It's not stopped raining since I got back from London. How can that have been five days ago?
It feels like a Tuesday.
I've just reminded myself of something... Olivia once told me a 'non-joke' that I like to use as a humour test:
Once there were two hippopotamuses in the African Savannah who lost their only son, he was killed by a lion I think, not an uncommon occurrence for hippos, but still sad, unbearably sad. Life was cold, life was long. They couldn't see a way out of the grief and each day was as painful as the last. They barely spoke to each other, they never laughed. The pain turned to a dull numbness. The two hippos wondered if life would ever be the same again. Then one day, many months later, the two hippos woke up to a beautifully sunny morning, everything seemed brighter. They decided to venture down to the water hole, for the first time since... for the first time in a long time. The two hippos waded out until they were stood knee-deep in the warm water. They looked at a flock of birds taking off on the other side of the water hole. One of the hippos turned to the other hippo and said:
"Doesn't it feel like a Tuesday?"
Of everyone I've ever told, I can only remember my mum and my brother laughing. (Actually I've never told my friend Claire and I've got a feeling that she'd laugh as well.) Most people look at me, perplexed, when I tell them the 'punchline' and then proceed to snigger at my own joke in a very unflattering way. But people who laugh at the end don't laugh at 'the joke'. They laugh at themselves, at their own expectations...
If they're surprised at the outcome, they then have to ask themselves: What did I think the punchline was going to be? Where did I think the story was going? Did I really think that life was more meaningful than one sad hippo stood knee-deep in muddy water, remarking to another sad hippo 'that it feels like a Tuesday'?
Look, you don't like the joke, I get it. Let's move on, just forget the joke.
I need to tell you about my third drama audition anyway. Third time's the charm...
For my third audition I was supposed to have learnt a third speech, but like a fool I left it until the last minute and so was still learning it the night before. I was a bit worried about the fact that I hadn't had the chance to practice it in front of anyone, but I'd performed my other two monologues plenty of times and thought that they might even be a bit stale as a result; maybe it would be a good thing for my new piece to be fresh and under-rehearsed?
Sometimes on the Eurostar I feel like I can't leave my seat in case I get lost on the way back or fall over- it depends what carriage and mood I'm in. Last weekend was one of those journeys (I was in the last carriage and was in an edgy, nervous mood) and by the time I got to St Pancras I was busting but there was a massive queue for the toilets. I considered wetting myself in front of the ticket office (not really, come on) but then thought better of it and decided to Hold It In until I got to a cafe.
Hold on, just realised that it's Friday night and I'm sat here blogging about how I needed a wee but I'm going out in a minute, promise, let me just finish this RIVETING account of needing a wee at St Pancras...
I got the tube to Moorgate because I knew it was close to my audition and there were a few coffee shops there. I went into Eat and ordered a coffee and then I did that thing where you're not ready to order so you panic and say the first thing that comes into your head- I ordered soup, at eleven in the morning. It was only after I'd paid that I found out there wasn't a toilet.
I felt cheated and abused- I'd just spent five pounds to use a toilet that didn't exist. I blinked back tears (a slight overreaction perhaps) and sat down in the empty cafe, with the cup of soup I'd ordered by accident and the cup of coffee I couldn't drink as it would make me need the toilet even more. I tried to read my book ('The Corrections' by Jonathan Franzen- it's really good if you're looking for something to read) but I couldn't concentrate because my bladder was behaving like a Sinister Pervert that sits next to you on the night bus and keeps poking you, saying "Why won't you look at me, ey? Why won't you look at me, ey?"
BECAUSE YOU'RE SCARING ME!
I put my book away and jumped up, leaving the two cups half full. I knew there was a toilet in the nearest Marks and Spencer because it's near Lauren's office, but I felt as if I had to walk around pretending to 'browse' polka dot neckerchiefs before I could legitimately use the toilet.
If you've been reading this thinking that I've finally snapped and let my all-encompassing ego take over my life to the point where I think it's o.k to spend Friday evening detailing a trip to an M&S loo- then bear with me, this story isn't actually about having a wee. It's actually a philosophical analogy that helped me understand the Meaning of Life- I swear down.
After I'd had the best wee of my life, I wandered out of Marks and Spencer's and saw there was a Big Issue Man outside.
I didn't buy a Big Issue off him because I had no change (don't look at me like that) and as I walked away I realised I'd just effectively thrown away a fiver on coffee and soup that I didn't even want- most of which had been thrown straight in the bin- and that I could have given that same fiver to the Big Issue man. Then I started thinking about everything I waste money on and homeless people and once you start on that train of thought the only way off is to throw yourself, very hard, preferably in front of a train of thought going very fast in the opposite direction.
I was in London on my own with nothing to do for a couple of hours and nowhere to go. Life was shit, so very shit. There would be someone else wandering around London at that exact moment, with nothing to do and nowhere to go, but they would be homeless and the only difference between me and them was Sheer Dumb Luck.
I felt sad for homeless people everywhere, I felt sad for myself because I knew I probably wasn't going to get into drama school and I would have to do something I don't like for the rest of my life. I felt sad for everyone everywhere because I realised life was shit. What was the point in anything?
I was also lost.
Lost as fucking usual, always lost and late and miserable for No Reason.
Without thinking, I asked the first people I saw where The Barbican was (it's right next to the drama school I was auditioning for). I was surprised at myself, I didn't remember making the decision to ask for directions. I'd asked a red-haired couple, in their fifties and happy to tell me that they were going to The Barbican too.
"You can follow us!" the man said cheerfully.
I started to walk with them. A few seconds passed in silence and just when I started to think it was going to be awkward, they asked me if I was going to the show at The Barbican and I told them about my drama school audition. They asked me how I was feeling and I admitted not good, then the man told me his nephew has been auditioning for drama school for years. We chatted about that, then they asked me where I'd come from so I told them about Paris (the woman had been a few times on holiday) and when I asked them where they were from I found out the man was from Walton in Liverpool, a few streets away from where my nana lives.
On our way to The Barbican we saw the drama school and they dropped me off at the gates. (I actually walked back out again as soon as they left because I was two hours early, but I thought it would spoil the moment to mention it.) Good luck, thank you, have a nice day, nice talking to you etc etc.
I felt happy, so happy, my faith in the world restored.
And then I realised what life is all about, seriously, the answer to life's biggest question began swelling up inside me like a balloon, before suddenly exploding with a 'pop' of enlightenment...
Life- it's just about having a chat and that.