Last Sunday evening off

A delightful day of nothing very much at all. Jack and I eventually left the house. The weather momentarily relented, showing us shafts of sun through dark clouds and hard wind. We jumped in the car and drove west to Corbière, that windswept lighthouse on the west coast of the island, banked into dramatic rocks and tides, pointing towards the sunset.

The wind was on the attack, blowing thick spume across the causeway. These huge sharp rocks that push up from the sea bed – the granite that makes up so many of the houses here – you need to go to edges to really see how this little island is just thrust up from the sea – just a huge protruding rock. We have seeded it with buildings while the wind seeded it with life. Strange things find shelter here and grow. Max and I found a dead egret in the rocks here once. If it had lived a bit longer, and a companion had blown here, we would have egrets. As it is we still have lots of strange fauna, lots of unusual flora, dumped here by the wind and the gulf stream.

We had a few hours before the tide shut us off to wander the rocks near Corbière. We crossed to the lighthouse. “The automatic tide siren is broken,” it tells us, and I know how easy it is in Jersey to underestimate the speed of the tide. Not wanting to have to spend the night trying to break into one of the lighthouse sheds as the sea ripped around us, we came back to the landward side of the causeway reasonably quickly. “Actors playing Scrooge and Marley in Jersey Christmas Carol forced to spend a night in the lighthouse,” is not the first coverage I want to see in the Jersey Evening Post. We returned home enervated from the buffeting wind and ready to cook a communal meal.

This is the last evening we will get that isn’t a Monday, until Christmas. Work is about to switch on hard. I’m so glad of it too. It’s what I signed up for, all those years ago when I auditioned for drama school. Hard work doing pretendy things. I slammed a jacket on and recorded a self tape on the return from the lighthouse. Scrooge doesn’t care about grooming so I am looking a little wilder than the part I was reading for. Let’s see where it falls.

This evening we made a roast. Chicken with most of the trimmings. Lots of veg. We lit the woodburner again. And we cosied up together, Jack and I, in the IKEA flat. It’s always been a good working and playing relationship, the two of us. We have another month and we are about to hit the run, when the nature of the day changes.

Tech tomorrow. Then we open on Tuesday. It’s not midnight yet and I’m in bed. Goodnight.

Welcome weekend

Weekend. Hurrah!

Man it’s great to be back at work. This has been a delightful week, but I’m glad I can shut down now for a moment. A remarkably snug quilted dressing gown has been posted to Jersey from The National Theatre costume hire, and I wore it for the first time this morning for the run. Considering that for six years I’ve worn polyester, I’m thrilled to have something nicer. I grew attached to the polyester gown, but it frequently led to worldbreaks – “Tell us about your dressing gown, Ebenezer!” I was very comfortable in it today, but put 80 people full of alcohol into that little room and I might be boiling gently by the middle of Christmas Past. We will see. We ran it earlier than I think we have ever run it. We started at half nine. It’s feeling complete now, and most of the questions are to do with things that will only become apparent with an audience. We had sponge cake and were broken by noon.

I went to the optician for contact lenses. Alain Duchemin, affectionately pronounced “doucheman” by the locals. His practice is directly over the road from where I was born. I figured he was the best option for things I’ll be shoving into my eye. I lost my trust in contact lenses after I had a terrible eye infection for over a year. I’m looking back that way again, as my career is waking up. I’ll need to be able to see without glasses again. Doucheman did plenty of tests, and it seems like my ocular health is holding out reasonably well. Hopefully I’ll get some toric lenses by the middle of the first week of shows. Blind Scrooge is comforting but loses specificity.

Post optician, Jack and I went home to the IKEA flat and we lit the woodburner for the first time. Now we are cocooned together, assisted by crispy duck pancakes and way too many logs, enjoying another Liverpool game which I think will become a fixture of our time living together.

I’m so looking forward to a quiet sleepy day of very little tomorrow. I want to get out a little bit with Jack and show him parts of the island. But the wind is buffeting the windows, the rain is in hard hard squall. Not going anywhere is the order of the evening…

Long fecking week of joy

Tomorrow is the weekend and we have the earliest start yet. This is partly my fault for booking a contact lens appointment at half noon on a Saturday. We have to start the run early. But … I’m running towards the end of my useful string. I’m tired. Happy, but tired.

My accordion was playing up so I had to get Max to post my travel accordion to me. He also posted my passport and my spare glasses. They arrived this morning, and actually it’s a lovely thing to have that little red travel instrument here with me. It’s smaller, quieter and shriller, but much less temperamental. I took it around America. I love it and know it, and can come and noodle on it and not worry that one of the stops will jam. I should have brought it with me really. Props to Max for sending it over so quickly. It’ll take over from the great big old Hohner.

I’ve also got my new passport. Blue again. Meh. SOVRENTEY. And a pair of glasses I’ve been ignoring forever because the prescription is not conducive to my needs. Specsavers. You get what you pay for. “I don’t need to see super long distance if it makes it harder to sight-read. I need to be able to do both.” “Duuuuuuhhh what? I just go down this list.” Still, better than my current specs where the lenses fall out every few hours. I’m wearing them as I write and I can mostly see what I’m writing.

It’s half nine. All the shops in Jersey are shut and we’ve run out of wine. Even though it’s a Friday night, it feels like its coming to time to wind down. This is for the best. The rain is beating down, and despite the inclement weather Jack has been googling for potential late night booze shops in walking distance.

I’m looking forward to Sunday. All I have to do is a self tape, but it’s for a casting director that used to use me back in the day. I haven’t sent anything for them in something like a decade. I’m so happy to reignite that relationship. It felt fruitful back then but was suddenly damaged by miscommunication. It has always felt like a bruise. I’m so thrilled to have the opportunity to send something to them. It’ll have to be in my improvised digs IKEA home studio. This is a still from my tape last night… It’s the only photo I can muster in my current state, which is basically just totally knackered. Onwards to Sunday! I’m having a lovely time. I’m knackered.

Jersey rehearsals ongoing

“Do you open tonight? Merde!”

This from a dear friend who has produced earlier runs of this show, and yes… in the past we have opened on the first Thursday… This time though we have the luxury of a little more time. We can dig into moments more. But now we are also starting to organise seating, and inevitably my brain is going towards sightlines. I’ve got this big impressive looking chair, but if I sit in it I massively lose status as I become invisible to a portion of the audience. It’s not my job as an actor to even think about such things, but Jack and I have a certain degree of creative ownership on this now, and a strong understanding of how easy it is to break the tender moments if one of us is invisible. The bombast can survive the apocalypse. But there’s tenderness in this piece, and I’m worried about some moments in terms of sightlines. Let’s see though. We have more time than we’ve ever had to find this fresh. The audience finishes the company. Every space we have ever done this in has given us unexpected presents and unexpected problems. The show is robust, and I’ve remembered quite how robust the partnership is between Jack and I. We get on. We squabble. We finish each other’s sentences. We know each other very well both on and off stage. I sometimes forget how powerful a partnership it is with us now though. There’s trust there. And we won’t let each other fall in a hole. And we care about making this a good show.

Right now though, this week, building the show again has been so all consuming that it’s hard to write a blog that isn’t just me thinking about work. I am usually just full of the day’s nuance at the end of the day. Today my head is on sightlines, yesterday my head was on dialogue, tomorrow who knows?

We still haven’t had much chance to explore the island. We cut up through the middle every morning, and back down in the evening. We sleep near the udders. We work on its back.

The whole journey takes about 15 minutes and you don’t get much in the way of scenery. We arrive at the inn, we work until it’s dark, and then we go home, maybe via a shop. All the bits we experience are the crowded parts. This island can feel extremely crowded. This island IS extremely crowded. I was fortunate to live with a big garden when I was here. Space is at a premium. I had no idea how lucky I was. But I’m looking forward to being able to finally show Jack why I love this place enough to be considering moving back. It’s not ALL about rich people and stone walls. And this year has really helped me see that. First the residency, and now the extended Christmas Carol family for this year. I’m looking forward to seeing what the audience is like here. That’ll be the clincher…

It’s gonna be glorious I’m sure. But thank God we don’t open until Tuesday. I am enjoying the chance to really explode some of the moments we haven’t had time to explore in the past.

Another tired post rehearsal blog

Jack’s a Liverpool fan. To a lesser extent I suppose I am as well, with The Isle of Man making them my nearest geographical connection back in the Hillsborough days. This evening, after rehearsal, we knew that we would be settling in to watch a Merseyside Derby. Liverpool vs Everton.

First of all we diverted to St Helier. Jack was after vape juice. I figured the best place to seek it was the mean streets of St Helier. It’s a jungle out there. We even saw a drunk person talking slightly louder than normal.

We tried multiple shops and Jack seems happy having found some sort of watermelon vapor bubblegum horror. He’s hoovering it down now as we watch the closing minutes of a match that is now unassailable. We are here again in chateau IKEA, doing lad things.

But… I like this Liverpool team. Mo Salah is working wonders for disarming incomprehension driven hatred of Muslims in Liverpool. He plays incredible football and frequently takes a moment to thank Allah after a goal. Also these rich boys seem to like each other and they play well together. Yes of course they’re overpaid, but it’s always good to see people playing well together for a job.

The football is over. And we are busting out the script in our evening. Workaholics… We are looking at things we need to rethink in the very different context of this venue and this team. Fifteen years of working together, we’ve had. Fifteen strange and lovely years. Outside of our foray into St Helier this evening we haven’t had time to see the island yet. Normally by now I’d have gone to my old standards – I’d have walked a few beaches, in the South and in the West. I’d have stood above Corbière, and I’ve have clambered on the rocks around Green Island.

None of that yet. We’ve been busy. We’ve been making a lovely thing. The first of these Instagram things is up now. More to follow…

I’m exhausted. It’s good to be back at work. I’d forgotten how 3D this business of making theatre is, and how consuming it can be. We have to get up at a reasonable time tomorrow, and it’s already gone midnight. I’ve got two self tapes to submit by the end of the weekend. But I’m happy. Just thrilled to be back at the craft.

Third day evening chill

How lovely to have a long day in rehearsal. We are all aware of the gradual march of potential Covid restrictions, but we are moving in the honest hope that we’ll be able to do this show wholeheartedly. We have to, otherwise we would go mad.

We are only two days into rehearsal and it really feels like we are finding nuance and making shifts in material that we might feel like we’ve mined quite deeply. The team changes every year. This year as every year it feels positive, fun and geeky. It’s hard not to have fun making this show. We are here to thaw frozen hearts.

Anyone that knows how long it takes me to pick up right hand accordion business will know that I’m aarghing about the fact that I’ve taken on some more of it. It all makes me better at this, my chosen instrument. That’s why I take it on. I like to put myself under pressure and I need the pressure to improve. I play that instrument by ear and feel alone, but I’m getting better and better with it. I’ve even started thinking about fingering, and remembering those gentle childhood piano lessons where I learnt the rudiments. The obedience of the boy practicing his scales is not familiar to the carnage-master rolling through his accordion these days, but I’m glad that distant boy did that distant work. Mother! Father! Your piano lesson money wasn’t completely wasted! I think I just needed a folk musician for a teacher, and not the series of mathematicians I encountered.

This evening after rehearsal we filmed a bunch of Instagram stories that Jack and I wrote for gradual marketing release over the first twelve days of December. Who knows how they went, we turned them out at a decent lick and for me it was mostly about remembering. I hope they prove fun and useful. I expect if they don’t get enough plays we won’t get all twelve through the edit so considering this is my first long foray into this digital video marketing malarkey, I’m likely gonna share the heck out of the links to it once I have them. There are only about twelve people left in Jersey who haven’t booked for the show, but we wanna make sure we’re playing full houses so we need that dozen to book.

Meanwhile I’m gonna get back to Jack and to mindless wind down big American men breaking one another’s teeth over a ball. Because why not?

Late start tomorrow to balance the late finish. Jack and I are taking the opportunity to wind down together here in the IKEA flat, knowing we get a lie-in. We had mussels. There was wine. There still is wine.

Neither of us have seen anything of Jersey yet, but there’ll be time for that. For now we are inexplicably watching the NFL while, outside, a storm is raging. Jersey knows how to do weather. Everybody on this island this evening is gonna be huddled like we are, in our granite houses, as this vicious maritime wind roars into the windows.

Ikea flat

This little flat we are staying in is great, but it’s also pretty odd. It’s essentially a basement flat, stripped back and filled with white and cream. There’s a canvas print of a VW Campervan on the wall in the kitchen but it doesn’t feel sincere. Not much else in the way of art. Everything is new, and everything is IKEA. This is of note because there isn’t an IKEA on the island. Somebody has shipped this stuff over to put in here. It’s like the flat you design after some geezer in the pub tells you “You know how you turn a flat into money?”

We’re here for a month, so it’s working.

The heating sucks all the moisture out of the air. It’s so bad that they’ve put a humidifier into my room. “A dehumidifier?” asks Lou. No. A humidifier. To put a bit of moisture back into the air. Like the one my dad used to have by his bed in Switzerland because it was so high up that you woke up spitting blood from lack of moisture – especially if you’d been snoring. I used to put mugs of water on the radiator there. It’s that or get cold, essentially. I’ve done it again here. There’s two mugs on the radiator and the humidifier is roaring away to my right, although it’ll be off when it’s time to go to sleep. Which is soon now. It’s gone midnight already. I haven’t got a hot bath here so my switch off routine is a bit stunted. And these days are full, if today is anything to go by.

It’s a great space for the show, but once again very different. Intimate but with sightline issues. Crowded but spacious. There’s going to be a lot of joy in that little stone building up at the North coast of this little island. But before we get to that we are having to work hard to de-establish a lot of old habits, and coin the thing fresh for a Jersey audience. Luxury, to have a week of rehearsal for Carol, especially considering that other people are building the set while we get to go home to our IKEA haven and cook nice food.

I made red curry this evening. Start as you mean to continue. Plenty of veg and not too hot. Now I’m just trying to work out how to wind down. Hopefully I’ll be asleep by one. The bed in this faceless room is at least spacious and comfy. Dry air or not I’ll be happy here this Christmastide. Jack even found a little fake Christmas tree in a cupboard. We’ll decorate that later on.

Made it to Jersey

4am. I had to pull myself away from Lou. She was warm and convivial and Lou and I would like to have stayed. But I had a boat to catch.

Driving from Brighton to Portsmouth before 5am made me all to aware of the moment when businesses decide that night has become day. I stopped at three locked petrol stations before somebody let me in to buy a coffee. The night staff can’t let you in to use the Costa machine. Plus the machines are serviced at the beginning of the day. At 5.20 I went to a coffee machine that had just been serviced, on my third attempt stopping at a garage. Fresh milk. I finally got my crack. Adrenaline was doing fine at keeping me awake though as it was still unclear to me if I’d be allowed on the ferry with just a driving licence.

I was second in the queue at the ferry. I was waved to the kiosk having just listened to somebody make about six errors in The Shipping Forecast on Radio 4. Nobody is functioning fully before dawn. I had jacked myself up for fireworks. Somehow I was gonna get on that boat come hell or high water.

“I just need your boarding pass and photo ID,” she said. Not passport. And it was as easy as that. I have her my driving licence. Phew. TNT can go be as useless as it wants. I got on the boat.

I saw the dawn on that boat. I saw the dusk on it. Plain sailing. But the days are just too short.

The ferry had a duty free with some decent prices, but I was immediately put off when I went in. This boat goes to France, but most of the wine they were flogging was from New Zealand. I thought I was gonna get some supplies for Jack and I but there was no way I was paying for the air miles on that booze…

So I went straight to digs. To the little home I am going to be in with JimJack for the next month. We’ve lived together many times, the two of us. Mostly in Nidderdale, in big semi-derelict houses full of bedbugs and empty swimming pools full of frogs. But also in suites across America. In neighbouring tents at festivals. In a brand new student flat in Sheffield. In sterile Airbnb’s outside York. And now in this ground floor flat in St Helier, the town where I was born. Here he is, once again. Here I am once again. And we are going to be making live art once again. With the incredible shorthand we have developed over the long years.

Right now he’s inspecting all the games we’ve been left with. We are here for a month. He wants to make sure we are entertained. We’ve just written some bits together, and then asked each other loads of questions from 1980’s Trivial Pursuit. It’s going to be a busy stupid month. But we can play together just as effectively as we can work together. And we both have a huge bed each.

Christmas. Here we go. A familiar friend. A happy show, and a new view on it. Bring it on. But yeah, I made it.

TNT explosion

It takes an hour to get through to a human being on the TNT Fedex line thing. I know this very well as I did it twice today.

My passport was supposed to arrive on the tenth. I wasn’t home to sign for it so it rebounded to the depot, and they don’t try again. They wait for you to tell them to try again. I assumed they’d just come again and I only started worrying about it about 5 days ago. So 5 days ago I went online and instructed for them to deliver it on the 25th. On the 25th the date just changed to the 27th without any fanfare. That’s today. I’m traveling to Jersey tomorrow.

At half nine this morning I wondered why I hadn’t had a text from TNT so I logged in to the tracking site. Nothing. And the date had changed to the 29th. That’s the day after I arrive in Jersey. For fuck’s sake.

After the first hour on the phone I finally talk to somebody human and he tells me that “maybe” I’ll be able to go to the depot to collect it. No sense of acknowledgment that it might have been an important fuck up for them to constantly give me a date to expect the thing to arrive and then just change it. He was just gonna contact them and email me in a few hours.

A few hours pass. Nothing. So I ring back and get Rebecca. “We’ve sent it back to the home office,” she tells me eventually. I remain measured but explain to her blow by blow how this has affected me and how this could affect me going forward. She agrees that perhaps I might have been notified or something. I have received literally nothing since the initial failed delivery on the tenth.

I ring the home office. “This is the wrong department,” he says after half an hour. “I’ll try to connect you to the right one.” More hold music and the other line is ringing. I put the hold on hold. “Hi it’s Rebecca, I misinformed you earlier. Your passport is going from one depot to another.” “Right. So it’s not in the home office or either of the depots for me to drive to?” “No it’s in a van or in process.” “Right. So there’s no way I can go and get it?” “No. There’s no way.” “My ferry is at 7.30 tomorrow morning. I start work at 9 on Monday.” “I’m sorry. There’s nothing we can do.”

THAT can be the new TNT tagline. “TNT: I’m sorry but there’s nothing we can do.” Put it next to Hermes: “You weren’t home so we fed it to the goat.” We are fucked for delivery options in this country. At least Consignia was a resounding failure and we got The Royal Mail back. On which subject, stop trying to kill the NHS you weasels.

Back on subject, TNT really dropped the ball for me here. I have to get a ferry tomorrow and their lack of communication has directly led to them failing in the one thing they are supposed to do. To deliver my passport. They know it’s a sensitive document. ONE text message on a failed delivery. No other info. No sense of timing and then when I try to rearrange delivery to keep telling me a date and then shifting it. Terrible.

The fact is though, Jersey is in the British Isles. I can’t get over to France from there and go on a booze cruise after the job, but technically I should be able to travel to Jersey without it so long as I have photographic ID. Not that I mentioned this to TNT, but it’s probably why I managed to get through all the phone conversations without threatening homicide.

I’ve got my old cut passport, which arrived back fine because it wasn’t entrusted to those useless TNT fuckwits. I’ve also got my driving licence. It’s all going to be fine. I’ll be up at 4 tomorrow, everything will be fine, I’ll get on the ferry, and then at some point some kid in a motorbike helmet will try to deliver a passport that I expect I won’t be able to get until January now. But I’ll get there. I’ll get on that boat. I will. Get. On. The. Boat.

I’ll let you know. Maybe I’ll have to swim.

Packing everything…

I’m tired and I feel heavy. It’s as much to do with the changing seasons as anything else. The cold is drawing in. It’s just gone 9pm, and the bath is already full. Hopefully I’ll be in bed soon.

Two young men came round this morning with a great big suction thing. Plumbers. They eventually managed to loosen whatever the hell was in my pipes enough that I can run the washing machine again without flooding the flat below me. The first thing they tried to do was upsell me – “do you want us to clean it as well as unblock it?” Fifty quid they wanted for ten minutes and a bit of acid. “I can do that myself.”

I won’t be using them again. They upsell and give quotes without VAT to make them look smaller. They did the job they were paid for though, which at least means that I’m now surrounded by drying clothes and I have a legitimate reason to have the heating on at full blast – to dry the clothes. And at least I won’t come home after Carol to a flat where I can’t use the kitchen sink.

I’ve sort of packed. I still can’t work out where I put my speaker, but my Kindle is packed as are plenty of my devices. I’ve got a bunch of clothes. A basic wash bag. I’ve realised I don’t have any contact lenses which will be annoying as I’ll have to do the show in soft focus. Since I’ll be driving I’ve packed a load of stuff I might not actually need. A reaper cloak. A bust of my head.

A Christmas Jumper. A broken down green silk nightie. Yogi tea bags. Supplements. I’ve even brought some DHEA which I was given and I’ve avoided until now. Maybe there’ll be more things to think about. I’ve given it time and I’m pretty happy that I won’t be craving anything. It’s only a month, and when I’m away from this cornucopia of junk I’ve accumulated, I always forget it immediately and feel a bit less cluttered.

The doctor prescribes a good night’s sleep, and a bit of self care. There’s another potential obstacle in the form of a storm over Normandy. Apparently some of the ferries to France from Jersey have been written off because of the weather. I’m hoping it won’t affect my boat, but I’ll have to keep an eye on it, and be ready to be either flexible or hardy. Stormy seas are no fun at all in a ferry. The crossing takes hours longer, everybody gets seasick, and the Jersey police are waiting at the other end armed with breathalysers so you can’t take the edge off if you’ll be driving. I almost fell foul last time after breaking at the last minute and having a pint with dinner. The reading was just under that time. This time I’m not gonna risk it no matter how bad the weather is.

I’m looking forward to getting stuck in. I just wish I didn’t feel so weird today.

It’s just my crazy brain. Hush now, crazy brain.