The woods are lovely, dark and deep

I woke in the dead of night as the fire was dying. Body full of sleep in the deep deep dark, alone. Strange noises on the wind. This used to be a deer park. I know bucks drag their antlers on the side of trees at night and make a heck of a sound. Maybe that? The trees seemed like they were communicating too. Even the shrew – or rat – in the logs near my head was emboldened by the darkness, shuffling and hoffling indignantly.

We are the firekeepers. With knowledge and care we can guide this primal thing to bring us light, to bring warmth, to transform one thing into another. If I’m to share this wood I need to do my job. Plus it was cold.

I banked up the fire but I wanted it to take quickly as I was still clinging onto sleep. Into the tent to get some cardboard from a packet. Then back out and was it a dream or did a little voice somewhere in the dark say “It’s coming back out!”?

Sleep until morning and blearily wake to find that a horsefly has come to my warmth. Buddhism or no Buddhism it wanted to eat me and I’ve already got some nasty welts from them or Lyme’s disease. Morning Al is going to kill this horsefly. They slow down as they seek a landing pad, so I hold myself still, standing arms and legs apart, coiled like a spring, watching it choose a spot. It will land on me, test for penetration, and move if it’s on clothing. I’ll have about a second to strike while it tests. A decisive whack, from directly above, and no more horsefly.

I’m not much good in the morning.

It lands on my balls.

Reader, the horsefly is dead. I struck fast and hard, unthinking as the spring I had coiled released. As I fell to the ground next to it, howling with something that was pain and something that was baffled laughter, I took comfort in the fact that right there – that’s the Buddhism in action. Kill a horsefly, punch yourself in the bollocks. Done and done.

Once the pain subsided, that fundamental pain, we went for a walk. Country lanes and coppices eventually give way to roads and then to Budgens, where you go for your plastic straws and microwave meals if you live out here by nature. I probably should have bought a plaster for the suppurating bite on my hand, but it’s on my right hand. I’ll only knock it off or set fire to it. For now I’ll just have to let the air work and pour Florida Water on it, which hurts like hell but probably stops infection since it’s basically just smelly alcohol. And understood pain can be medicinal, so long as our understanding is that it’s a warning signal for something minor.

Time is strange out here. I’ve been hunting mushrooms and gathering wood ahead of another night doing my job. Jethro will arrive at some point this evening though, and join the circle. One more night in the woods.

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The woods! The woods!

About two years ago, at this time of year, I fell out of a tree. I was lucky. Just a broken rib. I lay there for a moment wondering if this was it and wryly observing that my last strong sensation would likely be annoyance at the guy who kept on asking if I was ok when I was unable to speak.

Then the film didn’t go over my eyes and my breath struggled back.

Then I wiggled my toes and never has such a simple action elicited such a huge experience. I AM NOT PARALYSED. Then I got cocky and got someone to jam their elbow into my back “It’s nothing broken, trust me. It’s muscular. If you get in really really hard and deep it’ll help.” Oops.

Then I had a hot bath and accidentally flooded the bathroom.

Then I did Macbeth twice and decided maybe it was a broken rib after all, especially when Macbeth gave Banquo a hearty slap on the back and Banquo involuntarily screamed. Loudly. “Ooh how clever,” they thought. H”was injured in the fight against the merciless Macdonwald.”

Buy that was two years ago!

I haven’t been up a tree since until just now.

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Glad to have finally broken the back of it (no pun intended). It’s like falling off a horse, I guess. An unmoving, tall wooden horse that’s shaped differently.

I also did a yoga headstand for the first time since ribday and got in and came out fairly tidily – which means that under all the beer there still might be the remains of stomach muscles. Who knew?

Now I’m sitting in the evening sun. Glory.

I was shocked awake in my bivvy by drops of rain on my face. Apart from bouts of snooze I’ve been awake mostly and just existing here since then.

The woods! The woods!

It’s just Helen and I now. She’s camping at the opposite end of the acreage, in the pines. I can sleep wherever the hell I want with my bivouac though. Even though Jack is gone there’s no way in hell I’m sleeping under canvas, although it makes sense to be near canvas in case it rains.

All the cars are gone, most recently Anna Helena and Cherry who were unexpectedly here as well. A mother with her 3 year old, making memories just before her 4th birthday. What a magical thing to be doing for her. Cherry is now convinced my name is Owl, which makes sense as we met in the woods.

It hasn’t taken me long to go pretty feral. For me though I’m doing well. Just one burn, and I had brought ice for the food so I spent all night clutching something cold and it already doesn’t hurt – (not that feral then). Numerous gouges and scratches. Filth on every exposed surface, be it charcoal or grot. Horsefly took a chunk out of my neck. I’m terribly happy.

I love the fact we can’t get out except by walking until Jethro comes with his car. I’m thinking of things we can make here, in the way I couldn’t be me if I wasn’t.

A bird directly above me is insistently repeating the word “dick” at me, but if that’s the only darkness then I’ll take it. Now there are two of them both doing it. This is how they got the idea for Twitter.


Time passes. I’m by the fire again, under the stars. Wind in the trees. The settling woodland around me. Not even midnight yet but I’m knackered.

First night in the woods

Right now I’m lying by a fire. Above me through a gap in the trees, the stars are bright. I’ve burnt some past, and built foundations for some future.

I’m somewhere in Kent, with two friends, ringing the changes. Apart from a sheep that seems to be going completely mental about something there’s no sound but the roar of the fire. I’ll be sleeping by that fire tonight, in my army surplus bivouac. Mosquitoes aren’t really a problem here tonight – there’s not much standing water nearby. It’s a hell of thing, being here though. In the woods. Under the stars.

Jack is with me as I’m writing, the other side of the fire. “I’ll do this later,” I attempt, knowing that I’m growing tired and the eclipse is early tomorrow for ceremonial purposes. “Write your blog. Get it done. I’m happy with that.”

More and more of my friends get it now. This unmonetised constant expression of my thoughts. Thank fuck for that. It’s hard wired. Even out here. And thanks. Without people engaging, as so many of you do unexpectedly through private message knowing how I’m actually pretty private, I’d have stopped ages ago.

But for now, I’m gonna hang out with Jack despite him making room for blogging. I can write this later.


Hello! This is me, later. I think I might have made the right decision with the bivvy by the fire. When I arrived I put my little area a distance from the pit.

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That was misguided. It’s not a tent. It’s a canvas bag that’s a tiny bit more waterproof than a sleeping bag. I bought it from army surplus. Jack is in my emergency tent while my festival tent is at the doctor’s until I have new poles. It makes me understand how many weeks of the summer I habitually try to spend camping. But at Festivals – where my time and expenses are compensated. But where they would never let me build a fire like the one that’s just to my right. And if they did they certainly wouldn’t let me sleep by it like this.

I just wandered barefoot over to Jack’s tent after I realised he had left his music on as he slept. It was playing Don Giovanni, Procession. I really really didn’t want to be listening to  electronic music all night. Sure enough, he was dead to the world. I switched it off.

Now it’s just me and the crackle of the fire, the sound of the wind in the trees and the late late night. A little earlier we also had the drunk kids of Kent singing their way past us on the way home all too close. But now, the leaves, the fire, the air and the gently insistent voice of nature. I’ve never slept next to a fire like this, despite having done it a thousand times in books. There’s a patch of sky above that was clear before but now is clouded. I can hear the unfamiliar cries of animals, the road, the sheep, a small private airplane right now at 3am… But mostly I can trick myself into thinking I’m alone, and it can be about me and the wild. It’s better than anything else I could find so quickly. And it’s perfect.

I’m getting back to nature. I’ll lie here another hour as the fire dies and I’ll feel the world. Then I’ll probably catch a couple of hours nap, and back up early.

I spilt Florida water on my bivvy. If ever there was a way to remind myself of intentions set, it’s that smell as I lie here. Aho. Xx

 

 

 

 

 

Winding back before the woods

I’m back in Chelsea – I had to come back briefly, to get my tent and my bivouac. I’m off to the woods for a long weekend.

Jack has been driving towards building a show in these woods. It’s quite an ambitious project but he’s an ambitious guy. Had everything not ground to a halt, we might have been doing it right now. The plan was always around solstice weekend. So it makes sense to go out and see what’s what. That was the pitch, because it’s hard to get there without a car. Jack has access to a car and I don’t. Perhaps in a normal summertime I’d have just bought another banger for peanuts on gumtree with MOT until November and doomed to die in late August. But there’s no festival season, I wouldn’t get enough use to justify the punishing cost of the insurance. I’m in a high risk category. Probably shouldn’t have said “actor” back in the day. It’s on all the systems now. And with some of the bangers I’ve had over the years – perhaps they’ve got a point.

But Jack is up for going to the woods, another great friend is coming too, and Jethro’s uncle bought some woodland out in Kent back in the day. This promises to be a good weekend in nature, away from the normal swing of things, able to recalibrate and think clearly. Good for me to escape the city, especially in these days.

I have no idea what the internet situation will be. I’ll work that out when I’m there, but if I go dark for a short while then I’ll be back on Tuesday so don’t assume I’ve fallen in a hole. I’m hoping I’ll be able to post, but I’m not expecting to get much use out of my phone apart from that.

Lots of my friends have been making things. I saw some dear hearts this evening messing with tech to tell stories together alone. They made a greenscreen show in isolation live, and made it look like they were all in the same room. Fascinating silly use of technical wizardry running alongside live theatre skills.

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And last night I watched three strangers playing a video game for over an hour. I’ve never done that before! It’s a teaser for a conversion of a board game called “The Captain is Dead” that will be launched on Steam before long and it looks brilliant. I’ve played the demo. It’s fiendishly hard and looks and sounds fab. It was also made by my best friend from school. If you’re a gamer, here’s the steam link. It was odd just watching people play a game and talk about it. That’s a thing that people actually do as a primary source of income now which I just find really weird. But I was proud to see the work he has put into this thing beginning to bear fruit.

Others of my friends have been resting, in the true sense of the word. I used to dislike how people would always ask me “Are you ‘resting’?” when I wasn’t working, and make the inverted commas too. But here we are, a world where there’s a whole lot of “resting” going on. And that feels ok. Who knows what dreams may come when we aren’t constantly throwing our energy against service industry day jobs and office temping and construction and events and driving and all the crazy things. Only time will tell…

Astrology, “retrograde” and stuff

I don’t think there’s ever been a time in my life where I’ve been more aware of astrology. This is partly because I’ve had time to fuck around and pick up charts and make sense of it all. And partly because as soon as you look at it you realise there’s some very unusual stuff going on right now compared to normal. There’s always this and that. But this … well, this – it’s a lot more about that than it is to do with this. This is lots of THAT. But what the fuck is THAT?

I’m as lost as you are. I did it on purpose. Ha.

But I promised you some sort of astrology… This is no expertise. This is an understanding, half received, half cobbled together. Nothing more. Don’t set fire to me.

There are five planets now in retrograde. Mercury just joined Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto. (If you count Pluto as a planet. I do. But I learnt the planets before 1986 so I still call Uranus to sound like “Your anus!” instead of “urine us!” which they literally did to try to stop children giggling, the fools.)

Today is day 1 of Mercury joining the retrograde, but it’s not all bad news, he says, and means it.

But hang on a second. Retrograde? What does that even mean? I hear that shit all the time.

Ok. Ok fine. Fuck. Fine. Put your planet head on.

So we are all careening around in space, in the gravitational pull of our small sun.

The way we perceive the planets around us is affected by our orbit in relation to their orbits.

(The moon is a different fish, of course, as that’s trapped by our field – don’t think it it for now).

With the planets (and with Pluto, fuck you) we are all turning circles in our orbit around Sol. We are all mirroring the rotation of the sun too, so in terms of what we’ve made up to make sense of stuff, we are all going anticlockwise – if we were using the sun as North Pole. I’m just dealing with the direction. today. We orbit in a direction. We also spin on an axis. Don’t go crazy thinking about the spin. Focus on the orbit. (Because hooooey there’s some crazyass spinning on the axis going on in our solar system. I’m not covering that for now – Venus and Uranus I’m looking at you.)

I’m on orbit. Annual rotation round the sun. That’s my jam. That’s where we get the whole retrograde thing. That’s what I’m trying to explain when I stop swearing.

Proximity to the sun affects time taken for an orbit around the sun, obviously. We are third from the sun, after Mercury and Venus.

On earth we make it round in 365 days and a bit – (hence leap years). Mercury only takes about 88 days. Venus about 250 – (we are close. Shame it’s made out of acid). Mars gets about two years for every one of ours. Jupiter takes about 12 years for 1 Earth year. Neptune takes over 150 years for one and Pluto staggers round in close to 250. So we are all spinning alongside one another, but sometimes in the spin, based on our comparative orbits, it looks like we are getting further away from each other, then closer, together, apart, together, apart. I’m hoping you can picture it.

This is the beginning of why we’ve probably heard of “Mercury retrograde”. With its close proximity to the sun, Mercury is the planet that goes goes in and out of “retrograde” the most frequently, which is annoying as it’s well named, after the swift-foot messenger – the giant killer – the communicator.  When it pulls away perhaps it pulls our communication skills away, if these ancient names came from ancient wisdom, as I’m happy to believe they did. Perhaps we communicate better when Mercury is running alongside us than when he appears to be pulling away.

Mercury and Venus retrograde are of course the most frequent and short lived, as they are closer to the sun than us. No surprises. Love and communication.

When you get further out then the in and out periods last much much much much longer and it’s very much either in or out. But for today both of the quick planets are retrograde, and so are Jupiter and Saturn and Pluto (and Neptune is trailing off soon as well) so the only planet running alongside us is Mars. The killer. The planet of cutting.

Communication has just got harder with Mercury. Love is going backwards with Venus. Old established systems have been in decline with Jupiter. Responsibilities are long waned with Saturn. But we still have innovation with Uranus. For now we have the huge power of instinct over time – the sea – from Neptune.

And we have Mars, very near, visible in the constellation of Pisces from our viewpoint. The warrior is fishing. Pulling interesting things out of flow. And cutting through a lot of the crap.

But next constellation is Ares. Mars’ll be there in ten days. Mars and Ares are basically the same force, but different aspects. The Ancient Roman will go into the Ancient Greek established power. And he’ll go in supported by creativity and instinct. And just like he has been in Pisces, he’s running with us at the moment and he will try and cut the stuff that isn’t helpful.

This could be a good fight coming, internal or external. But we have to be energetically ready.

A dear friend recently said he was worried one day I’ll just “go full Mad Max”.

If ever there was a time…

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Impossibly tiny frogs

Can you spot the tiny little frog in the photo?

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Many of the people walking around on the Heath today certainly couldn’t. And that photo is the best of many, taken in macro. The frog itself, one of many, is tiny. So tiny. Tiny tiny tiny.

First there was a storm. Huge flash storm. Bing bang wallop. “Hi there, it’s nature, remember me?” Great fat dollops of water like sacks of custard, splatting us. For the humans it meant “HIDE!”

For the tadpoles of Hampstead, the bugle was blown. “Amphibians! Transform! Now is the time to use your LEGS!”

Suddenly, after the storm, hundreds of miniscule frogs were wandering all over the place.

“We have legs and we must use them! No more will there be the oppression of the water. No more must we submit only to the swimminess. We amphibians must rise now and take our rightful place in the middleworld!”

“Great! I’m with you. But … where are we going?”

“We go to where the legs take us. We can go left, we can go right – look, I’m going left! Now I’m going right! With legs!”

“Up and down seems more restricted though, more so than it was in the down world? We were very good at up and down there. And we could do left and right…”

“SILENCE! We can jump, can we not? In which action we achieve both up AND down. And we have a whole new world to explore.”

“Yes, but… I mean the birds? They seem to want to eat us. And … the big clumpy boots … ?”

The paths of Hampstead Heath ran red today with the blood of tiny frogs. Trampled by heedless feet, picked up by magpies, rolled on by bicycles. Evolution in action. And where the hell where they going, with their new legs? Some seemed hellbent on escaping the pond, others hellbent on returning to it. All of them, tiny tiny animals, complete but so impossibly small. Just moving because they could move. Like all of us. Hacking it together with no real clue and hoping it lands well.

“We have legs now, so we must use them!” That’s the evolutionary signal that takes them to their deaths in droves. But some of them live. Some of them are lucky and go on to be big fat happy frogs with their very own pile of leaves.

“How did you survive the spawning?” “Oh I was better than all the ones right next to me who were picked off.” “Are you sure it wasn’t just you desperately and aimlessly banging around thinking of nothing but self preservation and just somehow … lucking out?” “No. I’m a special frog. My survival is down to frog-genetics. I’m a special frog.” “Great, so you must have some advice for the frogs coming after you as to how to survive the spawning?” “Yes! Just … put one webbed foot in front of the other! And if you come anywhere near my little froggy leaf hole then so help me I’ll eat you myself you little bastard. This is MINE! I got here first. Fuck you. Fuck. You. Fuck you.” “Ok, thanks Mister frog. That’s all.” “Fuck … oh sorry. I got carried away. Good, so you’ve got it all. You’ll cut the bit at the end though. And make more of how special I am, ok? Great. Thanks.”

Bless the little critters though, before they get fat and slow. It’s raining again so they won’t dry out. Statistically with low footfall on the Heath today and loads of rain, I reckon they chose a good day to come out in numbers. The ponds of Hampstead will be well stocked and croaky in late summer. And the herpetologist that heard me hungover yarking the other day and thought it was the rare Hampstead Shouting Frog will be so busy and happy finding interesting variants of real frog that the froglike noises I was making will slip from his memory. Unless I’m foolish enough to get drunk like that again.

Topiary

Morning found me leaving the flat armed with a bag containing a mirror and an electric razor. I tried this the other day but was stymied by the shaver telling me it had 40 minutes of charge but actually only having 40 seconds. This time I had charged it all night. I hit the heath meaning business.

The light isn’t great in Mel’s bathroom. Small animals making nests on The Heath will likely be glad of copious amounts of shorn off beard blowing around. I don’t want to have to clean up the carnage from any indoor attempts to trim my beard – It’s made out of razor wire. And over the last few weeks I’ve been slowly transforming into that well loved figure Mister Razorbeard BadgerSanta.

With the summer heat it’s getting unbearable, and knowing as I do that it takes a fortnight of lack of attention for a new one to sprout I thought I’d trim the hedge. Then at least I can eat without having to wash my face afterwards. Here I am, at the beauty salon.

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Tristan made himself a mohawk a few weeks ago. Lots of people have been experimenting with topiary. It’s a good time. I thought I’d follow the grey hair line and give myself mutton chops and a great big handlebar moustache. I thought it might be a look I could sport for a week or two just for fun. Maybe I’d look like some sort of theatrical impresario from the old days when they’d set animals on fire, cage weird looking people and accidentally kill themselves in great big yellow cannons.

I look like I should be wearing shorts and sandals, earnestly selling vegan Blancmange from the back of a tricycle in Shoreditch with my hair in a topknot.

Eventually I’ll end up clean shaven, but what’s the rush? I’m just as employable bearded as unbearded – so long as I know what my agent has pitched me for. In this magical time where nobody really gives a fuck about appearance I can experiment with looks, if for no other reason than that it’s fun to do so. Tomorrow if I get up in time it’ll be cavalry whiskers. But then I have to start buying razor blades again to keep them looking sharp, which is the whole reason I have a beard in the first place. There’s a reason why all the razor blades in supermarkets are in security tags, and the reason is that they’re MASSIVELY OVERPRICED.

Still. Maybe time to start thinking about cosmetic things. At some point in the not too distant future there’ll be acting to do that doesn’t just involve talking into a microphone.  Not just another Tempest, although that’s confirmed now. Lots of lovely stuff, yet to be known, yet to be understood, piling into my life just after solstice. I can smell it.

On which subject, The Hampstead Butcher took back and replaced my rancid rib-eye immediately. I would never normally have brought something back but it went off QUICK. Charlotte advised me to do it, and I’m bloody glad I did. Expensive things, Rib-eyes. And from next week I’m off meat for a bit so I’m having a frantic last hurrah with the lovely things I really care about in the meaty world. Steak and lamb chops. Omnomnom

Chelsea rage, and a tasty sauce for steak

In normal times, in happy times, in times less fraught with division and isolation, I used to frequently go to Maze Grill on a Monday evening. It’s the poor substitute for Foxtrot Oscar. Foxtrot was the old Chelsea place to go and have a burger and an angry conversation about why nowhere in Chelsea but Foxtrot remembers how things were in Chelsea before the Cadogan estate murdered individuality with rental prices. Once upon a time there was colour in Chelsea. Now it’s beige. And Foxtrot went, as everything went, and was replaced by Maze.

The Chelsea Kitchen went. Even the Stock Pot went. It’s a miracle Phat Phuk was still trading before lockdown. Pretty much the whole character of the King’s Road has been dismantled by the greed of the landlords. Even R Soles.

When I was a teenager you could go to the King’s Road for your tie dyed shirts, your flared jeans, skinny trousers in banana yellow, CHELSEA BOOTS! I bought my first CD in the basement music shop in a bright and wonderful clothes store.

Some nasty old bastard decided to hoik the rent enough that nobody but homogeneity uk dot com could set up shop there. “Better an empty shop than personality,” would’ve been the official line, mirroring the humans who set the prices.

The remaining creative people moved to Camden because they had to – and since then the same kind of paunchy flat faced people have been literally trying to burn them out of the markets.

I had some Americans come and visit once : “We wanna see the King’s Road!!” They enthused.

“No you don’t. You want to go to Camden.” I responded.

I took them to both. They saw my point. “What happened to the King’s Road?” They asked. “Greed, my dears. Greed, short termism, stupidity and lack of perspective. But mostly greed.”

The King’s Road in London is dead dead dead and has been for over a decade. It’s just chains and dogshit people. It was “cool” in the sixties and seventies, and so all the rich people who wouldn’t know “cool” if it bit them in the face bought property near there. Meanwhile all the arty people sold it to them for cuntprice: “I got it off this sculptor for a fraarction of what it was warrth.”.

Chelsea turned into a wasted memory in the custody of people with no imagination. Now it’s just slow moving old bastards who can buy you, trustafarians, lucky people with disorganised dead parents who thought they’d live longer (that’s ME!), and people who are paying the absurd rent charged by humourless twots who have bought investment properties because they still think there’s something in the post code that helps augment their expensive surgical decisions.

People still parade up and down the King’s Road, but now it’s plastic faces and humongous arses and gymbodies, and it’s very very clear from the outset that there isn’t a flash of personality left no matter what it says on your steering wheel you vapid motherfucker.

The Chelsea Drugstore is now a Macdonald’s.

I saw the death throes of my famous local High Street, but I was mostly a teenager when the beautiful places closed.

Pizza Express appear to programme The Pheasantry, which still tries to do live music, and they DID put on Katie Birtill just before lockdown which at least shows they’re trying as she’s ace but…

Wilde Ones – the New Age plinky plonky shop – that was still alive last time I looked (against all the odds), but that’s pretty much it. Most of the other fronts have been lobotomised and colonised by lizards.

The character and interest has been replaced by noise and sameness. It’s like Instagram but with less make-up. It’s the same across the world of course, and we’re supposed to just not care and keep spending. But … Character??

Homogeneity. Massive chains price the smaller traders out of the market. The market speaks though. Most of us are buying this crap.

My generation was taught to watch the pennies. We were taught by people who came out of rationing. Cheaper for the same is good, we were taught. “If two places sell the same thing, buy the cheapest”. Which let these monsters take hold. Because the race to the bottom in terms of viable quality was won a decade ago by the people making food and things out of slurry and byproducts. With great big shiny logos. For less than anybody trying to make real stuff can afford.

Spend more if you know it’s independent and come on that’s not even polemic it’s common sense.

Spend twice as much if you can. Three times, knowing that right now if it’s a sole trader it’s probably – hopefully – better quality. Otherwise there’ll be nothing left for us but shitburgers made out of generations of unquenchable psychic agony.

It’s only getting worse. We are so fucking lazy. So lazy. So so so desperately stuck in the familiar. It’s desperate…

So yeah, before I got distracted, normally I might show up at Maze Grill on a Monday. I have a keyring that gives me 50% off food which means it’s still expensive but just about affordable. Maze Monday is my expensive meal night and how the fuck anybody goes any other day of the week isn’t my business, I guess, but they are paying for the quality of the ingredients I think and hope. The meat was once part of an animal, unlike much of what people eat these days.

While they’ve been shut I’ve been working out how to do what they do with Frank’s Hot Sauce to make it perfect for steak. People: BLEND IT WITH BUTTER! Heat it. Stir in butter until melted. Cool it. Steak sauce.

Now I don’t need to go to Maze. Which is just as well as it’s not going to be allowed to open for generations anyway. And it’s designed as some sort of open plan hell anyway when it IS open.

We will never get Foxtrot back. I wish. The very fact it was named after the phonetic alphabet “Fuck Off” stands well for it. I sometimes get that attitude from the staff in the new place if I kick off about the fact they can’t be bothered to do the pepper sauce properly because I’m on 50%. And good. I like a bit of life. Stop topping up my wine, you bastards. You’re deliberately rushing me through the bottle and I’m onto you.

There was a place in Bermondsey called Fuckoffee. I bought a “Fat Wife” there near to lockdown. Good on them for not giving a fuck about insulting people.

That sort of disobedience used to be all over Chelsea, and it just won’t happen here anymore. Now we have reaped what was sewn. Dull and ghastly people and the same old same old.

I’m glad I’m up north London for a bit even if it makes me see that how much my old stomp is dried up.

Steak sauce…

My steak was rancid. I’m literally devastated. Dammit, Hampstead Butcher! I had one of their Barnsley Chops instead, and I’ll be there tomorrow holding my nasty steak. I won’t bring the hot sauce …

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Hungover heath

By the time I had motivated myself out of the house to get potatoes from Marks and Spencers, it was already shut. Bloody Sunday.

Thankfully there was Anna selling “Friendly Falafels” outside the pharmacy, finding ways to keep herself ticking over having lost most of her summer festival trade. I had not met her before, but she practices Nichiren Buddhism. I bought a £7 falafel wrap and we talked about Daisaku Ikeda. Now I’m on the balcony at Mel’s in the evening sun wondering how I managed to lose most of the day and regretting saying “yes” to chili sauce.

I hadn’t really banked on getting drunk like that last night, and maybe my liver was just getting used to being treated slightly better as I took the brickbat to it once more. This morning I woke from fitful dreams to the harsh and pressing waking understanding that the contents of my stomach had absolutely no interest in staying there a moment longer. Quite a start to the day, singing the frogsong like that. Somewhere on the heath an early morning herpetologist would have frozen in place: “The call of the Hampstead Yodelfrog. Sounds like a big one! I thought they were extinct!”

No painkillers in the flat, after I rinsed them in February when my shoulder was trying to kill me. A banana and a paracetamol might have been the key to a more productive day.

As was, the rest of my day was given to a shambling mumbling torpor as I kept myself topped up with water and slid in and out of sleep, occasionally swearing and frequently saying the word “right!” in a decisive voice before doing nothing, and falling asleep again hoping that the headache would go. At one point I allowed myself to take comfort in the fact that it’s Sunday so I’m technically allowed to lounge around hungover all day because that’s what it says in the manual. You can’t even buy potatoes after six on a Sunday. Activity is not encouraged. I didn’t encourage it.

Now after my falafel and a bottle of Purdeys I actually feel like I’m alive again, just in time for evening and bath and sleep. I’ll be clambering back on the wagon again after a messy fall. Building myself up to solstice. And trying to work out how to get to the woods for the weekend.

At least the sun stays late, so despite the closed shops I was able to catch the evening sun and feel it on my skin and experience daytime for a moment. Next thing would be to get the fire up and running. There’s plenty of wood discarded in people’s gardens at the moment following various DIY projects, and plenty more fallen from trees around the heath. With a bit of rearrangement there’s the possibility of a good safe summer evening fire up on the balcony. But not in this state. That’s a job for sober Al. Not shaky hungover Malnutrition Al.

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I still want potatoes. There’s a steak in the fridge…

The summer we might have had

The tube. I remember the tube.

There are adverts on the walls for grooming products. Remember when we all cared what we looked like? There are posters for festivals and art exhibitions. Simpler times. Remember when we all paid money to be in crowds? That’s my whole industry, fucked.

Boomtown, anybody? Book your tickets for the summer shows of Harry Potter by much loved writer JK Rowling. “The story continues on stage.” Not right now it doesn’t. Festival 20 in Upminster says “We are 2020” which is a bit like putting “We are AIDS” on your poster in the ’80s.

Green Man Festival? I could just do with walking about doing tarot and watching something burn in a field in Wales. But nope. Everything is cancelled. But the adverts are still up.

The tube is like a safari trip through the hopes and dreams of early Spring. “Please keep your distance,” says the window. “Do not feed the past.”

People disconsolately edge into the carriages and sit apart from one another. The ones with masks carry huge silent disapproval of the ones without. Opposite me and to the right is a dude necking Jack Daniels from a can and talking to himself under his breath. Opposite me and left is a guy with Pokémon badges and involved tattoos masked like Bane with self-approval oozing out of every pore and he hates the Jack Daniels guy. I just cleared my throat at a station and literally everybody in the carriage flinched. The guy directly to my right has now pulled his cute dog away from me. I might be dangerous. 11 people in this carriage, all of them men, weirdly. I like to think it’s to do with men being generally irresponsible. I suspect it’s actually just observed chance. I’m a big one for observing things and I haven’t been on public transport for my whole entire fucking LIFE.

It’s my stop. Kennington. “Lyift nyumber two shell be the nyixt lyift.”


I tyook the nyixt lyift and despite my mockery I genuinely enjoyed the original terribly posh lift voiceover. I’d much sooner have a bit of history than listen to some voice that is designed to telegraph “now” to me.

And I saw my dear friend. It was worth the journey.

We awkwardly didn’t break rules alongside each other. No hugs. I saw her and her lovely awkward boyfriend and we all hung out and it was lovely until he reads this and hears me saying he’s awkward and then I have to explain that it comes out of love and come on mate you know what I mean. Because basically we all had a lovely evening.

Then I picked my way home and managed to coincide with some other friends who were up on Primrose Hill. By that time my ability to be anything other than totally drunk was compromised as, despite my plans in Hampstead, I had given myself a free weekend pass and allowed myself to get terribly and horribly drunk in the name of midsummer fun.

Not the same as festivals. I’ll miss that part of my summer. Around this time any other year I’d be buying a £300 car…

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