Thursday, 20 January 2011

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to everyone. I wish you good health and peace of mind. I hope this year we can all strive to find deeper meaning to our lives, and begin the process of waking up and shaking off the shackles our warped society continues to try to bind us, and blind us with. I believe this year will be a pivotal and transformative year for the world, and certainly for myself.

I want to thank everyone who e-mails my website with messages of continuing support and interest in me and my bizarre career. It’s not easy to keep someone in mind these days, in our monkey minded manic double speed world. Particularly in the world of entertainment when you are so easily forgotten if you haven’t been on the bastard TV for five minutes. Contrary to mainstream populist belief, it’s not something that all us artists crave the attention of. Though sadly it does pay at times better and quicker than most jobs that we all must undertake to pay the bills, but it always come with a price if like me you have deep held beliefs, passion and concern for your legacy and life’s purpose. There are many other art forms that I prefer and would love to work with more - books, theatre, film etc. Incidentally, when I talk about TV in this way, I guess I’m confining my comments to the world of the dreaded ‘Light Entertainment’. I think there have been many great examples of work written with good humour, profundity and meaning in other genres. I also enjoy doing the odd job that may not pay well but is very interesting and challenging to experience - The Review show for example, which I’ll be appearing on Friday [Jan 21st], and did last November, really is very enjoyable. It also pushed me to read books I would never be interested in, attend theatre productions and exhibitions I would never think of otherwise, and of course to talk about my favourite medium - Film. So it has an expansive quality to it, which overrules the money. My aim this year is to combine the two as in - rewarding, financially and creatively. Something I have not done for while.

So for those of you who still appreciate anything I have ever produced - be it my two books, the sit com, various appearances on TV and of course my frustrating, complex and unfathomable stand up career, it’s greatly appreciated. Thank you for all your e-mails enquiring as to when I will be taking to the stage again. I will try and answer that, the best I can in this blog.

I do try to reply to most mail that comes through the site, and if I haven’t then I apologise, but I’ve had a fair bit of shit to wade through and have been notoriously bad in the past at matters of an admin nature. However, that’s all changing as I embrace a more focused and disciplined approach to my entire house (meaning entire life and workings of me.)

Firstly, How was Christmas? The big mental case that it is. How many of you spent it back in dysfunctional family land? I had the most unusual Christmas season to date, in that I spent it almost entirely alone in my flat, which was a gift of peace and respite. My train was cancelled back to Scotland during the snowy days, then I contracted a mild flu, and just couldn’t be bothered rescheduling amidst all the stressed and angry commuters. In the end my mother made me feel okay about leaving her to spend it alone for the first time in our history. A few years ago, even one year ago, this would have consumed me with guilt and anxiety and all associated demons, but this year there was none. She was fine, she is a strong, often hard and a very independent woman - amazing for 80 years old and clearly defying all medical miracles, after three heart attacks, a quadruple bypass 25 years ago, which was meant to extend her life by 10 years, and a recent fitting of a difibulator (a kind of pace maker.) She has been practising Thai chi for some 15 years and has such a natural aptitude that she has been asked to teach. She also has her Christian faith and church community which help her feel supported by a family of sorts and the feeling of safety that can bring in matters of life and death.

So, I stayed here, for the first time, in London, my home. Not Scotland. Scotland is where I was born and grew up, but I left there at twenty-five - twenty years ago. London was so quiet at Christmas, the usual external annoyances ceased which was bliss. The drilling and sawing and shouting of builders who sound like pirates, the neurosis of the middle class school run with the world’s worst drivers in the world’s biggest cars. The prams and the nannies in the cafés, the traffic that never stops. The chain smoking, spitting, mopey posh teenagers that swarm around my local Tesco Metro each day; dressed like they have just rushed out of a their homes during a fire alarm, wearing ugg boots and joggers hanging of their arses. (When will they get it through their heads, that the ugg boot is a fucking ugly slipper worn by Australians!) It was idyllic without them. All the usual herds switched routines.
The snow came, bringing chaos to many and an exquisite empty silence for me to relish in. The liberation of no vehicle concern (sold my car last year), the way everything is quietened down with a soft padding underfoot, adults forced to play with their children in parks, on hills. How snow transforms an every day walk to the shops, into much more. Nowadays, the snow also brings an all too fleeting encounter with connection to others. Something to talk about for some, to a neighbour or a shopkeeper. Parents unable to get to work, forced to stay home and play with their kids outside. More rural areas and suburban dwellings, community spirit is formed to help with supplies and path clearing and visits to the infirm and elderly are increased. Nature opens up into something new and quite beautiful and for some kids and people from hot desert cultures, witnessing this is a first.

When it snows I try and walk on Hampstead heath most days. I love how the woodland becomes a magical place when it’s all frosted over. It encourages a child like imagination, and I could just play and day dream up there for hours. Sometimes I take a flask of tea and a sandwich and get all wrapped up in snow clothes, and over turn a sawed down tree and sit and on the dry piece, watching the snow falling around me. The thing about the snow is, it slows us down, and that can do us all nothing but good. Okay, it has its minor frustrations, but it does force upon most people the unexpected, which can challenge our plans and routines. Incidentally this particular travel chaos we experienced in Dec was typically when Mercury went retrograde from around 3rd-30th and Mercury, as some of you know, just slows things right down, effecting transport and communication and technology. It was fascinating watching all I have been studying about astrology these past 18 months, unfold.

We need the winter, just as we need the spring and the summer and my favourite, the autumn. I feel most reassured when autumn descends, it’s rustic splendour aside, it’s a comforting prelude to the winter months where we are forced inwards. Just as the tree needs to be stripped bare, just as it braces itself for winter, a time when it will take all it’s strength and nourishment from it’s roots, we must do the same. I love this time; I don’t want it to end. On days when the temperature rises and the sun shines, I panic that spring is coming and I’m not ready yet. Incidentally did you know that more people commit suicide in spring at any other time of year? That always surprises people, but when you think about it, it makes sense. As those with darkened souls struggle through winter, it is a relief that their external environment mirrors their internal world. When spring arrives, too soon for them. All blossoms before them, all lights up, all seems more vivid and alive, and they can’t relate. They see the cycle beginning all over again, and don’t have the energy to join it, so they check out. I can understand that fully. Just as many dying people make it through the night and die in the early hours.

The winter months encase us with a cover that we only get the chance to experience for four months of the year, and we should embrace it and make the most of it. Go inwards, retreat, gather up our energy and creativity and be ready for spring. Yet sadly this potentially beautiful time is feared and loathed by many. I believe the roots of this loathing lie in a fear of being still with oneself, and that as I’m learning, is not a process many people are able to embrace. Perhaps it compliments the mid life crisis, which is like a winter for a while - in that we must embrace it, for all its hardship brought about by painful truths, in order to move towards self-actualization and authenticity and eventually rebirth and renewal. There’s no going back to old ways, for they no longer serve us in our new path to the second stage, or Act 2 if you prefer. The very pain of my age (45) is that in desperation we sometimes try to return to old patterns of behaviour as keeping on the new path just can feel so bloody exhausting at times, for it takes mindfulness and diligence, but when we come to pick up our old tools, we find they no longer serve us. We miss them, we cry for them at times, but they are now redundant.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve gone through enormous personal changes and transformation. I’ve suffered many losses, again so typical of mid life and of course, life itself. Never before has the old Buddhist belief of everything changes, everyone leaves, everyone dies and everyone changes, felt so true.
Some people have to go, sometimes we have to let go of people, the weak and the unwilling to change, can just drift away with the tide.

A terrifying concept for adopted or fostered people like myself, but once you really face it and accept it, you are armed with a healthy detachment from reliance and dependency on external forces being the ticket to your happiness and peace of mind. The irony of course, is the very fabric of our society and all it pedals, is the notion that we can attain happiness from external forces. That accumulating wealth and material possessions, keeping our bodies looking as firm and young as we can and the biggest misconception of all - securing another through marriage and its often extravagant and public celebration, can give us what we really need. The aftermath, of course, can only be disappointment and disillusionment when ‘the other’ has let us down by not helping us escape from ourselves. We do of course need and thrive on love, but we need to love ourselves first and rarely do people understand the true meaning of that or are prepared to undertake the journey of the long dark night of the soul, in order to find it.

There would be no money to made by consumerism if we were to follow a very different path. If we were all to live authentic lives; by that I mean what is true to our needs and our basic rights as human beings of planet earth. If we spent more time with ourselves, with nature, helping others, living simply with little possessions, being mindful of everything we do, educating ourselves in many aspects of life, eating well and sensibly from local and organic sources, watching what we drink and what we put into our bodies so that we are strong and as well as we can be, not giving all the power and responsibility to doctors and government and ‘local authority’, read newspapers that are not owned by Murdoch. Cut down on radio and TV consumption that perpetuate a fearful and paranoid society. Make our relationships honest and respectful with not only others but with ourselves and who we are as individuals, of what we need for our own souls. There would be no money to be made out of those simple guidelines, and that’s why they are not encouraged.

If we could take some of the lifestyle and values of lets say my grandmothers era, In its simplicity and innocence and common sense (something I don’t think we will see again unless dug up in a time capsule if we’re not careful) and combine it with some of the progressive values of our current society - It’s tolerance, it’s civil rights, and it’s psychological awareness, but with a spiritual life without judgement and condemnation but also without complacency, then we would truly have a wonderful world. There will always be suffering, life is full of suffering, but through the suffering we can learn so much. Our current society likes to dress up suffering and we are encouraged to do everything we can to avoid it. Next time you walk past a pub, take a long look at the faces of the people smoking outside. They all look so weary as they puff away, trying to push everything down.

It’s taken quite a long time and an extremely colourful journey for me to allow myself to occupy my heart rather than my head. Eight years of psychoanalysis did not help this process, instead merely perpetuated an already ridiculously analytical mind, leaving me judged and pathologised, which was very limiting. I do still recommend therapy, as all of us need it to some degree. Very few of us were provided with the correct mapping by our parents or family backgrounds. Most of them handing down a legacy of pain and dysfunction that seeped through many generations before them, and inevitably trickled down to us. At around 18 we are then catapulted out into the adult world loaded with many complex issues which for the first 20 years seem to be fairly manageable with the help of external distractions - work, sex, drink, drugs, relationships, business. But as times rolls on, the years take their toll on us, maintaining that façade becomes increasingly unbearable, if not impossible. I see it in the faces of everyone I have ever known. At one point we need remapping and that involves some kind of therapy. However, I strongly recommend that whatever path you do orienteer towards, let it be one with heart.

For all my difficulties and unhappiness, I’m lucky. I was given a gift and that gift allows me the freedom to rise and sleep when I choose - to walk around and think and write and recall my dreams. I can’t imagine any other kind of life and I know how very lucky I am. Despite whatever hardship I may encounter from a career such as mine, which often means great financial uncertainty, insecurity and self doubt at times. I feel so grateful, none-the-less, for these privileges and for the gift of creativity. It’s kept me going a lot of the time; it’s what I am. I didn’t choose it, it chose me. What I choose to do with it is a different matter.

I truly believe that I am in the process of finally tapping into my authentic self and that I will be able to connect with a creative process that in the past was seized by fear. That connection I’m talking about has been brought about by loss, but that loss was so very necessary in order to reconnect me with my true self.

Can you see from what I’m saying, how hard it has been for me in the past with some of the work situations I found myself in? I was just so unhappy with most of it. Hence the break I have given myself the last year or two. The truth is, I’m a natural performer in terms of stand up, have always found the on stage part to be fairly effortless, give or take a few stinkers. If I’m honest, in the past, my stand career and talent for it and the chance to take it further, was eclipsed by my own emotional difficulties of stage, my self-destructiveness and my involvement with various dysfunctional characters along the way. There is a reason why not many women have really made a significant impact on the comedy scene since I began, and that’s because it’s a fucking tough business - mostly full of white middle class males with women looking after them. I don’t know what it’s like now, but from what I can see, it’s considerably more right wing, increasingly bland and television gagster orientated than in say the early nineties, when I began. One good thing though is there seems to be less cocaine and alcohol abuse which was pretty much where most of earnings went in the first seven years of my career, which regrettably I can barely remember.

On the creative front, the older I get the more I struggle with how to convey my ideas, how to take what I really want to communicate to people, and turn them into a few sentences with something that will make people laugh at the end. Especially as the whole industry has changed so much, become so homogenous. I do love connecting with an audience, don’t get me wrong. It’s just the complexities around it I find too taxing these days. I’m working on it, we’ll see.

Of course my beloved 1979 book about the pivotal year in my childhood in which my father died, has undoubtedly been my best work and indeed, the only work I’m proud of to date. I have been trying to dedicate chunks of time aside to write the screenplay but have found it hard, either because I’m afraid to do it, or because some thing else comes along that I have to do to pay the bills.

You will see me doing bill-paying work from time to time, mostly stuff I hate, though appreciate financially. There is however no substitute for the real work I need to do. The work within being what I’ve been concentrating on over the last 16 months and now I hope to bear the fruits of that. I have so many ideas now, but it takes time. Time to gather them all up and work them out. Meanwhile, I will be doing some bits and bobs. I will make a promise to write this bog at the start of every month.

Thank you so much for your continuing interest in me, feel free to get in touch through my site, and I will try my very best to reply as soon as I can.

Here are a couple of sites I find inspiring and innovative. If you like me and what I’m saying, then the chances are, you’ll like them. I also have recommended an astrologer whom I’ve worked with over the past year, she is a wonderful woman and I cannot sing her praises enough.

I’ve run out of steam now, this is far too long. A friend of mine has just said if my blog is too long then people will not have the attention span to read it, fuck it I said, young people don’t know who I am anymore, I’ll be appealing to the over 35’s no doubt, probably over 40’s. That whole attention span is such bullshit. We all of us, need to slow down and just be a little more. Pay attention to how we feel, rather than constantly react to the mania going on around us. Don’t wait for those two weeks a year for you to live how you should really be living. There is always time to read, to think, to dream, to stop and watch the view. Don’t allow the craziness to sweep you up and swamp you. Don’t be how they want you to be - a slave to the system.

Look after yourselves, thanks for taking the time to read me and I will speak to you next month.

Love and Peace,