work at the times nobody else works) – I am in rehearsal tomorrow morning on zoom. So now I’m slipping from the miasma of my strangely comforting if thoroughly indulgent and lazy teenage day into the tried and tested bedtime routine as detailed yesterday.

Last night I dreamt I was hanging out with old friends. People from the cresta. Long long time ago friends. We were just hanging out together. An outwardly uncomplicated dream with many inner complications. The longing to just hang out. The desire to be active and outdoors under that wonderful Swiss sky. A la recherche de temps perdue. When I was really an actual teenager and my time was nothing but my own.

I can’t be shiftless for long now, ever. I’ve seen what it does when it accumulates over time. I woke up one morning and started walking again. There’s still a long walk ahead, but now there’s a long walk behind. It’s ok to rest our feet for a bit.

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Timesoup

I have been totally trashing my living room in the name of art. There’s origami and confetti strewn hither and yon, my great big plant is currently sitting randomly by the sofa surrounded by bits of possible costume and Hex’s traveling box. All over the place there are mugs and notepads and props and shiny things and scissors and stickyback plastic. The chances of me tidying it up are next to nonexistent. I’m loving making the creative whirlwind right now, and there’s nobody here but me. Strangely my bedroom is neat and tidy. But maybe it’s because I know how important rest is right now in this time of worldwide rest.

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Time is wobbly. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and turn round and it’s evening. I haven’t been under the sky for long enough that I miss it. I sleep with my blinds up though, so the morning sun wakes me enough that I know it’s morning and kick into breakfast mode. I understand the shape of the day despite now always missing lunch. It’s always been either/or with breakfast and lunch. The only meal I can’t miss is supper. But meals provide structure in the day. Bullet points. Time anchors.

If I’m not paying attention in the afternoon then three hours or more can vanish without any ceremony. Time is working very differently.  We have to pay more attention as it slips through our grasp.

I lost almost a decade in a timesoup of my own devising after mum died. I called it grief. There’s no way I’m letting this time go for nothing when it’s externally imposed. I’ve got shit to do.

It’s helpful that I’m running out of booze, particularly with the prognosis from my friend on Twitter this morning who is roughly my age and shares my proclivities. He wanted to warn me that the little crown fucker can appear to be retreating only to come back in spectacular fashion. He celebrated a perceived recovery with all the wine, only for it to double down on him. I’m going to be wary, and I’m not going to open that Barolo even if I start to feel superb. Not until I have something to celebrate. Like my industry clicking back into gear, or me successfully making something I’m proud of beyond maybe the one or two of these word-pictures a fortnight that somehow find a structure and a point enough to make me smile and nod to myself as I finish them.

Once again I’m running a bath. Candles, smoke, steam and salts. Heat and something to read. Relaxation before bed. Hot water bottle is installed in almost fresh sheets. Sandalwood and Jasmine pillow spray. Pint of water. These are things I’ve done almost every night and they don’t take up space in my memory because of the repetition. They’re good things, but they achieve nothing. Is that okay? Yes, I suspect it is. But most of my dialogue is with myself these days. And the voices in my head.

 

Resources

Yesterday when I started feeling weird I changed my sheets, tidied my bedroom and my kitchen and made a massive pot of bolognese. Because my tastebuds have gone a bit haywire I threw in as much spice as I could find to remind me that I was alive. I just had some of it on a jacket potato and fucking hell I think it was trying to kill me. I guess It’s good to taste something, even if that something is just pain. There are some chili sauces I’ve had on the shelves for years that I shook in until my elbows hurt.

It’s a good mince. It’s a something. I like it. I’m glad nobody else is going to have to eat it though as I don’t want to have to clean up after any guests that spontaneously combust.

I’m having a mug of gin and tonic so I must be feeling better. I can look at screens again without feeling weird. That was a very strange thing, but yesterday it really wasn’t possible. Writing this blog was an exercise in self discipline. It often is, but yesterday was the toughest I’ve had as my face was melting and all my instincts were telling me to stop looking. I hope that doesn’t happen again.

This unwellness thing is now just a little bit of a dry cough and a touch of achiness. My eyes still feel weird but nothing like as leaky, and I’m a wee bit shaky. No temperature as yet but I’m going outside in case I meet someone who doesn’t get hayfever. I’m still reasonably well resourced at home. I’ve got enough avocado for a few more days, loads of eggs and lentils and pasta, rice and so on and enough nuclear bolognese to wipe out a small country. If there’s any left when this is all finished I’ll sell it to the army.

I’ve drunk all the wine but for the 2012 Barolo. The beer’s long gone. There’s tons of whisky and gin though before I have to start hitting the sherry that S was necking out of the bottle, or the weirder stuff. My stash of old style Lucozade has been decimated to be used as emergency mixers by the usual parade of slow moving overprivileged wankers who roll back at midnight with Kitcat when I’m on tour and ooze into the liquor cabinet.

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There are now 7 cans of old style Lucozade left in my world from the 24 I bought on eBay and locked in the cabinet. That’s 7 more years of New Year’s Day hangover and then it’ll be gone forever. I’ve locked it into the cabinet again despite slight misgivings as last time I did that someone broke the hinge with a hammer thinking they were going to find hidden treasure. That was Brian though or one of his friends, who would have been both capable and resourceful. I have no concerns that anyone the new flatmate brings will be either of those things.

The Tempest is getting interesting but I still haven’t got a clue how it will all pan out. It’s fun to geek out though. I just wish I was feeling 100%.

Hayfever

I’m still trying to persuade myself that this is hayfever despite the fact that every hour I’m feeling worse than the hour before. It’s not respiratory though. It doesn’t respond to any expectation of this Covid bollocks. Trust me to go and manage to get something else instead. My left eye is leaking like somebody left the tap on and I can’t look at screens which is tricky considering I’m on a break about an hour and a half into a creative zoom for The Tempest, and I’m trying to write this on my phone.

I switched off my laptop video, muted my sound, and have been listening to people being thoughtful and clever while constantly wiping my weeping eye and occasionally swearing roundly. Now I’m writing this as I have a feeling that the more time that goes by the shittier I’m going to feel. Hayfever or cold or just screen-allergy after endless talking faces, who knows. Maybe this is how my immune system interprets this plague of ours. Either way I’m feeling pretty sorry for myself and my head is starting to hurt. Noise is annoying me. It’s hard to think or to look at this phone screen to write. But it’s definitely just hayfever. I just want the noise to stop.

Tickets are live for this Tempest that we’ll be doing. https://www.creationtheatre.co.uk/book-virtual-tempest/  I’ve got time to get over this hayfever before I have to be the king.

It seems that the zoom meeting is back. They’re all talking on the screen again. Normally I don’t feel so misanthropic but I just want to shut all the light off and bury myself with a hot water bottle in clean sheets and quietly mumble to myself.

I’m going to plug back in and do my job. I’ve had a paracetamol which might help.


Oh I’m leaking. This whole current culture of doing everything through a screen is made a great deal harder when the light makes you melt from the inside. Also my sense of smell is not good. This hayfever is worse than usual for march. I kind of want the meeting to be over so I can make a batch of bolognese in case I collapse into a hole overnight. I’ve still got a good pile of food at home so I’m not going to starve if this is the onset of my two week rollercoaster. I guess if this is my version of this bullshit I can tick it off in a fortnight or so, get tested for antibodies, and go do stuff in the real world. But it certainly feels like I’m about to get sick now despite all my precautions. At least I’ve got plenty to read, plenty to eat, plenty to think about. I’m not in the best creative place right now though as the more my eye leaks the more it feels like the tears have been replaced by brainsuet.

This is my rehearsal room today. I can really look at it. Dammit. I hate being sick.

It’s just hayfever it’s just hayfever…

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