It's been ages, hasn't it? Gosh, and other words.
How am I? I'm quite well, thank you, how're you?
It's the Easter holidays at the moment, I'm rehearsing the Importance of Being Earnest down at Southampton (popping home this weekend to finally see the family properly.). Good fun - I've not laughed so much in rehearsals in ages, but we're on in a couple of weeks, and I'm not sure if we're there yet. I'm not sure if I'm there yet. Algernon's a good part, and I deeply don't want to screw it up.
What else? The other day, all my money was stolen by Icelandic fraudsters. True story. Started the day getting woken up by a phonecall from Tenant Link. 'Where is the rent?' they said. 'I don't know', I replied, and went to the bank to find out. Apparently my rent is in Iceland. Bastards.
Still, forms are being sent out, landlords are being placated and emergency rent checks obtained from parents. All will be well. There just won't be much cash in hand for a couple of weeks. Fair enough, I need to spend less anyway.
I'm currently not writing a play, but there's a specific play I'm not writing, and when I'm done not writing I will actually write it, and all things being well, it will be quite good. It's called 'Ah, but is it art?', and it's the unconventional love story of two people who join ABA (that's 'Ah, but is it art?') at the same time. Their job is to police galleries and artists, enforcing a single strict definition of artwork. It features Waldemar Januszczak, known to us as the Arts Critic for the Guardian, as a tough, Gene Hunt style copper.
To finish, here is something I wrote between five and seven the other morning, when I went a little mad.
The Charge of the Light Opera, A Biography
My tragic history begins on a treacherously temperate May night, in 1887. My parents, having fought off attacks from Tzarist agents emboldened to act openly in the streets of the capital by sheer desperation, were at last separated. As my father lay, bloodied and broken on the floor of the great hall of the Natural History Musuem, my Mother fled, his cries ringing in her ears - 'Don't give up, Evelyn. Never give up. I didn't sell my life so the Russians could get their hands on our son!'
Blinking away tears, she ran into the night as swiftly as her heavily pregnant state would allow, calling over her shoulder 'I will always love you Thaddeus'. Curious, this, for my father's name was Jack. His dying gurgles were soon lost to her ears, and she swiftly forgot the gorier details of his death, because I'm hoping to cross merchandise my biography in the Young Adult section of the bookshops.
Why tonight? Tsar Nicholas had no reason to believe the net was closing around him ever faster. It was some of the slickest, subtlest work the British Government had ever undertaken. Work so secret it had been conducted through an agency beyond than the military, more highly classified even than the Diogenes Club, a group of men and women known only as 'The Bishop's Stortford Lady's Knitting Circle'.
In the twinkling of an eye, Evelyn had arrived at Saint Paul's Cathedral. It didn't take long, because this is a big budget Hollywood adaption of my early life, and the Yanks don't have the first clue about British Geography. I mean, have you seen Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves?
She burst through the doors, crying piteously for sanctuary. What a figure she cut - heavy with child, only the soaking rain disguising the tears streaking her face, and this on an already exceedingly ugly woman. Some, in their day, called her hideous. Ever practical, she wore constantly a set of knuckledusters and was never known to have lost an argument, even at the Atheneum
But waiting for her at the altar was a figure she recognised as her nemesis, the deadly Johnny Foreigner. The Man From Everywhere was notorious for opposing the noble interests of the British Empire, and Evelyn had sworn her own oath of vengeance against him after he crushed her third husband beneath a perilously ill-secured Benjamin D'Israeli.
No words were necessary. Evelyn and Foreigner drew steel, and duelled, there at the secret heart of the Empire. They danced a Charleston of flashing metal and whirling blades, caring little for the fact that the Charleston would not be popularised as a dance until 1923, and then on a different continent. Who could care for anachronism, when so much hung in the balance?
At last, sweating and weeping my Mother was brought to bay, Foreigner's blade at her throat. She looked him in the eye.
"You aren't totally without honour, are you Foreigner? You surely would not kill a pregnant woman."
"Do not let it be said the Foreigners have not a noble a nature', he replied, turning aside his sword from the killing stroke. 'You have been a worthy adversary, and it is not my wish to end our rivalry with, 'ow you zay, ze low blow'
'Must you speak in that ridiculous accent?' Evelyn asked, winsomely discourteous even at death's door.
'Yes. Eet iz in mah contract'
'Well I can't argue with that'
He reached out his hand, and as he helped her laboriously to her feet, she kneed the Foreign Johnny viciously in the balls, and swept his sword from his grasp.
He fell to the floor, tears in his eyes, and tears in his shirt. Unceremoniously, and in the finest traditions of British Imperialism, Evelyn stabbed the helpless Foreigner in the back. The official verdict would be suicide.
And then, with my immaculate sense of timing, I found myself born. Born amid blood and slaughter, as the bells of Saint Paul's chimed out six in the morning, and my Mother sighed in relief at surviving so turbulent a night. Word slowly spread that the Russian scheme was foiled, and as Evelyn emerged into the streets, Chimney Sweeps danced a Quadrille of celebration, and were then detained by the police on suspicion of poverty.
In the following years, I saw little of my Mother. She did not marry again, but devoted herself ever more keenly to the business of the Bishop's Stortford Knitting Circle, and though I may have lacked parental love and approval, I was never short of a scarf in cold weather.
I was schooled at Eton for a term, before my unregulated experiments in the chemistry lab saw me expelled in disgrace and on fire. I completed my Preparatory Education at the Finchampstead Institute for the Sons of Victorian Superspies, and was poised, in my Eighteenth year to take up a place at the Southampton College of Posh Espionage, and so join in the family business when disaster struck.
An old school-friend who I had long thought dead reappeared in my life. He had joined the army at a young age, and vanished in the Hindu Kush following a treasure map I had faked one afternoon in the library and sold to him for the price of a packet of fags. I'm not proud, but I had three days to wait before my allowance came through and tobacco is a harsh mistress. Blind in one ear, and hideously scarred after his experiences, the man was madder than a scarecrow full of wasps and hell bent on revenge.
We faced each other at midnight, in the research block of the Finchampstead Institute. As I stared him down over the bunsen burners, I wondered how he could have gone so wrong. How could I have predicted that my old friend, Captain Murderous Vendetta would one day be consumed by the desire for my death?
He pulled a pistol. I ducked quickly, and felt the bullet just miss, giving me the closest shave of my life. Close but uneven - it merely carved a small tunnel through my youthful moustache. I would not be recommending Vendetta as a barber.
I suddenly felt the suggestion of an idea forming at the back of my head. With the aid of a pair of mirrors, I was able capture it. This was the laboratory in which one of the Masters was working on his latest invention, an experimental new substance he referred to as 'anti-fire' but which we students nicknamed Ice, after a favourite alcho-pop. Perhaps I could use this 'Ice' to persuade Murderous to 'cool off'. I made a mental note to repeat this one-liner to Vendetta upon the successful conclusion of my plan, perhaps also dropping in a reference to my keeping my cool. Calling him frigid would probably be too personal, though.
I crawled for the casket of freezing anti-fire, bullets whistling around me like an Ennio Morricone film score. Finally, Vendetta's gun jammed, and he threw it away. He vaulted over a desk, shattering a beaker to splinters with a sharp retort, and crawled after me. In the meantime I reached the casket, and was worrying desperately at the catch. Vendetta's fingers found my throat and his grip tightened.
'Stop it...old friend' I choked out the words, 'before you do something you regret'
'After you doomed me to to two long years of torture at the hands of the mountain tribes? Not on this Earth. I had to gnaw off one of my own legs to escape my bonds, and then eat the other one to keep myself alive as I returned to civilisation!'
'Why didn't you just take the first one with you?'
'I was fleeing the most hideous torture the most depraved minds on Earth could imagine, not planning a bloody picnic!'
'Fair enough' I'd kept him talking long enough. The lock was on the verge of opening. 'By the way, Captain Vendetta.'
'Captain Murderous Vendetta?'
As the new, unstable frozen element of pure cold boiled forth from it's iron isolation chamber, I reflected that I had forgotten to remove myself from it's immediate path and would, in fact, receive the full brunt of its freezing powers. It is important, I feel, to suffer all setbacks in a philosophical frame of mind.
The abortive expletive was the last syllable I was to utter for some more than a century. When the ever marching industrialisation of the world finally released enough solar radiation retentive gases to raise the ambient temperature the few degrees I needed to escape my icy prison (a plan B I had hoped not to need), I found suprisingly little had changed. A paranoically conservative government was in power, fighting an ill defined war against a nebulous but unforgivably foreign, and probably even brown, enemy and the Southampton College was still there. It was even a University now. I was a little non plussed to find that the closest equivalent the Espionage course I was so looking forward to was Bachelor of the Arts in Literature and Philosophy, but this was more than made up for by my finding that my place there had been deferred by my ever optimistic relations for one hundred and one academic years. The admissions tutors had apparently been very accomodating.
A more insurmountable problem was that the family fortune, vast in it's day, had declined to the extent that I have barely enough money to find out what a 'Mars Bar' may be, but I'm sure that gainful employment may be found for an out of date Dandy-Agent with only the barest sprinkling of frost bite. Just enought to give character.
What happened to Captain Vendetta I do not know, but if there is one thing I can say with absolute certainty, it is that he will definitely never ever turn up to plague me as I explore the exciting new world of 2008. That would be so unlikely as to be totally impossible.
Such has been my life so far. Now read on...