Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Spider Webs

Hurrah! Autumn is here. After a wet August and a September that felt more like April, Autumn has arrived in full glorious technicolor. The kids are back to school (was it just me or did summer draggggg this year?) and normal service has resumed.

The school run - normally a frantic mad dash up a hill,  a dance through a minefield of dog poo in a snicket and a full on sprint across the school lawn - has become much more a joy, now that spider season is here. My daughter rushes from bush to tree, hunting the stunning webs, where a hairy speckled spider busily wraps a wasp up like a mummy with utter precision. We have named each spider - Mr Green, Hairy and Lairy and the wonderful Big Bad Bob - who is the size of a small crab.

My 6 year old has joined the local football club under 7's team and has to train at the ungodly hour of 8:30am every saturday. She is the only girl on her team - which she takes in her stride, tackling every boy with methods I'm not convinced are legal and winging her way up and down the pitch, her ponytail flipping in the wind. At first I was reluctant to give up my weekend mornings, then I remembered - I'm a parent, weekends have long lost their old glory. So I trudged to the side of the pitch, while the rest of my quiet little market town slept to watch her match. It has now become the highlight of my week. Nothing brings me as much joy as when one of those cute 6 year olds lob the ball into the bak of the opposing team's net.

Meanwhile, team CM are on the move. Well we would be, but dear god the whole exchange process with 7 folk in a chain takes forever... The cottage we plan to move to is a project - and that is putting it kindly - but I'm trying to not to dwell on the thought of moving in - then out - then in again and all the stuff in between. As someone who can obsess over choosing a lamp for a day - the thought of having to select windows, bathrooms, an entire kitchen, floors, light fittings and tiles makes me a tad nauseous. I may well end up drowning myself in the stream at the bottom of the garden before it is done...

Now that Sproglet is 11 and less sprog and more teen - I'm all too aware of how quickly the years pass. A moment ago he was born...  In my head, I'm a new mother... And yet, I watched as him as he trudged out of his primary school on hot July day and burrowed his head into my shoulder, and sobbed. I watched as he struggled to put on a tie on his first day at secondary school, lifted a bag greater than his own weight and threw on a blazer fit for a giant. Every day he needs me less and less... It suddenly hits you - how for so long you crave a moment to yourself, how you wish that the early years were less relentless, less demanding - but when that moment comes, you feel wildly redundant...

As I tentatively began to pack, I wandered down the stairs to our basement - and looked at the markings we have left at the top stair, all the way up the wall - where we have measured our children's heights since we moved in, way back in 2008. It's messy and hard to read, but it captures time so beautifully. Now we must leave it behind.

So every morning, as we hunt for spider webs and marvel at the intricate detail on each one, I appreciate the moment. All too soon Sproglette will be walking to school on her own, my days of the school the run will be over.





Friday, 3 November 2017

Call Me By Your Name

Some moments in life are completely unforgettable. Rights of passage that define us, shape us, change us forever. Falling in love for the first time, is one of those moments - and joyously we get to experience it all over again in the glorious film, Call Me By Your Name.

There are shades of Bertoluccio's Stealing Beauty in this tale of a long hot summer 'somewhere in Italy.' Director Luca Guagagnino creates such tension between 17 year old Elio, the son of an archaeology professor and the charismatic American intern who comes to work for his father - that the build up to their first kiss is beyond thrilling.

The camera follows Elio's every move, as he dances around the creaking Italian house, splashes in the stone pool and transcribes music - all the while watching his object of desire. As he falls in lust, then love - we accompany him every step of the way. I could almost taste the smoke as Elio puffed on a cigarette, his eyes never leaving Oliver dancing up a storm to cheesy 80s music. Timothee Chalamet's face is exquisite - his angst, pain, desire and wonder all transparent as he grows up before our very eyes. His performance is breath taking. The final credits - no spoilers here - are mesmerising. As is his Father's incredible speech right at the end. My only regret is being unable to write it down myself as a life lesson I wish for my own children.

What elevates this coming of age story in a pretty country with lots of academic bi-lingual types languishing in the sun - is the space Guagagnino gives to the story... He lets us wait alongside Elio, on tenterhooks, desperate for interaction with handsome Oliver - played by the dashing white toothed Armie Hammer to perfection. I left the cinema feeling totally alive - and at the same time in mourning that my youth had passed. Moreover, it made me wistful: for a time when love was all encompassing, when you thought a broken heart would never ever mend.

In one scene Oliver and Elio in a dusty plaza circle each other around a war monument - having circled each other for weeks. The honesty and bravery of this scene haunts me... As Elio's mother asks when she reads a German fable: Is it better to speak or to die?

The answer of course is always to speak - even at a time where such love dare not speak it's name. Give yourself a trip down memory lane and see this film... easily the most stunning and affecting film of the year. 

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Lovely Bones

A week ago I gathered with people I had known for 20 years. People who started their careers in TV at the same time I did - filled with unbridled enthusiasm, wildly optimistic - the world was our oyster.

We gathered to pay our respects at the funeral of the kindest, warmest of us all. The crematorium was bursting with those who wanted to be there for Emma, taken from her beautiful family far too soon at the age of 42.

I watched as her closest friend, an Irish woman who I have watched weather all storms, with a mere tilt of her chin, a shrug and a 'sure it'll all be grand' make the most beautiful and poignant speech. She looked fragile, heart broken, ashen. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs that this was all so fucking wrong and Emma should be here with us all, enjoying the craic, choosing great music, bringing her always happy, always smiling always positive personality.... I literally expected her to walk in at any second. She may be gone, but she will never ever be forgotten - the woman with the biggest smile, the kindest heart.

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Years ago at my 30th birthday my friend Philippa have me the book 'The Lovely Bones' and I sobbed my heart out reading it. The last line is 'I wish you a long and happy life.' I took for granted that that is what we all got. We were indestructible. We would live forever. This week, having not seen Philippa for about 10 years, she texted me that she had seen an ex of mine had just died... She wondered how I was. I guess people thought I would be sad, mentally back in the 90s... But having gathered with all those I knew in the 90s the week before, I was already there... back when everything  felt possible, when life felt infinite, when it was all to play for....

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I'm writing this at 5:30 am - I can't sleep. Rage curses through me. Someone close to me is battling cancer - the dreaded C word - and it feels a never ending battle. This little cell that comes to rest, uninvited, unwelcome. It makes itself at home, the secret that you have yet to discover. Then you do, and so the battle begins... I can't imagine the fear, can't contemplate the bravery it takes to get through such an illness - with resolute belief that you will survive, you will not let it win. How can someone be just going about life and then all of a sudden - wham - life will never be the same again?

I'm trying to get my head around it all - that each day is precious, that health is a gift, life a blessing not a right - but if this rage would only subside then maybe I could feel that. Nothing feels simple any more. Normally I throw out a blog post in seconds, but now... I stare at the screen and just feel numb. I keep thinking over my own life - was I a good person? Was I kind? Did I hurt anyone? Did I tell those I love that I do... Did I take the wrong path, am I still on it? Am I raising my family well? What the hell is it all about? Why is life so unfair?

If any of you have words of wisdom, please feel free to share. And of course, I wish you all a long and happy life.

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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

#metoo

There isn't a woman alive who hasn't at some point felt sexually harassed. From comments about 'filling out in all the right places' from creepy relatives as a child, to having strangers grab your backside on a tube, to outright assault - the range of behaviour begins when we are barely more than children and lasts all our lives.

There are almost too many to list - but I remember some boys shoving their hands up my school skirt as I looked in a shop window aged 13. I had a man photograph me without my consent on the tube; a cab driver stroke my leg; a bar owner corner me in the freezer room; drunk men grope me as I passed them glass collecting aged 15; a man masturbate in front of me on a beach in Greece; a colleague called Dimitri press on my breasts to see if they were 'firm' the day I told my colleagues at Quiz TV (in front of my boss in fact) that I was pregnant with my son. He previously told me that he knew I was pregnant as 'your tits are huge.'

The strange thing is, I have been so conditioned to all of this - that I somehow made it my problem. I saw the fact I had a big chest as something to be ashamed of and so always wore polo necks, sweaters, baggy T shirts - anything to distract from my curves. I even bought a T shirt that had in tiny writing 'I'm up here' across the chest, so as all gawpers were shamed.

My first job in television made me see that the only way to survive in the industry was to accept the vile sexism masked under 'laddish jokes.' A channel famed for a dwarf man bouncing on a trampoline to stick the weather symbols on a map and 'Nudes at Ten' was perhaps not the best way to be taken seriously as a journalist - but I was thrilled to finally get a job. I loved reading the news in front of a man in a 6 foot rabbit costume, reporting from premieres and rushing all over London - working with a lot of decent enthusiastic and brilliant people. One of whom was not my boss - Kelvin MacKenzie. I made a joke about trying to take News Bunny to the Oscars - 'I had two hopes and Bob was the better one' which sadly Kelvin didn't get. So he asked Nick Ferarri to fire me - but in the confusion they almost fired another Irish girl. I was summoned to Ferarri's office where he suggested I wrote an apology letter to placate Kelvin as I wept...  Ferrari told me to start it: 'Kelvin you are not only my boss, but my hero.'

I will never forget my news editor Andy Beat helping me write it as I sobbed, terrified I would lose my job. Andy was livid - but what could he do? Meanwhile another boss never made eye contact - staring instead at my chest. Mark Murphy told me - despite securing the first interview with Stella McCartney after her debut Chloe show in Paris 1997 - that "you don't have the right look to present the fashion show." I asked what he was looking for and he replied, "you know someone with personality." I pressed further - aghast at this. He then answered: "We are looking for a model. Not you." I was humiliated, axed from the Fashion Show and made to produce a series of 'Topless Darts at the Circus' or I would be fired. I sobbed over my computer. Again. I had no choice. So I hired great costumes from Angels in Shaftesbury Avenue and tried to make the women feel like showgirls - instead of merely pawns in the channel's pathetic remit.

Women who worked at the channel were expected to enjoy the male banter - be one of the lads, in order to gain acceptance - something I never did. I respected and liked many people there - usually folk who like me, were just so grateful to get their first job in telly - but the atmosphere was toxic. The boss men had their favourites - women in push up bras who played the dumb blonde role - simply for an easier life.

I remember blagging my way into a Bond Premiere and securing (through blatantly lying) interviews with Pierce Brosnan and Judy Dench etc. Live made a special TV show out of it - but instead of congratulating me Ferarri only asked why I hadn't asked Brosnan about his recently deceased wife... The men were congratulated - the women never so. I couldn't wait to escape. I often wondered - would all TV be like this?

I learnt later on that the culture of fear that pervades TV insures that women put up with so much - simply because of the freelance nature of the job. If they speak up against a sexist presenter or overly handsy producer - what hope do they have of ever working for that independent production company again? I remember other friends being livid that in the office at another company, the male staff had a 'wall of punani' filled with photos of scantily clad women. I heard stories all the time of various lechy comments from bosses, filled with promises of what they would do for the woman in question's career.... I have had men bosses tell me that with my 'assets' I would 'go far' as they stare directly at my chest. I always felt I had to prove I had a brain - because by simply having curves, somehow that diminished me.

In later years I worked with a director who told me off for admitting I got the T shirt I was wearing free with a magazine; but allowed the male presenter to simulate sex with the producer as a 'joke' or make any kind of innuendo laden joke he chose to - because clearly he had one rule for men and one for how women should behave. I can honestly say I never suffered sexism or harassment when I moved into TV drama - perhaps because by then I was 35 and a mother of one...

This is all small scale in light of what the women of Hollywood have gone through at the hands of Harvey Weinstein - but the revelations at last mean we having a dialogue that should have been opened a long time ago. The culture of TV has forced women to be silent. To accept that our bodies will be the butt of male humour, that if we don't laugh along with sexist jokes then we are not one of the gang. It is time we were able to stand up for ourselves without recourse. Without fear. Only then, do we have the faintest hope that something may, finally change.

Then the dinosaurs, or rather predators, like Harvey can happily become extinct.






Monday, 16 October 2017

Winter wish list...

A good friend just got back from a weekend in Edinburgh with her girlfriends. She'd had a ball, but also got a bit of a wake-up call. Dressed to the nines, standing in a queue to a deeply fashionable club in the heart of the city, she'd got chatting to the girls next to her. They too sported cool trainers, a splash of lipstick and a smokey eye. My mate Jess got round to asking how old these new buddies were, only to be stunned when they said they were 24. To add insult, one girl squealed out that Jess and her mates looked surprisingly young, as 'My Mum is your age.' Eek. In one moment Jess realised that her clubbing days were over - she was less club kid, more bar fly these days... To compound this realisation, when they entered the club, the singer on the stage was none other than the lead singer from late 80s early 90s band Black Box and she belted out their big hit : Ride on Time. Yup, the only folk who knew or indeed cared about this face were Jess and her gang...

There comes a moment in every woman's life - when you realise certain things have to stop: metallic mini skirts (maybe not the best idea at any given time), showing cleavage and towering heels. When Christmas wish lists are no longer filled with things like 'Agent Provocateur' underwear and glam accessories -  instead you want Ugg slippers or a decent pair of gloves. Sure, I still look at fetching heels in Selfridges shoe section - but then I remind myself - I don't have the life to go with these beauties any more...

Shivering on the side of the football pitch last weekend, watching through sleeted rain as my six year old daughter got covered in mud while her team thrashed the other side, I made my own mental wish list for things that my life now required. Clue: none were bits of stringy lace disguised as 'underwear.' I came home and spent the rest of the afternoon avoiding laundry by simply having to find the perfect winter coat. Not too wide and bulky - I don't want to look like the Michelin woman. Waterproof and with a hood, so I can bear to be beside a football pitch cheering on as the heavens pour onto me... Something with a flattering cut, that will cut out the piercing windchill in ice cold February... But finding something like this proved to be the holy grail.

Until I came across Tresspass. Now, I will confess, I hadn't come across this site before - but low and behold - there was my perfect coat. A down coat to keep me cosy - padded to lock in heat - but still flattering (rare in the case of a down coat) - long enough to keep my legs warm too. A hem drawcord to lock out that bitter winter wind and water resistant to boot! Now, we all know that buying online is a bit of a gamble - things sometimes don't turn out to be anywhere near as good, once postie has delivered them (Hello anything you have mistakenly bought because some size zero model blogger aged 25 looked ace in it - of course she does, she is TWENTY FIVE) - but on this occasion my hopes of finding THE perfect school run winter coat have been surpassed. I put in on and didn't feel like I had been zipped into a stiff sleeping bag. It was comfy, roomy and beyond warm. I'm almost - but not quite - excited about the winter weather approaching, just to try this baby out and see what extremes it can handle. The other great thing is Tresspass appear to have clearance sales so there are bargains to be had. Get ye along there pronto!

Whilst I am still coveting a fetching cashmere camel coat for a life that I led about 15 years ago (certainly pre kids) I am convinced that between the two, I know which coat is going to see more action this winter. Here is a fetching photo of the coat, on a lady who is not me, but wears my 'can't think of any place I would rather be on a Sunday morning at 8:30am than freezing my butt off by the side of this scabby pitch' face. And she has better hair...





Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Walking like a Walker




It was raining, cold, grey with summer not even a hint on the horizon and my gut told me to stay at home. But the muscles covering said gut aren't exactly a rippling six pack, so I got my arse off the sofa and headed to my usual Monday HIIT class. My back had been giving me a bit of gyp - ever since I had painted my garden trellis a fetching shade of grey the week before, (Is there ever a more middle class statement uttered than the above?) but I thought I was in good enough shape to go.

We were almost through the class, when I was turning mid jump, to perfect the stance once assumes before they do a burpee, when I felt something judder in my back. Dear god the pain. I hobbled out of the class and attempted to stretch my back out on a machine by hanging over it - but then discovered I couldn't quite get up. Or stand. Almost crying, I asked a trainer I know for help and the next thing I know I'm lying sprawled out in the middle of the gym as a handsome carved from marble, physio is manipulating me into all kinds of positions. Not quite what I had expected to happen by ten am on a Monday... It would have been all kinds of good except I couldn't move without searing pain in my lower back. Physio explained it was all due to tight muscles in other areas but all I could think was, how the feck am I getting home? He was pressing my back, hard on my buttocks (oh yes, there was no shame from me - I've had two kids, and frankly I would have sold them if he had promised he could make my back pain go away in that instant) and up my thighs. 

I managed to stand but couldn't walk further than a few metres, so husband had to collect me and drop me at the chiropractor. After more manipulation he told me to walk home. I tried. But ended up clinging to a lamppost and howling in pain. An old man of about 90 offered to help me, but bless him I think if I had lent on him I would have taken us both down.

Husband picked me up and I haven't really moved from two rooms since. I am in agony. I can't sit, stand or lie without being in pain. When I attempt to walk I am bent over to one side, not unlike a Walker on the Walking Dead. Which is the only form of comfort of having such an injury. It means I have to take it easy and tear through as many seasons as is humanly possible.

It almost makes me wish for a Zombie apocalypse - but only if handsome Rick would be on hand to save me. Who knew Andrew Lincoln was so HOT? I'm so deeply invested in the group that if Maggie or Glen or Daryl (swoon) die I may never recover. It is unbelievably tense from the get-go. 

Rick wakes up in hospital to discover the world is not as he knew it. He heads for his house - finds it empty and eventually turns towards the city, looking for his wife and son. I can barely stand to look at the screen because I am so scared a Walker will sink their jaws around Rick's neck and turn him into one of them... The action is nail biting, the script sharp and the acting first class. WHY have I never got into it before?

It almost makes having agonising back ache worth it. Must run - season 4 about to start.... WHOOP. 

Monday, 1 May 2017

Vulnerable isn't a dirty word.

Recently a friend recommended this Ted talk on Vulnerability. I've been having a bit of a rocky time of late and she wanted to find some words of inspiration for me, some comfort. In essence the idea is those who are able to be vulnerable, to be seen, not matter how afraid, ashamed and fearful - experience the most joy in life. Those who show their vulnerability tend to be those who feel they are worthy of love, who feel they are 'enough.'

It's an interesting concept, one I have been pondering on, because lately I've felt about as far from good 'enough' as possible. I've felt like the last kid to be picked for the team, the girl who sits on the bench at the dance, the woman who stands alone in the middle of a huge party, as the clock chimes midnight on NYE. Deep down, I don't think I'm good enough to be a writer as a profession and my waking moments are spent waiting to be 'found out.' Each set of notes sent back to me break me out in a sweat, a fear that I won't know how to fix anything, that my well of ideas and solutions will run dry, that I'll be taken off the script and finally, at last the truth will be confirmed - that I am NOT good 'enough.'

What should be a joyful and fun experience, instead becomes one of absolute misery. I turn myself inside out with stress, fretful of failing, not earning, surviving, fashioning another career out of rubble. I send myself loopy. 

When I left my full-time job back in 2014 I didn't feel that afraid. I felt relief. Finally, I was able to parent my kids and even though I had precious little time to write while my daughter was at nursery, I felt sure everything would be ok. I threw myself into writing trials for shows and writing a spec script and just loved it all. I felt the fear and did it the heck anyway. Maybe I felt I had nothing to lose, I can't remember. All I know is that I had a sense of everything working out - a true gut feeling...

And it did. 

Until it didn't. The company that had been using me regularly decided out of the blue not to any more - no word of warning, no chance at redemption, no hint of this previously - just BOOM - you are gone. Like a rug pulled from under your feet. Yes, yes... this is the life of a writer people say.... but that doesn't make it easier. Not one jot. 

All of a sudden, it feels like starting again. The sheer terror of attempting to drag my confidence off the floor again is crippling. I look at my kids' faces, as they innocently ask for things and I feel enormous pressure to provide - this overwhelms me - which ironically is about as far away from feeling creative as you can get. I've really struggled with my sense of worth, whether or not I'm capable and all the shame that accompanies such feelings. 

This all feeds the monster that is anxiety, until he grows so tall, you can't see anything - least of all any light. It's made me want to hide away, to not see friends, to not face the world - because I worry my inadequacy is written across my face. It has honestly been mentally exhausting. Every time this year I have had one tiny piece of good news, within the space of a few days, something has happened to knock that back - or to throw another huge curveball my way. I tell myself I'm robust, I can cope, I'm an Aries for gawds sake. But it's like the car is trying run on no gas... The fire in my belly has gone out. A friend told me to write my way out of it... this haze, this grey time. It reminded me I used to write here all the time... and in doing so I never felt alone. I always felt supported... It was ok to be vulnerable, to not know the answers, to fuck up. Because you lot were doing it too.... Being vulnerable here on my blog, felt safe. 

Watching the programme last week on 'Mind over Marathon' - where 10 people with mental health issues ran the London marathon - reduced me to tears. The courage these folk had, running for 'Heads Together' charity humbled me. But it also made me realise that it is so good to talk about feeling down, feeling as if we have failed, about not feeling 'good enough.' There is no shame in it. Trying to hide it, wearing a mask pretending all is just hunky dory when inside we are a mess, is what makes everything a million times worse. 

So I'm trying to work through this time - the one where I wake at 5am every day in a panic that I am doomed - the one where my heart races all the time and I can't eat. The one where I am reduced to tears in a heartbeat, where I doubt myself to my core and where I have lost all faith. Part of me tells myself in a thick Irish accent to 'dry yer eyes and get on with it...' - that there is no problem a cup of tea and hug from a buddy won't solve. I take wisdom from my children's films and as Dory says, I just keep swimming. I'll let you know when I get to the other side.... 

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