I shouldn’t be so surprised that after 4 episodes of Hamlet on BBC Radio, and 3 hours of listening, Claudius still isn’t dead.
Hamlet in the afternoon has been my background noise while working this week. There’s something about the woes of a semi-suicidal-insane-Dane that really lifts the day, not least when that moment comes somewhere in Act 3 when I look up from the computer, consider the world around me and conclude that yeap, I probably would just kill the King while he was at his prayers, and worry about what his heels trip at later. Self confidence, it turns out, is a many-splendoured thing.
Questions are sometimes asked as to what a writer’s average week is like. I always avoid it, because by definition, the answer is… rather average. However! Something of a theme has emerged these last few days, which normally my days lack: I refer of course to pain and suffering.
Let’s begin with the end of last week, and my feet. I spent all of last week in steel-capped safety boots. A tragic mistake. After five days in my big 7-year-old boots my feet felt like undercooked pancakes. Given that four of these five days were spent teching two theatre shows back-to-back in Northampton, it was something of a race between my mind and my legs as to which gave up first. On the last train back to London, I entered what I think can be described as a fugue state. Mystic places such as ‘Tring’ and ‘Leighton Buzzard’ seemed, somehow, unearthly, unreal, and perhaps indicative that this was the beginning of a journey that would never end. As it was, it did end at about 1 o’clock in the morning when I staggered through the door of my flat and started giggling.
Hysteria, it seems, is the end-result of too much stress. I sat on the edge of my bed and giggled.
I’m not sure I’ve stopped since.
The day that followed should have been a rest day, but as is often the way when coming straight out of a show, it was a catch-up-on-everything-ever day. All the email, all the writing, all the laundry, all the… everything. I confess: during the run-up to the shows in Northampton, I had been neglecting the writing. I didn’t want to, it was simply a necessity of time, and now that time was coming back and biting me on whatever part of my aching body was most likely to suffer when bitten. Rest day… didn’t really happen.
Then there was an escrima seminar.
Oh the escrima seminar!
I love escrima. I love learning it, and I love how every now and then there’s a glimpse – just a glimpse – of just how clever it could be once I’m even vaguely good enough to be even slightly clever about it. However, doing a three hour seminar on a backlog of two-techs-no-sleep and after weeks of schleping up and down the country, unable to attend lessons, was something of a killer. It was during this that the next round of injuries were inflicted. The little finger of my right hand was, I think, the consequence of not getting low enough to block a low backhanded strike to the knee. The bruising inside my left hand that immobilised my thumb for a day came from failing to block butt strikes (with a stick, not anything else you might imagine…) quite gracefully enough. How my thumb lost most of the skin about the middle joint, I have no idea. I only spotted it when I saw blood on someone else’s hand and, when we couldn’t work out where he was bleeding from, discovered that in fact, it was me. It didn’t hurt then. It still hurts now.
The next round of injuries were acquired on the way to a meeting with a publisher. Having spent a week in bad shoes, I resolved to get new shoes, since even my dedication to the art of the seven-year-sneaker has its limits. New shoes are awesome, but they also take a bit of wearing in, and viola! Cue: aching legs, mysterious bruises and chaffing feet. Over lunch the awesome publisher picked my brains as to whether I had exciting things to say on a wide variety of topics, and I heard about her extreme – apologies, XTreme! – abs exercise regime. Quote of the day: ‘That pain you feel in your belly isn’t pain! It’s the freedom of fear leaving your body!’
I have thought long and hard about whether there’s a way to incorporate those words into any work of fiction I write, and having failed in the task instead put them down here, for all to enjoy.
The next day I attended rehearsals for another play, and discovered that I was moving swiftly through the hysteria part of exhausted and towards catatonic. When I returned home I sat down to write, and was surprised to find that a character who, that very morning, had been destined for a long and happy life, was now in serious danger of having both hands chopped off and being thrown into a canal. Thankfully, exhaustion kicked in before I could get to the absolute moment of truth and so the question of this individual’s fate remains thrillingly unresolved… watch this space…
Let me say: I do plan my books.
It’s just every now and then, details change depending on my mood….
The following day I had to light a gig in the evening, and my body being now tuned to waking at 7.20 a.m., I woke at 7.20 a.m.. Using my mastery of willpower and self-discipline I commanded myself to return to sleep, and at 7.25 a.m. I got up. Having spent all day writing (apart from that bit spent listening to Hamlet, when I drew groundplans and congratulated myself on my willingness to just get on with it and kill Claudius because, really, seriously…) I arrived at the venue at 5 p.m. only to discover that the lighting desk wasn’t working. I do not know the name of the very nice man I spoke to in Avolites Software Department, but I suspect that after nearly two hours of failing to resurrect the lighting system, the hysteria infused into every word I spoke was far more palpable than I think. For your patience, and solution you found for my problem with… oooh… ten minutes to spare before the audience flooded in… I thank you!
That was yesterday.
Today I have a swollen lip, a bruised left arm and two new swollen fingers on my right hand. The lip was my fault – I switched to a lighter stick in today’s escrima class because my arms were about to fall off, and it bounced back in my face during a badly-executed block. The bruised arm and fresh addition to the oversized-club on my right hand, are the responsibility of an individual who’ll go unnamed for now, but who clearly holds a higher opinion of my ability to maneuver myself away from the escrima equivalent of an oncoming cement lorry, than I can actually achieve. (The culprit’s catch-phrase: ‘Yeah, it’s really hard, I hate doing what you’re doing, and I wouldn’t actually ever do it myself, but you’ve got to learn it so yeah.’)
My weeks are not this often full of injuries and pains. Well… no… actually… sometimes they are. But if this is to be an insight into how all of this affects my life as a scribbler, let me say that as I write I’m finding it highly uncomfortable to use the letters ‘ujnikm’, and that in a fictional world far(ish) away, a stranger is still hanging onto a bridge above a canal for dear life, a clever poised above both his wrists. How will this episode end? Will this unfortunate escape with hands in-tact?
Ask me in the morning, once some of the swelling in my own fingers has gone down…