Narrow

If you have a narrowboat in London and you haven’t got static mooring, (and very few people do), then you have to move your boat every 2 weeks. Inspectors walk the tow path and if you’re within 1.5 miles of your previous mooring you’ll get a letter. This necessitates a vagabond lifestyle, the idea of which – typically – appeals to me, even if the practical side of it would swamp me. The boats aren’t big. I’m not organised enough to manage to sustain existence on one without some serious systemic changes. I like the idea though.

Frequently good people in my life end up living on one. Sometimes they enjoy it and it sticks. Sometimes they don’t. There’s a lot more work than you’d think.

This afternoon I took my bike and myself to finally meet a boat and its occupant that have been together on the canal since January. They’ve weathered the storms of deep winter as a new partnership, and now they’re reaping the rewards in these beautiful afternoons. I got the easy bit. I could come along lounge around and talk about art. I didn’t have to walk three miles with an empty bottle of water and a plastic container of poo, then back the other way with full bottle of water and empty pooish container. I didn’t have to get dead rats out of the bilges, or living ones out of the kitchen. I didn’t have to haul myself to the rudder in the middle of a crazy week of work and go miles in the dark hoping I can find a place to tie up in a totally new part of town just to satisfy the inspectors. I didn’t have to run the engine for ages on a freezing winter night just so I could have some friends round and use the inboard lights until late. I didn’t have to pay someone to tell me why I was sinking and stop it happening. I just got to lie on the roof with a beer.

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Sitting in my bedroom now looking at the apocalypse of clothes around me, I find myself thinking it would probably be the best thing I could possibly force myself to do, to go live on a boat in those punishing close quarters, but so close to nature, so close to the sky, to the water, to the world. To have to be organised and practical and forward thinking or have a horrible time. That’s the rules.

I love living sparely. I’ve spent a great deal of the last decade living out of a suitcase. But this flat has become an easy place for me to pack with unnecessary crap and I really do, and then have to come up with reasons why I might need that shit.

I finished cataloguing all those bastard comics and then I saw there was a function in the database that lets you list individual titles online for sale. I thought I’d try it with a single issue. It crashed the whole database. Angry email to the support. Maybe it’s fixable? I’m going to have to start again though, I can feel it. If I lived on a boat then all the comics would be in the canal and I wouldn’t have to worry about them. But argh. Still. Better than sinking.

Saturnalia

It’s Saturday night! Even though I work eccentric shifts at eccentric times eccentrically it doesn’t prevent me from getting swept up in the ancient idea of how the week should be. The day of Saturn, agricultural God of bounty. A little mini Saturnalia every week, where you behave as if you never have to work – as if the cornucopia was overflowing. Time to sacrifice the prize ox, blow £200 on cocktails, have an orgy, order a £30 pizza at midnight and only eat 3 slices, dance wild, get naked, laugh, cry and howl.

I’ve been learning lines and now I’m in the bath. That involves hot nudity which is a start, though not necessarily what The Romans had in mind.

Despite the glorious day, I barely left the house. Thankfully a friend/extended family member visiting from Jersey was nearby. I don’t get to see her often despite the best of intentions. It provided me with an excuse to get a little bit of sun on my face and air in my lungs. I walked to Sloane Square for lunch at The Botanist. She kindly bought me a bloody good Waldorf salad after I tried to get away with the “I really feel like *insert cheapest thing on the menu*”. She saw right through me. Lettuceycheesygrapeygoodness. For today that salad was as close as I was getting to sacrificing the prize ox. It was great.

We laughed and talked for a good while and it was a tonic especially as I’ve been deliberately very solitary this week. But after a while I went back home to my self imposed drudgery. I’m on a mission. While mumbling lines to myself in the living room and occasionally bursting into unaccompanied song, I have got myself within a hair’s breadth of finishing all the cataloguing of all the comics so I can offload the damn things and get my living room back. It’s worth losing a bit of fun over this and despite myself I’m extremely good at it now. I’ve registered over 2,500 of the bloody things and logged them all correctly. The next stage is to get extremely good at eBay. This will be helped immeasurably by the fact that, having lived here for a decade or more, I have only just discovered that there’s a post office NEXT DOOR. I usually walk half an hour but no. The Chelsea Pensioners have had their own post office all along, and it’s open to the public.

Not tomorrow it isn’t though. Tomorrow is the ancient day of the sun, our great creator Ra. The Lord’s Day where we rest and give thanks for his life giving rays. And then the moonday calls us back to our regular cycle, the day of Tiw,  gets us back into the struggle, Wodens day challenges us and reminds us that wisdom comes through sacrifice, Thor then gives us his strength on Thor’s day, before Frigg closes the week with her kindness and nurture, letting us off the hook a bit before the next mini Saturnalia.

You can tell my mind has been in comics and fantasy worlds today. These vast and complicated ancient repeating stories that contain all the parables and myths that we have habitually understood our existences through since we’ve been around as a species. We need stories to make sense of the world. It’s why it baffles me how people so frequently hate or kill over an unprovable idea.

Joseph Campbell should be compulsory reading in schools despite his overly dense prose. Perhaps because of it. I was going to take a photo of Hero with a Thousand Faces but I think I’ve lent it out again. Here’s a load of random glorious fantasy instead.

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Counter check

I’m loving this heatwave. Bring it on. I’m treating it like it’s the only summer we are going to get, because let’s face it, it might be the only summer we are going to get. Today has been devilishly exciting. I have filled in forms, ticked boxes and signed on dotted lines. And then I catalogued lots of comics. I let some people in to my downstairs neighbour’s flat too, just to mix it up. And I did a load of washing. Bitches, that’s how I ROLL.

Yeah sometimes you need an admin day. One thing I discovered is that cashiers at Barclays can’t do anything at all anymore. You’re better off calling Captain Checklist in (maybe) India. I arrived at the counter and realised as I was looking for ID that I’d dropped my card. I cancelled it with the cashier, but she is unable to reorder for me without photo ID. I could have stood in front of her and rang Captain Checklist and he would’ve done it with the information in my head. Annoying. But I had come in to get a counter check so I let that slide immediately, and sorted it with the captain as I was walking home. For £1.20 a minute most likely. But anyway, counter cheques…

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One of the companies I’m communicating with wants me to chisel a cheque out. I’m always up for a bit of nostalgia. But I have no cheque book. Nor does Barclays. I ask her for a counter cheque and she looks at me blankly for a while, then says “Oh you need a banker’s draft.” “Ok great,” I respond. “I’ll have one of those then please.” “Oh, yes of course but the person that does them isn’t in today.” “Ok… Are they in tomorrow?” “She’ll be in on Wednesday so you can do it then. It takes some time you see.” “Is there another branch where I could get one done tomorrow?” “Oh the branches are open on a Saturday, but she won’t be here. It’s a weekend.” “So if I wait until Monday, where should I go?” “On Monday you could try Knightsbridge branch sir.”

As I leave I wonder if she thought it was a test. My surname is Barclay. She would’ve clocked that as she cancelled my card. As with most major corporations I’m sure the directive is the same: “Be simultaneously as obstructive and obsequious as humanly possible. Rather than saying “no” say a version of “yes” that means “no.” If the customer has left with what they want, you have failed, but you still need to try to manipulate their empathy so that if a computer then immediately asks questions that make no logical human sense like “Based on the human that was nice to you, on a scale of 1-10 how likely are you to recommend this obstructive megalith to a friend,” you just tick “10” because you don’t want her to have to sit in front of a panel of stern faced obedient morons asking why she got a 2 when Mel from accounting gets a perfect 10 all week and maybe they need to look into things operationally…”

Maybe that’s it, I think, as I wait on hold in India somewhere walking home, my terrible phone jittering in the heat. She thought I was part of that Barclay banking lot. Right now I wish I were, financially. If not necessarily karmically. But I still haven’t worked out what to do about the cheque, outside of waiting until Wednesday…

Hot April.

Right. Space to breathe. I feel like I’m coming up from underwater. On this perfect day I’ve been properly putting myself through the wringer. Pickle shat in my wardrobe last night, as I discovered when I went to get my jacket for this evening. It was a distraction from my nerves which were finely sharpened ahead of a nice meeting that definitely wasn’t happening at 3. Once the meeting that didn’t happen and that I’m not talking about had finished I walked to The Globe in the sun and put on my ringmaster’s jacket, faintly worrying that it might smell of catshit. I made a couple of phone calls to decompress and convert the audition nerves. That I didn’t have. Then I looked at the beautiful day and walked down the river.

I’m helping present the Women in Rail awards, as a sort of Shakespearean MC. It’s a bit bespoke, a bit ad-hoc, and super random. Still, someone just openly assumed I’ve been doing this for ages. Nope. Things like it. But this one is new. So far I haven’t insulted anyone or accidentally knocked Rachel Riley off the stage.

Apparently the last award ceremony that many of the same industry guests attended was fraught with disaster. There was a “James Bond swat team” that some people thought were real terrorists, and the comedian was riffing about buttplugs which people didn’t want with their dinner. The organisers are slightly on edge. I’m not. I’m in a strangely zen state about it all. My nerves are all spent. I did about 40 minutes of chanting this morning after I cleaned up the catshit and I’m just supremely peaceful that everything will be well.

It’s interesting to see how people respond to Rachel Riley. She’s off the telly, you see. Countdown. She’s pretty, kind, fiercely intelligent and had Manchester United as her special subject on Mastermind. I find myself getting her a glass of water and then kick myself for it. I’m a sucker for an attractive mathematician you see. She eats with the sponsors out front while I’m round the back in a room called Watkins 2 – a room where I’ve spent many hours with The Factory. It’s me, the son of the organiser, some of the event staff, and a mob of singing waiters practicing their choreography, and a bottle of wine open which I’d be breaking a lifelong rule if I touched. I want it though.

But I’m still working out what’s going to happen next. Redrafting on the fly. I’m also aware that it’s 9.20 already and I’ll be here for another two hours or more. I’m just going to have to introduce a couple more people, then announce the raffle winners and close the ceremony, using only Shakespearean language but I need to be on point for unexpected stuff. They’re running an hour behind with the food so brevity is the soul of wit and I probably have very little work left in the scheme of things. It’s all over but the waiting and an occasional frantic bout of activity.


The band had skipped the sound check at half five and then acted surprised when nothing worked. I had to fluff in verse for a while and do a bit of Prospero before they got it sorted. It was a chaotic night all said, and everyone in the venue was dying of heat exposure. We got it all out though, in roughly the right shape. And it’s probable that the guests only noticed the heat, which was undeniable. The rest of it was fun fluff.

I ended up in the photobooth with Rachel, who was tirelessly working the crowd while the band howled their covers into the mic.

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I tire rather more easily. I’m out. Waiting for a bus as the iron tongue of St. Paul’s tolls twelve. To bed. ’tis almost fairy time!

Pickle shat on my bed though. Thank the gods that Brian and Mel were there and noticed. They sent me before and after photos. About time I changed my sheets. I need to get these comics sorted fast or it’ll keep happening.

Haircut

What a day. Suddenly we have something that looks like summer. About bloody time too. I went for a haircut. It’s Spring. It’s time for a shearing. I don’t look much different with short hair. If I shave my beard it takes years off. But hair does nothing – I’m bald with it long or short. The only reason I’m not buzzcut is that it messes with my casting.

There’s a whole hell of a lot going on for me this springtime. My everything is filled with change and development. But I’m sitting on the sofa with Brian and I just said; “I honestly don’t know what the fuck to write this one about. The three biggest things going on in my life are X, Y and Z and I don’t feel like I can write about any of them at the moment because they’re all in suspension.” So that’s where I am. I don’t want to spurt enthusiasm for uncertainties, but there’s nothing I hate more than a person who is constantly “almost’. So this talking around it is the best you’ll get. Even if that’s annoying as hell too. Like those endless posts on Facebook “Good news coming but I can’t say what.” (Baby? Marriage? Actually from Krypton? Lottery win? Discovered the cheat code for existence? Started a business? Learnt not to post mysterious stuff because it’s really annoying? Got to level 10? New President of the United States? Did a poo poo?)

Anyway, today’s weather was bloody glorious. And yes I’m changing the subject. Go fish.

I went to Camden to get a haircut. No point going anywhere near my address. They charge three times the value. Even Peckham have priced themselves out. Isn’t it about time that hairdressers allowed a “balding discount?” Then you’d pay in pride but lose in money. I wish the back of my head wasn’t located on the back of my head. “I just haven’t got the mirrors, darling, that’s the problem. If I just had the mirrors I could cut my bald head however I chose and nobody could think it’s acceptable to charge 45 quid for that tiny amount of tuft.” Still, my guy in Camden did it for 15.

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I’m shorn now, and I do like that barber. He knows I’m easy and gets me in quick. He once told me a story about how he made friends over many years with an old couple who eventually unprompted signed him over some central London property, but the lawyer reverted it to the next of kin after they died. It was a strange story, and my loyalties were torn because you never know the details, but he told it with such detail, but resignation and lack of acquisitiveness that it stuck with me.

Anyway, big day tomorrow, he says vaguely. Nothing important happening at 3pm. Not doing anything unfamiliar and difficult in the evening. Just another normal happy Thursday. Yep. Nothing to see here. Move along. I have to go to sleep so I’m refreshed and ready for all the things that aren’t happening tomorrow that aren’t going to affect my sleep at all.

 

Busy

Oh Pickle.

I’ve been working threefold today, as I will be tomorrow. I’m sorting the comics whilst mumbling to myself. I’m learning lines for a meeting on Thursday and simultaneously brushing up my Shakespeare MC for the evening on the same day.

Pickle really doesn’t like the comics being sorted. I spread them all into piles of like on the living room floor. Then I add them all to the online catalogue, keeping an eye on their value as I do so. Then I put them into boxes, trying to keep them together. The main bulk of this stuff will be sold as a job lot so the easier I make it for the dealers, the better the price will be.

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But Pickle doesn’t like it. All these weird things on her floor. She hates walking on the plastic covers. She scratched me properly for the first time today, completely unprovoked apart from by comics. I’m keeping an eye on her now in case it’s something deeper but I genuinely think it’s the fact I’m busy all day and am moving around too much for her to get settled. Even cats get discombobulated when people don’t behave as they “should”. I reckon if I realise any money from these comics I’ll put some of it into a scratching post to thank her for her forbearance. After all, this is her flat. She’ll likely ignore a scratching post though. Like me she chooses hard. She’s not swayed by “cats love this.”

Anyway this evening I’m hitting my blog later than usual. I have a friend staying. I walked into my bedroom at midnight to start writing and immediately knew there was a special poo present. But where? Thank God not on the bed. She’d just protested in the corner.  Steve spotted it as I was looking in all the most horrible possible places. It was just in the corner. She was merciful. Retrospectively I wish I’d taken a photo. But the SMELL.

Steve is on the sofa tonight. I wanted to hang out with him because he’s a brilliant actor who is mostly writing these days. Even though I’m always going to be an actor who writes, I am starting to think about how to make a bit of money from the writing side of the seesaw. I figured his face would eject useful bits. It did.

Now I’m on my bed writing into my phone. Pickle is at my feet as if she hasn’t been carving me to pieces and shitting in my bedroom. All is right with the world. Although Steve is allergic to cats.

Thankfully she’s currently behaving as if it’s just another ordinary day. She’s chilling at my feet. Hopefully the comic protest is short lived. I really don’t want midnight poo in my bedroom every night. It’s not fun.

Still, I’ve taken myself off fun until after Thursday. Thursday is a double whammy of learning. That’s my focus. So anyone that expects to see me socially between now and then, you won’t. You’ll barely raise me. Too much to learn and process. And that involves going to bed now, angry cat or no. Goodnight. Meow.

Taking out the rubbish

I’m back in London already and feeling much lighter and clearer. A bit of sea air. A bit of physical labour.

My friends moved to Margate and bought themselves a beautiful property that was in total disrepair. They’ve been there since December and every day they’re working to improve the place. It’s a gigantic job. Great big property, used to have ten people living there. Every room has work to do. They don’t seem fazed. All you have to do with big problems is break them up into lots of little ones and then apply yourself. I’d do well to remember that. I’ve been meaning to go visit for a while, and finally had to for work reasons. Last night we did some dramaturgy. That was the draw. Then this morning we laboured. It was satisfying. I feel great for it.

There used to be a horrible plastic conservatory out back. Now there’s a concrete verandah and a huge pile of plastic where they tore it down. The job today was mostly carrying rubbish into the car until it was full, driving the full car to the dump, throwing everything into the compactor, going back to the house. Cup of tea. Repeat.

The Margate dump was thronged with cars today. I guess we’re in spring cleaning time. Everyone feels a bit of sun on their face and decides it’s time to go out with the old and in with the new. I was doing a bit of that internally.

I’d forgotten the extent to which good hard extended physical work helps you sort out the contents of your head. All the unexamined crap was coming out as I worked. “Oh that’s your name, pain. What am I doing hanging onto you still?” I chucked a lot of stuff into that compactor.

A proper rubbish compactor is a remarkable and somehow inevitable machine. Slow but certain. I watched it eat somebody’s bed in one relentless loud crunchy mouthful. We fed it full today. Tea never tasted so good. I was already feeling internally lighter as I made my way to the station to get back home, walking down the seafront. I was born and raised by the sea and need water in my life. My grandmother used to tell me that the sea is in our bones. It was good to reconnect, and to throw some residual bad energy out into the waves. I think I’ll be back before long. London can make you heavy after a while.

Feeling better, clearer and fresher I got in the train and unlike the horror of the day before it ran smooth. As inside, so outside. I even got a call from my agent the like of which I haven’t had for years. Nothing concrete but opportunity knocks.

Now I’m home, surprisingly tired for ten pm. Pickle and I are going to turn in and sleep like the dead. Spring. The sun is coming. Ceres is happy again. New opportunities. Good things. You heard it here first folks. Time to take the trash out.

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