Word processing.

I’m sitting drinking a shit coffee in the sunshine. I can say the coffee is shit, but that doesn’t make the coffee shit for you. If I gave it to you, you might love this shit coffee. But by describing it repeatedly as shit and writing that down I have power over your perception of the coffee. If I then tell you it’s from “Al’s Coffee London” then you might object. “I love the coffee from Al’s Coffee London,” you might think. But you might not post it in the comments. Because the article holds more authority than the comments. If you do it just looks like trolling unless you can gain momentum with it. Even then – you might have seen the comments after virtually everything Trump tweets. And people still believe that shit. The proprietor of Al’s Coffee London might get stuck in. Their tone is likely to be propitiatory at first, trying to limit damage: “We are so sorry you find our shit coffee unsatisfying. Have you tried our new range of crap tea?” Why do they feel the need to go to that effort? All I’ve done is write an opinion in a frame. Why does that carry weight? Simply because I built it from nothing and here it is with a title and a photo? They’re making the stuff. I’m just consuming it.

In truth, I’m liking this coffee. I’m just thinking about creation vs consumption. I’m in the sunshine in London Bridge. But I’m not going to tell you who sold the coffee to me. With all that preamble you might still think it was shit.

People want control over how they are perceived, just as companies do, just as coffee makers do. I broke a rule last week and it got me into trouble. I usually check with people before I put photos of them up, or I try to. I put up a photo up without permission because it was late and I was tired and I thought it would be okay. I got hauled out multiple times. Because I was taking image-control away, which is unfair, particularly in an industry where image-control can directly affect our chances of work. We’re in an environment where someone with very little skill might be preferred for a job because they have millions of Instagram followers. Just because I’ve not given a crap about my face for too long doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t give a crap about theirs. The only other time I put a photo up that was unwelcome it was because of a misunderstanding. But that misunderstanding drove a wedge in a long established trust with an old friend. We care about how we are perceived, and people that make things with words can subtly alter our perceptions, as can a picture

Journalism is a good example of words bending perceptions. Look at the Daily Mail and the way their articles employ assumptions and adjectives. Like Donald Trump hammering the nail of “crooked Hilary” – (he may seem oafish but he’s a master at this) – these things can drip into our consciousness until, with repeated exposure, we can forget that it’s not fact. I am convinced that Paul Dacre (editor of The Daily Mail) had a hand in killing my mother, by dripping poison into her ear daily – she subscribed. “Everybody is on the make, nobody has altruistic motives, watch your back, they’re waiting for you to slip up.” She lost trust in the world and that contributed to her early exit. Bear in mind this is me, dripping poison about the Mail and Trump. Filter everything you consume, people. It’s rare there is no agenda. Even here, unless I’m hammered.

Ursula le Guin has it right when she teaches, in The Earthsea Trilogy, that to have power over something you must know its true name. I’m trying to discover the names of things as I go along. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I get it wrong. But in the same way I’d never paint a word picture of someone and deliberately misrepresent them, so I should not put a bad picture of someone up and say “This is exactly what they always look like.”

An image is not a true likeness. But it has power. For years after their death, I only pictured the sick versions of my parents. Now with time those images have been replaced by happier ones from happier times. But pictures, images and memories can stick around in your head for ages.

When we make something and put it out there, we run the risk of it being unwelcome. I might buy a coffee and then send it back because I don’t like it. I might take a picture and someone might object. But it’s still important to make more coffees and take more pictures. We are all consuming more than we generate, and yet we have so much choice in what we consume that we can say “this coffee is shit.” or “This blog is rambling and overlong.” And we must too, otherwise everything ends up shit or overlong or Starbucks or Daily Mailish.imag25101313724835.jpg

The things with the most power at the moment seem to be the things with the least depth. I don’t know how this happened but I want to believe that people are going to start noticing that they’re being drip fed crap and demand better coffee, better blogs, better journalism, better leaders. Or, better yet, people will start MAKING better coffee, WRITING better blogs and journalism and BECOMING better leaders. Roll on the next generation. Can’t be worse than these clowns.


Virtually every plumber that comes round my flat says “If you like I could take those old taps out. I could replace them with a nice shiny new mixer tap.” It’s because the taps in my bath are beautiful, and they’re greedy. “New lamps for old.” They usually change their minds when I say I know they’re worth a bit.


The water pressure is shitawful though, but I’m happy to wait 45 minutes for a bath to fill. And with brand new mixers it would be much the same in terms of pressure. I’m top floor in an old block.

I have to be careful when I’m staying somewhere with actual pressure as I could flood a small village in the time it takes to fill my tub. But hell, I can wait for a good soak.

There are 5.5 people sleeping in my flat tonight. 2 in the living room. 2 in Brian’s room. 1 and a half in my room. Despite this, I reckon I’m going to lie in here for a good 45 minutes until I’m a human raisin. I’ve checked with them. None of them have the runs. I’ve got four candles (“Fork ‘andles?, says Ronnie Corbett). I’ve got a glass of wine. I’m playing Mendelssohn’s violin concerto in E minor. It’s practice for my forthcoming career as a 1970’s Bond villain. It’s hard writing on a steamy phone, but I’ve written in stranger circumstances.

It’s not unusual for my flat to be full like this. Nor is it unusual for me to lie in my bath for bloody ages. I once conducted an exorcism on myself in this bath and flushed the fucking thing down the plughole. Now I just exorcise the day in it, stew and renew. I’ll try to sleep like a baby, but Pickle has taken to using me as a trampoline at about 4am so it’ll be literally like a baby – I’ll wake up shouting. I might have to lock her out, but then she turns up outside the door when I go for my morning pee and rebukes my toes with her claws. She knows I’m warm, there’s only one of me, and I’m a pushover. She just hates the toes – the toes that only go down the roads I’ve chosen. She’d bite them off and replace them if she could.

Speaking of toes, mine are a little less like bricks now I’ve been in here a while and the calluses have soaked through. I suppose I should go through the formality of rubbing some sort of abrasive substance all over myself. Technically that’s what baths are for.

I’ve got no soap or shower gel, of course. So it’s either sink-unblocker – which might be a little strong even for these toes, or shampoo – which is a perfectly serviceable body wash and leaves one smelling delightful. “SHAMPOO! Do you need washing? Is your hair so far receded as to make it almost comical to refer to it as hair?? Never fear, you can still BUY SHAMPOO so you too can do the washing that you do. Shampoo. Not just for hair, it’s for sluicing you too!” etc

What will I advertise tomorrow, kids? Stay tuned! It could be anything. “SNOT! Have you GOT SNOT? Or have you forgot? Get more snot. Or you’ll be filled with regrot! What?”

I keep switching the actual banner adverts attached to this blog on and off. There’s a setting now I’ve paid for the blog. What do you think of them? Do they piss you off, those adverts, or are they just part of life these days?

I’m planning on leaving them on for a clear month so I can report on the revenue they generate. Last time I looked it was up to 0.42p. I’m curious to see what it comes to in a month. I’ll let you know, and then probably switch them off again for good. Unless it’s loads. 🙂

Buy Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Now Now Now

I had plenty going on today, but I have no desire to blog. I’m not feeling it. There are two brilliant people staying in my flat who make websites. They’ve been showing me their work and discussing their worldview. Also I’ve gone into an audition and found a producer that I used to hang out with when I was at college. Small world. I spent time walking through the dying world, wishing I was in deeper countryside where I could appreciate it even better. I’ve had lots of thoughts and feelings, as we always do, every day, because we’re human.

I haven’t wanted to sit down and write about them though. It’s been tricky recently. This daily blog carries a penalty in time. I don’t want to frequently serve you a Cup-a-Soup. I want it to be good food, maybe thought provoking, possibly witty, certainly honest. In the last week or so I’ve had my content examined and I’ve thoughtlessly put up unwelcome photographs and had to change them and then not been able to adjust the Facebook preview. I haven’t been trolled yet, which surprises me, but I suspect Facebook’s algorithm is doing its annoying work to perpetuate these echo chambers we all live in. I don’t seek to be trolled, bear in mind, far from it, I’d hate it. I’m just surprised someone hasn’t found some reason to pile in, considering that seems to be the purpose of the internet for some people.

In my head this blog is only for a small group of people. And for me; to force me to do something daily, to make me accountable to those of you who read it – (thank you) – and to help me fine-tune my conversational prose so I can turn it into something more than just a regular daily thought-dump once this year is out. The fact that some people seem to enjoy it has occasionally made me consider reaching out to a wider audience, with the idea of a bit of extra cash. I suppose I could that do by sending some poor inundated editor some highlights or something. We’ll see. I’m not going to end up like lots of the blogs I read:

“Oh my God you guys, you wouldn’t believe this! I just bought some Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula and it totally changed my life!! I thought my skin was looking old and saggy but what happened next will just astonish you!!! It’ll make you reassess your whole evaluation of divinity!!!! I rubbed it on my skin and then I LITERALLY had sex with Aphrodite, right here in my bedroom full of clothes, with the cat watching. She emerged from a scallop shell and I felt her rich butter soften and smoothe and relieve my dry skin making me feel youthful and omnipotent. Now I’m toned and ready. Thanks Aphrodite, and thanks Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula. Although *jokey voice* Who’s going to clean up this giant scallop shell? *jokey voice off* *Speedy voice* Contains Behentrimonium Methosulfate, supernatural unions not guaranteed, Aphrodite’s decision is paramount,  always read the label.”


Sorry if you’re after cogent arguments and well constructed thoughts. Today is about filling half the blog with a fake advert for the first thing I see on my shelf.

As Brian pointed out when I said I didn’t feel like writing anything: “There are a lot of words in the world, Al. Just put some of them together.” Achieved.



It’s another liminal time, tonight and tomorrow. A corner of the year. Careful of portals. 

I’ve ended up starting it with a holiday into rush hour. That miserable morningtime where we are nothing but cattle, but cattle that don’t even moo. I’m packed into a carriage with everyone staring at a fixed point, up and to the left, trying not to bite their neighbour. I’m off to look at Shakespeare again.

This evening everyone will dress up as zombies and bloodsuckers and get drunk, immune to the irony that most of them are zombies or bloodsuckers all day anyway so it’s hardly a holiday. Particularly as most of them get drunk every night as well. I can’t help but think they’re missing the point with these safe ghoulies and ghosties. At least the Day of the Dead has got a better handle on what this festival should be about to my mind, although if I were to nod to that iconography I’d get hauled out for cultural appropriation.

But this is Samhain, and I can say that because I grew up in the Isle of Man. We are eliding with whatever other worlds are out there. The barrier is cobweb thin. It’s a time to remember and honour our loved dead and maybe set a place at table for them tonight. If there is a world of the dead, if there’s another place, then tonight it’s coterminous. We might slip across if we don’t anchor here, they might slip here, whatever they are, and they might be hungry. I guess that’s where the costumes come about. If the hungry dead are wandering around you should probably dress up like them or they’ll focus on you.

I made a place at table for my mother tonight, just in case.

We are examining Macbeth again today. We might have a show soon, building on the scratches at The Willow Globe this summer. Banquo has a place at table after his death, and since that’s my part it’s perhaps unsurprising that I’m thinking in these terms.

It’s a good time for doing Macbeth. Three witches. Maiden, Mother and Crone (not in our version, but…). Now the year goes to the crone until she’s reborn maiden in Spring. The cold is coming – it’s mostly here already. Time to start taking care of ourselves and keeping ourselves warm. I like these notional change points, these markers. And this one, in particular, is important to me. Life is definitely richer with the knowledge of mortality. We are all going to die. When and how are out of our hands, despite our attempts to influence it by eating Kale and going on the treadmill. What we CAN influence is what we do with our lives now, and how we affect the lives of others here. But here. Upon this bank and shoal of time. 

I used to think of myself as some sort of mortality nurse, having seen a lot of loved ones die earlier in my life than is considered standard. People would seek me for perspective. It’s valuable in grief to have someone who doesn’t just look a bit uncomfortable before telling you how sorry they are… Now people are catching up. Discussion is richer, which is depressing. I know full well that one of the next games is the one when suddenly all your mates start dying either before, during or after you do. But I reckon there’s a good few years of fun first, and babies and weddings, so I’m getting stuck into that whilst reminding myself and you (sorry) that it’s all just a flash in the pan and suddenly… Or not so suddenly… Splat.

Meantime we’ve got this ridiculously beautiful world where we can flaunt our virtually infinite capacity for inventiveness and joy, surrounded by casual beauty and vast technical creativity, and somehow blessed with this trick of consciousness that carries an understanding of mortality in one hand, and a capacity to seize the moment in the other. How did we happen? What strange chance allowed this awareness of self, and of time despite – mostly – being confined in both illusions?

I’m heading to sleep and to dreams, where we can spin free a little. It’ll be All Hallows tomorrow, so we’ll likely be flooded with xenophobic saints chasing the dead things off. For tonight though I’m happy that I’m protected from the dark, while missing the lost. My flat’s full of life, my room is thoroughly smudged, I’ve had a beer, and Pickle is keeping watch at the foot of my bed. Night all. Let’s enjoy the dark, and pray for the light’s return.Halloween-and-Samhain-Celebrating-the-Harvest-Honoring-the-Dead-Praying-for-Light_s-Return-featured-image

Shakespeare tomorrow.

“Where Shakespeare’s concerned, there’s been such a wealth of scholarship over centuries that everything has already been written. The only choice you have is to refute the most recent definitive text because you don’t like the author, or come up with some outlandish theory and stick to it.”

That’s an old friend, an eminent academic, teaching me the rudiments of classical academia in the deep deep faraway time where my parents were still alive and their full on gung-ho *we must prevent him from being an actor* campaign was flying well. It didn’t work out. I became an actor – sorry, mum and dad.

I usually find when I get to a tricky bit of text that the one thing that is never going to be helpful is Charlie Farley-Buttersedge PhD in the margins. If anything, they’ve already obfuscated the practical meaning to make an academic point, scattering unhelpful commas, changing strange words into familiar versions and generally neutering creativity in a hunt for transferrable concrete meaning.

Why I find this unhelpful is that these texts were conceived at a boundary between oral tradition and printing press. In order to preserve his works, they had to be written and a decision has to be made in spelling, but he wasn’t taking that into account when he wrote these performance texts for his friends. Usually if there’s a word with multiple hearings, Shakespeare means for both to be there simultaneously. “Here/Hear” is a frequent example, mirrored in the House of Commons. In Shakespeare they had to pick a spelling. Language was pleistocene for him, all about word-clay, formless, birthing – an organic tool. And he was writing for people he knew, playing to their strengths.

Hence the incomprehensible foolery. In the original cue scripts he probably put the equivalent of “Robert comes in and does something about relative importance.” And Armin would take the stage and win the house. Sitting with the compositor years later someone says “What sort of stuff did you say here, Rob?” In the cold light of day with no audience but the company the fool attempts to remember his fooling. And 500 years later academics pore over an out of context improv done when cold.

We’ve been mining Macbeth today. It’s The Factory again. We dug into “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow”. Such a familiar piece of text. On the surface, easy to academically understand. But as a reaction to your partner’s sudden death it’s endlessly ambiguous. It’s down to the speaker. It’s down to the hearer. Is it despair, impatience, a call to presence? It’s all of these things. It’s beautiful:

“She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

This is towards the end of a play about doomed ambition. Make of it what you will, it’s yours not mine.

Recently Alexander Waugh – the son of the son of the son of the son of the son of the son of etc has demonstrated persistence and remarkable selection bias to create and then crack a code that points to Edward de Vere the son of the son of son of etc etc as the true author of these plays. It’s a man seeking and finding patterns. And we all want the person we admire to be like us. And patterns? If you look for them, you will find them. Think William S. Burroughs and 23.

I’ve eaten a lot of Shakespeare now, over 3 decades from when I first encountered that speech. I hear one voice in his writing. It’s clear, as is the way he writes for those he loves in their best voices. “I’ve got a present for you, James.” He’s cracking wide the human condition, and he’s doing it with a wisdom about the futility of ambition. Antony and Cleopatra has a squeaking boy actor playing Cleopatra say:

Shall be brought drunken forth, and I shall see
Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness
I’ th’ posture of a whore.”

Ambition towards posterity is ridiculed. Even the title Antony and Cleopatra is misleading. It’s about the triumvirate, and their union is ostentatiously damaging. It’s not their play even though it’s named for them. It’s why it frequently bombs when you cast two celebs in the title roles. But I’m geeking out.

Live now says this Shakespeare voice. Live in the present. You’re lighting the way to dusty death. You’re looking forward or backward and forgetting where you’re walking. Whoever wrote these huge mischievous works wasn’t concerned about plaudits. He was happy to drown his book.

These endless authorship debates will never be solved. But outside of perpetuation of academia what purpose can they serve? “Ahh but wouldn’t the great author wish to be remembered in posterity?” No. No, I think whoever wrote this stuff wrote it for the writing, not for points out of ten. And earl of Oxford, alienated woman, milliner’s son, space alien – whoever they were I don’t think they care if someone else, seeking the bubble reputation, either says they didn’t write it or says they did and gets some attention and publishes a thesis before the next one comes out.

The fact is this gorgeous stuff got written by someone. We have that voice and that legacy. We can all look at people a bit closer, and we have a master’s example to encourage us not to Truss up our grammar and word use.

Tomorrow morning more Macbeth. It’s nice to be back in the room. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

Post script

I have had to change the photo twice on this blog for reasons important enough to twice openly rebuke me. I remember sometimes in the morning my mother would emerge looking beautiful. “You look great, mum.” I’d say. “Don’t look at me,” she’d respond, and cover herself with makeup. Sorry if I caused anyone discomfort in what should be a safe space. This daily writing carries a weight which I hadn’t expected. We are so used to the written word carrying barbs. Sorry if I caused offence. The only way to remove the Facebook preview is to delete it which I’ve done.




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.


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.