Patches of wild

Back in Hampstead on this peaceful summer night. In front of me Hex is diligently suffocating a long dead mouse. Beyond, the city, red lights and windows, peaceful under the moon.

Today has been about different forms of nature in this urban jungle. First we visited the tame wilding of Chelsea Physic Garden. It’s at its brightest for July, with wild flower beds and sunflowers in full bloom, every flower crowded with happy honey bees. We were there in the early afternoon, soaking up the sun, not alone but not particularly crowded either. Sharp bright colours and movement and life. Patches of astonishing colour and beauty. These deep summer days where you’re happy to be alive and happy to be in nature.


It certainly made a change from my attic, where I’d spent the morning in a fruitless search for those fecking Vogue sewing patterns – where did I put them? I’ll find them. And then I will kill them.

My attic is full of dust and as hot as a sauna on days like this. I was drenched and angry, short of breath in a mask that was finally being used for the purpose to which it was created. Dust prevention, rather than watching out for the ‘rona. I didn’t search as thoroughly as I might have as I was too hot. I came down with nothing but a teacup and no sewing patterns and all the sweat. I announced that we’d be going to the park. Certainly better than the living room which is now full of fans that I took down in order to photograph for an auctioneer that I wish would bloody get back to me as I really just want the things out of my possession before I fall over on them or throw wine on them or eat them in a dream where I think they’re kebabs.

We drove across town as evening fell. I wanted to spend some time with Hex, and the Heath is lovely on an evening like this. Hex and I played around on the balcony with Louise although she wouldn’t let him sit on her. He caught some sun, and had some gravity strength training. It’s been a couple of days. I’m glad he’s still as familiar and affectionate. We’ve got to know one another, that snake and I. But I had to put him back in his box as it was time for a walk again, having consumed a huge fat ribeye.

The heath in the sunset. It’s still more crowded than usual there. The underground bars in Camden aren’t doing their usual stinky gigs so the good people of London are still in pockets on the incline overlooking the city. It’s such a magical place to walk around and find the evening. We took in the sights and smells and the snippets of conversation and we saw the silhouettes of ancient trees and it was glorious. Summer is drawing on but there’s a good month to go. God I love these hot days.

I got back and Hex took a helicoptermouse so quickly he almost got my hand. Now it’s evening, wind down, Hampstead sleep and a good swim in the sea tomorrow.

On the bench

It’s been a while since I sat on this bench. The city feels like a different place now. Constant traffic behind me, runners and strollers on the pavement galore, the distant sound of a burglar alarm carried on the thick summer air. Another month or so of this before the autumn closes in, by which time I want to be trying to live elsewhere.

The plane trees look lush, and there are so many more gulls than usual coasting up on the ebbing tide. I hear them shouting in the morning and it – well it reminds me of home. Either fish stocks have replenished a bit, or the statistical likelihood of finding last night’s drunken kebab has dropped. The urban gulls have gone back to the river, echoing the fleets of removal vans I see parked outside all the expensive rental properties. Back to the seaside. “Why the hell am I paying this much to live in London when there’s no work?”

Flying ant day has graduated to flying ant week. Upstairs I’ve got a load of laundry in the machine, a load of washing up still to do, exploded boxes full of insane and random antique gubbins that have marched out onto every surface, and a great big fat ribeye steak sitting in the fridge next to a bowl of Desperate Dan style Bolognese that I cooked at Tristan last night after most of a bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – (for the sauce, I told myself).

Cricket matches are back on, and they are testing it with 1000 audience members. No theatres are back yet, and Phantom of the Opera has closed. We will all need a new landmark on Haymarket. But people can get on planes. How long how long how long before we can stand on stages again and meet live audience? It’s another layer. I want a job. Does the casting director know me? Yes. Tick. Can I make the audition? Yes. Tick. Can I nail the audition? Yes. Tick. Am I the right shape / look / feel for the job? Yes. Tick. Is the contract reasonable for everybody? Yes. Tick. Are theatres allowed to open? No. Shit.

Dromgoole did Cherry Orchard with a load of blossom between the stage and the audience. Lizzie Clacher and Simon Stone put Billie Piper and co in a perspex cube for Yerma. It was great. I lucked into a ticket and watched it, and the perspex didn’t bother me. It enhanced it. I guess we can’t go and do all the classics in a perspex cube just for the hell of it though – that was a design decision about life vs expectation and putting people in boxes etc etc. It was unusual and made you think.

But there are ways to get my industry back on its feet without making us all play in boxes.

Surely the film sets are opening up again? Time to make more content. Especially if we think this might happen again in October. Only a few months for the BBC to make the period drama that’ll air on Christmas Day after lunch. I was in the German one last Christmas. I’m free for the UK one this Christmas… Guys?



Impossible things

I have an incredible actor friend who is also an accountant. I’m really shit at maths and I’m not great at new technology. She is good at both which is what makes her such a good accountant. But she’s at the end of her tether with my long term bullshit. She wants me to do something to do with a garbanzo micturative CSV Excel splat in order to impossibl-open everything in a programme I don’t own because you have to pay for it.

If I can do these incomprehensible things then she might consider continuing to save my fucking life.

I stupidly recommended a complicated friend to be her client. She is as shit as I am, and the combination has clearly been too much for my actor-accountant friend despite my checkups.

“Are you sure you’ve got the headspace to deal with us both,” I asked back before the world exploded. “Yes, of course.” But no. No she didn’t. Fuck it. Hoist by my own petard.

I’ve spent hours again trying to work out how to convert PDFs into whatever the fuck it is she wants. I’ve tried so many times over forever. They just end up crashing. I first tried months and months ago. I think it might be possible to download in the right format from a non mobile device. I can only log in with mobile devices though.

Even with that I always hit one of a number of walls.

I overcame a few of them today. I downloaded all my statements onto my phone but my phone doesn’t store them anywhere I can find no matter how hard I dig. Wall one. So I did it on my iPad but they won’t send to another device due to some email security bollocks. Wall two. My laptop has never ever let me log into my online banking and if I try one more time it’ll shut down all my devices. Wall three. Can’t get over wall three.

The Coronavirus affected helpline is utterly fucking pointless. It’s probably the same dissociation that led to me being refused a payment holiday until I shouted at them. But my devices don’t talk to each other through my bank. And functionality in the app won’t let me get them in the requested format of Murklop Cavaniah Plinkton files. It’ll just let me download the PDF like forever. But apparently that’s no good.

I’m lost in it. It feels literally impossible.

There was a lovely day planned with Lou tomorrow where she was going to come up from Brighton and we’d hang out and look at fabrics and stuff from the huge antiques haul and fans and then we’d go walk on the heath and it’d be great and I was REALLY LOOKING FORWARD.

I had to ring her this evening to cancel her as tomorrow I’ll be trying again just to import the floof into a grumpungly file that can be read in GNARL. And I can guarantee you I won’t succeed at which point I need to go round the house of somebody that owns Excel and sight read twenty four months worth of statements across three bank accounts and PayPal.

I need to get better at the nitty gritty about numbers and computer programmes.  Her expectations are talking in a foreign language to me. It’s impossible.

Is it my business as an actor to understand who a CSV moves in and to renderise up an Excel book finely?

I thought I was doing very well using an app to draw rings around things on PDFs of my bank statements like the good old days but halfway through I was told that I can only submit garbanzos in flumpyfoo like I was told so now it’s basically just Game Over.

“You knew this was going to happen ages ago,” No. You did. You did. I didn’t.

The distance between what I’m told and what I retain grows longer in my head. I didn’t mean any harm. Maybe I was told ages ago that I had to do it in Furblat. It didn’t make sense then any more than it does now.

Unfortunately ultimately I think it’s one of those things where the impossible is asked for in order to burn the client. I really hope not as if I’m burnt here I think I’ll end up burying my head and it’ll only get worse. I’m gonna try to get this shit sorted tomorrow. I’m not holding much hope. But I’ll try.

I’m sad about not getting to hang with Lou. Just maybe I’ll be able to Crimp the Flompikloops as I’m expected to. “It’s easy, Al. I’m just asking for a CGF CH J file! You get one by Arbing the Flurk like we used to when we were in Gop.”

Just because you find something easy doesn’t mean everybody does. Useful general lesson, that one. Plink.




Turns out my bank fucked up, so at least after however long on the phone, I got the payment holiday on my loan. I shouldn’t really have taken the loan out in the first place, but things weren’t very happy a few years ago. They aren’t happy now either but at least this time I’m in the same boat as most of the people in the world.

At least I have a car.

I drove across London to talk with somebody about how I’m going to go about cold calling a load of people in early August. Needs must. Fuck all else is happening.

Faced with the reality of having to do something I hate (cold calling ugh ugh ugh) in order to make ends meet, I went up into my attic and brought down a box full of antique fans that had happened my way a year ago. They’re too precious to be used in theatre, or they’d have already gone to Gatsby and the like. They’d disintegrate within a week of actor use. But they have beauty and some might have value to a collector. There’s an auction in October up North. I spoke to a fan expert who lives in France and who guides the auction, and now I’ve sent 21 photographs of 21 individual fans to her. Hopefully some of them will be worth something and I can get them to her in time for good photos before the auction.

But a lot of them have ivory, and the law might be changing about selling antique ivory. Still, she’ll know what’s what regarding them all and hopefully will be inclined to help. I’m sure that something good will come of sending all the photos. Even if it’s just getting another box of random stuff out of the attic and shifted.

I’m home and I’m hoping I won’t have another night of crazy dreams. My sleeping brain has been so wild and active recently that I’m usually wide awake by half six and dead to the world at eleven at night. I can usually roll my dreams but these dreams have been elusive. It’s like I’m sleeping differently.

I was supposed to pay the cops today for the insurance fuck up but I didn’t have the means and can’t find my credit card. I’m now going to have to ring them in a tiny window tomorrow in order to hopefully stop them from initiating court procedures and making life even harder for me. That’s enough to interrupt my sleep on its own. Add to that my nascent attempts to once again stop it with the alcoholic beverages and I reckon over the next few weeks my whole relationship with Morpheus and Hypnos is going into overhaul.


Meanwhile the living room is full of fans. I’ve been sending emails hither and yon to all sorts of people about selling all sorts of things that would otherwise gather dust in the attic. Time time past time, especially considering I’ll spend the first three weeks of August trying to telephone people who don’t want to hear from me.

Awkward Sexy liars

There are all these books that have been written by shit men to try and encourage other shit men to be even shitter. I think the biggest seller was called The Game. There are websites and platforms supporting this stuff. I think there might even be shitty conferences. It’s all to do with paltry attempts at active manipulation by fish with legs. Boggle eyed creatures, either terrified or incapable of genuine connection.

Legions of unimpressive human males are rote learning atrocious neuro linguistic programming routines in order to persuade themselves they are magically going to become more attractive to women. They have all sorts of acronyms to describe other people. It’s like any other club. The belonging and the placebo effect will sometimes give the underconfident the confidence they need to find acceptance and love.

They’re also getting themselves down the gym,  and working themselves into shape. No bad thing. They’re prioritising making themselves eligible and – but for the active manipulation aspect – good on ’em.

At least they’re healthy as they insert their flaccid personalities into the world of dating.

It’s the gamification that I find most egregious. It’s only an actual game if both people are playing it – which of course is frequently the case too and fun and flirty when it is. But when I see one person playing a game opposite somebody who thinks this is deadly serious because their hormones are screaming “last chance saloon” – it pisses me off. It’s timewasting for ego. It’s irresponsible.

I frequently see these soft spoken hard bodied aliens, trying to “game” conversations, following a strategy mostly designed to exploit “weakness” in others. By “weakness” they usually seem to mean kindness and simplicity.

It’s a numbers game I guess. Occasionally some human will be in the bar wanting to revenge-fuck anybody and one of these geeks will show up. Fair game, bang bang, but he gets to think he’s winning. These dear sweet ninnies are just that to anybody with half a brain, as they try to game their interactions to protect their hearts. But idiots can be useful too. I have no doubt there are tips galore on how to pick up a pick up artist and get a fantastic few weeks out of their wallet. Gamers can get gamed.

The guy I met last night seems to be trying all that self conscious manipulation shit on my friend, who wants it to be true. He’s pretty terrible at it thus far though as she’s suspicious. I find him kind of cute because at least he’s bad at it. Sometimes he just gives up entirely and speaks his text. “I have open hands, see. That means I’m honest.” He genuinely said that to me out of nowhere. All the rest of his conversation felt just as learnt. There was a distinct lack of flow. I felt honour bound to mention it to my friend, who is projecting her need because babies time babies time babies time.

But who am I to advise positively or negatively on who to roll with for babies time? I’ve been more or less deliberately single for years so I can’t really advise on sexytimes generally. The whole area is an anxiety minefield. But I know if I was capable of getting pregnant I’d want to make sure the donor was more than just an awkward sexy liar.

Meanwhile, RESERVOIR!


Airbnb my room?

Instead of doing wild camping, we bought an Airbnb for a night. Fuck it. We’re not in our twenties anymore and both of us have found out we can make money outside of the narrow brief of our handcuffed industry, so long as we apply ourselves.

Our day on the Tor yesterday brought my desire to be in financial flow right back to the forefront of my mind. I’ve been downloading and processing huge amounts of stuff towards myself and others recently. We went to Burnham on Sea in the morning and chanted to the rising tide. Then we drove back to the old Tor and on the way I started expelling a whole pile of gathered up energetic shit. I was on a motorway, behind the wheel of a car. Helen is the only passenger I know that would just peacefully say “perhaps you should blow that out the window or it’ll keep coming back at you.” I almost pulled over. But it passed. Some nasty bits coming out.

We had been talking about money and how to make the stuff, and the reality hit me hard for the first time. Driving for a living is largely out for me for two years. Just yesterday I saw a post I would have applied for : “minimum 3 points”. I can’t. Suddenly I’ve got 6. My first proper interaction with the police, and I’m with The Prodigy about The Law from here on in.

In some ways I’m glad of it. I used to hear the sirens and see the colours and think of all the hours I was working helping train detectives in Colindale years ago, and I’d affectionately remember the evenings with that pint glass full of cash and the slow dumb friendly animals I tried to help with empathy. They were alright, if single-minded.

Now I twitch when I see them as I assume they want a piece of me. Damage breeds the expectation of damage. The rozzas kicked me really hard when I was down. They took actual significant literal money, plus the prospect of future earning, plus costing me higher insurance premiums, all for a mistake. Of course it was my own fault. But intention vs action, anyone? I wasn’t running some sort of deliberate scam. I was just being a thoughtless idiot. We all need to get better at not being one of those. But still…

I drove without insurance after jumpstarting the car in an underground car park with no reception and then being so involved in the practical business of keeping it running until the battery was charged. I didn’t and couldn’t pull over to confirm queued up insurance on my mobile until I had. “I’ll sort all the admin once I’m safely home.” The bitterest part of it all was my own honesty. “Can I see your insurance documents sir?” “Oh it’s all cued up on my phone but I haven’t stopped to confirm yet.”

I wake up screaming about that one. This is what I could’ve done : “Yes of course, officer. Let me just get them up on my phone… CONFIRM… CARD DETAILS FROM MEMORY … FEW SECONDS … Here you are officer. As you can see from the date (no time) I bought it today. It’s why it didn’t show up on your scanner.”

It was my one journey before getting everything fixed up. I am “ineligible” for a course (aka there are none because COVID).

Suddenly it’s six points, after 20 years of absolutely nothing, after all the roadmiles you can possibly imagine in a rich variety of vehicles. I can’t drive for money so easily for two years now, particularly without my own vehicle. Why? Because I’m stupid. Plus the letter of the law. It’s meant to be a lesson but the only thing I’ve learnt is that I shouldn’t trust the law so much.

Flow. Time to look elsewhere, say the powers that be. I’ve got so much to sell, inside a flat that I could use as an Airbnb more effectively than the guy who hosted us last night. We gave him 5 stars as he was lovely. He had a bunch of friends round when we arrived and we ended up having a fun and varied conversation with his mates, until he somehow decided to tell a long form story about how he shat himself at work, thereby baffling Helen and myself and embarrassing his old mates.

I reckon I could get my room into a good enough shape to rent, go on the sofa or to a friend’s house, have interesting guests and not regale them with stories about poo. Profit.

It’s a win win.

Tor view.



The White Well is still closed. But the Red is flowing from the lion’s head in Chalice Well Gardens. Both of these ancient springs are running freely from the taps on the roadside as well, so White water is available. Helen and I pay to go into the gardens, which I’ve never done before. Yew trees and a very old thornbush stand out. Fresh cut soft lush grass. Beautifully arranged – enough to justify the price tag. The gift shop isn’t even hugely overpriced, although nothing speaks to me and I shouldn’t have paid the entrance fee.

We are in Glastonbury. Just for one night. Helen is running a retreat in the woods in a few weeks time and she wanted to get some water from the wells to work with. It’s been a while since I’ve been down here. There’s undeniable power here in the omphalos. And it’s packed to the rafters with socially unusual people in natural fabrics.

Two people are taking their time in the red well ahead of me. One turns to silently apologise as his companion goes into full wash mode. I’m not bothered.

“I’m in no hurry. I’ve got all the time in the world,” I say to him. He looks at me for a moment too long and his face tics with something. He’s in a blazing pink and red tie dye T-shirt from Florida. His pupils are dilated.

“Oooh I just got a big hit of satchmo,” he eventually says. “Of what?” I ask, thinking I’ve misheard. Did he say “San Pedro” and just fluff it. “Satchmo,” he reiterates, and I realise I’ve just said “All the time in the world” and it’s a music reference. Ugh.

“Oh… Louie Armstong. Satchmo. Of course. I just assumed you were riding waves of some obscure plant based substance… Um…” Oops. But I think he probably was. Lots of people are, around here.

A few minutes later I’m washing bits of myself in the red flow of mother earth, filling my flask and covering myself in this sharp tart mineral water. It’s early enough in the day. I’ll dry out, I hope. If I’m going to come here with the White Spring closed, I’m going to get myself soaked in the Red spring instead.


Then it’s up the Tor still damp, and into a cloud of flying ants. I’m chanting, I’m reading tarot and I’m doing both amidst a barrage of tiny horny little flying dots. They assemble in my hair, my throat, my shoes. As I’m sitting there in this living soot at the heart of things, my bank tells me by text that – (for unknown reasons) – they have refused my request for a payment holiday on my loan “but they can still help”. The only way they can help is by getting Kitcat to pay her rent before my credit rating is even further damaged or by giving me the holiday I’m apparently entitled to.

I am reading this disastrous information covered in ants. And, as one should at such times, I consider the symbology. “Pull more than your weight,” says the ant. “Collaborate but do it really hard and really well!” “Work hard. No, harder.”

If I came to the omphalos for a reason outside of the water, it’s to remember that I’m the only true way out of this. I have the means at my disposal with ant-like work.

No more navel gazing. Once I’ve finished gazing at this navel.


Elephant goad

Dad collected old weapons. My brother ended up with a few, but he only has so much room and he keeps a neat home, so he jettisoned a load yesterday. As with all antique weirdness they ended up in my car, along with even more random stuff for the fabulous Chelsea Junk Vortex.

It has all found its way up to my flat. From whence, who knows? There’s a fucked old cabinet which I’ll likely try and get out of here ASAP. If anybody is obsessed with Salome it’s an attempt at that story painted on the outside, but my grandmother got somebody to paint over the severed head of John the Baptist as it upset her. Probably early 1900’s. The whole cabinet needs an overhaul and the work is almost certainly not worth the value. Lockdown cabinet restoration friends apply below. I’ll send pictures.

I also now have a long blunderbuss, a short dueling pistol and a cavalry sword. And I’ve got a thing that looks like an axe but isn’t. I don’t know the word for the thing. But I do know the purpose. I don’t even know how I know it. It’s dark. Here it is.


It’s for Howdahs – for the mahout. A howdah? That’s when you put a palanquin on top of an elephant, fill it with people, and take them for a ride. The mahout tries to steer the elephant. It’s not something that happens much these days. They were used a lot during the Carnatic wars. As the Romans found out through Hannibal, an elephant is a hell of a thing to have to fight against.

More recently howdahs have mostly been for showing off in the late 1800’s. The time honoured crap human instinct: “I am weak and so I will assert myself over something bigger than me in order to momentarily forget my weakness.” Dumb Yankees posing by dead animals. Silly Brits sitting in castles on top of annoyed elephants.

Problem is, in war as in peace, elephants can fuck you up. Up in the howdah, if Algernon knocks over the hot teapot at the same time as Millicent takes a shot at a leopard and Charlie screams with shock at a fly, the elephant might suddenly decide it doesn’t want these idiots on its back anymore. You don’t fuck with an angry elephant. It’s huge and tough and very very hard to subdue or take down.

This is where, God forbid, the little decorative axe thing in the photograph comes in handy, so long as the driver (the mahout) doesn’t fall off.

The axe bit isn’t a weapon. It just looks like one. The axe bit, or feather bit etc – that’s decorative and you can use the base as a steering wheel.

It’s the stick itself that’s lethal. Or what’s hidden inside. In case of emergency, unscrew base.

If you look at pictures of howdahs there’s almost always some guy there, sitting on the elephant’s neck, holding a stick. Dad had a few of these goads at Eyreton, all very different. They do look nice.

But if you unscrew them there’s a concealed six inch stiletto hidden in the handle. Why?

Think about where the guy is sitting.


If the elephant goes bananas, the mahout can unscrew the handle of this fake axe and drive the hidden stiletto right into the brain of the elephant, stopping it dead.

It’s dressed up as something else so as not to upset the passengers. “Why are you carrying that?” “It’s my steering stick. It’s a ceremonial axe. I like it.” “How quaint.”

Attractive things are frequently deadly.


Parameters for happiness

More and more I start to realise how we can set arbitrary parameters in order to determine whether or not we’re doing well, and then we can spend far too much time lining ourselves and each other up against those parameters and making judgements.

One of my brothers – (technically half brother as different mum) – died far too early of complications with Parkinson’s Disease and MRSA. I just sat with someone as they dismissed his entire life and threw out the possibility of his happiness because it didn’t fit their parameters of a “successful” life – (a word they applied to their own life which I wouldn’t touch). His whole life was dismissed in the remembering, partly because of obscure personal social grudges against his wife, partly because of an unexamined framework about personal happiness.

I popped out with anger for a moment at the thoughtlessness of it. I spoke their thinly veiled subtext back to them as if it was my actual text. “Yeah you’re right. Fuck her she should be dead too etc etc”. I couldn’t quite believe that a social grudge could destroy all contact with somebody who had been so close to our lost brother.

“Was that satire?” they quietly asked Max when I was out of earshot but cursed by good hearing. I’m not sure how he responded. But yes I suppose it was. It was closer to rage. Maybe my rage manifests itself as satire.

I put a lid on my it. But the rage bit is still simmering because it’s tied up with grief which is slow and stealthy. I’ve written about Jamie before, my eldest brother. In many ways he was the best of us. He made some weird choices, but he never lost the twinkle in his eyes.

Nothing can make you as angry as your own family. I love them dearly too, the ones that remain, even when they get my hackles up like that. Christ, when mum was alive she subscribed to The Daily Mail. We would fight bitterly because I had this subversive idea that people I didn’t know still had value. The paper is very clear about how it’s only personal friends and a select few celebrity types who aren’t secretly trying to eat your soul. Mum got swept up in that nonsense.

There’s a certain isolationism and virtue islanding that happens to people who have cultivated a narrow frame of reference. You see it with both ends of the political spectrum. Daily Mail or 8chan or Language Police etc.

Very easy mistake to make, not expanding your frame of reference and flubbling around in your algorithmic ignobubble. Go towards people you don’t understand. It’ll reward you. I got angry with my family member, but then I went back and listened to them without judgement.

I sometimes go too far in my deliberate and active consciousness explosion and I forget to take account of my own history and my family and how it made me.

Family is so important but it’s never easy. Perspective is important too, and it’s even harder than family.

It’s so unhealthy to just make a decision about somebody and then stick with it no matter what. In both directions. Sometimes people should lose your loyalty until they earn it back. Sometimes people should lose your distaste until they earn it back. We are all hacking together a bunch of parameters around making ourselves happy. So long as you don’t put your happiness in one-upmanship then there’s no reason why you need to look with judgement at how others build theirs.


Roadkill or Rescue?

It’s clear that the cock pheasant on the opposite side of the road has just been hit by a car. Clipped but not yet run over. We are slowing down to turn left. As I drive past, I see it move, out of the corner of my eye – an uncomfortable move of the neck. Birds are, of course, fragile. It’s not going to be jumping up and immediately walking off after a hit by a car. Is it still alive though? Or was that movement a death spasm?

I brake a bit harder and pull into the bus stop on the opposite side of the road, as there’s nobody behind me. This is a FAST main road. The bus stop is one of those gravel ones carved out of the embankment. It’s there to protect the bus from the sheer speed of the traffic as it makes its pick-up for the good people of Sussex while the cars yowl past it on the right. Better than creating a long angry hardbrake queue, but in rush hour the drivers must have to bully to get back into the screwyou morning traffic.

No bus right now though. I stop, get out of my car, and open the boot (ahem trunk). On the far side of the road, cars are firing past this big prone bird constantly, narrowly avoiding it where it fell – which is right in the tyre line. It’s only a matter of time before one driver doesn’t do that tiny swerve and then bdunk bdunk – End of pheasant both aesthetically and practically.

Boot (trunk?) swiftly open I dump out the contents of my bag. I grab the swimming trunks (pants?) I didn’t even know I’d packed.

Thought is quick and time is slow. The cars are still haring down the road. Is the bird still moving? I’m not sure. I’m going to it.

What’s my motivation here? Seriously? Good or ill?

If you don’t hit it yourself, you can take home roadkill. Nice fresh pheasant. There’s a lot of that at the forefront of my mind. Is that it? Do I want this bird to be dead so I can hang it up somewhere for a few days and then pluck and roast it, send the feathers to a friend, stock the bones, eat well for a week despite cashflow problems? Or am I trying to save it? Whatever my kindness is doing, my carnivore is noisier right now.

So I walk across the road, and the traffic – so fast – sees me. A car slows enough for me to risk going for it and I rush across to the twitching bird. It looks at me. Our eyes meet. A universe in a moment. I’ve never seen a bird so eloquent. “Help me!” The cars are waiting now, three of them already – not honking though. Aware. Curious perhaps, as this man moves a bird too stunned to move itself.

I’ve helped pigeons out of buildings. I’ve handled a few chickens. I can pick up a bird. Like picking up a crab, there’s a way of doing it. I didn’t know I knew, but I did.

My instincts have pulled me to grabbing a pair of swimming trunks (shorts?). The trunks provide a cushion for my grip and help calm the wings. I reach down whispering those soft and senseless words you whisper to the broken. “Sshh it’s ok, I’ve got you. I’m gonna pick you up. It’s ok. Ssh now.” He remains completely docile, one eye turned up to me. I gently take him up. He lets me lift him with no struggle. Anything is better than the road and these speeding cars inches from his dazed head.

I can feel his fragility in my hands. His hollow bones some of which might be broken. His big breathing. His heartbeat?

“Hey little buddy,” says my mouth. “hE muSt bE dYiNg!” says my carnivore mind. “You took quite a hit there,” says my mouth. “ThEre’s a rOCk thEre, yOu caN KiLL iT!” says my carnivore.

With him cradled gently in these possible hands I find a shady patch of soft grass.

We are a distance from the road. A rabbit startles. “Good,” I think. “A prey animal and it let me get close. It’s unlikely there’s a local fox or it’d be more alert.”

I settle him gently on the grass, my pheasant friend who I might have killed. He twitches a leg. His leg is hurt. One of his stupid big colourful dappled legs is badly hurt. Perhaps the wing on that side too. “Help me!” the one eye on my side begs again. This shit is out of his comprehension. I’m going to do my best.

He’s in shock, this pheasant. What do you do for somebody in shock? Water. He’ll be hyperventilating. It’s hot. He can’t go looking for water in this state.

I go back to the car. Louise is in there. Earlier today we went to the spring at Fulking. We filled a thermos with lovely ancient “not for human consumption” spring water. She gives me the thermos and I fill the cup-lid with spring water. Pheasants can consume this, even if the local council is justifiably terrified about pesticide runoff.

I once again cross this maniac road, and return to my charge, clutching precious water. I leave Lou’s cup in easy reach of his head. “Water,” I say encouragingly, knowing he doesn’t speak English but trying to intuit the pheasant for “I mean you no harm”. He blinks. He’s not taking his eyes off me. “I’ll leave you alone and come back in a bit to check on you, ok? You should be safe here.” It strangely feels like he is taking it all in. He’s having to make sense of human communication for a moment.

I walk back to the car deeply conflicted. I got myself into this situation on an impulse borne almost completely from opportunism and base carnivorous greed. I went mostly to pick up a fresh roadkill. Now I’m the fecking pheasant doctor. “IT is GoNNa DiE frOm sHocK,” says my carnivore, while the rest of me is literally surprised by being close to tears at the eloquence of this being that is in need of help. Lou puts a hand on my arm. It’s welcome.

I cradled his weight. He trusted me completely. He is a wild bird and he was calmer in my hands than a chicken that gets lifted daily. With the cars and the road he must have (at split second) understood that trusting me was his best option, so he suppressed his “DON’T PICK ME UP” instinct. I find myself hoping he’ll be ok now.

We drive on up Chanctonbury. Up the hill we go and we are there for many hours. In the course of which time the carnivore part of me phones a friend to ask if he knows how to butcher a pheasant – just in case, I tell myself. “JUst iN caSe It’s dEaD whEn We retUrn fOr thE flaSK cUp”? Ugly call. My morals are all over the place in this.

Up to the top of the hill we go. We make friends with the beautiful cattle who roam more freely and happily than any cattle I’ve ever seen. They’re happy up at Chanctonbury. Before likely being sold for incredible premiums to the top top restaurants who will buffalo every inch of their usable bodies. But at least they are truly roaming, not in boxes or in burnt out rainforest or metal warrens tormented by thoughtless pricks.

One of the cows becomes gruntily curious. We commune for a moment. The finger is not touching the horn. He’s much bigger than me. But I like the perspective trick. EDIT : (I was playing the old game of pretending indifference to her while leaving a bit of me behind for inspection. Animals are suckers for that game, from cats to cows.)


Then. Then it’s back down the hill. Back to the bus stop. Back for the pleasant pheasant. Hazards on, boot open. Louise ain’t budging. It’s likely dead.

Grim, I return to the patch of soft wet grass, mostly expecting to find a dead bird. I find where it was. There’s no pheasant, but the upright cup is completely empty of water.

There’s a trail of small feathers in the grass. Doctorbutcher becomes doctorbutchertracker.

This poor pheasant is easy to track. He’s blundering and he’s hurt. I go through nettles in my shorts, meet a bramble or two and hear a rustle.

There, in a protected bush, I see my new friend. He’s hopping, but strangely, just for a moment, he’s hopping towards me. But keeping distance.

I speak words he won’t know. “That’s a good safe place. Stay there. I’ll get you more water. You stay there.” He does. I go.

I go back to the car and we improvise a vessel out of a Coconut water tetrapak. I fill it to the brim with spring water and I bring it to where he can find it. I’ll certainly stop and get this litter next time I inevitably go up to the Chanctonbury Ring, before you derail this. This experience is torched into my memory.

He seems energetic already, my new pheasant friend. And capable. He’s back on his good foot. He has had a hell of a shock though so I’m not going to encourage anything but rest. I don’t want him leaving this safe thornbush he’s found on the edge of the woods until he’s slept the shock and adrenaline off.

He’s not doing the thing you might have seen where the bird with a broken wing keeps trying to fly. He is very much working out his new parameters and how to thrive within them. This pheasant is tough. I reckon he might hole out successfully in that bush for a while, even if there are owls. His wing might not even be broken. And he can hop for England. He might be in pain and shock with a fucked leg. But yep he can still move. 

(Maybe one day he’ll be the wise old lame pheasant, disseminating random yet seductive names and theories to make sense of a personal experience completely beyond his ken. Loads of the other pheasants will start making the same noises. He’ll be propagating half understood experiences as fact: “The Waterbringers, they make a noise like “shhh” and they call us “buddy” when they lift us.. They are completely outside our understanding as pheasants but even if they could eat us they choose to save us from the evil Cars who truly hate us!”

I leave him his new big water pot and I return to the car. Before I go I tell him goodbye and I wish him good luck. I hope he grows into that wise old pheasant. I hope the wise old pheasant doesn’t overlook that it was a mixture of his own personal strength and trust that got him back on his feet. If he’d fought me in the road there would have been a time when it stopped being worth my efforts. He definitely wouldn’t have got water. He made his rescue as much as I did.

Part of my recent journey towards myself has been a huge recalibration of my relationship with meat. I know that if that pheasant had been profoundly dead when I took him off the road, he would have ended up in my bag and eventually in my oven. (Sorry).

But through my perhaps badly motivated “help”, he will actually continue to live. And had he been dead when I returned after making friends with the cow, I can’t be certain if I’d have picked him up to eat or just performed a ceremony and then taken him up and buried him in the little Chanctonbury pet cemetery next to Red Rackham.

It seems that sometimes even things bad begun can find their way to good ending. Everything is a balance. The scales tipped in the right direction this time and the pheasant recovered brilliantly. I helped make that possible despite part of my initial intention. Once again I’m finding myself looking at my relationship with meat. I wonder how many of you would have snapped its neck and said “it was dead when I got there.” I’m surprised how close I came.