What a glorious day. A Sunday. A time to settle and relax and slough the weight off before going back into the fray.
Lou teaches a Sunday morning class. It’s at 9.30am, and its candlelit meditation. I normally sleep through it, as I’m often pretty knackered when I’ve slung myself down to the seaside. That has been foolish of me, because of course it is wonderful. It’s a new studio in an old performance venue. We were in an upstairs room where no doubt there has been decades of cabaret. Now the purpose has changed to peacefulness. A touch of morning sun was firing beams of light through the gaps in the blinds. Loads of women and one other man, and we all sat and were guided into peacefulness and care first thing on a Sunday.
I gravitated to the mat by the heated mirror. Nobody sneered at me, which was pleasant. A long time ago I went with Minnie to a Vinyasa Flow class in Chalk Farm with Triyoga, again where I was very much in the minority as a man. At the time I was used to Bikram so I came in basically speedos and nothing else, and the instructor appraised me like a Christmas turkey in the corridor outside the class, and had no qualms about making it clear they disliked my outfit. This time I was perhaps more appropriately dressed, and the instructor was deep enough in her practice that my presence wasn’t going to excite any judgement positive or negative.
It was beautiful to be guided in a group into peacefulness. I find it very hard to shut my head up. There are ways.
Sunday lunch, seaside for a moment more, and then the frantic slog back up to London town and the fray and the smoke and the roadworks and the rage. Back again. Much to do.
Morning Sunday yoga. It’s a great way to start the week.
Down to the windy coast. Stanmer Park again and mud. It has been raining. The roads are flooded, huge puddles along the riverside out of London. Still too cold for my tastes, but things are improving. This is a rushed visit this time. I last saw Lou in Majorca. I’m about to be very very busy until the end of the month. For one night, a moment to switch out and down. To unpick the confused longings and concerns that constantly fight each other in my disordered head. To align with the sea and the silence and peace. To breathe out again without talking.
All the thinking and moving things and worrying about detail and writing and making up and ordering and laughing and talking and improvising and auditioning and learning and operating and booking and offering and emailing – that can all switch back on with the week. Here now it is peace and wind and cat and good food.
Mud at Stanmer though, but still we walked, sliding through it as we yomped towards equinox in a wind a bit less icy than it was a month ago. Then back to this seaside flat, with a characterful and eloquent cat and the chance of food that is mostly green and no incredible bottles of cheap Bordeaux screaming “You could open me!” The wind is still up, battering the window directly from the sea, but we are warm and companionable. We tried to watch some mawkish Braveheart tribute but we ended up switching over to a more predictably happy movie about some overoptimistic Pole in Pennsylvania stumbling into a multi-million pound Ponzi Scheme. Jack Black can’t really help but be charming, and it’s a very kind account of a man who must have accidentally attracted a great deal of hatred from people who were perhaps a bit too greedy. The power of the way a story is told… I’m sure there’s a documentary that paints a darker picture of the man but I was happy to get my facts processed through a bright and colourful and mostly kind telling of The Polka King.
Now it’s bedtime. It isn’t bedtime at all, it’s just gone nine. This always happens when I’m here – I get sleepy early. Lou has the lights low while my place is always studio bright. My brain goes into night mode. I’ll sleep soon and feel better for it.
I’ve got so much to think about, so much to do. Jobs are piling up again. Even through this mess, I find myself tangled about an audition I sent too rushed, where I didn’t challenge myself as much as I should have. Letting go is hard when we desire we desire we desire. This strange obsession of mine has deep roots into my heart.
But I can stop for a night and a day. And I will. And I am.
“I have a heart condition,” Ali tells me. “I’m sixty five. I have three grandchildren. I am told I must not work, but still here I am, I’m working. My friend who normally does this, he is on holiday. So here I am.”
This is Jaflong. It’s a little place in Ham. It’s very much geared to takeaway but they have a few tables beautifully appointed to catch diners. No licence to sell booze. This is just good quality Indian food at a good price in London. And Ali is great.
My friends have had another row. It’s a bollocks row and they both look foolish to me in it. One of them expected the other one to remember something but they forgot it. Rather than sending reminders and easily preventing it they let it happen so they could sink into the sweet sweet feeling of being right. The other half of it then realised they had fucked up and reacted like a teenager instead of taking account. It’s doublebullshit. We aren’t fifteen anymore. I went for curry. “Keep the places made up,” I said to Ali. They might show.
I’m home now. Off to bed. Earlier than usual but I’m still on continental time. I start to get sleepy earlier than I’m used to these days. Likely that’s helpful as I’m just about to go to Lou’s and she is early bed early rise.
A proper weekend beckons, with a proper week thereafter, pushing this strange thing into reality in a museum in Southwark. There’s still work to be done. There’s maybe some writing to be done too. We are making up a thing but we need to know we can fill the time. There’s a lot put on the creativity of the individual humans, and we can’t afford to book them for more than one week so it’ll all be made at last minute.
But we work with the constraints we have. Ali has his heart condition, but there he is helping people like me to have tasty food on a Friday night. I am healthy. I can hopefully find a way, with a good team, to bring some form of joy to the people of Southwark.
I’m a bit tired and a bit bilious. I’m off to bed and a long long sleep. Nothing but weekend for two days. Oh joy.
Ahhh man. I’m tired again. I’ve been shifting energies. I’ve been putting stagnant things into flow once more. Maybe with them, I have moved internal things that needed moving.
I’ve got the hoarding gene. They say it’s neanderthal. Wherever it’s from, it makes it hard for me to chuck things out. I’m better at it by far than I used to be. I learnt via doing it for other people, and then applied my learning to my own loaded stuff. There’s this sense that the things that other people handled somehow carry those people. It’s not the case. The things are just things. The people…? When they are gone they are gone. I am currently in a flat surrounded by absolute shit connected to memories. Give me five minutes and I can tell you the things that have actual meaning for actually me. The things that have value? I’m not sitting on any million pound surprises here. There are a couple of things that a good dealer might be able to get a few grand for given a month or two. Mostly though it’s showy things that were valuable once perhaps but currently are just pleasant to own. I don’t want to throw them all into fire because they are better than that. But I’ve done the work, and I can tell you that there’s enough distance between selling price and specialist buying price that even the best stuff here is honestly just gubbins.
And yet I sit on it.
I’ve been moving energy for people I love again. It has become part of what I do. Even the Majorca drive was part of that. Both times up and down, I took stagnant items and put them into flow. There are wooden giraffes, knick-knacks carpets and shelving units that might have gone 50 years and more gathering dust, but are now once more on display, visible and loved. I’m no shinto, but I do think that these things have an energy. Generations of stuff has overtaken generations of people. Right now we don’t want the well made old thing because culture tells us the dogshit Swedish flatpack is better. At some point this idiocy will flip and then the few who have kept hold of these lovely things will be validated, but that kind of cultural shift takes time. Right now, most people look to estate agents to tell them where and how other people want to live. Right now most estate agents have a generational lack of creativity, imagination, humanity and colour. It’s not their fault, it was a lie-based profession for decades before Boris made it acceptable for EVERY profession to be shamelessly duplicitous. They think they are helping by making the world beige like them. The market responds. Second hand furniture dealers should be much more appreciated. People who mend things too. We gave enough good stuff – even appliances – that we can function now for decades if nothing new was made. We aren’t plundering resources anymore for necessity. We are burning the world because somebody watched an advert. Maybe I was was in the advert, I’m not out of this cycle by any means. But fuck we need to stop being so short term in our consumption. We can reuse. We really really can.
Just down the road from me, the National Theatre Costume Hire is a veritable treasure trove of wonderful things at a far more reasonable rate than the likes of Angels. It’s one of the ways that our “National” theatre stays National. They are reasonable and affordable, if excoriatingly peremptory.
“I literally don’t want to give any money to that nasty woman or anyone connected with her,” we find ourselves saying having just been talked down to quite astonishingly by our “expert”. As a result, we got some ideas, but we saved ourselves some budget. The appointment had been made by my production partner in this while I was away on a jolly in France. I see how she needed to know that something was happening. My flat is full of men’s costumes but I didn’t get anything for women out of the costume haul, and it looks like our cast will be largely female. I can sort people out with frock coats aplenty but you’ll have to go elsewhere for actual frocks.
It’ll be easier to costume things once we know exactly who we will be costuming. It’s still not cast fully. We were gonna use Mel, but she’s in New Orleans and it’s more than our budget to get her back in time.
I drove back through the tube strike. Absolute delay, the whole way down. Twenty minutes stretched into well over an hour and by the time I got home I was stretched thin. Just two weeks to go, and two of us are director writer producer actor casting costume etc etc. The people we hire will get a much better bang for their buck. But this is a friendship job. I love and respect the humans at the heart of it, and they have been light in my existence.
We are nearly sold out though. I’m still not certain what I’ll be doing. Thank the lord I’m a very very happy improviser.
We were slightly taken by these flying goggles. Any steampunk friends got some they can lend?
Bedtime. I’m working office hours on this from now until it’s on. Great that it’ll be mostly sold but it means we have to give them something reasonably coherent. Two weeks is not a long time in theatre. But I’ve made wonderful things from scratch in less than that, so we will be fine.
Bedtime. Today I was essentially an office person, but working from home. It’ll be the same tomorrow. This whole business with zooming around all over the place has been time consuming and expensive and fun. It has left me needing to recover funds.
I’ve got an old commitment that I now need to show up for. I’m playing catch-up by making it my job. Just one day of it and I can see why the office lot think of their evening as being this sacred space. I didn’t want to do anything.
This has been a powerful journey for me, down and up again. A strong yo-yo. All the way down to Binissalem, and then slowly puddleducking back up with Tristan. A job but a holiday. A chance to catch up with family.
Sending a theatre audition for Tristan from the tiny village of Néré was a game changer. First round and now they are okay with a tape. It makes the world possible for actors in a way it hasn’t been for decades. Holidays were horrible risks beforehand. “What if there’s a casting?” Now, so long as there’s internet, I can be in the arse end of nowhere. If they want me for a recall, that’s a more realistic pitch and worth the plane fare. First round they might see hundreds. Now with self tapes they might, of course, see thousands and never even watch the tape you send. But fuck it, at least you aren’t sitting next to the phone anymore. A recall is still a recall. So long as it isn’t on zoom like the shite I had to do in lockdown where nobody knows what anyone else can see.
More office work tomorrow. Tonight I’m done. I’m finally home. My bed. My home. At last. I am frequently nomadic, but this feeling of home is real. I can shift it easily. But I know I feel relaxed right now in a way you can’t feel in all these pimped up rooms. This is my random gubbins. These are my sheets. mmmmm zzzzzz
Last time I drove into this country from France I was with Lou. The car was mostly empty. A few cases of wine from José Ferrer in Binissalem but largely an open boot. When we got to the border back to the UK, the customs official was mildly concerned about how I didn’t have an out stamp. I have no idea why I didn’t have an out stamp, I didn’t want one. Someone at the French border evidently agreed with me that time as he didn’t give me one.
Back then in November it was a bright day in France. Late Indian summer sun. Lou and I let the light hit our faces, knowing that this long winter was coming. We spent 35 minutes in a tunnel and we emerged to freezing fog and a rainstorm. Ahhhh Britain.
It’s getting harder and harder to countenance living here. The stupid and the cruel people here are shouting so very very loudly since Brexit. Those fuelled by fear and a sense of their own intrinsic importance. The internet gives platforms for extremism fuelled by abject stupidity. We all have friends that fall for pattern-matching.
Just as we approached the border, I opened my window to give my passport to the guy, and the wind blew the flimsy piece of crap you are supposed to attach to your windscreen out of the passenger window. Tristan tried to run for it and eventually found it, but it wasn’t a good look in front of the border guard. I even got out of my car and stood watching him with my hands on my head. Two tall men of a certain age jumping out of a car and running somewhere just before customs. Fuck.
“What was all that about?” he asked, after having watched Tristan run across three lanes of polite traffic. I can’t quite keep a straight face to him either. I have been laughing with part genuine reaction and part border-panic. We look like clowns. “Oh yeah sorry the uh the paper thing just blew out.” “What are you carrying in there, you look full?” ‘Just crap. Stuff from my brother’s house.” NO WINE OFFICER “Nice. Must be a lot of value there?” NO DIDN’T OVERSPEND ON “INVESTMENT” BOTTLES OFFICER “Nah probably not. He died six years ago. This is just things to remember him by.” WINE HELPS REMEMBER!!!!??? NO IT DOESN’T! OH GOD. WE ARE DOOMED.
He looked at me like I’d brought a downer for saying my brother was dead. He still kept working. “Where are you going?” “Home.” “Where’s home?” “London mate. Sorry but someone’s gotta live there.” “I can’t handle that place.” “Yeah, I get that. My girlfriend is in Brighton, and frankly now I’m starting to look at other options helped by her perspective.” “Off you go then. Good luck.”
God knows. If we had too much wine in the car we hadn’t fully counted it. I think we were within limits, surprisingly. We both stopped at vineyards and bought, but we weren’t over the top. We were loaded with some other random things and a stop and search would have been rubbish and extremely time consuming.
Back home tomorrow. Tonight we are in Rouen. This ancient city has some tales to tell. Outside our window is the Abbatiel Saint-Ouen, connecting me lovely to Jersey. According to Google it is a historical church with a big organ. You could believe it was the cathedral, but the cathedral is much much older and much much bigger. We found it. It was raining. And of course it is closed tomorrow.
Walking round this city it’s astonishing how much has survived. The cobbled streets still have little streams by the side of crooked medieval houses where in the morning people might have shouted “Gardez l’eau” before chucking the contents of a chamber pot out of the shuttered window. Often now the windows are straight with a spirit level but the buildings are wonky around them.
It’s all a little sideways. Bright and well appointed bars tempt in weary travellers for a glass of beer with Picon, or a Fernet Branca. Bells ring severally on the hour, scattering the town with sound. The air is colder now again. We know we are in the north of France. But this place has life and character.
Our last meal away was in a little Asian Fusion place run by a couple from Hong Kong. Cat themed and simple, it was brilliant and unusual, and there were vegetables available, which have been in short supply this week. I’m now already in bed, much earlier than is my habit, happy to put my head down early and just drift off. It’s a nice little room, with a double bed made to feel like a four poster but without real curtains. Weird pillows as is the way in northern France. But warm and comfy and all I need to do is sleep.
The car is chock full. I parked it securely underground tonight so as not to tempt any ne’er-do-wells. I can sleep sound now and enjoy how light I feel after my weeks of movement and food and family and wine and light and walks and good cheer.
One word of warning for anyone coming this way. I took a toll road for about an hour. Shaved an hour and fifteen off the day or thereabouts. They charged me €45 euro. I’m still fuming about it. It was from Tours to close to here. The first one that wasn’t automated and I still think she ripped me off.
Well hello. I’m writing to you during a game of rugby. England is getting absolutely routed by France. I’m in this pub in Néré.
It is playing on a little screen above the bar. The terrifying thing is that most of the people here are English.
“This is the poorest region of France,” says my sister in law. And despite the gastronomy, I see it. Many of the houses round here are ruins, just as it was for my brother Jamie when they moved in. Had Parkinson’s not taken him, who knows what he might have achieved. He did so much. The house is clean and shipshape, but there are parts of it that are not complete. Incredible work though… and actually I know from my harebrained rush down when I heard he was dying that you can get here within a day from London.
On the table next to us, a very young mother is sitting with her son. They are evidently extremely close. He wears an Adidas matching tracksuit and trousers. She has fake furs and leggings. There’s only about sixteen years between them. They are doing scratchcards. Every time there’s a small win, she goes and gets more. There’s a connection between them, but it is sad to watch just because of the need. I really want them to win big.
Everybody else in this pub is British. I’m trying to get this written stealthily but I’ve been rumbled for being on my phone.
And now it’s the morning. I totally failed to get back to this. “I write this daily blog and the last few days have been rushed or drunk so I wanted to give it some time this evening.” “Oh really? Why do you do that? etc etc etc” The blog conversation. As tedious as my scribblings. And means you’re getting this late folks.
England got absolutely shafted in the rugger. Good to be in France.
As I woke this morning, I uttered the words “I will never drink again.” They were a lie, of course, and a lie that was known in the moment it was spoken. Tristan heard it in the next room and laughed.
Last night I saw Danuta for the first time in 6 years. She was the reason to live for my poor lost brother Jamie. He died just as I was getting on the ferry back. A great loss. She still lives here in the South of France, and this house is full of things. When dad left Switzerland he brought everything here. Added to that, the things that Jamie wanted from Eyreton after dad died are here and well taken care of. Jeremy, another half brother, brought things into his damp uninhabitable troglodytic cave near here, where they gradually dissolved through damp. Being here lets me walk on my father’s carpets again. And it’s wonderful to feel that everything has been taken care of.
Tristan had a self tape today for theatre. I think it came in a few days ago but he had his identity compromised via mobile so we had to rush it today. I have railed against self tape auditions in the past, but actually it’s incredible that we can be here and send good work from a phone. I would never usually be so casual about not knowing where I’ll be tomorrow. I want to be thought of as available. But I know I can make things look nice for myself or a friend on a tape – anywhere. This self tape world is new world where actors can be free to impulse travel.
We barely moved all day and we aren’t feeling any great onus to move tomorrow. I’m allowing myself to have the kind of holiday office people have, where they literally stop giving a fuck. I’m not checking my emails or responding to messages. I’m being an absolute communication nightmare, and I give no fucks.