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.

Snoring

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…

Sharp Vs blunt

I dropped the cupboard/wardrobe up to Chelmsford and in so doing I won my car back. “Are you sure your car is secure overnight,” I was asked a couple of days ago by my anxious friend. That led to me trying to imagine who would attempt to steal a vast cheap wardrobe the barely fits in the car. “Quick, mate! To me! To you! To me!”.

I dropped it off and got my legroom back. As I shook out the pins and needles I was begrudgingly given more or less exactly what the journey cost in recompense. I have noted clearly to myself that I am to avoid any further favours in that direction. It’s done, and I’m not out of pocket.

Bletchley in the evening and I got back in plenty of time for the show. A bit more carnage than usual playing Dilly. Beer got thrown all over my desk soaking many of the papers on it. The place has to be chaos anyway. Dilly is best when he’s scattered, but I think I found the edge tonight. Tomorrow I’ll likely look to tighten things again a bit. There’s medicine, Bovril, tea wine and beer all soaked into everything everywhere. It might be time for a clear out of sorts in that room, although I’d then have to deliberately generate more mess.

Now I’m back in Slough. The playing fields at Eton are just the other side of the M4 from me. Depending on who you talk to that’s either where the war was won or where the (lack of) thinking that led to tens of millions of unnecessary deaths was bred. I’m conscious of the proximity – the other place… I’m just letting the energy work.

On my lap, warm and fragile, one of the two cats is placed. Blue collar so I’m assuming the boy. We are sharing warmth and breath, as can happen with cats. The other cat is audibly snoring to my left, fast asleep up at the top of her scratch tree, collared in pink.

Over the last hour I cooked a butternut squash dahl, making good use of what must be the cat-parent’s wedding gifts: lots of beautiful Le Creuset cookware. I am feeling so happy and full now, after HelloFresh excelled themselves on the Daal. I’m not used to good quality kitchenware though. Right at the beginning of the prep process I tried to sever my left thumb through my cavalier handling of a vegetable knife with an actual sharp blade. Right through the onion it went in moments, and then into the side of my left thumb. Good deep cut. Ow.

The cat-parents are proper grown-ups despite being considerably younger than me. If you cut yourself at my flat, the plasters are in the 1840’s Oriental Resin box under the sculpture of Prometheus – the one that’s located by the Blue and Whites – just lift up the African hardwood busts to see the keyhole. The key is in the mouth of the desiccated crocodile I keep stored in the box of teeth on the oldest of those three mahogany sideboards. To find antiseptic you must first befriend the Frog King and complete twelve trials. Simple. If you cut yourself here though, the antiseptic and plasters are under the bathroom sink in a tin. With blood liberally gushing from my onionthumb, I found the plasters through swift application of logic, habit, shared memory… I looked where everybody else keeps their plasters. What a remarkable system. I had a clean bound wound in under five minutes and now I can write this without tracking gore everywhere. I went back to slicing onions and honestly I almost got my thumb again immediately. I’m far too accustomed to blunt knives.

Maybe I need to sharpen my Dilly performance now as well, and make him less bludgeon and more scalpel. One more week after this. The joy is in the experiment. The learning is in the precision for me here. I like to play jazz with immersive stuff. I like to try and make the bad note good, to listen, to play and to respond. But there can surely be ways to bring precision in as well… We shall see.

So. Cute.

Kittens in Slough

Sometimes when I’m reading a book and somebody gets tortured (and maybe it’s a genre thing but it happens a great deal) I find myself wondering how I would cope in that chair.

Today I went to the dental hygienist for the first time in my adult life. I had the foresight to dose up with codeine before going in. Even despite that, I would have signed the confession after five minutes if I knew it would make it stop. “Open your mouth wider! Relax your tongue!” I was in some sort of agony rictus. There were hard thick chunks. “Is that bits of tooth?” “No it’s buildup.” She was like a lumberjack in there. She wasn’t going to compromise. She went in with blade and polish. She was alone – I had to hold the suction at one point while she attacked my lower jaw with both hands. I am so glad of the codeine. When I spat I was spitting a disaster. I hope they cleaned up before the next patient because that basin looked like the basin of a serial killer.

Then I had to chew a pipe and motormouth as Dilly for two hours. Zoe’s second show as Mavis, my number two in the cottage. She smashed it again. Lots of talking for me though, and oh how my mouth hurts. Still, it was a fun show. Some genuinely wonderful moments of things coming together. Always a delight, this piece. Good kind talented people working together to make a thing.

I have ended up in Slough tonight. Emergency catsitting. Here for three nights. Gordon Welchman, my second in command at Bletchley, is custodian (with his wife) of two remarkable kittens. They are mostly Siamese and they are some of the most mobile and fun felines I’ve been exposed to for ages. They are bouncy crazy fun Tiggers. I’m immediately in love. I’m gonna look after them in between shows, and be based in Slough. Why the hell not? I get to look after kittens and relax. What’s not to like?

I’m glad to have landed surrounded by kittens after the morning I had. It’s like the universe said “yes, we will cause you pain, but then there will be fun audience and following that, KITTENS!” Audience was super fun today. Kittens are so fluffy. More days like this please, despite the pain. Wahoo… More codeine. Zzz

Big brother

Facebook Marketplace put an ad into my timeline from somebody in Wandsworth trying to sell a Cupid doorknocker identical to the one I photographed on my blog the other day.

This is the one. I am unashamedly using it as a blind tie for the beautiful blind Lou made me.

They want £20 for their one. It’s a nice enough piece that it might fetch that price. But surely there’s something blooey about the algorithm here. I’ve already got my cupid knocker and I’ve posted a photo. Why, my dear AI, do I want to spend £20 for another one – and one that’s much more tarnished? Oh yeah I mean patina.

Nice to see one just like mine. But I feel slightly violated…

Long ago, in the name of convenience, I gave away all my privacy. The bludgeon was called Facebook Messenger. And it was a conscious decision, because it had to be. At the time, we were all using it. Messenger adjusted their terms of service and made it very clear. “We own you. All of you. Forever. Otherwise you can’t talk to your friends! Click this easy button. Sanctus. Spiritus.” There was a pop up and I remember avoiding it and ignoring it right up until the wall when I had no choice. And then, for the first time, with a heavy heart, I chose to sign my everything away.

Other companies followed quickly. Before long it was pretty standard to be asked to sign away your information in perpetuity to some app that swaps your face. A bit like the profile apps that crop up where you send an HD photo and sign your everything away and it gives you a momentary flattering cartoon and the lifelong possibility of being the subject of deepfakes. I’m angry with myself about how much I’ve handed over in the course of my life, and that’s not even taking into account this blog. I write things here every day where I actually try to speak truth and not manipulate algorithms, and I do it in a world where I know I could work to hook it into money and advertising – and I’m expected to do that and billed accordingly by WordPress. But I don’t. And who knows what I’ve signed up to with WordPress! I remember being on the phone to a woman at pokerwhatever.com, asking what had happened to a balance from a few years previously. “If you don’t log in for X time, we take your balance at X rate. It’s all in the terms and conditions you agreed to when you signed up.” And so it falls out. The terms and conditions. “Nobody ever reads them… Are you honestly telling me that you’ve absorbed over £200 because I didn’t log in, and there’s nothing you can do to get it back to me?” “It was in the terms and conditions when you signed up.” Thieves. That was a long long time ago. Pacific Poker. I don’t think it exists now. But it was a useful early lesson in how little anybody gives a fuck once you’ve clicked okay to the wall of text you get when signing up.

What’s the solution? I think maybe there needs to be a layer where, outside of the full legalese, any company has to give a clearer description of the potential misunderstandings… Problem is, that’ll only make more money for solicitors, and the true problems in the running will still be glossed over if a failure in understanding or observance will be profitable to the company. Like the evil at the heart of the idea that your actual fine for the thing is double what it should be but you get it half price if you pay fast. But… Argh.

I don’t want to buy a knocker that I already have and am using. But … by writing this blog and knowing how shit the AI is, I’ll likely be sent more photos of doorknockers. And … Even though asking price is never value – especially in London – it’s good to see a low asking price and thus an even lower value for a thing that I just casually decided to use as an attractive detail with my blind. I knew it wasn’t valuable. Good to get a second opinion for free. Maybe that’s enough…

But I want to revoke the privilege I gave to these sites. I don’t want meatface to be able to render me comprehensible to his empty friends. I suspect I’d lose all functionality, and I’m sure I’ll get lots of bullshit links now telling me to copy and paste some sort of titbiscuit into my timeline. But it’s just such arse. I hate having to put up with my timeline feeding me what it thinks I want to read, when I remember the glory days. I know what a timeline can be. A time line. With no curation. Oh Gods. Wasn’t it great before the advertising people plopped in? But … that’s their job – to be BUYSatan. And a beautiful random thing was utterly fucked forever by “yeah but where’s the money?” Bastards. Some of them are my friends. None of them will take full responsibility. They’ve got families. Sure they were part of destroying something wonderful and replacing it with a wet plate of shit. But hey, check my Instagram kids photos! PS They’re watching you.

It’s a wardrobe not a cupboard

“It’s a cupboard. It’ll fit in your car.”

Sometimes I’m a little too quick to say yes.

This is the back of the World’s End Estate. It’s my local troublesome estate. Some of the flats get a river view. There’s a knife amnesty bin. The management gives zero fucks about anybody in the block. Same lot as Grenfell.

A small Frenchwoman was getting rid of a wardrobe. Not a cupboard. A wardrobe.

I rolled up on my own in Bergman.

“I’m hoping there’s no damage. It’ll be perfect for Airbnb in the downstairs room.” That’s my friend. About this “cupboard.” Talking about her needs.

There was no damage when I arrived. I was ushered upstairs to the door of a council flat. I was illegally parked downstairs and suddenly I was looking at a huge wardrobe on my own. I wasn’t even sure it would fit in the car. I had no choice but to corner the fucking thing. “Surely somebody would have stopped to help you carry it,” said my attractive female friend. And sure, she would have looked helpless and got help. If it I tried that I’d still be there. The world ain’t fair.

I wrestled it as far as Bergman on my own. I had damaged the feet but I honestly didn’t mind. I was just focused on this impossible task. It cost very little. My focus wasn’t on keeping it pristine when it was clearly a two man job on my own. A wardrobe isn’t a cupboard. Sure she sent me measurements. Makes no sense to me.

I honestly didn’t think it would fit in the car. I thought I’d have to get a zipvan. Lots of people walked past. Nobody offered to help. I got it this far. I leaned it down behind Bergy and tipped it in. It came down to a matter of inches. It’s in the car. The boot closes without breaking the window. Just.

I was proud of myself.

The car is virtually impossible to drive safely, I have no leg room and I can’t see out the back. Nevertheless the cupboard wardrobe is in.

Lou was livid. “She’d better be paying you properly.” My friend, however, merely managed a slightly snarky bunch of comments about the damage that very nearly made me just throw the fucking thing in the river and have done with it. Then she remembered to be nice. But we haven’t talked about money and historically the numbers have been way off.

She wants it in Chelmsford. It’s a three hour round trip and for half of it the car will be unsafe as I can barely move my feet. The recipient has expressed no understanding of this nor has she expressed any desire to compensate me. She just deserves the wardrobe. I’m honestly half expecting her to fuck with me over petrol money when I get to her. It’s why Lou was so angry. Lou’s also right. This is thoughtless. I shouldn’t have said yes. Sure I like being amenable, but sometimes that leads to people exploiting my good nature. QED. Time to draw a line under this.

Once I’ve dropped the fucking thing off.

I was going to do it tomorrow but I have an audition. I forgot about it. Interesting stuff. A potentially delightful tour that would be logistically very complicated. Maybe somewhere I’ve banked some good karma.

I’ll deal with this somehow. For now, Shakespeare…

Thorney

I’m back in London. Oh this strange and wonderful town. I’m just down the road from one of the major druid schools of the ancient world. Thorney Island. Lost to time.

The wealth and power of Thorney has been almost totally eradicated now, but that little eyot in the original tidal river is still significant. Once upon a time it was home to interesting and thoughtful people. Now the palace of Westminster sits there. What a shame, that so many oblivious people jostle with one another on land that has carried weight for so long. I can’t remember the last time we have seen true depth in an elected politician. Sad empty jumping puppets or frothing hatepots. All these nasty weird little failed humans, all kicking about in Thorney. You’d hope they woke up and realised the extent to which they are all piggies. Nope. Ladies and gentlemen of the British Isles: THESE ARE YOUR LEADERS. *oink* *shuffle shuffle* *blank look*

It’s ok though because apparently the other party did something slightly off key. They didn’t set policy and then make it clear they thought they were different from normal people. But let’s all look askance at them shall we, and overlook the fact that a large portion of people voted for meatfaced lying goitres.

I wish there was still a sacrifice of the high king every third midsummer. Right now we would be together as a community, building a huge wicker Boris. We could easily tempt him in at the right time – just tell him there’s fan mail written by attractive young women. We are currently being led by a twelve year old. He hasn’t evolved. He won’t. Maybe we could learn something by burning him in the old tradition. Or he could ritually tear himself apart like the ancient sumerian kings – throwing his organs with fire to the crowd – gifts of power. They did leadership better back when there were consequences. We made wonderful and deep civilisations out of togetherness and need.

Now we have Boris and his absurd pre-broken puppets. If we want something older we have to look deeper. With these morons, we really have to govern ourselves. It might take time for us to properly mobilise, but the only option is so clear. What are we going to do? Keep being dictated to by a venal berk and his cronies? Let’s call a stop to this. You can do better. Revolution. It’s not such a big ask, is it? Maybe I’m just fed up. The replacement won’t be any better. But when I think of how out of touch the ostrich bitch (Marie a Antoinette) was – it doesn’t even come close to the current crop of horrible little people in the commons, right near to where the old eradicated Thorney Island Druid College sat. Lost to Google. Breathe and believe.

Flatpacks

Slowly now Lou is building her little workshop empire. It is a little bright upstairs room in the countryside, perfect for beavering away. There’s virtually no mobile phone signal there, but it’s cheap compared to most things in the area, and with a little use it will pay for itself. Right now the business will be about getting the surfaces and worktops sorted out, as it came completely empty. This is why I came down loaded up with IKEA crap. It’s cheap and practical and will help her start to make use of this new work-home.

Something MC Escher about the wood to the ironing table…

Today the weather was disappointing once again, so we decided to be practical instead of going questing for beauty. We loaded up some sewing machines and fabric and various bits of toolsage and off we went over the hill to Ditchling, there to sit in her slowly forming work-palace and to attempt to follow the little wordless line-drawn IKEA person on the instruction manuals. We made some shelves and some hanging racks. “I think this is the first time I’ve made flat pack furniture on a Sunday afternoon,” says Lou. It’s not the most romantic pursuit, but it was uneventful enough. Nothing was done upside down. It all kind of makes sense and shouldn’t immediately collapse. A few shelves went in the wrong holes and had to be rejigged but mostly we were as efficient as the Swedes who made all that stuff up.

It makes me want a space. I’ve got my flat. Need to get through all that crap. I’m slowly starting to wade through it. But there’s so much. Oh so much.

This’ll be my last night in the cat palace for sure. The two little pedigree darlings are at each others throats as I write, and we are running a bath. It’s only half past six but I’m pooped. I’d gladly just drift off to sleep now. One large glass of Merlot and a huge Sunday lunch back at the St George’s Inn in Kemptown and I’m almost done for. I’m not used to all this calm combined with tasty food. Likely I’ll be happy to be back on the Bletchley Park Adrenaline Train from Wednesday of next week. Are you coming to see it? They’re a lovely lot. I want to see them selling well so they can wear even nicer clothes.

London’s calling. I like it by the sea, but I live by the river! And the more the world wakes up the more I want to get stuck into it again. But not this evening. Food coma, cats, hot water and snuggles. Then back up tomorrow. Petrol has gone to over 1.70 in most of the local stations. It’s all very well coming second to Ukraine at Eurovision. It would be nice if that affected the cost of fuel…

Roots

By anybody’s best guess, Chanctonbury Ring in the South Downs was rich with human activity as early as The Bronze Age. It wasn’t inhabited, but tools and items have been found there that might have been brought over hundreds of years and used or deposited in rituals. Now it is the peaceful hilltop grazing ground for one of the luckier herds of free range cattle in this country. And it is open to the public for walks. We got out good and early in the morning and we drove there.

As you begin to walk up the hill you pass a beech tree, clinging to a mud bank. The water runnels of many years down the hill and through the chalky soil have exposed huge areas of root network. The tree still stands strong and tall, but children play in the roots. It’s a rare chance to see the amount of a tree that needs to be underground in order to properly deal with those winds. In Cornwall the other day I remarked on an onshore wind turbine to Chris the driver. “An astonishing amount of concrete under those things,” he said, gnomically. And my imagination went to the earthwork, the digging and the pouring. To the disrupted habitats and ruined mycelium. I remembered again how everything has a cost, which was of course what Chris was angling for. “Good though, I suppose it’ll be worth the disruption over time.” “They have to ship ’em from the Netherlands,” he continued. “Not even made in England.” He doesn’t like them. I’m off to set to work. The topic quietly dropped.

But I started thinking about that weight of concrete. And then I started thinking about trees and roots. If you make a tall thing that’s supposed to be blown at, of course you have to make sure it doesn’t fall over. Trees come up slowly, and as they come up they go down into the soil and explore, taking nutrients and holding themselves in the wind. They meet other trees, and the networks of mycelium connect them further and help them share information over long distances, I am told. Often we draw a root network as a little ball. Capability Brown did discover that you can cut a tree out and move it. It’ll take years for that tree to be established again though. I wonder what sort of trauma such a thing would experience. There’s an incredible documentary – “Taming the Garden” – where you watch it being done on a large scale. But a properly established tree is like an iceberg. And this soaked off chalky ball of roots in the South Downs is good illustration. The tree still holds up fine so there’s evidently still a load of buried roots pulling into the side of the hill.

It’s a shame we can’t root wind turbines like trees. A great big lump of concrete is certainly inelegant – I’m with Chris there. Nevertheless it’s good we are trying to take more of our energy from renewable sources. Refining those methods and making them elegant and sympathetic might take centuries but surely the more we can work with nature the happier we and the planet will be. We aren’t separate from nature but boy we spend way too much of our time and effort trying to pretend we are – or that we control it. Because it’s bigger than us, and always will be if we think of ourselves as not being part of it. And as soon as we realise we are part of it then we have to come to terms with what we’ve done to it and to ourselves in our attempts to subjugate it.

We lay in the morning sun on a bank up there, overlooking the sweeping Sussex Downs. We looked at the cows and caught the sun and it was good. Good to ground and to make the best of a sunny day – still a rare commodity this season. More like this and warmer please. Especially while I’m staying here in lovely Brighton with Lou and the pussies.