Theatre Thursday

A couple of days ago I realised I was running out of time to see Home, I’m Darling in the West End. It’s produced by Theatre Clwyd, and Liam Evans Ford, who along with Hester Evans made Sprite happen in Yorkshire every summer for a decade. Without any shadow of a doubt the summers I worked there were some of the happiest working summers I’ve had so far. They also helped form the skeleton of my support network within the industry – kind, hardworking people, some of whom have gone on to international stardom, and almost all of whom are still working and caring about their work, and who I can count as friends.

Liam knows how to combine joy and theatre. To make something fun and also thought provoking. To assemble a good team. It was cheeky to ask but relying on our history, Tristan and I – (well, Tristan) – asked if it was possible to get house seats at short notice. Against the odds, considering it won best new comedy at The Olivier’s just the other day, we ended up at the front of The Royal Circle for a whack of cash, but not as big as it might have been. And I was thrilled. Laura Wade wrote it, she of “Posh” fame. Tamara Harvey directed it. It’s part of a new wave of extraordinary and important work coming from Clwyd, which is an incredible arts theatre and complex in Flintshire, Wales – geographically close enough to Liverpool to catch an audience from there if they program well. With remarkable facilities, it has always been able to fly high in the regional theatre scene, and Tamara and Liam are taking it forward and forward. Obviously you know I’m an advocate for the place if you read this regularly as The Factory are there this week being beautiful and experimental while I sort out my storage and prevent myself from haemhorraging money on inertia.

I saw an old friend for lunch. She’s very pregnant. We spoke about why I’ve been single for so long, again, and, again I couldn’t really answer her. I tell myself I don’t know, even as I don’t look for a partner. As I said goodbye she impulsively said “I hope you find someone wonderful.” I felt her sincerity and appreciated it. Then I went to the theatre and watched a brilliant thoughtful comedy about the roles we play by habit and the need we have to constantly examine what we take for granted about ourselves and those around us. Good stories make us think. After the show both Tristan and I were in deep open conversation about the choices that have brought us to where we are today. That’s good theatre, by my book.

Even if where I am today is in a room full of weird porcelain with pictures of famous Victorians. Anything that is post Victoria is no good for Scrooge, but there’s plenty of stuff that will be great for him. The rest I just have to try to think of as energy and move it through my property quickly. I don’t have space to deal in this properly.

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Old Tut

British Heart Foundation in Streatham took delivery of a whole load of books this morning. A friend of mine is going to get a few boxes of Victorian song books dropped off on the weekend unsorted. I’ve kept a small number of the books I’ve taken in for personal pleasure, irrespective of value. I’ve also listed a tiny amount on Amazon. And about five minutes ago the first of them sold. It went to a dealer- possibly one that I undercut. They messaged me yesterday asking about condition. I said it was great. Now they’ve bought it. Maybe it’s a campaign to fuck over the newbie, and they’ll grump over the condition even though it’s spotless. Or maybe, just through scanning all the books in the boxes and isolating the ones selling for more than £10 I have opened a slow burn goldmine. Time will tell. Nothing I can do but keep listing. It’s The Duchess of Devonshire’s Ball. A personal account of one of the most scandalous parties of the late Victorian era.

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I’d have been there. Born in the wrong era.

Instead I went and loaded a bunch more boxes into the van today, out of the incredibly overpriced unit at Big Yellow Self Storage. The best stuff is at the back of the unit I think, but there is plenty to keep my interest in the stuff I hocked in to empty the van, even if the bulk of it is basically crap.

Today was mostly about wading through hideous porcelain cows and useless miniature collectible mini China cannons number 446543 or jugs too small to hold anything number 565334. From my childhood collecting comics I’ve learnt that as soon as someone tells you something is collectible, that’s when it isn’t. Edition 1 of every comic released when I was growing up is valueless, even though it had twelve different covers and some of them were holograms and you got the guy who did the art to sign it at a convention. It’s the unexpected ones that hold their value. Issue 12 is the first appearance of someone who became  important and the print run was significantly smaller, so it’s got value.

Some people started churning out porcelain in the early 1900’s and made it all look lovelynice but it’s neither valuable nor useful nor particularly attractive. It’s made to be collected by people who once had a valuable bit of china. It’s a cynical industry in many ways, and we see it across the board. By the time word has got around that something is collectible, the market had responded by mass producing that thing to meet the demand of all the people suddenly hoarding that thing in the belief it’ll appreciate in value. Occasionally there’s a fuck up at the plant and something is done weird and that adds value to an otherwise mundane item, but mostly, if it’s presented as collectible, it loses half or more of its value as soon as you buy it.

I’m going through a load of old tut right now. I’ve been thinking about that phrase, in this context. 1922, at the height of the Egyptology craze, they found Tutankhamen and Carter and Carnarvon died – THE CURSE. But the usual network of parasites would have snagged onto public interest in Egyptian artefacts and everybody would’ve been buying goldie looking scarabs from whitie looking Arabs insisting they were taken from the sand around King Tut’s tomb in an accent that touched Egypt by way of Wales. But people would’ve bought that piece of Old Tut, and it would have shrunk to a 24th of its value as soon as it left the hand of the salesman.

Old Tut. But at least, for the moment, my Victorian book has sold, even to a dealer. I’ll name and shame if they turn out to be fucking with me. That’s a small power I have with this blog. But maybe I should trust more.

Clothes and books

I bought a dressmakers dummy, female, size 12. If I start selling mum’s clothes, her later life shawly jumpery diaphanous stuff will go well on it. I’d need to get another one in size ten for the bulk of her early stuff. It’s gorgeous. I was in the dry cleaners on a fact finding mission. “How much to clean this, it was my mother’s?” Two women in the queue behind me were saying “That’s beautiful.” “I want it to go where it’s loved,” I respond. “And it was your mother’s? Your mother was cool!” This from a very well spoken young woman in cycling lycra, dropping off some jumpers. It makes me smile. “Yep. She was.” But I can’t be the curator of her wardrobe forever, and I’ve made sense of eBay now. The issue is that I don’t know what things are called. And knowledge is power on eBay. So I’ve invited a friend who knows clothes for dinner. She might be able to help me distinguish between types of clothes. I only recently learnt the difference between a skirt and a dress so on my own I’m powerless vs women’s clothing.

In the meantime I reversed the dummy and stuffed a towel into its belly to make it portly. I’m using it as an approximation of my uncle in order to photograph his jackets.

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And today I went to the storage locker and grabbed multiple boxes of books to sort. I’m going through them in the back of the van. It’s cold and dark, but I can see enough to go by. Most of them aren’t my groove but a few of them are wonderful and I’ll treasure them. The rest I’m going to try to take to charity shops, or friends. I’ve noticed recently that London charity shops rarely even accept books these days. Last time I came with a box of books to a charity shop, I tried three in a row and the third guy said “just put them in the recycling bin.” I blame it on the ubiquity and attractiveness of bookshelves. Every property is full of them, so books stay safe while CDs and records and vinyl gets boxed up and moved around and thrown away. Virtually every book I’ve scanned is available on Amazon for a penny from some huge book moving industry that makes .10p per book on thousands of books every day. It’s a living if you’ve got the time, but for me it’s charity or recycle so I can make space for making things.

My friend is soon to arrive, and frankly I think we will just eat, drink, laugh and catch up. She can tell me the name of a few types of gown or sleeve or pattern, but if it was about identifying clothes I’d have sent her piccys through WhatsApp. Really I just fancied a bit of company. The scaffolding up the block is covered with tarpaulin so I get no natural light at all at the moment. It’s like my flat has been wrapped in cling film.

Sorting and selling and dumping

A guy I sold a bag to last week sent me a photo of the same bag reconditioned. He’s worked on it for a week and he’s thrilled. It was just a tired old leather bag to me, really, but it was something he both wanted and understood. I was perfectly happy when he bought it, having neither the time nor the expertise to transform it. It’s been moldering in an attic for over seven years and now someone loves it. There’s a pleasure in the transference. It’s the first experience I’ve had of a stranger showing me how they had directly benefitted from my somewhat pragmatic eBay sales frenzy. I’ve got the costs of a very expensive excursion to Jersey to recoup so it’s lovely to know that things are finding homes, just as it’s lovely to know they’re leaving my space.

If I had the space I’d probably keep all of it against the possibility of it coming in handy in something theatrical, but thankfully I don’t have the space so I’m having to be ruthless about what I keep. Tomorrow I’m getting started on plates, and so long as I’ve got enough for two full Christmas Carol services then I’ll be thrilled. Anything surplus can and will go to charity or eBay or out out out and away.

The Factory just started their week in Wales today. If you’re towards Clwyd then https://seemacbeth.com/shows will tell you where they’re doing it. I’m in London though, hoping I can properly activate this week to clear through things and also work out the extent of what I have. Tomorrow I’ll be trying to empty the storage I have. Wednesday and Thursday I’ll be sorting a lot of unusual things. Anyone who likes that sort of thing and has time and headspace, all help is welcome, as is the company of someone doing their own thing while I do it. I find myself quite solitary when I’m at home these days, and I’m beginning to discover that I like to have another human to bounce ideas off.

Today was about tiles. I’ve listed lots of beautiful antique Wedgwood Midsummer Night’s Dream tiles that part of me wanted to keep for my bathroom on eBay. I am getting better at parting with things though. I wanted to keep them because they’re nice and Shakespeare etc etc. But no, Al. Right now it’s about putting things into the world in return for money. or good energy. There might come another time when I flip that energy flow but right now it’s eBay, Amazon, this blog, and whatever else I’m called to throw out to whoever will take it. Once my living space is clearer I have a sense I’ll continue to throw things out but they’ll get more figurative and not so literal. But if I’ve got no room on my writing desk I can’t very easily write. I’ve grown adept at thinking into my phone now, which is a blessing and a curse. But a designated working area in my home would be helpful, might result in some interesting things, and is eminently achievable if I just keep engaged in this process of sorting and selling and dumping…

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Other people’s junk

They’ve moved to the country, these two friends of mine. Away to the seaside where there is sand and salt and the wind makes your nose run. You can’t get to their home by tube any longer. Still – it’s only about 2 hours door to door. I spent the weekend. We rehearsed and drank wine.

I drove to Margate in the van, and we loaded it up first with boxes of ancient costumes from a damp garage in Bethnal Green. There’s a lot of crap in there, but also some gold. I have no idea what I might have hauled, but I caught a glimpse of some of it. Lots of weaponry, chainmail, breastplates and so forth. Elizabethan style boots, and piles full of doublets and hose. Hundreds of hats. Old fashioned speakers and amps and keyboards. Foley. Things that make noises. All the kit from Fitzrovia Radio Hour was sleeping in there. Bangy doors and locky locks and walky floors and knocky knocks. All you could want for a spoof 1940’s radio show full of drama and suspense.

It’s all very well to be moving all these lovely things but we had to get it either up three flights of stairs, the third one being essentially a ladder, or we had to get it down into a basement, past a sleeping mother and child. All these clangy items…

Back when Sprite was running I’d ask if I could be given a line of parts that involved lots of running around every summer. Getting fit while working is so much easier and more rewarding that banging away on a treadmill. Often if it’s for work I don’t notice it. But I noticed it today. I was buggered by the end of the morning. My legs were wobbly. It probably didn’t help that I had skipped breakfast. But blimey, it was a sweatfest. And as luck would have it, his boiler packed up just before I arrived, so showering wasn’t an option.

Anyway, it’s all there finally now, and Jon will likely have a similar week to the one I’ve got coming up, where he has to make sense of what he’s got, and try to be ruthless with what he keeps and what he jettisons. At some point some of it will probably find its way back to mine, to be pressed into service as costume for the weird and wonderful dinnertime entertainment stuff I frequently find myself being trotted out to do.

I’m home at last in my unusually tidy flat, and I’m so tired I’m worried I’ll crash out before the bath has finished running. Some friends won Olivier awards tonight, which is always heartening. It’s an exciting time for theatre right now. I’m going to try to allocate some monthly budget into tickets going forward, as I miss a lot of interesting things if I only go to the shows I can watch for less than twenty quid.

Bath has enough water in it. I’m doing this. See you next week…

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Gravy

Oh dear. It’s been a good full day. But it hasnt occurred to me until I’m plenty of wine down that I have written no blog. I made an excellent gravy, but also made the fatal mistake of overextolling its virtues, to the extent that my friends were so poisoned to its virtues that some of them avoided it entirely, thinking my praises the raving of a madman. Maniac fools, spamming their judgement on one of the tastiest things ever to have entered their kitchen. If there’s one thing I know, it’s gravy. They threw away half a pot untasted. We all have things we come to regret. They’re good people. It’s not for me to mine the extent of their folly. But God. The lack of that particular gravy will haunt them forever. Right there – that was the motherlode. But as is so often the case, they didn’t know what they had. One of them even used a single ingredient as a reason to dismiss it untasted. Life is long, and opportunities knock and pass, knock and pass…

While I was rehearsing today, a Cream Egg dissolved in my pocket. Sticky creamy yuk all over my pocket. I licked my phone screen clean and realised it tasted nice. I’ve quarantined that pocket.

We have been rehearsing in French and English. I never thought I’d end up as the French expert. But that’s a part of it for me today, learning the princess in the beautiful “elbow” scene of Henry V. There can be only two of us and there are many scenes. Most of them are written for two men as per the period. It’s weird playing half of one of the only good scenes Shakespeare wrote for two women. But in terms of the fact that they can’t afford three actors, I’m happy to be the male in this duo. I lost a job once that might have been changing in terms of career, and was told “If we’d employed you, there would’ve been more men than women in the cast.” As an unknown to that big company, I ate that yuk happily as it aligned with my 50/50 hopes for my future industry. Even if it hurts me – and it can do – this is a period where a lack of balance must be positively addressed and I’m very aware I’m the wrong demographic. I’m curious where it leaves me, who was told I’m “too dark for my posh english accent” as I was leaving drama school. Another piece of advice was “learn to speak Farsi or something and you’ll never stop working as a terrorist.”

Bullshit. I’m an English person with slightly darker skin. “You’re not from round here,” I’ve been told a few times by peelywally faces . A large part of my heritage is Spanish, forced out by Franco. I understand why my grandfather wouldn’t have the language spoken in the house, having walked some of the execution routes on Camino. On the flip, my father identified as Scottish but lived in Jersey and the IOM. I lived there too. I wish I could activate a UK career and move back home to Jersey. Maybe one day soon. Meanwhile I’m staying in Margate with people that matter to me.

Bring it. I could sell perfect gravy out of the back of my van in Margate. But I’d have to make sure people knew it was legitimately amazing or they’d just waste it…

Here’s my bedroom.

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It scared the shit out of me last night. I woke up and thought I’d been kidnapped…

 

 

Padlocks

For the last few months, the van has been parked outside my flat with two pathetic back locks. They are so flimsy you could literally break them with a good pair of pliers. There’s never anything of obvious value in the van though. Flats and scaffolding. Boxes of random shit that would be meaningless to your average kid trying to work out how to fund his K habit. I frequently leave them completely unlocked because they were almost completely rusted through when I took custody of the van, so I don’t feel comfortable locking them in case they stick that way, and I don’t want the work of busting them open considering the reward is a bunch of mdf and a “Best of opera” vinyl collection. The window above the cab has never sealed properly anyway, so anyone dedicated can get in.

“WeyHEY lads lads lads this vaaaan ain’t locked!!” “Get it open get it open! Jammo da boyyyy!!!” “It’s OPEN!! It’s full of … WOOD! NO IT’S NOT WOOD. BUT THERE’S THIS BOX FULL OF … BOOKS!” “Da fukk Jammo?? Wot are bookz?”

Nobody wants anything I’m carrying, aside from the people I’m carrying it for. Plus, frankly, we are all made to feel less secure than we are as a matter of rote. Because security is a huge industry. Being burgled has got to be foul – it’s a betrayal of safety. It shifts your trust. And it does occasionally happen. I remember friends of mine being burgled at uni. Horrible. Such an invasion. But security and insurance companies capitalise on our shared worst experiences and memories, and monetise paranoia, and of course they’re playing the odds but they’re doing it successfully and making millions off us and if you need to make a claim you better be ready to give them more than you can afford. I pay almost £200 per month for a £300 car. Insurance brokers should be boiled in their own diarrhoea.

You can see where it started, that insurance industry. It’s taking money from people who think they’re important enough that bad things are more likely to happen to them than to someone else. It’s a thinking pattern I see with my friends. In this case, No! Fuck you. You are more likely to be targeted if you’re suspicious. Stet.

If I was desperate and had stolen before and you treated me like I was trying to rob you while I was working for you for fuck all and your internal distrust was making it infinitely harder for me, I’d be less inclined to choose to like you. And liking is a choice. And if you’re inclined to be a bastard to others you still need to justify it unless you’re insane. In order to be able to hurt someone it is necessary to mildly dehumanise them first. If you can think of them as lesser beings then you can dismiss them. And a great way of justifying that dismissal is “they don’t think of ME as human but I know I am human.”

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Although it’s worth mentioning I once used this line of reasoning to try to understand how a very ordinary human being might have justified an action that had a negative effect on my dayjobbing.

But anyway today I went to B&Q and bought some reinforced padlocks to use versus Margate. Better than the rusted gossamer ones I found on the van.

The last time I parked on this road in Margate some idiot tried to open the driver door of my jag with a screwdriver, failed but bent the fuck out of it. It was my vehicle so I didn’t mind so much despite the insurance cost (because I’m an actor).

This time it’s not my vehicle. I’ve learnt that Margate is much worse than Chelsea for pointless crime. In London there’s no point doing anything without a profit motive. “We’ve broken into into the van!” “What’s in it?” “Fuck all mate. Records and books. Amazon are restricting record sales. The books are shit, I bar coded them. We should’ve filmed ourselves breaking in. We make more money per second instsgramming than we could off this shit. Come on. I’ll punch you, you film it, and it’ll go viral.”

But weirdly, I feel I need proper locks here than I do in London. So we bought some.