I can’t drive. Well, that’s not quite true. If, while driving me to an Alanis Morisette Concert, say, you were stung by a bee and being all allergic (“I love buttercups but I have to stay the hell away”) you began to get quite puffy and less capable to drive, technically I could
shunt over into the drivers seat and “negotiate” the controls. I mean, I passed my learners.
When people back home asked about my lack of wheels, my curt reply was – “hey, I’m going to move to a city with public transport”.
A lot can be said against the London transport system, but it gets me just about wherever I want to go, day or night. Sometimes I have to wait a long time and there is
the constant threat of a terror attack – but compared to a teenage-dom without a car, it’s a small price to pay.
Even when something like this happens, yesterday.
I jump on the Tube at Hendon. After making a quick safety assessment of the people round the empty seat, I sit down.
Being tired from a bout of impromptu drinking the night before (a pre-cursor to Will’s birthday this Sunday) I decide to “rest my eyes” instead of reading. I hear someone re-arranging their bags. I open my eyes. A woman with short hair and a dour face is arranging her shopping from Marks & Sparks. I close my eyes again. More rustling. I hear the spray of an aerosol can and smell men’s aftershave. My eyes open just in time to watch the lady give herself another squirt. Strange, I think, she’s definitely a woman. She fumbles about in her bag and takes out a t-shirt. She rips the tag off with her teeth and throws the label on the floor. Then she spits. Like she’d been saving it up for a while. The black lady next to me re-coils.
Usually this is the point where I wait for the next stop, get off and walk to safety, two carriages along - but I stay.
She takes out a pair of neon pink socks. I notice she’s wearing slippers even though it’s ice and sludge and zero degrees outside. Biting the label she kicks off both her slippers and yanks off her existing socks, hurling them in a way that reminds me of a small child who’s bored of its toy. I start giggling. I can't help myself. It's been a long day and I'm tired and hungover. The train starts to slow as we approach Golders Green and I place a finger hard against my lips to compose myself. The lady glares at me. Now wearing her new pink socks, she gives me a final stern look, stands up, adjusts herself and loudly leaves.
I never did see if she got on again a few carriages down.
Drum roll, please.
Introducing... Work Hate
Some might observe that the style of writing is oddly familiar, but of course, I couldn’t possibly comment.
I received an email this morning from Tom. He wrote to ask my permission to turn On the Up
into a radio play for the station he works for in Wales. How exciting! No word yet on whether they want to translate it into Welsh...
Also, thanks to Erin who offered her services if I wanted to put the play on Down Under and commented that (my) “implication that all Australians are tanned is quite incorrect. Unfortunately, a fairly large majority of us are from Irish heritage and therefore are horridly pale and only burn or freckle (me being one of them). Not that it would matter much for me (being one of these pink and speckled people) - I'm starting to sound like I wouldn't make it past the first floor - herded off with the rest of the obsessive compulsives!”
Friday night and Tom calls me with the news that Kate is playing at the Shadow Lounge
. As well as the gig tonight Kate’s the new substitute DJ and might even get a regular spot herself on Thursdays. The Shadow Lounge is a preferred Scooby hangout due to the fact that our Sam works there and lets us jump the queue. It’s a little pretentious as a punter but an ideal venue for an up and coming DJ. Perfect even. When Kate rang later we were so excited that we just gushed for five minutes. I told her I might drop in later to hear her play, but even before I put the phone down I felt the end of week stupor begin.
Over the weekend I finished 25 pages of Play. Will was writing his too. With a few more monkeys and typewriters who knows what we could create?
DREW: (calling from the living room).
How many pages have you done?
WILL: (calling from the bedroom).
DREW: How many words?
WILL: Seven thousand.
DREW: Oh. I’ve almost finished six thousand.
DREW: What font are you using?
WILL: Shut up.
Last night, as a reward, we had a few friends over for tea. Will’s mate Ste came, as did Scooby girls Trinity and Charlie. I cooked a huge curry and we ate Chinese Hot and Sour Mushroom Soup for starters (to celebrate Chinese New Year and because it looked much more fun than Cream of Asparagus). Ste has this whole cheeky chappy
Northern thing going on and as he’d just met Trin and Charlie he attempted to shock them both with gay gross out stories. So with a certain amount of pride I watched as the girls deflected each one of his inappropriate anecdotes without even a flicker of annoyance in their dark and long lashed eyes.
And finally, my sister Amber has decided to come over and spend a few weeks with her favourite brother in London. There Am, I’ve written it in my blog. Now you have to come. x
This weekend I’m staying in to write. Oh, I hear you say, bless young Drew; he’s so committed to his art! Well if the truth be told it’s Hobson’s Choice as I’m enormously broke. I mentioned to Will yesterday that I wanted to become a “kept man”. He offered to lend
me some money so I don’t think he really understands the concept. *sighs*
Re-read some of the play last night. It’s a two-hander about a young middle-aged couple. Their three children have all left home. On the night the play is set they accidentally find their son’s stash of dope, get stoned and re-discover each other. It’s provisionally titled Mum & Dad do Drugs
or perhaps Growing Old Disgracefully
In early 2000 I’d finished Drama School and started to write my second play Swirl
- about a young couple who, um, re-discover themselves – to keep my brain ticking over in between auditions. Before I finished, a friend reminded me about the New Zealand Young Playwright Competition, and since it seemed such good timing, I entered. Having finished the play I didn’t look at it or let anyone else read it. I needed time for the creative wound to heal. So I was surprised when I received a letter a few weeks later to say that I’d won. As part of the prize, the play was work shopped for three days (a traumatic experience: ego driven director - check, over keen actors – check, haughty young playwright – check) culminating in a cringe-inducing performance. When it was all over, I re-read the play to try and see what it was that had made me write it in the first place. I couldn’t find anything.
A few months ago I found the script. Although I still felt a yick
factor reading it, it made me smile. There was something not so cynical in my cynicism, something naive in my worldliness and for that, I decided, there was a kind of beauty to it.
Lost in Translation
is a great film. It made me wanna go out and marry a Coppola.
The 1pm Swim Meet in Holmes Place Gym, Hendon Central.
After roll call, Margaret O’Reilly dives straight in with the day’s tactical manoeuvres…
“Right, now we all know the goal; breaststrokers you’ll be our main defence. Make sure you stay on the right side of the pool. There are plenty of you but don’t get cocky - if one of you falters we’ll lose our hold. Has everyone got swimming caps? Good. Remember if he speeds up to overtake swim faster, otherwise go as slow as you can.
Splashy Man, you’ll be on the far right – I want to see arms and legs flying. Don’t be afraid to really splash him as he comes past you. If we get water in his mouth or up his nose he’ll have to stop.
Underwater Boy - back up Splashy Man. I know it’s hard to hold your breath the entire way, so just do it in sections. Remember if he can’t see you it’s that much harder to avoid you.
And finally, Fat Woman on Floatables – you’re our secret weapon. Ride down the middle of the pool and drift into every lane. I want to see diagonals!
Okay, we’ve got one hour so let’s make it count. Drew’s not going to know what hit him! Go Team!”
When Will and I arrive at Kate’s house in East Dulwich, her eyes are puffy from crying. I’ve become quick to gage the situation with Kate ever since the death of her brother six months ago. My face tightens slightly; I try and become receptive while still giving her space to breathe. She’s told me about the people who offer their commiserations with a thick film of pity across their eyes. She’s fine, she says, just some bad news about her DJ gig at a bar in Soho where she plays every Thursday. It isn’t as busy as it needs to be and they’ve pulled the plug. It wouldn’t be so bad – but for the loss of money. Like almost everyone I know, Kate has two jobs. She works as a DJ in the evenings - a midnight world where dance is language - and as a teacher at a Further Education School in the days; helping UK’s new citizens to learn the lingo. The second is a perfectly good, well paid job. But Kate wants to be a DJ. She works the minimum hours she can as a teacher. After dinner she asks us, is it wrong to want something? Not wrong, I say, just harder. We talk about her becoming a full time teacher. She will earn much more money than she’s ever made before, but will she lose her dream? Never, I tell her confidently. Her smile cuts through the pomp & authority in my voice, and stays with me the whole journey home.
Whenever I’m a bit low there’s only one place to cheer me up. Min Min’s
ability to mangle the English language into inane saccharine pulp is quite astounding and never ceases to put a smile on my dial. Enjoy.
2002 The Fellowship of the Ring
I’m staying with Sam’s family in Bristol for Christmas and I’m shocked to discover how cheap film tickets are (£4!)
“I’ve read all the books” I tell Sam’s brother for the third time as we walk into the cinema.
A quarter of the way through the film Sam looks at me. There are tears in my eyes. On screen the hobbits are walking through the forest.
“A New Zealand moment huh?”
He rubs my hand.
2003 The Two Towers
At the Ritzy in Brixton I watch the second installment with my (then) flatmates - Toby, Andrew and Piers - plus a muddle of other Aussie & Kiwi friends.
We’ve come to the late night viewing. It’s extremely hot and each clash of metal makes me flinch.
I also remember the surprise at recognizing so many kiwi actors and realizing that 1. I’d slept with an elf - and 2. He was looking a little fatter in the face.
2004 The Return of the King
Yesterday Joe and I go to the local cinema in Angel (Will being banned until he’s seen the first two films). There are annoying spotlights on the roof which they don’t turn off.
A couple sits next to us and begins to snuffle down their hotdog/chocolate/popcorn - talking all the time.
“Let’s move,” I whisper to Joe, “before I kill them.”
Later, I get my hand caught in the pot of M & M’s during an intense (and silent) scene much to the consternation of everyone in Cinema Room 9, except for Joe, who chuckles quietly.
Pay rise. I know I’ve sold out but imagine all the fast cars and fast women I can buy now!
Nothing even mildly amusing happened during my interview. I guess that’s when I realised that I didn’t really want it. It didn’t help that they weren’t offering much more in the way of money than I’m on now. They want to see me again for a follow up interview but I don’t see the point. There was no chemistry, nothing to say “this is a way forward”. It was a boring job in a boring office for very little money and I’ve already got one of those thank you very much.
When I returned to Boring Office #1 my boss sidled up.
“Shall we have a chat?” he asked. He looked nervous.
“Sure” I said, trying to summon up some enthusiasm, any.
“It’s been brought to my attention that you’re in some financial difficulty”
Hey, hey, hey! I’m careful with my money mister. You’re the one who expects me to work for less than a waiter earns – before tips - in one of the most expensive cities on the planet. Let’s just get the facts straight.
“I don’t think that’s the issue here,” I straighten my tie, “When I came here I knew how much I was going to earn and I qualified the loss in income with the skills I was about to be privy to.”
Nice. Confuse him with words like privy. That’s it.
“Are you happy here Andrew? You seem to spend all your time wearing headphones. Sometimes you look miserable.”
My smile widens so that I imagine my face is about to invert.
“It’s just the way I am,” I lie.
“I get the work done. I’m meticulous but when it’s time to go, I go. I may not look like I’m enjoying it here but I am. It’s just my way.”
We get on to money again. He tells me my work cannot be faulted. It would be a shame to see me go. They want to keep me. I win.
“I’ll see what I can do, tell you by Friday.”
When I sit down at my desk I remember it’s not really about the money at all. As I watch my icons appear one by one on the screen I realise that I wanted to scream “you don’t know how lucky you are to have me here, to have had me for 6 months, for so much of my precious young life in an office that smells of stale coffee and mould when I should be running barefoot over moss covered rocks and drinking water so cold it hurts my throat!” - But I don’t of course. No one ever says what they really feel.
I am all squeezed into Will’s black suit. I have only one trouser suit now - an ancient pin striped ensemble that I bought cheap at a Charity shop - after I gave my smart one to the dry cleaners and never picked it up again. I can’t remember why, I just remember the metallic taste of remorse in my mouth each time my brain throbbed “suit!”
My hair is soft. Usually it’s brittle from all the chlorine at the pool, and flat from wearing a woolly hat, but now it’s blow dried and bouncy. I have a parting. The slight curl has almost been straightened out. Even if I do say so myself, I look very smart - like a young *insert name here*.
My morning ritual usually involves waking up, turning off my alarm and “snoozing” until 5 minutes before I’m meant to leave. Sometimes Will gets up first to bribe me out of bed with a cup of coffee and, if we have time, some toast or weetabix. Recently I haven’t been showering in the mornings (cleansing at lunch after a swim instead) which has only aggravated my zombie walk to the tube.
This morning I snoozed for only 20 minutes, showered (I shaved the night before) and had time to iron a shirt (blue) and pick a tie (um, magenta).
But, after such a good start, the day has dragged. With my interview at 3 I decided to pass the time by taking an online test about “the locus of control.” My hunch is that I only take tests that I’m good at (and what that says about me I’ll never know) so I wasn’t surprised when I discovered I have high internal locus of control
“Individuals with a high internal locus of control believe that events result primarily from their own behaviour and actions.”
But if you’re wondering who’s in the picture, she’s Lady Luck. Hey, why not cover all bases, is my thinking.
With a job interview tomorrow I go through my usual ritual…
Should I get a hair cut?
Not just one, maybe quite a few. Long flowing locks are acceptable on boys only when they’re advertising something; long hair in the real world is scorned upon. Ah, yes, but surely you’re selling yourself, young Drew? Touché. I’ll keep the hair then. Besides, it’s always good to have something to blame if I don’t get the job.
Do I know how to get there?
I will read the instructions at least 14 times, plot my journey on a map and leave in plenty of time and yet still get stranded on a train with no wheels somewhere near Swindon.
Do I really want the job?
No. But it’s more money and will help fund my hopes and dreams. If they’re not quashed by the new job that is.
And at least I’m not a Russian Mail-Order Bride
“One of the first things you will want to do when you start a correspondence with a new lady is to send her a symbol of your interest and affection. We suggest you use the unique anti-scam flower delivery service offered by Flower and Gift International
before sending her any other flowers. Their innovative “FOTOFlower” ID Verification is only $49 if the flower is delivered and a photo taken. This is an independent and discrete verification through a face-to-face meeting with a visual check of her Internal Passport. She will receive a delivery of a single rose and greeting card with a translated personal message from you. You will receive a return photo of your lady with her flower and a translated note from her by Email. You will know for certain if your new lady is for real once you confirm the FotoFlower picture with the pictures she has already sent to you.”
This morning I started reading The Lovely Bones
. Monday’s are hard enough anyway without beginning a novel where the protagonist, a fourteen year old girl, explains how she is brutally murdered in the first few pages. Some books should come with health warnings, like “This will make you sob like a girl on a packed Tube while people around you uncomfortably watch as you search for a non-existent tissue.”
The Week that Was
I joined the local video store last night and couldn’t decide between Pirates of the Caribbean
or X Men 2
. I flipped a coin - heads - X Men
. Will hadn’t seen the first one but I assured him that he hadn’t missed much (it was more like a preview than a fleshed out feature film) and that I’d explain along the way. Really enjoyed the film. Halle Berry (Storm) had a much bigger part probably due to her Oscar win. According to Empire
Magazine this made her a tad difficult to work with (she signed the X2 contract before getting the award so it didn’t increase her pay check). I can imagine her being a bit of a pre-madonna…
They’re shooting a tricky scene and director (Bryan Singer) stops everyone to give Ms Berry a note.
“You want me to do what? Well I was doing it! Don’t tell me what to do! If you don’t like my acting you better tell it to the Academy. I mean, anyone else here win an Oscar? I didn’t think so!”
No one speaks.
Patrick Stewart nudges Anna Paquin but she keeps resolutely silent.
“Actually, I think Anna here won one, didn’t you? How old were you, Anna, when you received your Oscar? Eleven? My, what a young age to be bestowed such a great honour!”
“Well I received mine for black women everywhere!” And with that she throws her wig on the floor and marches off to ring her agent for the fifth time that day.
Think Will enjoyed the film too because when he made a cup of tea I caught him pretending to be Lady Deathstrike in the kitchen.
not enough Hugh in the world. Yeah, I know, that joke's wearing pretty thin.
No news about pay rise yet but I have a job interview next Wednesday for a Publishing House in Mornington Crescent.
Most interesting thing I learnt reading Troublesome Words
: A semi colon is harder than a comma but softer that a full stop (period).
Graffitti noticed on walk to gym –
“David Blaine woz here for 44 days.”
Tomorrow night we’re going out with Joe and friends on the razzle in Angel. Love saying razzle. Razzle, razzle, razzle. In case you hadn’t noticed the Detox didn’t even last the week…
Just told them they don’t pay me enough and that I’m looking for a new job. I was completely honest. Well mostly. A little high now on the adrenaline but I think it went well. My Project Manager wants me to stay (natch) so he will ask for a pay rise on my behalf. But the absolute truth is that I’m bored, talented and penniless and a few quid a month more isn’t going to cut it (that was the bit I didn’t tell them). I’ve just set something in motion again. You’d a thought I would’ve learnt by now.
On the tube I notice that someone is wearing one of my old after shaves. Ripples of nostalgia tickle my conscience. It reminds me of my ex-boyfriend Christian & Switzerland (the connection being he was Swiss). As a get older I’ve discovered I’m nostalgic about things much faster. More to miss I guess.
I get off at Leicester Square and notice a movie poster where someone has stuck a sticker over the word “want”. Except they’ve written the word “want” on the sticker. It strikes me as very pointless and slightly subversive but I don’t quite understand how.
On the way to meet Lizzie I think to myself “Joe Orton probably walked up here once.” It’s nice to see a city through someone else’s eyes every now and then - stops it getting stale.
Lizzie’s late but I bump into Len and stand with his group of friends. I love the gay Costa coffee house on Old Compton Street, but it’s always stressful. The place is designed to make it as difficult as possible to carry a full cup of coffee. The mugs are like bricks. There are the Stairs of Death
, and at any given time, about 25 men watching your every move.
Soon Lizzie arrives. We drink my coffee together and she cleans out her purse. We both munch on the chocolate biscuits I’ve smuggled in.
“Do you like my coat?” she asks
“I just thought I’d be all cool and Sex and the City and not mention it”
After the coffee we cross the road to Balans.
“Smoking?” asks the maitre d', his hair drastically slicked.
“I might have one of yours” I say to Lizzie as he leads us to the table avec ashtray.
We buy a bottle of Rosé that the waiter suggests as a compromise because I want red and she wants white.
Lizzie offers me a cigarette.
“I must get a real job," she tells me, "It would be nice to have a meaningful-ish reason to leave the house but I’m just so lazy. Even if all I had to do was shag Brad Pitt once a week, I'd still be pissed off about having to get the train there or something.”
We talk about her ex-boyfriend. She’s still in love with him. It’s been over a year, he broke up with her for another woman…
“..But I found the one, the person I wanted to be with for the rest of my life. And they never tell you when that happens it might not end happily ever after. If he phoned up right now, I’d be cross with him but I’d take him back. I know he’s a cunt but I love him. They don’t tell you that.”
I’m not sure what to say.
Things I thought would be better in 2004 but have so far been a bit of a let down.
Celebrated my 30 inch waist a bit too soon. After Xmas my new FCUK jeans are now a little
figure hugging. On the news last night there was a story about the declining sperm count in the UK and although I’m not Mr Reproduction I’d still like to think that I’m not lowering my chances of fantasy offspring by wearing trousers so tight you can differentiate the coins in my back pocket. Oh, and my other pair of roomy
jeans, well Will got red paint on them. And then tried to get it off with turps. Now they reek. So today I decided to forsake all denim and wear instead pinstripe trousers with a white belt. I’ve got a little Bugsy Malone thang going on.
Christmas Specials? Still? Oh, and no more Buffy. Ever.
Get up & Go
Just so much easier playing computer games and procrastinating.
I had a great idea for a play which I’ve been working on over the past few days but I’ve hit a brick wall. This little voice keeps saying “yes, but do people really
do things like that?” and I’m not sure if I can justify the scenario. I know I have to overcome my monkey mind but if I can’t believe in the situation how could an audience? Le sigh.
I got so good but now I’ve regressed a few levels. Still, at least I’m better than the housewives who do breast stroke and never get their hair wet.
Inside the club I was welcomed by the entertainment (i.e. Drama School students in elaborate costumes trying too hard) and we made our way into the main room after first checking in our coats (a military operation with bossy bouncers & queue jumpers). There were three rooms, all about the same size, and what seemed like miles and miles of corridor/stairs.
“I went upstairs and found myself outside” complained a girl walking past me with feathers in her mask.
At the countdown I clutched at anyone I vaguely recognised. Luckily it turned out to be Will, Olly and Lorna. Dancing was interrupted while we leaned over other people to say “Happy New Year” before the magic ended.
Um, and then we danced lots. That’s it really. Oh, except this, this became my next day story -
I was walking down to the main room with Will and I noticed a very handsome blonde girl. She clocked me and as I continued towards the door she walked very quickly round the bar so as to intercept. We were looking directly at each other. She didn’t seem to notice Will. Putting her hands on my arms & keeping eye-contact all the time, she moved in for the kiss. It was like a film. I remember being very aware of myself in the room, the music slowing and how romantic it all was but for one important factor…
She stopped and looked at me again.
“Brilliant.” She muttered, before turning and walking off past the bar.
I’m back at work (which, incidentally, means I will blog more regularly - thanks for hanging on in there) and my fish is alive. The huge tub of instant coffee has about 200 cups worth left. The litter bins are full to overflowing. Fluorescent lights. Bitterness. I can feel a Dolly Parton song coming on…
New Years day went without a hitch. Will and I walked to the fancy dress shop in Angel to get masks for the Puscha Masquerade Ball. The mask shop is called Party Pleasures
and is full of tacky gifts that would be suitable only as props for a Carry On film. I choose a little Zorro number and Will settles on a Butterfly. On the way to the station we take a detour to visit the flat that Joe Orton lived in for seven years prior to his death. I also discover the Kings Cross Canal. Orton’s flat is on the top of a typical row of British flats. There’s a blue National Heritage sign which is too high to read and when two teenagers walk past us they give us a look like we’re casing the joint.
After running into town to pick up a shirt for the club (bright blue with gold stripes) we only have an hour before people start arriving. As our place is walking distance from Puscha it has been nominated as the pre-party drinks venue. Kate and Tom turn up early and we pop a bottle of bubbly. Soon, to my surprise, Errol turns up. He used to go out with my Sam (boy) but now dates Sheila (girl) and has been a little distant over the past few months so I’m pleased to see him. I talk with Sheila and like her immediately. She has dark curly hair and is so quick, I sit up.
After two bottles of fizz the rest of the rabble turns up. Some of them haven’t seen the new place yet so I give them a quick tour before throwing them out. It’s bloody cold and I get stuck holding Lucy who’s already been celebrating quite hard. We walk along to King’s Cross and follow the spotlights towards the club.