We are in August, the month that the Captain and I love and hate. I love it because I give myself the month off from my consultancy job in the city, which allows afternoon siestas, writing, morning sleep-ins, frequent gym visits and very occasionally some wine during the week instead of waiting for the weekend. The other side of the coin, though, is that every single person within 10 yards decides to do garden and home improvements, so that the sound of drills starts around 8.00 a.m and continues until about 6.30 p.m. It seems to be a contagious disease, not dissimilar to a baby crying. Once one of them starts, they all feel they need to join in.
I shouldn’t complain. I could be in Edinburgh as we speak, taking part in a one woman show that I was asked to do at the Theatre 503 this year. It was part of a beautifully written and directed trilogy of one woman plays, and I thoroughly enjoyed doing it. But I was held back from progressing, due to the fact that the company’s administration had a few glaring flaws. Questions of where and when the shows were to be performed and more importantly what and when were we being paid, remained unanswered for too long for my nervous system to bear, so I extricated myself.
It had been a difficult beginning to the year, in any case, as the Captain’s mother fell seriously ill, requiring his and some of my attention from February until April, when we lost her to cancer. At the time it felt like it was dragging on forever, but looking back, her illness was incredibly fast and desperately cruel.
On reflection, I know that if I had been warned that I would lose a close friend to heroin at 28, another close friend to cancer in her 30s, have two ectopic pregnancies and fruitless IVF attempts myself, develop fibroids and have to have an hysterectomy at 45 and watch the painful death of my husband’s mother, I might have turned to the gods and said “Could you reverse my birth please, I am not sure I can take all this pain?” However, there are many joys in life and I suppose one has to take the rough with the smooth. But nobody warned me that it would be so difficult to actually manage pain and hurt. How on earth does every body do it?
One way that I always found useful was to be acting in something, pretending to be someone else. It is and always has been the best escape in the world. If the person your playing has pain, it’s her pain not yours. However, as I have got older, I have found that people want to see the real pain that the character is in, even if watching that pain is funny. So the truth is, if you are giving a genuine performance, escaping pain is still not possible. Unless you are playing the frothiest character on earth. I wonder if I can find her. Earlier this year I played a lovely role in one of the Wolfpack’s Sketches, which is part of a compact set of funnies that they show on their comedy website. They’re lovely to work with and here’s a plug: they do self-tapes as well, so you heard it here first.
I got offered another role in an interesting play for this month which I also turned down, as I didn’t feel it was the right sort of project for me, unpaid and very much the complete other side of London. I have also been offered a tiny little role in a tiny short film which I am delighted to be doing, for a couple of days in September.
So I am not short of offers, just short of the ones that I want. Which I do not think is an uncommon predicament for an actor or actress to experience. The advert castings slow down over this month as well, which is obvious, but a shame, as I absolutely love advert castings nowadays. Having entered into middle age, the kind of ads that I am seen for involve comedic improvisation and I absolutely adore doing that. I have been pencilled for quite a few by now, so I think I might be on the right track but oh how I would like to get one and roll around in the dosh made from it.
On the writing front, I did a brilliant course at Faber with Rowan Coleman during the last three months of 2016 and thoroughly recommend it. While I did have to press the pause button during my mother-in-law’s illness, I have managed to write a chapter per week fairly consistently. I have no doubts that most will end up cut out of it, but a dear mate and I are going to form a tiny writing group of three from Autumn onwards, and we aim to support each other towards completion. Meanwhile I am going to go back to the sitcom pilot that I wrote and amalgamate some of the characters. As it is practically all female, cross cultural and cross generational I have a particular production company in mind to see if they might bite. So wish me luck. If it hits at the right time and place it could be life changing. It’s also got to be good. Hmmmm.
The Captain has been blessed from the day after his mother’s funeral onwards with a flurry of work. You could catch him in the film The Snowman (Jo Nesbo), Count Arthur Strong, Endeavour, Vera, Trauma, Johnny English 3 and something soon with Benedict Cumberbatch. He claims it’s all luck and nothing to do with talent, as he had a range of castings last year without the same results. I have argued that I do believe some talent is involved and he has argued that it is ALL LUCK. “You happen to be what they want at the time, when you have had the opportunity to meet them.” is his phrase. So he is not only good-looking and talented but extremely modest as well. Annoying, right?
Meanwhile we annoy all our neighbours most of whom are retired, who all like to go to our local pub at least three if not four times per week. We of course steer clear of calorific foods and drinks all week and so we are forever the boring couple who never go out and have spontaneous fun. The problem is the hangovers. And the calories. And what alchohol does to the face. It a big boring NO.
In May/June we went to Santorini: during England’s hottest spell this summer. It was cold and grey for the first three days, which annoyed us both, although the hotel was fantastic and the views and food were incredible. The sun came out in the last four days and made up for itself, we sailed, we swam and we spent so much money. WARNING: SANTORINI IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE ISLAND I HAVE VISITED £15 per glass of wine. WHAT?
Theatre wise, I have been to Anatomy of a Suicide by Alice Birch directed by Katie Mitchell. I thought it was two hours of brilliance and feel that those two should always work together, because while the subject matter sounds awful, Mitchell’s cool, calculated direction makes the content palatable and possible, and all in all I have not stopped thinking about how good it was. I also saw Committee at the Donmar, and really enjoyed it, feeling that it was one hour and twenty minutes of the first half of a proper opera. The music and classy performances held me, I just wanted more really.
Telly watching has entered a truly golden era for us. I have The Americans (Cold War spies in the US), House of Cards 5, Veep, Modern Family, Nashville, The Good Fight, Better Call Saul, Master of None, Anne With An E, Baskets to name but a few. Now you know what we do when we aren’t drinking and not answering the phone. It’s close to a religious experience.
I intend to go to the Matisse at the Royal Academy and to both Tate’s via boat at some point. Reading has been David Niven’s two books, The Moon’s a Balloon and Bring on the Empty Horses. I wanted to find out how the entertainment industry had changed. The answer to that is it has changed radically and also it hasn’t changed at all. How about that for a cryptic finish?