Jamming socks into the cracks

The wind is hammering on the window here in Hampstead. I had to jam it shut with a sock. A friend just texted me about something I should’ve recorded by now for him – but it’s unpaid. My microphone is in Chelsea and without payment I’m never inclined to prioritise. My time is worth money. I don’t have any inclination to be front footed and generative right now with no guarantee of remuneration. I’ve bought my ability with time. I have no idea where the money might come from next. Everything I read bodes ill for the theatre part of my industry. What the fuck is going to happen? Filming might pick up, so that’s something. But God…

A year ago I hoped I’d get the audition for the perfect role in theatre somewhere that might transfer to the West End. I could get the part and then it could lead to the thing that led to the thing that eventually meant I could finally finally finally take a foot off the gas and … who knows – afford to fall in love? Even to have a kid? All these things I feel like I’ve pretty much burnt forever now in the struggle to just remain vaguely current.

Here I sit in the carcass of the dreams that propped me up, wondering what all the sacrifice was for.

What have I built? Fuck.

Friends. A fair few wonderful fragile powerful friends. Thank God.

Debt. Resilience. Perspective. Observation.

Outside of that? A web of unusual connections in an ailing industry with people who, with a few notable exceptions, don’t hate me.

I have been reasonably uncompromising. I’m kind and peaceable. But I speak my mind even as it changes, so people I’ve designated as hypocrites and people who refuse to be honest have not gone forward with my blessing and they know it.

I’ve also been visible but not in a shiny way – I write this shit every day and it’s full of the word “I”. I don’t share it widely or pepper it with hashtags. I tell you when I’m sad rather than colouring the cracks with meat. But if you wanna paint me as a narcissist you’ve got all the words, so long as you ignore the content – and that’s the nature of agendas. And I’m not doing the grinning and the dancing with tassles in my arse that apparently we are supposed to do as actors writing about our careers.

The more visible someone is the easier it is to dismiss them.

This blog is a fucking grind. It’s both my strength and my weakness. I hate it and I hate myself for forcing myself to do it no matter how I feel, over and over and over again. And I love it too. I love it for the messages you send. For the fact it helps people know they’re not the only ones. And for what I learn about myself by doing it.

I have to connect with myself and assess myself in this life where otherwise I might just divorce myself from who I am and from what I want and join the hordes who write endless saccharine content that goes for nothing and for nothing and for nothing.

Every day for 1270 days no matter what, mostly honest, mostly straightforward, frequently unedited. Minimum 500 words a day. Books and books worth of content, put out, hardly even shared, forgotten. For me? For you? Who knows anymore. For this.

I’ve learnt a lot in the process.

But I haven’t learnt to distribute it.

Maybe that should be the next lesson for these times where the theatre industry is mothballed, filming is stuttering and online shows look pointedly elsewhere. Time to bump up my numbers on the social meedjas. Time to be like the varnished turds who use words like “influencer” towards themselves. Time to make it harder for people to overlook me. Maybe accept that my unedited daily version of reality is more healthy than the curated dogshit people try to feed the world about themselves and our industry.

But … I’m leaky tonight. I’m popping sadness unexpectedly. The wind is banging on the window reminding me of a big wild world out there. Time to put a sock in it.

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Burning a noose of snakeskin

Hex likes to shed his skin and to poo at the same time. I found him this evening nonchalantly sitting under his rock having made a right mess of his terrarium. The skin he had shed though – it was remarkably neat. He made a perfect little noose, and then he went through it. I put him on my head, shiny and new, and I started cleaning up.

He immediately removed my glasses, and then settled against the warm bits and started snuffling in my ear innocently as he watched me sort out his mess.

This perfect noose of skin was surrounded by his stinky pellets. When I took the time to notice, it was as if he had made the perfect topical present, keying into so much of my work towards myself at the moment. Going all the way through nooses and shedding skin and basic snake imagery – these were all things that came up in the woods very clearly. I’m not one to overlook a chance for ceremony. So I made use of his old discarded skin.

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It’s full moon tonight, with the wind bringing in a cleansing rain. The pubs might be open but I’m not feeling it. I banked up a fire in the fire pit on Mel’s balcony. I wrote out a load of stuff I needed to burn for good – stuff I’d been carrying that there’s no room for any more.

I made a fire and burnt some writing, and I put the shed skin in the hottest part of the fire and sent it up with the rest of the crap. I did my usual thing of improvising a ritual. Closing off the changes from the woods with the Skinner. Literally mixing metaphors as I do.

Then I dumped rocks on the fire and sat in drizzle until I was happy it was extinguished and wasn’t going to burn down anybody’s Hampstead pied a terre. Practicality is still present alongside my improvised mysticism.

I went back into the flat stinking of acrid burnt snakeskin. I’m learning smells through Hex.

Snake is a very specific smell. Unmissssnakeable. I’ll be like Indiana Jones now. I’ll know if I’m in a snake pit by smell.

Mouse too, although it’s a bit less of a concern to be thrown into a mouse pit. I know the mouse smell from all the puppeting back when Hex wasn’t eating properly. And from opening the packet near his nose to waft the tempting yummy mousey smell…

Burnt snakeskin isn’t as unique a smell but it clings. It’s in the same world as burnt hair and nails. Familiar and sharp. You don’t want it in your face when you’re sleeping. It stuck to me as I came back into the flat.

I had a hot bath and moisturised. Yeah baby. Now I smell of coconut.

I’m tucked up in bed listening to the wind and rain outside. Sometimes that can be one of the most beautiful feelings in the world. To be safe and warm in a storm.

I’m right on the edge of the heath. Occasionally there’s a fox, yarking like it’s stuck on a fence, firing all the instincts of the idiot local dogs. “Gaaaark gaaaark!” once. “Rolf Rolf Rolf Rolf Rolf” for ages.

Occasionally there’s an owl too, staking territory for the hunt. “Screw youuuu, it’s myyyy shreeew!”

But right now it’s too rainy for foxes. It’s too windy for owls. No owl in its right mind is gonna trust big wings and hollow bones to these unpredictable gales. The shrews will be holed up for the night as well, snug in their little hole. And so am I.

Summer has taken a sabbatical. She’ll be back. Plenty of time left thank God, even though we’ve spent the best of it locked in our own homes, and the days are already getting shorter again. I’m going to enjoy this storm for now and let it blow away old terrors and unpleasantnesses.

Tiger king

I have a television. I forget this.

Not only do I have a television, but it’s a gargantuan television. And I rarely if ever switch it on. I did my best to chase the last film on Mubi for a while, but then the lure of paper pages suckered me back into the beautiful endless world of books. This evening though, having been an epic consumer of printed words, it seemed only right to lie back and let some words and pictures happen. I thought I’d go with something cultural. I put on Tiger King.

The Impostor. Making a Murderer. There’s something about the whole “Redneck Documentary” genre that draws me in. This one is about arrogance vs self righteousness. It’s about lack of perspective. Narcissism. Greed. It’s about big cats and about the broke idiots and the rich hypocrites that keep these creatures for their own self aggrandisement. And it’s about betrayal, lies and money.

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It’s a well put together little piece, and one that landed just as we all got shut into our own homes so it had a wide reach. I felt I ought to have a reference point, so I could make sense of the memes. I prefer to try to be loosely up to date with the shit that people use as reference, (except for the talent shows the fake reality and the competition guff).

There’s a lot to mull over in Tiger King. It’s full of cowards and criminals, liars and losers. It reinforces the warning that you should never make yourself too visible. It’s about cruelty and intrangisence. And it’s about hundreds of wonderful beasts living from birth to death in cages, almost completely overlooked by the self serving fuckwits who think of them as an income stream or a chance to be cute. It’s worth watching even if it’s depressing. The cats are constant. The central people – all of them – are manipulative, self satisfied, mean spirited and generally more appropriate as fodder than keeper.

Maybe this is why I stick to books. At least the fantastic “true” construct of Shantaram keeps leaving little gems of beautifully expressed morality scattered in with all the perfect coincidences. I go to bed smiling and feeling connected to the eponymous author as he hacks together his personality through liberal application of trust, through almost supernatural stoicism and through almost impossible synchronicity. Reading Shantaram I somehow find myself thinking “I could’ve gone that way,” apart from my conviction that I’d be enthusiastic but ultimately dead if I got into a street fight. I go to bed dreaming India.

Watching The Tiger King just leaves a sour taste in my mouth and I’ll probably dream shouting manface. Bunch of self serving bastards. Watching it we forget so quickly and completely the names and behaviours of any of the animals and instead dive into the thorny criminality and ultimately the weakness and changeability of the humans who are exploiting their connection with these vast beauties of nature. There’s no excuse for doing that to so many lovely beasts. Not fragile masculinity. Not money. Not the cult of personality. Not self righteousness. The way that it’s cut, it feels like none of the humans give two fucks about the animals they have in their custody. Smart though. Three years or more of filming with no guarantee of distribution let alone the traction it has gained. I wonder how many years have gone into similar things that ultimately went to nothing. But keeping predatory animals? There’s a story there. And they tell it very well.

I’ve got Hex. A single predator, looked after temporarily. I worry when I bring him into The Tempest. He needs to be happy and comfortable or its no go. He is just one snake and I worry about him loads and watch his well being. He’s already carrying burns from a previous keeper the poor wee beasty. He needs to be loved.

I have him with me for a few minutes of a piece of work. And I worry enough about his well being through that. I’m having to shoot up and down to Hampstead loads just to satisfy myself that he’s watered and hasn’t pooed and has had some gravity. Usually I get there and nothing needs to be done but a clamber. But he is just one extremely easy animal and he’s enough worry for me thanks. Over 200 tigers? Maniacs.

 

Mobile and thinking about flow

It seems this week is all about people asking for money. I get it. We need to move the stuff around I guess. Whatever it is.

The long and short of all the fuckery with the cops is that now there’s a red Nissan Micra parked outside my flat. I’ll be glad of it once my breathing gets back to normal. It means that I have basic freedom of movement, and for the price of petrol I can go and shout at friends through their windows in various parts of the country. Much less of a faff than the tube at the moment, and likely cheaper over time than taking those Ubers (if we don’t take into account the impending fine for the insurance fuck-up. )

Motivation has been slippery this week. I feel like I’ve been booting myself back into the world, back into my flat in Chelsea. Apart from all the energy I spent chasing cars I’ve just been reading my book and wandering around in the Physic Garden. The knowledge that I’m going to have to start finding income streams again is tempered by my iron trust in fate to work its magic. I’ll probably give it a helping hand by getting back on the eBay wagon and so forth. But something will come.

This time last year I had just started a run of work and flow that took me right into lockdown with The Tempest. It was such a beautiful rarity to know for months and months not only what my immediate work was but also what was coming next. It paid off the credit card that I’m about to start racking up again. A year ago I walked through the early morning to a last minute motorbike lesson for the test I (thankfully) failed. I was in digs in Oxford, marveling in the beauty of the world and revelling in all the meaty Shakespeare laid before me for the summer. It was a summer that was to take me all over the USA and help me ground deeper into the weight that I wanted – to facilitate my journey from jester to king, from air to earth. I’ve been floating so long I’d almost forgotten how to tether.

Now I haven’t a clue what’s going to happen. Very few of us do. There’s a Tempest on 11th July -(God love the Creation and Big Telly team)- but aside from that the old familiar actor’s fear : ” maybe I’ll never work again” is amplified by the little voice that says “because nobody will ah ha hahaa”.

Live art, historically, has burnt bright in times of crisis. But it needs to have an audience. The pubs open soon but I’m really not sure how I feel about it. Recently I’ve gained so much in terms of peace from being part of a society that goes to nature to relax.

Evenings have often found me striding barefoot through The crowded Heath, my familiar bag of little hand knitted prayer mats in my hand, smelly things, burny things and thinky things, enjoying the warm winds carrying with them the sound of laughter. Stinky crowded rooms pumping music too hard and selling drinks too dearly – the theory isn’t firing me up at the moment. I’d sooner spend my money watching people take charming risks and telling me a tale together on a stage, as I sit rapt elbow to elbow with a wriggling stranger.

I worry so much for these buildings – the rich and varied network of gorgeous theatres around this country. The masterpieces and quirky gems in small towns – with wide reach, giving needed jobs, honing the craft of the future industry leaders, sharing great skill and passion and beauty even if your aunty hasn’t heard of them at Christmas – Pitlochry, Keswick, Newcastle under Lyme, St Andrews, Mold, Leicester, Frinton, Dundee many many more, so many. The old tiny beautiful buildings kept alive by passion and the Christmas season – gems like Margate and Richmond Yorkshire. I cut my teeth touring. How many friends did I meet in those places watching or playing who are now making work that touches people all over the world?

Not to mention the networks and webs they cast in their areas, these buildings, giving people purpose and employment and joy.

The Globe! I love that building passionately, and it had such a journey to even get built.  It’s in a powerful place, visible and so crowded in season. You get the best view for a fiver and you feel like you’re part of something. Even that incredible building is under threat as much from uncertainty as anything else. You can’t start paying people to rehearse if there might not be a show…

Ugh. Better out than in. Something’s gotta shift. I am sick from hearing worrying news now…

Fallout of my own dumb behaviour

I can’t tell if I’m more angry with myself or with the system.

So I fucked up. I drove a car that was not yet insured. It was insured in my head because all I needed to do was click go. But crucially … I hadn’t clicked go. I’m in a bus heading masked to spring it from the pound now.

I went to the post office to sort tax. The counter clerk told me that I couldn’t get it taxed with just a photo of the new keeper supplement. I’d have to pay £25 for a new log book I was told. The photo is no good. The counter clerk was completely wrong, but thankfully I sensed they didn’t give a crap. I didn’t let them steamroll another £25 out of me. I sorted it online. I should’ve done it all along. Still, unhelpful fucker. Spots. Lots of annoying spots next Tuesday for them please.

Once it’s out of the pound I’ll probably have to live in it, because the parking permit money is going on the pound release so the car will be under threat from wardens between 8.30 to 6.30.

Meanwhile I was woken up by an automatic phone call from Thames Water. They want £50 more than the fine I’m about to get in the post and have clearly been picking their moment. I’m just going to bury my head for now.

I’m fully expecting somebody at the pound to tell me my treads aren’t legal or there’s a reason why I can’t drive it away or whatever other obstructive nonsense they decide to make up. I’ll likely have to push it through the gate anyway as I can’t imagine the coppers will jump start it for me. They’re not there to be helpful. But I’m going to try to get them to be. I’m attaching a happy face. I’ve done all the admin. Let them do their worst.

The weird thing is how different my anger is now to how it would’ve been ten years ago. Ten years ago would’ve been screaming incandescent rage. Five years ago would’ve been simmering weeping resentment. Right now? I’m getting on with it and meeting all the little resistances with a kind of exasperated silent activity. And writing about it here. I’m angry, yes.

But it’s done. Being angry won’t change it. The letters will say what the letters will say. Eventually everybody will get their money but me. All I need to do in the meantime is the basic work to pay that money, somehow, when the only acting role went elsewhere and the industry feels to be boiling on the edge of an irretrievable collapse, carrying with it the hopes and dreams of most of my favourite people.

About time I got resourceful again. No point just despairing for the future of my industries. Time to activate again somehow.

In times of change and advancement, tendrils of the past can cling on and try to stop us forging forward. In this fearful and judgemental and depressing time I’m trying to spread new wings. The whole of this city is mired in terror – the whole of the world is in shock. Nobody is supposed to be trying to fly. It’s almost an act of defiance to be happy. That’s why I’ll keep on flapping my arms around even if I hit myself a bit in the process. And that’s why I’ll beat every one of those coppers with smiling. (*Edit : They tried to keep obstructing with this thing they’ve made up about how your insurance policy needs to specifically cover collecting from a pound. They are utter scum. My insurance company was lenient thank God.)

I’ve got a fully paid off credit card. It’s a shame knowing that it’s swinging back into red. But what a privilege to even have the option.

This is just a momentary stumble. Two steps forward, one step back.

But generally it feels like dark dark times right now. I’ve never seen so much flat despair on my social media. I have to work hard to remind myself to keep positive, even in the face of my own incompetence and the reminder that the law is an ass.

Let’s look after each other actively. It’s getting dark out there. Hold hands.

Big fat fine

“You know what?” asks Sergeant Don companionably ; “I pulled this car over last time as well. Last July. What’s your friend’s name again? I remember him.”

£400 and six points it’ll cost me. Plus £150 to get it out of the pound. I reckon I can classify this as a massive fuck up. Although there’s a chance I’ll be able to take a course and make things a bit less expensive.

Oops.

It was in an underground car park. No internet. I was moving it having just taken possession of it temporarily as a favour. We had just jumped it back to life so I wanted to turn the engine over before stopping it long enough to do the admin. You know, insurance and all that?

Uninsured car. “Have you got the insurance documents?” “Oh no officer it’s not insured yet I’m doing that when I can find a place to pull over!”

I’m an idiot. The cops no doubt agree with me. I was trundling through the City of London, where there must be more cameras per square foot than any other part of the UK. The car I was driving was falling apart, number plate taped on the back, loud rattle in the undercarriage, unhappy and covered in dust, and full of random shit. I had a quote from the insurance company queued up and ready to go on my phone as soon as I found a place I could stop and do it. Then I was going to sort out tax etc and work out what needed to be done to make it happy. It was gonna be my project. Keep me occupied for a bit.

Now it’s a punch in the face before I even get home. It’s a load of money out the pocket, and a hard lesson learnt. At least if I’d been a baddie rather than an idiot I’d have been stopped just as effectively by those officers. And I’m sure you could tell me I’m a baddie. I don’t know what I was thinking really. It was just bumbling idiocy, and I’m not the prime minister so I can’t get away with that shit.

God help me, I actually quite liked the coppers too. I don’t think they usually deal with people quite so cheerfully incompetent as I proved to be this evening. It was all an exciting learning experience. God though. I’ll feel it as the months peel away. That’s the water bill. That’s lots and lots of food. And what is coming up? Ugh. Months and months more of nothing? And with six points how manageable does my driving income stream become? It’s another nail in the coffin of hope. But thankfully hope can sneak out through the cracks somehow, and it will…

Now I’m back home wondering why I’m not angry. It just felt inevitable. I’m sad. I’m heavy. I’m suddenly much broker. But it just feels like it’s the clinging on of the energy that has tried to block my freedom and happiness with shit like this for decades. And it still won’t work.

Perhaps though it’s because this is the end of an old frame. I don’t need to be jolting around in an old jalopy. If I’m going to be on the road maybe I should just put down the sort of money the coppers are taking in the first place and get a car that doesn’t scream “CRIMINAL!” I got myself out of debt just before lockdown. I kept the credit cards open knowing shit like this might try and pull me back in. Off we go again.

Meanwhile, if you’ve got a way I can make a few hundred quid, I’m game. So long as I don’t end up with the lovely bastard coppers again. It’s the sort of thing where one might consider crime just for the one payment, just to spite them. Agents of the letter of the law, inconsiderate to the spirit of it. It’s all just energy. Off it goes. By doing their job they’re negating their purpose and undermining themselves again, as they so often do. Protectors should protect. Not steal and niggle. No wonder so few people trust them.

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