I’m a yoyo again. Bouncing back to Brighton for the day. I’m exhausted and don’t want to think or talk but Lou is glad to see me so I’m probably coming across as grumpy as all I really want to do is nothing in silence. Tomorrow morning I’m driving the cat to the vet. That is my purpose. Then I’m straight back up to London.
I woke up at 5 still a bit zoned from the drugs and shortly afterwards I woke up a surprisingly game Tristan and we drove to Chelsea and Westminster hospital to pick up Bergman from the side street where he had been sleeping. A quick goodbye to Tristan and then I floored it and made it out to Northolt for 8am only to discover that there’s been an error and I’m expected tomorrow morning not today. That’s that job down the pan then. They’ve found a replacement. I was kinda glad not to have to do it even though I wanted the money. I drove slowly to Brighton instead.
Lou had a lunch date with some female friends at The Ivy, so I studiously avoided getting invited to join them despite the good food – you know, so Lou could happily talk about whatever arcane things the ladies discuss behind closed doors. Instead I thought I’d give Bergman a little treat for all his hard work of late and I took him to be valeted. It’s not a full service like he needs – that’ll come in good time. Just a nice scrub. He got a proper shining inside and out. He’s looking and smelling much more salubrious now. It took them fucking ages though, so while Lou was howling in The Ivy with the ladies I was freezing my ass off in a concrete car park by ASDA waiting for the noisy bugger to finish shining my wheels. It would have been warmer and cheaper to’ve done it myself. But sometimes it’s nice to have people do a thing for you.
The weather today was a flash of hope. There were moments when I felt something close to warmth outside, standing in the sun. If they hadn’t taken so long I would’ve been able to keep in the sun, but by the time they finished it was half four and it was an orb falling into the sea again. Ciao Sol.
I drove to the lanes and grabbed a quick carbonara and a glass of Montepulciano and just as I was finishing Lou rang to say she was done at The Ivy and I chauffeured the ladies home in my newly spruced whip.
Now it’s bedtime. It’s nine. It’s bedtime. My feet are cold and I crave oblivion. I just had a lovely hot bath. Great to spend time with Lou and if we are sleeping then I won’t have to think.
This morning I hauled myself out of sleep to force myself to drink another horrible litre of salty orange poojuice. The heating wasn’t on. Freezing. Nothing I wanted to do less than get out of blanketbed. But another two hours of attempting to be a self propelled jetski but failing to take off forced me to find flushable water.
I wasn’t certain it was poosafe to travel by noon, but I wanted to get to hospital early. Clothes on and lights off and heating off. The hospital is in my borough so I can park anywhere. I drove in and parked a few streets from the hospital. I went and checked in.
One nurse on reception. I checked in and then watched. They were working front and and back end on their own. Some patients were more demanding than others. “Excuse me, it says no mask no entry on the door, is that still the rules?” “You can wear a mask of you prefer.” “But it says on the door no mask no entry but I’m not going to wear a mask. Also it says Endoscopy. I’m here for a Colonoscopy. Is it only Endoscopy patients with masks? How can you do an Endoscopy with a mask?” “Just use your common sense you passive aggressive cunt,” he didn’t say. “This is the right place for a colonoscopy too.” “Then why does it say etc etc” This is why I’m not a nurse. I would have had a secret trapdoor built in front of reception with a chute leading to the snake pit.
I’m only there about half an hour before I get called, in which time I watch that poor nurse working two jobs. Another nurse comes and introduces themselves. She takes me into a little room and gets my scrubs. All my stuff goes into bags. She double checks my identity and we fill in some forms. She leaves so I can get into scrubs.
I’m trying to make out like I’m not nervous but it’s clear I am. I get disposable shorts with an access hatch in the bum.
I put all my stuff into plastic bags and wait. She is off seeing other patients. Eventually she returns. It is time to attach the cannula to my arm. “What’s going in there?” “Midazolam and Fentanyl. But not now. This is just the cannula.” “I always pass out when I’m injected,” I tell her. “I don’t know why. Usually it’s about 3 minutes after. It’s not something I can affect. I’ve tried. I’m usually very good at mind over matter but I can’t make sense of this one. It’s a thing.” “I’m scared of needles too, ” she says and does a great job of getting the cannula on fast.
She then leaves to look after other people again. I take that photo, send some texts. A couple of minutes pass and I’m thinking I’ve gotten away with it when the familiar haze encroaches on the edges of my vision. “Oh fuck here we go ,” I think. I’m sitting down and I know how this goes even if I’m gonna be alone for the mad wake-up. I consider calling out but … I can handle this and all the nurses are overworked.
Shutters, white noise vision. I ensure stability in the chair as I am gianthand swatted right to left into boundless oblivion.
Everything. Everything. The boundless cosmos. The SIZE THE NOISE. Kaleidoscope voices. The edges are on fire. Moments telescope into aeons and I am gone forever into other lives and worlds and spaces.
I recover suddenly from infinite dreams of madness and who knows how much time has passed but I’m presently launching forward out of my seat with urgency. One of those endless versions left a memory of a need. Something I must do. In this world or their world? A powerful aegis to put on a man with disposable bumflap shorts. I’ll have to try to remember. This one is sane again and here is the world this one is in again in this idea of a time stream, and I once more inhabit this unusual being I chose. The end of the faint brings a sudden shock of cold sweat. Every inch of my body makes itself sweat wet, especially my face. The remaining laxative in my gut has not had the benefit of any consciousness holding it in for however long I was elsewhere. I’m back in this version of time and the poo is knocking at my door. I know where the loo is thank God. I asked the nurse. I rush there and it’s still a near miss as sweating and still remembering who I have decided to be right now and I clear the scrubs out the way and let the liquid contents of my gut Vesuvius downwards. Still I don’t achieve flight. The model is flawed.
I go back and I sit on my poor bum. Time passes, and since we are back in the timestream it must. Enter Mike.
“Well then, here you are,” says Mike. “You’re young. I guess you’re wondering how you got here?”
“It’s how it goes. You notice changes in your bowel, we find deep blood in your poo, next thing, here you are. I’m the doctor.” I love him. He artlessly called me young.
We fill in forms. He’s great. “You’re an actor?” “Well, yes but I think you’ll be seeing a different side of me from the one I present as part of my work.” He thinks about it. “Yes, but I mostly see a part of everyone that they haven’t seen before.”
He makes some notes and leaves me alone again. He’s evidently extremely good and extremely busy.
Eventually two new nurses come and get me. They bring me into the room and lie me down. They check who I am again and attach blood pressure and heart rate monitors. I get relaxed.
The doctor has made the call that I don’t need Midazolam. That’s the sedative that is anti anxiety. “Just the Fentanly,” he says, and says to me : “There are people out there who go out of their way for this stuff.” I respond; “Mate, there are people out there who would go out of their way for what you’re about to do to me.” “Not so many people,” he responds, and he shoves a long long camera all the way up my arse to my bellybutton.
Without the Midazolam I am weirdly happy to be fully aware and watching the screen. The invasion of the camera causes a catastrophe of farting which is welcomed by the doctor : “Good, that’s the best thing to do.” I think one of my farts lasts about a minute. Call Norris McWhorter.
Together we watch Gut-TV. It’s ok up there. I’ve just had a full purge too. And mostly my gut is all fine. Just one great big 1.5cm polyp, causing all the problems,b in my rectum. Mike is an expert in his field and happy to offer his opinion. “Big one there. Let’s get it off. Doesn’t look cancerous to me.”
I watch as it is frozen off and then stitched up with a small metal stud. They momentarily can’t find where it fell but they gather it up for biopsy. “Oh and there’s piles,” he says almost conversationally as it all comes out.
‘Twas a polyp. Nothing more. A big one though. They’ll be dissecting it now. It looked like a little brain. I’m glad it’s gone. Doctor was happy it was benign.
More nurses in aftercare and the receptionist again in discharge and good God how can the government not SEE that they are wonderful humans working so hard? Every one of them will be working long hours and without any stops, fielding nerves and pain and cleverness and shyness and all the tricky bits of humans with SKILL” They MUST be paid better. Sadly the government literally doesn’t understand what work actually is. Or skill. Unchecked privilege has driven our country almost to standstill.
Tristan picked me up. “I’m fine I can drive home don’t worry.” “Your eyes are glazed. I don’t believe you. What have you had?” “Just a tiny tiny bit of Fentanyl it’s fine it’s fine.” Fentanyl killed Prince.
I’m back at T&T’s. I brought along a jar of foie gras de canard that my neighbour gave me ages ago. We had the lot along with some excellent Bolognese, and now Henry the cat and I are settling in for an early bed. The dreams won’t be the fever dreams of earlier when I momentarily accidentally shunted out of this place to another of them. I’m back here again whatever “here” is, and this one is healthy and polyp free and ready to make some interesting and weird changes on this version of now going forward.
Thank everything for the NHS. Nye Bevan. May his legacy last 1000 years. May it certainly outlast these manicured empty incompetent liars in Westminster.
A little jaunt up to Hampstead today via Camden. The lockup hasn’t been raided again yet, so I put a few more things in there. Nothing valuable as I can never be sure if I’ll come back to it in one piece. Glad it’s on the ground floor and easily accessible. Those boxes of books have been pissing me off and likely making every journey much more expensive. I need to look after Bergie as he’s off to Majorca again in three weeks or so. I might be clever to get him serviced. Money though.
In Hampstead I assessed the basic Majorca load and then noticed it was almost 3pm. I wasn’t allowed to eat after 3pm because of this damn colonoscopy. It’s a very limited list of permissible food items allowed before the cutoff, and I hadn’t brought myself a cheese sandwich on white bread. God I like good food. Alongside heat it’s definitely one of my favourite things. I stopped at a sushi place and explained the diet to the lovely man at the counter. He made me up some of the best salmon sashimi I’ve ever had, with sesame rice and no veg. Sesame seeds sprinkled on it though.. Damn. I had neglected to mention that I’m not allowed seeds, nuts and pulses. I went and sat in Bergman and painstakingly separated the seeds from the rice before enjoying a surprisingly tasty lunch within the rules. A few stray seeds surely won’t do too much harm tomorrow.
Then I drove home, booted up Sea of Thieves and had a sloop loaded full of treasure when my alarm told me it was 7pm and it was time to start working my way through my first litre of laxatives. A measuring jug, and two sachets. One of them, the big one, has got 100 grams of an osmotic laxative in it, mixed up with loads of different rehydration salts and some really pokey orange flavouring. The other sachet is basically just vitamin C. It’s a berocca with consequences. Most of the thing I’ve taken is designed to help with the effects of the thing I’ve taken. (I also have a little bottle of something that helps babies fart, in case I get bloated). Mix the sachets up with a litre of cold water and gradually drink it over two hours. I realised I was never gonna get that treasure sloop back to port quite quickly and abandoned everything but my book. I ran a hot bath. I spent two hours bouncing in and out of it. Comfort and warmth and cleansing water to counterbalance an unpleasant few hours. I kept on topping it up. Now finally I’m in bed. Four hours have passed since I started sipping that orangey gack. I’m not quite out of the woods yet. Once it’s safe to go to bed though I’m gonna have to as first thing tomorrow morning it’ll be time for another litre of nasty orangey ick, with likely very similar results.
Outside my window I can hear the Saturday night party boat. All the youth dancing. Saturday night, innit. I like to think that my Saturday night has been rock and roll too. In some ways very Elvis. Definitely it’s been unusual and strangely memorable. I’ve not had a Saturday night like it. In between bouts I’ve been looking at cheap and pleasant Airbnb options in the middle of France and Majorca to stop at mid February as I fly down to the sun again for a brief but welcome job. Now I’m adding even more liquid to myself with a great big camomile tea to take my mind off the fact that I want FOOD.
So it seems that for ages now, all the people I know have been going off and having loads of colonoscopys without telling me. There I was thinking it was something reasonably unusual, and I get a phone call this morning and mention it. “Oh yeah, we both had that last year. The worst thing about it is the diet beforehand.”
Then later in the day another call and “Oh yeah, I’m having one on Wednesday.” Then a bit later and “We went to Santa’s grotto after a colonoscopy in December…”
Either everybody is always having colonoscopys secretly, or the people I’m talking to regularly are a little bit older than they used to be, heaven forbid. Didn’t the conversation used to be about how my friend did that thing and then someone said X and so I said Y and can you imagine and have you SEEN the new Z? Now it’s “Oh yeah I had that weird medical procedure oh hang on sorry got to go the child is biting my ear again.” “WE ARE OLD,” says one dear friend. She’s the oldest mum at the school gates. I’ve known her for over twenty years. I remember when I was twenty I thought I was ancient. Hell.
The diet is shit. Well… the opposite. But it’s annoying. No fruit. No nuts pulses beans etc. Nothing wholemeal. No vegetables. No red meat etc etc. No fibre. I’m making a mac and cheese without the chili or chorizo. Tomorrow I’ll have chicken wings or something. And then I’ll have to drink a litre of medical strength laxative in the evening before getting up at six to have another litre before fasting all day until they do unpleasant things on Sunday afternoon instead of a nice roast dinner. What price peace of mind, eh? Thank Christ we have this NHS still despite the fact they’re closing in on it. I’m gonna be super strict and obey all points of what I’ve been asked to do. I am aware how incredibly fortunate I am to have this test available to me gratis. If this was America I’d have had to take Bergman to the dealership.
The mercy is that coffee is allowed even on the morning of the procedure. Black only, so I’ve bought some posh grains. Gonna suck what joy I can from this. Cheese is on the menu, hell yeah. Coffee and cheese? If red wine was allowed it would be a normal Friday.
I just finished my book. I’ll need something good to take to the hospital as I have no doubt at all that my call time is a long long time before I’m gonna go in. I still hate hospitals so it’ll have to be something that catches me or I’ll be a nervous wreck…
I signed up for a medical trial with an optician. Why?
“They need to see you for an initial assessment to determine if you’re suitable,” I’m told. “It’s unpaid. I hope that’s ok?”
AmenabAl. I said “Yes”. I drove from Chiswick where I had just been consigning some signed pictures of the Queen at the auction house.
I didn’t clock it was in the Congestion Charge zone. Minus £15 with this one already.
There’s no parking anywhere near the place I had to get to. I was already running late. I illegally parked in a Westminster resident’s bay thinking I would only be there a short while. “If they aren’t compensating my time, they won’t take the piss with time,” I thought. “I’ll be out before I get a ticket.”
Into a Westminster basement. The woman at reception fills in some forms with me. “How long have you been wearing contact lenses?” “Since I was at drama school… Twenty years?” “Which drama school did you go to?” “Guildhall. You’re an actress?” “Yes.”
So I’m in a basement. Nobody knows I’m here. The receptionist is an actor.
Two men take me into a room. Only one of them knows how to operate the machines. The other one is the one operating the machines. It begins.
It takes a long time to end.
Left and right and up and down and flash and focus and flash and focus. Blink don’t blink blink don’t blink tick tock car. Lights on lights off lights on lights off. Paint the fence. They are getting every possible angle on my eyes. They are videoing me through some app on their mobile phone, which has got weird foam things stuck all over it. The guy is sticking his paw in and crushing my eyeball as I look up and down and A C X R K. “You’re deforming my eye with your finger as you try to stop my lash, is that ok?” “That’s ok”.
All the while the one who knows what he’s doing is issuing instructions and I wish he was operating the machine as it crushes my nose again. I’m a guinea pig for this big handed chap to learn how to be an optician… And I’m not being paid or in any way compensated. What the hell am I doing here? Literally why haven’t I walked out? I’m trying to go with it because I don’t want them to write me off for the trial.
“I’m just going to fold over the top of your eyelid,” he says and then almost immediately does it and I freeze, fighting the gag reflex as “Just keep looking down” comes and he fumbles over the machine he doesn’t know again and my EYELID IS FOLDED. Then he unfolds and does it with the other eye too and I’m almost actually sick on him for it as he faffs endlessly with the fucking machine. All I can think is “no money for this what the hell am I doing?”.
Then he’s putting two different types of dye into my eyes and still and still and still I haven’t left. Nobody even tells me what each “test” is for, we just get through them and are they even tests? At one point I’m looking into a seventies hypnosis type device. I just mantra my own name and my date of birth thinking I’ve fallen in with some weird unit and they are trying to programme sleeper agents or something. Another time I’m staring at two cameras and they are making me keep my eye open as long as I can and I’m stubborn so we are there ages.
They’ve got enough there now to put my retinas onto a super soldier robot. They don’t need to call me in for this bifocal contact lens trial that I thought I was going in for now… If they don’t I’m gonna be fucking angry as they have got so much free eye data out of me. I’m never gonna be able to safely use retina security now. Not that I’d ever voluntarily set stuff like that up. But I’m pissed off with myself for going through with it all. For what? For the possibility of being involved in a comparatively atrociously badly paid trial for contact lenses that might not even work. Because I’m skint and the happy job I was relying on this year ain’t happening. So now I’m your crash test dummy. I should have been paid for that. I should have been paid for that. I should have been paid for that.
“We will email you if you’re eligible for any of our trials,” the actress tells me as I’m leaving. I should have been paid for that.
My heart rate is up as I leave that building. It was light when I went down down into that basement. Now… now it’s dark. My car.
I lope up to the Buckingham Palace Road at the pace my body can sustain and call speed. I get to Bergman and PHEW he has no clamp, no ticket and he hasn’t been towed… Thank heaven for small mercies. I can’t really afford to put fuel in him right now. A central London fine would be another knife. I sit in him, get my breath back, and put my lenses back into my poor eyes. I should have been paid for that.
When the invading robots all have my exact eyes, you’ll know why. When there’s an AI Al at the check-in desk you’ll know why. It was those two non-paying guys in that Westminster basement!
I’d better be selected. I’m not sure I want to be selected.
*EDITED* I took the names out, and also, looking over this, it was written kneejerk on leaving the hospital. I am totally freaked out by hospitals. I fucking hate them. It made me say ruder things than I meant in memory of my last time in one as patient.
Back into a hospital.
I’m not a healthcare worker. I have very little experience of hospitals. Usually in my experience they are a processing unit. They take in healthy people and process them dead. That’s my experience of what they do. I checked in my mum after she begged me: “I’m in so much pain!” MRSA happened quickly, totally unrelated to her actual condition, and killed her at 55. The doctor put what she was signed in for on her death certificate, not what killed her. She was the rarest blood type. Exceptionally harvestable organs. He was literally a monster, that doctor. He actually hated her and I felt it.
I went into the building and did all the hand sanitising etc etc and tried not to be too freaked out. Eventually a young woman sat with me and gave me a prognosis. No fibre in my diet until Sunday, and after a period of fasting they are going to put a camera up my asshole. I’ll be sure to go into great detail if I can, although my hope is that I’ll be full of morphine.
Last time I had an operation it was general anaesthetic and I was terrified. I quit booze for a year in the lead-up. I asked my friend to be there when I awoke from death. She never showed up, and then got weird with me for almost being late for her wedding. I remember being awkwardly woken and restored to myself by the surgeon who knew nothing about me. It is a scary thing, to go from the nothing of general anesthetic to the everything of world. I have subsequently been ticked off for the near miss with the wedding and we have never bothered to properly explode that casual betrayal of my existence. Even the doctor seemed disappointed and pissed off. He had better places to be, but I woke from nothing to him apologising about how my friend hadn’t bothered to show up. The doctor, by way of helping me remember who I was, laboriously gave me the details of her excuse for not being there. I absorbed it totally without judgement. Our friendship didn’t falter. Later I felt judgment for being *almost* late for her wedding, at which point I felt desperately sad. I was at her wedding in time but I was still made to feel bad for almost being late. I was made to sing the song I had prepared with a small group from my seat opposite the choir of singers. “Just go to your seat,” says one woman. “Oh so we do it from our seats?” “Just go to your seat”. I stood and gave it my all anyway, disconnected, from my seat whilst that damn woman and all the cool kids stood in a pack opposite me. Just a few weeks beforehand I had been zeroed and I had been brought back to life. My first face was not my friend but the actual surgeon, who was angry with me and with her for not being there. He knew that someone had to be there and I know why. It was a terrifying jolt back to reality, I remember it so closely and I try to forget that I was so shocked and upset that my friend basically pulled a casual “no” on the most feared day of my adult life. It was hard to come back to myself. I had to fight for a hospital discharge on my own. They wanted to keep me in overnight as I had noone to get me. It was a hard lesson for me about friends. Our friendship was very deep but it hasn’t survived it properly.
I’m thinking about that ancient unspoken friendship drop because the roots of it happened again today and I got flashbacks. I was asked by the nurse to give details of someone who would pick me up and I immediately went cold, thinking how the person I honestly thought would be there for me last time just scarily wasn’t.
This time I’m not being especially completely wiped out and then resurrected with a general. It’s not as big a deal as the one my friend dropped. But… I’m going to be wobbly afterwards for sure.
I’ve asked Tristan. I taught the bastard how to drive. He can drive me home now he’s got a car, dammit.
Sixteen of us, standing in a circle. Colin speaks up: “This is like one of those movies where the football team gets together years later for one last match after they almost won the thing,” he says. “We’re all feeling a bit fat and middle aged. But we know we’re gonna have to get fit FAST.”
We need a montage. Tristan’s there. “It’s almost ten years since I did Shakespeare,” he confides. Leila and Steve both got the train from Brighton. Simon is there. Dean and Scott, both of whom I first met over twenty years ago now, fresh faced on the first day of Guildhall. Jono who toured with Twelfth Night, and who has become a dear friend over many Factory years. Caroline who I met filming a biopic about Princess Margaret back in the day. Odyssey faces back in the room. Nell and Jay. Nigel from Sprite days. Fitzrovia Radio Hour representing through Alix. Milly and oh dear I’ve started to try and list them all which is a hiding to nothing as it was all something of a blur for me too, coming into this warm evening room in Marylebone and contemplating making a collective piece of theatre. I’ll stop before I get through everybody but one and then they get sent a link to this. I don’t normally name names – people are very fragile. But many of these people in this room have inadvertently become part of the history of my strange existence. Without this creative fellowship I don’t think I would have the degree of ease in my work that I’ve developed. It didn’t come easy, that ease. Most of us are trauma bonded from the beautiful early days where we had the patronage of the delightful malcontent Tim Carroll, who wouldn’t let us get away with tricks, and ran an incredible fertile but painful rehearsal room with many of these people over the course of years.
It’s a hell of a fellowship, The Factory, and I’m glad we are back in the room, albeit a gentler room. Louie Scheeder (May he rest in peace, good soul) He was a gentle force for many of us when we could afford to fly him over from New York, and Reuben carries some of the same habits – an enabler and a thoughtful head in a mischievous room full of dedicated and extremely hard working carnage-magicians.
We are gonna learn a certain play very quickly. Has it been announced? Am I allowed to say? Maybe not so I won’t. But yeah we are gonna try collectively to go from zero to forty in no time at all. Bing bang bong. It took two years to get Hamlet to performance. This will be quicker. We are too long in the tooth to take forever. A flowing company, multiple actors knowing multiple parts, able to bring it to multiple venues most likely on a Sunday evening. It has been part of the web of my joy, to have these people and many more come together and make ridiculous fun things to the best of our ability. We’ve done it for decades.
Bring in some new members, they say, but with a high focus on good people who in some way help expand our understanding. We are very white and cis and middle aged, I’ll go right ahead and say it. Most of our demographically interesting members are constantly working at way too high a level to come back. The contents of that room – every one of us could have “persistent and resilient in the face of adversity” as a special skill on spotlight. We grow from new voices in this collaborative process, so we need to find people who challenge us. But the process and the work isn’t to everybody’s taste. We’ve always had a high turnover of actors. Learning all those lines with no promise of playing the part. I learnt Claudius for Hamlet. Didn’t play him until years later. Didn’t mind.
It’s about the work. A focus and a fellowship. Until one of these self-tapes lands, I can think of this as my actors gym. That’s what it is really, with the performance as a necessary part of the training. Right now, as Colin said, we are slow and heavy. The big match isn’t far away. Cue the eighties music.
There’s a workshop I’ve been delivering for ages, on and off. It’s actually pretty good. When I was learning it, the day before my first one, I drove up to watch someone deliver it somewhere in the Black Country. He did a good job – made something quite bland very palatable – and afterwards I gave him a lift to the station and picked his brain.
“The layout in the PowerPoint they send you isn’t helpful,” he says to me. “I just rearranged it until it made sense to deliver.” He was speaking from experience. This guy does workshops pretty much as a full time job so he knows it. Me? I’m just moonlighting. But yes, useful. I find that based on the reality of the room I’m in and what’s available, the time I have and the type of people taking the workshop, I tailor the content. They like to surprise me with weird timings or mixed ages. I’ll often skip sections or dwell longer on more practical parts if I think the room will hold focus. There are some long videos they have if you really need filler but I prefer to avoid them as for the most part they involve catastrophically boring people telling you that something dull they do is “exciting”. My job is to inspire these people and the videos don’t help in that regard. We are working towards Net-Zero. These workshops are part my platform to do some of the little environment rants you occasionally see popping out of me here on my limited platform when I’m tired. It’s all part of trying to make the world a better place and trying to help people easily be more considerate.
It was with some trepidation that I opened the latest pile of emails after work today. The people in the office have been having meetings. These are humans with no idea how it is to actually run the damn workshops, but they are very involved in the content. The whole event opens with a very sketchy video of an actor who hasn’t learnt their lines delivering words in the idiom of an older generation. The next five minutes after I’ve played it usually involve me having to claw back the interest of a room that has just been slightly discouraged. You need to start strong, dammit.
“Have they changed the starting video at last?” No. No they haven’t. Urgh. “New content “. They’ve just rearranged some slides again and had an idea about another thing to add that, as far as I’m concerned is not hugely interesting for anybody but the people who came up with it. I avoid offices but I get the sense that over 50% of the work done in them is just people having to do something instead of doing nothing even though nothing really needs to be done. Nobody asked us what needed changing or even if it needed changing…
This morning I got up at 6, had breakfast and drove to Middlesex. I was finished by eleven and home at noon. I was really proud of how it went. Totally won the room, lots of interest, great engagement. Smashed it. Then all these emails. It’ll be fine and really this job is only a few times a month, but it might start being more now I’ve got that big electricity bill. I guess if it does fill more of my time I just need to suck it in. I already lost one great day job on the boats by being too visible. It’s the office people who pay me. I’ll honour what they want from it and keep my head down. But… well I’ve never been very good at sucking it in or pleasing office people. Respectful thoughtful and practical disobedience is my happy place, (and wide open spaces under the sun.)
I’ll have to restrain myself from writing an honest email if it ever occurs to them to ask the people who deliver it for feedback on the new content… I could maybe break my habit and be tactful if they do. Onwards for now.
I bought a chicken. It’s something I understand. I can make a chicken last a long time. Initial meal, then sandwiches, then casserole and stock the bones and vegetable soup. I might skip the stock though as it involves the gas hob so it isn’t an economy option anymore.
Frank came round and helped me eat it. He has an audition tomorrow for a company that I first became aware of advertised on the wall of a stately home somewhere. I immediately got a massive hit of nostalgia when I saw the posters. A hankering for those summers on the road, building Shakespeare out of vans, staying in incredible rooms one night and shoddy fleapits the next, playing the hat game with a tight knit company, seeing strange parts of the country. Learning the van load as well as your lines. Fellowship. Touring theatre. It’s gorgeous, romantic and fun. You’ll come home with new friends and exactly the same amount of money as you had when you left. But it is part of how we grow in this job. Obliquely, if I hadn’t done Private Lives on the estate of Lord Cholmondely in Norfolk, I would never have played Scrooge in Christmas Carol. Work breeds work. And before long if I can’t nail something down I’m gonna be eating my own arms.
I looked at his audition speeches and tried to say helpful things. He was good, and he has three instruments. He’s mercurial and versatile. Oh to be 25 again. I had a moment thinking I should email the company in case they are looking for an “older” member, but then I examined it and knew that I almost certainly don’t want to be on the road all summer even though I might have a blast. Gotta stay available for that elusive big job. The producers would look at my age and genuinely have discussions like “Oh but he’s in his forties, do you think he is still capable of walking?” I miss the Sprite summers, particularly now when it is so cold and dark. But things like that come once in a lifetime. Nevertheless, I’m up for a summer Shakespeare. Considering they are casting now, maybe I’m gonna have to make one myself. So many of the staples of small scale touring have collapsed now. It’s getting harder and harder to find low status joyful work – the work that builds confidence and experience for the makers who go on to be national treasures. No matter what your politics might be, and not even taking into account the NHS, if you love The Arts and understand how they work then please for the love of God we have to get these snakes out of Westminster.
Anyway, I hope his audition went well. Here he is noodling.
Yes my fishtank needs topping up. It’s full of loaches though and they like it brackish.
“Surely that’s wrong,” I thought, as I looked at my bill from Bulb. Yeah I know the narrative is all about how we need to switch everything off and it’s still going to be more expensive than ever before. I get it, oil company execs need to make all the money now before it runs out. But over £300 in just a month? Christ that’s a whopper.
Thankfully I had a huge balance on the Bulb account which I’ve been thinking of claiming back. They take your money in advance and build up credit. I always thought that was a bit dodgy. Multiply by all their customers and it’s a wonder they went into administration. But that credit is welcome now. “I’ll spend it eventually,” I thought when I decided not to claim it and oops yep now it’s gone. A month of a constantly warm flat and loads of hot baths. That’ll do it. Lovely not to be freezing my butt off at home, but for the rest of the month I’m gonna be hoping it warms up outside as it’s me and the electric blanket and as little gas as I can get away with.
The best way to get people to change their habits is to hit them in the wallet. I gave up smoking when I didn’t have enough for fags and food at the same time. I was working in some pub theatre thinking it would bring me “exposure”. I made the right choice that time, didn’t buy cigarettes and … something in my head shifted and I didn’t take a free one off Eddie at lunch. Haven’t smoked since and that was decades ago.
A bill like that, despite this rather odd £60 monthly subsidy, is a very good way to make a man with sporadic income and expensive tastes stop and think about what he leaves on and when, and his expensive habits.
And that’s across the country right now on these cold days. The government is making videos about it that autoplay on social media. We are all having to find ways to cut costs. If you’ve got kids, hard to make them ok with being freezing cold though so I’m glad that’s not part of my to do list.
I grew up in a cold house. Dad was frugal. Mony a mickle maks a muckle. I can go back to selective warmth for a while. Cranking up the heating is my teenage expression of being independent, that’s all. I have very little guaranteed income when I project forward the next few months. Gotta be careful careful careful and another month with a bill like that and I’m gonna be eating rice until June and doing no driving. This is across the country in the last days of this rollercoaster of clowns. It sucks but at least we’re all broke together! We can share tips about how to cook cardboard.
I’m back in the smoke. Dayjobbish work things are gently shifting and I have to plug into them. Time to try and step it up. Wouldn’t it be lovely to just pay that bill without even noticing… Gotta keep rolling the dice, sending the emails, shifting the energy. Good things somewhere. Just have to find them…