Before I was born, in Jersey, my mother had a cat. Jezebel. I was always aware of her missing presence. Mum spoke of her often, and occasionally considered another cat. There never was another cat though. The ghost of mum’s old cat was really the only feline interaction of my early childhood. Lots of dogs. No cats.
Sometimes I’d go to someone’s house and the cat would come straight to me. Beeline. “He doesn’t normally come to people,” is something I heard often enough. “It’s probably because I haven’t showered.” But really that was all. I had a sense that I might smell interesting to cats.
About five years ago, just before this blog started, I went and found a ceremony with some South American plant medicine and it helped shift the way I look at things.
The beat era psychedelic sage and functioning heroin addict William Burroughs spoke and wrote often about cats. “Evidence indicates that cats were first tamed in Egypt. The Egyptians stored grain, which attracted rodents, which attracted cats. (No evidence that such a thing happened with the Mayans, though a number of wild cats are native to the area.) I don’t think this is accurate. It is certainly not the whole story. Cats didn’t start as mousers. Weasels and snakes and dogs are more efficient as rodent-control agents. I postulate that cats started as psychic companions, as Familiars, and have never deviated from this function.”
When I was on whatever psychedelic journey the medicine took me on, I found myself identifying very strongly with all things feline. I was never really big into cats until that night. I only really noticed this today when I was thinking about it just now in terms of what’s been happening since catwise. A certain cat spirit came and visited me on my strange journey. It helped me find a useful means of understanding myself better, which is really the point of going to those psychedelic ceremonies. I don’t really write about it much cos it’s mine. But thinking back now, it seems that endless colorful night opened the catflap into my existence this time round.
First in was Pickle in May 2017, not long after the ceremony. Little Pickle who followed Brian and Mel home to mine and nobody claimed her. She would sleep on my bed every night. I used to thrash around in bed but her presence stopped that. She would curl up in my heart space and lie there most of the night. Then I ended up looking after loads of other cats short and long term. Nutmeg helping de-adrenalise me catsitting over one long week working in Southwark as shouty King John with too many shows for too little money. Dear little twitchy pissypants Mao who brought some wisdom and calm into the Covid downtime. I still think of him and his ways. He was with me and then Lou for a long long time all said.
After Mao there have been lots of delightful furry friends stewarding my dreams in lots of different contexts. Mochi and Mika up by Eton when I was doing the Bletchley show. Izzy and Tessy in the palace with Lou. Earlier this week I was in Richmond with restless Henry, most likely decimating the bird population of Richmond before demanding endless Sheba packages and occasional snuggles. And now, this pleasant evening, I’m high up in a council flat overlooking Mornington Crescent, ministering to Boy, who is a pudding. He just likes to lie on his side and look at you.
As with my mum back in Jersey, I want another cat but I know the hit you have to take on lifestyle if you haven’t got an Al to come and stay in your place every time you’re away.
I’m off all over the place all the time. My existence would become a logistical hell if I had a furry friend full time. So I’ve become a sort of cat-visitor, gradually building up a web of cats that know me so I can extend my night time dream-voyages into deeper and stranger places. The cats have got my back these days and I’ve got theirs. And all of them came in since I knelt and held that bitter cup to my lips and filled my mouth with that hard deep thick sludge and filling my system with the spirit molecule.
I’m still feeling very conflicted about not being able to make it to Chile for Extreme-e. I try to make myself useful in whatever context I find myself in. That’s my happy flaw. I know for sure that I filled a me-shaped gap on the team for those incredible ambitious off-road races. I’m still slightly pissed off that I won’t get to see the Atacama desert for the copper X-Prix, but today I offered a friend as a replacement and was told I was “irreplaceable.” That’s a lovely thing to hear and I know why I heard it. It is great to be irreplaceable if you’re my ego and crap if you’re my desire for things to go smoothly in the races. The major happy-factor is that I’ll almost certainly have a job in Uruguay in November. Obviously it’s always nice get positive feedback. And I know that my brand of unruffled immediacy lends itself well to that unusual international world I’ve found. I know they’ll do fine without me, but I’m aware of the edges that I was making it my business to file away. Wonderful people making great stuff, and I got to go to Saudi and to Sardinia so far. But acting has to forever be the primary…
I often think of dad’s first comment when I told him I wanted to be an actor. “When I was your age I wanted to be a long distance truck driver … You’d see more of the world and you’d make more money.”
I haven’t explicitly set out to defy my dad’s expectations, but I’ve made a solid throw at having my cake and eating it. I’ve traveled very widely with the acting, and augmented it with the races. I’ve seen more of the world than somebody stuck on a couple of routes, and hell yes I’ve had fun in the process.
This evening I introduced Chris from the Bletchley job to Siwan from the Hampstead Halloween Walk. My instinct knew it was the right person to the right group. We hit Camden and talked shop with booze. This seems to be what happens when I go to North London. The Lyttleton Arms, The Camden Head, The Elephants Head. We did all the talking and much of the drinking. All three of us are generators. It was a lovely dynamic and it’ll make for a delightful and spooky walk. Totally different route this time as well so I’ll have to make up a bunch of new stories… But we’ve got four lovely humans now who are all in London at Halloween time and who all want to make something delightful as we shift into darkness again. I didn’t think I’d be doing it again, but actually it makes lots of sense…
Maybe this year I’ll be less vague about it and I’ll get to have more friends come and enjoy an evening.
Thames Water sent me a text message. I shouldn’t have given them my number. They wanted to remind me that, even though there’s been loads of rain over the last few days it “isn’t enough to get river and reservoir levels back to where they need to be” so they are still going ahead with a hosepipe ban in London.
“where they need to be”
Yesterday the rain was so heavy driving home that it was like driving through the sea.
A tropical rain storm. Sure that’s just a day. And of course “after the unprecedented rainfall parts of the Sussex coast are out of bounds for swimming”. So there’s not enough rain to flush for weeks, and then in heavy rain they flush and say “ah we had no choice”.
Since we left the EU, companies have been allowed to dump much more bad water into our rivers and streams. Rules have relaxed about levels of hazardous chemicals they can pump into rivers. Many rivers are now dying and without a steady flow of rain to flush the poison it is getting unmanageable.
A hosepipe ban in London and a very clear push in the national narrative to make us worry about our personal water use and conserve water. I haven’t had a bath for a week. Maybe I’m swept up in it. But… What isn’t being spoken about here?
It looks like Liz Truss is gonna be our shiny new unelected PM. Not to be mistaken for Lynne Truss. Lynne Truss wrote the book “Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.” It’s in most of the loos in most of the villages in most of small town England. If you wanted to, could describe Lynne Truss as a grammar Nazi. She really hates people, using bad commas.
Liz Truss is not related to Lynne. She said recently she will “lift the ban on grammar schools”. With that in mind alongside her political leanings, we could use the same moniker for her. And we all suddenly have to save water even though it’s raining? But… But why?
“Homegrown energy solutions.”
Putin has pulled the plug on Afghanistan oil and is now restricting flow of gas to Europe as he throws the badly trained youth of Russia into the fire in quest of some idea of a long dead past. At every stage, the extra cost has been passed onto the citizens while the fatties baste themselves in money. This won’t change and now they want our water. Why?
“We are conveniently out of all that nasty red tape from Europe.” “Bananas will be the right shape again!” Plus, we can poison our own waterways for easy profit. PLUS… FRACKING!!! She is talking about fracking, openly. She’s going to start pumping millions and millions of gallons of water into shale to bang up gas despite the fact that the water comes up deadly and goes back into the water table highly contaminated. No wonder even the London water board is trying to get us all to worry about water – the latest in this stream of turds we’ve had recently is planning on a wholesale attack on that resource. Ooh I could crush a grape… Things just keep getting worse… I kinda hoped that Covid would cause a recalibration but it has just made them think of us societally as entirely receptive and submissive. How dare our water company text us all on the morning of a day of heavy rain and tell us to be scared about water use when it’s clearly this poundshop Thatcher and her immunity to consequence earmarking all the water for punching poison into the soil so we can crank the heating up all night and weekend in the empty office buildings in Canary Wharf, and so the insanely rich CEOs of companies that should really be redundant in a forward looking society can post record profits and buy another car.
The problem is, most of the people who are talking openly about how we have been and are being misled have also very cleverly been misled too – by that very seductive right wing online community. I would contend that the famous hackers are actually just looking to sew confusion. They pump utter guff into the heads of their acolytes along with the things we really ought to be observing. We are so rooted in binary choices, in being right or being wrong. In the practicalities of control within education then expanded. So we hear the priests and followers of the new religion tell us things we can observe, and then in the next sentence they tell us something obviously made-up. So we, who have critical thinking, dismiss the whole argument because we don’t trust the source. Don’t do that though. There’s stuff we really need to stop being so complacent about, even if that friend of yours who keeps going on about it is using an unforgivably high handed tone and dropping in atrocious words like “sheeple”. Our rivers are dying. Our coastline is poison. And there’s a new idiot about to wear the hat who actively wants to make all of this worse. We have to do something to stop this soon. We have to. The other option is we turn this place into a desert.
Wow. Yesterday’s blog offering was an unstructured mess, huh?
I was having a lovely time though, trust me. If only I could remember it.
You see, I’m catsitting in Twickenham just round the corner from Lidl. Yesterday I popped in on my way home and they were flogging these for £7.00.
I don’t profess to be a wine aficionado, but I know a little about what I like. And there are two words I look for principally as things I know I will absolutely enjoy. One of the two is on this bottle: Mourvédre.
It’s the type of grape it’s made from. It results in a wine that my tastebuds always enjoy. Flat and dry and thick and nom. Grows best around Provence and in the tiny Bandol region – HOT. (The second word I look for is Bandol – I like wine with loads of sun in it.)
I immediately bought four bottles of the stuff to keep for special occasions. Austerity be damned.
I got home and got a call and booked a lovely job. That self tape from the other day. Ding. Straight from tape to offer.
So… I was happy about getting a job, on my own in Richmond but accompanied by four bottles of my favourite wine, a cat and the tail end of summer. What is a man to do?
When I came down this morning there were still three of them thankfully unopened. The fourth one was completely empty with the cork still inexplicably jammed into the neck. I had at some point got around to making all of those loosely connected sentences, and my throat hurt from the sort of committed and deafening snoring marathon that can only come from such proud and foolish excess.
A man need not feel guilty every time he necks a bottle of wine, writes a rant and passes out. But this evening I’m on the water, a good healthy salmon dinner and lots and lots of cat stroking. He is currently sitting beside me purring himself to sleep. We have grown pretty companionable now he knows I’m usually going to open the door and put food in his bowl. I somehow managed both at 7 this morning despite all that tasty Mourvédre.
As predicted it’s all starting to mount up, but as NOT predicted, it’s going in a different direction. I thought I would be off to Chile to be part of the cutting edge of what motor racing should be with the Copper X-Prix up in Antofagasta. I was pretty invested in going out to the Atacama desert and trying to help make something important. I like the work and I like the team. But my agent rang.
First of all, the Germans. I had a blast filming with them in early summer. They want me back for longer. I’m very much looking forward to the result of all this filming. The last one to screen saw loads of random text messages from Teutonic friends. It went out on Christmas Day. Who knows when these next two will go out, but the fact they’ve asked for me without audition is teutonic tonic. God love them. If I’d had some actual meetings at the start of my career I might equally have UK production companies asking for me too, but back then I was too distracted with the life shit that was happening, with no agent support and the false comfort of Bright Young Things. By the time I looked around the planet had moved on and everybody assumed they hadn’t met me because I was no good rather than my mum died and my potential big agent decided to drop it all and get married in California.
This is why, despite being sad about having to cancel Chile, I’m also deeply grateful. My agent has drawn a connection to a good casting director. That casting director is deep enough in her craft to see me clearly. Outside of the Germans, who have been so uncomplicatedly loyal that I’m quite emotional thinking about it, this casting director has just given me a nice little role in a known thing that’s shot here, just down the road from me, respectably paid and enough to remind me that THIS is what I do for a living. Yes I also build races, run workshops, catsit, train people, invigilate, fix film shoots, carry freight, read scripts, AD, ASM, sell antiques – plus I probably ought to write but I don’t… But my primary is and always has been my acting.
This month the universe and my agent are in alignment reminding me that I’m employable. Thank you, universe. I was about to sink myself into doing global racing logistics. I would be so fucking happy doing that, but I would be separated from my daemon and always just a little bit glassy eyed. It’s gonna be hard with my friends on the race crew. I could’ve been a boon in Chile. But… With the geography issues Silvia is thinking of doing it all with buses anyway. Maybe it’s the right one to miss. Maybe I would have been vibrating with unused energy the whole time until something went wrong.
Still. I’ll never go to the Atacama desert now. Big loss? Nah. Maybe not. It might have been another tick in the map. I’ve always held that the world is big and we are still slow. Nobody will ever see it all. But we should try to see as much of it as we can. The more we see, the rounder we become. Particularly if we go to the places that are not fêted and advertised. That’s where the truth happens. Sure that’s where crime and poverty happens, but hold the travelers mantra close: most people can be trusted.
There are not many people who are genuinely capable of being evil. Most people are kind and good. But, and this is important: The people who are genuinely capable of being evil? They can only see the world through their prism. So… They assume that everyone is as potentially awful as they arecapable of being. They are the ones who will fill you with fear about what might happen to you in an elsewhere place. You might catch their fear, and maybe a kind but desperate person will see your fear and think you’re an idiot and it’s ok to rob you if you’re already terrified of them. Don’t catch the fear from the psychos.
Ok, I’m a six foot male and sadly I’m not speaking to the fact that men, globally, are and have been fucking unforgivable for centuries towards women in public and I’ve seen it again and again and again in this lifetime. Sometimes I’ve tried to help, but I’m just another man. So yeah, sadly the sexual dynamic is not my area of expertise. If that’s not on the table I would contend that the vast majority of people and situations are safe – most people worldwide are actually good people.
Trust is the mantra of the traveler. The narrative that we are surrounded by volatile psychopaths is and can only be perpetuated by the actual wolves in sheep’s clothing – by the psychotic humans who know deep down that they are just nasty beings, but… they’ve “got it under control”. “If I wasn’t in control of my impulses I would X X” they think to themselves. Like all these desperately awful humans who are campaigning against drag queens reading to children. “Drag Queens are paedophiles,” they cry. They see people who are sexually unconstrained. “Who would I be, if I were liberated like drag queens?” they ask themselves. “Those drag queens are paedos!” they conclude.
There are many many better things to get exercised about.
I’ve even found myself getting pissed off about comedians in Edinburgh lately. Jerry Sadowitz is working in character and he is trying to put the worst thoughts into perspective. Censorship only causes entrenchment. His agenda was not one of hate. He only really hates himself. He wants you to hate yourself too if you’re a nasty piece of work, and he teaches you how to do it by deconstructing your shit thought patterns. It’s clever. You can take anything like that out of context if you want to. But his second show of two was cancelled because he upset members of staff with the content and had a big student walkout percentage. (About ten percent of the total house)
We need to manage our outrage. We really do. The Pleasance knew what they were booking. Whoever spearheaded the drive to cancel his second performance has done two things. 1: Made him the primary comedian of choice for the hateful brigade that he definitely does not like. That’s cool. His next show will probably take them apart into little tiny pieces if anybody is grown up enough to put it on.. 2: Made a previously untouchable comedy production brand (The Pleasance) look like a bunch of partisan idiots who are completely out of touch with the point of what they are supposed to be selling, and what character comedy IS. I remember seeing Laura Wade’s Posh in the stalls. I knew the Assistant Director and he got me a house seat. The audience guy behind me was unevolved but from a similar upbringing from me. “Classic!” He would occasionally fwah to his partner out loud, with his stunted breath rendering staccato laughter. “I’ll remember that one eh eh eh huuur” “The play isn’t for them, but they love it…” said my friend when I brought it up in the interval. Remember, most people around you have paid £200 a ticket. Fwah. I knew “Posh” wasn’t a Stan play for the Bullingdon Club. But the mister fwah behind me really thought it was. So yeah, despite intentions, things can be wilfully taken out of context.
“In a changing world, stories and language that were once accepted on stage, whether performed in character or not, need to be challenged. There is a line that we will not cross at the Pleasance, and it was our view that this line was crossed on this occasion.” That’s part of the statement.
I am frightened by this statement. I worry that you might tell me that I’m clinging onto something, and fuck it I’m happy to learn so school me because … In character? So you can’t have a character say hateful things? Like? All the villains ever… … Those guys in Posh?
I don’t particularly give a fuck about Sadowitz. He’s a shock guy. But… He assumes we are mature enough to parse his shit and then draw our own conclusions. He is playing a character and any genuine hatred I detect is inward. This sort of thing from a major comedy venue is dangerous though. It’s only a step or two away from policing thought crimes.
But … I’m over 40 now. We need to make room for those who are coming up. And we need to adapt and learn new tricks. I’m just not sure if this is a decent battle. It feels nastier and weirder. Sometimes concessions HAVE to be made but what do we cut off when we cut off angry mischief?
The world I grew up into pre internet is not the world I live in now. Like with travel, so with time. We have to acknowledge change of social morays as we do with change of literal location. I will try not to be left behind. Normally I’m very happy to run with the changes. I just… I just hitch with this. Like it’s a snag and I can’t feel beyond it… I’ve not even seen the offending offering – hell, very few people have, and of the ones that did loads of them had an agenda. I might hate it. I might hate him. But that’s his JOB. If you make whatever the fuck too taboo to say then it becomes the secret special thing that groups say together and it makes them feel happy to be part of something secret and underground. Sadowitz looks like a last line of defence in that context. “Look at yourself openly and out loud. Is this your hate? Why? Fuck you!” he says.
But maybe people have looked at themselves and seen hate of some sort. Maybe they have been shocked by their own human potential. And maybe… maybe that made them uncomfortable enough to fight for one show to be cancelled. Not to get people to go and assess it and learn. Not to reshape and mature through the performer’s vast demonstrated but valleys l calculated immaturity. Just to stop the thing that challenges. Stop it now now now it hurts.
Look to yourself, I would say, if you are one of those. Look to yourself because you might well be paving the road to hell with those good intentions.
A spot of rain in Richmond, and maybe it’s helped break the back of this heat. I’m catsitting up here for a few days. A change of scene and it has propelled me to bed early.
Henry is pretty low maintenance. He has a catflap and he lets himself in and out if he has to, although he is largely much happier if he can get somebody to open the door for him. Currently he won’t let me stroke him but he will make me feed him. He strides in and shouts until his bowl is full. “Close your bedroom door or he’ll wake you in the night for food,” Tanya tells me. And he will, even if his bowl is full.
So… I’m winding down here with another fun pussycat. It’s so much quieter here than in my flat. I don’t notice the main road when I’m home, but I notice the lack of it when I’m not. And there are creatures here. A giant house spider was staring at me when I was brushing my teeth. Great big thing. I got web in my face when I walked into the bathroom. So long as it doesn’t creep me out it’ll help cut down on the late summer flies though. I prefer to live and let live unless somebody is freaking out in which case I’d move it somewhere. Nature does what nature does, and that great big thing is going to avoid me but might eat things that want to cut little square holes in my skin and drain my blood.
Something unusual happened in Chelsea last night. With all the heat and the lack of rain, the plane trees must have been suffering, and maybe they felt like there was going to be a storm. On my street and the streets around me, they did a huge overnight shedding of old dead leaves. It was a still night. They just dropped about fifty percent of their foliage. Bergman was covered, and the pavement was crunching with them. Strange to see.
The leaves, the spider… All these things indicate autumn to me and I’m not done with summer yet dammit. But I can feel the air temperature dropping, and the trees and spiders are obviously feeling it too by their behaviours. I haven’t seen any crane flies yet thank God – they’re the true harbinger of autumn. It’s only a matter of time.
That was a lovely few days. A dear old friend with no car and a train strike. That’s why I ended up in Stratford with her and her kids. She was working down a list. She asked me. I was free.
Minnie and I aren’t counting. My best friends are never counting.
Sometimes I phone somebody up after years of being completely out of touch and they behave like we have to start again. Nonsense. It’s a tyrrany. Minnie and I have seen very little of one another, but we know that we are deep friends. She gets it. If one or the other of us goes dark for a few months it doesn’t affect the depth of the friendship we have forged. And in the same way, I will take you as you were no matter how long it has been since I last saw you. Counting is about ego. “He hasn’t contacted me so I’ll stop contacting him and then I’ll see how much he cares about ME ME ME” I love games. I play them all the time. I’m not interested in gaming my relationships. I care about YOU YOU YOU. I’m just not very good at the everyday because that’s not my life, and yeah if you want me to ask a specific question maybe you should try volunteering the information because maybe I’m trying to let you do it on your own terms.
In practical terms I drove Minnie and the girls from Stratford to London today. It was a surprisingly manageable journey. Zephi had a moment, but was mostly excellent company as always. Bou is milky, and was kind enough to sleep pretty much the whole journey. We made it down pretty easily and in some ways I was sad to drop them all off. I’ve been swept up in their life for the last few days. I’ve been part of their highly charged existence. Zephi in particular is exposed to all the feelings and has very little management of them. She’s not even five yet though. It’s amazing to be part of her negotiation from baby to person.
“This will help put you off for life,” says Min. But I find myself fascinated and horrified all at the same time at these life eaters. Screaming and poo. Screaming and poo. Round and round and round. But then eventually, when we are old, there’s somebody who kinda understands that karmically it’s good that they are coping with your screaming and clearing up your poo. That’s the ideal. Rather than them farming you off to a nursing home.
Zephi got to call the shots today for what we did up here in Stratford upon Avon, and she wanted to go to The Spotted Treehouse. We could’ve driven anywhere, but that was her shout. She thought about Warwick Castle just because she had heard of it. Warwick Castle seems to be trying to teach potential visitors about what it was like to be a serf in the middle ages. Some complete bastard has decided that it’s appropriate to charge almost £40 a head if you don’t book in advance. If you do book in advance you are still paying £24. You are paying much much more on the day so they can fleece families who haven’t done their research.
The castle was erected by the Normans as an act of subjugation on the Angles and Saxons who couldn’t fully understand the impact these conquerors would have on their basic way of life. William and his disconnected friends destroyed all the history and all the meaning across this land, and replaced it with frenchish mannerisms and big walls of stone. Warwick Castle was one of his early bastions. A horrible stone memory of when they took our identity from us.
An interesting place yes. But at that price point it’s meaningless. It’s just buying a car for some exec. Zephi was right. We were better off staying local and having fun with art at The Spotted Treehouse.
The Treehouse does stag and hen parties, as well as entertaining easily bored five year old girls. Martin will take you through the process of being crafty. You will make a thing. You then have to wait for it to be fired, but it will have been made by your fair hands. Joyous. For a delightful few hours Zephi was swept up in making things, and was lucky enough at the end to be invited upstairs in order to meet a very pissed off hot bunny rabbit and the most brilliantly zoned out chinchilla. She got to stroke them. No such luck for me. I observed from afar. But the chinchilla was then most temperamentally beautiful creature. We still make it hard for them to live in the real world because their fur is so soft we want to wear it. We are atrocious great big stupid noisy mouthpeople.
I’ve enjoyed being up here with Min in the land of Shakespeare’s niece’s brother’s cousin’s desk which is definitely located in the office of the Shakespeare-related Shakespeareperson who was definitely totally 100% related to Shakespeare Shakespeare Shakespeare that’ll be ten quid please and don’t complain you should see what they’re asking for at the crap castle.
This whole town is swamped in Willy. It’s absurd. All the shops are trying for puns. Even the ice cream parlour is attempting “Romeo and Gelato”. I love that voice – that body of work. There’s so much in it that speaks to me directly. But I wonder if it wouldn’t start to piss me off if I had to be here the whole time. What would this town be doing if he had no connection? I’m more interested in places that don’t trade off it. Although I’ll be back here soon with Lou to see Richard III, and I’m looking forward to it.
I’m back on Waterside, just opposite the theatre where all the sanctioned Shakespeare stuff goes off. Man I miss Sprite… The more time that passes the more I see what a gem it was. It was a nurturing ground. The work was just so positive over those long happy summers. We grew together. Wherever the equivalent is these days, I want to find it. Sure, it started to homogenise itself after a while and pull its own teeth to favour a well grown audience. But there was power and there was joy. I remember it today because I first met Hester and Liam up here in this town when I was supporting friends for Lion Witch and Wardrobe, and they were involved with my mates. I met long term collaborators up here in Stratford thinking I was just hanging out with Jake and Kesty. I also met other friends on unusual nights. People who have become important in my life. I’ve spent far too much time in this town visiting my friends who are working for a company that have never acknowledged my existence. I’m ok with that until I look at it as starkly as this. Nobody deserves anything. Whether or not I would have liked a chance to succeed or fail is irrelevant. I don’t often get chances. That’s mostly been the rules. I am good at converting the chances I get, but they are rare and there’s never been a shot at this company which is a shame. insha’Allah.
I’m here now literally just to hang out with my old pal. It’s glorious. She has two fantastic young children. She needed somebody with a car. I was able to make myself free. I haven’t seen her properly for too long.
Most people my age right now have to deal with the stuff we were dealing with tonight. Children’s bedtime. The need to just get them off to sleep so you don’t go completely insane. I tried my best to contribute, reading bits of Dahl, trying to use a soporific tone of voice as the aunties are crushed by the peach. They went to sleep, woke, went to sleep again etc. They will be up at 5. I’ll be down until half eight because I’m not their dad so I don’t have to… But God. I love them to bits. Half the world has these bastards every day. I will hold much closer my moments when I can’t decide if I’m gonna watch telly or read a book. I was part of the life-theft once. “Look at me daddymummy, stop your life and admire my existence parentfool! Arrest everything you are attempting in order to make insincere noises about my tiny achievements! Hooray for me!!?”
I love Min, and her kids. I’m glad I’m free of that. I see the loss, sure. But I’m very much aware of the life I’ve been able to grasp. I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain, and I’ve followed ideas until they broke me. I’ve answered calls at 4am. I’ve remained. I have no idea what I have changed with my big noisy efforts. Everything and nothing. I’ve set things right. I’ve set things wrong. I’ve burnt it all and started again. But at least, if there’s a rabbit hole, I can go down it. Round it. I can set it all off again. And I won’t have to pretend to be the same shape for somebody else’s sanity. I haven’t made a new one, but I’ve worked very hard on the one I’ve got. Seems like that’ll have to do.
It’s late. The Friday night conversations go past the window and yeah it’s all so familiar. Young creatives establishing their identity in response to things they have experienced. I love them. I am still working my shit out. We all are, as these late night conversations remind me.
Bedtime. Tony Sher at my feet as Richard. And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover … Villain time? I should be so lucky. Roll on Sprite Mark II. Roll on permission for me to be brilliant and joyful. Who knows, maybe the flat things in the universe will shift and a tiny tiny door will open in the forcefield.
“Where haven’t you been around here? You haven’t been to The Chattri!”
Up on the South Downs, staring peacefully down the parched hillside to the sea, sunk into a thick copse on grazing land is the marble umbrella of The Chattri. There’s no real pathway. There’s a barely used bridleway and some sheep tracks. Our first attempt takes us through brambles and nettles to the edge of an overgrown barbed wire fence. “It’s just on the other side!” “I’m not going over that.” Twenty minutes later we are at the top and we find the correct entrance, through the gate. We wander in to this peaceful place.
In the first world war, 800,000 men from India fought for the allies. Giving their lives in this distant war, coming from such a different place, such a different culture. Many injured were taken to Brighton for treatment. The king apparently thought they’d feel right at home in The Royal Pavilion with its Indo-Gothic pretentions. Most of the soldiers recovered, but there were some who succumbed to their injuries. Of these, 53 men were Sikhs or Hindus. Trying to respect custom and to answer necessity at the same time, a ghat was built here on the hillside. They were cremated here and then their ashes were scattered in the sea.
The Chattri is their memorial, and it is something of a rarity. There isn’t much in this country memorialising those who joined our causes from other countries and lost their lives. As such The Chattri has become a stand in place to honour the many many such souls lost over the years. Every year there is a memorial ceremony in June, and the poppy-wreaths are customised with “Om”. It remains something of a pilgrimage site, and perhaps the remote location makes it just a bit more special. We were the only people there today. But it is clearly visited and cared for, and it must be very powerful for people living here now from Indian communities, to know it is here and to occasionally pay respects. We sat a long time with the silence and the view, each of us lost in the waves of time and spirit since the bodies of these young men went to the flames over a hundred years ago.
From there we went peaceably to Stanmer Park to lie under the ancient cedars awhile and eat overpriced pasties having been too idle to pack a decent lunch. Late summer is bringing calm to the parks around here, because everybody in town is on the beach. After enough peace, we went to join the throng. After the funeral, all the driving and the Chattri it felt right to walk into the sea. A busy beach, but a good warm English Channel – noticeably barren of life after Greece and Sardinia, and none of the clarity of water. Splash. A restful day, but busy still. I’ll sleep well.