Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Turn off tune out

Last night I spent the guts of an hour searching for 70s/80s tennis/skater socks - a la Eleven in Stranger Things. I oohed and ached over the stripes - yellow and blue? Green and Purple?

I had a fantasy of wearing said socks all summer. My hair in plaits. No make-up. Old Baseball Ts with hot rock holes in them. Scuffed Converse. People in my Daily Mail entrenched town pointing at the crazy lady who looks like she's stepped off the film Carrie. These days I feel like the Crazy lady. I've always had a plan - plans are what get me up, keep me motivated and stepping one foot in front of the other. Now, with no plan, there is a huge gaping void. One I can't fill. Even with the brightest whitest skater socks.

When I was a kid I used to dream of stepping off the planet. Lifting up up into space - staring down at the whole melee below and just feeling removed from it all. A sense of floating, weightless. Still. Now I feel the same about all the social media white noise that invades my life. That I willingly open myself to - all the peacocking and humble brags, the fawning, the unmovable opinions, the bandwagons, the self aggrandising the shallowness of it all.

A few weeks back, standing waiting for a gym class to start, I noticed that everyone in the queue was staring at their phones. No one was chatting. No one asking if the class was good, was the class before running late, what they were up to on this cold Sunday... No words at all. Everyone glued to their glowing little screens, avoiding eye contact with everyone else.  I watched and felt an innate sadness at who we have all become. No one talks any more. No one calls. It's all quick fired texts or snippy Whats App messages where everyone reads the tone incorrectly and you come across as angry when in fact you are far from it. There's an app called Moment that tracks how long you spend on your phone. Try it, you'll be surprised. Black Mirror doesn't seem all that bizarre any more, it feels like the norm.

What did we do before we whiled away the hours on social media? Ironically there being absolutely nothing social about it at all. I used to read more books. Phone people on their landline and catch up on their lives. Go out more. Be in the moment.

So, I'm going to stop using my mobile phone for a bit. My mate Wills was the last of my buddies to get one and I always wondered why he abstained for so long. Now I realise exactly why. It's time for me to go back to the days of landlines and ten p coins for emergency phone calls. I'm going to step away from all the white noise. If that makes me harder to contact, so be it. At least I will hear a voice, see those I love in the flesh, rather than a political 'like' on Facebook or a courtesy text which has always been the poor relation to an actual full chat. Remember one of those? Filed under things we no longer have time for.

In keeping with my retro plans, I am opting for the green and yellow socks. Plaits optional.


Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Lower than low

By nature I am an optimist. Someone who looks for the best in everyone, in every situation. On my best days, the ones where the sun shines and my breakfast avocado is perfectly ripe and the email in box is full of joy - I believe anything can happen. I have complete faith that things work out as they are meant to - that every bump along the road is simply there to help us slow down on the journey, take in the surroundings, appreciate free-wheeling down the big hills.

Then there are the days when I wake, feeling like I am pinned down to the bed - a ten tonne weight on my chest, making it almost impossible to breathe. The panic sets in. My heart races and I think - how do I find my way out of here? Again. It feels like a maze, one I am destined to re-enter and spend my days forever ricocheting off the sides, never negotiating a way out.

More than anything, I wish I wasn't attracted to industries that reject you. I wish I loved numbers, banking, business - something tangible and real, something with career progression and promotions and health care and pensions. Something to guide me. To always have an answer, a solution.

Maybe there is a lesson I never learnt. Isn't that why cycles repeat themselves? For us to realise our wrong turn and make amends, change course. I've changed course so many times, to accommodate having a family, to pay bills, to survive. Of course I am beyond blessed, with a husband, children, a home. With these things comes responsibilities. I'm no silver spoon kid - I can't turn to family to bail me out, to fund me while I'm between jobs, to pay for my children's sports lessons or even a food shop. There has never been anywhere to turn, except to myself. To find the will to get back on the horse again. I always do.

Until I don't.

Until I wake one day and say - enough. Enough with the forever trying. Like the moment on X factor when some cast off from a boy band of yester-year crawls back into the audition room having lost his youthful zest, his strong jawline, his floppy hair. He's a melted bloated version of his former self, but still he holds the mic like his life depends on it and belts out a tune that once captivated his local pub. It still brings the sloppy barmaids running to him. But it fails to move anyone, least of all him. Yet he hopes. He really hopes that this time, it will be the one. That the judges will see what was seen once - all too briefly - and they will usher him a fast pass to fame and fortune. Heck, maybe at first they do. They let him through out of some nostalgic pity more than anything else, and he surprises himself by making it through another round or two. Until he hits a crossroads, the big make or break at Judges' houses... The pressure gets to him, he vomits beside the luxury pool but he manages at last to pull off the performance of a lifetime - his last ever one it turns out - because he was never the right look, the right age, the right person. So he goes back to the karaoke nights where he can be king for a moment, while the large glitter ball above endlessly spins, sending fragments of light cascading across his face. He quits while he's ahead, marries the barmaid. Gets a job at the local Pizza restaurant as a manager. But when he belts out the 'Happy Birthdays' to transfixed tables every night, lingering on the final notes, bathing the room in his voice, inside a little piece of him dies at what could have, should have, would have been....

Realising one's own limitations is a tough and sobering moment. It is a moment when you know that your good, isn't good enough, no matter how much you want it to be. No matter how many well meaning mates cheered you on, no matter how much you maybe convinced yourself. I watch around me as so many people I know glide through life. Steady jobs, 2 holidays a year (if you count a break at a rustic holiday home at Easter) never ever sweating anything. I used to content myself by thinking that under the surface they were paddling furiously to keep afloat - until I realised, no, that was just me.

I had a dream the other night that I was a skater. One of those flesh coloured tights, hairsprayed, neon pink lipsticked goddesses whizzing across the rink and whirling myself up, up, into the air. My skirt flip-flapping in the breeze, the bodice covered in tiny pearls as white as my teeth. I awoke to think that perhaps I'd missed my calling - that I was a secret Torville in the making, but now I'd never know. Maybe there is a whole plethora of skills I have that I've never uncovered. A vocation that could have propelled me to financial security and pensions and all manner of luxury. I just never found it before.

Perhaps I never looked hard enough. Maybe it's time to start now....



Saturday, 11 February 2017

Raya...

I'll confess - part of me has always felt like I missed out by never tipping my toe into the fun pool that is online dating. I met my now Husband in 2001, when I was 28 and he didn't even have a phone, or even a proper home. He was travelling through London living in a room with 6 other guys - ON THE BOTTOM BUNK. I wonder what attracted him to the single gal with her own 2 bed Victorian conversion flat in West Hampstead?

Anyway, we met because I nearly knocked him out. He was tying his shoelace when I threw open the kitchen door of the bar he worked in - causing him to go flying. Prior to that I tended to meet potential dates in a sweaty dive bar called Lateleys in my hood, where there was zero shame in asking the DJ to play Britney and your feet stuck to the floor. The bar was littered with mannequins and bizarre tat and had some old school space invader tables out the back. I would scrawl my number on boys' arms in lipstick or eyeliner and dance up a storm with my girlfriends.

Other than that I tended to meet potential suitors through friends, at packed vodka-fuelled house parties or once passing a (now A lister) actor in China town where we both did a double take and then traded numbers.

I never had to upload a profile, or write humorous paragraphs highlighting my wit, or spend days taking the perfect selfie - 70 filters later. I have on occasion lived vicariously through friends - helping them do all the above on various sites -such as one a friend calls, 'Guardian Soul destroyer.' It seemed like a whole heap of fun - until you realise that most men are either looking for sex or are serial killers. One good looking young buck uploaded pics of penguins shagging - which in retrospect, didn't make him suitable marriage material no matter how chiselled his cheekbones.

But a recent discovery has thrown the whole dating ritual into a new and startling focus. It is called 'Raya' and is a dating site for 'those in the creative industries.' Apparently it is where famous folk can swipe left or right and meet without having to deal with a load of star struck dirty little civilians. Members are apparently selected by a super secret anonymous committee (sounds like trying to get a soho house membership in 1997 before it became an ad agency mecca and lost all credibility) - but get this - it is based on their Instagram presence.

At this point I almost want to grab a sandwich board and run into the street shouting 'the end of the world is nigh!!' I mean WTF? Are we seriously saying people are now valued - in romantic relationships (I'm not talking as a brand here as that I get) because of their followers? Applicants are evaluated by an algorithm with considers 'overall Instagram influence, who recommended the applicant and how many active Raya members follow the applicant on Instagram.' 

Now I ask you - sincerely - if you are only deemed a worthwhile person because of your Instagram following - how fucking tragic does that make you?? I mean, am I alone here in thinking that this type of categorisation is the death knell of civilisation as we know it? Sure, politically the world is in a mess at the moment - but this kind of value placed on a person makes me wonder what the hell has happened to us all? Any idiot can drum up desperate followers (a recent article by a Times journalist showed him ditching his real life family pics and curating a made-up life filled with arty shots and a fake glam lifestyle and he watched followers rocket) - but what does that make you as a person? Kind? Funny? Engaging? Reliable? Honest? Intelligent? Being socially media savvy often doesn't mean anything more than being overly narcissistic....

Surely the whole endeavour is a paradox in itself - those who are so uber famous they can't meet anyone,  wish for anonymity to find love, yet have to go on dating site that will only allow them onboard if they are famous enough? What cardboard cut out souls will they meet on it? Apparently (I have never been on this site) the pics are all tracked to music which is about as basic as you can possibly get... 

Meanwhile I saw a magazine journalist recently uploaded her new agent's details to Twitter, hoping for work in TV as a scriptwriter. Her agency turned out to be Curtis Brown - and on her CV, an update of how many Twitter followers she had. Perhaps there is a correlation between being a skilled dramatic script writer and being popular on social media, but I have yet to find it. 

More depressingly, actors are now getting jobs because studios use their Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram followings to sell their movie. Emma Thompson lamented this saying that actors are becoming attached in 'the sort of business way' to their social media profiles - which she thought was a disaster. Exactly. Shouldn't they be practicing their craft rather than uploading selfies? Can you imagine Cate Blanchett, Brando or Streep thinking of how to gain more followers? 

I find it all wildly depressing. We have lost the ability to judge people on merit alone - to interact in the flesh and appreciate talent and hard work - instead following the herd and relying on insignificant numbers to establish a person's worth. We all know deep down that Facebook and Instagram are the edited highlight reels of a person's life - they don't show their true colours: everything has been filtered and airbrushed to establish perfection - all of life's flaws and warts are wiped away. What we are left with is an image, polished and preened and utterly devoid of soul. If that isn't the Emperor's new clothes, frankly, I don't know what is. So those celebs hoping to meet someone real on the site? How likely is that?

So for those who aren't worthy enough to make it onto Raya's books, I wouldn't despair. I'd grab a beer at your local dive bar, chat to the person next to you and throw some strange shapes on the dance floor.  Least whoever you meet will appreciate you for you - no filters required. 







Friday, 20 January 2017

La La Land/ Manchester by the Sea

And so to La La Land.

I'll admit it's not exactly a bind to watch Ryan Gosling (I'd pay to see him peel potatoes) and I am a huge fan of Emma Stone (although I prefer in her brittle mode (the only good thing in Birdman) rather than preppy girl-next-door goofball that she seems to have cornered the market on) so seeing this was a no-brainer.  Plus, Whiplash was incredible, so I had high hopes that Damien Chazelle would not disappoint.

And all in all, he didn't. La La Land is a visually stunning homage to the golden era of Hollywood's musicals and all kudos to the cinematographer and DOP for creating such a rich tapestry of colour to brighten up our bleak old January days. Whilst I applaud the leads for their enthusiastic dancing and down to earth vocal abilities, I found the sudden switch from rom-com into musical numbers somewhat jarring. A clever idea to update what was considered a defunct genre, by simply dropping musical numbers into an otherwise untheatrical film - but I'm not sure it quite works. Perhaps because the musical numbers are largely forgettable (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's sing-a-long this aint) and don't really enhance the story - or maybe I'm just not as big a fan of musicals that I assumed I was... (I've seen Oliver! a million times, does that count?)

Yes it is charming, sweet and at times magical - the LA skyline at twilight a perfect backdrop to a blossoming romance. Stone's cartoonish features popping out, as bright as any dress she wears while she falls for the charms of Gosling - looking bemused in a way that only Gosling can, is delicious to watch. Then comes the ending and a flashback that left me feeling a tad confused.  Whilst the theatre emptied, I spent ten minutes with my buddies debating what we had just seen - who got their dream/'had it all' and who messed up? Who was to blame? What is the message of the film and how should we be feeling as we stumble out into the light? I'm still not sure I know the answers...

In short - it didn't move me. The only scene that made me feel at all emotional, was when Emma Stone questioned 'am I good enough?' There isn't a creative person who hasn't been there.  I wanted desperately to love it, to rave about it as much Whiplash - but I'm afraid I can't. To quote Len Goodman on Strictly I'd give it a SEV-EN out of ten.

Another film I was champing at the bit to see, was writer/director Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea - having adored an earlier film of his - You Can Count on Me.  Thankfully my husband agreed to spend his 40th birthday watching it (hell he was depressed anyway) so we grabbed some G and Ts and hunkered down at our old haunt at the Curzon Soho (as an aside £15 for a cinema ticket is scandalous. I mean really??).  Two hours plus later and waggled my sweaty fist at the screen, enraged that Casey Affleck's wonderfully natural performance of a man haunted by grief had gone from A to well... A. Where was the characterisation arc? Now I do understand that there are certain tragedies of life that no-one gets over - EVER, and perhaps this film is telling us that - but, in order for us to empathise with and champion a character, we need them in some way - no matter how small - to move forward over the course of 2 hours on screen or we feel somewhat cheated.

And Michelle Williams - a brilliant actress since her days in Dawson's Creek - is at her all time worst. There is a renowned scene where the two ex's meet - it should be utterly destroying to watch, knowing what they have endured - and yet all I could think was 'this needs more rehearsal - I don't believe her...'  Meanwhile, I got so bored of the endless shots of fishing boats and bizarre soundtrack that accompanied almost every other scene that I went to get another drink...

Longergan is a master at creating believable relationships between a kid and an unstable adult - this was the crux of You Can Count On Me - and whilst the awkward relationship between Affleck's character Lee and his nephew (played to perfection by Lucas Hedges) is beautifully characterised, it stays one note for 2 hours. Structurally we find out around half way through the film why Lee is so cut off from everyone and everything - and in knowing the secret behind 'The Lee Chandler' we have no more blanks to fill in. So we watch, hoping against hope that this broken man will find some light in his dark days, redemption perhaps in the guardianship of his nephew... Then the credits roll. Affleck will, perhaps deservedly, take home the Oscar for this come March, but I'm left wondering what he would have brought to a part that required him to be more than just dead behind the eyes for the film's duration?

Next up Moonlight - am hoping it will blow me away. Something's got to....



Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Trying not to give a f**k

So January is here and with it half assed attempts at going dry and eating no bread and pretending there isn't half a tub of celebrations in your top drawer. The obligatory reports of 'big freezes' blow in and as we all tearfully watch Obama leave office we try and comfort ourselves with the knowledge that anyone, indeed any bloody clown, can become president - even one who hates women unless they are peeing on Russian hotel beds.

But I have a weapon in all the drudgery, to see me through the dreary weather and dealing with the expense of my Husband turning 40 (at bloody last) - it is a book, called 'The Life Changing Magic of not giving a F**k.' It is miraculous. My husband could have written it because he really doesn't give a f**k at all. He swears with abandon, leaves social gatherings the minute he feels he has talked/listened enough and keeps his distance from most people. At the heart of all this I suspect is just consummate laziness, but I admire his ability to let all things just slip off his shoulders. Of course  he gets grumpy about work, will be ENRAGED about Australia losing at any sporting event and will be anxious if the children or I are ill - but in general he doesn't give two hoots what others think or expect of him. While I will stew over a conversation, or worry about a potentially misunderstood text,  he just says 'f**k it.' Long have I sought to emulate his behaviour...

But I do give a f**k. About ridiculous shit - like: will the bosses like my script? Will I ever get another writing job? Can I even write? Do I look fat? Have I got lines finally appearing? What will happen when that baffoon is president and why did A Monster Calls not get any award noms when it is BEAUTIFUL? Is that mole on my neck cancerous? Am I now middle-aged? Will my house ever sell? Is everyone in my town looking at it online and judging my curtains? (Judging by the amount of people who ask me endlessly about my house sale this is a yes). Am I spending enough time with my children? Should I try and exercise today? What legacy am I leaving? Should I make more plans to see friends? It is winter I don't actually want to see anyone or leave my house but is that bad? What will I get my Mum for her 70th? Should I get a bikini wax? Why do I never get a ripe avocado? ETC. ETC.

Husband frequently says 'being in your head must be exhausting.' It is. That is why I blog. To spit it all out. So the book. It helps by telling you that you do NOT have an infinite amount of f**ks to give. So you have to choose VERY carefully what to give them to. Your mind is a barn apparently and you need to clear it all out of the mindless clutter and be very choosy about what you think about. That instead of wading into dangerous waters listening to other people wang on about stuff that they EXPECT you to give a f**k about - instead say 'everyone has an opinion' and run off. Quickly. It also teaches how you can not give a f**k and amazingly, thrillingly, at the same time, not be an asshole. This is new territory for me. Husband - he has this licked because for all his blunt Aussie tactlessness he still is not an asshole. Well, only sometimes. I'm at the part of writing out a f**k budget - and sorting my f**ks into categories, so I can work out where to spend/give them. Exciting isn't it?

Also, I can write up all the stuff I don't actually give a f**k about: your dreams. Ever. So don't tell me them. This includes my kids who frequently share their night time tales. Cars - they go from A to B, never seen the point of being excited by them. Or indeed Jeremy Clarkson. That I haven't watched more than one season of Game of Thrones - or Breaking Bad. I will eventually but not yet. Fashion - I don't have the life that accompanies such great heels anymore - much as I would like to - and care whether or not ridiculous frayed denim trousers are 'in' or kitten/wedge/stiletto heels are very on point or whatever cool phrase it is - I no longer have the energy to do anything other than run around Zara and buy yet another pair of biker boots and a stripy top. Baking for school fairs. Sorry that is why Waitrose has baked buns, pre-made icing and chocolate buttons. Looking younger - I'm not.  Facebook politics and liking updates - better to just come off it and free the mind. Taylor Swift - she is no Madonna is she? That I probably drink too much. I am a parent. It comes with the territory. That I can't cook. I married someone who can cook - winning! Instagram - I don't care about curated lives that took 7 filters and 2 hours to perfect. I actually miss the old days of waiting in the queue at Boots for your holiday pics only to discover the flash never worked in half of them. Christmas - overrated, high on effort low on return. Valentine's day - I mean really, who actually appreciates this day apart from teenagers and even then it is torture when the deliveries in school show up the fact you got one card from the kid with the sniffle and head lice while your best mate got 10?

Go on - try it. Buy the book and start your lists. Before you know it, it will be February and you will be too busy not celebrating Valentine's day to care. You can thank me later. But only if you give a f**k.




Wednesday, 4 January 2017

2017

So 2017 is here - and if ever a year was more yearned for I have yet to remember it.

Everyone lamented the tragic untimely deaths of many much loved stars in 2016 and combined with the disturbing results of Brexit and Trump's election, it seemed there was little joy to be had. Personally I found it a bit of a slog - losing Prince felt like a little light went out - never again would I play 'hunt the gig' to find him playing in some sweaty corner of London, never again would I watch him immerse himself in music.... there isn't a day goes by when I don't think about him. 

Then came a knee injury that still plagues me, followed my some family discord and then I discovered an ex had died after a horrific battle with cancer that left him paralysed for over a year. He was a good person, a kind person, a father of two. His second child born just as he was diagnosed. I still think about a blog he wrote - saying the hardest part was telling his 8 year old son he wasn't going to make it. Then came the news that a man I had known at 16, had spent a year or more writing to - he was 32 - who had taken me for cider and treated me as an equal - who had never touched me (largely because there was a great big sea between us) had been found guilty of sexual offences - with a 15 old, whilst he was 57. My flesh crawled. Deep down, back then, I knew that his intensions weren't right, weren't appropriate, but the fact he was a plane ride away somehow made me feel safe in the distance. An odd one to get my head around.... how many others?

But a flick through my photos on my phone and I remembered there were indeed many brilliant moments: starting with a hysterectomy (hey two nights away from home is a vacation in my book) - that gave me a new lease of life, a buddy over from Australia prompting a great gathering of mates in March, Easter hols in Ireland catching starfish, taking my daughter to see Matilda, a sunny weekend in York with car keys locked in our boot in April, a brilliant 25 year school reunion in June, a wonderful summer - my last in Ireland for a while - and a white Christmas in Austria.

The older I get the more I realise life isn't about always being happy, always striving towards goals or attaining things we think are going to magic everything better - it is about the small moments, that we should try and find in every day. It's about appreciating the now, our health, the coffee in front of us, the sun in the sky, the book waiting to be read. I don't have resolutions this year. I never stick to them - but I am going to be more in the moment. I am going to give less of a fuck. I am going to only give my time to those I feel are there to enhance my life, who are genuine and fun.... I am going to try and be a bit kinder to myself, especially in my ever fretful head. I have to remind myself that over my 20 year career I have been a barmaid, gap girl, journalist, presenter, reporter, film reviewer, AP, script editor,  life coach and writer - so I've always found a way to muddle through - I always will. I may not be the richest person but dear god I have fun. Plus I've always had great buddies. I've always had great health. That makes me one lucky girl. 

So here's to 2017 - may it be memorable, this time, for the right reasons.

CM x