Monday, 23 August 2021

Afghanistan

 

“It took 20 years, trillions of dollars and 4 US Presidents to replace the Taliban with the Taliban.”

 

You can’t make this stuff up... it seems to me this planet is governed by imbeciles with no regard for the common people.  It’s unbelievable what is now happening to Afghanistan.  It was obvious to me, a regular Joe, what would occur when America pulled out: they have abandoned a whole country to the rapacious whims of merciless religious terrorists, and every female citizen to a life devoid of education, self-will and a living hell where they are hardly allowed to see the light of day; virtual slaves terrified into subjugation by a regime where women are regarded as chattels and whose safety is a daily trial.  What is more, Biden has now made the world a very dangerous and different place for all of us, because now they see how easily they have taken power, the Taliban and IS will now also be seeking to inflict their terror on the West wherever and whenever they can... it makes you want to weep; just when we thought we had replaced a dangerous, bigoted, crass idiot of a President with someone whom we thought would steer politics in a very different direction, I see together with the oncoming climate crisis that it is becoming increasingly apparent that our world leaders are incompetent bumbling idiots who have little care for this fragile blue stone we call home.

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

David

 

I’m finding it hard to face the regular passing away of residents I have got to know and have grown fond of.  After a little break where I managed to have a holiday with friends in Wales I returned to work a shift in the care home and was informed that David had sadly died the previous night, and I couldn’t help but well up.  He was a great guy and a wonderful character; a proper London cockney from Crouch End who loved telling me of his life growing up in the East End and his job as an engineer working on Tube Trains.  He also played the piano really well and sang too and his presence kind of lit up the home; everyone liked him... I miss him and I know that all too soon some other resident will pass away too.  It’s very strange working so closely with people who are so near the end of their lives, but it’s also somewhat life-affirming to make a connection with individuals who rely on your care and commitment to their welfare.  Bridget, a lady who until recently was very active and always first up to read the papers in our library has succumbed to the pernicious grip of oncoming dementia and has taken to her bed, scared and somewhat confused, asking me continually where she is and asserting that she doesn’t think she should be here and would like me to drive her home as her mother will be missing her.  I took her breakfast in on a tray this morning and she was crying; I asked her what was wrong and she said “I feel sad”.  I sat with her and held her hands for a short while and told her everything was going to be okay and the kind people here were looking after her.  I left her looking settled and managing a little smile, but later that day when I took her a mug of tea she was crying again. 

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Pointless?

 

I have been wondering recently if there is any point writing anymore.  My last few plays have garnered great responses and have made the long-list in various writing schemes, but nothing further has happened.  And now I’m finding I don’t even get acknowledgements when I forward a script, let alone a response, positive or not.  Whilst I was touring with the RSC I wrote a play I had sketched out many years ago, and as it featured a Shakespearean theme I thought this was the obvious time to complete it... it even featured a pandemic, which actually occurred shortly after I had completed the play.  One of the reasons I took the job with the RSC was because they announced that they were interested in actors other talents, so I took the opportunity to pitch the idea in a meeting to their artistic director, and set up a reading of the first few scenes with some of the actors of the company, and although everyone involved loved it and laughed their socks off, no one from the literary team bothered to turn up.  Since I’ve finished the play I sent it to pretty much everyone I thought might be interested in the company and again I haven’t even received a single acknowledgement.  But I have to admit this counts for every other theatre I’ve contacted too... no response whatever.  I wonder if anyone has even bothered to take a look at the script at all.  I reckon I have a pretty good writing CV; my plays have a long list of great reviews and have been produced at wonderful theatres all over the world, so this kind of negativity puzzles me.  I wonder also if it may have had something to do with the spat I had with Ayckbourn some years ago, and had been warned that some kind of unofficial black list might be linked to my name, but I don’t regret standing up for my work as more than once I have suffered from others taking from me and it hurts.  So now I’m thinking is it all a bit pointless... and I love the writing process and creating a new piece of work, and I’m often inspired by injustices and want to represent the ‘little man’ (or woman for that instance) whose stories are often ignored, but are important, and of course I have been writing about the environment and climate change for as long as I can remember.  But if no one out there can even be bothered to respond to my voice... well what’s the point?  I’m still working in the care home, and believe me its hard work, so I do have a regular income thank God and I do feel I’m doing something important in a small way, but boy do I miss being involved in theatre and having a voice out there.  Anyway just for the record here’s the synopsis of my latest play.  I love it!

 

THE PARAGON OF ANIMALS

 

A life-affirming inter-galactic love story.

 

Climate change and a global pandemic have left small communities, regulated by NHS death squads desperately isolated.  At the top of the bleak Yorkshire Moors, Victoria, the beautiful daughter of the landlord of the last working pub in England is struggling to find meaning in her lonely existence... until Pip; an alien being that looks very much like a young William Shakespeare comes crashing into her life.  But when Robert, a jealous government inspector turns up too, it triggers a deadly battle for the very soul of humanity, where the cumulative history of planet Earth may be forever lost.

Friday, 30 April 2021

Covid Poem

 

You are 13.8 billion years away

Stars have come and gone

Galaxies collided

Since I last saw you.

 

The big bang saw the nativity of our universe

And I have been waiting that long to see you again.

Time is ticking the stars away

Time is tediously erasing its memory of us and all that came before.

 

But I defy time and atoms and the definitive click of the quantum clock

And demand that you and I will meet again

I demand once again

That fingers touch fingers

That lips touch lips

That hugs will embrace hugs

And we will see each other again.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Saints

 

Working loads of shifts in the care home as they always seem to be short staffed, but the truth is most of us are on minimum age and it doesn’t really reflect the work we have to do, so it’s hardly surprising.  I’m mostly working in the kitchen now; dishwashing and taking breakfast trays to the resident’s rooms; sometimes having to feed the ones who are very weak and I guess facing their final days.  So – dishwashing, some cooking, preparing and serving suppers, laying tables, pouring drinks, cleaning rooms and bathrooms, collecting trays on a trolley from the various floors.  But the most difficult aspect of the job is seeing the gradual decline of the people I’ve got to know very well, and witness their vulnerability and dependence increase as they slowly find their bodies and mental faculties wither and begin to fail them.  It’s a hard lesson of mortality and me and the other carers see it every day.  And of course now and then someone will die and it’s hard not to feel their loss, even though it’s part of the job; ‘end-of-life-care’, and during the pandemic we’ve been the only people they’ve been able to communicate with mostly and they really miss their family, their children and grandchildren.  Consequently I do chat quite a lot with them and on the whole they have some incredible life stories; for instance, one lady who is 100 years old was a volunteer driver during the second world war, ferrying troops and personnel around during the blitz, and for a while she was a driver for Eisenhower, who was a five star general at the time and then became the 34th President of America.  So – ups and downs I suppose; grim-faced individuals living with the pain and distress of old age, but still smiling and making the best of things.  But as I said it is a place for end-of-life-care, and during my second week I took a breakfast tray up to one resident and when I opened the door I thought ‘Christ, you don’t look well!’  I spoke her name a few times, but it soon became apparent that she had passed away during the night.  A shocking moment for me, but a well-worn ritual for the main carers who are generally there, holding hands and speaking soothing words as they gently help someone face their final journey.  The staff there are incredible and I have nothing but respect for the dignity they show the residents and the small kindnesses they administer daily... all for minimum wage.  They are saints.

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Risky Jobs

 

Since the theatres have closed I still have to pull in a wage and it’s been proving to be a bit of a risky enterprise.  I returned to my job as a carer in children’s homes, putting in a few shifts for a while.  However, the kids who are in ordinary times a bit of a handful, are responding to the pandemic with even more challenging behaviour; no longer allowed to go to the cinema, go shopping, can’t  see friends or even family (which is really important for them) on supervised contact; a lot of them are finding it all too much; confined to a place they don’t want to be and with other kids they don’t particularly want to be with either, violent outbursts born of frustration and hopelessness are almost a daily occurrence and staff are getting injured, sometimes quite badly.  I myself have taken a few hits from kids in the past and spitting at staff too is something that happens a lot.  After coming home after a really challenging shift where the whole day and night was spent restraining young people who were hell bent on destroying the home and each other, Sarah persuaded me to take a break and try and find something else a little less hazardous for a while.  And so I got a job under the ‘Pick for Britain’ scheme picking beans on a farm in nearby Mathon; back-breaking work in all weathers , but particularly in the heat wave we were going through at that time.  We were soon joined by workers from Romania and Slovakia who were staying in caravans supplied by the farmer, and boy they could pick!  As it was piece work, they worked relentlessly all through the heat of the day and the pouring rain too, and I guess they had to because I was appalled to discover that they had to pay for their meagre lodgings from the wages they earned.  They were great people, and in spite of our language differences we all got on really well and I did in fact enjoy the job: the physical labour outdoors, the camaraderie of the workforce and the feeling of doing something useful to help the country and farmers, who apparently were short of labour to harvest their crops.  But I felt there was a degree of exploitation happening and the conditions were far from adequate, with only one portaloo to service the whole field of over 60 pickers.  And so it was inevitable I guess that one Sunday on my day off I got a call from one of my fellow pickers to check the news headlines and discovered that the farm we were working at had a major covid outbreak and 200 workers were self-isolating.  That was the first we had heard of it; the farm never contacted one of us ‘Pick for Britain’ crew through our whatsap group or message or phone or anything.  Sarah and I immediately got a test and fortunately we were clear... that was the end of that particular job!  So now I’m working in a care home for the elderly, and it happens that one third of all covid deaths are in care homes!  But there really ain’t much work out there at the moment, and because I’m a registered care worker it wasn’t difficult to find a job there.  I’ve never worked with old people before and it is really hard work and long shifts too, but the residents are lovely and the staff are great; a real close team who do really care.  I’ve recently had the vaccine too because of my job, so that’s one good thing I suppose. Missing loads of regular normal things of course: theatre, pubs, my gym, seeing friends and most of all I’m missing my daughter who I’ve only seen a couple of times all last year...  Just getting on with life at the moment and hoping that Sarah gets the vaccine too soon as she had heart surgery a year ago and is consequently at risk.  But we’re out walking, socially distancing meeting up with a few local mates when we can, watching loads of Netflix and stuff like that, but God do I want things to get back to normal and I would love to b able to hug my little girl again.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

RSC and then Covid


I have been touring with the RSC performing in As You Like It and Taming Of The Shrew, a dream job for me, since it was a trip to the RSC that first sparked my interest in theatre and inspired me to get to drama school and become an actor and writer.  But sadly the tour was cut short when the covid virus struck.  We had just reached the end of our National tour and were about to embark on the International leg to Chicago, Washington, Seoul and Tokyo when theatres around the world suddenly went dark, and who knows when they will open again?  All very sad, but I must confess that I was somewhat concerned about the environmental impact, which I think would have been substantial, given the huge cast, crew, band, set etc.  I have been even more involved with green issues of late and attended a few Extinction Rebellion protests and rallies, and wonder now that we are in lock down we should assess what’s really important in our lives, and I think top of the list is our planet; we owe it to the next generation to try our best to save it because ‘tipping point’ is very nearly here.  And so while I am sad to have lost a job I have really enjoyed and longed for, I wonder if it was really necessary to travel so far for the sake of art.  During the tour the RSC were also pressured to abandon their sponsorship with BP.  Times are changing and times have been very dark lately; this pandemic has left its mark on humanity in a very profound way; so many have died, so many infected, so many lives ruined, and it may possibly be because of the selfish wish in so-called ‘wet markets’ to eat strange, exotic animals like bats or the endangered pangolin.  All of these ideas are inspiring me and my writing at the moment; I feel this could be a moment when the world might be able to press the ‘reset’ button and do things differently, more compassionately, especially following Greta Thunberg’s worldwide movement to save the planet and the inspirational ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign, but sadly headline news still speak of war, unrest, famine and oppression.  Strange unparalleled times... who knows what will happen next?

As You Like It, RSC: