Category Archives: Work

Doing A Degrassi

I’m aware that it will be a very small minority who will have any idea what ‘Doing a Degrassi’ means, but hopefully, if you don’t, you can at least relate to the weirdness I am about to describe.

Back in the late 1980’s, I found myself in regular conflict with my mother over whether or not I could watch Grange Hill. She always won. I wasn’t giving up that easily though and I soon found an alternative in Degrassi Junior High – a series from Canada which my mother deemed acceptable because we have family in Toronto. It was so much wilder than Grange Hill!

There was a character called Steph in Degrassi who would leave her house in the morning dressed like a ‘nerd’ and then get changed in the school bathrooms transforming herself into a scrunch-dry haired, blusher and lipstick wearing goddess, in my eyes. She appealed to my ingrained rebellious nature and, as is so often the case with characters who exist in our formative years, has stayed with me as a reminder of our ability to transform ourselves into what or whoever we want to be, and also that things, and people, are not always as they appear on the outside.

At 37 I am still fascinated by our real selves as opposed to the projected image of ourselves we offer to the world and am never more aware of this in myself than when I go from my ‘real’ self, who appears when I am relaxed, happy and un-stressed to my projected self, who appears when I am highly strung, stressed and trying to be something I am not.

In my current job I have to get up at 5am on a Monday morning to get to work, travelling from London to Glasgow. I am not a morning person. This is an understatement. I roll out of bed, onto the tube, onto the plane and arrive in Glasgow bleary-eyed at about 0845. But, I have managed to find some joy in this commute. Never have I had a better opportunity to re-enact my childhood idol’s transformation than when I enter the toilets at Glasgow Airport. Often changing in a cubicle, I emerge smartly dressed and stand in front of the mirrors, just me and a couple of flight attendants, and prepare to apply the war paint.

I get to work transforming the puffy, sallow looking face in front of me into a powerful and energised business-ready visage. I work in TV so it’s hardly about powersuits and shoulder pads but I am not afraid to admit I am struggling on this current production so a bit of armour is vital. TV is a great industry in terms of working environment and generally you get a lot of like-minded people on a team and every one just wants to make the best programme they are capable of making. And we all know that what you wear and what you look like has little to no impact on that outcome. But I have found over the years, after wearing jeans and converse throughout my 20’s that actually, as a production manager I feel much more in touch with the job I am supposed to be doing if I dress a little smarter, a little less comfortably, a little more ‘managerially’. And so I do, and I enjoy it, and it helps. But the character I have created for work doesn’t feel like me. It is a necessary creation in order for me to do my job, but I find it hard to reconcile this character with who I become at the weekends and evenings when I either don’t wear any make-up or go all out and create a 50’s style and character which is more me than the business type.

It feels important to me to separate these two parts of my personality but I need to accept that the character I create for work is just as much a part of who I am as the character I am outside of work and I need to embrace my Degrassi transformation. It makes me feel stronger and have more faith in my own ability, and  I need as much help in that department as I can get at the moment.

I wonder if men have such trouble switching between character roles or even if it crosses their minds? Maybe in fact I am a rare woman who does this and other women feel completely themselves in their work job and I am just in the wrong job, which is entirely possible! Do you feel more confident if you dress a certain way at work? What outfit makes you feel brave or different?

 

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It’s All About … Them!

‘Amazing April – A Month Of Me’, is sadly drawing to a close. I’m sure you’ll all be devastated and miss my yoga updates on Twitter! The short report is that I do feel stronger and healthier, but sadly not rested, it’s amazing how busy you can be…when doing nothing! (I believe there’s a song about that? Check out the link below if you don’t know it)

Busy Doing Nothing

Anyway, what better way to celebrate the end of a month dedicated to me than by dedicating a week to other people. A ‘them party’ rather than a ‘me party’ if you like. My friend Yvonne Biggins has convinced me that it is a good idea to join her and ‘Live Below The Line’ from 29th April to 3rd May, i.e. next week! This means I will be living on £5 for 5 days…everything I consume during that time will have to come out of one solitary 5 pound note.

Now, I realise this might not sound like a difficult challenge for some of you, but for someone who spent £25 on salad things for lunch yesterday, even though I am unemployed, I think it is going to be quite difficult. The £5 must include any and all seasoning, and staples like milk and bread and I will sadly not be able to utilise anything from Emily’s vast kitchen cupboards…not even a pinch of salt!

The point of this challenge is to raise awareness for the 1.2 billion people in the world living in extreme poverty. In the western world we have a tendency to take things for granted, the incredible choice available to us on a daily basis we see as a basic human right…but too many people are not that privileged. I have chosen to raise money for the same charity as Yvonne, Positive Women, who are doing incredible work in Swaziland empowering women to understand their rights and value in society and to help them and their children through education and support. If you can spare even just a couple of pounds to donate to this extraordinary charity and to make my grumpy hunger pangs next week more bearable I will be forever thankful, as I’m sure will Positive Women…if I reach £100 they can feed a child for 5 months.

I will of course keep you updated/bore you on my progress and what my diet is going to consist of…porridge…rice…I may also have to put my wussy wheat intolerance to one side for a while, which could have interesting consequences…which I promise NOT to share! Links to donation and charity details below…

http://positivewomen.org/

https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/janeyhammond

 

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.

…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.

Coffee and TV

Last week was supposed to be my first full week working in Glasgow and my first full week actually making a TV show for the first time in 7 months. There’s nothing like a week of firsts to shake things up a bit. Here’s what happened.

Day 1 – Monday

I’M IN LOVE! I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. You see, he has made me coffee in the past, a couple of times, but I had never noticed the eyes until today.
I’m pleased to say Glasgow has not faded in my estimations and it continues to remind me of New York for many reasons, one of which is that it is full of independent coffee shops. Yes, my new-found love is a barista, and boy, is he good at it. I haven’t been there for a couple of weeks, but he remembered my coffee order and asked me how the weekend was. I told him I’d been sailing and we laughed about the fact that he never got a day off because he was too busy running the café… I melted into his eyes as I handed over my £1.50 (really? He must be under-charging me because of the chemistry) and our fingers brushed against each other gently. Tomorrow I’m going to wear the nicest outfit I have with me, I must get this man.

Day 2 – Tuesday

There is a certain spring in my step as I march down the rain-splattered streets to get my morning coffee, wearing the nicest outfit I have with me. In fact it’s the same dress I am wearing in my headshot on theconversation.tv so maybe he’ll recognise me from that and admit he’s actually my biggest fan and how refreshing it has been to get an insight into a modern woman through my musings, especially one so beautiful… As I enter the coffee shop, a woman turns around to help me. That throws me. I order my coffee, she’s nice but the chemistry just isn’t the same as it is with him. She charges me £1.50 and I leave hastily.

Day 3 – Wednesday

Time to pull out my second best outfit, and freshen up with some dry shampoo since I overslept. But it’s ok as I’m going to see my destiny this morning – he doesn’t care about clean hair, although I’ll still wear a hat. There he is, my heart skips a beat. He is a little bit skinnier and paler than I had remembered from Monday, but that’s ok – after all, we are in Glasgow. He asks me if I’m late this morning – he even knows what time I normally come in! For some reason I find myself lying and telling him I walked to work. But it was the right move. He asks me where I stay. ‘Dennistoun’ I reply. I don’t know if Glasgow has the same East/West End divide as London but I hope it makes me sound edgy as if Dennistoun is Glasgow’s answer to Hackney. I don’t mention that I’m staying with my Mum. Or that the entire area smells of hops from the Tennents brewery next door. He smiles, his sweet honest smile. £1.50. This love affair is going to cost me a fortune. As he hands me my change I see a marked difference in his expression… I only notice when I step outside that my second favourite outfit is gapping open at the breast, a lot. Damn, I wasn’t planning on using that one so soon.

Day 4 – Thursday

Another morning, although no more lovely outfits, I do manage to wash my hair…not that it matters as it’s raining anyway and I have to wear an anorak. When I get to the counter he remembers my coffee order again and I smile my best smile, although there is something missing from our interaction. He goes on to say how all of his regulars seem to have a cappuccino in the morning so it makes it easy to remember – although he does remember that I have one sugar. But something has definitely changed. The spark that was so strong on Monday has faded, he’s just making my coffee, and I’m just one of his regulars. I spot a lemon meringue cupcake on the side and try out my favourite joke on him: (in a Glaswegian accent) “Is that a cupcake or a meringue?” He replies, “No you’re right, it’s a cupcake!” Bedumdum…Only he doesn’t, instead he gets distracted by another customer, chucks the cake I don’t want into a bag, I pay for it and scuttle away without saying goodbye.

Day 5 – Friday

Everyone’s happier on a Friday so the spring in my step has returned. I am hopeful that the previous day was just a glitch in our universe – after all, every couple have their off days. I enter the shop and stare directly into those eyes. NOTHING! I feel nothing. I feel cheated. Where has it gone? He smiles at me in the same way but whereas four days earlier that smile had made me mentally design my wedding dress, today, at best, it makes me want to smile back. I ask for my coffee with no sugar (which is actually how I take it) and hurry out of the shop, in the knowledge that the next time I enter it will just be a coffee shop and not where I met the love of my life.

How fickle be the human heart. Or rather, how mental be the world my thoughts inhabit about 30% of the time? As you may have guessed, this tele programme I’m working on is taking a while to get going, allowing time for daydreaming. Idle daydreaming can be wonderful but it can be dangerous, I reckon I fall in love once a week. I suppose there is a chance I’m too quick to dismiss every spark as just a daydream –  as being all in my mind, could I have missed the ‘real thing’ somewhere along the way? Hmmm, unlikely but as a hopeless romantic I know there are going to be more coffee shop romances to come and maybe one day I’ll stop shallowly taking away and actually commit to sitting in – who knows what might follow…

 

Everybody’s Talking At Me

‘I am woman, hear me roar!’ In the top ten of cringe-worthy feminist phrases, for me this comes in at number one. I mean, seriously. Why does a woman have to roar in order to be heard? Why can’t we just be heard when we speak? I am a pretty ballsy confident woman but the trouble is, often I can’t be heard when I speak, even if I try to roar.

Being freelance, I have been the new girl on countless occasions. Trust me, it never gets easier. Many years ago, on my first day at a new company I wrote on a document, in 6-point font, ‘I am so small and insignificant, why can’t I speak to people, everything I say is stupid, they are going to find out I’m rubbish and sack me.’ Truly. Two weeks later I was told what a good job I was doing and had amazing new friends who are still friends today. Insecure? moi?

I was reminded of the agony of starting a new job when I spent my first week in Glasgow prior to starting a six month project there. Although it is the same company I have been working at for the last 10 months, it is a new office with new people and my social incompetence reared its ugly head. What’s worse is that they are a group of lovely people and having done the job for 12 years now, there really is no need for career anxiety…However, too often I found myself asking asinine questions, coming out with inappropriate, or worse unfunny, banter, laughing like a loony person at bad jokes or just being strangely quiet and unable to join in with the small talk. I think that is my basic problem – I don’t even know what small talk is. I can’t talk about the weather, or shopping or what you’re doing this weekend – I mean I can but it just feels so fake and insincere that I’d rather not, I’d rather talk about things that matter I guess, but that just makes me sound like a wanker. God, it’s tough to be me.

Here’s a cautionary tale. When meeting a new fella’s family and friends for the first time, do not do the following:

  • Do not scream ‘Fucking go, fucking Mo!’ into his mother’s ear, within 3 minutes of meeting her.
  • Do not tell his sister, who’s a wine expert, that all white wine is essentially ‘bitch diesel’.
  • Do not loudly label his best friend as ‘Officially Annoying’.
  • Do not beat the same sister later that night at arm-wrestling, twice, on both arms.

These may seem like basic obvious rules, and yet I was unable to abide by them and broke them in spectacular fashion. Hey, I guess it was more fun than just having a chat.

Having felt like the outsider all my life, as most of us do, and having never been able to banter and gossip like some people, I have pretty much accepted that this is just the way things are. Fortunately, usually after a couple of weeks, I have ridden out this storm of crazy insecurity and settled into a rhythm of semi-normality with people – or at least they’ve found my social fuck-ups endearing.

So, I really hope everybody keeps talking at me, even though I may not hear a word they’re saying and they are only echoes in my mind, I’ll get to where the sun keeps shining. I love that song, both heart-breaking and beautiful at the same time.

We sometimes need a reminder that we don’t need to roar, we just need to keep talking and we’ll get there eventually.

 

Let’s Face The Music And Dance

‘Mistakes, I’ve made a few…’ Hang on, that’s another song, but Frank sure knew how to sing about the scary stuff. In fact I have made more than a few mistakes and in making so many mistakes I think I have now come up with a formula to get through them which involves, you guessed it, facing the music.

Mistakes weigh heavy on the mind. Especially if we notice them before anyone else does. I have wasted days of worry time wondering what is going to happen when/if (when) someone finds out and how I am going to deny all knowledge/accept responsibility. I have to say though, that for someone who spends their whole life running (figuratively of course not literally) when it comes to the crunch I’m pretty good at heeding the Reverend Mother’s advice and not using the convent to hide from my problems – I face them, head on.

It took me several years, but nowadays I am the first to admit to making mistakes – in fact I foolishly often take responsibility for other people’s mistakes because I’d rather just deal with a problem and find a solution than spend hours bickering over who is to blame. But when it is my fault, when I have done something wrong or even if it is something which simply could be perceived to be wrong, I step up. I am not for a moment saying it is easy and sometimes it takes me a bit longer than I would like. I know the feeling of anticipation well…I have trouble breathing, trouble staying in my head, trouble thinking about what’s to come. I know from experience that a situation is rarely as bad as you anticipate. When I find myself in these situations my thoughts always drift to the image of Scarlett O’Hara in her scarlet dress entering the Wilkes house after she has humiliated herself and Airshley by throwing herself at him, she knows that they all know and everyone is looking at her, judging her, waiting for the situation to explode but then I remember Melly’s reaction to her and her kindness in forgiving Scarlett, treating her like a sister, understanding her. Good old Melly understood that everyone makes mistakes.

Making mistakes is very important, as is being forgiven for them or seeking forgiveness at least. I can’t be more specific on what has inspired this post but I can say, that in the long term I don’t regret any of my mistakes….they are all building blocks to who I am and I’m ok with that, because if you’re not ok with yourself then you won’t be ok with anything. Of course, at the time I make the mistake I harbour massive regrets and self loathing and angst just like everyone else but I try to make sure it doesn’t last and I am learning to let it go. After all, *cliché alert* life’s too short, we only get one chance, live and let live, all’s fair in love and war, nothing ventured nothing gained, time heals all wounds, a stitch in time saves nine (I never understood that last one – if someone could explain it I’d be very grateful!)

It would be a lot easier if we simply didn’t make mistakes in the first place and of course this is a state I aspire to, and am certain I’ll get there one day….nope, who am I fooling, I’m fully aware that I am an idiot and I will continue to make mistakes until the day I die, but what I can work on is the way I deal with them.

So chest out, head up, eyes front, ready to take responsibility, time to own up, and in doing so, own your mistake so you can own whatever redress is necessary and your recovery from it. Or if all else fails get drunk and do a dance, I’ve found it works equally well.

 

Maybe Tomorrow I’ll Wanna Settle Down…

Ah, The Littlest Hobo. A scraggy little dog who couldn’t stay in one town for too long, had to keep on moving, the road just kept a-calling him and he couldn’t stop a-running. Is it weird that The Littlest Hobo is the children’s character I identify with the most?

I have lived much of my life according to theme tune philosophy so why stop now. Yep, sorry London, but it looks like I am on the move again. So what if New York isn’t ready for me yet, work is sending me somewhere potentially more thrilling and dangerous, somewhere steeped in oral history where everybody’s your friend and you’re all in it together. Unless you’re a Sassenach. Yep, Scotland is calling me home and with half of my blood being Scottish it is probably time to see what all the fuss is about. Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, but I’m about to belong to Glasgow.*

I’m excited for many reasons, predominantly square sausage and Irn Bru, oh sorry – I mean spending more time with family and an exciting career opportunity. It also means I can put off deciding what to do when I grow up for another 6 months. This being one of my first thoughts does make me wonder… Is that all that people who continually travel are doing? Is this the ultimate exploration of my massive talent for procrastination? Why is the concept of ‘growing up’ or ‘settling down’ so alien and terrifying to me? And what does it even mean?

When I think about settling down, I think about a house with wellies by the front door. I think about Cath Kidston, I think about a faceless man who’s always grumpy, weekly shops in Sainsbury’s, gossiping about Marge’s new toyboy, moaning about the caravan site spoiling our view, driving everywhere, getting hooked on Saturday night ‘entertainment’ shows, mountains of ironing…and by that point I am having trouble breathing and need to lie down. I’ll think about it tomorrow.

I know for a fact that these notions are antiquated, I don’t think any of my settled friends actually live the lifestyle I describe but I simply can’t rid myself of this stereotype. I guess settling down just makes me think of standing still and there is so much to see and do in our short lives that I can’t bear the thought of not chasing after time before it disappears. I never want to stop learning. Yet another article on theconversation.tv which I wish I’d written, called On Being a Responsible Hedonist, recently got me thinking about this again. The idea is we should embrace pleasure and not think we need to give it up to settle down, the only way we can pass on who we are is by knowing ourselves, and the best way to do that is to indulge ourselves. Sounds like a plan to me.

So I have decided I am just going to look forward to regular travel again – even if it’s only up and down one country… airports really make me feel alive, even though they are killing the planet (a glaring contradiction that I’m aware I need to work through) anyway, the train to Glasgow is also a joy. Travelling means listening to, indeed even talking to, strangers, being surprised, seeing new sights, learning new things, drinking in the day, napping in the day (possibly related to the previous point) and making new friends. And, insert fingers down throat now, finding yourself.

So, here’s to being selfish for a little bit longer and continuing to explore the world around me, with a view to passing on my knowledge one day. But basically having fun. I guess that’s the point, and deep down the responsible hedonist in me knows that I would still have fun wherever I was – even if I had Cath Kidston curtains I certainly wouldn’t be hiding behind them so maybe it’s time stop being scared of settling down. Maybe.

* for two weeks a month till the end of the year anyway.

 

Coping With The Daily Grind

My alarm goes off at 7.30am, I press the snooze button for half an hour, sometimes more. I drag myself into the shower, often leaning my head against the tiles. I get dressed, I walk to work. I sit at a desk for 8 hours, sometimes more, staring at a screen. I get the bus home. I eat, I watch a movie or write, I go to bed. This is my routine (and countless others’) 5 days a week. I don’t hate my job, most of the time I enjoy it, but I am not passionate about it, and committing the biggest part of your life to something you are not passionate about can be horribly depressing.

Carpe Diem! Is what Robin Williams liked to say in Dead Poet’s Society but that’s not always easy when you have a mortgage and bills to pay. I would love to wake up one morning and declare that I am off to seize the day and everything else be damned, but I have responsibilities and am maybe not as free spirited as I like to think I am.  However, there are other ways to seize the day and, as I have recently re-learnt, it is all about perspective. I had a teacher at school who actually made us stand on our desks one day to get a different viewpoint, to remind us to look at things differently, just like Robin Williams had. We all thought it was ridiculous until we did it, and strangely everything did look different from that perspective. The familiar walls of the classroom didn’t look so familiar, the view from the window was completely different, and, in turn, we felt different.

I forgot this technique for many years and before I went on sabbatical last year, I was working on average 10 hours a day, 5 days a week and regularly lamenting the fact that I didn’t have time to do ANYTHING! No time to go to a yoga class, no time to catch up with friends and family, no time to write, or go to the cinema, just simply no time. And what was worse – a lot of the time I spent at work, there wasn’t actually a lot for me to do, I just had to be there in case anything happened so I could sort it out. When I look back at myself now, I am flabbergasted by my attitude. The truth is I had so much time but I just didn’t know what to do with it. In my downtime at work I would spend hours learning about the world via the ‘random article’ link on Wikipedia (of course I don’t remember a thing), or on Facebook. In the evening I would go home and watch TV. I watched hours and hours of soap operas and told myself I had no time. When I returned from my sabbatical I promised myself I wouldn’t get stuck in the same trap, but of course I did…then I remembered I had something special, my sabbatical had taught me a way of looking at life from a different angle, I had even remembered my teacher’s advice and had taking to doing headstands when the mood took me. I reassessed my daily grind and realised it wasn’t so bad. In my usual geeky way, I did some sums. There are 168 hours in a week. Most people work for between 40-60 hours of them, and sleep for an average of 6-8 hours a night so if we take the average of 50 hr work and 49 hrs sleep, that leaves 69 hours in the week to play with which sounds like a lot of time, and fun, to me!

I have now almost stopped watching TV, except for The Conversation, of course, and I avoid surfing the net aimlessly. I have achieved so much. I now write every night so I actually have something to show for my free time and meeting up with friends is much more of a pleasure because I feel as though I have earned it. I can’t believe I’m about to admit this but I also have a technique for dealing with boredom at work. I look to my working role model, CJ Cregg from the West Wing, and simply ask ‘what would CJ do?’ And then pretend I am CJ, I’m certain she would always find something productive to do.

For the first time in my life I feel as though I am living deliberately, making use of the precious time available to me and striving to achieve a goal. I am also making more time for family and that is making me feel more alive and grounded than ever. All these things and making the most of every opportunity afforded to me, speaking to people I don’t know at a party instead of shyly cowering at the back, accepting invitations, even doing some exercise has given me a new perspective and joie de vivre. So, oh captain, my captain – myself, I salute you.