A pool of light

Summer is still hanging on by the skin of its teeth, it seems. We are in Hampstead. I needed to see some nature.

Yesterday had the blinds down all morning and me in a suit jumping and shouting. Today I recorded a load of weird bits in the studio for advert self tapes – it seems the world is waking.

Once the tapes were sent it was boxes dust and metal. Lou arrived and we took down the studio. Plates went to Davies Street. They’ll be in the corridor of death for no more than a fortnight whilst I get stacking catering boxes for the ones I want to keep, and identify and auction the ones I don’t want to keep that have actual value. I needed to get them out of the car though, as loads of things are going to Glastonbury on the weekend. It’s moving moving moving. But yeah, I needed to get outside under the sky and touch that nature thing we’ve all heard so much about.

There was music on the wind. No beats. The sort of thing they play at the secret last night festival parties once the Sunday night noise regulations are in place. A lone trumpet noodling along with it. We were drawn like moths. Well – I was.

A pool of light. Poi spinners and hula hoops. Movement across the lake, along with the sound of the trumpet. Around the edges of the lake people stand transfixed. We keep moving. Past the stationary dog section car. Into the light.

Yar Yar is playing next to a sign that says “The Fairytale”.

A few people sit in the shadows on throws. “I like the vibe here,” I say. “What, lots of bored people?” – That’s Yar Yar. He’s the trumpeter. Yar Yar is fed up of everything. Sardonic. Brusque. But secretly shining bright. We geek out over accordions. He’s fab.

I’m in a suit, clean shaven. I don’t look like hippy is part of my vibe. It’s not part of his. He’s just bored so he’s playing.

He’s Israeli, he tells us. A musician and multi instrumentalist. He’s down on actors. “Most actors will never know who they are,” he tells me, with a challenge. “I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on that now,” I tell him. Lou doesn’t laugh so my confidence might not be misplaced. “And they’re stupid,” he continues, and I like him. He’s right as well. It’s important to be stupid a lot of the time in your work because if you’re clever things come out overcooked. It also helps to be clever sometimes, so you can make sense of text. But he’s not being confrontational, he’s just speaking his truth because he’s bored. And he wants a debate, which I don’t really have time or inclination for as it’s cold. “It’s part of the Israeli character,” Lou says afterwards, as we walk away content.

Yaryar and The Fairytale have made a lovely patch of light to burn with the end of summer. These brief weeks before the cold sets in are precious.

Let’s all try and make sure we connect with nature and each other in case we get shut into our rooms again.

Greeeeen screeeeen

My legs hurt.

I was tired this morning anyway after all the heavy lifting yesterday. Today I had to pause the plate job in order to shift into home studio mode, but this time it was home studio times 11.

Green screen underfoot. Green screen on the ceiling. Green screen all over the fucking place. A concealed ladder with greenscreen on it. Edges and corners and shadows.

And no decent tape. I had some parcel tape and I was trying to attach green cloth to my ceiling with it but the tape wouldn’t stick on the cloth. I’ve run out of gaffer! How can a man run out of gaffer? Call the cops.

PINS! A pin through the tape holds the tape to the cloth, usually for a few hours at a time. The tape holds itself to the ceiling.

I was filming in my living room for HOURS though so the cloth kept falling down with the heat from the lights. My brain filled up before I had even finished working out how to hang the green screen. I was stressed, angry and overheating. It was the least Zen pre-shoot warm up I’ve ever done. Then we started rehearsing and my body slowly filled with pain. I’m not as young as I used to be, darling. I felt old by the end of it.

I’ve done so many squats and sit-ups today in the name of contorting myself for the common good that I feel like I’ve been at boot camp. The blinds have been closed and I’ve been lit just by my two big hot Raleno studio lights so I’ve seen no natural light all day. I love my work, I love the chance to do my work, but this was about the extent of my good will towards myself in it. It’s times like this that I look at the minus symbol in front of my bank balance and consider my life choices. But then I remember that I love it, and I count my blessings that I’ve been given a chance now to pick up a new skill in a new medium – particularly as we appear to be tumbling inevitably towards a very different wintery kind of lockdown, Gods forbid.

So I’ve come to sit on my bench in the dying light. The sunset is rose behind the lights of Albert Bridge. The river is high and there’s not too much traffic. I’m exhausted and my bed is covered in boxes. The living room is CARNAGE after I focussed the entire space on an expanse of green against one wall. I’ll have to move boxes before I can rest, but these boxes are a good thing. They indicate a successful sort out. The attic is emptier than it has ever been. Ideally by the end of the month I’ll have dealt with the last few bags, but they are not hugely interesting being mostly my teenage junk.

I’m just going to sit here in my natty three piece suit, and watch the sky go to grey. Then I’ll have a hot bath and sleep like I’ve been punched.

A day of plates

When we loaded the plates into the warehouse in January there was such a small amount of room left that we just had to put them anywhere that there was space. It hadn’t occurred to me that they might be used as something to stand on by future people carrying heavy things.

The warehouse is vast and packed to the gills with flats and dressing that have had their time in the light for now. We picked our way to the boxes. We tried to move the boxes. We couldn’t move the boxes.

Jack and I had got them in with a trolley but there’s no trolley now, and no room for one.

Tristan and I somehow manage to wrestle the lighter one out. Then to the heavier one. Oh God. We can’t drop them either because they contain lots of lovely rare plates…

Although most of the plates on the side leading deeper into the warehouse had been pulverised beyond recognition. I’m trying not to be annoyed about it. Easy come easy go, and there’s no way I could have got them into my flat.

We took the shards out to make it marginally lighter but I still feel like I’ve been fighting cows after wrestling that box free. I haven’t stopped all day until just now – doggie and I left the house at 8.30am to pick up dogmum from Gatwick, and now it’s just gone 10pm.

The mercy is that Tristan and I could share the driving. He’s competent enough that he only occasionally scares the shit out of me nowadays. What have I created? Something that allows me to check my email and indignantly respond to little snipes from old family friends who still think I’m the bastard I was when I was 16. It’s nice on these jobs not to be the only driver it seems. It means you can double up and do bits of life admin when you’re going from A to B.

Now I’d like to stop but I’ve got lines to learn. Tomorrow my alarm is set for way too early as I’ve got to clear some space in the living room and put greenscreen down all over the place plus make myself look sexy and smart and competent and ensure I have a handle on what I’m doing…

Coffee no more

Coffee… Oh coffee. I think I’ve dedicated entire blogs to you before.

I started drinking coffee aged about 16, when mum was a glamorous divorcee about my age, out on the town. I was negotiating the rapids of expensive fee paid schools. I found a photo of myself in uniform today and barely recognised the jumped up little fucker.

That boy in the photo – back then he was drinking Nescafé Gold Blend like water. Milk in first. He could get through about 7 cups a day, and he did. Then he went bouncing around through varieties of gauche and naive social interactions, just as immediate as now, but absent of wisdom.

I don’t really remember when he switched to the hard stuff. But the version of me that started this blog loves it too much.

If I was more stable and organised I’d be like Minnie’s dad and I’d have a Spong grinder mounted on the wall of the kitchen and evangelise it. I’d get sexy coffee beans sent to me by mail order. I’d have a milk frother.

Problem is, I keep on sleeping in different places and I haven’t got a great budget for luxuries. Right now I’m in Barnes. The coffee here is in a bag like a teabag, which doesn’t pass muster. I wake up in the morning and stumble into my shoes, take the dog for his morning wee and buy expensive coffee from the hipster place round the corner.

If I’m at home or in Hampstead I get the stove top bubbling before I’m even fully awake. “Coffee!” is frequently my first utterance of the morning, usually to myself as I start padding past the boxes full of weird stuff located all round the flat to the fridge. If I wake up in a place where good coffee is not possible it becomes a mission, and I’m grumpy until it’s accomplished.

I’ve been grumpy all day.

I don’t like it when things get hold of me.

I’ve stopped drinking it. I’ve been weaning myself gradually off it, but today was the stop day and my head has been an absolute bastard. I’ve got that tight withdrawal headache. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay off the stuff, but remembering the head you get when you stop is a useful motivation to stay clean. It’s 10pm and I’m pretty tired though. I might start to have something resembling a decent circadian rhythm before long. Heaven forbid. At least I get to hang with this little dude.

Loads of little things

I would have stayed inside all day despite the autumn glory if I wasn’t looking after this unusual dog. Thankfully he got me out a fair few times. He’s pretty much completely silent, but for the occasional excited yelp. When he wants something, he just has a way of looking at you. Most of the time he sat in his basket and observed me as I was working. He occasionally suffered me to come and play with him. Mostly he just got on with the business of being a dog, and I got on with the business of listing tut on eBay.

I have my lightbox set up on Melody’s table, so when I decide something is for eBay I can photograph and list it. But for every item there’s a strenuous identification process. I find it interesting and quite fun – but something of a rollercoaster: “This figurine is Lladro! It might have value! Ah it’s Lladro Nao. That’s the cheap stuff. Oh well it’s strangely attractive. Maybe I’ll keep it … Oh but wait a second, actually Nao is now worth a little bit anyway” etc etc.

I have to make sure I don’t keep loads. As a general rule I’m trying to only keep things I remember fondly and that aren’t worth much.

We’ve started to sort the things we inherited from our grandparents, Max and myself. We are gradually archeologising their lives. This involves lots of memories of very different times – ancient times almost, buried in the weight of years.

Today the system was reasonably effective. I spent time with each item trying to get a positive ID online and then trying to see how much people had paid for similar in the past. The stuff I was doing had already been sorted by Max and I once. My job was to move things on. I ended up with 4 sections. One was stuff I wanted to keep. One was stuff good enough to bring on the next Tennants run. One was attractive stuff for charity shops with no hard value. One was Ebay. Anything I reckoned I could get more than a few bob for.

Thank God I had the doggie to chase me out to the lake every few hours, or I’d have eaten my own hands. My head and my conversation and my blog – they’re all full of identification of objects. I’m getting better and better.

I can’t do glass yet and I’m strangely bored by silver but improving. I enjoy porcelain and oddities and toys and ephemera. I can’t do furniture for shit, but everybody has to have a weakness. I’m not much good on jewellery. I rubbed two “pearls” together and got paint instead of powder. They were painted glass. I ran a plastic fish under the hot tap and sniffed it for ages. It might still be bakelite, but since I’ve never actually smelt bakelite, all I have to go on is that it “smells like formaldehyde when warm”. It’s not bakelite.

I’m buoyed up by surges of optimism, not daunted by the probability that half the stuff I listed on eBay today won’t sell, expecting to find lovely things, weird things or things that will help pay the service charge.

It’s a good headspace, honouring the memory and reconfiguring the possessions of people long gone that have just lain in boxes for decades.

Oh and there’s a fifth pile. Furniture. I’m taking some of that to Lot’s Road tomorrow just to get rid of it as they’ll know enough about it to flog it and it’s incomprehensible and takes up loads of room.

Here’s a weird 1960’s aluminium mask. It comes with 2 cotton filters. I put it on eBay for £1.99… The claim “Workers Enjoy Wearing Them” tickled my funny bone. Any billionaire friends, feel free to get into a bidding war. 🙂


Road safety?

“I think the experience of driving in London will make me into a better pedestrian,” says Tristan.

“It won’t.”

“They’re all fucking insane. It’s like they all want to get killed.”

“Yep. Your job is to not kill them.”

London driving. It’s a peculiar type of assault course. Tristan drove us across town in the sightly troublesome car. We had barely left Twickenham when we saw the first deathwish of many. I almost take it for granted these days, but seeing it through the eyes of a new driver really puts it into focus. A cyclist. On a busy public road. Over forty years old, so perhaps old enough to know better than to roll along the road with no hands on the handlebars, fully absorbed in a mobile phone screen, trusting to balance and to lack of oil in the front wheel joint in order to not fall over and roll under a bus. While Tristan swears about it, the cyclist, now with one hand on a handle as the phone finds a pocket, undertakes us to then overtake a bus that has started indicating right to rejoin traffic. This time they were fine. I hope they’ll be fine every time they do something that stupid. But they weren’t even the worst I’ve seen this week. Kids doing long wheelies on Tower Bridge Approach, and more people than you’d ever believe cycling with a mobile phone.

On Park Lane earlier this week I drove past a man lying on his back outside the Hilton. A woman was kneeling over him, waving expansively to the traffic, encouraging us to pass by rather than stop to look. His moped was a bit further on, as grounded as he was. And the momentary snapshot that my brain holds of him, prone in his helmet, carried the feeling that his body looked too flat, like it had collapsed under its own weight – no more involuntary muscles holding it up, no more air in the lungs. He isn’t the first probably dead biker I’ve seen on the streets of London, flat out very possibly for good, snipped off in a moment. Even without an engine, even without undertaking cars and overtaking buses as they pull out – even then you take your life into your hands on the London roads. Cycling with a mobile? Just don’t.

The roads are busy again now. And lots of people haven’t driven for months. People do all sorts of crazy shit…

On which subject, I pulled up outside Melody’s only to have my door opened by a drunk young woman, Southern Comfort fumes coming off her in waves as she begged me to take her to her friend’s yard. It was easier to just say yes and drive her, even if getting directions from her was a masterclass in translation. By the look of it she’d had a shit night. Thankfully I speak excellent Drunk after studying it for years. I tried to put her mind at rest, even though she basically had my door open before I could stop her. I dropped her outside Barnes Stadium and she staggered off, hopefully to a warm yard. Hitchhiking is rare in London, and most of the cars are taxis anyway. She’s lucky she got someone unruffled, patient and sober.

Unhappy car

Looking back over the miles I’ve covered in the last few weeks, I’m counting my blessings. There we were a couple of weeks ago, Lou and I, careening over the Dales with a full load of china, rain lashing and wind howling. All that time just a few inches below us the whole of the exhaust was fixed onto the chassis with a pair of bulldog clips.

The guy at Kwik Fit looks at them as if they had tongues and had insulted him. “You’ll never get this through the MOT,” he tells me. To his credit, he could be changing the bald tyres and charging me a few bob, but – well he’s not. MOT is in a month. He tries to change the headlight bulb and he can’t. Neither can his colleague. “What the hell is it with these micras?” The drivers side dip bulb is dead and will continue to be dead. There’s a slow puncture in the front right tyre. The heat shield is falling off. Occasionally I hear a clip go *bing*. There’s a hole in the exhaust. There’s a slow puncture in the front right tyre. And now the spring on the left makes a loud bang when you move the tyres beyond a few degrees. Some time soon it’ll ping off. Hopefully it won’t happen at speed. Hopefully it won’t happen before October when the thing has to pass an MOT ha ha ha.

Looks like it’s time to move on. After all, MOT stands for Moving-On Time. I must have owned about 12 cars so far and I can count the number of times I’ve taken one to MOT on the fingers of one hand. It’s never worth it for a £300 car. Go to a big brand garage and you get a list as long as your arm and a price to match. Go to a little one and they don’t want to do the work and try to persuade you to scrap it. I usually just anticipate that now, save the cost of a failed MOT and get a quote for scrap.

It’s a luxury having a car, but it makes my very unpredictable life viable. I always get a huge amount of use out of cars when I have one. I wish I could just have a good one one full time. They make it much much easier to drop everything and go somewhere in a world where train fares get larger at short notice. You can take your stuff and avoid public transport, which is even more relevant in these days of self important rage and zealous terror.

Soon now I’ll get something that won’t die on me, and I won’t teach early drivers clutch control in the thing, or rag it through rainstorms in Yorkshire, or fill it with tonnes of heavy plates and drive for a few days with them in the back. I will be that guy who pats it like it’s a fucking horse, and polishes the chrome.

Right now I’m in Barnes and I’ve taken a box of teacups and saucers with me so I can try to pair them up and work out if they’re any good on eBay. I couldn’t have done that and taken the dog and the clothes and been mobile without wheels.

I took two passengers and all their stuff with me to Medicine Festival. I can easily swing to Hampstead to see Hex. I’ve been down and up to Brighton and Yorkshire and back and forth and round and round, sorting things out and moving things round and improving my life and breaking areas of stagnation.

Feeding animals

I did the grand tour of my London residences today.

Waking up in Chelsea at 5.30am, I blearily made crumpets and marmite and drank what might turn out to be my last cup of coffee for a few weeks. Then off to Barnes to pick up a friend and drive her to the airport. I’ll be looking after her dog and her lovely flat with no books in it for a few days. Room to think a bit.

Once my friend was safely dropped at the terminal, I spun straight to Hampstead in order to feed a hungry snake.

In my pocket I had a note from her about the things the dog needs. He’s an anxious beasty. He goes off his food when he’s disrupted, and the last thing I need is another animal with an eating disorder, having successfully weaned Hex back onto his regular extra large white mice. Which is why I had to get to Hampstead – to keep him regular.

I didn’t want to have to take the doggy to the snakey as I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t play nicely together, but it’s Hex’s food day today. I’m thinking that doggy would be weirded out by snakey. Snakey would think doggy was another warm moving anxiety pillow, but that would only be one way comfort. It takes a good long time for a frozen mouse to defrost in warm running water. I had to make sure that the two animals didn’t freak each other out while the mouse warmed up.

I think I succeeded. Cicero didn’t seem to associate the snake smell with anything and was as cheerful as ever. I guess Spaniels haven’t had to evolve a fear of snakes.

Once he was dozing I played with Hex a bit and then let him hunt the dead mouse puppet. His eyesight is atrocious. He can only really see movement. This time he aimed a bit better when he struck and I didn’t think I was going to lose my fingers.

Now I’m back in sleepy Barnes. We went for a walk around the lake.

Now I’m going to stuff myself with tasty food and then turn in. Not mouse. Not treats. Pie.

I’ve got to take the car in to Kwik Fit first thing in the morning tomorrow. It has developed a very concerning bang in the spring of the left front wheel.

Weird swap shop

My brother showed up at my flat with a leopard skin. He had previously taken it into the museum and popped it in the place you pop things to decontaminate them from little nasty parasites. He then identified it and wrote a bit of bumf on headed paper with approximate dates and some impressive sounding Latin taxonomy. “I think I can guess the people that mounted it from how they cut the felt. Plus they’ve given it green eyes. Leopards never have green eyes – more yellow. They probably thought it looked more scary for whichever idiot shot it.”It’s going up to Tennants next time I go, in time for the taxidermy sale at the end of October. I’ve been in two minds about selling it, but it feels wrong to destroy it, the museum doesn’t want it and I don’t like having it in the house. I’m drawn to the leopard family. Part of me has always felt an affinity with them. I’d sooner not sleep in the same room as the skin of a dead one shot by some idiot tourist in Mysore between the wars.Max and I operated some kind of nonsense swap shop. He dropped off the leopard, and it made me remember I had the foot of deer in my bedroom, stuffed with a silver plaque telling us it was shot on his birthday but over 100 years before he was born. I don’t like it anymore than the leopard but the value is negligible and he wanted it. It’s not in my bedroom anymore. Hooray.He arrived with a catskin a ring and a cake basket. He left with horrible corner cabinet, a deerfoot, a smoke damaged bust of Huxley, a few plates and a mahogany tray. This is what happens when you come to my flat at the moment. You leave with stuff.I’ve been looking at pictures today. They’re all fucked, but one of them is by an artist that did well in the 1800s, so fucked or not fucked it might fetch a few bob. I’m hoping I can find a way to move the rest as a job lot of paintings in need of restoration. I’ve got a timescale for getting all this stuff out and it doesn’t leave me very long at all so it’s time to be less picky and more inclusive. I’ve started sending emails to small auction houses nearer to London than Tennants in order to take in the bulk lots of things that aren’t really good enough to warrant the time and the petrol. I’ll be up to Tennants before long for sure to drop more things and collect anything that doesn’t go.I’m still finding it harder to let go of all this stuff than it should be. The flat has virtually no corridor space and all the surfaces are covered with knick-knacks, but I see the spaces where the busts of Gladstone used to sit. I’ve grown attached to some of this stuff just because it’s been sitting there so long it’s started to feel like it belongs here. Nope. Job lots to eBay, charity shops, cherry pick some bits to display for when I rent the place, find a few things to love and move the rest. Give more to random people. Get back the corridors. Boom.Full moon. Everybody is struggling to remain positive. Remember to be kind, my dears. I’m gonna have a bath.

Slow day doing not much

A new month. My birth month. And a full moon tomorrow in Pisces. I’m back in Chelsea and tomorrow morning I’ll have to wake up early and do maths.

Much as it was a delight, Medicine Festival was cold. Really really cold. The temperature drop at night was so aggressive that I was trying not to drink water in order that I didn’t have to wake up to pee, but it was usually to no avail and I’d find myself stumbling shivering out through the zip in the wee hours shaking and mumbling.

Last night I slept like I’d been shot, luxuriating in the warmth, and I woke up smiling after a proper long rest and the dreams to match. Even though I’ve had a few days off, I allowed myself to count today as mostly a down day. I sent a couple of difficult emails, and got back to the business of sorting the junk in the flat. The end of the antique pile is closer now that I’ve run two loads up to Tennants, but there’s still so much more to do. I also have to start thinking about boxing up my own things. It looks likely that Mel is going to stay in New Zealand and renew her artist residency in Auckland. That being the case I’ll pack all my stuff up, put it in the attic here and move to hers with a suitcase so I can look after the snake full time and rent out my whole flat for a while.

With the world waking up a bit I’ll have to be efficient with my time again, and not allow myself to get bogged down. I’ve made a list for tomorrow, but it’s pretty rudimentary. It goes : Morning: Tax then walk. Afternoon: eBay then drive. Evening: Snake.

Right now it’s past my bedtime and I realised I’d forgotten about my blog as I was half way through sleepytime camomile. Despite my inertia today I’ve booked a job for next week, agreed to taxi a friend to Gatwick and to look after their doggie for a week, I’ve found out that one of my pictures from the haul might be worth a few bob and I’ve made sense of another box of stuff.

Still a reasonably good day, but I’ve spent many hours getting distracted and reading nice things and looking at shiny things and googling auctions. It’ll be a miracle if I can move out in a month with all the distractions I’m finding. But it’s worth a try, dammit.