<![CDATA[Peter Rae - A Strolling Player - Blog]]>Thu, 04 Feb 2016 08:25:43 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Musing on The Pain of Existence]]>Thu, 04 Feb 2016 12:01:49 GMThttp://astrollingplayer.weebly.com/blog/musing-on-the-pain-of-existenceWell it's that age-old 'sandwich delivery boy turns out to be an actor' dilemma.
 
I hadn't yet bought a sandwich from him, largely I bring homemade food in a bid to economise and because my wife's leftovers are usually marvellous. Then in a positive avalanche of synchronicity I find myself in turn:

1. Getting to know him a bit
2. Hungry and without food, and here's the kicker,
3. Actually having cash on my person.

 
(Like the queen I don't carry cash, but unlike the queen who receives a moderate stipend from the British public for waving, my earnings usually make their way directly from bank account to direct debit/Amazon Prime and rarely see the dim light of my pocket).
 
Anyway, I bought a sandwich. BUT NOW WHAT? He comes every day and sets up outside my officecupboard and says hello. Am I obliged to buy a sandwich every day? - if I don't at least buy a second will he think I didn't like the first (I did) - or worse, don't like him (I do, but only as friends).

He also sells snacks so I have the added nightmare of never being allowed to eat anything whilst he's hawking his wares in case he takes it as a personal affront to his snacks AND his craft – how dare I not support a fellow actor…?
 
Like when you've been to the mini-Sainsbury’s and remember you forgot milk and the corner shop is on your way back and you walk in with a Sainsbury’s bag and apologetic look on your face that tries to say: "I KNOW I should be supporting local businesses but my perception is that your prices are higher than the mini-Sainsbury’s - even though I've never checked - and I am an artist who doesn't value money but also doesn’t make a lot so whilst I live a full and rich life it genuinely makes a difference to me when I buy the special offer multipack of Wotsits.”
 
And now the sandwich man has been replaced by a lady from HR who once a week brings in homemade Indian food to sell.
 
I’m going to go and close the door. 






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<![CDATA[No one died in Lisbon...]]>Sun, 30 Aug 2015 11:21:25 GMThttp://astrollingplayer.weebly.com/blog/no-one-died-in-lisbonDay 1 - very warm, a little cloudy: a little shopping in downtown Lisbon before the sun breaks through and we decide to head to the nearest (it REALLY isn't) beach. The boys decline citing a little travel sickness which is about 50% of the whole reality, another 50% being that the majority of today's calorie intake (theirs) comes courtesy of Starbucks and the final 50% is their burning desire to try out the Kinect computer game thingy (as specific as I'll ever care to be) on offer in the apartment.

No problem, a pleasant trip to the sea with the girls ensues. Though future editors of Time Out's otherwise excellent Guide To Lisbon please note - to the sentence "from Oeiras onwards you will experience miles upon miles upon miles of golden shoreline..." please add - "IF however you are one of those truly ignorant tourists stupid enough to actually get off AT OEIRAS rather than ANY of the subsequent stops where the Beach/Train Station access ratio is beyond adequate, you will have to wander through a distinctly non-tourist-haven-like urban settlement whose locals upon being asked "praia?" will uniformly respond with muted horror and point in a direction vaguely toward the hills, you then will blindly stumble down through steep deserted streets past decades-ago closed pharmacies and restaurants before a madcap dash across a highway brings you STRAIGHT TO THE BEACH."

Day 2 - blisteringly warm, sun blazing, straight to the beach - one that is accessible by transport other than helicopter. What could possibly go wrong!

SMACK! In the middle of some tig/tag beach-bound chasing game Boy Child 2 (not ours - but on our watch) decides to take an imaginary free kick at the only slightly submerged rock on the entire beach causing his toenail, of which I imagine he was rather fond, to take the next step on its journey to really find itself, now free of the shackles of being connected to the boy's foot.

I fashion a bandage out of a handkerchief (unused). For a moment I feel at one with nature, practical, original man. Then I remember I carry a handkerchief.

Day 3 - CRASH! In a good way this time - leaping into brilliant high waves and being thrust into the warm surf face down in the sand very much allows for the practice of being in the present moment. Try anything, begin any thought process and you'll soon find this interrupted by a thumping stinging aquatic smackdown: "I wonder if I left the gas/BLAM!" - "Oh this is so much f/SHUDAMM!" - "Shoot, did my wedding ring just come/POOMFUDD!" - "It's getting hard to breath n/CHHHHDUNCK!"

It was some twenty minutes into this ecstasy of pretending to be clothes in a saline-based washing machine that I noticed the most curious optical illusion. Both Girls 1&2 (ours & not ours) and Boy 2 (not ours) seemed to be happily lying on the beach, the group decision having been taken to get out. Yet for some entertaining reason in a manner not dissimilar to a slow version of the famous Jaws shot (Roy Scheider on beach / camera pans out & tracks forward*) the other kiddiewinks and the beach seem to be incredibly suddenly rather further away than makes sense and as Boy 1 (ours - I didn't technically make him but in this and the subsequent few minutes he sure is about to become a physical extension of myself) attempt to swim what a few seconds ago was the five or six metres towards the shore.

I suddenly can't feel the sand beneath me and waves are pretty high around us. I have Boy 1 in sight and check he's OK, he smiles. He is still swimming slightly ahead of me towards the beach apparently advancing at a rate of no strokes forward and nine strokes back. I too, by no means a Channel swimmer but not without stamina, am getting nowhere.

Hmmmm, we're in a rip.

Bugger.

I make one more attempt to do completely the wrong thing, which is to fight the current. It at least brings me nearer to Oli  - I tell him 'hang on, it'll be OK'. He informs me very calmly that he is in fact moving quite quickly in a direction rather against that which he would prefer to be going and not under his own momentum. I leap/dive/fall to him, grab his arm and pull him towards me. From here there isn't a lot of dialogue and the following thought process seems to occur as interminably slowly as one of the lengthier Bergman films might feel if presented without subtitles, yet probably was in real-time the duration of a squirrel fart:

We seem to be caught in a rip, what are you meant to do again? I vaguely remember something about swimming across it, rather than against it... Definitely against it is wrong as we are now much further out than is warranted by our efforts... But how in the deep blue fuck am I going to swim across it and keep hold of the boy, he's strong but he ain't doing that on his own... Besides which way IS across it? We seem to be sailing in a vague diagonal away from the shore... so if you're supposed to go across, is that at 90 degrees, 45 degrees...? ...that means, oh fuck it, my maths isn't strong enough even if my one-armed swimming is... I wonder if I can get us to those rocks, at least then we can rest... Gosh, I'm swallowing rather a lot of seawater, these giant waves were much more fun on the shoreline... Perhaps it's time I let the professionals intervene... There are some folk on the rocks.

I clear my throat and call out:

                "Say, hello my good man... HELLO MY GOOD MAN!... Yes, hello there, would you mind awfully... wait, do you speak English? Oh it doesn't matter you'll infer my meaning... Yes, hello there. We seem to be in a spot of bother here... would you mind awfully bringing this to the attention of those chaps who guard lives, as it were... well, quite literally actually... yes, it's of the highest priority... if it were an email it would have a little red flag next to it... yes I can see you pointing towards the beach, that's very much where we'd like to go thank you...

A little more treading (and swallowing) water, the duration of which feels like two un-translated Bergman films - real-time; maybe three minutes. Then suddenly, ploughing through the surf comes a very welcome fellow with an even more welcome floatation device over to which I fling Oli before I gratefully grab hold. He is rapidly joined by another chap, who Oli notices is wearing flippers. Flipper-guy throws a life-preserver onto Oli and lifts him onto a small floating board, then the remaining three of us water-babies swim in a direction dictated to by Flipper-guy (in truth I suspect I contribute about six percent to the momentum). This direction seems to be further out into the sea and we are buffeted by higher and higher waves, however these chaps aren't panicking and so neither shall I. Oli displays his only moment of uncertainty, asking 'where are we going?' a couple of times. Swimming, rather than engaging in elucidatory banter appears to be their priority so I loudly if a little breathlessly reassure him, telling him not to worry.

In fact I suddenly laugh out loud as I think of the understandable yet absurd nature of the question; a child's desire for knowledge and reassurance. Of course what they are doing is following the rip-current around the sharper-looking-than-before rocks further out to sea so that they can suddenly cut across it and out of it so that the pounding waves of the tide propel us once more in the desired direction of the incoming tide toward the beach. (Desired for humans, that is; the fish, they mind less). By now another hero surfer has come to our aid and offers me his surf board but at this point the effort required to haul myself onto it and remain there seems more involved than the effort to keep swimming so I politely decline. In retrospect I'll probably remember this bit of oceanic camaraderie as quite fun. Right now it isn't. The second moment of apparent-absurdity occurs as the kindly surfer keeps asking if we're Dutch (or Deutsch, I cannot tell for the sea roar partly restricts my hearing...) and Oli keeps telling him we're English. All I can think of is - what the fuck does that matter?...

And almost, almost as quickly as it began and after four particularly heavy waves temporarily sinking me, I feel sand under my feet and I am dragged to shore breathing fairly heavily. Oli is relatively beaming, and offers to go and get mum as the blurry bronze muscles in front of me order me to sit down for a minute, or two.

In a Portuguese accent.

               *I am fully aware that Orson Welles first conceived of this shot.

                              Or Hitchcock.

                                             ...Or Kurosawa...

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<![CDATA[Doggy Blog #2 - Back to the Beginning]]>Mon, 08 Jun 2015 13:32:19 GMThttp://astrollingplayer.weebly.com/blog/doggy-blog-2-back-to-the-beginningMy loyal follower(s?) will have been aware of our journey to breed our beautiful Border Collie Alba with our friends’ heavenly Sven. Last time I wrote an overview from conception to the first pup opening his eyes.

Now however, as we bade goodbye to the last forever dog on Saturday, that is - one not going to a close friend who we’ll probably never see…

Ahem.

Anyway, I wanted to write in rather more detail about this most incredible, heart-expanding and heart-rending, and most importantly, genuinely bonding experience.

So I’m going to. It’ll be in several parts dictated by time and memory.

PART ONE – A dirty weekend in Margate

Alba, would you like to go to Margate and see Sven?

Her ears prick up – she’s knows what and indeed who Sven is. He’s her other boyfriend, as in boy-who-is-a-friend (for now). He’s a sensationally beautiful white German Shepherd who has moved from the lush urban surroundings of Finsbury Park to the peaceful seaside town of Margate. Sven was initially reticent about the provincial nature of Margate and wouldn’t consider himself particularly a fan of Tracey Emin, so leaving Zone 2 might have been a wrench, however his owners Simon & Mariano persuaded him to keep an open mind.  

A beach, a BEACH! A beach sounds fun, can I EAT a beach?

Alba knows who Sven is. She doesn’t know what a Margate is yet. That is – at this point – she has no particular sense-memory of the place with which to connect.

She does now.
-----


The conversation between Helen, myself, Simon and Mariano had gone a little like this:

Imagine how beautiful their puppies would look?
Well, we’ve been talking about another dog, would you keep a puppy?
Yes.


And that was it. 



-----

We did our research on canine pregnancy and canine copulation as neither Helen nor myself had beyond beginner-level knowledge of either, which is probably healthy. And boy (here boy!) are we glad we did.

We all know the familiar image of male dog straddling female dog from behind, pumping away whilst we anthropomorphise a giant smile on his face. However – are you aware of THE TIE?

Yeah, thank God we were.

“Helen look at this – on many occasions the dogs will INVERT facing outwards and become terrifyingly STUCK TOGETHER until the act of intercourse is completed, with ONLY the ORGASM of the male dog, hereafter referred to as the Stud (well naturally), allowing all the muscles involved to contract enough for the two dogs to be released. They may remain in this position, i.e. stuck together with the unyielding unbreakable force of Katie Hopkins’ delusional self-confidence, for between FIFTEEN and FORTY-FIVE minutes. You are advised to comfort your respective dogs for the entirety of this period… No. Shit.” I was probably not quoting verbatim.

In the early evening of an unseasonably warm Friday in January we set off on a very pleasant and stress-free drive from London, where for once the South Circular decides not to be a dick. Our roadtrip soundtrack is mostly Elbow augmented by Helen occasionally reading me passages from self-improvement books to distract herself from my driving, which I should qualify says more about her nervousness as a passenger rather than the quality or safety of my driving.

‘Tis what I’m told anyhow.

We discuss the fact that Alba may not be receptive to Sven’s attention, or vice versa; that if you are breeding you’re advised to facilitate a minimum of two matings 48 hours apart – we only have the time for one, as our schedule demands we leave relatively early on Sunday morning, when we probably won’t have a hangover; and the advice that one should allow the dogs a little time to connect with each other and then find a quiet safe place, perhaps outdoors, before they have the confidence to begin the mating process. During this quiet time is when we’ll let Simon and Mariano know all about THE TIE.

We arrive – brrrrring. Mariano answers the door –

“Hi guys, so the way this is meant to work is …”

And like an Alton Towers ride taking off – the bit they’re good at – Alba has SHOT into the house to find Sven. There is a blur of bright white/tricolour fur flying around each and every room of the house as Alba discovers Sven’s living arrangements and Sven discovers Alba’s being-on-heat arrangements. When we finally find them panting in the living room Alba is considerably covered in romantic dog slobber, resplendent in goo as a result of the many hundreds of well-solicited dog kisses her baby-daddy has bestowed upon her. And then the hump…

“Oh it’s started,” says Helen. “We should let you know about the possibility of something called the tie… it’s…”

And then they show us.

As reported – they are utterly entwined. Facing out. Panting. There was some initial squealing from both dogs as they discovered they couldn’t move away and made noises that are probably loosely translated as – and this is my interpretation – “What the shitting fuck is going on?”

However they are both calmed by their respective daddies. I grab Alba’s head and gently stroke her, making a promise to myself that I’ll wash my hands clear of dog-saliva before supper, and Mariano holds Sven. The squealing subsides into major rhythmic panting from the pair of porking pooches.

“How long do they do this for?” asks Mariano, aware he has time-sensitive fish in the oven.

“Between fifteen and forty-five minutes,” I reply, saying the ‘forty-five’ part very quietly indeed.

He looks a little perturbed, as if to say, you could have told me that before we let them loose around the house and if the fish supper is fucked it’s your fault. Of course he’s such a lovely man that he would never think that never mind imply it with a look, I think what’s going through his mind is what is going through mine. That whilst one is holding a shagging dog stuck to another shagging dog, there isn’t a lot to DO.

“How’s work?...” I ask.

Simon and Helen keep popping in and out of the room and utter emotionally proud little comments like ‘it’s such a precious moment’ or ‘I can’t believe we’re here right at the beginning of potential new life’, and then leaving the room so Simon can keep an eye on supper and Helen can unpack properly.

Whilst Mariano and I hold the dogs.

Thankfully it’s closer to the fifteen minute end of the spectrum and with no great fanfare it’s done. Humans and dogs alike then enjoy a beautiful weekend of food, drink, making new friends, enjoying the beach and modern art. Sven makes his mark by vomiting heavily right in front of the Turner Contemporary Art Museum. This is more to do with the volume of seawater he has happily imbibed rather than any comment on the exhibition itself, which was excellent.

The dogs are definitely in love and spend the next two days not leaving each other’s side, including getting even less sleep than their decadently partying parents – none in fact as they spent the whole night lolloping around the house. A match made in doggy heaven. And they would have beautiful puppies. However, the big question now is … is our little girl actually pregnant.  

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<![CDATA[Doggy-Blog #1 "Margate"]]>Mon, 27 Apr 2015 14:23:17 GMThttp://astrollingplayer.weebly.com/blog/doggy-blog-1-margatePicture
“They have eyes, they have eyes, they have EYES!”

Not the opening line to a 50s B-movie – or to be more friendly to any youngsters reading, not a line from a mid-post-millennial-teens meta-ironic-homage to a schlock cult horror movie of the 50s, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.

No, instead the utterance of my squeakingly delighted wife upon discovering, that “Billy” – one of our litter of seven Border Collie-German Shepherd puppies is slowly bringing his squinting attention to the outside world. “Billy” (name not changed to protect his identity but rather to ensure he doesn’t develop multiple personality disorder being that “Billy” won’t be his ultimate identity).

So why do we have seven puppies?

(Oh my God I technically own eight dogs).

Well, I don’t have to draw you a picture.

Except in fact it is vitally important to be shown a picture of canine copulation since in most cases the happy pair become entangled in something called a tie, where the male is trapped inside the female, but both are turned around facing out to protect them from predators in this most private of moments. If you are prepared for this and know, especially for their first time, that you, the owner, is encouraged to hold your procreating pooch to prevent distress, then your own distress can be assuaged.

If you didn’t know that your happy humping hounds would suddenly metamorphose into a shrieking, panting, undulating two-headed dog-beast, you might think you were in some fucked up version of Labyrinth, as directed by David Cronenberg.

This lovemaking lasts between 15 to 45 minutes. Thankfully in our case it was close to the former. That is better.

And where did our little pooch lose her virginity and to whom?
Margate, just like Tracey Emin. And to a huge white German Shepherd, just like Tr…

I suppose legally I should just walk away from that sentence.

Our dear friends Simon and Mariano are proud parents to Sven, a massive, snow-white, happy dappy German Shepherd. We had had one of those conversations along the lines of ‘imagine how beautiful their puppies would be … should we … I don’t know … well, would you keep one … yeah we’d keep one … well maybe we should …’ and then ended up taking Alba away for a dirty weekend in Margate, where Simon, Mariano & Sven currently dwell.

Sven likes the seaside. Sven likes drinking seawater. Sven likes throwing up as a result of drinking seawater. Sven is always happy.

So a delightful romantic weekend was had by all and not pinning our hopes on conception we kept our eye on our little one for a few weeks. Her behaviour remained constant, she didn’t put on any weight, her nipples appeared to swell a little, but we might just have been imagining that. Other than Giulia, our Franco-Italian Menagerie-Dweller (flatmate, we operate a small Dulwich-based commune) regularly walking up to Alba, staring at her and proclaiming in her elegant velvet-foghorn blare – “PREGNANT!” – we didn’t actually think it was going to happen. A little deflating perhaps, but as long as she’s a happy healthy little dog we’re happy. We could always try again another time.

Then the possibility of theatrical work came up. Helen had just made a marvellous Gertrude in Hamlet and was then offered the extension and tour of the show. A cast member was going to be unavailable and so the director floated the possibility and indeed viability of Helen and I going away on tour together. Nothing is ever signed and sealed in this business until you’re … well, signed and sealed, but until I’m actually on the stage no job is guaranteed. However conversations began, negotiations were entered into and it began to look a reasonably safe bet that I would be offered the role – or at least A role, and we would be spending the summer away from home.

Good thing she’s not pregnant really isn’t it, we thought.

Then came Chickengate. Chickengate was the infamous night the dog and the cat combined forces to steal and eat an entire freshly roasted chicken. Another commune-dweller, Nicky, had left a chicken overnight to cool. On a plate, underneath a plastic container.

The screenplay might look like this:

                INT. Kitchen - NIGHT
Our slinky all-black feline hero MIDNIGHT leaps onto the granite worktop. She gently rubs herself against the round plastic cake-container sitting atop the freshly roasted and cooling chicken. It tilts slightly. She rubs more firmly, it tilts some more. Suddenly she freezes. She thinks she hears something. She continues. After a few more rotations there is enough of a gap for – canine co-hero ALBA leap up in one lightning-fast motion, grab a leg of the chicken sending the lid spinning into the air whilst pulling the dead chicken to the ground to be devoured bones and all by her and cat. The lid comes crashing back onto the plate as it was, like it had - never - been - moved.

In fact their joint endeavour was so successful and without evidence that the next day there was much confusion and some suspicion among the humans in the household for quite some time. Much later we realised that none of the adults nor children had stolen Nicky’s entire chicken, eaten it and then buried the bones in the back garden. Therefore – Occam’s – it had to be the pets.

Bugger. Chicken bones. We called the vet.

We don’t think she’s pregnant but she’s eaten an entire chicken and she may be. So, she can’t have an X-Ray if she’s pregnant, so just watch her OK. No, she isn’t displaying any of the symptoms we’ve read about, I mean her nipples might be a bit swollen but – oh, that means she’s ALMOST DEFINITELY pregnant does it? Oh, OK.

Wow. We had hoped and then put aside hope, and now we possibly had a job which would take us away from home for a bit. We were advised to watch her for the weekend and then bring her in on the Monday for a scan to confirm her almost-definite pregnant-ness.

Were we about to become dog-parents?...

TO BE CONTINUED.

(But - yes, obviously).




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<![CDATA[A very short review of The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch (who I love).]]>Sun, 05 Apr 2015 13:47:30 GMThttp://astrollingplayer.weebly.com/blog/a-very-short-review-of-the-imitation-game-starring-benedict-cumberbatch-who-i-loveMuted opening. Cumberbatch (who I love) in police cell looking sweaty and depressed. Title card announces year, fade sadly to black. A little rain. Slow fade from titles into depressing opening shot of a depressing room, music a bit ominous. But we know how it ends and are appropriately pre-outraged about it. Cumberbatch (who I love) V/O, sounding clever and a bit patronising. Rory Kinnear (who I love) all Manchester, does he have to? Charles Dance (who I love), the overexposed classical British actor of the moment (in the trade known as the 'Brian Cox' - who I love). Dance stiff and soldier-like. Which is appropriate. Cumberbatch nervy and clever. Challenges authority. Glint in Dance's eye, softens his soldier-like demeanour...

I have enormous admiration for everyone involved in this production and would really like to work with all of you and I'm sure this is marvellous and worthy and beautiful, but please, please don't make me watch any more.
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<![CDATA[A blog about being a  night porter because OH MY GOD I have to do something that isn't sitting on a chair waiting to buzz open a door.]]>Sun, 22 Feb 2015 08:18:55 GMThttp://astrollingplayer.weebly.com/blog/a-blog-about-being-a-night-porter-because-oh-my-god-i-have-to-do-something-that-isnt-sitting-on-a-chair-waiting-to-buzz-open-a-doorI have no problem doing a job that wouldn't challenge a border collie. I don't mind simple, I don't mind repetitive. However like a border collie I do find boredom something of a challenge. Well, a little more than a challenge. More like I really really REALLY hate being bored.

In fact I've known for a long, long time that boredom is my NEMESIS.

It's why I haven't volunteered to go to Mars. The journey would just be far too long. I find waiting at traffic lights excruciating. Waiting for a kettle to come to the boil is torture. The time between the washing machine cycle finishing and the door clicking open is hell. I have to read an article or attempt push ups. (During the latter the dog usually tries to lick my face). I simply cannot do nothing for very long at all.

I prefer to work long, punishing, arduous hours with early starts, late finishes, in demanding mental and physical roles, dealing with disparate and desperate personalities and egos (I instantly realise all of this is describing touring theatre...)

It isn't badly paid this portering gig, certainly relative to most kinds of artistic work and the hours aren't endless. It's just there isn't a whole lot to do.

I can bring a laptop and watch hours of television or film - Borgen, Brooklyn 99 and Elementary are tonight's choices. I prefer watching stuff with subtitles as I'm viewing and reading simultaneously. Give me some ironing to do at the same time and I'll almost consider it productive. I attempt a little David Lynch but the early hours of the morning in a vaguely desolate apartment building with long  empty corridors isn't entirely the environment for Lynch's work.

I could carry on with the exciting writing project I'm engaged in. Except that I haven't really slept in a couple of days now and only gibberish is coming out. I will at some point write an email to my beloved wife and comment on a few facebook posts about Greece, superfoods and/or rubber bands. However that won't distract me for long.

Therefore I will instead attempt a diary.

In real time here goes:

11pm - handover talk with regular porter who I'll call Jadam. He wants to get into acting. As promised I have brought in the 2008 edition of Contacts and point him in the direction of extra agencies, highlighting a few good ones. Jadam owns his own NYC police car - seriously, 3 grand on eBay, as well as a selection of police and army uniforms, Ray Knight should snap that shit up.

23:25 - I switch to 24 hour clock to log any subsequent diary entries.

23:27 - I ponder the 24 clock and wonder why it is such a difficult concept for my beloved American friends, who prefer to call it military time. As opposed to the time.

23:57 - Creme Egg. Might have peaked too soon.

00:36 - Log a sushi delivery for apartment 406. The delivery guys asks which floor. I guess four.

00:39 - I am proven correct in my apartment numbering deduction powers.

00:48 - I find subtitles on Borgen a bit blurry so I make a pot of coffee.

01:21 -  I correctly direct a drunk passerby towards Gower St. This doesn't require a huge amount of mental energy as I know roughly where Gower St is. I've been there before.

01:57 - I breathe in deeply, knowing the most difficult time for this shift is between 2 and 4am, the dead time, when there's longer to go than there has been, when no one is on Facebook or would be awake to respond to text messages.

02:01 - I start playing a Matt Damon film.

02:03 - I turn off a Matt Damon film.

02:34 - The CCTV camera over one of the side gates flickers. Cue brilliant fantasy that the terrorists are about to storm the building and I have to be the 'guy on the inside...'

02.41 - It becomes apparent that the terrorists aren't coming. I log the flickering camera in the notes. This kills a few seconds.  

03:37 - I walk around the lobby slowly hoping to kill some time. Very slowly.

03:41 - I realise how little time this has taken and moan out loud.

03:51 - I lie on the floor in 'semi-supine' then become completely paranoid that this is the moment the owners of the building will enter unannounced and catch me in this position thereby not only resulting in my immediate dismissal but also the removal of all further contracts that my temp agency has with this large property management company and the subsequent closure of said temp agency... possibly just paranoia. But I  get up anyway.

04:21 - a chap delivers a cellophane-wrapped copy of the International New York Times. There seems be an interesting article about Greece but it is continued on page 7 and I can't get to page 7 through the cellophane.

04:35 - I wonder if I should be writing [TM] after the word cellophane.

04:41 - I query the spelling of the word cellophane.

04:52 - I clock there are still over two hours to go. I suppress a tear.

04:55 - I clock that it is raining a little bit and I am cycling home. I suppress a tear.

05:44 - More Borgen. I scan the opening credits and smile whenever there is a surname in the credits that is the same as the surname of a character. This leads me to wonder how many surnames there are in Denmark.

06:14 - I consider calling my Danish wife to ask her about the surname question. But she has to get up for the kids in about twenty minutes and I would like her to continue to be my wife so I don't.

06:44 - I am saying the time and how many minutes I have left out loud. A lot.

06:51 - Jadam's here. JADAM'S HERE! Thank you for listening. (I may need you again. Stay posted).

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<![CDATA[The Inevitable Blog about Food. (subtitled - They Just Call It Food Here...)]]>Wed, 03 Dec 2014 10:30:29 GMThttp://astrollingplayer.weebly.com/blog/the-inevitable-blog-about-food-subtitled-they-just-call-it-food-hereMexican street food is great. It’s simple, hearty and full of flavour. Chinese street food is generally made up of items of varying levels of gooiness of indeterminate origin.

Forget even the unpleasant notion of accidentally eating dog, at least you can tell that meat is some kind of meat. This stuff…?

What did it used to BE? And it all comes with the same uniform smell, that reminiscent of a Brooklyn street market at the end of the day at the height of summer.

Anyway, so I wasn’t overly brave with my eating habits in China. But my worst food experience was simply sitting down in a restaurant to eat normally.  

It sounds simple enough. Order some food. Eat it. Hmmm…

I order prawns on a bed of breadcrumbed-garlicky-toasted flakes of I don’t know, but it’s very tasty. However as the prawns are shallow fried with their shells on I attempt to de-shell, with chopsticks. The waitress is already suspicious of me for not wanting to order rice, having pointed at the picture of rice three times whilst I politely declined, hoping my enthusiastic nod and smile will make her realise that I understand the concept of rice, I just don’t want any. Within three seconds of attempting to de-shell my first prawn I send several thousand of these pieces of fried garlic crumbs flying across the table and onto the floor.

What I want to do is yell “We’ve invented the fucking knife guys, why am I trying to de-shell a prawn with two sticks?” What I do is look around me very slowly to see if anyone has noticed. My waitress has. She smiles at me. Not with me. At me.

I eventually peel back the fried shell to find the shit-tube full and proudly on display. This is not unusual with seafood, I would just prefer it removed. It’s just the way I am, if I’m going to eat faeces I would prefer to invoke my maternal grandmother’s mantra ‘what the eye doesn’t see the heart can’t grieve about’. She used to say this in relation to using the chicken fat for gravy that she would then serve to my then-vegetarian sister.

Faced with a plate of fruit-de-la-mer effluent and with a substantial percentage of my lunch now either on the table, the floor, or my lap I resolve to use my fingers to de-shell my lunch. The look of polite derision I face from the waitress upon witnessing this is that which I would associate more closely with her finding me trying to de-shell her brother. I have spent a lot of time in Germany and am therefore used to obnoxious, unhelpful or indifferent waiting staff. However the food is easier to eat in Germany.

My side dish of Chinese broccoli really shouldn’t be cause for further troubles. But it is. They are all rather large pieces and again, as I am sans knife I lift a piece to my mouth reasoning I will bite it in half and the unrequired half will drop to my plate without fuss. Wrong. The broccoli is far too al dente to bite in half in one go so I am faced with the instantaneous decision of gnawing further and spitting out what I can or chomping down quickly and eating the entire stem of broccoli in one go, a little like the way a T-Rex would devour a small cow.

 By this point the waitress has placed the bill in front of me.

I look down. There are eight more prawns and a whole plate of broccoli to go.


After the eternity that is lunch passes I pay. I attempt to tip. I am refused. Whether this is cultural or personal I don’t know. There isn’t a strong tipping culture here but it does happen and my cab driver from Shanghai airport to the hotel was very keen to prise a further ten quid out of me, on top of the already exorbitant fee.  A 20 minute cab journey in Shanghai costs two quid so this guy wasn’t afraid to stand tall against traditional values. Good for him. I gave him a fiver.

Taking back my change and unwelcome tip I asked if there was a bathroom (I say toilet, the potential for miscommunication here is strong). I had just had a nice litre of beer and was going to attempt my second visit to the Forbidden City – it was closed on my first – and figured I might be wandering for some time.


The waitress points to the exit.



She isn’t directing me to the bathroom.  

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<![CDATA[A blog about where I've just been - because now I can.]]>Thu, 06 Nov 2014 14:57:48 GMThttp://astrollingplayer.weebly.com/blog/a-blog-about-where-ive-just-been-because-now-i-canI think Dora was even happier about me going to China than I was. Though how can one not be happy to be paid to go to China…

“This means instead of chocolate and sweets for my birthday you can get me something really Chinese...”

And indeed she’s right. What I realised quickly taking in the gigantic boulevards of Shanghai was that the phrase ‘made in China’ is hardly a novelty. A scarf bearing the label ‘made in Milan’ may carry some exotic novelty gift mileage, practically anything proudly proclaiming ‘made in China’ will probably not.

So why am I here? Professionally, to work at a pair of conferences a week apart. The first in Shanghai, taking place some hours after I land and the next, a week later in Beijing. In the meantime however I am gifted the most luxurious hotel room I’ve ever stayed in – lacking only a kitchen space to prevent it being the image of the New York flat Helen and I dream about eventually occupying. I am also gifted a brilliant city to stay in. Sharing a vibrancy with both London and New York, if architecturally more similar to the latter and population density in relation to obstruction of one’s shopping more on a par with the former.

It is vast. I am apparently staying in the centre, and have a fantastic view 40 stories up. (Jono Gadsby you would love this). Though it is clear just how vast the city in that are several ‘centres’.  So I look around downtown, scanning simultaneously for the memory bank and gift ideas. It is very easy city to navigate around, though I suppose most major metropolises are. I’ve never had a problem rapidly getting to know New York, Berlin, Munich, for example. The subway is excellent, well signposted, clearly laid out and massively efficient. Trains appear to be every one to two minutes and are counted down to the second. Mind you they need to move, I’ve never seen such a human swarm as that on the subway here on an early Saturday evening. It makes Oxford Circus at Christmas look like, well, not such a busy station after all. And you wonder why there are no chase sequences in movies set in the Shanghai underground?

Well, wonder no further…

In case you’re still wondering the point is they wouldn’t move very fast.

And speaking of not moving very fast, once again I come across that peculiar phenomenon known as ‘people rushing everywhere except on the tossing escalators where they stand side by side steadfastly refusing to budge’. Even in a city as fast-paced as New York everyone races through the streets like lightning only to become Huxley’s Delta drones as soon as they encounter an escalator. Only in London do people understand how these things are meant to work. I think it’s because there are signs. This phenomenon is closely related to the even more inexplicable need people have at airports, not known as the welcoming refuge of those with ambulatory indifference, to stand still on the moving walkways. This is really stupid. Standing still on one of those only propels you towards your intended destination a fraction of a second faster than simply standing still.

Not that all my airport experiences were challenges to my inner peace. I had discovered in the early hours of the morning of my departure that in a true moment of serendipity my dear friend Eric Tessier-Lavigne was also flying from the same airport at a very similar time. So cue a cross-terminal dash to grab a sneaky morning pint and catch-up before going our separate and friendship-enriched ways.

Back to the streets of Shanghai.

It’s fortunate that Dora isn’t overly bothered about me bringing back sweets because upon discovering a hand-made Chinese sweet emporium I encountered a smell I couldn’t quite place. I rapidly exited and placed it quite soon after and very precisely as the elephant enclosure of the zoo. Most Chinese sweets look like dog poo covered in flour. So kids, you’ll have to make do with what I can nick from the reception desk of the hotel and M&Ms with Chinese writing on the packet.

By the way when one is approached on the streets of Shanghai by someone bearing a laminated plastic folder advertising bags and watches accompanied by the words do you want to buy a bag?, what they mean is do you want to buy a prostitute? You may all know this. I didn’t. Perhaps everyone is offered such free and easy access to massage, perhaps more likely Western-looking-business-ish types, who knows. Initially I cast these advances aside with a grin and a polite no thank you. Then I graduated to pointing to my wedding ring, thinking they would see I was very happy indeed, thank you. Then I stopped doing that in case they thought I was ostentatiously displaying a level of wealth indicating that I might require a higher-grade hooker than the one on the proffered business card. I stopped counting after thirty such solicitations over the course of one hour and subsequently kept my head down.

Generally though there is a marvellous and exciting feel to the city. I spent a pleasant hour wandering through the People’s Park, enjoying its elegant lotus pond and waterless waterfall (perhaps it’s seasonal). I came across a large open air stage upon which earlier in the afternoon some very loud classical music was being danced to by, in all honesty, not the most elegant dancers I’ve ever seen, but they were enjoying themselves. Later on I walked past this again and the Strictly Come Dancing brigade had been replaced by a very loud and very enthusiastic rock band. This I enjoyed a little more. I think they were singing in English, though their refrain appeared to be a constant repeat of the words ‘set designer’, which I thought was nice, as they are a demographic largely overlooked in contemporary popular music.

I’m not sure I want to end on an indelicate note but I feel I should warn those who haven’t been here and provoke a warm knowing smile from those of you that have. If you find yourself in need of going to the toilet in a large Chinese city, try and forget it. Opening a cubicle door into what appears to be a shower room sans shower, with nothing else but a hole in the floor and two places to position your feet is a mildly disconcerting experience. Realising you were meant to bring your own toilet paper is even more unnerving. Thankfully owing to my almost pathological need to take more free napkins than is my right whenever I have the option, I was saved from disaster. In fact I left this futuristic ablutional nightmare and found a disabled toilet in a department store, disabled in this instance apparently meaning ‘normal toilet’ not ‘medieval shitting hole’. I ask you, why China, why?

So OCD bathroom issues aside thus far Shanghai is a winner. It’s a beautiful and interesting city. Food is reasonably priced if not massively exciting and I have succeeded in finding something for Dora that is really Chinese and not completely kitsch and tacky, something for Helen that is cute and borderline, and something for both Oli and Dora that is all of the above. Except borderline.


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<![CDATA[Dealing with Disappointment]]>Sat, 05 Apr 2014 15:15:34 GMThttp://astrollingplayer.weebly.com/blog/dealing-with-disappointmentSo - I can finally reveal I had been planning to structure several future blogs around a single experience, and was holding back that information until it was all confirmed and out in the open. But as now I am not going to undertaking the experience which was financially very beneficially if scientifically dubious health-wise, I can write it about it here a bit and then move on.

In an effort to bring in a large amount of money in a short amount of time for relatively little effort - I know, what could possibly go wrong, right? - I had signed up for FLU CAMP. A medical testing programme where they infect you with the flu and work out if their trial drug cures the flu, has no effect or turns you into blancmange. The initial process was a blood test to ascertain basic eligibility factors like whether or not you have not had the strain of flu they are testing (I hadn't), abuse heroin (I don't) and are currently alive (I am). Incidentally the woman who administered the blood test told me her (unsolicited) views on gay marriage - after establishing I was marrying a woman - which were rather biblical so it's a good thing they weren't checking my blood pressure.

The politics of a all-too-sharing bonkers nurse aside, all was well and so an appointment was booked for a second round of tests - a festive barrage where they test you for everything, heart, weight, liver function(!), BMI and a small psychological test consisting solely of the question - do you like Coldplay?  (The correct answer is of course, no). Well, I managed to fall at the first-ish hurdle after declaring that I am allergic to nothing, have no chronic illnesses, and have abstained from alcohol, tobacco and caffeine for the last week (imagine how fun I was to be around at yesterday's 12 hour tech...)

Then came the question about medicines. I have never really taken any, never really been ill - other than glandular fever during my A-levels forcing me to choreograph my final piece sitting down - with a wonderful dancer called Rachel who defriended me on Facebook because I vocalised that I was a little cross about the entire Mormon church throwing its backing behind Proposition 8. She was a Mormon. And probably not gay.

However - about a year ago I developed a tiny sun blemish on my forehead called something marvellous like a solar-stellar-nuclear-blast-abrasion and my GP recently prescribed a gel to get rid of it. This I had to declare and was told it meant I was not eligible in case the drug only worked on people with active solar-stellar-nuclear-blast-abrasions.

This was naturally disappointing. In fact, because it was such a small thing I can let you know that I was a little pissed off - though not as pissed off as the time as we lost Garry Jenkins. I have a wedding coming up and theatre is marvellously rewarding if just occasionally not as well-paid as you all might think. However after just about managing not to throw all my toys out of the pram entirely based on the calm and kind coaching my incredible future wife is always overjoyed to give me, I eventually let it go and put my angst and energy into working on my TEFL course so I can teach rich foreign businessfolk how to order a pizza without onions. (Incidentally if anyone has any casual labour work going I am a whole lot stronger than I look).

Hold the feeling, breath, let it go, move on productively. A good worthy mantra.

And it means that I can now have a cigarette before tonight's production of Oedipus and a divine glass of wine afterwards. Sadly it means you won't get a daily update on my progress or other (not-quite-yet) legal-drug-induced witterings from my quarantine but now you can all let me know your respective feelings on medical testing - good way to earn quick money - or completely bonkers thing to ever consider.

The topic of this is dealing with disappointment and I should end with a confession that I'm slightly nervous. In the last 18 or so months I performed on stage over 200 times, yet all abroad and so the children didn't see me in a single show. It has hit me like a freight train driven by a unicorn (semi-unexpected) that tonight is the first time they will ever see me on stage.

Oli, Dora, I love you. Be kind...]]>
<![CDATA[The Mystery of Domestic Bliss]]>Wed, 12 Mar 2014 11:12:45 GMThttp://astrollingplayer.weebly.com/blog/the-mystery-of-domestic-blissIn my ongoing transition from grandiose gesticulating Withnail-meets-Dylan-Moran-type figure to family man who transcendentally meditates twice a day, I have come to the exciting realisation that family life sorta suits me. I am probably happiest when the cats are in for the night, feasting in the living room (and yes I know they're nocturnal, this is about my feelings not theirs); the dog is asleep in her puppy crate, which she loves and is nearly too big for; the kids are asleep in bed having been read stories – the current format of parental duty is Helen reading to Dora and me reading to Oli (currently The Silver Sword and next up Hitchhiker's Guide - yes!); and my wife-to-be and I cuddled up watching Dexter or House of Cards in bed.

Domestic life isn’t especially new to me but this level of finding true peace and happiness in a daily shared breakfast (regardless of how early I now have to rise to expedite this), expensive olive oil, a daily and combined effort of keeping the house tidy and a meticulous attention to diary-keeping to ensure kids are picked up, dropped off, fed, entertained and educated is a wonderful series of events that causes my heart to swell.

I notice little things that I never would have before. A bit like Eckhart Tolle finding the immediate and powerful truth and beauty in the verdant foliage of his local park in (probably) rural Germany.

For example there is a switch in our hallway that doesn’t do anything. It is placed above the dado-rail, at chest height and is the same design as a domestic light switch. I have traced where the wires might go, what sockets it might control, which lights it may have duel power over, but so far – nothing. Perhaps it turns the cats on and off, maybe it operates the cloaking device on my keys, it very much could have a remote influence on the intermittently-active car heater which comes on when it feels like it, like not when I'm actually driving but probably when parked.

It excites me that something so innocuous and almost definitely an example of ‘it is what it is’ – a dead light switch – can cause my imagination to fly. Like many  people I am a huge fan of TED Talks and had the great pleasure of working at a conference where Richard Anderson was speaking, which initially alerted me to this incredible free resource, a truly philanthropic gesture of knowledge-dissemination.

One of my favourites is by JJ Abrams. Think of him what you will. Personally, I loved Lost series 1-3, hated series 4-6, despite an entire episode revolving around Allison Janney who would be my first and only choice to play Jocasta should I ever play Oedipus, seeing her as I do as sublimely maternal and super-hot. I am of course not currently playing Oedipus, that role rightly goes to the marvellous Joe Sowerbutts, but I am currently rehearsing for Oedipus, playing Creon in a production mounted at the former Mornington Crescent Sports Complex, now a squat with an artistic outreach, from 4th-11th April. The production is directed by the brilliantly talented Tania Azevedo and I never said a thing about not plugging shows on here. (And since we're doing that go and see my amazing fiancé Helen Bang be gorgeous, Greek and grave as the nurse in Medea, Riverside Studios, NOW until 22nd March).

ANYWAY... back to Abrams - I think the Star Trek reboot is brilliant and I am very much looking forward to his forthcoming Star Wars picture as a film lover, if not a fanboy.

His talk was called The Mystery Box. It was a gift given to him by his grandmother and its instructions dictated that it never be opened. More than this I will not reveal as Jeffrey tells the story far better than I could. But essentially it was the catalyst for the blossoming of his imagination. The light to the blue touch paper of his universe-sized creative mind. Its simplicity is its genius, as it is with Abrams.  

May I never find out why that switch was installed. I hope I never discover what it does. I will be eternally grateful not to know what happens when I flip that switch. As perplexing as that can be.

Still, it isn’t as perplexing as the time we lost Garry Jenkins.

The link to JJ Abrams TED Talk is here: 

http://www.ted.com/talks/j_j_abrams_mystery_box.html

And the link to Medea tickets is here!:

https://www.riversidestudios.co.uk/online/performances.php?eventId=1111:3426

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