Sunday, July 22, 2007
I have a nickname for the last five years of my life. It's 'The Struggles'. I adopted it, in style at least, from a land (the memory of which) lies percolating in my heart and soul - Ireland. The Irish, with their characteristic mastery of understatement, referred to their seemingly interminable conflict with the English as "The Troubles". Sometimes it is the accuracy and economy of understatement that results in the very essence of the issue being pinned to a floating speck of dust ... the kind that is visible only in the brightest, almost paint-strippable ray of light. And as a bomb (courtesy of the IRA) exploded only 100 metres from me in London's Victoria Station in 1990 - I knew we were, indeed in trouble.
I remember my first visit to Ireland vividly. I had met an Irish woman - Annie O'Brien - in London when we were both cast in a season of the Stephen Sondheim musical The Frogs. Annie and I instantly bonded ... and many of my special memories of the time I spent in Europe were as a direct result of our vast and wonderful friendship. It was Annie who rented me a room in her beautiful house in West Ealing ... and when the advertising agency I was working for went bust overnight, she guaranteed a roof over my head until I found another job. It was Annie who raced to The Green near our home in Ealing one fateful morning to help me up from the grass. It was Annie who found the perfect space for a season of another play of mine in London ... and it was Annie's brother who, being an Aer Lingus pilot, flew us from Heathrow to Dublin - with me perched wide-eyed, stunned and amazed in the jump seat!
Upon our arrival in Dublin, we went to Annie's brother's favourite pub for lunch. We sat in a beautiful courtyard and drank Guinness. I realised I was in trouble when I started to notice that people were smiling. Real, genuine almost heart-felt smiles. It made me feel uncomfortable ... and Annie laughed at the increasing level of my discomfort. I remember ordering a chicken sandwich for lunch ... and minutes later, when it appeared in front of me on the table - I promptly burst into tears. There, sitting on a serviette within a small woven basket was a fresh roast chicken sandwich. I touched it gently, and the bread sprung back from the small indent the tips of my fingers had made in it. For the first time in what, at the time, seemed like a lifetime, I was about to eat a fresh roast chicken sandwich ... not the thin, salmonella-prone slices of processed and compressed 'pretend' chicken I had become used to in London - the taste of which was always one of life's little, unsolved mysteries.
Touring Ireland was one of the highlights of my years in Europe. I hope to do it again as soon as possible. Images and experiences of my time there haunt me still. The Hill of Tara, Newgrange, theatre at The Abbey, wandering through the grounds of Dublin University, spotting bullet holes in buildings and ranging far south to the wilds of incomparable coastline ... epic, romantic, sweeping grandeur. A magnificent collision of the elements that can only be written about by people who - possibly innately - understand the power, scope and range of the cultural and historical significance of the perfect meeting of time and place.
Last night, in the time and place I occupy for the time being, I finally realised why my life has turned out the way it has. It's because the one I lived prior to the one I am now living was better! Much better! So much fucking better it almost defies description! Almost. You see, in my previous life, I was a Pharaoh! I was! I may very well have been the Pharaoh! How good is that?!
I have to be honest. It's not the first time I've been confronted with this fact. But prior to having this sacred vessel (see?) with which to record my every second rumination, it's only ever been a little-known fact of ... whatever the word is that means the opposite of motivation. Yes, that's it - consolation. When everything I've achieved has eventually ended, I have religiously consoled myself with the knowledge that everything I achieve in this lifetime is intended to be the very anithesis of everything I achieved when - to monstrously wonderful effect - I was The King of Egypt!