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Blanuary Jews January is meant to be a depressing...
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What an eventful day. First I set up a show and no...
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Sunday, January 30

South Pacific in North Shields
After work on Friday, I cycled home. This was a triumph. It was successful because I managed to get out of the office in the first place - I'd gotten into one of those conversations which could last forever. I think I'm beginning to understand where I might be able to do something useful for my employers, and, indirectly, for the people I work with. If what we're working on is as successful as it can possibly be, then we'll have a much stronger position. If, however, we fail to be on the ball about what needs doing... then we'll just be serving our time, rather than achieving something useful. Sounds like pretty heady stuff... indeed it could have given us a conversation that lasted all night. Friday afternoon meetings are not a good idea... not if they include me.

Anyway, having successfully left the office, I then set out on the bike. Earlier in the day, I'd found it an easier ride from the bike shop. Now it was time to head for home - the uphill slog. Since I'd been rather keen to enjoy the more calorie-laden of the available lunch items from the sandwich shop, it was necessary for me to take the high road, rather than the low road home. In other words, I was going to tackle Westgate Hill. It is a total fallacy to assume that a bit of a harder hill home gives one the licence to eat the more unhealthy items on the menu. That sort of attitude cost me a potential improvement in my fitness during Edinburgh. I was doing so much during the day in Edinburgh that I allowed myself two (not one, two) meals comprising fried food... nearly every day - this is why I came back from Edinburgh in some sort of shock. My body had become cholesterol and fat dependent. Anyway, though the secret to getting the benefit of the bike is to eat more healthily alongside using it, if one has overdone it at lunchtime, it makes sense to tackle the tough route home. So I did.

The triumph? After all, I've done Westgate Hill on many occasions (well, a few) since the bike was bought. The triumph, dear friends, is that I didn't drop below 3rd gear. Not second. Third. I realise that there are some 18 more difficult gears that I could have used, but I'm more accustomed to slogging up the hill in 1st. Therefore, I have improved leg power. I'm pleased for myself.

My right leg did lock a bit on the journey, which was painful. It was cold and wet - perhaps the light rain contributed to my speed; I didn't really want to stay in the rain too long. I got on with it and got home. As I dismounted, my leg clicked properly back into its socket (I don't really know anatomy, but something sorted itself out and I feel no side-effects). No harm done.

I was due at a rehearsal in North Shields at 7.30. At least, I thought I was. It might have been 7pm. I couldn't be sure. I spent long enough in the house to change shirt and coat (the other two being too wet to use - one from the outside and one from the inside) and headed to North Shields. I arrived before 7 and, predictably, nobody was there. So I played a game of Scrabble on the mobile phone. See, it's like I've got a new little friend to keep my occupied. I beat the computer. Woof! Then I went into the rehearsal, which didn't get underway until long after the allotted time. I have the moral highground for turning up with time to spare. I also could have relaxed at home before setting off. Never mind.

The rehearsal went well. I feel a bit more confident about the show now, though the week before is going to seem a bit busy, and I was given a few lines in the penultimate scene, so I'm going to have to take some time to learn them. I am not, however, going to do that until Guys and Dolls is over. My memory is a precious thing, and I'd rather get the first show right before I worry too much about the second.

I find the process of getting into a show quite fasincating. You start off consciously recalling what you need to do. At some point, however, the lines, the movements and the notes just come. You're in a world where things are pretty predictable. You know what's going to happen around you and your own next move is a part of that world. It's a kind of magic, really. It's odd watching the video of the show in Edinburgh for that reason. I know the world so completely, because we created it and rehearsed it. Seeing it as an outsider, while also knowing it from the inside is weird. It's like the multiple-angle feature on a DVD... except I can feel the angle from being inside the set, while watching the external view. Maybe this is what multiple-personality-disorder feels like. Cool!

A day off
I arrived home after the rehearsal and took some food up to this room, where the computers live. I played a bit of Scrabble and then headed to bed. Such is the exciting existence I lead! I had planned to grab a few hours' sleep and then head to Leeds in the morning. The plan was, as I'd done on previous Saturdays, to help my friend with the labour-intensive work on his newly-bought house. This is an act of friendship on my part, but is also an opportunity to talk nonsense for an entire day with a couple of people I know pretty well and have known for years. The home-owner and I have known each other for the better part of 25 years. Even though the house itself is a rather alien world - especially since we stripped it of virtually everything inside - there's a really familiar atmosphere in there as we labour and take black dust into our lungs. "The Black Snot" (as it is aptly named) lasts for a few days after a session of labour. The effects of the camaraderie, espirit de corps and bonhomie (these are all French terms - see, the French are a friendly bunch) last a lot longer.

As an office worker, I spend a lot of time on my backside. As a lazy-ass fat bloke, I do not see any thrill in doing anything particularly physical. Cycling is an exception, though it's mainly restricted to essential journeys. Working on a house can be physically demanding and, again, comes with the built-in motivation that it's a means to a rather useful end.

It is very important, in order to reduce stress and make one's body last just that bit longer, that one gets some exercise that makes the heart pump. It's also a real natural high to complete some sort of physical challenge. I'm not planning to do any running, or compete in sports for their own sake. I do expect to see some benefit from the effort of running around theatres for 2 weeks next month. In particular, completing the tap dance routine will fill me with a sense of achievement - even if I get it wrong! So, physical stuff is good... even if I'm not really a particularly physical person by nature.

So, working on the house. It's a good thing. However, as I was settling down for the night (I think my mind was on Scrabble), I received a phone call telling me that my services were not needed for this week. The caller was concerned that I'd be offended at the fact that my services were not required. I wasn't offended in the slightest. My initial thought was - "Great, I can turn off that damned alarm clock". I was slightly disappointed at the loss of a day's entertainment/effort, but I had to admit that I needed a full day in my own home, and the opportunity for this day had just presented itself. I turned off the alarm clock and went to sleep.

Perchance to dream
So I'm quoting Shakespeare. Perhaps that's because I've heard talk of an amateur production of Kiss Me Kate coming up on the horizon, and I quite fancy doing it - I've not done a Cole Porter show yet. It would be a year from now. In the meantime I've a chance to go and see the show in Newcastle in March - that will give me a chance to "Brush Up [My] Shakespeare" (I'm sure you've guessed that "Kate" is an adaptation of Shakespeare and includes a song called "Brush up..." etc etc etc). Anyhoo...

I slept a long time. In fact, turning my alarm clock off proved to be a bit pointless since a power cut at some point in the early hours of the morning, managed to blow a few lightbulbs, fuses and disable my alarm clock. I woke up a few times over the course of the morning, got confused by the flashing weird times on my clock, checked my mobile phone, forgot the significance of the increasing hours it showed, slept a bit longer and repeated this process until well after lunchtime. During the fitful sleep, I had a dream.

Martin Luther King had a pretty important dream. When he told people they respected him and then had him killed. I, on the other hand, have either completely surreal dreams, or those filled with either quite obvious dream symbols, or, as with last night's dream, pretty obvious actual things from my life. Obviously all the talk (which I've been putting on this site) of my dissatisfaction with myself has been getting to me. Conversely, I'm dissatisfied with my lot and my outlets for it are both in these warblings, ramblings and verbal outpourings and also my dreams. I'm not going into the details of my dreams, there are some secrets which I disclose on this site, there are some that I do not. For instance, I'll admit that I get ever-so-slightly scared that someone (or something) will creep up from behind and "get me" every time I go out to the tumble dryer in the dark - I think I've been watching too many horror movies. I won't describe what little I remember of last night's dream. However, I gave it a quick dream interpretation - I've been really good at deciphering dreams every since I got that coat of many colours - and worked out quickly that the dream was a summary of everything that's wrong in my life. It did relationships, loneliness, performance anxiety (I think) and may even have had a touch of Scrabble in it. Frustratingly, one aspect of the dream appeared to be a hankering for restoration of parts of the past. I'll be damned if I'm going to let myself want any part of the past back. I'm a big monster truck and it's a lot healthier to continue with my forward-momentum.

Lunchtime, but no lunch
I wandered from the bedroom to the computer. Starting it up, I had a game of Scrabble. Unlike the one of the previous evening, which was a closed game that I eventually left victorious, this was a closed game which pretty much stumped me. I also spent a fair amount of time on instant messenger with a friend. The instant messenger session was significantly more enjoyable. During this computer time, the doorbell rang, along with a knock. I struggled down the stairs while putting on a pair of trousers (answer the door in my PJs might not have been particularly sensible) but the person had left. I suspected that it may have been the next door neighbour. They sorted out the fence between our properties, which blew down in the wind. When they told me that they were offering to sort it out (and asked me if I'd chip in for half the cost) my answer was "Has it?". I don't spend much time in my back garden at the moment.

Anyway, they dropped a note through the door a few days back saying "It will cost X - ok?". I scribbled on this note the words "Go for it." and posted it back. Then I got a note saying it was done. I've taken their word for it! Then I started to think that perhaps they'd want the money, but I don't carry much cash and I didn't think they'd want a cheque... I'm also too forgetful to get myself into gear and go to a cashpoint. On Thursday evening I found a note saying - "Can we have the money?" (or words to that effect - it wasn't impolite, nor was it particularly friendly, just factual). I got the money for them on Friday night and planned to put it in an envelope with a note during the day on Saturday. I assumed that they tried the door and went away dissatisfied. A bit later on, I got a phone call. Perhaps it sounded like one of those classic reactions-to-a-prompt things, when I replied - "I was going to drop it round anyway, in just a few minutes". Perhaps it did, perhaps it didn't. I don't know. It was the truth. I wasn't going to rush myself out of the house to do it right away, but their money was in my pocket ready to give to them.

Looking at it slightly more objectively, perhaps the few tens of pounds meant a bit more to them than it did to me. I have a rather privileged existence and don't need to worry too much about the cost of a couple of fence panels. Not everyone is so relaxed about cash. However, I dropped the money round in person, made pleasantries and skedaddled - I wasn't planning to hand the money over face to face, but it seemed the right thing to do after the increasingly assertive actions of the neighbours. All is well now, I think. If the neighbours read this blog (which they may do) then they may be totally unimpressed with this account. Such is life. At least I can now forget about the fence problems - not that I really lost any sleep about them in the first place; as I've said, I lose sleep over other things.

Shoe shopping again!
I need a pair of brogues for the show in a few days. I don't like brogues, but they're a requirement for the costume and we're expected to provide them. So, off I went to look for a pair. I went into the first shoe-shop I saw at Royal Quays, a shop which never has anything at all to take my fancy. This shop had a pair which fit me enough to go on my feet without a huge amount of pain. However, I wasn't going to be fooled. I wasn't going to buy the first pair that fit - I've done that before. So, I went to the other shoe shop, the one which normally has shoes that fit me. This second shop even had a sale on. (Not a chicken Ceylon - that's a curry!) Ha! I bought a pair of shoes from there for only £15. However, the shoes from the second shop were trainers. They didn't have brogues. D'oh!

Back to the first shop where I was served by the manager who was, perhaps, the least communicative person by which I've ever been dealt in a shop. Example:

Customer: Do you have these shoes in white?
Manager: (not looking up from the till) Uhhn

Still, he sold me my shoes and a long shoe-horn (I reckoned it might come in handy) and I was on my way.

The big-ass jeans department of the Wrangler shop didn't have any big-ass jeans in my specific size, so I didn't buy any. The CD shop didn't manage to lure any cash out of my pocket (actually, it's all plastic with me, but you know what I mean). I got into the car and left the place having bought only shoes. I hate shoes. However, I now have more pairs of shoes than I have ever owned at any one stage in my life. Weird!

I went to the supermarket on the way home. This doesn't warrant its own paragraph in the account of the last day... but it just got one!

Loose ends
My house is a mess. A real tip of a place. It needs some time spending on it. It needs things putting away and tidying. I decided to give it some of my time. After having an evening meal in the company of The Simpsons, I realised that Saturday night TV is totally terrible. I've known this for quite a while, but I'd forgotten it, having not been at home on a Saturday night for quite some time. Okay, so I managed to make it home for the Jerry Springer night on BBC2, 3 Saturdays ago, but that was later in the evening and was something I specifically sought out. Generally, early evening TV seems to be aimed at people who want TV to act as some sort of mind-control... to make their lives dull and lifeless. I should know, I used to either submit to it, or moan incessantly about it... while still watching it!

So, off went the TV and I hit the kitchen. This involved doing the washing up AND putting it away - not just leaving it to drain. As an encore, I cleaned the sink. As an encore to that, I decided to clean the bathroom. I do not remember when I last did that. Certain aspects of the bathroom were notably in need of attention. However, as an aperitif, I looked around the utility room, a room in which I keep the cleaning equipment, and realised that that had not been given a clean in quite some time. So, I cleaned it. I also started cranking the handle on the laundry. I'm talking figuratively. You feed stuff into the big white machine in the utility room, then you either hang it up in the kitchen (if it's a shirt) or go outside to the white machine in the tool shed (if it's a sheet or jeans or something). Several loads have been through the machine, over the last few hours. It's quite satisfying.

Having cleaned the utility room, the bathroom came next. I put on the soundtrack to Jerry Springer The Opera to accompany my endeavour. This was entertaining. I only received the discs on Friday night, collecting them from the Post Office, on the way home from work. The bathroom now sparkles. It's a bad idea to mix white bathroom fittings with an irregular cleaning regime. However, it doesn't look like it's been neglected right now, so I can forget about it for a bit.

As my home suddenly started to feel more like it cared for me as much as I had cared for it, I decided to sit down and watch a movie.

Over Christmas and a little way into the New Year, I'd been reading Stephen King's novel "Dreamcatcher". I was really gripped by the story and characters. In random conversation over Christmas, I discovered that the novel had been made into a movie. Last Saturday, while browsing through a random second-hand DVD shop in Edinburgh, I found the movie - £4. Worth a shot.

I watched the film tonight. It's 2 hours long. In places this is a really good movie. There are some amazing cinematographic moments - mainly involving trees and snow - and some of the realisation of Stephen King's words into pictures looks very much as I had imagined it. This was a familiar world on my screen. However, while they made the first 2/3rds of the movie pretty much as it had been written, the last third of the movie covered the last 2/3rds of the novel, with very little of the suspense. It's almost like they ran out of budget for ideas and just cut to the chase. In some ways, I can see why you'd do that. As soon as the audience is sucked into the world, speed up the action and get the movie over and done with. In other ways, perhaps they over did the set-up and didn't get that much from the pay off. I don't know. It was a good use of time to watch the movie. I doubt I'll watch it again. Perhaps I'll sell it on ebay or something.

I have, over the years, rushed home to watch something on TV on many occasions. Setting a video is easier, but if you haven't done that, the rush and watching it as broadcast works pretty well. However, the only time I can recall having done this recently was to see the Jerry Springer night on BBC2. Perhaps my relationship with TV has changed. There's no perhaps about it. It has. I watch a lot less TV now than I used to. I also watch less broadcast TV and even less terrestrial TV. This is simply because I'm too busy. This is not a problem (unless you're an accountant, which would make you query my ownership of a nice TV and cable-subscription).

Anyway, Jerry Springer the Opera was worth rushing home for. It was also worth seeing at the Fringe in 2002. It was also worth seeing in its opening few weeks at the Cambridge Theatre in London's West End. Having done all of those things, I'm now inclined to go and see the show close. It's touring in October, but its last performance is in London in February. I wonder whether it's a geeky thing to do to go along and then be able to say - "Oh, JS the opera... ah yes, I was there on its closing night at the West End" - but maybe I AM that geek. It would be quite a difficult task to achieve. I'm due at a dress rehearsal the following day in North Shields... but I reckon it can be done! It might add a bit more excitement to an already action-packed February.

Coming up
It's a bit late at night now and there's a lot of stuff due to happen to me over the next week. Having had the Saturday at home, I have actually gotten something of a weekend's worth of home-stuff done already. There's still Sunday to spend in the home. I have a full run through of Guys and Dolls to be at in the afternoon and then perhaps I can devote some time to some ironing. When February comes, I think I'll be ready for it.

All this talk of things missing in one's life, feelings of inadequacy etc etc etc. Well, we all have this, don't we? We can all point to something and say, "I would, in an ideal world, have X or Y". We can all look at ourselves and see room for improvement. In some ways, I'm lucky having such a self-serving existence. I have nobody to answer to except myself (and the occasional dream interpretation) and I can devote plenty of time to making entertainment for myself. Nothing is forever, be it a good thing or a bad thing. So long as I don't look back on what I'm doing at the moment and see it as a waste of time, then I'll have cracked it.


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