Never trust a dad with a thing

It was never going to work. Never.

I was taking a full load, including this bike, from London to Colchester. I wheeled the bike out first, and opened the boot. My friend’s father ran out: “No no, you should pack that last!” “It’s awkward shaped. Everything else is easy. I’ll get it in the boot and then pack around it.” “No, pack it last. You attach it to the back of the car.” “Really?” “Yes, really. I have a thing.” “I’m not sure, you know. Can I see it?” “Yes, but we will pack first.”

I should have stuck to my instincts.

We packed. We could have got it all in with the bike, but not now. I closed the boot and here comes dad with his contraption. It is well used … It is doomed.

He hooks it under a bit of faring. I don’t get a look in here, he’s a dad with a gadget. He doesn’t like my car though. “It is easier on a normal car,” he accuses me. He eventually arrives at something he is happy with. I’m skeptical but … I’m willing to give it a go. I set my route to avoid motorways though. I don’t trust this thing.

I’m right not to trust it. Bastard of a thing. Five minutes of driving, and the bike goes dunk and something has happened but I’m not sure what but there’s a huge great van behind me. The bike is still attached but barely. I almost immediately luck into a huge loading bay on the red route. The sign tells me I’ve got twenty minutes. There are people everywhere and a lot of police and warden activity. This is East London.

That stupid contraption ripped up a bit of faring and the bike scratched Bergies back. I take the damned thing off. I try to reattach it in a way that won’t pull any more bits off my car, but it’s not designed for my damn car. It needs to be a car with metal to hook into. It’s only going to further hurt Bergman if I try again. What to do?

I don’t know if it took twenty minutes or more. I kinda hope my friend doesn’t read my blog. Swearing like an absolute trooper and sweating like a piggy I pulled everything out of the boot and wrestled the damned bike into the empty boot. This is what I should have done in the first place. I knew it too.

It worked but I had time pressure. Cameras and a warden on me. I repacked carefully so as not to put pressure on the bike. It all got in. I really hope my friend never sees this photo.

I was drenched by the time it was all done. Adrenaline and rage. Thankfully driving calms me so I switched off avoid motorways and screamed up fast roads until I had to empty the lot while half parked on a buslane pavement in Essex.

Lesson 365573: Always trust your instinct over the certainty of the dad who has the thing. Should’ve learnt that one a long time ago.

Now I’m in Brighton. Lou and I snatching some time. We went to a Greek restaurant to remember the lovely week in Kefalonia, and now a remarkably early bed.

Things crumbling

Christ, I’ve just watched the documentary about Woodstock ’99 on Netflix.

Fascinating to see the organisers still trying to control the narrative despite the evidence of history. What a disaster. As someone who works in events this was more of a horror than the Fyre Fest doc. It also just helps illustrate how quickly things can get out of hand. This was my age group, this would have been my Woodstock. The marketing had found me. I was at Guildhall at the time. I remember hearing about it but immediately dismissing the whole thing because of the lineup being uninteresting to me. It would have to have been Leonard Cohen for me back then to justify a transatlantic flight. Not these aggro rockers.

A good watch though, and a good end to one of the last relaxed days I’m gonna have for a while. I’ll take my weekend where I can. It’s rarely on the actual weekend.

Golfo has gone back to Liverpool leaving a hole on the far side of my sofa where we have companionably snuffled and sleeptalked to one another amidst the sea of gubbins. I’m feeling the cold here now but not yet enough to put the heating on – how long can I avoid that? In the current environment, as long as possible. The Russian propaganda machines are hastening the demise of an already unpopular governmental choice. Fiddy Cent has renamed himself Pound. We need to rally or we will get buried. The online narrative is controlled and amplified by those huge propaganda factories in St Petersburg, so now more than forever we have to employ our own checks and considerations on any piece of information we receive online. Who is disseminating this? What is their angle? Why have I received it? Why has it been written? Etc. Critical thinking, the very skill that is under fire from the fundamentalists, like because it’s better to just have faith? Without critical thinking we are doomed to become sock puppets. Some of my friends already have. Their mouth moves and other people’s words come out.

Like those young men burning stuff at Woodstock, we all feel pretty angry right now. It all was messy and narcissistic and pointless then, and it probably will be again, but I’m aware that I’m disillusioned enough to be one of the tiny voices crying for change. But I’m maybe too disillusioned by this messy selfish species. We fish until there are no fish even though we know that stopping for a bit will help the stocks recover. We burn until there’s nothing left to burn. We consume consume consume. We are a flash in the pan and have likely already sewn the seeds of our own destruction, but the world will continue and maybe we will too in some more humble form, but this nonsense is not sustainable. Disease greed and warfare. Maybe we will just make our own atmosphere poison to us. Some of us might adapt quickly enough to survive in some small capacity as the jellyfish have a few hundred thousand years and then woodlice. Intelligence is overrated, as you all know based on how incredibly useless the person you know who identifies as “highly intelligent” is.

All that said I’ve had a lovely few days with happy friends doing unimportant things, consuming. I’m feeling pretty good right now despite the narrative trying to be that the UK is on fire. Think though about who controls the narrative and why. I’m no Tory. But if I was an outside agent trying to bury an economy that has been funding a war against me, I would be looking to destabilise, particularly if that was my particular speciality. Annexation soon. All hell is about to break loose, my darlings. I know where my iodine is. PLANTS!

Lovely day with my entourage

“I’ll be bringing my entourage,” I told Amy today, half in jest, half in earnest.

Golfo is staying. She looks fabulous and is entirely practical and together. She’s only in town two nights. I am so rarely in Liverpool that I’m making sure I see as much of her as possible while she’s in London. She’s here, my guest, and Mel of the Hampstead flat is around too. None of us have seen very many people over the last few years. We decided to spend the day together no matter what, the three of us. All three of us have our own particular style.

We went to meet Amy. She’s an artist I’m collaborating with. “You know the way our gut biome has lots of different needs in it and lots of different forces and actions on it to make it healthy? Our social biome needs a whole selection of different influences and interactions as well to stay healthy, and many of us have had it really badly damaged by the pandemic.”

She’s so right. I can think of friends who have retreated into themselves, and others who have vanished into somebody else’s idea. Neither is healthy. We need conflicting voices. We need to be stuck in conversations we don’t want to be in. Everything like that helps us widen. We can always learn from each other if we let ourselves.

My entourage and I agreed that the project she has in mind is going up be excellent and delightfully challenging on the basis she’s talking about. We can do something weird and helpful and beautiful with strangers. It’ll keep me very very busy in October and oh fuck I’m just gonna have no spare time. Mel was lined up as my cover – the filming is landing right now. Long may it continue.

Post artist, we zipped up to Camden where Mel and I helped out as emergency cover with a Scene and Heard dramaturgy class with very young men and women from Somerstown. Lovely work and a great young man to work with. We generated things.

Then Mel and I bundled back into the car, drove to Chelsea for a pint and then all bundled into my autumn flat where Tristan showed up and four old friends who have been separated for years just got to talk about things and laugh and remember and be stupid.

Everybody has gone now but for Golfo and I who are keyed into David Attenborough on the big screen and will shortly be snoring companionably from our opposite sides of the sofa.

Oh and we went to Chelsea Physic Garden and it was wonderful

Stand in

The thing is, Giles’ lady might have had a baby today. She was due.

He was due to do this:

Studio work. Presentation. Autocue.

Look into the camera and read the flickery words.

I woke up and rose at bastard o’clock. The bakery wouldn’t serve us coffee when we left Kemptown. We hit the road and drove through the gloaming. Lou had a train at 9.10. I had to be at NYT for 9.45. To do what?

The roads were clear until we got to Kingston and from there every fucker that could fuck fuckery was fucking it. Speedlimit 20 drivers competed with can’t turn righters to create a monstrous stressbag of nonsense compounded fully when a white van chose to drive into a Volvo to gain three metres of road, in front of us, before a right turn. It takes two idiots to make a crash. There they were. Meaningless. You can be in a hurry, you can drive positively, but you HAVE to constantly guage the other drivers. I like people, but driving brings out the stupid. I even tend to like people who might be mistaken for stupid by the morons who support the nonsense IQ benchmark via Mensa tests etc. I have often said in the past that the true intelligence test regarding Mensa is when they tell you that because you matched the boxes you can buy a subscription to the clever people newsletter. If you buy it, you’ve lost. “I’m a member of Mensa” is the first clear poker-tell that you’re dealing with a cabbage. You can also spot them on the road. We found our way through them, Lou got her train and I got to the shoot in time.

Giles. If anyone I know is clever enough to absolutely excoriate the whole concept of Mensa, it’s Giles. His wife had no babies today thankfully. So he just used his vast humble intellect and cheerful clear ability, and he knocked a training video out of the park, unruffled and slick in a benign but slightly baffled young room full of media types.

I was paid to sit in the studio with him and watch him be wonderful on the offchance his wife went into labour. Watching him I honestly thought that there was no way in hell I could’ve done what he did today. I’d have done something, sure, and the thing I did would have been great. But the whole damn result would have been utterly different. And his technical nous saved hours. The right man for for the job. Open, full of kindness, full front attack, unbruisable. I know why I was in reserve, but I’m glad it was him in the line of fire.

As soon as it ended I shot down south and watched Black Crowes at the Brixton Academy. I’m embarrassingly unattached to their music, but they put on a good show. ‘Papa was a rolling stone,” they covered, and it really helped me crystallise their influences. A great birthday present after a strange day of doing my craft but not…

I’m happy at the moment. Very happy. I really like doing my thing…

Back in the world

Pretty roads all the way to Brighton and now once more I must remember what it means to live in the real world. No longer will my bed be turned over and my room sprayed with freshener when I go out onto set to have smoke blown up my arse. No longer will people cook food for me overlooking the Kernow Atlantic Coast – crab and potatoes and Romanian Pinot Noir. My wardrobe won’t be selected and pressed and hung for me in a little heated trailer. I won’t be asked my welfare constantly by porters and assistant directors. I won’t be driven even short distances by talkative intelligent strange men.

Things could’ve gone south. My car key wasn’t in my pocket when it came to check out time. It wasn’t in any of my pockets. It wasn’t on the floor of my room or under the bed or in the ignition. I was politely searching around a lady sitting where I had been sitting the night before when the concierge at The Headland approached me with the damn thing in an envelope. It had been handed in the night before. He had been trying to help me out by lightening the mood ” I’ve got a spare key in London, but I don’t know where it is.” “London? Nobody knows where that is.” I’m glad of his help frankly as I had been gradually getting myself into a funk and thinking I’d have to call the production company and look in my trailer, or get the train to London and back to dig up my spare. Phew.

So now I’m in Brighton and Lou fed me healthy lentil soup and chamomile tea and friendly cat stroking and a hot bath. Bed soon as I’m up at arsehole in order to get Lou to London and then myself across town to be emergency pregnant cover on an event in the morning early. Alarm is set for half five. Oh the horror the horror. I somehow escaped early call to set for most of the filming. Tomorrow, into the no longer luxurious darkness, I’m gonna drive up to London and into what is starting to look like a brainflood pair of months before Christmas descends like a familiar grumpy snowflake.

Motivation time. Much to do much to do. It’ll keep me warm in the winter…

For now an early bed.


Mmmmmmm sleepy…

Lou sent me a prayer plant!

The one I used to have died when I was in Sardinia. Even though there were people in my flat, they missed it. I came home and it was ruined. I’ve been trying to nurse it back to health but basically it’s fucked. It was utterly dessicated when I got to it.

Now I have this one. It was placed discreetly in the corner of my room. I would have just dismissed it as decoration if I hadn’t been set to look at it. “Have you been in your room?” I was asked, and I had but I pretended I hadn’t in case I’d missed something. I went up to look again and still saw nothing – but these rooms are full of plants. It was in a corner. I missed it twice, and the discreet message stapled to the bag. Another thing not to kill. Better than a child.

I’m wrapped. Unlike my plant.

This has been a real validation of my accumulated nous. It seems I know my way better these days around the dance of it. Janina said: “Have you noticed how the DOP smiles and nods pretty much every time you speak?” I hadn’t. I hope it bears out into the edit. I’ve felt at home, and very much understood by the director and the team. I know this game now, of course. It’s my job. But I guess there’s a confidence that only comes by doing. Wonderful people to work opposite, a witty script… Generally this has been as glorious job.

This evening I found Nicola and Helena and we had a brief drink. Nicola is staying in one of the apartments, and is holding down a huge part with terrific balance. Helena, has about the same billing as me and got recognised by a receptionist on day 1 for being a child actor in the Harry Potter franchise. That must be weird. “I was a child! Now I’ve trained.”

Everybody on set made a big fuss of me for my birthday. It was even on the call sheet. I feel spoilt – (I was even given a bottle of bubbly by production!)

One more night in The Headland. Then tomorrow I’m back driving long distance. I’ll miss the luxury of this place. I’m off to sleep now with the sound of the sea. Too “tired” to make good sentences.

Lovely evening, crowded head

Chris is driving us back from unit base to hotel. It’s about an hour’s drive, north westwards. “It’s not really dark and I’ve finished,” says Chris. “This is a new experience.” The sun is just pulling away, leaving just a stain of the memory of light. I tried to snap it out the window.

Nicola sat down beside me in the back, facetimed her grandmother, and fell fast asleep. She’s had a lot to do and long hours. We are in early tomorrow. This time is rest time.

I’m starving though. I’m likely gonna run up a tab in the hotel eating a marked up burger in the terrace bar and drilling tomorrow’s lines. It has worked out pretty well for me in terms of distribution of work, but tomorrow I’ve gotta do everything I haven’t done so I’ll have to make sure it’s all in the right order in my head. So far so good though. It’s coming out clean and fresh. I’m feeling like I’m in the right job again. It’s a nice feeling.

I really should remember to bring my charger though. Battery is almost gone – we are just down to the memory of battery, matching the memory of sunlight, this evening falling to night on the last day I will be as young as I am. Another damn birthday. They come quicker these days. Where was I a year ago? In Jersey with the Arthouse Lock-in. Now I’m in Cornwall where much of the earth power from that lock-in was based. I really wanted to get to Trebah Gardens tomorrow evening to see Guy, one of the artists we collaborated with, who has directed a Tempest there. Fuck it though, the call sheet came in and I’ll be working way too late. Working birthday. No time for fun. I’ll do something belated when I’m back and my head isn’t so crowded.

Shower. Food. Dump the scenes I shot today and soak up the ones for tomorrow. Sleep. Wake. Birthday acting and then suddenly I’m in Cornwall with nothing to do but get home. Something to look forward to.

For now I might join Nicola in a little snooze while Chris and Classic FM take us back to the Headland.

Lovely spa

It’s a spa hotel where I’m staying. I haven’t really assimilated that information. I’m just getting on with the work and making sure I’m ready. But Lou went on the website and I started thinking about what she would be doing all day if she were with me. I thought I should probably make sense of it since I’m not filming today.

Outdoor jacuzzi, tenanted at all hours of the day by happy boozy people.

I had to wait a while before I got in, and I chose a time I was pretty sure would be quiet. I’ll go again now I’ve broken the ground. But eventually I sat in warm water and realised the extent to which I have been spoilt forever by The Terra Nostra hotel in the Azores during Covid.

Still, despite the lack of botanical gardens and empty vast hot springs, I found much to love and to help me relax. I’m sure there’s a steam room but I only found the sauna. Lovely and next to a hydrotherapy pool with warm water where one of the rings squirts meaningless water pistols and the other two fart below you. Then you can lie on rails above jets. It is all very fun, very profligate and very popular. This place is packed out on a September Wednesday at three in the afternoon. I’m glad it’s turning business. As I’ve intimated before, I’m very fond of this hotel. I haven’t really fully used it before as it’s just been digs. Today I was planning on going to The Eden Project etc etc but then I just realised that I’m living here and it’s paid for and I should use it. So I did.

I’m in bed now and it’s 8pm. I’m not expecting to be awake much longer. The rest of my lines happen tomorrow, and my facility with them will help influence how long everybody needs to work until. They’ll be on set until past ten tonight… I’ll be asleep by time I get the the call time but I’m reliably informed it won’t be morning. I’ll go and rearrange breakfast for 10.15 again. Lucky me. I’ll be working late tomorrow but I get a lie in, and I’m forever better in the evening than the morning.

One more spin through what I assume will be tomorrow’s lines. Then bed bed bed.

Filming and being stubborn and me

Last night, when I rearranged my breakfast time, I expressed my delight at being able to have a lie in on a shoot day.

“Your colleague just did the same. She played Blurkity Flobble in Harry Potter and she just changed her breakfast too. I changed it for her!!!” I can’t remember the exact character name so I’ve inserted it to reflect my experience in this. One of the Weasleys, maybe – she’s ginger? I was only half listening. This was someone geeking out about the actress I’ve just spent the day with. She was in those potters, sure. Likely as a child. Blurkity Flobble will do. We have all been somebody’s Blurkity Flobble, and hopefully we will be such again before we die.

“You’ve got a fan,” I tell her as we are waiting for the driver the next morning. “It’s amazing she recognised me,” she replies. It was like a decade ago and I was a child… but she’s got a Harry Potter tattoo – she showed me.

We talk in the car about recognisability and what it does. There’s work in the can now that will raise my cache, but nothing on the scale of her Harry Potter. My first job was high profile but I was clueless and just happy to be there. It’s hard to know what to do with a big first job and no support. I’m glad she’s still working – she recently did an MA at Central but the bulk of her training was in lockdown. We understood each other though – we both had to do English degrees first despite knowing we were actors. Parents. I was too slow to break from my parents. I was living with my mum and she phoned up Reading University and booked me in via clearing even though I didn’t want the degree. I was put into a position where I felt I had no choice but to comply. In retrospect I could have chosen that as my battleground but I was clearly told that I would be cut off immediately and have nowhere to live if I pursued the acting instead of going to the same uni as my brother. It honestly feels like the majority of parents from non-acting families, when presented with a child who IS AN ACTOR IS AN ACTOR IS AN ACTOR, they just hope that the poor thing will “get it out of their system”.

It’s connected to the same bad thinking that leads my colleague today to wonder what the heck is going on being recognised. People might think “Actors are specialmagichumans but my little boy does farts that stink.” People easily think of actors as being something “other”. Something “special”. Bless them for it, it works to our advantage. It means we often get to stay in lovely places in the best rooms etc. We are often absurdly fĂȘted for doing simple things like announcing a raffle. We are often very well treated by lovely people with property who enjoy the arts. But… when your youthful relative shows the unavoidable signs of being ONE OF US you all become gatekeepers… Stop it.

I can only really speak from my own experience… The only actor my parents knew was Jack Hedley. He was wheeled out by mum, and was his brutally honest and cynical wonderful self. “Your mother has asked me to discourage you from being an actor. What do you think you’ll achieve by being one?” We spoke for longer than he wanted, at Chelsea Arts Club. I still hold that conversation up as one of the benchmarks. He was too disobedient to obey my mother’s request to discourage me, I was too stubborn and certain to be discouraged, as forever. He didn’t sanction it but he wouldn’t block it and I felt he mischievously saw me. I’ve always been in this game for the long haul and he saw that. Later on my half-brother had a planning permission fuck up with someone that absolutely buggered my RADA audition… Nevertheless I was seen and pulled in by Guildhall. I had no idea how lucky I was at the time. I wouldn’t have even auditioned if Jenny McCracken hadn’t suggested the place. I would never have got in if I hadn’t had some help from the wonderful Michael McCallion. He died too, shortly after mum. Fucking hell, when I think of it… That little period between 2002 and 2008… No wonder I fell apart. Death after death after death.

But If I can persist despite two loving parents fighting me every step of the way and they dying when I was in my twenties, I can easily resist the ups and downs and the vagaries of this annoying industry, and the fact that everybody died just as I left. I can put up with the disappointments since then as they all go into relief. My existence is still firmly in daily conscious defiance of the desires of the two people that made me, whose memory I hold dear. And yet I’m happy, which is what they would have wanted, even if they couldn’t imagine how I might be happy in this work and this life. I love them still for their care towards me. It was misguided, the way they tried to block me, but it was from love. I see that, even if I felt aggrieved and stifled back then.

It’s been an easy day on set today, but another day where I’ve felt very welcome and happy doing what I do. There’s a familiarity with me and the crew. There’s a shorthand developing. And I know my craft, just as they know I know it.

Tomorrow a full day off. I’m just gonna relax and maybe go visit the Eden Project. I’m so happy doing what I’m supposed to be doing. And the sea is roaring.

The only photo I took, surrounded by all this beauty, was my breakfast in the hotel

Back by the Cornish coast, work and free wine

I’m back in The Headland Hotel. Feels like I’ve never left. This time I chose to drive down. In the morning I pulled myself up off my own sofa and bundled into Bergman. We drove to Paddington Arts Centre. There, concealed in a book, was a key to a room full of musical instruments. Still bleary from morning, I loaded them in starting with the double bass. They really are big old beasts those double basses. I had to move the passenger seat forward, but this is why I’ve got Bergie. He can handle big loads. He just costs too much to fix. Six instruments. They all fitted.

Drop off was in Hackney. Another of Brian’s wonderful shows. Choir of Man. I rolled over there in plenty of time, and stopped at the cafĂ© appended to the rehearsal space for Eggs Benedict. Then I got in the car, set the route to avoid motorways, and one shotted it from London to Newquay the scenic route. I didn’t stop for coffee, for lunch, for anything. I made some calls and listened to the radio. I went into the driving zone. Concentration and immediacy and response. It’s where I used to go playing all those computer games in my early twenties. Six hours go by in a flash when you’re in that state. My biggest moment of memory was when a trauma specialist on Radio 4 was talking about exactly the zone I was in and how they use it to treat trauma. Our brain new mints traumatic memories for us, she argued. We remember them again and again and each time they hurt as much as they did the first time. So she gets her patients to play Tetris and then when they are deep in it she gets them to remember their traumatic memories. Her argument is that, if you are flooded with the full front brain activity you get from playing Tetris you can’t repackage the clarity of the trauma memory and it means that next time it resurfaces it is lower resolution, less painful…

I enjoyed a good hour or two driving at never more than exactly the maximum speed limit of course, deliberately trying to remember the particular nasty bits of memory that still occasionally cause me to sit bolt upright at 4am swearing. I either traumatised myself unnecessary or helped weaken them. I won’t know for sure until 4am on some cold night to come, and if it has worked I’ll never know.

Then there was the usual noise about Liz Truss and how we are all going to be broke if it’s a cold winter and nobody gives a fuck.

Arriving in Newquay I bought a bottle of wine at Sainsbury’s but then discovered I have been given a bottle of white by the management, waiting in a bucket in my room. Complimentary. Do they read this? Who knows. Either way, bloody marvelous. I’ll have that before I leave. “Welcome home,” says the envelope. “They’ve clearly never seen the state of your home,” remarks dear Lou. But it’s so comfortable here.

This time I’m in an ocean view room in the main hotel. I can hear the sea. The tide is coming in. Closer than at Lou’s, these waves. Roaring in. Crashing out. No weddings here this time.

Tomorrow I’m only saying one line all day and I’m not picked up until 11.50am. This is unheard of. I normally never get to have breakfast here..I’ve booked it at 10.15. “Look at them yoyos, that’s the way you do it.” I’m not playing the guitar on the MTV, but I’m having a very relaxed working day tomorrow and being paid to remember some words and not get confused lost or nervous. Sure, there’s a long crazy lifetime of magpied skill and belief behind that line tomorrow, and it’s part of a character arc I’ve spent time plotting and considering so if I had to I could justify my pay rate for tomorrow. Other days will be busier, and I’ve already worked full working days assimilating and actioning and doing the work. “It’s about the work,” was the mantra of Patsy Rodenberg my incredible voice coach at Guildhall. She’s right. It really is.. And the work does start to pay off, or so I have to believe… I’ve done plenty of skilled work for bollocks all in the past. I’ve learnt my craft. And this… well … it’s bloody lovely. And my agent rang with a very interesting possibility soon… …

Life. Let’s see. Let’s see. Either way I’m back on set.