Photos of props

Up first thing and unloading a bed into my friend’s corridor. I need to get that fucking thing dropped off. Can’t see a thing out the back with it in there. Wasn’t going to take it to Nottingham.

Rocket Scenery up in Nottingham are huge. They build out tons of sets for shows across the country, and there’s a corner of a huge warehouse that is allocated for Amelie. Amelie was a glorious folksy musical retelling of the well known French film. I was enchanted. Audiences were as well. Good theatre.

For various reasons, they needed to have the props all photographed. They’ve been stored with the set in huge containers on wheels, and in flight cases. We had a day to get up there, photograph the lot, find the costume Bible, and get back down. We brought the dog.

It was a long day. We had a mildly incomprehensible list and everything on it was variously buried. Thankfully the doggie was very well behaved. We got through most of it. As we finished I was sent another list with items that were impossible to find or to get out in the time remaining to us. “You are writing the measurements down as well as just putting the tape measure into the shots,” I was asked by the person who booked me. I was asked that once everything had been finished without a single measurement being written down. A moment of worry. I ring the designer. “We haven’t written the measurements down as I just assumed you need a sense of scale?” “Yes that’s quite right.” *Phew* worst case I could’ve approximated by looking at the photos.

They should have a sense of scale now of all of the joyful things you need to make that show. I almost missed the back of a gutted piano that opens up into a sex shop full of dildos. It was a tricky photo in the space – hard to get any of the large scale things well snapped. I have a feeling there will be production shots that cover what I couldn’t get though. Many of my photos were cramped and rushed, frankly. Hopefully they are fit for purpose and if not I’ll swing by next time I’m driving that way…

It’s a huge undertaking putting on a show. All the costumes. All the props. I’m thinking of the van loads that we had to throw out at last minute from Rotterdam earlier this year. The contents of all those boxes… They could bring that show back. I hope they do. What’s the alternative? It sits there for five years and then somebody hoiks it all into landfill? I hope not. There are loads of shows up there though in that warehouse. I really hope they all come back around. We need more joy. And more employment. I haven’t done a tour for ages.

Back down to London and I was drifting off by the time we were two hours away. Droopy headed and muzzy. I had to stop and get coffee and a Krispy Kreme. That fuelled me home, but only just. Now I’m in bed and I’m totally done. I’ll send the photos tomorrow morning. And we found the costume Bible!! 🙂

Dogs and cats and buttons

I’m going from animal to animal at the moment, likely carrying the scent between them like a bee pollinating flowers. Two hairy spoilt ragdolls in Brighton, beautiful and full of personality and shedding everywhere sending their pheromones to the tiny tiny little siamese kittens who lived on top of me for a couple of nights. Then this morning I hooked up with a cat in a bag. He’s going on holiday, but when I met up with him he was just about to embark on the journey. He was one mightily pissed off kitty. Here he is, glowering balefully at the world at Paddington Station. We went to Leon and drank calming CBD type drinks and I found myself thinking the pussy might have wanted some of that for himself.

Angry cat

Now I’m at my friend’s up in Harlesden as she is my plus one on a weird job tomorrow that involves driving up to Nottingham. We have to be there at eleven so that would have involved leaving my house at 7. Staying here will bank an extra hour in bed and make the whole day a bit less of a schlep. Essentially I’m already out of London. It’s just a straight shot up to Notts.

The phone signal here at my friend’s is terrible and for reasons still unknown to me I told her I didn’t need to get on the router. Now I have to watch the cat picture uploading as if I were on a dialup modem. That angry cat in a bag will have reached his destination by now and will hopefully be marginally less pissed off with the world now he’s not in a bag anymore. I carried his scandalised pheromones to a small dog called Bear. Bear spent the first twenty minutes of our acquaintance sucking my finger where I’d been petting the cat. Then when I got in the shower he apparently started hitting his “stranger” button behind my back. This is an innovation in the training of dogs that has passed me by until this evening. Word buttons, so the dog can learn basic communication through technology. “Play!” says one of the buttons. He hit that and then looked at his toys. He wanted to shred his donkey. “Outside!” says another one. He hit that and the garden door got opened. “There’s a video online of a dog that can use like 100 buttons,” my friend tells me. The voice in the button belongs to my friend – it’s not just one of those dead sounding computer voices – you can record your own. I’m fascinated. A way of giving your dog a rudimentary voice… I can’t imagine how you teach the wee creature how to use them correctly but he seems to have worked it out. “All done!” says another button.

The dog will be coming with us tomorrow, up to Nottingham. “He can’t be left alone for more than a few minutes.” I’ve got blankets in my car. There’s one friend taking her cat to Devon by train while I’m anticipating a road trip with a puppy. So many of us have animals that depend on us. It’s a lovely strange way of cutting off our options. I do very much enjoy meeting and caring for other people’s animals, but tempting as it is to get one of my own, if I did that I wouldn’t be able to look after everybody else’s, and I would spend my life trying to get people to look after mine so I could run around like an idiot. The fish have an auto-feeder thank goodness. Hex is with Flavia and he only needs to eat once a week really. Pickle is with Melissa and Brian full time. I’m freeeee. Still. Amazingly. For now.

Last Bletchley for now

Ah the final night.

What a marvelous bunch of people. There we all are at Dilly’s desk, trying to look like we hadn’t had a ton of wine and gotten out of costume before someone said “we need a cast photo”. Then redressing and the usual juggling between patience and light. Ah yes the tired smile of somebody who doesn’t really give a fuck about the photo but they’re in it. We all know it. Yay! *Click* Whew.

Look at them though. What a good bunch. You know how I never mention people’s names? I would love to go from left to right and gush about these humans. But I forgot to ask permission. And I try to avoid writing without permission just because humans are configured differently about where their boundaries lie. I had a photographer once who asked me to credit them and then literally lost his shit when I did (positively). I try to be careful and delicate. But these people in that photo: they’re my jam. Oh heck I like them. Unusual humans. Great big brains attached to overdeveloped kindness muscles. I am utterly thrilled to be their collective friend. Some of them have found their light already. Others will in time. Bonkers kind new running mates.

This evening was just hilarious as a last show. Multiple school age children, and through them I learnt that the syllabus hasn’t changed since I was at school. Surely they were only eleven, but when Dilly started shifting into Latin, they immediately knew that Caecilius spends all his time in the bloody horto. They brought huge fun to our last show, by having no filter and enjoying the fact they could interject and it will be incorporated. Almost the perfect young audience – they were always on topic and they were gobby as fuck. Dilly got a science lesson about the effects of smoking. It didn’t stop him. He tried to tell them the t pipe wasn’t lit. It didn’t bother them. He risked giving his end letter to one of the young women who had lectured him. It felt like she had been trying to prolong my life. It was sweet.

We had an entire birthday party in the cottage at the start. Bletchley fans, it seems. One of them almost refused to come as she was Polish and didn’t want to witness another British story where the fact that the Poles broke enigma before the war is not included. We own that fact in the show. It’s brilliant. A postage worker in Poland deconstructed and reconstructed an enigma machine in transit. Quick work, and had it not been done it is very possible that the major actions that were made possible by enigma decryption (such as DDay) would have failed. Cryptography is a powerful art. The Italian fleet was sunk at Matapan by the grace of God and Mavis Lever, who worked out that a lazy cryptographer sent a dummy message through enigma by spamming the letter “L”. Enigma cannot come back to itself. She had 400 characters none of which were L. Hence the most likely solution was that the whole message was LLLLLLLLL. Coming first thing in the morning it allowed the team to set the rotors correctly for that day, and locate the Italian fleet.

I’ll miss this show. Delights the lot of them. But it’s late now. Bedtime. Happy post show winefaced Al. Zzz


My sister in law was getting rid of a bed and she thought to ask me if I could make use of it. This is excellent sister in law work. It was barely used. You usually have to pay to throw away mattresses no matter what state they’re in. Certainly if you’re in London. But this one is way too good to chuck. I’m so glad she thought of me.

About a month ago I persuaded a friend to throw away their father’s old bed and mattress. I slept one night on it and knew afterwards that I never wanted to go near it again. I got home and boil washed everything I was wearing. After a brief initial resistance, she agreed to ditch the damn thing. I’m glad to his day I didn’t have to carry it out myself. It was toxic. I won’t go into details. They were all dead anyway.

Now there’s a brand new carpet in the room where the bed used to be. There’s nothing else in that room. The horrible seventies wallpaper is being painted over with white. Maybe one day people will love beige again. “How could they have painted over this beige and brown shitstain effect wallpaper?” That’s what they will marvel about after the zeitgeist back to hairy bums and moustaches. But she’s trying to make the room into one that she could rent, and frankly it’s almost there. All it needs is a bed. And that came today courtesy of my sister in law.

Half of it fitted in Bergman so I carried it today. One more trip tomorrow and there’s a bed again and a good one. Hurrah.

One more show in Bletchley tomorrow before the continuation (fingers crossed). But there’ll be a gap. I’ll be off doing wonderful things in the meantime.

I’m round my friend’s and I’m being rude by writing. I’m going to stop this nonsense soon so we can work out sleeping arrangements, now she has not only a good clear bedroom but also a spare room that’s coming together and into which i could drag a mattress… Let’s see how this all pans out. Worth mentioning that my friend came to Bletchley this evening and loved it. If you’re reading this first thing, you might just get a ticket to Illicit Signals Bletchley… Chances are it’s gone now. Next time. Next time. I’m knackered from carrying mattresses up and down stairs. Zzzzz

Autocorrect, museums and good films

Man, the V&A…

And the blog is derailed.

I wrote “V&A…” Autocorrect turned it into “V&a.a.” This happened about five times. I’ve put up with the way it corrects my swearing and how it cannot understand when I invent a portmanteau word. I’ve rewritten words countless times when I’ve wanted to say something in an interesting manner and it just decides I’m trying to say something else. Rules language need not to be have. Comprehension cum frim oxpereyece. Corect spelig ad gramer all the tiym maks thingx looz kullur. W cn rd sntncs wth n vwls. The human brain is smart. Usually.

That said, it can be jarring if a piece of prose is all over the place, and sometimes we just want to have a nice relaxing time passing our eye over words. That’s why I’m a stickler for decent sentence structure. Lucky me with my education. It’s not necessary. If course it isn’t. Nevertheless it jolts me when I see a little  mistake like a double space, a misplaced comma or an incorrect ellipsis But…. AUTOCORRECT CAN BE SWITCHED OFF. Why am I shouting? I have a feeling that now I’ve worked this out, the process of writing these blogs will be smoother. I have spent so bloody long going back over the selections made by that fucker. It took the V&A to finally motivate me to do something about it. I detest all these learning algorithms because they all seem to be driving in the same direction – they all seem to be trying to homogenise us – to push us into smaller and smaller pockets. “You like this so you must like this too!!!” “You’re friends with X so you’ll get on with X-alike.” Balls! Nutsacks! Dangly nibbleglobs! We are better when we are all doing our weird thing and people around us don’t get it so we occasionally have to try to explain and in so doing we understand ourselves a little bit better.

The V&A is just thousands of incredible man made things reminding us how clever we can all be. Some are individual works of great craft. Others are communal. Huge great big statues and tiny little cut jewels. Everything in between.

Lou knows how much I love random old stuff. I loved it there, soaked it all up. After a few hours though the information fatigue started to set in, followed shortly by the actual fatigue. We sauntered back tired through the Knightsbridge and Chelsea streets. We walked past people begging, bought food from supermarket workers likely worrying about the cost of living crisis vs their paycheck. We returned home. This evening the show is off, so I’m not doing my usual oh so hard work of … pretending to be a cryptographer in some basement in Bethnal Green.

We watched The Souvenir on Mubi, through the gigantic TV in my riverside Chelsea flat. Fêted by critics, hated by lots of Google reviewers. The perfect coda to our lazy Knightsbridge weekday. Joanna Hogg reflecting on her younger days, catching the early career of a remarkable Honour Swinton Byrne, and serving us a hot slice of dear Tom Burke alongside Honour’s mum, who you can likely guess by the surname. Tilda Swinton. It’s not Captain America. It’s a deep and felt bit of British cinema. To me, the resonating waves were about what we do with the hard memories. They were about making truthful human art out of privilege. They were about the fallout from the naive goodwill of a sheltered upbringing. They were about the moments and the thoughts that help us look at who we are when we aren’t thinking. It’s beautifully scripted shot and edited, and I was resonating like a tuning fork throughout it. We didn’t know what to expect of it frankly – just that we were tired and didn’t fancy subtitles. It’s a joy – especially if you like the whole process of film, which I really do. It’s light and dark. It listens as you watch. It talks about itself as it unfolds. Loads of people on Google reviews hate it and are setting themselves against some notion of the hoity-toity critic when they shout about it. I’m not hoity-toity, but let’s face it I went to Harrow. Lou didn’t though, and we both loved it.

I’ve walked a long distance since those rarefied days. I think the film helped me frame some bits of that strange walk. Good art provokes a reaction. Not every story can speak to everybody, of course. But it’s very rare that I’ll tell everybody a story is shit just because it didn’t speak to me.

Lou should come to London more often. Now we both have a hankering to go to The Wallace Collection and see the picture from the movie.

“I think she looks sad.” “I think she looks determined.”

Day off tomorrow

Something of a family show in the crypt of this church tonight. Not in the sense of “fun for all the family”. In the sense of “my friend family was in attendance”.

Another beautiful 1840’s edifice, this one with loads of flint. St Peter’s Bethnal Green..It’s a good solid slightly damp basement downstairs… Catacombs. They’ve dressed them cleverly and closed off huge portions for ops and storage.

Full house tonight and some good friends. Brian showed up, bless his heart, so I made him read things out loud. I know how he loves that and never worries about it. Also Lou came up from Brighton yay! I was worried she wouldn’t get to see me as a scatterbrained genius. Apart from in the day to day, of course. It was very special having two people who’ve been such a force for good in my life both in the room at the same time.

The afternoon before she arrived was spent sorting books and listening to my brother talking about insects on the radio. Then I left the damn radio talking and had to listen to the news. Seems like Godot finally got around to delivering the Sue Grey Report. Now we will probably see even more nothing from these toads. It is incredibly telling the extent to which it shows how little the current crop of so called statesmen think that they are part of the flow of the world. Fiddling while Rome burns.

No show tomorrow so Lou and I will have a rare London day. We can hang out and maybe go to a museum. It’ll be good to have her here for a change. She’s not big on the big smoke. We just had a discussion as to whether she was going to need to sleep with earplugs. I am often not even slightly aware of the road noise in this room. The filter on the fishtank is louder to my brain than the main road, but at Reading my bedroom was backed onto Cemetery Junction, on the first floor, walls made of paper. Three floors up and brick walls and it feels like luxury. But yeah, I can hear it now and it IS noisy.

The show this week is finding its ways to settle and ways to warp. There’s playfulness and commitment between us. I’m still delighted daily by the diligence and knowledge of the company, and by their flexibility and commitment. Great humans the lot of them. Glad to be in the mix and to have shared it with friends tonight. I’m not very good at encouraging people to come and see my things. In fact, rather more the opposite. But we run two more days, and a new Saturday matinee recently went on sale.

It’s a day off tomorrow. Can’t wait. Lou is already sparked out and I don’t want to lose the morning so I’m gonna join her. I’m knackered anyway. Hot bath and big bowl of pasta. Out.

Shows and teeth

Beautiful weather mixed up with the deluge. I was about to walk to the dentist when the skies opened. Hail, frogs, cats and dogs – the lot. I decided to drive into the Congestion Charge Zone, as nowadays that costs the same as getting an uber. Remember when short hops were under a fiver? That’s how they build brand loyalty. Damage the competition as much as possible by undercutting them. Then once they’re at the top, they start overcharging. It’s the system we want, apparently. It giveth us choice and then it taketh away choice. Blessed be the name of the capitalism. Fuck it though, at least I can say “Boris Johnson is a lying creep who was never fit for purpose,” and nobody will come knocking on my door at night. But black cabs are beginning to look viable again now Uber drivers are getting picky and expensive.

The dentist was not the bearer of good news. It looks that every penny I’m going to earn in Sardinia is already earmarked for my face. It giveth. It taketh. But so long as he doesn’t haul all my molars out of my face and make me have to adjust my casting bracket. I need these cheekbones, darling, so I can keep playing hard faced aristocratic pigs.

I’m recovering from the shock of the news now, and I drove myself across town to St Peter’s Church in Bethnal Green, where we are doing the show in the crypt, so I could sit in the sunshine and breathe a bit.

One of the cast members is off for Covid this week, and we have no clue how they’re going to make it work, but I have absolute faith in the network of lovely young actors and makers who do this crazy Bletchley stuff. “How old are you,” asked one of them the other night. I told him. He responded with shock, as if I had told him I was actually a leper. “Gosh. Well, you… You’re looking very … Gosh.” Youth is wasted on the young. I’m still in my prime dammit. It’s just they’ve all got a 2 in front of it. You can’t easily empathise forwards. Anyway, the door is unlocked. I’m off into the crypt. After a quick sniff of those yellow roses like Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood, for all you film fans out there.

Show ended. What delights. I love work like this. So unprecious. Zoe came in to play the inspector and Chris shifted from inspector to Keith Batey. And it was great. It was immediate and truthful and interesting. It definitely helps that the show is massively trusted to the actors. They’ve worked out the text and the cyphers interact – the nuts and bolts. Then you just have to learn the beats and trust that your scene partners know those beats just as well as you do. The biggest learn is the cyphering. You couldn’t have a cover come in so quickly in a scripted show, without them having the book in hand. This show works and it’s really lovely, and I adore how much trust and support there is between us. It’s another lesson about where we should put our thinking when we are making immersive stuff.

We’ve put an extra show on, Saturday. Matinee. We are selling well this week… Yay. I think they’ve just broken even now on costs vs take. It’s not a licence to print money, producing theatre like this… I love the thinking that goes with it. Sure the big producer moguls were interviewing in lockdown about how they might have to give up one of their holiday homes in the Seychelles. Mostly though we are all banging around for basics, which is why the fucking dentist bill scares the fuck out of me.

All Saints Margaret Street

A friend of mine was temping in town this afternoon on Margaret Street. It’s been a long time since I’ve office temped… The last time was at a major theatre group back before I went to Guildhall. It’s not an entertaining thing to do, temping in an office. Too many people are swept up in the flawed narrative that your notional seniority in the job equates to your ability. We only need to look at the Prime Minister to give the lie to it. But all the morons treat the temp like they’re a moron – failing to comprehend that the temp is happy to be at the bottom of the ladder and has no aspirations to be anywhere else.

I went to meet my friend after work, and arrived early. I don’t often drive into the Congestion Charge zone as it’s too expensive, but it was covered by the temp in exchange for the pick-up. I went for a little explore.

All Saints Church on Margaret Street was built in the 1850’s, to a high standard. It was built in the Victorian Gothic style. You could easily miss it. Margaret Street is pretty low footfall apart from when the whole place is filled with location vans. They do a lot of filming in that church.

I happened on All Saints just as the grey skies were clearing in London for the last few hours of evening. A garden full of pot plants and a wide open door.

You could quite easily miss that there’s a church at all, but there it is and there’s plenty of room inside. When I arrived there was a softly spoken service underway. A reading from John. A prayer for the church and for the world. I joined in. There were only four humans in the building that I could see – one up front doing the talking, two standing in the congregation and me off to the edge wondering if I was going to get struck by lightning. I left when the prayers finished, as I didn’t feel like having a conversation. I just wanted a moment of spirituality. First time I’ve been in a church for worship for months and months.

I’m glad the space is being used so peacefully, there in the heart of London. The reverend seemed a lovely fellow from a distance. I might go back some time now that I know it’s there. It’s wide open and welcoming. There’s plenty of votive art, and some in your face Gothic detail. Butterfield was allowed to express himself and he did. Better all that space is used for something thoughtful – it compares favourably to all the wasted locked rooms and empty embassies and shut down venues in this huge old city. An obscure but gently used Anglo Catholic church in a West End side street. Tick.


Oh God. The tiny tiny little creatures…

Two tiny tiny tiny busy busy creatures. My skin has been raked by their probing claws. “They’ve been trimmed recently,” I am told. I lay on a sofa trying to hold a conversation with Lou while one of them burrowed into my armpit and the other one attempted to gnash through my midriff. They are incredibly welcoming kittens. I had loads of fun with them. I was sad to leave the place and make room for their owners. “They’ve both transformed into very attractive little rocks with the word “cat” written on them,” I joke to the owner as I’m leaving. “They definitely aren’t both in my bag.” I see a little flash of concern for a moment, disguised by logic. “Surely he would do it better if he stole the … I’m an idiot if course he didn’t… But did he?”

I’ve had the best three days. I’ve been part of a little team. The team was about snuggles. That is more helpful than the majority of teams that people are made to say they are part of in office jobs.

I’m now lying on the sofa next to Tristan. He has been banished ahead of potential snoring. The two of us are the most likely candidates so we are thrust together. Fine. I’ll finish this and go to deep sleep. Liverpool came so close to something incredible this evening. What a delight and what a shame. I’m done with popular culture and with cats.. I’m going to sleep. I’ll see before long how I cope with Tristan snoring…

What joy to have been catsitting. Such a pair of beauties. If I wasn’t so itinerant I’d get stuck in. But thank Prometheus… I’m busy…

Time to find out what it is to sleep next to somebody snoring. I’ve always thought it’s a relentless deliberate focus on the negative. Let’s see …

Little tiny kittenses

Meeka and Mochi are both sparked out. Meeka is on my lap and Mochi is by my side, head against my leg. Or maybe that’s the other way round. It’s late. I got back from Bletchley and got cooking again. I made a late night Shepherd’s Pie, and despite full awareness I still managed to slice up more of my hand with that incredibly sharp knife.

Cats names are arbitrary anyway. We call them something, we know it’s not what they’re really called, they have other secret and not so secret names. Pickle had multiple names, all if which and none of which are hers. Meeka and Mochi are mostly in a puddle with each other and interchangeable They are one creature split into two bodies, arbitrarily defined by the colour of their collar and behavioural traits. I don’t know which one to give which name to, and it doesn’t matter because cats don’t care about names. One of them is blue collar, in my lap, wants to be handled, likes to chill out. The other is softer furred, a little more cautious but quick to purr and likes to be higher up.

One of them tried to stop me going to work this evening. I think it was Meeka. He stood in front of the door – the only time he ever went there. He had seen me put my hat and coat on. He blocked the door and shouted at me. “Don’t vanishI desire cuddles!” I had to go back in and distract him with toys so I could sneak out again without him noticing.. Memory like a fish. They are both very smart expressive creatures, and almost impossible to photograph since they are in constant movement.

A brief moment of stillness falls though. They are warm and busy and soft. I’m smitten. They’re not allowed in the bedroom where I sleep so all my post prandial lounging is here so they get to hang with me and I get to hang with them before bed.

Apparently the breeder was only supposed to send one of them, but they had completely bonded and had to come as a pair. Being a responsible breeder, my friend was offered the chance to take them both for the same fee. They were initially worried as they had only budgeted for a single cat. But they made the right decision. These little creatures are just wonderful. Right now Mochi is licking my elbow with that scratchy tongue. Meeka is rolling around in my lap. Both are purring like trains, it is late enough that they are no longer trying to eat my toes. They are gradually going to sleep and I’m sad that I’m going to leave the little furry puddle I’ve become a part of. They aren’t allowed in the bedroom ahead of the coming of the babies. I’ll preserve that rule. The way I thrash about in my sleep I’d be scared to roll on them anyway. They are so tiny right now…