Blade Runner

London is crowded and full of party. Halloween season is in full swing. The streets are thronged with smiling drunk zombies, kissing vampires, serial killers, Donald Trumps, minotaurs, Rick and Mortys. All the things you wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley. Every year it gets bigger in this town. Halloween is a huge party in America but was never such a big deal in good old reserved blighty. I remember being surprised three years ago when I was in small town Texas for Halloween. Every door was dressed in town. I ended up at my first and only ever frat party. Hundreds of bewildered men (and some women) with toilets on their heads or blood on their faces, leering and shouting in the direction of an improvised sound system in a garden – going it large.

We had come prepared with boxes of beer. Turns out that beer was a scarce commodity. One of our number swapped two cans for a small bag of weed and the obligatory “oh my god you’re English” conversation. After that, people were regularly coming to barter for beer with the English Shakespeare people. Word got around we had booze. Beer for conversation, beer for poetry… we had to check people’s ID so we didn’t get into trouble as we were being employed out there.

At one point some guy pressed a pill into my hand. “Here just take it.” “What is it?” “Does it matter?” “YES!” “It’s cocaine.” “You’ve made a cocaine pill?” “I just want a beer.” “Have a beer then, you lunatic, and take your cocaine pill and… well yes, I suppose shoving it up there is a viable option… but not for me. I’m flying tomorrow. Here’s your beer.” These guys weren’t kids either. They were full grown. We left early, the party was bigger than us. Plus the cold air was blowing in, even in Texas.

It’s a whole hell of a lot colder in London. I wish I was in Texas right now in terms of the temperature.

I broke a lazy day because I really wanted to see Blade Runner. I loved the original for its alienation effect. For the fact that the world felt complete but we only saw a slash of it and had to read between the lines. I won’t spoiler the new one as far as possible. But I’ll say that considering Vangelis wasn’t on the soundtrack, whoever has taken the baton did well keeping the soundscape consistent. I’m surprised it wasn’t the man himself considering his work was mirrored. That original soundtrack is a true work of art.

Also worth saying that it’s an extremely compelling and beautiful big screen movie. I’m thrilled I saw it in the cinema. They’ve made that world so well and the story is compelling throughout. It’s great. Depressingly it’s a patriarchal future vision, where women’s bodies are still commodified. But for the genre, women are much better represented that usually, and there are lots of valuable conversations and questions about agency and consciousness threading through it.

Halloween itself is just around the corner. The doors of my neighbors and local pubs are festooned with disposable plastic guff that will give momentary pleasure and then get thrown into landfill.

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I’ll get some sweets in just in case they ring my bell, and if any of them ask me what my Halloween costume is, I’ll tell them I’m a replicant.

Little Dragon

I’m in The Roundhouse in Camden. I picked up some free tickets in someone else’s name, I’m off to see Little Dragon. And I’ve got a special wristband that lets me into the afterparty.

It’s my mother’s birthday. God rest her soul. I wept a little for her memory. I expect she wouldn’t have enjoyed Little Dragon. But I also suspect she would have wholeheartedly approved of me being here on the guest list. The place is full of delightful fools. I was worried that my presence would bring up the average age by a good decade, but thankfully I’m not alone in my demographic. I suspect it’s because Little Dragon is born out of the music I grew up with. And it’s coming back into fashion.

When I was leaving school, we were raving, despite it already being sanitised a bit. The Chart Show was piping The Shaman and The Prodigy into everybody’s shit living room. But in the real world, warehouses that are now being used for immersive theatre events were filled with half naked crosseyed teenagers hammering their systems with chemicals and banging it all night, shoutdancing, sweatfacing, gone. The electronic music scene had somehow gone counterculture and everyone felt they were part of both the counter and the culture. Pet Shop Boys and Pascal’s Bongo Massive mixing together in a mess of light and dark and compromise.

We were kids in velvet trousers on buses in the morning with eyes like plates, jittering alongside all the commuters, holding hands. We were global hypercolour fools, realising too late that our expensive shirt just shows our sweat and if we wash it it’s just a shirt. We were thumping, as we are always thumping, to the sound that we thought was new because it was ours and because we sensed that people older than us disliked it. We were new stamped wide eyed grinning gurning raving idiots. And it was large and we were ‘aving it. But it was tiny.

Irrespective of the size at which we were ‘aving it, we definitely ‘ad something. We ‘ad a lot of dancing. We ‘ad glowsticks. Fuck we danced and danced and danced. And then we danced.

A million years later, I’m here to see Little Dragon. There’s a girl half my age in crutches with one leg. She’s crutch-dancing like crazy and they haven’t even started yet. Twenty minutes until the set starts and the atmosphere is already electric. And the music they’re piping is making me wish I’d caught up with my old friend Ebeneezer. Although he doesn’t actually seem to be here. Because this is the rave scene sanitised. This is people looking at pictures of a bacchanal and saying “looks like they were having fun.” This is party-archaeology.


I realised my wristband got me into the VIP area, so I thought I’d check it out. It’s the same but with a better view and fewer people. Everyone is very polite here, and very well dressed and slightly judgemental. It’s like I’m sitting in the gods at The Globe. “Oh yes, we watch them do the thing they do do from afar, but we don’t need to clap or cheer, goodness no, can you imagine? No no we are not of them, we are observing them.”

Unlike downstairs, nobody is dancing here even though they all have more legs than that girl downstairs as far as I can tell. They’re all just watching the little people dance, admiring each other’s clothes and trying to pretend not to be real. It’s like the opposite of Zion in The Matrix. Everyone is standing still and talking obediently about hummus while avoiding eye contact and trying not to touch their makeup.


Time has passed, and I can happily say that it was a good gig. I managed to alienate someone by asking him if he used to steal cars. I only did it because he was busily hiding his truth and I wanted to get something honest. He really didn’t like me for it, but it was an honest question, if deliberately arch. I think he thought I was jousting with him. Poor dull boy. I should’ve been sensitive to the fact he was on a date, but she and I got on well and I wasn’t trying to move in. I just didn’t see any personality so was trying to work out where he was hiding it.

Thinking about it, that’s why he clammed up. Ugh. Oh well. Little Dragon was ace. It was interesting to stay in the post show carnage despite inadvertently upsetting some self defeated ape of a financier.

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Pizzazz

I’m lying sprawled on my sofa. I’m starving. I’ve been delaying food for as long as possible because Brian was migraine fucked about 5 hours ago and now he’s AWOL. I want him to come home to a happy house with food. Problem is I have no food in. Step in Domino’s Pizza. Ugh.

I struggle with the ethics and the prices they charge for a bit of dough, these pizza places. How did it become justifiable to charge 30 quid for a circle of bread with the cheapest possible ingredients thrown casually onto it and then run through a conveyor belt? Nonetheless I want to feed him because I suspect he’s either dying of a migraine or hammered. He’s been full on meeting to meeting all day, which I know because one of them was with Jack and I and he was running out.

We have a good sense now of where Christmas Carol will take place, and how it will all fit together. It’s happening again. I’m thrilled, and grateful to him because it wouldn’t be happening without him.

Like coffee, pizza is one of the scams we just societally ignore. The “cost price” for a pizza is more than for a beautiful meal at a proper restaurant. Then they can draw a line through it and tell us we’re getting a bargain. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are dying in the pond in Hampstead Heath wondering what happened. But pizza is still a reward mechanism. And it’s still a big mark up. The actual price after the notional price has been slashed is still absurd and disproportionate. Utterly utterly absurd for what you get. If you want extra cheese, it’s £2.49! And we buy into it because the culture tells us it’s normal, because it’s brought to our door, because we’re idiots, because our friend is tired and probably drunk but we want to thank him.

Brian and I met on Christmas Carol. It’s the fount of our friendship. He doesn’t have to bring it back every year but he does. Today, a show that involves lots of lovely people having a beautiful meal together has been glued together once more. It’s sad that the glue has been made more immediately sticky with the dough of an anti-abortionist’s nasty pizza franchise. But if we are going to kiss the devil we may as well use tongues.

Jack and I have been hanging out, trying to remember what we did with Carol so we can start where we left off.  Thinking of Christmas… On a day like this… Well I suppose it’s in the shops now…

It’s so odd to think of Christmas practically when it’s like spring in the air. Today has been utterly glorious. A true prism into the potential of autumn. Bright, sharp hard light, illuminating all the possibilities and piles and piles of  fallen leaves.

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YesterdayI met a new human on a day like this. Today, again, I wonder what’s possible. What can Minnie’s new child achieve? What can Brian and Jack and I achieve in Carol? What can we all make possible? We are all infinitely capable. I’m floored by the depth of choice we have in so many aspects of our lives. Despite the fact that this evening I just rang Domino’s again and got a circle of cheap dough for fucketyhundred pennies.

Still, we enjoyed it together. And now it’s sleep or collapse. Pickle just leapt into her favoured warm bit by my feet. Lights out, it seems, pizza bloat or no. Knowing Carol is back, it’s time to hit yoga properly again. I haven’t done a handstand since I broke my rib.

 

Dracula Day

Today was about being a vampire. In the morning I went to the costume superstore in Clapham Junction and geeked out about makeup. Then I went home and dug through all the stuff I’ve sequestered over the years. I ended up in a moth eaten tailcoat from my grandfather, with one of my mother’s more showy 1960’s blouses, a collar and medallion from the shop, and shitloads of fake blood. So much of it. All over my face. There are advantages and disadvantages to being a hoarder.

Then fangs. I ended up with the “good” ones that you have to attach to your own teeth. They’re ace, if you have even teeth. You have to hold them for five minutes over each canine, only to discover they fall off almost immediately if the tooth is wonky. I eventually made it work for myself after repeated fails. My tooth needed half the recommended glue… By the time I worked out that my problem was overgluing, I’d spent 25 minutes of my life sitting in a chair holding a bit of plastic to my tooth for no purpose other than to see it fall off immediately.

Still, once finally attached they look brilliant! I got some proper scares out of people. For the first hour or so I wasn’t comfortable speaking, as the glue is slow to harden properly and it would be easy to drop a fang with lip pressure. As people arrived at the party I decided be a caitiff, hissing at them (no lips) and stalking them, trying to show up in their blind spots and getting a cheap scream. That alone was a delightful way to spend a few hours while the fangs bedded in.

I should explain – this was a job. I’d probably do it for fun, but I was being gainfully employed at a party to “be a vampire.” It was a loose brief, but I’ve worked looser. “Dress up as a vampire, scare people a bit. Then join the party and have fun.” Yep. I can definitely do all of those things. It was for a record label. So I knew I had to work at the costume and makeup. If one of the punters vamped better than me, I’d worry I wasn’t doing my job right. I also made sure that nobody could get into the party without some form of encounter with The Count. And delightfully, not one person I met was a dick. There were a lot of people crammed into The Vaults, drinking loads of free booze, and not one of them was a cantankerous asshole. Statistically unlikely. Well done Extreme Music for their 20th anniversary.

I worked my hours, then stayed for good conversations a while. I’d never normally stay at a party I’m working. These guys were great. But also the changing room we had used to vamp up – it was a party room once the guests arrived. There was nowhere to go where we weren’t on display. I couldn’t very well drop my trousers in front of the guests. J and I eventually left the party in full makeup and hit public transport. I had to be the tube vampire,. With a little wheelie bag.

The way home was flooded with strange little interactions. Another reminder of the power of a good costume. I’m glad I made the effort. And now I’ve got a shitkicking vampire costume that I didn’t even know I had. Perfect for my one man show about Dracula. Perfect to take to Switzerland and honour my father who is a Member in Eternity of The Dracula Club in St Moritz…

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I have worked before as Dracula. Many years ago I did it for the Heritage Lottery Fund at a shorter event in the daytime. They provided their own costume. They still owe me £150. Every attempt I’ve made to get paid has hit a brick wall. I’ll still keep mentioning it until it’s paid or I die. It’s not like they don’t have the money…

Baby’s eyes

Today I woke up knowing I had a free day and wanting to capitalise on the time and send some emails etc. Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t met my best friend’s baby yet so I thought maybe I should do that instead. Classic avoidance tactics. I ended up driving my car to Catford, so I could do an IKEA run. My car stinks of oil after I’ve driven it for any distance. It hates stopping and starting, the exhaust bangs horribly, if you don’t control the clutch extremely carefully the engine just cuts out. I shouldn’t be driving it. But Minnie needed an IKEA run and I wanted to see her baby. So I did.

I limped across London and finally met her little girl, Zephia. The house was full of life when I arrived. Min was having her hair done. The guitars were out. Min and Rhys and Brooklyn and Dolly with the baby.

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I held her for a while as she slept, this tiny little parcel of life occasionally wriggling or exclaiming in my arms.

Then Rhys and Brooklyn and I went on the IKEA mission. I tried to warn them about the car, but nothing I said could have prepared them for the reality. It’s a hunk of junk. But it can do the Kessel Run in about 45 minutes, dammit. I know how to make it work for me, so I coaxed it to IKEA. We had meatballs. We bought the wrong thing. We made lots of people hate us by doing a double U-turn. I got a new bathmat, this time without rubber underlay, so you can wash it without it immediately going horrendous. Rhys got the wrong thing back home, everyone wanted to go to sleep, I left..

A while ago, an optician said to me, casually: “Oh, you’ve got blepharitis. Well, that’s you for the rest of your life, then.” I had red eyelids, and loads of crap built up on my lashes. She gave me the life changing news casually, almost as if it was nothing. “I work in a cosmetic profession. Surely there’s something I can do?” I responded. “No. Nothing. Just clean daily. Here, buy these expensive medical wipes. You need to use them every day for the rest of your life.” It was an ongoing source of distress and expense for about a year. I had new headshots done with red eyelids because it was impossible to stop them inflaming from the wipes. Minnie, as my best friend, fielded some of my distress, because I was silently sitting on a load of anxiety about it which only popped out with a few people.

I looked tired with red eyes consistently for about a year and a half. I tried Sananga, where you have an extremely painful sap applied to your eyes. I found it useful in other ways, but the blepharitis didn’t clear. I went vegan, wheat free, alcohol free, everything free for a month to see if it was dietary. Nothing. Then I cut my thumb in the kitchen at the Golf. I got infected and went on erythromycin. It cleared up almost immediately.

Maybe it will come back, but that optician was a nightmare, drawing me to a lifetime of expensive wipes and red lashes. I had recounted the story to Minnie before the happy resolution and never told her the ending. But while I was round hers, one of her baby’s eyes started watering and went red. And now she’s taking the baby to the doctor and I’m terrified that I am some sort of infectious monster, stumbling in to this glorious new person’s existence and giving it the emotionally complicated illness that I no longer have symptoms of.

I hope it’s the inevitable terror that comes with being a new parent. It’s worth checking it out though for peace of mind. The alternative is that I can never go near babies again and for a brief moment of peaceful contemplation, I’ve instantaneously infected my best friend’s beautiful first baby with a chronic eye condition…


Calming message from Minnie. Turns out the wrong IKEA thing was the right IKEA thing, which is just as well as we ended up sticking with it. Also she says it’s likely the eye is just an infection and not leper-Al. Maybe I’m not infectious after all. I do feel like I might be though. It would fit with my occasional image of myself as a vast awkward pachyderm.

I think I need to find a delicate person who makes me feel less ginormous and mawkish by association. Maybe it’s time for this blog to become a dating blog for a while. (It won’t. I’d sooner die )

Planes, Trains and Audition-Ithaca

“Have you been here before?” the man at the audition asks. I think I recognise him.

“Yes. I have. I didn’t realise until I walked in, but yes. It must’ve been eight years ago. I recognise the place from back then.”

It’s a house in Kentish Town. I’m at a meeting for a stills shoot. I was going in for these before I trained, when I had a modelling agent. I’m the only person dressed in brand colours because Carol at Needham’s models taught me to do that back in the 1990’s. It helps keep my hit rate high with commercial castings. I don’t get in the room often, but I’ll usually win the director. It’s about winning the client. I’m grateful to her for the tip, even if I dumped her when I hit the 3rd year at Guildhall. Idealism over practicality. “I’m an artist now. I don’t need to do these stills shoots.” Al(ex) Barclay 2002.

This man at the casting is lovely. He must be 15 years older than me. He’s an actor too. He’s taking names and it’s like he finds an understanding with me. Then, out of nowhere, he says “Yeah, sometimes we can miss the plane.” I’ve never missed a plane in my life, says my rational brain as it feels targeted. I’m in pre-audition head. I think I might have missed the part of the conversation that led to his comment. “Yeah” I say, bewildered. He continues “I missed the plane some years ago. I had to take the train. Lots of interesting things happened to me on the train.” I’m still lost. I humour him, a little clueless but I like the guy. But I feel like there’s a layer to the conversation I’ve missed. I go in precipitately early. Apparently Tom was in front of me. Sorry Tom, I rushed up the stairs, I didn’t want to be involved in a conversation where I felt I’d missed the start, just before a casting. The casting itself was lovely.  I come out and go to my next meeting. And with a thunk, my brain clicks out of audition head and into normality and I realise he was talking in metaphor. “Sometimes you miss the plane.” To celebrity-land? To workyland? To moneyland? To whichever land he feels neither of us made it quickly. Shit. He was making friends.

I’ve been walking, though. I don’t want the train. If you walk you see what stuff actually looks like. You can touch it. You can eat interesting food, and stop to admire something beautiful. You can spend time with people who, in the train would just be flashes and in the plane would be invisible.

Train? That’s for people that are happy with being forced to eat nothing but the shit sandwiches provided by the railway. Then eventually you find yourself jettisoned in the worst part of whichever place you’re going and finally you understand that you still have a long way to go to get to wherever you think you’re going. You don’t know the buses, and everyone else on the train wants a cab too.

I’ll keep walking. I liked that dude, but I’m glad I only got his inference late. Because I refute the unspoken assumption of his metaphor. I’m not seeking to go anywhere in particular, outside of working as constantly as I can and not having to worry about this fucking boiler as the world gets colder. Where is there to go? Constant interesting work is the only aspiration to have, and on that basis I’m close to landing. My main source of hunger is the need I have to position myself so I can still work when I’m old. I shot with Sir John Mills on his last ever film. He was pretty much completely deaf and in a wheelchair, but they accommodated it because he was Sir John Mills. I need position in the industry for when I’m crazy or lame or blind etc. By then I won’t be able to rag myself stupid as a medieval king.

The guy at the audition, his chosen metaphor is transport, and he assumed I’d understand it. My chosen metaphor is the endless line of brick walls that you individually have to break with your head. I respect his optimism in thinking that there’s a destination. Although if you miss a flight or a plane, your friends can’t help. My friends and I are constantly saying “no need to bang your head on this one. I already made a hole in it. There’s a whole field on the other side. Problem is, after the field… Yep you’ve guessed it. Another wall!! And two for women!!!”

I’ll share C.P. Cavafy’s Ithaca poem about journey vs destination. Wyn Jones gave us all a copy of this when we left Guildhall. It has deepened for me over the years, particularly when I did The Odyssey with The Factory. Odysseus is just trying to get to Ithaca but his life happens on the way. He can’t get the plane, or the train. He gets the boat but it keeps sinking. Sean Connery and Jon Vangelis (who wrote the music for Blade Runner) have a version of it on YouTube. Click here if you have five minutes for something lovely. 

If not, and for those who have no sound, here’s the text. Read it out loud to yourself as if you were a lisping Scottish Rutger Hauer in the rain as Junior Indiana Han Deckard finally catches your replicant hide: 

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
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Geek blog

Today was about rest and being a total geek. Sometimes I let it come out.

I didn’t get out of bed until 11. Well, apart from a brief interlude to feed Flavia’s cat. Meg started cavorting on me at about 7 and stepped up her game at 9. I staggered grunting and subservient to her plate and squelched in a packet of her horrible fishy cat stuff. Then I went back to bed, couldn’t sleep and read comics for two hours. (2000ad anthologies. Halo Jones, Shakara and Strontium Dog in case you’re wondering.)

Even when I got up, I just stumbled around playing stupid games. I realised I’d left a bag in the performance venue, so I booted up Pokémon Go and walked there and back. You can only hatch eggs by walking long distance, you see. The game means very little to me. I am irretrievably behind everyone that plays and I’ll likely not switch it on again for months. But I was looking for things to do that didn’t involve talking with anyone so I could have full vocal rest. My upper register is back already which is great. There’s something to be said for not talking. Next time I’ll remember to think of the expensive training that I so wilfully ignored in my pursuit of authentic medieval kinging.

I’m glad I wasn’t talking though, as it stopped me answering the phone. I was getting text messages and answerphone messages and calls all over the shop from people that want money from me. Thames water, council tax, EDF, Vodafone, credit card. All in one day. Gah. It’s like a conspiracy. They must know that Aldi is due to pay me any minute now, and they want their pound of flesh to make sure I can’t fix the boiler. What they don’t know is that something is round the corner that will allow me to have loads of fixed boilers – all the fixed boilers I could dream of! I have no idea what it is yet, but it’s coming…

I went home and had pasta Bolognese with Brian (the reduced Gods decreed mince). Then we watched Rogue One. That’s a good Star Wars film. Just as well, because if people are watching them chronologically it’s the first one they’ll come across, and it’s a lovely franchise. I like the fact that, through the blind guy, they move the force back to what it was before Lucas puked midichlorians all over our imaginations. And his use of a mantra associates the force with Buddhism. “I am one with the force, the force is with me.” It might as well be Nam myo ho renge kyo. It protects him from lasers! I’m not expecting any lasers but I’m hoping it’ll help me protect myself from creditors.

Now I’m going to have a bath, and get to sleep by midnight in my own bed. I’ve done sod all today apart from pass the time. I saw Flavia for about half an hour when she got back from Crete, and then I went home. Sometimes it’s good to do sod all. It means I can regroup. Tomorrow I’ll be auditioning and thinking about money. I am one with the force, the force is with me. NMHRK. All will be well and all will be well.

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