Way too tired to be clever

Oh God.

A hard day. A strange day. My ability to make sense of things has been commuted into an attempt to make sense of other people’s jazz.

I’m fine. It’s hard because I’m hearing about things that don’t make sense to me. Mel Smith couldn’t smoke at Winston Churchill etc etc. “My grandfather on my mother’s side never saw a mobile phone.”

In around 1992 Michael Caine said that 50% of all human knowledge was going to be learnt in the next fifty years. Meaning that we are at a torpedo level of understanding. Or something. What the fuck does that mean? Nobody has a fucking clue what that means. I’m writing this while talking to someone who is fucknutted.  “NO!” he says. “We are in the wrong season.” This means nothing.

So there we are, Batman. We could have learnt twice as much as we already will in the next fifty years. Or we could sit in a cafe drinking fernet branca. “You’ve got this wrong and not me.”

“I will show you something that’s wonderful and involves Fernet Branca.”

“Put That in your right ear”

He’s sent me a video but I can’t share it. It’s nonsense. I’m mostly involved in not making Tanya have to sleep next up a pissed human.

Am I making sense? Of course I’m not, and any attempt I am making to make sense is being shattered by the needs of my dear friend for me to be lost. “Look at it, it’s horrible to look at but it’s a bomb. You have a few seconds of going it’s nothing and then it hits your gut and it explodes and you hold onto something and then … you eventually will be okay… Gods willing.

Bums. How do we make them feel safe? etc. zxxx Drunk humans and positioning. meh

Coddling eggs

There are many weird things that have passed through my hands over the years, and at the moment things are on the way out out out. But I have been thoughtful… perhaps too thoughtful. Nothing has passed by me without thought. Huge amounts of scores and music books went down to a Music Hall museum in Brighton, long before I met Lou. Some things went to auction, others I returned to the people I picked up from as being either too personal or too valuable. Piano to Gatsby etc etc… I’m never in the business of screwing people over. I like the right thing to go to the right place.

One of the things that came to me was a pair of really rather lovely Royal Worcester egg coddlers. I could’ve got a tenner on eBay. I kept them. I have never coddled an egg. Never until today. But I kind of knew that maybe I was the right place for these unusual kitchen tools.

When we were hungry and mum had stuff going on, if she didn’t have her Heinz Ravioli she would hardboil a few eggs, then munge them up with a fork and throw in butter and pepper and salt. “There you go boys, ‘oeufs Americaine’ ” I was a fan. Munged up egg is better than three hour poached skate with disintegrating veg. Eggs are an idea of good easy quick food to me.

I have looked suspiciously at these egg coddlers though. I have my ways of cooking eggs, honed over decades. I know there’s a market for coddlers… I almost flogged them a few times but decided to hang on. Today I finally decided to absorb them into my life.

That’s a single egg, in a little individual coddle. I rubbed the inside of it with butter first before cracking the egg into it. I read that on the internet. Might make it easier to clean? I just went with it. Then the egg and a bit of salt and pepper. Professionals might be thinking about things like cheese and ham at this point, but this was a first trip down coddle street for me. I just went a-coddling. I was following advice I found here at Christina’s Cucina, which is a website that has really sorted out all the links and advertisement type stuff, and which provides a step by step, interspersed with multiple adverts, about how to do it all. Christina is not only better at coddling eggs than I am, she is also better at the internet. Although maybe there are… too many adverts? I dunno, perhaps we are used to this by now. I’ve had adverts switched off on this blog for 4 years now as I think they make things feel less sincere. But perhaps I would be wise to take a leaf from Christina’s cookbook.

Reader, I coddled them. I used the small one and the larger one. I made soldiers. The soldiers got stuck in. Seven minutes, said Christina. For seven minutes that little pot was in the bubbling pan. I have a big pot and a small pot. They both were perfect. Please note, I DO NOT KEEP MY EGGS IN THE FRIDGE. Madness.

Christina is very right about these Royal Worcester coddlers. Sure you can do it in a ramekin but these are attractive and dedicated and vintage and sexy and they totally fit my brand. Get some. And no, I’m not selling the spares on eBay and trying to inflate the price.

The best thing about the result is that you have a soft boiled egg but you can happily mush it all up together with the herbs and spices and whatever you add, and you don’t have to be gentle in case you break the shell. I’m gonna be using those things a lot. Thank you Christina and Ben who they came from. Below is my photo journal of the process. Once they were cooked I took fewer photos as the eating was more important to me. But omnomnom. Those soldiers died happy. And no sign of Molly. Next time I’m gonna put two eggs in the larger one and maybe some other things and start to experiment. But for the basics, 7 minutes in boiling water, and more if you are scared of eggs, as many people seem to be. And nom.

Forgotten play reading

The Gatsby party was lovely. Good people in theatre connecting with old friends and celebrating a history of shared pain and passion and fun and lack of funds. There’s much that’s on a shoestring in the immersive world. In the final analysis, nobody goes to work in theatre to get rich. Gatsby worked through so many versions, and it feels like it’s a show that grew up with the makers. Experiencing it sober was an eye opener, and I still stayed up way too late. “You left at just the right time,” I was told the next morning. Still didn’t get to bed until about half four. They would have been going until dawn.

Today I was Sundaying. A little voice in my head was going *something you’re supposed to do* but there was nothing in my diary and I couldn’t bring it up on the brainstem rolodex. So it was electric blanket and book time. I didn’t really intend to move more than the trip to the kitchen to reheat my macaroni cheese. And it was all going so well until about five past five in the evening when I got the text from Charlie. “All good for 7pm?” He knows me, this man. I’m glad of it. My brain is so retentive in some ways, almost photographic in others, but God I can be forgetful about casual engagements. I’m sure there are people who are angry with me for standing them up and I’ve got no idea I did it. 7pm. Tits. He lives in N5 and the tubes are fucked. That’s an hour in Bergman.

Charlie has written a play by mistake. He’s got two kids, he went on holiday, he was researching a big story that caught his interest about a lost painting and he got distracted by a little tale of five men going in search of a woman. It’s a very good piece of writing, witty and well researched. I sat in a room with people who will be going up for the same parts as me in the wider world and we read this gorgeous play to hear it out loud so Charlie could get it out of his system and get back to the thing he wanted to be writing. This is a frequent occurrence. We need to hear our stuff. We ask our friends. I was happy to be asked.

It’s very very good. He’s a very good writer. But my head is shifting. I went to Gatsby with a new friend who is a lot younger than me and queer. I saw the Gatsby story through their eyes and we were talking after about the stories people tell and about representation – about their place in the industry. Gatsby has always been beautifully and delicately cast with an eye to representation but there’s only so much you can do with such a straight story. Still there are flags flying and there’s great kindness seeded throughout that piece. The discussions have been had. Spin the bottle felt dated though and uncomfortable. Although it’s meant to.

I made it into clothes and across town just in time. I was the last. I’m rarely if ever late. It doesn’t do to be late as an actor.

The only woman in the room this evening was reading the stage directions. It was something of a sausage fest. I was happy to be one of the sausages, but there’s that old internal conflict rearing its head again. There are some simple changes I will feed back to the writer that could make it a little easier to produce in the world we live in now, and a bit less sausagey. It doesn’t really answer any of the “Why this play now?” questions, but some pub theatres I can think of have sold out for decades without even considering that question. I like a bit of esoteric academic head driven wordplay. I like a bit of stylised witty banter. You can take the boy out of the all boys public school but …

My frame is wider now. So much wider than it was then. It still doesn’t take everything in by any means. I have huge blind spots that I couldn’t tell you about because they’re blind spots. But I’ve been trying to expand my range of human understanding almost as a matter of professional pride. I don’t know what I’d write if I was as clever as Charlie. But it wouldn’t be that.

Afterwards we all had spaghetti. Five actors who are pretty much the same casting as each other. People were whittling out their Ned Sherrin style carefully honed Theatrical Anecdotes. Even Larry came up in some. Much on Maggie Smith. A deal of appreciation for Rickman and his uncompromising diaries that have just been published. I wonder what this blog would have been like over the years if I hadn’t been aware that people might read it. Sure I try to be open, but there are people who I can’t stand and behaviours I’ve felt I can’t report back publicly. Rickman just wrote it all and then waited until after he died. Good on him.

Last Gatsby

The final Gatsby in London. If you put Gatsby’s Mansion into Google maps it brings up the venue. It has been running for years, starting in The Fleeting Arms pub in York where one December, Jack and I saw the first ever tester show however many years ago. From there to the Vaults, to Colab Factory, to Mold, back to York and constant in London, moving to this new building near Bond Street. The end of an era now and I’m glad I’ll be there to see it off. There’s a grand piano that came from The Player’s Theatre, previously property of Dominic le Foe, now used to bang out “Ain’t We Got Fun”. Every actor brings something different to the show and the next company collate it and develop it further. There are things that I’ve watched grow and grow over time. I’m very fond of this show. I’ve carried props in and out for it, Tristan worked the bar forever, sometimes in early stages I was working character security, on the door or waiting downstairs for a code word in case a coked up audience member started getting too handsy with one of the actors. Most of the furniture has been in the back of a van driven by me at some point or other, including the wonderful piano.

All good things must come to an end, the venue is about to be turned into more luxury flats, and the piano, the bird, the gong and the other bits are off in a shipping container to New York where the show is about to cross pollinate and start a whole new life with slightly less suspicious American accents. Joy.

I’m about to go in and support their final London night. There’ll be booze after, so I’m thinking of driving in for self protection. But i figured I would get half of this written now in case I grow baffled and sloshy. There are some good friends who will be there this evening, and a sense of history. It’s been a long time and a long journey from that scratch show in freezing York. And there’s nothing like a bit of Charleston to brighten up a January evening, despite the warning of the “stay at home” moon.

I went. It was emotional. I pulled myself out of the party sober and drove home. I left my coat with my flat keys in it in the cloakroom. Damn you, party, pulling me back when I least expected it. I’m driving back though. Not dumb enough to get an Uber and end up dancing until 5am.

So many of the old company there though. Friends from over years. Beautiful people. Clever people. Creative people. I’m happy to have caught the last one on British soil for now. Seven years!! It’s a long long time.

Up and down to Nottingham

“Surrender to the hibernation,” comes the text message just as I’m settling down to write. It’s good advice. January should generally be cancelled in this country anyway, and apparently Mars is doing something astrological which means we can legitimately chill out on the ambition for a while and blame it on the stars.

“This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeit of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical pre-dominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforc’d obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whore-master man, to lay
his goatish disposition to the charge of a star!” Good old Will. Typical of his wonderful human voice. He puts this opinion about outsourcing responsibility for our behaviour into the mouth of someone whose subsequent actions make them villainous. Edmund eventually goes back to the bottom of the wheel, but the whole of Lear looks at this outsourcing of divine responsibility, the difference between action and expectation, entitlement and the assumption that we all understand one another. Even Cordelia, who just assumes that the simplicity of her assertion of honest love to a parent will carry the weight of her complex feeling. We can never assume. But yeah, I guess my thought is that we still outsource when we want to justify behaviours – we call it different names but the impulse is ancient. “It’s SADS” “Too much coffee” “Lack of vitamins”. We are flawed and will continue to be so. But we are ALL flawed and really the only ones I’m concerned about are the ones who try and pretend that they aren’t.

I got up and picked up a load of dry cleaned costumes and took them up to Nottingham. Then I dropped them off with lovely Joe. There’s a big old scene workshop there and a little corner of it is reserved for Amelie. “When are you gonna remount that show?” That’s what they ask me every time I go up.

I was at the press night for it at Wimbledon Theatre way back when. At the time it hadn’t gone to the West End or had anything like that run it was going to have. I was friends with one of the actor musicians and have done a lot of the driving for it since it started. I know the set and the props backwards because I had to photograph everything in order to send them to South Korea to reproduce. I believe it’s still touring there. It is genuinely one of the most strikingly beautiful heartful romantic shows that I’ve ever seen. It’s an artist’s show. It’s an artful show. Puppets and songs. Handmade magic. All the stuff is mothballed up in Nottingham, which in terms of storage is much better than the place in Bishop’s Stortford where Rotterdam rotted in the damp. It would be easier to remount and might even be profitable. “When are you gonna remount,” asks Joe from the storage. “You know what mate, I might see if I can get the ball rolling on that. I’m clueless about producing but could maybe roll the dice. I’ll call Chris…”

The original tour was so wonderful. Chris was friend of a friend and he met, fell in love with, married and bred with his co-star, the perfectly cast Audrey. I wonder if they could be tempted back onto the road together with the right venues and childcare terms. There’s certainly life in it, especially now when we need optimistic stories so much. But… It’s always about the bottom line. Can an adaptation of a much loved but niche French independent film from the early noughties still pull in a big audience? Likely not without a ton of money on PR. The sad truth is that it can be a great show but you have to put bums on seats with it too because you are paying your workers no matter what sells. If Audrey Tatou defeats Vladimir Putin in single combat and then goes on to solve world hunger then it’ll run and run. But considering the venues they’ve already played, can a remount command the same and bigger audiences? Successful touring has always needs a familiarity to fill out those huge houses and justify the ticket price. Mamma Mia etc. It’s why they’ll milk your previous credits for all they’re worth. They have to.

I can see why it’s sitting there. It would be a full time job for someone to make sure it was known and sold for like a year even before the first performance. Still… Might be worth it… There’s a wonderful romantic story at the heart of the company. There’s meat for PR. I’m tempted to work out who to talk to and put on my producer hat again, but the scale would be such that I would likely have to be just a catalyst and junior to someone who really knows what the heck they’re doing. Still, sometimes you have to roll the dice.

Drop off… I didn’t need a forklift

Writing when basically already asleep

I worry when it rains now. Apparently the way to solve my water ingress problem is more scaffolding up the block. I’m gonna go up on the roof and see if there’s an obvious leaf clog or somesuch first though. But I’m drifting off to sleep listening to the rain and with an empty pan a few inches from my head. I’m hoping I won’t hear it go ploink.

A good night’s sleep is definitely in order. A spot of work in the morning and then visiting. Tristan spun in after work and dragged me for a lunch beer and a catch up. Then I shot across town to try and find Max, and do some visiting. By the time I was home I was hungry so took the time to make my signature Mac and Cheese, with proper white sauce and green chillis. It’s a cheese fest but its excellent comfort food when it’s cold and wet and sad.

Nothing else much to report. Invoices and admin and then I took a sleepy drink about twenty minutes ago before I realised I hadn’t written. Now I’m almost completely asleep and can’t really remember much detail from my day through the fug. I’ll be in a very happy snooze in about ten minutes. Driving to Nottingham and back tomorrow. So long as the rain doesn’t come in I’ll be well rested… Short one today. Sleep too much of an inevitability. And no doubt the dreams will be coloured in by all the tasty cheese.

Ticking over

Back to my own story. Here in this strange flat, I’m looking at all the possibilities. The Factory are shifting again, so that’s the shot of an interesting project in the gaps. Meanwhile I’ve got boxes of crap to sort through. I’m getting better and better at it. Mostly it involves being able to throw things away forever. My struggle with the certainty of the forever-chuck is aligned with all my other struggles. I like it best when every possible eventuality is accessible. I like the wide angle. If something is destroyed, all its potential is destroyed too. I’m always curious about the potential of things.

My school reports would usually talk about potential, but would always tell my parents that the reason I wasn’t living up to that potential was that I wasn’t obedient. “He’s very clever but be doesn’t do the assignments correctly even though I know he can.” There’s no way of building to a disobedient gobshite like I was. Bojo went to one of my schools. They are expensive and so they let people express themselves. It troubles me that I’ve found freedom and kindness but my frame is the same as someone who did so much damage to us all but found similar freedom in that strange small private school. Ashdown House. And now they want to turn it into bollocks flats whereas actually there’s the chance of an incredible piece of land right in the middle of Forest Row which is RICH HIPPY CENTRAL UK. The ground of that school is ancient and powerful. Forest Row is literally the place where most of the rich wellness idiots who fell into QAnon – that’s where they live. They could buy the old school and turn it into an ashram or somesuch. Whoever has been allowed to make the pitch for the land use is clearly clueless and they are gonna turn some beautiful old buildings into turds. The chapel… The main house… I’m also very worried about the Wellingtonias. I dragged Lou to see the trees when I heard they might be going. Some of you might remember my trip to find the tallest tree in the world. My love of redwoods was catalysed by the redwoods in my school grounds. If they chop them down I’ll be so sad…

Somewhere in the foundations of the theatre there’s my attempt at a time capsule. From memory it’s a bic biro with a rolled up piece of paper in it with a bit of my blood and something like “I wish to be a successful actor!!” The theatre was finished just after I left. I snuck down and left the biro one night when we were playing dormitory truth or dare and someone dared me to write something on one of the boards in a classroom. I served my own agenda to hide my shit time capsule. I remember it well. It was an early commitment, but one of the many things I’ve done over the decades to know that I’ll never quit no matter what and despite not being WOWSEXY.

Blah. I want to go to sleep. Today I spoke to a surveyor who told me they didn’t give a fuck about my leak.

Smiley move

Finished. That was two days of very hard work.

My friends from today are a tiny bit older than I am, but plugged into similar worlds. They are an artist and a musician as primary, and like me they have learnt to follow opportunity to broaden and function wide. One of their good friends is a man I have admired for years. He made my young adulthood better. He was a focus for a lot of my unstructured feelings about how the established way made no sense. He was, essentially, the beating heart of the rave generation. He’s very much just their mate. I’ve met him through them before. Today I’ve been carrying his art.

I frequently walk with famous people. I am rarely if ever starstruck as I understand the construct and lots of my friends are now tarred with the brush. This guy gets my admiration though. I was given a mug of his a while ago and I love it. They have one of his smiley faces on their wall. I carried it upstairs today. I love it for the mischief of how it came about. I know too much about it and him. He burnt a million quid. Pretty much the most effective and nihilistic protest you could imagine. I cannot do anything but respect it, for the sheer anger it raises in all the people that don’t figure how it is the same for all the pop stars they liked of that era but for the fact it was done with fire on Jura instead of gradually up the nose and via parasite investments and corrupt producers over time.

It’s a simple thing really, a bin lid customised with tons of glitter. I have tried in the past to explain to Brian the extent to which rave was everything for my teenage generation, but it is hard. It always starts to sound like indulgence, whereas it was a safety valve. We had been compressed and compressed by endless Tories closing off all the options. We exploded with the joyful discovery of MDMA. Most of us didn’t need the actual substance, we just moved with the shape of the freedom. Yeah, fine, Es are good etc. And they were. But it was about breaking free. And this guy was a bit older than we were and ringing the bell. Nothing he did was selfish. He didn’t court celebrity. He can likely still go on the tube, unlike other less successful artists from that scene. Rave was about much more than E.

My friends are moved into their new temporary place. We sat and drank incredibly good wine and then ate tasty Indian food. It is done for now. Their old landlady is a total fucker. I’m glad I could help them move. Its a temporary move they’ve done. Hopefully they’ll find something soon…

Fucking landlords

I’m running a bath. I’m knackered. I get to come back here, to my home, and take care of myself.

My friends have been paying rent at an astonishing rate for 17 years in order to live in London. They have paid the landlord’s mortgage and then some. The bank wouldn’t give them a mortgage so they just had to pay somebody else’s, so they did, and they made it work despite both being self employed because the banks know fuck all about being self employed. But the landlord has a new wife and she is only seeing money regarding the flat so they got their notice, originally to leave on the 23rd December, two days before Christmas. That’s fucking Dickensian. They got it pushed back to tomorrow. Despite being in good standing for so long, still they are being treated like a problem and thrown out onto the street. Why? Greed. Because this woman can’t legally put the rent up to what she’s told it can be all in one go. She’s having smoke blown up her arse by estate agents. Greedy greedy nasty piggy. And it’s happening all over London. All over England.

Estate agents are playing a game about “not enough properties on the market” so they can trick potential tenants into joining a silent auction type bidding war, often just against themselves but manipulating the dialogue to make it feel like everybody is looking. Advantage the owner. Advantage the money. Always. Forever. So many of my friends are losing their rented properties to this greed and these entitled people. It is so deeply unfair. My friends weren’t allowed the mortgage, so they’ve paid the equivalent anyway and come away with nothing, while the landlord who has benefitted feels like it is their right to do what they please because they had the luck to inherit the “asset” or the means to purchase it.

I’ve got this property thanks to mum dying. Leasehold, but it’s mine to live in until I’m about 72 and then it goes back to the Royal Hospital unless I can pay all the money in the world to extend it. That’s a huge privilege, and I’m told it makes it completely impossible for me to understand any other form of less fortunate living arrangement. I’m not sure I buy into the idea that empathy is only possible through lived experience, because most of these situations experienced by so many of my friends leave me angry and preoccupied on their behalf. I hope that it is possible to empathise outside of your own circumstances. If it genuinely isn’t then why do books exist? This whole UK housing situation is impossible. What can be done to rejig late stage capitalism so that the hoarders don’t just sit on bags of money while everyone else starves?

They’ve rented a place nearby and blown loads of money on a van and people to help. I’m one of the people. They’ve been good friends to me and pushed me towards good things. They’ve been incredibly beneficial in their borough. Often they work directly for their council, building events and bringing culture to dead buildings, brightening the streets and improving the general mood and mental health of the people of Southwark. They do great work, but there’s nobody there to help them when they get turfed out onto the streets if they can’t pay rent that nobody sane would countenance. The whole of Central London is going to be a personality desert. Most of it already is. And the rest of the country… Greed and the basic shitness of this expensive and stupid isolated failed state after decades of AWFUL leadership… Anywhere else… Time to go. Even back to The Isle of Man would be better than here in the pot of shite.

Anyway, I’m getting in my expensive bath and languishing with Rose Soap and candles, before I get into a bed with expensive mattress and electric blanket, there to sleep the night below an ormolu crest. Privileged? Moi?

Yew to drip

Back in London.

I woke up this morning and had porridge with pear and blueberries and dates and cacao nibs and roasted pumpkin seeds… Then out into the new year world for a coffee and a walk. Through the woods, and up and down the slopes we went in a meaningless pleasant wander. Then a drive through the floodplains of Saltmarsh, and eventually by chance we passed the Wilmington Yew. 1600 years old this ancient chained and propped tree, in the grounds of a church, coloured and scarred by hundreds of ceremonies that have very little to do with the ones in the church that supports it. It’s a hell of a thing, that tree. Tangled up and wracked with chain, grown into its own supports, so old now and strong on its own with generations of help from humans.

You can’t miss The Wilmington Yew. “Wow! Look at that mushroom?!” shouts a ten year old boy looking at an iron bolt that has been driven in to hold the chains. Those chains must be 200 years old and they are there to stop it falling. More recent enterprise has propped it up with great big sticks. Successive generations of human have seen that it’s an ancient being and something special. People have spent money and time to try and keep the thing going, and so far there has never been the voice of the arrogant short-termist fool we all know anywhere near the decision making place for that incredible historic arbor. Most good people care about history in such things. I hope that tree outlasts me tenfold.

We went to The Sussex Ox for incredible roast lunch – I booked three days early after too many experiences of being turned away for Sunday lunch in Sussex on spec. You aren’t allowed to be spontaneous in Sussex.

Now I’m in my Chelsea bed and there is a drip by my ear every thirty seconds or so. My ceiling is still leaking. It stopped for years until they made us pay for scaffolding up the roof. Now it’s back, like I’ve paid to make it worse. I have work to do tomorrow so I’ll have to sleep somehow, but every drip I hear right now carries rage into my brain. The solution will be to put a T-shirt into the pan. And to stop thinking about the money…