Crypt

86. Sorry, theatre peeps, I’m hacking out some context here. I’ve been thinking about the theatre director Peter Brook. Someone quoted him at The Oliviers: “I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.” His book “The Empty Space” is usually the first book someone reads about theatre. It was second I read after “theatre of cruelty”, back when i should’ve been doing my homework. It was and is an important book, of its time re gender pronouns etc, but with a lot that was new and pioneering. It introduced terms to the mainstream of theatre practice – most noticably the word “Space”. You hear that word all the time. The man himself is still going, in Paris, at 92. He survived 2016.

While my brother was being given Attenborough’s Life on Earth six times every Christmas, I was being given “The Empty Space.” It’s a hugely influential expression of the way in which theatre practice has been moving for some years, since before I was born. After the Restoration, Charles II imported the theatre he was used to from France. The puritans had torn down the old playhouses, where the actors and audience shared an intimacy borne from hundreds of years of travelling carts and mysteries. They were all gone. In their stead he erected huge houses of trickery and stagecraft, frames for the genius of the stage engineer Inigo Jones. These imposing proscenium arches pepper The West End with their balconies and vaulted ceilings. His framed theatre allowed women to be actors. Arguably Charles’ predilection for actresses is part of why he went to such lengths to restore the theatre in the first place. He liked actresses very much, most famously Nell Gwynn – his last words were “Let not poor Nellie starve.” That shows that despite being in charge he understood that artists need food. Unlike the fuckers we’ve got now. Nellie didn’t starve. Syphilis got her first..

The theatre of Charles and Inigo instigated such familiar concepts as the fourth wall. I suspect that by modern standards the acting would feel very mannered – there was a language of gesture, posture and tone that was consciously put into play over time by the casts. With so much naturalism across all disciplines now, it would be unfamiliar and likely jarring to see such practice. It stayed much the same though for a few hundred years.

Brook’s book came once television and film had taken root as the providers of the framed fourth wall. Since they took over as the primary visual storytellers, theatre has been reconnecting with its audience. There’s still a lot to be taken from being a fly on the wall in a room with breathing actors. Ballet is an example of why that will never stop being beautiful and moving. Harry Potter another – stagecraft and stage trickery is wonderful to witness and we can do so much with the technology we have. But there are many ways to tell a story, and deeper exploration of the nature of live experience is one of many ways to keep theatre breathing. In London, where space is at a premium, anywhere can be a stage as long as there’s room for Brook’s “someone” to watch that space.

This morning we were in a Christopher Wren crypt in central London talking about money and rules with a woman called Caroline. The crypt is over 400 years old but it doesn’t feel like it’s going to collapse. It’s expensive but it’s dry. Most underground spaces I’ve worked in have been damp enough to make you think you’ve got tuberculosis after a week. This place is so dry you have to drink plenty of water or ravage your voice. I’d prefer carrying around a bottle of water all day to spending every night coughing my lungs out. And it looks great, and works well. I was there once before some years ago for a week of R&D with Baz Productions that led to their inaugural showing of Macbeth. They are a brilliant motivated bunch of friends and collaborators, and our paths frequently cross. From my experience of watching their finished Macbeth, I know that with a load of candles and whatever else we can afford we can turn this spooky crypt into a Viking Mead Hall.

IMAG0185

One of the things I love to make is theatre that’s about community and bringing people together. In Christmas Carol it was always my chief joy to see strangers swapping numbers after the show. If we make this right, we can have a Viking show where the audience leaves entertained, replete with mead and meat, and comfortably holding hands with someone they’ve only just met.

The Olivier Awards

Ken Branagh stood up and capped tonight with a beautifully judged speech. “Fear and Dreams cannot coexist” – “Kindness is King” – “It’s about your team.” I’m so proud to have been at The Olivier Awards tonight and to have sat there and jumped out of my skin for joy when the home team won for Rotterdam.

dQkYXefy

I love working in theatre. There’s not much money so most people that stay in the sector are in it for the art and for the love. The ceremony tonight was a celebration of that geeky togetherness which has kept me with my nose to the grindstone for years wondering when I am going to get an audition for a theatre that you’ve heard of. I’ve been working with a huge variety of great hearted and skillful people making glorious strange human things that are written on the wind. I’ve picked up some wonderful friends along the way.

Reading between the lines, dear regular reader, you might have noticed I’ve not had the easiest week. It’s been a rollercoaster with beautiful highs and crashing lows. For a moment I thought I might have found a rope ladder that I could use to climb out of the hole I’m in. But the top wasn’t tied to anything. It’s worse when you’ve hoped. I had a couple of instances where I felt like all the ephemeral work I’ve been doing over so many years, because it hasn’t been stamped with big shiny names, and because I’ve always done it for the joy of the work and never shouted it to the rooftops – somehow it felt like I’m still at square one. Like I have to struggle to persuade people who sit in offices and write emails to write some about me. But despite these concerns, I’m winning because my team is winning all around me. I saw a close friend in a feature film screening this morning at The Curzon Soho and he smashed it. Then I sat in The Albert Hall and watched a bunch of close mates, including one of my best friends, as they won a fucking Olivier award. Plus I have met a new person who has been making my life better this week just by existing. Plus I’m making a beautiful play, writing a screenplay, doing a reading on Tuesday, keeping really occupied. I even got sent a long wonderful script just a few days ago with a part that was both written for and based on me, where I was essentially characterised as the Batman of Theatre. As Tim Minchin said tonight – and Patsy Rodenberg throughout Guildhall – “It’s about the work.” I’ve been working on my craft diligently for years. If you build it, they will come. Proof positive, right there in the results of that prize ceremony. Those boys work hard and that award is a huge validation of that work. I’ve been beaming all the way home. The perfect high point end to a weird sad week. A reminder that each day is different – each moment in each day is different. We have to turn up, constantly turn up, and shrug off the bad in search of the good.

Well done to Brian and Louis for bringing Rotterdam from the 503 to the Trafalgar and now to New York. Anyone in New York, book it here – and it WILL sell out. It’s beautiful and timely. I have no stake in it beyond loving the people that produced it. But I’m so stoked. Also well done to Harry Potter, winning all but one of their 10 nominations. I love what that play has done for theatre. By all accounts it’s magical, and since it’s likely to be many people’s first experience of theatre, it might drive audiences for a generation to come.

My first theatre experience as a kid was filled with wonder. I expect I wouldn’t still be chasing this pipe dream if I hadn’t seen the actors packing up the van in a pool of light. I found it both beautiful and compelling to see their fellowship – these people who were no longer characters on stage, banging bits of truss with hammers and humping around flats. Now I know the reality of it I cling to that child’s romance. Perhaps I’ve met some of those guys since then. Perhaps I’ve even been in a pub with one of them. It’s a small world. I’ll keep on trying to stand in the right bit of it until I either find my light or the play ends I can go to the pub.

 

Parks and Sun

In the evening I went to find my best friend in a park. The city has started to explode with the coming of the summer. Daffodils are shooting up everywhere like crack addicts. The people are swarming. You forget how many people there are in this town. Then the sun comes out and everyone simultaneously says “Let’s go to the park.” Thank God for the plague. There’s an example of something really shit ending up as something positive. Hundreds of thousands of gangrenous people coughing up blood and shivering to death. They had to be buried somewhere. They fertilised some great comfortable green spaces that can’t be safely built on. 350 years after the plague we have lots of lovely parks.

IMAG0138_1

We sat in one and listened to a young guy in camouflage murdering The Eagles. Hotel California is one of the best known tunes that can be played on guitar before you’ve got the finger strength to bar properly. I wonder if The Eagles did that on purpose. I wonder how many places in the world that song was being played simultaneously at that moment. I wish you could get statistics on stuff like that. Also what is it with camouflage again? It’s like the nineties. Maybe it’s because we’re all so broke with this atrocious economic mess and all the cool kids are buying from Army Surplus. At least they’ll have fatigues when Trump triggers WWIII – What’s that? He already has? Ahh. Ok. Well maybe in 350 years something lovely will come about as the result of all this shit.

Walking to the South Bank was an obstacle course. Everyone was posing for photographs, skyping their spouse, skateboarding, parading, drunk stumbling, sharpening elbows. This city really is a melting pot of humanity. You see so many people, hear so many flashes of story. Sometimes it’s hard to take it all in – wildly contradicting states of being all crammed right next to each other. When I’ve been away a while it all feels like white noise. Looking around though you can see why they’re all here. It’s gorgeous and it’s ancient.

IMAG0145

Minnie and I associate each other with the sunshine now. I am affected by the seasons. In the winter I am thoughtful and introverted and in the summer I am playful and extroverted. For a long time, one of the first things I’d do on a sunny day was phone her and leave one of my trademark endless directionless rambling answerphone messages. Now we almost automatically think of going for walks in parks when the weather turns to good. I often think I’d be totally screwed without my friends. They tell me when I’m being a dick, and help me unravel all the knots that I am capable of tying myself in with my overactive imagination. I’m getting an early night tonight as tomorrow I’ll be dressing up smartly to support one of them at The Olivier Awards. He’s produced a beautiful and timely play – Rotterdam – which started in Theatre 503, transferred to The West End and is now about to go to New York. It’s a gem of a play. I’m excited to see how the whole thing plays out on the night.

Travesties

You have to be careful when you set your heart on something. But that’s no reason not to aim for it. I had my heart set on a professional situation. I had allowed myself to think into a positive outcome. I even shaved my lovely beard. Turns out it was faerie gold, and vanished with the dawning. Through that setback, I got concrete proof that this year has changed me. Because instead of running patterns of despair, I just got really really fucking angry. I wouldn’t have felt like that if I was still failing to attach value to myself. I was angry that someone else didn’t see value in me. And it made me want to do something about it.

Anger is close to passion. I’m angry because I’m passionate. I’ve been practicing my craft for years and working hard to garner opportunities to learn on the job. I’m opening every door I can, but I’m looking for someone who knows the bouncers so I can finally get through without being jumped on. It didn’t work this time. So be it. Back to bang bang bang on the door. I think it might be cracked. It’s hard to tell through all the blood. But wait – where does this door lead to? Another door. And there’s a line of people trying to bang their own hole. We should team up!

It’s so important to remember to be thankful for where you are. Sometimes I forget. A minor setback is nothing more, even if it feels that way when all you want to do is work. I went to see a friend today in an understudy run. He was playing what must be the hardest part to learn in Stoppard – Carr in Travesties.

HOLLANDER

The play is excellent. It’s a strange verbose piece, as you might expect from Stoppard, full of long diatribes on politics and art and war. It’s about memory and about comparative art and about conflict. It’s dense, but there are random songs breaking it up and plenty of humour. Carr is a huge learn – doubling back on himself in slightly different ways, rehashing scenes with variations, stumbling and fussing constantly. I found the play in the school library as a boy and instantly longed to see how it would work on stage. On the page it’s just word words words. Given life it’s great and much funnier than I expected. The understudies did it with virtually no rehearsal, as understudies have to, and they smashed it. They were on stage with some of the full cast, which shows a great kindness and willingness on their part, and on the part of the theatre staff, who aren’t being paid for it. It was wonderful to be there. Everyone was standing in the stalls at the end, helping make the event memorable for the actors who may only get that one chance to go on. An understudy run is a celebration of all the work that goes unseen. It’s usually a theatre full of friends and family and a few industry, getting a free showing of the play, watching the people who are usually just sitting in the dressing room with their hair done ready in case a light falls on someone.

Afterwards it was a chance to chat to the other people that were there – a bunch of creative geeks just like myself. I managed to stay for more than one soda, which is a development. One old friend was talking of how they’d downsized their house. Another was putting a brave face on having had so few meetings. We’re all in this together. So many actors looking to their next job, and forgetting to notice that the sun is shining and it’s fucking springtime yayyy!

So that’s enough stomping around just because I couldn’t have exactly what I wanted like a spoilt child. I’m still able to be an actor. That’s fucking lucky. I’ve had some great things happen this year and will continue to make luck for myself in the year to come. And if someone asked me to shave my beard and then didn’t follow through in the way I expected, it’s enough that I’m clean shaven now. That’s clearly what the universe wanted. Let’s see what luck clean shaven Al can make.

Right now he’s going to have a bath and a cuddle. Maybe that’s enough for now.

Diets

82. My dad would sometimes go on a diet just to be difficult. One Christmas Day he announced that he wasn’t eating meat anymore when the turkey arrived on the table. I remember it well. Mum said “Do you still eat fish?” and when he said yes she went and put a fish pie in the microwave without missing a beat.

When he got cancer he staved it off for years through diet. He ate nothing, and drank supplements and juices. Carrot and Apple in the mornings and “Green Juice” the rest of the day, which was a foul mash up of all sorts of green veg. He sloughed off weight, but it did seem to prolong his life. In the last few months he went back to eating mutton pies and chicken soup and the cancer went back to eating him.

His bookshelf was filled with well thumbed books along the lines of “Fit for Life.” When we ate meat at the table he’d sometimes make the noises of the animal we were eating. “baa baa I’m a little laaamb where’s my mummy?” No wonder I was a voracious carnivore for so many years. That sort of behaviour is only going to inure you to the reality of being a carnivore.

Now, consciously or unconsciously, I’ve started to emulate dad with his fads. At the moment I’m restricting my food intake massively, partly because I haven’t been paid yet. It’s cheaper if you just eat veg and don’t have coffee or alcohol. And partly because I want to clean my insides up a bit. I want to be generally a bit more careful about what I put into myself. I’m sure it can be done without breaking the bank. It’s difficult though.

Last night I did a table read for a feature film based on The Pardoner’s Tale, which is probably the most nihilistic of The Canterbury Tales. It’s the right month for it. The pilgrimage takes place in April. In the tale three friends kill each other over money. It’s interesting to think how the film would play in this climate. Right now “He’s a businessman, he’ll make the country money” is considered by some to be justification to have let an egomaniac get his tiny hands on the helm of the free world. The script was great – a sort of Yorkshire Shallow Grave. Dark but funny. After the reading, as is usually the case, the actors went to the pub with the director. I hate being in a pub right now. Half my focus is on the bar, running interference on the little voice saying “Just a small glass will be fine.” So I made my excuses after a single soda water and it was only after I exited that I realised I hadn’t taken anyone’s number, which is the usual ritual after a couple of pints. Oh well.

So that’s an issue. I need to remember how to be sober in a pub.

This evening I cooked a cauliflower steak, because it’s called steak but isn’t. Here’s a photo as once again I took no photos today.

FOOOOOOOF

It didn’t taste like steak. It tasted like cauliflower. I was disappointed. I’m not sure I’m cut out for this vegan stuff. A friend of mine wanted help gutting a fish on Facebook and I was immediately on a video call so I could talk her through it. I could gut it by proxy. It’s almost the same! Turns out they’d already gutted it in the shop. She hadn’t unwrapped it yet because she was a little freaked out by its eyes. She sent me pictures of it cooked. I wanted its flesh.

I’ve spent years getting good at cooking meaty things. “I am in so far in blood that to go back were as tedious as go o’er.” But is that flawed thinking?

Maybe it’s alright to let go of that and learn to cook kick ass veggie food. I was talking today about the weight of the past. About how we can drag our history around with us for reasons we don’t fully understand, and gather up piles and piles of sentimental crap that does nothing but suck our present into it. When I was in LA I felt free of all that weight. Now here in this flat I can sense things around me leeching energy with their memories. It’s past time to begin the process that severs me from this flat, so I can run around in the hills and laugh and sing without a ball and chain.

Privacy

I was a little wary of continuing this in London: “Oh shit – don’t put what i said in your blog.” “Don’t write about me doing this please.” We are leery about people who write things, as if they are trying to expose us. I suppose some of them are, but Privacy generally is a huge issue these days because it’s shredded. We all live part of our life in public, and we all have different views as to how much of ourselves we are willing to let others see. Some people show their hearts and say too much online in long tirades that they delete hours later. Some tell you about all the wonderful things they do and how special they are, but the children dying I feel sad for them I do, I me me me. Others say little and put a picture of a dolphin up on their profile, but share political articles and an occasional landscape photo. The dolphin people won’t want to be the subject of the overshare. The “wonderful” person does. The “wonderful” person won’t want to spend the day with the dolphin –  they’ll get no publicity. The overshare won’t want to hang with “wonderful” because it’s emotionally exhausting. It’s like a notional game of scissor paper stone. “Overshare, narcissist, introvert.”

To a large extent I am pushing my own oversharing narcissist boundaries here. I was terrified when I started doing this that my friends would start attacking me for oversharing, or mizzling in corners about narcissism. Those of you who have had big experiences with me since I’ve started writing will know that, although I am trying to be as truthful as I can, I’m not vomiting the entire contents of my heart here. I’m employing discretion, or at least trying to. Sometimes it’s been very difficult, when the whole day has been about an interaction that’s private. I spend ages trying to work out how to express the day without detailing the events at its heart. I will continue to try to be as discreet as I possibly can. Jizzy pants guy is an exception, but I know him, and I sensed he wouldn’t mind. If YOU were to show me the jizzy pants that YOU sell, rest assured I wouldn’t post about it here. Jizzy pants guy messaged to say he loved the blog.

There are plenty of positive side-effects to writing this, but this aspect is a troubling one. I understand how actors are image conscious – perhaps we have to be. But there’s no need to censor yourself or your fun if you run into me. Please. I’m not Nigel Dempster. I’m writing this blog for complicated personal reasons.

First because it’s useful for me to have something I have to do every day.

Second because there is nobody I am accountable to, and doing this forces me to be accountable to myself. If I waste a day I have to write about it: “Day 81 – Spent the whole day in my pants in front of the telly.” I’m not writing that post.

Third because I’m using it to gain confidence and proficiency in this sort of writing.

Fourth because it helps me keep in loose touch with people who I don’t see frequently enough.

It’s not here to promote me or stitch up my friends. If anyone feels I’m blowing my trumpet, grab it and shove it up my arse. If anyone is insulted by me here, then I’m not doing my job properly.

Our sense of privacy is shot to hell. We’re aware that if someone videos us it might go viral. In LA a guy told me a story about how he was sitting in a cafe and a hyperactive idiot with stupid hair bounced in, looked at his baby, took a video of it, posed with it shouting “Cute baby” and ping ponged out. Twenty minutes later he gets a call from Australia. “Were you just in a video with X when he said “Cute Baby?” The video was on the other side of the world on the page of some Instagram dork. I looked him up. He has astronomical numbers of people following him. He pinballs around saying vapid things and naming stuff. “Ice Lolly!” His reach is vast. If we have an argument with him at a bus stop, millions of people will immediately hate us and call us “Shouty Man” or whatever he calls us. So we might worry that we have to be cautious. As soon as there’s a camera in our face we don’t know where it’ll go. I remember instantly monitoring myself when an insane Trump supporter started filming me.

If we hang out and you tell me that every night you dream of shagging goats and wake up aroused, you won’t see a blog post entitled Caprihorn the next morning.

Today I haven’t written about my day at all. Rest assured it was busy. No TV in pants. I wrote this first thing in the morning after I switched around some photos as a friend didn’t want me to put their image in my blog. Which reminds me – I’ll need a photo. I call this piece “Dog in a gong with pants and dead flowers 1 – The Awakening”.DOGINAGONG

Boom Headshots!

Day 80. When I was at Guildhall in the final year, there was a lot of fuss about headshots. I got skinned for £400 cash. I’ve never paid so much before or since. The photo she took captured something though. I had been sat in a graveyard for 40 minutes waiting. It was a popular hook up spot, and there were guys quite visibly and consciously wanking in my eyeline – (not in my eye thank God). I had £350 cash in my pocket. I was wondering what I could get for it by the time she arrived. I was a bit weirded out and I’m pretty transparent so it showed in the shoot. Which fortunately was a useful thing for the first few years of my career – the pre-apocalypse time. It was a marketable, characterful, but expensive photo, and got me a particular sort of work. After the shoot I gave her the arranged £350 and she said “I’ve put it through the books so it’s £400”, and marched me to the cashpoint. I vowed never to spend that much again.

Post-apocalypse I’ve had a load of shots taken – looking for the holy grail. Without much profile it’s hard to get in the room, and if your agent doesn’t fight your corner it comes down to your headshot alone. Someone looks at your photo for a couple of seconds and puts it in yes, no or maybe. You need to be in the yes or you won’t even get in the room. I don’t really like the process. The context is all screwy. You are having to be yourself in a situation that is not familiar to yourself. I’ve got pretty good at it now though. I’ve had loads of shots taken over the millennia. I’ve been to studios in King’s Cross and Soho, a corridor in Brixton, a park in Southwell, a studio and alley in Croydon, a very expensive house somewhere I can’t even remember, a flat in Manchester, a garden in Hampstead, a little flat in Putney.

One time I was given a list of three photographers to go to by my agent. Two of them were people I trusted. I didn’t know the third. I told my agent the other two were friends, and he told me to go to the one that wasn’t. I went with his judgement. The guy doubles as a casting director. “It’ll be good for him to see you.” He had my CV up before I came in and had noticed the same company name comes up 6 times with very varied parts. His instant assumption came out in his first question: “So is Sprite your own company then.” It isn’t, of course. They re-employed me repeatedly. Way to deflate someone at the get-go. His assumption unseated me immediately. His tone continued to be odd right up until towards the end of the shoot when I mentioned a volunteer program that I work for. He actually said “Oh, but they use good actors!?” as if I had surprised him. Then he took a couple of reasonable shots at the close of the session. The rest was a write off. I was unseated and he only started looking at me at the end. But then what do you do? I couldn’t afford more. I had to roll with them until I could. But it’s harder to earn if your photos don’t sell you.

I’ve never gone back to the same place twice. Until now.

My last load of shots were taken by David Drew, and not only was he well priced in the market, having recently moved in from fashion, but he also has a fantastic eye. If you’re on my Facebook, my profile pic with the beard and hat is his, taken while chilling out at the end of the session. Coming from fashion he keeps the chatter throughout the shoot. It’s nice as you can react to the wildly varying pathways he talks you down. And he’s neither jaded like some of the people who have been doing this for years, nor is he making assumptions about relative value in the marketplace. He’s looking at the face you’ve got plastered over the front of your skull and he’s trying to take a good photograph of it.

I had a session with the beard, but I’ve now shaved it off, so I look about 12 and need some more. I immediately rang him. For full disclosure, I ought to mention that David is almost family. I’m his honorary Father in Law. I walked his bride down the aisle and then had to do the Father of the Bride speech, which was a huge panic solved by saying a few happy true things about my friend and then busting out Sonnet 116.

Since he’s family I got it on credit until someone pays me (Come on universe). I’m not recommending him to you out of nepotism, though. His work speaks for itself. This one is his wife and one of my oldest friends. It’s a beautifully captured moment and looks just like her. There’s something enigmatic about the smile…

Gioconda_(copia_del_Museo_del_Prado_restaurada)

Joking aside,  If you mention my name you’ll get a whopping discount. He’s building up a portfolio. Which as far as I’m concerned means it’s a good time to go. And he’s great.

He does pet portraits too. Here’s a lovely one of his dog, Cicero. And below are some examples from his website. I don’t know the subjects.

Cicero

Smiley guy

Big eye lady

Caffeine

Day 79. I drink a vast amount of coffee. I love the stuff. It makes me bounce around all over the place. As soon as I stop for a day or so I feel heavy and slow and weird. I’ve been walking around with a vague sense of foreboding and a splitting headache all day. Not necessarily the best time to be applying myself to a new project. Today we started looking at Jack’s Beowulf script. I think my heaviness killed him as right now he’s asleep on the sofa. Although people frequently come round and end up asleep on the sofa. Maybe it’s something to do with my company… But then why do they keep coming back? Maybe the sofa is just too comfortable…

So my business partner Jack has written a Beowulf script and we’re throwing it around. It’s an ambitious and tough story and Jack has approached it in an ambitious and tough manner. He’s mixing nonsensical monsterspeak with songs and skaldic verse. On the surface the original tale goes “Big tough hero hits a monster then hits another monster, then a monster hits the hero, but he hits the monster too.” I love monsters, but what the hell are they? If monsters are just inevitable bad things that want to harm us, where’s the satisfaction? That’s just mirroring the rhetoric people use to buy our freedom. Monsters are people too. Maybe we can use Stanislavski: “If I were a 600 tentacled kraken with hyperintelligence, and I had been called ugly by little meat things on planks for hundreds of years and then I got hungry, what would I do?” (BTW There is no kraken in Beowulf, I just like a good kraken.) Also what the hell is a hero? Is he just a square jawed thug with a loincloth and a big sword bashing things if they look different from him? Why would we care about him? It’s not the eighties.

Usually I’m full of caffeine while I’m making stuff. 10 minute breaks have me running to the nearest place that sells espresso. It’s useful to know that I can be just as foolish without coffee: “How do we perform a blood eagle using every day household objects?” “Let’s make a scene puppeting Batman and The Flash as Beowulf and Brinna. We can use this beanie dog as a stand in for the giant fish.” This week is likely to be less hectic with random day jobs than last week unless I get some unexpected phone emails, so I can throw stuff around. We’ve ended up using my flat to work in, which saves on transport and makes healthy lunch easier.

I’m off to see Jack in Romeo and Juliet this evening. That’ll be why he’s sleeping – he’s getting his beauty sleep. He just got back from the USA touring with Actors From The London Stage, which is a glorious group of people that make things. I went round with them doing Much Ado a couple of years ago. It’s telling, now I think about it, that in every one of the cities I went to I can tell you where a good place for coffee is located. In fact I think coffee is one of the most frequently used words in this blog. Hmmmm coffee.

Maybe this headache is worth it. I’m clearly addicted.

COFFEE

Out of the Woods

I met a girl a year ago. I’ve seen her twice since then. I asked on Friday if she wanted to come to a hut in the middle of the woods with me for the weekend. We’d met once on purpose since I was back from LA. Go big or go home. Her response was “Say What…!? Woah… !! Ermm…ok…” The proviso, which was smart, was that it should be for one night, not two. Sensible – It’s a three hour drive to where we were staying. You never know. We might have discovered that we couldn’t stand each other. Or I might have been an axe murderer. If I was an axe murderer, keeping this blog would be awkward. Or would it be the perfect cover…?

 

We got on really well, and not just on the journey down, and her head is still attached. After all, we went in her car, so if I’d been an axe murderer I’d have had nobody to drive me home.

The place was a converted horse box in a field by a wood. It’s far enough away to feel isolated and near enough to the bothy that you can have a shower without too much of a walk. The owner of the property had a big marquee in the garden that stank of petrol and you could see that he had a number of projects on the go. There were two boats outside it, and a gigantic army truck parked in the drive way. I asked him about it: “I’m going to turn it into a Campervan,” he told me, and started talking me through his plans. “I want to take it to Glastonbury.” That’s bloody brilliant. He just likes turning things into homes. I wanted to see the inside of his house. I bet it’s full of cool things that have been changed from one thing to another.

The hut he had made us had everything we needed. Cooking facilities and things to cook, radiator, fridge, toaster. And a fire outside and woodburner inside, both of which of course I lit at the first opportunity. At night while we were sleeping the hut was surrounded by deer. The petrolhead told me it was amazing to see from a distance. It must be the warmth of the woodburner inside. I heard them scraping their flanks against the metal as I dozed in the small hours. Last night we slept at the centre of a circle of deer.

We spent the day wandering from patch of heat to patch of heat. We hung out with horses in scrubland, doing yoga and occasionally being harrassed for carrots. One horse in particular started actively trying to eat us. I think he’d been fed too much by visitors and now he thinks of them as food. We later saw the same one chasing a guy ages for an apple. This is the sort of day we had. Chilled. Bucolic. English. And utterly lovely. I’ve made a deep connection with a new person, and I’m off to bed happy and calm, ready for the next week.

TRRRRRRRRR

 

 

Cabin in the woods

This is where I’ll be sleeping tonight.

IMAG0118.jpg

After all the random urban unfamiliarity of last week, how better to relax than random unfamiliarity in the new forest? It’s only a few hours drive from London after all, and there are horses in the roads. There are deer right by the cabin. They come and spy on us when they think we aren’t looking. I’ve already made a fire despite it still being light. I found a two page spread of pictures of Trump and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. It’ll be waiting for us as the cold closes in.

We’re only here for one night. I had a credit from airbnb and had to use it somehow. But reception is really spotty. It feels like it really is the middle of nowhere. Bracken and gorse, birdsong everywhere. The sun is fallen behind the trees and I have no doubt this will be the deepest sleep I’ve slept for months, so far from the road.

I’ve already ticked all the boxes regarding what was going to make this lovely. Fire, food, good company, space, tree climbing. I feel a lot lighter.

It’s important to get back to some approximation of nature when you live in the big city. So many of the plants in London are sootblack and strangled, and you see so many different people in the course of a day that you start to switch off to their individual humanity and just start thinking of them as obstacles in your rush to get to wherever you don’t really need to go.

I’ll be back in town tomorrow evening refreshed and happy, ready for a week of whatever the city throws at me. But for now I’m going to enjoy being here, get off the blog and try to post the damn thing. Here’s a picture of a tree by way of making up for a short blog. See if you can spot the Al.

TREE