FINAL WEEK ON THE FAT FARM …
FINAL WEEK - 1-8 August
Monday 1st August
Went to the local town today and wandered around for a few hours. I’m preparing for re-entry into normal life. Exposing myself to supermarkets. The Fat Farm is working, and something has shifted. I bought a pear and a bottle of water, even though the carb temptations were everywhere. Bakeries, pizza joints. They should be regarded as ‘treats’, the wise ones say. But is it really a treat? It just gets you off, pizza, a quick hit of adrenaline and endorphins. I’m not sure it’s anything other than a drug. I prefer proper drugs, if that’s the route I’m going to take. Speaking of which. I see that they sell paracetamol and codeine over the counter in Poland. I bought a pack - making it clear to the lady that I was not exhibiting drug seeking behaviour. I like to have a packet of these drugs around the house, just in case the edge needs to be taken off. I don’t drink alcohol, take recreational drugs or have sex, so you know. I see when I get back to the farm that the Polish version also has caffeine in it. A veritable speedball. I think I’ll give them a miss. Until I really do have a bad back.
Olafur, the Icelandic chap I occasionally chat with at the smoking table, runs up and says: England won! I wrack my brains - assuming he means football, but not sure which final has just played out. Being here is like being one of those WW2 Japanese soldiers stuck in the forest until 1954, unaware the war ended ten years ago. The old acting comes in handy in these Curb Your Enthusiasm moments. I say, “I know!!! It’s fantastic! It came home!!!” I seem to have said the right thing and hope we can leave it at that, but he starts talking about the goals in detail, naming players I’ve never heard of. I play along, until he mentions: “This is SO great for football - not just women’s football. I mean, first time since 1966!” Ah, women’s football. When I get back to my room, I find a square of signal and google the affair. The Lionesses have won a final - against Germany? The pictures of these athletes are phenomenal. The comlete rejection of all things influencer. No makeup, top physical condition, full of passion and energy. Yeah, this is important. I got sad too. That my generation missed out on this. I’ve never in my life been asked to kick a football and would be horrified at the suggestion. It is completely alien to me. When I dated Graeme - a postman from Peckham - in the early 80’s, I would go with him to watch Millwall play at the Den in Southeast London. I would only go on what was called ‘Ladies Day’, a home match once or twice a season when wives and girlfriends were invited to join the husband-boyfriend fans. The crowd were on their best behaviour on Ladies Day- the civilising influence of women. Football, the ‘beautiful game.’ If you’re included. Lionesses. History, indeed.
TUESDAY 2nd August
My (English) grandma’s birthday. She would have been a hundred and ten today. I weighed myself and I have gained 200g in the last four days - although I’ve been eating only 460kcal per day. It is probably pooh, backed up. But I’m getting tense because July is over and my inbox was filled with monthly bills yesterday, and feverish messages from people in the industry. The people I associate with in the industry - producers, dramaturgs, marketing etc - they are almost exclusively women. They communicate in a different way to men. They? We, I suppose. I try to write like a man. Economically. Not using the text to figure out what I want to say. I fail most of the time. As much as I hate men, I hate women, too. Yapping away, never getting to the point. Sigh.
A difficult day. Norway shuts down in July. Most people can afford to take a month off, so nothing happens. Then 1st of August the backlog charges through the sluice and everyone wants answers yesterday. I’ve stopped responding to people’s urgencies. Things are rarely that important, and if they are it’s because someone has mismanaged their time. I try to pre-empt incompetence. My own but more specifically others’ - yet incompetent people who get all emotional about admin refuse to be pre-empted. They must see their drama through and drag everyone else down with them.
Wednesday 3rd August
I have walked the 6k to the village every morning. Walking the same path. Not getting new impulses from outside can lead to new impulses from inside. I had a moment of clarity as I trudged through the forest - one of those light-bulb ideas that arrive fully formed in your head - about how to begin the new solo show I’m working on - My Dinner With Putin - which I’ll use the autumn to write. David Bowie once said, “Whenever you feel comfortable in what you’re doing, it’s rarely good. Go a little bit out of your depth. When your toes are no longer touching the bottom, that’s where the interesting things are …” But famous people can afford to take risks. Because failure doesn’t mean losing the roof over your head. One should only take advice from people who haven’t made it.
Fun fact: Some recent research by a group of musicologists on the last thirty years of Grammy winners and nominees showed that Grammy winners tend to take more risks with their subsequent albums. They step up to the plate in terms of experimentation with their post-win albums. Interestingly, said experiments are often commercial failures. But the Grammy winner gives not a fuck. Nominees who don’t win tend to play extremely safe, succumbing to formulaic commercial tropes in their subsequent (post-Grammy nomination) albums. As if being nominated but not winning kicked them in the crutch and made them second guess themselves. What did I do wrong? The case against having nominees in any award system is made, I think. Nominees are only there as cannon fodder. The decision has been made long before the envelope is opened. It’s not a Schrödinger’s cat situation, where they are still in with a chance up to the moment the name is read out. Nominees are there to make winners shine. The drama of humiliation, ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ is what it’s about. It stinks. Why put people through that?
As my day of departure draws closer, I feel a sense of failure. I thought I’d be transformed, and everyone would go ooh. Maybe I have changed. But I just don’t realise it. If the scales had shown a deficit today, I would not be under this cloud. Magical thinking. Nothing magical about it at all.
I wander around forlornly. Not looking forward to going back. Dunno why. This has been an escape, perhaps? A pause. I’m getting to the root of things. I went into the town the other day - it’s 20km so Krystjof the taxi driver took me for a tenner. He spoke some Polish into google translate and the mechanical voice said, “You are looking very nice. I must say, [the fat farm] seems to be serving you well.” I felt verified. Wondering if any change will be noticeable when I get back. Perhaps the change is on the inside?
I have a hump. Whenever I have been overweight (most of my adult life) a hump of fat grows at the base of my neck. It’s grotesque. I’m working with ballet dancers in November and they all have swan necks, effortlessly. I found a little patch of WiFi and googled the heck out of ‘hump’ and fat’ and ‘neck’. It’s apparently caused by weak neck muscles. This means it is fixable. I asked V, the personal trainer what we could do about it and for the last week he’s been putting me through gruesome neck and back strengthening exercises. I’ve been sitting, standing and walking all wrong, all these years. The ‘perfect posture’ they taught us at drama school in the eighties is horseshit, plus minus. It’s been sort of debunked. Pulling your arse in and pushing your chin up is all wrong, ‘parrently. There was an episode of Friends where Joey wondered if he should get a new walk. I’ve caught sight of myself on film now and again and I lumber along like an old man. I’ve often thought I need a new walk. Now I find it’s this neck business. So I’ve been working on it. It changes the physiognomy, when you align well. I feel less … ugly, when I stand up a straight. Who knew.
MONDAY - leaving.
I packed yesterday so there would be no stress. Paid my bill and said my goodbyes. I’ve reconciled to going back to real life. I’ve been thinking about it for a week - acclimatising mentally - and wondering how to continue this journey without careering off the weight loss motorway into a barrier of ice cream and fish and chips.
I’ve lost 6kg, 20 odd centimeters, 2 dress sizes. It’s a really, really good feeling, to not be so heavy. I have 6 kilos to go to put me into a healthy BMI. A 'magic’ number (67kg) which needs to be treated carefully. All the psychotherapy theories around weight gain and weight loss say that if you lose the weight when you’re not ‘ready’ it’ll pile back on. This kind of theory irritates the hell out of me, but unfortunately it seems to be a sound one. The fat has a purpose - to protect you from something. Generally speaking some spectre of abuse. So one is battling ghosts. Unreal things. But what purpose does it serve now, the day today? I must have unlearned enough trauma by now to release the shield. It’s now just a daily reminder of my (once) mental health failure. [My therapist counsels me to be aware of this kind of black and white thinking. The thing I despise (fat) is after all me.] Aye, there’s the rub. It is hard work. But it must be accomplished. So that other work can be done.
I have a few hours to kill in Gdansk. I go to a market and walk past dozens of food stalls selling meat and chips and waffles and ice cream. I enjoyed the smells of the market. They were satisfying in their own way. I ate my packed lunch from the Fat Farm, drank a bottle of water. Idly watched the people at the other tables eating their sour doghr bread with lard and gherkins. Which actually looked tasty. Bought an apple. Amazed at how much less stress there is when one doesn’t have to contemplate and calculate whether or what to buy of tempting food. Had a coffee, though. A flat white - the first one in 28 days. It was absolutely delicious. And it was enough.
I wandered for a few miles, just wanting to walk. Bought a couple of small presents for friends, but little else. Food, and shopping tend to go hand in hand. If you don’t do the one, you do less of the other.
I wondered if I should go to the Solidarność museum. I remember going on a solidarność march in 1981 in London. The ship workers, who brought the wall down, indirectly, directly. The museum is an awesome structure of rusted metal, and iron beams. It’s brutal and beautiful. Enormous, with a library, a permanent exhibition, special exhibits. I went in and just felt tired. It was a relief to self-admit that I couldn’t be arsed to be a good socialist and connect with Europe’s socialist past. I just couldn’t be arsed today. I went on the marches back in the day. I get it. It’s very important. But today, I didn’t want to care about political upheaval, and injustice. I feel like outrage and injustice is flung like dung all the live long day, these days. One has to choose what to receive and what to reject. Dung’s not a bad thing. It can be fertiliser. But too much dung … (Didn’t the Bond villain Dr No die under an avalanche of guano - i.e. seagull dung? At least in the book he did, if memory serves.) Made a note to self while sitting in the museum cafe, drinking a peppermint tea: when you get home, limit the things that are allowed in through your political transom. You don’t want to die under the political equivalent of a mound of bird shit.
I thought about this thing that is ‘eating’. How often I’ve sat watching true crime violence while shovelling food into myself. I wondered when I was at the farm what effect that might have. The great theatre director David Glass always has a bowl of grapes on his desk when he gives workshops. Encourages the students to eat them. He believes that they can embody the learning if they are eating while working - literally swallowing the information. I think he’s right. I’ve eaten 84 consecutive meals over the last 28 days in stillness, with no computer or phone in front of me. It feels pretty ok.
Long queues, stressed tourists, hustle bustle. I drink water, buy a small salad and an apple and am again relieved not to have to navigate the food courts. I have enough calories in me. I’m not gonna faint. It’s a calmer way of being.
The flight is packed but I bought a front row seat for an extra tenner, because it’s a small price to pay for less stress. I look out of the window, to not be distracted by the hefty young man sitting next to me. He is handsome and tense, and plays a violent game on his phone. It seems to be set in Japanese bath house. There is a lot of blood in the water. His breathing is quick and his body is rigid as he plays. He is drinking an electric blue sports drink. I judge him. I think he would be happier if he looked out of the window and drank water. I am afflicted by the righteousness of the recently converted.
My greatest fear is that men will sit next to me on planes and start watching pornography on their phones. It’s happened more than once. The world has become a strange place, thanks to Jobs and Zuckerberg.
I am relieved the young man in seat 1B is only watching a violent massacre. The state of things.
I walk up the five flights of stairs and notice my knees don’t hurt, and I am less out of breath than I have ever been when walking up to my apartment while carrying 30kgs of luggage. I unpack my month of clothes and books, and put things away - so I can start the day, tomorrow, with a clean slate.
It’s been … what has it been? I’m not sure. But it is the start of something. I feel… quite clear. Not in a Scientology way. Just that the way ahead is slightly less cluttered.
I don’t like clutter.