Conduit

The war on stuff continues. Max and I got another six boxes out of storage and now they’ve all been emptied into my flat. All those boxes reduce to very little stuff. If I lived in Jersey I’d have strong words with the people who packed this stuff up for my uncle and my mum. Bloody crooks. One of the huge boxes contained a crap stool, a plastic draining board and a coal scuttle full of fir cones. And VAST quantities of packing paper. It’s reasonably common to come upon that sort of thing in this lot – entire boxes given over to items that are barely worth wrapping. “Well they didn’t tell us NOT to pack the sticky plastic draining board. Here, Joe, wrap that in enough paper that it fills up half the box. Marco – grab that shitty stool and we’ll bulk up with it. Let’s get as much storage as we can out of these idiots.” It’s such a scam. I’m glad we’re finally getting this gubbins out, and not a moment too soon.

Meanwhile, on the internet: “Does anybody in London have a chaiselongue I can have – ideally it should be ruined already as I’m going to be ruining it.”

I’m a member of a few creative groups on Facebook. They help me tick over. I happened to see the post above and took it as a sign.

“I’ve got a fucked chaiselounge in my attic,” I reply. Because I do. It’s been there for years and my awareness is with it as it’s one of the only things left up there since I’ve started this purge. I don’t like it. It connects to unhappy memories when mum was sad and on a downward spiral. Then it was used at The Finborough decades ago in the play where I learnt never to do a part you don’t believe in. Nasty sticky memories all over that chaise. Time to move it on.

This person I’ve never met before called Nuha sent a van to pick it up. I flogged her a couple of jugs as well to go with it. Only a few bob but it keeps things turning over. Every day I’m a little closer to Delboy, it seems. Now I just need David Jason’s career. The lads came to take away a load of stuff while Max and I were taking in a load of different stuff.

So, things come in with one hand even as they go out with the other. I’m still very much an item conduit. This whole process would be easier if I didn’t live up four flights of stairs, but hell, at least it’s keeping me fit in lockdown.

I’m lying in bed now with a slightly emptier attic and a slightly fuller living room, and good mileage on my Fitbit. Apart from the draining board and the crap stool and towels there were some attractive trinket boxes, some decent oak stools, a bit of half decent glassware, a bunch of knives (hooray I’m short of knives) and nine prints showing pictures of French ports. There was also a little clockwork tortoise that my mother hilariously bought me for when I was circumcised aged eight. “It sticks its little head out!” Yeah, thanks mum…

Tomorrow I’ll organise the items that came in today, I’ll write a presentation about Nichiren Buddha, and I’ll think about how to organise the contents of this flat to best show all the saleable things to the auctioneer coming on the first. I think he knows it’s more about quantity than quality. I hope so. The last one, smug William from Chiswick Auctions, could be described as a useless sack of shite. I’m not going to get my hopes up about this guy after that experience, but even if they send a literal actual donkey to assess my Antiques it’ll be a more positive experience than William.

Max and the trolley

Foggy day in London town

The freezing fog was down this morning, closing in on me as I looked out the window. The London fog. A pea-souper, as it might have been called in Victorian times. Today last year I put my nightgown on and humbugged to a crowd in Mayfair as part of a Christmas light turning on ceremony, so it’s appropriate that there’s something Dickensian going on in my life, even if it’s only fog.

I stayed in, walled into the flat by the implacable cold, the fog creeping through the gaps in my window, burning too much power in order to run the radiators and keep myself warm. I made some progress though. Better than yesterday.

This ongoing stuff-moving process has many angles. The best one is “Good lord, this thing I don’t like is actually worth money.” Then there’s “Might get a bob or two on eBay, I guess.” Then there’s “Ooh I like this so much I’m keeping it no matter what it’s worth.” But the final category is the hardest one. “This is worth nothing and I don’t like it, but somebody I love once treasured it.” They’re the hard ones to move along. I’m getting better at it though. I might take a box or two to The Battersea Car Boot Sale and flog it all there because this stuff is either too awkward to post or not worth enough for people to pay the postage on top of the item. So long as there’s enough to easily cover the £30 registration fee, and so long as it actually opens through the Covid fun at some point, I’m gonna spend a morning as a barrow boy and hopefully come back a great deal lighter and with a small amount of Christmas money to make up for the fact I’m not on my usual weekly Christmas Scroogegold.

Like leaving the fields to lie fallow, I think it’s going to be an advantage having this time to reflect and to properly look at all this stuff at last. Grief really is a slow process. I can’t quite believe how long it’s been but it seems I’m finally able to look at these things consistently and deal with them without the pain becoming unbearable. By Christmastime this flat will be lovely again, and hopefully sooner – maybe even with carpets and paint. But I’ve got this time to take things slowly and dwell in the happy bits of their memory as I shift and sift the possessions.

Parsing data

One of my many little day jobs has woken up a little bit. On and off for years now I’ve been invigilating exams at a nearby college. It’s reasonably undemanding work so I could do the Christmas season and then do a show in the evening. They’ve moved everything online for now. I’m having to train up, as it’s a very different fish.

Now, instead of keeping an eye out for somebody sweating profusely whilst furtively examining their wrist, we are watching and comparing flows of data generated as they go through their exam process. We are parsing it and keeping an eye out for anomalies. It’s thrilling stuff. A bit less of a workout than the old model of running around a big hall for ten minutes giving out pencils and fixing wobbly desks before sitting watching people write for the best part of two hours before running around again gathering up papers and counting them. But likely to be even less stimulating. I might start to regret having given up coffee.

I’m really starting to notice the lack of Christmas Carol now. Sometimes when I look on Facebook I see back to back adverts for other people’s Christmas Carols and it feels like I’m the only person who isn’t doing one this year. Six months of my life, that show, stretched over six years. I’ve made some wonderful friendships through it. Not this year, Ebenezer.

Time for something new. Something which hopefully involves a little bit more fun than just parsing data from exams I could never answer. Well – that and prancing around in a window with silly heads on to cheer up the Christmas shoppers at the behest of a kooky artist. That’ll be back again at least and should be fun and tiring enough to balance out the parsing. But yeah, I’m excited to see what strange delights the coming year will bring.

It’s kind of nice, meanwhile, to get really good at another piece of software. I’ve always been a secret geek. I used to build my own computers, and in the early days I could even code a bit. I let that slip but I always like having to dig into new technology, and lift the lid off. The downside is the capacity for those screens to suck the time away. You plug your face into one of those little shiny rectangles, something takes your interest, and the next thing you know it’s dark outside. They really do eat time.

I haven’t left the house all day and it’s bedtime. I had some Thanksgiving apple pie, in solidarity with our American brothers and sisters who too are teetering on the edge of total societal collapse. I’m full and I’m warm and I’m lucky to have something for December. The light is still on the wane and we are all getting frightened about money. Here’s to a lovely fortunate Christmas, and to all of us getting a break of some sort on the way.

Park walk and then saved Christmas

The winter is still mild enough for walks in the park. That makes life a bit more bearable. Lou and I scrambled amongst the squirrels as I tried to take the time off from going down the burgeoning list of things I have to do.

The spare room is getting closer to paintable, and I’ve had the gobsmackingly obvious idea of replacing the cheapest bed on the internet with the ornate one we’ve been paying to store for however long it’s been now. My guests will have a solid wooden bed with brass fittings and it’s another thing out of the storage. Since I have no real choice but to embrace the vintage theme here, I’m going to go all out with it. It’s a pity there’s not room for the matching wardrobe to go with it. I’ve booked another auction man, this time from Rosebery’s. I’m hoping I’ll get some clarity about what’s left. The thing with antiques, I’ve had to learn, is that they are simply just worth what somebody will pay for them. It’s a guessing game, helped by looking up recent similar sales. I reckon this guy will be more experienced at guessing than I am, and hopefully Max and I will be happy enough to dismiss the things that he dismisses, keep the things that mean something to us and move on move on move on from the rest and the sheer expense of clinging to it.

I dropped everything for the day and went frolicking in the park with Lou.

It’s a hugely powerful thing, to live directly opposite the peace pagoda. We went and walked on it and looked across to the windows from which I look across to it. I’m usually aware of the drumming in the morning as somebody chants in the dawn over the river. They’ve done that since it was my mother that slept in that room where her mother’s bed is soon to be installed … there’s a strange continuity. All that good energy resonating my way can only be helpful as I try to finish this tricky transition.

The evening brought a Christmassy playtest from friends and makers who have clearly been busy over the last few months. I got an email with a link. You click the link and it takes you to a sort of online festive escape room adventure type thing.

It involved Tristan and I saving Christmas on two screens and a WhatsApp call. The software worked remarkably well and we muddled through the puzzles. Code cracking, maths, logic problems. Somehow, with both of us sober, we did it. We have officially saved Christmas. Hooray.

The puzzles took us bloody ages though so I’m writing this at half midnight, hence the stream of consciousness. You want structure? Can’t help there, sorry. I can give you words, tonight. And that’s enough of them.

Prague

Remember when we could just… go to a place? “Fuck it,” I said, fifteen years ago. “I’m off somewhere.” Then I went online and worked out that Easy Jet was doing cheap flights to Prague. £36 return I think it was. It’s fine if you don’t mind where you end up or where you sleep. Definitely easier alone without anyone worrying about uncontrollables. If it’s just you, you’re only responsible for yourself, and if you’re happy anywhere then the only negativity – the voice that says “we should’ve done x” – is silent, as is the voice that says “we should book accommodation in advance just to be safe”. So long as it’s different, I’m happy as larry, and in a city there’s always somebody that wants your money for a bed. And I’m lucky, as I’m tall and male. I can be a bit loose.

Cheap sleep bumps it all up a bit nevertheless. I ended up in a hotel for peanuts. Restaurants bump it up a bit more. Sure you can eat out of supermarkets, and you do, but evening restaurants are part of the joy for me. I’ll sit with a good book eating posh dumplings by the river, and get another glass of red at the end of the meal. And with all this I reckon three days in Prague didn’t set me back more than £300 all in back then, and that involved buying two bottles of wormwood absinthe and checking a bag both ways to smuggle them home. I need to go back, as the absinthe is long gone now – replaced by memories and poems. I had a rule – no more than two in a sitting. Two is peak wormwood. You hit the flow. Any more and the writing is replaced by a haze that stops thought. But I forget – I’m sober these days… Perhaps in a year or so…

My jaunt back then also involved going to The Mucha Museum and buying 4 prints. I must have just finished a job to be so profligate. It was winter, as I recall. I bought four art deco ladies. The times of the day. Colorful and decorative. And a very impractical shape. I got them home, failed to find any clip frames the right size, drank the absinthe, wrote bad poems and forgot about the prints.

Occasionally I’d find them when moving things around and think “oh, I should get them framed”. Then I’d forget about them again. Framing is another of these luxurious things that costs too much for what it is. I didn’t have the headspace. So the seasons shifted round.

About a month ago, with no alcohol and no work to kill the thinking moments, I resolved to get them up at long last, these attractive symbols of my independence. The internet is better now for finding weird frames even as it’s worse for cheap last minute flights. I researched a clip frame the right size for all 4 of them together. I put it on my credit card. It arrived last week. Today I finally put the pictures into the frame. They fit perfectly, which is a relief as even the clip frame was over the odds in price. I swear I’m going to teach myself framing and get the kit to do it once there’s room in my home and in my mind.

When I finally do put them up – (I haven’t yet) – they’ll remind me of that effortless freedom of movement we used to have, of which we are not even at liberty to enjoy the death throes because of Covid. Because it’s just a month away, this looming catastrophe of ambition. This attempt to make us the UAE of Northern Europe, that so far is just making us the pariah. This conflicting mess, buoyed up by the shouting of unhappy people who have bought the lie that their unhappiness is because of foreigners. And now we’re all going to be stuck here and we’ll find out where you shift the blame next. Artists, most likely. Bloody entitled liberal artist types who go to stupid places like Prague just for a cultural change of scene.

Prague is definitely unusual. Quirky. Stoic, dour, grey but edgy and with deep hidden colour. The second languages tend to be Polish and German. Like the French they pretend to speak less English than they do, but unlike the French they don’t understand French. My shopping German was more helpful than my decent French, and my sign language more helpful than my English, but I expected that – it was not my first time in Prague. I muddled by. I went to puppet theatre and sat for ages by a long grey flat unfamiliar Vitava. I ate dumplings with gravy and meat, or cabbage with dumplings and meat gravy, or meat gravy dumplings with cabbage. And I don’t think I really spoke to anyone but for directions or practicality. I remember my hackles rising at a few familiar accents, and I recall avoiding large groups of people about my age who sounded a bit like me. I walked a lot. I thought a lot. I was in Prague and that was enough to keep me happy for three days.

There is so much world. I want to spin the globe and stick a finger in again. I used to carry my passport with me in my inside pocket, just in case I decided to go to the airport instead of home. I stopped doing that when I just kept going home and my passport got dog-eared. I think it was more about the romance than the intention. But man I have the intention now it’s not possible. Oh the world. The big big world.

Back into the stuffnexus

Back to the storage today. Still trying to get it empty. Hard work but will be worth every minute. My home is gradually filling with junk. Some will stay. Some will go to charity. Some will go for cash. Some will just go in the bin.

There are companies that help you pack up the things from your deceased relatives. They can store them for you as well. There’s one in Jersey like that. It’s a terrible scam. We found a huge cardboard box today, packed to the gills with paper, containing nothing but a lampshade and a shit one too. But the bigger they pack it, the more space it takes up in their unit, the more money they get to store it until everybody dies including you, so your nephew has it shipped over from Jersey and stuck into another unit and then during a pandemic he gradually deals with it decades after the deaths that put it in there in the first place. Thousands and thousands of pounds on nothing but forgetting. It’s all coming out by the end of next month one way or t’other. Thank Christ for that.

Meanwhile I’ve got a union jack pennant hanging on the back of my bedroom door. To my right there’s an old mirror and a cummerbund and a 1970’s Bang and Olufsen transistor radio. I just took the batteries out. Not as leaky as you’d imagine. There’s a box of books and a breadbin, four pairs of glasses and a little oil painting of London. A great big plastic tray for eating in bed, with Saxton’s map of Dorchester on it for some reason. There’s a brass disk that can tell you what day your birthday will fall on as far ahead as 2081. Cotton hankies. Driving gloves. A photo of some yachts. A portrait of a lady.

The internet can be incredible sometimes. I took a photo of the portrait and posted it on Identify my Vintage and Antique Items, which can be a scrum but frequently yields fruit. Within five minutes I knew it was Sarah Leighton painted by Arrigoni, and I even had a link to some preliminary sketches posted by her daughter on a message board. It can’t be original then… Grandpa clearly either knew her, or was a fan. It’s likely worthless, so I’m going to stick it up on my wall as it’s striking and why not have a few pictures of beautiful women on the wall. I never did that at school. Plus having it on the wall means IT’S OUT OF THE WAY! Hooray!

It’s kind of good that I’ve got time for this. I’d love to turn up a lost Picasso but I’m more likely to turn up a pickaxe. But I have to keep turning up, and turning out the locker. Max and I are getting through it. But still, after all these years – still it’s not easy to let go of these things. It’s archaeology. I’m learning about my grandparents through their books and their correspondence and their treasured items. Even the pincushions have history in the family – this could’ve been made by my great grandfather for my great great grandmother during WW1. Or it could’ve been bought in an antique shop. And I’ll never know.

Storage is an expensive means of deferring decisions about such things. The smaller things are easier to keep, but the huge tables? Wardrobes? Beds? Why were they even kept for so long? Deconstructed wicker headboarded beds, maybe worth a bob or two but not worth keeping unused for decades. My bed has no tall head but if it did it would block the window. It’s sadly time to see them off somehow. But in a way that’s not even sad. Bits of their story is coming back into ours. Grandpa’s crush is going up on my wall. Grandma’s owls are all looking at me from my bedroom shelves as I write. Some things will integrate with my things. Others will go back into the stuffpool for another human to hold onto for a bit. Until they die and off we go again.

Comfort and rage

Had anybody else noticed how much ANGER there is at the moment? We need to monitor carefully.

One of my Facebook groups regularly explodes anyway. It’s a barometer for the general feeling. It’s 25,000 volatile people who work the festival circuit and are self employed and motivated. It’s always a minefield and I’ll only ever post there as a last resort. I found a six foot five inch tall serving policeman who was willing to stand in front of Big Ben in a Victorian uniform for a couple of hundred quid one Saturday and get filmed. So it definitely can do what it’s supposed to do, the group. I’ve picked up some driving jobs from it too but they go quickly. It has, once again, devolved into shit-slinging. This happens three times a year on average but it’s bigger than usual. It’s taken over my Facebook completely. My timeline is suddenly entirely filled with people shouting at each other because a woman posted an ill advised job offer. They’re shouting at her, at each other, at themselves and at the guy who set it up. Meanwhile on Twitter the first thing I hit upon when logging in is a video of some idiot shouting at other idiots about how they shouldn’t be driving like that while driving atrociously himself. I think Facebook and Twitter are probably over anyway. But I still check from time to time and this time I regret it. More bad energy flying out of my phone and into my face.

I’m stuck in my flat and all the virtual windows I’m looking through are full of werewolves. It’s like in this lockdown suddenly the COVID has mutated into RAGE from 28 Days Later. It’s not even full moon until the 30th.

I get it. We’ve lost a year but we are still paying. It feels like we’ve achieved nothing for killing everything we enjoyed before. All the momentum has been pulled. People are getting angry, while the idiot in chief protects that nasty Home Secretary and loses another tatter of the pretence of integrity, and proves again that the machine of governance in this country, as in America, is small-minded, nasty, petty and childish. We aren’t led by donkeys. Donkeys are useful. But we aren’t lions either anymore. We want it all too easy. We’re behaving like goats. We are standing and shouting and mostly not even knowing why we’re shouting.

Never have I ever felt the lack of a planet B more tenderly. I’d get out of the country if I could but it’s everywhere. I just wish I was in New Zealand like Mel, although then there’d be nobody to look after Hex and he’s cute for a snake with his little snuffy nose and his soft scaly skin and this is what it’s come to! I get my comfort from a fecking snake. A SNAKE!

At least I’m getting comfort. I just had a good long talk with Lou which helped more than the cuddly snake. We need to get comfort and to pass it on to all the fragile frightened people in this darkening world that is new and less easy than the one we had last November. Stop getting shouty and weird people. It doesn’t help. Stop recycling bad energy. Pretty much any badness we get thrown at us right now is a badness that is borne out of pain. We are all feeling it. Everything is different in less than a year.

I remember sitting next to the guys streaming with cold on the tube, and just keeping my breathing shallow. “I’ll be alright and if I get it then it’ll just strengthen my immune system”. I remember when those families came on wearing “those masks they wear on public transport” – “it’s to protect us from them! How cute.”

A year ago today we were dressing the set for Carol.

I was about to sweat, dance and shout joyfully in a room full of people eating, every night for a month in a Victorian nightie, even if I was sick. To hell with it. It’s hard to even say “it’ll all be fine in the long run”. What makes me happy? Connection. Travel. Acting. Warmth. Good food. One out of five is something I guess. Although the last few days I haven’t even been motivated to make good food for myself, and I’m long out of the frame for being able to afford takeaways…

Humbug.

History of histories

Until today, I had no idea my grandmother collected pincushions. It makes a strange kind of sense. She WAS a pincushion. She would always set off all the X-Rays in the airport, having one leg that was essentially made out of metal. Occasionally people would try and get her to sit in a wheelchair and she would fight them with every fibre of her being, call them every name under the sun, and then ask for their assistance so she could walk off in a proud huff with them bemusedly holding her arm and receiving precise instructions as to how to hold the arm.

Max and I went deeper into the storage than ever before. We have to have it completely empty in a month so we are digging. What’s trash, what’s treasure?

We started to find intimacies. A portrait of grandma, with the dress she was wearing packaged in with it and a hilarious account of her opinion of it on the underside. A picture of grandma, looking striking in the wrens. All of grandpa’s diaries and telegrams and his wartime correspondence carefully kept. His medals. His mentions in dispatches. Maybe somewhere we’ll turn up his war diaries – we hope to. He kept a careful journal and it’s likely to be publishable as he had a hell of a war. I’m not sure how much was preserved considering he went down with two battleships. But I think he was careful to keep the main text onshore whenever he could so there’ll be material there I’m sure.

It’s a family trait, the life writing thing. I guess it carries through to me in this form. I haven’t really thought of it so clearly until I wrote that sentence. To an extent this blog is me playing out my family karma. My great great (great?) grandfather Emmanuel was Napoleon’s secretary and biographer. We even found an early test edition of his memorial of Saint Helena – all eight editions, blown and warped by time but still intact and with the typewritten sheets bound in to volumes.

Then, long before, Emmanuel’s great great (g g g?) grandfather Bartholomew wrote “A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies” in 1552 and campaigned tirelessly to stop the damage we were doing in “the new world”. He even got a sainthood out of it. Shame we can’t turn up the original manuscript of that bad boy or we could retire to St Helena on the value. Shame that it’s unlikely that my daily scribblings will earn me my own sainthood. I’ll have to work harder. And be a Catholic. We work with the material we’re handed I guess. Should’ve gone into diplomacy like grandad. As it is I’m an actor that blogs.

What do we do with all this stuff, and no house to put it in? If I lived in a big country pile there’d be a wing put aside for it all. But we pay the storage people more than I earnt per month for the first ten years of my professional life just so we don’t have to think about dealing with it. Enough is enough is enough.

We can sell the pin cushions. They’re nice but they need to be loved anyway and neither Max nor I love them. But the diaries? Wouldn’t we be haunted by angry aristocratic ghosts with receding hairlines and sharp chins if we sold them? Grandma thought about it – there’s a letter from Bonham’s in with them – and a figure that she must have turned her nose up at. The account has already been published but there might be some excisions of interest to historians. It’s unlikely to be the first draft. Although it could be. That might explain the condition. Who knows. I imagine they’ll go in a dark shelf and another generation won’t know what to do with them either. Or I might find somebody to have a look at them. In the internet age, interested buyers would be easier to find, and that was the concern raised by Bonham’s in 1996.

More stuff to think about. More stuff that’s been left undone while Max has been looking at insects and I’ve been looking at my navel. Progress feels good though, and things are moving forward inevitably. Always more to do, but that’s what you want really. If there was nothing I’d be bored.

Nous sommes Hex

Hex is shedding his skin. It’s a very involved process. I’ve been checking up on him periodically and he seems to be getting through it okay. The first time I checked he had skin all over his face and it looked like he wouldn’t be able to breathe, but he’s got it off now. It’ll be a while before all of it’s off though, and it’s quite an intimate process so I reckon he won’t want my big face staring down at him through the hole in the world while he does it. I’ve left him to it. Tomorrow I’ll have some cleaning work to do in there.

First of all he soaks himself. Then he empties himself of liquid and has a gargantuan poo. Meanwhile he is generating heat and thrashing around so he steams up his terrarium. Then the long process of shrugging off all the dead skin, catching it on his rock and on his bits of crunched up paper. He flushes himself.

Tomorrow morning he’ll be snoozing, shiny and new and innocent, surrounded by the unbelievable carnage that he’s currently wreaking. He feels newborn when he’s just shed. So silky smooth. Sometimes he leaves the old skin in a perfect pile for me, sometimes it’s inextricably mixed up with his strange secretions. Even his wee looks like eggs. It’s weird looking after a snake.

I’ll find out what he’s left for me tomorrow. It’s a heck of a talent, changing yourself over like that. Tomorrow morning I’ll reward him with a puppet helicopter mouse to eat. It’s currently defrosting on the kitchen counter. He’ll likely be hungry after all the writhing. 3% magic, that mouse.

Maybe we are all Hex right now. Hiding under our rocks, rolling in our filth, scraping off the things we don’t need anymore and waiting for the morning when we can emerge brand spanking new, soft skinned, flushed out, empty clean and ready for all the tasty flying mice that will be shrieking “eat me eat me” as we stir from our torpor.

I’ve managed to organise a few little flying mice of my own for December. I hope you have too. Enough to make sure that I’m not going to the workhouse despite Christmas Carol being cancelled because it’ll almost certainly be illegal.

Right now though I’m still thrashing around in my own filth. Apart from the papers, I’ve got so much glassware to make sense of. I’ve got tons of other weird random objects to sort and move. It’s enough to be getting on with, certainly. But with everything else I’ve got to get on with it’s going to be a marathon to get the place lovely for Christmas.

But this is what I’m determined to do. So I shall, dammit.

Shiny new skins all round please. After the flush. ETA December.

Splishy sploshy

A man came round to service my boiler. I didn’t have to pay him. I pay monthly. Boiler insurance. When the last one blew up it was thousands I couldn’t afford. It’s pretty much the only insurance I pay for and once a year they send over a bemused man with a box.

Last year he was grey haired and sharp. He spent a lot of time telling me how he was the foremost Vaillant boiler service person in my area. “Some idiot’s turned the output down,” he said. “No leave it like that, the boiler’s too big for the flat. If you turn it up it loses pressure.” “I’m the foremost Vaillant etc etc” He turned it up again. For a year now I’ve had to top the pressure up every few days. Because it’s a law of nature that the people who immediately tell you how good they are at stuff are the ones who are shit at that stuff and lots of other stuff too. “Braggates non Capabili sunt et probabilis shitbaggus twat” as Ovid said to the Etruscan legate.

This year I had a stocky little friendly chap. He laughed at the piles of crap. “Your boiler’s too big. Are you losing pressure?” He’s turned it back down. It’ll save me money and it means I can have somebody stay in winter without having to teach them how to add water to a boiler. Makes it easier to Airbnb. Which is still on the cards. I’m hatching a plan.

I think I want to go back home to The Isle of Man for a bit. Send in work by greenscreen and voice. Write the great British Screenplay by the sea, and maybe a novel or two. Catch fish in the morning. Fly over to do a week at the BBC every month or so. Learn sea shantys. Become internationally celebrated for my mercurial talent on digital media. Sort out the flat which sits there empty as a shrine to my father. Live different for a while before returning to London encrusted in salt with a burr in my tongue and a dream in my heart.

I probably won’t. Lockdown makes a lot of peaceful things seem viable that the previous non-stop hand to mouth “how the hell did he fit it all in” version of me, steeped in coffee and booze and spreading himself atom thin – that he wouldn’t be able to countenance with his London ways.

I’m in the bath. Thoughts like that are more frequent in the bath. It’s harder to type as dropping my phone would be a disaster. But I’ve got it sussed now. It’s nice here. I’m staying. Aquarius starts in just over a month. It’s a time for water, surely. I’m going to see if I can dissolve myself like an Alka Seltzer. I’ll either come out shiny or go down the plug. I just wish I could remember to buy bubble bath some time. Mmmmmmm