Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The Easter story according to Sproglet

Sproglet in the car yesterday: 'Mummy if you died it would not be very nice.'

CM : 'Mummy isn't going to die honey.'

Sproglet: 'No No No. If you die. People are cross. Your Mummy and Daddy are cross.'

CM: 'Yes..... but why are we talking about dying?'

Sproglet: 'It is ok Mummy. Because the rock is rolled away.'

CM: 'A huh. The rock.'

Sproglet: 'Yes and then you get up again. You are not deaded.'

CM: 'Did you hear the Easter story today? The one about Jesus?'

Sproget; 'Yes. Jesus, he was cross.'

CM: 'On the cross maybe?'

Sproglet: 'Yes. His Mummy cried. Can I have an easter egg?'

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Get it off my chest

Well that didn't last long on the non blogging front... but I feel that if I don't get this post off my chest it is going to well up within me and choke me to death.

So I left work...

My last day was completely surreal. I thought I'd done my mourning and felt surprisingly excited - like it was a birthday that you actually want to celebrate - filled with cake and cards and people forced to be nice to you. I arrived at my beautifully decorated desk (bless you Caroline) - covered in glitter and a banner and the obligatory helium balloon. Immediately I welled up and at that point I knew I wasn't gonna get through the day with dry eyes. But the day wasn't all frolics - oh no, there were scripts at second draft to turn round - so there sadly was pesky work to do before the fun stuff could begin.

Post lunch I felt that sinking feeling - of having tonnes of scripts to read - then I remembered 'you don't, you're leaving.' I promptly tossed them all into the confidential bin and felt like a naughty teenager avoiding her homework. I'd already cleared my desk, unpinned Sproglet drawings and photos, packed away the scripts that I'd slaved over and ultimately loved. 2 years fitted into one small bag.

I've never left a job before with such mixed emotions - but there again, I've never left a job in such weird circumstances. My bosses like me, are happy with my work, I am a committed team member, get on with all the writers, am passionate about the show - and yet, I have to leave. I'm not disappearing under a cloud having been fired, I'm not jumping ship racing towards a great promotion elsewhere - I simply have to go due to some ridiculous bureaucracy that makes no sense. I don't know how to process my reaction to such an ousting.

When we gathered for an amazing coffee cake (I'd persuaded two great bakers in the office to have a 'bake off' - cunning, I know) our head script ed Pete nervously made an emotional speech and the tears that had threatened to spill all day came pouring down. I felt so fucking cheated at leaving my team - my friends - that I simply couldn't find the words to tell them how much they have meant to me over the past two years. They are an amazing, supportive, warm, funny, slightly loopy bunch of people - who I miss already.

They gave me great gifts - a necklace that says 'may all your wildest dreams come true' and a framed signed script cover of my best and most watched episode. I tried to get out a speech - and muttered something about 'why am I crying, I'm not even pre-menstrual?' infront of my new boss - now ex-boss - barely managing to cough out a few emotional words.

All that was left to do was of course... karaoke. We hit a dodgy chinese restaurant in London's Soho - with our own private room, lined with chairs and the all important karaoke machine. Story ed Alex took charge and we were off! I began by murdering 'son of a preacher man' took a detour in duet land with Kylie and Jason's 'hit' 'Especially for you' (with one of my favourite writers who clearly had done it before) and ended up predictably sobbing with all my team as we wailed out 'Goodbye' by the Spice girls. The night was a triumph. One that could remain in our rose tinted memory as a long rollercoster of beautiful song, if it were not for the fact that Caroline videoed/photographed the whole thing. Dear god, they won't be pretty.

Husband came along - if only to pour me into a cab at the end of the night - which he duly did, as I drunkenly wept on his shoulder. The next day he told me he had never known me to work with such a nice bunch of people - he normally hates those kind of events, but said he'd had a great time.

The fog of a spectacular hangover and the fact I had to teach a class how to be presenters the following morning - kept my emotions in check yesterday. But today everything has come tumbling out and the only way I can describe how I feel is bereft. They'll all troop into work tomorrow and hold a tea filled post mortem on Friday night - and I won't be there. My work family will continue to champion and chastise each other without me. It feels like there is a party going on that I once was invited to and now my name isn't on the sodding list.

My funds are dwindling, TV drama feels like it is imploding (with ITV's 'The Bill axed on Fri after 27 years), I have no idea how I will ever get a job in this fecking industry ever again. No matter how much we hate it - our jobs help define us; give us a reason to get up, inspire and challenge us and give us a golden glow when things for once go right. And I no longer have one.

No cake, no warming cups of tea or even cuddles with Sproglet is abating this pit of sadness in my tummy. I am sure it will pass. But to all down Walford way - my life won't be the same without you.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

To blog or not to blog...

So I'm leaving work this week. All the twisted knots of fear about doing so have dissolved - and after a kind fellow editor read the humble beginnings of my book - and liked it (hurrah!) my head is now back in book zone and I can't wait to get crackin' on it.

With that in mind, I'm debating taking a short hiatus from blogging. Concentrate in just the one thing maybe... I started blogging as a way of venting my mother infused frustrations - to reach out and see if there are were other like minded souls out there, who go through similar stuff. Lately it feels like I'm talking to myself - which is fine - I regularly do so in the flesh (at least I am assured of good conversation, I remind myself when I think sound mad)- and I never blogged to get comments or win admirers. But occasionally - when I'm vein-poppingly angry (see 'Bitter Pill' below) my god I'd give up chocolate just to have a couple of people pitch in with a 'I feel the same' story or two.

The thing I'm most excited about is having time back in my life again. Time to get food in, attend all Sproglet's school activities, time to search his head for nits (oh the joy of children - the school keeps getting plagued with the bastards - the horror, the horror - I have a memory of having them aged 9 and my Mother dousing my hair in vinegar - I smelled like a chip shop for a week), time to exercise, time to pick curtains for our lounge so the world isn't watching me thump across the room to my body combat DVDs like a small sweaty elephant squeezed into lycra, time to hang out with Sproglet rather than collapse onto the sofa beside him - giving myself over to the tv and berating myself for doing so.

Most of all I'll have the head space and time for this book - fingers crossed I can pull it outta the bag. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Puck me!

Move over Chuck Bass there is a new crush in town.... The sweet Lothario, guided by his loins rather than brain, who can sport a mohawk without looking ridiculous (no mean feat) hold a tune and bust some moves is frankly the most exciting thing to hit my small screen since.. well... since Chuck cocked his eyebrow 2 years back.

I've had to give up my Gossip Girl habit as the scripts are so woeful they make my ears bleed. It takes itself far too seriously, with lame ass stories and characters who go up and down more often than that Serena girl's pants. I can do trash tv with the best of them - but this takes the piss. Eventually, one stops caring about the characters and inevitably loses interest.

Thankfully I have found new boy flesh to relish, in the name of Puck - who for me - is the star of Glee. If you haven't seen it - where have you been? Ok, so sometimes it thinks it is cleverer than it actually is, and is occasionally repetitive. But my god it is fun. Sue Sylvester - she of no heart - the relentlessly ambitious, tracksuit loving, uber-scheming cheerleading coach, hasn't said a duff line yet. (My fav - after seeing the Glee club perform a raunchy version of 'push it' "That was the most offensive thing I have ever seen in 20 years of teaching and that includes an elementary production of Hair.") The simple premise - a load of misfits get together and bond over singing fabulous show tunes - delivers both laugh out loud punchlines and poignant coming of age rituals. Plus, it has swoonsome, big peepered, lop-sided sexy grinned Puck.

Before any of you call me a closet paedo - he is in fact 27 in real life. That makes everything fine, I know. I bought the soundtrack last week and sang along with every tunnnnnnnnne!!!! all the way to Cheltenham and back. 4 hours of my strangled cats voice merging with the fine singers of Glee. Well I had to do warm ups for my leaving party... now where did I put that Journey song?

Sunday, 14 March 2010

He's just not that into you...

... is what I want to say to my dear friend. To stop her wasting a single nanosecond more on this cockhead loser who is dicking her around.

But I don't. Because it aint my job to. It's his. Except he won't, because they never do, do they? They never tell it straight. They dress it up with 'I don't want things to get more complicated than they already are...' 'It's not you it's me...' 'I just need time to regroup, ya know? Just get my head together...' 'I'm not ready for a relationship...' blah blah blah...

Her beautiful face lights up when she talks about him. He fills her every thought. She has it all worked out - how they will fit together like a glove, it is meant to be, there is such chemistry, they like all the same things, the sex is fab, etc etc, except he isn't playing ball. The field maybe, but definitely not ball.

I'm harsher than I should be - my patience thin and sympathy waned for her inability to grasp the truth - and yet, who am I to judge? People in glass houses... Having spent 4 long embarrassing years chasing (and occasionally catching) my own HJNTIY - I should be far more understanding. I convinced myself that I should be with this boy - it was meant to be - in my head - but somehow I forgot to take his feelings into the equation. Or rather, lack of them as far as I was concerned. No matter how he cosied up to me, embraced me, oh yes - slept with me - and lead me on such a merry head fucking dance - the signs were clearer than day, I just chose not to see them. Maybe the time he slept with me and subsequently I had raging cystitis - yet he kissed a girl in front of me at a party a week later - should have been a giveaway. Or that fact we never had a single date. Or the fact he knew how I felt (I declared my love one drunken shameful Easter) and told me I was 'just a friend.'

But oh no - I kept on believing. Low self esteem was probably at the root of it. One friend's girlfriend told me 'he needs to be needed and you need to be rejected - it is insanely perfect for you both' - she wasn't wrong.

Anyhoo - I finally woke up and smelt really strong self-respect obtaining coffee. Met Husband and 9 years later am still a happy bunny. Thank god. So when I see my buddies go through similar shit I want to scream 'run away - fast!!!' But they aren't listening - just as I guess I never did.

Occasionally I'll ask Husband for a bit of boy advice. He always maintains the same mantra - that if a boy likes you - he calls. It is that simple. Boys that sleep with you, then date other girls, then sleep with you, then get closer, then go cold again - well, they're just not that into you...

What really gets me is that this guy acts like he is into her. He texts and flirts and humours and makes love to her - he acts like a couple and then... then he introduces her to the next girl he is dating. She hopes when he gets to know her fully that he'll change. She pulls out all the excuses she can find because her poor head is fried by this hot/cold in/out man who can't seem to make up his mind.

She needs to make it up for him. She needs to tell him to feck right off, throw on her glad rags and go paint some young hot thing red. So I try, as I don't want her delicate heart trampled on - I say all the above and she looks at me, betrayed. 'It doesn't make it any easier, you saying this' she scolds.

I feel bad. She's right. I shouldn't have to say He's just not that into you. That's the coward's job. I doubt he ever will.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Bitter Pill

In my memories it is always hot, but seeing as I grew up in Northern Ireland, the wettest place on earth, I doubt that was the case. The windows are wide open and I'm sweating over study notes on Hamlet/The Crucible/School for Scandal/Death of a Salesman while the whoops and shrieks from children playing in the street relentlessly continue - a mantra trying to entice me away from my desk. I remember the secret stash of cigarettes hidden in my locked old bureau so I peel my thighs from my plastic chair and am onto them in a flash. The thrill of getting caught half the joy as I practice blowing smoke rings into the cooling dusk air.

I can't pretend I religiously studied for my A levels. Some Politics revision began the morning of the paper - but there were enough evenings where I finished a sketch for art at around 3am or I'd scribbled 13 sides of A4 paper on Willy Loman to say that I'd put in some effort. I could have worked harder for sure, but that isn't the point.

I toiled through GCSEs, A Levels, a BA Hons degree and 2 careers in television (late nights holed up in the blistering heat of an edit suite - coffin sized - perfecting my presenting showreel for the zillionth time; pouring over another draft of my CV late into the night; sending showreels by VHS - do you know how expensive that all was?in those days; having meeting after meeting after meeting in the vain hope of a new job; surfing 4 week contract to one day contract to 2 week contract - in and out of work like a yo-yo as I endeavoured to get more work; attaching helium balloons to my showreel in the hope some Exec would be lured into watching it by such a gimmick; researching this company and that person then flattering them by knowing every last detail about their career to charm them into employing me - and on and on and on) - FOR WHAT?

No one took me aside at school and said - "Oh this career you're after - well, all that blood, sweat and snotty tears - forget about it, cos when you become a Mother it doesn't matter - you won't be able to juggle and 'have it all.' You'll be the one having to compromise and be riddled with guilt and be seen as so less employable to the point you'll have no idea how to make a career work around your kids." Fuck I wish they had.

When I had Sproglet I was presenting on a crappy Quiz channel that paid exceptionally well for only a couple of hours work. I needed to work less than 10 shifts a month to comfortably live. I earned more than I do now as a full time script editor. The day of my 13 week scan I went to my boss - a lovely German family man with a child of his own - and spilled beans about my own growing bean. He was delighted. However a month later he sent round this email to all crew/producers on the channel:

Hi All,

It becomes more and more obvious that CrummyMummy is expecting. I think it’s great and I don’t have a problem with it at all. But some others might have. That’s why I would like you to do the following:

Whenever you’re on Shift with CrummyMummy please make sure (by watching and briefing vision mixer and camera op) that we have tighter shots (head, shoulders etc.) most of the time. If you need CrummyMummy in full shot: No problem but just have it as long as it’s necessary for the show.

I don’t want to make a fuss about it. This is more an informal recommendation than an official announcement.

Thanks for your support.

I took him aside and asked him why he'd sent this and he replied that it was because his boss - a strapping German goddess - apparently liked animals more than kids and he didn't think she'd take to kindly to having me waddle around with a huge pregnant stomach - even though the majority of viewers that we robbed daily, sorry, watched the quiz channel daily (and spent all their hard earned benefit cash trying to win) were in fact parents.

Then he promptly left and told me I was a 'sitting duck.' I was so stressed about losing my job whilst heavily pregnant that I took to bringing a Dictaphone with me every day to work, should they try to axe me. I wasn't staff - just a contracted presenter who could be let go of at any given moment - even though I had worked there for almost 2 years. Big boss knew I was up the duff and one day queried why I always covered my stomach by a large cushion - and found out the whole 'hide the fact CM is preggers' plan. She didn't axe me - mainly because the channel announced it was shutting down and all the other presenters immediately defected to a rival channel. But ole whale features here was unemployable with such girth and I ended up doing even more shifts to cover the gaps - working until 6 days before I gave birth. They did ask me to sign a drafted document detailing that I wouldn't sue them (they were an American owned company) should I go in labour and give birth in front of the jackpot machine as I was persuading viewers to count the rings/boxes/dots. I honestly think they would have carried on filming regardless as long as the viewing figures continued to rise.

The channel shut down a week after I had Sproglet. I'd managed to save enough pennies to survive for 3 months but i knew that in that 3 month period I'd have to lose the baby weight, find another job - oh and master motherhood. No pressure then.

Am I bitter? Well, yes. I've worked my ass off all my life for minimum state maternity allowance and had no cushy employed staff job where I got to take a years paid leave. My start to Motherhood was one filled with money worries and stress at the prospect of finding a new job. I did by the way. I had a screen test 5 weeks after Sproglet was born at another inane quiz channel. They had met me before- at 8.5 months pregnant, but claimed a tad unfairly that at that screen test I wasn't 'enthusiastic enough.' Wonder why....

Anyway, they employed me 2 afternoons a week and I managed to get a child minder next door to me. I started back exactly 3 months after I'd had Sproglet - my breasts threatening to take over the entire screen in every shot. The day after flew to Ireland for the day to screen test for another show - which I got. Which was handy as I arrived at Quiz channel one afternoon to be met with a load of miserable faces in the gallery - they'd all lost their jobs. As it turned out - so had I. They axed us all that day and as we were only booked on a week to week basis - they owed me nothing. I had to go live on air knowing that when I came off I was unemployed again - with a 5 month old baby.

I got the job in Ireland and so flew home every Thurs - Sat to do the live Fri night show with Sproglet in tow. Easy? What do you think? After that show ended I thought, I just can't do this merry go round any longer - so spent a year slaving away to become a script ed. Regular paycheck - that's what I need. If I ever want more kids, I need to have paid maternity. 14 months later I got my job. Boy I celebrated. All the hard work had paid off. 13 months later they told me I'd have to leave when I'd done 2 years there. They don't want to make any more folk staff... that's the way the cookie crumbles.

So here I am again - no chance of maternity pay should I want more kids, no job, with the knowledge that any other script ed job would involve me being on set from dawn to dusk while the drama is being shot. How to do that with Sproglet's schooling and Husband's crazy job hours....???

Yes, yes, I know I'm writing my book and thank god for that - but I'm just wondering how the hell everyone else does it? Some women have the ease of going straight from one maternity leave to another one. Some have understanding bosses who know they need to leave bang on 5 to get to the militant nursery before they shut up shop on the stroke of 6pm. Some have relatives nearby to help through all the awkward moments when you get called into an urgent meeting at 5, or you've a raging fever and can't get out of bed or the kid itself is riddled with chicken pox and is banned from nursery for what feels like a lifetime.

I never knew it would be so hard. That I'd live in a state of panic about one little thing going wrong - traffic on the M25, the inability to leave work on time, forgetting Sproglet needs XYand Z at school today, snow disrupting everything. I never knew there would be so much compromise.

So when I think back to that girl looking longingly out of the window, wishing she was racing on her bike to her mate's house or illicitly smoking in the park, but instead shoving her head further down into her books - I want to go back and tell her 'fuck it, go for a fag, what's the point anyway?'