Off in the morning and over to Upton Park, driving the fabulous pantechnicon. We’re making a show in it, but it cost £80 up front to get me on the insurance so I’m not about to turn down a shot at filling it with furniture and using it for the purpose to which it was born – if it covers the insurance cost.

I can see why these guys are moving out. There’s a man that walks up and down all day outside their house with crazy tourettes. He’s evidently suffering. He’s wearing headphones, probably trying to drown it out, but his tic is a dark one. It’s pretty unsettling to hear him coming up and down shouting what he’s shouting. He came by a lot in the time we were loading. Jess Thom has become the acceptable voice of tourettes after somehow managing to commute everything into the word “biscuit” which she can utter up to 16,000 times a day. I’ve heard her on BBC Radio 4, live. They couldn’t put this dude out live. People affected by tourettes usually go to the darkest words they can find. This guy was combining concepts. One of them was usually “child”. The other definitely was never “biscuit”.

We were seeing how much it’s possible to get into the van. Turns out that’s a lot. These lads have one of the most robust board game collections I’ve ever seen, not to mention all the Lego. They also have a good solid pile of large comfortable furniture. As I was loading in I found myself wondering how the hell I’d be able to move out with all the stuff I’ve accumulated. They had boxes and boxes of stuff and yet I think my stuff would need about three van loads. We just about got it all in. Mirrors and lamps and tables and glassware and computers and multiple monitors and a full drum kit and multiple guitars and shelves and chests and… So much stuff. The accumulation of only a few years. We all accumulate so much stuff. And most of it just sits there, most of the time. Until we die and someone either throws it in a skip or leaves it in an attic or pays for expensive storage for decades before they die too and their kids have to foot the bill. No wonder some people clock out and wander around with earphones in, shouting bad things. It’s a tough gig, living in a culture that tells us that stuff makes us happy when actually it just makes us broke and fucks the world up in the process.

Since I got back from Camino I still haven’t worked out where I put my clothes before I left. But I’ve not really missed them. I’ve got the basics, plus all of my suits. Yet I’m still surrounded by junk. Unused things, many of which never belonged to me anyway.

Time is about to be my most precious commodity. I’ve got no time for all this stuff. The van opens in a week. We need to sell a lot of tickets to even come close to recouping our costs. I think they might finally go live tomorrow. Biscuit.



Blog: 14 January 2017 – Bumbling cluelessly around Los Angeles

Blog: 14 January 2018 – An anniversary retrospective


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

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.



Pickle in South Ken

Uber is in a pickle in London. And now Pickle is in an uber in London. And London is in an oober-pickle.


We are trying to cross town, but typically the person who has agreed to cat-sit for Brian and I lives in Finsbury Park. On a good day, that’s a horrible drive. Today it’s the seventh circle of hell. It’s not a good day to be on London’s roads. We have been trying to go north but after half an hour we are inexplicably in Waterloo. Every other route is closed.

There’s a demonstration at Park Lane by the Football Lads Association against extremism. That’s pretty evolved of them, considering their association is likely to be rife with extremists like the EDL and UKIP. (I’m being arch – they think the word “extremism” only relates to belief systems they don’t personally subscribe to.) They are all in the road so traffic has to get around them. But now something has happened in South Kensington, directly outside my brother’s work. Some crazy shit has gone down, most likely connected to the very form of extremism that will confirm the bias of the guys marching.

My sister in law was very close, and she reported hearing seven or eight gunshots, which have not been mentioned yet by the media. She grew up in Communist Russia and I understand that gunshots were a frequent part of her childhood experience. So she may have biased towards that. But she thinks it was an assassination from one car to another. All we know is that someone drove onto a pavement and some people were hurt.

There are police everywhere on the roads in London now. The radio is spewing conjecture. Ok, the road markings are confusing on Exhibition Road – it’s hard to tell what’s pedestrianised and what’s road. Maybe it was someone making a mistake? That’s unlikely though with the heavy heavy footfall in that area on a Saturday. It’s a target area.

Maybe the guy who has been detained was a spook who shot someone and then crashed. Hence “detained” not “arrested”. I guess we’ll probably find out in due course, but we might not.

From my point of view it just means a slower journey and maybe being late for work. My driver is mightily pissed off. “You know what,” he just said – “I’m getting off the roads. This is my last trip today. It’s not worth it.”

But life goes on because it has to. I’m going to have to get a tube south once I’ve dropped the cat off. Then I’ll be working in a crowded warehouse all evening. And I’m not that bothered because I can’t be. What’s the alternative? Stay at home forever? This is London. People want to kill us.

Still, I’ll be glad to go to Milan tomorrow, if for no other reason than for a change of pace and perspective. But also, this is too close to home. I like living in this town. But this morning I walked with Brian to pick up my car from the corner of Exhibition Road, exactly where all this shit went down. I was there two hours before it all kicked off, enjoying a morning with a friend and grabbing my car to pick up a cat box. My brother works at the Natural History Museum. His wife was working there, as she often does on the weekends. If this was a thwarted bomb threat, or someone trying to kill pedestrians, it’s troubling.

Stay safe and stay active. The whole point of these actions of extremism is to shake the people that you have decided you hate. Recent deliberate actions have led me to the expectation that it will turn out to be one. And that DOES make me feel shaky. So I’m going to go to Gatsby now with my party face and my trusty 3 piece armour on, and throw positive energy everywhere in the hopes that some of it comes back in my direction.

Hot Tube Collapse

7.45pm on a Wednesday and this tube is completely packed. I’m traveling from South Kensington to Manor House. How is it still so rammed at this time? Everyone’s face is in everyone else’s armpit. There’s no room to take off your winter coat without elbowing a stranger. The driver has got the hot air blasting full whack into the carriage. Just as we get to Caledonian Road, a shout goes down the carriage. “Water! Water!” The urgency in it brooks no delay. Everyone is rummaging in their bags and in less than ten seconds a plastic bottle is handed back. I follow it with my eyes. There, through the legs of bystanders, I see a young woman lying on her back. She is unconscious. She went down silently. Her face looks ruddy. I am sitting comfortably in a chair less than ten feet from her, hot but fine, and I hadn’t noticed anything until the call for water. She’s fainted from the crowds and the heat and I’m not surprised, it’s miserable in this carriage. Someone is rubbing water into her brows. Everyone now has a water bottle in their hand, and they’re all waving them half-heartedly towards the guy who asked: “Pick my water!!” She’s dead to the world, and he’s already picked enough water. He has water to spare.

We get to Caledonian Road. A group of strangers lift her out of the carriage while others stop the crowd from surging in and stepping on her. It’s efficient and more or less completely silent. I consider getting up to help, but I don’t. There are lots of people between her and me. There are already so many people helping her they can barely get an arm in. They put her in recovery position on the platform and I feel a pang of guilt as I remain where I am. In my comfortable seat. Yes, I’ve been looking around at each stop, making sure nobody looks like they need it. Yes, someone pretty close to me needed it and I didn’t see. And then she collapsed. So long as I’m comfortable, eh?

The train barely stops. Nobody has pulled the emergency alarm so it just carries on, taking one slightly discombobulated carriage with it. We all look out the window as we pull off. She’s on the platform, surrounded by men. If she’s claustrophobic she’ll be crowded when she wakes.

A small child opposite is worried. “Is that person okay?” “Yes,” the mother says. “Look, she’s surrounded by lovely people. She’s fine.” I momentarily worry when I hear her describe the people as “lovely”. It was so silent and efficient. All of them were men. Could I have just witnessed the beginning of a professional abduction? Then I remember that I have a hard-wired tendency to question all assumptions almost as a matter of course. So I allow myself to relax. She was comforting her child by assuming they were “lovely”. Plus they were being lovely. It was very very hot in that carriage. They all helped. I didn’t. I just sat here and wrote about it, took a selfie and got paranoid.


I didn’t even have a water bottle to wave. I wish I did. It was thirsty work watching them all be so helpful from this comfy seat.

Light and dark

One man with 23 guns in a hotel room. 59 concert goers killed on an evening out and growing. No discernable motive as yet. It throws into sharp relief this blog about an actor trying to make the best of a tricky career path. How can one man have 42 firearms – if we include the 19 more at home? How could anyone lose connection to their humanity and their consequence so much as to indiscriminately kill like that?

Winter is coming, and the cold is creeping in. I’m boiling a kettle for a hot water bottle and thinking about all those people and their families. People that bought tickets as presents and watched their loved one die. People who said “Don’t be late” to you and then waited with mounting horror, hoping you might come back. What sort of blank hatred can sustain a massacre of that proportion?

How the hell can one gambler buy so many guns unquestioned? I’m not going to open a debate about gun control – I know what an emotive topic it is in America – but it just seems impossible. It happened, though. The guy thought it through. Took his time. Went for maximum human cost and then took his own life.

I’ve been trying to write about my day but this just keeps inveigling itself into my consciousness. After the last few days, I’ve decided to ease off on the self obliteration and stop drinking altogether for a bit. Going to the shop tonight I had to wrestle with myself. I wanted a drink. Mostly I drink to take the edge off. The darkness and the cold have wormed their way into my skin, and my thoughts have been sharp images of gunshots, and a face in a hotel room window. It’s probably better in the long run that I work through my sense of horror at that man’s actions, rather than just numb myself to it. But I’m conscious that there’s a great big bottle of Brian’s home brew cherry brandy right there on the table. I could just reach over…

I suppose being a human is about managing these instincts and cravings. I’m not going to reach over and grab the cherry brandy for the same reason that you haven’t yet broken my nose when I’ve annoyed you. Even though you’ve really wanted to. We mostly learn to control our base urges. It doesn’t mean we don’t have them.

We all have the potential for darkness. We all have the potential for light. No matter how we persuade ourselves otherwise, it always comes down to a choice. Choosing light can feel harder, but it’s ultimately more rewarding. Already so many stories are emerging of acts of heroism and sacrifice in that untenable situation in Vegas. While one man took the darkest path imaginable after preparation, hundreds of others chose hard light on the spur of the moment.

We are afraid right now. We are under attack, we are told. Many of us are crammed into cruel cities and processed like chicken nuggets. We absorb flashes of hatred from good people in tube stations for walking slowly, standing wrong, existing. Right now, someone is howling outside my flat. “It’s only Maurice, drunk and angry again,” I think to myself. I go to the window and look down. He’s in company, getting out of a cab. He is filled with rage at his failing body. He never comes home sober. Often he has bitter rows with cab drivers. I decide not to help. “He’s got someone with him,” I say to myself, sit back in the sofa with the cat, and turn Leonard Cohen up.

We all need to try to do the difficult things that are kinder right now. You never know how much someone is hurting. We have to try to catch people before they fall so far down. We have to try to answer negativity with positivity. Not give ground needlessly, but seek to heal where we can.

I’ll start by not getting wiped out on homemade cherry brandy, and by looking after myself. If I look after myself I’ll be better placed to look after others.


And, as if on cue, Leonard sings Villanelle for our Time:

“From bitter searching of the heart,
Quickened with passion and with pain
We rise to play a greater part.
This is the faith from which we start:
Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart.
We loved the easy and the smart,
But now, with keener hand and brain,
We rise to play a greater part.
The lesser loyalties depart,
And neither race nor creed remain
From bitter searching of the heart.
Not steering by the venal chart
That tricked the mass for private gain,
We rise to play a greater part.
Reshaping narrow law and art
Whose symbols are the millions slain,
From bitter searching of the heart
We rise to play a greater part.”