Ahh little cat

It was 2017 that Pickle came into my existence and broke a lifelong aversion to having the responsibility to look after a living thing. Hubert the frog, I suppose, and sealing up all the holes in the bathroom so he could leap around and help himself to the crickets in the bath, although I stopped that when the crickets got into the overflow and one of them popped out while I was bathing. He was only ever temporary custody, even though the best live cricket vendor is still a saved seller on my eBay… Mostly though my life had been pet free up until Pickle. A couple of childhood budgies, and dogs that lasted a day or so before being returned. Neither myself nor my parents before me wanted to be pinned down by a living thing to look after. They were pissed off enough about me being so damn expensive.

Pickle proved to be an extremely relaxed and patient companion. She fitted in very well and bonded to me, and I to her. But when Brian moved out it made sense she went to him, and I got back from an American tour to find myself catless. COVID brought me a snake, Hex, now with Flavia, and a temporary Mao – twitchy pissy old pirate Mao. I started to understand how a pet makes a home, even if I made no move towards changing my lifestyle to accommodate one full time. They’re still better for me if they aren’t mine, but I’m very much plugged into little Tessy’s existence in Brighton – she’s the reason I can’t get Lou to come and help me get this flat straight. But … I had a chance to get Brian on the case today. He needed some things moved to his place in Croydon so I took them, carried them up to the flat, and saw Pickle for the first time in ages. Then we drove to mine and hoiked absurdly heavy boxes into Bergman until there was no more room. They’ll go to the lockup tomorrow. There’s more space in the spare room now. Progress.

She knew me alright, little older Pickle. “Where the fuck have you been?” We hung out for a bit. It was emotional. Bless her little face. She probably thought I had got lost somewhere. I’m glad she knows I exist again now, as I’m sure cats do all sorts of mystic work on our behalf. Hopefully she’ll make it not rain tonight, as I could use a good night’s sleep.

No sleep

I have become a slave to the weather forecast.

Just as I was heading off to sleep, it started. I’m told that the ceiling drip that started the day after the scaffolding came down has got nothing to do with the work they just did. But now every time it rains it rains into my bedroom. And last night it was heavy.

It started dropping onto my bed. Just occasionally but I was hyperaware of it just as every single ploink by my ear seeped into my dreams. “Why didn’t you move your bed?” That’s Lou and she’s right but I was too close to sleep and it’s a big heavy thing to move. I just lay there half awake and half asleep for pretty much the whole damn night, with a now damp blanket on top. Mostly it went in the saucepan. Tomorrow I’ll look at ways of catching it in the attic before it gets into my room. Tom is on the sofa so I can’t just pretend it’s not happening. I might move the bed but right now the weather says there’s no rain tonight and I still kinda can’t believe that it comes in every time now, even though it evidently does.

Tired though I am I still made the time to see old family friends in the pub, and a convivial hour or so catching up over a pint, but I’m now ready and willing to fall flat on my face so I’ve run a bath and switched on the electric blanket and if there’s no rain it won’t electrocute me while I’m sleeping. I’m gonna roll the dice, baby.

There’ll be scaffolding up the block again soon. This time surely they’ll get to the bottom of it … With what little money I have left.

Dark evening

Another evening falls at this stark time of year. I look in my diary and it is a blank for a week. Time to move things from the flat. Time to see people. Time to try and catch the morning light. But it’s not easy to motivate when the darkness falls so early. Still, there is much to do.

I went on the roof today in a hopeful attempt to see if I could source this new leak. It is faster now and every time I look at the ceiling I think about how many layers it took to cover the stains the first time. Painting the ceiling is never fun. It’ll have to happen again though.

My blunder onto the roof yielded nothing but speculation as how could it do anything else. Apparently they’ll put scaffolding up again and surely this time I’ll finally have a watertight home. Fingers crossed, I say. I let a neighbour in this evening which at least shows that it’s tidier than it was. Still a way to go before it’s optimal but there are fewer piles of random guff.

He’s a good lad, this neighbour. Lives downstairs in the flat with a balcony. Family is textiles in Lancashire which might explain the Chelsea address but he’s chasing the acting, which is how I’ve come across him. He’s a quickshot with a business card. His name. Actor. His headshot is on it… He gave one to Tom who is on the sofa, and a little bit of me felt icky but then I knew for certain that if he hadn’t given me one however long ago, I wouldn’t have texted him 5 months later and said “Hey it’s your neighbour Al. Fancy that pint?”

Maybe it’s time to set up the shop front a bit better. This blog is haphazard, and I like the haphazard and I doubt that’ll change, but perhaps some more shiny looking content for the humans that like shiny things… perhaps that’s in order. Internet things. Even just updating my spotlight and looking on one of those silly sites for… I dunno paid short films or other things to spice up the gaps… Or… there’s enough to do at home. There’s so much. I want to carry lots of boxes out this weekend. I WILL carry lots of boxes out. All will be well…

An award ceremony with expensive hair

Under the Globe. The underglobe. A little hidden space in the heart of bankside, and one I know well now. The shape of it has changed over the years and the way it is run, but it is a good and functioning entertainment space, and they have all sorts of events and ceremonies there. What with the multiplicity of different types of company existing in this country, spaces like this can be booked out semi-constantly for award ceremonies or company birthday parties or end of year celebrations or whatever.

It was awards today. Two photographers, a DJ, a champagne aerialist and me. Loads of guests.

My job was a bit of energy really. I was neat and tidy, in my natty suit. Master of Ceremonies.

Yesterday after work I stopped at what I thought was a barber shop. No price list. I sat down and didn’t ask. Idiot. Shave and a haircut. Two bits? If only. A very softly spoken Iranian man fussed over my topiary for a while, and I got a glass of mineral water. I sensed it was going to be pricey and was bracing myself for a £40 bill. They charged me eighty nine pounds.

So, with the most expensive haircut in the world, I went and earned my crust under The Globe this evening, working for The Swan. I’ll earn more than the haircut but it’s taken a chunk out. At least I can write it off against tax, absurd though that might sound. But I was inclined to feel expensive as a result. I sprayed myself with aftershave and stood on stage with a dickybow on and introduced all the people. A very simple job, essentially just logistics and a tiny bit of extempore energetic talking. Then exit pursued by an invoice.

I’m glad these events seem to be resurfacing. I’m going to need to make some money this year now. One of my happy income streams looks like it might have dried up so it’s back to the drawing board unless oh good God unless this is the year that the acting really pushes up a gradation and I start to see more than a lucky trickle. Come on Spielberg. I’m just here on the end of the phone. 🙂 nobutseriouslyfolks

It’s pretty in the underglobe.

Oops mister cheatyface?

Apologies for yesterday and my attempted writings. I didn’t really know who I was by then. Apparently two of us burnt through five bottles of red wine and almost hit the spirits before it got too much for us. I don’t think I’ve done anything like that for a long long time, but we had time and I had motive. I was fuming about some stupid annoying dumb ridiculous news.

This evening I’ve been having a wonderful time. I got to properly hang out with my dear brother and some of his work colleagues. Then I went home and had dinner with lovely Tom who is staying with me. And I earned some money.

For pretty much 20 years now, thanks to my old drama school friend Abigail, I’ve been periodically dayjobbing as an invigilator at Imperial College. I can fit it around my schedule. Frequently I’ve even done it when I’ve got an evening show. Usually it’s quite pleasant and contemplative work. You build the room, you set the atmosphere, you bring in the candidates, you troubleshoot, and then… you collate all the stuff and call your own end and hopefully they do well.

“Have you ever caught anyone cheating?” I get asked that a lot and have always said “no”.

Catching cheats is not my focus. I’m trying to make a nice exam. I like that concentrated room. Hell, I’ve learnt tons of lines in exam rooms because my eyes rarely need to be down when I’m learning so I can watch and learn. If someone does something odd I’ll zero in on them. I hadn’t realised how obvious they would make themselves until today though when it’s off the scale odd.

He was five minutes late, so of course he missed the announcements about being sure his phone wasn’t with him. He went to the loo for about fifteen minutes an hour into the exam. I realised he was long gone after he was gone for ten. I went to find the invigilator who had taken him. She was waiting outside looking confused. “I didn’t know how to contact you?” I went into the big shared loo space and called his name, which caused an immediate fit of deliberate coughing to come from his cubicle, followed thereafter by him. He had not coughed at all for an hour and a half but suddenly he was coughing hard and continued for the rest of the exam, bless his commitment. I searched him immediately and of course he had his mobile phone in his pocket. An oversight? It really didn’t want to fuck him over, but he was generating rope to hang himself. I didn’t check the cubicle. Schoolboy error.

Three minutes before the end of the exam he insisted on going back to the loo and the same cubicle and when he was again searched he this time had a folded up piece of paper on him that he didn’t have before… I ended up having to give it all to the exam office, and leave it with Jo.

This is this guy’s expensive degree. I am not in the business of fucking anyone over, and frankly if you can cheat well enough to beat me then well done – that’s how the world works. But for fuck’s sake… If you can’t even do the basics you deserve everything you get. Honestly, over ten minutes in the loo and then you’re in and out of it as a matter of urgency but somehow getting paper from it with stuff written on it and then actually when you’re in the exam office later and you’re writing your version of events for the head of exams you’re not coughing and you’re not sick for a clear half hour after all the demonstrative coughing… Bullshit, mate. He was not alone in it, he was just terrible at lying and blew it for everyone else. I feel bad for him as actually I’m like that too. He was sweaty faced and panicky. He was a decent young man, but clearly hadn’t done the work and had tried to get involved in some stupid undergraduate scheme. I reckon they were using a particular cubicle basically as a dead-drop for questions and answers. In a two hour exam, I’ve never known so many people to take loo breaks. Next time I’ll check the bog brush.

These guys will all be earning loads in a few years. These courses are not easy to get onto, and those who get on them would have to work hard not to be rich. I kinda hope that idiot doesn’t lose his degree because of a stupid idea and a few points on his mark. But… he’s an idiot. It’s an exam. Work to it. If you honestly haven’t and can’t, don’t show up as they’ll pretty much always let you retake it. But … you can try to cheat, and you will probably end up looking stupid. And if I’m invigilating I’ll only feel sad about it. Funny idiot. I was nice and light hearted to him right until he got into the office with Jo but I knew it was going to be bad for him. He must have had a horrible day because of me. I don’t want it to cost him his degree.

Way too tired to be clever

Oh God.

A hard day. A strange day. My ability to make sense of things has been commuted into an attempt to make sense of other people’s jazz.

I’m fine. It’s hard because I’m hearing about things that don’t make sense to me. Mel Smith couldn’t smoke at Winston Churchill etc etc. “My grandfather on my mother’s side never saw a mobile phone.”

In around 1992 Michael Caine said that 50% of all human knowledge was going to be learnt in the next fifty years. Meaning that we are at a torpedo level of understanding. Or something. What the fuck does that mean? Nobody has a fucking clue what that means. I’m writing this while talking to someone who is fucknutted.  “NO!” he says. “We are in the wrong season.” This means nothing.

So there we are, Batman. We could have learnt twice as much as we already will in the next fifty years. Or we could sit in a cafe drinking fernet branca. “You’ve got this wrong and not me.”

“I will show you something that’s wonderful and involves Fernet Branca.”

“Put That in your right ear”

He’s sent me a video but I can’t share it. It’s nonsense. I’m mostly involved in not making Tanya have to sleep next up a pissed human.

Am I making sense? Of course I’m not, and any attempt I am making to make sense is being shattered by the needs of my dear friend for me to be lost. “Look at it, it’s horrible to look at but it’s a bomb. You have a few seconds of going it’s nothing and then it hits your gut and it explodes and you hold onto something and then … you eventually will be okay… Gods willing.

Bums. How do we make them feel safe? etc. zxxx Drunk humans and positioning. meh

Coddling eggs

There are many weird things that have passed through my hands over the years, and at the moment things are on the way out out out. But I have been thoughtful… perhaps too thoughtful. Nothing has passed by me without thought. Huge amounts of scores and music books went down to a Music Hall museum in Brighton, long before I met Lou. Some things went to auction, others I returned to the people I picked up from as being either too personal or too valuable. Piano to Gatsby etc etc… I’m never in the business of screwing people over. I like the right thing to go to the right place.

One of the things that came to me was a pair of really rather lovely Royal Worcester egg coddlers. I could’ve got a tenner on eBay. I kept them. I have never coddled an egg. Never until today. But I kind of knew that maybe I was the right place for these unusual kitchen tools.

When we were hungry and mum had stuff going on, if she didn’t have her Heinz Ravioli she would hardboil a few eggs, then munge them up with a fork and throw in butter and pepper and salt. “There you go boys, ‘oeufs Americaine’ ” I was a fan. Munged up egg is better than three hour poached skate with disintegrating veg. Eggs are an idea of good easy quick food to me.

I have looked suspiciously at these egg coddlers though. I have my ways of cooking eggs, honed over decades. I know there’s a market for coddlers… I almost flogged them a few times but decided to hang on. Today I finally decided to absorb them into my life.

That’s a single egg, in a little individual coddle. I rubbed the inside of it with butter first before cracking the egg into it. I read that on the internet. Might make it easier to clean? I just went with it. Then the egg and a bit of salt and pepper. Professionals might be thinking about things like cheese and ham at this point, but this was a first trip down coddle street for me. I just went a-coddling. I was following advice I found here at Christina’s Cucina, which is a website that has really sorted out all the links and advertisement type stuff, and which provides a step by step, interspersed with multiple adverts, about how to do it all. Christina is not only better at coddling eggs than I am, she is also better at the internet. Although maybe there are… too many adverts? I dunno, perhaps we are used to this by now. I’ve had adverts switched off on this blog for 4 years now as I think they make things feel less sincere. But perhaps I would be wise to take a leaf from Christina’s cookbook.

Reader, I coddled them. I used the small one and the larger one. I made soldiers. The soldiers got stuck in. Seven minutes, said Christina. For seven minutes that little pot was in the bubbling pan. I have a big pot and a small pot. They both were perfect. Please note, I DO NOT KEEP MY EGGS IN THE FRIDGE. Madness.

Christina is very right about these Royal Worcester coddlers. Sure you can do it in a ramekin but these are attractive and dedicated and vintage and sexy and they totally fit my brand. Get some. And no, I’m not selling the spares on eBay and trying to inflate the price.

The best thing about the result is that you have a soft boiled egg but you can happily mush it all up together with the herbs and spices and whatever you add, and you don’t have to be gentle in case you break the shell. I’m gonna be using those things a lot. Thank you Christina and Ben who they came from. Below is my photo journal of the process. Once they were cooked I took fewer photos as the eating was more important to me. But omnomnom. Those soldiers died happy. And no sign of Molly. Next time I’m gonna put two eggs in the larger one and maybe some other things and start to experiment. But for the basics, 7 minutes in boiling water, and more if you are scared of eggs, as many people seem to be. And nom.

Forgotten play reading

The Gatsby party was lovely. Good people in theatre connecting with old friends and celebrating a history of shared pain and passion and fun and lack of funds. There’s much that’s on a shoestring in the immersive world. In the final analysis, nobody goes to work in theatre to get rich. Gatsby worked through so many versions, and it feels like it’s a show that grew up with the makers. Experiencing it sober was an eye opener, and I still stayed up way too late. “You left at just the right time,” I was told the next morning. Still didn’t get to bed until about half four. They would have been going until dawn.

Today I was Sundaying. A little voice in my head was going *something you’re supposed to do* but there was nothing in my diary and I couldn’t bring it up on the brainstem rolodex. So it was electric blanket and book time. I didn’t really intend to move more than the trip to the kitchen to reheat my macaroni cheese. And it was all going so well until about five past five in the evening when I got the text from Charlie. “All good for 7pm?” He knows me, this man. I’m glad of it. My brain is so retentive in some ways, almost photographic in others, but God I can be forgetful about casual engagements. I’m sure there are people who are angry with me for standing them up and I’ve got no idea I did it. 7pm. Tits. He lives in N5 and the tubes are fucked. That’s an hour in Bergman.

Charlie has written a play by mistake. He’s got two kids, he went on holiday, he was researching a big story that caught his interest about a lost painting and he got distracted by a little tale of five men going in search of a woman. It’s a very good piece of writing, witty and well researched. I sat in a room with people who will be going up for the same parts as me in the wider world and we read this gorgeous play to hear it out loud so Charlie could get it out of his system and get back to the thing he wanted to be writing. This is a frequent occurrence. We need to hear our stuff. We ask our friends. I was happy to be asked.

It’s very very good. He’s a very good writer. But my head is shifting. I went to Gatsby with a new friend who is a lot younger than me and queer. I saw the Gatsby story through their eyes and we were talking after about the stories people tell and about representation – about their place in the industry. Gatsby has always been beautifully and delicately cast with an eye to representation but there’s only so much you can do with such a straight story. Still there are flags flying and there’s great kindness seeded throughout that piece. The discussions have been had. Spin the bottle felt dated though and uncomfortable. Although it’s meant to.

I made it into clothes and across town just in time. I was the last. I’m rarely if ever late. It doesn’t do to be late as an actor.

The only woman in the room this evening was reading the stage directions. It was something of a sausage fest. I was happy to be one of the sausages, but there’s that old internal conflict rearing its head again. There are some simple changes I will feed back to the writer that could make it a little easier to produce in the world we live in now, and a bit less sausagey. It doesn’t really answer any of the “Why this play now?” questions, but some pub theatres I can think of have sold out for decades without even considering that question. I like a bit of esoteric academic head driven wordplay. I like a bit of stylised witty banter. You can take the boy out of the all boys public school but …

My frame is wider now. So much wider than it was then. It still doesn’t take everything in by any means. I have huge blind spots that I couldn’t tell you about because they’re blind spots. But I’ve been trying to expand my range of human understanding almost as a matter of professional pride. I don’t know what I’d write if I was as clever as Charlie. But it wouldn’t be that.

Afterwards we all had spaghetti. Five actors who are pretty much the same casting as each other. People were whittling out their Ned Sherrin style carefully honed Theatrical Anecdotes. Even Larry came up in some. Much on Maggie Smith. A deal of appreciation for Rickman and his uncompromising diaries that have just been published. I wonder what this blog would have been like over the years if I hadn’t been aware that people might read it. Sure I try to be open, but there are people who I can’t stand and behaviours I’ve felt I can’t report back publicly. Rickman just wrote it all and then waited until after he died. Good on him.

Last Gatsby

The final Gatsby in London. If you put Gatsby’s Mansion into Google maps it brings up the venue. It has been running for years, starting in The Fleeting Arms pub in York where one December, Jack and I saw the first ever tester show however many years ago. From there to the Vaults, to Colab Factory, to Mold, back to York and constant in London, moving to this new building near Bond Street. The end of an era now and I’m glad I’ll be there to see it off. There’s a grand piano that came from The Player’s Theatre, previously property of Dominic le Foe, now used to bang out “Ain’t We Got Fun”. Every actor brings something different to the show and the next company collate it and develop it further. There are things that I’ve watched grow and grow over time. I’m very fond of this show. I’ve carried props in and out for it, Tristan worked the bar forever, sometimes in early stages I was working character security, on the door or waiting downstairs for a code word in case a coked up audience member started getting too handsy with one of the actors. Most of the furniture has been in the back of a van driven by me at some point or other, including the wonderful piano.

All good things must come to an end, the venue is about to be turned into more luxury flats, and the piano, the bird, the gong and the other bits are off in a shipping container to New York where the show is about to cross pollinate and start a whole new life with slightly less suspicious American accents. Joy.

I’m about to go in and support their final London night. There’ll be booze after, so I’m thinking of driving in for self protection. But i figured I would get half of this written now in case I grow baffled and sloshy. There are some good friends who will be there this evening, and a sense of history. It’s been a long time and a long journey from that scratch show in freezing York. And there’s nothing like a bit of Charleston to brighten up a January evening, despite the warning of the “stay at home” moon.

I went. It was emotional. I pulled myself out of the party sober and drove home. I left my coat with my flat keys in it in the cloakroom. Damn you, party, pulling me back when I least expected it. I’m driving back though. Not dumb enough to get an Uber and end up dancing until 5am.

So many of the old company there though. Friends from over years. Beautiful people. Clever people. Creative people. I’m happy to have caught the last one on British soil for now. Seven years!! It’s a long long time.

Up and down to Nottingham

“Surrender to the hibernation,” comes the text message just as I’m settling down to write. It’s good advice. January should generally be cancelled in this country anyway, and apparently Mars is doing something astrological which means we can legitimately chill out on the ambition for a while and blame it on the stars.

“This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeit of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical pre-dominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforc’d obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whore-master man, to lay
his goatish disposition to the charge of a star!” Good old Will. Typical of his wonderful human voice. He puts this opinion about outsourcing responsibility for our behaviour into the mouth of someone whose subsequent actions make them villainous. Edmund eventually goes back to the bottom of the wheel, but the whole of Lear looks at this outsourcing of divine responsibility, the difference between action and expectation, entitlement and the assumption that we all understand one another. Even Cordelia, who just assumes that the simplicity of her assertion of honest love to a parent will carry the weight of her complex feeling. We can never assume. But yeah, I guess my thought is that we still outsource when we want to justify behaviours – we call it different names but the impulse is ancient. “It’s SADS” “Too much coffee” “Lack of vitamins”. We are flawed and will continue to be so. But we are ALL flawed and really the only ones I’m concerned about are the ones who try and pretend that they aren’t.

I got up and picked up a load of dry cleaned costumes and took them up to Nottingham. Then I dropped them off with lovely Joe. There’s a big old scene workshop there and a little corner of it is reserved for Amelie. “When are you gonna remount that show?” That’s what they ask me every time I go up.

I was at the press night for it at Wimbledon Theatre way back when. At the time it hadn’t gone to the West End or had anything like that run it was going to have. I was friends with one of the actor musicians and have done a lot of the driving for it since it started. I know the set and the props backwards because I had to photograph everything in order to send them to South Korea to reproduce. I believe it’s still touring there. It is genuinely one of the most strikingly beautiful heartful romantic shows that I’ve ever seen. It’s an artist’s show. It’s an artful show. Puppets and songs. Handmade magic. All the stuff is mothballed up in Nottingham, which in terms of storage is much better than the place in Bishop’s Stortford where Rotterdam rotted in the damp. It would be easier to remount and might even be profitable. “When are you gonna remount,” asks Joe from the storage. “You know what mate, I might see if I can get the ball rolling on that. I’m clueless about producing but could maybe roll the dice. I’ll call Chris…”

The original tour was so wonderful. Chris was friend of a friend and he met, fell in love with, married and bred with his co-star, the perfectly cast Audrey. I wonder if they could be tempted back onto the road together with the right venues and childcare terms. There’s certainly life in it, especially now when we need optimistic stories so much. But… It’s always about the bottom line. Can an adaptation of a much loved but niche French independent film from the early noughties still pull in a big audience? Likely not without a ton of money on PR. The sad truth is that it can be a great show but you have to put bums on seats with it too because you are paying your workers no matter what sells. If Audrey Tatou defeats Vladimir Putin in single combat and then goes on to solve world hunger then it’ll run and run. But considering the venues they’ve already played, can a remount command the same and bigger audiences? Successful touring has always needs a familiarity to fill out those huge houses and justify the ticket price. Mamma Mia etc. It’s why they’ll milk your previous credits for all they’re worth. They have to.

I can see why it’s sitting there. It would be a full time job for someone to make sure it was known and sold for like a year even before the first performance. Still… Might be worth it… There’s a wonderful romantic story at the heart of the company. There’s meat for PR. I’m tempted to work out who to talk to and put on my producer hat again, but the scale would be such that I would likely have to be just a catalyst and junior to someone who really knows what the heck they’re doing. Still, sometimes you have to roll the dice.

Drop off… I didn’t need a forklift