Well, my stress levels are a little lower now as it looks like I won’t have to click back into top gear right away for a Shakespearean MC at The Globe. That’s a throwback to pre-pandemic days, and we pitched at the usual price for a bar mitzvah on Saturday, but the client has gone silent after trying to haggle us down. Better to stand firm if you know you offer a confident and skillful product. There’s always somebody who will offer to take the bottom out. The important thing is to make sure it isn’t you. Chances are they have somebody perfectly serviceable. Just not me. Sad really as I would have liked to have stepped back into that joyful helpful work. It’s playing to my skillset and my joy. But the absence of it gives me huge amounts of headspace that I had budgeted for building an evening around their needs at short notice.

I remember now – the fine art of headspace budgeting. That was my life pre-pandemic. I can only really focus on one thing at a time. Right now there are many things that require my attention. I’ve got to get a self tape into my agent by ten tomorrow morning. We rehearsed Halloween this evening. Mao’s owner is used to having what she wants quickly and is struggling to work with my timings regarding driving him from Brighton to Oxford, which I’m finding stressful as I don’t want to rush him off – for his own good and for ours. And the Hampstead flat hit deadline today. My focus was on that. That flat and the heath gave me a beautiful haven when Kitcat was straightening out in Chelsea over that hot hot summer of the first lockdown. It’s only fair that I smooth things for my friend now she’s lost the tenancy.

Today was a traditional London day. One of the times when the fact there are so many of us squished into a tiny space feels like an advantage. Emma and John are both North London locals, and both know my friend. With very little notice they are both on hand to help start the process of moving things out of Hampstead. It’s going to be slow. But knowing that there are friends to help occasionally will make this work considerably better. Work never really feels like work when the conversation is good. On this unseasonably sunny October day we hauled around some of my friends possessions until I was so low on fuel that I started worrying. The downstairs neighbours, who usually just complain and twitch curtains, heard the banging and came out. I ended up putting one of their numbers in my phone. She gave me some parking permits. “Your friend,” she said. “I’ve seen him on the telly I think…” “Yes. He’s an actor. We all are. He was at RADA with your upstairs neighbour who has been unceremoniously kicked out.”

I stopped and bought my friends late lunch. Tasty dated burger at BOB’S. Then I had to switch my head into the Halloween ghost tour as I had a rehearsal this evening. As I parked an almost completely empty Bergman outside Mel’s, worrying about the rest of her stuff, worrying about the ghost tour, worrying about getting petrol, worrying about Lou, a short brightly dressed woman of about my age with sharp red hair and tiny glasses suddenly and strangely sought my attention. “Excuse me,” she said as I got out of the car. “I’d never normally do this to a stranger, but look up – have you ever seen anything like that before?”

I looked up. The sky was smiling. All this stuff we’re worrying about. All the little details as the world picks back up and we remember how it all fits together… We can get swept up in our own shit so much that it takes a kind stranger to remind us to stop.

Look up. Beauty is often there if you look for it. So many people in Hampstead for that glorious moment were banging through their worries oblivious to the omen in the sky.

It’s going to be ok. Somehow it’s all going to be ok.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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