Thursday, December 24, 2009

Not Quite A Christmas Speech

Not Quite A Christmas Speech

Did you know that David Tennant is on tv/radio 108 times in December?

You do now.

But that, obviously, can't quite explain away everything I've been doing. And, oh my, have I been doing. Doing. Doing. Doing. I've even been doing some stuff that I actually want to be doing. Which is a nice.

I've got a little bit of a recap of 2009 in the off-ing, only a recap with a slight difference - because it is themed! I'm going to put it up in sections when I'm back in London (not actually that long, National Express beckons for me just at the moment when I should be sat down crossing off one of those DT viewings in the form of Hamlet. Which, for those who don't follow DT's tv schedule, would be Boxing Day).

But for now (depending on your preferences) Merry Christmas/ Merry Non-Religious Winter Fest (you know who you are). Feel free to eat both mine (and DT's) share of the mince pies...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

One Hundred Days...

One Hundred Days...

I knew as soon as I saw One Hundred Days To Make Me A Better Person that I would have to take part. Really, they might as well have stuck stickers with my name emblazoned on them all over it. An interactive project! Self improvement! Self competitive-ness! Slightly loopy!

That's me signed up then.

Of course, then I had to come up with a pledge. At first I thought I'd pledge to knit three rows a days for the one hundred days. I've just taken up knitting and if my knitting skills were an animal they would be a new-born deer on ice. Sort of. But for all it might mean I had something concrete to show at the end of it - knitted goodness (well, a scarf without too many holes would be nice) the fact that I'm already knitting about three rows a day means (in my head) it's cheating. So I'm just going to have to continue the knitting without the hundred days incentive (well, I do have the incentive of a Cath Kidston knitting bag looming which works for me too).

After I'd dismissed knitting I pretty much came round to the idea that I was going to take one photo a day, write one sentence for that one photo and pick one song to represent it. And this is me, I only take photos when it snows so this was going to be some sort of challenge. I also thought that at the end of the project it would make for a lovely scrapbook (something I keep meaning to make for myself given that I only seem to make them for other people).

I even got round to writing this in the pledge box on the site. Only - lots of people are taking photos and even with those extra 'ands' I knew this wasn't going to be a particularly original project. And, well, I wanted something with a little twist.

So - in the flash of the insane moment I wrote my new, just thought up pledge into the box:

‘Once a day for one hundred days I will write one postcard (and, where appropriate, send it to the person concerned)’.

Best not think about the cost of the stamps right now, okay? But the fact is - I love hand written notes. I love postcards. And I always wish I took the time to write more of them (hey, to write any of them). So this means I have no excuse.

I did pause for a moment before I hit submit on this just because it struck me that I might not know one hundred people who I would want (and who would want me) to send a postcard to them. I quickly realised that this was missing the point, I just needed to think about it creatively. Which I know sounds vague but if you were paying attention to the bracket then you might guess where I'm going.

But that doesn't mean I'm going to fully explain it here, you're just going to have to wait. As part of the deal the idea is to document what you're doing and where better than DA? (yes, I know I heart twitter, but then DA is where I belong, I like waffle too much to ever be anything other than a Blogger). So I'm going to document all of the postcards on here. So if you've got postcard phobia it might be an idea to come back in March.

For the record I think I'm going to have an informal bash at the photo thing too, but more for my own interest than for the project (and because, yes, I want a scrapbook of my own) and that one, when I stop after day four, doesn't count because I didn't pledge it. But I've pledged the postcard thing. So if I fail you get to laugh and point loudly.

If any of you pledge something, do let me know so I can cheer you on too...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Everything Afterwards

Everything Afterwards

There are anti-climaxes and then there is finding out that you've passed your MA whilst you're having breakfast in pub in Brockley. What can I say - had it not been for the time of morning we would have been perfectly placed to have cracked open the vodka.

But, given that I am officially not a young person and all that and have jobs, and rehearsals, and re-writes and writing, the most exciting it got was ordering another coffee. There has been some downgrading from last time when I got in a fountain and 'acquired' a guitar.

Rock and indeed roll.

Having said that - if I'm honest I'd pretty much put to one side the whole 'passing' bit. Unlike last time round, there had been the luxury (horror?) of continuous assessment. I'm still at a loss as to whether continuous examination is a good or a bad thing - on the plus point it didn't almost kill me like end of course exams did, on the down side there was no glorious second year (though on a technicality there wasn't a second year, glorious or not). But it did mean that pretty much since November last year we'd been pushed between assignments with little time to take a deep breath. In particular the last six months of the course passed in a blur of endless evenings spent in the library with those final project element deadlines clustered around essays about 'Chicks in Chains' and science and form in A Disappearing Number and the placing of August: Osage County in the tradition of American Family Drama and adaptations of Ovid. It remains that when I think of Goldsmiths I will always think of: our circular table, being in the computer room with Arsenal Fan until stupid o'clock with me shouting at the printer and sitting in the library stairwell having long phone conversations with Breakfast Club Boy when deadlines loomed and I'd over-written by 2,000 words and he had a 150 word essay.

But the good side of the continuous assessment - I knew I'd have to rather spectacularly screw-up on my final project to render me with a 'fail'. In the end I was wonderfully consistent - a clutch of 66s, with a 61 on the self assessment essay I wrote in 12 hours (and which, Breakfast Club Boy not so tactfully told me at the time, read like journalism) and a 72 for my Dramaturgy portfolio (Ha! My ability to do textual analysis wins the day again! If only I could be paid to write 2,000 word essays on single texts).

But grades were not really the point. We'd said it often enough - how do you grade writing? The Icarus Project, a site specific piece I wrote, gave me nothing but a headache when I wrote it. For several weeks I went to the show and tell class with the sheer panic of - I am still stuck. And then I pulled something out in the days before it was due in and got my best grade of the entire course (that 72 included). The Rabbit Catcher, a twenty minute piece about Burlesque, had the opposite trajectory. I loved, loved writing this and when the first ten lines were read out in class it just - well, ego all in check - sung. One of the Writers told me at the end of the course that when he'd heard those lines he wanted to write like me.

Of course in marking it bombed.

The only time any of my writing projects dipped below the invisible 60% marker. The Icarus Project had been rigidly simple (bulked with gimmicks I still think) whereas The Rabbit Catcher was 'too dense', a charge which I don't think was entirely unfair. But did either mark tell a story in itself?

Absolutely not.

That night after the day of pub breakfasts and MA results Breakfast Club Boy asked me - implying his own answer - if through it all I'd learnt anything from the course itself.

I paused.

Me, I'd not had the unabashed confidence of youth to be lost (hear me, from my four and a half years seniority talk, but it is true). However, I knew what he meant.

I never once cried because of work during my undergraduate degree.

Whereas I suspect I will always remember the day - just over a week before my rehearsed reading at the Soho Theatre - that I came out of a classroom and cried. Then tried desperately not to cry down the phone to Breakfast Club Boy before I succumbed entirely and Arsenal Fan had to take me to the pub.

Writing being writing, and everything involved in that, it's difficult to entirely distance yourself from it. And, in places, the course bruised me. Just as I suppose every one of the other writers might say it had them. It's one of the reasons that I've not written about this before.

There's also the fact (and I know this holds true for a number of people) that we had this notion at the beginning of the year that after the freedom of the first few little writing projects we'd do the final project and come out with a play which we could send out to every theatre-slush pile, every competition, every possible source.

And I didn't.

My final project has a couple of scenes that I'm not modest enough to hold back on when I say they absolutely rock. One of them - a two hander in a hospital room which has so much subtext that it hurts - is possibly the best thing I've ever written. But the play as a whole? It is at once better than anything I have ever written whilst also being full of more gaping chasms of failure than anything I've ever written. Until last week - when I thought I'd better get my act together and send it to two Directors who are interested in it - no one outside of the markers and Breakfast Club Boy had actually been given a copy. I've softened my stance on it a little, and there are two theatres I am going to send it to, but as the magic, this is me play I imagined I'd write at the start of the course - foreverafterwards is not it.

If I were to look at what I came out with in terms of ready-to-go pieces then I can clutch only two things: an academic essay that I was told I should submit to a journal and a 20 minute young persons play named Marshmallows that Playwright Tutor subsequently used in a workshop with a group of teachers and which I suspect I will quite happily submit places.

But I realise even as I write this that part of all this failure to achieve the perfect Corinne Furness play (whatever that might be) is because I have learnt so much during the course that takes time to settle down. I almost wish I could do it again with all I know now.

And, as weird as it seems, maybe writing a play will never be as easy as it was when I wrote Some Sort of Beautiful. When I knew some stuff, but didn't know enough (the innocence of which maybe is what Breakfast Club Boy was bemoaning the loss of). And in those degrees of easy, writing a play will never be quite as easy as it was before I did my MA.

But what I do write will be - I can already see - is better. Even though I will see its flaws more clearly than I ever have.

If I am to be truly honest then I think those two pieces I mentioned earlier - The Icarus Project and The Rabbit Catcher, the first two things I wrote for the MA - are the pieces that hold the key to everything afterwards though I have not yet learnt all of the lessons from them. In one I found a new way, in the other a new voice.

I suspect if (when) I look back in fifteen years time I'll pin the writer I've become to one of those two pieces.

I just don't yet know which.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Because Not Everything Is A Metaphor

Because Not Everything Is A Metaphor

It's not quite the beginning but it is close enough to it that we've never sat around this table before. This circular table in an otherwise nondescript room. Our own version of the Camelot work ethic. The seat I have chosen - in front of the window - will be my seat for the next nine months and these Tuesdays squashed around this table with coffee and muffins and playtexts will become my favourite part of the whole experience.

Of course, I do not - cannot - know any of this, any more than I can predict how the the knots that connect us will change so that it is impossible for me to view our innocence - and separateness - without the haze of all that will be.

For the first - and maybe the last time - we are a blank canvas and we - us - could go anywhere.

But for now we're all looking at a piece of rock which Enigmatic Tutor has placed at the centre of this table. And I can't remember precisely the wording of the exercise but we are attempting to describe the rock through facts alone, devoid of flights of fancy, metaphors and all the other glittery,sparkly tricks which all we writers like to play.

We pronounce our attempts, building our shared picture.

"If we were Scientists we could devise tests..." Enigmatic Tutor continues.

And we play the game, going through the tests we - with our clutch of arts qualifications - can imagine.

But, it is difficult to get past the notion that sat in front of us is something which is, in essence, a small lump of unremarkable grey rock.

"But what this doesn't tell you -" There's the smallest of pauses as Enigmatic Tutor holds his audience "Is that this is a piece of the Berlin wall".

There's the collective murmur of the unexpected reveal as, with a single sentence, the object in front of us becomes something else entirely.

It's a lesson of course, about backstory and the bigger picture and about not underestimating something seemingly insubstantial. About secret facts. A lesson as writers we need to remember.

But it is a story in itself, a story within my own lifetime and, 1989 being the first year that news stories seem to have impinged on my conscious, a story I have vague memories of. It's an important story, the murmur of recognition confirms that.

It is later, six months later, when, along with two of the people who I sat around that table with, I stand in front of what remains of the Berlin Wall for the first time. Over Excited Tour Guide! gets everyone on the tour to stand in front of the wall for a photo and there's still a streak of rebellion in even this. Look! This is what the wall has become! We can stand on your no man's land and defy everything that it meant.

But in the greyness of this Berlin day it is the first time that I understand. That I understand what it did to this city, to these people. Within touching distance from everything in my life. Within my memory.


Twenty years ago.

And maybe it is only here, amongst the wall's broken remains, that I understand what the piece of rock that sat in the middle of a table in New Cross in Autumn 2008 actually was.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Stories We Could Tell

The Stories We Could Tell

You probably don't need to be around me for very long before you discover that I'm a hoarder. There is much shaking of heads from Dean and Director Boy on the subject of my 'stuff' (and, let's be clear, a good proportion - not to mention 90% of my books - is still residing in Leeds and doesn't even know that Streatham exists). I have no defence (other than my genetics) and have long ago accepted that minimalism isn't the route for me (eventual death by smothering of large quantities of 'stuff' might be).

I like to think I have an all-inclusive policy when it comes to hoarding and this includes clothing. Which is why I have so much of it - though I would argue that everything comes around again (just when that 'again' might be isn't for me to decide). And I extend this to all of those things that go with clothes, which is again why I have so many shoes (after the great 'Moving To Streatham' Week I am no longer allowed to mention the quantity of shoes I possess to Arsenal Fan less he vomits at the memory). But of these many pairs of shoes I have, for the best part of the last decade, had only one pair of wellies. Indeed if you've been hanging around DA long enough you've probably seen them, but if you've forgotten I'll remind you:

Wellies!

Very early on in the relationship between me and these pink-flowered wellies I remember someone saying that they were 'very Corinne wellies'. I'm not sure exactly what that says about me but I totally knew what they meant.

Those 'very Corinne wellies' and I have been many, many places together, through rain, mud and snow. There are quite simply too many fields, too many Boys with Guitars, too many tent stories to list. They show their age now - they never quite managed to lose the specially formulated mud of V Festival 2007 - but I like that.

However, at the end of Latitude this year I noticed that not only had I added a few more stains to their patterning but a rip in the lower part of the boot had started to emerge. And that could only mean one thing - that we were coming to the end.

Then when Dean and I went to Morden Hall Park to eat free National Trust pudding we ended up in the garden centre which is attached to the park (yes, even though we don't have a garden, just a shared patch of overgrown land) and not only were there beautiful, beautiful Hunter wellies in stock there was also 20% off said beautiful, beautiful wellies.

Let me repeat that: 20% off.

And I am not made of stone.

So I bought a pair of wellies. This pair if you were wondering. And they came in their own fancy box and fit perfectly and indeed are so all-round wonderful that I spent five days actively hoping for rain so that I could wear them. And when I did get to wear them they were as wonderful as I knew they would be.

But - this leaves my 'very Corinne wellies'. Don't get me wrong, my Hunters are very Corinne wellies too (like I could have bought a pair that didn't have flowers on) but a slightly different, slightly older Corinne to their pink counterparts. And to discard the original pair? They're beyond wearing for anyone other than me so charity-shopping them is out of the question and to just throw them away...

Well, that's undoubtedly a conversation to have in the expensive therapy session in a decade's time.

So, at least until I work out exactly how to archive these wellies, there are four pairs of wellies residing in our three-person wellies-by-the-door storage system.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Some Other Beginning's End

Some Other Beginning's End

It is probably fair to say that this week has been a good week for David Tennant media saturation.

Which, really, is just an excuse of an opening sentence to allow me to blog this:


And, erm, this:



And if I didn't know what was going to happen then the final moments of the tenth Doctor's appearance in The Sarah Jane Adventures couldn't help but remind us that we are coming to the end of this Doctor's song.


On reflection, even though I got the advance warning I'd demanded (over 12 months of it in the end), I have to come to the conclusion that I don't think I'm going to deal with the end very well.

No.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Autumn: Catch 22

Autumn: Catch 22

"If I knew any literature I would quote it" he says at the end when there is, perhaps, nothing more that either of us can say.

It is not quite true of course for this is the boy who once told me he wanted to be Dunbar in Catch 22. But we play our roles - me who does not know the difference between blues and jazz, him who has not read Gatsby and cannot name the big six Romantic Poets.

It is a concession to my land of novels with broken spines and smudged pencil quotes. A quivering victory in a battle I was only vaguely aware I was fighting.

But I do not need it. Or, rather, I do not want it.

For it cannot make this instant more profound or meaningful or - beautiful.

Nor can it make me feel better.

Because the thing that gets me, the words that twist and turn and make me squirm are entirely his.

And the worst thing, the thing that really makes me cry?

When he calls me -

Cucumber.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Summer: Boy With Guitar

Summer: Boy With Guitar

"Remember - I just saved your life"

We are standing by the side of the road and I have just been informed not to cross in front of an oncoming bus. Given that I had already seen the bus and, not wishing to join the 27 club six months too early, I had not intended to step out in front of it. Facts, however, do not play a part in this particular reasoning. My life has been saved, I should be grateful. Next he will be making me hold his hand when we cross roads.

"I shall put that on your list".

The eyes meet mine, obviously ignoring the fact that we are still stood at the side of a very busy road.

"You have a list?"

I should say - no, I have this blog. But I do not.

"Of course not. I'm not non-stalking you".

It is the first time I could have said this to him and its full meaning be clear. For though he has been around to witness my David Tennant non-stalking, let us be clear, seeing Hamlet three times and a bit of minor stage-dooring is hardly the peak of my achievements in that department. But some how today, between courses two and three and with a half drunk glass of wine, I ended up explaining the Griffin thing. Not the details of nightclubs in the midlands with smeared marker pen on my body, or Christmas light switch ons with fairy liquid snow, or radio tours with Boro flags and record tours with blow up paddling pools. But that - there was. And I was there. It is odd how these things work out - that I have entrusted this boy with everything I have written since Christmas and told him about my forehead complex and, eventually, about the worst phonecall of my life. Crikey, we have sat and had a conversation even though I was aware he could see my thighs. But Griffin. No.

"That's a shame -"

The lights change futher down the road and we start to cross.

"I'd like you to non-stalk me".

I glance over at him, his hair no longer the vivid red of late spring.

"I have a guitar".

I cannot help it, I laugh.

"Or do you only non-stalk boys who sing as well? Because I can't sing".

His birthday shoes gorging a hole in the back of his foot, he limps slightly as we hop on to the pavement, avoiding the oncoming number 182 in the process. I feel a pang of what I recognise to be pure empathy for this limping, non-singing BoywithGuitar.

"No -" The bus rushes by us. It hardly needs to be said. "You don't have to sing".

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Spring: Chalk Circles

Spring: Chalk Circles

The keys tap out "foreverafterwards" into google search (a search I find preferable to that a few minutes ago when, to my chagrin, he tried "Corinne Furnace").

The first thing that comes up is DA.

"Good, that's me". It is pleasing to know that someone has not ripped off the name of my play without my knowing.

I see the mouse hover over the link and then - click. I remain surprised that some of The Writers, after the initial hilarity, are still reading me. Surprised and a little cautious about putting on here how, once I have a career, I will never speak to any of them ever again.

The large screen reveals that the last time I blogged was April. I blame writing a play. And an essay. And working three different jobs. And moving. I think these are good excuses.And even if they are not then this is my blog and my word goes.

The movement of the cursor reveals that he, like me, has already read the words on the screen. I feel that flush of surprise.

Then I realise too, that the last blog is about the boy with his hand on the mouse. I feel a slight thrill of awkwardness, a thrill I am not really used to since for the duration of my blog life the vast majority of people I have written about have either remained pleasingly oblivious or actively avoided DA. Excluding that one night where I got drunk and indiscrete and had to rush home and delete the link to DA from my facebook page in case there was carnage.

There is a fleeting moment when, given the circumstances, I wonder what I am doing, drawing these chalk circles of mine.

"You need to write" He says, using the cursor to highlight his blog-name in blue. I look over at him.

"I want to read what adventures I've been having".

I cannot help it - I laugh. And I wonder quite how I got here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Winter: "Give me reason but don't give me choice"

Winter: "Give me reason but don't give me choice"

It is just under a week since that email popped into my inbox. A week, two plays, a lot of alcohol and even more new purchases later.

He holds the door open and I walk into the pub, registering the slight surprise on the group that not only is he there, I am with him. It is a surprise I register myself.

The surprise that we have sat together for over two hours and just talked. Where it has been effortless, gently mocking and rather jokey. Where we laughed about the food, and his class choice and the couple who came and - somewhat obliviously - sat on our table and therefore almost on our laps. That we have, within our narrative, referred to everything but four crucial emails which we exchanged. And the one email that broke me a little. And it has been, I do not want to say it but my brain registers it, lovely.

I take a seat as he collects the script and says his goodbyes.

I smile and say goodbye, and there is a second, just a second, where we hold eye contact a moment too long and I wonder if I read it correctly.

As soon as he is out of the door the questions begin.

"How was it?"

"Should I burn the hoodie?".

I mumble something, my inarticulacy not evasive but unsure.

And so the conversation moves on and I am laughing about a distinctly disturbing verbatim play when my phone beeps.

For the second time today I unexpectedly see his name.

There is an allusion, just an allusion, to that which we have expended hundreds of written words on but which has remained unspoken between us. And then a question. Entirely innocuous, were it not for the unspoken.

I feel the thrill, this little secret of mine.

And I wonder if I am to make the same mistake all over again.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"I want to know right now/ what will it be"

"I want to know right now/ What will it be"

"Do you ever think - I can't blog that?"

I'm having a meeting with a lovely theatry-type who wants to start a blog and is thus mining me for advice. Needless to say - a free coffee and a chance to wax lyrical about blogging, not a bad way to spend an hour or so.

But this question - I would be lying if I said anything but -

"Yes".

And the thing is it's not so much the stuff which I long ago deemed to be off-limits on here but the stuff that has been the fodder of many blog entries which has proven to be difficult in the last 6 weeks or so.

For this year, though my blogging here has been ridiculously light through large chunks, DA has done a couple of things in my life that it never has before. On the positive front it's led to me getting work (more of which in a few weeks I hope). On a not exactly negative but certainly different front my prediliction for writing people collided with someone else's prediliction for being written. And not just the stuff that I wrote on here but the blogs I wrote and then couldn't publish because they crossed a line - but which instead I (for the first time ever) attached to emails and sent to the person they were about.

Which was all fine - for if I will write and if I will write about my life then these are the results I must expect some of the time - until I realised that I wanted to write on here - as I have in the past - of things which I didn't know if it would be fair to blog. As odd as it sounds - writing about what has happened between you and someone who doesn't know you write about them and putting that out on the internet - fine in my brain. Writing about what has happened with you and someone who not only knows you write about them but actually reads what you write - not so fine. Even though that is probably totally the wrong way round. And even though I only ever write what is in my domain (I cannot - for all that it would have saved me feeling quietly blue through most of September - second guess the story from the other side).

And maybe, just maybe, I didn't want the person to know what I had written. That, for my own sanity (and dignity), I needed the chance to lie to them. For them not to know the full extent of what was going on inside my head by reading it here. Sending words of honesty out to a faceless internet - easy. To the one person who should read them - very, very hard indeed.

I didn't want to write a 'I'm back blogging' post at the start of this month because I honestly didn't know how it would go. Getting fiction tangled with real-life makes you think hard about blogging. It is, I guess, another way that you can get burnt.

Not that I would do anything differently. Because I wouldn't exchange a single second, sentence or decision.

And because it is now the Final Act of October and no longer the early days of September I'm ready to put the final links in the story.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Where I would use exclamation marks if they didn't offend me

Where I would use exclamation marks if they didn't offend me.

I try my shoes on. I realise immediately that putting my foot fully into them would count as a bad idea.

"It's no good" I say to Dean "I'm going to have to wear my pumps".

Me. Wearing shoes that I can refer to as pumps. Shoes with laces. Shoes that I otherwise reserve for Festival type shenanigans.

"You look like an office worker".

"Yes". I cannot say that the early morning commute with trainers and nice shoes in bag is something that I have been striving for on my day off.

"Do you not have any other shoes?"

"These are the only shoes I can wear - my foot hurts a lot" I say it in such a manner that Dean cannot fail to miss the warning signs of taking this any further.

For since I ended up being spectacularly ill in Leeds two weeks ago my body has decided that it doesn't really like me that much. My digestive system has gone a little bit insane (always pleasant), every afternoon I spontaneously develop a cold which disappears by 7.30pm only to reappear the next afternoon and my back seems to have had a flair up of whatever it was that meant there was a period in April when I couldn't sit anywhere without a cushion. Oh, and I'm sleeping ridiculous amounts.

Which is all without mentioning my hormones which have, quite frankly, gone insane in the last few months. Whatever London puts into its water it is making me both ginger and a hormonal fruitcake. I'm not sure which I'm more distressed about.

So, really my foot deciding that it too wants in on the fun hasn't exactly made my day.

"Is it that bad?"

"Yes - either I've broken my toe without realising it or I'm getting arthritis in my foot".

Because I am not one, after all, to underplay minor-ailments.

Dean smiles. "Look what happens - you move in with me and turn into an old person".

I do not even need to mention that Dean is teaching me to knit or that scouting round London's charity shops has become a favourite pastime of ours in recent weeks.

I should probably get some false teeth and have done with it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Career Paths

Career Paths

I'm just saying my goodbyes to Arsenal Fan - who I've popped in to see at the end of his lunch break given that I have found myself free after a meeting in South East London - when a lady carrying lots of shiny things approaches. Clearly this is what is going to happen to me when I am older - hanging around arts centres with glittery, shiny things. I am sure there are worse ways to spend my dotage.

"I'm returning the scissors" Shiny Lady explains.

Ah, now I wouldn't do that given that I am a kleptomaniac. Shiny Lady has one up on me.

I smile and realise that Shiny Lady is looking directly at me.

"Are you the baby massage teacher?" she asks.

There's a moment of total silence as both Arsenal Fan and I process this. I know I'm wearing a pashmina and bangles but -

(Obviously I am not stereotyping what a baby massage teacher would look like - given that I have never met one I do not know - but I suspect they wouldn't look like me)

"No".

It is as stark as that because there simply are no words.

"Well, I'm looking for the baby massage teacher".

I wonder exactly why Shiny Lady is so keen to find this person.

"Are you a teacher?"

Clearly Shiny Lady is not going to be deflected that easily and I am clearly going to be forced to teach her something. Non-stalking tactics? The links between The Waste Land and Hotel Du Lac? How to 'acquire' novel items from bars? I am not sure any of this will do.

I settle instead for shaking my head and hoping that she doesn't push the issue and force me into the blog-worthy but life-traumatic situation of demonstrating baby massage on her.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Six Degrees

Six Degrees

"It's too easy".

There is little I can say to this. Director Boy has been playing 'Six Degrees of Separation' intermittently over the course of the evening. The major flaw in this game is that Director Boy can get to everybody in three degrees or less. Which is both very scary and somewhat limiting for the game. Our only success so far has been Margaret Atwood which stumped Director Boy for a few minutes at least.

"Beatrix Potter!" Dean exclaims.

"That doesn't count" Director Boy asserts.

As much as it pains me to say so, Director Boy is right.

"It only works with live people" I say.

"Yes - otherwise I could say 'William Shakespeare' and you'd need more than six people over four hundred years".

Dean smiles as if to say that he has this one cracked. "Well, I know Val and Val goes to the RSC a lot".

He says it with such authority that I can't help but laugh.

Director Boy goes for incredulity. "So if Val were walking down the street in Stratford and bumped into William Shakespeare he would say hello to her?".

There is no hesitation. "Yes".

There are, I guess, some statements you just can't argue with.

Friday, October 09, 2009

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow"

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow"

Rain falls, its rhythm providing the comforting regularity of a three chord melody.

Safe inside, the breath of forty two strangers mists the windows so that London becomes only spots of street lights and neon shop signs. In that instant I could be anywhere, in any city, on any bus.

In any October.

The woman who is sat to my left - who I notice primarily because I had to ask her to move up when I first got on - is reading a piece of paper. I know it's terrible and one of the reasons why always being on the look-out for things to write about makes me a bad human being but I do clock what people are reading around me. And, erm, I will scan-read over your shoulder. Which is probably why you wouldn't want me sitting next to you on public transport. That and the fact I have been known to have inappropriate conversations on my mobile when I have lost my volume control. And that I write down overheard conversations for writing material. What can I say - I am a public menace. Boris should stop faffing about trying to get his friends cushy jobs at the tax payer's expense and slap some sort of ban on me.

So - yes, I admit I glance over at what is written on the paper in the woman's hand. It takes me all of three words to realise that she's reading something about Jesus, what with the third word being 'Jesus' and therefore it giving it away a bit. There's also much talk of Him and archaic English and rather an excessive amount of underlining. Which is, I guess, subtext for THIS IS IMPORTANT.

Which isn't, I confess, all that interesting to me. So I turn my attention back to the refracted lightshow that plays around the edges of the window.

Only - I notice, maybe in some sideward glance, that what the woman is reading isn't so much some sort of pamphlet as a letter. And I wonder - who would send a letter like that with all the unnecessary underlining and capitalisation? Because that's rhetoric - and long term readers will know I'm not exactly a fan of rhetoric. Even more so when it's used as the religious equivalent of a party political broadcast.

Maybe that would have been it. Maybe I'd have shaken my head, rolled my eyes a bit and preoccupied myself with the music in my ears and the smudgy beauty of this city. Maybe.

Only the next time I look to my left the woman is writing a cheque and I notice immediately that the name on it matches the name on the letter.

I feel my stomach fall.

And I want to say something to this nameless stranger whose breath is entangling with mine on the patterns on the glass in front of us. I want to say that this is not religion. This is not faith. That though this is me with everything that entails, I think pure faith can be something quite beautiful. But this letter is the opposite of that; words spun in hyperbole and contrivance. And - money.

Of course, these words circulate around my head, tangling my brain, but do not come out. Because though we share this space it is not my place to say anything. It is a deal wrought in our mutual silence.

As the woman pulls out a form from the envelope which enclosed the letter I try and read what it says - it yeilds nothing.

Another traffic light. Another middle eight of rain.

Then I see what the woman has written on the form -

Pray for my mother who is in pain -

I stop reading immediately, ashamed at both my arrogance and my intrusion. Treating everyone as the possible next story, an offhand line in a song I have yet to write.

And though I do not want the woman to send the cheque and though I cannot pray for her and her mother I wish with an inescapable urge that I could. That I could gift her what she needs.

That I could turn around and simply say - is everything okay?

And though this will have to go on the list of unsent things - I offer you the only thing that I can.

I offer you my hope.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Chaucer & Cows

Chaucer & Cows

Given that it's national poetry day it would be remiss of me not to fling some poetry your way and, lucky for you the book of poetry that was closest to hand is, in my entirely unbiased opinion, the greatest collection of poems ever written. And just so you get your money's worth (not that you're paying, but if you were...) I'm going to quote one from that collection that references multiple poets. Ah, such geeky wonderful delights:
'When Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote...'
At the top of your voice, where you swayed on the top of a stile,
Your arms raised - somewhat for balance, somewhat
To hold the reins of the straining audience - you declaimed Chaucer
To a field of cows.
'Chaucer', Birthday Letters, Ted Hughes
Of course it's Ted Hughes talking of Sylvia Plath talking of Geofrey Chaucer. And it's just - well, perfect.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Actor Crush #376

Actor Crush #376

I was warned that in watching As You Like It at the Globe I would be opening myself up for another actor crush (because I don't have enough of those already. And that's without mention him or him or even him. And, most importantly of all, him). And on cue, the moment I saw Orlando I was entirely sold.

Sitting down and shaking ourselves dry in the interval (for, yes, after a pretty much dry summer I booked tickets for an afternoon where it was raining before we even got inside the theatre. I'm hoping for better luck with Friday night's performance of A New World) Arsenal Fan noted without prompting:

"He's very your type. Even the voice".

Conclusion? I'm becoming a bit obvious.

Monday, October 05, 2009

"That I would be good..."

"That I would be good..."

"It's, well, like somewhere you would go".

I look across the table, my eyebrows raised at the description of his new workplace.

"No sound of anything derogatory there, then?" I respond unable to hide a smile

Laughter greets this too. "Of course".

There's a pause, just held long enough in this over crowded, over loud pub in Bloomsbury which we - or rather, for it is important now, him and me - are curiously out of place in, lacking suits and briefcases and Friday night post working week cheer. Not to mention the finances to actually be drinking here. Not that it matters to my purse; he - as I have become a little too accustomed to - is paying.

"It's..."

I look directly at him.

"It's - nice".

Friday, September 04, 2009

Round Up

Round Up

I'm in the process of writing an epic-blog-extravaganza all about my time in Edinburgh, just as I'm hoping to loop backwards and (at the very least) pay some sort of lip-service to all those other things I've done that I really should be blogging about.

But then - well, as my twitter feed would show, life got in the way a bit this week. And I don't want to write about my time in Edinburgh with the gloss of the last few days, because that is (quite simply) not fair. So I shall return to tip-tapping it out next week.

For now:

Here's my column for this week over on WhatsOnStage.

And, if you're missing me that much that you should feel so inclined, here's the links to some of my Edinburgh reviews:

Burn - Underbelly

Coffee - Pleasance Courtyard
(Just guess exactly how much the final sentence of that review made me weep with corny-savage joy)

Destroy Powerpoint - C SoCo
(Let the record be straight: I have neither made nor given a Powerpoint presentation at any point in my life. I consider this something of a result)

The Fall of Man - Pleasance Courtyard
(First show I saw in Edinburgh this year and what was that - oh, nudity)

Killing Alan - Underbelly
(Gawain and the Green Knight! And I didn't know until mid-way through when I thought - hey, hang on, this is all getting a bit Middle English on me. It was one of those lovely smug Stoppardian moments when you get the allusion)

The Inconsiderate Aberrations of Billy the Kid
- Just the Tonic @ The Caves
(This deserves some sort of marker for being the only show where not only did I get to eyeball the actors I also ended up with their sweat on me.)

NewsRevue 30th Anniversary - Pleasance Courtyard
(Just after myself and Simon Amstell almost died whilst crossing the road. Little bit of smugness during the show for being the one person in the audience to laugh immediately when Cameron/Brown version of 'Popular' from Wicked started)

The Opposite of Waiting - Venue 13

Precious Little Talent - Bedlam
(Officially my favourite of all the shows I saw, it had me at the opening monologue. Also, Bedlam was officially my favourite venue too. All round goodness. And I would entirely be open to non-stalking Simon Ginty)

Time Out of Joint - C SoCo
(Trust me, that was me being kind. Over on Confessions of a Theatre Snob the label is "not as bad as the Barbican" after one horrific performance there. For me it may forever be "not as bad as Time Out of Joint").

In addition, with the little baby steps of a new project we're rolling out the Write By Numbers Blog so I shall be posting over there muchly (and persuading other people to blog if I have my way).

Monday, August 17, 2009

My First Ever Blog Written From A Train

My First Ever Blog Written From A Train!

Hello? How have you been?

Me? Well, a tad busy what with writing a play and doing two paid jobs (plus two unpaid jobs) and (obviously) it taking four hours to travel anywhere in London. Oh, and that little thing called finishing my MA (which I gloriously did when I handed in my last piece of work four days ago).

With that done I would say that I'm going to have more time but that would be one big fat lie. Mainly because of this. We've not officially launched but I'm getting the blogging going (yes, so I'm blogging there and not here - I am a horrible, horrible person) so feel free to pop round and say hello.

Also, as I type this I'm sat on a National Express train, somewhere between Newcastle and Scotland (sat on the wrong side of the train for the beautiful sea view but, hey, free WiFi!) heading towards Edinburgh. As well as seeing far, far to much theatre, probably drinking too much and socialising with Breakfast Club Boy and Charming Canadian who have been strutting their stuff at the Fringe for the last two weeks, I'll be reviewing for WhatsOnStage.com. So you can read more stuff that I've written that isn't on this blog there. And, of course, twitter because I'm tweeting my way across Edinburgh too.

Given I have (so far) fourteen shows to see in four days it might get a bit hectic. I'll see you on the other side, right?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Calm

Calm

Friday Morning: Hand in Play worth 60% of my final MA grade.

Later Friday Morning: Go to Latitude. Try not to fall over on the train because backpack is ridiculously heavy [see: Latitude 2008].

Friday Afternoon: Put up tent. Possibly in some sort of medium to heavy rain shower if the forecast is to be believed. Possibly swear.

Later Friday Afternoon: Drink Pimms and plan who I am non-stalking at any given point over the weekend (and, indeed, how best to non-stalk Simon Armitage).

Friday Evening: Try not to get jealous over the fact that Dean, Director Boy and Arsenal Fan are all camping in the 'special' camping area that has FLUSHING TOILETS.

Later Friday Evening: Wave my arms above my head in a field full of strangers in an uncoordinated and slightly manic way to the sounds of the Pet Shop Boys.

Saturday Morning: Wake up in tent and be mildly confused as to where exactly I am.

Later Saturday Morning: Sit somewhere eating over-priced bacon sandwiches (ideally with Marcus Brigstocke in sight) and think how great the world is.

Saturday Afternoon: Be utterly charmed by Simon Armitage.

Later Saturday Afternoon: Gain a girl-crush on Emmy the Great.

Saturday Evening: Dance like it is 1989 in my pink-prom dress at Guilty Pleasures '80s Prom night whilst seeing how long Cat manages before requesting some NKOTB.

Sunday Morning: Wake up still not knowing why I'm in a tent. Or indeed why there is a pink '80s prom dress next to me.

Later Sunday Morning: Try not to get in photos with Arsenal Fan as we have the same hat.

Sunday Afternoon: Thom Yorke. With a guitar. In a field.

Later Sunday Afternoon: Steady myself with some theatre. That doesn't involve zombies (RSC take note).

Sunday Evening: Gaslight Anthem, baby!

Later Sunday Evening: Watch one of the biggest reoccurring jokes of my last six months - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - all the while sending gloating texts to Breakfast Club Boy even though - and I would not articulate this - it will be odd seeing Nick Cave without him.

Monday Morning: Return to London unwashed and possibly slightly bruised but with that very special Latitude glow.

Monday Afternoon: Wash, put clean clothes on and then -

Well, then it's reality and questions and choices. And everything that goes with that and what I'm doing now. Life no longer on hold in respect of looming degree, or re-writes, or, and how I hate this word, timing. And sitting here now I am still not sure what any of that means or what, when I finally ask the question, my answer will be.

But for now there is a play to finish and Simon Armitage to non-stalk. I shall see you on the other side.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Did I Mention It Is Too Hot?

Did I Mention It Is Too Hot?

I hear Dean's voice from down the hall -

"Do you know those days when you just can't find a pen?"

Currently under my bed I know those days where you just can't find anything. London may be melting, our kitchen may be approximately 120 degrees and my skin may be moving from blue -to white - to red and back again but, some how, we have decreed it time to tidy. This is what happens when I should be writing a play and there is no more tennis for me to watch.

"Yes" I say, disentangling myself from a sleeping bag, a wicker basket and a mallet. Free, I look up.

Dean is now standing in my doorway looking sheepish, his hands full of enough pens to supply a small stationery shop for a month.

"These might have been in one drawer".

I look at him, shake my head and then return from whence I came, in the hope that life might make more sense seen from under my bed.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Epilogue

Epilogue

I open the door flip flops in my hand because, clearly, tonight is the night when I have decided to give myself a foot infection. I am not exactly drunk, but I might agree that tipsy would be the appropriate word to use. Although Arsenal Fan, who is at Glastonbury, has been texting me all evening about what he is doing, and, obviously I am not there and have been in Brixton instead, I have had a rather wonderful evening. Such is my state of mind currently, I probably wouldn't have swapped it for Glastonbury. Maybe. And this is adding to my general Pimms-Vodka-Comedy triangle of wanting to come in and dance around the living room -

"Have you heard the news?"

Director Boy's voice comes down the stairs the moment I close the door. I know that Andy Murray is through to the third round, which, let me be honest, is my favourite form of news currently. The fact that I do not know there is news of any other sort to be aware of would probably suggest that I am missing out on something.

"No" I say, taking my time over the stairs because, well, y'know.

"Michael Jackson's died".

It is fair to say that this is not what I expected to hear. I round the corner and enter the living room where, ever 21st century consumers, BBC rolling news plays in one corner, and twitter in the other.

And it would seem - it is true. Some how the news sobers me entirely because I know this is one of those 'where were you?' moments. Me, I'm going to have to say slightly tipsy, incubating a foot infection, on the stairs of a flat in Streatham.

I sit down, compelled by some force I cannot rationalise, to watch. Though I know there is nothing more to be said.

Because I buy into this world. I buy into icons and music and fans and fame. I buy into everything that made this man great and made him terrible. More than that I buy into the ability of a song to make you smile, to make you cry, to define a moment of your life in a way nothing else ever quite does. Of the power of one man or woman on stage to make you understand all that cannot be understood any other way. And though I am too young to remember the Michael Jackson of the eighties (and, yes, as a child of Britpop I delighted in that Jarvis Cocker moment) it has not stopped his music, his videos, his dance routines, bleeding into my life and my memories.

And as I sit I realise I cannot fight the aching sadness that it should end like this.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Act With The Flip Flops

The Act With The Flip Flops

"Shush" comes the call from the stage.

Charming Canadian, Surfer Girl and I are sitting on a battered sofa a mere metre or so away from the stage. For it turns out that this particular room above a pub, with its mismatched furniture and over-sized lights and quirky little bar, is even more to my taste than the pub section downstairs. It has already gone on my list of places I like in London.

Because we are a polite audience we respond immediately to the request for quiet.

"There are two teams - " Breakfast Club Boy begins.

It is not the first time we have seen Breakfast Club Boy on stage. This time at least he is fully clothed. As he details the 'rules' of the evening I realise he also has a 'Compere' voice which is, well, very Camerican. Which is unsurprising all considered, but still.

Also, Compere Breakfast Club Boy is mean.

Which is probably equally unsurprising.

And so the improv games begin. Me being me I like the games where either the level of difficulty is cranked up to increasingly preposterous levels (Starting with 'A' Have a conversation where where your line ends with the next letter of the alphabet. And then with sentences that don't include the letter 'E') or where I am firmly in on the in-joke (Trading Shakespearean insults mutating to insults as if you are in a play by Chekhov).

Just as Scene Stealer gets into full on mode Compere Breakfast Club Boy breaks in -

"Now you can only speak in iambic pentameter. If you're going to talk so much I'm going to make it fucking difficult for you".

Iambic pentameter! How wonderful! But then I am a geek.

Then -

"This one is high concept so you need to pay attention".

I put down the vodka, momentarily, lest I should not be up to the job of high concept after Pimms, vodka and the Builders.

Part one of high concept consists of an oversized imaginary character called Boris. This much I can follow.

Part two involves Team Kapow picking a member to go outside.

"You".

I realise Compere Breakfast Club Boy is talking at me. At being the appropriate word. This is not something I'd been prepared for given that audience participation thus far has been confined to shouting out locations and objects.

"Go outside and make sure he doesn't listen. When you hear me blow my whistle bring him back in".

And it would seem I do as I am ordered. Only -

As I stand up I realise that I have only one flip flop on. Because I take my shoes off in public but not always in any kind of sensible manner. Also, these particular flip flops are somewhat difficult to insert my feet into. Because, yes, I am also a little remedial when it comes to bodily coordination. I attempt to slide my foot into the offending flip flop. It skids away from me. I am to be shouted at for not obeying so instead flick the remaining flip flop off and run across the room in bare feet. Some times classy just isn't the word.

In the corridor outside - as I try not to think about the fact that I am bare foot in a pub in Brixton - I see the performer I am supposed to be marshaling. He is looking in the opposite direction. What exactly is the etiquette for situations where an authoritative Compere has ordered you both out of the room? Should I make small talk? But then what if he is in some sort of improv-zone and I destroy it by talking about the heat or Andy Murray or talkative builders?

I settle instead for trying not to step on any piece of floor which looks like something might have been spilt on it. Which is to say - all of the floor.

Just as I have decided to accept that I will undoubtedly contract some sort of foot infection from the floor I hear the whistle.

I open the door and step through and realise simultaneously that I probably should have let the boy who is going up on stage go through first. Oh, well.

I settle back into my seat to watch the game, though not having heard the answers shouted out by the audience whilst I was outside I feel the joke is somewhat lost on me. Though I have a degree of smugness in as much as I guess one of the answers long before the boy on stage does.

Then it is time for Team Bam to send a member outside. He is just leaving the room when -

"You! Why are you still sitting here?"

The audience laughs.

"Go on - go follow him!"

Without a thought for the fact that I am publicly being bossed around by Breakfast Club Boy I stand to attention and scurry out of the room, still in my bare feet because I have not had the foresight to put my shoes back on.

This time I at least get the door thing right when Compere Breakfast Club Boy blows the whistle, remembering to hold it open for the person going up on stage. What with that being my role and what not. However, I do forget how to get back to my seat and - saving myself from having to climb over several people - have to double back and obscure the view of several people.

This time I remain as confused as the boy I was outside with as to the answers so there is both no joke and no smugness. The games continue though, with Compere Breakfast Club Boy artificially manipulating the scores so we have a tie-breaker for the final game. This game involving a plot that has to be played in the style of the genre that our Compere shouts out ("Film Noir!", "Opera!", "The plot part of a Porn Movie") wins my favour quite considerably, not least when "Musical" results in a dead body coming back to life to sing "I'm a dead body" complete with jazz hands.

And then it is over and we have to cheer to decide who is to win. I cheer both teams because I do not know who I want to win as that is too difficult a decision to be made when you have finished your vodka and have black feet.

Compere Breakfast Club Boy catches my eye. "You. Who won?"

It is being left to me to decide? When I haven't made my mind up?

I go with pure instinct and pick the team which Scene Stealer isn't on.

Team Kapow punch the air and cheer, the audience claps and, though I have black feet and have been bossed around, I feel full of joy and power. And, maybe, just a little bit of vodka.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Prologue

Prologue

Surfer Girl and I head in the direction of where we have been informed the beer garden resides. Having been slightly dubious about the venue Breakfast Club Boy had lured us into due to its exterior I have been pleasantly surprised - inside it is all mismatched old furniture, statement wallpaper and hidden booths. Equally I have just been charged £4.50 for a glass of Pimms so I am, quite literally, paying for the distressed pool table. 

We round the corner and there, in all its glory, is the beer garden.

All two metres of it.

For the beer garden is little more than two tables on top of some concrete. I clock slightly too late that the tables are occupied by men in day-glow jackets. And I didn't need that post-Oxford summer spent doing admin on a building site to know that groups of builders with pints in their hands is not my natural habitat.

Surfer Girl and I look at each other.

"Let's sit inside".

We nod in agreement and turn.

"Where are you going?" comes a voice from the beer garden hole.

Where the day-glow shirts are not would be the truthful answer.

"Inside".

"Don't do that - come and join us".

Oddly enough we decline and sit inside.

Talkative Builder, however, decides that our brief appearance is enough to merit an invite to sitting at our table.

"Have you been working today?"

"No - I was sat in the sun reading poetry" Surfer Girl offers.

Even though I have three jobs and the MA still to finish I cannot muster much more: I wrote my column for WOS.com and watched Wimbledon. I am not sure how much scrutiny this stands up to.

"Poetry?" Talkative Builder questions.

"I could read you some" Surfer Girl offers.

Silently I marvel at her ability to engage, as polite as I may be I have very little time for small talk when I don't want to small talk. And pre even a sip of my Pimms I do not want to make small talk with a stranger unless that person has floppy hair and a guitar/ a desire to appear on stage at The National/ is writing a novel/ answers to the name of 'David Tennant' [delete as appropriate]. I am flawed like that.

So Surfer Girl begins to read 'Monogamy' and I am immediately charmed by it -

Though as charmed as I am I still notice Bald Builder pull up one of the leather arm chairs so he is sitting next to me -

"You had to pick a long one" I interject.

Surfer Girl has clearly clocked this too and begins to read quicker.

Meanwhile Bald Builder's eye level sinks to somewhere around my breasts.

I decide to focus across the table, Surfer Girl's poem the source of all of my interest.

Poem over it seems it is time for introductions. At the very least Bald Builder now knows the name of the girl whose breasts he is starring at.

Talkative Builder, meanwhile, has launched into a protracted story of which I am not sure where the punchline is going to come.

And then I see Breakfast Club Boy walking over to us. I smile even though he is wearing a t-shirt clearly given away free in a whisky promotion.

"How are you?" he asks.

I try to wordlessly communicate that help might be needed. Whether my pulling faces achieves this is debatable, though I sense the situation has been noted.

"Are you nervous?"

For Breakfast Club Boy is compering the improv night that has led to us being in this bar with these builders. He has a lot to answer for.

There's a slight pause. "Yes".

"Hold out your hand" Talkative Builder demands.

Breakfast Club Boy obeys, purposefully shaking it.

"I should go back - " Breakfast Club Boy indicates and I realise then that he is to leave us to the mercy of the builders. More than that there is nothing I can do given that he is on stage in thirty minutes and demanding he stay here is somewhat bad form.

"Good luck".

It doesn't come from my mouth because I am nowhere near gracious enough for that to happen.

He disappears from where he came, Talkative Builder begins talking again and Bald Builder's eye level resumes its contact with my chest.

Mature to the end I text an expletive and set about downing my remaining alcohol because I suspect this will be funnier then.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wherein I get a little bit more Will & Grace in my life

Wherein I get a little bit more Will & Grace in my life

"You've come back!" Camp Bookseller says with rather startling excitement.

I get the message immediately that Camp Bookseller's enthusiasm for our return is not so much directed towards me as it is directed toward Breakfast Club Boy. What can I say, clearly the fact that Breakfast Club Boy's red hair co-ordinates with the decor of the Royal Court is working in his favour when it comes to the employees.

"I know which one I want" Breakfast Club Boy says, his decision over which Wallace Shawn play he is to purchase made on account of the discovery that Grasses of a Thousand Colours includes gratuitous use of younger women and centres around Shawn's penis. And people say that I am obvious.

Camp Bookseller, however, is not letting go of the opportunity to flirt that easily.

"Did you like [Aunt Dan and Lemon]?"

Me, I thought it was quite striking in parts but desperately in need of some rather servere pruning. Not to mention the fact that Shawn and I - like Jonathon Swift and I - ultimately see the world differently.

But it is not me whose answer Camp Bookseller is interested in.

There is a pause whilst Breakfast Club Boy considers. 

"Y-es". It's drawn out sounding distinctly, well, Camerican.

Camp Bookseller, however, doesn't seem perturbed by either the hesitation or the accent. 

"And - in one word - what did you like about it?"

One word? This is difficult flirting.

Breakfast Club Boy, not generally lost for words, seems to be struggling. 

"A sentence then" Camp Bookseller suggests achieving a worrying amount of eye contact. I start to wonder if I should leave the two of them alone.

Breakfast Club Boy answers, though I'm not actually listening to the words coming out of his mouth being more preoccupied with how Camp Bookseller is looking at him. And the fact that in this scenario Camp Bookseller has clearly placed me as the Grace to his Will. I refuse to look into the implications of this, especially given the fact that I live with two gay men anyway.

Camp Bookseller changes tack. "So - what do you want it for? A monologue? Acting? Writing? Studying? Directing?"

Momentarily I am distracted from the flirtation by the list. Because, hello, does no one just buy a play simply to read and enjoy it any more?

Breakfast Club Boy pauses and I sense, just for a second, that we are having identical thoughts. Albeit that I am not having to work out which category I'm going to place myself in. 

"If anything - writing" He answers.

"And you've only got the money to buy one?"

Camp Bookseller will be working out Breakfast Club Boy's prospects next. Though if the answer to the previous question didn't point to a life of poverty then I don't know what does.

"Yes, if I want to get home tonight".

Camp Bookseller does not miss a beat. "I don't know - you could take a chance".

MY EARS, MY EARS.

Then, at the moment the subtext has stopped being sub-anything and is now just text, Camp Bookseller suddenly remembers that I exist. It is odd if only for the fact that I too have kind of forgotten that I am actually visible to the man standing behind the counter. I register the flicker of doubt. Excellent, I may not be Grace afterall.

As if to reduce the potential blow, Camp Bookseller looks in my direction as if to suggest that it was me, rather than him, who might have said those words.

I give a look back at him. The kind of look that conveys - Oh no, thank you very much. This is your mess. And I'm not going to be the one to get you out of this. Or even give you absolution by letting you know whether he is straight or gay. I'm mean like that just because this is so much funnier.

All options taken Camp Bookseller accepts that he is actually going to have to sell Breakfast Club Boy the book he said he wanted five minutes earlier. In this upside down encounter selling a product is clearly a failure. Or at least a failure in as much as he hasn't managed to get his phone number into it.

When we finally get into the stairwell the words rush from Breakfast Club Boy's mouth:

"He thought I was gay!"

I do not think it is the place to say that I kind of see why the mis-conception might have happened. I take instead the equally obvious route.

I laugh.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake

Let Them Eat Cake

I think I'd been living in Streatham for 24 hours or so when Director Boy first made the announcement that there was going to be a cake competition as part of the local food festival. I wondered for a second if I'd stepped into something out of Private Secret Diary. We shall be keeping chickens next.


"We all need to make cakes" Director Boy said.


I pulled the 'I'm far too busy card' which is currently my favourite card for lots of things, not least as to why I keep forgetting to do stuff. Dean just went for 'no' without the need for any kind of card pulling, because that is the power of his no. 


Unpeturbed by our lack of enthusiasm for integrating ourselves with the cake baking yummy mummies of south-west London, Director Boy plowed on. Even the discovery, forty five minutes before deadline time, that there was insufficient icing sugar did not hold him back.


"It's just like Challenge Anneka!".


And, in an icing-sugar type way it kind of was. Which was, needless to say, how we ended up outside the cafe on the common looking at cakes.


"Yours is the most different" I say, surveying the table which is laden with cakes of the generally sponge variety with neat rows of decoration on top of them. Director Boy's cake is certainly the only one to be enveloped in butter cream icing. It's probably the only one too which could give you caffine shock.


"Mocha cake" The lady with clipboard and score sheets says. Only she pronounces it Mo-cha as if it is some kind of dance. I am not sure this is necessarily a good start.


The judges locate Director Boy's cake and take a slice. The Only Marginally Scary Italian Lady who runs the cafe lets out an 'Mmmm'. Maybe a victory shall be clasped from the jaws on defeat.


As the judges quietly give their marks to Clipboard Lady the remains of the slice go round the audience.


A man to our right, picks off the buttercream icing and gives the cake to his three year old child who happily munches it.


Director Boy turns to me.


"I wouldn't be giving that to a child".


I look back at him.


"There's four cups of espresso in that".


I feel a flash of pity for the man as he continues to feed the cake to his daughter though neither Director Boy nor I make a move to stop him. Sometimes lessons have to be learnt. There is, after all, a clue in the word 'Mocha'.


When the results come through Director Boy's cake, scandelously, remains unplaced.


"If there'd been an Adult Male Category you'd have won" I offer. It is a small matter that he is in fact the only adult male to have entered. But we will not let such small trifles get in the way.


Director Boy promptly rescues the cake before it is devoured by Streatham children. Its chocolately-mocha goodness is not for them after all.


Back at the flat I finally get to eat some cake. I decide this is a successful afternoon.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The One Without The Ducks

The One Without The Ducks

Hmm, did I mention that I might be a little bit busy?

There is much I shall return to in a couple of weeks when the current pace of my life slows down slightly (coinciding, not coincidentally, with the end of my contact hours of my MA) - a new job, a new project to get excited about, seeing John Barrowman's bottom again, a picnic in Greenwich next to a film set, standing on the balcony at the Royal Court surveying Sloane Square in the evening sunlight and being utterly content. And cats. Not the musical, but the animal. They have become, in a startling turn around, a recurrent feature of my life. And remember - this is me. I don't even like cats.

But for now - you can read my first 'Best of This Week's Blogs' over on Whatsonstage.com. So - theatre bloggers out there - please write lots of interesting things next week, I beg you.

And the other thing, and the thing that's really taken up all of my time these last few weeks - my play foreverafterwards has, along with the plays of The Writers (many of whom have graced these blogs for the last six months or so), its reading at the Soho Theatre next week. And because we've put in a super-human effort there is a bewildering number of theatre-types coming over the course of the readings (including my favourite London theatre, eeek). We're doing the first 25 minutes of foreverafterwards which is sad in as much as it means that Breakfast Club Boy* won't get to do duck noises during it (should you wonder, the final scene takes place at a duck pond. In my second workshop when asked to list what they enjoyed about that particular draft everyone opened their list with - the ducks. Talk about scene stealing), and my favourite scene (which has an extended conversation about a pencil in it) isn't in there. But doing the first 25 minutes is good because, as I said some time ago, I can't write first acts for toffee. Or indeed for any other kind of sweet. And this has pushed me to deal with some of those demons and write an opening that I'm actually happy with. Which I sort of, maybe, am. Even though there is a (short) conversation in there which references Old English and which therefore NO ONE will get. But I will begin rambling soon (I say soon, did you see the length of that first sentence?) - needless to say, Monday 8th June at 4.00pm the Soho Theatre is the place to be. There will even be free wine if I don't drink it all first.  

*Gratuitous reference due to the fact that he keeps bugging me as to why I haven't written more of his adventures on here recently. I shall keep all remarks about egotistical actors to myself. This, I am afraid, will have to do for now. Or until he buys me things.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Scenes From New Cross: Trial

Scenes From New Cross: Trial

"Coreen".

We are seated in Goldsmith's non-Quad, for once all of The Writers being together on account of us being on lunchbreak. Let the record show that in respect of things like lunchbreaks and actual classes and suchlike my MA has been much more like school than my BA ever was. I, however, am a late arrival to the group, what with being a busy and important person and having had a date by the river* a couple of hours earlier.

"Coreen?" My eyebrows are somewhere near my hairline.

"Yes, Coreen" Breakfast Club Boy says, the combination of his newly BRIGHT RED hair and the sun making his skin strikingly pink.

"You mean, Connie" Charming Canadian offers.

My name, it is clear, remains a source of ongoing entertainment. I cling to the assertions that this is due to affection rather than outright malicious bullying.

"What do you think of Augusto Boal?" Breakfast Club Boy asks.

I shrug my shoulders. "I don't know his work that well". It is moments like this when my literary rather than dramary background becomes obvious. I can take this on the chin. I've read the complete works of Shakespeare, Beowulf and Harry Potter after all. It is a small price to pay.

There is a sharp intake of breath from Arsenal Fan.

"She did it! She killed Boal!" Arsenal Fan exclaims.

"He's dead?" It is a piece of information that I was unaware of.

Charming Canadian and Breakfast Club Boy nod.

"And you killed him" Breakfast Club Boy asserts.

"First Pinter, then J G Ballard, now Boal...where will it end?"

This is possibly the point when I should make a few things clear. When The Homecoming was one of our set texts my slight distaste utter loathing for the majority of the work of Harold Pinter may have been made abundantly clear to the class. Then, a few weeks later, Pinter died and Arsenal Fan started a rumour (which somehow stuck) that I had been responsible for his death. A few months after that Arsenal Fan, Surfer Girl and I had been talking about J G Ballard (who I have never read to express any sort of distaste) and 24 hours later he died too. Consequently two and two was added together to make fifty six and now the word on the street is that I am working my way through murdering successful creative men. Because that is what feminists do.

"You're killing anyone who is better than Tom Stoppard!" Breakfast Club Boy proclaims. I can see the lightbulb above his head.

It would seem there is never a missed opportunity for some Tom Stoppard bashing.

Charming Canadian shakes his head. "Who's next?"

"I haven't decided". I should, after all, keep my options open. Even given the fact that the people whose deaths I am charged with were old, ill men who died of natural causes.

"You're going to kill HipBo!" Charming Canadian asserts.

HipBo is neither old nor male. Plus, if I could vaguely imagine someone having enough of the Arsenal-ness from Arsenal Fan, or the extended rants about theatre-ropes gone wrong from Charming Canadian or the tie dye from Breakfast Club Boy, or, even, in the sake of fairness, my own ridiculousness and murdering us all then the same cannot be said of HipBo. And, more than that, she is sitting to my left.

"All the greats - Pinter, Ballard, Boal and now HipBo".

It is safe to say this wasn't quite what I imagined when I signed up to going back to school.

*Not an actual date. A work date. Or interview as some might call it. And, yes, should you be wondering, there shall be a second date. So I've got another company I've got to make up a fake name for.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Scenes From New Cross: Tea Bag

Scenes From New Cross: Teabag

We are between workshops, seated on the patch of grass that is sandwiched between the main building at Goldsmiths, the Gym and a building site. Christ Church Quad it is not. As I am being something of a girl and feeling cold I have endeavoured not to remove my cape and so have been sitting on one half of Breakfast Club Boy's coat for the last ten minutes or so.

"You might want to be careful" Breakfast Club Boy says eventually.

I wonder what is coming. "Why?"

"There's a split tea bag in one of the pockets and I think it's the pocket you're sitting on".

"There's a tea bag in your pocket?" It is something that clearly needs repeating in order for my brain to process it. Just as I also process that I probably have tea-bag marks on my predominantly white dress. Obviously the law of maximum stain damage would mean it would in my half rather than his.

I move slightly and begin to rifle through the inner pocket closest to me. It is only when I have begun doing this that I realise that going through someone's pockets is not actually a polite thing to do. Especially when you have commandeered half of their coat. This, however, does not stop me as I find said teabag. Which is indeed split.

I hold it in my hand.

"Why?"

There is, of course, a perfectly valid-ish reason for Breakfast Club Boy having a teabag. The same kind of reasoning which means I usually have sachets of coffee in my handbag. What moves it into the realm of abnormal behaviour is the fact that it is leaking.

I cannot help the obvious question, speaking as if I am a Primary School teacher and he has put his PE shorts on backwards. "And why didn't you bin it when it split?"

He smiles as if we are having the most normal conversation in the world. Of course the teabag is still in his pocket.

There is nothing I can do. I take the teabag and return it to the pocket, making sure as I do that I am no longer sitting on the offending area.

It is fair to say that I mostly do not understand boys.