Thursday, 21 October 2010

The sleep of a drunkard

I slept the sleep of a drunkard. The irritating phone burst of Wagner lurched me into the waking world. It was 0925 and Tom was calling.
Having spoken to him (my voice hoarse from an alcohol-blurred sleep), I concluded that he called for two reasons:
To tease me (my drunken desire for drugs and group sex);
To tell me of the open call to audition that was happening in Soho.
My brain was too raddled by sleep to respond to his provocation. The women may have been Australian. I may well have been very drunk. But I’d seen Tom in similar situations. And one of the Aussie girls possessed a terrific knowledge of Russian Literature. I’m not shallow, Reader. I can see beyond the prosaic.
I only managed a grunt in response to Tom’s auditional revelation. His agent told him that it wasn’t suitable for Tom’s style (Tom had an agent – think about this), so Tom thought it right and proper to let me know ‘considering that I was broke and out of work and a loser’.
I ended the call. Nobody gets to call me a loser without reaction. The details of rehearsal had, however, been secreted in my bedside notebook.
He told me that the doors of audition-house didn’t open until 1300, so I shut my eyes and fell back to sleep.
I dreamt:
It was dark. I was walking London alone. I was on a long road. I wore Wellington Boots. White stone buildings grew high on each side of me. There was a loud explosion. I couldn’t locate where it originated. The street was empty of both cars and people. My mobile phone began to ring. Caller display showed that it was my old English teacher, Dr Jones, ringing. I did not answer.
I woke in a cold sweat at 1130. Showered, shat and shaved, I was in town by 1230. I’d consulted, before leaving the flat, and so the location was a synch to find. The building stood on a side-street in Soho - a three-storey detached house. There were signs attached to the place’s red metal fence (‘Project X auditions’), but no human presence.
A few London losers moseyed up and down the road behind, but none showed interest in the London townhouse in front of which I stood.
I tried the door. Its wood was red. Its red was gloss. The handle was large, golden, round and set dead central. I pushed, I pulled; the door was locked.
There was a doorbell, under which (where there should have been a name) there was written ‘Do Not Ring’. I pressed the button.
Dully inside, I heard an electronic buzz.
Three minutes of waiting and the door remained closed.
Gay Tom’s time-information could have been flawed. I decided to visit The Three Greyhounds. There I could drink beer. This would be a ‘good thing’, as alcohol calms the nerves (I wasn’t nervous). I would take half an hour to drink one pint of lager. I might read a paper. Something undemanding. I might even eat a packet of peanuts.
When the half an hour of pubtime had elapsed, I would jog back to auditionbuilding. Hopefully, there might then be some ACTION.
This was the plan.
It almost worked.
I did read a paper. It was The Star. I had a packet of chilli peanuts. They were delish – why? The piquancy of chilli seasoning balanced well the tart taste of peanut. I drank two pints of lager. This was not intentional. The Czech barmaid (large nose, bleached hair) misheard my damned order.
Extra lager meant extra time spent in smoke-filled pub (strangely smoky, actually, as I was the only customer). I left after forty-eight minutes. My face was smiley, my belly full of lager and peanuts. I decided that going to the pub had been the correct decision. The extra alcohol had even alleviated the nagging headache from night previous.
The house of audition was two sides of a triangle away.
My head popped! There was a line of losers at the corner of the house’s road! They weren’t in a huddle. They weren’t moving. They were queuing!
I studied the people with the eyes of a student (e.g. studious) as I strode towards the congregation.
They appeared as if they could be waiting for audition. A few looked like me (cool and handsome, but artistic too). Some looked like drama students (stupid) and sounded like drama students (shrill and stupid). Some looked like Harry Potter fans (peaked magician caps and glasses). There was also a worrying sprinkling of tall, hairy men.
Reader, I sighed. Beer had done for me once again.
Why hadn’t I waited? Why did I go to the pub?
Two tall women were gabbling excitedly at the back of the queue. One was ugly, the other ugly. I can’t bother do describe them, Reader. They were ugly. One had her hair pulled back from acne-ridden forehead in a tight pony-tail. And my height reached only their nipples. They were tall, ugly sorts. Tugly.
I asked them if they queued for the audition.
“No,” said the ugly one. “We enjoy hanging around Soho streets.”
Sodding sarcastic students.
“Like dirty whores?” I said.
The ugly one raised a middle forefinger to me and said she’d give me another black eye.
I walked past them, along the three deep, 50(?) long queue that snaked around the pub street.
At the point that the queue bent around the corner, I turned and surveyed the road.
Yes. This was the wait for the audition. The whole pavement was packed with people, right up until it hit the townhouse that, fifty minutes earlier, I was waiting alone outside. It was a distance of 100 people-packed yards. Like a line for a popular nightclub (Fabric), it was.
I swore. A Harry Potter turned and shook his disapproving head.
Shoulders hunched, I traipsed to the end of the line.
And, already, six more had joined at the point of ugly women that had marked the queue’s conclusion only a few minutes beforehand. I fell in behind them, leaning against the plain brick wall of corner house. As the anger at the spontaneity of queue formation dissipated, a realisation of the ignorance of the part I was auditioning for grew.
I tapped the back of the bloke in front. He turned with extreme speed. He wore a T-shirt with ‘Marillion – probably the best band in the world’ printed violently across green chest region. His black hair was short. His chin was wonky – as if someone had spent years pulling lower jaw right, whilst upper jaw was edged left. It was a disconcerting look.
“Stop staring at my jaw,” said the man and I apologised.
After apology, I asked for details of the film for which I was auditioning. The man asked me if his chin was really that noticeable, I lied that it wasn’t and he gave me the S.P.
This was a rip-off of the Harry Potter series. It was to be the first film that didn’t use a Rowling novel as its source. Harry was now a 25 year old. He had retired from sorcery and lived in a bachelor pad in Bermuda with some sexy witches. He’s pulled back into action when an evil wizard threatens to take over the world with some wicked spell or something.
I told the wonky-chin guy that I’d audition for the part of Harry Potter. He laughed and said that I wasn’t good-looking enough. Anger sparked inside my brain.
“And you are? I suppose you’ll be going for the part of some monster. With that chin of yours, I mean,” I said.
He told me to piss off and turned his back.
During this exchange, I hadn’t noticed the queue build up behind me. We hadn’t moved forward, yet ten more people had appeared at my bum.
“Oy, you want some of this?” said one of these newcomers, and offered me a crooked joint.
I considered his offer for a few seconds.
Marijuana might help me relax (I wasn’t nervous) and free me from self-conscious inhibition, I reasoned. I took the roll-up from his hands (I noticed dirt under his fingernails) and took a deep puff.
Instantly I felt as if my brain had been scooped from my skull and thrown into a deep ocean, miles away (the Atlantic?). I coughed a cloud of white, acrid smoke. I leant back against the wall and asked the guy what it was because it wasn’t weed.
“Crack,” came his reply. “You want some more? I’ll do you a good deal.”
I shook my head very slowly and handed back the dirty joint.
“Too bad,” came the guy’s reply and he bounced off.
Mind reeling, I followed his progress – he walked further up the queue and offered the ugly girls the joint. They told him to fuck off. That he did, round the corner. He was no hopeful actor. He was a drug-dealer.
Reader, my brain bent. I felt as if I’d instantly consumed twenty pints of cider.
I waited in the queue for three hours and twenty five minutes. I possess little memory of that time. I recall marvelling at the brownness of the world. I remember staring at the wonky-chin-guy’s hair in front and being quite bowled over by how wonderful hair is. I have a dim recollection of having my details taken by a woman with a clipboard in the house’s reception. I do recall sitting in a red hallway waiting to be called into an audition room.
Cogent memories begin like this –
I’m sitting in a chair opposite a long, oak table. Behind this long, oak table sit three people. At the right is a woman with spiky black hair and a vinegary face. In the middle is a fat, bearded guy (a bit like a ‘Just for Men’-using Father Christmas). At the left was a tiny woman.
They did introduce themselves to me, but I forget their names and roles. I suppose one was the director and the others producers? I don’t know.
I do, however, remember their questions with clarity. Why? Because there weren’t that many of the bastards and my answers were all excruciatingly embarrassing.
Man: And your name?
Kay: Kay.
Man: Surname?
Kay: Richardson.
Man: And which role will you be auditioning for?
Kay: Ummmm….. Harry Potter?
Man: The characters we are casting today are listed on the paper you’re holding. Harry isn’t one of them.
He was right, I was holding a piece of paper. There were three names printed upon it. There was no further information. Ogland. Pete. Subranna.
Kay: Pete.
As one, all three leant back in their chair.
Man: Well … alright.
He threw a script at me.
Man: Start. I’ll read Ogland.
Pete’s lines were growling animal noises. Nothing more. I wished that I’d chosen Subranna.  Man interrupted after my first growl.
Man: You’re aware that Pete is an eight-foot dog/human hybrid?
Kay: Yes.
Man: How tall are you?
Kay: Five foot ten.
Man: Do you want to start again?
Kay: Yes.
The line said ‘growl’. I growled. The spiky-haired woman interrupted.
Woman: Stop. Kay, what made you audition for Pete? Why not Subranna?
A high-pitch laugh burst from my mouth. This (inappropriate) behaviour was due to the crack. The tiny woman (she had tiny glasses and bobbed black hair) spoke.
Tiny woman: Have you read the character descriptions?
Kay: Yes.
Tiny woman: Describe Subranna to us.
Kay: He’s a man?
Man: Thanks for stopping by. On your way out, could you tell the next person to come in? Thanks.
Audition over.
I would have felt disappointed, but I was still high on crack.
I bought a burger on the way home. That semi-sorted me out. I walked from Lewisham to Outer Blackheath to fully sort me out. And, thankfully, the effects of the crack did dissipate. However, my narcotic high was gradually replaced by the wrench of depressed disappointment. The drugs had sparked the dying embers of yesterday’s hangover – and once more I headached.
On Lee High Road, I noticed a man with a dog walking towards me.
But this wasn’t any dog. This was Dog! The dog I’d saved.
The guy walking Dog was an elderly sort. He wore a flat-cap and used a walking-stick. I watched them creep close to me with quasi-smile. As soon as Dog was close enough to touch, I bent down and felt him.
His owner whacked my head with his walking stick. I fell instantly to the pavement, shoulder striking floor with sharp pain.
“Help! Help! Mugger!” yelled the man.
As I staggered to my feet, avoiding the repeated thrusts of his violent walking stick, I noticed a gang of twenty metre away bus-stopped children react to the old man’s screams. They had stopped graffiti-ing the bus timetable and had began to run towards us (me, man and dog). I turned-tail and (dog) legged it.
It was in a lingerie shop in Lewisham shopping centre that I finally lost the kids. I hid behind the oversized bras. And so what?
Such was my depth of my funk, I took a cab back to flat, even in the knowledge that such expense was wildly profligate.
I lay on sofa on returning to flat, my head throbbing through combination of crack, hangover and stick-attack.

Monday, 18 October 2010

1)                  Buy The Stage;
2)                  Attend all auditions listed in The Stage (apart from erotic dancing);
3)                  Ring all drama school colleagues (who will talk to me);
4)                  Ask all drama school colleagues (who will talk to me) for leads;
5)                  Investigate internet marketing;
6)                  Dismiss thoughts of selling property for a living.

I bought The Stage from Hello Matey. Other than erotic dancers, there was one (vaguely) interesting advertisement. The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival was looking for actors for a series of plays. I emailed them a photo and my CV. My CV was my actual CV. It wasn’t a fabricated CV. I doubted that I’d be called to audition – too little experience.

Scrolling through my phone’s contact list, I realised there were no drama school colleagues who would speak with me.

I considered creating another podcast. I consulted the listening statistics for the last episode. I decided against creating another podcast.

And whilst doing these things, and more, I could never fully dismiss the idea of selling property. If I succumbed to Colin’s cash, I could eat out every night and take women to the cinema and buy as much pick ‘n’ mix as I wanted. I loved those fizzy cola bottles. If I had money, I could buy shizzle-loads. Estate Agency could find me that cash.

I agreed to meet Pink Tom for a drink. Had I forgiven him for the Legion Deejaying fiasco? Had I flip. (No.) But there was nobody else I could think of drinking with:

People I could have a drink with:

Pink Tom – friend from sixth-form college. Owed me fifty pound from DJing;
Rosalind – told me not to contact her.
Jon (Janet’s husband) – Janet would have reminded him of me after our Starbucks meeting. He had a baby. And would probably try to convince me of the merits of the property game;
Julia – met in a nightclub six months ago. Had sex. Didn’t call her. Might think it weird to receive a call six months in future. I couldn’t remember her face;
Bert. An alcoholic teacher.

Pink Tom it was, then.

“I haven’t forgiven you for the night in Legion,” he said when I called him.

I told Tom that I hadn’t forgiven him. He agreed, however, that we should go for a drink. We arranged to meet at 1930 in The Railway in Blackheath. Tom moaned because he lived in Camden, the other side of town. I told him that it was my idea to drink, so I could demand location. He wasn’t keen until I lied about a party of sixth-form girls I knew to be visiting. The Railway was a pleasant place. It often played Belle & Sebastian on a Saturday night. Sweet.

The evening, however, was p-p-p-proper awful. Tom was forty minutes late. I sat with a newspaper and looked like a loner. When Tom finally arrived, he didn’t apologise, but said:

“Where are the eighteen-year-olds?” loudly to the empty pub.

He bought himself a pint of lager without offering me one. And when he finally sat at our table, he told me ‘not to bother asking about that fifty pounds’.

We sat in silence for twenty minutes. I reread the newspaper and Tom fiddled with his Blackberry.

“Oh,” he said at nine o’clock. “Did I tell you that the Royal Court are interested in a play what I wrote?”

My head darted up from an article about a dog that had destroyed Elvis Presley’s teddy bear.


Tom confirmed the horror. He’d sent a play to the Royal Court Theatre and somebody there wanted to arrange a meeting to discuss ‘options’. I nodded, grunting ‘well done’ into the newspaper that I continued to reread.

A muted half an hour passed until two Australian girls asked if they could sit at our table.

“What about all those?” I ask, swinging my arm across the bar to illustrate all the other empty tables. Pink Tom and I were the only other customers (apart from a middle-aged couple and an aged alcoholic). These Australians had no call to share our rectangular four-seating table.

“Ignore him,” said Tom. “Sure. Take a seat.”

He smiled, I hated him, and I continued to read the paper. One of the girls went to fetch drinks. Tom spoke to her friend. When the Aussie returned from the bar, she immediately addressed me.

“What yer doing reading a paper in the pub?” she asked. “You want a lager? I bought yer one.”

I sighed, folded the paper and returned it to the table. And then I drank. The woman was fairly interesting, I concede. She was studying Russian at university and she answered questions I had about Stalin. She was fairly attractive too -  tall and black haired and diving neck line.

I was talking to her about the Second World War when she leant over and asked ‘do you and your mate wanna come back to my friend’s house for 'c and s'?’

I'd not heard of this term before, but knew not to let on. Words flew through my imagination - verily, there were many intriguing words that began with either 'c' or 's'.

I asked if she were joking. She laid a hand upon my thigh and said she never joked about 'c and s'. I gulped and said ‘alright’, knowing that if 'c and s' turned out to be unpleasant, I could always flee from the house, jumping from a window if need be. She told me to check with Tom because it was her friend’s house  and they’d only met four hours earlier and she didn’t wanna be a gooseberry.

I leant over to Tom, smiling and forgiving, and I asked him and he laughed, then straightened his face when he realised I wasn't joking and so said ‘Not my scene’.

I walked home. Alone. Seething. Drunk.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Read this:

Morning began with a surprise in my inbox:

Kay Richardson,
I was passed your details by a mutual friend. Would you be interested in some acting work? It involves performance tomorrow (Sunday) in Trafalgar Square.
Please let me know either way ASAP.
Thayne Catchpole

Thayne, eh? I thought. Trafalgar Square, eh? I continued to think. Paid work, eh?

I replied:

Thayne, hello,
Who is our mutual friend?
Let me know arrangements.

Email discharged to the ether, I clicked open an message whose subject header boasted it could enlarge my penis. An overwhelming shadow of misanthropy fell upon my soul when reading the poorly spelt message. But before thoughts turned suicidal (Thames jump, Thames jump), and seconds after reading the erection email, Thayne replied:

Meet at 1600 (today) in Trafalgar Square for briefing.
Do you have any military costumes?

I didn’t bother sending a reply. I didn’t own any military costumes. And I didn’t like Thayne’s presumption that I might. Who owned military uniforms?

The filling sandwiched between Thayne’s mid-morning emails and Thayne’s meeting in Central London was a poor one (cheap tuna?). I laid on the sofa and watched a film about three American GIs that returned to Italy, thinking that they were all the father of one teenage beauty. It was candyfloss for the brain. I lay and watched it, motionless, from opening credits till end (commercials and all).
On the train to Charing Cross (next to Trafalgar Square) I wondered how to identify Thayne. I also wondered what the job might be, how much I’d be paid and why I hadn’t asked these questions before accepting his electronic offer. And Thayne hadn’t identified our mutual friend, despite my polite questioning. It could be an elaborate set-up for a mugging, I thought. Thayne might be a mugger. I checked my pockets for phone and wallet.

I shouldn’t have worried. It was easy-peasy to find Thayne. And when I did, he didn’t mug me, even though he held a broad sword. He was the guy dressed as a Roman General outside the National Gallery (North end of Trafalgar Square – find a picture on the internet). I’d never introduced myself to a Roman General before, but I thrust out a hand and told him my name, as I would anyone else – even slave.

“Yes, yes, yes,” said Thayne. He spoke with high lisp and private school accent. “Never mind about you, you’re here. Where are the others?”

Thayne raised a hand to shield his eyes, even though the sunlight flittered insipidly, as if it couldn’t be bothered to shine properly. I looked over Trafalgar Square. I could see no other Roman soldiers. There were many neon-clothed tourists, a scattering of skin-heads and some students cocking about in the fountains – but no Roman soldiers.

“I can’t see any Roman soldiers,” I said and Thayne nodded.

No other Roman soldier turned up. Out of the five actors that arrived, three wore modern camouflage fatigues. One guy wore the uniform of a Napoleonic-era combatant. And one bloke had a full-on Nazi outfit (greyly resplendent with Iron Cross). It took forty minutes for the entire party to show. And the Nazi guy was (ironically, considering the German’s reputation for precision) the last to arrive.
During the wait, I sat upon one (of the many) stone walls that make Trafalgar Square a square. I asked Thayne’s back six times what the performance was and how much I’d get paid for it, but each time he dismissed my questions with a SSSSSHHHH released from the side of mouth and a weak-wristed flap of hand.

Thayne insisted the group form a line before he spoke. This we did. I stood between the Nazi and a modern soldier.

“Tomorrow, we will perform in front of thousands of people.” My eyes widened. “We shall fight here. A stage will be erected for us.” He gestured at the raised end of the square upon which we stood. “The audience shall watch there.” He pointed to the centre of the square. “The leaders of the march have allotted us two performance times. Performance time number one will be at two o’clock. Performance time number two will be at five o’clock.” Thayne nodded pompously (much like a Roman general, I imagined). “Remember, we won’t be presenting our fight literally. No. We are artists. Our act should move towards the abstract, the expressionistic. I don’t want to see anybody throwing any punches. I don’t want anyone kicked in the head. I want symbolism. I want creativity.” Thayne took an affected glance along the line of men. “Beautiful costumes, talent. Kay Richardson. Where is yours?”
Seconds passed before I realised that Thayne wasn’t joking. His gelled (Caesar-style) hair was almost blown Mohican by a burst of Thames-fresh wind.

“I didn’t have one,” I told him.

Thayne stared along his nose at me. The Nazi said that he had another uniform spare.

“I shall bring something tomorrow,” said Thayne. “Do not fret.” He flashed a smile. It lasted for no more than a second. “Gentlemen, I shall see you here a little before two, tomorrow afternoon.”

Thayne took a sharp 180 degree turn and moved into the crowd milling outside the entrance to the National Gallery.

Our line began to break. I shouted ‘Oy, Thayne!’, but he was already lost in the mass of art-interested tourists. I turned to the Nazi. The others had begun to shuffle away. I excused myself from their company and asked the Nazi what was happening.

“What, now? I’m going for a pint. Want to come?”

His first suggestion for location was the ICA. I vetoed that. Instead, we found an empty, old-style boozer called ‘The Sherlock Holmes’ in a back-street behind Charing Cross station. Polish barmaid aside, there was nobody around to take offence at his Nazi apparel. And, anyway, London’s a liberal, cosmopolitan place. We sat at a circular table in the dark, woody pub (big mirror behind long bar), sticky red carpet. The Nazi bought the drinks. Some peanuts too.

I took a sip of the lager. Cool it was, and it seeped into my body like some golden, hoppy elixir.

“When I asked earlier ‘what’s happening?’, I meant the performance, not what you were doing next,” I explained to the Nazi.

He laughed and introduced himself as Richard. I shook his hand and told him my name.

“Kay,” I said.

“Kay Richardson?” he asked. I nodded. “Thought so. Weren’t you the guy that lived on a stage for a week? Some living art, was it? That was you, wasn’t it?” I nodded; it had been me. “Yeah. I thought that was a smashing idea. You were in The Guardian, weren’t you?”

“Yes,” I said. “And the local news.”

The Nazi nodded and told me it was a smashing idea (again).

“How come you didn’t starve?” he asked, popping a peanut in his mouth.

I told him that the audience (groups of tourists generally – they paid to walk through the theatre and watch myself and friend sleep and stuff (a live Big Brother, we called it)) would bring food for us. A group of Americans bought us pizza, I said.

The Nazi nodded and smiled and told me that he’d wished he’d had such a smashing idea. I steered the conversation back to talk of our soldiery performance.

“What about tomorrow?” I said.

The Nazi spoke:

Thayne ran this company that produced short anti-war performance material.  Because of his politics, he received much funding from guilty liberals. We were to perform in one such piece. We, the actors, would dress in military uniforms and fight for twenty minutes. The repetitiveness of the piece, coupled with the fact that nobody dies, should illustrate the absurdity of war. Thayne had recorded some original music to be played over the fighting to emphasise this. We’d get a hundred quid for our troubles. Thayne didn’t believe in rehearsals, nor scripts. He thought it strangled creativity.

“Nice one,” I said. “So what am I supposed to do?”

 He shrugged and finished off his pint.


I arrived at Trafalgar Square at ten to two the next day. There was an impressive throng of protestors. Some held banners. Others had shaved their heads. The BBC News had reported that there would be an anti-war march. I hadn’t realised that they referred to my forum. Tens of thousands were expected. Trafalgar Square was almost half-full – there were thousands. I pushed my way to the North side. Where we had lined yesterday, there now stood a few raised wooden pallets, covered in carpet. On top of this was a microphone. Speaking into the microphone was a red-faced, stupid-haired angry man. He shouted about Palestine.

A hand sharply gripped my shoulder. I was pulled from the front of the crowd and up onto the side of the stage. Thayne stood pointing at his watch (looking rather incongruous next to the Roman get-up).

“You’ve got three minutes to change,” he said and chucked me a weighty Sainsbury’s bag. “It’s gladiatorial. I couldn’t find military.”

I nodded and jogged behind the stage. There was no backdrop to prevent the thousands watching me strip. I even noticed a few point already, and the red-faced speaker turned to me as I passed. No, I decided. Here was not a good place to change. Conscious of Thayne’s angry Roman eyes, I ran into the Nation Gallery and deposited myself in the men’s toilets that were fortuitously positioned just in from the main entrance.

Pulled out of the plastic bag in a shit-smelling cubicle off the National Gallery entrance hall was a small length of leather, a string vest and a helmet only large enough to cover my scalp. I wasn’t surprised, nor upset. I had already surrendered myself to wearing ridiculous clothes. It wouldn’t be Kay Richardson appearing on stage in leather boxer shorts, string vest and tiny helmet. No. It would be the Roman Gladiator, there to do in the other soldiers (albeit in abstract form).

I thrust my original threads in the carrier bag, and jogged back to the stage. The others were already streaming onto the performance area. With a whack on the bottom from Thayne, I joined them. We lined behind Thayne, who took position at the microphone. After waiting for the applause to wither, he spoke:

“We amass here today, unified in our protest against War. Some of us will march, others will write letters. I, and my actors, will perform. My name is Thayne Catchpole and I present ‘War – what’s it all about?’

He turned to us and nodded. He raised a thumb to a thin chap that stood with headphone behind a mass of black machinery. The stage shuddered with the sudden opening of Thayne’s music. I hadn’t enough time to absorb its formless electronic beeping. Instead, I was being lifted off my feet by Thayne and the Nazi. I imagined myself a missile, sent to kill civilians. I raised my hands to a peak above my head. The two dropped my faux-explosive form to the floor and I made an exploding noise and lay on my side.
This motion was repeated five times, while the other performers ran around in front of us, a-screaming and a-hollering. I tired of acting a missile, so upon the fifth occasion of exploding, I refused to be lifted again and instead crawled through Thayne and the Nazi’s legs. Thayne tried to grab me, missed, and a laugh erupted from the (until then) silent audience. As I crawled through these legs, I imagined myself as a British infantryman in the fields of the Somme, crawling through the muddy craters of No-Man’s Land.
Crawl over, I stood up and watched the Napoleonic guy and the modern soldiers mime the discharge of a gun. I thought it rather impressive (aesthetically), but the audience didn’t offer direct response. The mild murmur of chat had overtaken their initial slack-jawed silence. And so it was with some relieve that the Thayne’s electronic dirge stopped to mark the end of the performance. Thayne was forced to speak “and that’s it” into the microphone before the audience wetly applauded.

At the post-mortem at The Sherlock Holmes, we were all disappointed. Thayne was inconsolable.

“They spoke over the music,” he sobbed into his pint. “I had to ask them to applaud. I could swear, you know. I could swear.”

We nodded.

“Shakespeare did the same,” said someone, vaguely.

The five pints that sloshed between first performance and second did little to improve our mood. When we trudged back to Trafalgar Square, the crowd had grown twofold. Why? Because the march was due to set off immediately after our repeated piece. It took the combined rhetorical power of the whole group to persuade Thayne to approach the microphone.

“This is something about war. You’ll think it crap, no doubt,” he said and the music began.

We started with the missile mime. After this, the whole group joined in an extended tableaux of a machine gunner shooting a group of children. Reader, I was the gunner.

The audience’s chatter during this scene obscured the electronic music. Thayne stood up from the pile of dead children and crossed to the microphone.

“You ******* bunch of philistine *****,” he screamed before the Nazi and I pulled him away. “You think you’re all so right on with your fucking marches. What about the Art?”

The performance ended.

Dressed back in our civilian clothes, nobody recognised the five ashen-faced actors dragging the tear-stained Thanye back to The Sherlock Holmes. I stayed long enough to receive my hundred quid (two fifty pound notes – I hadn’t seen such objects in years). The Nazi gave me his number and told me to get in touch.

On the way home, I bought two bottles of Claret. There was a documentary about Stephen Sondheim on BBC2 and I planned to get drunk.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Another afternoon

Another afternoon and I walked to Blackheath to kill the remaining day. I saw no dogs.

I couldn’t abide spending unnecessary time in the flat. The ceiling descended an inch every day. The place stank of sleep. The carpet was littered with newspapers. The TV spewed forth soporific shizzle. If I didn’t have such a high regard for life, jumping into the Thames might have held some poisonous attraction.

The Dog Day had depressed. I returned home a little after four in the afternoon. I smoked a half-joint that a friend had dropped at a flat-party six months ago. It tasted like burnt hair. I didn’t feel high. No pleasure was forthcoming. I felt only headached and tired.

And so I determined to leave the flat. It took forty minutes to reach Blackheath. I walked as slowly as I could up hill, imagining myself as an elderly gentleman. I bent my back and moved from right side of pavement to left. I even mimed doffing my cap to a few teenage girls. Their shouts of ‘pervert’ were unsurprising, but undeserved.

I sat alone in Blackheath Starbucks. On my small, silver and circular table, an Americano steamed. Its mug was huge and almost pint-worthy. Next to it sat a battered copy of Catcher in the Rye. I found the novel in a bush in Weymouth three years ago. It remained half-read. Holden seems an interesting sort, mind.

‘Phoney’ he says. ‘Phoney’.

Alongside these items lay a digital Dictaphone, in case of sudden literary/life inspiration. Much of the conversation that follows is taken directly from this recording. I inadvertently turned it on when removing it from the confines of my pocket. I omit the ‘umms’ and ‘agghs’ that depressingly punctuate my parley.

Starbucks contained its usual mix of yummy mummy Blackheatheans and precocious private school girls talking loudly about ‘mummy’ and their horse and kissing boys. I remember a wave of nausea falling upon me with first tentative sip of coffee. I regretted not bringing the iPod to drown out the teenage rumble.

Waiting for time to pass (I’d set myself forty minutes to waste in this coffee shop, before moving on to CafĂ© Nero), I became conscious of company. I looked up and flinched, irrationally expecting a punching fist. No – there were no knuckles. Only a lady called Janice. She wore a beret at angle.

“Kay!” she exclaimed.

I rose to my feet and kissed her left cheek. She moved as if I should kiss her right side too. Hesitantly, I did so. She joined me at the table.

“How’s it going?” I asked.

Excuses for a prompt departure wheeled through my head. I wasn’t in the mood for talking, but the full mug of coffee worked against me. If it had been empty, or only half-empty, I could have claimed a pressing engagement with a surgeon or something and left. But no …

She nodded as she considered my question.  Janice was a pretty thing, tight blonde bob, twinkling blue eyes. Her chin was slightly too big to rightly label her beautiful. She was married to some “actor” called Jon with whom I had done some school-based work years past. Rumour on the showbusiness grapevine had it that Janice was pregnant.

“It’s going really well,” she said, placing stress on the word ‘really’.

“Good,” I replied. “You’ve put on weight. Have you been eating more or…?”

A pause.

“Jon told me of your success in Macbeth.”

Jon spoke too much.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Tell all, then.”

I gulped down some coffee. It was hot and burnt the roof of my mouth.

“I’ve been sacked actually.” I paused. “Macbeth was jealous of me.”

“Pardon?” said Janice.

I spoke louder.

“I’ve been sacked.”

“Oh God,” said Janice. “I thought that’s what you said. Sorry.”

“Yeah,” I responded. “So am I. Macbeth thought I was going to steal away Lady Macbeth.”

“Did you?” she asked.


An awkward silence.

“What are you working on now?”

“Nothing.” Janice’s smile dropped. She looked genuinely upset. “Absolutely bugger all. I did some audition for a TV job the other day. I buggered that up.”

A few schoolgirls turned as I swore. I shrugged.

Janice stared at me without speaking. I guessed that she was focusing upon a forehead spot.

“Why are you wearing sunglasses?” she asked.

I removed them, revealing purple damage.

“Oh God,” she whimpered.

I returned the glasses to my face.

Another uncomfortable pause loomed.

“I know a man,” she began, minutes later.

“Good,” I said.

“He runs an Agency in town.” My ears pricked up. “An Estate Agency. Selling houses.” My ears pricked down. “He’s always after new blood. He’s always asking Jon to join him. He says that actors are perfect for his work. Make sure they’re young, confident and sexy, he says. That’s you, Kay. You’re all three.”

“That’s true,” I said. “But Estate Agents are pricks.”

She nodded.

“They also earn wheelbarrows of money. And get their own car.”

“I can’t drive. They remain pricks.”

Janice stared out of window onto Blackheath Road.

“You’d be perfect Kay. Absolutely perfect. Let me give the man a ring. He’s called Colin. He’s a good friend of ours, Jon and me.”

I told her that she shouldn’t ring Colin … now. She took my telephone number and promised that someone, probably Colin, would contact me in time. I should have told her to drop it, that I wasn’t interested, but I didn’t. I couldn’t afford any Chocolate Fudge Cake, you see. That held my revulsion of Estate Agents in check.

Janice left and I was alone with memories (and a recording) of the conversation and a vagueness of reaction. My telephone began to ring almost as soon as Janice had exited the cafe. It wasn’t Colin. It was Mother. I didn’t answer. My frail emotions couldn’t withstand a barrage of abuse.

A telephone message was left to remind me of her birthday in a week’s time.

I placed Janice’s conversation in the same mental compartment that I stored my financial worries and memory of Rosalind – a folder marked ‘do not think about’.

*Note for my American readers - Estate Agent = Realtor

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Slow Tread

The slow tread of elderly pedestrian antagonises me. I loathe children. Especially toddlers. If I saw you, Reader, getting set upon by a gang of hooded teenagers, I would walk past without guilt (unless you were sexy and I had a handgun). I’ve never bought The Big Issue and I never will. I have told four women that I love them to gain access to their sex. I have told two men that I love them to gain access to their wallets. I lie more often than I truth. If I sense the possibility of an advantageous angle, I work it.

But … this very morning I (selflessly) took a lost old dog to Lewisham Police Station.  This action was born of pure altruism. And where did this selfless gesture land me? Locked in the back of a Police van for five hours.

The canine thing was lying on its side in the middle of Lee High Road, immediately opposite my flat complex. The dog was unmoving on a road that never stopped gushing heavy traffic. As I waited for my bus, I viewed cars, vans, lorries and bicycles curving around the still figure of dog. Not one vehicle stopped. The image was particularly startling, as I had forgotten to bring out the sunglasses.

I watched the body as I waited for the 321 to deliver me outside Lewisham Burger King. I wanted hot meat, Reader, and I wasn’t prepared to heat it myself. There was a fiver in my wallet and a taste for burger in my chops.

Waiting for transport to Whopper, I supposed that the dog was dead. It was, after all, lying still in the middle of a main road. That’s not what living dogs do. Living dogs run about in fields and shit in people’s lounges. Only dead dogs lie in roads.

I stared at the body and thought of my youth.

A slight wag of tail -/- so feeble that it caused me to doubt my perception. But again, a motorcycle roared past and the tail flicked – maybe a millimetre or so.

I looked to the Rastafarian standing next to me. He was busy reading the Bible and had a sternness to his face that scared me from interruption.

I thought of the Burger. Of the strawberry milkshake for which I longed.  If I walked to this dog, the burger would be delayed, even cancelled. And my tummy was all empty.

I balanced these considerations against the knowledge that I could save the existence of a dog, for the wag of its tail spoke of a life yet extinguished. It was a black Labrador not unlike Billy, my Billy. Billy, the black Labrador.  Billy, the black Labrador, that once shagged Sarah Seymour’s back in my teenage bedroom in Devon nine years previously.

The memory of Billy’s excited thrusting and Sarah’s distraught screaming spurred me to action. I waited for a break in the traffic-action and tiny-stepped over to the dog. He lay on the central white line. Cars moved past us. One had the temerity to beep – I shouted ‘fuck off’ – a reaction that’s  viciousness of tone surprised me.
The dog raised its head. Its fur was splashed with white – most noticeably around the skin-loose muzzle. Its eyes were both yellow, but possessed the white twinkle of life. It was a fat dog, but an aged dog. Its fur grew sparse (like a cricket square in summer) towards its belly. I checked the tarmac for blood. There was none.
Gingerly, and conscious of the traffic that flowed in each direction, I slipped both palms under its belly and chest. Dog lifted his head towards me and licked his lips. Dog’s tail wagged with more vigour. Dog didn’t yelp. I doubted he’d been hit by car.

A rush of red bus flew in front of face. I was almost hit.

Some swear words gushed.

Back on safe pavement, a taxi driver had pulled up. This chap helped me place the dog in the back of his cab. Dog wasn’t walking, but would wag a tail when stroked.

I explained to the taxi-driver that it wasn’t my dog and I didn’t know what to do with it.

“Ring RSPCA, innit,” said the taxi-driver.

I did that (after tedious time spent finding the appropriate number). They suggested I ring Battersea Dog’s Home. I rang Battersea. This was roughly ten minutes after I’d picked the dog from road and the tax-driver was becoming anxious.

“I gotta kid to feed. Time is money,” he repeated.

Battersea Dog’s Home told me to take the animal to the nearest police station.

Twelve minutes later I was standing outside Lewisham Police Station, with a now walking dog (albeit extremely shakily) and five pound lighter for the taxi journey. I had used my belt as a make-shift lead, so my trousers were on the verge of falling down. I was forced to hold them up with one hand and the dog with the other.

Inside the reception, people (criminals) looked at me as if bringing a dog to a Police Station (with trousers half-down) was the stupidest thing someone could do.

I spoke to three policemen at three different windows. These windows were surrounded by a plastic cell in which you were locked to prevent you … running away mid-sentence, I guess. Each policeman asked how I had suffered my black eye.


Eventually a PC (who asked me if I didn’t have anything better to do in my life than pick up stray dogs) escorted me to a courtyard at the back of the station. The station was built like a fortress. High brick walls rose on three sides of its back yard. A set of twenty foot high black gates completed the square of imprisonment. Centre of courtyard (as if posed) was a policewoman. She had a blonde bob and was rather pretty for a pig. I noticed a baton strapped to her belt.

Looking at baton, I didn’t hear her opening question.

“It’s a dog,” I said, guessing at what she might have asked.

This was obviously an inappropriate answer to her question and she giggled. The PC that had led me to her, laughing, said:

“His name’s Kay Richardson,” before walking off.

“Me,” I said. “I’m Kay. Not the dog.”

“We’re going to take him over here,” said the policewoman, pointing at the back of a police van, seven metres behind. “Do we know his name?”

“No,” I said. “I have been calling him Dog.”

“Does he respond to that?”


She opened the back of the van.

The rear windows were protected by mesh. The black van interior was empty, bar a clown-face mask.
“I don’t know how that got in there,” WPC said. She extended an arm to fetch the mask. She offered it to me, but I refused. The dog looked up and wagged its tail. “I think he likes you,” said the policewoman.
She lifted Dog and placed him in the back of the van. The doors were shut. The last sight we saw were Dog’s large brown (yellow tint, of course) eyes looking mournfully out at us.

The policewoman explained that Dog was being placed in the van because Lewisham station cages had no locks and dogs easily escaped from them. Only last week the station had to be evacuated because of an outbreak of dogs. The policewoman needed to leave Dog to complete some paperwork. She needed to check whether any aged black Labradors had been listed as missing that morning. She told me I was now free to go and I was definitely a good citizen.

I smiled.

And from the van came a low, despondent howl. This wasn’t no howl of a wolf. No, it was a Johnny Cash ‘Hurt’ Howl. It shivered through the listener and spoke of dark, woofy loneliness.

“How long does your paperwork take?” I asked.

“No more than ten minutes,” WPC replied.

“I’ll wait with him in the courtyard,” I told her.

I wasn’t allowed – regulations meant that dogs were forbidden from waiting in the courtyard. He’d have to stay in the back of the van.

I sighed.

Soon, I was sitting in back of a door-closed Police Van, knees about ears, stroking the chin of Dog. Dog seemed nice enough. And I’d surrendered enough of the morning that ten more minutes would make little difference.

Three hours later and I was still stroking Dog’s chin.

The sudden opening of van doors was a shock of bright light. I’d grown accustomed to the gloom. The daylight stung my eyes. By this point, I had almost consoled myself to death in the van with Dog. I had passed the time by wondering which part of Dog I would eat first, if I came to starve.


Outside stood WPC. Two policemen I didn’t recognise stood behind her. One was laughing with impunity. The other made slight effort to disguise his amusement with a hand over mouth. WPC wasn’t laughing. She knew I could well report this incident to the Police Complaints Committee. Unlawful imprisonment this was. Of Dog and me both.

“I’m so sorry. I had to rush off. There was a parrot emergency in Eltham. I was the only one trained to cope with it. I didn’t realise you couldn’t open the van door from the inside.” I didn’t let slip that I hadn’t tried. “There’s good news, though. We’ve located the owner of the dog. He lives in Lee. He’s called Wally. The owner’s coming to get him soon. I’m sure he’d like to thank you. You’re welcome to wait in my office.”
Hunchbacked and stiff, I banged my way out of van. The three police took a step back to accommodate my exit.

“How do I leave?” I asked. The laughing policeman pointed at the massive set of black gates. He continued to laugh. “Could you open them?”

He nodded.

I left the Police Station.

I walked the twenty minutes from Lewisham to Outer Blackheath. I had spent the only five pounds brought out on Dog’s cab. I had no money for bus nor nutrient neither.

It was a miserable journey, Reader.

And every step I took, I undertook never to be nice to old dogs again.

Monday, 4 October 2010

KayCast TWO

Dear Reader,

I've recorded another Podcast. I'm still a little unsure as to their quality/raison d'ĂȘtre, so it may very well be the final instalment. Therefore, you should treat it as preciously as if it were the final butterfly. Albeit a butterfly to which you listen. And a butterfly with a British accent. And a virtual butterfly. OK, that wasn't a great simile but, hopefully, you understand.

I've published it HERE. And submitted it to iTunes too, although I read that Apple have to review it before you can access it through their programme.

Having admitted I'm unsure of the future of podcasting, I'm also MASSIVELY frustrated that both this blog and my Twitter account have stalled in recent weeks. I get around 100 people a day visiting these pages and am very grateful to them all. I've around 1900 followers on Twitter, but this number has stalled ever since I reached my 'following' limit and can't coerce strangers to follow me by first following them.

We need to increase these numbers, America. What should I do? Organise a rally or what?

How to become massively popular? I guess we all face a similar problem but not all of us have killer cheekbones, so, by rights, I should be soon be living off ad income from blogs or at the very least be receiving the odd invitation to open a nightclub in Leicester, say.

COMPETITION - if anyone can prove they increased my popularity in a quantifiable manner*, I shall write them a sonnet.

Good afternoon,


*And I'm talking increased readership in the thousands before you rush to set up a fake Twitter account in your dog's name in the belief that a solitary follower might win you the prize.



Cleaning lounge of dog poop.

Painting over offensive graffiti.

Accepting apology from Mr Dowson and downstairs nephew (who sported a bruised face and (Mr Dowson explained) had stolen Dowson’s copy of my frontdoor key (because I’d complained about the barking and shouting) and had a ‘subnormal mental capacity’).

Accepting £250 compensation from Mr Dowson.

Reading Carver. Without absorbing any meaning.

Thinking of Rosalind.

Becoming angry.

Sending Rosalind a text message: We should talk. The wall wasn’t what it seemed.

Receiving message from Rosalind: In the nicest possible way: leave me alone.

Throwing telephone at wall.

Buying new phone with Mr Dowson’s compensation.

Ordering pizza, eating pizza, and going to bed.

Further doing:

I scoured the internet for job opportunities. None were appropriate. I read Popbitch and looked at lady pictures (not in unison).

Still no literary agents made contact.

When not looking at lady pictures or reading Popbitch, the day was spent avoiding thought of money or Rosalind. Father’s donation was steadily evaporating from Travelcards and food and newspapers. Most of Mr Dowson’s compensation had been spent on my new phone and pizza. And as much as eggs are eggs, rent-day would soon come around. I was sure that Mother would stymie any further attempt to coerce cash from Father.

Life unemployed depressed. It felt like winter without hope of spring.

My eye bandage was removed (by me in darkened bedroom). Daylight pained the eye-thing and so I wore sunglasses. It worked well. The glasses disguised the purple monstrosity that my right eye had become post-punch.

Doing timetable:

Here’s a note of the minutiae of today (times are approximate):

1030: Woke. Listened to Radio 4/XFM.

1130: Rose from bed. Put on sunglasses. Watched This Morning, News and Loose Women.

1400: Found a pork pie in back of fridge. Rinsed and ate.

1420: Cut toe-nails.

1430: Began writing new script ‘Tomorrow’s Nothing’

1435: Surfed internet.

1450: Found porn on internet.

1545: Returned to bed.

1640: Rose from bed. Made a jam sandwich.

1700: Watched Richard and Judy.

1800: Wrote in notebook: I can’t continue like this. I’m an artist.