I’m coming to the end of my jobs list for other people which means I’ll have to start doing things for myself before long. It’s getting to be unavoidable. I do have to drive up to Nottingham and back before Christmas, but I’m mostly able now to just switch the lights off in the Al Barclay stall and wait for next year.
Christmas will carry a certain degree of obligation, and I’ve been using it as a deadline to try to sort my flat out, but the flat ain’t gonna be sorted. I can do a couple of days of arbitrating though and make it better. Better than nothing. And if the lockup hadn’t been robbed I’d be inclined to bring more things there. I was there today and the thieves haven’t come back, but I’ve never put good things in since the fuckers filed that bolt and nicked my impact driver and combi drill set. Maybe I’d be well served to start trusting it again. There’s room in it, albeit not very much.
This is the darkest night. This is it folks. We are at the bottom. From here on the days get longer. Solstice at long last. The most important day in many of the ancient calendars. Monoliths and buildings from forgotten civilisations the world over still catch and channel the light of solstice at sunset or at noon or at dawn. An awakening into a warmer brighter world to come. And here in the UK while our ambulance workers and nurses do what is to them almost unthinkable because it’s the only way they have left, we watch the darkness. They have kept the NHS that preserves us going despite being the financial victim of these stone-humans in Westminster killing it on purpose to replace it with the American model. “Paying nurses properly would be taking money from urgent care,” they say, not highlighting that they are the ones who can decide where the money is taken from. Replace “It” with “we”. Maybe it should have been taken from the PPE backhanders, or the Test and Trace debacle, or, dare I say it, the cost of this sociopathic Brexit. They found the magic money tree, and they cut it down and distributed it amongst their friends. Today, as fits the darkest day, the home secretary is crowing with delight to have legal permission once more to loudly fly people who have spent everything and risked drowning and potentially could prop up the understaffed nursing sector to Rwanda. Her parents came here in the 1960’s. She just wants to lock the doors. Maybe she’s aware what a horrible person she is and assumes that everybody coming in is a dangerous sociopathic narcissist.
It’s not even 8. It feels like it’s 2am. I can’t stay awake. I left the house at 4 this morning to take Mel to Heathrow and who knows how long she’s gonna be back home. She wants me to come join her Mardi Gras crew. Free accommodation. I don’t think I’ll be paid though and I’m a gun for hire.
A good portion of today was spent cleaning. Not for myself of course. Much as I would be well served by occasionally spending a good portion of my day cleaning in my flat, it seems as ever that I’m better at doing such things for others than for myself. Still, there’s learning in it.
“I’m thinking of pushing the nuclear button and just getting rid of all the stuff I’ve accumulated over all these divorces and changes and lessons,” says my friend as I drive her from Battersea to Chelsea. Bergman is full of scooters that her children have grown out of, and car seats that she no longer needs. She is surrounded by good m food and has a heavy case full of something on her lap. The scooters all get slung into a damp basement. “I know what you mean,” I tell her. “It’s hard in the moment to do it. But when you zoom out a bit you see how it all only slows you down.” We drive from the basement to her new flat and I unload the bags of food while she has an argument with the removal guys.
The removal guys are familiar to me. Paid by the hour, no leader. A deliberate lack of common sense meaning they need every job to be detailed to them and if they are on their own and have finished the job they were told, they are just standing in a huddle waiting for the next one. My friend is, of course, paying them considerably more than she agreed now. She’s knackered. The best use of my time today really was getting off the sticky stuff. Decades worth of children’s stickers firmly jammed onto all the surfaces in this rented flat. She was unexpectedly turfed out at short notice so I was involved in the end of tenancy clean. All the landlords in London are doing it these days it seems. Hoik the tenant, give it a lick of paint, put it on for double. Scrub scrub scrub scrub. The removal guys had polyfillad all the drill holes without pulling the wall plugs out. Part of the service. “Have you got any pliers?” I ask them. “No,” they shrug. Of course not.
Clean clean scrub scrub and now I’m home and I’m knackered. Bath and early bed. Up tomorrow at 4am to drive a friend to Heathrow, then one more friend to help with one more moving of things and then I can finally focus on myself, my flat and the fact that there are lots of people coming here for Christmas and there’s barely room to move…
Gotta learn one day to know when to say no, but they’re all paying me and it’s expensive to exist right now so it can only be a good thing.
I’ve been listening to Radio 4 when I’m driving alone for so many years now that I don’t really think of it as a middle aged type habit but perhaps it is. It passes the time. I’ve learnt plenty, forgotten more. Sometimes they run really interesting deep content, about current affairs or history. This year I’ve particularly enjoyed Gabriel Gatehouse doing “The Coming Storm”, “A History of the World in 100 Objects”, and “The Digital Human”. All three have the luxury of time to gently unfold curious perspectives on things both ancient and modern and on human nature. I am a questioner, and I will always examine my information for motive and source, but while I’m driving some of the noise in my head is gone and I become perhaps a little more absorbent. So when they talk about books, I often go and buy them. It was so with Piranesi last summer, and I got through it in a day and revelled in the images I still carry in memory today. And it happened again today.
The day started with Spielberg on Desert Island Discs which was a coup considering he famously shuns interviews. His mum sounded awesome. I enjoyed getting under the skin of his lust for positivity. The big stories he tells always thrust towards a bright part of human nature. Even his songs were chosen mostly for how they connect him to the important people in his life. He came across as a kind man, and I’m glad of it. Then it was The Archers and as ever I mostly switched off. I could tell you loosely what’s going on but my driving brain can’t hold fiction as well as fact so I often just white noise through all the radio dramas. I enjoy it for the history and the fact that there are still some talented people for whom it is their whole career. But I’m never gonna hold it. There’ve been some natty little consumer programmes including one where they left three fans on with three batteries to see which ones lasted longest. Amazon basics were cheapest and died first but started flagging early, Duracell were three times the price for another hour and then some new super energiser type was another hour for like ten times. The science of batteries was useful to re-hear considering I’m having to try and enthuse people about that sort of thing when the acting is not happening.
Then this evening they had Katherine Rundell on talking about her new book The Golden Mole. It’s a book about nature. It’s kind of a modern Bestiary of Wonders. Her approach is full of love for nature and she’s carrying this joy for life mixed with a full sense that we all have to keep moving forward our benchmark for care towards the world. I bought it on Kindle immediately and I’ve been racing through it this evening. I’ve always wanted to raise my profile enough that I can do one of those “Actor talks about nature,” things to help raise awareness of how our actions trickle down to the smallest things and then back up to us. She’s gently moving things that way in her writings and her actions and I’m happy to have found another writer through Radio 4. Better perhaps than just the same songs on Spotify again.
I’m still feeling a bit peaky so trying for an early bed tonight. But maybe just a few more sections of the Bestiary first. Lemurs next… I used to love them in Gerald Durrell’s captive breeding programme in Jersey. Endangered even then… What have we done?
It’s been lovely over the last couple of years to discover a new town through Lou’s eyes. Brighton. My first encounter with it was on a bright summer day aged maybe 25 with Kate. She wanted a daytrip to the seaside. We went by train and took photos of each other on a disposable camera, paddling. Cute photos. We were part of the throng. I swam in the sea near the pier. Then we went back to the big London.
Learning the town through a local has helped me feel towards it more personally. Lou and I like many of the same things. For different reasons we both love peace and nature, so much of what I’ve learnt of the town has been in that direction. Places the crowds don’t go. Little benches and out of the way spots. Nature walks and trees.
The train strike gave me a bonus extra Lou day. We had determined that we probably wouldn’t be able to catch each other until after Christmas. Then suddenly she landed at Heathrow in the middle of industrial action. Her possible coach was cancelled. She’s working for a theatre company so neither of us wanted to make theatre people pay for a £150 taxi when there was another option. I picked her up at Heathrow, and chauffered her back to the sea. After the week we’ve both had it felt like an opportunity to recover a little in one another’s company.
A beautiful meal. Great company. Cats and sunset. Now I’m back on duty and still feeling rough so it’s bedtime…
My nose is streaming. My top lip is red raw. I feel a bit run down and coldy. I look like I’ve got a Mister Tumble sized coke habit. All the nasty leaky wetness and none of the expense and arrogant shouting. I’ve been through a box of Kleenex in the last 24 hours. I guess that’s what was brewing when I felt like bollocks yesterday. Have I been overworking myself, perhaps? HOW DARE YOU SIR.
I like the variety. I NEED the variety. Not that I have ADHD or anything oh no goodness no look over there. But… Sometimes it’s nice just to know what the living fuck is about to happen.
I’m in Brighton. There’s a cat cleaning its arse at my feet. She too has been out of sorts after unpredictable things happened. Lou went to Marseilles at short notice to emergencymake an entire company worth of costumes in three days. We’ve both had a busy patch. We both got through it thinking of the money. Better by far to have it coming in on these cold days where the little meter in the kitchen has monthly looking numbers at the end of the week. Lou landed at Heathrow this evening mid train strike and I’m unexpectedly in Brighton as she needed a chauffeur or a million pounds for a taxi. These festive strikes… I get it, we wouldn’t have holidays if it wasn’t for the unions, and the people wearing the hat are contemptible villains without a speck of statesmanship, common sense or kindness. They likely all look like me right now as well for different reasons. So yeah, we have to protest. We have to highlight their incompetent apathetic mismanagement and greed. It’s not right to blame the protestors. But it’s annoying. At least I’ve got a car. It means I get a bonus night with Lou.
I’m here for one night. The cat is displaced from her bed territory, so she’s surveying us as we drop off, and slowly drawing her plans against us. She’ll wait until I’m sleeping and then make her move. She bit my foot earlier. She’s a poppet, but she can turn on a dime and be a committed and lethal attack cat.
It’s half past four and I think I’m ready to go to bed. When I’m doing these workshops online I have to point a light into my face. My lenses go in earlier than they usually would so I’m wearing them much longer hours. And after a full day of it, mixed with the confusion of not really being able to sense what is happening in the room, it is perhaps not surprising that I’ve got a splitting headache.
Engineering, folks. It’s a wonderful life, helping people and trying to save the planet. Even in my own flat, to a room full of people I can’t see and can barely hear, I’m projecting a day full of energy in the hopes that, just occasionally, someone like Daniel will come to the mic and talk me through his A-Frame shelter in minute detail before explaining exactly how to make fire with sticks.
Now I’m running a bath and I feel wrung out and there’s another early start tomorrow cos I’m a glutton for punishment and I told them I could invigilate exams again. The bath takes even longer to run since the boiler got fixed. We are talking about an hour and a half now. I put it on as soon the last workshop ended.
In lunch I rushed over to Battersea to take meter readings for a friend who is under pressure from the energy companies. Maybe I should have stopped and had a sandwich instead. In fact I haven’t eaten yet today so that’s something I can do before bed. But I’m not getting on very well with this screen right now so I’m signing off early for a hopefully restorative evening.
They say when you do new stuff the time goes slower. That was certainly the case today. Having avoided delivering any workshops online for the whole of the pandemic, a few cases of scarlet fever in Cornwall saved me a long drive last night, but meant I had to work out some technology live this morning. In front of sixty people, in my living room, I worked out how to do it live and realised, as I had suspected when the emails came in over COVID, that I hate doing workshops over the internet. I like to see the whites of their eyes. It was a long morning. For the first hour there was nothing set up on the receiving end for me to know if there was any form of back and forth. I was talking to a picture of myself talking. I couldn’t hear or see the people I was talking to. Disconcerting to say the least. I like an audience. In the afternoon someone fixed them up with a microphone in Cornwall and I was able at least to do some rudimentary question and answer, and hear the state of the room.
All the while I was running lines in my head. This week has been a bit like being in regular telly work but without the money and the profile. Lots of short notice line learning. Living the dream, sort of. I went round my long suffering friend’s flat and she has painted a great white wall where the little screen used to be. No more having to do edits to trim the edge of the frame out. A bright and happy room to do the auditioning in. We both had one this evening and both got them done and dusted in short order, I think as much as the light atmosphere in there.
Now I’m back in bed at home. Another three online workshops tomorrow, but at least now I know what they are like. Once the dust settles I’ll look back and think what a lucrative week this has been, particularly if even just one of the self-tapes lands. For now though, onwards to Christmas!
Another day today learning lines whilst watching people take exams. It’s been fruitful, that particular dayjob, and it often crops up just at the time when I have words to cram into my head. I am so easily distracted and as a default I like to have something for my brain to be busy with. If I’m just at home I have to work hard to stay focused on the essential but solitary task of line learning. Arguably it’s the most crucial part of this wonderful pretence we indulge in. Yes I also work with improv. But when learning is required, it is a company thing, and we all come to work with the script in our head. With the Germans I have to really know their responses as well, and their thoughts, so I can pick my honest reactions to words and revelations that come elsewhere in the sentence across the language barrier. The one I’m learning at the moment will flex that muscle too. I’m playing a historic figure, who happens to look a bit like me, but who was mostly active in a country far from his native England. Even in the short scene I’m learning today there are large sections where whoever I persuade to read in with me will have to negotiate paragraphs in an unfamiliar language.
I love that feeling of coming onto set confident and happy your learn is bedded, and ready to listen and respond to the other people who have worked as hard. That’s when you find nuance. But like with many types of homework, people don’t like to admit how much work they’re doing when you’re not watching. I like three sleeps on lines, but often that’s not possible. I’ve worked on sets where the sides for the day get pushed under the door at 6am. We do what we can. But when you take into account auditions, a large portion of my life has been spent learning things, often just to say them once.
In my flat I often stumble on scribbled scenes. I like to write them down and learn it from the physical page. I’ll find notepads full of stuff I’ve forgotten in boxes in my flat. Things I can’t even remember a single thing about, but that I know I knew by heart once, briefly. Sometimes I’ll wonder if perhaps I wrote them feverishly one night waking from a dream. Sometimes perhaps I did. But mostly they are exchanges from short and long films, historic reenactment, telly, corporate gigs – you name it. I’ve covered a lot of ground over the years.
Every job is one that I would like to get, so it’s always hard to forget them once they’re sent. My agent fixed the tape I sent last night, bless them. Now I’m running around my flat before bed trying to find my granddad’s old naval uniform to put on tomorrow… I think I’ve vacuumed it though. Hmm.
A strange way to make a living. Many strands. But I’m glad of Abigail all those years ago bringing me onto the team invigilating these complicated exams about money at my local college. To be paid to be in a focused room? Gold dust. Particularly when, like today, I luck out into a room with extra-timers. Not many of them, and we have to be super-chilled.
WeTransfer is currently uploading a self tape. It’s a good part for me, but I ambitiously tried to frame it so I could stand up into shot and sit down again, as the scene wanted that, and it has ended up showing the workings as I couldn’t find a way to crop it into landscape without decapitating myself. And a cat walked into the Ident. I’ve sent it anyway, as part of my brand is humanity. I’ve gone this long hoping that will be recognised. I am in so far in blood…
I’m wearing another of the Opera House costumes. This one resembles what the fellow is wearing in a picture I found online. He was a real person. In lieu of a cummerbund, I’ve got a silk scarf and a single stocking of about the same colour. In the picture he’s wearing a wig, as they often did back then. I could pass.
There’s a bit of white shirt poking out. I really ought to invest in a selection of good cummerbunds. It’s always down to improvisation, but the costumes came for free so I guess I’m not used to laying out cash. Useful costumes, I would say, although a little part of me feels like you get the part as frequently if you just do it in whatever and look like you don’t give a shit and just tripped over the lines.
The tape came after a double shift of dayjobbing and before a press night. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to Jazz Emu at Soho Theatre, which is a brilliant escape into high status clowning, backed up by real musical ability. I put down two pints in quick succession before the show, and then took a third in. By the curtain I was feeling distinctly unwell. I’m not sure how that’s happened. Pre lockdown that wouldn’t have touched the sides. All I had eaten was an egg and cress sandwich, which might have been part of it. But perhaps… Perhaps I haven’t got the beer legs I used to have. Good thing too. Six quid plus each they were. Lack of booze makes theatre and restaurants much more affordable, and it seems that whether I want it or not my body is going that way – or is it my mind? Whatever it is, I pulled out as soon as the show was over and got myself home to a mostly empty fridge and a dinner of cheese on toast.
Hopefully The General will land. It’s a human tape… There are opportunities in the pipeline, and they feel right… All the fingers crossed that something crystallises. The way things are going it’s a comfort that I won’t be blowing all my fee on booze anymore…
Underground in Kensington, just off the Fulham Road. A regularly flooded basement. The lights are all shorted. A storeroom.
This store is below the functioning office of an old friend. Back just after I left Guildhall I worked there on a temp basis from time to time. Phoning newspapers for back-issues. Changing the ink on the franking machine. Curating the mailing lists. Doing the office things. I didn’t last long. I don’t, in offices. They would get me to do the dull practical things, as often as not. And one December I was detailed to make sense of the storeroom.
Back then it was full of samples. I organised it all and made it look current. Everything was easy to access. I was proud of the work I did. It was better than I ever do at home, because it was for somebody else and I was being paid.
I was back there today. Sure, it’s been over fifteen years. But nothing remained of my attempt at sorting. All the things were different. Nothing made sense. Much of it was more personal to my friend than the stuff I had sorted. Desperate mice had eaten anything soft. It was pitch black. My friend runs a company from the building, but her life things have crept into this store over the years. We were trying to sort it all out but it’s not just one day’s work.
The best things in there are prams and car seats. She kept all her good quality baby stuff against someone needing it, but they haven’t. It’s time to move it all on. I might end up putting it on eBay for them, but the old attributed value thing is coming up again: “That thing is worth loads of money!” “Here are three examples of it getting no bids on eBay starting as low as 0.99p.” “eBay is the wrong place to sell it then.”
To an extent, yes. But we can spend our lives getting a few bob more for things, or we can just roll them over into somebody else’s life where they will have use. Every generation keeps stuff and passes it down. The exit generation kept furniture and plates. Our lot are keeping lots of digital assets which are going to be tomorrow’s nightmare. Grandpa’s bitcoin. Uncle’s Magic the Gathering account…
I’ll be as useful as I can be for her. We threw a lot in the bin. It felt good doing it. There’s loads more to throw and it might be good to try and sell some of it – even though there’s not much value. Time is always the thing. These things take time to list. Often you just have to throw in the towel and accept that life is more interesting than getting maximum value from things and bits. I pay over three quid for a coffee all the time. I’m getting ripped off for everything from power to water. Maybe someone with a new baby will be thrilled to get a decent car seat for very little. Anyone want to buy a car seat? Sometimes you are better off saying goodbye to the stuff and hello to the space… I’m convincing myself here…