Zeus is in love with Elvis. Elvis is a seven-month-old chihuahua/shihtzu cross puppy. Elvis lives at the Keys and Kitchen pub. Zeus and I go and visit Elvis every other day. I drink a pint of lime and soda in the heatwave whilst the two of them embark on what is fast becoming the erotic, intoxicating, confusing, all-consuming throes of first love.
Zeus pulls on his lead like a nutter and whines continuously when he realises we are turning into the street where Elvis lives. Elvis is usually lounging on her back in the shade just by the front door. They pounce on each other and lick each other's faces in a frenzy, barking and yelping as I lead them both out to the garden. Zeus has to stay on his lead but Elvis runs from one end of the garden to the other at high speed, nipping and teasing Zeus as she passes. She will then lie just out of his reach, legs splayed, making little noises. Then it's back to running back and forth at high speed again.
When she is tired of quite literally giving him the run around she moves in and they roll around on each other until I feel too irresponsible a parent to allow such antics between two such young puppies and I drag Zeus off down the road whilst Elvis has to be picked up and held by the barman to stop her following us out into the street. Zeus will then sit down on the cobbles and refuse to keep walking. He wants to go back to Elvis.
Right now, I'm with Zeus. I feel like sitting down on the cobbles in this town and refusing to move when I am dragged away from Stratford-upon-Avon in a week's time. Zeus has fallen in love with Elvis. I have fallen in love with Stratford. I'll admit it. This sometimes backward-looking toy town has stolen my heart. I am gutted to be leaving. Even the endless tourists peering into my living room window are making me smile at the moment.
On 27 August we will be back in the Clapham rehearsal rooms. I will be travelling on the Northern Line from my new flat in Tottenham and getting off at that weird Clapham Common station with the tracks on either side which always feel very dangerous and we will be re-rehearsing to transfer Doctor Faustus and The Alchemist into the Barbican. I feel sick at the thought. So much has happened since last being there.
Since last being there I have done my first season at Stratford, in three plays I have loved being a part of creating, fuelling, changing on a nightly basis. The amount of jiggling I have done in Faustus, the amount of upstaging I have done in Don Quixote and the amount of overacting I have done in The Alchemist is something I can be proud of.
I have become a more fearless actor than I imagined I could be just by doing acting all the time.
I have had my broken heart healed. I have then broken it again. Then healed it again. Almost.
I have most probably damaged my liver through all the booze. But it was worth it for the laughter and the bonding and the stupidity.
I have met some of my favourite people in the world and I can safely say I will know and love them for the rest of my life. I hope. Unless we sleep together. There's still time.
I can now drive a car pretty well on the motorway
I have been so deeply lonely and tired and sad here, isolated from London and my life there, hating being trapped in this Shakespeare Disneyland that killed off my relationship I have vowed never ever to come back.
And then I have waved at the drunk who sits and feeds the swans every day, manoeuvred around the wheelchairs and the children and the Pokemon catchers and signed in to the building for an evening show. I have chatted with the security men and the stage managers and Cicely Berry and the catering staff and my company members. I have looked out onto the Avon as the half has been called and felt so lucky and looked after and fulfilled that I have burst into song like the musical theatre fanatic I am, but it's been OK because someone in the dressing room has sung along full pelt with me because we are all one conglomerate of RSC thesp now.
I have had an intense, up and down, first love affair with Stratford-upon-Avon. Perhaps Zeus will fall in love with another small white fluffy puppy in Tottenham, perhaps I'll be lucky enough to do another season here again one day. But if I do, I'm pretty sure it won't feel quite the same as it did when it happened for the very first time.