I woke up, threw on some clothes, went down to the car, stuck the keys in the ignition and just drove. My mind was empty of purpose. I just let my instincts take me. My instinct took me first to Brompton library, where I had my first drama school audition. Then just down the road and into a parking space that must have been left by providence – the nearest to the entrance to Brompton Cemetery. The first time I went there was in my third year at Guildhall, where I had my headshots taken by Fatima Namdar – in amongst all the mausoleums. There’s strong light – good light. She takes great headshots. They’re gold plated but they’re good. Back in 2002 the cemetery was mostly empty, but for the obligatory guys giving each other angry hand jobs behind the tombstones. (The attraction wasn’t death, it was geography. Earls Court had The Coleherne – prime gay cruising territory – and it’s a long way to the West Heath, so the cemetery was the place to go.) I didn’t go there for cruising, despite what some of you might think. I went for memory. In retrospect, that’s what the day was about.
I’ve been neglecting the thing I’m here to do. Here we all are, frightened of infecting each other, hiding in our homes and waiting to be switched back on again. I’ve been looking after things connected to existence – trying to declutter and decorate, to sort antiques, to connect with another human in an non-habitual manner. But I’ve dropped the most important ball. The acting.
The Crown is out. I need to assemble my recent footage and hit things running. I didn’t even land the fucking advert – (found out today). But the sets are up and running with constant testing and restrictions. Everybody I talk to seems to be about to go on set and do something. I absolutely need to be on one as soon as humanly possible and I need to work out which mountains to move in order to make that happen. Enough with the Del Boy Trotter shit. Dancing bears and driving, selling pictures and heavy lifting – fine. It can keep ticking over. But it’s not what I’m here for.
That’s the result of the walk. At the time I was just thinking “oh, I remember this place,” but it was all connected to remembering this thing which I’ve been servicing for so long. I stopped by The Finborough, a pub theatre where many plays happened in the early days. I buzzed by the site of a church where I did an early Hamlet with Lost, before I trained. I swung over to BAC and The Latchmere. I let myself remember the joy and the passion and the time and the love and the craft over years and years and years that currently culminates in my agent’s assistant telling me they took the pencil off for a reaction shot but well done for getting that far.
It was the perfect day for it. Shocking bright sunlight. Fatima would’ve got some nice photos. I did some grave watching, and found John Snow. He knew quite a lot, John Snow. He’d have been in his element right now – the epidemiologist who worked out Cholera was caused by tainted water, and took off the handle from the tainted pump in Soho. At the time his conclusion was widely resisted – that it was poo in the water. People didn’t want to think about it. They thought it was in the air – they were likely walking around with big thick leather masks on, overheating and having a nice cool glass of deadly water.
A lovely day to go for a walk through the past. It’s all still there somewhere. Those we’ve lost. The things we did. The people we were. It’s just an edge away. And it’s nice to remember it, to remember the hopes and dreams and temper them with the reality and forge forward into the future. Onwards, ever onwards, ships against the tide. Until we move on and the stuff we live inside ends up somewhere like this.