Processing yesterday

Today I went to the old Scrooge’s Parlour (Above the Arts) and saw my old mate Johnny read a strong complex literary monologue about Michel de Montaigne. He was a forward thinker in the Renaissance. He was a diarist and willing to expose his guts. Maybe he was the Renaissance equivalent of some prat who blogs daily, airing his spleen in public, exposing the gap between reality and pretend.

His wisdom is unmistakable. “When someone says “I’ve done nothing today,” I say “What? Haven’t you LIVED?” This life is hard, strange and unpredictable, but miraculous. It was lovely watching John work. And someone bankrolled a couple of glasses of wine for me, which were very well received. After Jersey I’m on the wire. Every card I have is maxed. But I’m sanguine that change is gonna come.

My hands hurt. My body hurts. Last night was a trauma – (If you fancy joining the trauma just read yesterday.) But outside of that shitstorm it was lovely to be back in the island. It’s funny how one negative experience can take over memory. There was a lot of joy.

I don’t spend much time with my brother Max. We used to be one single organism. We scavenged through gardens and worked the world out together. We rolled and punched and laughed and loved and attacked one other. We had deep running shorthand. We still do. Codes. Fine tuned understanding. All of that is still there, but life stops us from remembering. Releasing the car from yesterday’s shitstorm is an example of our shared spirit. It genuinely looked impossible. We both embarked on it hopeless. We took strength from each other, tag teamed with each other, and emerged messily victorious through mutual galvanisation and hard painful work in the face of the unknown. I see a similar fellowship in two of his three kids. I certainly see myself most in his youngest. I don’t see those kids often enough though. They’re great. And Sasha, Max’s oldest, is a molecular biologist about to finish his PhD and is just a marvelous human.

I love my bro. He’s done well. Even if life has thrown a lot of shit at both of us over the last couple of decades. shit is relative. We aren’t in Gaza. But for sickeningly privileged white people in London, we have had enough shit to help us towards perspective instead of hardening us into our personal “Osbourne” prism of experience. Now we are sorting through the wreckage of our lucky childhood. It was huge to go back to Jersey. The sun came out – I would say “for us” but it was a coincidence, It wasn’t for us. The weather gives no shits about our petty bullshit. Lucky to have a nice day though. Every other day has been rain, we were told. I’m trying to imagine how we’d have coped with the car last night had it been raining.

In a few hours we did a lot. We dug with our hands into our mother’s grave to put three Daffodil bulbs in. We disturbed worms in the process. “Careful of the worms, they’re kind of family.” Who knows what the verger will make of it.

Then we hit the beach at Green Island. Here’s Max, looking triumphant., where we used to clamber on rocks as kids. We clambered on rocks.


Despite car horror, it was a good day. Lovely to go back home, even for such a short time. The island has definitely shrunk since I was 10…


Year One – Interviews



Digging Cars

“Lovely day in Jersey”, I said. “Old friend of my grandparents”, I said. “Nice walk on the beach”, I said. “Perfect weather”, I said.


People, you were about to get one smug bastard of a blog. You were going to get me being all sentimental about Jersey, the rock where I spent my first decade. Ahhh Jersey. The scent of the sea. The taste of the food. “Happy highways where I went.”

I went through the happy highways in a Dacia. (Don’t worry, I didn’t crash it. It’s something else.) The happy highways in Jersey are very very narrow. It’s a tiny little island. And as the old friend of my grandfather told me “There’s 50,000 more people than when you were here.” Business concluded, grave visited and flowered, and Max and I went to El Tico for “local” crab linguini. Being Max he saw a claw and said “it’s local in that it’s local to South East Asia. It’s a swimming crab.” Tasty though. We used to go to El Tico when it just sold coffee and cake and had a mynah bird out back in a cave that could swear like a sailor. The bird is long gone but they’ve made it great there. We were having so much fun. Oh such joy. But it was dark, and two hours until the flight. “May as well go to the airport early”, I said. “Then I can have a beer.”

Brmmmmmmm brmmmmmmm

“Oh. I think we’ve taken a wrong turn. Look it says ‘Private Road’”

“It’s too narrow to turn. We might as well go down and turn at the end.”

“No it’s a big Private sign – they obviously don’t like it. I’ll just turn here…”

Oh Al. Al Al Al. Oh oh oh Al. You fool. You mad fool. Reverse up the steep verge? Sure. Now turn the wheel. Roll down and … *bump*. A drop. Oh. Oh shit.

Max and I find ourselves looking at a little white Dacia utterly jammed between two steep verges, completely blocking the road, right in the mud front and back. Driving it is impossible. After burning the engine a bit we give it up as a hiding to nothing. We have no movement whatsoever. We need a crane. 1 hour 45 minutes to departure.

Thankfully there’s a breakdown service on the island. He’s still in the office, just. It’s almost 7pm. I describe the situation. He doesn’t have a crane but he knows a man that does. He’ll call me back.

Phone down. Assess the situation. 1 hour 40. The verge at the front is lower than the one at the back. Explore explore. Ok there’s loads of rocks. The front of the car is wedged up against a huge bit of shale embedded in the bank. *Dig dig dig* This job feels impossibly big. We’ve got no tools. Hands. Nails. Dig dig dig. We are digging into the side of a big mud bank with our fingers. I’m shaking with nerves. The car stinks of rubber. 1 hour 20. He hasn’t rung. We’ve made little visible progress. Both of our hands are bleeding. My shoulders hurt. I grab my phone. *Ring ring* “Oh hi – yeah I’ve got Damian’s number. He’s my boss. He’s got a crane.” “Can you text it to me?” “Um… no. Just … just take it down. It’s easy.” “Okay. Fine. I’ll remember it.” “Great. It’s 07855cvjxxxxxcthuluFTAGN0999.” “I think I’ve got it can you just repeat to be sure.” He repeats and then keeps talking. “Mate, you’ll have to give me that number again and then I’ll immediately hang up.” He does. I ring it. “Narrow lane you say? We’ll have nowhere to put the crane supports. I could come and tow you?” “You won’t be able…” “I’ll come anyway. Maybe I can tow you sideways. Where are you? … … Oh I’m the opposite side of the island. It’ll be a while “ 1 hour 10 to departure. Dig dig dig. Dig dig dig. Breaking shale with other rocks. Levering with sticks. Dig dig pant pant pant dig dig dig. 1 hour until flight time. “We’ve dug round it but it’s not moving. Let’s kick the rock.” Kick kick kick. Ow. Kick kick smash. “That knocked a little chunk out. Dig dig kick kick dig. 55 minutes. Pant pant pant kick kick FUCK pant pant pant kick kick dig dig MOVEMENT. “It moved it fucking moved it moved.” Digdigdigdigdigdigkickkickkickkick pant pant aaaargh KICK. Finally. Loose. No room to get it out past the front of the car though. We have to dig room for it. For God’s sake. I’m a mole with bleeding fingers. We both are. We are both covered in mud. We don’t care. We have to do this. Thank God it’s Max I’m with. We are both as stubborn as mules. Neither of us talking about what should have been done. Neither of us waiting for daddy-breakdown to fix it for us as daddy is long dead and the buck stops here. Dig dig try try dig dig try dig dig dig. We get the rock out! It’s HUGE. Weighs a ton. All my muscles are spent. Glad we ate that linguini. 45 minutes left. Tick tock. All that work for about an inch of room. Easier to point the car the way it was facing before. One inch forward. Handbrake. One inch back. Handbrake. Repeat ad nauseam with fear sweat and bleeding filthy hands on the wheel mumbling “nam myo ho renge kyo” to myself like a crazyman. Eventually eventually eventually we are back where we started. Hooray. Max gets in. We drive down the private road. No choice. There’s a turning space at the end. A man comes out of his house. “Sorry,” says Max. “We got lost.” “There’s a sign. It says private road.” says the man. Max keeps his cool: “Yes. Yes – we saw that.”

Brrrrmmmmm . 40 minutes to departure. Twelve minutes to the airport. We are there in ten, looking at the front. I take my shirt off, squirt the last of my water into it, wipe the mud off the hire car. “There’s scratches.” “Nothing we can do. Let’s go.”

They let us through security despite the mud. There’s nobody at the airport – we are the only visible passengers in security. We make the flight just as it’s boarding. All the staff are laughing at us. I wash my slashed hands. We made it.

I’m writing this on the plane. I just bought a £4.50 can of Punk IPA. My fingers hurt. I’m still shaking from sour adrenaline. I wonder what the car hire charges us for the scratches? Maybe they’ll be nice. Also I wonder what the mardy guy will think in the morning when he sees we’ve tunneled a huge hole out of his verge and thrown bits of shale all over the place.

They say that unexpected obstacles come just before breakthroughs. Max and I need a breakthrough. And after that experience, I reckon it’s a shoe-in. God. I feel sick, and thrilled that Max and I dug the car out. I rang Damian from the breakdown and told him we were out. I apologised for wasting his time. I said “You’ve got my number. If you feel I’ve wasted your time just message me. We’ll sort something out.” “Nah mate, you’ve given me a good laugh.” he said. Bastard.

Year One – It Never Rains in Southern California

Grey River and Stream of Consciousness

I’m off early tomorrow morning to go to Jersey. The island of my birth. It’s a little granite rock in the English channel. I spent my childhood there in a house on top of a hill. Usually I only go back for funerals but tomorrow I’m going back to see an old friend of my grandfather’s. His brilliant eccentric chain-smoking wife was my godmother but she’s been dead of emphysema for twenty years or so. He’s still going, but he’s slowing down. He might be able to help me with some stuff I don’t understand. Here’s hoping.

Today has been another day where I’ve stayed at home with the cat and the central heating and entertained myself for free. I’m writing this uncommonly early. It’s just gone six. I’ve cracked open a can of beer and I’m looking out at the grey streets and thanking the gods that the snow didn’t settle. The flight is out of Gatwick tomorrow morning, and if a single snowflake falls in this city then everything shuts down at once and there’s panic in the streets, fire, screaming, death and pain.


Hopefully it won’t snow in the night. I wanted to go by boat in my brother’s car. But a ferry was going to be about £250 before petrol, and the journey would take the best part of a day. Last minute flights for two plus car rental and a train to Gatwick – it’s much cheaper than the ferry all in plus we can do it without sleeping over. And the flight is an hour long.

A year ago I was at the Women’s March in LA. Hard to believe that it was a whole year. Such an optimistic event, and things have shifted in Hollywood since that day, even if not in The White House. There were people I connected with out there but never met – (too many people, not enough time, who’s this guy? I’m busy…) This evening I impulsively joined a writer’s group with two of them on Facebook. These are friends of a friend.  But I’ve always enjoyed reading/watching the stuff they put out there. It seemed like the right thing to do to muck in. The theme was “status quo” and what that means to us. At the end we had to write stream of consciousness for seven minutes and then share. Here is my unstructured rant related to status quo. In order for it to have full impact, just imagine you’re locked in a cave with me and I’m wearing nothing but a loincloth and covered in filth and woad. You have a weapon. This is what I’m shouting:

“STATUS QUO: I wish I could land into something familiar that repeats – the sense of a status quo seems almost impossible – beyond the possibilities of the frame that I have stumbled into for myself. Status Quo – it’s a band in the eighties that shouted with guitars, and it’s a conservative dream of the way things should be but for me is it anything other than an idea – that there is a platform to leap from… I keep leaping and finding out my feet are in suet. I don’t trust that there can be a kind status quo – I want there to be such a thing. We all want stability and a platform that isn’t made of suet. I want to stand on a stage like the hairy guitarists in the eighties and leap from it knowing that there will be people to catch me in the crowd but usually it’s just a faceplant on concrete. If my status quo has been chaos for so long what can it be for people who are less lucky than I am – I have a home and I have warmth and food. Is that my status quo> That and the cat and the friends I have picked up over the years? How can we be satisfied with the things that we disempower when we frame them as normal? Maybe the things that we take for granted are status quo, and maybe we must accept that we are all jumping from a stage made out of suet and work out how to cook the suet into a nice hard pudding that can take the impression of out wandering feet and guide us to whatever it is that we think we need to be happier. Status Quo. Stability. Ground. Footing. But also to me it speaks of the way things have always been, and is it not time for that to change? To revolutionise ourselves internally, so we are ready to bring our internal revolution out into the world and be avatars of a new shining personal status quo where people can be drawn to the possibility of personal change and see that it can lead to a possibility of global change where these ancient monsters that have always lurked at the edges of power can be overthrown by millions of people like us leaping from our beautifully cooked suet pudding spotted dick platforms of currants into the current. Why do we seek you, quo? Why do we use the language of an imperial culture that trampled on art and killed gladiators for fun to express an idea of stability – yes they built out of stone for posterity, but they crucified and tore and ripped and we use their words to speak of stability? I would sooner have a rock band.”

Let me know the nature of your weapon, and at which point you would have employed it. Good luck kids! There’s a prize for the correct answer. You get to live the experience!



Year One – Liberty and Trump


It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting in my warm flat. I’ve barely left the place all day. I’m down to my last few pennies. The upside of spending all my money on a boiler is that now I have a comfortable home to lounge around in.  The downside is, no fun-budget so I have to stay home.

I just watched John Wick. That’s the  sort of mood I’m in. John Wick is a movie about Neo from The Matrix killing a cohort of people because Theon Greyjoy stole his car and killed his dog. It’s probably the stupidest film that I could possibly have found, and exactly what I was in the mood for. Although the first 12 people died so suddenly I still found myself wondering about their families and ambitions before I switched off the empathy. When I was a kid my dad let me watch Rambo 2. 

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Before the film he told me “don’t forget that all the people he shoots are just pretending to get shot. That’s their job. They’re just actors.” Considering he didn’t want me to be an actor that was perhaps a mistake. Rather than having that naive impressionable boy freaking out about “Rambo’s coming for me,” he instead had the same idiot child watching all those low paid maniacs throwing themselves backwards and thinking “That looks like fun! And that’s their job?!” Although to be honest I was already lost. That just confirmed it.

You get asked to do some strange things. I’ve touched on that before. Close friends of mine have turned down action movies because they glorify gun culture. But for me there’s such a breath between a story and an influence that I can’t make sense of that concern. I enjoy watching Keanu Reeves. He doesn’t interfere. His breath is in connection with his body, and he doesn’t try to telegraph anything. I watched him pretend to brutally kill 77 people (2 more than Rambo in that early “grown-up” VHS). It doesn’t make me wish I could go out and jump around with a gun, even if someone stole my car and killed my pet. If someone stole my car I’d be thrilled – I’m scrapping it in the next week and if it got nicked I’d get a bit more cash. It’s only worth about £300 anyway but I’ll get half that for scrap.

If they were to hurt Pickle though… Well then I might have to go rogue. “Chelsea based maniac in sustained rampage: Jobbing actor Al Barclay was finally apprehended whilst trying to wash a Barbour jacket with carbolic soap. He had been on a rampage in the Kings Road area, throwing wax into vintage fur, spraying cheap aftershave into people’s noses and, tragically, shouting the words ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ at a meeting for the PTA of Hill House School whilst tearing up a copy of the Daily Mail and wearing a black tie with a navy blue jacket. 77 people are known to be dead of outrage, and auntie Phyllis has been caught in a ‘…well I … well I … well I…’ loop for 29 hours with no sign of it abating. The police are patrolling the area with megaphones shouting “You can ignore him, he’s just an actor” but the damage is done. Reportedly a staff member in Peter Jones who had been in the vicinity at the time of the incident returned to work and knowingly oversold an electric kettle to a young couple from Bath. She will be executed by electrocution on BBC1 at noon on Sunday.”

Year One – Augurs and Antipodeans

VR and old schools

I went back to my old school today to see an old friend who used to teach me. It’s term time at the moment. I walked up the hill and past lots of awkward pasty looking young men standing very upright to balance those bloody expensive straw boaters we all had to wear. People used to steal mine all the time, and various arsehole teachers would punish you so severely for not having one that my poor parents would’ve taken out hat-insurance if such a thing existed. With my full forward open positive optimism I never expected it to get nicked again and again, and then it did. I still haven’t really learnt that some people are just dicks. I partly think they were doing it on purpose.

The word “school” conjures a very different image in my mind than it does for most people. There were 750 boys there when I arrived (and rather strangely one girl, Jessica). The school is on top of a Hill overlooking the panorama of the urban sprawl. The view is stunning. The architecture is ancient and beautiful. In the Christmas Carol script, Marley takes Scrooge back to school. He opens the magic with “The school was a mansion of dull red brick, with a little weathercock mounted on the cupola.” It’s a bastardisation of the Dickens. But it might as well be a description of my old school building. What a lucky bugger I was. Scrooge was always there in my imagination, reading Ali Baba in what they called the fourth form room. I hated the place and so did Scrooge. I was driven past it today on the way home and snatched a photo.


Martin wanted to talk to me about Macbeth. I think he also wanted to introduce me to his friend because she’s in my industry. She was the Jessica equivalent a few years after I left the place. Strange to be the only girl at a place like that, I imagine. She seems to have come out of it reasonably intact.

She’s making VR, which is a fascinating if strange medium. With the goggles on, your brain starts to believe it’s happening to you. People have died of fright. Who knows, it might end up responsible for the end of procreation when everyone starts living virtually like the fucking matrix. I’m curious about it. You can do a lot with it and it feels like a medium I’d prefer to generate than to consume. And people like her are starting to push the form, which is always when I get excited.

The three of us sat in a cafe and geeked out about theatre, Shakespeare, audience response, technology and storytelling. I thought I was going to talk with Martin one on one about approaching Macbeth as a performance text. But that was derailed. The conversation went all over the place. At one point talking about sex robots in Barcelona, then a moment later Roman Catholicism, then ethics. “If someone slashes your bionic arm, is that GBH or property damage?” Martin fed us remarkable amounts of pizza, which we didn’t do well at eating, and wrote down all sorts of things we said. I have no idea what, if anything, we said that might be useful for his purposes. Still it’s always a delight to hang out with him, and his friend was excellent company and an interesting artist. Plus it’s the first time for a bit I haven’t felt rushed so I felt my shoulders drop. I’ve sat down so little recently that I discovered two long screws from Monday in my back pocket. I left them on the table prompting Martin to take the “he’s a couple of screws loose” shot. There’s some truth in that.

Year One – The calm before the storm

Odd jobs, health and safety and pizza.

Today has been about odd jobs again. A whole load of people busily making things. I love to work this side of theatre from time to time. You realise it’s a lot of work. It helps you be a bit less of a tit when you’re the one the lights are focused on as you have a better sense of the work that’s been put in before you swagger in there with your clean clothes and immediately start moaning about the shape of the door handle.

I hold my hand up, I’m not the most experienced at set building. I have multiple stage management friends who’ve known me as an actor and would blow their coffee out of their noses if they knew someone let me operate a circular saw at length today to cut some blocks of wood and make a tunnel of willow fronds. And yet here I am with both of my arms still attached, and the tunnel hasn’t collapsed or burnt down.

A lot of the jobs today were about Health and Safety. There’s a lovely guy in a really good suede jacket – I think he’s called Tim. He has to come around and take photographs of everything and make recommendations. There were some very stable stairs that we erected yesterday, and this morning Phil and I had to put some brackets on either side of them to make certain they didn’t move. They wouldn’t have moved. Now they really really won’t move and it’s visible. It was a good hour of work for a formality. A lot of the time I think that the purpose of Health and Safety is to make jobs. And to an extent I’m okay with that as I’m being paid by the hour. But to an extent I’m not, because Brian has to pay me. It’s a vast obstructive waste of time for the most part, Health and Safety. But from time to time somebody doesn’t die. The problem with accidents not happening is that nobody records the fact they didn’t happen. We know bloody well when they DO happen, though, even if the audience miss it. “Oh yeah, so we stabbed him in the back hard with a real letter knife instead of the retractable one. But he was Julius Caesar. He didn’t have anything more to say. We carried him off stage and got him into the Ambulance. The audience never suspected a thing.”

A performer fell 70 foot to her death 4 years ago when a safety rope slipped its harness. It doesn’t happen often, that kind of thing. But it only needs to happen once. Perhaps Tim has earnt that suede jacket.

I started looking up deaths on stage. I was curious to know how many of my brothers and sisters have had things dropped on them etc. Mercifully few. A couple of massive fires brought on by pyrotechnics going wrong, magic tricks going south… But the bulk of it seems to be heart attacks, aneurysm and strokes. So as long as you chill the fuck out and stay half fit you’ll hopefully be okay. Which reminds me. Fitness. I’m writing this after my third can of beer, and Melissa just arrived with this…


Year One – Headshots and Mirrors

Every new beginning comes with some other beginning’s end

Yesterday I was all buoyed up by the thought of new beginnings. But we forget that wrapped up in new beginnings there are endings. This morning I had to go to my old agent. I thought about dressing up smart but decided it would be better if I was a bit scruff, so I came in my work clothes for the set building. She was pleased to see me – big smile – introducing me to all her new staff members, asking if I wanted coffee. I remembered as I sat down how fond I was of her. Then I immediately broke up with her and saw her face harden as she agreed. She’s brilliant, particularly for musical theatre, but it hadn’t been working for either of us. 1 year. 1 meeting. 1 recall. 0 jobs. Still, when you make an end like that you snip off the head of dreams. You kill potential.

Then I had to make an even harder cut. They say the first cut is the deepest but baby I’m not sure. My beautiful old friend who held my hand when I was ten and who has held it again hard this year, ran alongside me, and shown nothing but patience support and love – She’s my manager. In America many actors have an agent AND a manager, but my new agent comes with a team and therefore to keep hold of Iona for work in this country would be a conflict of interest as far as the new move is concerned. And I’m thoroughly excited about this move. I’m bad at breakups though. I have to remind myself of how this all started.

Unbeknownst to me, catalysed by excellent professional friends who seek nothing but the best for me, wheels were turning in the background. The first I heard about it was about three weeks ago when I was forwarded an email chain. I was in Euston Station, underground. I had been recommended, researched, and pronounced “interesting” by this established agent – all without my knowledge. Turns out she’d spoken to my old friend (and one time teacher) who described me as “a young Michael Hordern”. I passed that one to Tristan who immediately slapped his forehead and said “Fuck, yes, why didn’t I think of that?” I’ll take it. He did complicated intelligent people with clarity and truth, and he was a legend.

Then she randomly contacted a director friend of mine who I have a great deal of time for and who’s making waves in the industry. She also spoke well of me – (with the (entirely accurate) proviso that I say “yes” to stuff I probably shouldn’t.) This agent did her research, and the people she spoke to were all lovely. So, in Euston Station, on the Northern Line platform, I got the email chain. It came as a complete shock. Yet a lightning-bolt validation of all the years I’ve spent working hard, being kind, nurturing professional friendships, growing. I was floored. I collapsed into a bench and wept with complicated bitter joy. The trains came and went. I was there for a while. I’ve been clinging to the underside of the slippythrough net for years. Someone just threw me a rope. Fuck I’m blessed by my friendships…

Despite all this poncy emotional actor shit, as soon as I was done with saying farewell to my lovely ex-agent I went to a dusty underground lair and shovelled hideous zombie rubberchip for hours.


Then, sweating muck, I built a tunnel with a carpenter, did a load of stuff with ladders, deconstructed and reconstructed a bar, hit some stuff with hammers, sweated, laughed, sweated more and learnt how to use a circular saw. Now I’m home, feeling conflicted, and running myself a bath to wash away the badness. As Lucy observed, I say “yes” too much. That’s primarily because I hate saying “no.” “No” kills potential. But “yes” kills time.

Year One Day 3 – How to cross town for cheap