Park walk and then saved Christmas

The winter is still mild enough for walks in the park. That makes life a bit more bearable. Lou and I scrambled amongst the squirrels as I tried to take the time off from going down the burgeoning list of things I have to do.

The spare room is getting closer to paintable, and I’ve had the gobsmackingly obvious idea of replacing the cheapest bed on the internet with the ornate one we’ve been paying to store for however long it’s been now. My guests will have a solid wooden bed with brass fittings and it’s another thing out of the storage. Since I have no real choice but to embrace the vintage theme here, I’m going to go all out with it. It’s a pity there’s not room for the matching wardrobe to go with it. I’ve booked another auction man, this time from Rosebery’s. I’m hoping I’ll get some clarity about what’s left. The thing with antiques, I’ve had to learn, is that they are simply just worth what somebody will pay for them. It’s a guessing game, helped by looking up recent similar sales. I reckon this guy will be more experienced at guessing than I am, and hopefully Max and I will be happy enough to dismiss the things that he dismisses, keep the things that mean something to us and move on move on move on from the rest and the sheer expense of clinging to it.

I dropped everything for the day and went frolicking in the park with Lou.

It’s a hugely powerful thing, to live directly opposite the peace pagoda. We went and walked on it and looked across to the windows from which I look across to it. I’m usually aware of the drumming in the morning as somebody chants in the dawn over the river. They’ve done that since it was my mother that slept in that room where her mother’s bed is soon to be installed … there’s a strange continuity. All that good energy resonating my way can only be helpful as I try to finish this tricky transition.

The evening brought a Christmassy playtest from friends and makers who have clearly been busy over the last few months. I got an email with a link. You click the link and it takes you to a sort of online festive escape room adventure type thing.

It involved Tristan and I saving Christmas on two screens and a WhatsApp call. The software worked remarkably well and we muddled through the puzzles. Code cracking, maths, logic problems. Somehow, with both of us sober, we did it. We have officially saved Christmas. Hooray.

The puzzles took us bloody ages though so I’m writing this at half midnight, hence the stream of consciousness. You want structure? Can’t help there, sorry. I can give you words, tonight. And that’s enough of them.


Remember when we could just… go to a place? “Fuck it,” I said, fifteen years ago. “I’m off somewhere.” Then I went online and worked out that Easy Jet was doing cheap flights to Prague. £36 return I think it was. It’s fine if you don’t mind where you end up or where you sleep. Definitely easier alone without anyone worrying about uncontrollables. If it’s just you, you’re only responsible for yourself, and if you’re happy anywhere then the only negativity – the voice that says “we should’ve done x” – is silent, as is the voice that says “we should book accommodation in advance just to be safe”. So long as it’s different, I’m happy as larry, and in a city there’s always somebody that wants your money for a bed. And I’m lucky, as I’m tall and male. I can be a bit loose.

Cheap sleep bumps it all up a bit nevertheless. I ended up in a hotel for peanuts. Restaurants bump it up a bit more. Sure you can eat out of supermarkets, and you do, but evening restaurants are part of the joy for me. I’ll sit with a good book eating posh dumplings by the river, and get another glass of red at the end of the meal. And with all this I reckon three days in Prague didn’t set me back more than £300 all in back then, and that involved buying two bottles of wormwood absinthe and checking a bag both ways to smuggle them home. I need to go back, as the absinthe is long gone now – replaced by memories and poems. I had a rule – no more than two in a sitting. Two is peak wormwood. You hit the flow. Any more and the writing is replaced by a haze that stops thought. But I forget – I’m sober these days… Perhaps in a year or so…

My jaunt back then also involved going to The Mucha Museum and buying 4 prints. I must have just finished a job to be so profligate. It was winter, as I recall. I bought four art deco ladies. The times of the day. Colorful and decorative. And a very impractical shape. I got them home, failed to find any clip frames the right size, drank the absinthe, wrote bad poems and forgot about the prints.

Occasionally I’d find them when moving things around and think “oh, I should get them framed”. Then I’d forget about them again. Framing is another of these luxurious things that costs too much for what it is. I didn’t have the headspace. So the seasons shifted round.

About a month ago, with no alcohol and no work to kill the thinking moments, I resolved to get them up at long last, these attractive symbols of my independence. The internet is better now for finding weird frames even as it’s worse for cheap last minute flights. I researched a clip frame the right size for all 4 of them together. I put it on my credit card. It arrived last week. Today I finally put the pictures into the frame. They fit perfectly, which is a relief as even the clip frame was over the odds in price. I swear I’m going to teach myself framing and get the kit to do it once there’s room in my home and in my mind.

When I finally do put them up – (I haven’t yet) – they’ll remind me of that effortless freedom of movement we used to have, of which we are not even at liberty to enjoy the death throes because of Covid. Because it’s just a month away, this looming catastrophe of ambition. This attempt to make us the UAE of Northern Europe, that so far is just making us the pariah. This conflicting mess, buoyed up by the shouting of unhappy people who have bought the lie that their unhappiness is because of foreigners. And now we’re all going to be stuck here and we’ll find out where you shift the blame next. Artists, most likely. Bloody entitled liberal artist types who go to stupid places like Prague just for a cultural change of scene.

Prague is definitely unusual. Quirky. Stoic, dour, grey but edgy and with deep hidden colour. The second languages tend to be Polish and German. Like the French they pretend to speak less English than they do, but unlike the French they don’t understand French. My shopping German was more helpful than my decent French, and my sign language more helpful than my English, but I expected that – it was not my first time in Prague. I muddled by. I went to puppet theatre and sat for ages by a long grey flat unfamiliar Vitava. I ate dumplings with gravy and meat, or cabbage with dumplings and meat gravy, or meat gravy dumplings with cabbage. And I don’t think I really spoke to anyone but for directions or practicality. I remember my hackles rising at a few familiar accents, and I recall avoiding large groups of people about my age who sounded a bit like me. I walked a lot. I thought a lot. I was in Prague and that was enough to keep me happy for three days.

There is so much world. I want to spin the globe and stick a finger in again. I used to carry my passport with me in my inside pocket, just in case I decided to go to the airport instead of home. I stopped doing that when I just kept going home and my passport got dog-eared. I think it was more about the romance than the intention. But man I have the intention now it’s not possible. Oh the world. The big big world.

Back into the stuffnexus

Back to the storage today. Still trying to get it empty. Hard work but will be worth every minute. My home is gradually filling with junk. Some will stay. Some will go to charity. Some will go for cash. Some will just go in the bin.

There are companies that help you pack up the things from your deceased relatives. They can store them for you as well. There’s one in Jersey like that. It’s a terrible scam. We found a huge cardboard box today, packed to the gills with paper, containing nothing but a lampshade and a shit one too. But the bigger they pack it, the more space it takes up in their unit, the more money they get to store it until everybody dies including you, so your nephew has it shipped over from Jersey and stuck into another unit and then during a pandemic he gradually deals with it decades after the deaths that put it in there in the first place. Thousands and thousands of pounds on nothing but forgetting. It’s all coming out by the end of next month one way or t’other. Thank Christ for that.

Meanwhile I’ve got a union jack pennant hanging on the back of my bedroom door. To my right there’s an old mirror and a cummerbund and a 1970’s Bang and Olufsen transistor radio. I just took the batteries out. Not as leaky as you’d imagine. There’s a box of books and a breadbin, four pairs of glasses and a little oil painting of London. A great big plastic tray for eating in bed, with Saxton’s map of Dorchester on it for some reason. There’s a brass disk that can tell you what day your birthday will fall on as far ahead as 2081. Cotton hankies. Driving gloves. A photo of some yachts. A portrait of a lady.

The internet can be incredible sometimes. I took a photo of the portrait and posted it on Identify my Vintage and Antique Items, which can be a scrum but frequently yields fruit. Within five minutes I knew it was Sarah Leighton painted by Arrigoni, and I even had a link to some preliminary sketches posted by her daughter on a message board. It can’t be original then… Grandpa clearly either knew her, or was a fan. It’s likely worthless, so I’m going to stick it up on my wall as it’s striking and why not have a few pictures of beautiful women on the wall. I never did that at school. Plus having it on the wall means IT’S OUT OF THE WAY! Hooray!

It’s kind of good that I’ve got time for this. I’d love to turn up a lost Picasso but I’m more likely to turn up a pickaxe. But I have to keep turning up, and turning out the locker. Max and I are getting through it. But still, after all these years – still it’s not easy to let go of these things. It’s archaeology. I’m learning about my grandparents through their books and their correspondence and their treasured items. Even the pincushions have history in the family – this could’ve been made by my great grandfather for my great great grandmother during WW1. Or it could’ve been bought in an antique shop. And I’ll never know.

Storage is an expensive means of deferring decisions about such things. The smaller things are easier to keep, but the huge tables? Wardrobes? Beds? Why were they even kept for so long? Deconstructed wicker headboarded beds, maybe worth a bob or two but not worth keeping unused for decades. My bed has no tall head but if it did it would block the window. It’s sadly time to see them off somehow. But in a way that’s not even sad. Bits of their story is coming back into ours. Grandpa’s crush is going up on my wall. Grandma’s owls are all looking at me from my bedroom shelves as I write. Some things will integrate with my things. Others will go back into the stuffpool for another human to hold onto for a bit. Until they die and off we go again.

Comfort and rage

Had anybody else noticed how much ANGER there is at the moment? We need to monitor carefully.

One of my Facebook groups regularly explodes anyway. It’s a barometer for the general feeling. It’s 25,000 volatile people who work the festival circuit and are self employed and motivated. It’s always a minefield and I’ll only ever post there as a last resort. I found a six foot five inch tall serving policeman who was willing to stand in front of Big Ben in a Victorian uniform for a couple of hundred quid one Saturday and get filmed. So it definitely can do what it’s supposed to do, the group. I’ve picked up some driving jobs from it too but they go quickly. It has, once again, devolved into shit-slinging. This happens three times a year on average but it’s bigger than usual. It’s taken over my Facebook completely. My timeline is suddenly entirely filled with people shouting at each other because a woman posted an ill advised job offer. They’re shouting at her, at each other, at themselves and at the guy who set it up. Meanwhile on Twitter the first thing I hit upon when logging in is a video of some idiot shouting at other idiots about how they shouldn’t be driving like that while driving atrociously himself. I think Facebook and Twitter are probably over anyway. But I still check from time to time and this time I regret it. More bad energy flying out of my phone and into my face.

I’m stuck in my flat and all the virtual windows I’m looking through are full of werewolves. It’s like in this lockdown suddenly the COVID has mutated into RAGE from 28 Days Later. It’s not even full moon until the 30th.

I get it. We’ve lost a year but we are still paying. It feels like we’ve achieved nothing for killing everything we enjoyed before. All the momentum has been pulled. People are getting angry, while the idiot in chief protects that nasty Home Secretary and loses another tatter of the pretence of integrity, and proves again that the machine of governance in this country, as in America, is small-minded, nasty, petty and childish. We aren’t led by donkeys. Donkeys are useful. But we aren’t lions either anymore. We want it all too easy. We’re behaving like goats. We are standing and shouting and mostly not even knowing why we’re shouting.

Never have I ever felt the lack of a planet B more tenderly. I’d get out of the country if I could but it’s everywhere. I just wish I was in New Zealand like Mel, although then there’d be nobody to look after Hex and he’s cute for a snake with his little snuffy nose and his soft scaly skin and this is what it’s come to! I get my comfort from a fecking snake. A SNAKE!

At least I’m getting comfort. I just had a good long talk with Lou which helped more than the cuddly snake. We need to get comfort and to pass it on to all the fragile frightened people in this darkening world that is new and less easy than the one we had last November. Stop getting shouty and weird people. It doesn’t help. Stop recycling bad energy. Pretty much any badness we get thrown at us right now is a badness that is borne out of pain. We are all feeling it. Everything is different in less than a year.

I remember sitting next to the guys streaming with cold on the tube, and just keeping my breathing shallow. “I’ll be alright and if I get it then it’ll just strengthen my immune system”. I remember when those families came on wearing “those masks they wear on public transport” – “it’s to protect us from them! How cute.”

A year ago today we were dressing the set for Carol.

I was about to sweat, dance and shout joyfully in a room full of people eating, every night for a month in a Victorian nightie, even if I was sick. To hell with it. It’s hard to even say “it’ll all be fine in the long run”. What makes me happy? Connection. Travel. Acting. Warmth. Good food. One out of five is something I guess. Although the last few days I haven’t even been motivated to make good food for myself, and I’m long out of the frame for being able to afford takeaways…


History of histories

Until today, I had no idea my grandmother collected pincushions. It makes a strange kind of sense. She WAS a pincushion. She would always set off all the X-Rays in the airport, having one leg that was essentially made out of metal. Occasionally people would try and get her to sit in a wheelchair and she would fight them with every fibre of her being, call them every name under the sun, and then ask for their assistance so she could walk off in a proud huff with them bemusedly holding her arm and receiving precise instructions as to how to hold the arm.

Max and I went deeper into the storage than ever before. We have to have it completely empty in a month so we are digging. What’s trash, what’s treasure?

We started to find intimacies. A portrait of grandma, with the dress she was wearing packaged in with it and a hilarious account of her opinion of it on the underside. A picture of grandma, looking striking in the wrens. All of grandpa’s diaries and telegrams and his wartime correspondence carefully kept. His medals. His mentions in dispatches. Maybe somewhere we’ll turn up his war diaries – we hope to. He kept a careful journal and it’s likely to be publishable as he had a hell of a war. I’m not sure how much was preserved considering he went down with two battleships. But I think he was careful to keep the main text onshore whenever he could so there’ll be material there I’m sure.

It’s a family trait, the life writing thing. I guess it carries through to me in this form. I haven’t really thought of it so clearly until I wrote that sentence. To an extent this blog is me playing out my family karma. My great great (great?) grandfather Emmanuel was Napoleon’s secretary and biographer. We even found an early test edition of his memorial of Saint Helena – all eight editions, blown and warped by time but still intact and with the typewritten sheets bound in to volumes.

Then, long before, Emmanuel’s great great (g g g?) grandfather Bartholomew wrote “A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies” in 1552 and campaigned tirelessly to stop the damage we were doing in “the new world”. He even got a sainthood out of it. Shame we can’t turn up the original manuscript of that bad boy or we could retire to St Helena on the value. Shame that it’s unlikely that my daily scribblings will earn me my own sainthood. I’ll have to work harder. And be a Catholic. We work with the material we’re handed I guess. Should’ve gone into diplomacy like grandad. As it is I’m an actor that blogs.

What do we do with all this stuff, and no house to put it in? If I lived in a big country pile there’d be a wing put aside for it all. But we pay the storage people more than I earnt per month for the first ten years of my professional life just so we don’t have to think about dealing with it. Enough is enough is enough.

We can sell the pin cushions. They’re nice but they need to be loved anyway and neither Max nor I love them. But the diaries? Wouldn’t we be haunted by angry aristocratic ghosts with receding hairlines and sharp chins if we sold them? Grandma thought about it – there’s a letter from Bonham’s in with them – and a figure that she must have turned her nose up at. The account has already been published but there might be some excisions of interest to historians. It’s unlikely to be the first draft. Although it could be. That might explain the condition. Who knows. I imagine they’ll go in a dark shelf and another generation won’t know what to do with them either. Or I might find somebody to have a look at them. In the internet age, interested buyers would be easier to find, and that was the concern raised by Bonham’s in 1996.

More stuff to think about. More stuff that’s been left undone while Max has been looking at insects and I’ve been looking at my navel. Progress feels good though, and things are moving forward inevitably. Always more to do, but that’s what you want really. If there was nothing I’d be bored.

Nous sommes Hex

Hex is shedding his skin. It’s a very involved process. I’ve been checking up on him periodically and he seems to be getting through it okay. The first time I checked he had skin all over his face and it looked like he wouldn’t be able to breathe, but he’s got it off now. It’ll be a while before all of it’s off though, and it’s quite an intimate process so I reckon he won’t want my big face staring down at him through the hole in the world while he does it. I’ve left him to it. Tomorrow I’ll have some cleaning work to do in there.

First of all he soaks himself. Then he empties himself of liquid and has a gargantuan poo. Meanwhile he is generating heat and thrashing around so he steams up his terrarium. Then the long process of shrugging off all the dead skin, catching it on his rock and on his bits of crunched up paper. He flushes himself.

Tomorrow morning he’ll be snoozing, shiny and new and innocent, surrounded by the unbelievable carnage that he’s currently wreaking. He feels newborn when he’s just shed. So silky smooth. Sometimes he leaves the old skin in a perfect pile for me, sometimes it’s inextricably mixed up with his strange secretions. Even his wee looks like eggs. It’s weird looking after a snake.

I’ll find out what he’s left for me tomorrow. It’s a heck of a talent, changing yourself over like that. Tomorrow morning I’ll reward him with a puppet helicopter mouse to eat. It’s currently defrosting on the kitchen counter. He’ll likely be hungry after all the writhing. 3% magic, that mouse.

Maybe we are all Hex right now. Hiding under our rocks, rolling in our filth, scraping off the things we don’t need anymore and waiting for the morning when we can emerge brand spanking new, soft skinned, flushed out, empty clean and ready for all the tasty flying mice that will be shrieking “eat me eat me” as we stir from our torpor.

I’ve managed to organise a few little flying mice of my own for December. I hope you have too. Enough to make sure that I’m not going to the workhouse despite Christmas Carol being cancelled because it’ll almost certainly be illegal.

Right now though I’m still thrashing around in my own filth. Apart from the papers, I’ve got so much glassware to make sense of. I’ve got tons of other weird random objects to sort and move. It’s enough to be getting on with, certainly. But with everything else I’ve got to get on with it’s going to be a marathon to get the place lovely for Christmas.

But this is what I’m determined to do. So I shall, dammit.

Shiny new skins all round please. After the flush. ETA December.

Splishy sploshy

A man came round to service my boiler. I didn’t have to pay him. I pay monthly. Boiler insurance. When the last one blew up it was thousands I couldn’t afford. It’s pretty much the only insurance I pay for and once a year they send over a bemused man with a box.

Last year he was grey haired and sharp. He spent a lot of time telling me how he was the foremost Vaillant boiler service person in my area. “Some idiot’s turned the output down,” he said. “No leave it like that, the boiler’s too big for the flat. If you turn it up it loses pressure.” “I’m the foremost Vaillant etc etc” He turned it up again. For a year now I’ve had to top the pressure up every few days. Because it’s a law of nature that the people who immediately tell you how good they are at stuff are the ones who are shit at that stuff and lots of other stuff too. “Braggates non Capabili sunt et probabilis shitbaggus twat” as Ovid said to the Etruscan legate.

This year I had a stocky little friendly chap. He laughed at the piles of crap. “Your boiler’s too big. Are you losing pressure?” He’s turned it back down. It’ll save me money and it means I can have somebody stay in winter without having to teach them how to add water to a boiler. Makes it easier to Airbnb. Which is still on the cards. I’m hatching a plan.

I think I want to go back home to The Isle of Man for a bit. Send in work by greenscreen and voice. Write the great British Screenplay by the sea, and maybe a novel or two. Catch fish in the morning. Fly over to do a week at the BBC every month or so. Learn sea shantys. Become internationally celebrated for my mercurial talent on digital media. Sort out the flat which sits there empty as a shrine to my father. Live different for a while before returning to London encrusted in salt with a burr in my tongue and a dream in my heart.

I probably won’t. Lockdown makes a lot of peaceful things seem viable that the previous non-stop hand to mouth “how the hell did he fit it all in” version of me, steeped in coffee and booze and spreading himself atom thin – that he wouldn’t be able to countenance with his London ways.

I’m in the bath. Thoughts like that are more frequent in the bath. It’s harder to type as dropping my phone would be a disaster. But I’ve got it sussed now. It’s nice here. I’m staying. Aquarius starts in just over a month. It’s a time for water, surely. I’m going to see if I can dissolve myself like an Alka Seltzer. I’ll either come out shiny or go down the plug. I just wish I could remember to buy bubble bath some time. Mmmmmmm

Silly rules

Now I’ve got a car that isn’t shit I’m determined to use it. So I’ve signed up as a volunteer with an internet company a friend told me about. They’re all about preventing food waste. The deal is, you show up at crack of dawn, they offload a bunch of stuff that’s about to expire, you take it home, put it in the fridge, and list it all individually in their app. Then people in your local area bagsy the stuff they need.

I’m not far from an estate managed by the same dangerous buggers as Grenfell was. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’ll be some pickup, as nobody else is doing it in my area. You accept the request and then leave it on your doorstep at the appointed time. They appear and wander off with it. From a friend who does it, it’s mostly pastries. I thought, in order to try it out, I’d book a one off pick-up slot. Just to see how it goes. I can be a pastry-conduit.

I was going to have to be at a supermarket near me at 7 in the morning tomorrow. I didn’t relish the early morning but I was weirdly excited at the prospect of helping the community. I enjoy moving energy around far too much for my own good.

The store insists on an induction first though, so I booked one in for 3pm today. I was driving at 3pm, so I set an alarm. Jo was going to call me on my mobile. Fifteen minutes to ascertain that I’m not going to stagger into the shop drunk and be sick on all the shelves while shouting “This shop is the best!”

I pulled off the motorway into a service station at 2.50pm and waited. At 3.05 I started messaging the group chat, trying to raise somebody. Nothing. No induction in the fifteen minute slot. I sat in my car waiting for half an hour for an induction that is nothing more than lip service. It probably involves telling you the supermarket’s brand values and making sure you know how to open a door without falling over. And it never came.

I figured I’d show up anyway, and said so to the group chat, but no. “Rules are rules,” I’m told by my volunteer coordinator. Better to let the food go to waste than to break the rules!?! I’m not going to go now. I suspect that if I break the rules and appear it’ll be considered worse than if I just let it go to waste, because, as so often, the letter of the law trumps the spirit of the law.

This is the problem with the world.

Tara came home once in a mood. She worked as an intensive care nurse and she’d been disciplined. “I used a machine to save a guys life. I haven’t had training in the UK but I have in Australia. I was told I shouldn’t have used it without the UK training. I said the guy would have died. They said ‘Maybe that would’ve made them change the rules.’ “

This is just some wasted food. But it’s stupid. You’ve got a willing volunteer, happy to give up his time to make it work. You’ve got loads of food heading to the bin. You’ve got a system in place to get that food to people who want it. But you can’t, because you have to tell the volunteer that the door opens inwards and the colour blue means that we really care for the environment, and this is our excruciating acronym, sign here.

This is why I wouldn’t last three seconds in an office. At least I get a lie in.

Midnight lasagne

A bath is running as I write. A vegetable lasagne has just gone in the oven. It’s almost 11pm. I’m sitting on my bed surrounded by papers.

It’s a full time job for me, sorting my shit out. So I’ve made shit sorting my full time nine to five job. I’m working the working week doing it. No distractions that aren’t part of it. And right now I’ve been doing overtime so I’ve stopped for a change of mood.

I have a television the size of a football pitch in the room next door. I could be watching all the things that people are watching this time round. Last lockdown I watched Tiger King like a good little boy, I kept up… This time I’ve decided it’s more important to sort things out. To help make sure Christmas can happen. There’ll be no Scrooging this year. End of an era.

I haven’t finished watching Bojack. I haven’t watched all of Rick and Morty. I haven’t caught up with Better Call Saul, or watched The Queen’s Gambit or even gone beyond episode one of The Wire. I haven’t even started on the latest season of The Crown and I’m in it for God’s sake. I’ve had to rely on friends to tell me what bits of me made the edit. Because I’m busy. Sorting. My. Shit. Out. Plus my greenscreen is up in front of the telly as I’m enjoying messing around with it when I’ve got a few minutes.

It’s varied. My shit comes in many shapes and sizes. There’s been piles and piles of it building up behind the door for decades. I’ve opened the door now and it all landed on me.

In one hand there’s an unwilling and unhelpful man in Jersey who has the keys to something my parents really wanted us to be able to open. He can’t be bothered to help, and he is so habitually obstructive and disinterested that he’s managed to fritter an entire decade already with procrastination. He’s trying for another decade wasted and I’m trying to stop him. I can’t go over and kick him. He lies about what he’s done and going to do. I’m trying to nudge him in the right direction but it feels like I need powertools now, not a hammer.

In another hand there’s a lovely flat full of junk that has come to me through the desire and design of all the amazing humans that gave me a truly lovely childhood and then promptly died. I’m making more progress there because it’s only myself obstructing me, and no matter how good I am at self sabotage I could never come close to the guy in Jersey for timewasting. He’s legendary at it.

On my head there’s my acting career, my desire to try to make stuff online, my desire to write and build and storify. Also there is the short term need to make money to cover the service charge and council tax and bills. I need to take short term jobs if they’re available. But we all have to stay indoors forever.

In my body there are the people I love and want to make time for, the need to keep fit and not shove midnight lasagna into my face.

We all have so much to balance and I’m managing to switch my head a bit and pull myself inch by inch towards an even better quality of life than the wondrous unusual thing I’ve already forged in this world.

One step at a time though. Right now it’s midnight lasagne. The alarm just went off…

Never underestimate cats

Back before the fun died, I would frequently find myself in Richmond with Tristan and Tanya, having extremely involved meals where every dish is an essay, drinking the best quality wine that I could afford in defiant quantities, talking and dancing until late and then passing out spreadeagled on the inflatable mattress in front of the cricket highlights because I couldn’t drive home. Two hours into my deep and guilty sleep I would be awoken by the howling of the damned. Henry. The cat. Back from his nightly ramble. Seeking food that doesn’t run away.

With no flap, Henry relied on that fine set of lungs and the existence of light sleepers. I can open that window without interrupting my dream or fully opening my eyes. That’s how often I stayed and that’s how predictable he was. In he’d hop, ignoring me completely, straight to the food. Then sometimes he’d curl up on me.

Between lockdown the first and lockdown the second Tanya and Tristan moved. Just down the road, they went. Minute and a half by car, but the other side of Richmond Road, which isn’t small. Henry came along of course, and was confined to barracks for a while as is advisory – so he could reorient. They’ve been there for months now and he’s been back outside as he pleases for most of them.

Problem is, now there are levels in the new place. They sleep upstairs. The doors are downstairs. With no catflap, despite his lungs, if he shouts they might not hear him. Certainly last night they didn’t. So he went somewhere else. I’ve been getting updates all day when he didn’t show up in the morning.

Resident’s groups. Neighborhood WhatsApps. All the potential sources of cat have been bombarded by a concerned Tanya. Nothing. This evening’s exercise involved me walking on one side of the road wielding a bag of Dreamies with Tanya on the other side of the road doing the same. We covered a good radius around the new place and the old, on both sides of the main road and the side streets, but to no avail. No cat. Not a sausage. Nada.

In LA, Laural came home once with a dead cat. Hit by a car in the early evening. Mark and I buried it. It’s worth noting how much of our thinking can quickly go to imagining worst case scenarios.

I was about to jump in the car home with this all unresolved when – amazingly – the call came. From a neighbor.

Henry was in his old garden suddenly, yowling. “Screw you I’m hungry now”.

I’m in my car so I’m over there waiting while Tristan and Tanya, in a state of excited anxiety, have descended on their old property to continue to shake the Dreamies and call the name. (For the uninitiated, Dreamies are electromagnets for cats.) And this time, the Dreamies work. Suddenly I’ve got Tristan, masked and triumphant, holding a muddy hungry confused cat, hauling cat and filth into the passenger seat of the new Audi.

Henry is home again. He’ll be in lockdown tonight and I expect it’ll be the first night T&T have slept deeply for a while. They should totally get a catflap. And we should all try to derail the part of our brain that goes to the worst case scenario first.

Cheeky bugger got across that road though. “He knows how to get back,” Tanya says in a worried tone. I’m half imagining waking up one morning to find Pickle sitting on my windowsill like nothing has happened, and a text message from Brian asking if I’ve seen her. It’s a lot further to Croydon. But never underestimate cats.