Monthly Archives: January 2004

Work is crazy. Joy!

Here is a diary entry of mine from the year 2000. One day from august each day this week.

Friday – Midsummer Nights Dream

Up at 6:05, strangely my alarm isn’t set to go off until 6:30. Somehow my body must be just rejecting sleep as a non-option. I attempt to get back to it, but it appears to be lost.

Work is crazy. And I almost can’t do it. I’m so lost. I’m floating along. And we are having a really bad day in terms of things to be done. I was supposed to be doing something really important in the morning with two guys, they had been out drinking the previous night. One of them didn’t show up until 2pm after vomiting all morning and the other one showed up at 8am. The guy who was in was certainly in a worse state than me. I had to nurse him through his duties on top of all the other things that were happening. Amazingly I managed to leave at around five. I got on the tube, and sat down.

Midsummer Nights Dream was at Regents Park and so the tube was a necessary evil. As I sat down I realised what a really terrible idea it had been. I’m almost falling asleep and I decide that I can’t possibly go to this performance. I have to cancel. But there are people waiting for me, so I continue on this journey. I get off the tube and walk up to the theatre through the park. The walk is about fifteen minutes long and is quite nice. The weather is the best that it’s been all week. I see Susan sitting on a bench and I go to join her. She’s talking about all the things that she has been doing over the day, and I feel stupid for feeling so tired. Or rather not necessarily stupid, but useless. I mean she’s older than me by a way, and I certainly can’t muster the energy she has.

I decide to bail. As I leave, on the way out of the park, I bump into my mother and explain again the situation. I tell her I’m going to go back to her house so that I can just relax. Certainly she says, “just remember that your aunt is still visiting.” This is not good news. The weekend before she had been there and that’s what set up this whole tiredness thing anyway. I had had to sleep in the living room and had only got 4 hours sleep. None of this was good. And I wanted to just go down there, call for a pizza on the way, have a beer in my hand, the tv on and just do nothing all evening. There was no way to do that with them there. I would have to go back to my fathers house. Just because it would be easier to convince them to let me sleep.

I jumped in a taxi and got him to take me back. No walking and no changing lines in taxies. As I walk in the house I see a note on the kitchen table… “Alex, we’ve gone out to dinner, we won’t be back until late, hope you had fun in the park.”

Joy! I’m free to do what I want. I get pizza, beer and TV and I’m in bed by 10pm.

I need more sleep. More sleep, more sleep, more sleep.

Here is a diary entry of mine from the year 2000. One day from august each day this week.

Thursday – Hamlet

I need more sleep. Even with caffeine I’m shaking and my mind keeps slipping away. I’m in work early, 7am, to try and deal with my workload and that I have to leave early to go to the play and I’m going to have to take a 2 hour lunch break to go and meet Ayckbourn and obviously perhaps Spacey. Thinking about it I realise that I haven’t told anyone about him possibly turning up. I’ve managed to steal my mothers ticket because she’s not going to be able to make it anyway. The one I gave away to him was mine. I realised as I was doing it that perhaps there would be a bizarre situation where I would have invited a celebrity to a venue only to be not able to make it myself. It would have been quite funny to have him just standing there trying to explain to Susan that he had been invited by this guy called Alex who had said it would be okay. As I was thinking about it I obviously remembered that it wasn’t going to be terribly likely that he would show up for these same reasons. I of course might have been planning some kind of assignation attempt somewhere in the bowels of the National Theatre. Of course being the serious kind of actor that he is, this might very well have been exactly the kind of thing that would have appealed to his thespian sensibilities.

More sleep, more sleep, more sleep. At around 10am I spill coffee over my shirt. The right hand cuff of this white shirt is now brown.

I leave the office at 11. Remembering only moments before to inform my team that I’ll be gone. Of course this provokes serious debate of how I should be contacted in case of any problems. I tell them I’ll be available on my mobile, and turn it off as I slip it into my jacket.

I walk across London Bridge and the sun is shining. Seriously good weather, feeling terrible really but somehow the sun manages to lift me. As I get to the south bank the clouds come from nowhere. Literally like somebody has just turned on the washing machine we call the sky and the washing liquid is being squirted in from some unknown source. Milky billows quickly turn gray, and I’m watching this thing totally amazed by what’s going on. And then it rains. Within two minutes there is actually an inch of water covering the ground. I’ve found shelter, but it’s still raining. And I’m going to be late. I’m five minutes run away from the National and I know I’ll be so soaked. But I have to get there, too much rests on it, and the people I’m meeting are already inside the building. So they won’t be cowering somewhere like I am. So I go…

Totally soaking, nobody is in the foyer. Run to the washroom. Trying to find a hand-dryer to squeeze myself into. I know it’s going to be cramped but considering the circumstances I know I’ll manage it. The first thing that I notice when I get into the toilets is that there is no nozzle on the dryers. It’s one of those with the kind of chamber for your hands to go in. I take my jacket off which is certainly the wettest part of my attire and try and get as much of it in as possible. It’s only 11:30 am the theatre isn’t that crowded, and I’m thinking I can probably get away with the trousers. So I take my jacket out and put it on because there is nowhere else for it to go, and I take my trousers off. They are absolutely soaked, the parts that were closest to the ground look black and considering this is my gray suit that is quite an achievement. So standing there in my boxer shorts and a suit jacket. Water running down my face because no matter how I try I can’t get my hair dry and somebody walks in, and he just stands there staring at me. I realise about 20 seconds too late that now I’m staring at him staring at me. I’ve got to say something to break the deadlock but what? And then he speaks, he’s hardly able to contain himself as he does it, “Did you, have an accident?”

“Er, no, it was raining.”
“Really!” and he laughs, he’s laughing at me, and he turns around and walks out. Not even hesitating to sample any of the many magnificent facilities of the rest-room. My trousers are getting better, I’ve been turning them constantly the whole time and they are still wet, but they are much better. I put them on, relishing the warm feeling that I get.

Back in the foyer everyone I speak to starts their conversation with “So is it raining?” I for some reason start saying “You should have seen the other guy” and they back off a little.

Behind certain parts of the theatre there are offices. In between all the dead space are all these strangely shaped rooms. Just regular offices for people with regular jobs making sure the money comes in regularly or at least often enough. We’re taken through the winding corridors into this room conference room we’re told to keep quiet not for rehearsals or anything of that kind but just because of these office types are trying to concentrate. “We don’t want all the bean counters knocking one of their hill of beans over.” Another person who mixes their metaphors. “Some of your group,” he says, “are already here.”

It’s Spacey and his entourage. Or rather him and two others. But they are sitting at the back and keeping quiet. He nods over at me but says nothing. He has obviously employed this technique to make it so that people don’t approach him and for the most part it seems to work. The room isn’t too large, around the size of a classroom, with one large conference table in the middle. We sit. I sit right by one of the side walls of the room. The room and the table in it are rectangular so Spacey is at the short side furthest from the door, Ayckbourn will be sitting directly opposite him at the other short side, right by the door. And I am sitting between them in the middle or rather between them on the side as the table is in the middle.

The Questions are strange and flabby. Somebody actually asks him where he gets his ideas from! But he’s obviously used to this kind of thing and he tires to avoid actually waiting long enough for a question to be asked between his sentences. He does say some very interesting things which I will condense for you here.

1. It takes him only 8 to 10 days to write the actual script. In reality he says the creative process takes him around 9 months. He starts out by deciding what the “situation” is, he then decides how technically to deal with the situation and then he creates the characters. He lives with the characters and goes for long walks. He talks out loud the several different parts walking along the hills in Scarborough.
2. He said as a warning to young authors, never write the dialogue until the last moment.
3. He said the smiley symbols in e-mails were a way of people signifying that they weren’t sure that their jokes were actually funny.
4. He said “Although I am best known for my technical achievements in theatre, I always feel that there is a perfectly good thematic reason for what I am doing.”

So as the talk wraps up, we are informed by the guy who walked us in that the meeting room is booked back to back with our meeting and so we will have to leave quickly. In fact I think it is so that Spacey can have some time to himself with Ayckbourn. We all leave, and I have to get back to work. I’m thinking about how annoying it is to have to walk all the way back to work when half a day later I’ll be coming back when I remember I’m going to be at the Globe tonight. Not too far to walk. By the time I’m thinking about this I’m out of the building and on my way back to the office. Outside I see the painting, it’s covered in water. The plastic cover barely protecting it from the almost inch of rain that’s sitting on top. I’m almost running. I’m late for a meeting.

The afternoon passes in a hectic daze. No recourse but to try and ignore whatever else is going on in my life. I leave. I’m supposed to be meeting Susan for dinner, and she’s going to be brining along a friend who writes for TV and films. I figure it’ll be interesting. So I’m in a rush. I arrive and remember that there are two restaurants, both have table service but one is more serious than the other. There is a queue to even look at the cheaper restaurant so I scale the two flights of stairs required and peek into the fancy place. Somebody calls to me across the room, and it takes me a few moments to realise that I it might not be Susan whose doing the calling. It turns out that it’s my boss. By a strange chance he too has selected tonight to be watching Hamlet. I amble over to him, make my excuses and dash off. I totally fail to meet up with Susan before the performance.

Hamlet is highly entertaining. Certainly worth it. I have problems recognizing the lead. He seems very familiar, and is very good. Suddenly I realise what it is. Last year the Globe put on a performance of Anthony and Cleopatra but put it on the way that Shakespeare would have, with an all male cast. And the man playing Hamlet is the man who played Cleopatra last year. He is actually the artistic director of the Globe it turns out. This is very good, but there are certain flairs of things that he does which I’m not overly keen on. For example, at the end of the performance, for the certain call all of the actors marched out to a drum beat all carrying little poles which had sculls stuck on the top of them and all kinds of other associated madness. That kind of thing is interesting but in reality not terribly practical. How are people supposed to clap when you have a drum beat doing something else. They aren’t ever on the stage without the drum, so it doesn’t make sense.

Afterwards I loose my mother as she runs off to try and catch her last train. It means that it’s even later by the time that I get home. As I’m sure your aware Hamlet isn’t short and I make it back to the house by 11:30pm. Peter has come over to visit my parents and although they have gone to bed, he’s stayed up waiting for me. This isn’t particularly useful as I’m totally exhausted and know that I need to be awake again in 6 and half hours. I’m talking to him, and I can’t help thinking as each second disappears that I could be asleep right now. That each second now is a second less I have before morning. I get to bed at 12:20, asleep by half past.

Work, was work really. Crazy. Well. [Thinking]

Here is a diary entry of mine from the year 2000. One day from august each day this week.

Wednesday – All my sons

I woke at 6 feeling starving. No dinner the previous night had played havoc with my system. I never eat breakfast, or rather rarely, and certainly not when I’m working. And at 6am my stomach obviously thought it was lunch time already. I couldn’t tell what to do with it, but I realised that going back to sleep wasn’t going to be possible. The details of what I ate are not relevant but then much of this diary fails that test. So the reasoning behind not telling you is arbitrary to say the least. And you know I’m not one to say the least often.

Work, was work really. Neither exciting nor boring. Just busy.

But my last meeting was at my usual office and this was great. I knew I had enough time to walk to the National from my office and that would mean going past “the woman”. Each corner I came to could possibly be hiding her, and my heart would palpitate visibly. Deracinated short people bumping into me, and tall ones scowling. I was almost there and then…

In the foyer tickets were being swapped like cold fish. Nobody wanted the balcony seats, and there were only a limited number of seats on the ground floor. The cottesloe theatre is (in case you haven’t been) A rectangle with three sides totally surrounded by seats. The stage is not raised in any way, except for exits. The ground floor seats are very close to the action. I realised at the start of the conversation that I had balcony seats. And so I was certainly surprised when suddenly my tickets were swapped out. Somebody else had drawn the short straw of being in the balcony, and their friend wanted to join them. So they wanted to know, “would I mind?” sitting downstairs. Would I mind? Crazy. This meant that I was separated from my family but that wasn’t really a problem. I took my seat, and waited for the performance to begin.

“I’m sorry to bother you but could I have your autograph?” A strange young person was looking at me. I was about to speak and then I realised that they weren’t looking exactly at me. The angling of the seats meant that from where he was standing almost all of the seats were in a line. He could have been looking at anyone in our row. I looked to my left, they were a stranger to me, and they didn’t look famous. But they did look embarrassed it was probably them, but they weren’t speaking either. The next one down looked familiar. Hold on a second I thought. Of course that’s what’s his name from you know, those films… He reached out his hand for the paper and pen “Certainly,” he said, “what would you like me to write?”

“Anything you want Mr. Spacey.”

Of course that’s who it was. Or rather I’d known who he was but his name had vanished from my mind.

The play of course was fantastic. Julie Walters was superb and although the name of the actor playing the father escapes me he was a joy to watch. The Son I felt might have been putting a little extra in because of the proximity of Kevin. And I think he might have blown it slightly. But still totally moving, very superb.

The woman on my left must have had a bathroom emergency or a panic attack and had to leave during the interval. Which left Kevin and me alone in our row. He had obviously made an executive decision not to go to the foyer and surprisingly few people were coming up for autographs. The person on his left looked like a quite serious bodyguard and so conversation it appeared wasn’t an option that way. So he turned to me.

“Your quite quiet.”
“Yes.” [but you know a positive yes, like I was embarrassed for being quiet]
“Don’t you like my films?”
“Well I do, I even like you in them, but I figured that you get this all the time, so the nicest way to show my appreciation would be to give you a break.”
“Well. [Thinking] Thank-you.”
“Are you enjoying the play?”
“Yes it’s very good.”
“Do you think that the actor playing (Name of Son) might be over acting for
your benefit?”
“Perhaps.”
“Have you seen anything else while you’re here?”
“I saw House and Garden.”
“Oh what did you think?”
“I preferred House to Garden, but they were both interesting.”
“I’m going to be meeting Alan Ayckbourn tomorrow for a question and answer session.”
“Really? Got any questions?”
“I’m not sure what to ask him, would you like to meet him? I mean I have a spare invitation.”
“Well I don’t think I’ll have time”
[I gave him the ticket, after writing the times and places on the back. And signed my name.]
“Take this anyway.”
“Well now at least I have your signature.”

And then people started turning up again. I shook his hand though, that was the important bit. I was trying to think of a way to phrase the next sentence and I got distracted and wrote… Shake the hand that met the golden egg. So I guess I should say “don’t kill the chicken who laid the confused metaphor” by way of apology.

Arrive at work at 8:45

Here is a diary entry of mine from the year 2000. One day from august each day this week.

Tuesday – Two Noble Kinsmen

Arrive at work at 8:45. My father for some reason came in on the tube with me. He didn’t have a meeting until late and so decide to leave at the same time as me. This is unfortunate. Lately I have been having a bottle of orange juice and a can of Red Bull each morning on the tube and the lack of it has me visibly shaken, and shaking. My hands are playing up again and I ride the whole way in leaning against the doors with my hands behind my back. Also I am supposed to be reading “About a Boy” I’ve almost gotten to the end of it and it annoys me that I can’t complete it because he’s here. That is until I realise that I probably couldn’t read it anyway because it would involve me holding the book in my hands and the movement would make reading difficult. Of course if he wasn’t here I could have had a Red Bull.

Work is crazy as usual. But nothing particularly difficult. I notice myself slipping somehow. Things that should be easy are harder. Lack of sleep could be the problem, I had 7 hours last night and that should be enough just about. By the end of the afternoon we are tearing our hair out to make something work before a presentation. I go along to the meeting and I start drinking. I realise too late that I haven’t had any lunch or dinner yet, or much water. As I wonder out of the building and down the river I realise that I’m drunk. I can’t work out how it happened. The presentation was at our building down near Embankment which makes for an annoying situation. Two Noble Kinsmen is at the Globe right by my usual building. Unfortunate but not impossible to fix. I wonder across the train bridge, and past the National. There is a woman sitting behind a painting, a Tishen copy (I think), and it is wonderful, and very large. It is the thing that first catches my attention, but not the thing that holds it. The thing is the woman. She has very long hair and as I look at her she picks it all up in her hands and throws it over her right shoulder.

Naturally I was slightly distracted throughout Two Noble Kinsmen. It is a Shakespeare, but it is supposedly co-written with John Fletcher. Fletcher apparently also wrote Henry VIII with Shakespeare. Strangely enough it is the classic story of two people being shackled to each other in prison. (It being Two Noble Kinsmen rather than Henry VIII.) In most film versions of this story it starts with the two hardened cons hating each other and through their adventures they learn to love each other. In this, which I believe to be the original, a slightly different tack is taken. The two are cousins and love each other, they fall for a woman who wonders past their cell window and suddenly they are in love with the same woman. And in the outcome one of them dies. It was a very strange play which was particularly convolutedly plotted. Which seemed very un-shakespearian. The best performance was from someone who looked a lot like Louis Theroux, I couldn’t find a program though so I can’t verify this, but this person was playing one of those small comedy roles near the interval.

But as I sweltered in the heat and could feel the bodies of the people next to me pressing against me. By the end of the play I still hadn’t eaten. The crush for the bar at the globe had meant food was not an option. I think I ordered a cheese sandwich but I got three bottles of water and a glass of red wine. Well no matter I thought, none of it helped. I had been bad and I was being sent home without my supper. Such is the way of things.

I wonder if you’ve remained stripy or if

Here is a diary entry of mine from the year 2000. One day from august each day this week.

I think you’ll remember that Nikolai Nekrasov once wrote, “You do not have to be a poet, but you are obliged to be a citizen.”

And that’s how I feel mostly except of course to say maybe not.

Last week has past and now I’m over the exhaustion, I feel looking back might be an interesting exercise in expansion and completion of the cycle. Perhaps if you know what links those distant parting memories of Monday night and where I am right now then perhaps we can move on…

Monday – Garden

Lots of mixed feelings floating across us and questions on our theories for Mr. Ayckbourn: “Obviously there was a conscious thought to make one of your plays less accomplished than the other. Why did you do this and what message were you trying to convey?”

You left at Victoria and caught the same train as my mother or so I hear. She asked you a series of grilling questions and you managed not to melt before she left at Haywards Heath. I wonder if you’ve remained stripy or if that has worn off by now. I when I got sun-burnt it healed quite quickly, I think this might be the same kind of thing. Painful at the time, but no lasting damage. Or at least none that is immediately obvious. Perhaps a melanoma which will hit you later but for now is silent. Watching.

So I was home before you, but my parents were home before me. At least my father and Ellen. No guests, which made things easier. Sleep deprivation over the last few days (6 hours Friday, 4 hours Saturday, 6 hours Sunday) is forcing me to bed more quickly than I would have expected or rather wanted. But everyone goes to bed, so things seem normal.

The sky is a very deep blue

The sky is a very deep blue*. There is a word for what that colour is but in the end that word doesn’t stand on its own. All it means really is “a very deep blue”. We’re almost not fluent in esoteric colour names and have to translate them. But blue, that’s blue isn’t it.**

I’m sitting in a crowded pub and the sky is incredible, just fabulous. And noone is looking.

I wonder what would happen if I was to shout out “look at that sky.” Would people look at the sky, or me?”

*Why is the sky blue? Well we probably all vaguely remember something about it from school. But for that answer in full see an article in the near future. **There’s an article about this coming too.

Two groups of four. Whereas the older group don’t.

There are two groups of women sitting in front of me.

Two groups of four. The one to my right ate all denying they are approaching thirty. The one to my left are denying fifty.

They are the same people, seemingly, to all intents and purposes. On of each personality.

The fashionable one -> The one who dresses like her children.
The quirky one -> The one who keeps a lot of cats.
The quiet one -> Very successful but doesn’t like to talk about it.
The conversationalist -> Doesn’t know when to shut up.

The only major shift in group dynamics seems to be that the younger group seems to have uncomfortable pauses. Whereas the older group don’t. Perhaps this is because the younger group see each other too often. Or perhaps the older group don’t see each other enough. Or is it perhaps the evolution of “not being able to shut up”?

Well, I’ve eaten snake, crocodile, shark fin soup – and just everything.

Today another two halves of a conversation.

A: “Oh out in Japan they have the most amazing things to eat”.
B: “Like what?”
A: “Well, I’ve eaten snake, crocodile, shark fin soup – and just everything.”
B: “Wow that sounds weird.”
A: “You should go sometime, you could try it.”
B: “Oh. I don’t know.”
A: “Ah go on. You’ll love it.”
B: “Well I don’t know that I will, and right there is a problem. I don’t know that I like all those weird foods.”
A: “But surely that is the point. You’re not supposed to like it all. The fun thing is finding out.”
B: “No. I don’t think so. To me the unknown is a scary thing – A very scary thing. I don’t want to try new things. New things might take me to new levels or horribleness.”
A: “Or the opposite.”
B: “Yes, but that’s a risk I’m not willing to take.”
A: “So you don’t ever try anything new?”
B: “No. I do. I have. I’ve tried some very exotic thing, I just don’t often like to.”
A: “Okay then what the most exotic thing you’ve ever tried?”
D: “Well one time I had duck.”

I’ve spent half my life staring back at this river.

I’ve spent half my life staring back at this river. And now this brittle bitch is sitting in the way.

Over time I’ve realised that the nicest tables aren’t by the window but one back. That way the tables are of equal value. The better the view the worse the table, it all evens out.

But it doesn’t matter if you sit one row back because you can look between the people. Look through them.

But now her. I know the type she’s cold, and she knows it, so she pretends – with people she thinks she can use – to care by faking empathy. I bet she uses earnest question with wide open eyes. On the outside it looks like she cares. But only if you look for a moment. Any longer and it’s obvious what a trick it is.

The slightest thing upsets her completely. She goes crazy in a controlled way. Barking at everyone. Later she’ll cry. Alone. Her tears adding salt to a bitter Chardonnay. But for now she demeans a waitress for an imagined slight. The guilt of which will haunt her forever.

I’ve been wondering, somebody had to, about moustaches.

I’ve been wondering, somebody had to*, about moustaches. But more specifically I’ve been worrying about what we should call the clump of hair that sits between the mouse’s nose and mouth. Is this a mousetache? Or is it just fur?

Perhaps we will never know.

*You may suggest that nobody had to have this thought. But you would be wrong.