Beds

My sister in law was getting rid of a bed and she thought to ask me if I could make use of it. This is excellent sister in law work. It was barely used. You usually have to pay to throw away mattresses no matter what state they’re in. Certainly if you’re in London. But this one is way too good to chuck. I’m so glad she thought of me.

About a month ago I persuaded a friend to throw away their father’s old bed and mattress. I slept one night on it and knew afterwards that I never wanted to go near it again. I got home and boil washed everything I was wearing. After a brief initial resistance, she agreed to ditch the damn thing. I’m glad to his day I didn’t have to carry it out myself. It was toxic. I won’t go into details. They were all dead anyway.

Now there’s a brand new carpet in the room where the bed used to be. There’s nothing else in that room. The horrible seventies wallpaper is being painted over with white. Maybe one day people will love beige again. “How could they have painted over this beige and brown shitstain effect wallpaper?” That’s what they will marvel about after the zeitgeist back to hairy bums and moustaches. But she’s trying to make the room into one that she could rent, and frankly it’s almost there. All it needs is a bed. And that came today courtesy of my sister in law.

Half of it fitted in Bergman so I carried it today. One more trip tomorrow and there’s a bed again and a good one. Hurrah.

One more show in Bletchley tomorrow before the continuation (fingers crossed). But there’ll be a gap. I’ll be off doing wonderful things in the meantime.

I’m round my friend’s and I’m being rude by writing. I’m going to stop this nonsense soon so we can work out sleeping arrangements, now she has not only a good clear bedroom but also a spare room that’s coming together and into which i could drag a mattress… Let’s see how this all pans out. Worth mentioning that my friend came to Bletchley this evening and loved it. If you’re reading this first thing, you might just get a ticket to Illicit Signals Bletchley… Chances are it’s gone now. Next time. Next time. I’m knackered from carrying mattresses up and down stairs. Zzzzz

Autocorrect, museums and good films

Man, the V&A…

And the blog is derailed.

I wrote “V&A…” Autocorrect turned it into “V&a.a.” This happened about five times. I’ve put up with the way it corrects my swearing and how it cannot understand when I invent a portmanteau word. I’ve rewritten words countless times when I’ve wanted to say something in an interesting manner and it just decides I’m trying to say something else. Rules language need not to be have. Comprehension cum frim oxpereyece. Corect spelig ad gramer all the tiym maks thingx looz kullur. W cn rd sntncs wth n vwls. The human brain is smart. Usually.

That said, it can be jarring if a piece of prose is all over the place, and sometimes we just want to have a nice relaxing time passing our eye over words. That’s why I’m a stickler for decent sentence structure. Lucky me with my education. It’s not necessary. If course it isn’t. Nevertheless it jolts me when I see a little  mistake like a double space, a misplaced comma or an incorrect ellipsis But…. AUTOCORRECT CAN BE SWITCHED OFF. Why am I shouting? I have a feeling that now I’ve worked this out, the process of writing these blogs will be smoother. I have spent so bloody long going back over the selections made by that fucker. It took the V&A to finally motivate me to do something about it. I detest all these learning algorithms because they all seem to be driving in the same direction – they all seem to be trying to homogenise us – to push us into smaller and smaller pockets. “You like this so you must like this too!!!” “You’re friends with X so you’ll get on with X-alike.” Balls! Nutsacks! Dangly nibbleglobs! We are better when we are all doing our weird thing and people around us don’t get it so we occasionally have to try to explain and in so doing we understand ourselves a little bit better.

The V&A is just thousands of incredible man made things reminding us how clever we can all be. Some are individual works of great craft. Others are communal. Huge great big statues and tiny little cut jewels. Everything in between.

Lou knows how much I love random old stuff. I loved it there, soaked it all up. After a few hours though the information fatigue started to set in, followed shortly by the actual fatigue. We sauntered back tired through the Knightsbridge and Chelsea streets. We walked past people begging, bought food from supermarket workers likely worrying about the cost of living crisis vs their paycheck. We returned home. This evening the show is off, so I’m not doing my usual oh so hard work of … pretending to be a cryptographer in some basement in Bethnal Green.

We watched The Souvenir on Mubi, through the gigantic TV in my riverside Chelsea flat. Fêted by critics, hated by lots of Google reviewers. The perfect coda to our lazy Knightsbridge weekday. Joanna Hogg reflecting on her younger days, catching the early career of a remarkable Honour Swinton Byrne, and serving us a hot slice of dear Tom Burke alongside Honour’s mum, who you can likely guess by the surname. Tilda Swinton. It’s not Captain America. It’s a deep and felt bit of British cinema. To me, the resonating waves were about what we do with the hard memories. They were about making truthful human art out of privilege. They were about the fallout from the naive goodwill of a sheltered upbringing. They were about the moments and the thoughts that help us look at who we are when we aren’t thinking. It’s beautifully scripted shot and edited, and I was resonating like a tuning fork throughout it. We didn’t know what to expect of it frankly – just that we were tired and didn’t fancy subtitles. It’s a joy – especially if you like the whole process of film, which I really do. It’s light and dark. It listens as you watch. It talks about itself as it unfolds. Loads of people on Google reviews hate it and are setting themselves against some notion of the hoity-toity critic when they shout about it. I’m not hoity-toity, but let’s face it I went to Harrow. Lou didn’t though, and we both loved it.

I’ve walked a long distance since those rarefied days. I think the film helped me frame some bits of that strange walk. Good art provokes a reaction. Not every story can speak to everybody, of course. But it’s very rare that I’ll tell everybody a story is shit just because it didn’t speak to me.

Lou should come to London more often. Now we both have a hankering to go to The Wallace Collection and see the picture from the movie.

“I think she looks sad.” “I think she looks determined.”

Day off tomorrow

Something of a family show in the crypt of this church tonight. Not in the sense of “fun for all the family”. In the sense of “my friend family was in attendance”.

Another beautiful 1840’s edifice, this one with loads of flint. St Peter’s Bethnal Green..It’s a good solid slightly damp basement downstairs… Catacombs. They’ve dressed them cleverly and closed off huge portions for ops and storage.

Full house tonight and some good friends. Brian showed up, bless his heart, so I made him read things out loud. I know how he loves that and never worries about it. Also Lou came up from Brighton yay! I was worried she wouldn’t get to see me as a scatterbrained genius. Apart from in the day to day, of course. It was very special having two people who’ve been such a force for good in my life both in the room at the same time.

The afternoon before she arrived was spent sorting books and listening to my brother talking about insects on the radio. Then I left the damn radio talking and had to listen to the news. Seems like Godot finally got around to delivering the Sue Grey Report. Now we will probably see even more nothing from these toads. It is incredibly telling the extent to which it shows how little the current crop of so called statesmen think that they are part of the flow of the world. Fiddling while Rome burns.

No show tomorrow so Lou and I will have a rare London day. We can hang out and maybe go to a museum. It’ll be good to have her here for a change. She’s not big on the big smoke. We just had a discussion as to whether she was going to need to sleep with earplugs. I am often not even slightly aware of the road noise in this room. The filter on the fishtank is louder to my brain than the main road, but at Reading my bedroom was backed onto Cemetery Junction, on the first floor, walls made of paper. Three floors up and brick walls and it feels like luxury. But yeah, I can hear it now and it IS noisy.

The show this week is finding its ways to settle and ways to warp. There’s playfulness and commitment between us. I’m still delighted daily by the diligence and knowledge of the company, and by their flexibility and commitment. Great humans the lot of them. Glad to be in the mix and to have shared it with friends tonight. I’m not very good at encouraging people to come and see my things. In fact, rather more the opposite. But we run two more days, and a new Saturday matinee recently went on sale.

It’s a day off tomorrow. Can’t wait. Lou is already sparked out and I don’t want to lose the morning so I’m gonna join her. I’m knackered anyway. Hot bath and big bowl of pasta. Out.

Shows and teeth

Beautiful weather mixed up with the deluge. I was about to walk to the dentist when the skies opened. Hail, frogs, cats and dogs – the lot. I decided to drive into the Congestion Charge Zone, as nowadays that costs the same as getting an uber. Remember when short hops were under a fiver? That’s how they build brand loyalty. Damage the competition as much as possible by undercutting them. Then once they’re at the top, they start overcharging. It’s the system we want, apparently. It giveth us choice and then it taketh away choice. Blessed be the name of the capitalism. Fuck it though, at least I can say “Boris Johnson is a lying creep who was never fit for purpose,” and nobody will come knocking on my door at night. But black cabs are beginning to look viable again now Uber drivers are getting picky and expensive.

The dentist was not the bearer of good news. It looks that every penny I’m going to earn in Sardinia is already earmarked for my face. It giveth. It taketh. But so long as he doesn’t haul all my molars out of my face and make me have to adjust my casting bracket. I need these cheekbones, darling, so I can keep playing hard faced aristocratic pigs.

I’m recovering from the shock of the news now, and I drove myself across town to St Peter’s Church in Bethnal Green, where we are doing the show in the crypt, so I could sit in the sunshine and breathe a bit.

One of the cast members is off for Covid this week, and we have no clue how they’re going to make it work, but I have absolute faith in the network of lovely young actors and makers who do this crazy Bletchley stuff. “How old are you,” asked one of them the other night. I told him. He responded with shock, as if I had told him I was actually a leper. “Gosh. Well, you… You’re looking very … Gosh.” Youth is wasted on the young. I’m still in my prime dammit. It’s just they’ve all got a 2 in front of it. You can’t easily empathise forwards. Anyway, the door is unlocked. I’m off into the crypt. After a quick sniff of those yellow roses like Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood, for all you film fans out there.

Show ended. What delights. I love work like this. So unprecious. Zoe came in to play the inspector and Chris shifted from inspector to Keith Batey. And it was great. It was immediate and truthful and interesting. It definitely helps that the show is massively trusted to the actors. They’ve worked out the text and the cyphers interact – the nuts and bolts. Then you just have to learn the beats and trust that your scene partners know those beats just as well as you do. The biggest learn is the cyphering. You couldn’t have a cover come in so quickly in a scripted show, without them having the book in hand. This show works and it’s really lovely, and I adore how much trust and support there is between us. It’s another lesson about where we should put our thinking when we are making immersive stuff.

We’ve put an extra show on, Saturday. Matinee. We are selling well this week… Yay. I think they’ve just broken even now on costs vs take. It’s not a licence to print money, producing theatre like this… I love the thinking that goes with it. Sure the big producer moguls were interviewing in lockdown about how they might have to give up one of their holiday homes in the Seychelles. Mostly though we are all banging around for basics, which is why the fucking dentist bill scares the fuck out of me.

All Saints Margaret Street

A friend of mine was temping in town this afternoon on Margaret Street. It’s been a long time since I’ve office temped… The last time was at a major theatre group back before I went to Guildhall. It’s not an entertaining thing to do, temping in an office. Too many people are swept up in the flawed narrative that your notional seniority in the job equates to your ability. We only need to look at the Prime Minister to give the lie to it. But all the morons treat the temp like they’re a moron – failing to comprehend that the temp is happy to be at the bottom of the ladder and has no aspirations to be anywhere else.

I went to meet my friend after work, and arrived early. I don’t often drive into the Congestion Charge zone as it’s too expensive, but it was covered by the temp in exchange for the pick-up. I went for a little explore.

All Saints Church on Margaret Street was built in the 1850’s, to a high standard. It was built in the Victorian Gothic style. You could easily miss it. Margaret Street is pretty low footfall apart from when the whole place is filled with location vans. They do a lot of filming in that church.

I happened on All Saints just as the grey skies were clearing in London for the last few hours of evening. A garden full of pot plants and a wide open door.

You could quite easily miss that there’s a church at all, but there it is and there’s plenty of room inside. When I arrived there was a softly spoken service underway. A reading from John. A prayer for the church and for the world. I joined in. There were only four humans in the building that I could see – one up front doing the talking, two standing in the congregation and me off to the edge wondering if I was going to get struck by lightning. I left when the prayers finished, as I didn’t feel like having a conversation. I just wanted a moment of spirituality. First time I’ve been in a church for worship for months and months.

I’m glad the space is being used so peacefully, there in the heart of London. The reverend seemed a lovely fellow from a distance. I might go back some time now that I know it’s there. It’s wide open and welcoming. There’s plenty of votive art, and some in your face Gothic detail. Butterfield was allowed to express himself and he did. Better all that space is used for something thoughtful – it compares favourably to all the wasted locked rooms and empty embassies and shut down venues in this huge old city. An obscure but gently used Anglo Catholic church in a West End side street. Tick.

Snoring

Oh God. The tiny tiny little creatures…

Two tiny tiny tiny busy busy creatures. My skin has been raked by their probing claws. “They’ve been trimmed recently,” I am told. I lay on a sofa trying to hold a conversation with Lou while one of them burrowed into my armpit and the other one attempted to gnash through my midriff. They are incredibly welcoming kittens. I had loads of fun with them. I was sad to leave the place and make room for their owners. “They’ve both transformed into very attractive little rocks with the word “cat” written on them,” I joke to the owner as I’m leaving. “They definitely aren’t both in my bag.” I see a little flash of concern for a moment, disguised by logic. “Surely he would do it better if he stole the … I’m an idiot if course he didn’t… But did he?”

I’ve had the best three days. I’ve been part of a little team. The team was about snuggles. That is more helpful than the majority of teams that people are made to say they are part of in office jobs.

I’m now lying on the sofa next to Tristan. He has been banished ahead of potential snoring. The two of us are the most likely candidates so we are thrust together. Fine. I’ll finish this and go to deep sleep. Liverpool came so close to something incredible this evening. What a delight and what a shame. I’m done with popular culture and with cats.. I’m going to sleep. I’ll see before long how I cope with Tristan snoring…

What joy to have been catsitting. Such a pair of beauties. If I wasn’t so itinerant I’d get stuck in. But thank Prometheus… I’m busy…

Time to find out what it is to sleep next to somebody snoring. I’ve always thought it’s a relentless deliberate focus on the negative. Let’s see …

Little tiny kittenses

Meeka and Mochi are both sparked out. Meeka is on my lap and Mochi is by my side, head against my leg. Or maybe that’s the other way round. It’s late. I got back from Bletchley and got cooking again. I made a late night Shepherd’s Pie, and despite full awareness I still managed to slice up more of my hand with that incredibly sharp knife.

Cats names are arbitrary anyway. We call them something, we know it’s not what they’re really called, they have other secret and not so secret names. Pickle had multiple names, all if which and none of which are hers. Meeka and Mochi are mostly in a puddle with each other and interchangeable They are one creature split into two bodies, arbitrarily defined by the colour of their collar and behavioural traits. I don’t know which one to give which name to, and it doesn’t matter because cats don’t care about names. One of them is blue collar, in my lap, wants to be handled, likes to chill out. The other is softer furred, a little more cautious but quick to purr and likes to be higher up.

One of them tried to stop me going to work this evening. I think it was Meeka. He stood in front of the door – the only time he ever went there. He had seen me put my hat and coat on. He blocked the door and shouted at me. “Don’t vanishI desire cuddles!” I had to go back in and distract him with toys so I could sneak out again without him noticing.. Memory like a fish. They are both very smart expressive creatures, and almost impossible to photograph since they are in constant movement.

A brief moment of stillness falls though. They are warm and busy and soft. I’m smitten. They’re not allowed in the bedroom where I sleep so all my post prandial lounging is here so they get to hang with me and I get to hang with them before bed.

Apparently the breeder was only supposed to send one of them, but they had completely bonded and had to come as a pair. Being a responsible breeder, my friend was offered the chance to take them both for the same fee. They were initially worried as they had only budgeted for a single cat. But they made the right decision. These little creatures are just wonderful. Right now Mochi is licking my elbow with that scratchy tongue. Meeka is rolling around in my lap. Both are purring like trains, it is late enough that they are no longer trying to eat my toes. They are gradually going to sleep and I’m sad that I’m going to leave the little furry puddle I’ve become a part of. They aren’t allowed in the bedroom ahead of the coming of the babies. I’ll preserve that rule. The way I thrash about in my sleep I’d be scared to roll on them anyway. They are so tiny right now…

Sharp Vs blunt

I dropped the cupboard/wardrobe up to Chelmsford and in so doing I won my car back. “Are you sure your car is secure overnight,” I was asked a couple of days ago by my anxious friend. That led to me trying to imagine who would attempt to steal a vast cheap wardrobe the barely fits in the car. “Quick, mate! To me! To you! To me!”.

I dropped it off and got my legroom back. As I shook out the pins and needles I was begrudgingly given more or less exactly what the journey cost in recompense. I have noted clearly to myself that I am to avoid any further favours in that direction. It’s done, and I’m not out of pocket.

Bletchley in the evening and I got back in plenty of time for the show. A bit more carnage than usual playing Dilly. Beer got thrown all over my desk soaking many of the papers on it. The place has to be chaos anyway. Dilly is best when he’s scattered, but I think I found the edge tonight. Tomorrow I’ll likely look to tighten things again a bit. There’s medicine, Bovril, tea wine and beer all soaked into everything everywhere. It might be time for a clear out of sorts in that room, although I’d then have to deliberately generate more mess.

Now I’m back in Slough. The playing fields at Eton are just the other side of the M4 from me. Depending on who you talk to that’s either where the war was won or where the (lack of) thinking that led to tens of millions of unnecessary deaths was bred. I’m conscious of the proximity – the other place… I’m just letting the energy work.

On my lap, warm and fragile, one of the two cats is placed. Blue collar so I’m assuming the boy. We are sharing warmth and breath, as can happen with cats. The other cat is audibly snoring to my left, fast asleep up at the top of her scratch tree, collared in pink.

Over the last hour I cooked a butternut squash dahl, making good use of what must be the cat-parent’s wedding gifts: lots of beautiful Le Creuset cookware. I am feeling so happy and full now, after HelloFresh excelled themselves on the Daal. I’m not used to good quality kitchenware though. Right at the beginning of the prep process I tried to sever my left thumb through my cavalier handling of a vegetable knife with an actual sharp blade. Right through the onion it went in moments, and then into the side of my left thumb. Good deep cut. Ow.

The cat-parents are proper grown-ups despite being considerably younger than me. If you cut yourself at my flat, the plasters are in the 1840’s Oriental Resin box under the sculpture of Prometheus – the one that’s located by the Blue and Whites – just lift up the African hardwood busts to see the keyhole. The key is in the mouth of the desiccated crocodile I keep stored in the box of teeth on the oldest of those three mahogany sideboards. To find antiseptic you must first befriend the Frog King and complete twelve trials. Simple. If you cut yourself here though, the antiseptic and plasters are under the bathroom sink in a tin. With blood liberally gushing from my onionthumb, I found the plasters through swift application of logic, habit, shared memory… I looked where everybody else keeps their plasters. What a remarkable system. I had a clean bound wound in under five minutes and now I can write this without tracking gore everywhere. I went back to slicing onions and honestly I almost got my thumb again immediately. I’m far too accustomed to blunt knives.

Maybe I need to sharpen my Dilly performance now as well, and make him less bludgeon and more scalpel. One more week after this. The joy is in the experiment. The learning is in the precision for me here. I like to play jazz with immersive stuff. I like to try and make the bad note good, to listen, to play and to respond. But there can surely be ways to bring precision in as well… We shall see.

So. Cute.

Kittens in Slough

Sometimes when I’m reading a book and somebody gets tortured (and maybe it’s a genre thing but it happens a great deal) I find myself wondering how I would cope in that chair.

Today I went to the dental hygienist for the first time in my adult life. I had the foresight to dose up with codeine before going in. Even despite that, I would have signed the confession after five minutes if I knew it would make it stop. “Open your mouth wider! Relax your tongue!” I was in some sort of agony rictus. There were hard thick chunks. “Is that bits of tooth?” “No it’s buildup.” She was like a lumberjack in there. She wasn’t going to compromise. She went in with blade and polish. She was alone – I had to hold the suction at one point while she attacked my lower jaw with both hands. I am so glad of the codeine. When I spat I was spitting a disaster. I hope they cleaned up before the next patient because that basin looked like the basin of a serial killer.

Then I had to chew a pipe and motormouth as Dilly for two hours. Zoe’s second show as Mavis, my number two in the cottage. She smashed it again. Lots of talking for me though, and oh how my mouth hurts. Still, it was a fun show. Some genuinely wonderful moments of things coming together. Always a delight, this piece. Good kind talented people working together to make a thing.

I have ended up in Slough tonight. Emergency catsitting. Here for three nights. Gordon Welchman, my second in command at Bletchley, is custodian (with his wife) of two remarkable kittens. They are mostly Siamese and they are some of the most mobile and fun felines I’ve been exposed to for ages. They are bouncy crazy fun Tiggers. I’m immediately in love. I’m gonna look after them in between shows, and be based in Slough. Why the hell not? I get to look after kittens and relax. What’s not to like?

I’m glad to have landed surrounded by kittens after the morning I had. It’s like the universe said “yes, we will cause you pain, but then there will be fun audience and following that, KITTENS!” Audience was super fun today. Kittens are so fluffy. More days like this please, despite the pain. Wahoo… More codeine. Zzz

Big brother

Facebook Marketplace put an ad into my timeline from somebody in Wandsworth trying to sell a Cupid doorknocker identical to the one I photographed on my blog the other day.

This is the one. I am unashamedly using it as a blind tie for the beautiful blind Lou made me.

They want £20 for their one. It’s a nice enough piece that it might fetch that price. But surely there’s something blooey about the algorithm here. I’ve already got my cupid knocker and I’ve posted a photo. Why, my dear AI, do I want to spend £20 for another one – and one that’s much more tarnished? Oh yeah I mean patina.

Nice to see one just like mine. But I feel slightly violated…

Long ago, in the name of convenience, I gave away all my privacy. The bludgeon was called Facebook Messenger. And it was a conscious decision, because it had to be. At the time, we were all using it. Messenger adjusted their terms of service and made it very clear. “We own you. All of you. Forever. Otherwise you can’t talk to your friends! Click this easy button. Sanctus. Spiritus.” There was a pop up and I remember avoiding it and ignoring it right up until the wall when I had no choice. And then, for the first time, with a heavy heart, I chose to sign my everything away.

Other companies followed quickly. Before long it was pretty standard to be asked to sign away your information in perpetuity to some app that swaps your face. A bit like the profile apps that crop up where you send an HD photo and sign your everything away and it gives you a momentary flattering cartoon and the lifelong possibility of being the subject of deepfakes. I’m angry with myself about how much I’ve handed over in the course of my life, and that’s not even taking into account this blog. I write things here every day where I actually try to speak truth and not manipulate algorithms, and I do it in a world where I know I could work to hook it into money and advertising – and I’m expected to do that and billed accordingly by WordPress. But I don’t. And who knows what I’ve signed up to with WordPress! I remember being on the phone to a woman at pokerwhatever.com, asking what had happened to a balance from a few years previously. “If you don’t log in for X time, we take your balance at X rate. It’s all in the terms and conditions you agreed to when you signed up.” And so it falls out. The terms and conditions. “Nobody ever reads them… Are you honestly telling me that you’ve absorbed over £200 because I didn’t log in, and there’s nothing you can do to get it back to me?” “It was in the terms and conditions when you signed up.” Thieves. That was a long long time ago. Pacific Poker. I don’t think it exists now. But it was a useful early lesson in how little anybody gives a fuck once you’ve clicked okay to the wall of text you get when signing up.

What’s the solution? I think maybe there needs to be a layer where, outside of the full legalese, any company has to give a clearer description of the potential misunderstandings… Problem is, that’ll only make more money for solicitors, and the true problems in the running will still be glossed over if a failure in understanding or observance will be profitable to the company. Like the evil at the heart of the idea that your actual fine for the thing is double what it should be but you get it half price if you pay fast. But… Argh.

I don’t want to buy a knocker that I already have and am using. But … by writing this blog and knowing how shit the AI is, I’ll likely be sent more photos of doorknockers. And … Even though asking price is never value – especially in London – it’s good to see a low asking price and thus an even lower value for a thing that I just casually decided to use as an attractive detail with my blind. I knew it wasn’t valuable. Good to get a second opinion for free. Maybe that’s enough…

But I want to revoke the privilege I gave to these sites. I don’t want meatface to be able to render me comprehensible to his empty friends. I suspect I’d lose all functionality, and I’m sure I’ll get lots of bullshit links now telling me to copy and paste some sort of titbiscuit into my timeline. But it’s just such arse. I hate having to put up with my timeline feeding me what it thinks I want to read, when I remember the glory days. I know what a timeline can be. A time line. With no curation. Oh Gods. Wasn’t it great before the advertising people plopped in? But … that’s their job – to be BUYSatan. And a beautiful random thing was utterly fucked forever by “yeah but where’s the money?” Bastards. Some of them are my friends. None of them will take full responsibility. They’ve got families. Sure they were part of destroying something wonderful and replacing it with a wet plate of shit. But hey, check my Instagram kids photos! PS They’re watching you.