Split Personality

So it’s a little warmer here in Split than the arctic winds that were rushing down my back as I waited for the Dart from Luton Parkway to get me to the asshole at Wizzair check-in.

These budget airlines all seem to revel in jumping out at you from behind a bush, shitting in your mouth and stealing your money. I am good enough at obeying the letter of the law in the face of extreme bullshit that I have avoided parking fines in London for over a decade despite being a very frequent driver. Still I got caught by not checking in online for a flight I only knew I was taking yesterday. I went to check in in person. Apparently if you don’t check in online you have to pay £41 for a “manual check in fee”. This is the biggest pile of shit I have ever heard of and makes me 100% know that, given the choice, I will NEVER TOUCH WIZZAIR AGAIN. And this is despite the fee being on someone else. If I was a multimillionaire I would make it known on social media that I would subsidise people to pay more for another airline until they changed that policy or went bust. Ideally the latter. Or I’d just buy them and sink them. This is a policy that punishes people who haven’t forensically read the terms and conditions. It is by its very nature corrupt. And there is no way that my £41 is going anywhere other than the budget of some ultra rich nightmarehuman with all the empathy of my left testicle. Like some of my schoolfriends from the other night.

But fuck that guy. I’m in Croatia despite him and despite the guy at check-in.

This patch of Adriatic Coast was colonised by the Greeks about 2 millennium before the fall of Troy, so things are pretty embedded here by now. I’m in Trogir, which is considered to be a different town from Split even though it’s ten minutes from the airport. I flew out from London Luton Airport which says it’s a London airport even though it’s actually in Siberia. Different countries have a different sense of what a town is.

I arrived here just as service was shutting down, so I’ve got the key to my room but I immediately walked to the local town to try and snag me a meal. I’m starving after all the bullshit from WizzAir.

Coccola Steak House, lads and gentles (and if that announcement takes on I’m holding this blog for coining it as I just realised it’s my elegant solution to what has previously been “ladies and gentlemen and people of indeterminate gender’. We need an announcement that stops a noisy room. The a of lads is too short, but repeated it can be a useful dinner call. Lads lads lads lads lads. lads. … … lads? … and gentles. Welcome to the Annual Wizzair Check-in Staff Award Ceremony, I’m your MC for the evening…” Might not take on in rooms full of stultified old nonces, but…

But now I’m geeking out about after dinner speaking. Sorry. Get on point, Al. It’s because I’m excited at being back in Croatia. Last time I was in this lovely country they were confused to the point of anger for casting a woman as Hamlet. So it stands to reason they do good steak here. Not nuance but good meat. I had some tonight. Nom. I’m fine without the nuance.

The Hamlet cast catering in 2016 was from an Irish pub in Dubrovnik and often involved the Croatia / Ireland interaction offered by good old Irish offal. James Joyce: “Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.” I have aspects of Leopold despite efforts to the contrary and I know that faint tang and I will happily consume it, ideally with a red wine sauce and rice.

I had my first ever taste of tongue in that Irish pub in Dubrovnik. Not that sort of tongue you pervert. Ox tongue. To eat. Huge slabs of it with no veg whatsoever but some peeled sliced boiled potatoes and a powder gravy. I had been curious. The plate went back three quarters full. Awful offal.

Female Hamlet was vegan so the basic menu options were not causing ructions. Tricky. Messy. But … that was a long time ago.

It was a lovely job in a lovely place just while all the idiots in the UK got together to cut their own fingers off and make all such jobs harder forever in exchange for feeling a little less fragile about who they are NOW immune to the fact that generations shift and idioms shift with them. People can be so so small. But when we were all in Croatia, they counted the Brexit votes and realised too late that the small people had activated while the expansive people had been complacent.

I just had an excellent subtly marinated Argentinian rib-eye, medium rare, with a fine local Croatian red. (How dare you call me a ponce!)

They do good wine here in Croatia which doesn’t get exported to the UK. This meal is on my personal budget, not expenses. It was the only open place and I was hungry and I like nice things. I’m making that clear cos my employer and now mate shared a blog by me yesterday and I sometimes forget that this isn’t a diary and that other humans read it.

My Trogir Palace:

See how similar it is to hotel rooms around the world? This could be Rotterdam or anywhere, Liverpool or Rome. It’s back to the small people. Who is it that first decided that the unimaginative are the right people to listen to when it comes to decor? Yeah, they shout before they know and yeah of course they breed like they’re supposed to and so yeah there are more of them than the colourful. We know this… But we have let their taste lead for so long that its getting grey here. Food and hotels are more and more boring internationally. The same restaurants, the same decor, the same the same. Argentinian or Irish steak. Are there no cows in Croatia?

The right goes on about identity, the left goes on about identity, the weirdies go on about globalism and most of the vocal ones on all sides have hardly ever left home and don’t intend to, have no perspective and really ought to have no voice.

But every one of us risks atrophying. We all have it in us to decide what makes us comfy and what is outside our comfort. We all have it in us to adjust that too. And we all have to be careful.

Let’s all look at things and make our own minds up. Then look at things some more and change our minds again and again. The first time we die is when we entrench in our viewpoint. I’ve met so many temporarily dead people recently, particularly after going to that school reunion. They are thinking, but only with one head. They are mostly dead.

I can happily see all sides of most societal arguments because all sides have a foundation in something. I choose the opinions I hold as paramount. And they are always mutable. Maybe my entrenchment is in the need to be mutable though? I have been an extremist in the past. Those fishfriends reminded me of that. Maybe I will be again..?

But … do we lose everything if everything starts to be the same the same the same? I know I’m in the minority here, but I would be happier if I’d walked into this hotel room to find no TV, wind chimes on the ceiling, a trained lynx taking up half the bed, no air con, and someone called Josip busily teaching ants to dance.

Still, I can see the familiarity and how it is easier to sell. I’m comfy and happy here and I’ll still give 4 or 5 stars if I’m covered in cockroaches and beaten every 5 minutes with birch twigs. Even if I might as well be in Swindon by the decor I’m very grateful to be here and I’m gonna sleep well. Just as soon as I work out how to disarm the fucking Aircon.

Long blog today. Thanks for sticking with me if you did. My brain always goes into overdrive when I start in a new place. If it’s any confort, it’s a sign I’m happy. Enjoy your week.

Cable guy

When I drove to Portsmouth and back today it was like I was in a dream state. Maybe I didn’t drive to Portsmouth at all and while I slept somebody brought a cable, drove me home, and left the thing at the top of my stairs. But that couldn’t explain this picture:

That’s my arm. That’s the cable. That’s a sunset beach, very possibly at Hayling Island near Portsmouth. So perhaps it wasn’t a dream. It’s very hard to tell.

Last night I definitely lay prone awhile. My eyes were closed sometimes. There’s something called sleep though and that definitely didn’t happen. After sleeping a whole day last week it seems now it was time to wake a whole night. When I finally gave up trying, I ordered a sausage roll and a coffee from Gails and attempted to grease and sugar myself into waking. I drove to Camden and saw another birthday friend. Then the road to Portsmouth opened up before me like a dream. At the end of it I got a cable from Richard.

Richard had a hip operation otherwise it would be him going off to Croatia. He’s walking with a crutch and he isn’t allowed to drive until it’s settled. Fun for me! The opportunity to say yes to something as is my endless habit. I’m gonna get paid for this job, I think, but it wasn’t my first question and I’ve told them I’ll take whatever they think is fair. It’s a life-job and it fills a gap perfectly.

What’s the gig?

Well, I’m not sure if I’ll be put to work once I’m out there but there’s likely things to do once I am. It’s mostly to do with the binfire set by Cameron. Brexit. Some equipment is held up in customs. The crucial thing can be flown over by hand so I’m taking it. It’s just an innocuous piece of kit but it’s the bottom of a house of cards. Posting it is too unreliable now we are the idiot-fortress. So I get to see a bit of the Dalmatian Coast that I haven’t seen yet, drop something off and then *plug in* as is my habit. It’s a beautiful part of the world.

Right now though I have to sleep. I don’t know if I’m flying tomorrow or when so I’ll have to be up in time to make sure it isn’t early. This is all delightfully last minute, 100% to my taste, and promising another adventure.

Birthday friends

We are talking about music.

I thought I would go home tonight, but then at a birthday lunchtime I inadvertently got carried away and put a little bit too much wine into myself to be able to get back legally or safely with Bergman. Faced with an expensive taxi tonight and then another one in the morning (or buses eek) I succumbed to the offer to tread old pathways and go back to Ham with Tristan and Tanya. The one thing you can guarantee with Tanya is that the soundtrack will be excellent. She’s teaching pilates in the daytime, but by night she has had an amateur enthusiasm in all things dance music related for decades now. Even at university, her room was the place to go when the club closed. So we are gathered here with wine and talk and bouncy music and large glasses of water and I realised that it is pushing towards half eleven and if I don’t write this soon it might be an incomprehensible mess and you’ve had a few rushed ones lately, oh constant reader.

It has been Tristan’s birthday all day. We ran his star chart and he’s Gemini sun, Gemini in mercury and Gemini rising. It means nothing at all but it’s interesting to try to make these things apply. I have always been curious about astrology, just as I’m curious about everything that exists in the realm of faith and belief. Often if used as a tool these things can help us make sense of an otherwise arbitrary and often quite painful existence. Perhaps it’s comforting to be able to offload blame for things not working out how we might have planned it. Although the big man himself – not God, Shakespeare – reminds us more than once that “the fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars but in ourselves that we are underlings”.

Here staying over at T&Ts place unexpectedly, I thankfully have my own toothbrush here. This is not the first time this has happened. Apart from that all I’ve got is what I’m wearing and a copy of Julius Caesar, from which that quote is taken. I take that book with me everywhere and mumble to myself as I’m driving. This is gonna be my jam for the next while. Learning as much of that play as possible so I can keep being useful to the latest roughshod experiment by The Factory, who have glued me together for a decade now and more. I like the Roman plays. They go deep into human motivation and politics, and they are far enough removed in time that Will could make whoever he wanted say or do whatever he wanted without fear of upsetting their great grandchild as with some of the histories. He must’ve struggled with the histories like the writers of The Crown. But the Romans? Open season.

But while I write, the bass is getting crunchier and even though I’m talking to you I should probably be in the room I’m in. After all, it’s still just Tristan’s birthday… It’s nice having photos back but now I’ve got to remember to take the damn things.


The only person I spoke to today was the Waitrose delivery man. He rang the doorbell with two punnets of whatever the heck I thought I needed, mostly involving crumpets. No bag of course in the new bag free world. I made him walk up the interior stairs which is an assault course. Boxes of drinks. Crates of wine. Tiles. Screens. Pictures. A fly head. A chunk of mdf. Flip chart paper. It is still possible to get in and out the door but it helps if you’re an acrobat. He came up and stood at the top and I grabbed all the stuff and put it on the floor. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to tip him but I didn’t. He probably hates me now.

It’s amazing how you can pay someone to do your shopping so easily these days. At least I’m stocked up now. Much more up to date with admin too, and I finally fixed the thing where WordPress wouldn’t let me post pictures. All I had to do was delete the app and reinstall it.

Just a few days ago we were on the top of Symonds Yat enjoying the colour of an early summer. I couldn’t have walked up there today. My body wanted none of it. Just a sleep. That’s all she wrote. I have spent most of the day in pleasant torpor. Interrupted really only for dinner and for various scattergun bursts of admin. Then I got in the bath and stayed there until it got cold. And now, somehow, is twenty past eleven and I’ve got missed calls all over my phone and I am not even sure I remember how talking works so I think I’ll probably just go back to sleep and find out tomorrow.

Ah the joy of a proper weekend. And Monday too! All this guiltless time stretched out before us and it isn’t cold. I might have to go be sociable again tomorrow but I’ve very much enjoyed a day of saying no to everything. And hopefully my invoices will turn around quickly and I’ll have a wee bit of cash. That’s the advantage of working lots. You get paid.


It’s finally here, that thing I’ve been waiting for so impatiently. The heat. We will still carry coats in our bags for a week or two just as we have been conditioned to expect the worst, but right now there’s the light and the heat and it’s a lovely thing and I’m glad of it.

Even though I’ve been waiting for it for ages, I barely went out in it. Admin, fixed a light and rested. A long happy lie in in the morning. It’s been pretty full on recently – doing interesting things but doing them lots. A little voice is waiting for the phone to ring about a job, but now it’s the weekend so I can try to forget about it.

I haven’t really been keeping up with the news while I’ve been rushing around, and looking at the state of it I’m kinda glad of it. I had the radio on in the background. There’s never anything heartening. Just a parade of lies and opinions and nastiness. Seems it’s all the children’s presenters right now. Rolf Harris dead and we all hate him now and Schofield is going down the same hole suddenly. I switched over to Radio 3 and listened to calming classical music.

Rest. There’s a mountain of admin but I was mostly disinclined to start climbing it today so I prioritised doing very little. Sometimes “nothing” is the right thing to do. Peaceful flat now with no fish tank. London though so outside the window all the drunk people are walking home. I hear flashes of their singing or their heated conversations and I’m glad as there was a long period when all that sort of companionship just stopped. Two summers we lost. The only comfort is that if the next one is a true plague we are slightly better equipped to understand it.

Much to do, but doing nothing can perhaps be excused if we think of it like winding back the spring. Now it’s a long weekend and I’m gonna see friends in it and soak up the sun, send a few invoices and do a bit of maths, but mostly I’m inclined to just be for a bit. I’ve been back at my butsudan chanting, which is usually a good sign. Tina Turner’s death got me thinking about the old Buddhist society again. I saw a photo of her chanting and her butsudan looked just like mine. It’s been a comforting practice for me. I just got put off by all the zoom meetings.

Thoughts in no particular order today but that’s been my day. No structure, pottering with occasional stops to fix things or make a big order on my credit card at Waitrose online. Streets and shops are crowded round here because of the flower show. I don’t think I’ll be going.

In person

Oh I love an audition in person. Too long. Too too long.

I woke up in the morning, washed and then warmed up my voice. Then I played the same song about a hundred times. My downstairs neighbour banged on the floor at one point. Must’ve been bored to tears.

A bit of sirening and then into rest an hour before deadline. No coffee. Lots of water. And we’re off.

Shall I wear semi-costume? No. I brought a tailcoat in a bag. But it stayed there. How to look like the relaxed pro I am? Just show up in happy clothes. I did so. Lou’s cravat. My trackiebums from Camino. Linen shirt. Brashers.

Friendly casting assistant brings me up to the room. Four flights of stairs. Body. Then in. Boots off. It’s a dance studio. Maybe I’ll have to dance.

Chitchat and am I relaxed? Perhaps. But when I start the song my legs are tickertickerticker. Thankfully my voice has shown up, but I’m acting to nobody in a huge room with tricky legs and a very new learn. Helpful reading from a fun team though. I push through and thankfully they are interested enough to redirect me. That’s what I’m always hoping for. Surprisingly few directors do it. This one did and it changed my offering. My second sing through and the nerves have gone because now I’m curious and I’m involved in a creative process with the guys on the other side of the desk. This is cracking stuff. It could fall my way. A sliding door.

In twenty five years I’ve never auditioned for a theatre you’ve heard of.

Until now. And it was a good audition.

God love that casting director for breaking that sad trend. I met her once, socially, about a decade ago. At the time, with my usual balls out love for the work, I probably made myself look gauche. I love what I set out to do and always just want to be able to … do it. A childhood of privilege has given way to an adulthood of weird graft. But I’ve never stopped working at it. This would be glorious. But I know how painful it is to hope. I’ve already said more than I should.

Riding lessons in the black mountains have been very forthcoming though. This summer is gonna carry shift.

Back in the smoke

And it’s London again. Traffic noise from outside the window almost sounding like it’s amplified just as I’m not used to it. Noise noise noise. This city is a constant mess of it. As I write it’s car doors slamming and the nattering of passengers, and the rotor blades of a chinook that might shake the house.

It’s the worst time of year to be in Chelsea, because just a few doors down the oblivious people are looking at garden options. Chelsea Flahhh Show. This week is why my brother has consistently found unusual insects in my flat. A gypsy moth. Various flower beetles. Things that shouldn’t be in Chelsea. They all come in with the displays and stay long beyond their welcome. People like me who frequently drive long distance pull them around in our vehicles and inadvertently disrupt ancient biospheres.

I was supposed to be running a workshop tomorrow but amazingly a recall audition dropped. Acting is always my #1 so I pulled myself from the job. We will actually get to go into the room. There’s a great big ensemble being cast up north and I am in with a shot of being part of it. A community for a while. Something that used to be familiar but COVID helped us forget. A real life audition, instead of curated zoom. I’m a real boy!

It’s barely nine and I’m off to bed. This recall – it was the tape I sent after the party I was working last week. 3am exhausted audition with two shots of Blue Label? Not a habit I want to get into but something maybe worked. Likely it was the being too tired to try and be perfect. You can’t fake that shit.

I’ve been thinking about this possible gig more and more. I’ve discussed it with Lou. For many reasons I think this could be a glory to do. So many years with so few opportunities, largely seizing them when I could. But things have been sparse lately and I’ve hung up so much to still be here. A consistent job over a period of months, doing what I set out to do? And deepening aspects of my craft? Yeah. I’m sold.

I went and saw Michael Frayn pitching his memoirs at Charleston today with Lou. He knew some remarkable people growing up. I think of the slides I stood beside last week, and once again wonder why I so desperately wanted them to accept me. I’m having a delightful time forging my own path.

Sleep calls though. Audition tomorrow in the flesh. Hurrah

Poet walk to falls

Lou found a circular walk online that started near where we woke up this morning – at Brown’s Store in Llandogo. It’s a location in Sex Education, which was largely shot around Symonds Yat. It is also a much beloved country store, established 1923, family run until mister Brown died. It no longer comes up on Google maps though, and the location is a building site. Why? Because Londis bought it and they are putting all their branding in. This is strange to me.

Nobody in the history of the world has ever gone “Oh hooray, there’s a Londis! Let’s stop and see what it has.” At best they’ve gone “Oh Christ the only option nearby is a Londis. Beggars can’t be choosers.” Londis is the three legged dog of supermarkets. But they still feel the need to replace well established branding with their own branding, and shut the place in the process.

We went on the walk. The walk is named after a very famous poet. The connection between the poet and the walk is at best tenuous and at worst completely specious. But yes, in 1798, Eminem may or may not have sat on a rock at the top of the walk and composed some lines.

First we walk down to the river. There’s nothing about Larkin here. There’s a closed shop that might be open. There are some brown sheep. Did Plath think about those sheep? Down to the river and turn right and perhaps blind Homer took a boat down the Wye Valley on some forgotten and nearly impossible trip to England. We follow a railway track. Maybe Owen took a train this way as he went to sign up? Through some gardens, and we start to forge up way up a long hill, not running like Kate Bush. Steady walking. Step by step. A predictable meter of steps like much of Chris Marlowe’s work. One foot after the other, but no oysters following. Old closed pubs. Maybe Byron would have stopped at one to see what he could pull. Trees and ancient land, fit for a goblin market. A waterfall! Was this Coleridge’s Xanadu? We reach the top. A stone, where the poet Byron could have lazily lain, as he did on the Peachey Stone. He didn’t. None of you other poets did either. And nor did Wordsworth. Yeah sure he wrote his poem a few miles above Tintern Abbey, and sure he could see the sylvan Wye. But this place only offers a tiny stretch of the Wye, and it is miles away from the abbey. Weird to name the walk the Wordsworth Walk. It’s like putting on a production of Waiting for Godot and writing “Tom Cruise as Godot” on all the posters. Mind you, you’d put bums on seats if you did. Get sued too.

Cleddon Shoots. Wordsworth or no Wordsworth its a powerful place up there. It actually IS where the incredible clear thinker Bertrand Russell was born. No mention of him on the walk even though you could crawl from his place of birth to the top of the falls in half an hour or so.

I have fallen in love with that part of this stupid country. We all hate ourselves and everyone who isn’t like us and we are isolating and fracturing and making ourselves smaller and smaller and smaller. It’s hard to love much about such a self destructive state. But I could lock myself in an annex of Cleddon Hall with loads of animals and books, and look out the window at the woods and the falls and the people, and I’d be perfectly happy. I could go out in the wee hours and dance under the stars, or let the waterfall soak me to the skin. Occasionally I could tolerate a visitor with news of the outside world and I’d vanish to the cellar and come up with something covered in cobwebs to be strained through muslin. Lou would have a key to my annex from the main house.

£500k minimum though for a pleasant place to live over that way. My choices needed to have been different from the outset for that to be in reach. I’ll just go sleep in a rented cottage for a night or so and recharge like I just did, and try and work out how I’ll still hit the big time money pot before I kark it.

Tryllegg – Ancient stones and waters

The village of Trelleck where we are staying is old enough that nobody knows how to spell it. Here in the disputed Welsh Marches, close to Offa’s Dyke, it has likely changed hands more than we know. The last Saxon king Harold Godwinson won a great battle here against the Britons in 1052 when he was still just Earl of Wessex. His followers or supporters named three prominent menhirs in a field near here after him: Harold’s stones. They mark the graves of the Briton chieftains he cut down. Violence breeds violence. Four years later the Normans shot him in the eye and that was that.

We went to see the menhirs. They’re bronze age, so if they mark the graves of these chieftains then it’s because the bodies were dragged here. They just sit in a field, pointing towards the midwinter sun. Long grass all around them and likely it pastures sheep now. Below them, deep underground, an iron rich stream runs. Track the line of them more or less directly eastwards and you come to their counterpart, where the water bubbles up to the surface and is housed in a well. Rich healing water, almost completely neglected, even more so than the stones. A collapsed bridge leading to it, and then this Yin to the Yang of the menhirs. Big hard stones thrusting themselves up in the air, opposite a healing wellspring bringing iron-rich waters.

In between the well and the stones is an archaeological dig where they have found a lost city. It was huge by early standards. The biggest medieval city in Wales. One farmer worked out it was there when moles turned up some pottery. It takes the right kind of brain to make that connection. Some smart and bold people have made it their passion to try and dig into the bits of land they can dig into. Fascinating things are turning up. The problem is that land is expensive here and the usual crowd want to buy to let. The more they can dig the more they can find but the archaeological interest means that speculators are trying to get the land around it. In so doing they’re gonna make it harder to get the interesting bits dug up at a pace where you aren’t going to smash stuff. It’s not heavily trumpeted that this stuff is here. The stones are easier to find than the well, but none of it is even close to the fanfare surrounding many ancient sites around the world. Just some old wooden signs and little signs on metal gates over 75 years old.

I’m rather taken by this part of the world. The history of it. The peace here. There are some ghastly properties coming up, but the older ones have charm and the bones of this place run deep. The earth and the water are strong, the stars are bright at night. I can’t afford property here but if I could I’d be seriously looking, if for no other reason than to stop these people putting plastic houses full of beige crud on top of somebody’s ancient buried forge.

Knackered in The Wye Valley

Now we are in deep country, just Lou and I, somewhere near Trellech in the Wye Valley. My plan is to do as little as possible now just for a few days. Events and parties and awkward dinners and shows begone for a few days. I’m already half asleep and it is just gone 8pm.

It’s quiet out here. The bluebells are late this year so they are still scattered at the edges of pathways. Rich bird life to look at and to listen to. To get here we drove through the black mountains and I stopped at all the stables I found and inquired about intensive courses. One of them might be able to tailor something that feels like what I’m after. Others were incredibly friendly. I have a premonition that the word “horse” is gonna be showing up here more and more. I think I’ve still got my jodhpurs somewhere at home. Shit is gonna get real. I just have to find the right place. Going and looking in person might yield a better one than the ones that are easy to find on the internet. IT and marketing skills maketh not a good equestrian trainer.

I was gonna learn some lines but then I decided that’s just cos I’m really bad at not doing things. For the next 24 hours I can have my actor’s weekend, have a restful Monday, stop doing doing doing, be.

It’s a self contained section of a little farmhouse tucked up in the Welsh hills. Cheap compared to many such things. Walks around here are plentiful and it is pleasantly decorated and comfy. I can barely keep myself awake enough to write this and that’s partly to do with the fact it’s just cosy here.

There seems to be a lot of interesting ancient stuff around here. Plenty to find tomorrow. We have two nights here, then I’ve got one more in Brighton before I get back to all the work.