I think it might be the pollen. It’s the time of year when all the London plane trees throw horrible thick spiky things everywhere. Yesterday at lunch they were landing in my tea. It might be the heat. It might be a combination of the two. But I had an almighty headache this morning and it left me with no desire to do anything.
Thankfully the filming has been reduced to a single day – it’ll be a long one tomorrow, and I’ll have to drive to Ickenham first thing in the morning. But I didn’t have to do any thinking or remembering this morning.
It’s just gone 7pm. My head is still feeling pretty rough. I’m thinking I might have a painkiller before early bed, or maybe just drink tons of water. I don’t want to wake up feeling like I did this morning. Not on a shoot date. That was rough. I pretty much lost the day to it. Lots of dozing. Couldn’t really handle screens. Writing this is tricky.
I’ve got a blow heater with a cold setting though, and I’m not afraid to use it. I put it on my bed and it’s blowing beautiful cool air over me as I write. It’s hot in the city tonight. This happens so rarely and lasts such a short while that nobody ever really bothers with air con in this country but for the hotels. This kind of awkward solution will be happening in houses across the UK right now. I can’t leave it on all night as I’ll trip over the wire when I sleepwalk to the loo. I used to have one of those battery operated hand held fans as well but I’ve either buried it or chucked it and searching for things isn’t my jam right now. Things like fans only become relevant for a few days in the year over here. Today is one of them. It feels like we’re on the edge of a storm. So close. Maybe that’s contributing to the headache. I’m a sensitive flower. I’ll go look at the barometer…
Well, it’s pointing at rain. And the mercury is at 28 degrees. It’s evening dammit. I love being hot but not when I have a headache and I need an early bed.
I’m burning incense now and listening to Mendelssohn. I’ve made a chamomile tea with honey and a splash of whisky. I might achieve my desire of being asleep by 9pm. Tomorrow will be more eventful.
In Twickenham, a supermarket chain has provided money to chuck a load of dead wood onto an uninhabited island in the Thames. We usually clear that sort of thing up thinking it unsightly. It’s easy to forget that different creatures need different habitats. With all the concrete we are pouring, and all the plastic we are throwing around, sometimes we need to give nature a helping hand. Piles of dead wood are very much favoured by Stag Beetles. They stay underground for seven years and then, around this time of year, the ripe ones emerge and they buzz around looking to breed. I saw one. My first in the wild.
Up above my head, round about a tree, too far to photograph well but close enough to read the shape of it. If I had been a child there is no way in hell it wouldn’t have been a fairy. It didn’t look like it should be able to fly. Like a bumblebee and a cockchafer it just stays in the air through sheer bloody-mindedness.
I could hear the wings. It’s what drew me to it. They are pretty rare, despite their size. I was glad to see it. Glad it was having its moment. There’ll be a few of them around in the next few weeks, particularly in South West London. Don’t step on them. Huge rare insects. Not great to eat or we’d have had them all years ago. Not a pest, even though there’s always somebody who tries to say everything is a pest. Perfect conditions for stag beetle mating. All the flying around is their last hurrah. Hopefully my one found a mate, and will help make lots of baby stag beetles for us to see in 2029.
I had the window open all day and so my bedroom is full of small creatures as I write. I left the light on as well. I just went round with a T-shirt executing mosquitos, and I let a ladybird out even though it probably would have worked its way through all the aphids on the ceiling. As I released the ladybird, I found my lips making the mantra: “ladybird, ladybird, fly away home, your house is on fire, your children are gone”. That’s old – really old. I wonder why we do it. Another of these customs inherited from the oral tradition that arrived in the modern world bereft of meaning. Ladybirds are our friends. Their sleek little larvae munch so many aphids that any self respecting rose owner wants them in his patch. Maybe they were seen as good luck. Some say you make a wish as you say it.
It’s hot. I’m fine with that. I like the heat. I crave it in the winter but this evening is one of those rare evenings where I’m wishing I had a decent fan. Summer at last. Joy. I’m gonna see what dreams I have in the heat.
All those studios around the edge of the Westway… They were surely originally part of the BBC White City massive. Then, when Grenfell burnt just over five years ago, some of them were used to help temporarily house people who’d survived. The BBC no longer runs these studios.
It was much more of an office, above a studio. The tellybuildings have mostly been turned into flats but this is functioning and colonised be media. Grenfell might as well have not happened. Here’s my blog from the first day of that horror show. So little has changed in this borough. The privileged and out of touch managers who I helped train through improv bullshit … They are still managing other blocks around here and they are still even more privileged and out of touch than I am.
I was having a lovely time at the telly. A spot of it just before I head off to the sunshine? Delightful. It’s all very well written and extremely clever this thing I’ve ended up being part of. It’s come out of a bit of game theatre, and I’m deeply happy to be involved because it feels like shared blood between two of my working worlds. Everything happens for a reason. These skillsets have never merged before. I just needed to wait long enough. Also how the heck did this manage to land literally just before I fly to an island in the med for a full calendar month? Another joy. Another meditation. I guess I’m just a lucky so and so.
“I’ll bring suit options for Art Department,” I messaged one of the producers last week. They didn’t tell me at the time that they ARE Art Department… That essentially I am my own Art Department… Thankfully I’ve got decent suit options and the rate is sensible even if I have to do loads of office worker style admin. That’s fine.
There’s weird behaviours, like making us all get a brand new DBS even if we have one. I got tetchy about that. Plus they are booking people’s tube fare in advance, as if that’s helpful – it’s just complicated. Either send a car or trust your actor to get there and reimburse them. The guy who turns out to literally live next door to me is expected to get the tube because it’s been prebooked for them by a pencil pusher. I’ll drive them in anyway even though I’ve been emailed saying I’m not to. It’s easier for the actor, it’s quicker, and it involves less covid-fun public transport. All said it’s a win even if it defies some silly human in the office who is burning money just to hold firm to what it says on their spreadsheet.
I’m so glad I barely ever worked in an office. All these people making work for each other. Human centipedes.
I finished a fascinating morning being part of the art. Then I went off back to Kirkaldy Testing Works. A bit of time making sense of the silly ideas we have about a show there. Wrenching and pulling and twisting and crushing. What’s your breaking point?
It all seems to be coming together. I feel totally schizophrenic, but elated. There’s a great deal more in my headspace. There are things I’m going to forget about. Friends with regular life patterns will get annoyed with me and distance themselves. ’twas ever thus, and I AM ALWAYS STILL HERE AS IF IT WAS YESTERDAY. I never count the days. Nor should you. Life is nicer if you don’t attach “should” to anything. I’ve had wine. Structure is going out the window.
But I’m tired and thinking of old wounds suddenly, and I’m writing without review. “It’s a skill to write stream of consciousness,” said Mister Hunter, as he sent me to detention with a copy of Catcher in the Rye and an A4 pad. I kind of liked Hunter even if he was buttoned up above his head. He helped me gain confidence in slapping words down like fish on a block. It’s not a skill to do this. Even if it doesn’t quite work though, hopefully we’re off it quickly enough not to care.
I like making words. Fuck, I’d have stopped forever ago in any other circumstance.
Lou and I are on the beach in the morning, just down the stairs from her flat. But it’s a very special section of the pebbled beach. It’s sectioned off, and the aforementioned warrior and her other tribespeople have converted three horseboxes into saunas. There’s a bathtub full of cold water and a half height plunge pool too, and some simple freshwater showers. Then there’s a firepit and some comfy loungers.
It was hot this morning, and we knew it was going to be hot. But I’m fine with hot. “Your sauna is 110 degrees,” I was told, which means about 43 degrees. It’s going to be mid thirties just ambient temperature every day in Sardinia, and I’m gonna be working on a beach. “This will help me acclimatise,” I find myself thinking. Frankly, the acclimatising to temperature won’t be the issue in Sardinia. It’ll be flipping my head back to driving on the right. But after Saudi, even dealing with Italian drivers again should be a walk in the park. It’s just a slightly different application of testosterone.
The saunas were magnificent. I had such a good time sweating. We opened the door and let it drop to closer to Sardinia temperature. I might have been ok with keeping it up at 110 but three people make a committee and there was only one masochist.
It was the night after an event there, and there was just a tiny bit of wood still smouldering in the fire pit, making it smell great. The horse boxes were very well appointed – very well dressed up – very clean. They’ve just started doing 45 minute shared sessions. It’s a good business move. We’ve been aware of them for ages but the options were either PARTY or leave before you’ve arrived (10 minutes). This felt like the perfect amount of time, and when they had to call time on us, they gave us oranges! Lovely touch. I’m gonna add them to my growing Brighton recommendation list. Beach Box Sauna. The inferno wellness warrior. Perfect place to visit after you’ve been to another little box in Brighton to have a decent tarot reading. As with Ivor, so with Beach Box: Tell them “Al Barclay sent me” and they’ll look at you blankly and charge exactly the same as you’d pay if you hadn’t said anything. Maybe more. Don’t say I never done nuffing for ya.
Post sauna I had to tangle around with getting Bergman back, but it turns out he sailed through his MOT and I found out in time to stop the service from happening so it’s a win. Saved a few hundred. I’ll just have to top up the oil and wiper fluid myself rather than pay some huge garage chain a milliontyfive pounds to do it.
Now I’m back in London. Off to White City in the morning to meet some humans I’ll be working with shortly. It’s a busy time coming up despite the fact it’ll continue to be varied. I’ll likely not be able to blog the White City job with specifics – I can feel another NDA looming. But I’ll need to sleep now. I have to bring costume options tomorrow morning and I like to be thorough. And it’s warm.
It’s gonna be a hot month coming. I’m looking forward to it. All sorts of madness. Starting with a sleep.
Don’t be distracted by the kitten in this photo. The kitten was a tiny part of my morning. Look at the fig tree behind the bed. That’s the main event. Not the kitten. The indoor fig tree. Not the kitten.
There’s another one in the living room that must be fifteen foot tall. Fig tree not kitten you’re doing it again. It bends around the high ceiling and constantly threatens to overbalance. The fig tree does. You’re with me now I think. Thankfully I didn’t have to move the huge tree. I did have to move the one behind me though. And a pear tree. And some more big huge plants in their heavy earthenware pots.
They’ve absolutely ruined the parquet floor with sheer weight over time. Soil and water and twenty years of carelessness.
Marnie lives three doors down from the cat palace. Once I had had my fill of the kitten the kitten the kitten I had to help move those triffids to Marnie’s. She’s a new instructor at Lou’s yoga studio. A happy coincidence that she’s a plant lover, local to the cat palace and free today. It could’ve been a lot worse. I probably would have ended up with Bergman full of plants and then realised he was too heavy to drive. Marnie helped me drag things and haul things and fight things up stairs. We got them there. Finally.
There are cacti in Bergman. I grabbed a few of those because you have to work hard to kill them and they don’t weigh a ton. They are overnighting in the car and I expect they’ll be right at home there in weather like this.
I’ve taken Bergman in for a service with cacti in the back. I’m glad there isn’t a fig tree sticking out the sunroof as they’d look at be strangely. I drove Bergy up to Eastbourne listening to excellent cricket, and I left him with the Nissan people at the official place there. They want all the money for a service and MOT. I’m showing my lack of experience in keeping cars for more than a year here, because my assumption is that the service will involve them changing all the tires and solving all the stuff that will cause him to fail his MOT, and then they’ll pass him. I’m paying hundreds for the damn service. If they fail him – and he will fail in his condition right now – I’m calling shenanigans on the dealership, especially as it means I won’t have time to get him taxed before I go to Sardinia. I could’ve literally bought my usual half decent second hand car for a year with the amount they are going to charge me before they make me pay twice for MOT. Expensive habit, a car. Particularly in this environment with petrol prices just way too high and the oil companies exploiting well meaning indignation to keep them high.
Add to that I had to fill in a DBS application for an acting job… Aaargh.
This photo is pretty much the end of the cat palace. I might be back there tomorrow just to help haul some bits. But…
It’s a sad day. Izzy is on the floor, looking up, a fluffy affectionate pudding. Tessy is aloof as ever, proud and liable to bite hard if you are unwary. Neither of them know the disruption to come.
For weeks now, Lou has been hoovering and scrubbing her flat, de-Maoifying it. She has been preparing it for the arrival of the Tessy. The cat palace is being packed up. The cat owner is returning to LA. Everything is in upheaval. All the things are being packed up and packed off. It’s the end of an era. But Tessy can’t fly. She has a heart condition.
Back in December she almost certainly would have died if she hadn’t had some serious emergency vet-work. She eventually recovered though. She was given only a few months to live. The consensus was that putting her on a plane could finish her off, so Tessy has gone to live out those final months or years at Lou’s. I provided the car. We were trying to get it done fast for minimum disruption. Lou is pretty chilled out, so she’ll be a good energy for a convalescent cat.
It’s only a two minute drive from the cat palace to Lou’s flat. Tessy was upstairs and out of the carrier in record time – a good thing. She cries piteously whenever she’s in the carrier. On release, she immediately vanished under the sofa.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a cat like her who has lived inside one flat her whole life and suddenly finds herself in a totally new home. She’s downsized… Like moving to a bungalow cos you can’t manage all them stairs.
Under the sofa has become her base – she immediately found the one place in the flat where we just can’t get at her. And it takes the sofa out of play because it’s held up with books and string so we could easily crush her if we sit on it.
From her dangerous and private launch point she has begun to venture on bold forays around Lou’s abode. She’s taking in all the smells and finding all the hidey holes. We were disproportionately worried about her on arrival. But as I write in bed she is directly beneath me, burrowing routes through whatever is under me. Earlier on she encountered her first ever close-up flight of stairs. I think she’s going to be okay in this flat. It’s not the cat palace. But it’s comfortable and the whole place has been redecorated with her in mind. It’s ridiculous. She is the most pampered cat in the world. She will shortly be running Lou’s flat and demanding 5am goat’s cheese. The chairs are all taken up with her toys, everything is festooned with rugs that smell of her.
It’s pleasant though, to have a creature here. I’m fond of creatures. I’d surely have one myself by now if I didn’t want to be able to sod off to beautiful places at a moment’s notice…
I was gonna dress up as a ringmaster. I would’ve done so had I been a bit more organised, although pheweee it was hot. Chances are I would have died of heat exposure. I didn’t dress up. I didn’t give myself time.
At 9am I arrived at my friend’s place. She also has tons of stuff to get rid of. We loaded up and I genuinely started to worry that I wouldn’t get my bits and bobs into the car as well. Turns out my fear was unfounded. We got back to mine and piled up a load of old comics and boxes of shirts and tut and it all went in. Dear old Bergman. He’s fat when he needs to be.
We had a decent pitch, and we had good neighbours. We had the most eclectic mix of stuff of any stall there, we were told. But we were totally disorganised. I think I’d imagined a firebreak where we dressed the stall and then had time to think about what to sell things for. We just got thrust into the mix. The first people round are dealers, and I expected them. They try to skim all the value. I didn’t let them. Then the early bird members of the public. I’m still learning this game, but it seems that they want to feel they’ve got a bargain. Everybody we met today got a bargain though, but they were the type to say “90p” when you had just suggested a quid.
Some things I held firm on. Other things I just let go. I’m not having seller’s regret yet, even though I let some things go for very little. A small shy transatlantic girl ended up buying a huge box of damaged comics from my childhood for virtually nothing. I was just happy to see them go to a good home.
I think that’s been the issue for a while now with this stuff. I like the cycle. I like energy to move. Stagnation is anathema. These items could mostly have gone to landfill. The boxes of stained and smelly shirts. The torn and dogeared comics… They’re never going to interest a dealer. I didn’t want to have to take them back into my flat though, and faced with that prospect I gave whatever price I could to ensure that wouldn’t happen. And I feel good about it. Somewhere now there’s a young woman with an American mother and a largely absent father… She’s got a bunch of my childhood comics, and even though they were clearly aimed at boys in the nineties, they aren’t bad. Loads of 2000AD, some Batman, Justice League… These stories helped me establish my morality. I’ve passed them on to the right human.
So much stuff moved, but another week of it would be excellent. Annoyingly I thought I was free next Sunday, but I’m filming. It’ll have to be when I’m back from Sardinia.
Next time I’m gonna get into costume and do it properly… Today was enjoyable, but it was a test. I can ask for more money when I’m wearing a costume. And what’s the point of having such an extensive wardrobe if I don’t make use of it…
I can’t really think of a world other than this one in which I would have driven to Eastbourne and back on a lovely day like today, despite being as busy as I am, in order to see a French 1960’s bedroom farce at wee theatre in Eastbourne.
It’s a lovely little theatre, don’t get me wrong. We caught the matinee and so we were surrounded by old folk. Twas the usual quiet house for the afternoon, and I knew that the actors would be feeling the matinee because they always do. As in Stratford so in Eastbourne. “People were concerned as it was such a quiet house,” said Minnie up in Stratford, said John down in Eastbourne, when I went to their matinees. We should know it. We should expect it. Actors. Bunch of fragile darlings. It’s always quiet at the matinee. Half of the audience are already dead but haven’t quite had the ticket punched.
I was there to support one of the fellowship. John. My dear old friend Flavia – she does PR now but has had her finger in many pies… John is Flavia’s pie. He’s an actor. They do the relationship thing. I like the people who like my friends. This tendency took me to the coast in order to see this Boeing Boeing. You see how it all fits together. He’s the lead. It’s a route I pretty much do in my sleep now, down the 23. Just a bit further than stopping at Lou. And it gives me grounds to write to the producers if I fancy working with them. “Hi, I saw your thing and x y z” is just a much better vibe for a letter than “hello I actor want jobjob pleeez”. I’ve written both versions multiple times and neither of them really yield fruit, but we have to keep aware of what’s going on.
What a lovely theatre, with that silly safety curtain and the decor and the chandelier. It’s cute. Every year, more and more of these places end up with Bastardspoons or just dead and dark and listed. It takes work to do more than tick such a place over and to wait for the panto. Frankly, it takes full time work. Very few places have that person doing that work, so most lovely places become chocolate box receiving houses. Beautiful architectural hosts to short term tours that exist in order to exist, and recent TV talent show runners up doing occasional bumseat runs.
This afternoon I saw 6 actors having a whale of a time. Big obvious characters. Great big broad strokes. One man in Paris with three international air hostess girlfriends who don’t know about one another. Six doors. All the confusion. Accents and silliness. All in the afternoon.
I’m back in London, writing this before midnight. Right there – that’s the joy of joining the matinee audience. Sure, the actors aren’t having as much fun as they might with an evening show, the audience is always a bit sleepy. But… the show is usually pretty much the same. Unless everybody is hanging. I’ve heard of actors unexpectedly going off stage mid scene in a matinee in order to emergency yark into the fire bucket. But the London Classic Theatre Boeing Boeing company are consummate professionals, all working together beautifully, getting on well, and doing the job wonderfully without any of that alcoholic nonsense. Twelvety-seven stars!!!! I’m not here to write a review, but … I had a brilliant day. Sunshine. Theatre. Oh, and the fish and chips at Holiday Inn (no not that Holiday Inn)? Masterful. Generally, a fine day and back in plenty of time.
Stampwell Farm in Oxfordshire, and I’m there on the way back from Coventry to spend time with a man without whom I know I wouldn’t be here to write to you. We were roommates at school. They worked out our breaking points and they were different. We both had treatment that makes no sense on any modern scale. We were forged brothers. We helped each other stay alive. We would try to look after each other always, and they never managed to play us against one another. Our breaking points thankfully never aligned, and we slept in the same room… When I was at rock bottom he helped raise me up. When he was, I did.
Sometimes when you’ve been through something, you need time to understand it. We went through it together, but we then had to process it alone. Many years passed while we parsed and sorted and compartmentalised all of the nastiness. My work helped. His faith helped. Gradually we reforged ourselves. I would venture to say we are both fundamentally kind humans. We were put into a crucible where they tried to burn our kindness out. We resisted and we stubbornly stayed kind – this made us persona non grata in a very limited bubble of people who had followed the prevailing ethos. These are the “captains of industry”. This is why they make no sense when you try to understand them via empathy. There’s a system that tries to burn your heart out. You have to literally fight to keep it.
Most of the people we were in that bubble with then are now either monsters or somebody else’s dog. I was glad to see the extent to which Frog has remained his own man. He’s clever and compassionate. I am happy to reconnect. I tend to be wary of those from my upbringing. I’ve experienced what they like to do to kind people.
Latimer Minster is the name of his planted faith space. Latimer is one of the three Oxford Anglican Martyrs, and one with a strong root into London. “We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” That’s what he said in 1539 just before they burnt him. “Minster” to align it with a monastic space instead of a clergy space. He’s allowing community here – a faith based community. And he’s got hold of a powerful bit of land. “I bet the mushrooms are good?” I say, testing in the hopes he doesn’t know. “There’s a chicken of the woods came up today,” he says. “It’ll be ready in a day or so.” *Damn* I think, and “That’s extremely early in the season,” I say. Hmm. Ok. So go look for your chickens, Oxfordshire folk. “The psychedelic ones are good too,” he adds, which makes me love him more. “I’m not so interested in that,” I lie. Let’s not overshare when I’m thinking I might make some theatrical stories in this incredible land. We are brothers, but judgement is often only a breath away.
I feel invigorated though. So moved by him and what he’s built, and so happy to feel welcomed by somebody who was so important to me back then. Him and Dan. I had nobody else, for years. Time and my uncompromising career has hurt the beauty of my friendship with Dan. I have been cast as a flake after being forced to miss his wedding. It’s still the single worst thing that has ever happened as a result of my job, and it brought about a literal nervous breakdown which the Twelfth Night cast deliberately mischaractered as exhaustion. It’s good to encounter Frog NOW. Who knows what might have happened over time, especially as our big point of contact has always been faith, and I needed to go away to come back where that is concerned…
All said, a beautiful stop. I was transporting suitcases from Coventry to London. He was on the way. I’m glad he was.
He’s made a prayer walk with a local artist, using found objects. This was just on the farm. Like kinstsugo, the artist has painted gold paint around the cracks. On my home altar I have thorns from Glastonbury and from the bush I met in the desert in Saudi. Thorn bushes are powerful to me and in my life. He has made an archway of thorns, dressed up with gold ribbons. He walked me through it before he told me the meaning. It’s about hooking away trauma. I’m glad he walked me through it first. What a huge delight of a man my friend Frog has become. I think our pathways will start to merge again going forward. Seeing him was still hard, for the memories. He remembered the racism, which I had buried just as it didn’t make sense, but yeah, those young English boys felt it was perfectly acceptable to constantly tell me I was a “greasy spic”. At one point, right before my hairline , prematurely receded, I was washing my hair with “Once” about twelve times a day. “Am I still greasy?” “Yes, you’ll always be greasy.”
Bastards. I’m perfectly ready to look at it now, and to see quite how pathetic they were. But it took a while for me to get there. I’m glad to be back in touch with Frog. I think this might be the beginning of something that started back then…
Every time I drive to Lou’s, a seagull shits on Bergman. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll have him, just as the ULEZ is closing in and we will all be forced to join the doomed electric car experiment if we want to drive in London. Maybe the seagull doesn’t like internal combustion engines either. With the price of fuel these days it’s finally less competitive than the privatised rail network, but only if you’re a solo traveler, and the rail doesn’t take you door to door. They should really do something about that, but everyone is supposed to be making money, according to the people who make policy. And by everyone they mean everyone they know. Because those other people? Yeah well they don’t count.
Anyway, a seagull did a really messy poo all over the passenger side. Bastard.
“I’ll have to get that off,” I said to myself as I grabbed my leather jacket from the back seat. “It eats into the paint.” I pick up Lou.
“You’ll have to get that off,” Lou remarks as she gets in. “It eats into the paint.”
I go to get it off. It eats into the paint, don’t you know. The local car wash is closed.
I’m not in a bikini. I’m in a sodding waistcoat and converse. There’s a self service jetwash. It’s only a couple of quid. You spray your car with stuff that has been sitting for weeks and smells of feet. Your car gets shinier. You get the seagull poo off. You drive away wondering why everything smells faintly of feet. It is cheaper than a car wash.
Arguably I could’ve taken the waistcoat off. Nah.
Bergman is clean again. None of that caustic poo. We will be zooming up to Coventry and back tomorrow… And I’ve just realised that the residents permit, tax and insurance and MOT will all run out while I’m in Sardinia… Fuck. Another thing to think about. We are approaching our first anniversary, Bergy and I. I doubt we will make a second. But giving him some attention today has pleased me.
More wandering today, eventually taking me home again through Glyndebourne and Lewes. My friend is staying this evening and we walked in the park. Glad she’s in my life. But I am knackered. My bath is pretty much good to go next door. This is me, clocking out.