After work today I picked up my bike, Ahmed. He’s been having some work done. He’s changed his frame. I wasn’t sure if I would know him to be the same bike when I collected him. When we met he had a rangy slim and tattered frame, weathered by storms, bent out of shape, once proud but now on hard times. Now he’s had some work done. He has emerged significantly different but still recognisably Ahmed. He has a shiny orange frame, and a working rear brake. But the same wheels, pedals, handles… I haven’t spoken to him about the details but I think my bicycle has undergone gender reassignment. I’m not clear yet having just reconnected, but I expect it’ll become apparent what to call Ahmed in the near future. Ahmeda is possible but also, absurdly, Wilhelmina is offering itself as an alternative. Time will tell.
Cycling is therapeutic for me. It gets the blood flowing and helps me deal with things that have sat on my mind. I started my journey across town concerned about someone I spoke to on Sunday who, after secondhand information from someone I didn’t get on well with on tour, has always been actively wary of me. By the time I was halfway home I had already arrived at “Why should I waste energy trying to make everyone like me.” I need to cycle more often. We all do. Cobwebs blown.
Then as I got close to home the phone rang. It’s my manager. They want me for some filming, and they’re happy to be flexible about dates around my needs. It’s a small victory, made a little less sweet by the fact that I have an agent AND a manager and they’ll both take a cut of fuck all because they accidentally routed the casting to my agent. But I’m thrilled that Iona has so quickly made good on her word. When I signed with her I explained that I haven’t had anything through my agent for years. I suggested it might be an operational problem and asked if she might find her way round it. She has started down that road, and thanks to her I’ve seen doors open. As an actor I fight as hard as I can, but it’s unprofessional of me to approach certain people unsolicited. Finally I have what I’ve been looking for. A bulldog who is also a friend. A running mate. It’s been a few years since I had someone willing to make personal submissions, rather than bulk submit and then hope for a snag. I think we might be able to forge forward together.
This is just early doors, and as I said when it came in “this is the sort of thing I was up for when I just left Guildhall”. But I am happy to push a reset button. The crucial time I lost to my mother’s dying and the aftermath of her death, just after Guildhall when my first film was in the can – I’ll never make that back. So I’m glad of anything that pays me to ply my craft and remind people that I still exist. I want the entry level jobs. I’m still optimistic and I’m still hungry. God knows how. But somehow I’m still calm that everything is going to be alright and when I’m old and my body isn’t working so well they’ll be willing to let me sit in a chair in every scene as the bolshy posh grandpa.
I’ve been playing the long game for a long time. It’s why I lose sleep when someone has been slagging me off. My best shot has always been to be calm, fun, friendly and reliable, which is just as well as that’s what I’ve got. But I need someone to do the industry side and the bullshit for me because I hate it – even if I’m getting better at it these days. I’ve known Iona since I was 10 and she held my hand when I was crying. Nobody could piss me off like she can and still be my friend if they weren’t the perfect foil to my slightly loose artistic sensibilities.
I’m trying to change my frame from slightly tragic “everybody loves Al” into “you need Al Barclay”. I think I can do it. Everything’s in place. Apart from the gender thing. But I suspect I’ll have to muddle through as a boy. Ahmed has that bit covered for me. Onwards into the summer. I’m going to get back to Ahmed and see if I can work out his/her intentions a bit more clearly.
As I left the bike shop I saw the remains of old ahmed. I’ll miss him: