Saturday, 13 June 2015

The Golden Years

My neighbours' daughter is back from Uni. She wears the sun kissed glow of freedom that comes when Uni ends and the rest of your life beckons. Having spent three years vaguely studying and hardcore partying (like all students) the time has come to depart the flatshare and venture into the big wide world.

How I envy her.

I've decided that, like Ethan Hawke's character states in the brilliant Before Midnight film, there are only a few years where you are genuinely 'free.' From about 18 until 30 or so, when children enter the equation. I'm calling these: The Golden Years.

Of course, they start of pretty grimly. No money, endless job interviews, endless not getting the job after all moments etc. Mind you at least the buggers today have email. Back in my day (Jaysus how old am I??) it was FAXING. At the local newsagents (I mean who could afford a fax?) paying an ungodly sum to send over a largely fake CV. Then, there was the horror of MISSING a potential job lead phone call - as mobiles, - WHAT mobiles - they didn't exist! So you sat staring at a machine all day, willing it to burst into life.

Stamps. Remember those things? The cost of bloody writing (hand written!!!) letters to potential employers - with your typed, photocopied (more money!) CV and then buying 50 million stamps and saying a silent prayer as you sent them. Then - nothing. No fucker in the world getting back to you. Crushing disappointment as you watched every other friend get a stable job, while you grappled with getting a career in telly. Them all going for fancy lunches while you continued folding jumpers at Gap and getting told off my your hitler-youth boss who complained your jeans wall wasn't 'exact' enough. Then finishing your shift and trekking across London to your 'home' which was crashing on the period stained sofa of a friend in St. Johns. Not St. Johns Wood. No, St. Johns, Lewisham. Eating stale reduced price sandwiches as they were the cheapest thing, or surviving on hummus and pitta bread because after you token rent and travel, Gap's pay didn't go too far...

So not so golden to start off with, I'll grant you. But then - you get the job!! My first full time job was as a reporter/news reader at L!VE tv. I honestly was paid £20K a year to read the news in front of a man (my mate Scott) in a 6 foot bunny costume. (Before you ask, I once I had to get in it myself. It stank).

My first day was out interviewing Marti (obviously with an 'i' he was a pop star back then) Pellow from Wet Wet Wet. I covered the news of an election date being set in 1997. I also produced a rather classy series of 'Topless Darts at the Circus.' I made 20 eps for 2K. It was the kind of place where in rain, we covered the cameras with black bin liners and every PR in London refused to let us into anything. I remember European Business News (who? Exactly - and they still got in)  giving us their passes to a Bond Premiere - so we took the flags off our mics and ran in. A woman strode towards me and I thought - this is it - we're getting slung out. She announced, 'You're first to interview Pierce Brosnan.' Hoo rah! Then she asked,  'How is my good friend John?' Obviously I knew no John. I smiled and lied my way through the entire night, expecting to be ejected at any time.  In my time at L!VE I interviewed everyone from Di Caprio to Kate Moss (she hated me) and watched a human autopsy, dressed a dwarf as a ringmaster and got him to chase women around a disused circus in Great Yarmouth (in November) attended Paris Fashion week and became a ghost hunter. (Yes I believe in them).

When I met with mates for cocktails, their jobs seemed dull in comparison - but they are the ones now with private health care and pensions and all that jazz and me? I have memories of getting drunk with Ollie Reed's best friends and chasing George Clooney across Leicester Square demanding an interview. (He refused. Mind you I wouldn't have wanted to talk about THAT Batman movie either).

Anyway, I digress. Once I'd got that job - which was well paid at the time - off I went head first into the golden years of bad dates, good cocktails and most of my money spunked on having a roaringly good time in bars in Soho. I lived in St. Johns Wood (hurrah - the real one at last!) and West Hampstead with a fab bunch of girls. 2 of them were Tv bookers, so there was rarely an evening were we weren't off to some album launch, gig, festival, etc. Meanwhile the rest of my evenings were spent working - blagging and lying my way into every event and hounding celebs like my life depended on it. How did I have the energy? Most were wankers. There was something wonderful about being despised though. It made every snatched interview or grabbed shots feel like a mini victory.

I left L!VE. Began 'freelancing' as an associate producer. Did everything from a doc on Ollie Reed, to showbiz reporting for The Big Breakfast. Until I got a break and became a kids' Tv presenter in 1999. I don't think I actually ever grew up. My first job began on March 7th 1997. I had my first child in June 2006. I had 9 GOLDEN years. Sure they were fraught with periods of unemployment and many many broke days (I remember us all going for dinner in Camden and eating an apple, because I couldn't afford a meal - I did afford wine though so I had my priorities right). I remember the fear of a mate leaving a flatshare - who would replace her? I remember worrying over affording my £450 a month rent... I often wonder how I ever afforded to go out EVERY night and how I ever made it to work of a morning, when I was in the Met bar when the lights went on (school disco ending style) at 4am.  I remember having many's a broken heart over some idiot or other and being convinced I would marry a rock star and move to Miami.

I didn't obviously.

But I sure had a helluva lot of fun. But the more I think back, the less I envy the girl next door. Because all those years - in many ways - were my search to end up where I am now: having a permanent home, being in a relationship, having a family. And so I must finish this post - I've a shower to jump into and a movie to catch: a family outing to Jurassic World. The more I think about it, those golden years - they're actually a bit more silver. Or now, now is the platinum era for sure.