Covid Isolation Day 1

Dear Minty –

My darling sister. I shall get straight to the point. The plastic snot doctor has decreed that I am to have an extra red line. I am to go nowhere, Minty, and see nobody. I am contagious. Not just my ideas this time Minty – my very breath. The lingering touch of my fingers carries more than just power, it carries disease.

I knew this was coming, Minty. I have consulted that same plastic snot doctor daily, even as I have felt the march of symptoms. There are aches, Minty. Aches in my bones where there were never aches before. In the night I wake up feverish, and not just from the memory of foolish words and missed opportunities (although they plague me still, they plague us all for that is the human way – OH IF I COULD TRANSCEND THE FLESH ONCE MORE). Always before, the snot doctor has returned a single line. But this morning, Minty – there it was. Accusing. Implacable. The confirmation. A sharp accusing red line like those lines of blood in the grass. I am a pariah

I knew it long before the doctor told me, Minty. Had I listened only to his lines I would have walked under the sunshine the last few days. I would have kissed the pretty men and women as I met them in the streets, and spat my lucky spittle in my hand as I passed trade with the hawkers, the vendors and the transporters. But I sensed it, my darling sister. The onset of the plague. That plastic doctor is a slow witted fool. He is not to be trusted, although now he has changed his opinion he is sticking to it. But if we all obeyed the plastic snot doctor and overlooked our own knowledge of our own bodies, we would be spreading this plague everywhere, willy nilly.

As yet it is but mild, this plague … as yet. I must isolate a while though. Here I must remain in my Chelsea garret, overlooking the dark flow of the river and beyond it to the south that shining park where we we did the deed.

The fish are here with me. They bubble away and flip and race. Sometimes I wonder if they think me some strange God as I leer down into their world, and sometimes I wonder if that is perhaps what I could have been had you not prevented me. They talk to me, Minty, but mostly it’s about food. Fish are not company. They merely exist, and repeat themselves. But so it will be with me, Minty, from now until the day of my release. I will just exist here. Alone. Walking from room to room. Mumbling.

I spent a long time today watching things – bizarre things, even more unusual than we are used to. Stranger Things, they call them. I watched all the Stranger Things. I sat in my pants with the fish dancing. Occasionally I coughed to myself. Perhaps it is their influence that governs my communication style today.

Tomorrow perhaps I shall look out of the window once more and feel different. Perhaps I will look upon that park where once we walked. The world is cold, Minty. And it is that time between times. A thin time. The nubbin of the year. The days between Christmas and New Year. Did you not call it Malcolm? I am here, alone with the fish and with Malcolm and the occasional pronunciations of the snot doctor. All will be well. But it will take time. As it always does. As everything must while we remain trapped in such a pedestrian narrative as chronology. I must break free again. But no. Never again.

I trust that you are well my beloved sister. Lou and I are sundered by this plague but I know she would send her love were she to know I was writing to you. You have my assurance that here, in this garret, all alone, I will not allow the portal to reopen in my mind. We learnt enough that last time, in the park, oh God. Often it begins in Batter-Sea, with the thin edges there. With Dagon and the statues of the minotaurs. But here in my garret I will sit with my plague. Your dear brother will not be foolish enough to meddle once more – although could you send me the tiniest sliver of mandrake root? It is for my aches and pains, mixed with aqua vitae and ginger. I will not use it for the rite of Carth-Natrax.

Sending all love and with wishes for a happy new year,

Your darling brother,


Turkey and Don’t Look Up

Feeling run down today but I have enough turkey to feed a family of eight in the oven right now and it only cost like … seven pounds reduced. The heating is still cranked up to bastards, despite the fact I’ve just watched Don’t Look Up. I figured it was only a matter of time before everybody told me everything about it so I got in early. I’m not sure what I’m gonna write but there’ll probably be spoilers.

It’s the new way of telling a story, I guess. It is a movie that satirises itself. Jump cuts and leaving people mid sentence when we know what they’re gonna /

/ and a load of celebrities giving charming star turns. The director here has given people rein and they’ve taken it. We all know that Leo can go for it, and he does. As do they all. Jennifer Lawrence is the assured centre holding it tight and clear so everybody else can be wild. Meryl Streep plays Trump. Rylance plays Musk. It’s all so mischievous and observant. And it’s a terrible terrible wonderful allegory for exactly what is happening right now with climate change and everything else everywhere. It’s an artistic noise that you can either quietly scream along with or you can talk about Netflix money and how “they” have an agenda or whatever fucking axe you’ve been told to grind now. There is So. Much. Noise. So much. This blog is part of it too. I’m not telling you what to think, but I’m thinking. I’m part of the noise. So much of it. Everywhere. Crushed people are clamouring to be seen. Overlooked people are grinding received axes. Tired people are seeking joy and finding fear. I think the thing I find most egregious in the current information environment is how people fool themselves into thinking that an agenda they’ve received through their noise-consumption is somehow the result of probing research on their part. There are whole languages developing in these new religions, shared and augmented in bubbles that know that the governments habitually mislead the public and lie.

“You think X,” I am often told, when I don’t. “You think X but actually it’s Y, and I can prove it by disproving X.” Aargh. THAT JUST DISPROVES X IT DOES NOTHING TO PRESENT Y AS AN ACTUAL ALTERNATIVE. But if you start saying “straw man” you’re being too clever. Or “critical thinking” or “peer review”. And if you start being emotional and using nebulous “they them” and basing worldviews on instinct then you get called an idiot and curtly dismissed by people you think are utterly cut off from themselves. We have stopped listening to each other. We just wait to talk. And this situation is pushing us further and further into our narrative bubbles. It is comforting to have something concrete to rail against – some sense of structure and order. Chaos just has to be endured.

So yeah. A funny sad angry movie. I’d like to have been in it lol.

Instead I’m gonna have my cheap turkey feeling poorly on my own and then go to sleep and hope I wake up feeling better.

An entire packet of sugarsnaps. Roasties. I’m VORACIOUS today

Home from Jersey

So nice to be back at home. The bed is smaller but I know it well. It stewards my dreams. It’s a safe launch point. There’s no woodburner, but I’ve got control over the heating. I have cranked it up to 20 and left it there which is likely madness considering the price of fuel these days. But right now, having just come from delightful gainful employment, I would rather be poor than cold, so I’m cranking it up.

I’m glad and surprised we made it through the Jersey run of Carol without everything exploding around Covid. The ferry was a messy and crowded experience with air conditioning. And now I’m back in London and there’s a sense that this place is a nightmare. I’m gonna be home a day or so and then maybe go to Brighton for New Year’s, or maybe just go somewhere else. But I’ve ordered a PCR test to come to my flat because one of the guys I was working with has lateral flow tested positive. So far, mine have only had the single line. Hopefully that won’t change…

What a world we live in suddenly. People think nothing of sticking a swab up their nose daily. When I did Wind in the Willows the swab was so thin I thought it was designed to go through the little hole at the end of my inner nostril at my sinuses. “These tests go so deep it’s weird!” I commented to a friend. “Yeah, it’s horrible,” they replied referencing the tiny tiny distance to the little hole that leads to… Who knows.

I sat very still every morning in my car and I inevitably and diligently pushed that swab through the membraneous resistance, so I could swab whatever is through that hole. I brainswabbed myself every day for a month. It was even more uncomfortable on the way out. As it came out I would have to say “uuuuuurrrrrrr” and I’d feel the edges of the swab pulling at the little hole that leads into my sinus. I assumed it was the way it had to be, as I’d heard people bitterly complaining about how unpleasant swabbing was. I just got on with it. But now the memory of doing it puts my teeth on edge. It’s still unpleasant, swabbing. And fuck me this is the new source of plastic waste for the modern world. This pandemic has made things so much worse. All the packaging… And the wooden stirrers at the Costa machines, which are almost certainly made of wood because of some sort of a conversation about the environment… They are individually wrapped in a sort of plastic paper. For some idea of safety. Twaddle.

But these new tests… Yeah they are fatter at the end and clearly not designed to go that far into my head. Now I just have to make myself mildly uncomfortable. What a joy. But that’s the weirdness. It used to be we tried to avoid putting things up our noses unless we worked in the city. Now we do it daily.

I’m not gonna be going anywhere or working anywhere for a day or so. I’ll just chill out here and read and tidy and stick things up my schnozz and do the things I’ve needed to do and haven’t.

Returning from Jersey

Crashing through the waves on the Condor Liberation, I am writing to you from somewhere in the darkness of the English Channel. We are just clearing the north point of Guernsey. Alderney will be to starboard before long. The sea is choppy. “Please make sure you always have at least one hand free when you are walking on board,” advises the captain. We are walking on board a great deal.

Jack and I have moved about six times so far in this journey. We try to find an area of the boat where we aren’t very close to other people, and then other people see us in the empty bit and like the look of it too and fill it up, or we find out we are in somebody’s allocated seat and they’ve just taken ages to get to it, and so we move again. “It’s like some sort of living nightmare,” says Jack. And it literally just happened again as I was writing. A huge family looked at us, at their tickets, at us. “It says 832… ?” We moved.

Everybody is coming back from their Christmas visit to Guernsey today. This is why it was such a pricey boat. “Owing to heavy cargo we are running behind schedule,” says the captain. All those cars.

It’s been good to come back to Jersey. To connect with the island and work in it. To remember the things I loved as a child. To loosely commune with the spirits of the dear departed blowing in the rocks and the waves of that ancient place. I’ve made some friends there. It has been good. Very good. Hard graft. But enjoyable.

We left the flat in a hurry this morning, after the ferry company emailed us all to ask us get through check-in an hour early, which turned out to be totally pointless as the boat didn’t even show up until we’d sat in front of an empty dock for over two hours. Jack and I are both run down after that month. Work hard, play hard. It’ll be good to stop. But first I’ve got to get to London. I should be home by midnight.

I haven’t had a bath in a month. The flat will be cold but I’ll crank up the heating and I’m gonna do as little as I can all day tomorrow.

And for the next three hours I’m gonna try and shut out the screaming of the children and get some rest before the drive from Bournemouth.

Last Jersey carol

Last show tonight. Oh God. I know I’ll miss being in employment very very soon. What a tremendous bunch of beautiful people.

Jersey has been a glorious time. To come back here and to bring this hilarious and strange show, adjusted. Glorious.

I’m back in the IKEA flat. I’m with Estelle. Jack has gone to bed. We are all knackered. I’m planning on going to bed. She’s planning on going home.

She’s on Jersey Lifts. It’s a Facebook group. You write “Lift from x to y” and somebody comes in and says they can give you the lift. Normally if you’re a girl they come in seconds, and then you give them some cash. “I’ve never ever got a Jersey lift on my own, it’s usually with a guy. But I wouldn’t expect it to be weird.” Estelle is female and in her early thirties and aryan. It’s Boxing Day.

It seems all the Jersey lift car drivers are unimpressed by her. I’m surprised.

I’ve made her a little crap bed on the sofa, and thrown in a few extra logs to the fire because the only cover I can find for her is a thin blanket that was in the wardrobe. If she’s not dead of hypothermia tomorrow morning I can count it a win.

We are finished. All done. Done done done. What a lovely team. We have Andy at the front, corraling the audience with his charming Disneyface. Heading off awkward questions and converting concerns. Fighting the weird. Bending it into his own weird. Waxed moustache. A joy.

Then we have Estelle, asleep on the sofa as I write, plugged into Jersey and also plugged into general performance. Another maker, more entrenched in this island than I am – a true ally and a good friend. She pushed the buttons, and she pretends she isn’t front facing but charisma can’t be masked. She recorded Belle in a strong take – and it wasn’t a rarety, she nailed all the takes. She might be happy to push the buttons, but she gave Jack and I a surprise cornucopia of unexpected Christmas presents for Christmas. She’s a brilliant human. It was lovely having some silly things to open on our Christmassy day off yesterday.

Adam left Brighton around the same time I met Lou. They probably have people in common. He got Jack and I in this year so he can make sense of the working script we left him. He’s a legend for making this happen in Jersey. I wish this was good to go on for weeks…

I’ll miss working with Jack. At the same time I’m so used to this game now and I know it’ll happen again as … we are used to making this weird show happen. This has been a brilliant year of Carol, totally different from others, with much that is unrecognisable from previous times. But what a glorious team.

Two Christmases after a timely nap

Swimming in the sea with high tide at 10am was too much of a big call. Jack and I rose slowly, wanting scrambled eggs. No pepper though. “Shall we see if the local shop is open?” led to “Since we are on the move, let’s go to see my mum and uncle and grandparents graves.”

Graveyards are reasonably busy at Christmas. There were lots of people half smiling half sad, with flowers. I went and said hello to the lost. It’s the first time I’ve spent time with mum at Christmas since she died. It’s part of why I’m drawn to try and find a way back here that works with me. My old home ain’t the option anymore, 13 million or no. But there might be somewhere. It would be nice to be able to commune with the past without flying to it. It is a ridiculously quick commute from London AND from Brighton to Jersey, though. Even in times of plague.

Jack and I had double Christmas. After the graveyard, we found the only place in Jersey that was open and able to sell us pepper. We had 1pm breakfast of salmon and scrambled eggs (with pepper) and quail’s eggs and walnut saucisson sec. We had Bucks Fizz, which everybody is now calling mimosas because of the culture creep from the USA. We opened all our presents, and were put to shame by our new Jersey sister, who turns out to be Santa in disguise. Presents!! It’s joyful. We watched a Disney film called something like Ron’s gone wrong, and we fell asleep for a closely monitored hour. Or maybe passed out.

Back in London, on the set of Gatsby, Brian was running Orphan’s Christmas, carrying that ridiculous happy torch that was lit in 2005, and running it in his own wonderful manner. He was doing all the usual charging around like a maniac so I didn’t have to. God love that man. It was a very unusual experience to arrive at the Waitrose counter with the Christmas food shop and not have a bill running to a week’s work. I’m so happy that some of the London ones who didn’t want to be alone on Christmas Day had Santa Brian. I haven’t passed out on Christmas afternoon since the last time Christmas Carol prevented me from running orphan’s Christmas, and I ended up curled up on the sofa in Wales snoring like a lumberjack after a wonderful animated talk about Shakespeare with Tristan’s 90 year old actor grandfather Michael Beint.

Only an hour for me this time though. I’m the cook. Alarm off, and Jack and I were back in the fray, cooking bird and lots of vegetables and the all important Christmas gravy. We were trying to keep waste to a minimum but to still have a fridge full of grub. We tried to watch Die Hard 2 but we were knackered and only took half of it in. It’s not Turgenev though so that’s to be expected.

Now I’m in bed. One eye open. Bless the lot of you. I hope the season has been kind to you. If it hasn’t, and you’re feeling sad, reach out if you think ridiculous optimism will help. I’m pretty happy right now. Missing London. Missing Lou. But happy to be here where I’m from with beautiful interesting bonkers humans.

Merry merry.



Santa came.

At the end of the show, after Jack’s “Scrooge was better than his word” monologue there were sleigh bells. There was a light. And there was the most incredible “Ho Ho Ho!” There’s something ancient about it. The approaching sound. The bells. It’s plugged into something older than time.

And there he was. Santa. In his full green, which I hadn’t expected. If he had been somebody pretending to be Santa he’d have to have been a geek like me. He would have to have known about the history of the colour of Santa, and be plugged into all sorts of other deep and strong shifts in that incredible trope. But it was actual real Santa.

One of the Santas I was paid to pretend to be – before Scrooge became my Christmas – was at Selfridges and I was projected to the street as a rudimentary hologram from the hottest studio you can imagine in the basement of the store. I would be seen in a box outside and could communicate with shoppers through an array of microphones and cameras, but with the technology of over ten years ago. I quickly realised how powerful that costume is. I also learnt that the first thing that any Santa has to learn is the reindeer names. People fuck with you if they know them.

It’s the most incredibly powerful trope…

Tonight, though, we had the true actual Santa join us on stage. He was real. He was Santa. He had the voice, the power and the timelessness. He came to the parlour at the end, when Scrooge was redeemed. He helped secure the redemption. Wonderful wonderful man.

Scrooge got an orange. He wondered if it would burn like the coal he used to get. Scrooge is still carrying his history of being an arsehole though. He asks after the reindeer. “How are they? I remember them. Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen and Cupid and Rudolph and Donner and Blitzen… And the other one. What’s his name?” Scrooge is still being a bastard. I forget sometimes that people don’t know me. I know they can just say “Now you’re being a bad boy again Ebenezer, trying to trick me,” and I’ll totally own up to it. But I also know that those fucking reindeer go into your dna very quickly and there’s no way in hell he won’t know the one I’ve skipped. I’ve taken a gamble, knowing that Santa is gonna smash it. He goes above and beyond.

“You must mean the reindeer that the dinosaurs didn’t like,” he says. I LOVE SANTA. I LOVE SANTA. HE’S AS QUICK AS HE IS CLEVER. Comet. I LOVE YOU SANTA!

What a gift, on a Christmas Eve. What a wonder. What a truly glorious visitation. Actual Santa. He came. The two opposing Christmas tropes stood beside one another. Humbug next to ho ho ho. I felt like I might get an actual Christmassy lump of coal for fucking with him, but I totally blame it on the fact I was still in character and I knew he’d smash it.

Christmas. Merry merry merry merry. Jack and I are watching the Muppets. Have a wonderful wonderful day. CHRISTMASSY CHRISTMASFACE. HURRAH.

Bob Marley

Matinee crowd. I’m in my nightie. I’ve just been outrageously flirted with by a drunk audience member. I think that the wild beard thing I have got going on right now is not common in the law firms and accountancies of Jersey.

We are in Yet to Come. Jack is trying to work out where best to stand with the torch for eyeline. I’m doing some emoting. I kind of have to. A: Dickens is the epitome of sentimental text. B: One of that hammered lot from the nursery school has just knocked over a glass of wine. I know we have another show to do. I hear the glass do down on our “we haven’t got spares” tablecloth. The little bit of my head that has always been in production for this show is thinking “evening show drenched tablecloth eeeek I don’t want to have to field that audience member.”

It’s the bit of the show where I watch Bob Cratchit leaving work after the death of his son. In previous years we have had all sorts of tricks with doors and desks. In this version I’m looking at a light and there’s a ton of smoke coming at me.

The ghost of Jacob Marley is guiding me through this experience. My employee is Bob Cratchit. “Oh look,” say I as Ebenezer Scrooge, in this matinee show. And I hear a thump. “Oh no that’s the red wine,” comes the audience whisper. I remain focused, no matter how early it is. ProfessionAL. Unruffled.

I look into the billowing smoke in front of me. I must have done this show a hundred times by now. “Oh look,” I repeat to give them time to come back from worrying about the wine spill I’m worrying about and to focus on the action. I’ve got them again, I think. They are all looking at me as I stare into smoke. “It’s Bob Marley.” And I stop. I’ve said it. I’ve put the two names together. It’s the reggae artist. And I’m looking at a load of smoke as I say it.


Internal monologue: Ok ok how do I save this shall I make a joke? There he is with his guitar? No woman no cry. But this is a moment that I have always always been policed in to be jokeless… Jokes are not allowed in Yet to Come. One joke can fuck the whole thing. I have no way to fix this I conclude. I’ll just continue. They’ll question what they heard.

Jack, meanwhile, is laughing. I hear him. Now I’m doing it too.

They call this corpsing. Because the worst person for it to happen to is the one who is supposed to be dead. Followed closely by me in this moment.

This early Christmas matinee. This very drunk half capacity audience. Dammit.

I had to keep staring into the light with my back to the audience. It’s literally the straightest moment of the whole show. I managed to get my shit together in time to land the last few beats. But … Bob Marley. Ach well.

Walls closing in

I remember the small island thing now.

When I was in my early twenties the sheer size of the actual world blew my tiny little mind. I’d traveled pretty extensively but in a protected manner. I had mostly lived on small islands and in exclusive resorts, in rarefied atmospheres. I auditioned for drama school from inside a tiny tiny little bubble of limited life experience dressed up as knowledge. God love Guildhall for seeing and getting behind that very gauche individual. I still carry scraps of him.

Thinking back to my grandparents who had lived in Jersey many years, they were in a small enough bubble that social things magnified quickly. Things felt bigger and more important than they were. A casual unguarded comment in a place like this can lead to a bitter almost Shakespearean level family feud that never abates and takes casualties. There were people my grandmother thought of as dreadful who I saw no harm in whatsoever. There were doubtless people who thought of her as dreadful too. Often it was to do with members of their friendship group. “Merty Plocket said that my cousin’s brother’s best shirt looked like it was from charity. Your friend Bink is friends with Merty Plocket. That means that Bink is a nasty rotten evil BASTARD. How dare he be friends with Plocket. Come on, we’re leaving.”

This island is considerably smaller than the one that contains London. Smaller things feel bigger.

I wrote about my old house and less than 10 hours after it was published it seems the current owners read my blog. As you know I don’t put this out widely at all. I’m not shouting and retweeting and hashtagging and linking. This is almost enough of a fanciful journal and a braindump that I sometimes forget that its public at all until I have a reminder like that. It felt odd that somehow so quickly a reasonably nonspecific day’s write up warranted a phone call. I guess it was trackback on the link after they got a few unexpected hits.

Either way it made me feel the walls closing in. I don’t like to think of things as small. It is an experience that has helped me get some sort of closure on one of the early wounds in my life – I was always devastated that we left that property. I was happy there, covered in mud with my mischievous grin and my fragile innocence still perfectly intact. And everybody was still alive. I didn’t know I was born. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.

There are things to connect to here in this island but they don’t need to take in that land. There are intact memories. Shreds of nature. The sea, the sea!

Life is big and my perspective has exploded since I left here in my early twenties and the world happened. I don’t like it when things feel small nowadays. I like to view things as an explosion of possibility. I think maybe if I did move back here I would almost immediately eat my own arms and start a cult.

That’s not to say it’s off the table. Carol is delightful and the audiences are a constant pleasure. I just have to examine my actual needs and desires without getting distracted by all the shiny nostalgia. I don’t have property over here, and it’s not cheap even if you’re not looking at mansions.

Solstice full moon is helping shine a slightly more pragmatic light on things that have only existed in the realm of ideas until now. My job is stories but I’m not one. I need to do some practical thinking and a spot of what they like to call “adulting”… We’ll see where that goes. Meantime I’m supposed to be shopping for Christmassy things.

Tired Santa Al

Running my mouth again

Once again a wonderful night of Carol. I love my work. It’s hard but it’s rewarding. This evening we had one of only two existing Jersey QCs come to the show and he ended up as Tiny Tim. He had his mother in the audience on her birthday. A good Tiny Tim makes everything better for us as he helps put a button on the show. He was a delight during and after. He helped me remember how this island is basically about the people. It’s small enough that you know everybody’s business very quickly. It’s big enough that we have been running at capacity for two weeks and we can still go to St Helier without getting stopped every few minutes.

I had another of those moments today when I questioned the wisdom of this daily blog.

I wear my heart on my sleeve and things pop out of me easily. You mostly get what you see with me and you see what you get. It works to my advantage as a filter and to my detriment when I need to impress people I don’t know. My friendships are usually very deep and take into account my ability to just accidentally speak my everything. I probably shouldn’t write a blog at all, really, as I put it all out there without filter and my heart is sunk into trying to work out how to best tell a story, rather than how to show myself in the best light. This is just a work of creative fiction after all, based on my slightly odd existence. As a fine example of the form I’m going to bring back Cucumbrivalis!!!

I reckon I’ll find my tribe here in Jersey one way or another if/when I return. I’ve already found some of them, and I’ve really become aware that there are good people here through the joyful humans that attend our show. In many ways there couldn’t be a better way for me to reconnect with the people who inhabit my old home than through Carol.

One more week of this and then I’m back to London again and to the winter. We are over the hump. The light is returning. I’m so much happier here. I’d love to stay. I just don’t have a roof over my head if I’m not renting one. Normally I’ve got the pull of my vocation taking me to London, but more and more that holds no weight as all the theatres are shutting down again.

Maybe Lou and I could hit the sunshine. That was always the hope for January… But not if everything is shut down again… Let’s just hope.

Cottage pie.

For now I’m just gonna read my book and hit the hay. At least I’m well fed.