Ikea flat

This little flat we are staying in is great, but it’s also pretty odd. It’s essentially a basement flat, stripped back and filled with white and cream. There’s a canvas print of a VW Campervan on the wall in the kitchen but it doesn’t feel sincere. Not much else in the way of art. Everything is new, and everything is IKEA. This is of note because there isn’t an IKEA on the island. Somebody has shipped this stuff over to put in here. It’s like the flat you design after some geezer in the pub tells you “You know how you turn a flat into money?”

We’re here for a month, so it’s working.

The heating sucks all the moisture out of the air. It’s so bad that they’ve put a humidifier into my room. “A dehumidifier?” asks Lou. No. A humidifier. To put a bit of moisture back into the air. Like the one my dad used to have by his bed in Switzerland because it was so high up that you woke up spitting blood from lack of moisture – especially if you’d been snoring. I used to put mugs of water on the radiator there. It’s that or get cold, essentially. I’ve done it again here. There’s two mugs on the radiator and the humidifier is roaring away to my right, although it’ll be off when it’s time to go to sleep. Which is soon now. It’s gone midnight already. I haven’t got a hot bath here so my switch off routine is a bit stunted. And these days are full, if today is anything to go by.

It’s a great space for the show, but once again very different. Intimate but with sightline issues. Crowded but spacious. There’s going to be a lot of joy in that little stone building up at the North coast of this little island. But before we get to that we are having to work hard to de-establish a lot of old habits, and coin the thing fresh for a Jersey audience. Luxury, to have a week of rehearsal for Carol, especially considering that other people are building the set while we get to go home to our IKEA haven and cook nice food.

I made red curry this evening. Start as you mean to continue. Plenty of veg and not too hot. Now I’m just trying to work out how to wind down. Hopefully I’ll be asleep by one. The bed in this faceless room is at least spacious and comfy. Dry air or not I’ll be happy here this Christmastide. Jack even found a little fake Christmas tree in a cupboard. We’ll decorate that later on.

Made it to Jersey

4am. I had to pull myself away from Lou. She was warm and convivial and Lou and I would like to have stayed. But I had a boat to catch.

Driving from Brighton to Portsmouth before 5am made me all to aware of the moment when businesses decide that night has become day. I stopped at three locked petrol stations before somebody let me in to buy a coffee. The night staff can’t let you in to use the Costa machine. Plus the machines are serviced at the beginning of the day. At 5.20 I went to a coffee machine that had just been serviced, on my third attempt stopping at a garage. Fresh milk. I finally got my crack. Adrenaline was doing fine at keeping me awake though as it was still unclear to me if I’d be allowed on the ferry with just a driving licence.

I was second in the queue at the ferry. I was waved to the kiosk having just listened to somebody make about six errors in The Shipping Forecast on Radio 4. Nobody is functioning fully before dawn. I had jacked myself up for fireworks. Somehow I was gonna get on that boat come hell or high water.

“I just need your boarding pass and photo ID,” she said. Not passport. And it was as easy as that. I have her my driving licence. Phew. TNT can go be as useless as it wants. I got on the boat.

I saw the dawn on that boat. I saw the dusk on it. Plain sailing. But the days are just too short.

The ferry had a duty free with some decent prices, but I was immediately put off when I went in. This boat goes to France, but most of the wine they were flogging was from New Zealand. I thought I was gonna get some supplies for Jack and I but there was no way I was paying for the air miles on that booze…

So I went straight to digs. To the little home I am going to be in with JimJack for the next month. We’ve lived together many times, the two of us. Mostly in Nidderdale, in big semi-derelict houses full of bedbugs and empty swimming pools full of frogs. But also in suites across America. In neighbouring tents at festivals. In a brand new student flat in Sheffield. In sterile Airbnb’s outside York. And now in this ground floor flat in St Helier, the town where I was born. Here he is, once again. Here I am once again. And we are going to be making live art once again. With the incredible shorthand we have developed over the long years.

Right now he’s inspecting all the games we’ve been left with. We are here for a month. He wants to make sure we are entertained. We’ve just written some bits together, and then asked each other loads of questions from 1980’s Trivial Pursuit. It’s going to be a busy stupid month. But we can play together just as effectively as we can work together. And we both have a huge bed each.

Christmas. Here we go. A familiar friend. A happy show, and a new view on it. Bring it on. But yeah, I made it.

TNT explosion

It takes an hour to get through to a human being on the TNT Fedex line thing. I know this very well as I did it twice today.

My passport was supposed to arrive on the tenth. I wasn’t home to sign for it so it rebounded to the depot, and they don’t try again. They wait for you to tell them to try again. I assumed they’d just come again and I only started worrying about it about 5 days ago. So 5 days ago I went online and instructed for them to deliver it on the 25th. On the 25th the date just changed to the 27th without any fanfare. That’s today. I’m traveling to Jersey tomorrow.

At half nine this morning I wondered why I hadn’t had a text from TNT so I logged in to the tracking site. Nothing. And the date had changed to the 29th. That’s the day after I arrive in Jersey. For fuck’s sake.

After the first hour on the phone I finally talk to somebody human and he tells me that “maybe” I’ll be able to go to the depot to collect it. No sense of acknowledgment that it might have been an important fuck up for them to constantly give me a date to expect the thing to arrive and then just change it. He was just gonna contact them and email me in a few hours.

A few hours pass. Nothing. So I ring back and get Rebecca. “We’ve sent it back to the home office,” she tells me eventually. I remain measured but explain to her blow by blow how this has affected me and how this could affect me going forward. She agrees that perhaps I might have been notified or something. I have received literally nothing since the initial failed delivery on the tenth.

I ring the home office. “This is the wrong department,” he says after half an hour. “I’ll try to connect you to the right one.” More hold music and the other line is ringing. I put the hold on hold. “Hi it’s Rebecca, I misinformed you earlier. Your passport is going from one depot to another.” “Right. So it’s not in the home office or either of the depots for me to drive to?” “No it’s in a van or in process.” “Right. So there’s no way I can go and get it?” “No. There’s no way.” “My ferry is at 7.30 tomorrow morning. I start work at 9 on Monday.” “I’m sorry. There’s nothing we can do.”

THAT can be the new TNT tagline. “TNT: I’m sorry but there’s nothing we can do.” Put it next to Hermes: “You weren’t home so we fed it to the goat.” We are fucked for delivery options in this country. At least Consignia was a resounding failure and we got The Royal Mail back. On which subject, stop trying to kill the NHS you weasels.

Back on subject, TNT really dropped the ball for me here. I have to get a ferry tomorrow and their lack of communication has directly led to them failing in the one thing they are supposed to do. To deliver my passport. They know it’s a sensitive document. ONE text message on a failed delivery. No other info. No sense of timing and then when I try to rearrange delivery to keep telling me a date and then shifting it. Terrible.

The fact is though, Jersey is in the British Isles. I can’t get over to France from there and go on a booze cruise after the job, but technically I should be able to travel to Jersey without it so long as I have photographic ID. Not that I mentioned this to TNT, but it’s probably why I managed to get through all the phone conversations without threatening homicide.

I’ve got my old cut passport, which arrived back fine because it wasn’t entrusted to those useless TNT fuckwits. I’ve also got my driving licence. It’s all going to be fine. I’ll be up at 4 tomorrow, everything will be fine, I’ll get on the ferry, and then at some point some kid in a motorbike helmet will try to deliver a passport that I expect I won’t be able to get until January now. But I’ll get there. I’ll get on that boat. I will. Get. On. The. Boat.

I’ll let you know. Maybe I’ll have to swim.

Packing everything…

I’m tired and I feel heavy. It’s as much to do with the changing seasons as anything else. The cold is drawing in. It’s just gone 9pm, and the bath is already full. Hopefully I’ll be in bed soon.

Two young men came round this morning with a great big suction thing. Plumbers. They eventually managed to loosen whatever the hell was in my pipes enough that I can run the washing machine again without flooding the flat below me. The first thing they tried to do was upsell me – “do you want us to clean it as well as unblock it?” Fifty quid they wanted for ten minutes and a bit of acid. “I can do that myself.”

I won’t be using them again. They upsell and give quotes without VAT to make them look smaller. They did the job they were paid for though, which at least means that I’m now surrounded by drying clothes and I have a legitimate reason to have the heating on at full blast – to dry the clothes. And at least I won’t come home after Carol to a flat where I can’t use the kitchen sink.

I’ve sort of packed. I still can’t work out where I put my speaker, but my Kindle is packed as are plenty of my devices. I’ve got a bunch of clothes. A basic wash bag. I’ve realised I don’t have any contact lenses which will be annoying as I’ll have to do the show in soft focus. Since I’ll be driving I’ve packed a load of stuff I might not actually need. A reaper cloak. A bust of my head.

A Christmas Jumper. A broken down green silk nightie. Yogi tea bags. Supplements. I’ve even brought some DHEA which I was given and I’ve avoided until now. Maybe there’ll be more things to think about. I’ve given it time and I’m pretty happy that I won’t be craving anything. It’s only a month, and when I’m away from this cornucopia of junk I’ve accumulated, I always forget it immediately and feel a bit less cluttered.

The doctor prescribes a good night’s sleep, and a bit of self care. There’s another potential obstacle in the form of a storm over Normandy. Apparently some of the ferries to France from Jersey have been written off because of the weather. I’m hoping it won’t affect my boat, but I’ll have to keep an eye on it, and be ready to be either flexible or hardy. Stormy seas are no fun at all in a ferry. The crossing takes hours longer, everybody gets seasick, and the Jersey police are waiting at the other end armed with breathalysers so you can’t take the edge off if you’ll be driving. I almost fell foul last time after breaking at the last minute and having a pint with dinner. The reading was just under that time. This time I’m not gonna risk it no matter how bad the weather is.

I’m looking forward to getting stuck in. I just wish I didn’t feel so weird today.

It’s just my crazy brain. Hush now, crazy brain.

Channeling Dr Who

Oxford Street is as crowded as it ever was at this time of year. Shoulder to shoulder with the silent and self-involved London masses I fought up the broken escalator at Bond Street and out into the lights. It is the evening before International Pretend You’re an American Day. Over there right now they are munching turkey to celebrate their takeover. Tomorrow they will buy it all. And we will as well because everything seems to creep over to us eventually, even the crap like Black Friday.

I was there to see the dress rehearsal of the Doctor Who : Time Fracture Immersive show. I missed it the first time around and it has just reopened. I really hope it can play for a while now, as it’s giving employment to lots of my friends and it’s good. I’m not especially a fan of Doctor Who – I enjoy it, and have watched loads of it but nothing close to all of it. I’m not aware of the nuances. Still, I enjoyed myself very much. There are lots of very skillful actors in long term employment, working their socks off. There’s a mixture of sandbox semi improv stuff, and staged set pieces. Various doctors and ex doctors talk to us through screens. It’s cleverly placed out of time, so it can’t really disrupt what is known as the canon. And it’s fun. It’s clear, weird, energetic fun. I had a great evening. But for some reason they were all mispronouncing the word “temporal”. They did it to rhyme with “French oral”. Maybe to line up with the Americans… Still, it was a lovely break.

I needed one too. My kitchen pipes have chosen today to block. Plunging it achieved nothing despite much sweat and swearing, but thankfully I’ve got a syphon and a load of buckets from the fish tank. I was able to do a load of washing ahead of Jersey by syphoning the drainage water from my sink every time the washing machine discharged and carrying it by bucket to the loo. I’ve booked the usual bunch of cowboys to come with their chain and get whatever is down there out before I leave. It’s a frequent issue, living in this very old mansion block. The outflow pipes are tiny. Nobody expected washing machines in the 1870’s. The cowboys quoted me a pre VAT price on the phone which is always an alarm bell, but needs must when the devil drives. I’ll be spending £150 quid. That’s the Chelsea premium. I told them I’d done everything I could, and so long as they fix it deep then it’s money well spent.

It seems everything is ganging up to stop me from being able to relax before Jersey. TNT is giving me the runaround with passport delivery, my plumbing is fighting me, and it’s getting colder and colder. It’s all gonna be fine though. Me and a bunch of strangers just saved the world, apparently. Watching the actors working though I remembered how much work it is doing immersive theatre. They’ll be knackered at the end of it, I’m sure, but you can see how well they know each other and play with each other when they get a moment.

Tomorrow I’m off to see my mum’s boyfriend at half past two. But I’ll have to cancel if TNT haven’t delivered my passport by then. In the morning the plumber is gonna show up. And around all of that I’m going to put the things I managed to wash into a suitcase when they’ve dried. It’s all gonna be fine… If I can save the world just by walking around a bit and listening to people work, then I guess I can do anything.

Quiet day


I’m aware on an intellectual level that I’m going away for a month at the end of this week. But it isn’t quite real yet.

My passport failed in a delivery so I’m gonna need to get that successfully sent to me before it’s too late. I need to put clean clothes and useful things into a suitcase. It would be to my benefit to also make the flat habitable. Somebody is gonna have to water the flowers.

Today though I just enjoyed being at home surrounded by all my distractions, distracting myself with them. It’s something of a novelty these days to just be here. It’s usually been a dosshouse on the way to Hampstead or Brighton. I rather enjoyed just stopping here for a day. I didn’t do as much as I’d planned. But I made a start.

Jack came over in the evening. We’re about to spend a whole damn month together but right now we aren’t fed up of one another. We truck along very well together really so Jersey is likely to be fun. He came to drop off his guitar and deliver a little bag of coats that are too big to fit into the airplane. I’m driving over on the ferry. Makes more sense to have a car in Jersey. Petrol is likely to be a bit cheaper too. I’ll have to remember to pack them into the car on Friday.

I’m tired out. I hit a wall when Jack was here. I walked him most of the way to the tube station just so the cold air could slap me awake a little, but a day of idleness frequently has the effect of making one tired. I’ll have to be busier tomorrow. Also though I just think I’m not used to being sociable. It tires me out. I’ll have to flex those muscles a great deal in the weeks to come.

The weather has snapped to cold though. This is going to be an expensive winter, with the fuel prices rocketing and all the overburdened berry trees predicting deep cold. I have a feeling we are all going to be shocked by a snap to freezing. And it also feels like there’s a something Covid related approaching. God I hope it’s not another lockdown. Hopefully I’ll have got to Jersey before anything goes down… We have had enough disaster, in my industries more than many. I really hope we get Christmas…

Lucifer at Walsall

In a little square in Walsall, just opposite a great big print shop and surrounded by chicken shops and poured concrete, you will find The Walsall New Art Gallery. It’s built with a lot of wood. Noddy Holder is the voice of the glass lift. We drove up to see Lou’s parents, and stopped there quickly on the way. Lou swarmed in, familiar. I followed in her wake.

It’s an incredible gallery, perhaps more so for the location. Right now it’s still pretty run down in that area. The gallery feels like something they have plonked there in the hope that it will attract regeneration.

The collection is tastefully displayed, and has a range of unusual things. Minoan vases rub up against Roman statues and Egyptian sculptures. There are familiar names aplenty here. Van Gogh and Rembrandt and Degas and Picasso. More modern works, and more ancient. The mother of somebody connected with the museum had accumulated a huge body of her own very attractive work, squirreled away in her home until she died. These works were found by the family and deemed good enough to display. They are. She’s got a posthumous exhibition. We were drawn to them. But we came here for a reason. We are looking for Satan.

Blake painted Lucifer in his original glory, and Lou remembers being struck by the painting. She used to come here a great deal. Indeed, one of the guys at reception recognises her and immediately slips into familiar conversation. “You live in Brighton, right?” She was always particularly struck by Blake’s rendition of the fallen angel prior to the fall. But we can’t find him.”

We are aware that looking for Satan might be misconstrued, but we ask anyway. “Do you know if Satan by William Blake is on display here?” The reception hasn’t had an enquiry for a while – there aren’t many people in here. “Are you a fan of Blake or of Satan?” they ask. “We’re a fan of Blake… We aren’t Satanists,” we assure them smiling. Disappearing downstairs to check the records, pitched so we can only just hear it, the ginger receptionists throws us “Well, I’m a satanist.”

Lucifer isn’t here anymore. He was on loan. We find the frontispiece to The Book of Job, and a lovely little Christ the Carpenter, but Satan in his Original Glory is somewhere else. Slippery bugger.

Turns out he’s in The Tate, just down the road from mine. We’ll have to try again next time Lou is in town, whenever that might be. January?

We visited the parents and spun back home. I feel like I’ve been driving forever now. Important though, to visit family when you’ve got them. I’m off to Jersey so barring long and bothersome expensive trains, that’ll be the last time Lou gets to see them until after Christmas.


Charles II was the one who switched the wood at Leonardslee into private ownership. It was a gift to his doctor. To this day it has not been built on much, and most of the owners have chosen to keep it open to the public and monetise it that way. It’s a sprawling garden now, with a little Michelin starred restaurant in the grounds (Interlude) and a little house of Portland Stone, and loads of space.

The gardens are spread out through a valley where in the 1700’s they were smelting iron. They dug and diverted a ton of reservoirs to make certain there was always waterflow to feed the mills. Now the industry is long gone, the aftermath is great fertility. The true beauty was added over decades at the end of the 19th Century by Sir Edmund Loder, free and rich and curious. He was into botany. He bred rhododendrons, creating many new and bright species that still thrive in the gardens. He chucked in a few sequoias and maples and eucalyptus and what have you. Then he shipped over tons of animals too because you know it’s the 1800’s, let’s just let them all run wild. Gazelles? Sure bring ’em in. Wallabies? God bless the little tykes. Beavers? Yep. We used to have them here anyway. Japanese deer? Let’s chase them! Maybe we can ride the gazelles? Or the kangaroos.

A big old film crew came to these incredible grounds in 1946, using Loder’s inspired and colorful botanical alchemy to make a corner of Sussex look like the Himalayas. They would have had to make sure the wallabies were out of shot. Black Narcissus was filmed here on location for the jungles, as well as at Pinewood. They won some academy awards for it, and it looks beautiful and convincing. There’s the space for all the winnebagos you’d need. I could imagine being on location there for a few weeks and having a lovely time. And maybe the absurdly tiny horse ridden very seriously by David Farrar is part of the eccentric Leonardslee menagerie.

It’s a bright, large, sprawling valley, semi wild, semi tamed. Good mushrooms. Good light. Most of the unusual animals are gone now though, taken to zoos. The gardens are only just recovering from atrocious neglect…

Some guy bought the place lock stock and barrel for just £5 million in 2010. He wanted to “preserve his anonymity”, so he locked the gates, got rid of most of the unusual animal denizens, and started to let the whole place go to seed. It’s hard to even find his name. Reading between the lines and digging on the internet I get the sense he barely showed up. He was a doctor from The Lebanon. I don’t think he really cared for the place at all.

The wallabies couldn’t be flushed out and sold to the zoo. They like it at Leonardslee and they are small enough to hide. They went feral. There’s a good breeding colony now in the grounds, found after mister private doctor gitface either karked it or flogged the place. The unusual deer are gone, but they got rid of the gazelles.

It’s now owned by a South African Hospitality Company. Somebody with vision managed to get it back from that idiot. They’ve done well, the saffers, to get a Michelin starred restaurant in there immediately. When I get my next big movie role maybe I’ll take you all there for a blob of something and a biscuit.

The South Africans have reopened the gardens (not cheap though. £13.50 I think. Although it’s .50p cheaper than the national trust).

There’s a vast wintery sound and light show called Leonardslee Illuminated happening in the evenings coming up for £18 smackers and I saw them building it and it looks incredible – THE MOON! (With earth behind). I’d go if I wasn’t in Jersey.

Lou and I had a very happy autumnal potter in the gorgeous cold. The hospitality company have brought in their mate the sculptor, so the grounds are filled with ambitious sculptures some of which have absolute poppycock written on the plaques. It’s kind of cute until you think of how much he probably sells these things for. I found myself inventing his character based on the evidence of his work. Some big blonde South African lad who stumbled into spirituality late in life when he was rich – all muscles and space, throwing out huge works of resin and stone and writing whatever the fuck came into his head next to them. A big man who has learnt to weep. I kept on getting annoyed with him but my monologues to Lou kept me entertained.

I loved Leonardslee. It’ll be amazing in Spring, although of course it’ll be much more crowded when the rhododendrons are all in bloom. The colours will be incredible. God… maybe I’m getting old, but I had a lovely time wandering around a garden on a Monday. Actor’s weekend.

Sea with friends

What a lovely escape. This evening I woke up and poured hot coffee all over my friend’s kitchen by the simple device of not screwing on the aeropress filter thing properly. I was too busy being swept up in the wonder of the device itself. I suspect I’ll have to buy one now I know how to operate it. My little red stovetop espresso bubbler makes a predicable morning brew but I have to burn gas to heat it and whatever metal its made of seems to be slowly flaking away cup by cup and going through my digestive system with the caffeine payload.

The plan was to play more games, but a bright autumn morning and an enthusiastic doggeh and a hangover made for a fine walk down The Ocean at the End of the Lane to The English Channel. Portsmouth council have indeed named a road after their native authors lovely strange nostalgic novel. Spread out at the end of it you have shells and pebbles falling quickly into the wash, and little white buildings slowly making you good drinks to enjoy despite the windchill. We strolled and talked and skimmed stones. We sat and talked and I had Chai Latte with bourbon and I realised I’m gonna need a windproof for December in Jersey.

The morning was for talkings and catching up without the frame of a game. So nice to see these lads again.

Then in the afternoon I thought I’d catch a chance to see my nephew. By fortune he has ended up in the same bit of Portsmouth. He’s nineteen and his Hall of Residence for university overlooks the sea just down from where I spent the night. I took him for a quick Sunday lunch to catch him before Christmas. We did a frantic news exchange. First year at uni, first term. He’s barely scratched the surface but there’s a long long way to go. I tried to provide an ear while scoffing roast beef. Brighton was calling though, and the drive back before I got too sleepy.

More coffee, without more bourbon, and hopefully the lunch and the time had absorbed the units. I was sleepy though and drove at an unaccustomed slow pace until I got back down the coast to the pebbles of Brighton. Now I’m in the bath. It’s cold everywhere else so I’m going to stay here as long as I possibly can. I might even wash myself. It seems things are always pulling me to the sea these days. “The sea is in your blood,” my grandmother would tell me. Seems it’s calling. The Thames is ok, but I’ve had some shit from it over the years. Let’s sea…

Nerd day

Time to properly geek out.

Dan and John were at school with me. I don’t see my old school friends very often, to be honest, so it can be pleasant if I do it on purpose. I sat next to one ex school-person in a cafe by mistake over a year ago and listened to him lie to his earnest and hardworking employee. I sat next to him by sheer coincidence. He had been a weasel at school. No evolution for him, and it’s been decades. He’s worse now than he was then and be was bad back then. “You are the future captains of industry.” Gak. He has a small degree of power over people’s happiness on a larger scale now, but he has no perspective or empathy, as is encouraged in such institutions. ’twas ever thus.

These guys were alright at that place somehow. They still are. I don’t see them very often as we are clambering all over the big scary world together. We are absolute nerds, always have been, fine. I have no shame about that. Surrounded by sociopaths, we found joy in things like Dungeons and Dragons, more or less precisely because they were dismissed as uncool by the humans we disliked.

Dan went away to Canada and jumped from city to city, chasing his work in computer games. John stayed in London and got a proper job. I kept dreaming the impossible dream. A wandering bard.

Now, a hundred years later, Dan has returned and ended up in Portsmouth. He’s been here a while. Today, three old schoolfriends gathered to geek out, tolerated by Jules, Dan’s wife and an old mate, mostly avoiding the vast amounts of geek. If there was a geekter scale we would be sending out some dangerous emanations.

Game 1: Fortune and Glory. It’s an Indiana Jones game without the copyright and with too many pieces. Dan had 3D printed special trays to hold and help make sense of the multiplicity of counters and cards etc. There’s much that doesn’t make any sense in this game. The fact that the main currency of the game is glory – you use glory to buy equipment – and the win condition is fortune, which you just accumulate and can’t spend. We were up against The Nazis in a cooperative game. We thought it would probably take all day. It took four hours, which was much much shorter than wet anticipated. We won. Duke Dudley played his part in outsmarting the goose-stepping hordes. We put all the 3D printed trays back carefully in the box. It took almost as long to pack the box as it had taken to play the game. By the time we were done it was mid afternoon.

Megacity Oceania came next. I can heartily recommend that game. It’s a strange game about city building, there’s always something to do, and there’s a good creative element even though it’s not conducive to winning. I made some beautiful structures that I was proud of. “We’ve both done engineering degrees, and Al is making more robust structures,” Dan says at one point, just before one of mine fell down. I ended up a long way from winning though as I overlooked the need for tactics. I was too busy going for aesthetics. I enjoyed myself.

Moon Adventure came next. We all died on the moon in an electrical stormm in short order.

Finally “Roll Player”. Fantasy based dice jigging strangeness. Dan was a bard. He won. “It’s not easy to win as a bard. You actually have to have much higher stats than most other classes to be a successful bard,” Dan says to me. “It would’ve been easier as something else.” “You don’t say,” I remark mildly, but I don’t think he hears the nuance. “Yeah, look – he needs to get 18 in charisma!” I get shown the card.

I ram it home. “I always thought being a bard would require no particular stats – they just have to want to perform, no? If it’s hard for bards maybe they should just get a proper job.”

A glorious stupid geeky day. The years fell away, the strange perspective differences, the things that brought us together, the things that helped us notice we had different priorities and tastes and needs.

Now I’m down in the living room on an inflatable mattress. John is in the spare room. I’m gonna get jumped by the dog at dawn, but they’re right to put me here – I’m perfectly comfortable dossing down under almost any circumstance. Had I been given the choice I would’ve likely chosen it.

“You need 18 charisma to win as a bard…” I’m working on the win. Might need to get some lucky rolls. For now though I’m getting stuck in with my old mates. Nice to change the pace from time to time. And we were fed beautifully! Omnomnom. And likely given too much wine hence the clumsy analogy.