Ross on Wye. Ross Angeles. Somewhere near Wales. I’m lying on a seven foot four poster bed in a haunted house. Downstairs people have written advice on the walls such as “Never summon anything you can’t banish.” There’s a mural to my right on the shutters of naked dryads hugging a tree. Lou is running the huge bath next door. I’m taking a moment to recover from having eaten everything in the whole world. I’m sprawled under the damask drapes, watching my breath condense in the night air.
After the drive we went for a walk in the woods. Mushrooms and toadstools aplenty including a panther cap, deceivers, oysters and a lovely branch covered in birch polypores which I thought about making into tea before I remembered my rule of three positive identifications before consumption is allowed. A black cat stalked us throughout, flanking us as we walked, approaching to yowl at us and bang its head on our hands as we gathered chestnuts or inspected fungus. I half expected it to suddenly transform into a twenty foot being of fire and time howling with the breath of the void between dimensions. It remained a cat, sat on Lou, purred a lot. We decided it was a she, and asked the keeper its name. “Cats don’t have names,” Duncan chided us. I call it Bertie but I could call it anything and it would still only care about food.
We went on a mini break. We aren’t the only guests here. It’s Duncan’s family home – huge and old and strange and definitely haunted. Duncan himself is a little bit fae – a little bit possessed – but boy oh boy he squeezes a hell of a meal out of that Aga. We sat at a table downstairs and gradually pushed it all into our faces sitting opposite the two other guests.
The two other guests… Not what you’d expect of a place like this. They’re both metropolitan policemen called Steve. One of them is retired and the other is still active. They’re here for the fishing. Conversation at the table was lively and unfamiliar. I don’t regularly hang out with coppers, although I got involved in training detectives at Hendon for a few years back in the earlier noughties. I’d pretend to be an arsonist and they’d interview me. It was refreshing to sit and talk with people who have seen the things they’ve seen. Their worldview is so different to much of what is familiar to me as an artistic type in privileged London. Retired Steve was talking about Thomas Tallis and his favourite piece of classical music. Then he put on Led Zeppelin and insisted that there are some humans that are just unremittingly evil.
We can’t easily go anywhere far away from the UK, so we might as well go to the Welsh borders and hang out in a haunted house full of pagans and cops and with a demon cat on a Sunday and Monday. There are definitely worse ways to spend an actor’s weekend. Tomorrow we’ll likely wander into more woods for fun and forage. Right now I’m gonna warm up in the bath…
It’s been a lovely couple of days but fuck me it’s exhausting being happy all the time. I’ve been back in the window prancing for the public. Reuters came yesterday and took some photos and ran an article : “Fun for fun’s sake“. Lovely for the artist to get Reuters to cover her first installation. They scared off all the public with their cameras, but took a good interview from Amy the artist. She’s an excellent human, and that sort of thing can only be helpful in terms of pitching for more joy. She provided some much needed and scarce employment in a performative medium in these dark times. The constant expenditure of energy and time on something joyous but ephemeral has been my number one jam for decades now, so this ticked the boxes.
“This is better than dinner at Claridges” said one fellow. He’d just come out of Claridges with his family and I’m not sure if it was an excoriating review of their dinner or high praise for us. I’ll go with the latter.
It’s been glorious and strange. There was a little girl who was allergic to cats who fell in love with my cat a little bit. She was giving me instructions in mime for ages. It was like being the jester for a benevolent empress. I ended up having to copy her dance moves. She was trying to teach me to floss – that’s the dance all the kids are doing. She was considerably better at it than I was. She was so sad to say goodbye that I was sad too. I passed a balloon to her and her mum and purred through the door a bit. I never thought my well studied cat noises would come in so handy. It’s funny what life turns up.
All this madness has helped me keep fit. I think I’ve actually lost weight this week. “I don’t know how you two keep it up all day,” we are told. Nor do I. I have a feeling the lucky coincidence of both of us being on the wagon really helped. There were some great bottles of red wine being opened and consumed directly above us. I was very very aware of them. We were frequently offered glasses that an earlier version of me would have necked as soon as the work was done. Instead I’m stone cold sober, running a bath and boiling the kettle for a hot water bottle. I feel worked out and I’ll sleep heavy and late because the adrenaline takes time to clear, but I’m driving long tomorrow in my dying car with a newly smashed window. I’ll need to be rested as I’m not using caffeine to keep bouncing.
I’m still surfing the wave of feeling good about being off the chemicals. No coffee and I can still dance all day. No booze and I can often sleep all night. I miss good wine still, but I’m already pretty cool about no coffee. That’s a broken habit that will save me thousands over time. I used to think I couldn’t get up without the stuff.
But that’s the end of that for now. Another random lockdown job. What will be next? Inevitably something ridiculous and wonderful. And hopefully a new car, as that idiot smashing the window yesterday has driven pretty much the final nail into the viability of the Micra. He / they even did some crap graffiti on the wall outside:
EXT CHELSEA STREET NIGHT. 1am. A small crescent street by the river. Autumn, but unseasonably warm. 2020, the year of Coronavirus. We see a young man – NERBERT – with a torch and in a balaclava. He is sweating. Visibly uncomfortable. His eyes are desperation sick. He’s casing the cars for valuables. He’s mumbling to himself, looking from side to side. The streets are deserted.
We see him approach a red Nissan Micra. The rear numberplate has been replaced by a piece of paper, the numbers on the plate are written in sharpie. There are dinks and scratches all over the back bumper. There’s some gaffer on the rear window, just randomly stuck there for no reason. The rear driver’s side tyre is flat. Nobody in their right mind would think there was anything of value in this car. It clearly belongs to a broke idiot.
NERBERT: (to himself) This is a good’un. Gonna be something good. Gonna find it here. Gonna get Molly her Euros.
NERBERT approaches the car. He shines his torch over the contents. A book about mushrooms. A tatty blanket. An old sleeping bag. Papers. Boxes. Rubbish. Tarot cards. Then his torch lights on an open black leather holdall. He looks closer. Money. Euros. He can’t believe his luck. A black leather holdall full of Euros just casually slung into the back of the car. They’re spilling out of the bag like they have no value. NERBERT checks his surroundings, takes out the claw hammer he might have used to steal one of Brian’s motorbikes, and shatters the small rear window in one practiced hit.
INT CHELSEA BEDROOM NIGHT. AL – handsome, dashing, devil-may-care. He sits upright in bed to the noise, and we see his ripped abs glistening in the moonlight. He’s heard it. He listens for a while, alert, completely still so we can gaze upon him. We get lost in his eyes. Eventually he puts his head back down to the pillow.
AL: (to himself) Prolly nothing.
Those eyes close. Darkness.
EXT CHELSEA STREET NIGHT
NERBERT has been quietly winding down the rear window of the Micra. He scrambles into the car and hastily grabs two fistfuls of fifty euro notes. One of them floats unnoticed from his fist back onto the back seat. His eyes look bright with triumph. He backs out of the car, leaving the door open, and walks away from us, a spring in his step, clutching two fistfuls of Euros. He is a long way from us before it occurs to him to stuff them into his pockets.
EXT CHELSEA STREET DAY. Al walks towards the Micra, a spring in his step. He takes his keys out of his pocket, but we see him stop in his tracks as he sees the mess left by Nerbert. He reaches in through the hole and picks up the single note that fell from Nerbert’s hand. He inspects it.
AL: Oh for fuck’s sake.
SLOW FADE TO
INT NISSAN DAY – driving. Al is on speakerphone.
COP: (through phone) Was there anything valuable in the vehicle.
AL: Well … the bag was worth a couple of hundred but they left it. There were some crocodile skin watch straps, a bit of German porcelain. Silver candlestick… They left all that. The only thing they took was a stack of joke money that we used when we were running a game last summer. I was moving the bag back from Hampstead yesterday and left it in there.
INTERIOR BASEMENT DAY
NERBERT is still wearing his balaclava. He’s clearly walked all the way to this basement. It’s not nice in here. Natural light comes through little windows in the top of the room where we occasionally see the feet of people walking past at street level. Nerbert seems both nervous and triumphant. A bit too close behind him stands GONK. 6′ 5 if he’s an inch. Wearing a surgical mask, GONK looks like he pulls the legs off kittens for fun. Truth is he prefers puppies. In front of NERBERT sits BIG MOLLY behind an ornate leather top desk loaded with ledgers and, unusually, with little ceramic ornaments and figurines. She is unmasked, dangerous, short. Big Molly is thinking. Palpable tension.
BIG MOLLY: Show me.
NERBERT reaches into his pockets, starts piling the money on the desk.
NERBERT: It’s all here. Euros too, like you asked. There’s more than you want. You can have them all. We’re square, though, yeah?
BIG MOLLY reaches across and we see an incongruous plastic strap on her expensive diamond wristwatch. She slowly picks up a magnifying glass. There is practiced pantomime here. She lifts a single note. She squints at it. We see what she sees.
NERBERT: So … we’re good right? We’re square?
BIG MOLLY: Is that a duck, or a goose?
BIG MOLLY: Hey Gonk – whaddaya reckon?
BIG MOLLY: Mallard? (To NERBERT) And is mallard duck, or is it goose, asshole.
NERBERT: I don’t…
BIG MOLLY: ANSWER THE QUESTION.
GONK, professional behind NERBERT, puts the tip of his little finger into his mouth.
NERBERT: A duck. It’s a duck.
BIG MOLLY: It’s a duck. And what the fuck country in Europe has a fucking duck on its fucking note?
BIG MOLLY: This is fake money, asshole. You come in here, you try to give me this shit, whaddaya think I am?
NERBERT: It’s real! It was in Chelsea in this … this amazing car.
BIG MOLLY: Oh Nerbert Nerbert Nerbert. I told you three months ago. You either pay me in Euros or you replace the things of mine you lost: A vintage leather holdall, a crocodile skin watch strap, a silver candlestick and an antique German ceramic figurine.
BIG MOLLY: I’d even take Sitzendorf. But … no. No. You try to pay me in ducks. In DUCKS! Hey, Gonk – he’s ducking payment!
(She laughs at her joke. GONK smiles and makes eye contact with Molly. Something passes between them. A tiny nod. Gonk takes his little finger from his mouth. We see the tip of it glisten wet with saliva.)
BIG MOLLY: (standing) You know what this means?
NERBERT: Please! It’s delayed because of the virus! I’ll do anything! I’ll get the stuff for you! I’ll find it somehow! I need more time!
BIG MOLLY: You know what time it is? It’s wet finger time.
NERBERT: I’m supposed to be isolating! I’ve got an aging grandmother! I do the shopping for her!
We pan out as we see Gonk rip off NERBERT’S balaclava revealing the sad face of a chinless opportunist, with big tempting ears. Gonk’s slimy finger goes into Nerbert’s ear with the precision of long practice.
NERBERT: (screaming, desperate) EEW NO IT’S WEIRD STOPPIT IT MIGHT BE CONTAGIOUS YUUUUK
And we pan out to wide on this scene until we see the feet of somebody walking past the window at ground level and we follow their movement, up through the window into …
EXT STREET ABOVE BASEMENT CONT.
… where we pan slowly up the walker’s firm body from behind pausing overlong on that tight butt. For who is it but AL? He’s striding delightfully past the window just at this moment with his usual unnatural gift for timing. He’s walking alongside Olivia Coleman, who is dressed as a panda mascot. He’s on the phone and she doesn’t seem to mind.
AL: Yeah it’s fine. They left the bag and the watch straps and the silver and the Sitzendorf. Just took the fake money. And I’ll be scrapping it in a week or two so nothing really lost but security. Silly fuckers. I hope somebody sticks a wet finger in their ear… Hang on I’ll call you back.”
They have faintly heard Nerbert, behind and below, screaming : “Not the other ear! Ewww” They pause for a moment.
Let’s have a look at this photo. I’m the car on the criss cross between lanes.
6th October. West Hill, Wandsworth. 20.51pm. I’m on a mission post audition to get to Brighton and see Lou. I was driving across this magic carpet heading for the space directly in front of me. The guy to my left was turning left into my lane and suddenly gunned his engine round the corner while I was on my way to the clear space in front of me. He nicked it leaving me stranded. I tried to get as much of my car out of the carpet as possible before stopping, but not enough to avoid a £130 fine being automatically issued. Who am I obstructing? Nobody. This is traffic fines as pure revenue generation. I’m willing to pay it. You pay 50% if you pay fast. And these things go hand in hand with vehicle ownership. There was nothing I could do about this – the guy completely stitched me up. He probably works for the council. Pay somebody £50 an hour to do that all day and you’d make thousands. But if you have a car in this city you have to expect to pay in skin, even if you do your utmost to be careful.
I’m sharing it because it just came in the post and it’s a good illustration of how the law frequently makes absolutely no sense. My action inconvenienced nobody, caused no trouble, but was considered bad enough by the computer to warrant me having to buy a medium wax tartan dog coat from Liberty for Wandsworth Borough Council.
I’m writing this in a pub in London, where I’m having a non-alcoholic beer because I can. It’s just been announced that we will all turn into a pumpkin on Friday at midnight. Captain incompetence and his amazing sociopathic lackeys are still just making shit up and putting it into law even though the majority of the laws make no fucking sense whatsoever – to the extent that THEY CONSIDER THEMSELVES EXEMPT. That’s the real sting. They can go to Durham or Scotland knowing full well they’re contagious.
Law – and government – is about consensus. I drive a car in London and I accept that occasionally I’ll get charged for a Liberty dog coat (halved to a Bee Inspired puffer jacket) for Wandsworth borough council as an additional tax. So do enough other drivers that the ones who don’t think it applies to them end up getting it in the neck with bailiffs. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t tip the other way if enough drivers stood up against bad fines like this. The emperor may think he is untouchable, but he only rules with the consent of the people. It is not automatically granted, it can be lost. He can force consent, but eventually the snowball gets too big.
These Westminster fuckwits should be careful with the continual shifting arbitrary laws, especially with their overt lack of care for and interest in the “little people” that they govern – especially now they’re setting fire to the north. They only govern us with our implicit consent. And everybody’s context is shifting as a result of this pandemic.
My Google speaker listens to me all the time and sells my information to advertisers. I don’t mind – I consented to it. I like it. Some of my friends are extremely suspicious of it.
I can ask it to play stuff and look stuff up for me. It even has a crystal ball game – a bit like a magic 8 ball. Yesterday I asked it “should I get some barrels of gunpowder and take them under parliament on November 5th?” “Yes,” it said, immediately. Followed by a caveat. I barked with laughter. I’ve probably been logged on some kind of database now though.
I’m not going to be stockpiling gunpowder. It’s not the solution. I’ve been considering emigrating to New Zealand just to get the fuck out of this atmosphere, but I’m not sure if avoiding it is the solution either, plus we aren’t allowed to travel. The government want us to retrain – maybe I’ll have to retrain as a politician and fight from within. I’d make barnstorming speeches. But I don’t think that’s my solution either. I’m too impulsive, disorganised and dissipated.
Revolution is always messy. The Romanians still had to execute Ceaucescu and his wife, and 650 people died. France was horrible. I’m not sure if it’s the solution either, especially thinking about how I feel regarding the possibility of active militias in America if Trump doesn’t get the votes. “Stand back and stand by”. But Christ. These people. These terrible horrible people, mostly from the same background as me. I know how to not end up like them. You have to choose to work to find empathy from privilege. I no longer consent… I never really did anyway.
Camomile tea at my left, hot water bottle at my feet, Rachmaninoff on the speaker to my right. Incense that I bought in the redwoods burning. Space around me.
It’s clean and calm in my bedroom. This is unusual. I’m going to need to put some pictures up before long as it feels a little bit like I’m in a euthanasia clinic now I’ve dealt with the explosion of clutter. It’s definitely camomile in my cup though and not foxglove.
I feel strange in here. This is how rare it is for me to have a tidy room. It’s not finished (tous ça change) but it’s closer than it’s been for many a moon. Turns out it was the clutter that gave the room its identity. Now it’s in transition.
There’s still a bit of clutter. After all, this is me. I’ve got a bedroom shelf now for eBay things which will provide a constantly changing selection of attractive bits and bobs as they go through the endless process.
I’m becoming a known quantity at the big post office on New King’s Road, constantly coming in with little weird things to send all over the place. Today I made the trip even though I only had to send a mug. “A souvenir of The Great War”. £2.90 plus postage, but the post office is right next door to the hardware store so I could grab some shelf supports and fix my fucked bedroom shelves as a result of the same journey. Who knows how long they’ll hold out. I know for certain I’m not going to put millions of heavy books on them again as they collapsed like that teapot shelf in “Changing Rooms”.
It’s always busy in the post office. I’m not the only person on eBay right now. Plenty of people with plenty of stuff to move around. But I miss the old duffers at The Royal Hospital Volunteer Post Office. I would usually send all my items from there despite it being marginally more expensive – (you give them a donation with each item). I tended to look forward to sending my big orders anyway and having conversation while I worked. I’d often buy my materials for awkward items from the guy who had the little material stall and pack things up in the room with them. Terry, I think. Lovely old guy.
They all were. Big old ex army lads in their senior years behind the counter, blessed with the gift of conversation so often honed by people used to being in barracks. Some of the most poetic souls I know went through the army. I think there’s something about danger that can either switch you off entirely or can draw you to the beauty of the moment – to an appreciation of the ineffable. (Another reason why these primped up blancmangepeople shouldn’t be running the country. The most danger they’ve ever been in is sticking a fork in the toaster.)
I hope they’re okay, all those Chelsea Pensioners. It’s my local old folks home with a difference. I can see why they wouldn’t want to be licking stamps right now. Once more I wonder what will be there when the dust settles.
I’m going to drift off to sleep and see how it feels in this newly decluttered bedroom situation.
First thing on my list was KITCHEN. It’s been a whole day but I’m pretty much ready to tick it off now. I went through everything. The freezer was like a time warp. A gravy boat full of what was designated “the best gravy ever”. I’m defrosting it. I’m curious. Might have it for lunch in a vegetable casserole and see how my new temple shaped body copes with meaty winey filthjuice.. I think it went in there about a year ago though so it’s probably ill advised. But it’s 2020. Nothing can go wrong in 2020.
Other kitchen highlights included a block of about 40 frozen rashers of bacon, a cornucopia of hot sauces, four jars of expired paprika, enough rice to feed China, all the pasta, most of the lentils, antibiotics that expired in 2010 stored in a box of teabags, and six almost totally empty jars of chutney. I tend to eat the lot but the last spoonful and then leave it in the fridge for a decade.
I’m not very good at finishing things it seems. I followed the link to that “which job should you be doing” survey online a few days ago and literally got as far as the question “Do you like to see things through to the finish.” I closed it there because, at the time I told myself I had the old experience of not being able to connect to any of the answers they had as options. In retrospect I probably should have said “No, I’m shit at it” or whatever their equivalent would have been.
Because it seems I am, now I think about it. I am shit at it. There are many books I love that I’ve left at the last chapter. Even crap ones like the Harry Potter books – I read them as they came out but left the very last one until about a year ago when I found it in my bedroom and thought “fuck it I should know how it ends”. There are computer games I’ll never finish despite getting to just before the final boss fight. I got all the Weapons in Final Fantasy 7 and the best Chocobo and then I stopped. I’ll never finish it now as I barely play computer games. I love rehearsals and process shows that deliberately never settle like The Factory and AFTLS and Christmas Carol, and always feel a sense of closing when we secure up the more traditional shows I’m in before the director goes home. There are lots of good bottles of whisky I’ve taken down to the final dram. I found one today. It looked at me. I looked at it. Then I made a hot chocolate and got in the bath. I’m gonna keep strong until that stops happening.
Even the list I made for today. Everything is ticked off apart from “Minimum 1 hour writing non blog”. Did I do that? Did I bollocks. I’ve put 2 hours on tomorrow’s list instead, and put it higher up so it doesn’t fall foul of this newly identified pathology. I’ll have to do something about it now I’ve spotted it…
This is the end of today’s blog. Feel free to share it widely and send me nice comments (they’re screened to stop the bots but they get through eventually). Before long there’ll be a link here to buy me a cup of matcha or whatever absurd fad I’ve adopted. Meantime be KIND dammit and do things with awareness when possible. Out. (You see, I finished it. Twice.
My nephew turned eighteen today – on this cold wet Monday. I took some time out to go and see him and my brother and family, and a huge platter of meat.
First of all though I started on the list of things to do – but it keeps getting bigger and it’s almost feeling like if I try to actually list all of the things I need to do I’ll be eighty before I’ve even finished the fecking list. Still, I now have a little pocket pad and I know where it’s located, and I know what I’m doing tomorrow, so that’s a starting point.
I’m home for the evening, writing in my bed, listening to the rain on the window. I’ve switched the heating on but it’s been off all day so it’s freezing and a bit damp. Last night I dropped an entire pint of water onto the side of my bed, myself, my laptop and a live extension plug socket. It was 3.20am and I had been fast asleep drinking (I’m a voracious sleepdrinker). I fumbled it after one sip. Needless to say I was wide awake in seconds and once I figured everything was safe again there was no getting back to sleep. I’ve been up since 3.30. When these damp sheets warm up properly I’m gonna sleep like a baby, and keep a sealed flask next to my bed instead of a pint mug. Safer. I had to do it when Pickle was here or she’d drink from my glass and I’d get a mouthful of hair. It’s a miracle that after years of sleeping with pint over a plug that’s the first time I’ve done it. It’s also lucky I didn’t electrocute myself. That would solve the to do list. And it would warm me up…
It’s cold. This time last year I was in Washington DC walking around with a T-Shirt on, gainfully employed as an actor on tour. Now I’m stuck in this damp country and they’re trying to set fire to our sector and get us all to work in cyber. “Ballerinas can get to the back of the queue”. It’s gonna be a long dark tunnel and we need to work hard to keep the light burning in our eyes or we might lose our way. It seems that the government is hiding bright screens in the tunnel which we might mistake for the exit. Proper job angler fish. Be vigilant. The government has turned into that fucking relative at the family gathering who with limited perspective and long dead eyes knowingly says “So when are you going to get a proper job like the rest of us?” and instead of detaching their head with a can opener you just have another gin and say something anodyne.
My nephew has just walked into this world of adulthood. Eighteen. I had chicken pox and was adapting Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for the stage. Not much has changed. Now I’m still shut inside for fear of contamination and I’m adapting a book for stage.
He’ll have to be making his own way soon working out what he can be and how he can be it. He’s got the example of two vocational parents and a vocational uncle. I wonder if it pushes him to be in somebody else’s office forever hitting targets until they give him a watch and he takes it with wrinkled hands, or if he takes a plunge somewhere. His older brother is switched on, and is chasing the money on his own terms with fervour and success. Nic’s just starting out, but he’s got a war coming. It’s tough out there. Tougher than ever with the cove and this lot in charge I wonder whether the slapfaced clown brigade will fuck up his A-Level results next summer. If so maybe we can both get a career in cyber. First thing I’ll do in cyber is hack the internet to replace Oliver Dowden’s face with a raw chicken breast in every image. The beauty of it is, nobody will notice for years.
Yesterday I was standing in a window with sexy cat head on, absently squeezing an inflatable dalmation and talking with my accountant about the work I need to do in my flat. My accountant is grumpy bear. She was holding a love ball and dancing.
“Have you made a list of all the things you need to do?” asked grumpy bear. She’s been waiting for me to send her a breakdown of income and expenditure for about six months now, plus she wanted all of next years tax stuff sent to her by CSV months ago. She’s tired of chasing me now. She knows how scattered sexy cat can get. If it’s pratting around in a window that sexy cat has to do then he’s there with knobs on. If it’s something that involves a bit of work and will have a direct impact on his well being then he’ll try and put it off in favour of looking for more FISH. “No,” I tell her, and scratch my ear. No I haven’t made a list of things I need to do. Making that list – that’s one of the things I need to do. But it’s not on the list, you see.
This evening, instead of writing that list of things I need to do, I’m writing a blog about how I haven’t written a list of things I need to do. Once the blog is finished, I’ll read my book, drink my camomile tea, and go to sleep without having written the list of things I need to do. Maybe I’ll tell myself I’ll write the list tomorrow. Maybe I WILL write the list tomorrow – stranger things have happened. Chances are though, tomorrow I’ll just do something that it occurs to me to do, then I’ll get distracted. I’ll not write the list, I’ll decide I’ll probably write the list tomorrow.
But not if I write this you see. Cunning. I’m making myself accountable. Now I’ll feel guilty if I don’t write the list. Finishing the list will be the first thing I put on it I might even pin it on a wall somewhere.
Today I’ve been eBaying. It’s a useful discipline, as there’s still too much stuff in the flat. The day ran away and the sun set before I realised that I hadn’t left the house at all. I’m hoping for good weather tomorrow instead, as I’ve got some writing to do which I can do outside in the Physic Garden so long as it isn’t freezing.
So much to do. I need another few months where there’s literally fuck all happening. Lucky me.
Even in the thick of it, in St James’s Park right by the road, I found a moment of peace near an ancient tree. Saturday night and it wasn’t full of drunks. I sat a while and listened to the wind breathing through the trees. The sound of the road seemed trivial compared to the quiet roar of a nature that was there before the road and will be after.
I found myself thinking from the perspective of this tree – my mate.
There it is, plugged into the ground. It’s losing leaves now, but they’ll grow back in a few short months and all it needs to do is wait it out. Meanwhile we are running around swarming like ants, full of our little daily noises. I was walking past it head full of noise until it pulled me in with its big fat trunk.
I’ve let myself get swept up in these concerns. Covid. Money. Politics. Work. Accommodation. I lost half a day yesterday to mixed anger and upset about a job I didn’t really want because it felt a bit like the only job in town. But these little fleeting things, they come and go and yet we can accidentally get ourselves into a perspective on them that’s all consuming.
In the context of history this Covid is just a blip. This isn’t the one where they have to open the plague pits again and start ringing the bell and shouting “Bring out your dead!”. It’ll mean we can’t have absolutely all the nice things immediately. But we need to get a handle on that desire anyway because it’s getting us into a pickle.
The thoughtless way we lived has been shaken off and we are being made to live mindfully. The context of daily life is different. It’s useful to shift context – it broadens your horizons a bit. It’s why travel is good for you. It’s why widely traveled people are usually open minded, if occasionally insufferable. Everybody has had to shift, and now everybody has at least two perspectives on how daily life can be. That will help people notice that many things have an element of choice somewhere. We can have an understanding of the choice, and make our choices actively.
We can choose what we consume, both literally and in terms of imaginative and spiritual fodder. Maybe we’ll start to try to choose more mindfully in time to slow down the rate at which we are making this planet hostile to us. Not that it matters to the tree. It’ll be there, barring a hotel chain getting permission. It’ll be there until a glacier grinds it down, observed by tattered uncomprehending ape things huddled in an old statue worshipping a Jedward poster.
We can wind out our lives on meaningless noise. Don’t allow it. Life is huge and rich and possible. It’s a joy if you let it be.
You could argue that standing in a window with a silly head on just to make people smile is a stupid job. I would agree. I’ve been doing something wonderfully stupid. There’s nothing wrong with stupid so long as it isn’t ruining the place.
We made a lot of people smile today. We shared joy with strangers. We played and were played to. If you’re too wrapped up in the negative buzz of your moment to grin like an idiot at something stupid you might as well just be an ant.
I’m exercising my choice at the moment by denying myself all the things I consumed mindlessly. I’m not saying forever. I’m just going to be as conscious as I can going forward.
Meat. Caffeine. Alcohol. Large quantities of refined sugar. Those are my main ones. I can take things to extremes sometimes though. But maybe take advantage of this shift in context to examine one of the things you have taken for granted. “I can’t wake/drive without coffee?” Yes I can. “I can’t shut my head up without booze?” Yes I can. “It’s not a meal without meat?” Yum. “Yayyy monster munch!” Um…
You might shift a habit. You might not. Either way it’ll be interesting to observe.
It’s late. I’m tired. I would have written this ages ago but I’ve been trying to write the correct response to a difficult eBay person in Sweden who wants everything for nothing. I can’t just tell him to go boil his head, as damage to the rating is a serious handicap on eBay. It’s exhausting striking the balance. I’m tired anyway.
I’ve been wearing big heads again in a window on Brook Street, smile painted on, waving to people. Thankfully nobody was in the room with me apart from my working partner who’s a close friend. I got a call halfway through the day that led to me swearing blind for about 3 solid hours on the other side of my drawn on smile. At one point I even had a little cry. Textbook sad mascot work.
Just an audition not landing. Nothing real or serious. Happens all the time. Never gets easier, though.
Man I love it when they offer me the part without having to audition. I hate loathe and detest the things. They bring all my insecurities to the front – as if my life choices are being judged and found wanting. I forget all the things that are front and centre when I work. I usually hit the bottle as soon as I’m out of an audition to forget, so it’s good that I’m sober these days as I could break it down for myself and use the knowledge to improve. After this one I drove to Brighton. I knew I’d been off colour, and had time on the drive to get to the bottom of why I didn’t serve myself well.
Next time, nervous or not, I’ll eat first. It was at 7pm. I didn’t eat all day for nerves. I almost passed out halfway through a sentence after getting up too quickly in order to get it out of the way. I froze for a good five seconds while my head filled with blood. I lost track of myself completely. Then I just talked shit for about twenty seconds. Doing stuff out of context with an assessing audience rather than a real audience? It’s like throwing a dead chicken and telling yourself it’s flying.
Nonetheless, both the choosing people in the room were known to me. But not in an uncomplicated manner. Lessons to carry to the recall? A chance to rebuild a bridge?
Yeah, I was upset. It’s a kick in the teeth. But maybe it’s for the best. Fox and the grapes? Well, it would’ve been fun. It looked like the only gig in town. It would’ve been a year out of life. It would’ve been exhausting, all consuming, a small community, new friends, hard work, passion. I would have loved it and thrived and played and brought loads. But I always do that. So I’ll do it somewhere else. There’ll be other gigs, despite those monumental fuckwits at Westminster deliberately trying to bin us because they don’t see value in our sector because nobody’s run the numbers and they all just follow Cummings who is a literal actual sociopath and thus of course is unable comprehend art.
Things will wake up. I don’t have to be loved by everybody. And I suspect I’ll need to be available for the incredible things that are coming my way. I look forward to the day when I can say with a dancing heart “Thank fuck I didn’t get that gig – I wouldn’t be here.”
But just for a bit I’ll feel sad. Because I got swept up in a dream that popped.