Big load of rubbish

Ah yes I remember now. The economics of rubbish. As soon as you have a van it becomes very expensive to throw anything away.

We loaded up with a whole damn ton of timber. Massive unwieldy flats with cupboards and electrics embedded in them. It was a squeeze getting them all into the back of the Luton, especially considering I was hung-over. Then we drove to Leyton Bywaters. Too big to transfer into a car or carry them in. We were paying tip-weight however we tried to spin it.

Huge open air piles, where trucks are tipping their backs up and unloading so much stuff willy nilly to be compacted by machines. The air is filled with particles. As we approach in the van, a little bit of tape spool blows across the road in the shifting winter wind. Without the benefit of storage and time we had to send the flats quickly back out of the van. Hopefully the wood will be salvaged. Hopefully there’ll be some use for it. It felt terrifically wasteful, but anybody who knows me will understand how I much prefer to try and reuse things than to buy them new. We hurled it all into the anomalous pile.

A literal ton, and with VAT they expect close to £200 just to give us a place to get rid of it. At that rate you can see why fly-tipping in the countryside is such a terrible problem. If you’re broke and you credit card rented a van for a day to take a load of rubble out of your basement, and then you get told that you’ll be paying £180 a ton with a minimum of £90 – I can see why you might be tempted to sling the stuff into a layby and make it somebody else’s problem. And it’s doubly galling when much of the stuff is decent. That was good wood. Gone now. Good throwing-away practice. I’m still terrible at it.

By the time I got home I was exhausted. I’ve picked up a cough somewhere – perhaps the dust in the warehouse. I was coughing before we even got to the dump. Not likely to be Covid if I’ve just come out of it. But I’m in bed now and it’s barely ten. Gonna get some rest.

Another big load tomorrow, this time mostly antique brown furniture that isn’t good enough to sell. That and large damp antique books, and silver plate candlesticks. Things that have found their way into the Christmas Carol stable over the years and have no value. I’m going to try to avoid tipping them as for one month every year they are golden. But they all have to be somewhere else by the end of tomorrow. I’m leaving nothing but the water tank of doom. The heaviest single object on the planet. I have no idea how that’s gonna move. There’s a forklift right next to it and I was gonna work out how to operate the thing, but apparently it’s already broken which saves me doing it by mistake. That’s for tomorrow. For tonight, rest and coughing…

Having to throw away flats

Driving into London from the East on the M11 at sunset you get a remarkable vista of tall buildings set against the fire of the sky.

Jack and I went to Bishop’s Stortford and loaded up with slightly damp costumes and timber. Our mission is to get this stuff out as cheaply as feasible. We had Marcus there with us at the start. His job was to help us know what was to go and what was to stay. His slightly laissez-faire attitude helped me modify my worry. I didn’t want to chuck anything vital, and at the same time I didn’t want to leave anything that needed to be chucked. I think I’ve got a handle on it now. He didn’t seem to mind so long as we took the obvious things. I was trying to be thorough.

The dump is closed at Park Royal – it’s shut every Tuesday and Wednesday, probably because it’s open on the weekend when people do their house clearance. But it means that the van is sleeping outside my house with a load of flats in it, and random bits of wood. Guys, if you need wood and you have a vehicle the next few evenings I’ll be sleeping in Chelsea with a van full of wooden flats and things that burn. It’s ahead of taking them to the tip in Park Royal and paying tip weight. I’d gladly rehouse anything with you but … you’d have to come to me.

We found a clothes bank and hoiked a huge amount of random theatre costume into it for The Salvation Army. There are going to be some homeless people in Essex looking absolutely fabulous because of this. Tomorrow we will be back to get all the bits of London Christmas Carol that have gathered over the years. I think the biggest bits were originally from Mike Leigh’s Peterloo film, channeled through a Hammer Horror show and eventually into Carol. Some of it we will try to rehome, for sure. But faced with a deadline (Saturday) and a limited amount of time with the van, it is likely we will just be hurling wood into recycling and paying for the privilege. By all means message if you think you can house it. If you cover the petrol I’ll bring it to you. But otherwise, I’ve got a job to do.

After work I went out for drinks with Tristan and his agent, who was in my year at Guildhall. Tristan ended up back at my flat briefly. He found the moleskine capes for the first time, and has taken one. “This is wonderful,” be was gushing. And yes. They are. Very specific. But wonderful. And I’m letting them find a bit more time to find their home. He went home with one under his arm.

The flats I’ve got in my van at the moment have been customised so much that they aren’t much use to anybody as generic flats. They are bulky. They were likely made at great expense in a workshop somewhere. In context they are exactly what was needed. Outside of that … they are just unwieldy chunks of painted wood.

I’ve never been very good at letting go. I try to help things go round again. But this job is too big. I’m having to be ruthless. Tomorrow will be harder as it’s going to be Carol stuff so directly connected to me. I just wish I had a country estate. And a barn. But don’t we all?

I took no photos again… Here’s one of some random bits…

Restful admin day

Van is booked and a few days work on the horizon now. Today was for admin. Booking these annoying tests ahead of travel. Digging around in old invoices. Going to the bank.

It’s cold and dark. There’s beauty in the winter but not so much in London. I’ve been comforting myself with projecting forward to getting away for a week on the 29th. But there’s a good two weeks to fill up first.

It’s ten and I’m in bed. Early start tomorrow. I’ve been reading my almanac. This full moon in cancer is at least proud and visible in the night sky. Something bright to look at. And there’s all sorts of advice about what to plant in the garden, and tide charts. Recipes. Even a little story. “The farmer and the boggart.” I’ve bought this little almanac every year for a few years now and it is a companionable read. It helps me know what to look out for. Makes the grey days a little more mindful.

Holly and robins. Mating foxes. A nebula just shy of Orion’s Belt. Chickweed, pheasants and rhubarb. Good fresh gruyère from France. And I should’ve picked it up earlier as I’ve missed The Holly Man of Bankside, swarming over the Millennium Bridge to the Globe with his troupe of mummers on Twelfth Night. Likely I would’ve gone and enjoyed that – something geeky and trying to be ancient right on my doorstep.

Chinese New Year is coming up though. I’ll be in The Azores so I won’t be able to go to Chinatown. It’s going into the year of my animal – The Tiger. I’ll have to mark it somehow out there. I’ll be staying in a spa hotel that night so there’ll be plenty of opportunity to celebrate and luxuriate in catlike comfort.

It makes me want a garden this almanac. Living in a top floor flat is nice for light and for the view, but it sucks for cats and you can’t plant garlic. Best keep up with the tidying, and start to dream of possibilities. Or get a planter and put it on the fire escape…


There is a huge warehouse in the middle of nowhere. It’s out in the vicinity of Stansted Airport. I have a pin saved to my Google Maps. It takes me to a gate where I then have to say specific words into the entryphone. I feel like I’m one of a very small number of illuminated people every time the gate opens for me. I am there today to assess things.

I drive slowly down the long driveway, flanked on both sides by lawns often busy with rabbits. I have learnt to drive slowly after the mistress of the estate remembered my van two weeks after I had driven it too close to the front of her house one winter night at 20mph. You are *watched*. At the end of the driveway, a warehouse. Huge steel sliding doors. I know how to get them open.

Inside? Narnia.

It is a repository for old shows that might come back. Lots and lots of sleepy magic.

There’s a touring set for Wicked in there. Spamalot hides at the back. Piles and piles of wood. Huge lumps of metal. Unusual things made out of foam. Flight cases full of things that would be rubbish to anybody who didn’t need them to tell a story but golden in the right context. The ceiling drips, even when it isn’t raining. You won’t keep anything dry in here. All the flats are a little bit warped and they need repainting. But get them in a dry van, inside for a few days for a touch up and onto a stage under lights and they’ll crisp up in no time and the bedded in damp will help make them fire retardant even if your leading actor keeps telling you they smell a bit.

My job today was to work out which shows no longer needed to be in there, and then establish what to do with them. It’s for Brian, by proxy. I’m probably the best person from his end to know what stuff is from his company. But I’ll likely need to speak to somebody from the other end to make sure I don’t take out too much / too little.

Two sets of flats from Rotterdam. It was a good show at the right time. I think it has run its course now. It helped open a necessary dialogue.

I can likely find a new home for the flats unless I’m asked to keep them. Largely I’ll do what I’m told, but it’s helpful that I know the people and the shows involved. Even some damp bits of Carol are in there. If we want to run it in London next Christmas they’ll be very helpful, although I couldn’t for the life of me find the coffin table. Then it’s a history lesson in the work of Brian. Years and years ago he produced a show about Woody Guthrie called “Woody Sez”. Much of it is in there and I know it’s close to his heart. But it all has to be out by the 22nd. All of it.

I can get it out by then – all of it but the impossibly heavy water tank thing but I’ve already told them that. I could work out how to operate the forklift. But it’s likely better to leave it to the experts.

My expertise is in doing a reasonably human salvage job and rehoming things like the flats and maybe savong some of the sentimental things to return them to the appropriate people. It’ll be a hard graft and I’ll have to rent a van and have a plus one. But it’s a project, and I needed a project, and Jack is on board to be the plus one. Now I’m just waiting for the go-ahead.

It’s helpful to think about this down the line for me. Out of town storage… If I’m planning to make touring theatre – and I am – then I’ll need to think about where to put the set while it’s sleeping. I need a friend with a derelict barn…

Pottering and sorting

Digging through old boxes of stuff, today. It seems that for decades my method of dealing with stuff has mostly been to put it in a box to be dealt with in some nebulous “later” time.

Recently I brought all the boxes down from the attic. I say recently, it was quite a while ago now. The dream was that I would search through them all, process the contents, and chuck vast quantities of it. The reality has been that I look at it suspiciously and occasionally rummage distractedly through one of the containers.

Back when I was at school, Gavin gave me a load of books. “These are good books – why are you throwing them out?” “I’ve read them so I’m getting rid of them.” I still have some of those books. I’ve read lots of them. But I still have them. Maybe I should have learned from Gavin. It’s never too late.

Sometimes it feels good to be ruthless about these things. I’ve filled a few bin bags. It doesn’t really look like I’ve done anything but I know I have…

Now I’m taking a break after a long shift with the phone on silent. I’m running the bath, having a glass of red wine and stretching my legs. It’ll be a while before the flat is clear, but every day like this is positive. But I’m working tomorrow so I’m not gonna let myself get sucked into a late night on it.

In terms of thoughts I’ve been all over the place. A little of my head on Tonga, thinking about seismic activity before we go to a volcano. But the odds are so low. We are more likely to fail the test we have to do to get on the plane. Neither of those things will happen. We will go on holiday. I can’t think of the last uncomplicated actual holiday I’ve had. I’ve been trying not to think about the cricket after England just rolled over to the Aussies and showed their bellies. And I’ve been sad about this announcement that the government is essentially hanging the BBC out to dry. And I’ve just had a lovely long day inside my own head and didn’t have a clue how quickly time was passing…

Small talk again?

Social interaction.

I used to be better at this. I think. I’m pretty sure.

I went to a restaurant where people stand up in clumps and talk to each other. It was a gathering of people who loved my old friend – the one that passed away last week. I knew in advance that I wouldn’t really know anybody there. I wanted to go though, to honour the spirit of my friend. For her these gatherings were life blood. She would be marching from one end of the room to the other with people in tow. “Al, this is Rupert. You’re both actors and Rupert knows Bruce. Talk to each other “

She was there in spirit. But she wasn’t there so I was going to have to make small talk without her greasing the wheels. Oh hell.

I was late. Then I was later. I only finally left the flat when Max messaged asking where I was. I got an uber. The driver got stuck in such atrocious traffic around Chelsea football stadium that I got out and walked. It was cold.

Arriving at the restaurant I found myself very quickly in a conversation with a stranger who was mostly monologuing about traffic. I started to feel a bit panicky. I attempted a few contributions but they didn’t seem to affect the weft of the conversation. I stuck it out for as long as I could before pretending to be a smoker and going out into the garden. I haven’t smoked for over twenty years apart from on set. Did we used to be good at this? That guy will likely be kicking himself just before he goes to sleep. “How the heck did I go on about traffic to that guy for so long?” We needed Sophie to give us a better topic.

Out in the garden the smokers were more familiar company. I spent a few moments in raw companionship with two wonderful people. That, honestly, was enough for me.

Thinking about it I’ve never been very good at it really, the small talk. I might occasionally get the wrong kind of courage at the bottom of a glass and then find myself going on about something – like the traffic guy. I can think back to plenty of occasions where my social anxiety or my booze consumption has led to me kicking myself later. Sometimes I can hit a vein of form. I suppose I’m an extroverted introvert. Kick of adrenaline and I can play the part. But this evening was a sad and reasonably formal evening mostly among strangers. My usual solution is to bomb around being energetic and a bit silly, but it didn’t seem appropriate given the context.

I stayed sober too. I could have driven myself there it turns out as I nursed a single bottle of beer. Then I felt I could handle the mingling no more so I said my farewells.

It was cold. I walked up to the main road, caught a lucky bus, and now I’m back in my nice warm flat running a bath and thinking about pillows.

Up and down

I’m back in the smoke, ensconced with all the familiar things and all the distractions, and I’m running a bath. It’s good to be here and not be sick. That hasn’t happened since November. Now I need to line up some things to do for money before I swan off to live on a volcano for a week with Lou.

Minnie has moved to Twickenham, which I drive through on my way back from Brighton. I’m absolutely thrilled about this. I never passed through sodding Catford so I haven’t seen anything like enough of her lately. Didn’t get to see her today either as she has multiple children now so explosions happen at the last minute all the time. I like to be last minute but I know that’s hard for my friends with progeny. But the fact that she is there means I’ll almost certainly see more of her going forward.

I stopped to see Tristan and Tanya who see me all the time because of this same quirk of geography. They are wondering where the next work will come from too so there’s an understanding. The logistics of movement does loads to our habits though. I’m just observing that simply because they don’t live on the right London Trainline, there are people I love who I barely see. I can’t blame it all on geography… I could have been more diligent. Maybe I should make more effort going forward. This pandemic has driven us apart. Even Sophie dying – her expertise was social glue. Throughout my life I’ve noticed that the first time you make a particular journey it feels longer. Every time you beat a path to a place that path grows wider and more familiar.

Traveling to The Azores – or anywhere outside the uk – carries a brand new set of obstructions that are new and therefore hard to fathom. It was so much easier to travel beforehand. Now we have to find tests and we have to pay for the “right” tests and load up on all sorts of documentation before we’ve even left the house. It’s all very unclear on paper and generally worrying. Before all this there was never the worry that we might get turned away because we didn’t stick the right bit of plastic up our nose two days before we left. We’ve got such an incredible break lined up. I reckon it’ll be fine, but it’s the first time traveling to anywhere but Jersey since Brexit and Covid. Jersey broke the back of the unknown part of it. But Portugal? Not only do people in the Schengen have a vested interest in annoying British travelers, but also we will have to jump through expensive hoops on the way home too. Anybody with actual experience of it, let me know how it was in real terms. It’s always weirder on paper…

A full day today of walking and sunshine and friends. Joyful and I’m not going to worry about this now. I’m gonna soak and sleep and leave this for tomorrow.

Light light light

Morning light!

Lou gets up early by anybody’s standards. Earlier still if I’m snoring like a drill next to her. By the time I switched into the world she’d already booked part of our accommodation for the holiday which has been our obsessive focus whenever we have been able to access our screens. I felt bad though. I hate it when I can’t stop myself snoring. It’s a constant fight, but I’ve been spreading out in bed with the old Covid.

My guilt threw me out of the door and into my car earlier than I might have normally emerged, later than most human beings in the world. Rather than slog to a box somewhere to push buttons, we drove to Devil’s Dyke, and caught it before the crowds. Mist in the valley below and bright low sunlight. One of those mornings that the influencers need to quit the powder for. I’m almost totally uninterested in taking photographs and I managed a few half decent ones. Here we are in the morning light.

Crunching through the frost with other people’s dogs we hatched a plan to try and find the Hundred Acre Wood. Along with everybody else in my industry at the moment I’m contemplating doing something with Winnie the Pooh. It’s just gone public domain so there’s gonna be Pooh in Space and Gangster Pooh and Eeyore does Dallas and oh God we’ll all be sick of it in a year. But sometimes it’s interesting to think about jumping on the bandwagon. I could be making one of the maybe 2500 immersive Pooh type things in London this summer. Stick some ears on some poor bastard, give her a jar of honey, charge people to hear her blither on about friendship or depression to I dunno like a puppet or someone dressed as a tiger or what have you. That’s summer sorted. That is my arts council application verbatim.

We didn’t find the wood.

We got distracted and accidentally broke into the grounds of a stately home and made friends with the groundskeeper. His sister produced The Mummy. He’s just walked from John O’Groats to Lands End teaching people how to use defibrillators. Lou met a wood carver. It was all very convivial. This is what happens when people don’t do proper jobs and they have too much time on their hands. Ban this sick filth. They should all be working in cyber.

We sort of walked around a bit in The Ashdown Forest, but hunger was becoming the dominant force. We went home. Lou made daal. We booked all the rest of our accommodation for IMPULSE AZORES HOLIDAY. It has been a very drawn out process working out where we will stay as it turns out there are some incredible options and the prices are competitive in low season mid pandemic… No surprises I guess.

I’m going back to London. We’ve got a holiday coming up. I’ve got shit to do. And I should probably be trying to earn some money as well, much as it’s lovely to bounce around like this…

The evening light though! As epic as the morning. An omen? The Azores looks like volcanic walking paradise. I’m smitten. Bring on the end of this month.

Sunny day visit

The sun came out. Not that it brought much heat with it, but it brought the desire to find green space and be in it. We drove up to Beachy Head and caught the morning light up above the Seven Sisters. Fresh and not so crowded, Eastbourne below us, looking out over the channel with no real guilt about the fact it’s supposed to be a working day because I mean, seriously? Nothing is going on. Certainly nothing much is going on in my industry. People trying to work out if they can program something without it being shut down. People who have been running historic buildings just about successfully for years reaching the end of the line after too much impossibility. Everybody worrying about money. The administration hoping that it’s only a matter of time before we all go into cyber.

We didn’t stay too long up on those cliffs. The area is beautiful but there’s something in the fabric of the web up there that is inevitably about despair. Too many people over too many years. We were feeling bright in the sun but we moved on pretty quickly. A moment though. And a moment of thought for those I’ve known who went off that edge.

We drove down a way and walked near the holy well, through Helen’s Gardens, thinking how lucky the denizens of Eastbourne are to have easy access, and how unforgivable those few idiots are who’ve been chucking their barbeque sauce pots and wrappers and cans and cups into the hedges for decades. What percentage of society chucks litter? How has it not been utterly stigmatised by now? It’s the only downside, really. And masks lying around are the new thing, here right by the sea. Your gift to posterity. Sixty years after you die and you’ll watch that mask kill a bird from purgatory and oops that’s another thousand years fuck and that’s another ten damn and another fifteen crumbs yeah that one’s ok.

Then the late afternoon Lou joined me as I caught up with an old family friend – one that I should’ve seen so much more of over the decades. United again by the sudden death of poor dear Sophie. She had been trying to get us into the same room as each other for so long, and I wish she’d been there as we met. United by our love of our lost friend, I think we will see a great deal more of each other from now on. Such a sad catalyst, but so good to see her, and living pretty close to Lou.

A good day of healthy unemployment. Brisk walks and good company. Despite having earned nothing all day, we went out for dinner at Bill’s in Lewes and then we looked at incredible places to stay on our weirdly cheap impulse holiday booked for the end of the month. Man I can’t wait. The options are all so good and affordable at this time of year that we are spoilt for choice.

Now we are exhausted. We crashed out. Well, Lou did. I’m close behind.

Cold day impulse booking

A miserable cold wet foggy day. God sneezed on Brighton. We went to yoga in the morning.

Just behind Lou’s flat there is a beautiful tiny little studio. She teaches there on Sundays. We went because there was a kundalini and gong class. Lots of hot breathing and then you get to lie under a blanket for twenty minutes while somebody smashes you out of your mind with a big noisy round thing.

“I’m sorry, but there’s no gong today. It’s shared ownership, and she has it.”

Life is full of disappointments.

We did the hot breathing. Then the stretchy arm stuff. These are the technical terms. It takes decades to learn them. No gongybangy though, so instead we breathed through a nostril.

It was lovely. It helped. I didn’t have the gong so I didn’t really know what I was missing. I was perfectly happy without. I felt warmer and more relaxed as we ambled back out into the foul drizzle. Good for me to focus on breathing after all the coughing. Good to be in a room full of people and know I’m not contagious. Lou started calling people she knows, knowing that somebody will turn out to have a spare gong just … lying around. They are useful things to have. And you can’t make back your investment if you buy them new.

Despite the weather, post yoga we drove to Stanmer Park where we trudged through damp pathways and leaf mulch. There’s still lots of winter happening out there at Stanmer. The way was slippery. The cold was pushing in. The sky was darkening and it wasn’t even late afternoon. The colours were breathtaking still when you could see them through the fog. Death and life. No leaves on the trees now.

Driving home the car was cold. Wet on the windows. “We should book a holiday,” somebody said.

In just over a fortnight we will be off to a volcano in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere between Lisbon and NYC, there to sip pineapple juice in hot springs on the edge of the caldera for a whole damn week. Good old internet flash sales. £7.99 flights? Oh go on then. I guess they have to drop the price in case everything gets shut down again. It won’t. After Carol and Covid and the cold, it’s time for a proper bloody damn holiday. Oh yes.