Monthly Archives: November 2012

When A Child Is Born

Oh shit. This is a fucking, arsing tit-wank of a disaster. And I swear I’m not just casually swearing for no good reason. No, I’m not pregnant but I have come to a realisation…breathe… I have realised that I would like to have a child. Or maybe even, inshallah, children. Fuckity fuck balls bollocks. I don’t even know how to boil an egg, let alone how to hatch one…

I thought I had cleverly by-passed this strange ancient tribal maternalism which most women seem to possess. Although I have never strongly not wanted (is that a double negative?) a child I have always been one of the ‘undecideds’ among us. Not bothered either way. If I find the love of my life and it just happens, so be it. But if I don’t and it doesn’t, so be it also.

But suddenly – on the rapid approach to my 36th year – I feel like the crocodile from Peter Pan, not only because my skin is so much rougher than it used to be but because there is a constant tick-tock coming from my stomach reminding me that I am woman and woman make child.

So, how do you make a baby? No, I know HOW you make a baby, but HOW do you make a baby? It may be hard to believe but I am actually a romantic, and would never go out to find a penis for impregnation, or go to a sperm bank…call me old fashioned but I would like to make a baby out of love and raise it with someone I love in a house with a white picket fence, with twee bunting hanging about. After half an hour with my baby-raising friends however, I usually want to hang myself with said bunting but still, I hold on to the belief that this is still possible in the modern world, despite evidence to the contrary, and am not ready to give up hope just yet.

I have a bit of time (not loads, but a bit) so it could still happen naturally, but it is such a huge unknown it almost doesn’t bear thinking about – Will I be able to conceive? Will he? Will I carry to term? Will I like it? Will it like me? Will it be ugly? Will I be a good Mother? (I think I answered that in the previous question) – it makes my head explode every time I try to think about it. Maybe this is why it has started seeping into my dreams…the other night I dreamed I was heavily pregnant but nobody believed me, they just thought it was trapped wind. That is until I went into labour in the street and all my friends gathered round, so excited to share in my joy, and in that moment I could finally understand the joy they have been experiencing over the last few years as they have had their kids, and it was bloody beautiful. I don’t know what happened next because I woke myself up with an enormous trump but it was a good dream, I think.

On the day I was born, in January 1977, ‘When A Child Is Born’ by Johnnie Mathis was number one in the Hit Parade so I have always identified with Jesus Christ – he was a Capricorn too you know. Like Jesus, the story of my birth has been told every year, but not by the world, just by my Mum and Dad. There was nothing particularly miraculous about it…it was snowing, but it was January so… I think they like to tell it because it was the day their world(s) changed. Not bigging myself up here, and my Mum had already had my amazing sisters years earlier so her world had already been changed, but it seems to me that the story is important to them not just because it was the day I was born, but because it was the day their old lives died. Having children changes your world. Fact.

I know there are all sorts of obstacles and it is entirely possible that my world will never change in this way so on my sane days I am quite philosophical about the whole thing but it saddens me that it might not, in the same way it saddens me that if it does, the child(ren) may never get to know their wonderful, crazy Granny or any of my amazing family in the same way I do because, let’s face it, none of us are getting any younger. In a weird way I think accepting this fact and the lack of control we ultimately possess is all part of the growing up you need to do to raise a child or accept that you might not. Accepting that there is danger and pain in the world, that you can’t fix everything, that life isn’t always one big party, that with great joy (and power, come to think of it) comes great responsibility.

So, I’m not prepared to give up just yet, if only because I really don’t want to be the old lush in the corner, about whom everyone smugly (if slightly jealously) comments “Isn’t Auntie Janey funny because she’s drunk/hungover again?” and I will continue to hope. But you know what? Whatever direction life takes me in, all I will say is: so be it.

When A Child Is Born

 

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All The Young Dudes

I am good at a few things in life, but sadly networking is not one of them. At a BBC event recently, when a very important executive producer said to me, ‘Are you having fun?’ I thought he said ‘Are you the fun?’ – and responded that of course I was the fun – ‘Don’t worry, the fun is here!’ I trilled, and did some jazz hands to prove it. Mortifying. The time before that, I arrived at an industry party at 7pm, knowing no-one and somehow found myself at 2am in The Groucho Club singing ‘When You Get Caught Between The Moon And New York City’ on my knees, round the piano, with my 5 NBF’s (none of whom I’ve seen since) and forcing one of them (a vegetarian) to eat sausages. So I’m not sure what possessed me to go to another networking event last night, apart from the certain knowledge that if I am ever to succeed as a screenwriter I have to meet some people who might actually read my stuff.

I’ve been a member of the brilliant Raindance Film Festival for nearly a year and every month they hold a “Boozin’ and Schmoozin’” event, which so far I have avoided attending. But when it fell on a night when I was in London and had no plans, I decided to drag my fellow screenwriting friend along to sit in a corner, not make eye contact, and catch up on gossip – that is how you network, right? Hmmm, it turns out Raindance don’t allow that. Fortunately they don’t do anything like speed-date networking, or God forbid, name badges, but they do ask you to gather round while the energetic Rory jumps on a table and invites anyone else to jump on the table and say something – anything! The hope and enthusiasm in the air was almost tangible and wide smiles eagerly surveyed the crowd. Geeks, freaks and ne’er do wells (my favourite demographic), mostly young, shuffled to the front to have their say. At 18 I knew everything (I actually remember having that thought), and at 35 I probably know half that much but I enjoy seeing epic confidence in action.

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After a slow start some people moved forward, inviting actors/producers/musicians to help make their zombie/horror/eco-thriller film, other people selling their own services as actor/director/producer/writer/cinematographer/musician (that was all from the same person) you know – the usual stuff, then something unsettling happened. There was a group of female film students there and one by one they jumped on the table and declared they were desperate for work experience (fine) but this was followed by “I’ll do anything you want, I’ll be your bitch, I’ll be your slave!” which was followed by…laughter from the crowd, and applause. Now. I KNOW the film industry is in a dire state and I KNOW the only way to get your foot in the door is from experience and I KNOW it is almost impossible to get experience without working for free, but I have two issues with what these young women were saying. The first is that no-one should have to work for free, and the only people who can afford to work for free are generally people with money/some family support. This is how the industry has been fed for years and I think it is poorer for the lack of cultural diversity which this practise has encouraged. Work for expenses, work for £20, just don’t work for free, and producers will stop expecting people to work for free – do you think they would ask the DoP to work for free? (obviously if the entire crew are working for free a runner shouldn’t insist on £20, that would be weird). The second issue I have is, of course, with the language used. I know it is just a figure of speech but it is one that almost convinced me to jump up on that table to tell them to get some self-respect! I didn’t of course, because I would have fallen off and landed head first in the candle simply because it was a networking event, FACT. However, if I had, I would have said this:

In my 15 years of working I have learnt a couple of things. Mainly that the film/television industry is actually one of the best industries for women to work in (despite the current debacle at the BBC), but it is still not good enough, women still earn less than men and this is partly because women are going round offering to be people’s bitches and slaves – in 2012! Say you’re a hard worker, say you’re willing to learn, say you make an excellent cup of tea but never ever offer to be anyone’s bitch slave. It’s time to make a difference – people about to enter the industry might actually see equality in their own lifetime so why don’t they start believing in it now!

Of course I didn’t say any of this, I just laughed and clapped like everyone else but that’s what I would have liked to say, so that’s why I am saying it now. So, networking events…hmmm, maybe I’ve changed my mind, and maybe next time I’ll get on the table, what’s the worst that can happen? Ok, so I still need to work on my actual networking skills as we only spoke to two people after the table sharing, but one of them was super interesting, and I managed not to make a massive dick of myself. Bonus.

Homeward Bound

When I thought about writing this post, my intention was to bleat on about how displaced my life is at the moment, how I don’t currently have a permanent ‘home’ and haven’t for the past 20 months, how I was wrong about what I wrote in ‘Maybe Tomorrow I’ll Wanna Settle Down’ and how, goddammit, it looks like tomorrow has finally come.

But don’t panic, I’m not quite there yet. A couple of events happened last week which have scared me back to my previous stance and also alerted me to the absurdity of my ‘all or nothing’ approach, to the fact that the old cliché is in fact true – home is where the heart is, it’s just a matter of finding your heart.

Over the past 20 months I have had homes in places as exciting as Manhattan and Mexico but right now, I have two homes. A very nice sub-let, with a very nice friend, in a very nice part of London and a lovely room of my own in my dear Mama’s flat in the East End of Glasgow.

My ‘things’ however, are scattered – most of them in a storage unit in Frome and some in my sister’s house in Devon…these are ‘things’ which I carefully packaged up before leaving my previous home (a studio flat in Shepherd’s Bush), hopeful that the next time I needed them would be to decant them into my permanent home, wherever that may be. I visited the storage unit last weekend and discovered – aside from it all being a load of old tat – that I must have had delusions of grandeur while packing…there were boxes labelled ‘office’, ‘fancy dress room’ and ‘garden room’ (from a studio flat!) and enough books to start a mobile library…is it possible I imagined that after doing a spot of travelling for 7 months I would return home and move into Downton Abbey? Sadly, I think it is actually probable, such is the fine line between my fantasy world and my grip on reality.

Another slightly more practical part of me had hoped my ‘things’ would be shipped to New York and that is where I would now be making a home. I can’t begin to imagine what many New Yorkers (and of course the rest of the affected East Coast which barely gets a mention) are going through right now in the wake of Sandy and don’t even want to try. Still no power, still no running water, plenty of areas still flooded, the poor suffering way more than the rich…what makes any event of this nature just about bearable are the stories of selfless helpfulness, the strong protecting the weak, neighbours checking on each other, the volunteers and donations pouring into relief efforts, a refusal by many to be beaten by this. But still many have lost their homes, and when this stops being news, they will need help more than ever.

A few days before Sandy hit, one of my niece’s flat was gutted by fire. Her family home was also gutted by fire about 8 years ago. That’s two serious fires she has lived through in 21 years. Fortunately no-one was hurt in either, but again I can’t begin to imagine what she must be going through, how she is having to mourn the loss of her things, and her home. She’s being strong and philosophical about it all, but if you’re going to survive something like this, twice, what else can you do?

So, fire, flood, destruction can hit anyone at any time anywhere. Why, then, is it one of the basic human desires to have a home, to feel at home, to make a home. It would be so much easier if we were nomadic by nature, throwing off possessions easily, moving on without glancing back. But human beings don’t tend to do that…and I am finally ready to admit that I am human.

Until recently I really was against the idea of settling down but being transient has given me this new desire for permanence. I do wonder though, whether it is driven by the psychological (everyone else is doing it), biological (my ovaries want me to do it) or even the metaphysical (I need to do it to prove my existence)?! All I know for sure is my heart leaps when I think of any of my homes (London, Glasgow, New York, Mexico, Bath, Devon) and this is not because of the physical places so much as the the people who are there, the memories which have been made there – the things which make all these places home.

But maybe it’s time to finally gather up all of these parts of my heart and plant them in something more permanent and solid. And I don’t mean bricks and mortar but commitment and reality.

*head fuck alert*

Ok, I’ll think about this tomorrow. But in the meantime I am going to click my ruby slippers together three times (yes, I own some – who doesn’t?) and say, ‘there’s no place like home’, ‘there’s no place like home’, ‘there’s no place like home’ and just see what happens.

The Greatest City On Earth?

I love Paris. Ever since I visited as a nine year old girl I’ve been hooked. Back then I went to a tea party at Shakespeare and Company on the Left Bank, entered Notre Dame during Mass, ate croque-monsieur at a street café at Châtelet les Halles, and collected more sugar lumps in colourful wrappers than I could fit in my suitcase. More recently the city hasn’t been so kind to me; I got my first migraine on the metro and couldn’t move for 3 hours then a few years later I got dumped by not one, but two boyfriends there – city of love, anyone? But still it has a haunting appeal that draws me back there time and again…the language, the style, the energy…

WAIT! This is supposed to be a blog about London, and yet when it comes to great cities, I think about Paris, Rome, Berlin and Barcelona, not grotty old London where I grew up and have spent 20 out of my 35 years. However, in the last few months, I have noticed not subtle but clear changes and I am almost inclined to agree with Time Out’s recent statement that London is, in fact, the greatest city on earth.

Two years ago I decided to leave London for good. I had been here for 12 years and despite the well known observation by Samuel Johnson ‘If a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’ (the quote is from 1777 so I forgive his use of ‘man’) I was ready to go, I had had enough. It had become too much of a struggle for me to live here, all my friends were settling down, I was getting lonely, and I was convinced there must be somewhere better.

Because of this I spent the last couple of years coming up with cunning and incredible plans to run away. I even managed it last year – going travelling for 7 months, during which time I decided the city for me was New York but, unsurprisingly it is extremely hard to get a visa.

So, here I am. Back in London. I was not brought up here, but I lived here until I was 5 and have been here ever since University so I guess I should call it home. I am a city girl at heart and this is where I belong, I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t get a pint of milk easily at 4am.

I’m lucky enough to live just off Portobello Road, where every Saturday locals and tourists gather for the largest antiques market in the UK. I have heard more French voices on the street than anything else in the last few months, and that’s not just because I notice them more due to the fact I know a handful of French words. So what’s the big attraction? It’s cold and rainy, people are quite rude, it’s expensive…hang on, am I describing Paris again? No, London has the same reputation, but the reality is quite different. On Portobello Road, even on the greyest of days, there is a vibe, an attitude, which bring the colour, vibrancy and diversity of the Londoners who run it to life, reminding us of a London which the weather so often tries to snatch away from us. A London which has recently re-claimed its soul, regained its sense of humour – things which have been missing for a long time.

Now is the time to embrace the city of London, to build on the excitement created by the Jubilee, The Olympics, The Paralympics. The tube may have gone back to weekend line closures and the old heads down eyes front attitude, but the people have changed, their sparkle and joie de vivre have returned and I, for one, am nowhere near being tired of what London has to offer.

Top picks around Portobello:

First Floor – Classic British food in a classical setting http://www.firstfloorportobello.co.uk/

La Bodega – Yummy tapas in fab people-watching location http://www.labodegarestaurant.co.uk/

Goode and Wright – a French bistro with a proper British accent http://www.goodeandwright.co.uk/

Crazy Homies – best Margarita in town, and pretty good tacos too http://www.crazyhomies.com/

…For The City.

I am having trouble remembering where I am sleeping. When I am out in London or Glasgow I have to think quite carefully about where I am going home to, once or twice, on rather drunken nights, I have nearly asked the cabbie to take me to 92nd and Lexington in the hope that I was going home to my amazing air mattress in Manhattan, but sadly not. The joy of being a rolling stone, of home being wherever I lay my hat, is that I can get to see these cities in a new light…so here are my best bits.

LONDON

I may or may not have mentioned this once or twice, but I met the Muppets. I’ll repeat that, I met the MUPPETS! It was the best day of my life (so far) and I was 5. They were appearing at the Selfridges Christmas Grotto and our friend had designed it and so I went to the opening night and drank my own body weight in Orange Juice – from a wine glass… And met the Muppets. Anyway, because of this Selfridges became a happy place for me. A perfect day would involve going there to look at all the beautiful things, hang out in the food hall and imagine what it would be like to actually do shopping in there, in the posh bits. Then I would wander through the streets to wander across Hungerford Bridge to the Southbank with its views of St Paul’s, The Gherkin, the NFT and now The Shard. Across the river and past  the skateboard graveyard below. After seeing a film at the BFI, I would head back across the bridge to Gordon’s wine bar for wine and cheese and warm memories.

NEW YORK

Having only visited or studied in New York I suspect I saw it in a somewhat different light from a native New Yorker. However, hanging out in the New York Public Library every morning – giggling while writing scenes of inappropriate sex scenes for such a grand setting and then meeting friends in Milady’s, a classic dive bar on Prince, gave me a pretty good starting point. All restaurants in New York are required to display their Department of Health rating on their front door. Most places display their ‘A’ grade with pride or if they received anything lower than an ‘A’ would display a Grade Pending sign in the hope that next time round they’d get an ‘A’ but not Milady’s – they displayed their ‘B’ with pride. Loaded potato skins, mozzarella sticks, Bud Lights, pool, you could easily waste more than a couple of hours in there. For the first time in my life, while living in New York, I took up, and actively enjoyed, jogging. That’s down to the Jackie Onassis reservoir which has been seen in numerous films but when you’re a local (as I was for half a second) it becomes YOUR running track and you start screaming at the tourists running round the wrong way – ‘Wrong way! Can’t you read the sign, it’s right there! I’m running here!’ Ok, maybe my aspirations to become a real New Yorker were nearly realised.

GLASGOW

This city has surprised me no end since ‘moving’ here several weeks ago. Aside from the numerous independent coffee shops, the bars focused around music, the £5 cab rides, the funny money, the aggressive friendliness and many more similarities with New York there are other reasons I am growing to love this city.  The food here, and the restaurants I have been taken to have been phenomenal. Café Gandolfi is a Glasgow institution serving up Arbroath Smokies and Haggis, neeps and tatties as well as courgette flowers and smoked venison. Despite the fact it has been going since 1979, neither the food nor the décor feel tired and the enthusiastic staff certainly aren’t. Due to the proliferation of birthdays in September (New Year’s shag anyone?) I have spent a large portion of my lunch breaks shopping for presents. Luckily my office is near the wonderful Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum where the have a pipe organist who plays every lunchtime (his standard is New York, New York ironically) and where they also house an amazing collection of art. When I was about 11 my mum took me there and she couldn’t pull me away from one painting in particular. It was Salvador Dali’s Christ and I was mesmerised by it – the only way she could get me to leave was by buying me a print which I still have. I haven’t been back to see this glorious painting yet (am worried I may not return to work and I am terribly busy) but just knowing it is there fills me with faith in the beauty of full circle, of being taken places for a reason, of life coming through for us. In a purely atheistic way of course.

Living Just Enough…

I think I can say with absolute certainty that Stevie Wonder did not write this incredible song with me in mind. Therefore I’m not going to mention it, I’m just going to use the lyric as a starting point for yet more middle-class-angst-ridden musings.

Most of us live day to day – thinking about what’s for dinner or what’s on tele before we think about what we want to do with our lives, what we want to achieve. We might fantasise about our future for 10 minutes during lunch break but we soon get distracted by a text about so and so’s birthday drinks at the weekend or Mum ‘just calling for a chat’. After all, we’re essentially just trying to keep our head’s above water and pay the rent or, if we’re ‘lucky’, mortgage. How then, does anyone ever achieve anything, see the bigger picture, look forward to future accomplishments? The athletes we have seen recently at both the Olympics and Paralympic games are examples of people who have seen beyond the mundane day to day and set their sights on achieving a goal and dedicated their lives to it – these incredible people are not living just enough, they are living more than enough. Even though they have had to sacrifice many of the things (like nights out/nandos – delete as appropriate) which we (I) hold as so important to a happy life. Of course you have to be a particular type of person to commit yourself in this way, and have a certain type of talent, and drive, but surely what they end up achieving is all any of us really want to do – to make our mark on this world, to leave a legacy, to make some impact and achieve their goal… so why don’t we all just try a bit harder? Since many of us have the capacity and the opportunities now, why don’t we all live more than ‘just enough’?

This frustration is compounded by the realisation that I remember about 40% of my life. Most of my working life has been forgotten – those moments of pure stress when the world is going to fall apart if you don’t get that callsheet out – gone. In addition, unless there were pictures taken, many nights out have been confined to my mental trash can, as have, I’m ashamed to say, many of the hook ups. I’ve always known  that I don’t want to live a forgettable life, but I’m finally realising it is up to no-one but me to make it memorable.

I’m really not complaining as I already have an amazing life. Great family, friends, career, I couldn’t be any luckier but I don’t do anything ‘useful’. I don’t hear any legacy or sustainability department sitting round the conference table in my head, and it’s time I put them to work.

The other night while watching ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ with my Mum, I learnt something new. All of my grandparents died before I was born but I’m told my Grandpa, Andrew, was a grocer and I remember being told once that he was an air raid warden during the war, on account of his bad eyesight. Anyway, during this programme my Mum mentioned that in actual fact, he was conscripted and went to Normandy. “Not on the first day mind you, on the second.” Now, I know the first day was when all the action happened, but still, it’s pretty impressive. It turns out my Grandpa worked his way up and achieved the highest civilian ranking. As Kevin Arnold once said, “Some men pursue greatness, while others have greatness thrust upon them”… or was it Shakespeare?

Anyway, if I want to have any impact (and truthfully, who doesn’t?) I better get to work – thankfully I don’t think I’m going to be conscripted any time soon so it’s up to no-one but me.

We can only improve the future and live better lives than our ancestors if we fully understand the past so I’m gonna start questioning my mother to see if any other relatives were involved in world-defining moments. Maybe it will provide the inspiration live more than ‘just enough’ and hopefully remember some of it too.